On the Concentration of Vital Energies

For the past several months the Center for Women (YWCA) has been showing signs that it may be closing in the near future. The most recent of these was the announcement that they will no longer be open on weekends. The announcement came about a week before the new schedule went into effect, and as a result we (Master Lee’s students) had to scramble to find a new weekend space.

That space, for the rest of the month, is From the Heart Yoga, which is owned by our Senior Student, Rick Powell. At the Center for Women we have an entire gymnasium available to us, a basketball court with 20-foot ceilings. FTHY has about a quarter of the floor space. The down side of this is less room to move, which limits the number of students who can practice at any one time. The upside is that we have to be more aware of our personal space, and we have to pay attention not only to where we are, but where we are moving to at any given moment. This is, in my opinion, a very good thing. It is nice to have the space of a gymnasium, but in a space that large it is easy to isolate ones self in a corner and not pay much attention to the rest of the class. Not so in a restricted space.

When I joined Master Lee’s class fifteen years ago we practiced in a small dance studio in East Grand Rapids, and the classes were about half again the size that they are now. After about a year we moved to the YWCA. So for many years we have been in a space which is much larger than we actually need. I suspect that by spreading a small number of students out to fill that space we have lost some of the intimacy which was such a vital part of the class so many years ago. Certainly it is not uncommon to see people in a corner “doing their own thing” as the class winds down for the day. Whether or not they are being disruptive, it takes away from the vibe of the class as a whole.

Rick has repeatedly pointed out that when we practice together as a class there is a certain energy which seems to ebb and flow with the movements of the tai chi and kung fu forms, and that while we create this energy as we practice it also guides us, and when people in a class do not participate, the energy is diminished and disrupted. Also when six people are spread out over a thirteen hundred square-foot space, even if we are performing in perfect synchronicity, it is not the same as if we are in closer quarters, where in addition to just watching each other to make sure we are performing at the same pace, we need to be aware in a more subtle way, so we can react harmoniously to the movement and energy of the people around us.

I suspect that, before the end of the year, we will have moved all of our class sessions to a new location. Though I will miss the (excessively) large room we have had for so many years, it will be good to be in a more intimate space.