Since last fall I’ve been learning Taichi with a group of fellow beginners in a nearby park. Our teacher is a wise and talented friend with whom I’ve been writing and practicing Aikido for years, and from whom I’ve learned the names of birds and trees. The invitation to learn this beautiful, mindful art from him was a no brainer.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I was hobbled by surgery last summer, forced to slow down, that I finally said yes to the invitation. But having long ago regained full strength, I still protect the 8:30-9:30 hour every Thursday morning to soak up the richness of this gorgeous practice and community. To learn the 24-move yang style form, start to make some headway on the 48. White crane spreads wings. Repulse the monkey. Seek the needle at the bottom of the sea. Push through the mountain.

A full sixty seconds

My favorite part of each session comes at the end, during our “cool down” (which these days involves standing in a sliver of sun trying to warm numb hands). After a few movements to thank our bodies, our teacher holds up a finger and says, simply, “take a minute.”  

Heh? The first time I heard him say this I kept my eyes on him, watching for some instruction on what to, ya know, do with that minute. Because it’s a real minute we’re taking. An entire one. A full sixty seconds. I actually found myself mimicking the subtle movements he was making as he stood in his body, in the now.

Eventually I caught on to the fact that this was my minute. One in which I could stand still with eyes closed, or to move and stretch to the outer edges of my space, or to watch the dogs playing on the patch of grass nearby, to feel gratitude or peace or anxiety or longing or whatever is moving through me in the moment.

To let myself be. To let Life be in and around me.

I grew quickly to love the minute itself, and even more so the invitation that leads into it.

Take a minute.

Or not…

This past week has been a swirling dust devil of transition as I step more fully into the work of Soul Writing. Even though I knew it was coming, the disruption startled me. I got spooked, sped up, made stuttering grabs at all that was flying around me, trying to cram it in the neat row of jars I’d arranged, themselves getting perpetually knocked over by the gale.

It’s all so beautiful, what has been stirred up, like a swarm of butterflies. All very real. And just out of reach at the moment. Uncontainable, with plans of its own. There are exquisite arrangements that it will all settle into, eventually, if only I would leave it to its dance. If only I would trust the way Life only ever seeks its own balance, seeks harmony. I wouldn’t be where I am if that wasn’t true. None of us would.

But no. I started frantically chasing all that was suddenly airborne, trying in vain to pin it back down again.

I gave nothing a minute. I made a damn mess.

Practically, it’s looked like this …

There was going to be a Soul Writing series on April. On Fridays. No wait, on Wednesdays. No actually Fridays. Wait Wednesdays. Me, comparing schedules and weighing capacity and trying to determine which airtight container I could cram this thing I love into.

Meanwhile the squall of change continues to blow things up, knock things down.

Then came another Thursday, when the invitation I treasure came once again.

Take a minute.

I absorbed it like the wrung-out sponge I’d become in my concentrated burst of misguided efforting. The words vibrated through my entire being, became a mantra, a beacon, a writing prompt. I let them live in me, steer me—or more accurately, keep me still, compel me to stand and watch in awe as the pieces fly.

I saw that if I give it a minute it the pieces will indeed settle, the storm will abate (hard as that is to believe, living in California right now). Farther out there will be more space, more breathing room, more damp ground for us all to sink into, to write our souls out.

Giving it a minute revealed that April needs be a long minute of watching it all play out (with a li’l’ Mini-Retreat smack in the middle to keep us touched in to this sacred practice). May has already been earmarked for travel and rest.

In June we’ll have our series. That’s what Life seems to be inviting, anyway. I hold all plans lightly. Feathers in my hand, free to blow away if they have elsewhere to be.

In the meantime I stand and behold, with love and wonder, all that moves through and around and above and below us. What this extraordinary minute can reveal.