Monday, May 31, 2010


Ahh ... the last day of a long holiday weekend. It was wonderful to take time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. The weather wasn't bad either.

Today's sunshine segued into clouds and thoughts of rain. None of that wet stuff yet. There was a wonderful coolness in the air all day long.

During tonight's TCC practice I felt so relaxed and peaceful ... flowing. The energy moved, my palms vibrated, and I felt filled up with good, healing energy. Namaste.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Slow-Fast Practice

From the sounds of traffic on the road below our house, innumerable people migrated up to the South Shore for Memorial Day weekend. It feels busy on the road below us but quiet and peaceful here in the woods.

Today's TCC practice took place during the quiet before the storm. At least I'm anticipating a storm. The sky has closed and opened itself numerous times during the day but, at the moment, cloud cover is thorough and skies are grey. A hush lies over landscape and temperatures have fallen to around 50.

I began my practice upstairs. Then, frustrated by the haze-covered windows (they need to be cleaned!), I moved back downstairs to watch the outdoor landscape through the patio door. During the first half of practice time seemed to move slowly and during the second half, time speeded up.

I feel ultra-relaxed after my practice as if I could settle in for a nap. Instead, I'll make dinner and continue on with my day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Slow, Steady, Soft ... Embracing the Moment

It's another awesome day! The cat and dog decided to spend their day outdoors, thank you very much. I'm washing dishes, washing dishes, and washing more dishes.

My brain seems to be on pause today. I think I'll leave it that way....

A midafternoon TCC practice on the deck flew by. I realized that I can no longer see Lake Superior due to leaves expanding into my view. We won't be able to see the Big Lake again until after the leaves fall. I miss that distant cool blue sight. Now I understand why lake view homes are more expensive. There is something about seeing the lake from afar that brings you a sense of its power and majesty. Of course, riding its wavy surface gives you even greater sensory experience.

No big ah ha moments during today's practice. Just a nice slow, steady, soft embrace of the moment.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Finding the Way

Spring is back with a passion! Temperatures at 6:30 pm are about 52 degrees with a cool breeze that sways and flutters leaves and branches into a piano player's frenzy. I spent the day outside gardening and monitoring the geese, Ander and Lucy. I chased them away from our vegetable garden--which now contains lettuce, one of their favorite foods--numerous times.

Utter greenness. We plant more and more flowers to bring color into the forest. Even white flowers like lilies of the valley and trillium stand out dramatically against the rich green background. Lupines, one of the local favorites, are currently out in full force so splotches of bright purple and pink echo everywhere.

My TCC practice on the deck was interrupted by Frances's return home from a daylong project. Normally I'd move to a more private area but today I allowed my practice to be interrupted with our brief conversation. As a result I discovered that it was easy to continue my movements as Frances talked. I had no problem staying in sync, counting my repetitions, and maintaining my relaxation and composure.

I also noted that the t'ai chi chih movements have integrated themselves so deeply into my body/mind that I smoothly continued my practice with no effort. During the remainder of TCC practice I recognized the buzz of territorial hummingbirds battling over their feeder and the pumping tail of an Eastern phoebe who watched me from afar.

Which reminds me ... the female phoebe became trapped in our house last night. Frances went out the patio door under the phoebe's nest to retrieve Namaste and, before Frances could close the door behind her, the phoebe had flown inside.

We tried to locate the bird and shoo her back outside with absolutely no luck. So we did the next best thing. It was 10:30 pm. We turned off all the lights except for the outside light by the patio door, we left the patio door wide open, and we went to bed. When we got up this morning, the phoebe was back in her nest incubating her four white eggs.

I believe my suggestion to simply go to bed was a t'ai chi chih moment. We didn't need to escort our phoebe out the door, just trust that given silence and opportunity, she would find her own way....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows

Yep. More glory today: tremendous sunshine flowed through azure blue skies and low humidity air. It was so beautiful that we couldn't resist taking an evening walk with Namaste on Bayview beach.

Since the water is low this year there were areas where small sandbars were forming near shore. When I waded out through ankle deep water onto several of these bars, the water was so warm (for Lake Superior!) that the thought of swimming crossed my mind. That's pretty radical for this time of year....

I feel better and better with each passing day. Tonight's TCC practice was conducted indoors as dusk fell. I avoided the swarm of mosquitoes around my ankles by staying inside. Interestingly, as my headaches abate my mind--which couldn't contain thoughts during my week of pain--is now up and running. During tonight's practice I felt as if mind was making up for lost time because there were moments of intense Monkey Mind busyness.

A former student called today to ask for a tune-up session. She's been practicing on her own for four or five years. When she recently watched the Stone video, she noticed discrepancies between her practice and that depicted on-screen. She deduced that she may have fallen into some bad habits. Welcome to the club.

It's gratifying to have students who are committed to practicing TCC correctly. As refinements are made the door opens to greater energy flow and the potential for additional positive life changes. That's true for students and teachers alike.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Evening Glow

After a generous rain I walked down the drive early this morning marveling at the light that shone from the vibrant green leaves all around me. The humidity is gone! Today was a slightly breezy, glowing with health spring day.

In addition, my body is beginning to heal. Yesterday I proudly commented to Frances that I knew I was getting better because I only took two naps. She laughed. Today I took one. To me the shortening nap times are huge signs of progress.

During this evening's TCC practice I marveled at the way I flowed through the form. Oh, it is so much easier to practice when the majority of muscle aches are gone.

And, with a mostly-disappeared headache, I can think again! As someone who has struggled to put a few words together for this blog over the past week of sickness--Anyone notice how short my blogs were?--it is a hugh relief to have brainpower AND bodypower again, reduced though they may be.

TCC practice tonight felt stable and effortless which was a distinct difference from the practices I performed during the height of this illness. Now the sky is filled with rosy pink clouds as the sun dips its head into the distant horizon and reflects its light back into the evening sky.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Temps Down, Spirits Up

Hurrah! Rain. Hurrah! Noticeable improvements in my health.

Our super-hot spring came to an abrupt halt this afternoon when an impressive rain storm thundered into our area. From highs in the 80s we slip-slided away to the high 50s. And the rain, the rain was glorious! Frances reports that much of our driveway washed downhill. Today's rain is the first drenching of the year and I am pleased.

As for health issues, I did relent and see an MD this morning after last night's temperature reading of 102. I was informed there's a virus going around and I was not the first to show up at the clinic with these symtoms.

Just like the weather temps my own temperature plunged to 98.6 after my doctor's visit. I'm feeling less anxious and more impatient now since my aches and pains, low appetite, and cough have graced my days for over a week and I'm tremendously worn down.

Today's TCC practice felt good as I moved myself to the rhythm of the rain and the gloom of the skies. I realized that in previous years when I felt ill I often abandoned my TCC practice until I felt better. This time around, though, I did things differently. I didn't always get completely through my practice but everyday I spent at least 15-20 minutes. Some days that was about the only movement I did--along with a wee bit of walking--before I was back in bed asleep.

TCC practice gave me a feedback mechanism to experience how my body felt as it weakened and how sensations changed as it began to rebound. I'm the first to admit: engaging in a TCC practice when you feel sick is difficult, but I'm so glad that I did....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weather Improving

I still have that under-the-weather feeling but the weather is starting to improve. My t'ai chi chih practice tonight felt easier. I could move my arms around Platters and Bass Drums and over Mountains and into Valleys without experiencing aches and pains ... that's a very good thing.

The outside weather is beginning to cool down a bit too. What a relief! When I talk to other folks who live up here they say the same thing: It's just not right for it to be so hot this early in the year.

We've been waiting for a rainstorm for days and still hope that one will arrive soon. Despite the incredible dryness our woods looks lush and green. We sat out on the deck today and watched the hummers buzzing each other, swinging up and down through the air like a carnival ride. One hummingbird actually swooped the cat repeatedly (not wise, not wise at all).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Everything is based on mind ...

Today reminded me of days in late July/early August before the cooling mornings lead the way toward fall. It was hot, muggy, dare I use the word oppressive? In the evening we drove to Little Sand Bay to experience some of Lake Superior's refrigerated air. What a relief!

Something is still not right with my body. I want someone to tell me what it is and what I can do to fix it and ... that's not going to happen. In the meantime, I sleep a lot, have high blood sugars, cough and feel pressure in my chest.

During my TCC practice this evening my heart rate was up again. I used whatever available strength I had to simply make it through the movements. Yet it was good to engage myself in my practice because it's so easy to get caught in the clutches of an overactive mind and then one knows they are lost.

I'm reminded of a quote by the Buddha from The Little Zen Companion (p. 346):
Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you, as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox. Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a pure mind, happiness will follow you, as a shadow clings to a form.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In the Middle of Beauty

My body is whacked out. Blood sugars are high; back, spine, and shoulders are sore and rigid; and I have an unidentified cough that won't go away. It doesn't seem to matter what I eat or how often I test as blood sugars are always high. I'm in a conundrum ... what is happening to me? So far, I'm clueless.

I'm keeping to my exercise schedule the best I can. Today's walk was at a greatly reduced pace. Today's t'ai chi chih practice was also cut back to allow me to sit down and rest. I feel concern but I also realize that I have some healthy habits in place that continue to help me through the uncertainities of whatever is changing in my body.

After a long nap this afternoon I practiced TCC in the midst of sun-dappled leaves. The quiet green surroundings help me to slow down and also bring comfort my mind. Here I am--now--in the middle of beauty.

Friday, May 21, 2010


The day is gathered into waiting. A thicket of clouds covers the heavens; there's a hushed grey quiet settling over the landscape. It seems as though rain is inevitable tonight since the atmosphere has been in preparation all day long.

My tiredness continued today. Methinks I overdid it this week with two out-of-town trips and more. I've scaled back my schedule significantly since the heart disease diagnosis in March. I wear out quickly, sleep more, and feel exhausted after what used to be just one tiny segment of a too-full day.

My low back and upper back are currently so painful that I've resorted to taking aspirin which I seldom do for body aches. After my most-recent dose I quickly dove into my t'ai chi chih practice. It felt goooood. My practice went by quickly and now, I'm rejuvenated.

The yard is filling with colorful flowers after several trips to greenhouses and nurseries. Today Frances planted salmon begonias alongside red-orange-yellow nasturtiums, a bucket of purple-wave petunias (which look pink), honeysuckle, and so much more I can't remember the names. More beauty unfolds with each passing day....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Early Birds

We had a gorgeous outdoor group practice at our last class session in Cornucopia this morning. Birds sang heartily and it felt good to get our group outside again. At last!

The 60-something weather felt hot, hot, hot as we moved through the TCC form in the midst of funshine (whoops, I meant to write sunshine). If this heatwave continues through the summer we'll be looking for more shady areas to conduct our July/August class practices. Perhaps we'll move to the lake shore nearby since we can almost always feel a cool breeze there.

I'm t-i-r-e-d so this blog is at its end. I'm modeling myself on the birds tonight and hope to be the early bird tomorrow in order to catch the worm. Right now I'm collapsing into bed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


If it weren't for the commitment I made last Thanksgiving, I would have skipped t'ai chi chih practice today. I started and ended the day with a severe headache and spent much of the day riding in the car.

When I arrived home around 9:00 p.m., I simply wished to head for bed. But, no, thanks to my personal pledge to perform a daily TCC practice and blog afterward I gathered my energies and perservered.

Of course, it was worth it. I feel a bit better now. And I'm grateful ... grateful that I feel obliged to maintain this bargain with myself, first and foremost, and also that I have others--you, my readers--who silently and unobtrusively hold this expectation for me. I have one tangible goal to aim for every single day and I often feel inspired and deeply satisfied when I accomplish it.

It's more than the movement, more than the circulation of Chi, more than the silence, the centeredness, or the peace. Each day, each practice is an effort toward greater self-care and a regular acknowledgement that I'm but one small part in the circling and cycling of the Universe. I reestablish my connection with the Tao.

As Shunryu Suzuki writes in The Little Zen Companion (p. 317):
When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


It was summery today, warm enough to take the dog on a walk along the shore of Lake Superior and drink in the cool breeze off the lake. The dog, Namaste, was happy; Frances was happy; I was happy. It's been a long time since we've made it to the beach and the water level is low.

Tonight was the last TCC class in Washburn until the next session begins in October. It was 60ish, warm enough to hold our session outdoors on the third floor balcony. What a glorious experience!

Abundant traffic noise flowed over and around us but there was plenty of bird song too. It was wonderful to practice high in the air at treetop level and feel like we could fly with the birds or, at least, eavesdrop on their conversations.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ego Shows Her Raggedy Head

I moved in a fairy land this morning during my t'ai chi chih practice on the deck. A bird choir serenaded me from every direction and, other than their song, it was perfectly quiet. Though a few squirrels raced through the forest and up and down trees there was little movement.

Eventually, near the end of my practice a woodpecker visited the bird feeder. Woodpeckers love to come to the feeder and brush the sunflower seeds off onto the ground below. They are so intent on their duties, in fact, that it sometimes feels as if that's their mission.

One hummingbird finally flew to his/her feeder, too. I was relieved to see this since Frances told me that she'd been buzzed by the hummingbirds when she took in the feeders last night. It appeared that they didn't want their food source removed. But it was either take the bird feed in for the night ourselves or risk a black bear visitation last night which would certainly have removed the seeds and nectar permanently.

I practiced on the southeast corner of the house and, as the sun reached me, I saw my twin self moving along the cedar siding on the house. Huh, I thought, she/I has/have a tuft of hair sticking out from her/my neck in the back. Oh, that cowlick will never settle down.

Yep, that good old ego may disappear on occasion but she is never gone for long. Even in the midst of a wonderful TCC practice ego raises her head, hair shooting in every direction. I had to smile when I realized how ridiculous it was for me to worry about whether a small shock of hair stuck out in an inappropriate direction.... But that is, afterall, what it's like to live with your selves....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quiet and Calm, Inside and Out

Today was a day of firsts. We sighted the first hummingbird of the season, the first indigo bunting, ... and the first bird catch by our kitten, Chiripa. Whoops! We knew that our little kitten's hunting skills were improving but not this much!

Frances saw the cat leap up to catch a bird as it flew away from a log resting on the ground. She immediately raced for the cat and bird yelling "No!" She grabbed Chiripa by the back of the neck, released the bird from Chiripa's teeth, and then we both spent time sending healing energy to the bird (she looked like a female goldfinch or purple finch).

Eventually Frances placed the bird on a low branch in a nearby tree and, after some recoup time, the shocked little feathered one flew away. Meanwhile, the cat, realizing her skills were honed, positioned herself beneath the bird feeder. She started her sentry duties with a wild leap into the air to see whether her curvaceous claws could catch any stray feet or feathers from the birds currently feeding there.

Yes, this is what cats do: catch mice, birds, chipmunks, bunnies, and squirrels. But Frances is adverse to the reality of cat predatory behavior so I imagine we will have some human-feline battles to contend with in future days and weeks. Still, we will try our best to protect the songbirds from our wily kitten.

It was a warm, windless day (80 degrees) which inspired us to work in our gardens planting, composting, and watering. This evening's TCC practice on the deck was different from previous evenings. It was more buggy in general and mosquitoes buzzed around my ears and took occasional nips at me. Our view of Lake Superior is gradually disappearing behind leaf-laden trees. And the green of the forest keeps growing in width and length, depth and volume.

A few leaves fluttered and stirred as if tickled by an unseen hand. And I relished the quiet and calm that surrounded me, outside and in.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May it be Delightful ...

During this evening's TCC practice I found myself drawn to the pool of blue that lay at the base of the ravine south of our house. No, it's not water. Nor is it a miraculous reflection of the sky. It's a wild splash of forget-me-nots that migrated down the ravine and clumped into riotous beauty next to several large rocks settled into the fertile soil.

After a sun-kissed day, part of which was spent in the garden, I migrated to the deck in early evening to practice TCC as the temperatures glided down to the upper 40s. My body was warm, my hands, increasingly cold.

Undisturbed by insects I floated through practice as rose-breasted grosbeaks, purple finches, and a hairy woodpecker competed for the bird feeder. When I sneezed loudly, it set off a cascade of response. A red squirrel dashed away from the feeder and into a nearby tree already inhabited by another red squirrel. The resident squirrel fled higher then retreated downward to scare off the invader. That began a game of scramble and chase that skipped from one tree to the next.

Throughout the ruckus I calmly watched, listened, and moved softly and slowly. Nothing to do and nowhere to go. Just moving with glad appreciation for the moment....
May it be delightful my house;
From my head may it be delightful,
To my feet may it be delightful,
Where I lie may it be delightful,
All above me may it be delightful,
All around me may it be delightful.
          Navajo Chant
          From: Earth Prayers

Friday, May 14, 2010

Living the Low Life

It transformed into a beautiful day in late afternoon after a cool, windy start: temp around 50, sky clearing, sun bursts hitting deep forest and revealing an Emerald City (i.e., "The Wizard of Oz") or, more accurately, the Emerald Forest. The earth is pockmarked from raindrops that fell throughout the night and day yesterday. All is fresh.

This afternoon I listened to Here on Earth from Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) with host, Jean Feraca. It was broadcast live from the Pavilion in downtown Bayfield as part of the opening festivities for Bayfield in Bloom, a one month celebration of the season here in the north woods. I was delighted to hear chefs from Wild Rice Restaurant and the Rittenhouse Inn talk about their uses of locally gathered foods to highlight their menus: fiddlehead ferns, wild leeks, morel mushrooms, purslane, wild asparagus, lake trout and white fish, and more. I felt excited--and hungry--just listening to them describe favorite recipes and presentations.

Then I was up and moving to the beat of silent Chi. I practiced out on the porch with the kitten and dog sleeping quietly on the futon beside me. Their utter relaxation and still sleep were an inspiration to me as I shifted weight and carried balls of energy. Meanwhile a short-tailed chipmunk scurried around the side of the house and a bluejay flashed back and forth from tree to feeder.

After hearing WPR's Feraca describe the beauty of this area on-air I, once again, feel incredibly privileged and grateful to live here under the forest canopy. And, of course, Lake Superior is the source, the healing, spiritual entity that draws so many people to this area. I'm reminded of our reading of the Tao at yesterday's class, Verse 61, "Lying Low," by Ursula LeGuin:
The polity of greatness
runs downhill like a river to the sea,
joining with everything,
woman to everything.
Dyer describes this phenomenon in his book on the Tao, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind. He encourages us to reevaluate our belief that it's important to "'get to the top,' 'stand out in the crowd,' 'be the best.'" Rather, he writes:
     Look at the ocean [or in my case, Lake Superior]: It's the most powerful force on the planet because it stays lower than the streams, which are necessarily and inescapably drawn to it. As the rivers flow downward to become one with it, the sea is able to be the great reservoir of all under heaven. This is what Lao-tzu refers to throughout the Tao Te Ching as the 'great Mother' or the 'feminine of the world.' That female energy, or yin, is the true receptor of all; by remaining quiet and still, it ultimately overcomes male (yang) efforts to subjugate and conquer.
I'll let Dyer have the final word here from his chapter Living by Remaining Low as I think his interpretation of the feminine/yin Chi is powerful and enlightening and, also, highly descriptive of a t'ai chi chih practice:
Reassess your personal view of what constitutes strength.
     Can you see power in humility, stillness, and remaining low and out of sight? In martial arts, the strongest conqueror is the one who uses the least force and converts the lunges of his opponent into his own might....
     By staying calm and under the radar, others will ultimately flow to you, joining with you in creating friendship and trust. As you stay in this yin, feminine, Divine Mother mode, you'll radiate energy and strength and win over others ...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Easing the Way

The rain is a-fallin' and current temperatures are in the mid-30s. It's a blessing to see raindrops dripping down the window screens, falling from the sky, lying in pools on the ground and pavement, and swishing off my car windshield. It rained throughout the day and now appears to be temporarily on pause. What a relief. Someone told me last week that this region saw the driest spring on record in over 100 years this year....

This morning's T'ai Chi Chih class was prefaced with a talk by the community ed organizer for the area. She discussed a new price increase that comes into effect for fall 2010 classes. It's a considerable hike for seniors who've received a bargain basement price for many years but it also calls into question whether class sessions should be decreased, class time should be shortened, or classes shouldn't be scheduled at all.

I'm reminded of the adage: The only thing constant is change.

It felt wonderful to circle into our TCC practice and leave the decisions and contemplations for another time. By the end of practice I felt incredibly grateful for these special people who return to T'ai Chi Chih classes and practices session after session, year upon year.

After class I talked with a former T'ai Chi Chih student sitting in his car in the parking lot who wondered whether he was having a stroke. After some discussion and my suggestion of reiki, we went back inside the building and I offered some energy work while I listened, supported, and comforted. When he felt better, I followed him home in my car and we visited for awhile longer.

Again, the preceeding T'ai Chi Chih practice very likely put me in a place of caring compassion and centeredness where I remained--quiet and calm--in the midst of a potentially life-threatening situation. The Universe works in amazing ways and T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation is just one of the tools it provides to ease the way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Inner Exercise

Justin Stone and the T'ai Chi Chih teacher trainers often talk about the fact that TCC practice exercises the body's internal organs. I admit, I've never actually understood exactly what that means

Today, though, I was wearing my heart monitor watch during my TCC practice. Since March, when a cardiologist told me to get my heart rate up to 120-140 for 20 minutes at least three times a week, I've paid more attention to the pitter-patter of my heart than I ever imagined I would (typically while I'm out walking).

So, what the heck, I thought, I'll check my heart rate a few times during my TCC practice. During several checks my monitor read: 108, 113, 116. Huh, I always assumed that the relaxed slow motion movements slowed my heart rate down just as I expected that seated meditation or a nap might do.

It was fairly windy during my deck practice. Did the wind provide more resistance than normal? I'll have to remember to wear the heart monitor during some future practices to see what I find.

I do recall reading an article in The Vital Force that told of several t'ai chi chih practitioners who hiked up a mountain with relative ease compared to their hiking companions. Could it be that TCC was at least partially responsible for my extended time on the treadmill during my February stress test even though the test also revealed that I had heart disease?

I can see that I still have a tremendous amount to learn about this T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation form that I've been practicing for 14 years....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Gift that Keeps on Giving ...

Another blustery day. What better way to lighten spirits and shrug off oppressive grey skies than through a peace-filled, quiet t'ai chi chih class group practice?

I arrived at class early to allow time to practice half the form before students appeared. After considerable laughter and conversation we began our moving meditation. I commented to a student after class that it is so gratifying to see the changes that people's bodies and minds go through as they continue their TCC practice and learn how to let go and relax into the movements. Most weeks I notice shifts and changes that feel almost magical!

We refined our arm movements for the Taffies last week. This week we focused on our foot placement and weight shift. Each week builds upon the next until, suddenly, it's the final class of an eight-week session and, after a brief or longer gap (in this case, an entire four-months of summer), we begin all over again.

I feel a twinge of sadness at the end of a class session because I miss the group energy. There is something so unique, so unusual, so unexpected about joining with a group to move in coordinated silence. It's certainly not the norm for a typical American lifestyle that relies on movin' and shakin' in order to accomplish goals and make money.

I'm grateful for this t'ai chi chih practice that fills another need that's often hard to identify in words but which is equally important and relevant: making time in my life to experience peace, compassion, and silence. It's a gift I give myself that keeps on giving....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blessed ...

Dueling squirrels conduct their chattering exchange from neighboring trees. Then ... silence. It's a picture perfect scene. Sunny 60s, wide, open blue above, and gracious green around, about, and below.

During this morning's TCC practice I flow through the scenery like a fish gliding along a stream: natural, effortless ... just a flip of the tail/turn of the waist to continue my journey.

Some days I can drink in my blessings more easily than others and this is one of those days. The air softly brushes my skin with coolness while the sun warms the top of my head, my hands and face with its golden heat.

Birds sing gleefully; the leafy green forest waves at me as it circles closer in an ever-expanding embrace; Chiripa hunts and chases, darts and freezes in place.

Me ... I glide and float, swim and rest, rise and fall with the flow of Universal Chi. When complete, I sit on the deck to listen and watch the greening forest in grateful silence. Ahh....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Busyness Dispelled

Today was a busy day filled with unimportant things. It was only when I began my t'ai chi chih practice late in the day that I realized how lost I was in the doings of my life. For a few brief moments near the end of my practice none of my busyness mattered. All that remained was this moment. Now.

It didn't happen instantly, of course. Half of my practice was spent in quieting my mind and body, gradually calming, slowing, listening, be-ing....

I spent much of my day cleaning and organizing my house for an expected visit with a friend tomorrow night. Yes, it felt good to bring more light into my home due to newly cleaned windows. Yes, it also felt good to tame some of the dust and dirt, to sort through and file some of the piles of papers that covered my dining room table and spread across my office floor.

But did all of my efforts to clean, clear, and sort truly matter in the end? No. What really mattered--the moment of greatest import--came near the end of my TCC practice when my body and mind quieted down enough to release myself into the moment. Free and clear. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No thing.

What a relief. Sigh. To finally find my self after being lost in a day filled with so many things that mattered little.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Hunt ...

It's springtime green again! When we went to bed, snow camouflaged all burgeoning life beneath its full-length white overcoat. When we woke, green grass and leaves and pink tulips, yellow daffoldils, and blue forget-me-nots had shed their wintry wrap and everyone nodded a colorful "good morning."

Today's temps were back in the upper 40s and plants seemed grateful for the unexpected moisture. Sure enough the snow turned into liquid. And ... we needed moisture, didn't we?

I practiced t'ai chi chih moving meditation outside on the deck this afternoon while the geese hunted for green edibles in the south ravine, a chipmunk hunted sunflower seeds beneath the bird feeder, and the kitten hunted the chipmunk. Me? I hunted for softness, relaxation, and Chi energy as I slowly moved through the TCC form.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I've thought often of my own mother during this past week. Last Sunday was the fifth anniversary of Mother's death and it's hard to believe that so many years have passed so quickly.

The compilers of The Mystic Vision include excerpts characterizing the divine mother during the month of May. Today's reading is wonderfully graphic:
My Mother is both within and without this phenomenal world ... Giving birth to the world she lives within it. She is the Spider and the world is the Spider's web she has woven ... The Spider brings the web out of herself and then lives in it.
          --The Gospel of Ramakrishna
             Sri Ramakrishna
Happy Mother's Day to all women who spin webs of life and light for all children and creatures of the Earth!

Friday, May 7, 2010

May Snows Bring ... Who Knows?

My gut feeling was right yesterday. Until today, though, I didn't know what I was right about.... Now as I look out my office window into evening's dusk I see white everywhere. The heavy cloak that draped over the heavens yesterday was not the cloak of rain clouds. No. It was the unimagined promise of snow. Let me spell  it out: S-N-O-W.

The tulips, daffodils, forget-me-nots, and lungwort have lost their brilliant blues, pinks, and yellows to a covering of heavy whiteness. Instead of April showers bringing May flowers we have May snows bringing ... who knows?

The dark earth of the driveway lies uncovered but all else--new leaves, buds, and blossoms--is snowed under. This is a vastly different look from fall when naked trees catch and hold this frozen moisture on their long, lanky branches. No, this is something else entirely ... tender leaves, delicate petals, and fragile blossoms rest beneath an icy coating and it remains to be seen how well these fledgling plants survive.

Frances planted all of the tomatoes she started from seed into the garden yesterday afternoon even though I cautioned her against making such a rash decision. This morning she hurried out to unplant each and every tomato and carry it back into the house.

My t'ai chi chih practice this evening was oh so quiet as if it, too, were weighed down by the shock of new fallen snow. Birds sang through the first half of the form and then all was silent. I watched the snow-covered world before me with eyes filled with winter-weary wonder. And I moved slowly and softly as if I were moving through snow-weighted air. Indeed, I was.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Tao in My Heart

38 degrees ... thick clouds and a feeling of anticipation in the air. More rain coming? It's hard to say but, for the moment, I feel weighed down as if a heavy cloak were draped over the heavens all the way to the edges of the sky. I've been cold all day ... just can't warm up.

This morning's T'ai Chi Chih class was small ... and powerful. Our quiet practice is a gift we share with ourselves and each other. I'm always in awe of students' willingness to be open and vulnerable as we move through the practice and then discuss the Tao.

Today we read and contemplated Verse 60. Wayne Dyer calls this verse/chapter: "Living with Immunity to Evil" and Ursula LeGuin titles it "Staying Put." Both versions begin similarly (quoting Dyer here):
Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.
Dyer explains that the Tao isn't about destruction or visiting harm on anyone; rather, it gives sustaining energy to everyone, without exception (p. 287).

My reading of this verse leads me to this: You are immune to negativity by being Tao-centered. You are immune to negativity when you're in your TCC practice because you merge with the Tao. Stay in the midst of your practice in all that you do and say [I admit, easier said than done]. Return to your practice regularly to build/align/connect with the love, compassion, and peace of the Tao.

As Dyer reminds us in the last line of this chapter: Approach the universe with the Tao in your heart rather than reacting defensively [from ego] (p. 289).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Drips and Drops of Peace

It's raining! Glorious rain. The wetness drips down slowly, almost reluctantly. Evening arrived earlier tonight due to a sky full of clouds and air filled with moisture. And the green keeps expanding, growing, and creeping into open spaces and nooks in the sky above and over the forest floor.

When I begin TCC practice inside looking out, I see every shade of green imaginable. Of course, there's lots of new green, a color that pierces the atmosphere with its yellowy-greeny, perky, sprightly energy.

I allow the green to soak into my senses as I move slowly and quietly. No need to hurry. No rush. Just letting myself drip from one movement into the next. It's wonderful to feel myself dropping into the rhythm of the falling rain.

Too quickly TCC practice is over and I'm sitting at the computer lulled into contemplation by the quiet drips and drops that bounce onto the metal roof above me. Ahhh, peace....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Being Present ... in the Present

Our computer is sliding into funkiness so whether we get into our email or onto our preferred sites from one day to the next or, for that matter, from one moment to the next is questionable. It's time to consult a professional. In the meantime, we catch as catch can....

Tonight's TCC class was relaxing despite the fact that I spent the day hopping from one task to the next and driving from destination to destination. Perhaps it was more relaxing than usual because of my busyness prior to class.

I made sure to set up my classroom early enough to allow time for me to settle myself down and begin moving with the Chi prior to students appearing. That focus and centering benefitted me and, I hope, helped to create a warm, welcoming, peaceful atmosphere for my students.

I began session by reading from Sr. Antonia's May 2010 newsletter. Students, I hoped, could be inspired by her words and her encouragement:
Serenity helps us to be at peace in the present moment,
To be right where we are ... and nowhere else,
To not zone out,
To dwell in the present moment,
To be mindful of being present ... in the present....

When I think of Serenity, I also think of caring, loving, and nurturing. These and other qualities begin to deepen and grow within right along with our practice. 'We begin to change' as we care for ourselves, love and nurture ourselves, and be present to self. 'Our world' begins to change as well.
When we keep coming back to t'ai chi chih practice day after day after day, its regular softness and continuity contributes to our lives in a meaningful and significant way. After a rushing around day like today I need to remember to do as Sr. Antonia suggests: Allow yourself to be centered, peaceful, calm, tranquil -- to be serene and enjoy the serenity of the form.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mood Mender

Brrrr. I practiced TCC outside on the deck this evening while temps hovered around 42 degrees. When I began, I heard an owl hooting deep in the forest and midway through a neighbor's chainsaw and barking dog took over.

Frances placed a beautiful bouquet of multi-petaled daffodils on the deck railing in front of me and, for a time, I let myself sink into the vibrant sunny yellow that vibrated before me. Then I simply focused on moving with softness and continuity.

Frances and I went out picking up trash along the side of the road today. We came back with two full garbage bags in addition to the trash bag I filled over the weekend. Luckily we can recycle most of the stuff we picked up. The most popular item tossed into the ditches? Lite beer cans of any and every variety. It felt good to see the ditches emptied out ... no glints or glares or flapping papers to distract from the natural beauty.

Quote of the day: Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results. Willie Nelson

T'ai chi chih practice is certainly a simple, wonderful way to flip the switch on negativity. I call it my mood mender. Yup. I feel very, very good right now.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

TCC Practice is Not for Ourselves Alone

We varnished our snowshoes today readying them for storage. Hopefully our next snowfall won't occur until late fall or early winter though local residents remind us that our area does occasionally receive snow into May.

Today was sunny and windy, cloudy and windy, windy and windy. Temps climbed to 70, then backed down to 60, but it felt much cooler because of the wind coming off the lake.

I read Sr. Antonia's May 2010 T'ai Chi Chih Newsletter today. As guide for the T'ai Chi Chih community she publishes a monthly message to inspire, challenge, and encourage us in our regular practice of TCC. I particularly related to her message when she mentioned that T'ai Chi Chih practice is not for ourselves alone (per the discussion we've been having in my TCC class that studies the Tao).

Sr. Antonia wrote:
Some years ago I let my practice slack for about two weeks. One day Sr. Dominic, my Regional Minister asked: 'Are you still practicing your T'ai Chi Chih?' I admitted to her that I had slacked off. She quickly said--go back to your practice. I never asked her why she said that...actually I really didn't want to know!

No. T'ai Chi Chih practice is not for ourselves alone -- the Chi moves beyond ourselves and our small circles to permeate the world and universe. Don't forget, the final pose of the practice is called 'The Cosmic Consciousness Pose.' Shifts happen and our world begins to change. We continue to evolve--our practice evolves--our caring, loving, and nurturing also evolve.
What a wonderful encouragement, inspiration, and motivation for keeping up TCC practice!

My practice tonight focused on maintaining the 'musts' of T'ai Chi Chih movements per Justin Stone's instructions in his Photo Text, p. 21: Softness at all times, slow and even movements and no effort. It felt lovely to float through the movements in the presence of the moment.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Neapolitan Delight

I practiced TCC on the deck this evening as the sky over Lake Superior stacked itself into a Neapolitan ice icream sandwich: a thick slice of blueberry on the bottom, a thin layer of strawberry in the middle, and a top layer of pure white vanilla. Silence surrounded me except for the sound of wind whispering through leaves.

What a delicious treat! As the sky melted into a deepening shade of blue my body melted too. I felt so soft, relaxed, and comfortable that I could have been just another one of the leaves that twirled and danced in the breeze except that I could feel my grounding, a taproot that anchored me deeply into the Earth as my upper body rode on the quiet whisk of breeze that swept through the trees.

I feel wonderful now, delighted by the beauty of spring unfolding..... Frances told me that I missed the sound of thunder echoing as I slept deeply last night. The result? Today is greener and more lush than yesterday. Also, I experienced my first bug bite of the year. It's still swollen and itchy and I know there'll be plenty more to come. Sure, ticks have been around since March but the flying, biting insects are just now congregating.

I'm not sure whether the Eastern phoebe nest above the patio door is going to pass the mama test. I opened the door after dark last night to let Chiripa inside and immediately afterward a phoebe flew into and banged repeatedly against the door. She moved to windows on the east side of the house, battering herself against the glass, then returned to the south side.

Frances speculated that perhaps she fell out of the nest when I opened the door for the cat and couldn't find her nest again (it's sturdy and well-designed now). We turned on the light above the door and she disappeared (back into the nest?). Today I saw no phoebes at all. Did they decide to rebuild their nest elsewhere? I can imagine the mama telling her mate: It's downright frustrating to deal with these humans who live in the middle of the woods with their cats. Why can't they use one door and leave us in peace?