A Week of Tai-Chi

This past Friday Lisa and I returned from a week of Tai-Chi at our teacher Lenzie Williams’s annual Tai-Chi camp at the Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma, California, about an hour north of San Francisco. This was our second year going and it was every bit as memorable an experience as the first.

The ranch is a beautiful place, away in the mountains, free from the noise of cars, televisions, radios, the news… the weather there was cooler than last year, but the skies and landscape every bit as beautiful. (And of course the deer and goats were as cute as ever to see. ^_^)

The week’s work was mentally and physically tiring, but in the end a very rejuvenating experience on all levels. Lenzie did a lot of internal work and spent a good amount of time on his idea of “tracing” in the transitions between postures. He had discussed the idea last year but I don’t think I was even close to experienced enough to get an idea of what he was talking about. This year however, I remember when he was going through this idea and thinking to myself “Of course!”. The idea makes a lot of sense to me and now it’s just that I have to do the work to make that idea a reality within my tai-chi practice.

Besides the tracing, I found the push hands experience to be very illuminating. The big epiphany during the push hands was getting somewhat of an idea of what everyone has been telling me about giving too much information on pushes, something which has translated into the term “soft push” in my head. It’s something which I’m sure will take years to understand, but having even this brief glimpse was very exciting.

All in all just a wonderful experience at this year’s camp. We had the great pleasure of getting to meet new friends as well getting to bond further with our friends from the weekly classes and the people we met last year. It was a real honor to be amongst these people, so generous with their collective tai-chi and life wisdom, and in the end a completely humbling and fulfilling experience. I’m looking forward to taking the lessons from this years camp and carrying that with me into the days to come, and of course, looking forward to next year’s camp!

go (baduk, wei ch’i)

My brother asked me the other day if I knew how to play baduk. Not knowing much about it, I scoured the internet and became very interested in the game. I purchased an introductory book this weekend and already find myself drawn to the game. Contemplating the positions has that same intensity and focus as the evaluation of a position in chess, yet something about the simplicity of the playing of black and white stones has such a beautiful elgance to it. I’ve always enjoyed chess and I expect that I will find myself spending quite a bit of time in the coming months learning and contemplating this wonderful game.

300 Tang Poems

I’ve always enjoyed Chinese poetry (in translation at least, as I am unable to read Chinese) by Li-Bai and others. It’s been a while since I last spent time reading poetry so I decided I would like to find some on the internet so I could convert them for my PDA (I’ve been reading texts on it quite a bit lately). I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of websites having translations of “300 Tang Poems” (here and here). I’m looking very forward to exploring these poems once again. =)

A Pleasant Morning

Last week I changed my morning route to work and instead of taking the bus all the way I’ve been getting off half-way to work and walking the rest. Stopping by the tea shop, now a part of my morning routine, I picked up a cup of lady grey and walked down the street, looking ahead towards the bay, a cool gentle breeze, an intensely deep blue sky–I was satisfied.

Rachmaninov

I find myself returning to Rachmaninov’s “Isle of the Dead” everyone once in a while… today, I marvelled at how long it is before that wonderful opening returns, accompanied with a lovely floating violin line. The swells of sound that move with the piece’s lush harmonies, the delicate textures which arise from the mass of sound, the almost unending delay of the inevitable in the return of that opening… I think it is Rachmaninov’s orchestration of his harmonies that have made the most impression on me, the choice of timbres and open spacing.

I don’t know his music as well as I’d like, and perhaps this reaction to this latest listening of his music is a sign I should I be spending more time with it…

A Personal Music Space

I’ve been listening to my minidisc player for the first time in a while… I used to listen to my mindisc player quite a bit, almost whereever I went I would have some music or another playing. I’m reminded of the experience of listening to music on headphones, listening within a very personal musical space, the sound very rich and enveloping, being able to hear the details of the sounds. That personal sound space, cut off from the rest of the world, yet, in other ways, opening it, flavoring it, allowing one to take a step back from being right where one was and instead of interacting with it, observing it.

That kind of perspective is refreshing, to be aware of all the details, to look at the world as an observer, to look at the world with fascination, listening to music that is altogether other worldly, if in just the fact that it is in its own time and space.

Modern Music Internet Radio

I’m a tremendous fan of internet radio stations as a way of encountering new music. Over the years some of my favorite stations have come and gone and others have persisted in providing wonderful music. One of my favorites I’ve rediscovered is Radio@Netscape‘s 20th Century station. Already today I’ve heard pieces I’ve been wanting to check out for some time (just finished listening to George Crumb’s “Unto the Hills”…) and other pieces by composers I simply never knew about.

Anyone else have favorite internet avant-garde/experimental/modern music stations they’d like to share?

^_^

walking

to walk, truly, freely, how pleasant it is! moving freely, the mind wandering curiously, the thoughts from daily life at rest, attention simply on the moment at hand, all the time in the world to explore thoughts deeply, a peaceful ease, floating on along…

i used to walk more regularly than i do these days. i think it’s just that san francisco doesn’t require walking as much as new york did. i find i’m missing that time walking, thinking back to those days in new york going block to block, look up to see the buildings, thoughts adrift. ..

reminiscing about the walk up park avenue east from union square with that blue sky that one day, listening to debussy’s “la mer”… the walk from the hotel petrus to downtown krakow and back again that i took so many times, each so unique, the river, the sky, wawel in the distance… the walk after jumping in the river in geneva… the walk along the seine in paris at night with gypsies playing…

Stillness

“Still Life” is something of a strange, contradictory term… I usuallly associate life as something active, moving, dynamic, and that which is still to be something passive, motionless. Yet, most still life can be dynamic and rich while motionless…

There’s a phrase from one of Michio Kushi’s Macrobiotic Cookbooks, dynamic homeostasis, which I read maybe six or seven years ago and is still with me today. That idea, of something being in balance, yet in motion, rich, alive, has been an ideal for me, something to pursue in life and in music.

The idea of stillness has been on my mind a lot lately as I’m contemplating the nature of the music I’m involved with. Not a music without motion within it, but rather a music that has the effect of motionlessness. That, regardless of what’s in the music, the experience is as John Cage once said, “to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences” …