Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sewing Seeds in January

Whew. It was a whirlwind Sewing the Seeds retreat and practice with Sr. Antonia Thursday night through Sunday brunch. Here's my abbreviated report since I'm still circling with chi....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today's session with Sr. Antonia in St. Paul, MN was wonderful; a long overdue opportunity to deepen my practice, refine my movements, and be in the moment and in my body.

Sister encouraged us to become aware of the ways Chi does not balance and circulate as well as it could as she broke movements down into segments; first, practicing our weight shift, then noticing how the t'an t'ien inspired the movement of arms, hands, legs, and feet.  She asked us to pay close attention to our bodies and ask ourselves: "How does it feel in my body when I do this? ... How does it feel in my body when I don't do this? ..." Practice, of course, offers a constant opportunity to adjust and refine our way of moving in order to experience the free flow of Chi.

Sr. Antonia quoted from Justin Stone's book, Spiritual Odyssey (p. 15) near the beginning of our practice when she encouraged and challenged us by reading:
Trying is not the Way.
Not trying is not the Way....
Our group practice came at about 4:00 pm when 29 of us stood in three circles within a circle: the inner circle contained Sr. Antonia and four teachers certified before 1995, the next circle contained the rest of the certified teachers, the outer circle held the 12 attending students.

We circled the Chi; the room circled with Chi. It was ... a wondrous experience.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Already these t'ai chi chih moments blur into a composite picture of Chi-practitioners-students-teachers-refinements-practice-shared meals-conversations-laughter-more conversation-Chinese brush painting and so much more.... I realize that I've had a headache since shortly after my arrival and that my life in the woods has slowed and quieted me to the point where I'm overstimulated by the abundance of information-conversation-practice with others.

I ask several teachers and students for help with my headache and receive pain relief in several forms: Ibuprofen and a qigong treatment. The spirit of generosity is overwhelming and in short order I'm feeling better (thank you Carol and Nan).

The theme of today's practice/refinement is "t'an t'ien, t'an t'ien, t'an t'ien." Sister asks, reminds, coaches, and expects of us that we will continually search for and discover the ways in which t'an t'ien inspires our movements and the flow of Chi through our bodies. By the end of the day when Sister inquires, "What allows our body to do this? or our hands to rise? or our heel to step out?" we reply in unison: "T'an t'ien."

Sunday, January 31, 2010:

Many highlights to our too-brief final day. After practicing Healing Sounds we share the Chi with each other by placing a circle of five chairs in the middle of the room. Group members take turns sitting as other practitioners perform the Healing Sounds in a circle surrounding them. I couldn't wait to sit in the center of our circle because I knew that the power of the Chi would have transformative effects. Sure enough, emotions surged through me as I sat and afterwards I returned to my room to lie on the floor and continue grounding the energy.

The room vibrates with Chi during our final full group practice. Afterward some group members attend mass in the small chapel across the hall while others re-watch the film On the Road Home: A Spiritual Journey Guided by Remarkable Women by Christina Lundberg. Sr. Antonia was one of the 12 remarkable women who appeared in the film. What a beautifully filmed, delightful exploration of the sacred feminine....

Soon our final shared meal is over and I'm on the road back to Bayfield, WI. I think of the words I copied down from the wall at St. Paul's Monastery because they reminded me of home:
          Safety in Trees
Climbing into Grandfather's arms,
I rest my cheek on his strong shoulder.
His clothing is rough and earthy smelling.
Pine needles tickle my nose. 
                      Author Unknown
I feel gratitude for the thriving t'ai chi chih community in Minneapolis/St. Paul that hosted this retreat, to Sr. Antonia who led it, and to my fellow retreatants and roommate who formed--and completed--the circle. The Chi is flowing still....

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