Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hibernate or Practice ... Practice Before Hibernating?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow ... Slower ... Slowest

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I am Grateful

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let the Goodness Shine Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday in Rural America

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heavy Duty Healthfulness

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Tao of Pooh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

May Peace Abide with You

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

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

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

May you abide in peace, too....

Sunday, November 20, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Snowflake Drifting ...

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Moving into Health

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Never Ending Journey

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leaf-Ladden Stillness

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Healing is Within Me Now

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Circle of Friends

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Filled with Ener-Chi

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Now I'm Cooking ...

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Wilderness of Your Intuition

Wednesday, November 9, 2011:

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Around the Corner

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Life, Death, and More Life

Sunday, November 6, 2011:

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011


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

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

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

T'ai Chi Chih Relief

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

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Becoming a Log Roller

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

S-l-o-w and Quiet Movements

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Day of Meaningful Coincidence?

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

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

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

Blessings to us all on this day of 11111s.