This weekend, I was wandering about outdoors waiting for a first-grader’s birthday party to end when I realized that the clouds had parted and that a walkway between two mid-height apartment buildings was now bathed in the light of the late afternoon sun.
After a day of clouds and rain, the sun was warming in every possible way. I stood at the edge of the walkway, savoring the sunlight, and then one little movement led to another and I ended up doing some incredibly satisfying qigong and then taiji. A number of people passed by, but the walkway was wide, so I wasn’t in their way and they seemed to be “over there.”
Practicing taiji and qigong outdoors can be exquisite, and there are plenty of places you can do it if you’re not afraid of being seen—parks, detention ponds, trails through the woods, pockets of lawn outside office buildings. They’re all good so long as you feel safe and have enough physical and psychological space.
Yet I know many people are afraid of being seen—and I’ll admit I wasn’t comfortable at first. But I’ve been doing taiji in public parks for more than 10 years now, usually in a group but sometimes alone, and in the last year or so, I’ve also done qigong in public places, most often alone.
And here’s what I’ve learned:
Most people simply aren’t interested. They won’t look at you longer than, say, 17 nanoseconds. They see slow movement, and they think “taiji.” They’ve read about taiji in newspapers and magazines, and they’ve seen it in movies and on television, including during the spectacular opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics. They’re not sure about the details and won’t know if what you are doing is actually taiji or qigong, but they have a label for it and know they needn’t be alarmed, and they quickly return to whatever they were preoccupied with before they saw you. Continue reading