Friday, March 28, 2014

Hear My Train

Stepping into the backyard the whistle of a freight train reminds me that life is moving forward.  Reminds me that I am alive; that I am listening.  How long will I remember life today?  How long can Ijust listen?  Truly listen?  Without judgement; without adding in a story; without complicating lives around me?  Can I just be?

The train reminds me that I do not need to hurtle along through the dark, down habitual pathways without pause.  That I can and will pause.  That I can and will allow the thought to let my head be forward and up to direct this day.  To release my spine and encouter this moment as if for the the first time.  Smiling as I recognize that this truly is the first time I have lived this moment, truly the only time I will live this moment.  The train has passed now, but I need another whistle.

How quickly the thinking scrambles to the habitual.  Incessant noise in the background of life, instead of directed and useful.  Now I must be my own whistle to release the habitual thinking process and to choose what to think.  To choose how I live this life.  This takes practice and direction from those that have been before me.  Choice is possible, but requires waking up and listening to myself.  To choose in the face of developed habit requires help from the beyond.  Finding my breath as a harmonizer for the body/mind complex the chatter softens.  Choosing an Alexander Technique direction, a gatha from my Mindfulness practice, or what my aim is brings me back to the here, to the now.  Brings me back to the platform of possibility where I may introduce change into my being, into our world.

Can I continue to direct my thinking as I ponder this process or will Jimi's vocals from "Hear My Train a Comin'" take me down a different path.  Is one path better than another?  Listening again, listening to myself briefly hold this question.  Better to be alive; truly alive on any path, than habitually bopping along even the best one.  Jimi's intensity releases somewhere into the complex of neurons and matter known as the brain.  I know he'll be back.  I know I'll invite him in when I need that release from my state that music provides.  But here on this morning, I do not need to go right to habit.  I need direction and in these early hours I am free enough to choose for moments at a time.

Perhaps I should open the door again.  Hear what stimulus life is offering and choose a response.  How many doors will I open today?  How many times will I open to life?  An ambulance is traveling nearby.  As it get closer to my home, I notice an urgency arise.  Someone I know?  Grateful now that the ambulance has passed my street, but I wonder how to keep the urgency to be truly alive - alive?
Smiling as 'practice' arises in my mind. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Basic Direction

A beautiful alignment of the Moon and Venus inspired my morning Qi Gong practice.  The image stayed with me throughout the day.  Nature so effortlessly lovely.  Could my life on this day be so?

Before picking up my guitar tonight I practiced Qi Gong.  With my energy flowing and my mind relatively quiet, I began my guitar practice. Addressing a technical issue, I paused and thought of freeing my neck.  Something shifted.  Practicing a bit I came back to this thought.  Gently keeping this basic Alexandar Technique direction alive as I continued to play I experienced a refreshing freedom in my actions.

After all these years of practice with AT, the process comes alive easier when I remember to enter the present moment and allow my thinking to connect with and direct my action.  So simple and so needed.  Basic direction yielding effortless results. Perhaps one answer to this morning's question is yes.

Photo:  Good Morning by Andrew

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Winter is Springing Up All Over

Deer in Manchester, Ohio USA

 The National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory for this spring morning.  Snow. C'est la vie.  With the temperature at 31F, I went to practice Qi Gong in the back yard as dawn brightened our cloudy sky.  The wind was calm as was I.  While warming up with The Crane I heard the birds waking and singing. Their intensity growing by the day.  I know I've never heard this volume of birdsong before a snow storm.What are they singing of today - merely warning predators of the boundaries of their space or that the world be acting strange?

Letting go of these matters I continued to practice, moving between different Qi Gong forms from different periods of my training as the Qi urged me.  I ended with the Deer Walking form.  This always gently stretches out my back and spine.  Having  a large body, I seem to relate to the Deer form in a way that is congruous for me.  I sensed the peacefulness of a deer walking in the morning light and continued a bit longer to cultivate this quality within. As I stretched and opened to the world, I sent out a wish that I might be peaceful through this day.  Smiling, stretching, and looking for the first snow flake, I noticed that a state of wonder had descended about me.  Snow always elicits wonder in me, this time without even having left the clouds. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Quiet the Shadows

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. - Baba Ram Dass


Becoming quiet is a choice.  

At least some of the time. 
Increasingly more so, fortunately.

In Quiet
I sometimes see the corners,
even maybe around them.

In hearing
a choice just might
become possible.
Or Habit. 

Maybe even listening.

Ability to become quiet
can be practiced. 
Must be.

In Quiet
All is possible.

Become quiet

Listen to the shadows.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Crane

In the predawn spring light, I stepped into the backyard to practice The Crane this morning.  This gentle & graceful Qi Gong form embodies elegance, poise, & balance.  As life rapidly changes these days, I need to cultivate these qualities deeply. Taking in the fresh spring air my body gently stretches to the tall trees of Takoma Park.  I notice the bird song gently swelling about me.  An urge to go and practice along Sligo Creek arises.

No need to rush, life is providing plenty of that, I just need to stretch my wings and ride the fresh Qi.  I need to cultivate balance and harmony within my morning practices, so that I can take a long view of life and occasionally soar above and through the causes & conditions.  Pausing to think and allow myself to sense the breeze, I open my wings again while breathing in.  Seeking clarity and health I continue my Qi Gong exercises.

As I stretch my wings again a branch on the oak tree high above the earth attracts my attention.  What would it be like to sit and observe life from a perch 75 feet above the garden?  How would my sense of clarity broaden?  I begin to smile and then my balance wavers.  Appreciating the shift in perception I bring my attention back to my body.  Watching my breath and directing the movements, I sense the subtle flowing of life within.  As the mind quiets the movements take on a gracefulness.  As the body relaxes the mind quiets.  Harmony arising from practicing in the here and now. 

The Crane is part of Five Animal Play Qi Gong,  one of the most ancient continuously practiced healing exercise systems in the world,  created by the famous Chinese herbalist & doctor Hua Tuo in the 2nd Century AD.   The Five Animal Play mimics the agility of the monkey, the lightness of the crane, the fierceness of the tiger, the calmness of the bear, and the peacefulness of the deer to train the body and the mind.  Joann and I will be leading a class in Five Animal Play at the Takoma Park Community Center beginning April 9th.  For more information and to register use this link.  Enter Qi Gong in the search for activities box and sign up today.  We look forward to playing and learning with you.

Photo by Cuatrok.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Errors of Inspiration

        A man’s errors are his portals of discovery. - James Joyce

The big mistake is to wait for inspiration. It won't come looking for you. - Brian Eno

They have me thinking, though not necessarily coherently.  Besides, coherence is not the point when I'm looking for a creative spark.  The act of stringing a few notes together and seeing If and where they take me is what matters.  I always learn something.  Sometimes the lesson(s) take years to come to fruition, sometimes not. I suspect much is missed.  But by serving the aphorism - We begin again constantly, the process moves forward. Or backwards.  Maybe inwards or obliquely.  Always somewhere.

Monday, March 17, 2014


I tossed and turned last night concerned with the impact that yet another snow storm would have on my getting to work and the arrival of my staff.  When you work in a healthcare facility, arriving in inclement weather is not an option, just a must.  So up early, moving about snow from walkways  and the car, then moving through snow.  In the dark.  Most of my morning routine had been compromised to allow for an extended commute and for filling in for others.

After a long day, I came home and napped.  A tasty dinner with good old friends who have been staying with us and great conversation.  We have shared much with these friends and the conversation was deep and needed my attention to remain engaged.  I met this with varying degrees of success.  My emotions were stirred frequently during our conversation.  Stirred in useful and needed ways.  At times pointing me to areas I need to examine as only those who know me can do.  But I needed a break.  I needed a different energy.  I needed music.

Our friends retreated to their room, and I to my practice space.  My emotions still stirred and my body tired, I decided to pause and practice some Qi Gong standing postures.  My thinking quieted a bit and I wanted to play.  I knew I was not "ready" to play, but I needed the nurturing that the guitar's notes vibrating across my chest provides.  I knew that I would be better to arrive in body, mind, & spirit before playing, yet I also knew that the guitar would also help me to arrive.  Would be there to greet my impatience, to point out my lack of attention, and could pull me into the present moment.  I flirted with music and the guitar and they loved me back.  Amen.

Photo by GH Cheng.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


This morning I joined Master Li and others for Qi Gong along Sligo Creek.  These gentle movements that I have come to love gently stretching my body, opening my spirit, and quieting my mind.  The air was crisp, the trees tall & majestic with the sun slowly rising through their tops, and the bird song gathering intensity as more birds are returning north.  Alive and present, surrounded by life.

After breakfast I picked up my guitar.  Noticing that my body was rested & relaxed  after this long weekend, I wanted to maintain this openness.  I recalled a short gatha that came to me a couple weeks back when I was gripped in fear concerning a decision that myself and my family have arrived at.  A decision that will lead to more openness and refinement, yet fear arose nonetheless.  This gatha is breathing in - I am safe, breathing out - I am surrounded by love.

As I sat with my guitar I remembered that truly I am surrounded by love.  Keying on the sense of "surrounded", I took in the space around me.  In a Alexanderian sense I allowed my body to be in this space and to lengthen & widen.  Not holding onto anything, just sitting with my guitar.  As I went to tune, I noticed my right elbow "tensing" as it came to rest on the bout of the guitar.  Letting this go and beginning again, occupying the space I was in, there was still unnecessary tension in this elbow.  A habit of decades does not release overnight.  Directing myself again to be long and wide, to be safe and surrounded by love, my elbow arrived in a different place.  I decided that the aim of this morning's practice would be to remain open.

Open to whatever note might arrive and however a note might sound.  Open to being surrounded by love as I played and open to this moving through me, perhaps even moving me to a different space.  Open to allowing whatever time was needed to maintain and develop openness in my playing in this time and space.  Working on brief melodic passages in a piece ironically called Opening.  Playing, pausing, directing, and learning what it takes to just play.  Open to releasing thoughts, noticing judgements about how I was doing what I was doing, and releasing them and my body. 

After writing the above I returned to the guitar.  I remembered that earlier in the practice I was directing my hands to be open while playing.  What does this mean?  The right hand assumes a form for plucking and the left hand dances about the fretboard in various configurations of ease and occasional distress.  In Qi Gong we gently stretch and keep our hands open to foster the energy flow along & through the length of the meridians.  When my hands are relaxed, that is using necessary tension only, the quality of the sound I produce is fuller and richer.  As I move into practicing the next piece Enclosing, I aim to keep my hands as open as possible.  Finding the part where tension has caused me issues in executing the passage I focus my practice here.  Slowly releasing and finding an openness not only in my left hand, but in my thinking about this passage.  I realize that I am always surrounded by opportunities to let go.

I needed to complete my practice to be on a conference call with some very good people about an upcoming project.  Again I knew, I was surrounded by love.  What a privilege to work with such amazing & aware people.

May my body within and without be surrounded by the space and conditions needed to maintain openness in my being.  May my spirit remain gentle towards my efforts at effortlessness.  May my heart remain open to learning, open to love.   Surrounded.  What are you surrounding your self with?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Just One Step

The Chinese have a saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Viewing this profound truth from the  perspective of the Alexander Technique, our journey begins with the conscious direction of our thinking prior to this first step. Are you thinking?

Will you give yourself the time to inhibit your actions right now and begin again?  With direction, ease, and a growing freedom one step at a time.  The journey is long and wide, when we direct ourselves so.

photo by Cinder - Tribute to children with Disabilities.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Lesson From the Trees

During my morning commute I was paused in the park and watched the lovely barren trees.  Then I heard their message - Be still and continue to grow.  Thanks.

                           Photo by: