Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Deja vu'"--That Feeling of Having Been There Before...

I didn't purposefully plan to write a Post to coincide with the one from last year this time, but here it is--eleven weeks remaining in this second semester again. The big difference now is it's my second year and I'm near completion of 2/3 of the program! Ironically, I'm nursing a joint injury again--my right shoulder. This time last year it was my left elbow from overenthusiastic rope climbing. Now, my shoulder was injured from fervent and improper body mechanics in centering drills.

Taiji Sword- "Waiting for a Fish"
Photo courtesy of Jamie Urquhart
Luckily, my training partners are pretty compassionate, understanding as well as skilled in a variety of healing modalities (massage, the MELT Method, energy work). Coupled with my own expertise and patience, I'm confident I'll be back in ‘fighting’ shape before the semester ends. It's challenging to be in pain yet find a way to sustain my training progress without further compromising my well-being. Were I not self-referenced, it would be very easy to fall prey to another's agenda of what I 'should' be doing. The intensity of this training regimen requires a delicate balance between short-time assertiveness and long-term functional performance. I see it as an investment strategy for quality longevity physically, mentally, emotionally, psychically, and spiritually. In other words, by the time this program ends, I should feel better than when I began it; not worse.

Taiji Sword- "The Fairy Shows the Way"
Photo courtesy of Jamie Urquhart
 I’ve been giving thought lately about my life after the program ends. I’ve also been thinking about my death, but not in any morbid sense. One Saturday afternoon recently during the time we do our weekly chores (I typically clean the bathrooms, mud/laundry room, vacuum the carpets, etc.), I found myself looking out the framed bathroom window upstairs in the main building. It happened to be sunny that day. For some reason it was crystal clear to me at that moment that there would be a time when I would not be present to see through that window. I wasn’t sad per se; just acutely aware of my absence in the world save for the memories that others might have of me from time to time.

That experience made me ponder the value of how I spend my time with myself and with others. I remember my mother, father, aunt, cousins, and friends that have died. Those recollections are always tinged with frayed edges of clarity and I'm never able to fully feel the past exactly as when it originally happened. Being here on the mountain nurtures my desire and capacity to be present at each moment now; savoring it deeply enough to, hopefully, have robust recall in the future.

The weather is gradually warming up and it's beginning to feel more like spring. We've switched from doing the winter set of Four Seasons Qigong to only the spring set coupled with the All Seasons set. I passed the Linear Yin-Yang Symbol test and just missed passing the Peng Lu Ji An stationery test. None of us passed the level 2 Centering test. So, in the next several weeks coming, we'll be retesting what we missed and include testing the Taijiquan form at medium speed. Hopefully, we'll be prepared

Taiji Sword- "The Fairy Shows the Way"
Photo courtesy of Jamie Urquhart
to test for the applications in the first chapter of the Taijiquan form, too.

The graduation ceremony for the 10 and 5-year disciples is on June 23rd. Our group has been asked to perform the Taiji Saber sequence as part of the festivities that day. It's an honor to do so as a token of our respect and appreciation for the efforts they have invested in achieving their goals here at the Retreat Center. Many family members and other honored guests will be in attendance to celebrate their achievements.

As we practice the Taiji Saber sequence assiduously in preparation for the graduation performance, we continue to explore and learn the elements and sequences for both the Taiji Spear and Taiji Sword forms. What plays over and over in my mind is the saying, "One hundred days for Barehand. One thousand days for Spear; and ten thousand days for Taiji Sword." We literally began Taiji Sword several weeks ago. So, I have another 30 years of training and practice to attain some level of proficiency in Taiji sword. What is inspiring to me is that we are able to somehow hold these different sequences in our heads and bodies-barehand Taijiquan form, Taiji Staff, Taiji Saber, Taiji Spear, and Taiji Sword. Never mind the various Qigong sequences, too- 8 Pieces of Brocade, 5 Animal Sports, 4 Seasons Qigong, White Crane Soft Qigong, Taiji Qigong, Taiji Sword Qigong, and Taiji Ball Qigong. Then, there are those amusing moments when our minds are prepared to do a particular sequence, but our bodies begin doing something else. We laugh at ourselves and each other with a deep recognition that we are slowly embodying the ability to respond through improvisation rather than just rote memory.

Taiji Sword- "Send the Bird to the Woods"
Photo courtesy of Jamie Urquhart
This current semester is drawing to a close very quickly. There is so much to still learn and to practice primarily in the Taijiquan part of the curriculum. While there are somethings I want to refine in the Qigong part (i.e., Taiji Ball Qigong and White Crane hard Qigong), the bulk of the material to learn, digest, and be comfortable with is in the Taijiquan partner drills and the weapon sequences. The current 3-Year Training Program concludes in June 2019. The remaining 48 weeks of training between now and then will be intense and robust for me. With the 10 and 5-Year disciples leaving this June after graduation, it becomes paramount that our 3-Year group remain as healthy as possible to sustain our training goals and schedule.

There are several applicants to the new 3-Year training Program that begins this September. Many have already spent the required 2 week minimum evaluation period with the community here "on the mountain." Those who are selected will be the beneficiaries of the errors and corrections we made and will, hopefully, inherit an improved program experience. More on that topic at a later date.

For now, thanks again for all of your continued support. As I come to the home stretch to complete this program and prepare to be "in the valley," I may need one last generous donation from those of you who are not subscription donors. This summer break, I will be in New York City and have at least 2 workshops that I'm organizing to share some of what I've learned so far, as well as, to raise funds to complete my final periods of training. I will keep you posted on those details.

Taiji Sword
Photo courtesy of Jamie Urquhart

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 ever anticipated achieving. Don't give in; never give up!