Saturday, April 30, 2011

Peaceful Warrior

Frances and I watched a movie that was just purchased for the library--and not yet processed for our collection--this afternoon. Though I could barely remember the book upon which this movie is based, I immediately reconnected to the 1980s when I first read Dan Millman's, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Back then--and today too--I found the principles and philosophies that underlie this book and movie infinitely practical and highly inspirational.

In fact, the message is really no different from that found in Buddha's Brain. When you strive for things, you suffer. When you achieve those things you think you want, you suffer. The way to true happiness is simple: remain in the present moment.

Ta da! That's also our goal when we practice T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation. And it explains why practitioners often feel so good as a result of their practice.

I practiced TCC immediately after viewing the film. I was inspired by Millman's character, a gifted Olympic-bound athlete, who devoted himself to gymnastics because of the happiness it brought him.

Both Namaste and Chiripa lay nearby while I flowed through my practice. All three of us quietly observed the ourside world--rainy and soaking wet--and rested together in the moment.

Methinks that all of us who strive to do a regular meditative practice are, in our own ways, peaceful warriors. By focusing our attention in the moment we come to know ourselves more intimately and we begin to understand what's truly valuable in our lives. Ultimately, it's not about how much money we make or what we accomplish or who we know. Still, we each have to find our own way. And that journey may take a lifetime.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Infinite Peace

On this fabulous day of warmth and sunshine I began by watching Lucy as she floated and swam in the small pond near our house. She is a water creature who seldom has access to a lake or pond in which to demonstrate her natural expertise. It was a joy to watch her.

Then I washed and hung clothes, washed and hung clothes, washed and hung clothes multiple times. Lucy was my constant companion, honking and grooming, sleeping and honking.

When the day cooled and darkened, I sat on a stool and did my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I focused my attention on inner stillness while Frances ran her chainsaw and cut down several trees that had tipped sideways during winter storms. Oddly, it wasn't difficult to disregard the whining engine noise while I engaged in my practice. The chainsaw represented little more than a pesky mosquito humming around the edges of my memory.

Though I began my practice inside due to the gathering chill I soon moved outside to join Lucy as she lingered near the front door. She stood behind me and groomed while I circled through the movements. All too soon my practice came to an end. And, yup. I felt quiet, calm, and infinitely peaceful.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


The grass is greening and, for me, that's an exciting development. Where I live, of course, snow is spread across the landscape. But as I drove to Cornucopia this morning for TCC class I spied a few areas along the way where grass is reviving its bright green "I'm alive" coloration. Evidentally rain interspersed with snow inspired the greening in spite of occasional snow pileups.

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice began with myself and one student. Other students filtered in during the first 15 minutes of class until, about 25 minutes into our practice, it felt as though we reached a collective ahhh moment. Practice always feels best when the group's movements are coordinated and unified.

But that isn't everything. There's typically a moment when effort ceases, stress recedes, and relaxation and peacefulness come to the fore. Our class rested in that moment for about 10 minutes at the end of TCC practice and again at the end of class when we rang a singing bowl and joined together for seated meditation. (It certainly does feel wonderful to begin and end the class in relaxation and peace.)

Today our discussion of Buddha's Brain focused on Chapter 3, that describes the first and second darts which create our suffering. The first dart, the authors explained, is the physical and mental discomfort that is unavoidable in our daily lives. But the darts that we throw at ourselves, the "second darts," create the vast majority of our suffering.

"Remarkably," the authors wrote, "most of our second-dart reactions occur when there is in fact no first dart anywhere to be found--when there's no pain inherent in the conditions we're reacting to. We add suffering to them."

They cited an example of coming home and finding the house in a mess. Do we get upset? We could ignore the stuff, pick it up calmly, or talk with our spouse and kids about it. Instead we often get angry and frustrated. And that anger and frustration is "embodied" ... felt throughout the entire body. (Which, if these second darts continue to activate over and over again, may lead to physical and/or mental consequences.)

It was relatively easy for class members to identify situations and experiences in which they underwent these second dart reactions. And, as someone pointed out, gaining an awareness of our unconscious thoughts and behaviors is a huge step toward changing ourselves in order to live healthier, happier lives.

It seems that we're all "greening" as we spring into a new cycle in our lives. A cycle in which, through awareness and presence, we become more aware of our radiance and aliveness and live through conscious choice instead of ingrained patterns, thoughts, and brain pathways and chemistry that limit our full potential.

As T'ai Chi Chih teachers and players we're planting a garden with the seeds of ourselves. Through regular practice, awareness, and loving kindness we continue to discover who we really are and assist in our own blossoming and fruition....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Diving into the Unknown

It's true. It's for real. And, no, it's not my imagination running away with me.... Three plus inches of snow last night--heavy and wet--and our woods looks like we're back in mid-winter. Funny. When I drove to class this afternoon, it was all rain and no snow down in Washburn. This proves how easily weather and precipitation vary on our Bayfield pennisula.

The snow is beautiful! (And appalling.... My sister keeps asking me how we manage to survive in this climate.)

We had a relaxing, rejuvenating class practice this evening. Students easily flowed into the peace, quiet, and centeredness of moving meditation. Afterward we spent time simplifying Rocking Motion and easing up on the effort that's overwhelmingly put into practice despite the fact that Justin Stone constantly reminds us--and I constantly remind my students!--that the easiest way to experience the energy is by relaxing and letting go.

Class members asked wonderful questions and offered unique perspectives on how they experience the Chi energy  and movements. Consequently we all--myself included--received a wealth of input, perspectives, and helpful ideas and suggestions for refining our practices.

It's such a joy to teach students who recognize the power and potential of this moving meditation practice and who willingly dive into the unknown!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rewinding Back to Winter

The rain started as I walked into the library for my afternoon shift. By mid-afternoon snow swirled through the air on heavy winds. It did, indeed, feel like a winter storm was wending its way into the area. Again?!?

I asked a neighbor for a weather report. Did she think I needed to close the library early? She replied that it was bad outside. Next I called Frances for her evaluation of the weather at home. No problem, she advised, It's not that bad.

One additional library patron stopped into the library during the last hour I was open but, as she freely admitted, she lives right next door. So my first thought upon closing was: Do some T'ai Chi Chih practice before heading home. That way I'll be sure to start out in the right (i.e., calm) frame of mind.

And, yes, I do feel less anxious about the drive home. Plus it sounds as though the hefty winds have subsided a bit. Still ... 3-5 inches of snow are predicted for this evening. I'm more than ready to hit the road so that I can hunker down for the evening (like I guess the rest of my library patrons decided to do).

A few good books and movies on DVD should keep me warm and cozy this evening. And ... I'll go with the flow as we blow back into winter.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Springing into spring

The Pasque flower bloomed this morning ... dark purple petals and a deep yellow center. It sat, brilliant, in the middle of the almost-empty, barely green garden on the south side of the house.

It's an absolutely gorgeous day: empty skies filled with bright light, shhh (quiet), and a slight, occasional breeze. I ate breakfast on the deck as Lucy grazed for greenery below. Later I convinced her to walk into the small pond nearby and, after a few pulls at roots lining the edges, she exited on the other side to groom. Downy feathers floated, flitted, and settled everywhere. And they needed to come out--quickly--as the temps today are mid-60s (although the next few days are predicted to be 30s and 40s with rain and snow?!?).

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih outdoors again this morning. It was hot in the sunshine but I stayed where I began my practice since Lucy slept nearby. She peered through a slightly opened eyelid when she heard rustling in the grass, a too-talkative squirrel, or me, loudly exhaling my Joyous Breaths or whispering Healing Sounds.

It felt wonderful to drink in warmth, sunshine, and the sounds of moving, singing, rejoicing, chasing birds, woodpeckers, squirrels, and chipmunks. It's a blessing and a joy to move upon the Earth in harmony with all the creatures that inhabit this woodland with me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


It's a beautiful, quiet, warm (with a chill breeze blowing in from the northwest) Easter Sunday. Relaxation plus.

Frances spent the morning raking leaves with Lucy nearby. We ate lunch out on the deck then I took over Lucy Watch. I read Sing You Home on the deck while Lucy napped and groomed on the ground below me. With the warming weather she's pulling out a comforter full of small down feathers. They float through the air and settle lightly on the ground where she most recently rested.

I did my first 2011 outdoor T'ai Chi Chih practice today. Though I began my practice on the deck I felt that it was important--even necessary--to move down to Lucy's level. I positioned myself about 20 to 30 feet in front of her and continued my practice. Soon she moved to the raised bed garden directly in front of me, less than 10 feet away.

Lucy's used to being around me when I practice outdoors. In fact, she (and Ander) have been nearby when I practice since I first got to know Frances 16 years ago.

As I moved I focused on sending Lucy all the love, peace, and relaxation that she could possibly absorb. And absorb it she did. By practice end I walked away and entered the house without her honking loudly and frantically. It seems that she may, indeed, be gradually adjusting to life as a single goose.

It felt wonderful to be outside, to watch my shadow moving across the freshly turned earth, to hear and see the purple finches playing Musical Chairs on the bird feeder, to notice the emergence of the Pasque (Easter/Passover) flower, and to witness tiny buds and bits of green burgeoning from tree branches and loamy earth.

This silent day was a wonderful gift and my practice with Lucy as witness a special interlude. Yes, rebirth is happening all around me: earth, water, sky ... and goose?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One with the Darkness and Light....

At night make me one with the darkness
In the morning make me one with the light.
     Wendell Berry
     From: Earth Prayers, p. 369
I lay in bed last night and fitted my body to the rhythm of rain gently tapping the roof. This morning I woke to a not unexpected scenario: new-fallen snow, heavy and moist, layered the ground. Humidity still hung in the air, a white veil of fog draped over the day.

Into this muted daylight I brought my quiet practice. Stillness upon stillness. I stood for today's T'ai Chi Chih's practice. It felt good, effortless and easy to shift weight and follow t'an tien forward and back, side to side.

Now I'm off to a day at the library. I'm covering a shift for Roberta who headed to Milwaukee to spend the weekend with family. I'm hopeful that the day will be slow and easy as others join friends and family to celebrate Easter and Passover. Undoubtedly some dedicated library patrons will stop in to read the paper or grab a movie or book to enjoy during the holiday weekend. I'll simply remain open to anybody and everything....

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Kinda-This Kinda-That Kinda Day

It's one of those days. You know the kind of day I'm talking about. Kinda dull. Kinda grey. Kinda boring. So-so. Nothing special.

Of course these kinda-this, kinda-that assessments are coming from my brain. Perhaps they are influenced by the overcast skies, the anticipatory feeling of approaching rain or snow, or the hushed suspension that a holiday weekend brings.

I opened the library this morning, worked for half a day, then ran errands, and returned home to a lonely goose. Lucy still seems hopelessly adrift since Ander's death. Frances and I are debating whether we should look for another goose to join our family. It's clear that we don't have the fortitude--or time--to keep Lucy company all day long, day after day.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in the porch with the hope that Lucy could see me. By the time I began practice, though, she'd retired to the privacy of her small barn. I quietly went through my practice feeling the Chi as it flowed through my hands and fingers.

And now I do feel more relaxed (and less needy?). I'm ready to read and relax. Hopefully some quiet relaxation will restore and reinvigorate me and my attitude. Then who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fully Present

Lucy forages for tender young grasses as I sit on the deck and write. Occasionally she pauses for a loud, insistent "Honk, honk, honk."

What is she saying? Who is she addressing? What, if anything, does she hope to see or hear in response? Frances and I have no answers to these questions. We continue, though, to take turns being with Lucy as she goes about her daily routines without Ander nearby.

This is our first full day without an Ander-centered activity (Tuesday he was euthanized, Wednesday he was cremated). We all feel a bit lonlier without his presence in our yard.

A T'ai Chi Chih student who lost one of her cats over a week ago mentioned today that a remaining cat seemed oblivious to the dead cat's absence but the other walked around meowing and acting as if she was looking for her missing friend. Is that what Lucy's doing?

Our morning TCC class practice segued in and out of sync. It took the first third of practice for us all to visibly slow down and relax. Our Buddha's Brain discussion afterward focused on nerve cells and brain chemistry. Then we ended our class with a bell meditation.

It's obvious that our years (six) of practicing TCC together have eased the way toward a comfort with seated meditation. And next week perhaps we'll use less guidance and simply sit quietly together. No movement ... but the same intention and willingness to be fully present in the moment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bird Flapped Its Wings

Lucy (the goose) seems lonely today. During the 4+ hours Frances and I tended fire to cremate Ander's body Lucy honked at us loudly and repeatedly whenever we moved out of sight.

This new goose behavior began yesterday after Frances returned home with Ander's dead body. Ander used to honk at Lucy whenever she wandered too far away. Now Lucy does the same with us. You have to admit, it must be difficult to adjust to life as a single goose after spending every moment of every day (and evening) for close to 20 years with a partner by your side.

Lucy was always the quiet, retiring goose but that's no longer the case. As soon as I walked outside this morning Lucy honked at me from inside her little barn. And ... she'd only just begun.

Frances and I shared memories of Ander while we collected sticks and sat fireside. He was one heck of a macho, pushy, ungrateful goose. Still, Frances made a commitment to him, Lucy, and Frizzy the day she found them at the auction. She promised to care for and protect them and she began the very first night when she brought them home and stashed them in her shower (a temporary solution until she figured out how to house them safely).

Frances recalled Ander's years of fathering his own goslings as well as fostering a dozen baby wild turkeys. He knew exactly how to nip at little behinds to encourage the offending straggler to catch up to the group. And, if Ander hadn't acted quickly and honked loudly last summer, Lucy wouldn't be alive today (a coyote would have eaten her for lunch).

As we burned Ander's body I stood next to the fire and performed Rocking Motion and Bird Flaps Its Wings. I felt as if these two movements paid honor to the wild winged creature with whom we'd shared our lives. And I hoped that these T'ai Chi Chih movements would bless him on his travels to some unknown Great Beyond.

Tonight's T'ai Chi Chih class was joined by a new student who previously studied T'ai Chi Ch'uan. She quickly caught on to the movements, though, and we had a wonderful small group practice circle that circulated the Chi and calmed the minds and hearts of each of us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Good News

Today was a sad day. Frances and I took Ander the gander to the vet and decided to euthanize him. Awww.

I've known Ander for as long as I've known Frances, 17 years. She rescued Ander, Lucy, and another goose from certain death several years earlier after she saw their three sets of bright blue eyes looking out of a gunny sack at a farm auction. Ander's been an integral part of her (and my) life ever since.

Because both Frances and I are emotionally exhausted, we decided to delay cremating his body. After I arrived home from work we talked about our memories of Ander and Frances described how Lucy, Namaste, and Chiripa reacted to his lifeless body when she removed him from the car.

Then I took time for my T'ai Chi Chih practice which was a welcome and much-needed respite from our day of painful decision-making. Though we believe we chose to do the right thing for Ander (he'd been in pain for a number of months), it was a difficult decision. Simply flowing through the TCC movements helped to calm, center, and relax me.

Darn it! Change is hard. But once again T'ai Chi Chih practice helps me step lightly through difficult times and emerge with a realization that there is no single magic plan. TCC practice comforts and reminds me that we do the best that we can. And that's the good news....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beginning and Ending with Peace

The snow, now almost melted, is scheduled for another guest appearance this Wednesday. These past few weeks feel more like an on-again, off-again winter than a burgeoning, blossoming spring.

I covered the early shift at work today. Beforehand I rushed around packing my take along lunch, ironing pants, etc. Prior to hopping in the car I found myself with 10 extra minutes. Perfect! Just enough time to squeeze in a mini-T'ai Chi Chih practice.

Those 10 minutes were truly wonderful. They allowed me to recognize how speeded up and hyped up I'd become. During my few minutes of restful presence I slowed and centered myself. It was just what I needed to prepare for a busy day.

When I arrived home, I took a short afternoon walk and resumed my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Pre- and post-. What a good strategy to contribute to a centered, peaceful day and a centered, peaceful night.

I recently read an email from Pam Towne, one of T'ai Chi Chih's teacher trainers, in which she mentioned that she and her husband do T'ai Chi Chih practices daily, morning and evening. Thanks for the inspiration, Pam. I can't think of a better way to begin and end the day....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alive, Alert ... and Joyous!

Bit by bit, hour by hour, the sky opens. As clouds separate the beautiful blue of Heaven is revealed once again after several days' absence.

By noon sunlight shines over the white earth, temperatures rise, and the slow drip-drip-drip of frozen snow as it converts to liquid pounds the front step in a steady beat. My energy is returning after several days of extreme tiredness and daily naps.

Frances is in the basement vacuuming. And, after lunch, I'll join in the ongoing saga of clean, sort, giveaway, and release. Letting go of things and creating more space allows energy to flow through our house, our lives, and our bodies more easily. What can I say? It feels wonderfully freeing....

During my late morning T'ai Chi Chih practice Namaste joined me on the porch and snoozed on a nearby chair. At that point sunlight had just begun to pierce through the loosening sky. I silently applauded its bits of brightness as I sat through my practice session. Namaste was oblivious of my activity until I reached the Healing Sounds. When I Ho-Hu-Szu'ed, he woke.

And now we're both happily alive, alert, awake, and joyous!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Words Needed

The Second Poem the Night-Walker Wrote

Over all the hilltops
Among all the treetops
You feel hardly
A breath moving.
The birds fall silent in the woods.
Simply wait! Soon
You too will be silent.

     From: The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy
               by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, p. 210
Though it is no longer night, I read these words and resonate with their meaning. Today's world is frosted with two to three inches of weighty snow. And, other than a woodpecker climbing up a tree and the occasional flutter and flush of a flock of birds, all is quiet, silent, resting....

As I practiced T'ai Chi Chih, seated, on the porch I watched clumps of snow slide to earth. Birds flew thither and yon and an occasional burst of birdsong broke the ponderous silence.

A slight breeze stirs the treetops into a wispy circular dance. But the drenching weight of overnight snowfall--and the calming effects of my T'ai Chi Chih practice--have inspired in me a contemplative silence. No words needed. No thing to do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ducks and Cranes

The wind twirls treetops in a circular dance as leaves swirl into the sky and sweep across the yard and front step. Snow is predicted for tonight and the atmosphere is full of movement yet subdued as if waiting for what's to come.

I'm poised and watchful too. Will tomorrow's daylight reveal a cloak of winter white thrown casually over the earth's brown nakedness? Or will this snowstorm travel south of the Bayfield pennisula once again?

During my afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice on the porch I was well aware of the bursts and blasts of air that ravaged the forest. And, thankful, too, for my little spot of shelter and warmth. Serenity in the midst of activity. That's certainly an accurate description of what it feels like to practice quiet, calm, slow-moving T'ai Chi Chih while surrounded by the roar of high winds.

I read #52 from The Second Book of the Tao yesterday and found its theme appropriate for today's political battles and misunderstandings. I quote it here (p. 104):
The duck's legs are short; you can't lengthen them
without making her suffer.
The crane's legs are long; you can't shorten them
without causing him pain.
What is long needs no cutting off;
what is short needs no stretching.
When you realize this,
you can let the world go its own way.
Do you think that you know what's best?
Do you think that the world
should conform to your way of thinking?
All these benevolent people--
how much worrying they do!
Since ancient times,
what a lot of fuss and upheaval
the benefactors of humanity have caused!
Stephen Mitchell's commentary on this reading is insightful and highly relevant to the growing chasm between political parties and people espousing varying beliefs and values. He explains this reading thusly:
     Even with the kindest of intentions, you can't try to change people without inflicting violence on them and on yourself....
     Wheneven I believe that you are too much or not enough, I am caught in a delusion, and I suffer. Those ducks--they're perfect just the way they are, waddling around on their adorable little legs. And cranes stride through the marsh on legs not a millimeter too long. There may be a lot that needs fixing, but there's nothing out there to fix.
If I can only remember that I am a duck and you are a crane and we are each perfect in our own way, life would be much simpler now wouldn't it? And so it goes....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Velcro or Teflon?

Yes, today's T'ai Chi Chih class practice in Cornucopia was considerably different from last week. I had all of my faculties about me (i.e., no low blood sugars during practice) which allowed me to effortlessly keep track of movement repetitions and (unlike last week) perform moves with accuracy and ease. I'm the first to admit that it's much easier to lead a practice when my brain is in a fully operational state.

Our new class format is ideal. We start our hour-and-a-half class with a full TCC practice and end the session with a seated meditation practice. I noticed today that it felt relatively easy for me to anchor myself in the seated practice, probably due to our previous moving meditation practice. In between these two practices we discussed material from Buddha's Brain.

Today one student shared an article from the internet entitled, "Will President Obama and the House GOP ever Agree? Science Suggests No." The cited research found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, grey matter in the brain associated with understanding complexity, while self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an area that is associated with fear and anxiety.

Lead researcher, Ryota Kanai, from the University College London noted that, "More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude." Still, it's a fascinating thesis. How can we achieve compromise and bipartisanship when each political party is influenced by a different part of the brain? The variations in wiring and chemistry could undoubtedly influence priorities, values, and potential solutions to the complex economic, environmental, and social challenges that we face in our modern world.

Today's Buddha's Brain discussion revolved around the concept that the brain is built to avoid perceived negative experiences rather than to approach potential positive ones (Ch. 2, pp. 40-42). Due to the formation of early brain structures meant to ensure survival, the authors write: Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones--even though most of your experiences are probably neutral or positive (p. 41).

Simply put: Our brains have a built-in negativity bias. The authors contend that the most obvious and potentially successful way to cope with that bias is to rewire the brain through repeated meditation practices that focus more overtly on being grounded in the present moment, removed from worry about future events or regrets over past experiences. And, yes, T'ai Chi Chih practitioners accomplish that goal every time we flow through our form.

We simply need to be mindful of the rewards of our practices ... serenity, balance, and peace are a worthy outcome for the minutes we spend in meditative movement.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fire and Ice

It is/was another beautiful spring day. I walked along the lakeshore in Washburn, a route I've intended to walk for years. Since I had a spare half-hour prior to my evening TCC class, I walked the walk and learned about local history from signs posted along the path.

En route to a lunch meeting today I drove past our neighbor's house (vacant for the past several years after the couple died) and witnessed fire fighters putting out a grass fire as smoke torpedoed through a hole in the old, dilapidated roof of the house. Further down the road I pulled over at least four times as multiple emergency vehicles rushed to the scene.

Our class TCC practice was small; five of us quickly shrunk to four when one student left early. We opened several windows due to the heat in the room and quickly realized that our practice circle was much quieter than the noise from traffic two stories below.

It felt wonderful, as usual, to have practice companions. Together we slowed, breathed, relaxed, and calmed ourselves into a different state of mind and body.

Tonight we return to below-freezing temperatures. Ah, yes, spring in the northland....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Fountain of Chi

How do I know that spring has arrived? This morning birdsong flooded across the yard. During a late morning walk I heard frogs singing near a creek. Plus the tractor-starting sound of ruffed grouse beating their wings in courtship is beginning to filter through the woods.

Of course, ticks appeared before the snow melted. Unfortunately, several days ago Frances noticed fleas on the dog and cat and in bed.

So, yep, spring is here. (Though I've heard a weather forecast predicts subfreezing temperatures in a day or so....)

Today I practiced T'ai Chi Chih after I came home from work. My feet were sore and my body tired but I knew if I practiced I would reap rich rewards. True. I felt the energy flowing as my reflection peered back at me from a dark window.

My feet are still sore. But my body and mind feel lighter and quieter. The Chi was activated, balanced, and circulated. I guess I could say that I'm a fountain of Chi....

Monday, April 11, 2011

Falling, Sinking, Soaking

No question. Spring arrived overnight accompanied by the sounds of thunder and pouring rain. When I woke this morning I assumed that our yard, which overflowed with mud and excess water, would now resemble a lake. Amazingly, the standing water had virtually disappeared. Frances's theory: Falling rain warmed the frozen earth and allowed the existing water and rainfall to soak into the ground.

Several people commented that the lake ice also disappeared overnight. One possible explanation: recent warm weather created holes in the ice and the falling rain caused the ice to sink. Of course, the ice typically blows out of the bay and back into the bay several times during spring thaw so we'll soon see whether any ice floats back in when the wind changes direction.

Tonight's T'ai Chi Chih practice felt hmmm, ummm, errr ... great! I was tired when I arrived home from work. I still wanted to practice so I sat out on the porch and began Rocking Motion as I looked out the windows into the dark night. Occasionally I caught glimpses of our white cat slinking and slouching across the yard or stretching her body up the base of a tree trunk.

Soon, very soon, I felt the Chi moving, Then I remembered for the umpteenth time how much better I feel when I do my practice. Just as the earth soaked in the fast-falling drops of rain I circulated and absorbed the Chi. And now I feel better for it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Does the Candle Keep Burning?

Last night's pouring rain finalized the seasonal transition process. The snow--other than a few straggler piles left by the snowplow--is gone. Faded brown leaves and deep brown earth are now visible to the naked eye (they gradually emerged as early morning fog vanished into deepening day).

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih today during a particular time, the time set aside for my cousin's memorial service in Tucson, AZ. While I moved I thought about this cousin who died unexpectedly last month, about her mother and sister, her three daughters, and a recent grandchild.

One of my brothers planned to attend the service. I decided that I could be there, too, through a Reiki and Chi energy connection. It felt good to connect over hundreds of miles, to think of my extended family members and wish them well, to imagine being present in their midst, and to offer them love and healing energy.

After practice I lit a candle and placed it next to my keyboard. I wanted to be reminded of the light that my cousin brought into the world: the children she raised, the nonprofit organizations she supported, and the compassion she felt for diverse peoples and projects.

Now the candle has gone out and my attention has returned to the woods where I'm engaged in my work-at-home chores. Hopefully life goes on for all of us, living and dead. For the moment, though, I'll just have to wait and see....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Calmer, Quieter

Yes, spring is here and ... my head is not fully used to the idea yet. Early this morning as Frances and I drove to volunteer at the library thrift sale I said, Well, it looks like rain or snow is coming....

"I think it's going to have to be snow," she replied, "given the temperature." I looked at the temperature gauge in the car: It read "47." Rain hasn't arrived yet but clouds continue to thicken in the sky overhead.

We held a highly successful library sale and made enough money to buy several hundred books for our collection. It was pure joy to see the excitement on people's faces as they came up to purchase their special treasures.

Me? I have enough stuff. But it still made me happy to see some of my donated items carted out of the pavillion and off to someone else's home.

I performed tonight's T'ai Chi Chih practice in a seated position since I spent the entire morning standing behind a cash box. I looked out the porch windows as the cat lay on the dresser in front of me and slept comfortably.

During practice it felt somewhat difficult to focus my attention on the present. My mind still swirled with the people, events, and activities of the day. Eventually, by practice end, I felt calmer, quieter. Ahhh....

Friday, April 8, 2011

A New Attitude

To be honest, I didn't feel like doing my T'ai Chi Chih practice this evening after Frances and I spent the entire day loading up items from our basement and carting them into Bayfield. We also assisted with pricing and organizing thrift sale items for tomorrow's annual library sale. I was tired.

But I reminded myself of how good I feel when I do my practice. I enjoy feeling the energy circulate. I function better after my TCC practice sessions. So what did I have to lose?

It's true that the beautiful 60 degree day gave me energy. And, yes, the sunshine lightened my heart and brightened my work. Still, my early evening TCC practice gave me the energy to stay up instead of going directly to bed. And, despite ongoing political machinations following our Tuesday night election, I now feel upbeat and positive.

There's no doubt about it: After a brief 20 minute seated TCC practice, I've got a new attitude.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chi Power!!

It's spring (I'm writing this with supreme confidence)!!! Yesterday I noticed my first robin and eastern phoebe. Today I saw two robins hopping through the grass and heard a phoebe singing Phee-bee, Phee-bee from its lofty perch.

Light shines across our woodland universe from early morning 'til after dinner. And, as the weather warms, the dog and cat station themselves outside for hours at a time.

Today's TCC class was different. I had a low blood sugar in the middle of practice, didn't realize it, and miscounted movement repetitions. During Carry the Ball to the Side I suddenly realized--after I noticed curious expressions on several student's faces--that I was in the middle of my sixth circle to the left (having not remembered to step over to the left side after three reps).

Luckily one of my students asked whether I needed to test my blood sugar levels after we finished our practice and another student reminded me to test when I became distracted by other responsibilities. A handful of raisins--thankfully--got me back on track.

Granted, practice was a bit funky. Noteably, though, I wasn't critical of myself. I simply allowed things to be as they were. That's a huge commentary on the effects of T'ai Chi Chih practice in my life. It's also a direct feedback loop that notes the ways in which TCC's meditative practice helps me retrain my brain toward happier, healthier, and more positive messages and thought patterns. (Though my lighthearted response may have been partially due to the low blood sugar too....)

A student who arrived 40 minutes late for class and stepped into the room while we moved through the healing sounds mentioned later that he was disappointed to miss our practice. Nevertheless, he experienced how quickly and effectively the energy in the room, and his participation in Cosmic Consciousness Pose, transported him into a centered and more relaxed frame of mind. That's Chi power for you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


An absolutely beautiful spring day with warm temps, melting snow, and deep, wet, sticky mud. A delivery driver in a van ended up stuck in our driveway this afternoon whereupon Frances started up the tractor and pulled him out.

Tonight I finished two of my eight-week T'ai Chi Chih classes. One student commented, I can't believe it's already been eight weeks. I agree.

Only one student completed my beginning T'ai Chi Chih class. Because of low enrollment and sporadic attendance a number of the classes were private or semi-private sessions due to low turnout. Still, I'm grateful to know that this class made a difference in one person's life.

The continuing class was filled with infinite silence and unifying energy. What a tremendous gift to relate to others through silent movement! No words were needed yet a deep unexplainable connection formed between the nine of us who moved together soundlessly.

Thanks, Justin, for the gift of wordless movement!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I did two short T'ai Chi Chih practices today rather than my regular 30 minute routine; one pre-work and one post-work. Both practices helped me to slow down a bit and relax. Now I'm ready for bed. Words no longer form themselves in my brain. Perhaps I'm just floating on the Chi. And ... that's all right.

Monday, April 4, 2011


This morning I woke to a winter wonderland. Again. Heavy wet snow draped itself over every tree branch and horizontal surface. Frances, I asked, Do we usually have snow in April? She assured me: Yes, this is typical.

A co-worker told me that today was the 14th anniversary of her family's move to their new house. And ... 14 years ago they moved in the midst of a snowstorm. Okay. So I need to revise the ditty, April showers bring May flowers. A more accurate prescription for our locale may be: April snow showers bring May flowers.

During my morning T'ai Chi Chih practice I watched a steady stream of water flow off the edge of the roof. It felt as if I was in the midst of a rainstorm. But, no. Our overnight snowfall warmed to liquid and rained down.

I performed my practice seated and it was uneventful. When my attention wandered, I brought it back to the slap-slap-slap of rain hitting the earth and the visual spectacle of water flooding off the roof. Eventually I became part of the slap and drip and I slowly melted just like the snow....

Sunday, April 3, 2011


It was heavily overcast this morning when I woke. Not surprising since it rained most of the night. After I rose it began to snow. Rain. Snow. Then gigantic snowflakes. Then more rain. Now it's foggy as rain pelts the metal roof on our house.

Today we continued to clean out the basement. It's a wonderful feeling to be buoyed by extra energy that's released from sorting, burning, recycling, and donating. Library sale here we come! (The annual thrift sale for the library is scheduled for Saturday morning, April 9.)

Feng shui theory about the flow of Chi describes our experience with ongoing efforts to cull our worldly goods down to a more manageable and humane size. With the resultant free-flowing energy we're motivated to continue lightening our load, improving our house, and simplifying our lives.

I took a T'ai Chi Chih break when Frances left for a meeting. It felt great to focus on something new and different. Although how different is T'ai Chi Chih practice really? Each day a new adventure. Each day the same. Each day more rested and relaxed ... for 20 to 30 minutes at least (sometimes more).

Each day another lesson in letting go ... especially now as we're releasing gifts, possessions, and memories from our pasts.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Birthday Celebration!

It's a glorious spring day. Perfect for the birthday celebration we planned for Frances: cleaning the basement! Can you imagine? I know, I can't believe that's what she wanted to do either....

We took a break midday to run our garbage and recycling to the local dump about a mile and a half down the road. It felt like we'd timed our dump run just right because there we found plenty of friends and neighbors with whom to chat.

We caught up on local news, upcoming election plans for next week, and the name of the new owner of our next door property. And, on a whim, we stopped on our homeward journey to say 'hi' and 'welcome' to the owners who were outside picking up and cleaning up trash.

Home again, we headed back into the basement. At one point I felt that I'd hit my limit for dark, dirty work (besides it was dinner time) so I escaped to the kitchen. While pizza baked I sat on a stool in the porch and practiced T'ai Chi Chih.

It's subtle.... Still, I feel calmer, lighter, and better than I did before my practice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Seated? Moving? Dark? Or light?

Yesterday: Four deer stood roadside on my route to and from class. It's obvious that the snow melt offers more freedom of movement to the creatures of the woods and field. Today: Snow, then rain, then snow re-covered the softening, muddy earth. An April Fools' joke?

I started T'ai Chi Chih practice in the doctor's office this afternoon while I waited for the doctor to arrive. Partway through Platters a light knock on the door caused me to cease and desist. Now, hours later I sit on a stool and conduct a seated practice. This week I feel the results of three consecutive classes (two in the evening and one the next morning) in my knee, a foot, and the side of my leg. Time to cease and desist my standing practice in order for my body to recouperate.

I'm gradually accepting the fact that some days seated TCC practice is the absolutely positively right thing for me to do. Tonight that's particularly the case as I segue from active day to quiet night. Wetness drips outside the dark window. What will tomorrow bring? Winter or spring? Whiteness or wetness? Seated T'ai Chi Chih or moving?