Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Girl Who Circled the Chi

Frances and I took a late afternoon walk on the beach just as the sun descended into the cloudy horizon. It was absolutely beautiful: warm, quiet, waves washing the shore, no people, just lakeshore whooshing and whispers and sunlight sifting through trees and glancing off sand and water.

We drove the tree-damaged car to the beach and, other than the fact that air rushed through the glass-less rear windshield and rear passenger window, it ran as well as it usually does (perhaps moreso because its appearance stood in stark contrast to its functionality).

My mid-evening TCC practice felt relaxed and at ease after a day with my nose stuck in a book. Hurrah, I'm finished with The Girl ... series! It felt wonderful to go and flow, cycle and circle, soften and soak in. Now everything feels easy as I settle down for an evening movie and then prepare myself for a busy week ahead.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moving Toward the Middle

The sun came back into view today and, as it sinks below the horizon, the northwest skies are light and bright. Frances and I took a late afternoon walk after hand picking more shattered glass off the driveway from her "treed" Crown Vic.

My late afternoon TCC practice consisted of starting with one movement from the beginning of the form followed by one movement from the end of the form. I continued to alternate back and forth: Bird Flaps Its Wings to Joyous Breath, Around the Platter to Light at the Top of the Head/Temples, etc. At some point I realized that I was working toward the middle and thought, I wish that our political system could manage to do something like this.

My thoughts may have been inspired by today's news about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This rally follows conservative Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally held in August. I wonder, though, whether both rallies served to restore nothing other than a continuing sense of polarized thoughts and ideas about our nation's future and what to do about it.

Mid-term elections are Tuesday. And so it goes....

Friday, October 29, 2010


A bright rosy sun crowned the horizon this morning. Now, hours later, the sky is packed with clouds; occasional shifting shades of blue peak through. The water in the goose pail froze last night. Ready or not, we're back in the cold weather mode.

Frances and I watched Chiripa playing in a tree this morning. I couldn't take my eyes off of her! She was so engaged in her play, biting at small twigs as she worked her way ever higher, that I wondered whether she'd manage to descend when the time came. It was readily apparent, however, that she's honed her skills to an art form. When the time came to de-tree, she handled her descent with quick agility. Ms. Light on Her Feet, that's our kitten!

Today's TCC practice flew by even though my knee felt sore. I focused my attention on softening the knees and allowed the weight to flow forward and back with ease and comfort. The weight shift cycled back and forth with surprisingly little effort. Yes, that can happen when you allow rather than force. Why, then, is it so challenging to remember this one basic principle? (Perhaps because it's a cultural norm to force rather than allow?)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

All is "One"derful

Wind ~, wind ~, and more ~ ~ ~ (wind). The drive to Cornucopia this morning was beautiful; yellow grasses and red dogwood branches glorified the ditches and yards with their dramatic colors.

Thankfully, rain no longer dripped from the sky. When I drove over the hill into Corny, I saw whitecaps on Lake Superior as they bounced from horizon to shore. There's a subtle sense of excitement in the air when the lake's waters dance and churn. And, though I drove right by, I could feel my energy rev up in an automatic response to the lake's frenetic call.

Once again, our class had an interesting conversation about Verse 74 of the Tao, "Living with No Fear of Death" (per Wayne Dyer). The verse begins:
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you are not afraid of dying,
there is nothing you cannot achieve.
Dyer's distillation of the entire verse results in two main premises: Discontinue fearing your death. Examine the ways you kill (p. 353). Is it possible that T'ai Chi Chih practice helps us--its practitioners--to release ourselves into the inconstancy of life as we move from one form to the next, yinning and yanging through it all?

Perhaps part of the power of TCC practice is its ability to allow us to die to our ego. When we do so--even if it's simply for a few moments or minutes during our TCC practice--we can feel the Oneness, move as One, and be happy with this One moment we inhabit together ... Now.

Dyer quoted Neale Donald Walsch from his book, Communion with God at the end of this chapter. Walsch's Onederful words are a gift and an inspiration:
     Which snowflake is the most magnificent? Is it possible that they are all magnificent--and that, celebrating their magnificence together they create an awesome display? Then they melt into each other, and into the Oneness. Yet they never go away. They never disappear. They never cease to be. Simply, they change form. And not just once, but several times: from solid to liquid, from liquid to vapor, from the seen to the unseen, to rise again, and then again to return in new displays of breathtaking beauty and wonder. This is Life, nourishing Life.
     This is you.... For you are each wondrous indeed, yet no one more wondrous than another. And you all will one day melt into the Oneness, and know then that you form together a single stream.
Isn't that what T'ai Chi Chih teaches and reminds us? That we are all snowflakes, each one unique and different from the rest. When we gather our energies together and join in a group practice, we are invited to melt into that Oneness (it feels good). This is Life, nourishing Life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Fall came crashing to an end last night. Literally and figuratively.

Initially the winds picked up and the temperature plummeted. Around midnight Frances and I heard a loud crash. Our outdoor investigation revealed that a tree plunged earthward and fell--heavily--upon Frances' car. It crushed the roof and smashed the rear window and the rear passenger-side window.

With morning came 25 degree temps along with sleet and snow. We had no accumulation. Duluth, MN--according to radio reports--received seven inches of the white stuff.

Part of today's duties included chainsawing the fallen tree, schlepping and stacking it, and picking up shattered glass. We cleared the driveway to allow me to drive to tonight's TCC class.

Group T'ai Chi Chih was wonderfully quiet and peaceful. After practice I asked students to divide into pairs and discuss polarity. What is it? Can you feel it? How does it feel in your body? In which movements is it most obvious? Et cetera. Everyone immediately launched into their discussions which was inspiring to witness.

I'm back home and extremely grateful that we experienced no other wind damage from this historic low pressure system. Our house, our animals, and our selves are healthy, well, and in one piece. Our electricity is functioning. And, for the moment, our ground is still dirt- and leaf-covered.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Soaked with Sound

I feel soaked! And that's because I've lingered indoors listening to the sound of the rain all through the night and early morning.

No doubt ... it is a comforting, soothing sound. That's most assuredly why people often wish to take a nap or read a book when the sky is falling. Still, I'm not sure whether the rhythm of the rain hitting the deck and roof, or the overcast skies, or both, are responsible for my feeling of slow, easy quietness.

Regardless, my T'ai Chi Chih practice and short meditation this morning felt wonderfully peaceful. It seemed absolutely effortless to slow down. I simply matched my pace to the quiet easy rhythm of the pattering rain. I'm definitely feeling better day by day and I'm grateful that I allowed myself to take the time and space to nurture my body and soul over the weekend.

Broken branches are scattered around the parking area. It doesn't appear to be overly windy at the moment but I'm curious what surprises the predicted weather patterns will bring as morning segues into afternoon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just Can't Stop

Another long day of rain today; weather forecasts indicate showers through the week. High winds (50 mph) are predicted for tomorrow and a potential for snow by Wednesday.

So what is the significance of this weather report? At the library we speculated that weather was the reason for our tremendously busy day. There were times when both of us on duty couldn't keep up with the numbers of people waiting to check out items; that says nothing of the volume of DVDs and books accumulating in piles for check in and reshelving.

I came home tired but feeling much better than I've felt over the previous three days. This, I decided, was the night for a short TCC practice. About ten minutes into my practice I felt my energy returning so I couldn't just s-t-o-p. I skipped a few movements but ended up going through the entire form.

Now it's time to settle in with a good book before my eyelids drop into an end of day closed position....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

TCC: T'ai Cold Coin

It has been a long, dark, rainy day. The rain fell continuously morning 'til night so it's been quite a challenge to boost the dog and cat outdoors. The geese, of course, are lovin' it.

I continue to fend off this cold or virus; first my throat is sore, then it's not, then it's sore again. My sister reminded me in a telephone conversation last night about a gift she gave me last year: the Cold Coin. She bought it at Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment and mailed it to me immediately after she heard that I was down and out for almost a month last fall.

I clipped the Cold Coin on my shirt and wore it while I slept last night and all day today and believe that I'm feeling better! Evidentally, the Cold Coin helps ionize the body to prevent colds and congestion. (Don't ask me how!?!)

I'm following all of my previous health care initiatives, including drinking lots of water and eating lots of veggies. And, it goes without saying that I do my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice (and I typically feel better immediately afterward). I ate several doses of Hen in the Woods wild mushrooms today too. I'm of the opinion that I can never do too much to take good care of myself!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vitamins and T'ai Chi Chih Practice

I continue to feel ill. What do I do? Everything I can think of to nurture myself and stimulate my immune system. Water ... lots of it. Vitamins: C, zinc, garlic. Good food and a cornucopia of vegetables. A captivating book and plenty of naps.

This afternoon I spent time on the Chi machine and under the Hot House machine. And I engaged in a T'ai Chi Chih practice. Okay, it didn't feel as slow and relaxing as it did yesterday. Still, it was good to be up and moving.

A persistent headache cut short my brain power and I'm calling it quits on the writing front. But, tomorrow, tomorrow, there's always tomorrow....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Softening the Knees ... and Need

Huhhhhh. Today I feel like I'm getting sick. So the first question I ask myself is this: "What is out of balance in my life?"

I've been busy. Too busy. And the first thing that gets ignored or forgotten when I'm busy? VEGETABLES! (I could generalize that to include plain old healthy eating instead of fast, easy, unhealthy snacks.)

When Frances asked me what I could do to boost my immunity, I responded with the obvious answers: T'ai Chi Chih practice, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Hen in the Woods mushrooms. After I swallowed some C and Zinc I immediately launched into a long, slow TCC practice. I did feel better by the end of my practice if for no other reason than the fact that it helped to calm me and forestall my anxiety about getting sicker.

TCC practice was wonderful. I looked out the patio door at a sun-filled sky. Birds hopped on the ground and flew in every direction. Ander and Lucy grazed in the south ravine; Ander faced east as he ate birdseed off the ground under the feeder and Lucy faced west as they dipped her beak into a water filled garbage lid.

Because I didn't feel well my need to accomplish something or force myself through my practice vanished and I was in a soft, slow, receptive mood. (I was reminded of Justin's admonition that the best way to practice TCC is to imagine that you've lost your last friend and everything else you value in life; you have nothing left to lose.)

I truly allowed myself to soften my knees and follow the flow of the weight shift. I didn't just do this as I shifted weight forward and back on the standard forward-back movements such as Around the Platter, Bass Drum, and the like. I also noted the effect that softening my knees had on side-to-side movements and in-place movements such as Rocking Motion and Bird Flaps Its Wings. Wow! It felt really good!

We'll see what tomorrow brings. For the moment, at least, I feel infinitely more relaxed, at ease, and grounded in the present moment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remember Not to Speak or Ask

There were moments in this morning's TCC class practice that felt magical, mysterious, and filled with peace. What a comfort it is to join with a group of silent TCC practitioners as we meld into the Chi.

Today's group discussion was on Verse 73 of the Tao. Wayne Dyer calls this verse "Living in Heaven's Net" and Ursula LeGuin entitles it "Daring to Do." Dyer distills Lao-tzu's advice down to two key points, one of which is this: Be an active listener. He explains:
     Rather than attempting to control others by speaking frequently and loudly, allow yourself to become an active listener. Many of the answers you seek (and the results you expect) from others will surface if you can remember not to speak or even ask. Try living in accord with nature, which listening--rather than pushing, striving, or demanding--will help you do.
T'ai Chi Chih practice encourages us to listen at the same time that it teaches us to appreciate silence. I am a lucky person, indeed, to teach this practice which, at its core, is about allowing, receiving, and listening to the world around you. It is a unique experience to be in a class where silence is a primary goal.

That being said, we live in a culture where silence is often feared or avoided. It can be uncomfortable. I'm reminded of my blog from October 19, 2010 "Oh, it's nothing ..." which described Peter Bregman's recent blog for the Harvard Business Review called Not Enough Time? Try Doing Nothing. The comments that followed the blog were every bit as interesting as the blog itself.

Rosemary Cairns commented that she learned a strategy from another facilitator at a conference in Minneapolis. It revolved around how to gain awareness of how much you speak and how well you listen. That facilitator lived in the South Pacific and worked with groups there that had a different perspective on silence compared to people from North America. Her method, she said, developed from Quaker thinking and involved giving each person in the group three toothpicks. Each time you chose to speak you threw down one of the toothpicks. Once your toothpicks were gone you could no longer speak.

After some of the members of this group at the Minneapolis conference used up their toothpicks they became quite uneasy. Soon they got up and left the group. Others in the group never used up their toothpicks. However, said the South Pacific facilitator, in her culture the group waits until all toothpicks are used before they finish the workshop and they often find that the last contributions provide a solution to the issue they're addressing.

During this election season we have unending opportunities to listen to political candidates who speak fast as they try to convey their perspectives and policies in one minute time slots. What, Rosemary Cairns asked, does this do to our thinking as a society when we feel like we're participating in a race with no time to absorb information?

T'ai Chi Chih practice, like other meditative practices, allows us time to absorb, cleanse, and clear the mind-body. When we enter into this peaceful practice on a regular basis, we may be surprised to discover that, as Wayne Dyer writes: Many of the answers you seek (and the results you expect from others) will surface if you can remember not to speak or even ask.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Tao in its Many Forms

A strong wind blew through the night and into the morning. Now the leaves are fallen from the trees and the wind's presence is less obvious as it moves through the woods. First I hear it. Then I look upward into the sky to see treetops swishing and swaying, dipping and bowing.

Today's TCC morning practice was short. I told myself that I'd only rehearse the movements I love then I found myself going through the practice as usual. It's true that I do feel drawn to some movements more than others but the plain fact is this: This practice feels so wonderful to my body and soul that I'm happy whenever I practice whatever I practice. Period.

A student said something similar to me yesterday. She returned to class last week after being away from TCC practice for the past six months. "I could feel my body shift, change, and adjust when I first began to move," she said, "From the first movement of Rocking Motion I felt myself relax."

On Monday a library patron brought in two boxes of book donations. The majority of the books were writings about the Tao including some texts I own. There were many others: The Tao is Silent; The Tao of Inner Peace; Tao: The Watercourse Way; The Book of Balance and Harmony; Immortal Sisters: Secret Teachings of Taoist Women.

The books' owner told me that she'd compared and contrasted many translations of the Tao but had recently decided that she'd studied long enough to condense her collection down to one or two books. Since she was a serious student she'd written in many of the books which meant they could not be included in the library collection. When the library director offered me the opportunity to take my pick, I gratefully accepted. (I hope to pass some of these books onto my students.)

The library director commented after I surveyed the books: See what kind of energy you're already bringing into the library....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh, it's nothing ...

Sun rise to sun disappear all happened in the space of about 10 minutes during this morning's T'ai Chi Chih practice. Let me set the scene: Rosy red skies that glowed and brightened, then ... pop, a huge golden sun emerged from the distant horizon over Lake Superior. I gazed directly into its bright, shining orb as I moved until ... zip, a ceiling of heavy dark blue clouds swallowed it whole. Sunlight gone. Vamoose. Finis.

Thankfully, its memory lingers....

During today's TCC practice I sensed immediately that I felt less soft and relaxed when compared to yesterday's practice. It made sense, I suppose. I worked at the library yesterday. It was busy and I was on my feet moving for six hours straight. And ... I anticipate more of the same today.

Meanwhile, sandwiched between the busyness I enter into my TCC practice. (Yesterday's softness may be related to the fact that the day before I spent a good portion of the day writing which is a passion of mine; it feeds and comforts me.)

Maintaining softness in body AND mind is a challenging, never-ending pursuit. I read a wonderful blog from the Harvard Business Review this morning titled Not Enough Time? Try Doing Nothing. (See

This blog's author, Peter Bregman, writes about the variations of thought and mood he experienced while taking a bike ride in Central Park, NYC. He quickly realized that it was far too easy for his thoughts to swerve in an up, down, and all around direction based on what was happening in the moment. He notes: I thought I was taking my bike on a ride. But really? My bike took me on one.

Bregman postulates that we're all a bit insane because we're so affected--often in unhelpful ways--by the ramblings of our minds. The solution? Spend a few minutes each day in meditation; watch the breath, notice the mind, and pull your attention back into the present moment. Bregman recommends meditation for business reasons because, when we lose awareness of what we think or how we feel it "affects our relationships, our decisions, and our actions."

A regular T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation practice helps tremendously in this regard. I'm reminded, though, that Justin Stone, its founder and creator taught not only TCC but also seated meditation practice.

Since I've been an on-again, off-again seated meditation practitioner I think it's time to add a few minutes of quiet nothing to my days. The worst that can happen? I'll feel better, calmer, and more relaxed, and I'll be prepared to handle life's ups and downs with even more focus and equanimity.

Monday, October 18, 2010

T'ai Chi Chih Conundrum

As soon as I stepped into Resting Position this morning and drew a few breaths, I felt my body relax and settle into itself. A few deep breaths later I noted the softness that gathered around and within me. Ahhh ...

That gentle, clear softness was with me throughout today's T'ai Chi Chih practice. It felt amazing. And, I was reminded once again how important it is to have a calm, relaxed mind in order to have a calm, relaxed practice. Still, it's a conundrum why my practice can feel incredibly soft and flowing one day then feel tight, stiff, and effort-full instead of effortless the very next. Obviously I'm not always aware of the stress and tension that build up in my psyche. Consequently it's difficult to acknowledge the tremendous role mental attitude plays in the body's ability to flow softly.

I don't know why it should be so hard to believe, really. I often watch my students' movements and can tell immediately who feels stressed out, rushed, or ill at ease. So, too, it's easy to differentiate between those who practice outside of classtime and those who don't.

As practice time increases a certain level of comfort and relaxedness increases as well. I'd venture a guess that many people who watch me move would be totally unaware when I held tension in my mind and body. It would take another T'ai Chi Chih teacher or teacher trainer with the skill and ability to know the true facts of my condition. (Then again, as we move we allow the tension and tightness to spiral out of us.)

Last week I talked at length with a student who asked whether she was shifting her weight correctly. She wanted confirmation that as her weight flowed forward her back leg straightened. Yes. Then she asked whether it was true that as she bent her knee for her weight to travel forward her body went down as it moved ahead. No. I assured her that we sink first before we step out with one foot. Then the body can travel forward and back at the same level unaffected by the shifting of the weight.

It was then that we talked about softness. She mentioned that she didn't really understand what it meant to soften her knees, a description we use often in TCC classes. Yes, there's a power and meaning to language that can vastly affect the outcome of our movements based on how we understand what we're being told, especially if we're students who learn better through hearing rather than visual cues.

In my experience, being told to bend your knee or soften your knee makes all the difference in the world (of course, I'm a writer and words carry tremendous significance). Bend indicates action and the potential for using force. Soften means to allow something to happen in its own time (in a more passive, accepting way). The outcome is the same. Your weight moves forward. But the manner in which it happens and the way it feels in your body can be totally different. Forcing versus allowing. Bending versus softening. Shifting versus flowing.

Yep. There's a conundrum all right.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Listening to the Body

My brisk late afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice was surprisingly cold. Next time I'll wear gloves!

I chose a spot just outside the patio door to avoid subjecting myself to the breeze that flowed through the forest. As I stood quietly in preparation for my practice I noticed an owl hooting in the distance. While I moved birds constantly rustled and shuffled over the leafy ground and flew through the air. One bluejay soared back and forth, a bright blue and white image against the dark grey tree trunks and branches.

The day's earlier sunniness has now converted to dark, steel gray skies and a lingering feeling of approaching rain. I spent my early morning writing on my other blog site, I discussed the movie Frances and I saw last night, The Parking Lot Movie, and No Impact Man, another BAFS (Bay Area Film Society) movie that we saw several weeks ago. Members of the BAFS board have a knack for picking thought-provoking, thoroughly entertaining movies.

I contacted my sister in West Virginia today to find out whether she lives close enough to Charlottesville, VA that we could visit the featured parking lot during Frances' and my visit to Charles Town over Thanksgiving. Does it seem ridiculous to visit a parking lot and its attendants after you watched it/them in a movie? Maybe. Maybe not.

I found an article on the internet today that touts Yoga and T'ai Chi as being better for treatment of fibromyalgia than standard care. It sites two recent studies, one published in the November issue of PAIN that indicated patients in a yoga of awareness program experienced greater improvement in their symptoms than those patients on a standard care program.

T'ai Chi, the article went on to say, is also good for fibromyalgia. A study published in this month's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine finds that TC may also be a useful treatment for fibromyalgia. The study, conducted at Tufts University School of Medicine, found that those patients assigned to a 60 minute session of Yang-style t'ai chi two times per week for 12 weeks improved more than those relegated to standard care.

I'm not surprised. All I need do is recall my student, Norma, who came to weekly morning T'ai Chi Chih classes many years ago. When she arrived, she looked as though she could barely move. After our practice session she smiled and moved freely without pain.

It didn't take a study to prove to either Norma or me that she experienced a dramatic difference in her fibromyalgia as a result of her TCC practice. But that, I guess, is the role of modern medicine and science, proving things to professionals that we (those of us who listen to our bodies) already know....

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I practiced T'ai Chi Chih early, just after the sun left its nest on the far horizon and rose into the sky, a luminiferous circle briefly overlapped by one slender strand of cloud. Transfixed by the sun's generous glow I stared into the light through the living room window as I moved through practice in early morning quiet.

It felt good to be up and moving while sleep's hush hung, heavy, in the air. Now that most leaves are off the trees the view of sky is expansive, extending outward through newly naked branches as far as the eye can see. With the feeling of more space above comes a feeling of more space below as well. When our cat races full speed into the woods, we can now easily spot her white furry presence among the slender branches and brown, decaying leaves.

The next duty of the day is T'ai Chi Chih-related too; set up a schedule for winter-spring 2011 T'ai Chi Chih classes via several phone calls, emails, and class proposal forms. Then I'll happily rake leaves, caulk cracks in the siding, or brainstorm another way to spend time outside under fall's glorious blue skies.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Catch Up

Today was catch-up day. I pushed myself beyond my limits these last few weeks and, in desperate need of a break, I took time today to rest, nap, read, and recover some energy. Late in the day I practiced TCC on the deck followed by a short bike ride. Yes, I feel better!

During my practice I heard cars driving by on the road a quarter mile down the hill from our house. Now that the trees are leafless there is no noise barrier which means that sounds travel easily across long distances. Until the snow falls and creates a cushion across the landscape to temper the noise we'll hear more of the activities occurring around us.

TCC practice got me moving again. And, as I moved, I watched Chiripa hunting and stalking in the south ravine. She made a dramatic show of hunting quarry with no obvious quarry in sight. When she tired of this game, she positioned herself on a rock, wrapped her tail around her body, and struck a statuesque pose. What a beautiful cat!

Heavy midnight blue clouds dissipated during the day and our evening skies are clear and bright. A thick layer of blue rests upon the lake waters and a pinkish-purple haze colors the distant sky....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Greatest Gift of All

I saw five turkeys grazing along the highway as I drove to my morning TCC class today. They scurried away from the roadway as I passed. Still, I felt like I'd received a wonderful gift to be able to glimpse their unique beauty as I went flying by.

Class was another wonderful gift ... glorious peace and quiet for almost 45 minutes. During our discussion of the Tao one student mentioned that he almost turned around and drove back home as he was en route to class. Phone calls and pressing business demands were driving him to distraction and he felt as if he should return home to attend to his business. Then he reminded himself that what he most needed was to take some time to calm and quiet himself. By the end of classtime he seemed happy that he'd made that choice.

Another student commented that the value of TCC practice is the way in which it allows you to let concerns, distractions, and mental upsets simply drain away. Your world view changes--magically--when you allow yourself to take the time to slow down, relax, release, and let go.

This is my current goal: To accept the circumstances, people, and events that come my way and not allow myself to get stressed out or upset when my plans and priorities don't proceed as planned. To live my life in a constant state of flow as if everything I do is an extension of my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Now that, my friends, is the greatest gift of all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A momentary pause ...

Today's abbreviated TCC practice was breezier than yesterday's calm stillness. Three of five lavender plants blew from the railing to the deck floor, leaves flicked by, and our filthy white cat--she adores to bathe herself in dirt numerous times throughout the day--dispassionately watched a leaf bounce onto the deck beside her before she calmly resumed one of many tongue baths.

I practiced TCC for 20 minutes between cooking and cleaning. Friends arrive in Bayfield late this afternoon and while Frances will see them tonight and in the AM they won't catch up with me until lunch tomorrow due to my teaching schedule.

The day is bright with sunshine. After I flowed through practice I sat on the deck for 10 minutes and soaked in energy and warmth before continuing with chores and preparations for tonight's TCC class. The momentary pause was delightful and I look forward to another 45 minute TCC practice with students several hours from now.

The yellow popple leaves atop two trees outside my office window are glowing and flashing with golden light. And the dance and downward drift of fall continues ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living with Awe

I sunbathed my way through a high noon TCC practice today. It was lovely. Full sun, 75 degrees, a gentle breeze, several flitty, flightly birds, and me.

I'm grateful that my T'ai Chi Chih practice tempts me out of the house on these beautiful fall days. It's easy to get sidelined by inside chores and activities because that's where our technology resides: kitchen appliances, cleaning equipment, computer, telephone, DVD player, TV. When I venture out into nature, though, I'm captivated by the simplicity and wonder of nature.

In his interpretation of verse 72 of the Tao, "Living with Awe and Acceptance" (pp. 340-41), Wayne Dyer writes:
     The reason it's crucial to have a sense of awe is because it helps loosen the ego's hold on your thinking.... I love the metaphor of nature as a guide to sagelike acceptance. In fact, throughout the 81 verses, Lao-tzu emphasizes being in harmony with the natural world, telling you that's where you connect with the Tao.... Learn about the Tao by being in perfect harmony with the environment.
As I've written this blog over the past ten months I've become more tuned in to the subtle, seemingly minor occurrences that unfold around me. Incidences I may have previously ignored or missed now draw my attention and bring me tremendous joy. I feel intimately connected to the natural world surrounding me and can easily sense how it might feel to be a leaf floating from tree branch to earth or a bird hungrily pecking seeds from the feeder.

As Dyer recommends, I "try seeing the invisible Tao flowing through and supporting everyone and everything ... [and I] Live the mystery by beginning to perceive what average eyes fail to notice." These are gifts I've received from a regular T'ai Chi Chih practice and from my study of the Tao. And so ... I am blessed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cat Feet

In order to take our morning walk today Frances and I snuck out of the yard by walking like our cat. I tiptoed, Frances trod softly. In fact, it was the cat that we wanted to avoid. She'd already walked down the driveway earlier in the morning with Namaste and me and I didn't want to be responsible for encouraging her wide-ranging habits while Frances and I ventured beyond the end of our drive.

It wasn't long before Frances noticed a salamander walking slowly along the asphalt road. It was similar to ones we've seen in our basement but this critter was black with yellow spots along each side and it was bigger than the blue spotted newts we've spotted downstairs.

We turned onto the gravel road nearby where an employee of the town drove road equipment up one side and down the other leveling the roadway. Frances noticed pieces of a poplar tree lying in the soon-to-be-smoothed pile of dirt in the middle of the road, quickly grabbed them, and threw them into the ditch. I followed suit with another smaller branch. When we looked behind us, the roadway was beautifully flat and smooth.

After we returned home I joined the geese for my TCC practice. Both Ander and Lucy appeared to be sound asleep, their necks twisted around, beaks resting comfortably beneath wing feathers. It was 60ish and sunny ... another excellent fall day. The cat retired to a lawn chair and took a leisurely bath while I moved through the form.

All was quiet.... I heard a slight shiver of leaves on their branches, the sound hissing through the forest canopy. Once I reached my place of peace I headed off to work. I felt relaxed, at ease, and ready to go.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Caulking, Cooking, Listening, Looking

Today I caulked and cooked. At the moment Frances is engaged in staining the siding on the south side of the house. Hopefully it will cover the cracks, nail holes, and gaps we filled yesterday and today.

When I tired of standing in the kitchen and standing and climbing a ladder on the deck, I resorted to standing in Resting Position and going through the TCC movements. The trees are almost bare of leaves which means that I can now see Lake Superior without too much impediment. The lake's shiny blue-grey surface resembles a layer of sheet metal that continues toward the horizon in one continuous uninterrupted sheet.

During my practice is was so quiet I could hear the leaves fall. Occasionally a leaf fell silently but more often it bounced "loudly" off branch or trunk and landed on the ground with a distinct rustle. It didn't take much of a breeze to set leaves a-flying and I enjoyed watching their graceful, flowing dance from sky to earth.

At the very end of practice I heard an owl hooting deep in the forest. Its call was entrancing and too beautiful for words....

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sparkling Skies

I wrote yesterday's blog entry while I was in a low blood sugar. I discovered that later, of course, after I'd published and printed the blog. Frances asked me what my writing is like when I'm low. I couldn't answer her because my brain doesn't function well in the insulin reaction mode and I wasn't really sure.

Today was another ideal fall day. A perfect morning to attend the Farmers' Market and buy some squash and fresh-baked bread. After we returned home I caulked cracks and gaps in the siding on the south side of the house while Frances repaired the front step.

During a break I delved into my TCC practice since the sun was still warm and sparkling through bared tree trunks and branches. I didn't feel well during my practice (I'd just been through another low blood sugar and for some reason my stomach hurt). Eventually I decided to skip several movements and lie down for a nap. An hour or so later I was back up and running.

Each full-skied day I drink in the light, warmth, and wide open skies with as much determination and intensity as I can muster. Soon the days will darken and the sky will clog with clouds for days and weeks at a time. Until that time I'll imprint the memories of these days in my mind and heart to carry me through the coming long, dark nights and short, cold days....

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Felt Sense of Rightness

It's another fabulous, unseasonably warm day. I practiced TCC outside on the deck shortly after 6:00 p.m. It was 60+ degrees. The leaves that still clung to the trees spoke to me in their colorful language while those on the ground rustled loudly when any creature moved through their scattered freshly-dried brownness.

It's always fun when I begin new TCC sessions because I'm challenged to find new and different ways to demonstrate, describe, and teach each movement at a deeper and deeper level (especially when I'm teaching continuing students who've taken numerous classes with me).

Today I thought about ways to demonstrate and experientially teach how it feels to lead from your center, especially in the side-to-side movements. There is such a felt sense of rightness when a movement is done correctly. But, when you don't know how it is supposed to feel, how do you find your way to what feels right?

Tonight I performed Carry the Ball, Perpetual Motion Taffy, and Passing Clouds in two distinct ways: first, by leading with t'an tien and second, by leading with my shoulders (which many students are inclined to do). I can feel a definite difference in the movements when I vary my intention in this way.

I'm much more rooted, grounded, connected to the earth and slower in my movements when I lead with t'an tien. When I lead with my shoulders, I feel lighter, more airy, and also faster, less grounded, and more wobbly. Can students feel these differences (especially when they're unused to feeling the groundedness)? We'll find out this week....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Joyous Calm and Quiet (with a Rustle)

It's been a day of beauty and ... a day of rustling leaves. The weather continues to warm and shine magnificently each day. Now darkness has fallen and temps are cooling. The dog barks repetitively outside the door, warning off all unknown and unseen predators. And it's time to blog....

There were 10 students at my morning TCC class, two of whom also attended last night's TCC class in Washburn. Our circle practice felt wonderful and, at one point, I was on the verge of tears. The energy of stillness, silence, and peace, when it's shared with others who value and seek it, is a wonderful gift.

After my evening walk I returned to the deck for another short TCC practice in the midst of fleeting color. Over the past day many leaves have fallen from their treetop homes. Consequently I could hear Ander and Lucy as they shuffled to and fro through the brown, dried remnants gathering on the ground.

This week has been filled to the brim and my TCC practices have given me the energy, fortitude, and positive attitude to keep on moving. What a privilege to share this healing practice with others who benefit from and appreciate its joyous, calming, quieting effects.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feeling Better

It was another breathtakingly beautiful fall day in the Northland. During our morning walk Frances and I strode beneath color-filled trees as they released (or "pushed") their leaves down to the roadway.

I attempted T'ai Chi Chih three separate times during my day. First, I practiced for 10 minutes on our sunshiny deck in 78 degree heat before I rushed off to work. It felt fabulous. Next, I moved outside on the balcony at the Washburn Cultural Center before my first TCC class session of the fall season began. And, finally, my entire class joined me on the balcony for a full practice session. The skyline turned rosy behind me as we slowly, quietly moved through the form.

Each time I practice TCC, even if it's only for a few minutes, I feel better. My nervous system settles down. My breathing deepens. I feel a sense of calm surround me.

Several students mentioned after class that they were glad to be back in TCC class again. One student acknowledged that she really misses it if she doesn't practice for a day. She discovered that TCC practice has eased the pain of arthritis in her chest. Plus, she said, her body just feels better when she does it.

Yep. It's wonderfully affirming to hear others talk about the benefits they receive from their TCC practice. For each of us it brings slightly different benefits but one thing we can all agree upon: We feel better....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Mind

Leaves fall with each heavy exhalation of air. They clatter and scatter themselves along driveways, roads, sidewalks, and decks. Treetops are balding, leaf piles are gathering, and each day I feel myself walking one step closer to winter.

This morning Frances and I took a walk in splendid sunshine. After work, then, I dived into my T'ai Chi Chih practice in the gathering darkness. I'm continuing to prepare for two advanced TCC class start-ups this week. Each time I practice I discover new ways to explain how to move using images and ideas that are easy for students to understand.

I'm re-reading and reviewing the Tao too. This week: Verse 71, "Living without Sickness" (per Wayne Dyer). Here's Stephen Mitchell's version of Lao Tzu's short and sweet verse:
Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.

The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.
Dyer distills this verse down to two core messages: 1) have a happy mind and 2) examine your habits and really listen to and trust the messages from your body.

No question about it ... T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation practice helps me to cultivate a Tao-centered happy mind (Dyer, p. 337). When I dwell in that state of happiness, my body can rest in health, wellness, and happiness too. (Sometimes that is easier said than done but it is a worthy goal.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why? Because ...

Today I'm logging the 300th entry on Rooted in Earth. Who knew when I started this blogging project on Thanksgiving Day 2009 that I'd carry my commitment forward every day for a week? a month? six months?  or this long?

I've certainly learned a lot about myself and my T'ai Chi Chih practice from this experience. Some days the words flow out of me as if I'm a river emptying into Lake Superior. On other days I feel as if I'm caught in a hidden backwater where vocabulary is seldom used. Then again, sometimes it's difficult to stop writing because there are so many interesting tidbits and observations to report. A day later it seems as if there is nothing worth noting in my life or in my TCC practice and I wonder, Why do I bother?

I keep writing because I trust this process even though I don't know exactly where it's leading me. And I realize that this daily TCC practice and writing practice is enriching my life and calling for me to be more conscious and conscientious.

Today I learned how helpful it was to have two TCC practices, a brief session before work and a longer one after work. My early practice was performed outside in warm, luscious sunshine. It slowed and centered me in preparation for my workday. My later practice occurred around 8:00 p.m. when the afternoon light was gone and my feet and legs were weary. It provided me with a welcome pick-me-up after a busy, tiring day.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Feast of the Senses

Ahhh. Beautiful, color-filled, bittersweet, soon-over fall.

On this wonderful Sun-day of rest I soaked in the heat, light, sights and sounds of a beauteous, bounteous fall day. Despite the fact that I spent the morning reading and relaxing, puttering and pausing, I was perfectly aware early in my TCC practice that my body and mind were set to full speed ahead. I clearly needed to slow my pace and calm my body-mind.

As I soaked in my surroundings through delicately tuned senses I softly eased into the speed of my woodland home. Birds and butterflies fluttered up and down around me and eventually a Mourning Cloak alighted on the deck nearby. Next an unfamiliar fall leaf-colored butterfly settled lightly on the deck railing and slowly opened and closed its wings as if to say: Come on, you can do it. It's not that difficult to slow down. Just relax, gently flap your arms, and settle into the peace of this moment.

Bird calls sounded like squeaky wheels that desperately needed grease and Ander and Lucy tromped from one side of the house to the other, their webbed feet crackling and crinkling the dry brown leaves underfoot. Late in my practice as I loudly exhaled my Joyous Breaths, a deer responded with its own exuberant huffs from across the driveway.

Eventually, practice complete, I pulled several long-sleeved shirts over my bare arms (temps quickly dropped from 70 to mid-50s) and dropped into a lawn chair to rest and receive the blessings of this day. I know it's still early in the season but ... what a thanksgiving feast of the senses!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Festing and Feasting on Apples

I heard a comment today that Apple Fest was perfectly timed with the coloring of the leaves. It is brilliant outside. Already, though, it feels as if we're beyond the peak of color; more leaves fall or are pushed off the trees each day.

My work at the library today was filled with out-of-towners coming through the front door and asking whether we had a bathroom. Our book sale was a major draw but our bathrooms, it seemed, were at least as popular as three books for $1.00. I didn't check out or check in many books but I was constantly answering questions, giving directions, and listening to visitors' comments about our beautiful Carnegie library.

Needless to say, by the time I made it home tonight I was ready to launch into my TCC practice. It revived, relaxed, refreshed, and reinstated me in the present moment. And, after tomorrow's day of rest I'll be ready to return to the trash laden streets of our fair city. By late tomorrow afternoon Apple Fest will be over for another year but we'll still be eating fresh orchard apples for another month or two. Mmm.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Golden Glow that Fills the Soul

I awoke to a blaze of glory this morning. Sunlight reflected off yellow leaves, each leaf glowing like a miniature sun suspended from its hallowed tree.

Late this afternoon, after rainfall and clouds dulled the sky, the golden glow was absorbing, magnificent. During my TCC practice the vibrant colors invited me into the mesmerizing, fluorescent scene and I felt enlivened and somehow restored by their beauty and energy.

I'm purposefully soaking in this awe-inspiring beauty because I know that soon a heavy rain and strong winds will whisk these leaves away and my color-filled yard will convert to a stark, naked landscape. Frances heard on the radio recently that trees actually push their leaves off when it's clear that they're no longer useful for capturing sunlight and converting it into nutrition. That's a entirely different way of looking at fall. And interesting.

Tomorrow I head downtown to work at the library during Apple Fest. It helps me to quiet and fill myself with the beauty of this area before I travel into the hustle-bustle, traffic, and crowds that are so uncharacteristic of Bayfield during any other weekend of the year.

Right now, in this moment, I'm basking in this precious golden glow.