Sunday, December 20, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 30

 It's been sixteen days since my previous post and we're now thirty days into our daily practice of sitting and moving. It is said that it takes about twenty-eight days to establish a new habit. Hopefully, you're now feeling more enthused to exercise your daily sitting devotion and much less reluctant to stop. 

At about 5:00am EST tomorrow morning, the winter solstice will occur and the winter season officially begins! The naturally contractive energies of this season are ideal for sitting meditation and to explore your inner Self. 

Part of the process now is to settle in becoming the observer of the experience without expectation, judgment. Just continued faith each of the remaining seventy days in this 100-Day Practice!


To be great, get it done! 

Friday, December 4, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 14

Day 14

If you find yourself doubting the benefits of sitting every day at 5:00am or perhaps you're rationalizing that missing just one day won't make any real difference over the span of 100, welcome to the oh so typical "commitment remorse" period. This quite common sense of doubt and regret about your resolution to create a new and beneficial habit is really an opportunity in disguise. 

It's been my personal and vicarious experience that sometime between the 14th and 21st days of a new endeavor a rebellious toddler energy is evoked that disdains change. This "toddler" energy is comfortable with things as they are and fights tooth and nail to maintain the status quo. This is the opportunity for the burgeoning adult spirit within us to step in. The evolving adult within us needs to gently and firmly coax the toddler to do it in spite of the seeming inanity or discomfort of it all at the moment. 

Within another 7-10 days, those rebellious sentiments seem to wither and fade away and a growing sense of freedom to choose and act in our self-interest bursts forth. This is the energy we embrace and which then propels us forward to complete the task.

Sit and enjoy your process...

First chapter: Yang Family Style Taijiquan

"To be great, get it done!"

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

100-Day Practice! Days 10 & 11

 Day 10 (11/30/20)

This morning's session was punctuated by the sound of the rain's pitter patter on the AC in the window. My right knee was more reluctant than usual to participate in sitting. I massaged it a little longer this time and it was fine. Generally, I was more aware of my body being less comfortable than I typically am. That made for distraction from my internal focus for sometime. Eventually, I settled in...

As a courtesy, I am posting the following quote for Mr. Jamal Ashanti Bey who is participating in the 100-Day Practice!: "It is better to move less than more; it is better to not move than to move less; moving while being immobile is the movement of creation."   -Master Wang Xiangzhai

Day 11 (12/1/20)

The time sitting and moving seemed to pass by more quickly than usual this morning. Perhaps the recent energies of the Lunar eclipse and Beaver moon were contributing factors in my experience yesterday and today? We are made of the stuff of celestial bodies and are a part of Nature. Though subtle, it stands to reason we are affected in some manner; especially when in a meditative state.


"To be great, get it done!"

Sunday, November 29, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 9

 Day 9

I was feeling pretty tired last night and had doubts about waking up at 5:00am this morning to sit in meditation. I was rationalizing and negotiating with myself to feel okay with not doing the practice. What would it matter if I missed just one day out of 100; especially since I've been doing this kind of thing since 1985? And, anyway, no one would know if I did it or not. On and on my mind wandered...

It wasn't until I walked by our meditation room that my true Self emerged to take the reins and keep me on track. This is the Self that emerged over the years as a result of the investment I've made in trials and tribulations learning to be disciplined, tenacious, and diligent. It's the part of me that doesn't let me fail or fall without getting back up to continue my journey. 

What I've learned is that it's okay to not want to do a practice. Those feelings are rather normal when you choose to be at your best committed to a goal. What matters is whether or not you succumb to the feeling.

It's my belief that success must be earned and, therefore, that process is intrinsically challenging to help cultivate the muscles of character required to achieve one's aims. Thus, what truly matters is what you actually do; especially when no one knows you're doing it and you are not going to be complimented for doing it. In the darkness of the enclosed chrysalis, a caterpillar transforms itself into a butterfly that must struggle and break through to emerge to fly!

As I walked by the meditation room, I stopped, entered the room and setup my seating space. I then got my clock and set the alarm for 5:00am. I heard it ringing way off in the distance this morning and my Self got me up out of my comfortable bed to go sit. One day closer to achieving my goal. No epiphanies this morning, no glorious revelations. However, it is a powerful link built in to the chain of constancy...


"To be great, get it done!"

Saturday, November 28, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 8

 Day 8

Wonderful morning sitting...

I spent my movement time (about 45 minutes) massaging my toes, feet, ankles, knees, groin and hips. Feel so much freer in my gait and standing...


"To be great, get it done!"

Friday, November 27, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 7

Day 7 

Here it is already--the first week of this 100-Day journey has arrived! Waking up at 5:00am each morning in order to prepare to begin sitting at 6:00am, has been rewarding; especially because I revel and thrive in the experience of discipline. Discipline is required to be successful in whatever endeavor you choose.

Standing on bricks (YMAA Retreat Center)
There are several types of meditation which all seem to have a similar purpose: enhance awareness, focus attention, optimize health and well-being. and elevate spiritual pursuits. The best meditation is the one that you will do consistently. 

While 100 days (now 93 days remaining) may seem daunting, consider dividing this period of time into four (4) phases:

PHASE 1: The first 25 days (ending December 15th) This is a period when you may find yourself trying a variety of strategies to get comfortable with your choice of sitting and movement meditation. Be gentle with yourself if it seems challenging to settle in. Do not give up.

PHASE 2: The second 25 days (ending January 9, 2021) It is said that it takes about 28 days to create a new habit. This period will help transition you from the previous period with panache. You will most likely feel rather settled with your choices of the first 25 days and can now revel in your rhythm.

PHASE 3: The third 25 days (ending February 3. 2021) While you've been making observations since the first day, this period lends itself to going deeper in each day's experience. I strongly urge everyone to journal your experiences as a reference point for future self-evaluation.

PHASE 4: The final 25 days (ending February 28, 2021) This last period is when you can almost be in automatic mode to just enjoy each moment of your sitting and moving meditations. You've consciously created a habit that will serve you for the remainder of your life. 


"To be great, get it done!"

Thursday, November 26, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 6

 Day 6

As I sit and as I move this morning, I am full of gratitude for each breath that courses through me. I am thankful for my health and well-being. I am grateful for my family, friends, teachers, students, fellow travelers. I am thankful for another day, a moment to think/do a new view, more than mere driftwood in the mainstream...


Reflect on the historical roots of the creation of the United States of America and the prestidigitation and obfuscation served by the Thanksgiving Holiday: read about The First Thanksgiving; the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo between Spain and the United States; the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Trail of Tears.

What this country experienced these past four years is not novel--just obvious and unadorned. The current president is part of this country's long legacy of active indifference...


"To be great, get it done!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 5

 Day 5

Long before I began my specific trek in Qigong and Taijiquan, I was an avid long distance runner (Mile, X-country, and aspiring Marathoner). While X-country racing is scored as a team endeavor, each runner performs individually. No one except you puts one foot in front of the other up hills and across railroad tracks in frigid weather wearing a singlet. I remember one race when it actually began snowing midway through the event! You know I was't about to stop running to walk through the woods in a singlet just because I was tired or sore. 

My point in sharing this is those experiences honed my awareness of the possibility to complete a task begun in spite of the obstacles. They cultivated my a ability to stay the course, literally, and not to quit until I finished. Did I ever have to change my tempo during a race? Did I ever have to make mental and emotional adjustments to keep going even when I was unfamiliar with the event's course? Did I ever run a race when I was hurt and in pain? The answer to all those questions is, "Yes, of course." Wha I learned was the beauty of never giving up and the flexibility and patience required to successfully complete a race. 

These same fundamental character traits and skills are required to complete the 100-Day Practice. They are learned by going through the process 

This day and the next several through the 14th day of the practice may prove challenging emotionally, mentally, and physically. Embrace that as part of the process of shedding what no longer serves you in preparation for the way you prefer to BE. There can be a built-in subconscious resistance to change despite your sincere desire to be different. If you can hold on to that awareness and allow yourself to observe rather than judge yourself or your commitment, those growing "pains" will be assuaged and you'll continue through to February 28th.

Many years ago my father shared this quotation with me, "A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits!" 


"To be great, get it done!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 4

Day 4: As is bound to occur, there are days when it is less easy or smooth to sit than most other days. This morning was such an occasion. Having been here before in my many years of training and disciplining my Self, I followed the flow and did sit. No particular revelations or epiphanies made themselves known.

But, that is not the point of mediation for me. It's not about the destination. Rather, it is always about the experience itself. Embracing the process, the moment, and allowing myself to let go without judgment or expectation. I learned a long time ago that time is going to pass regardless of what you do or do to do. Might as well act on faith and do "it." The "rewards" that come are always on time and appropriate to meet my needs at that moment or period.

So, sit even when you do not want to sit. Do it anyway:-)


"To be great, get it done!"  

Monday, November 23, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 3

Focus and Single Mindedness

 Day 3--This morning, as I sat and heard the rain falling outside, I was overwhelmed with the deep satisfaction of each breath. The simplicity of just being. 

Synchronistically, one of the 100-Day Practice! participants sent me a reference about the breath stated by Thich Nhat Hahn. 

Hopefully, he'll contribute this and his other insights in the Comment section.

In preparation to teach an advanced Tai Chi For Arthritis class later in the morning, my movement meditation was focused on refining that form and configuring how best to shift the viewer angle for a Zoom screen format. That process of discovery was very helpful in refining my ongoing personal practice and teaching of this Sun Style Taijiquan. 

I hope your day is blessed!

"To be great, get it done!"

Sunday, November 22, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 2

 Day 2--This was an interesting morning. The alarm was set to wake me up at 5:00am so I'd have enough time to do all the things I require to sit comfortably and then transition to moving. That was my routine for the three years of training on the mountain. 

After going to bed last night, I woke up feeling like it was time to get up to start the day. However, it was only 3:30 or so. I went back to sleep expecting to hear the alarm at 5:00am. Lots of dreaming until I felt, again, that it was time to start my day. Well, this time it was 5:50am! 

I hadn't heard the alarm at all. Realizing that I only had 10 minutes before I needed to sit, I got up and did all that was immediately necessary and was on the floor sitting in the meditation room at 6:01! What came up for me during sitting was immense feelings of gratitude for my mother, Rose, for choosing to give birth to me. Her daughter, who would have been my older sister, was stillborn. I celebrate my mother's courage and faith to have me in spite of the trauma she experienced with her first child.

I closed my sitting with a massage of both my feet and ankles to prepare for doing Taijiquan. I went to Morningside Park in the basketball court to practice the form and stayed there until 8:15am. Outside was windy and cold and the park was relatively empty save for several geese and the occasional passerby walking a dog. It was quiet and peaceful being amidst the trees. 

By biggest challenge in doing the form was completing the 270 degree turn on the rough asphalt. The heel of my right sneaker kept getting "stuck" about 3/4 of the way through the clockwise rotation. I had to use my right arm more assertively to create enough spin without throwing my balance off. I chose to not overdo it to preserve my ability to return tomorrow to training again... All in all, it was a good and productive second day. 

Question: What is your clear intention for doing this sitting and moving meditation for the next 98 days?


"To be great, get it done!"

Saturday, November 21, 2020

100-Day Practice! Day 1

 At about 5:45 this morning, I sent the following email invitation to my network of family, friends and students:Good morning!

"Today is the first day of my 100-Day Practice which concludes on Sunday, February 28, 2021! I will be doing a sitting meditation from 6:00am until 6:30am (1/2 hour) and then a moving meditation (Taijiquan/Qigong) from between 6:45/7:00am until 7:15/7:30am (1/2 hour) for a total of one hour. The duration of either may increase over the 100 days. I will chronicle my experiences in my Blog: Will you join me?

Thirty-six years ago, in January 1985, I started training Qigong and Taijiquan with Master Mantak Chia in Braintree, Massachusetts. Both he and all of the other teachers I’ve studied with since, emphasized the value of practicing 100 Days in succession in order to “own” and experience the nuances of any discipline. In fact, the 100 Days itself is the discipline. Once you create that foundation of diligence and tenacity, there is an inner momentum that carries you forward with all endeavors regardless of the inevitable distractions that occur in life. Your courage grows and you learn to improvise and adapt emotionally and mentally. Ultimately, this results in a quality of resilience that makes living more sweet.

As the world we live in continues to change and evolve, we must be as prepared as possible to not only survive, but rather thrive. Daily meditation (mentally, physically, psychically, emotionally, and spiritually) is a self-referenced, internal practice that cannot be taken from you, requires no gym membership, and can be done anywhere at any time. You just have to do it! Let me now if you’ll join me on this journey.

I’m off to sit now…"

I'm happy to note I received several enthusiastic responses later in the morning and in the afternoon. That's great! While each of us will exercise our individual commitment physically apart from each other, it is my intention that we begin together at the same time every day for the next 99 days. Although I have not set a specific focus of intention, I believe it suffices to acknowledge that we are behaving synergistically.The universe will take care of the remainder to create resonance and appropriate entrainment. As the days pass, I may be inspired to suggest a topic or two, but for now let's keep it simple: sit and breathe...

Choose whichever form of sitting meditation you gravitate to. In future posts, I will write about different meditation options to consider. For now, the power of this is in the doing of "it. The best "it" is the one you'll do when no one knows you're doing it and is void of accolades. 

For the second part of the 100-Day practice, I am doing a moving meditation. I'm refining my Yang Family Style Taijiquan Long Form, but may include other interests. I have every intention of practicing outdoors every morning. And, yes, I know it is getting colder as winter approaches. That's alright. In some ways, I welcome it because of the familiarity (training every day on the mountain at Dr Yang's Retreat Center regardless of weather; running in the rain and snow when I was a x-country and long distance runner). 

If you want to join me, let me know and I'll share where I'll be (near or in Central Park or Morningside Park). If you choose to join me, I won't be teaching the form. I'll just be doing the form and working out the kinks in my movements, etc. So, don't be disappointed if I don't spend time offering you corrections. Otherwise, you choose the movement meditation of your choice to do every morning for the next 99 days. It doesn't have to be Taijiquan.

I am strongly recommending that you journal your experiences (thoughts, feelings, etc.) throughout this journey. Choose a rhythm that works best for you. I plan to write daily even if it's just one or two sentences. Feel free to comment or ask questions on anything I post. I'll do my best to get back to you. It will be interesting to see how we each progress through the process. 

I think it's a great idea to consider the possibility of reaching out to one another to exchange thoughts and experiences. It isn't mandatory or expected. If you're interested, let me know and I'll post your name and contact info for those who may want to share with you.


Getting back into my rhythm with sitting and moving in more predictable ways to be better prepared for 2021. My knees rebelled a little and my right ankle when I sat this morning. It's been a minute since I sat every single day from 6:00am - 7:00am. The transition from being on the mountain has been longer than I anticipated; especially with having to accommodate to the COVID-19 paradigm. And, actually precisely in large measure due to COVID-19, I've been motivated to act NOW rather than later. 

It felt good emotionally to just sit and be the observer- breathing, letting go.

Doing the form was not as uncomfortable as I thought it might be given my challenge with my lower back and hip. The physical therapy and the exercises I learned have really helped to strengthen my back and make me more limber. I'm stronger, just a little rusty. That will improve quickly now that I'm focused on training every morning at least. 

So, so far so good for the first day! Let's see what tomorrow provides. I'm also excited that several people have agreed to join me on this trek. I look forward to February 28, 2021 when we'll be celebrating our accomplishment together


"To be great, get it done!"

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Happy Anniversary...

Today is the anniversary of my Total Hip Replacement (THR) surgical procedure done seven years ago. It was and continues to be a true blessing in my life and I am forever grateful to Dr. Michael Parks, M.D., and the New York Hospital for Special Surgery. Literally, I became a new man free of excruciating and debilitating pain on this day.

Prior to the surgery, I had lived with pain for the majority of my life. I experienced an injury to my knee when I was 14 years old which precipitated a series of physical compensations that eventually resulted in the deterioration of my hip joint 48 years later. The six months just before surgery were the most painful. I found myself unable to sit, stand or lie down for any length of time. I could no longer actively run to say, catch a bus. Walking was very painful and climbing stairs was worse; especially negotiating busy exits from the subways to street level. I avoided sexual intercourse because of the limited mobility during intercourse and the long painful recovery afterwards. The Qigong and other exercises I depended on over the years to give me some relief no longer did so.

Dr. Parks and his staff were all excellent in assuring me that the procedure and outcome would be smooth and effective in relieving my pain. I remember the trepidation I felt entering the cold surgical theatre as the team made final preparations to begin my procedure early that morning seven years ago. I was able to count backwards to 97 I think... 

I'm told that the procedure took about forty-five minutes. When I awakened, I was a bit disoriented initially, but the fog slowly lifted. I was transported by a kind nurse to my shared room and fell asleep. When I woke up again, I realized that there was something missing. I was no longer in the kind of pain I had become accustomed to most of my life. It was gone! Nothing!

Yes, I felt the discomfort of the surgical procedure itself which was masked by the various meds I had been given. However, I knew the difference and it was crystal clear that I was better. Not long after waking up, my nurse had me begin walking with a walker the length of the corridor and around. She had me sit up in a hip-high chair and not long afterwards stroll around the hospital floor again. 

The following day I was using a cane and walking up a set of mock stairs. On my third day, I was discharged and sent home with self-care instructions and an appointment for a home visiting nurse to provide physical therapy for several weeks. Luckily, my home nurse was a former martial artist and understood my recovery goals. She designed a prudent and assertive recovery program for me. I also did physical therapy for several weeks afterwards at a local physical therapy office. 

Seven months after my surgery, I was cleared to resume my normal physical activities with some minor, but important restrictions. A month later I began training with kettlebells doing swings and have never looked back.

Today, I am stronger and more flexible than I ever was in my youth. I was able to begin and successfully complete a 3-year intensive Training Program in Taijiquan and Qigong from 2016-2019. I am fit enough to continue training and exploring my physical boundaries. And, I am pain free! I truly believe that it is never too late and all things are possible with proper support and guidance.

Urban Qi FIT

Tenacity | Diligence | Discipline | Courage | Resilience

The Journey Continues...

From 2016 through 2019, I shared my thoughts under the Blog name of Qi Portals. This was the period when I trained full-time as a martial arts student in the YMAA California Retreat Center's 3-Year Training Program in Taijiquan and Qigong. One purpose of Qi Portals was to document my training experiences to share with those who made it possible for me to participate in the YMAA program. Another goal was to share my exploration of the subtle energies of Qigong and Taijiquan I have had glimpses of since the early 1980s. Being in Northern California in the mountains away from the distractions of modern life, I thought I would have time to delve further into these, but I was mistaken. The demands of the training schedule as well as the community upkeep of the facilities left little time for anything else.

Today, June 30, 2020, marks one year since I graduated from the program and left the Retreat Center to return home. Until today, I had not written anything in Qi Portals since July 2, 2019. My first six months back home was time I needed to rest and heal from my physical injuries as well as from the mental-emotional fatigue of the program. Re-establishing my teaching rhythm with my students and negotiating a radically different personal training regimen has been challenging and immensely rewarding. Unfortunately, the absence of training partners with whom I could continue my progress has slowed down, but not deterred my momentum.

I certainly miss the daily discipline of partner drills that were unveiling the deeper layers of the inherent power and grace of Taijiquan. Whether it is the fundamental nature of such a broad art or the design of the training program itself, there was an imbalance between the Yin and Yang aspects of my training experience on the mountain. While it is clear that Qigong is the root of Taijiquan (Taijiquan is loosely translated as the Grand Ultimate fist of the Mind), the overwhelming emphasis on the mountain was on the Yang side--the body. This makes sense because being physically conditioned to actually regulate one's body to execute the movements (the form, the weapons, the partner drills, etc.) is paramount. However, practicing Embryonic Breathing Qigong once in the morning was insufficient time to cultivate a higher awareness and facility with Qi itself.

Five months ago, the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic forced me to rethink and revamp how to continue my teaching and training. Now, all of my teaching is online these days and it has been an interesting shift for me and my students. Surprisingly, it's turned out better than I had anticipated. The emphasis of my classes is on the foundations and basics. So, we spend much more time understanding fundamentals and cultivating a clearer relationship with how we govern our bodies and movement.

I have decided to rename my Blog Yin Side Notes. My interest is still in uncovering the hidden foundation(s) for what creates the seemingly facile and effortless treats of power and strength I have personally seen and experienced that are intrinsic to this martial art of Taijiquan. As such, I will share my thoughts and experiences as I explore and journey. My three years on the mountain provided me with some insight, but were insufficient to speak with any degree of authority. One day I know I'll be able to share more clearly.

I hope you are able to join me along the way.

Urban Qi FIT

Tenacity | Diligence | Discipline | Courage | Resilience