Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sixty-Seven and counting...

Today marks the first day of my 68th year living on the planet...I was blessed with phone calls and text messages from family and friends, an unexpected care/love package in the mail from my Kindred, chocolate and pear cakes from my training colleagues, and FaceTime kisses from my grandson and granddaughter. I am fortunate to have lived this long in good health and to have the many relationships that are mutually valued. I am pondering what the next 10 years will be and look forward to the following fifty-nine when I'll be 128 years young!

I've been back "on the mountain" 36 days now and much has happened in such a short time. Upon returning, we wee informed that one of our training partners in the 3-Year Program chose to terminate his participation. Our numbers are now down to 3 from the original active 5. Our group expects to graduate in June 2019 and we are half way through the program with 13 months of training left.

While the scope of what remains in the program to be studied can feel overwhelming at times, I've come to accept that, realistically, these 3 years provide a solid foundation from which to continue to explore and refine my devotion to these arts after I graduate. That perspective removes any anxiety and angst and helps me focus in on what it is I can learn within the time remaining.

Log push ups in the snow 2/19/2018
Photo courtesy of Michelle Lin
Our learning seems to have accelerated during these past 5 weeks compared to our initial year and a half. While it was tough for me to get right back into the swing of arduous training when I returned in January, the focus on partner drills has paid off in unexpected ways. I'm still at the level of playing scales, but with the added awareness of what effective improvisation feels like in an active person to person exchange. Our drills include stationary Peng-Lu-Ji-An, moving Single and Double Pushing Hands, moving Yin-Yang symbol (Yang side), stationary Yin-Yang symbol (Yin side), and Applications from the Taijiquan form (including the kicking, striking, wrestling, and joint locking options)
Chin ups 2/19/2018
Photo courtesy of Michelle Lin
We've also begun learning both the basics and a sequence using Taiji Sword (36" long) and Taiji Spear (12' long). I can say, unequivocally, that studying the Saber (30") and Staff (7-8' long) really did prepare me for now tackling the Sword and Spear. Both the Sword and Spear are, by the nature of their design and length, more elegant and graceful instruments with which to express one's Qi. I've surrendered to the notion that it will take TIME to really feel comfortable wielding all 4 of these weapons correctly. My plan is to also include learning the 2 Short Rods of White Crane before I graduate.

My conditioning continues well. I recently calculated that the actual upward 50 yard slope that I Panther Crawl most mornings is not 45 degrees. It's 75 degrees! I now do it while wearing a 20 pound vest. This is going up as well as down the additional 45 yard side. I resumed climbing the ropes (vertical and horizontal) about 2 weeks ago, but it was an ugly affair. Because I had severely strained my left elbow doing too much during the  fall semester, I had to stop climbing as well as doing chin and pull ups. During the winter break, I rested and treated my elbow and forearm with Wise Woman Herbals ARCH Oil as well as used Castor Oil. While I can climb again without pain, I lost much of the gains I had made previously because I had stopped lifting my body weight with the chin and pull ups. So, I've resumed the chin and pull ups (sometimes with the 20 pound vest) and am slowly regaining my capacity to lift my body mass up the vertical rope. My goal remains the same: climb up the vertical rope in 10 seconds or less just using arms, no legs. I'll keep you posted.

I had one mishap with my lower back about 3 weeks ago that lasted about 3 days. I reintroduced dead lifts into my regimen, but took it a little too far one session. I was lifting 205 pounds, but did too many repetitions. It wasn't until late that night that my back muscles tightened up and didn't release for several days. I still trained, but cautiously. With saunas, self-massage, ARCH Oil, homeopathic Arnica, and daily stretching and Yoga's 'Happy Baby' pose, I found relief.

Overall, I'm stronger and more flexible and have increased stamina. Unexpectedly my body mass has increased and I now weigh about 168 pounds (up 8-9 pounds from last semester).

Our Qigong training continues and we are now doing the winter and spring sets of the Four Seasons Qigong routine. Additionally, we've learned and now include the Coiling set of the Taiji Qigong routine. We recently learned the complete set of the Bear sequence in the Five Animal Sports routine and started learning the first of 5 patterns in the Monkey sequence. We're also reading and discussing the Muscle-Tendon Changing, Bone-Marrow, Brain Washing book written by Dr. Yang.

 The weather has been unusually warm for the majority of the time I've been back. This time last year, it was miserably cold AND wet most days from heavy rain. Yesterday morning was the first time in many years that actual heavy snow fell (about 4") here on the mountain. We trained anyway... By late afternoon, it had mostly melted away.

There are 4 months remaining in this semester before I return to the city in July. I'll keep you posted on my progress and experiences throughout the time. Thanks, again, for your ongoing support and encouragement. Feel free to drop me a line or ask a question at

Hard White Crane Qigong with Quentin Lopes 2/19/2018
Photo courtesy of Michelle Lin

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All things are possible once you clearly see it, commit your every action to achieving it, and know that what appears to be a roadblock in your way or failure is just preparation for more than you even anticipated achieving. Don't give in, don't give up!