Thursday, January 21, 2010


You know, the meaning of the word "grounded" has shifted so much in my lifetime.

I cringed at the word as a teen.
Felt proud of it during karate in my early 20s.
Played with the emotional aspects of it in my late 20s.
Was amazed by it during my 30s.

This word has re-made itself more times than William Shatner.

As a young taiji player, I pictured "grounded" as being strongly rooted in my stance. Unmovable. Solid. A tree. A tree with roots so big and juicy, pulling in nutrients from rich black soil. No way would anyone be able to push me over.

But I noticed something as my practice deepened. My movements were very solid and strong, but something was missing. When I practiced "Beautiful Maiden Weaves the Shuttles" (a.k.a. Four Corners) as I transitioned from one corner to the next, I felt a little clunky, uncoordinated, not so grounded.

It was then that I realized my definition of "groundedness" had blinders. My connection was only going down.

Magnetically rooted to the spot, my agility and lightness of foot where.

Until it finally dawned on me.

What about grounding upward? What about the little string that holds you up?** The crown of the head, the bahui, connecting me magnetically to the sky?

This thought blew me away. Being aware of my connection (groundedness) toward the sky was an amazing awakening for me. Upward groundedness? Really??

This thought led me even further to believe that groundedness is full spectrum. Not just magnetically connected to the earth and the sky, but to everything around me. Again, the definition had changed!

It transformed me. I became being. My taiji became a whole-body, connected, immersed-in-the-moment movement. Try saying that five times.

Not that I'm connected in this manner every time. My foundations (up, down and out!) shake at times. I'm not always completely connected. But that whole body feeling, connected and grounded in everything is an amazing, freeing feeling. So much richer than what I was practicing.

**Mine has never been a "little string". Puh-lease. Like that thing is going to hold me up. I picture more of a steel cable. ;)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thoughtless observer

Last night in class we were working on observing. Just observing. Losing the thinking mind and just practicing being in the moment.

It's simple, but in a traditional, typical day, it's something most people (in the U.S.) don't do.

So we practiced standing: feet hip width apart, feeling the entire foot on the floor, with the most of the weight focused at the ball of the foot.

Knees are soft, slighty bent.

Pelvis is relaxed, and just tilted forward, without tensing the stomach or lower back muscles. Just enough so that the curve in the lower spine is lessened.

Shoulders are in their natural curved state.

The neck is relaxed.

The crown of the head is the highest point. (Place the thumb on one clavicle and the third finger on the other. Allow the index finger to reach up toward the chin. Does it touch the chin? If not, lower the chin so it does. Does the finger reach the divit between the chin and the lips or even highter? Raise the head slightly so the index finger gently touches the chin. This is a good guideline for making sure the crown of the head the highest point.)

Stand in this posture and just bring your attention to the palms of your hands. Don't think about them in your head. Don't imagine what they feel like, really FEEL them.

Do you feel a gentle pulse from blood flow? Do you feel air passing by the palms? Just observe what you feel, without evaluating, judging. Just feel.

Do you sense a fullness in the hands? Tingling? Heat? Coolness? Nothing?

Whatever you sense, or don't sense, is okay. You're just here to observe. What you sense is just...what you sense. There is no good, bad, right, wrong.

In class, as we move deeper into this kind of practice, we bring our attention to a bigger part of the body, moving up the arms, adding the torso, the legs, the feet, the head.

As we really sense the body, just observing the changes, the delicate movements, shifts in balance, pulsing, qi, we practice not only being present in the moment, we become aware of the subtle messages we get from our bodies, others bodies and from the environment around us.

The practice moves from the body to just outside. Being aware of the space just outside of our body, connecting into it. Deeper practice allows one to feel connected to everything in the room. Be aware of where things are, if they shift or change.

This is what internal arts masters are so in tune with. This is why, when you try to strike a master, they know your move before it even comes. And you're down on the ground wondering what happened.

People who have trained so deeply to be in tune to their environment aren't separate from it. This is why they respond so swiftly and accurately. There is no pause. There is no "re"action. There just is.

Happy practicing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The art of faking

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind, "Pooh! " he whispered.

"Yes, Piglet?"

"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
-A.A. Milne

I was reminded recently of what a pain in the ass change can be.

I am sitting in my car flipping through the stations when I come across a talk show host's bombastic speech about the foundation of our economy crumbling due to a political party that is riddled with mismanagement and scandal and I started spewing terse, venom-dripping words back at the host, while my heart rate increased and my left-brain, judgment-inspired head began to swim with anger.

I completely forgot!

I don't do that anymore! How embarrassing!

So I take a quick look around at the other cars to make sure no one saw me shaking my fist and yelling at the radio. Thank the universe for tinted windows. Get composure and start faking internal peace.

I practice non-judgment, wu-wei, connectedness!! The host's thoughts may not represent mine, but we live the unity of life! Peace be with you!

Until the next time I slip and bawl you out in the privacy of my car.

But seriously, I AM working on NOT increasing my heart rate because of the thoughts I create in my head about current events (or other things) what is this?

Am I a fake?

Or am I just practicing?

Does it matter? I s'pose to me it does. Like Piglet likes to be sure of Pooh, I'd like to be sure of me. And so, as the 12 steppers go, so do I: Fake it till you make it. I just change the talk show host preset button off my radio dial until I'm grown-up enough to handle it.

And the beauty of it, I think, is that it doesn't matter if I "make it" or not. It's all just practice.


Just wondering...

I'm not sure how to word this. But it comes into my head each and every time I begin giving birth to a new post. it is:

What's the point?

As in, 'What is the point of writing when really, none of it matters?' In the scheme of things, what does it matter if I enjoy tai chi?

"Oh honey, look! Lucy's found a little hobby that makes her happy. It's called tai chi and it's on the computer! Isn't that nice?"

I sit back sometimes after reflecting and writing and I often find myself thinking: "Blah, blah, blah, whatever. We've all read it before, felt it before, performed it before. Shut up already."

Is that familiar to anyone else?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Daydreaming at night

When I was young ...well, I still AM young and I will defend that position. Who wants to take me on? huh? HUH? :) But when I was REALLY young, say 7 or 8, I used to lay on my bunk bed unable to sleep, day dreaming at night. Sometimes it was the top bunk, sometimes the bottom, just depended upon what was going on in our house.

My sister and I shared a room. I was younger so I defaulted to the bottom bunk. But if my sister pissed my mom off, she was demoted to the bottom and I gained the upper. In my memory, we switched around.

So when I lay there dreaming, I stared either at a white ceiling or at the brown bars supporting the upper bunkie board. I wasn't really looking at anything.

I was pretending to be water.

I imagined being water in a creek, feeling myself floating over pebbles and stones, shifting my shape to any creek structure. Eddying off to the side and rolling out again. Carrying fallen leaves. A stick. Moving quickly in some places. Slowly in others. Curving into each new turn, new fall. Supple. Relaxed.

So when we were thrown out of our bunk beds at 2 a.m. by a crazed woman who wanted our rooms clean RIGHT THEN, I had a place to go in my mind. Through the screaming and hits, through ducking books, games, clothing, I had a place.

From the outside, the insanity of an alcoholism-driven home can be terrifying. Most times, it drives others away. Baffled at what to do. Full of pity.

But through the clouded days of unpredictability, where soft, shaky footsteps could precipitate punches, loathing and glaring, feelings of despised worthlessness, something within grew. In the gentle movements of a creek, quietly staring, my mindfulness training began.

I had no idea that this would become a practice - not only mental, but physical. The relaxed postures of taiji that flow from one to the next, nice, even breaths, mind empty, intention clear. Taiji was my creek in a different form.

The craziness of growing up forced a balance within me and damned if I'm not thankful for it now. I'm thankful it was blatant. I'm thankful it was admitted. I'm thankful that it forced me to dream.

I just need to work on staying in that centered, imperturbable space when chaos hits the fan. :)


Hey, I don't know how the heck I did it, but I deleted my last post! How does one do that without knowing? Maybe I better rethink defending my youthfulness.

Anyway, graduate school is on pause. My 50% cost reduction was erased when my husband was part of the University cuts. So...another curve in the stream to ride!