Monday, December 15, 2008

Of Mice and Men

I try to practice taiji outside. For three reasons, mostly: I like it, there isn't enough room in my house, and my cat winds through my feet or continually plops down wherever I am stepping. It's good practice, actually, but sometimes I'd rather not have him around.

Several years ago I was practicing 'intention' which is one of the 10 Essentials of taiji practice. You can practice taiji with no intention, but it doesn't really count as taiji. It's really just moving around slowly. Which is fine, if you like to move around slowly with no intention. But don't try in any busy public place because people will intentionally push you over.

Okay, so back to my intention of writing about intention:

It was 4:30 in the morning. I couldn't find my shoes and didn't want to wake my husband rummaging around for them. Spiders walking in the basement wake him up. So I went out in bare feet to practice.

My intention most times is on my invisible taiji opponent. When she strikes, I block. When she kicks, I catch her kick and strike back by kicking at the knee of her standing leg. When she strikes to my jaw, I step out with my right foot, blocking upward with my arm and throw her over my leg.

Oh, please. Don't feel sorry for her, I wouldn't have to do these things if she wasn't able to keep coming back at me.

So this day I chose to practice taiji with the intention of bringing qi to my hands. It was a simple intention, and I was practicing keeping intention throughout the form. Could my simple brain stay focused on bringing intention to my hands throughout the 64 movements? Or would it get bored and start thinking about some miserable thing that happened 15 years ago; or worry about possible phone calls I was missing; or bug me about an email I had to return.

So, I began first with a few deep quiet breaths, feeling my hands. Just feeling them. I sensed the warmth and tingling there and felt it move up my arms. My intention was in my hands, but at the same time, when you practice taiji, you are aware of what is happening around you. Even though it's pitch black at 4:30 a.m. you still sense the bushes are where they are. You feel the dewy grass beneath your feet. You breathe in the air, are aware of your connection to the earth and the sky.

And I move. With my hands feeling full, I move. I breathe, folding into the qua, foot moving back slowly, arms are light, sense of self disappears, sense of duality disappears, I move with everything around me. I move. And my hands are very clear in the landscape I am part of. I sense them most. I feel them pulsing as a sense of peace and connection fosters itself inside me. I am moving as one, as a whole.

Until shearing pain cuts into the bottom of my foot. I disconnect. I am me entirely and not whole. My hands are lost.

I drop down and lift my foot, seeing a gray mouse hanging there whose last possible breath was made defending itself against my weight.

Now what? Do I save a dying mouse? Do I get a tetanus shot? Do I continue my form with a mouse stuck to my foot?

You know, a master would have felt the dying mouse's qi BEFORE he stepped down, crushing more of its tiny bones. You know nothing. Go inside and move around slowly without intention so you don't hurt anything.

It reminded me of another time I was practicing (again, in my backyard - this time with shoes on) and at the end, for some reason, I really felt a connection to the tulip tree in our back yard. I walked over to it. Looked up at it and it's beautiful green leaves and orangey tulip blooms. It was beautiful.

My instinct said: Hug it!
My brain said: Don't be ridiculous.
My instinct said: HUG it!
My brain said: Grow up.
My instinct said: HUG IT!!

So I was in my backyard and said pllltthhh to my brain and I slowly put my arms around the tree and gave it a great, big hug!

I pulled my arms off just as fast. I don't know what the hell was on that tree, but it must have been squirrel barf or something. It was all over my hands.


I don't know if I want to analyze why these things happen. But I'm looking at my cat right now weaving through my legs. Looking for a perfect place to plop down and get comfy.

I guess the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".



  1. Fantastic story. I love outdoors too. Night, morning, dusk, dark, noon: I love it all.

    I love your story, so I subscribed to your posts atom.


  2. Great post Lucy...

    We like our practice sessions to be perfect, don't we? We like to imagine that our perfect version of practice is life as it really is.

    LOL - life came and joined your practice sessions in very realistic ways! I just love it... :)

  3. Steven- thank you. I've enjoyed your website as well (

    Svasti, I agree, oh the twists our practice provides! Definitely not something I would have expected! But, you just wash your foot (and hands) and keep going! :)

  4. What a nice post! Stories I will pass on to friends as we gripe to one another about the difficulties of the path.

    And why do these things happen? ....ah!

  5. Lucy, Great story. Glad I followed that link on your Facebook page to your blog! Bruce

  6. Killing poor defenseless creatures.

    I thought this very funny, Luce. I'd send it some place. New Yorker. Columbus Dispatch. Scratch the last one.

    Not really anonymous but Dad.

  7. Thanks. I promise, the death of the mouse wasn't "intentional."

    Our cat brought him to the final stages of only being able to breathe...and have one final bite.

  8. I stumbled across yoru blog and am really enjoying catching up on your posts.

    You have a great writing style and I identify with so much of what you write about.

    This post made me laugh out loud,poignant and funny in equal measure.

    Look forward to reading future entries on the path we have both chosen.

  9. Great to hear from you, Al. I'm glad you've enjoyed the posts. I've been struggling to find the time to settle in lately and write and I miss it. So thanks for the encouragement!

    (See you along the path!)