21st Annual Tai Chi Alchemy. Part 2

TCA 2015 GroupJPG (1)What an incredible weekend! We soared so high, it has taken me a couple of weeks to come down enough to write about it. So much of the really important stuff that happens at TCA is too insubstantial to put into words. Things like that blaze of light when a total stranger gives you a hug that melts you to the core of your being…or when you realize that qi is not just something that you read in a book, but is something you can feel and use…or when you find in yourself that person that you always hoped you would be.

So much wonder, and discovery, and growth.

But there is a lot that I can talk about. These are some of the highlights from my perspective…and I know I missed some things. Please help me out by posting your favorites in the comments.

Let me start by giving a brief description of what I shared with the group. I’m really excited about a new spin on an old topic: song kua. I devoted a section on song kua ten years ago in Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate, and have been talking about it for much longer. Yet my words have not conveyed how to actually get there…until now. The problem we encounter comes from an underlying trance that we install when we first learn to stand as toddlers: “Must not fall down.” This trance is subconscious and pervades every aspect of our lives. How to awaken from this trance? It’s surprisingly easy. (I covered all this in a recent blogpost. Check it out.)RB Sedona meditation

Many martial artists have worked to develop song kua in their gongfu, yet it remains elusive. It’s easy to check. Stand with your feet together and have someone push you. If you are easily uprooted, then perhaps this subconscious trance is working against your conscious decision to get song.  Then check it out again after employing the remedy I suggest.

“It all begins with Meeting,” was the theme of TCA 2015 and that idea pervaded all the presentations. On Sunday morning, Maria and I showed everyone how you can enhance your root, power, and gongfu by Meeting empty space as a partner. This one you have to do it to believe it. Trippy stuff.

So Much Talent

Where to start? So many talented teachers at TCA this year. Most of their presentations were 20-30 minutes long and things moved briskly. I’m not going to try to do this in a logical manner or this post will go on forever. Here goes:

Let me start with Saturday night. It’s the session that we traditionally reserve for energy healing of various sorts. A long day was capped by a 3hour group healing session that was beyond the beyond. Valarie led us in some healing qigong and Chinese healing sounds. Scheila had us lie on the floor in a human mandala with our heads toward the center. She led us in a guided meditation for meeting your higher self.

Whee Nan, Scheila, Beatrice

Whee Nan, Scheila, Beatrice, Ethan

Then Maria led the group in a tapping session to address “that person in your life who really gets your goat”. (Also known as “How to make an angry jerk disappear.”) It’s tricky to lead 35 people in a generic healing, but it was so incredibly powerful. She began by mirroring the emotions we feel by “that angry jerk”: “There they are, doing that thing they always do. Don’t they know how that makes me feel? I wan’t to rip their head off.” Then progressed through the cycle to: “Well, I guess I’ve done similar stuff myself. I forgive myself for all that I have done to create this situation.” It doesn’t do it justice to encapsulate it so briefly, but you get the idea. Anyway, Huge Release for many. Two of the more powerful women in the room, and several men, broke down into anguished crying that released long-held emotional scars from disfunctional families, etc. They were surrounded and hugged by friends that honored their pain with profound compassion. Huge.

Then Wendy presented one of the most powerful exercises of the whole weekend. It fit in perfectly with our Meeting theme, a pure I-You. The exercise demanded that you be present and receive unconditional love from your partner.

Linda and Wendy

Linda and Wendy

(Linda and I got a preview earlier in the day. I knew right away that this was ready for prime time.) It was a major heart-opening opportunity for many of us and kept people buzzing for days. I am curious to hear from those who participated about what long-term effect it has on you. Let me know.

Earlier on Saturday, we honed our Jedi skills with Guru Mike Casto, master of Indonesian and Filipino fighting arts. In his own smiling, beatific way this martial arts dynamo led us in a drill where you matched your partner’s footwork, first with eyes open and then with eyes closed, sensing your partner without visual awareness. Trippy stuff. (I had a wonderful time working with Annette on this one!) On Sunday, Mike showed up Trap/Flow drill, where you would apply a joint lock to your partner and when she countered that, you flowed to another joint lock. My t’ai chi brother, Rob Mann took us through some ting jin (listening energy) work in soft push hands. He also demonstrated how to generate power by foot alignment.

Chenoa guided us through an Alexander Technique exercise designed to bring awareness to the effortless movement of arms and legs. Ethan used his “Lively Sculptures” to help us find coherent structure in unusual body forms. Your partner used one finger to lead you into new shapes following the path of least resistance. You have to relax everything but the part being moved. Whee Nan fed off Chenoa to do a comic demonstration of how a marionette might get off the floor, one joint at a time. She also shared her “Bubble Qigong” with us

Maria got things started Friday evening by having everyone mill about and alternate between “thinking about” the person you encounter and Meeting them with your whole being. This was an exercise in toggling between objectification (I-It) and relating (I-You). Later in the weekend she had explore different approaches to playing push hands: competitively, cooperatively, and educationally–as well as the overlap between them. Nick gave some tips for improving your gongfu by single movement practice. Sharon shared some funny tips for gaining the energetic upper hand when dealing with pushy car salesmen. Stephanie led a pre-breakfast qigong session with a terrific “Eight Brocades”. It was the best version of this ancient exercise that I have encountered.

Greg and Jonathan teamed up to share some tips about walking long distances. Greg (a veteran of numerous Grand Canyon hikes) focused on the body mechanics and how to use gravity as your ally. Jonathan shifted our perspective 180 degrees and had the environment rising up to meet us…like a ride at Universal Studios. Each moment fresh and new. No time to think about implications…you’re in the next moment!

Another highlight for me: Jeff Justice, national push hands champion and comedy teacher (that’s right…comedy) did a hysterical short standup routine and then deconstructed it for us to show why it worked. It was delightful to hear some of the dos and don’ts of successful comedy. (There’s a gongfu to that too!) Jeff played push hands with all comers throughout the weekend and shared some of his tips on Sunday.

I’m sure I’m missing something but I have to wrap this up. (Please help me out by posting your faves…either here or on Facebook.) So much more that won’t fit into this post.

Thanks to all of you who registered early. It is such a relief to me if I can plan who’s coming months in advance. (Many commented how calm and relaxed I looked this year.) And a HUGE thank you to all who contribute to the scholarship fund. You make it possible for me to say YES! to anyone who wants to participate, regardless of their current financial state. As Linda says, it is an investment that is returned to you a hundredfold.

TCA 2015 took us to new heights. And the best is yet to come!Bell RockJPG