24 October 2012
Art and Design, Personal, Philosophy
breathe, burn, chi, daily practice, five elements, internal change, moving energy, raise power, tai chi, taiji
Yesterday’s energy levels never really collapsed back into the waveform. They were so productive that I’m actually starting this entry (for this morning, Wednesday, October 23), with a picture of what I accomplished in the Design Studio yesterday: In the background is a model of a New York City Tenement apartment building, with space for four small dioramas of immigrant life in the Big Apple around 1910. In the foreground is an instructable in the style of a Science Fair presentation; it explains how to turn a paper plate into a tetrahedron. We’ll use this in an activity I have planned for the lab a little later on this year. Not pictured is the Cardboard Castle I built for the first graders. Also not pictured is the Sator qui serit arborem — “the man who plants a tree”, the 25th mansion of the Moon, which was drawn during first period. Four interesting and potentially useful design projects, all completed on the same day. AND… in the background, on the left by that milk crate, is the layout for a design project to built a table prototype from cardboard, all the cardboard we had leftover from the design challenge we did two Sundays ago. All begun on the same day. All for deliberately working the four (well, five-ish) elements in my tai chi work-out yesterday morning. Knowing your energies helps, people. Work them!
Was I going to do that again today? Heck yeah.
So there’s the four elements in the body: Ground, Flow, Breathe, Burn. They’re not metaphors. It’s the core of all tai chi. Put your feet on the ground, and make yourself rock-solid. Maintain that connection; when you lose it, find it again.
Start moving. You have dynamic balance. That grounding you just created with the earth beneath your feet is going to change. But even while you’re connected to the earth, you’re in motion, just like water. You want to flow downhill, to the easiest spot — and you will rejoin the Ocean when it’s time. Literally. Not metaphorically. But not yet. For right now, you are a current in the water that is not yet rejoined with Ocean. Move. Move every joint in your body. Stretch them all out. Flow.
Breathe. Your body needs oxygen. It needs to dump carbon dioxide. It does that through the bellows of your lungs. Keep pressing on those bellows, keep opening them up. The average human takes in a pint of oxygen on each breath — but the average human has the ability to take in seven pints. Make that transfer of gas happen. Replace carbon dioxide with oxygen. Thank a tree later in the day — they eat your waste gas. Isn’t that nice of them?
Burn. If your body’s lungs are a bellows, your heart and your muscles are a furnace. They will use that motion and that oxygen to generate heat. And you will — you should — sweat. But heavy sweat in tai chi…. meh? Not sure. Don’t know. The body runs on low temperatures, not high ones: cellular chemistry, not the raw heat of the forge, are what is needed. Raise the temperature inside yourself, feed that fire with fresh oxygen, melt the impurities and release too-warm moisture back to the world.
Did it work today? Heck yeah.
8 October 2012
daily practice, diet, intention, reminders, tai chi, taiji
The morning after any indulgence the night before — alcohol, for example — is usually difficult. I rarely have anything more than a glass of wine in the first place, and almost never anything stronger. Most often, my drink of choice is water, and consequently tai chi in the morning is easy. More
1 October 2012
breathing, daily practice, energy, life, tai chi, taiji
It always comes back to breathing, doesn’t it?
Today, I took my own advice. I got out of bed. I did breathing for a couple of minutes before I began, and only then did I begin moving. I didn’t rush. I tried to do one thing at a time (I’m not sure I’ve talked about that yet).
And it took a half-hour to do all three sets of postures. The form was the hardest of the three to work breath correctly, and I don’t really think that I succeeded. Alas. I’m definitely doing better at this, though.
A post came to my attention the other day because it was suddenly getting a lot of interest: 5 or six views in one day, instead of one view every few months. Rereading it gave me an immediate design exercise, and made me realize that I have a massive archive of stuff here, some of which may prove to be useful fodder for the new Maker’s Grimoire (which may shortly have its own blog). So from time to time during these Tai Chi posts, if I have time in the morning, I’m going to do my own archive search about what I was doing on this day at various times…
29 September 2012
chi, daily practice, discipline, ouch, taiji
I found the muscle this morning that makes my belly hang out so far, while doing windmill kick. I seemed to be flexible this morning, so I kicked my right foot up to my left hand from the start, and then carried it over to my right hand. The stretch in my lower abdomen…
So amazing. Such hurt.
So naturally, I finished the form, and then I did a left-side windmill kick. The one I never do, because it’s not in the form.
I don’t think I’ve broken anything. It wasn’t that sort of pain. It was more like a joyous pain, like the two reunited sisters walking down Madison Avenue with us last night. They’d been separated at birth, and had only just found one another after all this time. What brought them together? Knitting! How we found them is part of the story of Andrew Carle’s and my epic walk through midtown on the east side of Manhattan, last night, but that will have to be another post.
This was a pain of a muscle that hasn’t been used in a long time, finally being invited to the party. It’s a remarkable beauty, and a frightening horror, that at forty-two I could still not know that there’s a lateral muscle there, along the curve under my belly, or what it does… Apparently, it controls the lateral swing of the legs, and it has some responsibility for the shape of my waistline. Even now, it’s singing a little, crying out to the world that, “I’m here! I’m here…,” like a lost child crying out for its parents.
But the kid is found, now. A few more repeated windmill kicks, on both sides, confirm for me that some tightness, some ancient tension, is finally letting go, and a new strength is building up.
It’s like, everything changes from here. Maybe that’s too dramatic, but that’s what it feels like.
23 September 2012
daily practice, druidry, energy, intention, tai chi, taiji, work
This morning, at the end of my tai chi routine, I performed a short ritual known as the Sphere of Protection from the Druidic society to which I belong, AODA. I can’t say that I like the Sphere of Protection much. It’s feels a little precious and precocious, and more than a little overly formal. If I’m going to reinvigorate my Druidic practice, which I feel contributes generally to my overall health and well-being, I going to have to include this in my practice.
The practice of tai chi today, otherwise, was pretty good. Some days the experience of doing five golden coins seems to drag and take forever; other days it zips by. Today, all three sequences zipped by, and flowed with relative ease. I like days like that. The aches in my legs from doing horse stance consistently seems to have passed, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job with the work even so.
Update: This was the entry for Day 200, not 201 as originally reported.
2 August 2012
FutureShock, Personal, Philosophy
chi, daily practice, energy work, movement, taiji
I wrote a great post this morning about how I had a wonderfully sweaty tai chi session this morning. And something has eaten it. I’m not sure what happened, but it didn’t make the site. Nor did another piece about kayaking on the river at low tide, all the way to the dam, and being fifty feet below the upper river, instead of twenty.
I’m not sure if they’ve been eaten or misfiled, but I’ll be looking into it. More anon, once I’ve checked into what’s going on.
Update: Found part of it. See below, in italics.
Back in my old bedroom this morning, and back to doing what I think of as standard pattern — Five Gold Coins, Eight Pieces of Silk, and the form. It’s hot enough that I’m just sweating. Hard. I’m not even working at doing the form with any particular fierceness or fire, but at some level this is happening often. Maybe I’m burning through particular energy. Maybe my musculature has built up to a point where it requires more energy burn to do this work. Maybe I have too much energy, and I have to sweat some of it out. Maybe it’s just too hot and humid.
Whatever the reasons, the last few days have been sweaty… water dripping through the clothes, sweaty. Ugh. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how oogy I feel when I start the tai chi routines — by the end, I feel great.
28 July 2012
daily practice, energy, out of order, tai chi, taiji
This morning, I did the form first, followed by five golden coins, followed by eight pieces of silk. It wasn’t as effective as yesterday for making me sweat, but it did raise a lot of energy.
On Thursday I ran into a former student from my old school, and he was startled. “You’ve lost weight, or at least changed how you stand.” Truth is, I haven’t lost weight, but how I stand has indeed changed quite a bit.
Peregrin, over at the Magic of the Ordinary, has a blog post about boundaries, and I’m wondering if these daily posts are proving useful to anyone besides myself. I have another blog, and I’ve been thinking about shifting posts about daily practice over to that site, and keeping this for teaching stuff. Do the readers have any opinions about that?
22 July 2012
chi, daily practice, energy, focus, taiji
Today’s tai chi practice was nothing special. No portals opened to new dimensions, no particular insights revealed themselves with heavenly choirs. I just realized I was comfortable in my skin. This may sound ridiculous. Of course you’re comfortable in your skin. but most of the time I’m not. So it’s startling to me that I am.
Except I said, there weren’t any great insights today. There weren’t. It wasn’t like I was comfortable in my skin today, and I wasn’t yesterday. The shift wasn’t that startling. I can’t point to any moment in the past when I wasn’t comfortable in my skin, and knew it, and a day when everything changed, and then I was comfortable in that same skin. There’s just an awareness that today I’m comfortable in the skin I have, and that it’s been this way for a long time. Nothing special. No great insight or new dimensions of practice. Just the way it is.
16 July 2012
energy, practice, tai chi, taiji
I did Taichi in a public place today, out in front of the house where I’m staying next to the sidewalk and the main road. It’s the first time I have felt at ease doing so.
It was also terrible form. There’s that bit in the first (chronological) Star Wars movie where Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that the Force controls our actions, but it also obeys our commands (the movie scene is more complex than that I know). I kind of feel like that is an important point with tai chi — five gold coins, form and eight pieces of silk today — which is, don’t be surprised when you get up one day in your daily practice and find that the tai chi runs you ragged with its intensity. But also, if you’ve had a hard week and you need some love and gentleness from your practice, ask for it.. Today was a really easy, sweet day. After a weekend of camping in the woods and not getting much sleep, I expected it to be a hard morning to get back into practice. But it wasn’t, because I asked for it to be easy. And so it proved.
So remember to ask your practice for what you want to get — but be prepared to give it what it wants from time to time as well. It’s a two-way street.
8 July 2012
body changes, hangover cure, taiji
Last night I went to a birthday party. Had a great time. It was nice, and of course there was birthday creme brûlée, and I had a soda. (I never have soda). This morning I woke with a terrible headache, and a sense that I was hungover.
Tai chi — eight pieces of silk, five golden coins and the form — largely cleared the cobwebs and the fog. Working the body’s joints and muscles largely cleared the crunkiness from my limbs and my mind. I feel clearer and more attuned to myself. And I appreciate that a solution to the body’s difficulties is so close at hand. Working through the forms in the sunshine definitely helped.