Monday, April 30, 2012

Tender Blossoms

I felt low this morning for no reason that I could think of other than the fact that the sky was overcast and the day dreary. Even T'ai Chi Chih practice couldn't lift my spirits. For that matter, I could barely feel the Chi energy throughout the whole form.

Lucky for me, bits of blue emerged from the sky's cloudy face while I practiced. Soon the sun shone and, yep, my spirits became more buoyant.

Soon I leave for the library and I still struggle with feelings of low energy and subdued spirits. What to do.... I'll set an intention for my day to shift my focus. For inspiration I drink in the beautiful orange flower that blooms on the cactus Frances brought over to the writing desk for my viewing pleasure yesterday. It's a delicate, glowing, pure, joyful thing. Simple, really. Yet so inspiring. And from it comes my intention:

May I treat everyone I meet at work today as if they, too, were tender, fragile, and beautiful blossoms. Namaste.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hiking the Trail of Life

Sunday, April 29, 2012:

As expected, my newly diagnosed computer problems ("The computer is getting old, de-magnetizing, and could die any day" ...) have come to fruition. The computer froze twice when I tried to perform tasks on it and I was left to download Google Chrome on Frances's laptop. That explains why I posted blogs for Monday through Friday earlier today.

After my computer duties were done I walked outside into glorious sunshine for today's T'ai Chi Chih practice. I was blessed with quiet as I moved. The dog found a lounging spot in the shade underneath the deck where I stood. And, since Frances was occupied inside, I basked in the silent energy.

Immediately following my practice we joined a group of several dozen others to hike the Raspberry Trail through nearby county forest. I've never walked through the woods with so many other people hiking the trail in front of and behind me. It was a 70th birthday party for one of our neighbors who helped bushwhack and mark this trail through the forest about 15 years ago. (What a lovely way to celebrate!)

I felt incredibly peaceful and longed to connect with the woods so I simply walked along quietly as conversations bubbled up around me. As I continue to read Twelve by Twelve, I'm content to be myself and not worry as much about whether I'm popular or constantly engaged in conversation. Silence is fine with me.

It's Computer Catch-Up Time

Monday, April 23, 2012:

I did not practice T'ai Chi Chih either Saturday or Sunday while I was in the Twin Cities ... too much socializing and running/driving back and forth from St. Paul to Minneapolis (and back again). By the end of each day I was spent.

This is the first time in two-plus years of blogging that I've missed two consecutive days of TCC practice. I could beat myself with a (self-critical Monkey Mind) stick but, instead, I tell myself, "Well done!"

Today I'm back home in lovely sunshine (which we didn't experience much while in the Cities). I climbed the deck for practice while Frances planted iris and the animals planted themselves between us.

When I tried to blog afterwards, though, I was stopped by my lack of access to Google Chrome. Rather than resort to impatience and frustration I simply decided to tackle this task another day when I'm rested and fully charged.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012:

Again, I practiced T'ai Chi Chih outside before work. It is/was a fabulous day. Stunning, really. I hit the dirt for my practice (just outside the front door) and, without buzzing insects, it was heavenly.

Then it was off to work with a "refuse to let go headache." No way was I fit--or inclined--to attempt Google Chrome today ... I'm on a welcome computer hiatus.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012:

I realized this morning that today is the first time since last Wednesday that I have no work or social commitments. Yes, I was down in The Cities last weekend "vacationing." Still, for me (a hard core introvert), being overstimulated by new people, sights, and sounds is tremendously draining.

Today is my day off and I know that if I commit to rest, relaxation, and quiet, in the subsequent days I'll be happier and more productive.

To that end, I slept, read, and (around lunchtime) did my TCC practice. Though I went outside to practice in Lucy's company, I soon retired to the warmth of our house. The fresh air felt invigorating, but the warm air was more comforting and comfortable.

This day's goal is simple: recharge. While T'ai Chi Chih plays its part, the resting, snuggling, and sitting in quiet are key pieces too.

Tomorrow, I know, I'll be up and running again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012:

True to yesterday's prediction, I do feel more energetic and motivated today. Frances and I took a long walk this morning and saw our first bear prints of the season.

An early evening TCC practice as I sat on the front step was incredibly quiet and relaxing. And now, four hours later, I slip into sleep....

Friday, April 27, 2012:

A long busy day at work plus a brief stop at Wild by Nature to pick up our CSA veggie/fruit half-share and a quick peek at the Bayfield Pavillion to check on preparations for our library thrift sale scheduled for tomorrow, 8:00-1:00 p.m.

After work, Frances and I walked for an hour, and then I practiced T'ai Chi Chih. Though I was tired, it felt good to move slowly, quietly.

Saturday, April 28, 2012:

Today I was reminded of how contented I feel to break from my regular daily computer use. It's a relief to be on a long silent retreat from technology. Though daily blogs, email, and Facebook posts have become the way of the world, I'm grateful to wander down a different road.

Today was cook-cook-cook day. Frances and I ate breakfast and lunch out on the deck; even though the temperatures were in the 40s, the sun was bright.

Frances spotted a coyote hovering in the woods not far from the house this morning. We rushed outside to scare it away and rescue the cat and dog. After we let the birds out of the barn, Frances spent most of the afternoon working outside (it was most likely a coyote that grabbed Lucy by the neck several years ago and tried to drag her into the woods).

When Frances came inside for a break, I went outside to practice TCC by Lucy's side (both of the humans in this household are feeling highly protective right now). Although I'm immensely relieved to temporarily rid myself of technology--got to get my Google Chrome up and running--I won't abandon my moving meditation practice.

Yeah. I feel quiet and relaxed post-practice.

Friday, April 20, 2012

T'ai Chi Chih Morning and Night

Thursday, April 19, 2012:

With all the travel prep, driving, and visiting along our way, I didn't settle into my T'ai Chi Chih practice until nigh on 11:00 p.m. (well past my bedtime). As Frances and our two hosts settled into their evening routines (and beds), I breezed through TCC practice.

I admit, I was so tired I could practically do my practice with my eyes closed. Still, it felt good to quiet the internal conversation, release the residuals from day long visits with old friends, and transition to a vacation mentality.

I hit the bed in a state of ultimate relaxation....

Friday, April 20, 2012:

It's a glorious sunshine-filled day in St. Paul, MN. Here it's greener and more blossomy than in Bayfield which is to be expected since our springtime is usually a month behind the Twin Cities.

Namaste is in dog-smell Heaven. We've already taken two walks and he acts as though he could easily take more. Meanwhile I slipped in a T'ai Chi Chih practice in our friends' backyard. I chose one sun-filled spot and watched my shadow move across the grass at my feet. As I moved Namaste snuck through the lilac bushes and into a neighbor's backyard.

It's quiet here since most neighbors are at work, but there's still plenty of action and activity surrounding us. It was relatively easy to slide through the TCC practice despite the fact that a little neighbor boy came to visit with Namaste at the fence line and birds galore were winging their way through the skies.

There's so much to do and see here, but I'd be content to sit in the backyard and simply read and relax.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off on an Adventure We Go ...

Frances and I are off on an adventure tomorrow morning. It's nothing, I suppose, compared to the travel to Hong Kong that two of my T'ai Chi Chih students are experiencing right now. Still, anytime I get out of my daily routine I'm presented with an opportunity to experience life in a new, fresh way. So, hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the Twin Cities we go....

Today was travel prep day. In addition, we spent most of the afternoon talking with our computer repair guy about strategies for keeping our grey-haired computer (purchased in 2004) running for as long as possible. As bedtime approached I took some time for my T'ai Chi Chih practice. It felt wonderful to become quiet and slow for a half-hour.

Now it's time to catch a few winks before we head off to socialize and be extroverts for several days. It's tiring for lifelong introverts to be so social, but we'll handle it somehow in order to catch up with old friends, attend a music performance, and deal with life--and driving--in the Big City.

I'll keep up with my TCC practice and blog while we're away and that will help me to stay peaceful and calm no matter what occurs each day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Leaving the Hustle Bustle

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih this morning to the sounds of a truck pumping our holding tank and the wood stove fan blasting away. People think that living in the middle of the woods means that I experience a life of quiet serenity. Some days that feels so completely wrong!

Yes, it's quieter here than in a city or suburb (fewer cars and planes), but the modern day household is filled with noise due to our dependence on electricity to operate appliances, electronics, phones, and a wealth of entertainment options. Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful for the quiet that surrounds me. But I'm currently reading a book that talks about living in a one-room cabin off the grid and it holds plenty of appeal (Twelve by Twelve by William Powers). No electricity, no running water, and ... no noise.

The book's author spent a  number of weeks staying in this tiny home while its owner was traveling. He obviously had a wealth of experiences; enough, at least, to fill a book. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers that the writer's journey (encouraged by the owner of the 12x12 house) is to simply sit. She doesn't expect him to take care of her house or her gardens. But, along the way he manages to build community, live softly upon the earth, and find some balance and personal happiness.

Sure enough, as he slows down and listens, he discovers that he can, indeed, live a simpler, healthier, happier life. That's one reason why I do a daily T'ai Chi Chih practice. It leads me into a quieter, more peaceful place that nourishes and comforts me (until, that is, I can build my own little off the grid homestead).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Raindrops and Monkey Mind ... Gone

What a shocker! I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and saw what?!? Snow. It wasn't just a light dusting either. The wet white stuff covered everything: cars, trees, earth (approximately three inches of accumulation). And to think that just two days ago (Saturday) I wore shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt.

It's impossible to call those folks who predicted more snow before the end of our Northland winter season naysayers. In the depth of my being I knew they were right.

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice was quieter than yesterday's. No sound of rain dripping from the sky. No busy Monkey Mind swinging from tree to tree. My thoughts--just like the scene through the window in front of me--were frozen in place.

I practiced TCC half-seated and half-standing. And I was accompanied by the sound of the wood stove fan blaring away as it worked to spread heat through the house. Now I'm warm and deeply quiet as I gaze outside and watch snowflakes racing past the window and the green tree buds high above.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Inner Conversations

During this morning's walk Frances and I noticed that the tops of trees are greener ... the buds are emerging! That's what happens, I guess, after a full day of beautiful sunshine (yesterday) and now a day of rain.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih out on the porch so that I could watch Lucy through the window in the door as she stood on the front step enjoying the rain. She's been honking all afternoon and I felt compelled to keep her company. Soon her eyes were closing and she looked as though she would fall asleep where she stood.

During practice I focused on the quiet tap-tap-tap of the rain. And, though the environment was peaceful and calm, my mind was not. I revisited many of my earlier thoughts and mental debates before I caught myself and returned to the Chi and the rain.

It is a wonderfully relaxing day what with the dark sky and constant precipitation. Monkey Mind, however, is on the rampage and I need to be more attentive to calming the inner conversations....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beginning the Day

It's a lovely morning ... warm enough that I didn't have to hurriedly get out of bed and rekindle a fire. Instead, I let out and fed the goose and chicken, hung the bird feeder, carried in firewood, and leisurely started a fire to warm up the house. And then, then, I joined the birds outside for a morning T'ai Chi Chih practice.

My home in the woods was all a-twitter. Woodpeckers argued in the woods, the cat stalked birds near the feeder, a phoebe endlessly called its plaintive refrain (phee-bee), birds sang from every direction, and me? I calmly, quietly, peacefully floated through my moving meditation. It was glorious.

And now my day is truly begun....

Friday, April 13, 2012

Working the Pulley = Giving and Receiving

What happens when you pair up two TCC practitioners and ask them to face each other as they practice Working the Pulley? (No, this isn't a trick question.) Giving and receiving. One person presses forward as the other person pulls back.

Of course, you don't need to do this exercise with a human partner. You can always choose to be aware that you're practicing with the Universe as your partner (same result). Either way you practice it, it is all about performing this movement--and every movement--with intention and attention.

I pushed and pulled (gave and received) with the Universe during my personal practice this evening. And then, when my TCC practice was over, I sat in silence and allowed myself to simply receive without any movement at all. It felt wonderfully satisfying.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Great Heart

I know what the great cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.
               --Henry Miller

     From: The Scalpel and the Soul: Encounters with Surgery, the Supernatural, and the Healing Power of Hope, Allan J. Hamilton, 2008, p. 141

Today I wrote the above quote on a card that our class gave to Bea and Howard, TCC students who plan to move away from the area in July (before our next class session begins). They've been with our T'ai Chi Chih class since Fall 2005 and it's difficult to see them go. (I know, I know, the only thing constant is change.)

According to my records I began teaching T'ai Chi Chih classes in Cornucopia during the summer of 2004. Much has transformed over the years. We've all continued to grow older and experience changes in our health at the same time that we've "grown in wisdom and learned to love better" as a result of (if I may I be so bold) our shared TCC practice.

Still, Bea's smile when she's in the midst of a T'ai Chi Chih practice, is something to behold. It's obvious that a light turns on inside her and she glows with its brilliance. Today I saw that smile once again and I told Bea that I'll always remember it. There's no doubt in my mind that Bea's heart has tuned into the universal rhythm of One great heart.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Let Go of All Your Assumptions

Tonight I taught my final class session in one location and tomorrow I'll finish up in another. Then I have three months off until my outdoor summer class starts in mid-July.

I look forward to this teaching break which allows me to focus on other interests and priorities in my life. By June or July I'll be anxiously awaiting the start of another group practice. (It's such a joy to move together in harmony!)

In the interim I have several TCC events scheduled. I teach a TCC workshop at a mental health conference in June at the new casino in Red Cliff. And in May I give a presentation to a Parkinson's support group that serves the Bayfield Pennisula (and so I won't be totally bereft of opportunities to spread the word about this healthy and healing practice).

I saw changes in how several students moved during our practice tonight. What does that tell me? It indicates that these students are practicing AND that they're becoming more comfortable in their practices and more relaxed in their bodies and minds. That feeling of comfort and peace in one's body (and mind) is easy to spot when you've been teaching as long as I have.

I read #48 from The Second Book of the Tao by Stephen Mitchell (p. 96) at class tonight. For me it's a wonderful reminder of why I do a daily practice of T'ai Chi Chih:

          Let go of all your assumptions
          and the world will make perfect sense.
          In movement, be fluid as water;
          at rest, be bright as a mirror;
          in response, be simple as an echo.
          Keep your mind serene,
          like the still surface of a lake.
          Clear-eyed and imperturbable,
          walk through life
          as though you didn't exist.
          When nothing is left to argue with
          and there is nothing to oppose,
          you will find yourself at peace
          and in harmony with all things.

No more--not a word--needs to be said.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Impatient vs. Patient and Kind

Here's another sure sign of spring: a new chipmunk hole appeared in front of the house today right where last year's hole was located before Frances covered it with a small stone. The stone was rolled away! Does that sound like a familiar Easter-time story?

The honeysuckle bushes are leafing out and blossoming. And, again, I couldn't resist joining the critters outside in the 37 degree heat (after work this afternoon) to ply my trade with a T'ai Chi Chih practice. The wind had quieted after several days of unending whoosh and whish. And it was quiet, calm, and relaxing.

Truth be told, I wish I had practiced TCC before I went to work this morning, but I ran out of time due to an earlier-than-usual start. And, accordingly, I was impatient with some of my early patrons. Yes, no doubt about it, T'ai Chi Chih practice does help me to be more patient and kind (with myself and others).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Humbling ... and Glorious

Today I'm back to business as usual. So, too, with my T'ai Chi Chih practice.

I know that this moving meditation practice helps me with the day-to-day doings of my life and so, before I head out into public, I practice in private. Not that today's practice was all that private. I spied a robin just outside the bedroom window and another as it hopped along the driveway in search of brunch. The robin in the tree seemed to be sheltering itself from the chill wind and stayed close to its tree trunk.

Both robins were shockingly huge (obviously I'm used to smaller birds that winter here like black-capped chickadees). Those red breasts stood out like a beacon. Several days ago I heard a loon call and now today I'm inundated with red breasts (both sure signs of spring).

After my practice--which I moved through with more patience than yesterday--I sat to receive the energy that was activated. It felt humbling and glorious....

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Meet You in the Middle Practice

Saturday, April 7, 2012:

I happily received an email today from two of my T'ai Chi Chih students who are currently visiting Hong Kong. They wrote to report that they'd joined in a 6:00 a.m. T'ai Chi practice in the park. Wonderful! What a joy to participate in T'ai Chi (in all of its varied forms) throughout the world.

Meanwhile I practiced in the rain today or perhaps I should say that I watched the rain while I practiced (indoors!). The day was gray but the practice lightened the tone and I focused on slowing down and taking it easy throughout most of the afternoon.

Sunday, April 8, 2012:

Today I had to trick the mind. All I wanted to do was read and relax, relax and read. Of course, that wasn't all that I did. I washed dishes, made granola, stir-fried vegetables, and baked a black bean and corn tortilla hotdish. And I read....

By late afternoon I was three-quarters of the way through my book and intent on finishing it. Darn! I just didn't feel like doing a full-length TCC practice. And so ... I tricked my mind. I did a Meet You in the Middle practice.

I alternated between beginning movments and ending movements in the form which allowed me to keep my focus and attention on T'ai Chi Chih. By the time I got to the Basic Pulling Taffy I was at the end/middle of my practice.

Ahhh. It didn't take so long to go through the movements and feel the Chi after all....

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's a Choice

Today's opportunity for T'ai Chi Chih practice came at just the right moment. Frances and I had just had a disagreement and, rather than engage in further argument, I adjourned to the deck and my TCC practice.

At times like this, when the emotions are roiled, it is much better to seek (and hopefully find!) No Self. Arguing often doesn't make matters better, but finding a clear, calm, grounded center may well make all the difference. I opted for grounding myself and then left to listen to an Easter Cantata at Bethesda Lutheran Church. Several of my T'ai Chi Chih students were part of the choir and I wanted to express my support by being present for their performance.

The quiet, the music, the message of unconditional love and sacrifice were all comforting and after attending to several errands I returned home to a quieter, more peaceful environment.

It's so helpful for me to learn (late in life!) that I can choose not to engage in mean, thoughtless behaviors and words. Once again, thank you T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

No Self

It's truly amazing how effortlessly the human body can adjust to change. Now that we've experienced warmer than normal temperatures in the Northland, it actually feels like we're having a cold spring since temps have returned to "normal."

I drove to Corny to teach my AM TCC class and was greeted with a book sale in the hall outside the community library. Of course, I made browsing the book collection my first priority (what reader can resist a $.25 per book bargain?). It was a breeze to pick out a dollar's worth of ready reads: PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon, The Healthy Heart Walking Book, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Moving Violations by former NPR reporter John Hockenberry.

Next week will be our final class until summer session begins in July. That class will also be the final time I'll see two of my most loyal and consistent TCC students. Bea and Howard are moving to the Twin Cities in June. It feels in many ways like the end of an era.

After our T'ai Chi Chih practice this morning we discussed a few pages of Ch. 13 in Buddha's Brain. This chapter returns us to the concept of No Self (chapter title is "Relaxing the Self"). We begin with a wonderful quote by Dogen:

          To study the Way is to study the self.
          To study the self is to forget the self.
          To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.

The book's authors remind us that it's important to not make the self special. What's left behind when we relax the self? Say the authors: Open-hearted spaciousness, wisdom, values and virtues, and a soft sweet joy.

These ideas and thoughts brought me back to The Second Book of the Tao by Stephen Mitchell. In section 16 Mitchell translates the words of Lao-tzu's disciple, Chuang-tzu and Confucius' grandson, Tzu-ssu, who espouse the glories of No Self:

          You have heard of flying with wings,
          but can you fly without wings?
          You have heard of the knowledge that knows,
          but can you practice
          the knowledge that doesn't know?

          Consider a window: it is just
          a hole in the wall, but because of it
          the whole room is filled with light.
          Thus, when the mind is open
          and free of its own thoughts,
          life unfolds effortlessly,
          and the whole world is filled with light.

Ahhh. No Self.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Not Over 'Til It's Over

More political discussions around the dining room table tonight. And, when I went to class earlier in the evening, everyone there talked about the outcome of yesterday's election in their own small community.

Ah, politics. Does it divide or unite us? Does it create community or tear it apart?

Tonight's class session was helpful. I talked about bending and straightening the knees as we shifted our weight forward and back and had each of my students check their stance. And, of course, more discussion about the ever-present issue of leading with t'an tien.

I see several of my new students leading with their upper bodies instead of their lower half. Still, it takes time--and practice!--to truly understand what it means (and feels like) to be rooted from below. I feel like I'm repeating myself but occasionally realize that that is what new (and continuing) students need. Based on my own experience I can attest to the fact that repetition after repetition eventually leads to unexpected and well-deserved aha moments.

We open to new possibilities and new information when we're ready to welcome it into our consciousness. And so it goes.... (It's probably never truly over.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An end? Err ... beginning

I was called into work early; my boss felt ill and left me to work alone all day. It's a very long day when I'm at the library by myself and expected to answer the phone, wait on patrons, check in and reshelve books, and fill requests for other libraries in our system without taking any breaks.

Of course, today is election day too. After the polls closed Frances was disappointed to discover that she lost her bid for town supervisor. She feels discouraged at the moment and I feel mixed because I know she had big plans to change the direction the town was heading.

And so, of course, I delved into my T'ai Chi Chih practice which always seems to make things better (or, at the very least, bearable). I'm still fighting off this cold that's been pursuing me since last week and I hope to have a slower, more relaxed day tomorrow (before I teach in the evening).

It's time to close this blog as my fingers are hitting incorrect keys and repeatedly taking me off the site.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Continuing On ...

While Frances and Robbyn took a walk this morning I stayed home and did my T'ai Chi Chih and Qigong practices. I certainly need these routines to continue to build my health and move through my cold and sore throat.

I felt distracted today. So much has occurred over the past month. But tomorrow is election day and Frances will find out whether she received enough votes to join the Russell Town Board. A day later Robbyn leaves for home. And, once again, we return to our version of "normal."

In the meantime I continue on with my daily rituals, TCC being one of the most helpful and integral.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Energy Rising....

Saturday, March 31, 2012:

Last night I did my T'ai Chi Chih and Qigong practices before I went to bed (early). It was a busy day what with preparing for Frances's birthday party on Sunday as well as the arrival of her friend and college roommate later this afternoon.

I picked up some wonderful natural cold remedies at the Coop while I ran errands and collected Frances's traditional German Chocolate Cherry Torte birthday cake at the sweet shop in Ashland. By bedtime, though, I was tired and my throat was very, very sore.

I left Frances to visit with her friend when I retired. And my Chi-circulating practices were helpful and welcome approaches to healing my body and mind.

Sunday, April 1, 2012:

After a long healing sleep, I woke to a leisurely breakfast with Frances and our friend. Then we cleaned, organized, and prepared for our mid-afternoon party. Before the party began I retreated to the bedroom for my T'ai Chi Chih practice (I still plan to do my Qigong practice before I go to bed).

It was a lovely, friend-filled afternoon with good conversation, great food, and a wonderful cake (from what I heard!). Now that the house is empty of people and the dishes are washed and the food put away, it's time to return to the ABCs of Chi. Just a wee bit more T'ai Chi Chih practice and Qigong before I head for bed.

Yes, my sore throat is getting better and my energy is rising....