One of my recent goals while walking is to practice “tai chi walking”. I try to totally relax while walking, which is much harder than it sounds. Certain muscles unnecessarily tighten up while walking, particularly when you’re trying to walk as fast as possible. You have to learn to distinguish which muscles are tight because they’re helping you to walk faster from those that are tightening up unnecessarily because they’re not directly involved with walking. Finally, you have to learn how to make those muscles relax.
That’s not easy to do. In fact, it’s only in the last few years, after a lifetime of walking, that I realized this was a problem. Of course, I’ve only been doing Tai Chi regularly for the last seven or eight years and only recently have been able to relax while executing the moves. Aging has undoubtedly played a part in the discovery, too. When I was younger I didn’t seem to have to worry about tiring while walking; I didn’t tire unless I was carrying a heavy pack, and I don’t thing any amount of relaxation was going to make that easier.
I seemed to be tighter than usual today, possibly because I have been spending a lot of time sitting at the computer. Tai Chi had also run longer than usual, and my hip had tightened up a little more than usual. I didn’t think I was going to manage to get in my usual 40 minute, two mile walk. In fact, at twenty minutes and a little over a mile, I began to think it was time to call it a morning. After all, I had been exercising for an hour already.
Instead of giving up, though, I focused on the pain and tightness, trying to make the muscles relax. As I tried to relax, I focused on the komuso music playing on my iPod and it seem to make it easier to relax.
Suddenly, I had a rush of old, unexpected memories. The next time I looked at my watch 20 minutes had passed and my pedometer showed I had walked a mile and a half. Equally amazing, the soreness had disappeared; I didn’t even feel the normal tightness when I returned home. I still don’t.
Did relaxing the muscles somehow cause the memories to arise? Did the combination of Reiki music and focus cause the memories to appear? Did the release of the memories cause the muscle tightness to disappear?
Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. The closest I’ve ever come to the feeling is being “in the zone” while playing basketball or meditating during yoga, but this was quite different than that. This felt an awful lot like a waking dream, and not the kind you get when you’re sleepy and drift off.
I wonder if spending the last few days copying comments from yearbooks somehow contributed to this phenomena, even though none of the memories had anything to do with high school.
Truthfully, the incident raised more questions than answers. I did remember reading about a theory that muscles can hold memories, a theory I dismissed out of hand when I read it. I ended up going online and finding “Precise touch to re-educate the muscles in the process of changing the tensions can re elicit memories from the past. It is as if the muscles actually held those memories.” I’m not ready to buy into that theory just yet, but I’m probably going to try to recreate the moment when I walk in the future.