Happy Summer Everyone!
Its been a slog through spring but we did it. And now the glorious months we crave are here. Yay! We take the evening classes outside to the delightful Salmon Bay Park. Its easy to find us in the small quiet park - we practice at the South West corner. Parking is easy & free, plenty of water & a clean bathroom. If you are new to Taiji & Qigong now is a perfect time to start. Veterns, keep coming! See you on the floor on in the park. And do enjoy your summer!
Relax The Mind
Each morning I wake around 5:30 am and make a pot of Earl Grey tea. I let it steep a bit then pour cream and stir a dollop of honey into the dark scented brew. I like my tea in a big mug and usually reach for the red one that says China I picked up at the Beijing Airport last year. I drink and watch the rowers on lake Union and feel lucky to see them each morning gliding so smoothly across the lake’s glassy surface. Some days I reach for the binoculars just to more closely witness their elegant syncing of movement, breath and mind. I admire their practice and have always felt if it were not Taiji for me, it would be rowing. As I watch, I think of the Chen Village 5,000 miles and many cultures away where too I drink my morning tea and look down below me. There it is not rowers I see but students flowing bone, muscle & breath into powerful Taiji routines.
After my own practice I have a second cup of tea. All but a few rowers have gone and I notice that I-5 is getting busy. I gauge the rhythm of the traffic and by its flow get some sense of the day I’m heading into. It is not unpleasant to watch, even when it’s simply crawling along the corridor. I almost prefer that to the times when trucks and cars fly along, competing to be the first off the Mercer exit. We complain about traffic as much as we complain about weather here in Seattle but even in China, just outside the gates of the school, traffic vies between its own yin and yang – extremes highlighted ten times over by the sheer numbers of people who now drive through the Middle Kingdom. After I finish my tea I take one more look out. I see clouds passing through the atmosphere. Like rowers, Taiji and traffic, this collective of air, moisture and light tells its own movement tale.
Having a personal and professional lifestyle where I observe, practice and teach movement has trained me to contemplate the world around me through a very special lens. I look to the rhythms of most things that move and when I observe long enough; I can see patterns as well as divergences. I see deep similarities everywhere throughout the Five Kingdoms and have come to understand that stillness, rhythm and flow are not just part of nature, they are nature. We as humans may not think about this much but we know it intuitively - our heart beats but is not always the same, we breathe - sometimes slow sometimes quick - we sleep, wake and become active, we tire and then sleep again. We know when we are in sync and when we are not.
It does appear that staying in sync with ourselves and with the world around us is becoming more challenging. I do feel it in my own experience and see the same challenge in people I teach. It seems that most everyone has some struggle with stress and more, a struggle to alleviate it. We most certainly see the results of this grappling match in our bodies and wanting to rebalance ourselves is one of the major reasons people seek out a Taiji and Qigong practice.
In our recent workshop with Grandmaster Chen Xiao Xing I decided to ask him about stress, modern life and how all of it relates to our Taiji practice. "We all are encouraged to practice Taijiquan in a relaxed and natural way,” I began, “but modern life is not very relaxed and natural, there is tension and stress everywhere. It is often difficult for the student to understand the ideas of relaxed & natural much less find them in their body and practice in this way. What should our course of action be?" "The first thing," Chen Xiao Xing replied, "is to relax the mind." He continued, "All environments have stress. If you respond mentally to the environment with stress, then your body cannot be relaxed. You must respond to any environment with a relaxed mind," he emphasized and concluded, "If you have a relaxed mind, then when you practice your Taijiquan a natural and relaxed body will follow."
It is such simple and wise advise. When I feel stress rise up, I remember this. I turn my attention away from my stressful thoughts. I step outside and breathe. I observe one of the many patterns of nature in front of me: the breeze through the leaves, the bees pollinating the flowers, the clouds. I step left, raise and lower my arms.
Calligraphy: "Tao Fa Zu Ran," The Tao follows the way of Nature, by Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang
By David Tucker, L.Ac., LMP
As temperatures rise and the clouds part, Nature shifts into its most Yang time of year: summer and the Fire Element. The sun is Nature’s purest manifestation of the Fire element. It is hot, vibrant, lively, dynamic, flickering, draws us to it, warms us, and makes us feel good. It is the center of our solar system, the driving force behind life as we know it, maintaining balance and harmony within it, much like our own beating heart.
All processes of organic life require a spark or heat on some level – whether its coming directly from the Sun or physiologically within our bodies or energetically within our spirits, we depend on it to thrive. In nature, it comes from the sun, and people, plants, and animals are drawn to it and are nourished by it. We can see that same spark of healthy fire when we look in someone’s eyes, there is joy, laughter, vitality and passion there. We just can’t help but want to be around them.
While the other elements have one pair of Yin and Yang meridians governing them, the Fire Element is unique in having two, and each pair has its own responsibilities. First, we look to the Heart and Small Intestine. These are about leadership - balancing control, compassion and wisdom; while at the same time, having the ablity to receive lots of information to elicit order from chaos. There is no room for confusion, only clear and grounded discernment in both speech and action. This is a good time of year to do a check of your internal ruler. Are you feeling like you have a handle on things? Or are you bumping up a lot of obstacles that seem unsurmountable? Do you feel an overall loss of control? Even just spending time in the sun, sitting, standing, laying, can be recharging. Alternatively, taking some time to sort out and reorganize other parts of your life can help tremendously. For example cleaning up your home or work space. Perhaps, seek the guidance of a professional organizer, or feng-shui consultant. Its often said that our home and work space can be a reflection of our internal state.
The second pair, is the Heart Protector and Triple Heater. This pairing has to do with what most people associate with the Fire Element - love, connection, beauty, intimacy, relationships, community. It is common to see during this time of year, people enter into or end relationships. Generally, the energetic of Fire is playful, so dating and having fun would be more resonant versus getting caught up in something very serious. Many will take up group activities - sports, clubs, new hobbies, new communities, anything that reconnects you with your creativity and childlike energy can really stoke the Fire within you. Finally temperature is a theme of this pair. This relates to balancing one’s physical temperature, but also how we’re able to properly gauge a situation and then be able to make the appropriate changes to ebb and flow with the dynamics of each moment. “Are these people being receptive to me? How much do I feel like engaging them, and in what manner? Is this a warm or cold environment?”
In the kitchen it’s all about beauty, color, and variety. Cooking lightly is all that’s necessary - when sautéing, use high heat for a short time; steam or simmer as quickly as possible. Serve more cooling fresh foods - salads, sprouts (mung, soy, alfalfa), fruit, cucumber, tofu, apples, watermelons, lemons, limes, loose leaf teas including chrysanthemum, mint, chamomile. Most importantly, be creative and have fun with your food.
Lastly, the emotion connected to the Fire Element is Joy and the sound is Laughter. So the take-home message to live in harmony with Nature during this time is to laugh, love, and play!
Join David in his workshop series.
Congratulations to David & Tanya on the birth of Sebastian!
Five Point Check for Relaxation
We were lucky to also have Master Chen Bing visit Seattle this year. We are very fortunate to be one of the few schools in the United States to host the Chen Family. They are a very generous family and hold nothing back. One of the aspects I really love about Chen Bing's workshops is his focus on specific "Fang Song" or "relaxation" techniques. I practice them almost daily and have noticed quite a bit of change in my own neck and jaw tension. I also find students are requesting, nay insisting on these techniques before standing! Chen Bing has a very simple check-list to apply when doing not just these exercises but in practicing any phase of Taiji from standing to push hands. These are great references to commit to in daily life as well. If you feel stress or tension in any circumstance check these five points and see what happens. I know they will be useful for you. Enjoy!
Chen Bing's Relaxation Cues:
1. Relax your neck
2. Relax your lower back
3. Relax your dantien (lower abdomen)
4. Relax your breath
5. Relax and feel your root
Thank you everyone who contributed to our scholarship fund for Chen Bing Academy in Chenjiagou. We raised $1800! This will go a long way towards sponsoring youths for room & board, education & training.
Qigong Around The Sound
Feel Your Flow this Summer at several of the most vibrant parks in our region. Each Saturday, join Embrace The Moon Teachers & Students at one of our beautiful parks throughout the Sound. The experience will inspire you to relax and enjoy your life! Everyone can learn the simple yet dynamic movement flows of Qigong (Ch’i Kung) that invite health & connection to nature. All sessions are free of charge, led by our highly qualified advanced teacher trainees. Check here for the times, instructor & location. Breathe in!
Do check our website for more great workshops with Embrace The Moon this summer including 19 Form Review with Doug. And be sure to join us at the National Qigong Association Annual Conference, this year just down the road in Vancouver, WA!
The Intrinsic Energies Of Taijiquan
With a special salon evening: "The Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions of Chen Taijiquan."
Embrace The Moon is excited to host David Gaffney & Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim for their first trip to the United States. Renown authors and 20th Generation Taijiquan Master teachers, we will have an extraordinary opportunity to both talk & practice with David & Davidine. Friday evening please join us for a special conversation, "The Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions of Chen Taijiquan." You will not have a better opportunity to ask any question and receive experienced answers about the history & evolution of Taijiquan, the old & modern masters and the overall progression of our art. Saturday we have invited David & Davidine to instruct on the Intrinsic Energies of Taijiquan that are found throughout all Taijiquan forms. This is an amazing opportunity to deepen or introduce yourself to the depths of Taijiquan. Click here for more information & registration.
Taijiquan The News
As if being cool was not enough reason to practice Taiji and Qigong, how about a awesomely bigger brain?! Check this article out for the latest on Taiji and brain health in the news!
Taijiquan in Space
And your reason for skipping a practice session??? Click the pic and see China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, practicing her Taijii in Space!
Enjoy Summer all! See you on the floor and in the park!
In This Edition
Qigong 'round the Sound
The Intrinsic Energies of Taijiquan
Taiji in the News
Taiji in Space
July 9 - August 31
Taiji, Qigong & More!
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Seattle, WA 98107
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