Friday, December 30, 2011

Hooray for Willpower

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Monkey Mindlessness

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Free at Last

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Going Through the Motions

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

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

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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lightening Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

These things, too, shall pass....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

We are All One

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

May Our Hearts and Spirits be Filled with Peace

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

One Shared Root

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts at Rest

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice: The Yin-Yang Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Project T'ai Chi Chih Practice

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vim and Vigor

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Soooo Good

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Total Relaxation

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Relaxed and Soothed ... Rejuvenated and Refreshed

Thursday, December 15, 2011:

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

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

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

Friday, December 16, 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Up and Moving

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Being in my Practice

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2011


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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Resting in the Softness of Chi

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oh, peaceful night

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

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

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Heart Tonic

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

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

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Refreshing? Rejuvenating? Grounding? Unifying? Downright Good?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quietly Wonderful

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ah, synchronicity

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Like a Snowflake Falling ...

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

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

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

I feel grateful. I give thanks....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ah, peace....

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Me and My Shadow Move with Grace and Flo

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 2, 2011

Comfort and Coziness

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

May my mind be steady

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

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

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

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

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

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