Spring Chi: Go Out and Get Some

The path of the Qigong and Tai Chi practitioner is a beautiful way to become more aware of the energies that surround you. It starts with feeling your own chi: at the end of a workout you notice a little tingle in the hands, warmth and a sense of increased circulation (or pouring sweat, if you've amped up the intensity a little). A feeling of being more open, loose, and relaxed. All that good stuff.

I've written before about how Tai Chi and Qigong can change your awareness of the way you interact with other people. All interpersonal interactions (even those taking place at a distance) involve an energetic exchange. We are all connected, and that becomes way more clear when you develop your sensitivities to chi.

People are not always at their best, however. You're more likely to learn about the impact of other people's chi on you through your habitually nasty coworker than through those who are balanced and even-tempered.

Fortunately, there is one realm where you can generally speaking guarantee a positive energy exchange that has untold benefits for you, and that is the natural world.

Here in Southern Ontario, as in much of North America, it has been a nasty winter, and if you still a haven't pulled yourself out of winter hibernation, that's totally understandable. A lot of people around here like to say we "don't get a spring" here. It is true that the weather tends to turn from cool-ish (10-15 degrees Celsius) to warm (20+) rather quickly, creating a spring that looks pretty grey for a long time but then flips suddenly into all the plants growing all at once and all the leaves busting out. Trees and plants here don't kid around: when it is go time, they all burst forth as fast as they can.

However, the energetic conditions underlying the process of rebirth and growth have been building since the winter solstice - the moment when the sun begins the long slow climb toward summer. By March / April, the signs of spring are absolutely everywhere if you know where to look.

The birds are usually the first indicator that something is up. We look for robins, but even the sparrows that winter here will start being a lot more vocal. In late March / early April, the ground plants start greening up, especially in protected wooded areas. Mosses often come first, then garlic mustard (I know it's an invasive, but it's a tasty one), low-lying vines and of course crocuses, tulips, hepatica, and others. Buds start coming on - the red maple across the street from our house has pushed out its intense showy red buds in the last couple of days, and the Manitoba maple in our yard has a squirrel in it right now, snacking on its buds.

Spring is here, now, no need to wait for it.

It's great to take note of the signs of spring that you can see and enjoy intellectually, but if you do any kind of energy work, including Tai Chi and Qigong, the thing to do is get out there and experience what this chi feels like. Too often, we like to stick to our familiar practice room - we go to class, work out, feel better, and then don't do anything with it. The fact is, the Taoist arts are a path to complete awareness of the beautiful world around us. When we only attend to interactions with other people, and our whole experience of the outside world is the office or the grocery store, the insides of buildings and the insides of our own homes, we miss the fact that this world of ours is in many ways still a paradise, despite humanity's best efforts to destroy it.

One of the best ways to engage with the full range of what this practice has to offer is to get out there. Get yourself to a conservation area, park, or, if that seems like too much, into your own yard. Take off your shoes and walk through the mud a little. Pick a dry patch and lie down on the ground. Lay your spine out and feel the earth beneath you. Even the most public busy park will have a quiet unused corner where this is possible. Open yourself to the world around you and soak it in. Take note of how you feel before you head out, and see how spending time outdoors changes that.

Even if you don't do Tai Chi or Qigong, you can still do this, of course. If interacting with nature is your entire practice, it will take you far. If you are a Tai Chi or Qigong practitioner, remember that yours is a shamanic tradition. It's our birthright - everyone's birthright - to enjoy and embrace the natural energies that constantly flow all around us. If you practice Tai Chi or Qigong and don't take advantage of what the world of nature has to offer, it's not exaggerating to say that you're missing the whole point of your practice.

This is something that has been missed, I think, in a lot of Tai Chi classes. It isn't something that gets taught much because it isn't something your teacher can really show you. (I would argue this is true for most of what you can learn through Tai Chi and Qigong - classes are great, but no one's going to do your practice for you. That's a post for another time.) You have to go out and play with it, knowing that your Tai Chi and Qigong practice has already worked on you to heighten your awareness. When you practice in class, you're building a potential within yourself to see and feel differently, to experience more, to taste the sweetness this life has to offer. It's up to you to go out and experience it.

Spring / Summer 2014 Newsletter

In this newsletter:
*Upcoming workshops: May and July
*The return of summer sessions in Dundurn Park
*Class hiatus dates, spring / summer / fall 2014
*What to do if you want to start learning Tai Chi or Qigong NOW!

Upcoming Workshops
Refining Eight Silk Brocades
Sunday, May 11, 2014, 1-5pm
Location: Regent Health Centre, 150 Locke Street South
Fee: $75, includes materials and refreshments

The movements of the Eight Silks Qigong set are relatively easy to learn, but once you begin to scratch the surface, there is a lot to them. In this workshop we'll use simple foundational exercises and advanced technique to unlock the full potential of this powerful little set.

Some experience studying Eight Silks and familiarity with qigong technique. If this workshop speaks to you and you haven't studied this set yet, or if you want to brush up on your Eight Silks, I'll be offering instruction in the Eight Silks on Saturdays (2-3pm, Regent Centre) and Mondays (1-2pm, Regent Centre) between now and the workshop.

Push Hands
Sunday, July 13, 2014, 1-5pm
Location: Regent Health Centre, 150 Locke Street South
Fee: $75, includes materials and refreshments

According to traditional teachings, fifty percent of what the internal martial arts has to offer can only be learned by practicing push hands. However, push hands is one of the most neglected areas of most students' practice.

Performed with a partner, push hands allows the student to explore all of the core areas of internal martial arts practice, including:
* Dealing with another's force or energy
* Relaxing in the face of adversity
* Trusting the structure of the movement and correct technique
* Channeling force down into the ground
* Pushing from the feet
* Developing the appropriate degree of responsiveness to external forces and conditions

Whatever stage you are at in your practice, push hands will help to highlight the areas of your technique that most need attention and refinement.

This workshop will focus on the tor yu movement, paqua stepping, two-handed static / standing push hands, and walking push hands.

The spirit of this workshop is kind consideration and cooperation. Where appropriate and with students who are ready, some live push hands / sparring may be practiced, but the focus will be on safety, correct technique, and helping each other refine technique.

Experience with Tai Chi and knowledge of tor yu. Any student who has studied Tai Chi for Beginners (I) with me or more is eligible for this workshop.

Because push hands must be done in a context of trust, only those students with whom I am familiar may attend. If you have studied Tai Chi elsewhere and would like to attend, I must meet you beforehand in a practice context – i.e., you must attend no less than three of my classes before the workshop. (See the schedule to determine which classes will work for you.)

Spring / Summer Sessions in Dundurn Park
Start date: Wednesday, May 21
End date: Wednesday, September 17
Time: 6-7pm
Fee: Free
No experience required

It is almost time to start our summer sessions again! This is your chance to use your Tai Chi and Qigong to work with the exquisite natural energies of one of Hamilton's oldest parks. Many of the trees of Dundurn park are part of the original oak savannah ecosystem that dominated this region before the city was constructed. The energy of this park is remarkably rich.

We practice on the lawn to the east of the castle. If you're not familiar with Dundurn Park, on the east side of it there is a Victorian garden area bordered by a high wooden fence. We will meet either to the north side of the garden (between the garden and the bay, where we met last year) or on the south side (toward York Boulevard) under the oak trees. If you walk into the park from the castle you probably can't miss us.

Please come no matter what your level of experience.

NOTES: Summer sessions are weather permitting. I will typically be there even if it is sprinkling rain, and if it is anywhere shy of surface of the sun hot. If there is thunder or pouring rain immediately before a session, I will probably not be there. We work out under the trees, so don't worry about excessive sun exposure.

Should I cancel a session for non-weather related reasons, I will post a note at the top of this website, just under the laughing Buddha. This is to avoid spamming my entire mailing list each time I am not available for a workout. I very rarely cancel a session. I encourage everyone to go to the park regardless of whether I will be there, but if you are concerned about that, please check the website before you leave for the park.

Class Hiatus Dates

Chalmers Presbyterian Classes
After the last class on April 10, Thursday night classes will be on hiatus until the fall.

All Regent Centre classes will run as usual including Easter weekend.

No classes Friday, May 2, Saturday, May 3, and Monday, May 5
No classes Friday, May 16, Saturday, May 17, and Monday, May 19 (Victoria Day weekend)

All Regent Centre classes will run as usual including the Canada Day long weekend.

No classes Friday, July 25, Saturday, July 26, and Monday, July 28

No classes Friday, August 22, Saturday, August 23, and Monday, August 25

September / October
I will be on hiatus from Thursday, September 18 to Thursday, October 16, 2014.
Classes will resume the first Friday after Thanksgiving (Friday, October 17) and run straight through to Christmas holidays.

What to do if you want to start learning Tai Chi or Qigong NOW!
My ongoing classes are still running, and will continue to run throughout the summer with the exception of the hiatus dates noted above. Qigong classes are always open to new beginners.

If you want to start learning Tai Chi, the best way to get started is to attend Gillianne Shaver's classes on Wednesday afternoons, 1:15-2:15pm at the Regent Centre, or to join summer sessions in the park (Wednesdays 6-7pm), where I'll be teaching Tai Chi and Qigong foundation as well as aspects of the set.

View the current schedule and learn about our extraordinarily reasonable fees here.