Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Sacred Silence

And so it goes.... My blog silence lasted for nine days and then I read a book, shared a passage from it with my TCC continuing students, and realized that my blog was the ideal storage container for a few excerpts from said book.

A quick update: I've practiced T'ai Chi Chih daily since ceasing my daily blog journal and have felt as free as a kite. Now I do my TCC moving meditation and then continue on with my life post-practice minus any obligation to write about that practice. (As was likely obvious to my readers, some days I just didn't have anything significant to say.) Now, since I stopped writing my daily TCC blog, I have space in my life to write about other experiences. Beautiful!

Then I read Terry Tempest Williams' book, When Women Were Birds. Fascinating. Williams was inspired to write this book following the death of her mother who gave Williams three shelves of her personal journals to be read after her death. There was only one minor problem . . . every single journal was blank. No words. No pictures. No scraps of memory, history, feelings, thoughts, or experience. That sent Williams on a journey of discovery: What was her mother trying to say? What was her silence meant to reveal?

In one segment of her book Williams writes specifically about silence and begins with a quote by psychologist C.G. Jung: "Fear seeks noisy company and pandemonium to scare away the demons." This, I believe, is one of the reasons why the people who join--and stick with--T'ai Chi Chih Joy Thru Movement classes are an unusual bunch of adult learners. They are willing to enter a space of silence in the company of others.

Williams writes (p. 57):
I am afraid of silence. Silence creates a pathway to peace through pain, the pain of a distracted and frantic mind before it becomes still.... I fear silence because it leads me to myself, a self I may not wish to confront. It asks that I listen. And in listening, I am taken to an unknown place. Silence leaves me alone in a place of feeling. It is not necessarily a place of comfort.
Williams goes on to describe the work of two artists: composer John Cage and artist Robert Rauschenberg. Cage's piece 4'33", initially performed in 1952, involved a pianist walking onto the stage, closing the lid over the piano keys, and clicking a stopwatch he held in his hand. He stood twice to open and close the piano lid between movements and then stood to receive his applause.

As you might imagine, audience members were perplexed and annoyed by Cage's theatrical, creative work and when the third movement began many either talked or walked out of the performance. Probably few noticed what sounds emerged in the midst of Cage's staged silence.

Williams explains (p. 58):
Silence introduced in a society that worships noise is like the moon exposing the night. Behind darkness is our fear. Within silence our voice dwells. What is required from both is that we be still. We focus. We listen. We see and we hear. The unexpected emerges....
I'm in awe of those people who choose to explore meditation. And I am blessed in each T'ai Chi Chih class session when my students willingly enter into the silence--and the potent energy it carries with it--as we notice our bodies and minds and allow them to soften and relax thus helping to deepen the silence within our practice circle. Thanks to all of you who have joined me in the sacred silence of TCC practice. It is a gift . . . and a blessing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Way

Well, friends, it's been a long time coming. . . .

While I engaged in my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice over the past week I allowed myself to simmer in the juices of contemplation. Is it time to end this blog? Or time to pause or alter my commitment to a regular daily entry in "Rooted in Earth, Suspended from Sky"? Or ???

I've felt a desire to get off the computer bandwagon for some time now. Recent sporadic blog entries were an indication that I found it difficult to place my fingertips on computer keys and to find words, ideas, and insights that were compelling to me and my readers. In truth, I was adrift on a sea of shifting tides.

There are many reasons for my decision to stop writing a daily blog not the least of which is the death of my computer. It's hard to juggle my computer needs with Frances's since we now both share her laptop.

Plus, as Frances's computer use has increased my own computer use has declined. I'm not enamored with the state of the world these days and feel no desire to read news online. I've virtually given up on Facebook (it's too time consuming for what I get out of it), and any meaningful e-mail communications--just like my airmail communications--have dwindled to the point where I've lost interest in opening or reading the vast majority of virtual or print mail that I receive.

But here's the upside. I initiated this blog as a way to ensure that I did a daily T'ai Chi Chih practice and now, almost three years later, I can say with all honesty that my strategy worked. I've missed one, perhaps two days of TCC practice in the 1,054 days since I began this undertaking. And now it's time to see whether I can continue a daily TCC practice on my own without a virtual audience to motivate and inspire me.

Clearly, it's time for a change. Perhaps that change will mean that I focus my efforts on a once-weekly or once-monthly blog or perhaps I'll realize that I no longer need to write a T'ai Chi Chih blog at all.

My thanks to those of you who have been loyal readers of "Rooted ... and Suspended ..." For the moment I'm content to see where the Chi carries me and I don't have a clue where my path will lead. I'll simply live in the Now and be open to life's possibilities for, as we know, that is The Way.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A TCC Calm Start to the Day

My early morning TCC practice definitely helped get me through the Apple Fest book sale at Bayfield Carnegie Library today. Of course, I worked upstairs in the quieter, less peopled area while my co-workers handled the hordes of bargain shoppers downstairs.

Nevertheless, I felt calm, relaxed, and peaceful was I made my way through the mass of people lined up inside the door when I arrived. And there was plenty of regular library work to keep me going on this long, cold, overcast, and rainy day.

My plan tomorrow? Do another early morning TCC practice before I set out a half-hour earlier than today. There will be more visitors present on Saturday and Sunday so I'll get a chance to see whether TCC makes a difference once again....

Thursday, October 4, 2012

TCC for Health Maintenance and Visitor Burnout

Tuesday, October 2, 2012:

Since I'm still fighting a sore throat today I invested myself in a pre-bed combination T'ai Chi Chih and qigong practice to stimulate more chi circulation. We'll see what tomorrow brings....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012:

I awoke today with lots of energy. The day was spent processing more tomatoes (an entire day producing a quintuple batch of tomato soup), scheduling my winter/spring TCC classes, and prepping for tonight's two TCC classes.

My personal TCC practice consisted of two back-to-back TCC class sessions for a total of about two hours of practice. My throat was sore after teaching for two and a half hours, but I hoped that the additional time spent circulating chi would stand me in good stead.

I arrived home after class--and grocery shopping--feeling energetic and downright good.

Thursday, October 4, 2012:

I woke with sniffles and a lower register voice but, by day's end, felt better. My evening TCC practice was done in front of a dark window with the sound of a brisk wind blowing outside.

There's snow falling on the Iron Range in Minnesota and along the Red River Valley (up to 12 inches predicted). Our local forecast calls for much cooler temps (the high winds are definitely blowing them in) with a chance of snow and/or rain tomorrow morning.

Bayfield's annual Apple Fest starts in the AM so those who plan to attend will have to bundle up and hope for the best. I'm scheduled to work at the library all day and will spend my time directing visitors to bathrooms (which are always in high demand) and the book sale in the downstairs level.

I'll plan to fit in an early morning TCC practice to help me make it through a long, slow day since there won't be much regular library business due to the hordes of people passing through downtown and massing in he downstairs basement to sort through the extensive collection of books, DVDs, and music CDs for sale at the astounding price of 3 for $1.

Yep, a morning TCC practice will definitely help me make it through the multitude of challenges that arise--not the least of which is finding a parking spot--due to the influx of thousands of visitors who visit our small town of 438 residents during the first weekend in October....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Carrying On

Sunday, September 30, 2012:

Frances convinced me to take a fall leaf viewing trip this afternoon. We drove up to Cornucopia, walked on the beach and visited their community library and grocery/hardware store. Next we drove slowly down the center of the peninsula absorbing all the reds, yellows, golds, and tangerines that we could contain. What a beautiful sight!

We spontaneously stopped at the Jerry Jolly Trail for a hike with Namaste, then headed home. It was a pleasant, low-key day and I basked in the opportunity to escape the house and my sick bed.

Back home again I did a short TCC practice and quickly returned to bed. I'm still recovering and I want to be as healthy as possible for work tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, October 1, 2012:

My throat is still sore, but my energy is higher (and happier). This morning I did a full TCC practice outdoors in one soft spot of sunlight. It was one-derful!

Even though I could hear a light breeze circulating through the trees in the forest my tiny practice spot felt quiet and comfortable. During practice I looked behind me and saw all of my white animal companions spread out in a haphazard pattern. Chiripa was hunting, Lucy was grazing, and Namaste was lying on the ground, an alpha dog surveying his terrain.

I'm still moving slowly around the house and my chores but I am moving. And, I believe, TCC practice has helped me to carry on.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Silence is Golden

Tuesday, September 24 thru Saturday, September 29, 2012:

I was busy at work early this week and, now sick, I'm occupied with my recovery. Despite the busyness I got in my daily T'ai Chi Chih practices, at least in part.

Tuesday morning my boss called and asked me to cover her shift at work (in addition to my own) since she was severely ill. A full eight and a half hour day working by myself with no breaks was exhausting. I went straight to bed when I arrived home with a short ten minute TCC practice to send me into dreamland.

Again, Wednesday I filled in at the library before heading off to teach two back-to-back T'ai Chi Chih classes in the evening. After a long, super busy day at the library followed by over two hours of TCC practice and teaching, I was tired.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (I'm sorry to say) were recovery days. I'm trying to elude a sore throat and cold without much success. Thursday and Friday I slept and slept and slept, but still took time for a daily dose of T'ai Chi Chih.

Today I added a cleansing qigong session to my TCC practice in the hope that the activated Chi energy will aid in my recovery. The weather this week is absolutely lovely and perfect for spending time outside enjoying the colorful leaves. Even though I've spent much of my time in bed, the woods is a fall paradise and both the leaves and the silence are golden.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dashing ... Then Resting

Tonight's T'ai Chi Chih practice was free form. I've been dashing from place to place over the past few days and it felt good to settle into practice when I arrived home from work.

Suddenly it didn't matter whether I did my practice in any particular order so I launched into a "come what may" practice where I allowed whatever movement presented itself to be next. The modified form looked just fine in my darkened bedroom windows and, soon, practice was over and done. Until tomorrow....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Threat of Frost Sets the Pace of Life

Saturday, September 22, 2012:

And so, on this first day of fall the farmers in the area were concerned about predictions of frost. Frances and I were out in our garden Friday evening picking many of our unripe tomatoes and squash in the hope that they're ripen whether they were still in the dirt or not. No frost though we did hear that Duluth, MN had snow last night....

This morning we arrived at Farmers' Market to sell hot soup (it went over well since it was such a cold morning), returned to our garden to harvest the best of the rest, and traveled to a friend's to celebrate her 42nd birthday around a campfire. "Wouldn't you know I'd pick a day for my party when all of my friends are out in their gardens trying to get in the rest of their produce," she exclaimed. Still, there were eight to ten of us there with some arriving several hours later that the announced start time. (Indeed, they were out in their gardens harvesting.)

When Frances and I returned home, we covered plants and vegetables to ensure that, if frost covered the ground tonight they wouldn't experience sudden death. Then, finally, I grabbed some time for my T'ai Chi Chih practice before sleep claimed me. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012:

It's been another busy day. After Frances left for work I cleaned the kitchen and prepared lunch for two friends from the Twin Cities who stopped in for a several-hour visit before they headed home from their vacation. 

Before they arrived I got myself outside into the sunshine and did a T'ai Chi Chih practice on the deck. I knew that my energy was fading and, if I wanted to practice TCC today, I needed to do it earlier rather than later. It felt wonderful to take time for me before I shared myself and my energy with others. And now that our dear friends have departed, I'm taking time to experience my day of rest.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Divine Sunshine

Tuesday, September 18, 2012:

Today my sister arrives for her first visit in more than seven years. I cleaned house in the AM and switched work shifts in order to finish earlier. Then straight home to Frances and my sister, dinner, conversation, and, before I knew it, bedtime.

T'ai Chi Chih practice was a mere 15 minute interlude before falling into bed and, for that I was grateful. It helped to calm the rushing mind, relax my busy body, and release me into a night of relaxing, regenerative sleep.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012:

I got a larger than normal T'ai Chi Chih fix today as I started my fall session of TCC classes and taught two back-to-back classes. It's always incredibly wonderful to practice TCC in a group and I came home energized and alert.

Interestingly, Frances and Mel went to bed first (highly unusual!) and, though I thought I was staying up to read, I quickly succumbed to the quiet darkness. Soon my head bowed to the earth and my book closed its pages to my unseeing eyes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012:

Today was my one full day of visitation with my sister and we talked and talked over a late and long breakfast before heading over to Madeline Island to walk the town beach.

My TCC practice was a snatched five minutes upstairs in the bedroom before the three of us headed into Bayfield to catch the ferry to Madeline. I thought, of course, that I'd practice more later....

Though the day was largely overcast, we walked the beach and boardwalk through the forest, then sat on the sand in warming bits of sunshine. It was divine. My sister (who moves to Florida next Wednesday) kept saying, "Oh, I love the sunshine." Even though we are native Minnesotans, I'm now convinced that she'll be very happy in the Sunshine State.

Out to dinner at a restaurant by Lake Superior and then home again. I was on the Migun massage table and then off to bed before you could say, "Jack Rabbit." Sadly, TCC practice was long forgotten.

Friday, September 21, 2012:

I've been staving off a cold that's passing through the schools, library, and a co-worker. Today, after Mel left I knew that my first order of business/pleasure was T'ai Chi Chih.

I found a spot of sunshine and began. Ahhh. It felt delicious to move softly and quietly in whispering woods. After practice I backed up several steps and sat on deck steps as I 'received' the energy from my practice, the warmth of sunshine on my face, and the comforting sound of wind through rapidly coloring leaves. Yes, again it was divine....

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nope, I'll Keep On Going

Today we begin our descent into the cooler temperatures of late September. It's currently 56 degrees, and we're close to our predicted high.

During my morning outdoor T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation practice, my fingers turned colder as practice continued. I also noticed that my pace was faster throughout; clearly, a subconscious attempt on my part to stay warm. That's funny considering that I'm moving slowly today due to tiredness.

It's an overcast, pre-rain day and I'm in mourning over the disappearance of summer. Luckily, my TCC practice keeps me going even when Monkey Mind whispers softly in my ear, "Go back to bed."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

To be Immersed in Oneness

It's another glorious Sun*day . . . relax*day . . . give thanks*day . . . share peace*day . . . release*day . . . . I am truly blessed to be in the midst of bright green leaves, loud kerplunk acorns, and happy companion animals.

As I look out at the world through the circling threads of my dreamcatcher I feel the peacefulness that comes from staying centered in one pure silent moment. I'm still riding the waves of Chi, I guess, that flowed in and out during my just-finished T'ai Chi Chih practice.

It's a beautiful gift to be immersed in Oneness.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

TCC Practice to the Rescue

T'ai Chi Chih practice to the rescue!

I was angry with Frances this morning (yes, I admit it) and unable to work at the Farmers' Market because of how ill-prepared we were for the 8:45 a.m. starting bell.

What to do.... I walked to Memorial Park along downtown Bayfield's lake shore, positioned myself in the glow of the brilliant morning light, faced out toward the water, and moved. Slowly.

As I flowed from one movement into the next I felt my anger fade and seep down and out of my body. It was a wondrous experience. By the time I completed the full practice I was able to return to the Farmers' Market and get to work.

One more example of the miracle of T'ai Chi Chih practice....

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Peace-Filled Reward

"The best laid plans of mice and men ..."

I came home from work today expecting to launch into my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Instead, I ate a quick dinner with Frances and headed over to our garden to harvest veggies and decorative Jack pumpkins for tomorrow morning's Farmer's Market.

By the time we returned home I was in a low blood sugar that, once treated, left me conked out on the couch. After a half-hour nap I rose from the dead and began again. I tromped upstairs to practice TCC before I hit the bed. And ... I'm grateful I did.

I felt the energy moving during practice as well as my own energy building and regenerating. Yet again I was reminded that when I discipline myself to do my practice I'm always rewarded with peace and relaxation....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More than a Gift ... It's a Blessing

Wednesday, September 12, 2012:

I spent the entire day working at the library and, since I struggled to sleep during the night, I was worn out. During my lunch break I did a mini-TCC practice in the library yard. It was lovely.

Even though we're located in the middle of downtown Bayfield (okay, one block off main street), the street traffic was light, the library traffic was minimal, and I had a quiet, rejuvenating practice.

Again, both me and my library patrons benefited from my time of moving meditation. Why? Because I returned to work more centered, peace filled, and peaceful. By day's end I was surprised by how good I felt.

Thursday, September 13, 2012:

It took an entire day for me to arrive at my T'ai Chi Chih practice time. My daylight hours were spent in a morning meeting, shopping, running errands, canning, pesto-making, and, finally, moving meditation.

I started my practice in the porch because it was 10:30 p.m. Since the dog still lay outside on the front step, midway through practice I decided to join him. Suddenly I was 20 feet tall (the light by the front door magnified my body size tremendously) and my over-sized shadow played TCC with me.

All was quiet until I heard the slight shuffle of leaves near my feet. When I looked down, I thought I saw a living being but no movement. I continued to observe the designated area and soon saw a dark shadow moving toward the front step. It was a toad who, due to shyness, hid beneath the watering hose and then settled down under a cover of dry leaves and goose feathers right next to the concrete front step.

Normally I would never have noticed this little critter but, due to my own quiet presence, I heard the leaves rustle and stayed in one place long enough to witness a slight unexplained movement.

This is one of TCC's gifts: To keep me quietly in one place for a long enough period of time to see, hear, notice, and feel my surroundings. That's more than a gift ... it's a blessing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Learning to Let Go....

Monday, September 10, 2012:

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice had a totally different feel from yesterday's "day of rest" practice. By the time I made it out to the deck into warm sunshine and whispering breezes I'd already made three or four phone calls and was awaiting responses on several important pieces of business.

A nearby oak scattered its acorns onto the deck in a busy, repetitive pattern. And I felt that I was, indeed, back into the routine of a demanding high-paced work week.

Luckily my TCC practice did me good as I'm sure it did my library patrons good when I arrived at work after lunch. My 20 minutes of practice helped me to slow and quiet myself and brought my heart and soul back into balance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012:

Frances and I received some disappointing news yesterday that is challenging me to reorient myself into a more positive, hopeful frame of mind. Last evening's conversation with one of my brothers helped. And, of course, this morning's TCC practice contributed to a whole new outlook on life.

That, I think, is one of the many benefits of TCC practice. It helps me to reframe, release, and return myself to a place of peace and comfort. A place where all happenings in my life teach me, guide me, and open me up to new ideas and information. My life offers constant lessons in learning to let go....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Day of Rest

It's a wondrous, magical day. There's the slightest whisper of a breeze through the trees, blissful sunlight, and deep peace.

My mid-morning T'ai Chi Chih practice flowed easily in the quiet serenity that surrounded me. By practice end both dog and goose were napping close by. And, though I have plenty of vegetable processing yet to perform, my body and mind are relaxed. Today truly does feel like a day of rest....

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Clouds and Sunshine, Kitchen Time (or Not), Bending and Extending

As if we don't have enough fruits and vegetables, I drove to the farmers' market today to buy some of what we're missing: lettuce, chard, kale, green beans, onions, carrots, pears. Then, I hurried home to add chard and beans to a stir fry and lettuce to a salad. Frances is now cooking up a chili-tomato jam. Umm. I can't wait to try it.

Today is on-and-off rain showers so it's a good day to spend in the kitchen. In the interim between kitchen shifts I practiced T'ai Chi Chih upstairs. There I watched clouds and sunshine wrestling for control over the blue sky. Just when I thought one opponent would outlast the other, something shifted slightly and the match continued.

I spent much of my practice watching the way in which my arms bent and extended throughout each movement. That action mirrors the bending and extending of the knees as the body shifts weight forward and back (or side to side).

And now I feel quieter and calmer and ready to enter the fray in the kitchen once again....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Taking It Slow

Friday, September 7, 2012:

Yesterday was a lost cause as far as T'ai Chi Chih practice was concerned. It was the first time both Frances and I were home together to collaborate on canning. And we canned as fast as we could heat water: two batches of salsa, two batches of tomato sauce for pasta, Indian pickles, and five quarts of whole tomatoes.

I was on my feet the entire day and, when I finally sat down, I fell asleep instantly. Nope, no TCC practice for me.

Today I still feel tired from all the vegetable processing (and, perhaps, because I didn't get my TCC practice in). My first order of business after labeling all the canned jars (which, by the way, I dated 8/6/12 rather than 9/6 ... I still can't believe that summer is gone) was to do my practice.

Oh, it felt good to slow down, release tension, relax. And that, my friends, is my plan for today (we'll see if I can manage to take it slow all day long).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Soaking in the End of Summer

Tuesday, September 4, 2012:

I can't even say that our surroundings changed from summer to fall overnight because it happened today--during the day--while I was away from home. I left at 10:00 a.m. to travel to Ashland with Frances. She dropped me off at work and when I arrived home about 7:30 p.m., the trip up the driveway was like a magical mystery tour.

How did so many trees turn from green to yellow within the space of one day? And how could the ferns change to yellow and dark brown in the space of nine hours? Ahhh, and then I remembered: We had two rainstorms during the afternoon. With that rain and the slight cooling of temperatures we have now advanced into fall.

Today was a rush-around day. After we completed our morning errands and I covered my hours at work I came home dead tired (I didn't get enough sleep last night eithers).

First and foremost, I changed into comfortable clothing and did my T'ai Chi Chih practice. I didn't do a full half-hour, but I found myself gently sliding into relaxation and extending my practice longer than I initially intended (it simply felt too good to stop).

After 20 minutes I allowed myself to disengage from the day's rapid schedule and settled into a quiet, relaxed evening.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012:

During my deck T'ai Chi Chih practice in late afternoon I felt the tingle of hot peppers between my fingers and debated whether I needed to stop my practice to thoroughly wash my hands. I'd just spent hours prepping two variations of salsa that I'll can later tonight or tomorrow. One batch used hotter peppers than the other.

But, heck, it felt so good to move after spending a major portion of the day standing in one or two spots in the kitchen that I ignored the tingle and kept on moving.

I looked into green leaves lightened by yellow off the south deck, counted the repetitions of each movement, and kept returning my attention to the soles of my feet. The temperature was just right (75 degrees) and now I'm seated on the deck as I write my blog simply soaking in the end of summer....

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Whole New Direction

I'm laboring on Labor Day. Surprise! I commented to Frances this morning that I didn't know whether I could stand to process another vegetable. Her response was radically refreshing: "Why don't you do something else today?" And so, I shall....

I began my day with a load of laundry. That's different. Right?

T'ai Chi Chih practice offered me an opportunity to abandon the work mode for awhile. And, Sr. Antonia's September newsletter suggested that we count each movement in our T'ai Chi Chih practices by bringing our attention into the soles of our feet with each 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9.

What a wonderful reminder to ground, ground, and yet again, ground.

Okay. So back to to my original intention take a vacation from my Labor Day. Just this moment I spied a special treat, one I checked out from the library last Tuesday, Walt Whitman's book of poetry: Leaves of Grass which, amazingly, I've never read.

Suddenly, my intention was clear. Take this book to the deck, open it's ancient pages (I'm not exactly sure how ancient, but the pages are yellowed and the smell is mildewesque--how's that for a new word?) and now my day has taken on a whole new direction.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chuckling While I Practice

Saturday, September 1, 2012:

It was a busy day what with shopping at the farmers' market and grocery store, making bread & butter pickles and creamy tomato soup, and shucking corn for tomorrow's processing.

I finally did a short T'ai Chi Chih practice after I crawled into bed. It was all in my head, of course, and like I said, it was s-h-o-r-.... (Snore.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012:

It's another fabulous late summer day and Frances and I are spending our Labor Day Weekend (what else?) laboring. After I cleaned up the kitchen following yesterday's food making and processing I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice outside on the deck.

The animals joined me because, although the sun is hot, the breeze is fall-cool. Midway through practice Chiripa flopped down in front of me and proceeded to play with a long piece of moss growing on a planter. It looked like a tail and she certainly treated it that way. She pulled on it hard enough to break it off the planter and then rolled and pawed and flipped it in the air.

I watched, chuckled, and kept moving through my practice. And, after I finished and felt more relaxed, I went inside to blog. When I checked emails first, I opened a note with an attachment featuring the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis showing films about cats exhibiting humorous, unusual, and cat-like behaviors.

After a few more chuckles, I'm back at it. Blanching and then cutting corn off the cob to freeze and then ... making a huge batch(es) of tomato sauce.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Thursday, August 30, 2012:

Even when I have the best of intentions, I sometimes do something totally unexpected. That's what happened during today's final Cornucopia TCC practice. I skipped Daughter on the Mountaintop and Daughter in the Valley. And, after we finished Carry the Ball to the Side and were in Resting Position, I had a moment of wonderment. Did we skip the Daughters?

When I asked my class, "Did we do Daughter on the Mountaintop/Daughter in the Valley,"several students responded with a quick shake of their heads and a smile. Okay.

Obviously, it didn't matter. We did Daughter on the Mountaintop after Carry the Ball to the Side instead of before it. And, after practice, one of the students looked like a smiling Buddha. Obviously, he wasn't bothered by my mistake. And, neither was I. That's a central teaching of TCC moving meditation ... Go with the flow. And we did....

Friday, August, 31, 2012:

Today's TCC practice happened while I was in the middle of a low blood sugar. And, once again, I did my practice in a less than expected way. I yelled. I growled. I pushed hard. Then relaxed.

It really wasn't until I finished my practice, though, that it occurred to me that I might be low. And so I tested my blood sugar levels, drank juice, and went on with my life. Still, something about that low inspired me to think about taking the rest of the day off in order to get my life back instead of feeling like my busyness (business) is running me instead of the other way around.

Yes, I know it's Labor Day weekend but that doesn't mean that I have to spend the whole three plus days laboring.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Taking My Place

I made a double batch of cucumber soup to bring to our Cornucopia TCC class potluck following our final session tomorrow morning. It felt good to know that I was sharing the bounty of our garden with the special people in this class.

Post-soup making I went outside for T'ai Chi Chih practice. Though warming (it's now 80 degrees), there was a slight breeze that kept me cool and relaxed. Today, as yesterday, when I slipped into my practice I felt like I was putting on a pair of old shoes. It just felt so comfortable.

I saw the first leaves of fall tumbling through the air yesterday and the day before. Yes, fall is upon us, and I plan to spend as many TCC practice days outside as possible because it's incredibly delightful to take my place in the circle/cycle of Nature.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On a Mission

Monday, August 27, 2012:

I did today's TCC practice on the deck and both the dog and goose left me to my own devices. Evidentally, it was too hot and sunny on the south side of the house for them to hang with me.

It felt good to move yet all through my practice I was well aware of the piles of vegetables waiting to be processed. The practice focused and centered me so much that when I arrived at work I immediately launched into work with barely a word to my co-workers.

I guess, with all this food to can, freeze, and ferment, I am on a mission....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012:

Two T'ai Chi Chih practices in one day! My first, a mental rehearsal while I lay in bed trying to sleep away a headache, was good preparation for the second that I did as soon as I rose from a horizontal position.

When I began my physical practice, I realized how helpful it was to start with a mental rehearsal because I was instantly in the flow and my movements felt easy and relaxed. I was reminded of studies demonstrating that athletes who practice their sport both physically and mentally show greater improvement in their performance than those who simply engage in physical practice.

The headache is still with me, but I'm functional enough to head for work.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vegetable Heaven

Saturday, August 25, 2012:

Green beans frozen? Check. Carrots prepped for freezing? Check. Daikon greens in freezer? Check.

It's fall harvest time and we're rushing to preserve our bounty before it's past its prime.

T'ai Chi Chih practice was stuffed into a few spare minutes between prepping, freezing, chopping, and cleaning. I finally realized I was overdoing it when I fell into a severe insulin reaction in late afternoon. That always slows me down if I don't manage to stop my overachiever subpersonality in advance.

I think the TCC practice helps me to keep going, but I'm beginning to wonder whether it's past time for me to simply stop and relax.

Sunday, August 26, 2012:

I'm overwhelmed with the abundance of our garden. Yesterday we stopped at our garden briefly and discovered daikon radishes lying on the ground where I'd forgotten them after our garden harvest on Friday. I'd already sauteed daikon greens and frozen them earlier in the day (I'm still unsure how to preserve the radishes themselves).

Yesterday we made a huge batch of cucumber soup. Today it's pickles and who knows?

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice was half-hearted. I wanted to work in the kitchen and I also wanted to lie down and take a break. Instead I began my practice outdoors and adjourned inside when the mosquitoes started eating their lunch (from my body).

It's another hot and humid day and I can feel my ambition and motivation fading. Frances and I took a break late yesterday afternoon in order to walk along the lakeshore and I'm guessing that I need another 'escape from responsibility' today.

In the interim I do feel a bit more relaxed and recharged after TCC practice. If anything, it helped me to realize that I need to spend part of today out of drive and paused in neutral.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Humidity Inspires 'No Effort'

Thunderstorms and rain last night resulted in humid conditions today. Ahhh, hot.

Still, I adjourned outside for my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice. I sat on a stool and quickly realized that the hot, humid weather inspired me to move without effort (which is one of the key principles of TCC). And, yes, even though I didn't really feel like practicing, once I began my mind and attitude (and body) changed. 

Now I feel better and ready to move forward with a more positive, energetic attitude throughout the rest of this day. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lost in No-Words

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice in Cornucopia was bittersweet. It was the second to last class meeting after eight (?) years of fall-winter-spring-summer classes. But, of course, the only constant is change. And so, on I go into the next (unknown) phase of teaching and life.

I feel that there is something incredibly special about the people and the community in Cornucopia. Perhaps that is why I have experienced the longest lasting continuous class practice in my T'ai Chi Chih teaching career in this small northern Wisconsin town. And, it's not only that we've practiced TCC together for these many years, but we've also delved into a variety of related texts to explore the science, philosophy, and spirituality that underlies this unique form of moving meditation.

Years ago we began simply with discussions of entries from Deng Ming-Dao's daily meditation book, 365 Tao. Next we took on Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching as translated and interpreted by Stephen Mitchell, Wayne Dyer, and Ursula LeGuin. After several years of working through the Tao's 81 verses, we moved on to Buddha's Brain, and now, Justin Stone's Spiritual Odyssey.

Today we discussed "The Essence of T'ai Chi Chih" from Spiritual Odyssey. Justin writes:
With the accumulation of Chi (Vital Force) through T'ai Chi Chih practice, permanent changes in the metabolism and the thinking process take place and renewed energy conditions the whole way of life. Just as the thought conditions the Vital Force, so does the flow of this Chi, this Intrinsic Energy, condition the way of thinking. As these changes occur we get in touch with ourselves and the world we see begins to change. Joy becomes our natural heritage.
I agree. Though I don't often use the word "joy," I feel that my way of viewing the world is now more directed toward noticing, appreciating, and being thankful for the beautiful, special beings, plants, and animals that share this world with me. I no longer need to amass material possessions to feel happy; I'm filled to overflowing with the beauty of my surroundings.

Justin Stone shares this poem in explanation:
I gather chrysanthemums at the Eastern Hedgerow
And silently gaze at the Southern mountains.
The mountain air is beautiful in the sunset.
Overhead the birds, flocking together, return home. 
In all this is a real meaning, but
When I try to express it, I get lost in no-words.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Being in the Midst of Doing

It's another fabulous day. At 86 degrees it's a bit warmer than it's been and both the dog and goose are panting.

I cooked, washed dishes, and ran errands throughout the day and adjourned to the out-of-doors at 3:45 p.m. for my TCC practice. I'm having a hard time feeling focused and joyful today; thus, it was good to take a half hour for myself and my meditative practice.

Now I'll return to the kitchen for more garden vegetable processing and, hopefully, the TCC practice helped to lighten my emotional load.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Perfect Weather Practice

Today is another in a long series of absolutely gorgeous, fantastic, not-to-be-believed summer days. Each day is a duplicate of the previous day: unlimited sun, cool breeze, quiet(er) surroundings (yes, we can tell that the summer tourist population is declining).

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih outside--of course!--with the dog and goose in attendance. Namaste chose to hide himself beneath the shade of a large fern while Lucy hovered nearby. As I moved on my stool a small green worm-like critter swung through the air on the finest of strands and began to catch me in its web. Since its appearance seemed harmless I felt the web against my skin and continued on.

It was probably around Daughter on the Mountaintop when I began to feel myself slow. And, by the end of practice, I'd actually taken more time to get through the form that usual. It felt so good to be enveloped in comfortable warmth and sunshine that I didn't want to stop.

Now I'm off to work and well-prepared (at the very least calmer and quieter than when I began practice) to meet, greet, and serve my patrons.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Soaking in Sunshine, Soaking in Silence

Monday, August 20, 2012:

It's another beautiful summer day (though it feels like fall). And, yes, I got the zucchini shredded for the freezer this morning. Now I'm eating a wonderful modified tabouli recipe from Farmer John's cookbook that uses zucchini and yellow squash in place of tomatoes and cucumber. Mmmm.

I'm soon off to work. Happily, I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice this morning. Of course, I soaked up every ray of sunshine I could since it feels like summer is slipping away. I noticed tension leaving my body as I moved; still, I had to remind myself to let my shoulders drop as I breathed in relaxation.

Our guests commented on how quiet it is here in our little spot of woods. They both slept well each night. I was surprised they thought it so quiet since they live in the middle of open countryside in northwestern Minnesota far from the madding crowd. But Curtis reminded me that their house is close to the road; consequently, they hear cars driving by and tractors working in the fields.

So, during my TCC practice, I not only soaked in sunshine, I soaked in silence. And now I'm ready for the madding crowds at Bayfield Library....

Slowing Down to Heal

Friday, August 17, 2012:

Guests arrived last night. In the morning they returned to Bayfield to shop and Frances worked; meanwhile, I stayed home and did my T'ai Chi Chih practice and napped. I feel as though I'm coming down with a cold (or something) so it felt wonderful to take care of myself, to slow down ... and relax.

In late afternoon the four of us traveled to Corny for a walk on the beach and a Friday night fish fry (the broiled white fish, coleslaw, dilled potatoes, and fresh baked rye rolls were delicious!). Back home again, I hit the bed by 8:30 p.m. while the others watched the BBC series "Human Planet."

Saturday, August 18, 2012:

Yep, I woke with a slight sore throat and an overwhelming feeling of tiredness even though I slept more than 12 hours last night!

When Frances, her brother, and sister-in-law headed to the orchards to pick blueberries, I opted out and chose, instead, to hit the deck for a long, slow TCC practice. Afterwards, I ate a delicious, health-inducing lunch and sat on the deck in a rocking chair to soak in some healing sunshine....

Sunday, August 19, 2012:

Curtis and Becky were on their way early this morning (Frances, too, was off to work). Once again, I stayed home to rest, nap, practice T'ai Chi Chih, drink water, take supplements, and heal.

Unfortunately, I felt a bit like I was going through the motions during my TCC practice. Still, it was good to be outside in the warm sunshine. By late afternoon I felt better as I hit the kitchen for a major cooking session (baked chicken, fruit salad, stir-fried veggies, etc.).

Eventually I ran out of time and energy so tomorrow morning I'll be grating zucchini and prepping green beans to freeze. (I love this time of year and the abundance of the garden. We're doubly blessed as Curtis and Becky brought some of the fruits from their garden to share.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Best Reason to Practice

Tuesday, August 14, 2012:

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice was post-work, in the yard, with Namaste and Lucy present. It felt wonderfully delicious to release the tension and strain from my mind and muscles. Near the end of practice Frances pulled into the yard after finishing her job as a poll-worker for the Town of Russell.

The time had come to be done with my practice as dusk was falling (all too soon).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012:

After my fast-paced errand day I segued into TCC practice before bed. My musical accompaniment was a light rain falling outside the bedroom window. What a relief to end my long, fast-moving day with some minutes of deep relaxation and deep presence. This moment only. This moment now.

Thursday, August 16, 2012:

I began today with a headache (dairy-induced, I believe, since I'm so enamored with cucumber soup of late). It was wonderful to practice with the class since group energy is typically powerful and potent.

Since the morning was cool and breezy I encouraged the group to focus on keeping well-grounded as we moved. After a slightly brisk circle practice, we followed up with a hot cup of tea and discussion about Justin Stone's article, "The Best Reason to Practice" (from Spiritual Odyysey).

Last week the class talked about habit energies and this week's reading went even further as Justin described his understanding of Karma and confirmed that T'ai Chi Chih practice is one of the easiest and fastest ways to "burn the Karmic seeds" and allow habit energies to fade. Group members discussed ways in which they have changed over the course of their TCC experience.

And, as one student commented about her mental rehearsal of TCC while out sailing on Lake Superior, she thought she might be able to calm the waters, but she realized that she could certainly calm herself....

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Safe Quiet Place Inside

I've been so busy lately that I truly appreciated this morning's T'ai Chi Chih practice. I realized/remembered that I am creating a safe, quiet place inside and that made all the difference.

Of course, it helped that Lucy was hanging with me. And, thankfully, this week my schedule begins to quiet down too.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Busy Days of Summer

Friday, August 10, 2012:

It was a long busy day at work today so I delayed my T'ai Chi Chih practice until after I came home. (I'd hoped to practice before work but time slipped away from me and I made a mad dash to open the library.)

Again, TCC practice was a before-bed exercise in relaxation and self-improvement. And, though the practice was short, it was sweet. I slept deeply and well....

Saturday, August 11, 2012:

Today's TCC practice occurred during a brief break one of our library volunteers gave me during my six- hour solo library shift. I walked to the post office first to pick up library magazines and mail, then returned to the side yard for practice.

It was a busy, buzzy Saturday afternoon in downtown Bayfield with tourists streaming down the sidewalks and parking in any and every available open spot. I stayed cool as a cucumber while moving quietly and calmly in the shade next to the library building. And, when I walked back inside, I felt that both me and my patrons benefited from the centering effects of my relaxing practice.

Sunday, August 12, 2012:

After I shredded one finger along with the huge zucchini I was shredding on my King Kutter this morning, I decided it was time for my T'ai Chi Chih practice. (And, yes, if I make any typos during this blog it is due to the huge tape-covered middle finger on my left hand.)

I practiced outside on the deck (which I haven't done for ages since I've chosen to stay near Lucy). It was a quiet, lovely day. And, gradually, g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y, my body and mind began to slow.

Soon I heard--and saw--a lone deer grazing in the woods. She lunched nonchalantly, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Then, as I flowed through the Daughters she lifted her head and gazed at me. Our eyes locked for a minute, maybe more, in a relaxed, quiet moment of connection and then she returned to her browsing. Aha! A moment of being present to and for each other that felt like a wonderful gift.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Physical and the Spiritual in TCC

Tuesday, August 7, 2012:

I spent the day getting ready for visitors (my cousin and her husband whom I've not seen for years) and working at the library. T'ai Chi Chih practice came last, right before bedtime. Still, it was a wondrous treat.

I watched myself in the dark bedroom window as I moved, felt a huge amount of energy in my fingers (believe me, I needed it), and then--after 20 minutes--tumbled into bed. I discovered that even a 20 minute practice is a huge relief after a long, overfull day....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012:

Today, like yesterday, was crammed with work and activities, and I didn't make it to my TCC practice until after my cousin and her husband left about 8:30 p.m. Very soon I found myself falling asleep in my chair and headed for bed. I couldn't actually climb into bed, though, until I did at least a short TCC practice

Tonight's practice was only 15 minutes, but I felt the Chi tingling in my fingertips. And, again, like last night, I felt the busyness and overactivity of the day simply slip out my muscles and away from my mind....

Thursday, August 9, 2012:

Today, finally, I did a full T'ai Chi Chih practice with my students in Cornucopia. And, as one of the participants pointed out, it's a different, wonderful experience to practice TCC with a group as compared to a solo at-home practice (the feelings of energy and unity are remarkable).

After our practice we discussed Justin Stone's article from Spiritual Odyssey, "The Physical and the Spiritual in T'ai Chi Chih." We spoke a lot about habit energies as well as about how hard it is to break old habits that get in the way of our committing ourselves to a daily TCC practice.

I hope that our continuing conversations will inspire students to think more about how to bring this wonderful, healing, good-feeling practice into their daily lives.

Whoops. Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work I go....

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Bit More Relaxed....

On this glorious morning I've been busy around the house, picking up, cleaning, and organizing. Again, I joined the dog and goose for a late-morning break: T'ai Chi Chih practice.

During practice I basked in the fabulous summer sunshine and watched the goose graze and the dog search for a cool napping spot beneath a huge fern. Unbelievably, I was even more distracted today during my practice than I was yesterday. Whether it was due to a low blood sugar prior to my start or the fact that my mind was surveying an extremely long list of daily duties, I'll never know.

Regardless of how ineffective I may think the TCC practice is, there is always this: the fact that I took time and space to breathe, slow down body and mind, circulate the energy, and be--at least momentarily--in the present. And, indeed, I do feel a bit more relaxed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

To Simply Be Me

Even though it's beautifully sunny today, it's coolish. During my T'ai Chi Chih practice I positioned myself in sunshine, which helped. But, with the cool breeze, I felt the beginnings of a seasonal shift toward fall.

Lucy and Namaste both moved next to me during my practice and then Lucy used her beak to pull up plantain plants. She didn't eat them, but merely focused on weeding. With the busy breeze and the busy goose directly in front of me it took me awhile to slow myself down to a relaxed, comfortable pace.

I was also affected, I'm sure, by the fact that this week will be outrageously busy with two sets of out-of-town visitors and six days of work at the library. But, hey, the purpose of this practice is to stay in the moment, right?

And so that was my goal: to feel the breeze, soak in the sunshine, activate and experience the Chi, and simply be me....

Saturday, August 4, 2012

City Slicker and Country Bumpkin

Friday, August 3, 2012:

Hey, I found a new location for my T'ai Chi Chih practice today ... in the yard outside the library during my lunch break. After a morning of intensive work, it was refreshing to leave the library, spend time outdoors, and circulate the Chi.

I stood with my back facing the parking lot and focused on the trees at the edge of the lot and, even though I was in the city of Bayfield and could watch cars drive by, I felt as though I was in my own private practice area. After lunch I went back to work with  more energy and an excellent attitude.

Saturday, August 4, 2012:

Uhhhh. All night and all of today were spent with an unrelenting headache. I worked on processing zucchinis most of the morning but, after Frances and I made a late afternoon run to the dump, I was done. I loaded myself onto the Migun massage table and let the rollers work their magic. While the machine ran I did a full mental rehearsal of TCC.

It appears that the headache is here to stay for today despite my best efforts (and Frances's excellent neck and upper back massage). I'm laying low for the rest of the day....

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Refining and Re-Finding Ourselves

Today is glorious. This morning's T'ai Chi Chih practice--held in the shade of a huge tree--felt wonderful. The breeze was sweet and refreshing and our class was small, which allowed us to stay within the cool confines of the shade. Again, I asked group members to pay attention to where they placed their attention at the beginning and ending of each movement (as well as during each movement).

Many students talked about being aware of their t'an t'ien and the count of each repetition. And, even though our conversation before practice focused on the stress and busyness of the season, eventually members of our circle came more solidly into the present moment.

We continue to focus on bringing ourselves (all of ourselves) into the present moment. With practice--and with conversation and discussion about our practice--we become more aware of our bodies and minds and more conscious of ourselves and our practices.

As Justin Stone repeated again and again: Practice, practice, practice. It is through this repetition that we accumulate benefits from the free flow of Chi and refine and re-find ourselves.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Climb the Joyous Mountain

Already a week has passed since our last T'ai Chi Chih class. Tomorrow we meet again! Summer is whooshing by and tomorrow's class session will bring us to our halfway point. Where oh where does the time go?

I spent a few hours this evening reading through the May 2012 Vital Force Journal which was dedicated to Justin Stone after his death on March 28 (at age 96). Teacher after teacher wrote the journal to express their gratitude to Justin for creating, teaching, and sharing this special form of moving meditation. So many of us have benefited immensely from learning and regularly practicing TCC. But do we remember to express our gratitude for this life-changing and life-enhancing Chi-filled practice?

Justin writes in Climb the Joyous Mountain: Living the Meditative Way:
To live each day with some contemplation, and to try to feel grateful for the really countless blessings we take for granted, will lead us to treat others as we wish to be treated.
     From: The Vital Force, May 2012, p. 8
Tonight's practice--though mosquito-enhanced--was a wonderful reminder that what I do daily (my T'ai Chi Chih practice) brings me innumerable benefits, not the least of which is peacefulness.... Thank you, Justin Stone.

As Justin counsels: "All one can do is bring the palms together in a salute to all beings. May they lose the attachment that makes for suffering. Life can be good -- if we plant the proper seeds. The way of joy is best. Climb the Joyous Mountain." (The Vital Force, May 2012, p. 8)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Burning with Chi

Monday, July 30, 2012:

We're having work done on our house this week; consequently, it's difficult to find time and space for a quiet T'ai Chi Chih practice. It's power tool central here with the never-ending sound of hammering and sawing.

I actually delayed my TCC practice until after work and found myself moving in the quiet peacefulness of an after-hours library. That felt wonderful and, for whatever reason, I wasn't even distracted by all the book titles and diversions surrounding me....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012:

Again, TCC practice was delayed 'til late in the day, after home improvements, work, and grocery shopping. I practiced in the upstairs bedroom while Frances fed an outdoor fire in view of my window. It was fun to see the fire shining brightly in the darkness and leaping and jumping with an abundance of Chi energy.

The fire danced and I danced. My practice partner burned brightly (and I did, too, in my own less visible way). And now ... it's time to rest.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stillness in a Whirlwind

It took some time for my body and thoughts to slow during this morning's TCC practice. Daily life is a whirlwind of activity and it's simply too easy to get caught up in its ever-changing activities and priorities.

And yet, allowing the time and space for stillness is what allows us to find it. And today, thankfully, I did find some moments of peace.

During practice I passed in and out of sunshine as dark clouds hurried by overhead. The goose groomed, the dog slept, and one curious moth sat on the car bumper and appeared to observe my practice. It was a bit unsettling as I couldn't tell what this living creature was or, for that matter, whether it was living at all.

Eventually I rose from my TCC seat and edged over to the car. Wow! What I thought might be a small eye and nose/mouth were actually markings on the moth's wings. When I rose and approached, the moth flew off and alleviated my sensation of being watched.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Present to the Lovely Nothingness of Now

It's quiet in the woods today: no wind, no birds, no insects. Occasionally during my T'ai Chi Chih practice I heard the sound of a passing car. And then, nothing.

This silence is exactly what I need as my mind is spinning with too muchness. Oh, to be in the midst of nothingness ... nowhere to go, nothing to do. And that is exactly where I was during today's TCC practice. I felt my body relax, my body and mind slow, my senses open, and my ability to be in the present expand.

Ahhh . . . lovely.

Friday, July 27, 2012

T'ai Chi Chih Preparation...

It's a glorious day outside; the sun was slow in coming but now shines brightly upon the vegetation and other living creatures of the Peninsula. I'm back to sorting and organizing papers and, since it's such an overwhelming task, I began with a T'ai Chi Chih practice.

A lovely cooling breeze massaged me as I moved and--too soon--my TCC practice was over. I'm appreciating this day with all of my being because, in a few short weeks, the first fresh tendrils of fall will flow through the forest.

I can put off my day's project no longer and so, with my bodymind deeply refreshed, I abandon the computer for the back room and its piles of unsorted papers....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Power of Chi in Crisis

This morning's T'ai Chi Chih class began with only three of the 13 enrolled students. And, as practice continued, additional unexpected elements came to the fore. One student brought an out-of-town friend to class who had never experienced T'ai Chi (Chih), the circle grew to include eight students, and then, twenty minutes after start time, the final student arrived.

Of course, the benefits of T'ai Chi Chih practice include learning to 'go with the flow.' And so, with each latecomer, each opening and closing of the classroom door, we were all challenged to stay present to our practice. The point of practice is to stay calm, peaceful, focused, and centered regardless of what occurs around you. And, it was wonderful  for me to see the class size grow as members of our circle moved and breathed, shifted weight, and settled into 'Resting.' 

Even so, today's T'ai Chi Chih class had additional unexpected challenges that caused it to end unexpectedly. Partway through our post-practice discussion, one of the students dropped his tea cup. When I turned to see what had happened, it was obvious that he was having a seizure. Very quickly members of the class sprang into action. I stepped to his side to give him Reiki energy, several others called for an ambulance and, very quickly our TCC friend regained consciousness and stability. 

It truly did seem as if the fact that we'd recently completed our TCC practice aided us all in remaining calm and focused. Eventually the EMTs arrived and our classmate was transported to the ER in Ashland some 40 minutes away. One of the EMTs commented to a class member that he was impressed with the fact that we all stayed and offered support. 

I suppose that Justin Stone might say that that is what T'ai Chi Chih practice is all about ... opening our hearts and minds to a greater love and compassion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Like Rice Krispies in Milk

Thankfully, the rains came last night after an uncomfortable period of drought. It rained and rained, then thunder and lightning, and more rain. Rain is also predicted for tonight and tomorrow which is a welcome break for wells and gardens.

We had another visitation from a raccoon this afternoon (Frances was visited yesterday afternoon); said visit was heralded by Lucy's loud honking and Namaste's frantic barking. I didn't see the masked marauder immediately after stepping outside even though I heard a rustle in a tree somewhere. Eventually I spotted it in the tree closest to the front door of the house. Yikes! It appears to feel comfortable as it ventures closer and closer to our house and our animals.

During this afternoon's T'ai Chi Chih practice I focused on allowing tension to pour down my body and into the earth. I immediately felt better, as if the crackles and crunches of my tight body were softened like Rice Krispies left to soak in milk.

The day is quiet, overcast, and dark. My energy is now rejuvenated as I move into this afternoon's next big project....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Peace Rejuvenates

It's another beautiful day (with lower humidity!); and, I did another wonderful T'ai Chi Chih practice outside with my regular practice partners, Lucy and Namaste. Lucy, as she often does, extended her left foot, leg, and wing while I moved, and her slow, graceful stretch was a joy to watch.

Why, you might ask, do I seem so satisfied with the regular, repetitive, daily events of my life? I suppose it's because my life in the woods is so quiet and peaceful that I'm happily entertained by the simplest, most mundane (to some people) events of the natural world. Perhaps it just reinforces the notion that if you like where you live and enjoy your life, it doesn't take much to make you happy.

Oh, the chi felt so wonderful today. I'm off on errands before work and then more stops after work and, thus, I'm grateful for the quietude of my practice. Peace rejuvenates....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chi is Key

A friend called yesterday to tell me that something I'd shared with her partner had "saved her life." That something was a chi machine. Her partner had tried the machine during a visit to our home and later bought one for herself. During a recent pack-up, clean-up move the woman worked 24-7 to get herself out of her lodging; her only respite was the time she spent on the chi machine.

Yes, I agree, Chi is key. I prefer to circulate the chi during my T'ai Chi Chih practices, but benefits are readily available when lying on the chi machine, receiving acupuncture treatments, or doing any number of qigong practices (T'ai Chi Chih being one of them).

Today is another hot sunny day. I practiced TCC outside but found that I was easily distracted since I'm currently in an unrelenting DO mode. Where was my attention and intention? Clearly it wasn't in my practice. Eventually I focused on relaxing my shoulders and letting tension slip from my body and into the earth.

At the end of my practice a bright stream of sunshine shone through the leaves of a nearby tree and blessed me with its brilliance. And, though I wasn't fully present during my practice, I still received benefits from the Chi. I feel lighter, calmer, and much more in tune with my body.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Moving Through and Moving On

Last week I asked a patron at the library how he could walk in looking cool and comfortable while many other people commented upon and complained about the intense heat. He thought it was easy. "I just focus on what I'm doing," he replied. And then he mumbled something about his spiritual connection.

I didn't ask him to repeat himself because I felt that I understood what he was saying without hearing his entire explanation. He reminded me of T'ai Chi Chih practice and the well-worn words I share with my classes: "Your attention and intention directly affect what you experience." Or, the more familiar refrain: "Where attention goes, energy flows."

I've thought of his words often during the past week as our area continues to be--like much of the country--under the influence of warmer than normal temperatures. I know that I often feel better when I don't know the exact forecast because as long as I'm unaware of what the actual temperature is, I don't focus on how hot I am.

And, yes, today is hot (Weather Bug currently notes 91 degrees). But I just keep moving along with my projects and T'ai Chi Chih practice; and, though I know that I'm hot, I feel fine. I focused on experiencing the energy during my T'ai Chi Chih practice and allowing my body to release tension and tightness. It felt wonderful to simply 'let go.'

And now ... I'm on to my next warm weather activity.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Into My Body and Soul

It's a fabulous summer day. Frances and I watered our home garden this morning, picked berries at a fruit farm this afternoon, and will soon head to our other garden to water and weed before dark.

I'm happy to spend time outside and berry picking ranks high on my list of joy-filled activities. It's incredibly satisfying to commune with berries and plants and earth and sky while harvesting pounds of ripe, glistening raspberries and plump, delicious blueberries.

Frances and I have been so busy rushing from job to job and commitment to commitment that we haven't taken time to enjoy our surroundings and take in the abundance that surrounds us. Last night, though, we walked on the beach with the dog while the sun was setting. It was glorious.

This afternoon Frances napped and I practiced T'ai Chi Chih with guess who? My regular practice partners: Lucy the goose and Namaste the dog. Now I feel so relaxed that it may take some effort to convince myself to head over to the other garden. Clearly, watering and weeding are not nearly as rewarding as berry picking. Ah, but there are good things (i.e., vegetables) yet to come. If I'm patient, I'll soon be rewarded with zucchini, tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, and winter squash.

All these beautiful, delicious fruits and vegetables offer their chi for me to digest and recycle in my own body.  Perhaps that's why I feel so healthy during the months of gardens and farmers' markets ... nutrition comes directly from the earth and into my body and soul.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ahhh ... Refreshing

The heat is upon us. I can feel its arrival in the still, heavy air. The woods is silent except for the low hum of insects.

Many of those insects--mosquitoes in particular--made their appearance during T'ai Chi Chih practice. I allowed them to disturb me by engaging with them (i.e., waving them away, scratching itchy spots after they departed, etc.). I just didn't have the focus and attention (intention) to ignore them.

I was initially lured outside by Lucy after she happily slipped into her freshly-filled wading pool. I couldn't resist; I wanted to watch her joyous splashing, flapping, and grooming while she floated atop a mere three inches of water. Oh, if I could only be so joyful while taking my baths!

After she stepped out of the pool she joined me in my seated TCC practice. Inadvertently, I was included in her post-bath dry-off. She flapped her wings repeatedly; the first time I was splattered with water and each subsequent flap bathed me in a gust of warm air.

Similar to Lucy, after practice I felt refreshed and renewed as if I, too, had splashed myself thoroughly with pure cold water....

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'm Still Learning....

We had a lovely T'ai Chi Chih group practice this morning ... the sky was clear, the temperature mild, the breeze cool. After practice (and our weekly energy circle) I let out a big sigh (oh, to release tension, share energy with a group, and experience the beauty of the natural world as One). What a blessing and gift we share with one another during each class gathering and practice.

Next we delved into Justin Stone's book, Spiritual Odyssey. Our topic of the morning was "Balancing Chi: A Great Secret of Life." Justin writes:
     T'ai Chi Ch'uan and T'ai Chi Chih, performed properly and on a cumulative basis, tends to circulate and balance the Yin and Yang aspects of the Chi (intrinsic energy or vital force, as some call it). This is one of the great secrets of life, not only bringing healing and energizing effects, but speeding the level of evolution to a high degree. In this respect the two disciplines have great spiritual value and all true lasting healing is spiritual in nature.
 Yes, and again, yes. Each day and every situation presents me with an opportunity to let go of my personal striving and connect with the support, guidance and wisdom of the Tao (the Oneness). I'm still learning....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All the Difference

Today is dark, overcast, and coooool. I like it!

This morning I'm catching up with last week's business that I left behind during our travels to downstate Minnesota as well as new business that returned with us. That catch-up includes T'ai Chi Chih since my practices were abbreviated during our travels.

It felt good to move soft and slow through today's full, quiet practice. There's much to do this afternoon, but I took time to be and--per Robert Frost--that made all the difference.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tired No More

Tired ... so tired. The only solution (after a short morning nap) was a T'ai Chi Chih practice. I started the practice indoors since the insect population has grown tremendously over the past week; halfway through, I moved outside onto the front step.

Lucy quickly goose-stepped to my side and watched carefully as I wound up the movements and quickly retired inside (yep, the mosquitoes were hungry). I did perk up after practice and felt ready, set, and raring to go to work.

My out-of-town venture finally caught up with me but, thankfully, rest and TCC practice returned me to a functioning state....

Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Road and On the Go-Go-Go

Thursday, July 12, 2012:

I returned to the circle with my T'ai Chi Chih students in Cornucopia today. It was exactly three months to the day since our last TCC class practice and now we gathered in a new configuration.

Our group is a diverse mix of long term students, new additions who completed their initial class in April, and out-of-towners who travel from Chicago and the Twin Cities to enjoy their summers on the shores of Lake Superior.

Each year as we grow older shade becomes more important, and so we paused midway through our practice to adjust to the sun's path and reposition ourselves in the moveable shade.

After practice we had a wonderful discussion about Ed Altman's article, "Let the Chi Do the Work," and next week we delve into Justin Stone's Spiritual Odyssey.

Friday, July 13, 2012:

Today was "visit with my brothers and car fix-it day." My T'ai Chi Chih practice was a mental rehearsal only--which was fine--but I look forward to a full moving meditation tomorrow.

Saturday, July 14, 2012:

Our drive back up to the Twin Cities was delayed by an alternator that was ready to retire from its years of service in our "newly gifted" 1991 Toyota Corolla.

Thankfully, my generous brother who passed the car on to us was driving to the Cities with Frances and me and helped locate and deliver the car to a repair shop. We missed our dinner out with friends, but I gratefully smoothed out the events of the day with a before-bed TCC practice. And then ... to sleep.

Sunday, July 15, 2012:

After breakfast with friends and a surprise visit with more friends, we hit the road to Bayfield. Frances drove the Corolla and I followed in the Jeep.

We made it home with nothing more than the appearance of a check engine light. Again, before I went to bed I engaged in a brief but energy-filled practice.

Monday, July 16, 2012:

Back to the usual . . . outdoor practice with Lucy and Namaste lingering in the wake of my Chi.

I had visitors midway through practice--our friends who took care of the cat and goose while we were away--but, after a brief chat I was back in the groove. Doing my moves....

I considered how to teach grounding at this week's TCC class and then it was time to prepare for work and go-go-go....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Staying with the Feeling

Tuesday, July 10, 2012:

By necessity today's T'ai Chi Chih practice was split into two sessions. An early morning appointment and errands kept Frances and I running until time for work. Frances dropped me off at the library and then, after work while I waited for her to pick me up, I managed a ten minute practice. What better way to use excess time?

Home again I was busy with family phone calls regarding a get-together in several days. It wasn't until shortly before bedtime that I returned to my TCC practice (indoors). Perfect. I sank into deep relaxation and comfort before entering sleep. Ahhh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012:

Per a phone conversation with my sister last night I'm opting to stay in the present as much as I'm able. Clearly, these recent stressful weeks have stimulated old patterns of fear and anxiety. Do these feelings help me? NO!

Along the way I've managed to keep up my daily TCC practice and experience relaxation and inner peace while I do my movements. It's challenging to continue that state post-practice. And, as I've mentioned before, perhaps that is one of my lessons to learn.

Today I feel better. I actually practiced T'ai Chi Chih outside in the sunshine. It felt wonderful, helpful, and regenerative. And, I'm staying with those feelings as long as I can....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Getting Out the Bugs

It's another day in the neighborhood.... I heard light rain this morning and now it's pure sunshine. I talked with a brother in southeastern Minnesota today who told me that his weather forecast is for temperatures over 100 degrees by the end of the week (and, yes, I'm scheduled to drive down for a visit!).

I did another TCC outdoor practice and, interestingly, the predominating sensory observation was insect noises everywhere. A few mosquitoes decided to make an in-person visit, but otherwise all else was quiet. My animals are becoming so familiar with my outside TCC practice that they're beginning to ignore me, but not so with the bugs.

I felt hyper and anxious when I got out of bed today but now I feel more centered and calm. Yes! Even as the mosquitoes assailed me I was able to get out the bugs.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Outdoor TCC Practices: The Why and What For

Saturday, July 7, 2012:

Today was a busier than busy day. I got up early to help Frances prepare for the Farmers Market and then opened the Bayfield Library and spent the day working there. After work I drove home to visit with Frances and an out-of-town friend who arrived to help us learn how to post items for sale on Craig's List and e-Bay.

Whew! T'ai Chi Chih practice was reserved for ten brief minutes before I tumbled, exhausted, into bed. But even those ten minutes made a difference as I felt my body relax and gently release stored tension from this too-rushed day.

Sunday, July 8, 2012:

Ahhhh. Today I'm allowing myself time to reestablish balance in my life. I'm staying home (alone this morning), resting, napping, reading, relaxing, doing T'ai Chi Chih practice, and simply be-ing. It feels great! I truly don't know how people can spend day-after-day in rush-around mode. I can't do it. After several days I feel my energy flag and, often, my body starts to feel ill. I absolutely crave the be-ing along with the do-ing.

Today's TCC practice outside with the dog and goose was wonderful (as usual!). I watched the sunlight dance with the shade, listened to the hummingbird buzz around her feeder, and felt the gentle touch of breeze on skin.

It reminded me of a passage in the book I finished this morning, "Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie." The author, Beth Howard writes:

     "For as much as making pie soothes my soul, I find my greatest solace in nature. Just as the Grand Canyon gave me that feeling of peace about the meaning of life, when I am walking in the soybean field, the world just seems to make more sense. My rubber farm boots firmly connecting with the ground, the views of the fields all the way to the horizon, flocks of geese flying overhead, the sound of nothing but prairie grass rustling in the wind, the cool air and sun on my face, breathing in the earthy scent of wet hay and moist soil--my surroundings serve as a spiritual connective tissue. Pie connects me with people, but nature connects me with God and with myself."

And that, my friends, is one of the reasons I do as many of my TCC practices outdoors as possible....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cool Down (in temps and tension)

Many hearts are filled with gratitude for today's cool down. Temps stayed in the 60s and low 70s and many an out-of-town visitor to the library mentioned how happy they were to escape the unending heat.

I did T'ai Chi Chih after an over-the-top day at work (busy, busy, busy). The practice helped me realize where I was holding tension throughout my body, especially in my neck and back. My focus: Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.

Yes! I feel better and--finally--ready to relax.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sharing the Energy with My Animal Family

I feel calmer. With the assistance of my daily T'ai Chi Chih practices and the welcome addition of two friends who offered to send Reiki energy, my mindbody/bodymind have settled into a more relaxed state.

When I went outside for today's TCC practice, I was immediately surrounded by a meeting of the minds (Lucy, Namaste, and Chiripa all gathered close by). Midway through practice I decided to stand and found that the three white critters were arranged in a nearby semi-circle. It took little effort on my part to edge my way over to the others while I flowed through Perpetual Motion Taffy and soon, our four bodies created a circle.

It was a joy to practice in the round with a goose, dog, and cat (all other times my circle practices have included other people!). After practice I sat in meditation to "receive" the energy and my 10-minute session flew by.

Joy through movement. Joy through collaboration. Joy through sharing the energy with the animals who are closest to my heart!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Potato Salad and T'ai Chi Chih

It's July 4th ... hot, humid, and deeply quiet here in the middle of the forest. In the distance I hear the occasional bang of a firecracker but, for the most part, it is wonderfully still.

I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice after making a favorite summer holiday offering: potato salad. I may not celebrate this holiday, but obviously I can't escape the years and years of tradition that are an integral part of American culture.

It feels steamy but, miraculously, there's an occasional light cooling breeze. And so, I joined the goose and dog outside for our daily ritual. The animals slept as I did my practice and focused on quiet calmness and Chi flow.

I begin my outdoor summer TCC class next Thursday. It's time for me to engage myself in the mental preparation that precedes each new class session. One way I prepare is by directing concentrated intention on my own personal TCC practice. Whatever I learn in my day-to-day practice often becomes a "lesson" for my students. How wonderful to be able to share our insights and experiences with one another!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Gardening, Weeding, Letting Go...

Monday, July 2, 2012:

Yesterday I worked in the garden with Frances and found yet another opportunity to let go of my ego. As I had several weeks ago, I placed newspapers around the plants to keep weeds down. And, again, the newspapers I used were old editions of the Minnesota Women's Press that contained my freelance articles.

It felt difficult to lay Norma, Jean, Nancy, Kaia, Antiga, and many other Twin Cities' women (along with their stories) upon the roots of our tomato plants. I remembered when these women told me their tales of courage, struggle, adventure, and accomplishment and was grateful for the time we spent together as they shared a piece of their lives with me (which I then shared with the newspaper's Twin Cities' audience).

In addition to the profiles I published, there were features on a variety of spiritual topics: movement as a form of prayer (which included T'ai Chi Chih); feng shui; spiritual direction training programs in the Twin Cities; the spiritual, healing connection between people and animals; and a tale of two women who led spiritual quests to the British Isles. These stories, too, I needed to release into the soil (paper to compost to fruits and vegetables).

Frances and I talked about my process as we worked, and she recognized that it felt a little bit like death to me. It was time for me to let go of the women and words in order to move on to the next phase of my life (still, it felt strangely painful).

Tonight's 9:00 p.m. T'ai Chi Chih practice was accompanied by the music of thunder and the visual effects of lightning. I'm tired and, though merely going through the motions on one level, I feel the healing flow of energy on another.

When I finish my practice I'm off to bed ... I still need more rest.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012:

I feel calmer today. A rowdy, raucous storm passed through the area last night and now the woods--and my bodymind--are quiet in the aftermath.

I did a morning cleansing qigong, T'ai Chi Chih, and seated meditation practice to settle the worried, fretful thoughts that have plagued me morning and night this past month. Worry truly does nothing to change the situation so why not simply move forward with strength and faith that this path I'm on (wherever it leads) will take me where I need to go next? This, I think, is one of my lessons....

It will be Hot (capital H) this afternoon and I'm grateful that I'll be at work in the air-conditioned library. For the moment, I'm enjoying the still, coolish, quiet peace of the woods.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Power of the Mind

Though Frances and I are experiencing a lot of stress right now it seems clear that what we're going through is leading us to the next path in our shared journey. It's clear that my life is not riding a jet stream right now, but I have to say that I'm learning about myself and about the power of the mind to help or heed with each thought I think....

Saturday, June 30, 2012:

Today I came close to having a panic attack. My chest was tight, I had a chronic cough, my anxiety levels were sky high, and I was on the verge of ??? Finally, I told Frances that I needed to lie on the Migun massage bed and, in that quieter state I did a mental TCC rehearsal. Ah, better.

Once my muscles and mind relaxed I was able to continue on with my day. I worked at the library, worked in the garden, and came home to another standing TCC practice. Again, better.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, July 1, 2012:

I feel a bit quieter today. After I finished cleaning the frig (a project that Frances started yesterday), I went outside for TCC practice. It's a beautiful hot day so I positioned myself in deep shade and greatly appreciated every breeze that blew my way. Just like yesterday, I'm better off from having taken time for my moving meditation practice.

Now it's on to the next project....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Blessings Abound

I feel exhausted today and, when tired, I'm more likely to succumb to anxieties and other unhelpful thoughts and feelings. When this morning's T'ai Chi Chih practice didn't raise my spirits to a more hopeful, helpful level, I followed the practice with some seated meditation. What a wonderful adjunct!

I wouldn't say that I'm flying high, but I've lifted off the ground. I can now move on with my day after a brief respite of human/dog/cat/goose T'ai Chi Chih practice that got me rolling down the runway and then a seated meditation that put some lift beneath my wings. Blessings abound!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Letting All Else Simply Fall Away....

Feedback is trickling in about the T'ai Chi Chih session I led at the Gildi conference on mental health last week. Yesterday's thank you note from CORE, the sponsoring organization, described the outdoor TCC session as "glorious." And it's true, the 25-30 attendees sank into a quiet presence during our final practice/review that was remarkable for first-timers.

I also spoke with a woman from the local women's shelter who attended the TCC session. She became aware of all the places in her body that felt tight, she said, and she realized that she needed to return to a T'ai Chi practice after many years away from it.

I thought of that phone conversation this morning during my own T'ai Chi Chih practice. I told the women's shelter employee that T'ai Chi Chih is the one health care tool that keeps me sane and balanced during the stress-filled time that Frances and I are wading through.

And so it was during this morning's practice. I relaxed. I breathed. I watched Lucy close her eyes and then realized that she has teeny tiny feathers on her eyelids. I noticed that one of the chipmunks stopped its busy gathering activities to sit atop the fence railing around our flower bed and watch me with an intense, direct, unwavering gaze. I stayed in the present and let all else simply fall away....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Chi-Charge

Yes! I'm building up the miles on my bicycle. It's been a long time coming and, thankfully, that time has arrived.

I biked to Buffalo Bay gas station this morning (that's eight miles roundtrip) thinking that I may need to bike home after dropping our car off for repairs tomorrow. That may not seem far to you (and it wouldn't have seemed far to me back in the days when I biked regularly), but these days it's a bit of a hike. My goal: To bike to (and from?) work at the library while daylight hours are still long (that's about 16 miles roundtrip).

It's a warmer day today with a coolish breeze which allowed me to transition into my T'ai Chi Chih practice after I returned home from my bike ride. The dog and goose stayed close by. But today, instead of watching their comings and goings I took off my glasses and focused on my practice. In the distance I saw gleaming, glowing green where the sunlight shone on bushes, trees, and grasses. In the foreground I was surrounded by black, shadowy, cooling shade.

And, of course, I was well aware of the sound of buzzing flies and the feel of their teeny tiny footsteps as they walked all over my bare skin. I didn't need to see the buggers in order to sense their hovering presence.

After my wonderful Chi-charge a neighbor stopped in and I dived into my day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A True Blessing

I'm continually amazed by the way in which T'ai Chi Chih practice puts my life back on track. When I'm engaged in Joy Thru Movement, I'm no longer a wage earner, sister, aunt, life partner, or stressed-out American trying to survive the economic downturn. I'm simply me, and being me is simple.

I place my feet on the earth, hold my head up high, and breathe in the same air that all living creatures on this planet breathe. I feel my connection to the trees in the forest, the birds in the air, the great waves of Lake Superior, the racing, chirping chipmunk racing into its hole in the dirt. For these daily minutes of practice there is no good or bad, happy or sad, there is simply an All That Is.

What a relief to be out of the race to excel and into the pure, simple moment of Being. And that, my friends, is what this morning's practice was like. A true blessing....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Centering, Quieting, Slowing, Releasing

Again, as I do everyday, I took time out from the busyness to find some small, quiet place of peace and comfort. For me that meant going outside into the beautiful, cool, sunny day and finding a wide curtain of shade to do my T'ai Chi Chih practice while the dog and goose lounged around me.

Lucy was over by her swimming pool when I began but soon wandered over and positioned herself directly in front of me, about three feet away. Then she closed her eyes to sleep. She could hear my movements, though, and opened her eyes frequently to ensure that all was safe and secure.

Meanwhile Namaste lay in the dirt at my feet. Soon, however, he realized that Lucy got more of my attention simply due to the fact that she was directly in my line of vision. He simply had to get up and move between Lucy and me. His shift in position, of course, inspired Lucy to get up and leave.

Then I was back to where I began, all alone with my practice (which was fine with me!). The peace and quiet of my moving meditation practice is what keeps me sane these days, and I am deeply grateful....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Only This Moment

Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24, 2012:

Same scenario two days in a row. Frances and I are both stressed out. We have a conversation and come up with possible directions to pursue. Then I do a T'ai Chi Chih practice.... All is well.

It simply amazes me how much my daily TCC moving meditation brings sanity to my life. I'm still feeling depressed, discouraged, and fearful (even though I wish that after 16 years of TCC practice--and an additional six years of T'ai Chi Ch'uan practice--I'd have figured out how to remain totally calm in the midst of chaos. NOT.).

Last night both Frances and I had nightmares. Today was picture perfect, sunny, low humidity, breezy, and coolish. I still felt depressed, but TCC practice lifted my mood and some good old fashioned exercise (i.e., shoveling dirt on the driveway to repair the washouts from our on-going days of rain and a short walk on the beach), helped to make life right again.

More shoveling is planned for early tomorrow morning (and, most likely, for many days this week) but I feel more optimistic about our ability to fix the driveway and move forward to other priorities. Yes! For the moment, at least, and there is only this moment ... life is good.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Lightening Heart

The earth is beginning to dry and harden after our inch upon inch upon inch of rainfall several days ago. I talked to one of my TCC student's husbands today--he's a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer--who said that his farm received six inches of rainfall that flooded and destroyed the plants in one of his gardens. Still, our area survived better than the Twin Ports (Duluth/Superior) and other towns in Minnesota.

It was another beyond perfection day. I stayed home and harvested rhubarb and sugar snap peas from our gardens, followed up on TCC class prep for my summer and fall sessions, and helped Frances get organized for tomorrow's Farmers Market in Bayfield.

At lunchtime I joined the goose and dog for my T'ai Chi Chih practice which they both promptly slept through. During a phone conversation with a friend this morning I realized how depressed I felt about the overwhelming busyness of summer in Bayfield, a tourist destination that loses its unique and quiet character when out-of-towners arrive (i.e., so much to do, so little time). I was glad to follow my phone conversation with a TCC practice because I could feel my heart lighten a tiny bit as I breathed and moved.

Tomorrow morning Frances and I participate in our first-ever Farmers Market. We're expecting to learn lots from our new venture. Who knows? Maybe I can practice TCC while we wait for customers to arrive....

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Chi Works Its Magic

Happy Summer Solstice One and All! It's an absolutely gorgeous day following two days and nights of "The sky is falling, the sky is falling."

I spent the day at the Gildi Project Mental Health Conference at Legendary Waters Resort and Casino in Red Cliff. The theme of the conference was: "Building resiliency for healthy aging and caregiving" and I was asked to make a 75 minute presentation on T'ai Chi Chih during a morning break out session.

I spent a number of hours preparing for my presentation yesterday and, as the Chi would have it, I included little of that effort in today's session. I simply did what I do best: teach the T'ai Chi Chih movements, talk about the benefits of this form, and share the joy of a practice with my group of 25-30 attendees.

I often get nervous and anxious before these special presentations so I did a personal practice at home on the deck before I left for the conference. I also took a few drops of Rescue Remedy to help lower my anxiety levels. And, after the morning keynote speech by Dr. Henry Emmons, who spoke on many of the themes that I cover in my TCC classes, I felt comfortable sharing my own expertise and knowledge.

Of course, when I do a T'ai Chi Chih practice with others I'm always put at ease by the calming movements. And so, when several people told me after the session that I'm a good teacher and/or that they enjoyed the movements, I knew that the Chi had--once again--worked its magic. I am grateful. And, perhaps someday I'll learn to trust the process without slipping into a fight-or-flight response before my presentation begins....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drifting, Floating, Paddling

It's been a night and day of on-again, off-again rain. Thundering. Pouring. Dripping. Silence. And then another deluge.

Duluth, MN received nine inches of rain (we don't have a rain gauge so I have no idea how much rain fell). The Duluth zoo was flooded. And, since Duluth is built on a hillside next to Lake Superior, I imagine there's much more damage.

Our driveway has huge caverns etched into its surface; in addition, sand washed down our drive and into the highway below. Frances spent much of the afternoon digging trenches to divert rainwater off the road and into the ditch. I  joined her in late afternoon to help hand fill in deep trenches.

In early evening we convinced Lucy to take a swim in a small pond near the house that overflowed with water. She looked so relaxed and peaceful that--I couldn't resist--I joined her moving meditation by starting my own.

While Lucy drifted, floated and paddled I rocked, flapped, and circled. The rain started to fall during my TCC practice but I was well-positioned under a leafy tree and barely felt the wetness. Shortly before I finished my practice Lucy abandoned her own and climbed up the bank and out of the water.

I'm back inside now to await the next round of pouring rain. I'm glad I found a small space of time to enjoy the wet green jungle formerly known as our woods. It felt wonderful to become part of its juicy, abundant wildness. (There'll be more work needed to repair our patchwork driveway in the days to come....)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Practicing Compassion

It'a yet another dark, rumbling day. I joined the dog and goose outside for my T'ai Chi Chih practice as water dripped from leaves, thunder grumbled in the distance, and a fleeting stream of light shone through a blue opening in a cloud-filled sky.

I woke with a slight sore throat today which may explain why I've felt low and depressed the past few days. I started the day with Reiki, then, in addition to my T'ai Chi Chih practice, did another 10-minutes of qigong to cleanse and recharge myself. I do feel better now.

My other goal: to allow myself to move slowly through this day instead of tackling every item that needs attention. It's hard. I have to convince my super-responsible self that it's okay to take care of me first.

I'm reminded of last Sunday's radio show, On Being. A man who researches meditation and its effects was the interview subject. The host asked him: Can you teach compassion? His response: The best way you can teach compassion is by being it.

It often seems easier to be compassionate towards others than toward myself. Today I have an opportunity to practice....

Monday, June 18, 2012

Every Little Bit Helps

It's another dark and rainy day.... During a few dripless moments I sat outside on the front step with Lucy and did my T'ai Chi Chih practice.

It felt good to notice the energy (Chi) in various parts of my body: my hands, feet, and chest. I felt as if I desperately needed an energy charge. I'm overwhelmed by life right now and it's difficult to keep pace with Frances and/or, for that matter, decide which path to follow (there are an overabundance of options!).

Lucy slept during the first half of my practice and then rose and stood directly in front of me. It was nice to have concentrated attention placed on me as I moved ... there was a definite connection between us (which, I hope, benefited us both).

Post-practice I feel calmer, but I realize that I have to slow and relax my bodymind even further since anxiety is nipping at my heels. (I can't run fast enough to evade it, and I might just as well stop and stare it straight in the face!) Before I leave for work I'll spend a few minutes giving myself Reiki and perhaps a few minutes of seated meditation as well. Every little bit helps....