Some days, I’m just not there. I missed Fu Fri with Shifu yesterday ( Friday) I was just not into it. The pouring down rain, the facing 1 hr drive, the traffic. It is the first I’ve missed since…well, ever that I did not have other plans. The rain stopped, I was back from my errands, but I was not focused. I ended up sleeping way past time to leave by two hours. I guess I was just out of it.
Sat, I was up early, and headed out to my way early morning Tai Chi /Kung Fu class. I really felt like staying in bed, but I did not. We only had a 1 hour session today, because the Dojo was having some event there . Turns out it was some kind of Judo tournament. We finished up early which was fine, because I needed to go to my Monthly East Bay Chan meeting.
Once a month all the Northern Cal chapters get together and have a meditation meeting. The meetings are good, lots of Chi involved. There were some new comers. In total there were about 12 people or more. I was the only non-Chinese, which is kind of usual. Some Americans come from time to time, but they do not stay. There is one who is my student that comes to our local group, but otherwise not many. I believe in the whole group of a couple hundred here, there are about a doz Americans. We have I am told we have meditators world wide France, German, England, Romania, US, India, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Belize, Saint Vincent, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, etc. The USA is slow it seems to me. Oh there is another student of mine who does Meditation when he comes to Tai Chi but does not come the local group session any more. At the large group monthly meetings it maybe because they speak so much in Chinese. They do make the effort to speak English and to translate , But I think most avg Americans feel uneasy with so much non- English going on. I do not follow a lot of it when they are just talking, and I’m used to it. I try to follow but sometimes, however I get tired and just go into my own space until I hear something i can follow in English. This is how Non-English speakers feel around Americans when we just speak in English, even if they can speak English . It is work to keep up. I heard LZ and her friends say that. I can feel for them. At the larger meeting it is done with a translator for the lectures so no one feels left out any time, Unless there is just a group of Chinese speaking among themselves. If a non-speaker joins them they switch, they are polite about that.
The current group drive is to have 300 people attend the Northern CA retreat in Sept. so that the Shifu will come and teach for 2 days. That could be powerful I may have to make a point to go. At the last meeting with Shifu, many spoke of powerful experiences I would like to feel something like that.
Today we meditated for 20 min, then did motion Chan, which to me is Chi – Gong. They say the effects are deeper than Chi-Gong, maybe because of the added meditation, I guess. Still It is Chi -Gong to me. This is one of the points about Chan that is different from other forms of “zen” our physical drills. Here are some:
Five Stretching Exercises That Help You Relax and Circulate Your Qi
1. Rotate the Head
Stand with the feet apart at shoulder width. Close the eyes and let the arms hang naturally and loosely. Slowly rotate the head clockwise 5 times, then counterclockwise 5 times. Do this slowly. Make sure that the shoulders remain still and in the original position. This exercise helps relaxing the neck and shoulders.
2. Swing Your Arms
Stand with the feet apart at shoulder width with the eyes closed. Bring both arms up in front of you so that they are parallel with the ground at the shoulder level. Then let them drop as in a free fall. Relax the neck completely. Let the free-falling arms tuck on the relaxed neck. If you do it correctly, the arm dropping will bounce back and kick up your chin. Repeat this several times. This exercise helps to relax the shoulders. It does take some trial and error to kick up the chin.
3. Kick Your Legs
Stand with the feet apart at shoulder width. With the eyes open, focus on a fixed point in front to maintain balance. Lift the left leg. Then, kick the left leg forward with the toes pointed. Do not do it too fast or kick with too much force. Then, repeat this with the right leg. Do18 times each leg. When kicking, try to maintain balance by keeping the torso rigid and eyes focused on the object ahead. Let the force of each kicking motion travel upwards to massage your buttocks and kidneys.
4. Twist Your Waist
Stand with the feet apart at shoulder width. Close the eyes and let the arms hang naturally and loosely. Turn the torso to the left without moving the legs and hold this posture for about 2-5 seconds. Then turn to the right and hold it for the same amount of time. Repeat it several times. This exercise relaxes the muscles around the waist.
5. Smooth Your Breathing
Stand with the feet apart at shoulder width with the eyes closed. Overlap the hands (it makes no difference if the right hand is over the left or vice versa) and place them over the belly button. Curl the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose and into the belly. Then exhale very slowly. Be sure to inhale and exhale through the nose and let your hands move in and out with your stomach. This practice not only can smooth our breathing, it can also calm us down and help us focus on the present moment. Most importantly, it prepares us to enter the meditative state of Ding.
Also that we do not put a group effort of reading the sultras or chanting. We are told the Sultras are someone else’s experience, we should meditate to have our own. Chanting is yet another external practice we are told to work from the Heart.
Then another 20 min of Meditation. That was followed by listening to a download of the Shifu lecture when he was in town last week, or two weeks ago. It can be heard on TalkShoe if you have an interest under Heart Chan. His an other seniors lectures and talks are there.
I have recently learned from recent translation of Chinese text some history on Heart Chan:
Historically Shaolin is known as the birthplace of “Chinese” Chan.
Afterwards ( after Bodhidarma), the lineage was past to the 2nd Patriarch, Master Hui-Ke, the 3rd Patriarch, Master Seng-Can, the 4th Patriarch， Master Dao-Xing, the 5th Patriarch， Master Hong-Ren, and the 6th Patriarch Master, Hui-Neng. Master HuiNeng inspired forty-three disciples to teach Chinese Chan throughout China. The five major schools of the Chan from these disciples were described as “a flower blooms with five pedals, and a fruit ripens at its due.” The five branches are Lin Ji, Cao Dong, Yun Men, Fa Yan, Wei Yang. Chinese Chan then became a major Buddhism denomination in China after Tang Dynasty (907AD). After Sung Dynasty (1279AD) however, only Cao Dong and Lin Ji survived. Soto and Renzai of Japan are from the Lin Ji branch.
I like history. Some of the other main writings are being translated currently. Intro to Chan is almost finished. Maybe I will post some parts of it. In a way it is kind of like the Kyuhon part I (The Kyudo Manual ) but for Sitting Chan.
Anyway…after the meditation session part of the group including myself went to lunch. Surprising to me, not for Chinese food, but for Korean food, to what is called locally Korean town, where I had Japanese Udon, with my Chinese family 🙂
I had planned on getting in some Kyudo practice in late today, but that idea was given up, when they said they were going to lunch and I was ridding with one of my sisters. Anyway, it was a good day, a break from the external studies and to work on my spiritual practice. It gave me some time to reflect on somethings, which really did not put me in that good of spirits but, I suppose it was necessary to go there. All things are for a reason, as was this day.
Tomorrow is an all day Kyudo practice, which is really kind of draining…45 day count down