Tai Chi Y3D218: Changing, Slowing

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I only did the tai chi form this morning, but three times, each time slower than the last.  I wound up using considerably more time than I expected; it’s taken me more than an hour to sit down and start writing.  And I’m really, basically, out of time for the writing part of my daily practice.

But it’s been useful.  I think I’ve got some ideas about how to invigorate my daily practice without it killing my morning program overall.

Tai Chi Y3D217: Four Directions

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Building an Adirondack chair: week 2

An Adirondack Chair in progress

Yesterday was sort of a big day.  I had a successful meeting with the chair and members of our new Design Thinking committee.  We discussed the possibilities of the new room for school and after school programs.

After the meeting, I went to the Eli Whitney Museum, and worked on my Adirondack Chair.  The school paid for me to attend this class, which teaches basic carpentry by teaching the construction of an iconic American deck or lawn chair.  So far, the thing is coming along nicely.

I launched the Yearbook project.  For a variety of reasons, I’m taking over the yearbook at my school, and it’s built into my DAS (Digital Arts and Sciences) class in the eighth grade.  We have a photography plan for the next few months; we have a program of organization for the yearbook staff (which is every eighth grader); and we have a set of goals for photographs for every fall event before Thanksgiving.  Awesome.  We’re ready for all of that.

And I taught a tai chi lesson during recess yesterday to four interested girls.  Who seemed intrigued by the idea that I somehow ‘memorized movements’.

In the context of all of the above, today’s tai chi practice seems like a sad come-down.  I got up at the right time after going to bed at the right time.  I did four sets of twenty push-ups.  In between those push-ups, I did two qi gong forms, and a tai chi form.  And I did my druidic practice. I haven’t said much about that, but it involves lighting three candles, doing some movements, saying some prayers, and lighting some incense; I also cast a geomancy chart (though today I’ll be doing that later in the morning).  I should have gone a little slower on the tai chi form, but I ALWAYS should go a little slower on the tai chi form.

But here’s what I know.  The practice of a daily practice, whether you like it or not, whether it bores you or not, opens you up to other potential powers.  I don’t think I’d be taking a carpentry class, or doing tai chi on the playground at recess, or running a school innovation program, or teaching kids to build, if I didn’t have this daily practice in my life.  I think that it builds my capacity to do other things, and teaches me how to move from being able to do only one thing, to being able to do many things.  There’s a power in this daily work, which is that it’s prepared — me, at least — to be able to do many other things.

I think about all of the various projects I’m working on these days, from learning the beginnings of electronics to building a 3D Milling Machine (still in process) to making a game design program for my school. Outside of school, there’s Toastmasters, which is going well.  I’m doing a lot. And unlike prior years, somehow I’ve built my capacity so that what I’m doing is … normal. Even though it feels super-heroic at times.

Maybe it’s weird to ascribe that to a daily practice.  But I’m sure, without these 2 years, 217 days, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

Tai Chi Y3D216: Stiff Arms

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Today, I did sixty push-ups, but my arms were pretty stiff by the time I got to north.  I did the two qi gong forms, and the tai chi form too. And although I’m stiff, I feel pretty healthy.  My weight hasn’t dropped at all in a couple of weeks, but neither has it risen — which, for this time of year, isn’t bad at all.

And I got a request to appear on a podcast about my tai chi practice.  How funny: just when I think I’m running out of things to say, someone shows up who thinks it’s time for me to talk about it. :)

Tai Chi Y3D215: Renewal

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Today was the first day in several that I’ve done the full tai chi experience: 20 push-ups, Five Golden Coins, 20 push-ups, Eight Pieces of Silk, 20 push-ups, Tai Chi form, 20 push-ups. This plus druidry, which altogether takes about 45 minutes.  It’s not bad, assuming I get up on time, at 5:00 am.  When I add in a no-dilly-dallying rule about writing the blog post, it’s an hour, probably. (this morning I was hungry, so I made myself a good breakfast too. That was part of it, as well).

I feel good.  It’s taken a while; I’ve basically had some sort of low-grade cold or allergic response to something or other for more than a month. While it’s not completely gone, it’s gone enough that I don’t feel terrible doing my morning practice.

Let’s hope tomorrow is equally easy.

Magic: The Challenge of Opening Doors

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“I do not say that [Napoleon's army] cannot come. I simply say that they cannot come by sea.

—Lord Saint Vincent to the House of Lords, c. 1803.

Tonight, I was a little overeager to do a path working. I’m working my way through a Druidic curriculum based on the Tree of Life diagram (Celtic/Welsh/geomantic/alchemical associations, rather than cabalistic), and I’m eager to finish before January, so that I can do my initiation to the Bardic grade in early February, which has special associations for me with the role of the Bard.  And that means that I can begin my formal training as a Druid, then, too.

But today, I rushed.  The druidic work I’m doing involves opening a series doors, if you will, between me and the path-working rites.  First, there is a temple to be prepared in the physical realm; then there’s a set of mental exercises to do beforehand, and then a set procedure to go through to open the temple in a particular grade.  Once the temple is open in that grade, there’s a further effort to open on the Inner Plane, where contact with spirits and with spiritual forces is easier.

It’s kind of like entering an airlock, really: first the doors to the outer world must be shut, then the doors to the inner realm must be opened, after some preliminaries to equalize the pressures between outer and inner. And it must be done correctly; as with an airlock in space, or underwater, there are fail-safes which prevent the outer doors from being entirely closed unless the correct procedures are followed.  And there are fail-safes which prevent the inner doors from being opened at all when the outer doors are still open.

Once these preliminaries are finished, of course, one slips into meditative and astral states quite easily — the barriers are lowered, there are no outside distractions, and there can be no interruptions.  Once, I was doing the rites before some friends came over for dinner… I lost track of time, and drifted in meditation nearly 45 minutes after I was supposed to stop.  I came out of meditation, did the exit procedures, passed through the airlock… and at that very moment, my friends all arrived simultaneously, having been delayed by traffic, construction, and whatnot, all fearing terribly for the delay… we had a fantastic dinner together.

Tonight, I skipped a step in closing the outer doors.  I ran through all of the other procedures, but nothing happened.  I went nowhere. Called upon the powers correctly.  Heard nothing. Called up the spirits. Saw nothing.

Instead, I saw and heard the sounds of the world, which normally fade away: my upstairs neighbor clunking around; my side-neighbor changing his laundry over in the basement; my dad calling on the phone.

I made an effort to shut out these distractions.  I called up an image of the gateway that led to the path I was intending to walk tonight.  It came… but it was immediately apparent that it was the memory of prior visits, and not the thing itself.  The thing itself is solid like a mountain is solid, vast and unknowable even though it’s only ten feet across and sixteen feet high or so; the memory is pale and wan, like a mist in the valley under the moon.

I did what any sensible sorcerer should do.  I undid my work, went backwards through my checklist, and closed the temple, snuffed the candles, and went back to my grimoire and guidebooks.  I found the mistake: three circumambulations of the altar during the invoking of the temple.  And for that, an hour of my time, lost.

Dumb me.

In another hour, I’ll try again.  I’ve got the procedure written out by hand in front of me, and I’ve re-set the temple, and I’ve reviewed my error.  I know that I’m going to do this right, probably, this time; and if not today, then tomorrow.  And I’ll power through it, and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

But there’s another side to this.  The walls between there and here, they are not easily breached. You can do it with drugs, though I’ve seen that end badly for a good many people and *I* recommend against it.   You can do it by living for extended periods of time in nature, or through special diets, or through programs of sleep disruption.  Those have their own problems, too.  You can do it with ceremony, and I’ve seen everything from Buddhist ritual to a Lakota sweat lodge to a Jewish Friday-night service to a full-on High Church eucharist, and a Pentecostal hands-in-the-air do it effectively, and reasonably safely — although, again, they have their own problems.  You can do it with dance and with music.

But after fifteen years of this, I’m more or less convinced that opening this door between here and there cannot be done by closing one’s eyes, wiggling one’s nose and wishing.  At least, *I* cannot do it.  And I tend to look askance at those who can, or who claim that they can.  When I look at people face-to-face who I think can communicate with spirits, I find that I see a transformation, a clarity, in them, which is difficult to hide and even harder to fake.    I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether this is a matter of my own strengths and weaknesses; or whether I hold this as a general principle. But my heart and my own experiences such as this evening, as well as my rational faculties, tend to suggest to me that not everyone who claim communication with the spirits from moment to moment can genuinely do so.  It simply seems that it is too difficult, and requires substantial practice on the part of most people, that there could be so many who can achieve it so easily.

I’m writing this entry in part to revisit this issue later.  But if you have thoughts or responses, please feel free to comment.

Tai Chi Y3D214: Late Start

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I had a late start on the day, and I’m still running behind.  Tai chi, some push-ups, no qi gong.  What is this coming to?

Better luck tomorrow, I hope.

Tai Chi Y3D213: Flirting with Collapse

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Instead of doing an elaborate practice today, I did something quite different. I only did the tai chi form, rather than the two qi gong forms first, interspersed with push-ups.  When I was done, I did the druidry daily practice I’m using these days. And then I stopped.

Refreshing. Simplified. Empowering.  Felt good.

I’ve spent so much time on elaborating and iterating my practice toward perfectionism, between the poems and the push-ups, I forgot that this was about making me feel empowered.  And when I “collapsed” my practice down to its two most basic exercises, it feels good.

I may try this again tomorrow. Or, I may go back to my usual form. We’ll see.

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