Softening & Letting Go In the Time of COVID-19
By Marina Muhlfriedel
We’ve all said it. Sheltering at home has made it difficult to keep track of the days and, perhaps, to measure the progress of our projects. If you’re like me, you’ve strived to create anchors that keep the weeks intact, safe from floating by unnoticed. Scheduled events like Sunday dinners, morning gardening, and 4 pm dog walks provide a modicum of structure and normalcy.
For many of us, Zoom has proved to be an invaluable window into the world — socially, professionally, educationally, and culturally. Among the myriad offerings of the Zoomiverse, the Tai Chi Foundation’s Qigong and Tai Chi classes have provided a rare and anchoring opportunity to find balance and groundedness, in a community of learning – a welcome light in these unprecedented times.
The truth is, I was studying Tai Chi with Margaret Olmsted before the onset of COVID-19 but possessed only a vague awareness of Qigong. It’s been a gift of these times to learn from so many deeply committed teachers and grow a Qigong practice. I now find myself doing Constant Bear and Yin Yang Breath in the quiet of a nearby park and by the beach. Qigong has enabled me, as Margaret often instructs, “Soften and let go, relax,” in these trying weeks and months.
In 2010 my mother and I visited an elderly aunt at a senior community in Delray Beach, Florida. I learned from a cousin that she taught Tai Chi. After tea and cookies, Aunt Laura performed a graceful, extended form. I was in awe. Her serenity and the peace that filled the room touched my heart. I decided then that I wanted, no needed, to learn Tai Chi and carry it with me as I aged. I had found a role model. My aunt taught into her 90s, almost until she passed away.
Margaret (or MO), and I first communicated in late 2018. It took until the fall of last year to begin working together, a friend and I slowly began studying the first third of the Yang-style short form with her. I loved how time slowed as we repeated each nuanced step, allowing the breath to drive movement. My mother had just left us at 99 years, and I left my hectic 9-5 job at a marketing agency. It was a rough time. I needed to rethink my life, and from day one, my Tai Chi classes felt like a quiet door opening.
I am now taking my nearly lifelong meditation practice to the next level, studying to become a Mindfulness Meditation teacher. It’s remarkable to see how much of what we do in our Zoom Tai Chi and Qigong classes compliments and reinforces the effort. The focus. The breath. The ease.
With humble gratitude, I thank the teachers of the Tai Chi Foundation for expanding the limiting space we reside within during COVID-19 and inspiring my own teaching goals.