Monday, February 28, 2011

Hustle & Flow

You can tell it's Monday. The quiet and peace of the weekend has succumbed to the hustle and flow of the work week. First, a truck drove into the yard with our new washer. Next, I squeezed a T'ai Chi Chih practice into the brief pocket of time that Frances and our visiting friend skied out into the woods.

Immediately after our friend left another truck drove in. Ahh. It was the person who rammed and destroyed our mailbox several weeks ago. He showed up to admit that he was the responsible party then asked Frances what he could do to fix it. Yes, people in this area often do accept responsibility for their actions, sometimes through the encouragement of family members or others (this is the second time we've lost our mailbox and the errant driver arrived days later to apologize).

I practiced my morning T'ai Chi Chih in the sun-filled porch. I chose a sunny spot while Namaste slept in one sunbeam and Chiripa in another. A few times during my practice I felt the cat's paw as she stretched and reached out toward my foot. It felt wonderfully comforting to have my animal friends near at hand.

The sky is clear, the air is blue, and all is right with the world. Next I'm off to the library. Hustle and bustle, here I come!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Claiming the Moment

Our friend/overnight guest arrives momentarily. I'm intent on creating a new pattern for myself: stay present in the moment and don't worry about unfinished tasks or uncleaned spaces. It feels good to relax instead of stressing out!

My afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice was squeezed between dish washing and bed making. So, frankly, it wasn't as relaxed as it could have been. Still, any practice is better than no practice. And each moment spent moving the Chi is a wonderful healing moment.

I'm still focused on avoiding another round of cold/flu. So our guest may be surprised to find me smelling like my potion of lemon-garlic-ginger-cayenne pepper/lemon-ginger tea. At least, though, I'll be relaxed, present, and at peace.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Two Practices are Better than One

Yeah, it's true: Early to bed, early to rise. I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice shortly after 7:00 am today. Yes, I practiced because I wanted to. But I also practiced because my throat feels sore and I'd like to use any preventive measures possible to escape Round 2 of this boxing match.

I talked with an area massage therapist yesterday who said she's on her second cold. She admitted up front that she hadn't been getting as much sleep lately. It's obvious, she said, that when self care slips, illness follows.

I know that I don't have the fortitude, energy, and immune system that others have due to living with diabetes and heart disease. Since I moved to the woods I've learned how wonderful it feels to take time to be quiet, listen to the sounds of nature, and submerge myself in peace. Still, I tend to push myself beyond my limits. (That's what everyone else does. Isn't that the unspoken expectation?)

Once I lose my health, though, I realize that even if others don't respect my limits, it's up to me to do so. I pushed myself all week. I'll slow down today and revisit my practice later in the afternoon. My motto? When you're feeling low, two practices are better than one.

Rest Trumps Responsibility

Friday, February 25, 2011, 8:20 pm

Scritch. Scratch. Scritch, scritch, scratch. I hear the sound of tiny canine nails digging into the carpet to create one--just one!--cozy nest. Eventually I hear Frances's voice, in a fruitless effort to protect the area rug, impatiently direct: Namaste, that's enough now.

I'm exhausted from a busy week. After an early morning filled with phone calls, animal care, and errands, I rushed to the library for a fast-paced day of work. When Frances arrived home from her three day venture to Madison, we caught up on the events in our lives, then I retired to the back room for T'ai Chi Chih practice.

Despite the fact that I was exceedingly weary the practice felt good for my body and soul. My energy improved. I felt more relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that as I put my pen to paper to write my blog while I waited for Frances to finish up on the computer, my eyelids began to close--then open--close, then open.

I was falling asleep in an upright position! It was clear that my tiredness would checkmate my ability to gain access to the computer and publish my blog. And so ... I drifted into a restful sleep.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Oh, and did I mention that my partner, Frances, rode with two others to Madison to participate in protests at the state capitol over Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to strip workers of their collective bargaining power? She called me from inside the capitol building; I heard loud chanting and the general hubbub of democracy in action.

As most people know, Wisconsin Senate Democrats left the state to prevent the governor and Republican majority from pushing this bill through ASAP without adequate information and discussion. Meanwhile people from all fifty states and around the world are sending pizzas to feed protesters who are continuing to flock to Madison to stand up for workers' rights.

Here at home I'm dealing with my own set of challenges: arranging for the driveway to get sanded so that workers can deliver our propane, pump our holding tank, and fix our washer. And, of course, early this morning I was faced with the task of backing my car down the slippery slope of our drive in order to get to my TCC class. Reading and discussing Buddha's Brain with my students teaches me a tremendous amount about my mind, attitudes, beliefs, and anxiety levels.

This morning as the car slid back and forth down the driveway my nervous system was on high alert. While my heart pounded I reminded myself to breathe, relax, get out of the car, examine the situation, and keep myself positive and effective in my downward drift. Luckily that conscious choice to maintain a positive attitude was rewarded: I made it safely down the driveway. And ... I received a 'Yes' to my request for sanding; by the time I traveled home again I drove my car--worry-free--back up the drive.

Class T'ai Chi Chih practice was great: It seems as though I've reached a different level in which my practice feels softer and, often, effortless. It's a wonderful gift to enter into that special place of peace and rejuvenation with others who can sense the difference--both inside and out--that moving meditation brings to the day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is the glass half full or...?

Tonight, at the end of a very long day, I discovered that I couldn't make it up our driveway. It was almost pure ice earlier in the day. Then a light layer of snow fell this evening and made it absolutely undriveable (even with my all-wheel drive vehicle!).

Here's what I learned. I could have felt overwhelmed, aggravated, or punished by this experience: First, because I had no choice but to walk several blocks up an ice-covered driveway in the darkness. Second, because I immediately followed that walk with another back down the driveway to retrieve two heavy bags of groceries.

Nevertheless, I made a conscious choice to luxuriate in my surroundings, the quiet peacefulness, the opportunity to spend time outdoors, and the sense of adventure that grew from this particular set of circumstances. Tell me: How many people do you know who have a driveway long enough and steep enough to prevent easy access to homeowners, friends, clients, and propane gas delivery drivers?

I'm unsure whether my "reframed" attitude arose from the two T'ai Chi Chih classes I taught tonight, the fact that we're studying Buddha's Brain in tomorrow's T'ai Chi Chih class, or even my slowly growing realization that the attitude I choose to adopt affects the experiences I have. I enjoyed my trek up and down and up the driveway tonight. That's what matters.

My two TCC classes and practices this evening were energizing and thoroughly enjoyable. Perhaps the two plus hours I spent in class made all the difference in how the rest of this evening played out....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stalking the Wolf

Finally the wind died down and in my little part of the world at least, it feels peaceful. It's a bright, shining day with temperatures climbing to 32 degrees. Gorgeous blue skies bless me with a happy, optimistic attitude.

During my morning T'ai Chi Chih practice on the porch I glimpsed what I thought was a wolf moving quickly through the woods atop frozen snow. I shifted my gaze, anticipating where the wolf was headed in the hope that the trees would open up to offer me a clearer view. Instead, the wolf moved into an area with thicker trees and disappeared.

The wolf's appearance--and rapid disappearance--reminded me of what I am meant to do in my own meditative practice. Begin in the present moment, notice when distracting thoughts enter my mind (the wolf), acknowledge them, and return to my practice.

In this case, though, I followed the wolf's movements (How unique and interesting!), hoped to get a better look, then felt vague disappointment when the wolf vanished. This fascinating, evasive wolf experience was not unlike my ongoing observations of Monkey Mind: thoughts arise in my mind, they linger and inspire more thoughts and often attendant emotions. These initial thoughts eventually disappear when my mind is again distracted by another thought, another branch onto which monkey can swing, or ... another wolf.

When I arrived at the point in my practice for Pulling in the Energy, I was surprised to discover that I was so far into my practice. With a start I thought: Aren't my palms supposed to be facing the Earth? Isn't this movement Around the Platter rather than Pulling in the Energy? How did I manage to get this far into my practice?

Yep. The mind is beautiful, powerful, and easily distracted. All it takes is a thought hidden in wolf's clothing....

Monday, February 21, 2011

One World

Change is in the air.... With multiple burgeoning demonstrations, protests, and movements toward political change throughout the world, it feels as if a major shift is occurring in the way we think about our governments and leaders as well as the rights of all people.

This is true here in Wisconsin, USA as well as in Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya. Several days ago a picture taken in Egypt showed a protester there expressing support for demonstrators in Madison, WI with a sign that reads, "Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers.... One World, One Pain."

As politicians and media commentators criticize Wisconsin Democrats for leaving the state in order to prevent Gov. Scott Walker's (R) efforts at union busting, there is indeed precedent for this nontraditional approach to blocking legislation. Today a friend forwarded me an article that described an 1840 effort by then-state Rep. Abraham Lincoln to save the State Bank of Illinois.

After Democrats agreed to allow a measure which assured that the bank would fail, the Whigs tried to counter by leaving the capitol building before the vote. The doors were locked. Lincoln headed for the second story of the capitol building in Springfield, IL, opened a window, and jumped to the ground!

Lincoln's leap out a window occured 170 years ago and ultimately failed. Yet, according to the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 19, 2011), the tactic of quorum avoidance dates back at least to the days when the U.S. Constitution was being debated.

When I hear these stories of political unrest and unheaval, I remind myself that these dangerous, turbulent times may well lead to great change around the world. Then ... I step into my T'ai Chi Chih practice and release myself into the energetic oneness of the Universe.

Though we may all feel that the world is in major unheaval, my practice reminds me that it is all good. And ... the more often that I--and others--can remain grounded, centered, and focused, the more possibility there may be for positive, lasting change that benefits us all.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Answer My Friend is Blowin' in the Wind

Winds huff and puff. A storm is brewing. Could Friday's and today's high winds be a consequence of the solar flare from several days ago? I read today that stong winds in Washington DC brought down power lines that led to fires. In addition, the political world swirls with protests, divisiveness, and intrigue; everything is all stirred up.

I read and talked with friends today about the tens of thousands rallying in Madison to protest Govenor Scott Walker's efforts to destroy collective bargaining rights for union workers. Politicians, neighbors, and friends are in an uproar. But it's just one of many protests around the world as people rally for democracy, human rights, and a living wage.

In our town an ongoing controversy about an airstrip development has raged over the past two to three years. Last week a hearing was held before the County Board of Adjustment about the developer's conditional use permit. Several weeks ago a judge listened to arguments with regard to whether the Town and County Boards ignored the Town's land use plan to allow this 380-acre development to proceed. It's a classic struggle between the haves, the have nots, and those who have to have more.

An acquaintance wrote on Facebook that she felt like she was standing in the middle of a room while everything spun around her. Today I felt a bit overwhelmed by the state of my town, my state, and the world. And then ... I dived into my T'ai Chi Chih practice and the chaos, discontent, and political discord receded into the background.

In the midst of drama and trauma, disagreement and distrust, moving meditation is a healthy and healing remedy. It brought me back into the present moment, helped me release my need to speculate about an uncertain future, and re-rooted me into the Earth. What a lovely place to be: here right where I am, in this single moment, NOW....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Light(s) in the Night

After a wonderful winter warm up we went back in the deep freeze last night with below zero temps. The big question of the weekend is this: Will we receive any of the growing accumulations of snow predicted with the winter storm heading this way or will it, as has been the case most of this winter, travel south of the Bayfield penninsula?

There were almost a dozen hungry grey squirrels swarming the bird feeder this morning and one lonely red squirrel. According to my Lake Superior Area Calendar and Backyard Almanac grey squirrels were mating on February 16 according to some astute observer during a previous year.

A full moon shone brightly last night and tonight is Book Across the Bay, an annual skiing and cross-country snowshoeing expedition across Chequamegon Bay from Ashland to Washburn. Participants cross the ice following a trail of hundreds of luminaries.

Saturdays are kitchen day. I spent the morning and afternoon cooking and washing dishes and look forward to a delicious homemade Wild Rice Soup for this evening's dinner.

My late afternoon TCC practice reminded me that my knee hurts and the arch of my right foot feels painful too. I looked out the window at fallen branches and sticks scattered around the west side of the house as the dog happily scurried this way and that on top of a hard crust of frozen snow.

It's been a productive day and, after relaxing through my practice, I'm glad to settle down for continuing relaxation throughout the evening.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Real Prosperity

It's an odd day. Bright sun. High winds. Huge gusts of air that send treetops into an exhuberant dance and cause branches to tumble to the ground. It's unsettling. The strongest gusts sound amazingly frightening and I wonder: Could a huge branch--or entire tree--land on the house, the deck, the goose barn, or a car? Not helpful or productive thoughts, I know.

Four grey squirrels ate sunflower seeds beneath the bird feeder this morning. Meanwhile their tails flew out behind them. Tails were spread (by the wind?) into a scene reminiscent of the cat when she plays hunter or is on high alarm, her tail expands to twice its normal size and sticks out in every direction. I've never seen squirrels' tails look that way before.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in mid-afternoon within the sunny warmth of the porch. Whew. Even from inside a sheltered area I could sense that, had I chosen to practice outside, the Chi would have been blown right out of me. It was comforting to know that I was safe, warm, and comfortable.

The older I grow and the more I explore Taoism and texts like Buddha's Brain I realize how much time I spend needlessly worrying. If a car gets hit by a fallen tree (as it did last fall), we deal with it. If an animal is injured or killed or if that same fate happens to me, life goes on. Does that seem fatalistic?

I think not. I just reread a story from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones that, in its own way, addresses this dilemma:
     A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation.
     Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: 'Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.'
     The rich man became angry, 'I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you make such a joke as this?'
     'No joke intended,' explained Sengai. 'If before you yourself die your son should die, this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity.'
               'Real Prosperity,' No. 78

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Open to Change

It's another warmer than normal day (40 degrees as I drove to Cornucopia this morning). I spied more critters moving through the rapidly shrinking snow than I've spotted for a long, long time. A deer next to the roadway refrained from dashing across the pavement in front of me. Another mile down the highway a herd of cows happily chomped on bales of hay.

Following today's T'ai Chi Chih class practice we launched into our new agenda: read and discuss Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom. I think this will be a valuable experience for us all as we learn how to notice--and change!--the ways our minds and brains affect and interact with our physical and mental health. The timing of this undertaking seems 'just right' given current challenges in the economy, education, health care, and the overall operation of local, national, and foreign governments.

I've pushed myself hard this week and I'm more than ready to take the evening off and relax with a movie, book, or both. Though tired, I also feel good after my morning five-minute guided meditation and TCC practice followed by five minutes of "receiving" and a 10 minute breathing meditation.

The time has come in my life to set aside more daily time for rest and relaxation. There are certainly plenty of hours in the day that are overfull with schedules, demands, and information overload. I'm hopeful when I think that, with the help of this book and my TCC class members, I/we can dedicate ourselves to more quiet and relaxation in order to create a more balanced life for my/ourselves.

One hopeful/helpful tidbit from the forward to the book: A revolution in science has recently revealed that the adult brain remains open to change throughout the lifespan. (Daniel Siegel, p. v) Pausing, slowing, resting, relaxing, breathing, meditating, and simply being are all wonderful ways to rebuild, strengthen, and stimilate the brain to increase inner confidence and self worth while enriching our spiritual lives....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Returning to the Circle

I spent the day prepping for my two new T'ai Chi Chih sessions, finalizing preparations for our first class discussion on Buddha's Brain for tomorrow morning's TCC class, and then actually teaching two class sessions this evening. I'm tired ... and energized from all that group Chi!

Although it's been three months since our last continuing class met, students moved into the flow quickly and easily during our practice. It felt amazingly good. I know I've said it before but I'll say it again: There is nothing like a circle T'ai Chi Chih practice to refresh and revitalize the body/mind and soul!

It's amazingly sunny and warm ... 50 degrees when I headed to class at 4:30 this afternoon. Memories of spring are echoing through my psyche. The warm temps won't last but they're certainly a nice respite from the cold and gloom of mid-winter.

My early morning concerns about whether my knee could hold out for two back-to-back TCC classes were all for naught. My knee feels better now than it did this AM which makes me wonder: Should I reposition the dog--and cat--in bed to allow me more room to move and turn? Perhaps my solution is as simple as that.

After a brief phone call with my co-conspirator on Buddha's Brain after I returned home this evening, we're both ready and eager to begin presenting and discussing the book tomorrow morning. What a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper, more in-depth understanding of mind-brain interactions and the power of meditative and relaxation practices to inspire better health, deeper relaxation, and greater happiness.

Yeah. I was ready to stop teaching T'ai Chi Chih just days ago. Now, thankfully, I'm rejuvenated and re-inspired.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And so ... I keep practicing

Today I'm wearing a birchbark heart strung on a ribbon around my neck. Four kindergarten and first graders participating in an after school program held at the library yesterday made the hearts and presented one each to the other library assistant and me.

The kids are reading The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich and this project nicely meshed the book with Valentine's Day. I hope that by wearing my handmade Valentine's gift today the kids will notice and realize that what they do makes a difference. Besides, I enjoy these heartfelt gifts. They're much more appealing than a purchased greeting. And ... the love (heart) can carry forward for at least one more day.

It's been warmer for several days now (30-40 degrees today) and the wind it is a'wailin'. During my morning T'ai Chi Chih practice I watched wind-whipped treetops swaying and dancing and stirring the Chi. When I moved through Light at the Top of the Head, I realized that our efforts--the trees and mine--were very similar. We were all mixing and drawing the heavenly chi down into our bodies.

I felt wonderfully peaceful during today's practice. If I receive no other benefit from my daily T'ai Chi Chih practices than renewed inner peace, it is well worth the half-hour investment per day. I want more of course. I wish to bring that inner peace and stillness into the world in a way that benefits others and adds to the healing energy and power that resides in the Universe. And so ... I keep on practicing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Beignnings

An early morning email informed me that I am, indeed, teaching two new classes of T'ai Chi Chih this week despite the fact that my registration numbers are down. And so, the preparations begin.

It has been some time since I last taught a beginning T'ai Chi Chih class. First, I must get my head in a place to think through this new beginning. I constantly revise my introduction for beginners because I want each session to reflect where I am in my life and what new discoveries I've made since I last taught. For me, that's a key element to ensure that each class stays fresh and alive.

Lately I've focused much of my own practice on being instead of doing. I'm sure that I'll discuss that concept with these fledgling TCC players.

Again, today I dwelt in my practice. I became one with the movements and let them move me instead of vice versa. The sun pierced through clouds--briefly--several times while I moved. I felt an instant joy upon experiencing the light. For a moment only I could see the V-shaped line of the house roof cast in shadow upon the snow white ground. Then the sunlight retreated and I continued my practice under a dusky grey sky.

New beginnings. Even though I wonder sometimes whether I should continue teaching T'ai Chi Chih I'm grateful for the opportunity whenever it presents itself....

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Very Good Thing

Yep. I continue to be in a bit of a funk.

I changed the black ink cartridge in our printer last week and ever since then my copies are difficult to read. Each page now emerges partly dark and partly light; portions of words and lines are missing with occasional sentences that look just right. That description reminds me of myself and my current state of mind (I can't know how I appear to others).

I spent most of today reading and relaxing. It felt good to simply be. I continued that modus operandi during my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I watched my reflection move in the dark window glass and marveled at how relaxed and at ease I appeared.

And so, to a certain extent, I am. I'm also anxious to feel better, accomplish more, and move on with my life. But--during my practice anyway--all was well. Thirty minutes of peace per day. I am grateful. When I describe my TCC practice in this way, it seems like a very good thing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Warming Up, Letting Go

Overnight, warmer temps swept through the area. When I rose, it was 20 degrees. Late morning, during our drive to the dump to deliver trash and recycling, the car's temperature gauge read 30-something. And ... it felt glorious.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih out on the porch. It was lovely to look out a wall of windows into snow-filled woods. And even though I tried to stay present to my practice instead of focusing on doing the movements, my body felt tired and sore and, by practice end, I just wanted to be done.

Today was challenging. I'm so ready to be over this illness. Instead my energy continues to dip as symptoms drag on. Patience, I remind myself, patience. But, no, I'm impatient and discouraged. I want to move on with my life and work on projects that require my energy and attention. Maybe iI's time for me to practice letting go....

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's Cosmic

At 5:50 p.m. it's still light outside. As I complete my T'ai Chi Chih practice I see treetops dancing in the wind and pure white snow lying at the foot of these tall, dark sentinels.

The sky is a jumbled mix of white-blue-grey clouds. And, as darkness gathers closer, I circle through Passing Clouds and stand quietly in Cosmic Consciousness Pose. Another day almost complete and this practice of T'ai Chi Chih the ready ritual that I return to as I mark my days and pass through each week.

I'm scheduled to begin two more classes next week, a beginning and continuing class, though it appears that I don't have enough students registered for the beginning class. People often comment to me that they've always wanted to take T'ai Chi. When class schedules are set, though, other commitments take precedence.

Today I feel a bit down and discouraged. Tomorrow, luckily, will be another day....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are you willing to be made nothing?

Twenty degree below zero temps began this glorious sunshine-filled day. By midafternoon temps now top 10 degrees and the sun still shines brightly.

During this morning's T'ai Chi Chih class practice I, again, focused on being instead of doing. It felt remarkably good. FACT: It's wonderfully refreshing to move without judgment, criticism, or evaluation. To simply move. Slow and free.

After practice our class discussed how it feels to practice TCC with this simple intention. One student mentioned that she read yesterday's blog and specifically focused on being rather than doing. It did feel different, she acknowledged.

Another student who is quite adept at being (you can see joy shining on her face while she moves) is coincidentally named Bea. We teased her that, given her name, she is predisposed to being or Bea-ing.

And, yes, we read and discussed the final 81st verse of the Tao Te Ching. Wayne Dyer calls this verse "Living without Accumulating" and he encourages his readers to "Reduce yourself down to zero or no-thing-ness." Then Dyer quotes D.H. Lawrence:
Are you willing to be sponged out,
        erased, cancelled,
          made nothing?
Are you willing to be made nothing?
      dipped into oblivion?
If not, you will never really change.
T'ai Chi Chih practice is truly about embracing change from one moment to the next, one practice to the next. Allowing instead than forcing. Flowing rather than starting and stopping. Letting go in place of holding on.

Now that we've completed one full circuit through the Tao Te Ching, we'll let go of it for the moment. Next week we begin to read and discuss Buddha's Brain. And then, who knows?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Inhabiting Our Own Being

As my health returns so, too, does my life of the mind. It's exciting to regain my ability to read, think, and contemplate ideas and philosophies once again.

Today I dived back into words and ideas with a vengeance. First, I reviewed Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, Verse 81. Indeed, after two to three years of studying this text verse by verse in one of my T'ai Chi Chih classes tomorrow is the day that we read and discuss the final verse of this classic text.

I realized this morning how much nicer it feels to be in my T'ai Chi Chih practice than it feels to do my practice. Being in the practice reminds me of what researcher and meditation instructor, Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes as mindfulness and heartfulness. Mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn, reminds us in an interview with Krista Tippett (aired on Being, January 27, 2011), is a way of being. Says Kabat-Zinn:
It means resting in a kind of awareness that is so stable that it's not thrown off by the comings and goings of events within the field of awareness.... So we actually haven't had that much experience in inhabiting our own being. It's kind of almost foreign territory.
I'd venture a guess that that is why T'ai Chi Chih practice feels so good. We drop into being and treat our practice (and, consequently, our lives) as if they truly mattered moment to moment. Those moments of attention and intention add meaning to our lives.

The past few days I've practiced my T'ai Chi Chih with the intention of being in the practice rather than merely doing the practice. It is a different experience somehow. For one, when I am in my practice I'm not judging, I'm sensing and experiencing. Also, when I choose not to do but simply be there is less effort on my part and more of a feeling of flow ... and freedom.

During this evening's practice my heart started to beat fast. I cut practice short, sat down, and brought attention into my heart area. Then I breathed, sent myself Reiki, and mentally slowed myself down into a quiet state of peace. Within a minute or two my heart rate returned to normal. Perhaps in those few minutes I truly was inhabiting my own being....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chilly Chi

Today's 12 below temps eased slightly as sun rays flooded the woods. It's a sight for sore eyes (What does that even mean?) to look up into clear blue skies. I'm encouraged. Soon we'll see other colors as spring launches her full-on assault and diversifies the white-black-grey landscape.

Black-capped chickadees kept me company during my morning T'ai Chi Chih practice. They flitted from branch to branch and tree to tree on the north side of the house. I felt cold as I watched them through a window. If I was cool moving through my practice in a heated house, how must they feel?

Yes, I know they have feathers and down but they also need fuel. I wondered, Are there any black sunflower seeds left in the bird feeder? Turns out, there weren't. As soon as Frances added a new dose the chickadees flocked to the feeder and sang joyfully.

My health continues to improve. The concept of spending a day at work today doesn't feel as daunting as it did yesterday. Of course, my 35 minute TCC practice followed by seated meditation is a great way to prepare myself for the demands and expectations of a busy day. And ... the sunlight works wonders to brighten my mood and boost my energy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Releasing and Drawing In

Another 4-6" of snow made its way to Earth during the night as temperatures dropped. It's a winter wonderland yet again. Wind dances pine tree branches up and down while swirls and puffs of unseated snow scurry groundward.

I'm tired today. My cold/flu symptoms linger and it feels daunting to work six straight hours at the library at my usual high energy speed. During my morning T'ai Chi Chih practice I focused on letting go of exhaustion and pulling in energy ... and health. Then I sat in meditation and simply breathed. Thankfully, I do feel a bit better (and more relaxed).

I look forward to focusing on something else today besides my unending coughing fits. And I'll lower my expectations for myself this afternoon as I simply do what needs to be done.

It's deep snow quiet here in the woods. I wouldn't know that the Packers won the Super Bowl last night except for the fact that I checked internet news several times during the evening. I imagine that The Pack will be THE major focal point for conversation with library patrons today. (If I'm wrong, I'll let you know).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's a Sunday Relaxation Fest

I've now returned from a late afternoon walk down and up the driveway ... twice. It's amazing. What would have been a venture into pitch black night a month ago, or even several weeks back, is now filled with light.

It was absolutely silent outside; no cars within miles, or so it seemed. Then I remembered. The Pack is back and every football fan in Wisconsin has by now abandoned the great outdoors for the glimmering glow of a TV set. It's the Sunday Fest of Super Bowls!

Last night's performance of Love Stories was another smashing success to an almost-full house. Audience members brought a lighter energy with them and there were many times when the theater was filled with hoots of laughter.

My nerves revealed themselves in a different manner than the Friday night performance. No dry throat (I also had a better supply of water). Instead, I found myself supported by jittery legs and a tendency to lose my place in the text I read. Prior to Act 2 I noticed a greater number of acquaintances in the audience. Though I could have felt more supported, I actually felt more scared.

Luckily, I had T'ai Chi Chih in my toolbox of relaxation techniques. Right there on stage I imagined myself rocking, then pushing nervous energy away from me while pulling calm relaxation back into my body. The mental practice worked to decelerate my frantically beating heart. It landed me back on Earth again and helped me center. Until I reached the podium, that is. There I fell back into my high alert self preservation mode. Still, I prevailed.

Today I gratefully returned to my T'ai Chi Chih practice with the knowledge that I could practice for practice-sake alone. No need to prepare myself psychologically or gear up for another night on stage. Pure relaxation. Just me and the trees. No where to go. Nothing to do. No place to be. Just here. Now. In this moment. Mmmm.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cell by Cell

Last night's performance of Love Stories of the Bay was fabulous! The stories are powerful, funny, sad, and most of all, heartfelt. The diversity among the 29 readers was incredible as well. Two kids (8 or 10 years old?) all the way up to several--or more--seventy-somethings.

I enjoyed myself and ... I was exhausted by the end of the evening. It was a long night. The show--including intermission--lasted three hours. And I, who am used to being in bed as early as 8:30 or 9:00 pm, was up on stage reading my story around 10:15!

Due to considerable prep on my part (or perhaps because of my tiredness) I read with a low level of nervous energy. The major signs of my fight-or-flight response? A dry mouth and a tight body. Okay. So maybe I was ready to turn and run if the audience started throwing rotten tomatoes.

Today I spent the day quietly. I'm still healing and I want to give my body every opportunity to improve that's available. Rest is good. My late afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice was, again, slow and silent. I'm really encouraging my body to relax and become quiet since the story I wrote and will read again tonight is called For the Love of ... Silence.

One of the other readers came up to me during intermission and told me that she really liked my story and loved the way that I read it during our first rehearsal several weeks ago. She said that she could feel the silence in the way that I spoke. What a wonderful compliment!

Despite the fact that I have an anxious personality I truly believe that my T'ai Chi Chih practice is building a quiet peace inside me. Day upon day. Year after year. Cell by cell.

Yes, I am grateful!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hope ... and Confidence

Another beautiful sunrise! Today there was less rosiness, more light.

I feel the better today than I've felt since last Saturday. So, it's off to the stage--Stagenorth, that is--tonight!

I was told by one of the organizers that I can sit to the far side of the stage while I listen to the other readers during Act 2. If I need to get offstage, I will. It's possible that my less-than-perfect health will actually help me do a better job reading because I won't have as much energy available to launch me into a sympathetic nervous system fight-or-flight response.

My morning T'ai Chi Chih practice was absolutely calming, quiet, peaceful, and relaxing. The color of the sun gliding into the day filled me with hope ... and confidence. I'll do another TCC practice later this afternoon and tonight ... I'll do the best that I can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Light is Within Me

Up at 4:30 a.m. I was at my computer writing an email to a friend when I swiveled in my chair and caught my breath at an awesome sight. Dawn had arrived in a blaze of scarlet. Its deep rose-drenched color was pressed into the horizon by a heavy load of navy blue clouds and resulted in a sunrise that was all the more magnificent.

Though we didn't receive the massive snowfall that punched through the center of the country over the past day cold, heavy winds arrived today. When I gazed out the patio door, a leaf shuttled past, skimming the snow-covered landscape like a small creature dashing for cover. The house wheezes with cold air that slips under siding boards and past indoor paneling with each strong gust of ice-enhanced breeze.

During T'ai Chi Chih practice I positioned myself in an occasional sliver of sunlight that emerged before the sky succumbed to its blanket of moist clouds. This morning's color--and light--have massaged my soul and lifted my spirits.

I cancelled today's TCC class since I'm still recovering from this beast of a cold/flu and I don't want to share my germs. I did notice during today's solo practice, though, that recovery is occurring. I felt calmer, quieter, and more focused during my practice, was able to stay on my feet longer, and only coughed twice during my 40 minute practice. Ah, the sweet sound--err, cough--of success....

I'm still undecided about whether I'll appear onstage at Stagenorth tomorrow and Saturday night to read my piece from Love Stories of the Bay. My story is the second-to-last reading of the night. And the show, scheduled for two acts, requires writers/readers to sit onstage for the entire act during which they read. For me to not cough or blow my nose for 45+ minutes on stage seems highly unlikely to say nothing of the five+ minutes of my reading at the podium.

We'll see, I suppose, what tomorrow brings. (You can tell that I'm feeling better because this post is longer. And ... my mind is semi-functional once again.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wee Bit of Enery

Today holds promise.... A round, golden orb raises it bright, shiny face over the horizon. And it blesses me through the window with its loveliness.

Though it's early, I've already managed to finish my T'ai Chi Chih practice followed by 10 minutes of seated meditation. I've a long way to go on my healing path but this, at least, is a start.

I felt out of balance during TCC practice. My balance was out of balance. My body was out of balance. My mind was out of balance. My health was out of balance.

It seems as though yesterday delivered the worst of this virus. Today I have hope, a less sore throat, and a wee bit of energy....

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The sickness is progressing. Today I felt so tired that I slept most of the day. Up for breakfast. Up for lunch. Then back into dreaming consciousness.

The only constant in my day is the T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation practice. And, even though I felt weak and sore today, I returned to my practice as the sun slid down the sky.

Though I slept through most of this sunny day I don't regret that I got more rest. Because my body feels so miserable I can feel my attitude slipping. The TCC practice helped lift me out of this mental misery for awhile.

I know that my body is slowly moving down the path of this illness. Patience, I tell myself. If I can maintain my patience, the suffering will be less....