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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spirits Soothed by Silence

When I arrived at my T'ai Chi Chih classroom tonight, it was in complete disarray. That was despite the fact that I'd been promised a cleaner, more organized, and roomier space for this week's class.

I remained calm and didn't panic. First I told a man laying carpet at one end of the room that my class started in half an hour and he readily agree to leave within several minutes. Then a friend of the building owner helped move chairs and pieces of carpet to open up the practice space. By class time there was adequate space to move in despite the clutter and chaos.

And so it goes.... When I thought about it, I realized that T'ai Chi Chih practice infiltrates my life in a variety of ways: instead of panic, calm and rather than frustration, understanding. Perhaps it helped me to know that I would soon join with my class in a slow, quiet, restorative meditative practice. Or, perhaps, my days and weeks, months and years, of previous practices oriented me toward a kinder, gentler approach to the problem. I do think it will be interesting to see what unfolds for next week's class....

At tonight's class session we focused on moving from t'an tien (dantienne) as we placed our hands on our centers and felt our movements originate from there. I encouraged students to really turn from side to side as we tried the Basic Taffy Pull, Passing Clouds, and Working the Pulley without using our hands and arms to distract from the twisting and turning of t'an tien.

After we dived into practice, the entire group gradually became more deeply relaxed as tension drained from our bodies and minds. By practice end the room--and our spirits--were filled with silence.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Relaxing the Body/Mind

Whew, what a relief: the winds died down. Now it's merely grey and overcast. I'm glad I started my Vitamin D supplement several weeks ago. Hopefully I'll avoid the depression that unremitting grey skies tend to foster.

I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice in the house this morning as I looked through the window at increasingly bare, grey tree trunks. I'd already spent three hours on a copyediting project so, needless to say, it felt wonderful to move and stretch.

My, what a difference it makes to the psyche when heavy winds cease to blow. It was relatively simple to slow my body and mind. My brain longed for a break from three hours of intense concentration. The timing for enhanced relaxation was perfect and left me with an open, rested body and mind for my afternoon work at the library.

And ... I'm off!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wind Blown

Windy days and windy nights. Still. (These heavy winds have persisted for four days or so.) Luckily, at work today I was oblivious to whether the wind was blowing or not since I was encased in a century-old brick building. When I'm home, I can hear the wind whipping through the trees and see the treetops whirling and swirling when wind speeds increase.

Before work I did a 10 minute T'ai Chi Chih practice while I watched winds whip through the trees. Tonight I finished my practice before I headed home from the library. Since it was quiet there I welcomed the opportunity to practice in peace (the only sound was the tick-tock of a grandfather clock).

It is interesting, though, to see how tempted and distracted I am by the written word (in whatever form). When I practice in the library, I find myself reading headlines on newspapers and magazines, looking at book covers and posters, and generally letting my mind wander over, around, and through every written word in view. During my short practice at home this morning it was easier to focus my attention even though the wind threatened to blow it all away.

Now that I've let the rush and bustle of the day slide off my shoulders I'm ready to head home. My day is almost done and it's time to relax....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Secure Connection to the Earth

Oh, it's a wild wind-swept day. When the wind's momentum increases, I feel myself unconciously hold my breath as I wait for bending trees and swirling leaves to relax back into still, quiet air.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih out in the porch today. I was bathed in sunlight even as I watched the wind stir, sweep, and circle just outside the windows. The petals of potted begonias in the window in front of me shimmered and flashed with brilliant red light. And, when I looked outside, I noticed a red plastic reflector planted in the earth that shone with light just as astonishingly brilliant and beautiful.

It felt peculiar to remain grounded and at peace while the leaves before me were so easily tossed and upended by the turbulent breezes. But I was perfectly happy to stay within the safe refuge of walls and windows.

Yes, my thoughts were blown about a bit but, for the most part, my practice was filled with relaxed effortlessness. And now, as I sit before my computer to blog I marvel at the swaying treetops and the deep roots that connect each living tree securely to the earth.

I'm reminded that for me, too, it's important to establish and maintain deep, secure roots each time I settle into a TCC practice. That rootedness helps to ground the energy and guarantees that my thoughts won't tip me sideways or blow me over.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weather Change

Starting yesterday temps dropped, wind rose, and leaves blew off trees. Suddenly it feels like winter is in the air. The dog isn't lounging outside for long anymore and ... neither am I.

Frances and I visited the Farmers' Market this morning and it was brisk (the wind off the lake can be bone chilling). After visiting with our farmer friends we headed home and I landed in the kitchen (surprise!) where I focused on cooking Greek and Moroccan stews. This weather puts me in the mood for warm, soul nourishing food.

I held my late afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice inside (there was no doubt in my mind that that was the best place to practice). The cat napped in a chair nearby while stew cooked on the stove, ripening tomatoes hung from a nail in front of me, and I moved in full view of the great outdoors.

I allowed my body to relax into the silence and fall into the presence of nature. It felt good to be warm, protected, and nourished by the peace and good smells around me.... It's time now to eat some of that delicious stew.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dependency ... The Helpful Kind

I started my T'ai Chi Chih practice inside this morning then thought better of it. Why would I practice indoors when the weather is warmish (40-something), there are still leaves on the trees, and I'll soon be restricted to indoor practices due to snow and cold? I want to avoid cabin fever for as long as possible.

Even though I felt highly distractable during practice I was also aware of the fact that I've become incredibly dependent upon it. I told my students at yesterday's class that sometimes it feels as though 24 hours is too long to wait for my daily dose of balance and equanimity. Day after day I see how T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation moderates and influences my life. And from my vantage point the results are all extremely positive.

Justin Stone talks about this dependency and maintains that there's nothing wrong with being addicted to a practice that balances your energy, moderates your mood, and brings joy to your life. I don't claim to feel overly joyful today but I do feel more alive, alert, and upbeat. And I feel ready to spend my day working at the library with a positive, helpful attitude.

For me, my distracted practice yielded a good return. I'm hopeful that I'll be carried through the day on a wave of Chi....

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Rain falls continuously (night and day) striking the metal roof with a gentle thrum. Though it may not be pretty, it certainly is wet (which is exactly what we need!).

I was reunited with my Cornucopia T'ai Chi Chih class members this morning. It's been two months since our final summer class. Still, we fell easily into our weekly routine. As we moved further into practice I could feel the group tension fade and a lightness of being seep quietly into the room.

During tea time we discussed an article I received a year and a half ago from InnerNet Weekly: The Lovely State of Observation by Vimala Thakar ( Thakar invites the reader to appreciate and understand the freedom and rewards that meditation can bring into one's life. He writes, in part:
Meditation is a way of living that introduces us to that other part of our life. The silence, the motionlessness, it introduces us to our pure ISNESS....

Meditation is coming home, to relax, to rest. If that takes place and one finds that though one has withdrawn and retired from activity, the inner movement goes on, thoughts come up, memories come up, then you begin to observe them. Till now you were busy carrying out functional roles, you were either the doer or the experience. From these two roles you have set yourself free voluntarily. You are now the observer. The inner movements come up, the involuntary movement comes up though the voluntary has been discontinued. You sit there quietly, you do not prepare to see, but if thoughts appear, then they are seen by you. It is a lovely state, the state of observation (my emphasis).
Of course, Thakar is writing about seated meditation but the same holds true for T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation. And, perhaps that is one reason why I feel so good after I complete a full TCC practice session. As I move quietly, letting go in the practice in order to embody the form (per TCC guide Sr. Antonia's October 2011 Newsletter as taken from Justin Stone's Spiritual Odyssey, p. 29), thinking eventually becomes feeling and inner awareness results.

Becoming the observer instead of the doer is a freeing experience. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just noticing. Without judgment. Without a need to change or control. Pure ISNESS.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let the Chi Begin ...

I met with my continuing class in Washburn tonight for the first evening of our eight week session. Several hours later I feel like the Energizer Bunny. Oh, it was wonderful to be back together again for our group practice and I, for one, reaped the benefits of shared Chi.

We met in a new location tonight after years of meeting at the cultural center. The change in venue threw a few class members off but I said: We're just changing things up. You have to be constantly challenged in order to learn how to go with the flow. I was teasing (not really).

Our new class location is in the process of transforming itself into a wedding chapel so it appears that I'll be moving pews before and after class each week. But what better place to meet that a space dedicated to affirming and celebrating love. Let the Chi begin....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Takin' It Easy

Lucy made several nests in dry fallen leaves today and looked cozy as could be while she sat grazing and pecking through leaf fluff. Suddenly she stood, flapped her wings, and cleared a wide area of bare earth all around herself. Who needs a leaf blower when they have a goose flapper?

After my busy day at work I came home to a phone message. The jist of it was that the building where I'm scheduled to hold tomorrow night's T'ai Chi Chih class is under construction and may not be suitable to conduct a class.

I called the building owner back and talked with her about my space needs. She promised to clear a large enough space to accommodate a circle practice for eight people. With that, I trust that we will have what we need to get through a 45 minute TCC practice and 15 minute discussion.

After the phone conversation I stepped outside to practice TCC (it was 73 degrees when I drove home!). It felt delightfully delicious to slow my body and calm my spirit while I moved through T'ai Chi Chih practice. The goose nested nearby. The dog tried to sneak a nibble out of Lucy's corn pan and, by practice end, the dog, goose, and cat were all gathered around me.

I've done my duty for the day and right now I'm ready to relax. My moving meditation practice put me in the right frame of mind to take it easy 'til tomorrow....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Body Mechanics

My morning began magically: first, a bike ride in wonderful warm sunshine and then, a massage. My back had been sore for so long that it felt tremendous to experience knots loosening and pain abating.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih after I arrived home from work. These days, though, the world lies in total darkness by work's end. Which meant that I practiced TCC indoors in front of a dark window with my reflection moving in concert with me.

I noticed that even my TCC practice improved from the massage. My posture was straighter, my foot less sore when I shifted weight, and my attitude more relaxed and accepting as I watched my reflection in motion.

Oh, it feels fantastic to flow into softness and relaxation at some point during each day (even--or should I say especially--on those days when I don't have the time and/or energy to practice TCC). I did a short mental rehearsal while I lay on the massage table this morning but during this evening's practice it felt so good to m~o~v~e.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Coming Back for More

Last night's rain washed the trees of much of their autumnal color. That was reason enough for Frances and me to take an early morning walk to fill ourselves with visions of rust-gold-orange-yellow leaves (until next year).

During my evening outdoor T'ai Chi Chih practice I noticed that there is more sky showing through naked tree branches in our yard. And more nudity to come....

I began tonight's practice at the Taffies and then returned to the Platters and so on. For whatever reason that topsy turvy practice plan didn't work well. It was difficult to patiently make my way through the entire practice. I was tired and ready for dinner and, as I discovered post-practice, in the middle of a low blood sugar.

Still, it feels remarkable that I can conduct my daily TCC practices outdoors while wearing shorts as we move toward the middle of October. This week I begin my fall T'ai Chi Chih continuing class sessions (my beginning class was cancelled due to low enrollment).

I look forward to reconnecting with my advanced students who keep coming back for more....

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quiet Moments in the Midst of Chaos

This 50th annual Apple Fest weekend is a summer fest ... temperatures in the 80s with lots of sun. Past fests have been notorious for daylong rain showers and cold temps so this is, while hot, a welcome change.

I worked upstairs at the library all day today while my cohorts ran the library sale downstairs. In my area it was relatively quiet with few checkouts or other library-related business.

I handled phone calls, acquisitioned materials, and prepped DVDs to add to our collection while I answered questions and directed a number of desperate people to bathroom locations. Meanwhile, the downstairs bathrooms and book tables were subject to constant visitations.

During a short lunch break I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in the library yard while I gazed into a line of gorgeous fall-colored trees. Those few minutes of practice were helpful and recouperative especially given the steady streams of people flowing along city sidewalks and damming up downtown streets. After I arrived home (sigh!) I napped then ventured outside into the overly warm early evening darkness to finish my TCC practice.

It felt delightful to be surrounded by warmth and comfort on an October evening. Namaste and Lucy watched my back as I stared into the darkening forest. And then mosquitoes began their visitations and I gladly finished my practice and quickly retired inside.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Savoring the Color (Moment)

The first thing Frances said this morning as she woke and looked out the window: "Wow." Overnight our woods transformed into an orange-yellow-golden hue. It felt--and looked--magical.

As the day progressed the wind gathered force and many leaves detached from their airborne home and hit the earth. Leaf color has definitely peaked and it's all down-to-the-ground from here.

Today's library book sale was hugely successful. A line formed outside the door prior to opening and the first few hours of sales were brisk. I worked in the quieter, mellower library upstairs which suited me just fine. After I returned home I climbed onto the deck and did my afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice in the midst of wind and falling leaves.

Usually wind is distracting and disturbing during T'ai Chi Chih practice but today (Was it the color of the leaves?) I felt fortunate to be an observer of fall's leaves falling. And I realized how exquisite and temporary nature of these autumn days.

For this moment, now, I'm intent on savoring every drip of color I can extract from my surroundings.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple Fest Relaxation Quest

It's the day before Apple Fest begins and already the energy level in Bayfield is rising to an elevated Apple Fest high. The weather has been gorgeous all week and, if it remains warm and sunny, we're sure to draw a huge crowd of out-of-towners.

Since the typical energetic feel up here is low-key and quiet it's a bit trying to deal with all the cars, noise, and people. Many area residents have commented for several weeks now: I can't wait until Sunday is over. Yep, I'm one of them.

I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice outside before I drove into Bayfield to help set up for the Apple Fest library book sale. And, even though my day was relatively quiet and slow moving, I felt a huge relaxation factor kick in midway through practice.

How I ever managed to live my life with any measure of peace and tranquility before I began studying T'ai Chi Ch'uan and T'ai Chi Chih I will never know....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Twenty-Four Hour Sanity

Today was hard; I didn't get nearly enough sleep last night which meant that my patience was nil. Thankfully I had my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice to keep the emotional road level and driveable even when there were hills and valleys all along my route.

I swung into TCC after I spent the morning on the phone rounding up students for next week's TCC classes. A friend also called to ask whether I was available to copy edit her soon-to-be published book. When that conversation concluded, I was eager to be outside in the golden beauty. Happily the chickens joined me, ventured into nearby woods, and scratched and pecked at the leaf covered earth as I Carried the Ball to the Side, Push-Pulled, and Pulled in the Energy.

When I opened the freezer to prepare dinner, I discovered that everything was thawed and I had a frig full of food to toss and/or relocate. T'ai Chi Chih to the rescue.... Even though I was tired and grumpy I managed to mop up strawberry and raspberry juices from the freezer floor and transport soggy items to the basement frig.

Some days--like today--it seems that too much time (i.e., 24 hours) passes between TCC practice sessions. Still, I am deeply grateful that I have this practice to keep me sane....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I managed a five-minute T'ai Chi Chih practice in the midst of morning busyness and now, post-work, I'm back at it.

Even though the day should/could be slowing down I'm caught between two busy bodies: Namaste barked nonstop throughout tonight's TCC practice and, now that I'm ready to type my blog, Frances is busily reviewing the artwork on a rush project she initiated yesterday.

Sometimes--often?--it takes focused determination to maintain inner calm and groundedness when I'm surrounded by a swirling eddy of hyperactivity.

Of course it doesn't help that I spend six hours flying from one project to the next during breaks in my over-the-counter public service. I tend to believe that I can easily transition into a state of peace and relaxation but "no luck."

Yes, TCC practice facilitates the relaxation process but it takes time to unwind. And now that my TCC practice has begun the transition I'll continue in my efforts to relax-release-replenish.

Monday, October 3, 2011

T'ai Chi Chih Collaboration

After Anna left yesterday I felt oddly bereft of our T'ai Chi Chih collaboration. Clearly I spend too many of my days practicing alone. And, though I practice weekly with my students when classes are in session, it's altogether different to practice with a peer.

Today I leapt at the chance to move through T'ai Chi Chih in bright, warm sunshine. It was a blessing to experience another wonderful fall day.

Everyone in Bayfield and the surrounding area is gearing up for our 50th annual Bayfield Apple Fest this weekend. I, for one, am putting in extra hours, both paid and unpaid, to help set up and cover the front desk during our two-day library book sale. Many other people volunteer at chamber information booths, the parade, a senior social, and the like.

Like many of the locals, I look forward to the calm and quiet that descend upon our town once this major fall event is over and done. In the meantime I'll keep practicing TCC as the week progresses and as hundreds and thousands of tourists descend upon our orchards and our tiny town. That way I'll stay relatively calm as the energy of our fair city rises to its once-a year fantastical levels.

Just remember, Steph: Breathe.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Gift & Grace

Saturday, October 1, 2011:

Today we experienced several unexpected delights. First, we stopped to chat with some of my favorite people at the Bayfield Farmers' Market. The fruit and vegetables, bread, and other products are beautiful and nourishing to behold as are the farmers and creative practitioners who labor to provide the ultimate in nutrition ... fresh and delicious.

Then we visited several Bayfield businesses that we haven't explored during the almost-nine years we've lived in the area. We were treated to stories galore at the Hitching Post, a taxidermy and folk art wood carving shop just south of Bayfield. And, of course, we couldn't resist buying pears and a fresh-baked apple pie across the road at Weber's Orchards.

Following a late lunch Anna and Frances took a long walk at Meyers Beach. My foot was sore so I stayed home to blog, practice T'ai Chi Chih, bike ride, and care for the animals.

Almost immediately I realized that I truly missed my T'ai Chi Chih practice partner. Yes, the outdoor practice was beautiful and peaceful. Yes, I enjoyed taking time out to settle into the quiet. And, yes, I also noted the change in focus, intention, and energy when I was, once again, left to my own solo practice. (Oh, to be able to practice with Anna once more before she leaves us....)

Sunday, October 2, 2011:

What can I say? It's a beautiful day! The sunshine is bright, the leaves are close to peak color, and it looks and feels absolutely glorious outside.

Why, one might ask, am I indoors writing this blog? Good question. I thought I could finish this quickly (I'm not). And, I admit, I'm starting to get antsy.

So I'll just report that Anna and I did complete a pre-breakfast T'ai Chi Chih practice. We stood on the porch and saw the goose and chickens as they went about their morning eating and grazing rituals.

Anna and I delved into our own ritual. It felt wonderful to settle into the slow peacefulness and deep breathing of our shared practice. Slow begets slow. And, despite a few brief interruptions, we made it through the practice and (I'm speaking for myself) felt better for it.

I felt a sense of gift and grace when I shared TCC practices with Anna while she was here to join me. Lest I forget I was again reminded that those of us who perform regular TCC practices are deeply blessed....

Saturday, October 1, 2011

30 Days has September

Wednesday, September 28, 2011:

My day was filled with errands before our friend, Anna, arrived for her visit. Immediately after she pulled into the yard we headed for the beach at Little Sand Bay to take an early evening walk. Back home again we dived into dinner preparations and conversation to catch up with over a year's worth of news and views.

My T'ai Chi Chih practice was squeezed into a brief period right before I hit the bed. And, truth be told, my eyelids drooped and opened, drooped and partially opened, and drooped once more. I was pooped. After a quarter hour practice I gratefully slid between the sheets and dropped into a deep and restful sleep....

Thursday, September 29, 2011:

Whew! W-i-n-d-y. After lunch in Cornucopia Frances, Anna, and I stopped at the beach and watched a wind surfer battle the wind and white-capped waves for a few brief and ultra-exciting forays into the surf. Afterwards we chose a less windy, more protected spot to walk through the beautiful color drenched woods, exercise our muscles, and move our bodies.

Home once more Anna and I practiced T'ai Chi Chih side by side as we looked into the wind-lashed trees. What a gift to practice TCC with another teacher. Despite the wind rushing around us I felt quiet, calm, and peaceful. Anna did admit to me afterwards that her mind was moving a mile a minute. (Windy weather can do that to a person!)

Still, there is an energy that permeates a practice with other teachers that is unlike anything I've experienced with my students. It does make a difference to move with someone who practices TCC regularly and who devotes time and attention to refining and potentizing their practice. The level of energy speaks volumes....

Friday, September 30, 2011:

Anna and I did another late afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice today after we took several walks and explored and shopped at one of the apple orchards. We took up residence right in the middle of the living room with a new music CD Anna gave us playing in the background (Transcendence by Rahbi). During this practice we chose to face each other rather than stand side-by-side.

Wooo! It was a powerful, power-filled practice. Anna has a wonderful smile that plays across her face right before she steps out of Resting Position and into the next movement. It was a delight to see her light up just as we transitioned into Push-Pull, Pulling in the Energy, etc.

Again, I felt incredibly grateful to share this practice with Anna. Could I be experiencing a tune-up for the start of my fall T'ai Chi Chih classes? I can't think of a more perfect way to begin my fall teaching schedule than through these nourishing, energy-boosting TCC practices shared with my dear friend and colleague. Thank you, Anna.