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)