Today we’d like to introduce you to Trace Turville Konerko.
Trace, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I love to dance, but I was never really a “dancer”.
There was an early obsession with Eastern cultures (my favorite book in high school was Siddhartha), but I thought I was going to study Economics.
There was my devotion to horses and the oneness I found riding.
And the months spent backpacking through Japan, Thailand, Nepal and India in my early twenties.
And then faced with a choice of graduate schools, I picked the one that offered classes in T’ai Chi…
…Do we ever really know where it all starts?
I was twenty-four when I met, Sherry Tschernisch, my first T’ai Chi teacher at California Institute of the Arts. I would take Sherry’s class and time would evaporate. She is still my mentor and one of my best friends, and I cannot image a day without her in my life. I became her assistant after graduation and there inspired the twists and turns of what evolved into a lifelong practice of T’ai Chi and Qigong.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When my daughter, Ella, was about five years old I started thinking of starting my own business. I had so much fear and felt like I had been walking around in a haze negotiating parenthood and searching for my own path. I remember a particularly difficult day. Ella loves to draw and paint, so I got out a blank canvas that had been sitting around and asked her if she wanted to do a painting together. We set up on the back patio and while she started making squiggles on the bottom of the canvas I actually started writing on it in black paint. A spontaneous, chicken scratch of a journal entry poured out as I tried to turn frustrated thoughts into intention.
“What do I want to do? What kind of parent do I want to be? What do I have to offer? What matters most?”
The writing had barely dried when Ella and I just started painting over it. After coming up with a wonderfully abstract mess, Ella decided to paint a big blue heart in the middle. A heart as only a five-year-old can paint. And that was that. We cleaned up, went inside, had a snack, and some weeks later I hung it on a less than prominent wall of the house.
Soon after, I decided to attend my first intensive training in Qigong with a Chinese Medical Doctor who runs an institute for T’ai Chi and Qigong in Santa Barbara. Everything shifted.
The intensive went more deeply into the medical, scientific and internal side of the practice that I had been struggling to put together. It was a quiet, but enormous shift. I thought “this is worthy of 100 lifetimes. This really is something you live, not just do”.
I came home with a level of confidence I had not felt in years. I was ready to take some ownership. And while I had a huge business learning curve, I felt like the indecision was over. I happened to look up one day at the painting Ella and I had done, a big blue heart with all those questions hidden under the surface, and I knew I had found a path.
Please tell us about HeartMind T’ai Chi.
My Company’s name is Heartmind T’ai Chi and I teach classes in Qigong and the Yang Style Long Form of Taijiquan (T’ai Chi). It seems that most people are familiar with T’ai Chi but not Qigong (pronounced chee gung). It translates as “Energy Work” and is the ancient Chinese healing tradition that gave rise to T’ai Chi. There are literally hundreds of Qigong exercises that have evolved over roughly 5000 years that address the whole being. The movements are used to balance the flow of energy or “Qi” within the body and can have a deep effect on the immune system, oxygen levels in the blood, organ function, and the central nervous system, just to name a few.
In Qigong tradition, the HeartMind refers to the energy field in the body that is located in the area of your solar plexus. It is believed to be where Body (Yin) and Spirit (Yang) come together to create life. Human life as we know it. The daily balancing act of thoughts, feelings and decisions. When we cultivate the HeartMind through Qigong exercises we are bringing physical awareness and internal balance to this daily juggling act.
As a contemporary culture we are fantastic multitaskers. We are often burned out and distracted and more than ever we find ourselves shaped by a device heavy world. We have become very skilled at separating our feelings from our physical wellness, so the HeartMind reminds us that it is possible to cultivate all of who we are. The muscles, tendons, bones, mind, emotions and creativity. It is so much more than just physical exercise. And even though we may call it moving meditation, everyone is usually laughing at the end of practice wondering how they could sweat so much while moving so slowly.
My biggest challenge as a business has been putting something into words that is so vast yet so personal for everyone. We may all be in class together, working through the same forms, but one person is negotiating through a shoulder injury, another is dealing with a divorce, another is grounding themselves for a big performance and still another is distressing from a hectic week. I am fortunate enough to have thousands of years of history to guide me, so I see who is coming that day and we feel our way through what we need. My goal is to create a space and time for people to have a practice that is meaningful to them without worrying about doing the movements perfectly all the time. Even when I teach classes in the Yang Style Long Form of T’ai Chi, I try to tie in the imagery and sensory aspects of the tradition from the very beginning. Yes, it’s a commitment, but it doesn’t have to be tedious and stiff. I am working to change the perception beyond “that thing old people do in the park…”
I teach classes and workshops in different locations and schools around Los Angeles, but my regular Qigong classes are in Eagle Rock and held in my home garden studio. They are small, intimate groups in a natural setting. One of my favorite things to do is teach privately and form small group classes by request. I love watching people’s curiosity take flight.
I will be making my first trip to China in May to study in the sacred Wudang Mountains. These mountains are the home of Daoist T’ai Chi and Qigong and I cannot wait to share in the learning.
I am so grateful to have something in my life that honors the complexities of being human. I love that my work gives me a great responsibility to my community, my family and to myself, and I am excited each day to offer people a way to be more self-reliant and enjoy the deep work of staying aware. I truly believe it can teach us to be strong, healthy, compassionate beings.
I have had incredible teachers and inspirations along the way, but I understand more than ever that the practice itself is the greatest teacher. We move Qi. That’s all. And it mostly just feels like dancing.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I grew up riding and showing horses. My grandfather bought me a pony when I was six years old. “Tommy” lived on my Grandparent’s farm in Tennessee, and although I only saw him two or three times a year, and although he left me on the ground more times than I can count, this is where my connection to horses began. A connection that would ultimately turn into a deep commitment to the sport. I traveled all over the region to compete and have many great moments of pride, disappointment, fear and friendship, but the truly meaningful moments were those spent wandering by myself around the trails and pastures of the farm on horseback.
Especially as a teenager this brought me sincere peace and connection. It felt very much like the freedom I find in my work today.
- Website: www.heartmind-taichi.com
- Phone: 323-868-4017
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: heartmindtaichi
- Yelp: Heartmind T’ai Chi
Photography credit: Peter Konerko Photography