Tuesday, August 30, 2011


We are blessed with another beautiful sun-filled summer morning. Today when I let Namaste outside he immediately spied two chipmunks at the foot of a tree beside our front door. Round and round the tree he dashed as both chippies raced upward.

Now he walks with one rear leg raised, three of four feet/legs functional, and I'm instantly reminded of our dear Chickie who hopped everywhere on one foot, the other one, unuseable.

I remember what Ann's friend (our recently deceased bookstore owner) said at her memorial last night (my paraphrase): I tried and tried to understand how a person so good could die before her time. And then I realized that it is simply impossible to understand....

I feel that way about Chickie. She was a wonderfully sweet chicken who added immeasurably to our lives. And now she is gone. Though I can't understand why her life was cut short, I'm deeply grateful for the months she was present in our lives.

Today I went through my T'ai Chi Chih practice simply trusting that it would/could/should help. I expected it to place me in the correct frame of mind for my afternoon at work. I believed in its ability to help me accept both Ann's and Chickie Woo's recent deaths. And I hoped that, even if it didn't happen in this moment, balance and relaxation would eventually settle upon my body and soul.

And so it did....

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Little More Manageable

I bobbed along on waves of emotion this evening. First I attended a memorial service for one of Bayfield's bookstore owners. She died in a bike accident a week ago Saturday and left behind a husband and two tween daughters along with bereft family, friends, and colleagues from Berkeley, CA, Manhattan, and Bayfield, WI.

Then I came home to more sad news ... Chickie Woo was killed by a predator late this afternoon, pulled out of her roosting place in the animal barn and left, partially eaten, in her pen. Our sweet one-legged chicken with her distinctive conversational cooing and wooing met a bitter end.

Or not. Both Frances and I wondered whether she lived with constant pain that affected her quality of life. Still, she and Frances bonded and she and Lucy befriended each other. We will miss her.

Work was a nonstop rollercoaster ride from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. I was grateful that I took time for a T'ai Chi Chih practice before I left for work. Somehow it made the sad, difficult day a little less overwhelming. A little more manageable. And it helped me feel a bit more accepting of all that is as it is....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peace is Possible Now

It was another full day in the midst of our wooded wilderness. Lucy positioned herself in the 'V' of the concrete front steps, happily napping (I don't think she slept much last night as we forgot to close and latch the door to the goose barn).

When I looked out the kitchen window later in the morning, I found Chiripa napping on the flowers in the planter underneath the kitchen window. Perhaps she was imitating the chickens who fly up into the planter as evening falls and begin to nest.

Our friend left mid-afternoon after a long, leisurely brunch and in-depth conversation. We also watched the movie Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It's a wonderful (hard) documentary that tells the story of Liberian women who started a movement for peace ... and succeeded! Given the current economic and political conditions of our state, nation, and, for that matter, the entire world it's encouraging to see that common citizens can make a difference when they unite their efforts and open their hearts....

Late afternoon I began my preparations for a trip out of town which begins Wednesday and busied myself with laundry, phone calls, and pre-packing. Then I stepped onto the deck for my afternoon TCC practice. It was lovely. Cool. Quiet (no breeze, no barking dog, no traffic). Relaxed.

This evening I'm snuggled into the quiet and happily at peace.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


We had a full day of visiting, shopping, eating, and et cetera'ing. An ideal weekend with a lifelong friend (i.e., Frances's college roommate).

I love it when friends and relatives come to visit. It is then, and only then, that we visit art galleries and shops that we would never otherwise frequent. And it's fun to see what's new and what local artists are creating....

I squeezed my T'ai Chi Chih practice into several hours at home between visting the Farmers' Market and a post-lunch expedition to art galleries in Bayfield (along with a walk on the beach). I escaped to the deck while Frances and her friend were brainstorming in the backyard. It felt good to take a break from conversation, activity, and food prep. And I came back to our gathering feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

It was another perfectly beautiful Bayfield day. It was so beautiful at the beach, in fact, that I unexpectedly walked into the water and kept going deeper and deeper until my shorts and a sweatshirt tied around my waist were soaking wet. (Frances commented to our friend that I must be in an insulin reaction because that was not normal behavior for me and, sure enough, when I tested, I was low.)

Now it's evening and we're settling down for a movie after making and consuming shrimp cerviche and strawberry margaritas. Delish!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Perfect Segue

Yet again my T'ai Chi Chih practice was the perfect segue between a day at work and the arrival of an out-of-town guest. After a full eight hours at the library I tackled some unfinished projects at home and then stepped onto the deck for my T'ai Chi Chih practice.

I finished practice just minutes before our guest arrived. By that time I was slower, calmer, and more relaxed than when I began. And so this evening with our friend has been full of conversation, laughter, and relaxation. Perfect.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Camp Out

In spite of yesterday's multiple threats raindrops never fell. After dark Frances and I sat on the deck to watch stars; the wind had pushed the heavy curtain of clouds across the sky and out of view. Suddenly we thought, Why not sleep outside? Then, of course, we'd have a perfect view of stars, satellites, the Milky Way, and other Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).

We assembled two cots and gathered bedding for our sleep out. Soon, though, Frances retreated into the house because of an extreme allergic reaction. I slept on the deck through the entire night. Despite the fact that I was swaddled in a sleeping bag with a wool blanket on top, I was cold. When morning came, my face and extremely cold nose were hidden inside the bag.

Today was absolutely beautiful as the hours of daylight flashed by. By late afternoon when I launched into my T'ai Chi Chih practice, I was tired from having spent the day working (and standing) in the kitchen. After practice Frances asked whether I was in a low blood sugar. I was markedly lethargic. Sure enough, when I tested, I was in insulin shock.

I still haven't recovered my energy and equilibrium. Consequently, tonight will be an early to bed night. No passing go. No collecting $200. Just sleep....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Silence is the Cornerstone

This afternoon provided another opportunity for an anticipatory T'ai Chi Chih practice. Wind blew all day but it was this evening when it felt as though rain would soon arrive. Nope ... it's still not here.

I practiced TCC this evening amid the whoosh and swoosh of breezes, leaves, and chicken wings rising and falling. (Two of the chickens kept flying up into the planter outside the kitchen window, then down again.) My world was awash with busy breezes at the same time that I experienced the sounds of silence that lived within the passing wind.

I was reminded of this passage from The Wisdom of the Native Americans:
     We first Americans mingle with our pride an exceptional humility. Spiritual arrogance is foreign to our nature and teaching. We never claimed that the power of articulate speech is proof of superiority over 'dumb creation'; on the other hand, it is to us a perilous gift.
     We believe profoundly in silence--the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit. Those who can preserve their selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence--not a leaf, as it were, astir on the tree; not a ripple upon the shining pool--those, in the mind of the person of nature, possess the ideal attitude and conduct of life.
     If you ask us, 'What is silence?' we will answer, 'It is the Great Mystery. The holy silence is God's voice.'
     If you ask, 'What are the fruits of silence?' we will answer they are self-control, true courage or endurance, patience, dignity, and reverence. Silence is the cornerstone of character.' (p. 87)
Yes, as though of us who practice T'ai Chi Chih regularly can attest: Silence is the cornerstone of character.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ready to Nap

Today's T'ai Chi Chih practice was filled with anticipation. It was overcast and practically raining. But not quite yet ... Usually TCC practice energizes me but by the end of this practice I was more than ready--and willing--to lie down for a nap.

No such luck. Instead I headed off to work just as the sky began to fall. Rain poured down in sheets and, unable to escape it, I entered the air-conditioned library and immediately froze.

Luckily we were swamped with patrons and I hadn't a moment to sit still and chill. Two hours after my shift began it felt as though I'd worked a full afternoon/evening shift. Despite the flurry of activity, though, I stayed relatively calm and collected (I do think that earlier TCC practice helped!).

And now the time is here for me to be still and chill....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Harvesting the Fruits of My Labor

My morning PWTCCP (pre-work T'ai Chi Chih Practice) refreshed and relaxed me. A slight breeze flowed through the trees and massaged the leaves. I listened carefully as they responded with rustling exhalations. I often don't realize how much better I feel after practice until I sit down before my computer to write this blog.

After TCC practice I walked through our gardens and picked a handful of green beans, a few cherry tomatoes, a summer squash, and an Italian squash that I've never ever seen before (exciting!). I look forward to tasting a stir-fry made with these veggies plus wild mushrooms a neighbor gave us at farmers' market Saturday.

I feel incredibly happy and blessed with abundance when I harvest vegetables from our garden. Which reminds me of a book I recently checked out from the library, Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise.

In her final chapter, author Michele Owens writes that soil and plants make us feel better. Obviously, I agree. It's important to be uplifted by the earth and by growing, blooming, producing plants. Soon--all too soon--our growing season will be over and I'll fondly remember the delicious fruits and vegetables that made me unexplainably happy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feeding the Hungry Soul

After bidding my brother and his girlfriend adieu yesterday afternoon we welcomed friends for a movie last night. It turned into a very late night as we watched Orwell Rolls in His Grave (2006).

This documentary "explores the one thing the media doesn't like to talk about -- itself." In short order the film revealed that the media is the largest lobbyist in Washington. In addition our corporate media empire has absolute control over who (i.e., which politicians) receives media coverage. The film asks us to consider: Does the corporate media reflect public opinion or create it? Did the media help George W. Bush steal the presidency and market the war in Iraq? (The film provides convincing evidence that this did, indeed, occur.)

I studied journalism as an undergraduate student and I found the film's portrayal of the ways in which the mediopoly has gained tremendous inappropriate influence over the content of news coverage in this country and the manner in which it propagandizes the general public while claiming to offer news and information that is "fair and balanced" deeply disturbing.

Thankfully, my experiences today were enjoyable and rejuvenating. It felt cold (mid-50s--brr) this morning. Ah, yes, fall is in the air. I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice on the deck in bright morning sunshine. I needed to soak in that sunshine in order to feel warm enough to move.

Afterward I headed to Ashland to meet a friend from the Twin Cities who I haven't seen for several--or more--years. It was wonderful to share stories of our lives and learnings. Back home Frances and I drove to the lakeshore to walk the dog and sit in silence as we watched the sun lower inself into the horizon. Silence ... pink-tinged clouds ... waves breaking against the shore ... all these feed the hungry soul.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Deep Quiet

Yesterday was an awesome beach day. First our gang of four plus two dogs drove to Little Sand Bay and walked the beach, throwing sticks for the dogs into the wild, windy, wavy water. Then we drove to Bayview beach where it was quieter and warmer ... just right for a dip in the lake.

After a quick stop at home we returned to to Little Sand Bay beach to watch the sunset as we made a campfire, grilled brats and corn on the cob, and listened to Ellen play guitar and serenade us as we lay on the sand and looked up at the stars. Like I said, awesome. Lately Frances and I have been too caught up in work and have forgotten to take advantage of the beautiful lakeshore and Lake Superior's waters. Yesterday we made up for lost time....

Today was quieter and slower. We visited the farmers' market, shared a late breakfast, tended to Ellen's ill dog, and then--wham!--my brother and his girlfriend were on the road. Frances and I were left alone in the quiet of our home.

It was then that I ventured onto the deck for today's T'ai Chi Chih practice. I needed it, too. As much as I love to host visitors I automatically switch into a hyperactive gear and tend to wear myself out. It felt good to regenerate myself through TCC's slow, calming movements and to re-member my body and reclaim my deeply quiet home.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Post-Rain Chi

I was first up this morning. Quietly I crept out of bed (my brother and his girlfriend brought their dog along and I didn't want to make any dog-stimulating noises). Then I flowed into my T'ai Chi Chih practice before my body was fully awake.

We awakened last night to loud thunderstorms. As daylight crept over the treeline the air was still damp and clouds littered the sky. I moved through the humid air and soaked in the awesome silence. Slowly my body softened. My breath deepened. And my bodymind relaxed.

Of course, when I got out of bed Namste rose too. He's not inclined to go downstairs by himself which means that eventually he began to whine. I ignored him until I finished Pulling in the Energy and then, reluctantly, I accompanied him downstairs and outside.

The sun was starting to emerge, little dabs of yellow streaked through the forest leaves. I promised myself that I would finished my TCC practice outside later in the day. The beach could be an excellent location....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An Open-Air Cathedral

There are no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being children of nature, we are intensely poetical. We would deem it sacrilege to build a house for The One who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and in the vast jeweled vault of the night sky! A God who is enrobed in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire; who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth spirit upon fragrant southern airs, ... such a God needs no lesser cathedral.
          From: The Wisdom of the Native Americans, Kent Nerburn, Ed., pp. 86-7
I practiced T'ai Chi Chih today in the temple of my backyard. I was filled up with the spaciousness and silence of my surroundings. The sun was hot, the breeze infrequent, the quiet interrupted only by the occasional dash of chipmunks chasing through the vast undergrowth.

Once or twice my temple bells--wind chimes--rang out into the quiet expanse of trees and vegetation. The goose and chickens, dog and cat ... all were silent.

Last night Frances and I watched the movie 127 Hours which is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a 20-something hiker and adventurer whose daytrip into a Utah canyon turned into a five day odyssey of survival. Ralston eventually escaped his predicament by bravely excising his lower right arm.

Afterward Frances commented that the movie reminded her of a Native American vision quest. Indeed, Ralston experienced numerous memories, visions, and hallucinations throughout his ordeal. Ultimately it was a vision of his future son--conceived with a wife he would meet three years later--that spurred him to perform his life-saving deed.

According to the movie, Ralston's traumatic experience did not stop him from venturing back into the stark beauty where he lost his arm. It's easy to understand this because the film poignantly portrayed the beauty and sacredness of Ralston's own beloved natural shrine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stop and Breathe

Today was another berry day. First we picked blueberries. Then we stopped at the town dump/recycling center where we visited with other Town of Russell residents.

Next stop ... a walk on the beach along Lake Superior (I've only made it to the beach about three times this entire summer and I miss its beauty and majesty). Final stop ... back home for a T'ai Chi Chih practice before I walked down the drive for a short wild blackberry picking session.

My evening TCC practice sped by. It felt good, as always, to take a mind and body break in the middle of a busy errand-filled day. Now the day is done and, thanks to the relaxing effects of TCC practice, I'm ready to stop and breathe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It's another beauteous, bounteous day. I picked cherry tomatoes and beans from the garden this AM, then purple and yellow coneflowers, tansy, and chocolate mint for a dining table bouquet.

After I fed and watered the critters I positioned myself directly in their midst and began my T'ai Chi Chih practice. The animals didn't linger for long. Namaste and Chiripa stalked chipmunks that scrabbled among the piles of chicken feed. Rosie and Sandie took off for separate roosting spots. Lucy grazed nearby and Chickie Woo watched me from her perch by the front step.

Midway through practice a long tail curled around my leg when Chiripa decided to grace me with her presence for a few minutes of rest and repose. Soon I was alone once more.

I truly do believe that my pre-work practice keeps me balanced and sane during my rushed, crazy afternoons. It did more than that today. During the afternoon I was effortlessly cheerful, extroverted, and happy-go-lucky. That made for a happier day for me and for my patrons....

Work is now done for the day and, before I get in my car and drive home, I'm finishing my blog post (the internet connection is faster here at work). Folks have commented on the hot and humid weather all afternoon. Now the sky is crammed with dark blue, heavy clouds. This bodes well for a rain filled night and, hopefully, a cooler, drier tomorrow....

Monday, August 15, 2011


This morning I did the first few movements of my T'ai Chi Chih practice while seated on the edge of an X-ray table at my medical clinic. I was waiting for films of my knee to be developed (the clinic does not have a digital system). Consequently, it was an ideal way to spend a few captivating (captivated) minutes.

The timing was perfect because shortly thereafter I had an EKG. The mini TCC practice helped me feel at ease as electrodes were placed upon my body to monitor my heart.

I continued my TCC practice on the deck at home several hours later. All went well during practice. I admit I noticed a baby chipmunk as it climbed up several small hazelnut trees. First I saw the leaves of the tree shaking. Then I spotted the chipmunk attempting to balance on the leaves. Eventually the little guy took a tumble. It wasn't long, though, before he was climbing skyward once again. (Frances speculated that he was harvesting hazelnuts.)

Some days--like today!--I wish I had half as much spunk as that feisty little critter.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ringing the Bell

I've been aware of this all along but today it reverberated through me like the ring of a bell: T'ai Chi Chih practice returns me to a stillpoint where I can deeply appreciate the beauty and richness of my surroundings. Its soft, slow, grace-filled movements root me into my environment which allows me to smell the smells, see the sights, and feel the feelings that often pass me by unnoticed.

An example: This morning I looked over at Lucy near the beginning of my practice and watched her extend one leg behind her in a graceful, slow, delicate stretch. She looked like a ballerina ... or a T'ai Chi Ch'uan player ... or ... a goose at home in her body. It actually appeared that she had decided to join me in my T'ai Chi Chih practice. Later she walked past me and resettled herself nearby as if to soak in some of the lovely energy and immerse herself in my quiet presence.

When I returned my gaze forward, I noticed the trunk of a tree that Frances felled yesterday. She'd cut it into even chunks of wood that rested on the earth at the edge of the yard. A slip of sunshine edged through the overhanging leaves and illuminated the work in process.

The living trees that surrounded me filled me with their quiet, comforting presence. And I felt at peace.

Interestingly, yesterday's shift at the library passed without incident. Traffic through the library was leisurely and sedate. Obviously, any time I spent anticipating a busy, demanding day was wasted. Reminder to Self: It's much more productive to spend my time rooted in the present than adrift in an unknown future.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Alive, Alert, Awake ... and Joyous

Today began with another blessed T'ai Chi Chih practice in the midst of nature. I was happily surrounded by my yin-yang animals (every single one of them is black, white, or a combination of the two). This was another pre-work practice and--since Saturday is the busiest day at the library and I work alone--I wanted/needed to be ready....

I began practice with my mind abuzz like a hive of bees. (In other words, I was caught in the mode of a human doing instead of a human being. Silly me.)

My thoughts circled 'round my self-made duties of the day: stop at the farmers' market en route to work to purchase a few items and, of course, pick up the library's mail at the post office, make coffee, start up eight computers, empty the drop box, etc. etc. Those chores all need doing before I open the building at 9:30 a.m.

The library director showed me the figures on library circulation last week so I know for a fact that Saturday has the highest circulation of the entire week even though the workday is two hours shorter. Once again, I was caught anticipating the future instead of living in the present.

I spent almost half of my TCC practice de-accelerating Monkey Mind. And then, only then, could I feel restful relaxation begin to seep into my body and mind....

Meanwhile the animals engaged in their morning routines and explorations. Chiripa strolled along the trunk of a tree that Frances cut down yesterday. The chickens walked along the edge of the driveway, scratching and pecking. Namaste was on guard, alert, watching, smelling, and occasionally barking. He also chased an errant chipmunk away from the corn meant for the goose and chickens.

An acorn fell from a tree and hit the ground with a loud plop. And, while I stood quietly in Cosmic Consciousness Pose, I heard the first buzz of hummingbird wings as a wee one visited the feeder.

Yes, I am alive, I am alert, I am awake and joyous. And ... I'm ready for a busy day at the library.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Buzzing and Humming

My early morn T'ai Chi Chih practice was filled with the buzz of bees and the hum of hummingbirds. It helped me to feel comforted and comfortable. Four bees hovered and circled over the nasturtiums at my side. Their low vibratory hum was like a lullaby. Then ... silence. When I glanced over, bee butts extended out of each blossom as the owners of those butts silently sipped nectar from each brilliant orange flower.

Another noisy interlude occurred during practice as a lone squirrel skipped from branch to branch, tree to tree. His route was easy to track because with each leap a cascade of raindrops fell from leaf to ground in a loud shower.

Meanwhile I focused on diving deep into total peace and relaxation. (That intent was meant to ensure that I'll operate from a quiet, centered place while working at the library today.)

I unexpectedly unearthed several Xeroxed pages from The Tao yesterday as I prepared for my TCC class. Verse 78 reads:
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid....

Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow....

          From: Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell
Something in these words spoke to me about my current upset regarding work. It encouraged me to dwell in the serenity that underlies the ups and downs, failures and successes, and gains and losses that occur during the course of one's life. These simple, direct words gave me hope....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Re-Membering Who We Are....

When it comes to suffering injustice, there are two types of people. The first says, 'I can't wait to turn around and do this to someone else.' The second says, 'This was done to me, and I do not want to do it to someone else.'

When it comes to spiritual accomplishments, there are two types of people. The first says, 'I will press on for myself because my knowledge was won so dearly.' The second says, 'I will help others, because I know how difficult it is to walk a spiritual path.'

When it comes to facing death, there are two types of people. The first says, 'My life is at an end, and I am bitter.' The second says, 'In sharing, I became more than myself and cannot die.'

          From: Everyday Tao, p. 129, "Compassion"
This morning's final T'ai Chi Chih class practice was ideal: perfect weather, perfect silence, and, afterward, a feeling of lingering peace. One added bonus: a class member brought blueberry cobbler to share with the group. Perfection plus!

I look forward to a teaching break of several months in order to focus my attention on other people and projects. Nevertheless, I'll miss the wonderful energy, unity, peacefulness, and discussions that this special group of people share when we come together.

After TCC practice today we continued our discussion of Buddha's Brain, Chapter 9, "Compassion and Assertion." One student commented that through the softness in our TCC practice comes the ability to be assertive. I think that's true. As we become better acquainted with our true selves through regular practice of T'ai Chi Chih we become more easily able to speak from our stable, secure, and virtuous core of being. We can speak our truth and pursue our aims because no matter what other people do, their behavior is not controlling us (p. 145-6).

I read this quote by the Dalai Lama on the internet recently: Compassion is the radicalism of our time.

And here's how highly acclaimed meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn writes about loving kindness (compassion):
We resonate with one another's sorrows because we are interconnected. Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves. If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others.

          From: Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn, p. 162
Just like T'ai Chi Chih and seated meditation, compassion takes practice. See "A Guide to Cultivating Compassion in Your Life, with 7 Practices" by Leo Babauta (http://www.dailygood.org/). Daily T'ai Chi Chih practice is an effective way to begin the development of self-compassion as well as compassion for others. Still, it's merely the first step down a long, winding path of self-development. Each step, each technique, each tool, and each conscious moment of being help us to re-member the person we're meant to be....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Presence in the Present

I feel better today. A friend reminded me over the telephone yesterday: Whenever a door closes, a window opens. (Trite but true?) I don't yet know what window will open. And, at this point, I'm not particularly certain that a door will close (although it certainly appears likely).

For now I comfort myself with aphorisms. Don't worry, be happy.

As we all know it does absolutely no good to anticipate the future. I'm much better off living in the present which, at this moment, is fine.

My mood improved because I was away from work today. And, after tomorrow's final T'ai Chi Chih summer session, I look forward to two months off from teaching. I have one trip scheduled (a wedding), several visits from friends, and a whole lotta time to winterize the house and otherwise prepare for the longest season of the year.

My evening TCC practice was unremarkable except for the fact that it slowed me down after a long, chore-filled day. I stayed inside to avoid mosquito bites and, even so, was stalked by the buggers. Thankfully, Namaste leapt up into a nearby chair and serenaded me with a well-rehearsed snore.

I guess it's true that time heals all things. Time and a daily T'ai Chi Chih practice that returns me to the moment each time I inadvertently attempt to escape it. Presence in the present. Now that's a goal worth pursuing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Freeing the Mind and Emotions

It's a windy day. I wish the breeze could blow away my sad-angry-disappointed feelings. It didn't. So ... on to my next best solution: a walk and T'ai Chi Chih practice.

I felt a bit lighter after my morning walk with Frances; the exercise freed up my mind and emotions. Then I practiced TCC before I left for work. Yes! That definitely improved my mental attitude so that I was tuned up (or in tune) to meet and work with the public.

It felt wonderful to move in the windy, slightly rainy weather. What a welcome relief from the still, breezeless days without end that we've experienced this summer.

Next on the agenda? Homeward bound (my workday is done). The sun is shining. The sky is blue. And the wind has abated. Perhaps I'll perform more attitude readjustment movements (i.e., T'ai Chi Chih) when I get home. It can only help....

Monday, August 8, 2011

All Good

Yep. It's been a day. After several difficult situations that triggered emotional responses, I'm struck by how easily I'm overcome by fear. It's that old reptilian brain at work (per Buddha's Brain). And, once the amygdala is set into motion, it takes effort--and practice--to interrupt the thoughts and flow of information that cascade into ever greater levels of alarm.

Once again, I'm grateful for my evening T'ai Chi Chih practice. Yes, Monkey Mind was busy during my practice. Nevertheless, the practice helped me to slow my thoughts, center myself, and step back from the drama/trauma.

I feel better now than I did just 30 short minutes ago. And, even though I didn't feel like doing my practice I have learned that once I get past my resistance I inevitably experience an improved attitude, a lighter mood, and a more hopeful spirit. All good.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Lighter Psychospiritual Load

I came to my T'ai Chi Chih practice today feeling heavy hearted. And Monkey Minded. Halfway through the movements my spirit felt lighter. By practice end I was smiling.

What a gift to engage in a practice that can lighten the psychospiritual load!

It's been so still lately. It was a relief to feel the brush of a breeze across my face and arms as I moved. No animals were nearby. Goose, chicken, cat and dog had other occupations. I was alone with the trees. Well, there was the occasional swoop and buzz of two hummingbirds as they visited nearby blossoms and then chased each other to and fro.

It's lunchtime. Time for Frances and me to head down the road to a neighbor's house. He's hosting a corn feed in celebration of his newly renovated caboose. The party includes a tour of the train car that's been parked in his yard for over 20 years. We'll probably never know what secrets it's held but we sure do want to check it out!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Listening to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih this afternoon as a light rain fell to earth. Though positioned inside the porch I had a full view of the animal feeding area and the chickens as they emerged from beneath the deck one by one.

It was hilarious. First Rosie hustled out to the corn pan, charging forward as if she were being chased from behind. When she arrived at the corn, she fluffed her feathers (like humans putting on a raincoat) and dug into the food.

Next came Chickie. She was more nonchalant about the rain since she's used to moving more slowly in all types of weather because of her bad foot. Rosie immediately relinquished her position at the feed pan to Chickie and headed for shelter under a car. It's more protected and rain free beneath the vehicles than under the deck.

Chickie appeared to be oblivious to the rain as she chowed down on corn. Then Sandie rushed into view looking at if she, too, were being pursued by an unknown predator. Sandie bobbed and dipped as if she were attempting to avoid raindrops that fell from the sky. Then she gulped her dinner down and headed for the protection of another vehicle.

Meanwhile I moved through TCC in the rain free shelter of my own home. I felt comforted and at peace as I listened to the softly falling rain. Mentally I allowed myself to expand with the moisture in the air. I imagined myself filling up with the chi contained in each raindrop. As I did so, Lucy appeared at the water pail looking for all the world as if she were totally relaxed and in her element (she was!).

It was wonderful, as always, to share my practice with the animals as they appeared and disappeared in the falling rain.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Chicken Dance

It's another hot, humid day but instead of feeling miserable in the heat I managed to focus my attention on raspberry picking, cherry pitting, and cooking. I realized this afternoon that just as I settle into the summer groove the heat will soon be over (I expect cool morning breezes indicative of fall in a few short weeks).

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih on the deck in the still heat of late afternoon. I expected trouble with insects but none was forthcoming. Instead I listened to Frances as she drilled (and drilled and drilled) on our mailbox post in order to remove the current bolts and raise the level of the mailbox.

Two chickens, Rosie and Sandie, wandered into the south ravine and proceeded to dance the chicken dance. They scraped one foot (or two) along the dirt and weeds multiple times then pecked and stirred the open ground. From the looks of it they were successful in locating some snacks.

Meanwhile I looked into the trees and flowed softly and slowly through the TCC movements. My back is sore from salsa lessons two nights ago. Irregardless, it felt great to slow down and relax after a busy day off. There's always more to do, of course, but I'm more relaxed and calm than I was prior to my practice (and that's a wonderful improvement!).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Change Yourself, Change the World

At this morning's T'ai Chi Chih class one of my students mentioned that, due to the high humidity, the air felt heavy. "There's no need to imagine that your hands and arms are moving through heavy air as Justin Stone counsels," I responded, "because they are--literally--moving through heavy air."

Thankfully, an occasional puff of cool air ruffled the hair and cooled the brow and, in due time, our group of 10 rose and fell, twisted and turned, and softly flowed through the full practice. Afterward students commented upon the beautiful bouquet of wild flowers that grew at our feet inside the circle.

Post-practice I was happy to retire indoors where ceiling fans blew the hot, humid air into circles of coolness. This week our class discussed Ch. 9 of Buddha's Brain ("Compassion and Assertion") which focused in large part upon empathy. As the authors noted:
     In order to be truly compassionate, you must first feel something of what the other person is going through. You must have empathy, which cuts through the automatic tendencies of the brain that create an 'us' and a 'them.' (p. 138)
The key to developing compassion is to make it a daily practice. There is absolutely no doubt that it takes practice since the brain--in order to ensure survival--constantly tries to protect us from other people and beliefs that are perceived as a threat to us. And in our current polarized political climate, Compassion is the radicalism of our time, per the Dalai Lama.

When we engage in a daily TCC practice, we invite ourselves into an accepting, compassionate state, letting go of division and ego in order to merge into an all-encompassing Oneness. Bit by bit we see the fruits of this effort as we find ourselves letting go into deeper levels of relaxation and acceptance.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

humble be

In three hours Frances and I will join a dance class at humble be to learn how to salsa. It hit me during my afternoon T'ai Chi Chih practice that perhaps, just perhaps, my TCC practice was a wonderful warm-up to an evening of Latin dance.

I know that I often feel nervous when I try something new. Yes, I absolutely love to dance. Yes, I practice a form of movement every day (T'ai Chi Chih). And, yes, I have never--ever!--taken a partner dance class (my early years of tap, jazz, and modern dance lessons are long gone but the rhythm and timing are not forgotten).

I expect that the focus I experienced this afternoon will bleed over into the early evening and I'll retain a mood of openness and exploration while I experience something new. (Cross my fingers.) It appears that the class will be taught in a circle and I'm hopeful that my years of practicing TCC in a circle will remind me to relax and humble be.

During today's TCC practice the chickens and goose foraged for treats and treasures in the weeds and undergrowth. It was helpful to have the birds nearby as I went through the TCC movements. Their intensive focus and concentration encouraged me to stay engaged in my own undertaking.

It's another fabulous summer day and I took advantage of the beauty: raspberry picking with Frances and a brief stop to purchase a pound of the last sweet cherries of the season. And in a few hours ... let the music and movement begin!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alive, Alert, Awake

It's a downpour! After an initial flash of lightning and loud rumble of thunder the cat dashed for cover in the basement. Following a later noisy episode our near-deaf dog was startled from sleep and looked alarmed.

I continued my T'ai Chi Chih practice throughout with a few brief interruptions to close windows when water spashed in and to turn on a fan once we lost the benefit of cooler air flowing from outside in.

It's a quiet (except for nature's torrential interludes), dark day. Lights are necessary for indoor activities which inspires me to consider a nap. I won't indulge myself since I had adequate sleep last night and there's plenty to accomplish before work.

TCC practice sparked some energy and I plan to continue my day with this affirmation/song circulating through my mind:
I am alive. I am alert. I am awake and joyous.
I am alive. I am alert. I am enthusiastic about life....

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Self Care Tool Bag

Friends left. Work arrived. It was so frantic at the library that my co-worker and I barely spoke to each other all afternoon.

Before I hopped in the car to head home from work I found a spot in the middle of the library and commenced an abbreviated T'ai Chi Chih practice. It felt as though I needed to slow myself down in order to competently and safely drive home.

Interestingly, I was easily distracted by a mass market paperback rack containing mysteries that stood nearby. Whoops. Those books needed to be rearranged. And then there was this to do ... and that ... and this.... Obviously, Monkey Mind was still hard at work.

Eventually I focused my attention forward and reminded myself to concentrate on my practice (I'd already done enough work for one day!). The shift in attention/intention helped. Soon I felt quieter inside and I made it home without incident. (One more example of the helpfulness of having TCC in my self care tool bag!)