A Big Xperience


Welcome back to Playful Dragons’ Tai Chi Blog!

The Big Xperience is a day centre near Basildon, Essex, for young adults with Autism run by a former comrade of mine from The Parachute Regiment and his wife. Twice a week, I host Tai Chi classes there. My one hour session is made up of group activities and private classes for those less willing or able to engage with a group or anyone interested in a little additional exercise. It’s a remarkable place, run, assisted and attended by remarkable people.

However, the reason I have decided to restart my blog is not to advertise (Check out The Big Xperience, it’s brilliant!!) but to share the experiences that my adventures with Tai Chi present because I feel they may be beneficial to a wider community.

While The Big Xperience employ me to host Tai Chi classes, recently I have found my boxing gloves and pads are particularly popular. Almost everyone wants a private class and some time to play around with the pads after their Tai Chi practise. I’m very happy to oblige because it’s still good exercise for everyone involved and it’s enjoyable, too.

One particular non-verbal student, who rarely ever joins in the group activity and never requests a private class, suddenly became interested in the pads and approached me at the end of class. His assistant asked him if he wanted to play with the gloves and he seemed open to it but when I offered him the pad he withdrew his hand. I did my best to assure him it was safe and to convince him to have a go but every time I offered the pad he withdrew. But then, when I had almost given up, he reached out his hand simply to touch the smooth surface of the pad. I held the pad for him and watched as he gently felt the surface with his fingertips. All his considerable focus was in his fingertips. I watched his face and saw the calm joy express itself and knew I had been shown a secret. After a little while he seemed interested in putting his hand inside the pad but I knew it wasn’t with the intention of boxing. As I held the pad for him and he slid his hand inside, I could feel him feeling the inside of the pad with his hand. Again, all his focus and attention was in his hand, simply content to experience the physical sensation of having his hand inside a glove.

After that class I asked myself when I allow myself that most simple but profound experience and the answer was “not very often”. When do we allow ourselves time to just feel a surface, the wind, water, any sensation, just for the sake of it? I imagine your answer may be very similar to mine. With that in mind, I ask you to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel something, really feel something. It can be anything. A leaf, a coffee cup, a table, an emotion. Put all your attention into that sensation and explore it. What a beautiful gift to ourselves that is, no?

They say when one teaches, two learn and I believe it to be true. I am very grateful to that young man at The Big Xperience for this valuable reminder: Slow down and focus on what you are doing. Stretch out your feelings and explore this world and your body. Enjoy it. See the beauty in it! Tai Chi is an exercise in sensitivity and focus but the more I practise the more I become aware that absolutely everything is Tai Chi – an exercise in sensitivity and focus.

Keep playing!