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.

Game Wizard Workshop: 1000 Blank Cards

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Ran a Design Thinking workshop/presentation to teach “1000 Blank Cards” to a bunch of kids in grades 1-6. This is part of the Independent Day School’s GAME WIZARD Workshop Series.

Every card needed an illustration, a title and a rule. Altogether, kids produced about 400 cards in two hours, and every kid took home a deck of 20-25 cards, plus a hundred blank cards, to get them started on teaching someone else. The game’s rules, as we taught them, are simple:

  • 1) Draw five cards, give them each a title and a rule;
  • 2) Combine your five cards with the cards of several other people into a single deck; draw one, play one (as modified by the cards) until you run out of cards or someone gets to 20 points;
  • 3) Lay out all of the cards in the game on the table at the end, and each player takes turns collecting cards they want to have in their deck for the next game.
The cards of just three of the players from today.

The cards of just three of the players from today.

By the end of our two hour session, three different kids were working on developing their own games, three more were collaborating on another game’s design, and every kid was borrowing rules from Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Magic:theGathering and half a dozen other collectable card games.

Best of all, my two colleagues attended as well, as chaperones and back-up personnel.  They did a fantastic job, and I’m proud of them.  But more than that, I’m excited about the way in which they saw this game’s base rules as a tool which could reinvigorate their curriculums; both a science teacher and a music teacher saw opportunities in this game and its basic system of rules and cards to teach concepts relevant to their content areas.

More, the kids who attended are eager to play again; they’ll spread the game to other kids at school who weren’t able to attend today’s workshop; and they’ll go off to other schools, too, and spread the game there.  We’ll have the curriculum advantage, because my colleagues are on board with teaching this game — but the game itself, and the idea that students, that kids, have the power to invent their own games… that will spread, too.  And that’s how you effect change and empowerment.

In all, an awesome day.

Tai Chi Y3D212: Don’t have much

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I don’t have much to say right now about tai chi or about anything else. I feel like my practice has suffered the last week, because I’ve been incredibly busy at work.

And I’m finding myself thinking about whether or not my practice is broken. Because as it’s taken more and more time on a daily basis, I’m running into the challenge that I can either make my practice not of a high-enough quality to get through it; or I can make it of a high quality, but then I have to sacrifice parts of it to make it fit into the allotted time.

Gordon says sometimes the best option is collapse. I’m not collapsing, but I’m wrestling with it.

Tai Chi Y3D211: I got nothing

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Tai chi went fine this morning. I don’t think I have anything else to say, which is weird.  Yesterday was a big day, though, and tomorrow is big, too.  Maybe I’ll have more on Sunday.

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