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....