I've been back "on the mountain" nineteen days since the winter break which I need so desperately. I enjoyed resting more thoroughly while at home; sleeping in without any self-imposed demands on my schedule or my body. It was great to see and teach many of my students at SAGE and St. Mary's. I spent time with friends, family, and colleagues. Had my annual health check with glowing results. Saw and listened to Kurt Elling live at the Birdland Jazz Club.
The first week back felt like I had been here a month already. Now that it's been almost a month, it feels like I've caught up with myself and the demands of the training schedule. I can honestly say, at this moment, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life! While I still have so much that I want to refine regarding how I move in space and time (either in solo or partner drills), I've reached an unexpected level of coordination. I had glimpses of this when I was a long distance runner and then a basketball player many years ago.
The rains have returned today after a few days reprieve. It was unseasonably warm last week when the sun was bright. Today it's been a dismal gray all day. We're without heat or hot water once more because there's a problem with the heater again. It's bearable since it's not too cold outside. My room faces North which makes it more challenging to remain warm, but I'm fine. The challenge is mostly at night before going to sleep when I'm sitting at my desk. I may have to fill up my hot water bottle with heated water from the stove tonight to keep my legs warm.
Within the past two hours, we've experienced a couple of tremors from the apparent aftershocks of a nearby quake! The feeling is very unsettling when the seemingly stable room your quietly sitting in begins to shake and you simultaneously feel this deep rumble and vibration through your feet. Both lasted no more than three seconds each, but were disconcerting nevertheless. And, it takes at least one of those three seconds to clearly register in your conscious mind that something is amiss and what that something is--an earthquake aftershock. There is, after all, a dormant volcano southeast of the Retreat Center...
I've been putting in a lot of work with my legs (squats, lunges, hamstring curls, weighted kicks, hip flexor marches with resistance bands) and I resumed doing both forearm planks and reverse planks. My morning panther crawls are faster and less winded. My shoulder and elbow strains are greatly diminished from doing pull-ups on the parallel bars. These and other routines are helping me feel stronger and more stable in movement during partner drills.
We're spending focused time refining the Taiji Sword sequence with a focus on applications. We've added additional parts of the Taiji Spear sequence and continue to refine the medium speed Taijiquan form for the first chapter. We've improved our execution of the Yang side of the Yin-Yang Symbol partner stepping drills and are polishing the Yin side as well. The Taijiquan Fighting Set is steadily improving now that we've learned the sequence and can slow it down to refine the exchanges. We continue to explore executing Applications from stepping Pushing Hands while paying attention to the four elements of Striking, Kicking, Wrestling, and Seizing/Controlling. We recently added doing Applications from Centering as well. We're focused on improving the cross body side of the Peng Lu Ji An partner drill, too. And, we've begun studying the variations for the Large Rollback (Da Lu).
For our Qigong curriculum, we are focused on reviewing and practicing the sequences we've learned (Eight Pieces of Brocade, Five Animal Sports, Four Seasons Qigong, Embryonic Breathing, Small Circulation, Taiji Qigong, White Crane Soft Qigong, Taiji Sword Qigong, Taiji Ball Qigong) and preparing for our final exam. The emphasis will be on case studies and how Qigong might be useful.
Well, this is it! With only eighteen weeks remaining, this 3-Year journey is quickly coming to a close. There remains a lifetime worth of studying and refining to do in these arts of self-defense and personal cultivation which I'll continue after graduation. Graduation is officially on June 22, 2019 here at the Retreat Center! I'm excited to complete my training and return home to teach. It has been a profound learning experience.
I sincerely thank all of you who have and continue to support me through this journey. I hope that these Blog entries have provided you with some level of access to my experiences along the way. It was one of the ways to express my gratitude. As this final semester progresses, I will keep you posted. Stay tuned...