The Taijiquan Journal Logo Copyright © 2001 New Moon

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March 2001

01: Thursday

Today, I practiced. It was cold, but not too cold. Pale sun. Some wind. I did eight sets and I was warm enough to take my gloves off for the last few.

Practice felt good— not that I was doing everything so very right, but parts of things were working, and some things I got right.

Afterwards, I felt light all over, especially in my legs. Perhaps my chi was flowing clearly for a change.

02: Friday
I've been very bad. I stayed up until 3 ayem reading Declare by Tim Powers, and then I didn't get up to practice. Very bad...

From what I've been reading about t'ai chi, I should be more distressed about neglecting the qigong practice than the forms.

I have got to clear a space to practice in the house.

Have I mentioned that I haven't been able to do Kick with [Left/Right] Heel for over two weeks? The ligaments on the tops of my thighs crunch and hurt when I do. I've tried consciously relaxing, but it's too late for that. Now I'll have to wait for healing. Meanwhile, I just bring the knee up and imagine I'm kicking correctly. (I wonder if David noticed last week.)

At work, I got to talking with Eileen of the Novenas. I asked her how her t'ai chi classes are going (very well), and I asked how her elbow is healing. (She fell on the ice last month.) She said she was still having problems with the fingers going numb. I happened to have Ta'i Chi Magazine with the Silk Reeling exercise it it (December 2000, Volume 24, Number 6), so I made her a copy of the article. The exercise really helped my broken elbow.

03: Saturday

Today I played the Yin music while I practiced, and timed myself on five contiguous sets. Thirty-four minutes.

I've been thinking I need a new practice outfit, especially for class. The purple teeshirt I've been wearing it getting holes in it.

04: Sunday

I feel I'm not doing well today. My balance... well.

Grasp Peacock's Tail is all wrong; and then "grasping the ball" and pulling it in is just— it's completely off balance. And Snake Creeps Down continues to elude me...

I did get in a few low kicks without reagravating the injury.

I tried to concentrate on just doing each form as best as I could, but... perhaps I should break it down and concentrate on one move at a time.

After practice I could really feel my leg muscles. I'm encouraged to think I'm getting stronger.

05: Monday
I think I do better when I don't think.

06: Tuesday
Today's our anniversary. One year ago today, Ma and I started taking T'ai Chi lessons. Lessons were on Mondays then, now they're on Tuesdays. Unfortunately, because of the nor'easter there won't be any lesson tonight. Rats.

I had to sweep snow off the porch twice today so I could practice, and I had to replace one of my five counting pennies when I accidently swept it off the railing with the snow. (I found I was losing track of the number of sets I'd done, so I use the pennies. Tails means set still to do; heads means set done.) Practice went well. Five sets each side, then the flexibility exercise and QiGong to cool down.

Repulsing the Monkey felt particularly good today, and today I could finally kick again— though not so easily with the right leg. But I continue to feel I'll never get Snake Creeps Down right, either side.

07: Wednesday
I was in the first set, just beginning Repulse the Monkey when I heard the Town snowblower out front. By the time I had convinced him and his boss not to throw the snow with all the salt and street dirt up onto my lawn where I've finally got plants growing (maybe, if the stuff from the last two storms hasn't killed them), it was time to get ready for work.

08: Thursday

The way I move is changing. Sometimes, as when I'm doing Parting Horse's Mane, I feel the shift of weight is becoming more of a sliding across. But I can't achieve that motion in all the forms. I'm not there yet.

I remember reading that one is supposed to shift the tantien, the energy, not the body. But I can't remember where I read that.

09: Friday

Practice went well.

At work, Eileen of the Novenas stopped to tell me that the Silk Reeling exercise is really helping her elbow and fingers. She says it's exactly the exercise she needed.

10: Saturday
Some days, t'ai chi just sucks.

11: Sunday
Today I was reading about t'ai chi in The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and QiGong. I'm wondering if I'm taking it a little too seriously...

At Ma's, I practiced bits and pieces. A little silk reeling, and Brush Knee & Push, and Parting Horse's Mane.

12: Monday
Bits and pieces again today. I've decided that I need to lighten up. Single Whip and Press, alternating left and right, backwards all the way down the length of the porch three times: pivoting on the left leg much improved.

Then Snake Creeps Down alternating left and right all up and down the porch, just having fun with it. (But I find it very difficult not to think about how badly I think I'm doing!)

13: Tuesday
Ma and I always arrive early for class, just ahead of David, but not by much. (Guess we all have that neurosis in common.) Each gets ready for class in his own way. Ma sits a bit. I walk the corridors. David sets up the music and, sometimes, slips in a little practice before everyone else arrives.

Tonight, I was out in the corridor when I head the skrik-ing of David's sneakers on the linoleum (when it's wet out, it takes a few minutes for sneaker bottoms to dry out completely) that meant he was practicing. I slipped back in to watch. It was beautiful. Looked like a section of the Olympic Form. I've never seen him so good. Smooth. Balanced. Excrutiatingly slow. Very, very powerful. Chi flowing in every movement. Incredible to watch...

It still beats me how anyone walking into that room wouldn't notice and keep shut until he finished, instead of hollering hello and forcing him to respond out of politeness (David, ignore your idiot students!), thus interrupting his concentration and ending the show. Some people. Me, I'd've stood there quietly entranced through the whole thing, all 45 minutes of it, class be damned.

In class we practiced Wave Hands Like Clouds, and got an excellent demonstration and explanation of Snake Creeps Down, which cleared up a lot of my questions. And David made sure we understood about where we're supposed to be looking in each movement.

14: Wednesday
Bits and pieces today, then a couple of sets on each side. I'm getting the hang of Snake Creeps Down now. And today I paid special attention to making sure I was looking in the right places.

15: Thursday
Today there was time to practice properly... but I felt heavy.

16: Friday
Two sets each side, and some reading in The Tai Chi Classics.

17: Saturday
I noticed a tendency to creep a bit forward when waving hands like clouds, so today I put the boards down in two rows with just my foot's length between them and I practiced waving up and down the porch between them. Then I pushed the boards together so I could practice a wider stance doing Parting Horse's Mane and Brush Knee & Push. After that, I messed with various things before I did three sets on each side and called it a session. The feeling of heaviness has lessened.

18: Sunday
No practice today. Too much to figure out.

19: Monday
The sun is so warm it makes practice easy.

The thing I can't figure out is why I seem to need so much more space to practice now than I did a few weeks ago. Last summer I remember David saying that when we practice this form we should end up on the same line about a yard to the left of where we began. And that's what was happening to me— for a while. Lately, though, I'm ending ahead of the line, and only about 18 inches to the left. But what's more strange is that now I'm coming so close to the wall on High Pat on Horse that I can't swing my arms around properly to do Kick with Right Heel. Why? I'll have to think about this.

20: Tuesday
Class tonight, so I only did some stretching in the morning— and ended up taking a tour of the back yard checking on Spring's progress. It was a gorgeous day!

In class tonight I was disabused of any notion I had of progress. We were concentrating on Grasp Peacock's Tail: "No... No, too far... No, too far... Can't you feel your right arm getting stuck? Look. See? No... No. Try it again... Try it a few more times. I'll be back."

Of course it's always possible there is something I'm doing right but that we just didn't touch on it— whatever it is— tonight.

21: Wednesday
I didn't practice today. I did some stretching, & tried Grasp Peacock's Tail, and... I decided to let my subconscious work on all the notes from last night's lesson.

Tonight at the Healers' Circle, I was asked to lead the QiGong again— Lotus Flower Blooms to begin the evening. Everyone enjoys it so, and the energy we generate is amazing— heck, it's from a whole roomful of open, receptive, powerful, kindly energy workers? Wow! As we stood afterwards for a few moments of silent meditation, I assumed the Hugging the Tree stance, and my chi was flowing so easily my arms and my whole body felt weightless. It's addictive.

22: Thursday
Rain today. I don't feel like practicing, but I know I'll feel better when I do. And besides, David is right: it's come time for the body to be torn down and rebuilt for t'ai chi. I'd best get on with the renovations.

Practice got cut short when I noticed the "fountain" gushing in the neighbor's yard, and decided that I'd better check the water situation in my own basement. Good thing I did, too: the water was coming in and I had to move quite a bit of stuff, and I spilled polishing grit all over my t'ai chi Chucks doing it. Rats. But it worked out well because I went back out onto the back porch to clean them off and ended up doing QiGong.

23: Friday
Strange dreams: disapproval from my teacher. But I think it's only my own penchant for self-criticism. David's never been disapproving. He loves t'ai chi too much to be mean to anyone who's trying to learn.

It's chilly and I can hear the wind blowing: I'm reluctant to go out and practice. Such a short respite from Winter and I am spoiled!

Got an email today from Ms. Davis at Taijiquan Journal asking me about my site, and wishing me well with my learning. Who'd've thunk it! I'll have to look for that magazine. The articles look interesting.

24: Saturday
I love Saturdays. I have all the time in the world to practice.

Today the wind kicked up on the last of the ten sets, and I heard the patter of rain just before I felt it blown cold on my face.

Is there a difference between the arm movement in Parting Horse's Mane and Grasp Peacock's Tail? David said "same," but I believe there is a difference, even if they are both ward off movements. The intension seems to be different. In "Mane," aren't we chopping at an opponent's throat? In "Tail," aren't we blocking with shoulder then elbow then wrist? Is this different?

Today, as I moved through the forms, I found my path, my "orbit of travel" across the porch, was closer to the path I followed through the forms when I was just a rank beginner. It's been interesting to plot the variations over this past year. I have noticed. Last week, my orbit was wide and I didn't have room to swing my arms freely through High Pat on Horse and Kick with Right Heel. But today, my orbit narrowed and there was plenty of room.

What was I doing different? I don't know, but I was trying to be more relaxed, more focused, and more aware.

25: Sunday

It's a beautiful spring day. The air is chill, but the sun is bright and warm. While I practiced a shiny black crow had an argument with a squirrel.

How can only half of me feel effortless? My upper body almost feels weightless sometimes, but I can never seem to forget my legs and feet. They seem to drag at me— perhaps one of these days the feeling with change to one of "rootedness." In opening form now I do feel my roots growing down into the earth. Truly.

I need to do more stretching exercises. My hip joints are very stiff. (I wish I didn't hate stretching exercises!)

26: Monday

Anticipation, expectation— thinking plays a huge part in t'ai chi. Why else would opening form be so different just because I change sides?

Thinking ahead, having a notion of what one it going to try to do, changes every move. No wonder it's so important to clearly visualize the how and why of each move! And I never really belived this before, not down deep. Now I know better.

Time to buckle down and learn what's really going on in those forms.

27: Tuesday

"Awareness directs thought. Thought directs energy. Energy follows thought. When awareness is focused, life energy is concentrated."

That's from the Reiki II manual I got hold of through the library. I'm thinking about it.

Practicing this morning in sunlight, in a swirl of ice crystals. Yesterday's snow blowing out of the pines. I could feel them on my face no matter which way I turned. My heart and feet felt light. I wished I had more time to practice, but no matter, tonight there's class.

Another night of frustration. I couldn't do much right. And yet, at one point, David put me up front to "set the pace." Of course, the pace I set was wrong. Too slow, believe it or not.

We worked a lot on Snake Creeps Down, taking it from the setup for Strike Opponent on Both Ears through Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg. My left foot got very tired, but I think I may have got the coordination worked out for that creeping snake.

QiGong was interesting. David added a variation at the end, having us play with the chi, stretching and compressing it between our hands. Then he had us partner and place our hands between eachother's to feel the chi. I partnered with Shane. It was fun watching his face as he actually felt the chi in our hands.

Ma told me afterwards that she'd seen another aura. Oy.

28: Wednesday

It was difficult to concentrate today. I kept remembering things to check on as I practiced, and so I kept stopping to check, and kept repeating moves trying to do them better.

I wish I'd had another hour to practice. Then I might have been able to forget to worry about my form. And maybe my left shoulder would've quit aching, too.

29: Thursday

"T'ai Chi is born out of infinity. It is the origin of the positive and the negative. When T'ai Chi is in motion, the positive and the negative separate; when T'ai Chi stops, the positive and the negative integrate."

Today I read in the T'ai Chi Classics before practice. I don't know if that's what made the difference, but I felt much lighter all over and I could imagine the chi between my hands, stretching and compressing— separating and integrating— as I moved through the forms. It was wonderful— magic.

"The T'ai Chi principle is as simple as this: yield yourself and follow the external forces."

30: Friday

Rain. I don't remember how practice went. I only remember that before I left for work I went to check the basement for water, and found that it was coming in through the main electric line from the meter and running out the bottom of the fuse box. I don't know why it didn't all short out.

I called the electric company and they were kind enough to send a couple of guys who recaulked the meter and the meter box and helped me dry the breakers out with my old hair dryer. Thank you, Pascoag Electric!

31: Saturday

I want to skip practice. My left shoulder hurts, and my right thigh, too. And my neck feels stiff. I've been reading in the Tai Chi Classics, and today they make me feel as if I'll never live long enough to learn anything.

I felt terrible when I began practice. I felt all my worries pressing on me, pressing on my heart.

I began with a stretch or two, but quit because that made me feel worse. So I went on to the stepping exercise in which hands and feet must cooperate. Raise one foot up, as the hands help draw chi up through the rooted leg; step, and the hands push the chi down through the leg being rooted deep into the ground... This exercise is strange. Depending on how one uses the waist, how one coordinates the step with the drawing up and pushing down, it changes... I don't know which way is rightest.

After that I practiced Snake Creeps Down and paid special attention to hand and foot coordination. When that improved, I started paying attention to the "thread" attached to my shen and imagined it holding me upright, making me lighter. It felt different. Better. Up and down the porch I went... I hardly felt my feet at all.

Copyright © 2001 New Moon

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