Sunday, October 30, 2016

"On the Mountain"


We seem to have officially entered rainy season early here. Most days it's a downpour with minor breaks where the clouds give way to the sun that's always shining above it all. On those days, we scurry about squeezing in doing our laundry to have enough clothes to wear in case there's a string of overcast and wet days. There is a washing machine, but the emphasis is on being very conservative and mindful of managing living off the grid. One of the benefits I appreciate about experiencing these aspects of this model of living independently (though communally) is observing how it's managed in preparation for designing mine one day.

Today marks my two months of being "on the mountain" training! For the past two weeks, the days now seem to move by more quickly than the first six weeks. I relish my Sundays off to maximize focus on my personal time to devote to what is needed to feel whole: I indulge in listening to my jazz music, practice and play my didgeridoo and vocal overtoning, write my memoirs more consistently, wear my favorite colors rather than workout clothing, read a little more of what I prefer rather than what is required, think about and call family to talk, ponder, envision, and plan what the next phases of my life will be, and now I've added sipping a cup or two of coffee while I write.

My primary concern about being "on the mountain" was not what you might expect. This is a very small community of people with varied backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. While we have in common that we're here studying the classical Chinese martial arts and culture in a very intensive daily structured training and living model, each person has their own reasons for having decided to participate. Being this close to people on an hourly basis within the regimented training schedule requires strong and agile personalities with clear boundaries that allow you to take care of your mental, emotional, and psychic needs appropriately. I know how to do that so the challenge for me, I thought, was going to be the sameness of the terrain.

As beautiful as the southern valley on the property is, I used to think that it would be daunting to wake up each day to see the same thing; especially since we do not have access to being off the mountain readily. Well, to my pleasant surprise, my trepidations were completely unfounded. Each day that I look southward at the same topography the constancy of the trees and land reveals unexpected change. This is especially true when I'm eating in the dining area and looking out through the huge three windows facing the south. Whether it's the interplay of sunlight and the verdant colors of the landscape or how the misty clouds hover and slowly glide easterly, or the variety of life that flies or strolls by (hawks, crows, humming birds, deer, wild turkeys, the hens and roosters), there is always a feeling of something new to view and experience that leaves me feeling uplifted. And as far as coming off the mountain, I truly prefer to be here rather than going back and forth. The mundane world is heavy enough and not about to change. Being here for extended periods of time is a relished respite from the density of the modern world and all its distractions. Regardless of how elegantly I've  had to learn to negotiate urban living, it takes its toll on the spirit-- "...concrete bruises the ego, spurs us inside to use the creative I..." is a line from a poem in my memoirs.

My training and personal conditioning regimen has been exquisite and this body is responding in ways I could not have imagined. The investment I've made to do 200 squats daily (except Sundays) has paid off handsomely in that my ability to do the training sequences and the Taijiquan form has radically shifted to a state of great ease with moving this body through space. This is similar to the ease I experienced when I was an avid long distance and x-country runner 46-51 years ago! One of the remarkable experiences I had recently was feeling  connected to the earth through my feet in a way I've never experienced before. It was effortless and unexpected and happened while we were doing a White Crane Qigong routine and practicing our coiling patterns as well. And for the first time in many years, I feel able to move lightly on my feet to the extent that I was spontaneously doing some box jumping and speed shuffling to and fro, side to side recently. So, all continues well with my training.

I've recently added doing a daily series of 5 minute elbow planks, mixed with one minute iron bar crunch, panther walks, pull-ups/chin ups, and inclined push-ups. Frank has introduced us to circuit training routines using coiling and heavy bags with selected patterns from the form. We've concluded all of the first chapter of the Taijiquan form and have begun the second chapter through 'Beware of the Fist Under the Elbow' up to just before 'Pick Up the Needle from the Sea Bottom'. My form has completely changed because of the emphasis on coiling, my new found freedom of movement, and the understanding of the inherent applications associated with the patterns. We've also spent more time on the basics of Taiji Staff training and a little more time on the basics of Taiji Sword.

On the Qigong side of the ledger, we've completed the Eight Pieces of Brocade, The Twelve patterns of White Crane Qigong, and the eight patterns of Four Seasons Qigong (for all seasons) and have begun learning the four patterns for the winter sequence of Four Seasons Qigong. As a study group, we've finished Dr. Yang's Roots Of Chinese Qigong and will begin studying together the Embryonic Breathing Qigong book for the next six weeks.

Well, that's my latest update from here "on the mountain". Be well and be true to you...

Blessings to you and your families,

Dr. Robert J. Woodbine

"Character is what you do when no one knows you're doing it."      

1 comment:

  1. Hi Robert! Your blog entry made me reflect on my own practice progress. Thank you! Tend to miss the forest behind the trees, esp., in New York rush. Very tempted with daily squat series ( to add to my yoga and qi gong practice). 200 is a good number, makes a reader notice :) I remember DY told to us 2 or 3 year ago, that the squats are the greatest exercise. His reasoning then, as I remember, was - " that it compresses=massages the vital organs in abdominal cavity". And, i could see that the squat promotes the air exchange between the abdominal and chest cavities ( which is the definition of breathing per Leslie Kaminoff's Yoga Therapy course I took).
    Last year in your class, I also realized that to do a series of squats is a great tool to GET mindful about aligning the spine, hip, knee and ankle joints. Squats are demanding, and requiring concentration and focus - otherwise, they punish with soreness, and I need to prevent it as working performer... So, I had to do it in a very focused way - and that felt great! Like pumping/pulling the energy from the earth into the body. Doing squat series and stationary stances was one of the great discoveries of my training with you.
    Now, I practice and include stances for leg joint alignment in my new Balance in Motion class at the 92nd St Y and my occasional Tai Chi class subs... On the other note -just taught my first and - successful Animal Dances of Qi Gong Workshop and prepping for Sufi Whirling one - with live music by the director of Sufi Ensemble of Rome. Off to work, practice and prepare - inspired! Thank you!