Amy Brookes, California, USA
I had my first taste of Tai Chi Chuan with Ric in October of 2005. I felt so drawn to the art that I never felt that I ‘should’ go to class – I wanted to go, every single time. Wonderful! Now that I am back in my native country, I practice on my own and receive guidance from time to time from Ric over email.
As for other parts of my life, I am a true Northern Californian and love to be in nature. I studied Marine Biology and music as an undergraduate in Santa Cruz (receiving my Bachelor of Science degree), and recently finished a Master’s course in Sydney in Quantitative Marine Ecology. I am also a music lover, and continue to pursue playing piano, keyboard, drums, and singing and dancing for my own enjoyment.
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 1:36 AM
Here is my response to coffee notes from May 17:
“Gregor was a bit annoyed with all the people walking past. He felt it was a disrespectful day with the passer-bys. Ric said you can feel if passer-bys lack respect.”
Aha, I have also felt annoyed or uncomfortable with people who are hanging around near me as I practice. The park where I practice is different in that it is smaller and less of a thoroughfare, so people near me are walking/playing with their dogs, playing sports, or just hanging out. There is a longer amount of time in which they are privy to my practice. Once I had a guy sit and watch me purposefully, and then he applauded me when I finished the form. It was very disconcerting. I did not want to be on display, it completely took me out of myself.
On a related note: Danusha and I have observed on a number of occasions squirrels hanging out as we (or I) practice. There were 2 or 3 occasions where there was a couple courting one another, and we did see for a moment, you-know-what – but the interesting part was that the squirrels stayed together afterward, cuddling and playing and preening each other for the rest of our time at the park. They also stayed right in our area. I’ve never known squirrels to be so loving with one another, it was almost like a dream! I looked up mating/courting behaviour of squirrels later on at home on my computer, and found nothing about such behaviour.
Gregor: “Idiosyncrasies reflect people’s ability, where they are up to in Tai Chi Chuan. In due course there’s a right way of doing it.”
I have learned through time what details to let go and which parts are necessary to correct. I stick to the grossest movements of the form, for instance, orientation. I noticed that some people, those who have spent a lot of time previously paying attention to moving their bodies (in dance/martial arts/yoga) have an easier time picking up the gross movements and even some details, but may lack the flow, and I’ve had a few who got the flow quicker but lacked the coordination/body awareness to get those details and some of the grosser movements. One person didn’t have experience with the previously mentioned forms of movement, but was the most resistant of all the people I’ve tried teaching – this person couldn’t even get past the Chi-raising bit in the beginning!
Q :”I find I am getting lost during the form?”
Ric: “The All-pervading Energy stupefies the intellect.”
Yes, I’ve found this to be true quite often! And every time, I find myself in awe of the Form and the Universal Force, how magical they seem to me. Instead of feeling stupid or silly, and I sometimes used to, I find myself more likely to chuckle and feel so happy that I am doing Tai Chi Chuan.
Sent: Friday, May 16, 2008 1:05 PM
Subject: New Shots
You know what’s pretty awesome, about the second stance:
Yesterday when I was practicing S1 and 2, this was before I read your email carefully as per the new stance (so I didn’t know it yet), I was feeling wobbly and off balance. I often go to foot work when I feel off, and it always helps tremendously. I noticed when doing feet something I often take note of, which is that when I’m required to balance on my L leg, esp. at the beginning of S2, it is shaky and I feel like I can hardly support myself properly. For some reason this time I decided to hang out in that part at the beginning of 2, and just feel where my weight was. I intuitively brought my weight to my heel, and I felt more stable – and decided to hold this position for a bit. My leg grew tired quickly, and I felt certain muscles being worked – but I still felt stable. I thought perhaps I would try holding this position every day for a bit to get stronger, and was going to ask your advice if this was ok.
Well, lo and behold, when I read your instructions carefully and tried out the stance, it was exactly the same!! How do ya like that!!
Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 10:40 AM
Subject: Re: prep.III
I brought my notebook last week and it was good timing, because I had a very interesting practice. It was the day after I had my first treatment by an osteopath, and she did some manipulation of my organs that was very intense. ..she moved my liver, which she said felt very congested and tight – and also my stomach. It felt quite intense. Here’s my diary of Tai Chi afterward:
-The next day (last Tues): everything, esp. arm movements, felt so much easier! As if a resistance had been removed. My flow was so easy that I went quite fast, and at times felt like “my chi was running away with me”. Gliding through the air, it felt delicious. I wanted to do Tai Chi throughout the day, more than usual.
-Thursday: I did S1 and 2, and my heart rate got quite fast – which has never happened before. I had a nervous feeling in my heart and gut. I tried slowing down as I started S1 again, and no change. I started feeling my feet and my weight on the Earth – and realized I hadn’t been feeling that at all the past few days. I realized I had been feeling like I might fly off the face of the Earth at any moment (which is exactly how I felt when I’ve had panic attacks). I started feeling better and more grounded, but when I finished S1 I still felt panicky, like one of my panic attacks – at least in my body. I didn’t feel scared of anything (usually I get them while driving on the highway). I also felt sad and like I needed to cry, so I cried, and it felt good for a bit. Then I felt like I could get stuck in that emotion, so I began S1 again – and something happened that had occurred once/twice earlier, where I did too many brush knees the 2nd round (instead of coming to the end) – I just let this happen without stopping to correct or judge. I started spontaneously exhaling making a gentle “sssss” sound! Remember how I told you about the Taoist healing sounds? Well, it turns out “ssss” correlates to lungs/large intestine and the emotions of sadness and grief. I learned these sounds years ago and stopped practicing them, but it seems my body remembers them. So I did S1 and 2 very slowly, feeling better and better and having the spontaneous “ssss” continue.
At the point of writing this entry I feel calm, with a light and gently joyful feeling in my heart Chakrum, like when I go into the cold plunge after a sauna. I also feel tired.
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2008 3:28 AM
Subject: Come To Class?
I had another student yesterday, and it went quite well – she says she’d really like to continue! Now we’ll just have to wait and see. She reported seeing energy fields around the trees, which she says happens to her sometimes, and as she continued, what she saw grew stronger. She said that it was a bit hard to stay focused on the Tai Chi because of what she was seeing. She didn’t feel much of a change in her body energy-wise, but she tells me that she so far hasn’t been sensitive in this way (but clearly, visually, she is quite sensitive). She says the whole experience was quite pleasant, and that she feels that she wants to continue, but that she’s not sure why.
Sent: Friday, March 21, 2008 1:11 PM
Subject: Re: yak-yak?
..I also was interested to read the discussion regarding training surface. I’ve tried quite a few surfaces in my practice, including wood decks, brick, rug, concrete, dirt, sand, and of course grass. Sand was very difficult, and threw me off quite a bit – it was like adding in a lot more planes to stand on, if you know what I mean, instead of just one. I think I even did Tai Chi in a pool – that was actually really cool!
I’ll have to try that again to give more detailed feedback on that one – Tai Chi in the water. Sparse grass, like what you teach on in Sydney, has been by far the best for me.
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 11:28 AM
-In Repulse Monkey (funny, I thought it was “Pulse Monkey” until recently) especially, my hands feel as if they are connected to each other by a sort of magnetic force. Have you ever done the trick where you press two rocks together as hard as you can for a certain length of time, and then let them go, and the rocks feel like magnets afterwards keeping your hands together? It’s sort of like that, but less extreme. The sensation is hard to describe, but that’s my best try 🙂
-In general, I feel less like my hands/arms are pushing in various moves than they are being drawn out from my body.
-In Cloud Hands, I feel much less awkward than I used to. The sequence of moves flows so that I can feel what Cloud Hands really is, or at least the beginning of it.
-Often I notice that my breathing naturally comes out in the sound form of a gentle “shhhhh”, which feels very soothing. That sound happens to be one of the Taoist Yogic sounds taught to me when I was briefly studying Chi Nei Tsang years ago, and the sound is that of the liver/gallbladder and the color green. Interesting! It happens without any forethought on my part, and I feel stress/liver chi stagnation being released as it happens.
-Recently I’ve been aware of a continuity between my hands/arms and a sensation of Earth energy drawing up through my feet. It feels very strong.
Sent: Friday, October 26, 2007 4:32 PM
Subject: Proof of the Pudding?
..I want to give you the scoop on my first Tai Chi student session: it went really well!…Monica..seemed to have fun and reported feeling like her hands/arms were moving on their own in the Chi raising exercise. She also said she could tell that my movements were not ordinary.
Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2007 10:39 AM
Subject: Backpacking trip, replies, and Tai Chi…
Now to respond to Jane Serves:
Trippy stuff, man! She mentions the ‘finger’, which reminded me of when you helped me out with something you were doing that helped my chi flow, and I specifically remember my neck and jaw relaxing so that my head came back more over my spine (instead of slightly forward, as it often is).
I think it makes sense that there would be whirlpools of energy around you, because it seems that life-force movements follow a spiral as a pattern in general. The way embryos grow would be one example, and the way people grow (not physically) throughout their lives, re-encountering certain repetitive circumstances, but from new perspectives (on outer circles of the spiral). And then there’s the Milky Way. Quite remarkable and wonderful that through true Tai Chi, these movements are created and spun (and I wonder what effect they have on matter and life around them?).
I wonder what the triangle (if I understood her description correctly) formation of the whirlwinds means. To me, the wide base (two legs) suggests that primary growth and connection are coming from and rooted in Mother Earth. The apex (one head) reaches up to the cosmos.
Jane strikes me as an unusually sensitive, astute, and open individual.
Here’s an excerpt from my ‘Tai Chi Diary’ I’ve begun:
“So I did the poses, and was immensely enjoying the breeze and the sunlight, the quality of the light and the long shadows, the sounds of birds, and the peace and quiet of no power tools. The bike ride over was fantastic, and I felt that feeling that’s been coming around lately of being on vacation! At first I felt like I was in Appenzell, Switzerland…then somewhere on the East Coast, somewhere more southern and balmy. Other places came to me on the bike ride back. Everything was so peaceful and quiet, and the sunlight so beautiful, I was just in quiet ecstasy.
In tree pose, as so often happens, I felt my hands awaken with a connection of energy from my heart coming through my palms, and to (and from?) the universe. As I started Tai Chi, I felt a change from a track I’d been on of feeling pressure to ‘do tai chi’, which is really a disconnect from it and from the present.
I took my time to feel good in the Tai Chi stance, and did chi-raising, which went on until there was a moment that I felt connected in my hands (which I still feel right now) and went on. I felt a track switching again, from doing to feeling. (Aha!) I noticed the few times I indulged myself in looking down that my feet were closer to bow-and-arrow than usual, when I’ve been looking down lots and trying to perfect this stance. I was feeling everything instead, at each moment. When I became aware of this, a feeling of pride or satisfaction or happiness took over and my awareness shifted up to my head…but I was immediately aware of this shift, decided ‘that’s okay, let’s go on’ and went back to feeling, with no problem whatsoever. A few more times, as I went on to section 2, I got off track, but with no judgment about it, I had an easy time of getting back on. One new sensation was with asking hand and the other hand either pointing up in front of the chest or holding the ball: I felt that I was holding something, but more in the way of holding someone you love then having to physically support something. The hands at the abdomen and heart (particularly the abdomen hand) in the puppeteer motion also felt this way.
On the whole: everything felt easier than it has in awhile – I wasn’t having head rushes, and my body felt lighter and more buoyant. Nothing felt like a struggle.”
Now this titbit is from my old email to you, so keep in mind it’s reconstructed and not totally fresh:
I realized I had been feeling a disconnect from my practice of Tai Chi, my heart wasn’t in it. I had been too obsessed with my bow-and-arrow stance being ‘perfect’, looking down all the time and breaking the flow and becoming agitated…I decided it was time to do some footwork, which was the best thing I could have done. Awareness came back to my weight and its distribution across and between my feet, and I noticed that my weight was concentrated on the front of my feet. Bringing the weight back made me feel in the present moment, as if that shift was a shift through modes of time perception, and I had been literally ahead of myself! As flow returned to my movements, I noticed my feet moving of their own accord, as if they had minds of their own – and then realized that *I* had been moving my foot, instead of my foot moving. ‘Foot moves first’, not ‘Move your foot first’ – aha! :)) As my feet moved first, my body obligingly followed. I was quite content to just follow and not think of the next move, and I felt my heart glowing, warm, and opening, leading me.
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 1:45 AM
Subject: Common Sense
‘Understanding’ without the insight from experience (knowledge) can lead to trouble! Building an understanding from theorizing and study without any empirical results or worse yet, real-life experience, to support and shape/direct the theoretical understanding can lead to foolish extremes… Any understanding derived from reading (anything) should be supported and shaped by real-world experience (also called common sense), or it could be quite misleading.
I think Surrendering to the Universe, the Tao, whatever you want to call it, could never mean going to war.
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 2:04 PM
Subject: RE: Surrender
…I had to chime into this discussion about Surrender, because this has been a major theme for me for the past month or so. It started as feelings coming to me and then only in the past few days have I ascribed a word to my experiences and desires in this realm (which is, of course ‘Surrender’). How funny that I seem to be on the same wavelength as ya’ll down under.
I think the first time I was well aware of this feeling was accompanied by an image I had in my mind, of me as a small child at the edge of a pool, hanging on for dear life, not knowing how to swim yet. I remember being afraid to put my face in the water. Then I thought about how I let go of the wall and allowed another girl my age to teach me how to swim for the first time, and realized that I was ready to let go again, only this time the pool is a huge dark ocean with swells and no other end to hang on to. The rest of that day I felt the surrender, and knew that not only was I ready, but that I had the desire to surrender. I felt that it would be an adventure (and I always love an adventure).
So this feeling has ebbed and flowed within me, and I realize that to fully Surrender is a process that is part of my growth at this time. And what am I surrendering to? Life. The Universe. Existence. The Tao. As some would say, God – but that word doesn’t work for me. Words are not the right form of language to communicate this presence.
And how does it feel? To Surrender? This time, like floating, and in such a relaxed state. When I Surrender, I feel like everything is okay, and I take delight in just being. Judgment doesn’t even exist, as it has no place in this realm. There were times in the past when surrendering felt very scary, like letting myself fall into a black hole. After falling in and being just fine, the fear has mostly worn off.
There ya go – my 2 cents 🙂
Love to all,
Sent: Friday, October 06, 2006 2:47 AM
The past two times I’ve been to the park to do Tai-Chi I’ve felt more of a flow coming easily, it was very enjoyable. Last time I had this clear sensation and strong feeling that I could just take my time! I could take as long as I wanted; there was really no hurry. I had forgotten that feeling.
I felt space opening up in my belly, like waves of soft warm energy that also made it’s way to my heart, where it felt good.
Another interesting change is that I’ve been more aware of a certain feeling of discomfort, and I’ve had an easy time of identifying it and letting it go. It is a feeling of tightness in my face and neck, also my throat, and stomach, and I’ve figured out that it often comes when my ego is trying to do something. (Like show off, look cool, feel important, do something perfectly). I just tell it to grab an oar and start rowing with the rest, and thankfully it seems to take my orders without much fuss; and the tight feelings go away!
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 4:02 AM
Lately I’ve had a new awareness, and it started when I was doing Tai Chi, but has occurred at other times too – like when I’m doing yoga, or walking. I feel more fully dimensional than usual, with awareness of everything around me in a way that makes me realize how my awareness has been limited to what’s in front of me (in my field of vision). At these times I feel in tune with the universe, with reality. I feel a keen awareness of life buzzing all around me, buzzing on but not in a linear fashion time wise: just buzzing. My part in it doesn’t particularly stand out.
I’ve also had some feelings of frustration. Doing Tai Chi has been bringing up these feelings for me. I was trying to ignore them for awhile, afraid that it meant that there was something wrong with my practice, or with me. Yesterday, I thought, “I should really work through this and see what it is”, and found eventually exactly why I’m frustrated – and it has nothing to do with my practice!
Today, for the first time in ages, I felt confident while doing my practice. I felt powerful. Things were much smoother, and I didn’t worry about having perfect bow-and-arrow stance!
Sent: Saturday, June 24, 2006 2:27 AM
Yesterday I felt agitated after doing section 2 – which has happened to me before. This time I worked through it, and found myself suddenly aware of emotions I didn’t realize I had bottled up. I think I literally moved my stuck emotions so they could come out…it was pretty intense.
Sent: Saturday, May 27, 2006 11:12 AM
Now, as for my questions you answered about Tai Chi Section 2 – I’m happy to know, I’ve been doing it mostly right all along! I had the arms correct, I was just focusing on the inside arm instead of the outside. I’m glad you clarified the key factor in naming the relationship between hips/torso and feet, (and it is) not the direction of the foot! I have now become much more aware of the feeling of being weighted on my feet, and for one practice I really slowed down everything and just felt the weight shifting little by little in my feet. It was marvellous! I really enjoyed the sensation.
Another interesting thing is that I’ve been trying out some yoga again – but the feeling is new and different. I’m much more aware of my weight and which muscles are stretching or working, and my goal is now to be very delicate about the poses: I modify the pose to find the position where I am barely stretching or working at all. It feels easy, and I can feel myself growing out of the ground like a tree in these standing poses. I’m not concerned with achieving anything, it’s more like a ‘feeling experiment’, if you know what I mean. I finish up feeling more opened up, and strong. And then I start my Tai Chi. I hope I’m not corrupting myself! But it seems to be good.
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 4:15 PM
I think that the true Tai Chi Chuan is an expression of life energy that is pure and unadulterated, because there is nothing in-between the source and the outlet.
– I’ve noticed that my feet are more awake now, and don’t like being confined in stiff shoes that don’t allow them to actively participate in walking. Shoes with thick soles make it harder to feel connected to the earth and grounded.
– I’ve also noticed that when my wrists are in a “broken” position”, they feel compromised and I become aware of this sensation immediately. My sensitivity is more acute since I’ve been practising Tai Chi. So I change the position immediately and I feel better.