Saturday, December 10, 2016

Off the Mountain...

As I write, I'm listening to "Wise One" by John Coltrane on his Impulse album, Crescent, with the famous John Coltrane Quartet. The next tune up is his Impulse recording of A Love Supreme...

This week was remarkably intense for a variety of reasons. The one most pertinent is the daily testing we all experienced since Monday. Both the new 3-Year Tai Chi & Qigong Training Program students (the group I'm in) and the existing 5 and 10-Year Shaolin, White Crane, etc. Training Program students were put through a combination of physical and oral exams. When our group was not being tested, we sat in to view the more experienced group's tests.

As a result, there was very little training in the schedule. In fact, today was the first day we returned to a routine resembling what we've done daily since September 1st. I have to share that it was challenging to get back into the flow of moving my body (gracefully and with ease) after literally sitting around most of each day this week. I was surprised at the difference and it made me aware of how easy it can be to slip out from a high level of physical intensity and refinement; especially at my age.

Beginning in the afternoon on Monday, our group began the physical part of testing. We performed and were evaluated in front of and by Dr. Yang and our primary teacher, Frank, either solo or in pairs (in partner drills) for approximately 3 hours in the following areas:

1. The first two chapters of the Classical Yang Family Style Taijiquan Form
2. Single Push Hands patterns 1-4 (right and left hand)
3. Coiling drills- solo and partner  (right and left hand)
4. Soft White Crane Qiqong- solo and all 12 patterns
5. Taiji Ball Qigong- solo without the ball
6. Yin-Yang Symbol- solo and partner (right and left hand)
7. Long Weapons Basics- Bo staff
8. Short Weapons Basics- Sword
9. 8 Pieces of Brocade- demo of form and Q&A

On Tuesday, for five hours (two in the morning and three in the afternoon), we had group oral exams with Dr. Yang asking us questions about General Qigong topics and Embryonic Breathing. On Wednesday, we spent another five hours in oral exams finishing up the Embryonic Breathing topic and beginning the subject of Medical Qigong (8 Pieces of Brocade; Four Seasons Qigong). Finally, yesterday, we concluded with Medical Qigong and a bit of Tai Chi Theory.

The process was exhaustive and intensive and helped reveal my strengths and areas that need additional attention. Observing the senior students go through their testing was invaluable in providing insight for where our group is heading. Altogether, in retrospect, this week's testing experience was helpful though going through it was arduous. Now, I at least have a sense of how to prepare to meet those demands in the future as well as how to refine my personal training regimen to meet my goals for being here.

Where has the time gone to? It's almost (not completely) unimaginable that sixteen weeks have come and gone, seemingly, so quickly! This time next week I'll be heading down "Off the Mountain" for my first break. I am so looking forward to being with family and seeing friends and students for the Holidays! While life here is physically isolated from the mundane rhythms of urban living, it is not absent of the challenges inherently present in what we as individuals bring with us to the mountain. There's that old saying that wherever you go, there you are...

While I'm still in the midst of being up here in the mists, I haven't fully digested all of my experiences. Being away for a month will provide me some distance and space to reflect more easily. I still feel so very fortunate to be here and appreciate all the support I've been given both morally and financially to realize this dream. Thank you!

If I set up my Instagram account correctly, you may be able to see several pictures I uploaded there. It's under the name: urbanqi. I plan to do some videotaping of my training with a GoPro camera during this coming semester. As that happens, I'll share those with you as well.

I wish you and your families the very best for the upcoming Holidays. May you be blessed with robust health and well-being and may you truly know unconditional love and happiness.