In the previous blog we reminisced about the first half of 2014 for United Tai Chi. Some say the sequel is never as good as the original, but let’s give it a go.
In addition to the class locations mentioned in Part I of the newsletter, added sites in the latter half of the year included Kokikai Akido school, more Chester County Night School sessions, and the Sunday mornings at Dragon Gym with Masters Armstrong and Tolbert. Our mentor Wei Lun Huang held a weekend workshop in Broomal PA that several of our students attended. And Phil represented UTC at Master Huang’s annual Wakulla Springs tai chi retreat. Christian held an outdoor weekend QiGong seminar in August. And followed Master Huang to a learning session at Boston Healing Tao this fall. UTC was also represented at the Blue Buddha anniversary party.
Field trips or shared events included Christian, Phil and Deb joining Master Armstrong in Philadelphia for a community festival and Tai Chi demonstration. Likewise some attended an Internal Arts weekend workshop lakeside at a fellow practitioner’s cabin. Steve and Phil conducted a Harvest Moon internal arts evening to celebrate the cosmic event. John C travelled to Hawaii to cheer on his son in a prestigious triathlon. We read books such as “The Power of Tai Chi Chuan” (R. Gamble) and “The Old Man From the Hill” (S. Zimcosky).Ray welcomed a new grandson, Jaclyn travelled to Croatia, and Christian’s uncle had an art exhibit at the Rosenfled Gallery in Philadelphia. Our annual tradition continued in supporting a youth from the Delaware Valley Children’s Charity with Angel Tree gift donations at the local YMCA.
Newsletter blog essays in the ‘living the art’ theme included: the effect of utilizing sound or music versus no sound. Mood disorders or depression and the Taoist principles of meditation, fitness and access to daylight. Medication black box warnings about side effects as a story framing agent to discuss the positive “side effects” of tai chi. Letting things go via listening, receiving, flexibility, communing with nature and animals, and comporting ourselves like ‘velvet bricks’. Goal setting in our daily lives as well as our internal arts practice. The assistance of smart phones in your search for videos, class locations, tweeted articles, blogs, or connecting with practice partners. Recovery from personal traumas using an analogy of cups full of pain that spill over versus those that allow room to let the goodness in. Layers (gum, Ogres, and the Human, Earth and Sky stages of tai chi). And finally, oral history and generational influences.
New Class Alert: Christian will be teaching through the Chester County Night School program. Dates January 7th to February 11th 2015 at Henderson High School in West Chester. Fees $62 bulk rate per person for six classes. Wednesday nights at 7:30pm. Register at this link.
Shares/Finds: My recent book review “The Old Man From the Hill” for the Tai Chi website Slanted Flying. Thank you Steve Zimcosky and Guy Tomash for your faith in me.
Student News & Events: Marilyn, thanks for a nice Open House party for tai chi friends and neighbors. Good to meet folks and discover more about purple pool water, Ray’s grandson, Jiji’s humor, Chris’s Michael Keaton film recommendations, Jose’s ikebana plans, and Dick, thanks for the Elf on the Shelf comment. Affinity groups are so helpful this time of year. Internal art, open heart.
Social Media Roundup: Thank you to our new followers, sharers or readers on the following platforms: (Facebook) Charles, Andy-Janelle, Joey, Sajad and Paulo. (WordPress) First time readers from Columbia and Cambodia this month. Canada and the UK, thanks always for your growing support. And a shout-out to our one reader in Finland –original home of my late grandfather. (Pinterest) check out the boards of fans Dominic B. , Adam R. and Sara A. Thank you Sifu Anthony K of FlowingZen for your forthright revelations and investigation regarding a troubling subject.
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Just as there can be no light without darkness in our yin-yang principles, so too at times follows our spirit, mind and heart. Depression and anxiety affect more than half of us at some time or other in our lives. Grief, loss, trauma, anger, loneliness –be it temporary or chronic. Mental health professionals like Maryellen Copeland include in her ‘toolbox’ for the WRAP program (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) complimentary mind-body approaches like fitness, meditation and access to daylight. Peter Wayne of the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi cites the social support aspect of one if the ‘Eight Active Ingredients’ in the benefit modality of internal arts like Tai Chi. Sifu Anthony Korahais of flowingzen.com has discussed depression here, including how Qigong provided him with solutions in his own recovery, removing obstacles that block the smooth flow of body energy. Bruce Frantzis (Tai Chi Health For Life) reminds us that tai chi helps create “stronger internal organs that can better withstand powerful emotional outbursts…strengthening the kidneys may help depression to a limited degree”. He also indicates you can “change or mask your true feelings with your breath…feeling depressed and shallow breathing, you’ll feel better to consciously start deep regular breathing” (Opening The Energy Gates of Your Body). In a recent qigong-in-the-park session our own instructor talked again about the postures that “bring heaven to the earth, and bring the earth to the heavens”. A posture to suggest we can achieve and enjoy the best of ourselves, the best of our daily lives, a heavenly place on earth. Depression is often a debilitating condition –to the spirit, mind and body; and as such may sometimes require the paired approaches of traditional counseling, Western medicine, and holistic or Eastern philosophies combined into a multi-dimensional approach. Quick and easy ‘magic wand’ remedies don’t exist, nor would that be a lasting effect. Growing your support network, changing patterns, opening up blockages and cultivating energy can help to start us on the path of wellness. A path that often is several miles long. All the best to you in your discussions on mental health issues and internal arts.
Wrap-up of recent classes: There must have been several events on 7/10, as Jose didn’t find any fellow students at the Y class in the afternoon. Some of our students and friends worked on a sword form with Master Armstrong and Ted N at the Dragon Gym on the 13th. Afternoon drills on ward-off, kwa opening, and parry-redirect (with a nod to Thomas’s English Muffins). Welcome back Maria. Thirteen postures. Turning versus twisting. Brush knee review. Keeping the shoulders dropped. Steve’s yin-yang socks. Thanks Ted for the poster/chart/infographic that I put on our FB page about Tai c hi benefits. Working on metaphorically getting all of our tribes back in harmony, and the importance of continued practice outside of class. Weekend afternoon Blue Buddha class we ventured into some of our bagua animal qigong practice (Phoenix, Bear, Lion, Dragon, etc.), and reviewed more information about our kidney positions and how that impacts our tai chi practice.
Student News & Events: Master Wei Lun Huang will be in the Philadelphia area once again this year, so here is another chance to study with this tai chi master if you missed his Dragon Gym workshop in May. He will be at the Masonic Lodge in Broomall PA starting the afternoon of Friday September 19, concluding late afternoon Sunday September 21. Liu Hi Ba Fa, Push Hands, Tai chi and Qigong. Stay tuned for updates on our social media sites, or I can send you a pricing sheet via email if you are interested. Also reach Sifu Tom Hardy for questions at 610-353-8609. Welcome back Claudia. I heard from Jaclyn who was practicing and teaching her tai chi at the beach earlier this month and says “Practicing at the ocean’s edge is inspiring and opening. Breathing and moving with the sound of the ocean is the best music to practice the 108 movements of the Yang style”. Hoping Marcia Z’s husband is doing better. Good to hear from Aruna who has been hosting some guests from India recently. Good to see a large class attendance on Wednesday morning. The National Qigong Association has their annual conference July 25 to 27 in King of Prussia PA, see info here. Social Media Roundup: In the Twittersphere, welcome new followers @jinky_lion, @UnifiedMAAm @LCTDK and @D_awansetiawan. On Facebook, three-quarters of our followers are men, and we welcome a topic suggestion or guest quote for next month on health/wellness benefits you find with internal arts specific to your practice. Thank you to fans in the United Kingdom for your readership support on our WordPress site and out Twitter page!
General Weekly Schedule:
Lionville YMCA, 100 Devon Drive, Exton PA
Blue Buddha Studio, 1247 Pottstown Pike, Glenmoore PA
Lionville Community YMCA, 100 Devon Drive, Exton PA
Miller Park 220 Miller Way (off of Waterloo Blvd) Exton PA Drop in whichever hour you can attend, it is $15 per hour
Lionville YMCA, 100 Devon Drive, Exton PA
Lionville Holistic Health Center Natural Pharmacy, 309 Gordon Drive in Exton PA
6.30am to 8.30a
Student practice session/no instructor: Lionville YMCA
Daytime private lesson available pending schedule, by request
Blue Buddha Studio, 1247 Pottstown Pike, Glenmoore PA
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The past several days have been a great exercise for me in ‘living the art’, finding ways that tai chi principles can appear or impact other experiences, daily activities or observations. This is about the receiving of a (real or perceived) attack, digesting or understanding that information, and redirecting the energy or finding ways to dissipate it before formatting a response. A journey of X’s and O’s, or a round of Push Hands. I was away this weekend at a qi gong workshop in the Boston area, and over the course of the before-during-and- after, I had both some bumps along the road and ways to redirect, dissipate, reformat, or delay. Herein, the push, attack, or ‘incoming missile’ as our local teacher likes to say… (1) In matters of the heart, a man I care very deeply about and spent a lot of time with has only just recently expressed a need for a step back –adamant about not getting too serious, too fast with one person; and also relayed some other roadblocks. The dreamer in me who sticks to love like a tree frog was crushed. (2) In matters of work or professionalism, uncertainty, masquerading at alternating times as disappointment or lopsided opportunity –to either fail or succeed. Amidst upcoming changes at Employer X, a request for a letter of intent and feelers for adaptability. Partnered with what may have seemed at first like a lateral opportunity in a related capacity further away. (3) In matters of the actual journey and its logistics, part A of the trip took much longer than anticipated and involved being a bit lost and traffic snarls. Part B return side saw seat partner issues, (very fidgety and vocal young girl, versus frequent self-thigh-rubbing adult male) and airport shuttle pickup 180 degree decisions. And now for the redirect…(1) Heart. Since were both away for the weekend we got off the texting merry-go-round and I took a qi gong 10 Steps breath and some Phoenix bagua torso spiraling to format some thought out, reasoned and touching replies. This week the door of communication is still open, vibrant and negotiable and I’m still in the game. (2) Work. I took a long time forming and crafting my intention, not writing anything up until after my trip, and allowing Rhino and Lion bagua animals to help me with diagnosing sore spots and finding my playfulness, my center point, rootedness and determination. While also having a good interview discussion in a head space where I felt good about my skills. (3) Travel. The long journey up or the detours nonetheless was shared by my car pool friendly life raft mates in the sea of romantic despair, like the 10 breaths opening bow aligning the spine. A straight spine, relaxed tailbone and concave chest are your wingmen. As for the return trip, the fidgety young girl said she liked my hair, so of course I melted a bit, and the thigh-rubber I put out of my head by secretly doing Bear bagua animal posture internally. And the shuttle driver who suddenly changed his mind from a 60 minute wait to a 15 minute wait after I just got a first bite of an attempted lunch, well I just had to swallow my reaction like Rooster, settle my bones to water and turn around. Of course, these past few days and all these push vs. redirects helps me in my thought process to decide what things and people I want to stick it out and fight for. But slowly. Slow fighting, Kind of like Tai Chi.
Wrap-up of recent classes: Growing like a tree qigong, revisiting the ’13 Posture’ sections of “Look”, “Gaze” and Center”, more discourse on the ocean waves metaphor of receding/growing/crashing. A bit of Golden Lotus qigong postures, linking/transitioning, driving with the heel or ‘tailbone’ of the palm, and the uncoil & sink of Play the Pan Pan. And winter weather has impacted our class schedule once again this week.
Student News & Events: Welcome back Esther, Marcia, Audrey & John F. Thank you to old friends and new at the Master Wei Lun Huang workshop at Boston Healing Tao this past weekend, and a huge thanks to Steve G for the driving (and Steve and Phil for sharing their car space with someone who definitely needed a healing weekend). Marie at BHT shot some photos from the workshop that you can view here http://on.fb.me/1pZXpmL Christian did have some enthusiastic attendees at the Eat Drink Ohm Yoga Café class in West Chester last week. Also don’t forget the YMCA blood drive coming up on 3/28, the Chester County Night School tai chi class spring session 3/17 start, and World Tai Chi & Qigong Day on April 26 (stay tuned for more updates TBD). To any military veterans, any of Christian’s non-YMCA classes are free of charge. Among Twitter friends, Light House Tai Chi in the UK is having a tai chi sword course next weekend to sold-out interest. In WordPress news, someone in New Zealand has found and read our blog this week, and a new subscriber is GiftFromTheHeart. Our FB engagement rate is up over 400% for the week ending March 2. Facebook Fans of the Day: Amber a local in Chester County PA, and also Deb S in Ontario. Welcome!
Etcetera: Aha, see, not all anger is unhealthy nor should be squelched. “Balanced anger, or what the Chinese medical theory calls righteous anger, is not only healthy, but essential to life.This is the energy that fuels action, the energy that enables people to right wrongs, to seek justice, and to actively build a better society.” [Sifu Anthony K of FLowingZen.com]
Weekly Schedule: NOTE: Any Non-YMCA class offsite = FREE to Military Veterans!
In the world of internal arts, the term “Crush” corresponds to the wood element in Chinese medicine and is part of the 5 element Hsing-Yi practice and energy matrix of the universe in Taoist cosmology. It aims to mimic a fist growing out of the body, or an arrow darting. In 2013, in my journey back to amateur writing, blogging, journaling, columns or essays, that energy matrix has yielded personal influencers of a crush-worthy nature. Artisans who have begun to show me that who I am on paper (or screen) is meaningful, worthwhile and still relates to internal arts and Tai Chi. That I see vindication of my style or approach in some of their writing is further encouragement that I have been on the right path. I used to wonder if throwing the occasional pop-culture or non-internal arts reference and humor into one of my newsletters was off-putting or un-relatable. That is until I discovered the books and podcasts of Paul Read (“The Beancurd Boxer”) who’s work has shown me, that for a relative beginner who has come to this art late in life (not a Karate Kid was I), it is a little easier to grasp something when crafted in my own language (see his crazy funny One Last Thing: The History of the Martial Arts Philosophy). I also want to thank Mark Saltveit (The Tao of Chip Kelly), Tim Larkin (Survive The Unthinkable), Mark Salzman (Iron and Silk), Sifu Anthony K (Flowing Zen blogs and articles), Peter Wayne (The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi), Deng Ming-Dao (The Wandering Taoist) Gail Reichstein (Wood Becomes Water) Dan Kleiman (Qi Gong Radio podcasts) and Bruce Frantzis (energyarts.com) whose words or voices I have been fortunate to have encountered or were recommended to me. Outside of Tai Chi, though still journalists I geek out over, I want to also mention music writers Peter Cooper, Brian Mansfield and Robert K. Oermann. Lastly, a special honorable mention of Owen Gleiberman who I have followed now and again over the years and whose amazing recent article for Entertainment Weekly about Robert Redford’s career inspired me to change my digest topic this weekend http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/11/30/robert-redford-is-an-underrated-actor/Just like Tai Chi, writing is an art and a discipline, inspired from the heart, requiring practice and patience. And I want to thank students and teachers of United Tai Chi and all of our readers for sharing both with me this year. I was fortunate to have also found, in our instructor Christian, a ‘voice’ who’s teaching style resonates with the type of learner/listener/reader/writer that I am.
New class alert: Starting January 6th, six session Monday night tai chi class at East Bradford Elementary School in West Chester, 7.30pm. $62 pre-pay, and you order course #14WFH710 from http://www.chestercountynightschool.org. Please read their snow/closure policy for classes held inside a school building.
Wrap-up of recent classes: ‘Serve the fruit’ warm-ups, right side Tai Chi and Left side Tai chi, thirteen postures. Inhale and exhale stories. Cleansing breath, gathering breath, calming breath. Neck exercises as part of the standing 10. Finger and palm connections in “press” and “shoulder strike”. Eight pieces of brocade. Parts I and II of Yang 108. Thanksgiving take-away: seeing my 3 year old grandnephew demonstrate a great rendition of “folding”.
Student News & Events: Annual holiday breakfast thank you for Christian, Friday December 6 at 8:45am (following the morning class) at Penn’s Table, 268 Eagleview Blvd in Exton. Truck loading day for our Angel Tree youth sponsor gifts you guys helped contribute for is Thursday morning December 5 at the Lionville Y. An early Christmas present—reached 1,000 Facebook followers! Red Cross blood drive Friday December 20 also at the Lionville Y, join our life saving mission with a donor appointment at http://www.redcrossblood.org and use our sponsor code of lionville (or sign up at the Y). Welcome back Carl to the morning classes. Welcome a reader in Croatia to our WordPress newsletter. Welcome @aharkins1 from Florida and @LoveLightandQi from the UK to our Twittersphere. Rest in peace to a fallen outdoorsman, marine biology fan, humanitarian/activist, film actor and Brazillian ju-jitsu student, Paul Walker this past weekend.