Tai Chi & the Wall of Mirrors
Those of you that are following out podcast know that I started Tai Chi two weeks ago. I haven’t really written about it because I needed to process the experience and figure out the story I was going to tell myself… before I could tell you. The class is great, it’s not as spiritual as I thought it would be… you know with meditations and explanations of how energy flows (queue new age music with a rain forest in the background) but it was nice and relaxation and even though in the present moment it didn’t feel like much was going on… the following day, I found myself more relaxed, more flexible and I had the distinct feeling of being stretched. I liked that.
The part about the experience I need to unpack is
A) the class was filled with old people (myself included… queue rude awakening music); and
B) there is a whole wall of mirror.
About the Full Wall of Mirror
Looking at my 53 year old body in a wall of mirror is an unusual thing. Sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse in a window of a building as I walk by, but for the most part… my mirrors are from the shoulders up. Fortunately, I had already lost 25 pounds before I sent my sensory system into overload by standing in front of that gym mirror. And when I looked at myself as a whole… I wasn’t overly critical… initially. Let me stress INITIALLY.
I took a quick tentative look and thought, “OK that’s not too bad” and then steeled myself for another longer look.
This is when I should have stopped. Instead I allowed my normal mirror habit to take over and I started to take apart my reflection, piece by piece destroying myself.
Hair … “Terrible! When did I think that was a good idea?”
Glasses… ” Wait! What!?! That’s what they look like?”
Dark Hoodie, bright blue sneakers… “Another bad choice!”
At one point in my downward spiral, I literally thought “OMG, my head! When did it get so tiny? It’s too small for my body!”
I am laughing now as I write this, but let me be clear, I wasn’t laughing then… and I wasn’t even aware I was doing all this. At the time, I was just in this HABIT of dissecting my reflection, looking for things that sucked. Then to make things worse I was on autopilot flying towards new destruction smoothly into my next habit of “How do I compare to everyone else in the mirror.” This is a rabbit hole I’m not even going to describe to you.
My New Mirror Habit
Thanks to this blog, my sister and this journey in #Losingitover40, I am more self aware then I was when I was creating those old destructive habits. And I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for the Tai Chi room being in a gym with a full wall of mirrors and even if I had known… I’m not sure I would have know that I needed to set some guidelines for myself in terms of my habit of thinking.
Happiness requires some preparation. Just like I wouldn’t expect to be able to lose weight without paying attention to what I eat, I can’t expect to be happy without paying attention to what I think.
When I sat down to unpack this experience for myself, I realized that I didn’t spend anytime marveling at my body now 27 pounds down. I went right to that habit of destruction and picking apart and dissatisfaction with myself. I didn’t spend any time marveling at my thinner thighs or more sleek outline. I didn’t spend any time daydreaming about what I’ll look like after the final 30 pounds come off…
Instead I REACTED to the mirror, with a reflexive habit that didn’t serve me.
AND In retrospect, that habit of thinking never served me.
My new mirror habit is still a work in progress. I’ve acclimated to the Tai Chi mirror and because I know it’s coming, I take the time to pay attention to the things I like. I LOVE the color of my eyes reflecting back at me, I love that my outline is more slender ….
This experience has also served to remind me to spend some time each day appreciating my successes, talents and unique gifts.
P.S. Shout out to WeightWatchers.com –> Thank you Weight Watchers for your great app… helps me mindfully make great eating choices…