Friday, December 30, 2011

Hooray for Willpower

Today I finished reading my first e-book on a Kindle. It was okay; but, I admit, I'm a sucker for printed books that I can touch, open and close, and know exactly where I am in the book. Though I can download the books at work and read them at home, I cannot sinc to the last page read, get a description of the book, or perform other electronic functions that require a wireless connection because I live without wireless internet (actually, I live beyond the realm of cell phone reception). That's okay with me, but it also reminds me that a print book is more appropriate reading material for the middle of the woods.

I did today's T'ai Chi Chih practice on the porch after Frances and I spent several hours sledding and wheelbarrowing in firewood from the forest. When night fell, I moved to the porch and practiced in the dark with a light on in the dining room behind me. There were many different versions of myself to observe: I watched my reflection in the windows, saw my shadow on the walls of the porch, and noticed another shadow of my head and shoulders on the white snow outside. (All of these diverse representations of me looked marvelous, darling....)

There was no color in the sky and no visible sunrise to inspire me to perform a break-of-day TCC practice today. It was merely grey, overcast, cloudy. When I heard a late afternoon radio show about a new book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, I thought a lot about how each day's TCC practice (or any attempt at self-care) takes dedication and willpower to perform. The author mentioned that it's best to start with just one habit you'd like to establish and ... you guessed it, practice.

It's true that my daily TCC practices (and blogs) are easier to do now that I've created a regular routine and expectation that these rituals are a standard part of each and every day. And I do believe that, despite occasional dark and unmotivated days, I'm a better, happier person because I've developed some smidgen of willpower to get me to--and through--each T'ai Chi Chih practice. Hooray for that!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Monkey Mindlessness

Whew. What a day. I've been tired and grumpy and generally anti-social--obviously I'm in desperate need of a break from all manner of person and responsibility--all day.

So it was no surprise that Monkey Mind was at the top of her form when it came to talking me out of my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice. Still, I didn't allow her to succeed. Late in the afternoon I roused myself from my first day of Kindle-induced stupor and entered into practice.

Oh, it felt good to move slowly, intentionally, energetically. I didn't make it through an entire practice but spent about 20 minutes in slow motion. I do feel better. And I'm grateful that I have the time and opportunity to indulge myself in a full-day break from life. Tomorrow, I'm convinced, will be better. And, in the interim, I'm learning how to use a Kindle.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Free at Last

I worked a full day at the library today. It was so busy that, on several occasions, patrons were patiently (and, perhaps, impatiently) lined up waiting for service.

By late afternoon the traffic at the counter had slowed; enough so, that my coworker and I took out our Kindles to familiarize ourselves with them. These e-Books will soon be in circulation through our library and it's our responsibility to know how they function in order to assist our patrons. It's a slow process to get the jist of these technological advances, but we both felt more knowledgeable at the end of the work day.

Midday one of our regular patrons brought in single-serving cherry pies that she baked for an event yesterday. The leftovers didn't fit in her freezer and she generously donated them to the library (just one more fundraising opportunity). Kathy is well-known in Bayfield as our premier local baker; she sells homemade breads and other baked goods at our weekly Farmers' Market as well as at several cafes. Her thoughtful gift is just one example of the many ways people in our community work to support the library.

I came home tired, but happy. Soon I swung into my T'ai Chi Chih practice; it was wonderful. I felt loads of energy in the palms of my hands and an easy flow in my movements. Plus, the busyness of the day slipped gracefully from my shoulders. Ahhh. Free at last....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Going Through the Motions

There was no color in the morning sky today. Just heavy, dark clouds and sinking temperatures.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih after a phone conversation with my editing client and before I went to work at the library. It was one of those going-through-the-motions kind of days. I came, I practiced, I finished, and I left.

Work was steady at the library but not overwhelming. It was just the right amount of activity to keep me occupied after my over-the-top allergic reaction yesterday. And so, the end of 2011 draws nigh....

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lightening Up

Today I began my T'ai Chi Chih practice early, before the sky's blush of radiant pink expanded and transformed into orange, lavender, peach, and then gradually lightened into baby blue, and finally, glowing white. I watched the cascades of color throughout my practice until--ta da!--the fullness of day had arrived.

Someone at yesterday's Christmas breakfast mentioned that in Norway, after weeks of darkness, when the sun reappears (even though it's only for a few minutes as it breaches the horizon and then disappears) the Norwegian people rush outside to watch the sun rise and fall. They raise their hands in front of their faces, thumbs and forefingers touching, to create a circular shape in which to capture the rays of the sun. Then, they simply cheer and holler. "People in Norway have a different relationship to the sun than we Americans do," the storyteller affirmed.

Living here on a peninsula that juts into Lake Superior I, too, can relate to that deep desire to absorb and embody the sun's rays. Thank goodness we still have about eight hours of daylight during the depths of winter here, but we also have day upon day of grey, overcast skies. Truthfully, it can be SAD.

Glorious sunshine beamed through the day today though it was accompanied by a frighteningly strong, roaring wind. Branches tumbled from the sky and the goose and chicken seemed leery of their surroundings when I opened the door to let the dog outside.

I spent the day resting and recouperating from whatever odd allergic reaction I acquired yesterday. Before we left for breakfast yesterday morning I felt itchy around my eyes; by the time we returned home I felt lumps growing along the sides of my face; and, when I rose this morning, I had large bags of fluid hanging beneath my eyes. I have no clue as to the source of this disfiguring malady; but, the swelling and inflammation exhausted me and I went to bed early last night and took a nap this afternoon.

Luckily, the colors of the morning sunrise entertained and distracted me and my T'ai Chi Chih practice lightened my mood, at least temporarily. Later, though, I hit a low point. Clearly, I was tired and easily discouraged by the condition of my health, the fact that our furnace isn't working today, our coffeemaker died last week, and the refrigerator is ready to be hauled to the junk heap (we still use it even though it freezes most of the contents of the frig).

These things, too, shall pass....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

We are All One

Frances and I will soon be off to a friend's house for breakfast. Our Christmas day skies are dull and grey. We lost the beautiful shining sun from yesterday and must depend today on the shining sun that's within ourselves.

I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice after laying a fire, feeding the dog, and getting myself ready for our 'social' morning. The dog watched me as I practiced and I felt wonderfully peaceful through each quiet repetition.

Today is like any other day and, yet, it's not. There's the energy of a birth, a person, a story, history, belief and, most of all, faith. Today we re-remember our love, acceptance, and compassion for all living creatures. We remind ourselves to treat everyone (ourselves and all others) with loving kindness. And we give thanks for a Holy One who modeled to us that--just like the Aspen trees--we are all One.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

May Our Hearts and Spirits be Filled with Peace

It's an odd Christmas Eve: sunny and mid-30s with a light covering of snow on the ground. Normally we're layering on clothes and shoveling out from beneath layers of snow by this time of the month. Not this year; today I ventured outside in a sweatshirt in order to carry firewood in from the woods.

It was incredibly beautiful and sunny outside; so much so, that I didn't want to come back inside the house. Needless to say, I overdid it, and spent over three hours hauling firewood. By the time the light was fading and I was ready to practice T'ai Chi Chih, I was tired (and lazy). All I really wanted to do was lie down on the couch and read.

I didn't let Monkey Mind talk me out of my practice, though. I compromised. First, I lay on the couch for about fifteen minutes and then I rallied myself--body, mind, and spirit--and headed out to the porch to practice as darkness fell. My muscles and body were sore, but I persevered and made it through the entire practice. Now, of course, after the fact, I'm grateful. I feel deeply relaxed and peace-filled.

Happy Holidays to all. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Feliz Navidad. May your hearts and spirits be filled with peace....

Friday, December 23, 2011

One Shared Root

Just as I did on Wednesday, I stopped everything today when the sun emerged over the horizon. Yep. It was time for a T'ai Chi Chih practice.

This morning the sky offered no opening between horizon and clouds, but there was a thinner cloud layer close to the earth's surface (just enough space for a beautiful bright pink-red glow to seep through). I basked in the color while it lasted and then watched the sky shift from its lively energy-filled rose tone to a too-familiar staid, blue-grey.

During practice I repeatedly focused on the soles of my feet since I finally read Sr. Antonia's December Newsletter several days ago and she provided me with thought-provoking comments. When she wrote about the Rest Pose, she mentioned that it is unique to the T'ai Chi Chih practice and is meant to help each practitioner ground and center.

Of course, I often remind my students to return to the soles of their feet when they sink into Resting Position. But I seldom mention--or remember myself--that the "Bubbling Spring" lies in the soles of the feet. Sr. Antonia's questions for reflection were interesting and intriguing: Do you ever feel the "Bubbling Spring"? What is that like? How do you experience "Grounding" the Chi? And so, I allowed my mind to settle into these questions and contemplate them.

Sister also mentioned that at a recent Albuquerque Teacher Training someone there said that they sense everyone in the room grounding like an Aspen grove of trees. Yes, one of the sensations derived from a group T'ai Chi Chih practice is the feeling that all members of the group are One. However, Sr. Antonia went on to say that: Aspens grow in large colonies derived from a single seedling and thus share the same root system. What an amazing image this is!

I can't think of a better or more hopeful image to carry in my psyche than that. I, too, am an Aspen growing in the forest of humanity. How can I not love and accept all others when I realize that we all grow from the same seed and spring to life from one shared root?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts at Rest

And so, the light returns with each passing day. I called a friend early this morning to wish her Happy Birthday and asked how she felt sharing the day with Winter Solstice. She replied, "It makes me happy. It feels spiritual and I like knowing that my birthday is associated with the coming of the light."

I spent today's light working through my editing project. Finally, in early evening I stopped my project and walked upstairs to do my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I'd spent the afternoon working in a north-facing room that's colder than the rest of the house and I felt like I was past-due for a warm up. It was warmer upstairs but not necessarily quieter since Frances was seated in the living room below watching a fast-paced action-adventure movie.

No problem. I simply turned my back to the living room and carried on with my practice. Yes, the background music was loud and the sound effects were intense but, no matter, I focused my attention on the slow, relaxed movements of the form and placed my intention on being present in the moment. For the most part, I was relatively successful.

The TCC practice evidentally worked its magic. I currently feel so at ease that I can barely write. Rather than wrack my brain any longer, I'll put my thoughts to rest....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice: The Yin-Yang Cycle

So I said to myself this morning as I walked through the living room and saw an orange sun gleaming over the horizon: I need to stop everything to do my T'ai Chi Chih practice right now. And, yes, that's exactly what I did.

Given the heavy clouds filling the sky, I knew that the sunrise would be beautiful but short-lived. The clear-skied route from horizon to low-hanging clouds held a narrow sliver of opportunity for me to experience clear, shining light at the beginning of yet another grey day. I made it though Rocking Motion, Bird Flaps Its Wings, and Around the Platter--as I greedily soaked in the light and colors--before the sun slipped from view.

By then, of course, I was well on my way toward completing my TCC practice. I shifted my position slightly to look out at the distant dark blue shoreline and the white-looking waters of Lake Superior (Is that the beginnings of ice I see?) and carried on.

After practice I finished dishes, held a phone conference with my editing client, and made my way to the computer to write this blog. It's the holiday season but, as usual, there's plenty of "cutting wood and carrying water" to do before I relax and visit with friends and family.

Happy Winter Solstice to all! The light! The light! Today our Earth reaches its furthest cycle into the darkness (yin) and circles back toward the light (yang) once more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Project T'ai Chi Chih Practice

Whew, it's been a long day. Nonstop. It started when I began to bake Four Grain Muffins at 6:30 this morning and ended when I carried five boxes of books downstairs to a storage room at the library at 7:15 this evening.

I was so tired at the end of my work day that I could barely get myself out the door and back home again. Luckily, after I arrived home and changed my shoes, I began my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Almost immediately I felt myself loosening up. It felt as if I was shedding layers of tension and, as I moved slowly and quietly, the layers peeled off my body and dropped to the ground. I'm still tired, mind you, but I feel lighter, calmer, and more relaxed.

Now I plan to reward myself for getting through this busy day: I'll sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and watch several segments of Project Runway (Frances's and my latest passion; it's a reality TV show about fashion designers).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vim and Vigor

Last night was so dark by 4:30 p.m. that it was difficult for both Frances and me to stay awake. Granted, the lighting in our house is insufficient; though I wanted to do some mending, I knew that I needed to wait until daylight. So, I took advantage of the darkness and went to bed early.

This morning I was elbow deep in dish water by 6:30 a.m. I immediately set out to dirty dishes as soon as they were clean; without a second thought, I launched into cooking multi-grain cereal for breakfast and two quiches for lunch.

I had plenty of time to go through my T'ai Chi Chih practice before I left for the library and, mid-morning, I closed myself in the guest bedroom, and flowed into my practice. The grey, overcast skies and long, dark nights must be getting to me. I went through the full form but didn't feel uplifted or energized by the practice. With daylight pared down to a mere eight or nine hours per day I'm inclined to follow the bears into their dens and settle down for a good long nap.

Failing that option, I'll wait impatiently for the return of light that begins on Wednesday. And who knows? It's likely that my TCC practice is helping me move through my days with more vim and vigor than I'll ever know....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Soooo Good

Today was another relaxed, slow-moving day. Thank goodness! It felt wonderful to take several days to replenish my energy, relax, read, cook, pay bills ... and not run hither and yon like a--you guessed it!--chicken with her head cut off.

I discovered this morning that I lost my Medic Alert bracelet yesterday. I assume it happened while I was loading, sledding, unloading, carrying, and stacking firewood from a dead maple that Frances cut down the day before. Today I retraced my steps into, and back out of the woods, but had no success finding one thin, light, sliver of titanium lying among the weeds and grasses.

It's at times like this that I realize how vulnerable I am; without that one tidbit of information, "Diabetic," circling my arm it's unclear whether I'd receive appropriate medical care if I were found unconscious or wandering randomly (and, of course, I've experienced both situations). So, it's time for a reorder.

I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice today before my editing client called. It was a fantastic way to put myself in a relaxed, comfortable frame of mind for our phone session. I positioned myself in the porch within view of Lucy, the goose (in order to keep her company), and flowed through the movements as sunlight seeped into the woods, shone through the window, and warmed my face. Oh, it felt sooooo good.

Now, as the light of day fades into twilight I remind myself that this week is winter solstice. By mid-week the light will begin to return and day-by-day the darkness will gradually recede. It's a hopeful, happy thought....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Total Relaxation

I stayed home today the whole darn day. What a treat! I didn't need to make myself look presentable, I didn't have to get in the car, and I didn't make conversation with anyone other than Frances. It was truly a day of rest. And, I admit, I spent a number of hours blissfully tucked between the pages of a book.

By late afternoon I'd had enough time to rest and I slipped into my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I didn't follow the traditional format and structure of TCC practice at all. I merely allowed myself to flow into whatever movement felt right at that moment. And, perhaps because I felt so relaxed after a day of rest, I moved slowly and effortlessly.

It was wonderful to be surprised by the mixed-up order of movements and, unlike other practices when I've deviated from the form, I felt steady, stable, and undeterred by the unknown. What movement came next? Whatever movement felt 'right.' Was I missing something? Did it matter?

Ahhh. Now that truly felt like total relaxation....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Relaxed and Soothed ... Rejuvenated and Refreshed

Thursday, December 15, 2011:

Frances and I celebrated our anniversary today and, to make it extra special, we booked a room at Legendary Waters Hotel & Casino. It was fun! We ate dinner in the restaurant, lounged in the hot tub and swimming pool, and attended an evening comedy show.

Of course, we also drove home to feed and pill the dog (he's currently on antibiotics and pain meds to ensure that he heals fully after his teeth cleaning and the removal of seven teeth). We tried to watch a bit of TV too, but I guess that we're spoiled. After living here for nine years without a television, every channel we turned to had advertisements and programs that seemed inane and boring. It put us--literally--right to sleep.

I did my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice next to the swimming pool/hot tub while Frances swam and relaxed in the hot water. The room itself was extremely warm and I soaked in the delicious heat while I moved, soft and slow.  It felt wonderful to chase away the chill we experienced as we trudged through strong winds blowing off Lake Superior to reach the hotel's front door. Since no one else was in the room or swimming in the pool, I had a quiet and deeply relaxing practice. Afterwards I rewarded myself with a soak in the hot tub and a short dip in the pool.

Friday, December 16, 2011:

One night away from our routine wasn't a long enough escape; by late morning, though, we were back home and back to reality. It was clear that the animals had missed our presence so we threw a toy for the dog, fed the birds, and settled back into our routines.

This afternoon's T'ai Chi Chih practice stood in sharp contrast to my poolside practice last night. By early afternoon the sun reappeared. What a relief! For the past week we've lived without sunshine as clouds and fog hid her glowing face. So, too, yesterday's wind had blown itself out and the woods was deeply silent.

I started my TCC practice in the porch, noticed the goose sitting next to the front step, and spontaneously decided to join her. After I repositioned myself on the cement step I continued my practice from Around the Platter. The temp hovered around 20 degrees, a distinct difference from the 80 degree room I practiced in last night; but, the clear, fresh air and glorious sunshine lifted my spirits and refreshed my soul. And--believe it or not--it didn't feel cold!

Last night my TCC practice relaxed and soothed me; this afternoon, my TCC practice rejuvenated and refreshed me (not a bad result either way).

Now it's 4:54 p.m. and the sky outside is dark. In less than a week winter solstice arrives and soon, very soon, the light will return.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Up and Moving

Our unseasonable weather continues ... t's still foggy, rainy, and warm (mid- to high-30s). I'll soon be off to a library Christmas party and think it likely that the drive home will be slick.

Frances and I travelled to Ashland twice today for appointments with the vet. Both the cat and dog were scheduled; Chiripa received updates on her shots and Namaste went under anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned. Unfortunately, seven of Namaste's teeth were pulled in the process. The poor guy. He's still recouperating from the procedure and we'll all discover in upcoming days what this means for his menu options.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih this afternoon while Namaste rested on the bed beside me. As I moved I looked outside the window onto a world of retreating whiteness. Drops of water clung to tree branches where clumps of snow recently hung.

Like the dog and cat, I'm tired too. I had a flu shot yesterday and seem to be slowed down. The TCC practice was helpful: it got me up and moving. It also lightened the feel of this dull, drab day. And now ... I'll slip and slide my way into Bayfield for our library celebration.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Being in my Practice

It's another warmish day that's gradually cooling down. In one word, it's treacherous. I ventured to the clinic for a flu shot and wondered whether the car would stop or slide right down the driveway onto the highway at the bottom. My concern on the trip home: Would I be able to drive back up the driveway? (I made it.)

The last few days have been foggy and rainy (which explains today's iciness). When day after day is drab and overcast, I feel tired and lethargic. But, like most people, I motivate myself to keep moving.

My morning T'ai Chi Chih practice was relaxed, slow, and calming. I practiced mid-morning to avoid a last minute rush to work. And, though I had a list of to-dos, I allowed myself to let go of my burdens and simply be in my practice.

Meanwhile the phone rings and Frances becomes more and more involved in town business and politics. I know what I need to do: Keep myself centered in a place of quiet, peace, and simplicity. That place of serenity supports my health and well-being.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Today stands in sharp contrast to the glorious sun-filled beauty of yesterday. Although the warm temperatures remain, the sky is one vast ceiling of white while the rich brown of earth emerges from its short-lived winter cloak of white.

I spent several hours on the phone with my editing client this morning and immediately followed that session with my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I know that this calm retreat into movement and breath will be a helpful transition from the peace of my home into the fast-paced, request-driven, and people-filled environment of the library.

I threw in a quick few minutes of TCC practice before my client called, in addition to the practice after, and, as far as I'm concerned, every moment of practice helps to bring quietude to my mind and body and gently offers me the opportunity to return myself to the present moment.

After TCC practice I sat for a brief five minutes to still myself further and I was glad for the extra time dedicated to no-thing. And now the time has come for me to leave my silent retreat and venture into the world of work where people and events move at high speed....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Resting in the Softness of Chi

It was an absolutely lovely day: unrelently sunshine, warm temps (mid-40s), and melting snow. It was the kind of day I'd expect to find in mid-March rather than mid-December. And so, I took advantage of the unseasonable warmth and went outside to haul firewood.

I pulled on a sweatshirt and spent several hours stacking freshly-cut wood on a sled and pulling it out of the woods to the house. Oh, what fun to be outside in the wooded beauty as I exercised my body (and mind).

After darkness fell I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in front of the woodstove in the basement. Floating, flowing, pushing and pulling. It felt good to rest my body in the softness of Chi flowing after my mid-afternoon workout. And, now, after a busy hard-working day I'm settling into a relaxing, restful evening. It's time for my entire being to rest in quietude before the beginning of another fast-paced week.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oh, peaceful night

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih by the light of the moon this evening ... the full moon, that is. I looked out the porch windows (with the inside lights turned off) and could see into the yard and woods as if an outdoor light were shining from the south end of the house. It was dark--yet light enough that the trees and house cast shadows--and mysteriously beautiful.

I had a difficult time focusing my mind since I had kitchen projects part-way done and knew that I had to return to them after practice. Also, my body seemed wobbly and unbalanced. Nevertheless, it was quiet and calm and soothing to be sheltered within the light-filled darkness.

I caught up on some house projects today and boy, did it feel good to stay home. I'm been running around and driving to and fro too much lately; this day felt like a nurturing gift of peace and quietude. Tomorrow I hope for more of the same....

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Heart Tonic

I woke at 4:30 a.m. Remnants of last night's e-book training and thoughts about the busy day ahead kept me from returning to sleep so, at 5:30 a.m., I rose ... alive, alert, awake, and joyous!

I spent the first hour of my day scurrying around; I made my lunch, revived the fire in the wood stove, and began work preparations. Then it was time for my T'ai Chi Chih practice; and, I must say, none too soon. When I stepped into Resting Position, I could feel my heart thumping at a frantic pace. First order of business: calm my heart.

I immediately sat, placed hands on my chest and performed some Reiki and soon my heart rate slowed down. When I returned to my practice, I could feel that the TCC practice was just what I needed to quiet and calm myself before the start of busy-ness. I released myself into the silent peacefulness of early morning (without hurried thoughts or a endless agenda to contemplate). Ahhh. It felt absolutely perfect to let myself s-l-o-w.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Refreshing? Rejuvenating? Grounding? Unifying? Downright Good?

Yes! Today we held another wonderful final T'ai Chi Chih class session in Cornucopia. The quiet slowness--as always--felt so refreshing? ... rejuvenating? ... grounding? ... unifying? ... downright good? ...

Following our group practice we finished our discussion of Ch. 11 in Buddha's Brain. And, because we discussed ways to quiet the mind and become aware of the body, I encouraged the group to really consider the ways in which our T'ai Chi Chih practice offers us opportunities to do both.

One of the reasons I've always felt a special draw to T'ai Chi Chih practice is because it so effectively gets me out of my head and into my body. And, the authors of Buddha's Brain write that "whole body awareness supports singleness of mind." (p. 187)

They continue their discussion by encouraging readers to "abide as awareness itself." As mindfulness stabilizes, they write, you will rest more and more as awareness itself. And that, my friends, is why TCC practice feels so good. When I am able to rest in awareness, I'm more detached from my ego and from my Monkey Mind thoughts; and, I'm more able to sink into the unity and Oneness of All That Is.

Well, now I'm back in the work-a-day-world of information, thoughts, and new learning. Tonight I'll attend a three-hour training on e-books in order to help library patrons use several new Kindles we recently purchased through our library. Thankfully, I have my daily TCC practice to calm my nerves, strengthen my ability to learn new things, and return me to my root. I am grateful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quietly Wonderful

This evening's final T'ai Chi Chih class for 2011 (in Washburn) was quietly wonderful. While we moved through our practice I barely spoke except to offer occasional verbal reminders regarding some of the more challenging movements: Anchor Step Taffy, Perpetual Motion Taffy, and Passing Clouds.

 I had a long hard day of work and this evening's TCC class--while still my job--was the perfect reward for staying motivated and focused throughout the morning and afternoon. Class members also seemed to mesh into one relaxed unified whole as we ventured through the form.

At the moment my brain has slipped into relax mode (along with my body). It feels like it's time for me to rest before I rise early tomorrow morning and journey to my final T'ai Chi Chih morning class for 2011 (in Cornucopia).

Then for the next month I'll be on my own with my daily T'ai Chi Chih practices. I look forward to my temporary holiday break. By January, though, I'll be ready to begin again: a new year, a new practice, a new outlook on life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ah, synchronicity

The temps are dropping ... it was 16 degrees when I drove to work today and the town plowed our driveway for the first time this morning. I believe I can assume that winter is now here for the duration of this year and well into the next.

It's now late enough in the evening that my brain is barely functioning. I just finished my T'ai Chi Chih practice and, thankfully, I'm able to practice when my body and brain are tired. (It's the blogging afterward that takes a major effort!)

I watched my reflection again tonight while I moved. It's a wonderful reinforcement to see myself moving slowly and softly. And, I know that I'll feel more relaxed when I sit down to watch a short movie before bed.

The slip in my fortune cookie tonight predicted the following: About time I got out of that cookie. I'm speculating about what that means for my current life.... Ah, synchronicity.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Like a Snowflake Falling ...

The woods turns whiter and whiter as our layer of snow cover thickens. I practiced T'ai Chi Chih this morning during another light snowfall. As I watched the snow through a window I reminded myself to float lightly through my practice and settle softly into Resting Position. It was helpful to have a soft, unhurried, "light as air" inspiration directly in front of me.

I managed to make it through half a practice before I left for work (I scraped about 3 to 4 inches of snow off the car before I drove anywhere). Then I spent the afternoon at the library where work was mellow and traffic flow was light.

Back home again, I launched into the second half of my TCC practice. It was dark, of course. And I felt tired. But it also felt good to revisit TCC one more time today. The peace ... the quiet ... the relaxation ... the release ... the effortlessness.

I feel grateful. I give thanks....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ah, peace....

I woke this morning to a literal Winter wonderland (I use winter here with both its meanings in mind: my last name as well as the name of the season). A frosting of white snow lay over every horizontal surface as far as the eye could see. Here I am (lucky me!), living in the middle of a black and white Christmas card. The only color in this fresh white landscape was a distant smudge of dark blue where Lake Superior's as yet unfrozen waters met the horizon.

Yesterday was fabulous: it was a birthday filled with friends, hugs, phone calls, Facebook greetings, gifts, good food, pampering from Frances, and best of all, the presence of others. And, to wake this morning to a pure, fresh, winter-white day was the perfect start to my next year of life. I am grateful, I give thanks.

It was so beautiful this morning that I absolutely had to flow into my T'ai Chi Chih practice immediately before any plowing, drifting, shifting, shaking, blowing, or changing weather could alter the fantastic landscape before me. I chose a spot in the living room where I could look out east-facing windows to admire the snow-draped trees standing before that distant spot of blue sea and sky.

No sound. It was so incredibly quiet that I swear I could hear my bones creak in addition to the distant tick of a clock in the next room. My internal dialogue switched on and off throughout practice and finally quieted to a whisper when I sat down to meditate after practice. Ah, peace....

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Me and My Shadow Move with Grace and Flo

Today is my birthday, and even though I had big plans to celebrate--go downtown to the Christmas craft sale, read magazines at the library, and sit in the coffee shop--I was supremely satisfied to have several long phone conversations with my lovely sister and a good friend from out of state. Those were my true gifts!

Frances is cooking a meal for friends this evening and I can't imagine a better way to celebrate than to spend time (on the phone or in person) with those I love and care about. It's been a wonderful day!

This afternoon's T'ai Chi Chih practice was just what I needed to bump up my energy (I didn't get enough sleep last night and I'm dragging). I practiced with my shadow and occasionally looked over at her to see whether she was moving forward and back with smoothness and continuity because, in truth, I felt just a wee bit jerky. Was I pushing myself forward and back or was I gliding with Grace and Flo?

My shadow looked pretty relaxed and smooth. And, when I watched her, I could see the way in which I led with t'an tien (my center) and allowed my hands to follow the forward-back movement. Yes, I know that I preach this principle to students and I feel that I do as I tell others to do, but I seldom have the opportunity to actually see how my own body looks as it shifts and moves. It works!

And now ... and now it's time for my guests to arrive! "I am grateful. I give thanks."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Comfort and Coziness

I feel kinda wordless right now. I spent much of the afternoon working on my editing project and, as a result, there are no words left for me to express myself (sometimes struggling to find just the right word or phrase can be a challenging--and exhausting--process).

I did get out of the house today and spent over an hour carrying and stacking firewood. That activity is so good for me; it keeps my body moving and allows me to sweat out toxins and breathe in clean, fresh air.

In the fall it's important that I reset my internal body clock to recognize when it's time to restock firewood in the wood stove. If I wait too long, the fire dies down to the point where it needs to be restarted; if I don't wait long enough, I overload the stove to the point where the wood burns too hot and/or too fast. It's a delicate balancing act.

I did my evening T'ai Chi Chih practice in front of said wood stove as I watched flames leap and dance while I, too, did my own special Chi dance. It felt comforting and cozy to sink into the warmth of the stove . . .  the room . . .  the practice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

May my mind be steady

Oh, what a glorious morn. "I am thankful. I am grateful."

I woke to bright shining sky and snow-covered earth. The woods looked absolutely beautiful with tree branches cloaked in a fresh covering of white.

During this morning's T'ai Chi Chih class we slid slowly through the movements of the form. It always feels delightful to experience the body as it unwinds and untangles stiff cords of tension that run through the muscles and tendons.

After TCC practice we returned to our discussion of Buddha's Brain, Chapter 11, "Foundations of Mindfulness." The section entitled, "Set Intentions," offered some helpful hints:
Establish a deliberate intention at the beginning of any activity that requires focus. Use statements such as May my mind be steady. Or just call up a silent feeling of determination.
Get a bodily sense of being someone you know who is extremely focused. That uses the empathy systems in the brain to stimulate within yourself the mindful nature of that other person.

Keep reestablishing your intentions ... every few minutes you could resolve anew to stay focused (p. 183).
I told the class that my intention in beginning each class with a guided meditation is to help students notice their breath, tune into their bodies, and relax tight muscles. However, this approach assumes that when students relax their bodies they'll also automatically focus their minds.

It may help to include May my mind be steady as a integral part of each guided meditation. By stating that intention directly I'm telling each person's Monkey Mind that it's okay to settle down during the time of our practice. It can't hurt to try.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hibernate or Practice ... Practice Before Hibernating?

I didn't sleep well last night and, in addition, I was up early. By the time my 5:30 p.m. T'ai Chi Chih class began I was tired. But, not to worry, most of my students seemed tired too, so we simply rolled through our practice slowly and quietly.

I'd mentioned to several students prior to class that I tend to go into hibernation mode when the season changes, the days get shorter, and the darkness lasts longer. Everyone in the conversation responded with a nod of their heads so I gather that this is not unusual.

It appeared that we were all a bit more relaxed and energized by the end of our practice; that felt good since we all drove home in falling snow. I have one week of classes remaining in this session and then there's a mid-winter/holiday break until I begin teaching again the second week of January, 2012.

I'm ready for a teaching break and, I have to admit, right now I'm ready for sleep....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow ... Slower ... Slowest

By the time I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice this evening after work I'd been moving at high speed all day. First, I worked on my editing project and then I spent an hour hauling firewood. When I arrived at work, I was occupied with people and projects throughout the remainder of the day.

Immediately after I closed the library doors for the night I began my TCC practice. I positioned myself between the 'New Books' display and the DVDs. Ohh, I was moving fast. It took me a considerable amount of time to allow myself to go slow ... , slower ... , and slowest. And it didn't come easy.

First, I released my body from its speeded-up "I'm at work" mode, then I allowed my mind to decelerate into the present moment as I let go of any agenda or list of 'to dos' for the rest of the day. Finally, after a full half-hour of moving meditation I mellowed out.

Now I'm waiting for Frances to pick me up after the town meeting she's attending. Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe I'll try one of the new Kindles the library purchased and see whether I can figure out how to use it. Or ... I could actually sit on the couch and read a magazine....

Monday, November 28, 2011


Today would have been a good day to begin with a T'ai Chi Chih practice. Alas, I was scheduled to open the library and didn't get in my practice before work. Mondays are notoriously busy since the library is closed on Sundays. It often seems as if patrons are anxious to return the ten DVDs that they watched over the weekend (or during the previous two weeks) on Mondays and then check out ten more. Needless to say, I was inundated with DVDs.

I moved at top speed for the first three hours after I opened and, since my co-worker had an out-of-town appointment, I worked solo most of the day. Need I say more? It was a tiring day.

After I arrived home and ate dinner I felt better. But I truly relaxed after I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice. When I tuned into my body, I realized that I was holding tension in my neck and shoulders and I reminded myself to let my shoulders drop as I breathed out the tightness and stress.

One of the greatest benefits of TCC practice is the opportunity it provides for me to get out of my head and into my body. Or perhaps, more accurately, it allows me to focus my attention on relaxing my body and my mind. I'm reminded of the the 1997 book by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life from the Inside Out

It seems that people often think of T'ai Chi Chih and T'ai Chi Ch'uan as exercise. What they don't realize is that when we take the time to slow down and inhabit our bodies, we also find ourselves inhabiting (or noticing) our minds and thoughts. What a wonderful gift to notice, to pay attention, and to become present to--and in--the moment. Because, once we are aware, we can make conscious, deliberate choices. Now that's empowerment!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I am Grateful

The T'ai Chi Chih Facebook entry for Friday, Nov. 25, 2011 reads: Every morning get up and say three times: "I am grateful. I give thanks."

Zen writer Paul Reps gave this suggestion to his good friend, Justin Stone (the creator of T'ai Chi Chih Joy Thru Movement). Just 15 seconds a day is said to be the recipe to ensure happiness. It seems simple enough and I'm guessing that it puts your head and your heart in just the right place to start your day. I'm planning to try it just to see what happens.

After resting yesterday I felt so much better and more energetic today! I was up at 5:30 am and immediately launched into a variety of projects. I had enough energy, in fact, to finish my editing project, haul firewood, and make Curried Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk. Mmmm.

Early this evening I returned to my T'ai Chi Chih practice. It felt lovely to get into and then go with the flow. I am grateful for my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I give thanks for the uplifting role it plays in my life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let the Goodness Shine Out

Today I slowed down. Didn't have a choice ... I was tired. Rain fell heavily in the middle of the night and, once the day dawned, it was grey in and out and all about.

My biggest accomplishment of the day? I read a book. It's a new young adult novel we recently placed into our library collection called Shine. The book's plot contains plenty of darkness (meth and alcohol addiction, gay bashing, poverty, and domestic and sexual abuse) but the underlying theme is about living in the light.

Here's what one of the characters, Mama Sweetie tells our heroine, Cat, when she's 13 years old:
     She said God had blessed me with an abundance of spirit, and not to ever squash it down. She said there was goodness in everything and everyone, and that it was our job to let that goodness shine out.

     'A person does on occasion lose his way,' she warned Patrick and me. 'We all have our trials. But I'm gonna tell y'all something, something I want you to remember....'

     ... 'God loves you even on your blackest days.... All you have to do is look for the light of His love. As long as you remember that one thing, why, then you can cast off the darkness and shine again, can't you?' (pp. 95-96)
I could relate to these lines because I'm reminded of how I feel when I engage in my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Something about the energy?, the ability to align with a feeling of Oneness?, the opportunity to release myself (at least temporarily) from Ego?, allows me see and experience the "goodness in everything and everyone." When I am truly in the moment and fully engaged in my practice it is possible for me to see and experience a feeling of lightness, generosity, and loving kindness that is so much larger than me and, consequently, it allows me to let my own goodness shine out....

This evening's TCC practice felt en-light-ening. When I began, I was tired and lethargic and, by practice end, I felt lighter and more balanced. It's worth a half hour investment to experience this lovely feeling of release.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday in Rural America

My Black Friday consisted of a trip to the vet with Namaste and some errands and grocery shopping at the food coop and our local IGA. Our day was so much calmer and quieter than the stories I read on the internet about shoppers who were pepper-sprayed as well as robbed of their new purchases when they left the store. I am so grateful that I live in the middle of the woods!

Frances and I did some more clearing of branches along our driveway until I felt so tired that I thought I had to be in an insulin reaction (I was). I walked back up the drive, treated my reaction with a banana and some apple juice, and launched into my T'ai Chi Chih practice.

Although I felt tired and lazy after my busy day and the low blood sugar the TCC was soothing and relaxing. Now I'm ready to eat some Thanksgiving leftovers and devote the rest of the evening to total relaxation....

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today I celebrate--and continue--two years of daily T'ai Chi Chih practices and blogs. I began this extraordinary journey on Thanksgiving Day 2009. In my first blog entry I called this undertaking an "experiment" for, truly, it was a leap of fantasy and faith.

Over the years I've daubled with daily writing: diaries, journals, Morning Pages (per Julia Cameron). My writing has always been pleasurable, creative, and cathartic. It has pulled me out of anger and depression, helped me learn how to be more accepting of diabetes, reminded me of the gifts and blessings that surround me, and brought me into a greater understanding of what it means to embrace my humanity.

Writing is one of the few undertakings in my life in which I can become easily lost; time stops or, at the very least, pauses when I'm encircled by thoughts, ideas, words, and sentences. I suppose you could say that the same holds true for my T'ai Chi Chih practice. It's easy to delve into the silence, the peace, and the flow of Chi. It's usually surprising to realize how quickly my half-hour practice begins, then ends. More often than not, my mood is lighter and my step springier after my practice than when I began.

Still, when you undertake a daily practice it's easy to grow bored, to take your efforts for granted, or to forget what your life--or you!--were like before your journey began. Some days this commitment of mine feels like a burden; some days it feels like a gift; and other days, it feels like a wild and wacky "experiment" in patience, fortitude, and trust that my daily T'ai Chi Chih and writing practices do make a difference in my own life and, hopefully, in the lives of my students and others.

Two years ago I envisioned this Thanks-Giving pledge as a path to explore Taoist philosophy, T'ai Chi Chih teachings, and my own inner growth. Now I realize that it is more practical: an exercise in chopping wood and carrying water. The dailyness. The routines. The habits and attitudes of a lifetime are played out in each word, each movement, each moment....

I'm reminded of a brief story I discovered this morning when I pulled a book from my shelf:
     ZEN STUDENT: So Master, is the soul immortal or not? Do we survive our bodily death or do we get annihilated? Do we really reincarnate? Does our soul split up into component parts which get recycled, or do we as a single unit enter the body of a biological organism? And do we retain our memories or not? Or is the doctrine of reincarnation false? Is perhaps the Christian notion of survival more correct? And if so, do we get bodily resurrected, or does our soul enter a purely Platonic spiritual realm?
     MASTER: Your breakfast is getting cold.
          "Mondo on Immortality," from: The Tao is Silent by Raymond M. Smullyan, p. 194
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heavy Duty Healthfulness

It was a wacky warm day-before-Thanksgiving with the drip-drip-drip of snow melting off the roof. Yep, deluxe sweatshirt weather (I discovered that when I went outside to help Frances schlep branches she trimmed off trees lining our driveway). Our efforts were in direct response to a letter from our town clerk asking us to remove low-lying branches in order to facilitate snowplowing up and down our driveway this winter.

I spent the day making wheat growers' buns (a recipe from Frances's mom) as well as editing. I put a lot of wheat flour into those buns in order to ensure their Healthfulness (with a capital 'H'). Consequently, they're Heavy duty (again, with a capital 'H'), and not quite as delicious as they are when they're made with all-white flour.

My evening T'ai Chi Chih practice was performed after dark (which comes earlier and earlier these days). I stared out the porch windows into the darkness until I spied a cute little white face--the cat--peeking under Lucy's plastic wading pool that's tipped upside down over the water pump. She was hunting (obviously) as she slid under and then reappeared next to the overturned plastic pool. It was fun to catch an occasional glimpse of one happy hunting cat.

My TCC practice was wonderfully relaxing; now, though, I can feel that my body is ready for bed. Tomorrow is all about cooking and eating. I'll be right there indulging with everyone else. I was informed, however, that the Green Bay Packers are playing the Detroit Tigers. The Packers are undefeated (10-0) so it's a big game day for those who are fans, a big hunting day for those who are hunters, and a big feasting day for the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Tao of Pooh

It's been a long, busy day in the neighborhood. First up this morning I made a vet appointment for our--now--three-legged dog, Namaste. His lifelong hip problems have escalated to the point where Namaste is often in pain and it's hard for me to watch our little bugger hopping around on three feet. We'll see what the vet says Friday morning....

Today I practiced T'ai Chi Chih before I left for work. For whatever reason, it felt difficult to focus my attention on my practice but, as usual, practice time sped by. It was helpful to me that I practiced before work since I had a bit of a run-in with one of our patrons over cell phone use in the library. Although we have signs posted by every entrance to the library: "No Cell Phone Use in the Library," it's surprising to note how many people disregard this request entirely.

Often the cell phone offender is working at a computer with other patrons sitting at a computer right beside them (which was the case today). Typically, when a librarian goes and specifically asks the patron to move their conversation to the entrance, they comply. Not so today.

It was interesting for me to notice how quickly a situation can turn into a power struggle. Since this patron ignored my request I simply made it clear to the patron before s/he left the building that, even though there weren't many patrons in the library at the time, it still disturbed me to listen to someone's private conversation. Then I let it go.

That, I think, is a lesson from the Tao. Be strong enough to know and state your truth and then, be satisfied that that's all you need to do.

No T'ai Chi Chih classes this week due to Thanksgiving. I'm excited to have an open evening and morning to prepare food for Thanksgiving, work on firewood collection, and continue my editing project. Obviously, I'm not at a loss for projects to fill those extra hours.

Monday, November 21, 2011

May Peace Abide with You

Yesterday was Justin's Stone's 95th birthday and, in his honor, International T'ai Chi Chih Day. Many local T'ai Chi Chih communities--the Twin Cities included--held a special practice and celebration to commemorate his birth and life, as well as the contributions he has made toward world peace.

Today arrived on the wings of tremendous, stupendous, glorious sunshine. As I did my morning T'ai Chi Chih practice I looked out at the peace and silence of our Snow White Woods. Our 25 acres of trees stand like stalwart sentries guarding the serenity of the peace-abiding plants and trees and animals that live here.

I, too (some days!), abide in peace here. A large part of that ability to sense, embrace, and extend the peace comes from the gift of T'ai Chi Chih practice. When I re-enter my practice day after day I build a solid core of peace inside that allows me to still my inner turnoil and reach out to create a kinder, more compassionate and loving world. Thank you, Justin Stone, for this wonderfully tranquil moving meditation.

May you abide in peace, too....

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Today it feels as if winter is here for certain. Then, a friend mentioned that next week we're predicted to have several days in the 40s ... who's to know?

It is white everywhere and, with temps in the 20s, there's a definite chill--and frozen feeling--in the air. I spent the morning editing, then cooking, then cleaning, then cooking some more as guests arrived for a potluck and feature presentation of The Real Dirt on Farmer John, a biographical documentary about the life of John Peterson.

Peterson wrote and narrated this story of his life. It begins with his early years as the son of a small town farmer, then moves to his transition to full-time farming as a young adult (after his father's death), then details his loss of most of the farm acreage, and then, finally--like a phoenix rising out of its ashes--reveals his recreation/reinvention as a CSA farmer (Community Supported Agriculture). It's a sad, joyous, and compelling tale (thank you, Anna).

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih before our guests arrived for a potluck dinner and then returned to my practice after they departed. During the first practice I looked out the windows into winter white and during the second, I stared into the burgeoning flames of a rebuilt fire. Both practices were brief, relaxing, and invigorating.

Now, I'm up writing this blog long past my bedtime. (Yes, I believe this late-night energy is due in part to the TCC practice and also to the invigorating conversation and film discussion that ensued during this evening's social gathering.) We're building community--just like Farmer John--and it's a powerful experience.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Snowflake Drifting ...

Winter is upon us. Throughout the day a fine sprinkling of snow fell, gradually covering the earth, drive, front step, and pathways with several inches of accumulated snow. I shoveled a path for the dog to take a mini-walk and another path for the goose to follow to her barn.

But first, I cooked, edited, and practiced T'ai Chi Chih in the porch. I positioned myself at a window where I could watch Lucy and Lucy could watch me while I moved. She is so familiar with this practice that I assumed it might comfort her to know that I was nearby. Lucy sat snugly amid the piling snow and, when she stood, a bare piece of earth that resembled her underside still remained. Oh, the benefits of goose down.

It felt exciting, really, to witness the first resident snowfall of the season. It was a nice, calm, and quiet accompaniment to my slow, peaceful practice. Oh, if I could only be that snowflake drifting gracefully to earth....  After practice I walked down the driveway to pick up the mail and watched a white-tail deer run across the drive and leap gracefully into the protection of the forest.

The days are darkening ... the snow is fallng ... the temperatures are dropping ... and the season of hibernation will soon be here. Thankfully, I have many activities and intellectual pursuits to keep me occupied and warm.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Moving into Health

Yes, I am feeling better. Frances and I took a walk this afternoon for the first time in about three weeks ... it felt good to move my body! I asked Frances if she could tell that I'm improving because I'm back to joking around and playing word games.

It was bit warmer today (warmer than the 20-somethings we've experienced this week) so the chicken and goose spent the day outside. I, on the other hand, stayed inside and worked diligently on my editing project. Two whole chapters completed! It may not sound like much but it felt like a huge accomplishment to me. I've made it through 14 chapters; I now have four chapters, an epilogue, appendices, and a full re-reading left to go.

To reward myself, I launched into my T'ai Chi Chih practice after I got up from the table and straightened my hunched over back. I moved slowly ... no where to go, nothing to do. By practice end I felt thoroughly refreshed.  Tomorrow? More editing. Another T'ai Chi Chih practice. And ... ?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


No one arrived at class by 9:30 this morning so I began T'ai Chi Chih practice by myself. Gradually students filtered in until we had an almost-full class of six members.

After practice one student mentioned that she really missed our beginning guided meditation which I skipped today since there was no one else in the room to participate. I missed the meditation myself because, even though I lead it, I still gain benefits from following my own verbal instructions to breathe, relax the body, establish a root and sky connection, and focus attention on t'an tien.

During our post-practice discussion of Buddha's Brain, chapter 11, I mentioned that I think the beginning meditation allows us to set an intention for our practice: to breathe, relax, and center ourselves first, in our bodies, and second, in the quiet and calm presence of our practice circle. When we deeply inhabit our bodies and set a clear intention to slow down and quiet ourselves, we can then more easily steady our attention as well as our minds.

Chapter 11 is in the final section of Buddha's Brain and focuses on "wisdom." This chapter, entitled "Foundations of Mindfulness," delves into the definition, benefits, and practice of mindfulness. According to the authors:
Being mindful simply means having good control over your attention.... developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind (p. 177).
During my years of T'ai Chi Chih practice I've found that it can be relatively easy to focus my attention while I'm in the midst of my practice. My goal, as I mentioned to a former T'ai Chi Chih student who I stood behind at the grocery story checkout last night, is to bring that skill into more parts of my daily life. I need to offer myself the same reminder I give to my students: Practice. Practice. Practice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Never Ending Journey

Brrr. Winter has arrived with a sprinkling of snow on the ground and colder temps in the air.

I spent the afternoon working on my editing project before I headed off to this evening's TCC class. I didn't feel up to par and had to resort to sucking on cough drops to keep my calm, relaxed exterior, but I was in a humorous mood tonight and found plenty of opportunities to inject my sly wit (!?)  into our refinement session after group practice.

It was a fun session. Practice was quiet, peaceful, and so relaxed that some of the students looked as though they were just shy of falling into a deep sleep. Our refinement session was fun, too, as students asked plenty of questions and I was more than willing to offer suggestions for tweaking individual movements.

Tonight I talked about Working the Pulley in terms of how the upper body operates to create the large circles on either side of the body by simply bending and extending our elbows (based on last week's discussion about how we typically bend and extend our elbows to make many of the circles in this form). I've never quite thought about Pulley in this way before but it sure seemed to encourage class members to allow a larger circular motion as their hands moved behind their bodies.

I'll revisit this refinement in two weeks when we return to class after Thanksgiving break. It's so important to find various ways to explain how to do each movement so that, eventually, most of the students will have a better grasp of what to do and a more relaxed approach to how to do it. Effortlessness is the key and that's what inspires me to look for simpler ways to explain, demonstrate, and experience each and every movement. Learning ... it's a never-ending journey.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leaf-Ladden Stillness

It's a deeply quiet day. The morning began with rain that transformed into grey, leaf-ladden stillness.

I still feel worn out and exceptionally miserable in the mornings. So, after breakfast I relaxed under the Hothouse machine and soaked in its warm, comforting rays while Frances conducted several more radionics treatments on me.

Afterwards I moved directly into my T'ai Chi Chih practice in order to capture the Chi while I could. Interestingly, I didn't feel a huge amount of energy today; I'm just too darn tired. Instead, I watched the incredible stillness outside the porch window. A nuthatch flew to the dusting of corn left from the goose and chicken feed pan. Otherwise the other critters out in the woods were too well hidden in the grey-brown undergrowth.

It's almost time to head to the library. Tonight I'll come home and continue my healing routine....

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Healing is Within Me Now

The last two days have felt like low points in my healing process. Last night at movie night it seemed that with each cough some of my vital force energy left my body.

This morning I wondered whether I truly had the strength and fortitude to go back to work. Then Frances offered to do some radionics treatments on me, which I gratefully accepted. During the first treatment I got up and started to move and by the end of the third treatment I was dressed and ready to head to work. What happened? It's a mystery. Something--what?--seemed to shift in my chest and the coughing stopped. Period.

As soon as I was up and running Frances encouraged me to do my T'ai Chi Chih practice to help build my energy. I had a wonderfully slow, relaxed, and vitalizing practice. Of course, at work I still ran into rough spots where my coughing began and would not stop and my nose ran like a faucet. But I hope (fingers crossed) that healing is continuing and I'm well on my way to health and well-being.....

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Circle of Friends

I'm tired. Today I had a bit of a relapse and, I have to say, I feel discouraged. But, hey, it's movie night at the Winter-Johnson residence and I look forward to welcoming into our home some neighbors and friends with happy, healthy energy.

Right now I'm squeezing my blog into the brief few minutes before our guests arrive. The pressure is on but I'm not really feeling it because I know that I can always come back to my blog to finish it up.

During my practice I was calm, slow, and relaxed. I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in the near-darkness of the upstairs bedroom and kindly--and compassionately--watched my reflection in the window. Occasionally I heard the pop-pop-pop of Frances in the kitchen making popcorn but even that activity disappeared into white noise in the background.

The house always feels better when it's clean and organized which it is (for tonight anyway). I've told myself that I can excuse myself from the gathering tonight if I feel too tired or sick. That helps. My intention is to enjoy myself, relax into the presence of this gathering circle, and be at peace.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Filled with Ener-Chi

It's another beautiful, unseasonably warm fall day. Frances spent part of the afternoon staining the house (there is one wall left and she's determined to finish before snow settles permanently on the ground).

I did more cooking (surprise!), gradually worked through my huge pile of laundry, and spent an hour on the phone with a friend. And I'm back to editing (one good page of editing deserves another and I think I have about 250 pages left to go).

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih out in the porch after darkness fell and Frances retired for a nap. So ... it was gloriously quiet (except for the sound of the clothes dryer). Often these days during practice I don't know that I have calm, focused mind but I do know that I feel a huge amount of energy (Chi). It is a wonderful feeling and plays a significant role in returning me to my practice day after day.

It's interesting how easy it is to forget that wonderful feeling of energy from one day to the next but all I need do is launch into my next day's practice and I'm quickly--and joyfully--reminded.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Now I'm Cooking ...

I was up before five this morning and immediately launched into preparing a bean, kale, and squash stew. One sure sign that I feel better is when I start to cook again (I haven't cooked at all during the past week other than to serve as sous-chef on a pot of chicken soup that Frances made). After two hours in the kitchen, though, I was beat and returned to bed.

Mid-morning when I finally rose for the day I returned to the kitchen and cooked some more: stir-fried veggies and tomato bisque. Of course, the fact that I'm cooking is another sure sign that my health is on the mend because--wonder of wonders!--my appetite has returned.

This is the first day in over a week that I sense the old Steph is back in town. I still have some healing to do but the end is in sight.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in the basement tonight as the cat prowled her way along the walls. It was wonderfully quiet down there and a nice respite from the main floor where I've spent too many days sleeping, reading, and coughing. Oh, it felt good to bend my joints, breathe deeply, and quiet myself. Besides, I needed a break from too much cooking. (Too much cooking? Oh, perish the thought.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Wilderness of Your Intuition

Wednesday, November 9, 2011:

Unfortunately, I grew sicker after Frances caught this cold on Tuesday. Throughout the day I gradually prepared myself for T'ai Chi Chih class and skipped all additional chores along my route to class except for the necessities: pick up Vit. C and zinc at the pharmacy and drop bill payments in the mail.

Class went well. I encouraged students to notice how the circles in each movement are created by the elbows as they extend (open) and bend (close). The fact is that when you extend and bend your elbows to "create" the circle, you have no need to reach or overextend the muscles in your upper arms. It is so much easier.

I drove home immediately after class, ate a quick dinner, and went to bed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011:

We had our first snowfall last night! Three to four inches at our house, none in Ashland or Cornucopia, and lesser amounts at other locations on the Bayfield Pennisula. By lunchtime the cover of white is almost gone.

I still consider myself lucky when I think about my sister who called me from West Virginia about ten days ago to report that her area received close to a half foot of the frozen stuff. It's downright bizarre that a warmer location would/could receive snow sooner than those of us in the great North Woods.

I did a long haul under the Hot House machine this morning with the hope that its gentle heat would improve my sinuses and backache. Then ... off to T'ai Chi Chih class once again. Ohhh ... it felt so good to move in our practice circle. After practice we conducted an energy circle and the class sent healing energy my way. I absolutely felt it as it landed like a mini-explosion in the center of my chest.

Post-practice we continued our discussion of Buddha's Brain, Chapter 10, "Boundless Kindness." I realized during our discussion how easy it is to create an us and them. It takes a considerable investment of time, energy, and dedicated practice in order to go beyond the ego and truly embrace All Living Things. I feel as if years of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and T'ai Chi Chih practice are leading me in that direction but ... it's a long and winding road.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.

          --Alan Alda
          From: Daily Good, Nov. 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Around the Corner

Yep, Frances was hit hard last night with Cold/Flu #1 of the season. I'm a few steps ahead of her in terms of recovery but still sleeping like a dead person at all times of the day and night.

Today I ventured out of the house to feed the goose and chicken (it's my turn to do chores now that Frances is sick). In late afternoon I walked to the mailbox to pick up mail that hasn't been retrieved since last week. It was absolutely beautiful which prompted me to practice T'ai Chi Chih outdoors. The sunshine, blue skies, and warmish temperatures were an inspiration and I luxuriated in the out of the ordinary, better-than-could-be-expected weather.

It was a relief, besides, to get out of the sick house and smell clean, invigorating air. While I moved, the goose and chicken nested nearby in leaves and dirt. It was wonderfully quiet. The only sounds to break the silence were an unidentified bird passing overhead and a nuthatch hopping down a tree trunk and onto the ground.

I'm scheduled to teach T'ai Chi Chih tomorrow night and Thursday morning so it's imperative that I regain my strength and continue my recouperative process. Of course, each time I practice I focus attention on breathing out sickness and pulling in/breathing in health and healing (especially with Push/Pull and Pulling in the Energy).

The healing is coming, I can feel it. It's just around the corner....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Life, Death, and More Life

Sunday, November 6, 2011:

Well, I had the energy today to do my T'ai Chi Chih practice but I simply couldn't face sitting down to write a blog.

Practice was not easy. The wind howled and raged and, though I stayed inside for my practice, I felt as if I, too, was windblown merely from watching the waving, wind-whipped treetops and branches through my window. It was difficult to maintain my mental focus and balance since my mind felt unsettled by the rambunctious fits and starts of the tumultuous winds.

Monday, November 7, 2011:

Today the winds died down (thank God!) and I practiced TCC in late afternoon quiet. It felt good to move since I've predominantly slept and rested over the past few days. Just as I begin to feel better, though, Frances is next up on the sick list.

The last few days have been disconcerting; twice a fox stalked and tried to capture Lucy the goose in broad daylight. Yesterday Frances heard Lucy's frantic honks and arrived to see the fox's teeth on Lucy's neck. When Frances yelled and chased, the fox appeared to be unfazed. Even after I joined in the fray and Frances fired a few shots in the fox's direction it circled back several times.

Today the fox returned, again intent on grabbing Lucy. This time Frances wore a gun in a holster at her side. When the fox didn't respond to her yells and a warning shot, she ended up firing to kill. It's unusual to see a fox in the middle of the day and one this aggressive. It didn't exhibit signs that it had rabies but its behavior seemed highly unusual.

Meanwhile we've been contacted by a local vet who participates in animal rescues. Her office wondered whether we'd be interested in taking on another goose that has lived along a river several hours south of here. And so it goes ... life and death ... and more life.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Oh, did I get slammed with a severe cold during the night. Today I slept ... and slept ... and slept. And slept some more.

During my late afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice I felt pretty good but, I admit, I didn't launch into my practice until I felt capable of standing upright for half an hour. Now, after practice I feel much better. I'll just keep pumping in the fluids and see what tomorrow brings.

In the meantime I know that T'ai Chi Chih is a powerful tool in my self-care kit. I plan to keep applying it to my body, mind, and spirit as if it were a hot water bottle. It does bring me comfort....

Friday, November 4, 2011

T'ai Chi Chih Relief

Just when I thought I had this cold thing licked it came back at me. My sore throat worsened and my symptoms increased as my workday went on. Wisely, I asked a co-worker to take over tomorrow's work hours.

During this evening's T'ai Chi Chih practice I felt pretty good while I moved (my attention was directed elsewhere?) and now I'm back in the realm of reality. It'll be early to bed and I'll see what tomorrow brings....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Becoming a Log Roller

I continue to feel tired. At work yesterday many patrons complained about suffering from a bad cold. Me? I continue to take good care of myself and part of that self-care includes my plans for a nap this afternoon.

I woke today to a view of widespread frost on the grass and a thin layer of ice on the car windshield. Since I was moving slowly as I readied myself for our AM T'ai Chi Chih class, it helped me to visualize the class standing in a circle on the hardwood floors of our practice room with sunshine streaming through the windows and en-light-ening us.

And, sure enough, that's what happened. For me, it was a gloriously uplifting and energizing practice followed by a good discussion about how to cultivate positive emotions (Chapter 10) per our text, Buddha's Brain. The authors included an intriguing parable from Taoist teacher, Chuang Tzu, to illustrate how easy it is for us to attribute intentions to other people without even knowing what motivates their behaviors. I reprint the story below (Buddha's Brain, pp. 164-165):
Imagine that you are relaxing in a canoe on a river, when suddenly there is a hard thump against the side of it, dumping you into the water. You come up sputtering, and see that two teenagers with snorkels have snuck up and tipped you over. How do you feel?

Next imagine that everything is the same--the canoe, the sudden dumping into the river--except this time when you come up sputtering, you see that a huge submerged log has drifted downstream and smacked into your canoe. Now how do you feel?
How would you feel if caught in either of these two scenarios? The authors mention that, for many, the second scenario doesn't feel as bad as the first. They suggest a different approach to dealing with hurt, angry feelings:
Truly, many people are like logs: it's wise to get out of their way if you can--or reduce the impact--but they're not aiming at you.
So simple and, yes, so true. I believe T'ai Chi Chih practice helps me to venture into a place of unity and oneness where, at least temporarily, ego is put aside. During my practices it's easier for me to not take things personally but, rather, to respond to others from a place of generosity and good will. I'm still learning and practicing how to bring that openness and compassion into other areas of my life....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

S-l-o-w and Quiet Movements

This evening's T'ai Chi Chih class came as a welcome finish to a crammed, filled-to-the-brim day. I was so tired at work this afternoon I wondered how I'd have the energy to teach.

But, as many T'ai Chi Chih teachers know, I felt even better after class than when I began. And, when I looked around our practice circle, it appeared that there were a number of students who needed a refresher as much as I did. We moved s-l-o-w-l-y and quietly and I could see the tension slide off bodies and minds until it looked as if we could all just lie down on the floor and go to sleep.

Oh, it felt so good to move in unison with others who appreciate and notice the difference a T'ai Chi Chih practice can make in one's day. Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm totally refreshed and energized since I didn't get enough sleep last night. But it does mean that I'm much less tense and up tight than I was earlier today. And that, my friends, can make all the difference.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Day of Meaningful Coincidence?

11-1-11. Today's date seems significant. I don't know the exact reasons why but I know that I often look at the clock when it's 1:11 pm or 11:11 am (or pm). According to a quick search of the internet, numerological interpretations of 11:11 cite it as the beginning of new cycles, increased spiritual leanings, and compassion. Some people believe that looking at the clock when it reads 11:11 shows synchronicity or meaningful coincidence.

I've been thinking a lot about death recently and, today in particular, it's on my mind. I remembered this morning that today is the 12th anniversary of Frances's father's death. Also, I woke the other morning with a strong memory and feeling about my cat, Hiziki, who died three or four years ago. For whatever reason (astrological or otherwise), it feels as though there is a lot of activity in the spirit world.

I came home from work tonight feeling extremely tired so I was grateful for the opportunity to practice T'ai Chi Chih. As I moved I felt tension ease in my physical and mental muscles. And, post-practice, I'm still tired but definitely more relaxed. And I'll carry on with that desire to relax by sitting down to watch Doc Martin, a British situation comedy.

Blessings to us all on this day of 11111s.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Hallowed Practice

What better way to end a day of drama than with a T'ai Chi Chih practice? When I arrived at the library, I received sad news about the unexpected death of one of our beloved patrons (he was found sitting in a chair with a book in his lap). Since it was Halloween, I managed to sneak a glimpse of young school kids dressed in costumes as they paraded downtown accompanied by pounding drums.

In late afternoon/early evening I was visited by a lion, a witch (or two or three or more), a stick man, and other unidentified trick-or-treaters. I was more than ready for rest and relaxation by the end of my workday and immediately stepped into a T'ai Chi Chih practice before I left the building.

Five or ten minutes into practice Frances arrived to drive me home. She shared the news that one of our chickens died at the hands-claws-paws of an unidentified predator early this afternoon. Awww. After a snack and a short conversation with Frances I went back to my practice. And now here I am ... tired but happy, relaxed and ready for sleep....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Very Breath

In this very breath that we take now lies the secret that all great teachers try to tell us.

          --Peter Matthiessen
          From: The Little Zen Companion, p. 114
Our life is frittered away by detail ... Simplify, simplify.

          From: The Little Zen Companion, p. 49
Some words for thought.... This is a good day for thinking ... napping and thinking. As the afternoon progressed drops of rain began to fall. Now there's a constant tapping against the windows and metal rooftop.

Frances and I are preparing to host a group movie session tonight. We're set to watch, "Orwell Rolls in His Grave," a documentary about the political bias and huge, unimagined power of the media. Hopefully, it will lead to a lively discussion.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih after the day turned gloomy and the rain began. Even though it was grey outside I felt tremendously comforted as I flowed through the soft, gentle movements of the form. It felt delightful to slow down, breathe, and r-e-l-a-x. I look forward to a nurturing evening with neighbors and friends....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Excuses

It's another busy day in the neighborhood! And, as I discovered yesterday, I'm much better off both physically and psychologically when I take time to do my T'ai Chi Chih practice and add on other strategies for self-care.

I was up early to edit, then ran errands, then edited some more, then stacked, moved, and restacked wood, and--you got it!--returned to my editing. It took most of the day to get to my TCC practice but, when I did, I felt so much better. Of course, another 45 minutes under the Hothouse machine helped me, too, as it relaxed the tight muscles in my back that have been speaking to me in a very loud voice.

I always remind my T'ai Chi Chih students that they'll be helped by a practice even when they think they're too busy to fit it in. And so, over the past few days, when I've been overwhelmed with projects and commitments, I've also been reminded of the powerful, rejuvenative effects this practice brings to a worn down, stressed out bodymind.

So--no excuses--take time for your T'ai Chi Chih practice tomorrow and notice how much better you feel at the end.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tinkering with the Bodymind

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih at home this afternoon with my CD of Tibetan monks chanting in the background. It was just what the doctor ordered. Today I feel tired, stressed, sick, and over busy so the TCC practice along with the praying monks, a seated meditation practice, and 45 minutes spent soaking up rays of warmth under my Hothouse machine, made me anew.

Perhaps this was actually what Buddha's Brain ordered. For it was just yesterday in class that we discussed different strategies designed to tame the wolf of hate and cultivate goodwill. One of author, Rick Hanson's, suggestions was to be aware of the priming, in other words, to be cognizant of elements that tend to stimulate your nervous system and prime you--or lead you--toward ill will (Ch. 10, p. 164). He's referring to H.A.L.T. (hungry-angry-lonely-tired), one of the mainstays of recovery work. I'd wager a guess that I could have responded affirmatively to three or four of the aforementioned options.

All of these tools from my toolbox made a difference in my attitude and energy level but, first, it took a conversation with Frances to help me realize that I needed to (1) do something about my stress and (2) take care of myself. Thank goodness for people in my life who know me well.

I'm going back to work now but I plan to remind myself later in the day to reopen my toolbox and engage in a bit more tinkering on my bodymind before I go to bed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Energizing, Grounding, Cleansing

It's late afternoon and, for the first time today, sun is beginning to shine through an ever-expanding hole of blue in cloud-clogged skies. Ahhh.... My soul feels lighter (because the world around me is lighter).

Our T'ai Chi Chih group practice this morning was relaxing and peace-inducing. During our discussion time after practice we talked extensively about the movement Joyous Breath.

"What," one student asked, "is it supposed to do for a person?"

"What," I responded, "does it do for you?"

She mentioned that since the movement relies on muscle tension and a focus on nose breathing she's inspired to imagine herself as bringing in good energy and pushing out the bad. Another student added that she often feels as if she could easily float upward during the previous movement, Light at the Top of the Head/Light at the Temples. For her, Joyous Breath effectively and efficiently brings her back down to earth as it strongly and securely grounds her.

For me, Joyous Breath feels like a cleansing. The full taking in and letting out of air is a tremendously important part of this movement because it allows me to feel as if I'm engaged in an internal house cleaning (which, perhaps, I am).

That's the joy of T'ai Chi Chih practice: the movements become meaningful and valuable to you based on the symbols, images, and interpretations you ascribe to them. T'ai Chi Chih Joy thru Movement is a universal, worldwide practice that provides untold benefits to those who practice it. It is also a practice that can be uniquely your own. When you make it so, you will truly experience the joy thru movement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Being of Nothingness

Among the great things which are to be found among us, the Being of Nothingness is the greatest.
          --Leonardo Da Vinci
          From: The Little Zen Companion, p. 181
Even a good thing isn't as good as nothing.
          --Zen Saying
          From: The Little Zen Companion, p. 180
I just listened to an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio with Glen Greenwald, the author of With Liberty and Justice for Some. His thesis: The rise of a lawless elite in this country has led to public acceptance of that elite group--political officials, corporate heads, and the like--not being held accountable for their corrupt, self-serving behaviors. Greenwald and the host of the program speculated that perhaps that ability to function above the law--the practice of a select few--is now causing concerned citizens to Occupy Wallstreet and beyond.

I admit, when I feel discouraged by the people or events around me or the wacky ways of the world, I am deeply grateful for my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Those all-too-brief minutes spent in practice bring me back to the wisdom of the above quotations and help me to remember the value of nothing.

During tonight's T'ai Chi Chih class I asked the group to practice Push/Pull with me as we focused on leading from T'an Tien. I strongly believe that when we remember to lead from our centers, nothing else matters; the rest of the movement takes care of itself. All too often we try to create a movement based on what we think it should be. When we relax into the moment, let T'an Tien lead, and trust our bodies and our senses to guide us, though, we begin to experience the effort of no effort (per Justin Stone). 

For all intents and purposes, that effortlessness guides us (eventually) into the Being of Nothingness where everything is as it should be. Nothing to change. Nowhere to go. No one to be. Nothing to do. What freedom ... to BE nothing and everything. You can't explain it. But you can experience it. Just ... keep practicing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Positive Thinking ... or not

I read an article this morning before my T'ai Chi Chih practice called The Limitations of Positive Thinking. Its thesis set me to thinking (neither positive nor negative thinking, I might add).

Of course, we talk about this topic often in our T'ai Chi Chih class discussions on Buddha's Brain. But, somehow, this article by a Professor Srikumar Rao explained the situation in a way that finally made absolute, undeniable sense. I quote from Prof. Rao's article, printed at below:
     Positive thinking is so firmly enshrined in our culture that knocking it is a little like attacking motherhood or apple pie....

     Perhaps the statement that best exemplifies positive thinking is 'When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.' ...

     No matter what happens to us in life we tend to think of it as 'good' or 'bad.' And most of us tend to use the 'bad' label three to ten times as often as the 'good' label. And when we say something is bad, the odds grow overwhelming that we will experience it as such....

     Now let's propose something radical and revolutionary. Let's propose that, no matter what happens to you, you do not stick a bad thing label on it. No matter what. You are fired from your job ... your mortgage lender sends you a foreclosure notice ... your spouse files for divorce ... or whatever. This seems so far-fetched as to be laughable. Of course these are horrible tragedies and terrible things to happen. Or are they? Is it possible, just possible, that you have been conditioned to think of these happenings as unspeakable tragedies and hence experience them as such? ...

     Many ... never label what they go through as bad and lament over it. They simply take it as a given as if they were a civil engineer surveying the landscape through which a road is to be built. In this view, a swamp is not a bad thing. It is merely something that has to be addressed in the construction plan....

     Can you actually go through life without labeling what happens to you as good or bad?                                     
Whew. That's a terrific question. And that's also something we learn from our T'ai Chi Chih practices. If you feel as if you had a 'bad' T'ai Chi Chih practice, how willing will you be to return to your practice the next day, or the next?

I'm as guilty of this propensity to judge as anyone. Yet, I also realize that my daily TCC practices consistently orient me toward a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate approach to life: To simply be with what is as it is. Needless to say, I continue to learn and grow.

That's what I find so compelling and refreshing about a T'ai Chi Chih practice. It releases me into a spaciousness of being where everything (acceptable or not) is accepted. No judgment. No good or bad. I simply flow into the moment with All That Is and I am overcome with peacefulness.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Really Matters

Sunday, October 23, 2011:

It wasn't until I crawled into bed that I realized I hadn't yet done a T'ai Chi Chih practice. I found it hard to believe that I could actually forget a practice after almost two years of daily TCC practices and blogs. Yet, I did.

Oh, I was snuggled into bed so warm and cozy that I decided to perform a mental rehearsal before I fell asleep. Truth be told, I lasted through Rocking Motion and Bird Flaps Its Wings before I flapped my wings into dreamland.

The funny thing is, I just told students in one of my T'ai Chi Chih classes that I always promise myself that I'll do a TCC practice sometime during my day, whether it's immediately after I rise or right before I go to bed. No sooner said than ... not done!

Monday, October 24, 2011:

I had another split T'ai Chi Chih practice today. Ten minutes before work--it was beautiful and sunny--and ten minutes after work. I practiced tonight in the middle of darkness and, I must admit, if I had my druthers, I'd practice while the sun shines. Or better yet, when the sun is just rising over the edge of the world.

Still, I'm grateful when I manage a before- and after-work practice since I receive different benefits depending upon the time of day I practice. Before-work practices settle my mind and body into a receptive state that is helpful when I deal with patrons at the library. After-work practices calm the hyperactivity that I often flow into during my busy, nonstop days at work.

And, either way, I'm calmer and quieter inside. That's what really matters....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To be?

To be, or not to be: that is the question.
Tomorrow afternoon Frances and I plan to see Hamlet at StageNorth, our local community theater. As you can tell, I'm readying myself for entry into this famous Shakespearean tragedy. I suppose I should prepare my body as well since one of the actors told me that this production was recently cut from its four hour length to three hours. That's a long time to sit in uncomfortable seats with limited leg room.

Today I was busy from morning 'til night. So busy, in fact, that it didn't occur to me until I was midway into dinner preparations that I hadn't yet practiced T'ai Chi Chih. Now I can gladly say, "It's a done deal."

Post-practice I feel good: energetic and motivated to keep on going even though bedtime draws near. I'm not at a loss for activities as long as my energy holds out. I have a pot of lentils cooking on the stove and I still have several chapters left to read for my copyediting project. It's time, it seems, to begin the beguine.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nap? Or T'ai Chi Chih practice?

Today was fundamentally beautiful! What do I mean? I'm not even sure. After days of clouds, occasional rain, and colder temps, today set a new tone with blue, sun swept skies. Frances and I enjoyed a long walk and then I settled into my copy editing project.

By mid-afternoon, after hours of focused attention, I felt exhausted. Should I take a nap? Or should I do a T'ai Chi Chih practice? Nap? Practice? Because the weather was so absolutely beautiful outdoors I opted for TCC practice. And I was glad that I did.

Now I feel renewed and invigorated. No need for a nap any longer.... The practice gave me energy, the warmth of the sun and the openness of the sky settled into my soul, and the time outside restored my aching body and mind. Once again, I am alive, I am alert, I am awake and joyous. I am also hungry. It's time to segue into my next event of the day: dinner.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Kind Thing

I'm happy to report that the day began with ... sunshine! During this morning's T'ai Chi Chih class sun shone through the windows and transformed the room into a delightfully warm and cozy space.

This week I checked out a music CD from the library that I intuitively grabbed as I headed out the door en route to class. So, in addition to the influence of shining sun, we listened to the Gyuto Monks' Tibetan Tantric Choir (1986) as they chanted prayers. I read these liner notes when I returned home:
The chanting heard on this recording is prayer, not performance. Whenever this recording is played its prayers are effectively said anew--though their power depends less upon mechanistic reproduction than on the degree of attention and compassion with which you, the listener, join in the experience.
What better place or time to play such a recording than during a T'ai Chi Chih practice? For it is during our TCC practices that we begin with an intention to focus our attention and as we do so, we open our bodyminds to compassion and loving kindness.

It is absolutely delightful to be witness to the transformation that occurs as stress and tension fade from each TCC practitioner's body and mind while we move slowly through the form. It only seems appropriate to end each practice with Namaste because it is truly after such a practice that we can easily reside in a place of love, of truth, of light, and of peace.

Today after practice we continued our discussion of Buddha's Brain, Ch. 10: Boundless Kindness. I read the class a Happiness Tip I found on the internet that was designed to foster kindness in children. When I read the two questions this article asked parents to discuss with their children, I realized that each of us could easily ask ourselves these questions every day of our lives....
(1)   What is one kind thing that someone else did for you today?

(2)   What is one kind thing that YOU did for SOMEONE ELSE today?

Hmmm. It's worth thinking about.