Gratitude! TCA 2013

Gratitude. Deep, profound gratitude to all who helped make this TCA such an incredible success. We are grateful to all participants, presenters, facilitators, donors, and well-wishers who helped make this wonderful event possible. That’s what comes to mind following the 19th Annual Tai Chi Alchemy in Sedona.

Each year we are left wondering, “What could be better than this?”…then we find out in the next installment. This year was marked by an exhilarating coherence, creativity, harmony, and top drawer, cutting edge exploration into martial arts, energy cultivation, energy healing, and consciousness research. Most important, this all occurred within a field of unconditional LOVE. Wow! All this in one weekend?

It is impossible to convey in words the depth and tone of all that went on, but I will attempt to sketch a few of the highlights from my perspective. (I hope others will add their own favorites in the Comments section. I’m sure I missed some things.)

The theme of TCA this year was “Finding the Sweet Spot”—that structure, configuration, or relationship that produces an optimal coherence/resonance. In the Sweet Spot, abilities are magnified and healing occurs. However, another theme emerged in the opening circle: Transformation and Rebirth. Many in the group asked for this or were already in the midst of the process.
The fun really began for me on Thursday when Greg McGuffey, Maria, and I visited the Birthing Cave. We were investigating if this was an appropriate place to take early arrivals on Friday. It is well off the beaten track and even many locals have never been there. I visited it twenty-odd years ago on my first trip to Sedona, and it was one of my inspirations to create Tai Chi Alchemy in the first place.

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The Birthing Cave is a very sacred site to Native Americans and must be approached with profound reverence. The energy of the site is unique, perhaps the most yin of all energy spots I have ever visited. It is shaped like a birth canal opening to an extraordinary valley, funneling the vast energy of the valley in and washing over you. Profoundly humbling.

We did go there as a group on Friday afternoon, approaching with humility and asking permission from the unnamed Presences there. Maria wisely sat this one out, as she had had a profound experience Thursday. I was so full from Thursday’s visit that I was only able to stay a few minutes. I found a spot a hundred feet below to meditate. Tommy did a shamanic invocation in the Native tongue and sang and drummed until the hills reverberated. Many felt themselves transformed or reborn. Tears were shed. We left filled with gratitude.

Tommy also performed a shamanic ritual Saturday night, the eve of the Equinox. The moon was just past full. He invoked the spirits with prayer, drumming, and chant to receive guidance, then smudged each of us. The spirits passed on their guidance to us through him, often punctuated by a choir of coyotes or shooting stars in the clear sky.

The presentations this year were unequaled. Maria explained how to “Hold Space” and led us in an exercise where someone would sit in a chair with eyes closed and adjust the location of the people that surrounded her/him by asking them to move closer or farther away until the field was optimally tuned. Healing can be facilitated by consciously adjusting the space.

Andrew Hahn (the “Kirtan Rabbi”) shared his explorations into the spine for health, energy cultivation, and gongfu. He has a diverse martial arts background, but for this he drew on his current practice in yiquan and xingyiquan. Andrew has a particular knack for de-mystifying the jargon that surrounds standing meditation and getting right to the core. His presentations were lively, humorous, and mind-blowing.
Guru Mike Casto, master of Indonesian and Philippine fighting arts, shared some wonderful warm up exercises for joints and some powerful self-defense techniques. It is a little like asking a Grand Prix driver to teach a course on traffic safety, but Mike’s boundless good humor and open-heartedness allowed us to peer into a martial arts world that most will never see. Tom DeLacy also took us through some exhilarating kung fu exercises with practical application, and led us in “Bodhidharma’s Muscle Tendon Changing”.

Several teachers took different approaches in finding sweet spots in body awareness. Stephanie Morino, who came from Japan to attend, showed how to enhance our energetic connection to the earth via “Grippy Feet”, and led us in some terrific Guang Ping stretches and warm ups. Ethan DeFord led a guided meditation to enhance body consciousness using non-abstractive awareness, and also a heart-based qigong exercise. We got down on the floor with Chenoa Siegenthaler to explore some Alexander Technique based exercises.

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Greg Explains Chi Walking

Greg McGuffey showed us how to walk great distances in central equilibrium with a minimum of effort. Micaela took us deeper into Argentine Tango as an exercise in consciousness, energy, and MEETING. Breathtaking!

In the healing session Saturday evening, Anne McGuffey led us in a wonderful Jin Shin Jyutsu self-healing. We then formed a “Polarity Battery” where the whole group linked up fingertips to fingertips to form a continuous energy chain.

What an amazing line up! (So much happened I am sure I missed some the important things. Please help me out if you remember more.)
Lastly, I focused on the idea of “Meeting” and its practical applications. In Meeting, you use your object-based thinking mind to provide the structure for any encounter, then shift as needed to a non-objective relational awareness for the actual doing. This method enables us to perform some mind-boggling “Jedi tricks”, using only the slightest force to overcome great strength. It is through Meeting that authentic encounters of all kinds are possible, but it is also really fun to see and feel the power of highly coherent, love-based martial arts.

We feasted Sunday night and once again were entertained and inspired by poetry from our participants, hosted by the charismatic, award-winning poet Linda Addison.

For me, this was the sweetest TCA yet. Everything came about with relaxed ease, loving intelligence, mutual respect, joy and laughter. What else could be better than this?

We plan to find out next year for our
20th Annual Tai Chi Alchemy in Sedona!