Positively Zen

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Tai Chi Thursdays are totally where it’s at.

Today, I did my first Integral Tai Chi routine since maybe February 2016. It was slightly more difficult than I remembered since I’m so out of shape, but it was just as much fun and rewarding. I had to use the videos I used in the past because I got a little rusty and didn’t quite remember all the movements and the mantras, but eventually, it came back to me and the workout flowed as naturally as it had in the past. A couple more times and I’ll be able to do it with ambient music instead of videos, meditating with Sheila Chandra’s “Sacred Stones” in the background, and all will be right in the universe again.

The final segment of the workout, as always, is meditation. There are several stages of this segment, one of which is the stage of appreciation where you have to think about two good things that happened to you in the last 24 hours or the past week. So I thought about my daughter finally being healthy, no more fever, no more suppositories, no more sleepless nights, and I smiled a huge and honest smile. Then I also thought about yesterday. I had the day off work and used the time to bake a broccoli quiche. Both my husband and my daughter loved the holy hell out of it, and my huge smile became even bigger. Thank the Mother Goddess. Blessed Be Her Name.

As I came out of the meditative state, I made a decision to try my best to reduce the amount of negativity in my life. I want to stop lamenting the weather. Instead of thinking about how much winter sucks, I should focus on the warmth I feel when I’m at home with my loving husband, my amazing daughter and my beautiful dog. Instead of thinking about politics and getting all pissed off, I should focus on the peace of mind that I always have when I surround myself with my art and music. Instead of worrying about my health, I should focus on my Tai Chi routine and look forward to next Thursday so that I can indulge in yet another workout and recharge my state of positivity.

Always focus on the positive. A grateful heart is a happy heart. Namaste.

Peace, love and invocating the dragon.

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The Dragon

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“There is no mantra for the Dragon because the Dragon is about self transformation, and self transformation requires emptiness, and emptiness requires quiet meditation.”

This is the way to do it. I don’t know how to explain it but there it is. Most beliefs come about this way or that way, I guess. It just comes to you and suddenly it makes sense. And this is what I felt this past Friday.

It was the day before International Woman’s Day and I wasn’t planning anything feminist in particular. I just wanted to go about the order of my day whatever it may be and wherever it will lead me.

I usually try not to do anything too transgressive when the Sabbath comes in, so my Friday routine follows the order that will most likely keep the most difficult work and mundane use of electronic devices and home appliances way before sunset.

But before all that, I take about an hour to an hour and a half to do my integral Tai Chi exercises – an important part of my Friday morning routine. I recently stopped using the YouTube videos as guides since I know the poses and the movements by heart, as well as most of the mantras. Instead, I put on my Ambient CD, concentrate on my movements, count my reps, focus on my breathing, on my focal point whenever balance is needed, on the horizon far beyond the walls of my living room, far beyond the Wadi in my backyard, but most of all I focus on the Truth or the Dharma that transcends the material world and the empirical senses. The One that dwells in all dimensions of this universe and beyond, within the spiritual realm and all the light and the darkness, the consciousnesses or the voids that can and cannot be expressed by human language or understood by the human mind. The mantras help me a lot in my efforts to connect to this supreme essence.

The Ambient tracks increase this connection exponentially through their experimental sound effects, each one going deeper and getting stranger than the next. Some contain repetitive sound patterns that change only slightly every time they come back. If these sounds were visual, they would look like the waves on the shore of the Kinneret that come in and out in a repetitive dance that changes only slightly every time the moon rises and the tide turns.

The routine closes with a few minutes of meditation. For this purpose, I skip forward to Sheila Chandra’s “Sacred Stones“, where she sings a Sanskrit prayer to Vishnu, followed by the Latin phrase “Dominus illuminatio mea” meaning “the Lord is my Light” and then Amen and Hallelujah. I close my eyes to shut off the mundane world, sink deeper into myself and into my spiritual world. I easily shift the Sanskrit lyrics to adapt it to my Jewish belief. When she sings Vishnu Vishnu over and over again, I hear Elohima Elohima (Mother Goddess Mother Goddess). She who is eternal and everlasting. She who will exist even after the waves on the shore of the Kinneret dry up and the tide no longer turns, and when the moon no longer rises or falls but moves out of orbit and disappears into some black hole. When the constellations move into some unimaginable celestial realm and all human existence will suddenly seem so small, so minuscule.

To close off the routine, I join my palms together, close to the heart chakra, bow my head and say “Namaste” – “My divine spark recognizes the divine spark within all my loved ones and all those within my karmic web”.

Later on that Friday, as the sun was nearing the horizon, I lit the Sabbath candles feeling even closer to the Goddess than I have felt in months. I honor the Divinity and Her Presence, I welcome the Sabbath Queen. International Women’s Day feels much more special when I pay homage to the Trinity which I refer to in female terms – Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother Goddess. I keep thinking I want to do my Tai Chi routine outside, in nature, under the celestial drape of the sky, preferably next to a running stream, with a couple of candles sitting next to me in a shallow groove in the earth so that the wind doesn’t blow them out. Being surrounded by the four elements – holy water, mother earth, the column of fire, and the Shechina so tangible and so effervescent in the Jerusalemite mountain breeze – for an hour and a half every Friday will be even more powerful than anything I can experience within the confines of my living room.

But my spirituality is different from that of the religious women who take advantage of their long bus rides to do their morning prayers or read King David’s Book of Psalms. I don’t like to expose it in such an obvious way. I would also feel self-conscious if I feel strange eyes studying me and my movements in the middle of a park, wondering if I’ve gone mad. It will no doubt distract me, and the spiritual aspect of my routine will be lost.

So this is what makes sense to me. Doing these exercises and reciting these mantras should be done on a Friday morning, with the sun coming through the windows, Ambient music in the background and maybe burn some scented oil or light a couple of candles anyway. And it should be done shortly before lighting the candles. The circle is complete.

Peace, love and a grateful heart is a happy heart and a happy heart is a healthy heart.

Namaste

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As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I started doing Qi Kung. I struggled to find the exact exercises that my mom does and found several clips on YouTube presented by the same instructor that my mom had back in Montreal. Although they refer to it as integral Tai-Chi, I still think of it as Qi Kung.

I think the main difference I noticed between integral Tai Chi and the other kinds of exercises I found was the level of intensity. Integral Tai Chi moves the entire body, whereas regular Qi Kung seems to be moving only the hands and arms. The first time I did the full routine, including the warmup, all the positions, the cool down and the meditation at the end, I found my heartbeat had increased and I was breaking a sweat.

As it is for many forms of martial art, there is also a huge emphasis on spirituality and mysticism in Tai Chi. I loved the mantras the teacher recites as she demonstrates the movements and the positions – mantras that inspire love, compassion, kindness, gratitude and sends positive vibes with the energy created throughout the exercise. It spoke to me a lot, first because I’m a very spiritual person, and the routine made me feel like I was exercising more than just my body, but also feeding my spirit and my mind. Second of all, these exercises fill me with much positivity, which is very hard for me to come by at a time like this, when I spend every waking hour in yet another clinic, undergoing yet another test, and gearing up for another surgery.

After I finished the routine this past Friday, bowed with my clasped hands and gave a final “namaste”*, my boyfriend came back from his basketball game, limping, with a bruised thigh and an aching arm. He complained that the game was too physical (i.e. violent) and that he was playing with people who don’t know shit and thus kept losing all the time and it served to do nothing but infuriate him

I told him that next time he should consider joining me for integral Tai Chi because the result of it will be the exact opposite of his basketball game without taking away from the fitness aspect of it:

1) You don’t get any bruises or injuries in Tai Chi provided you follow the teacher’s instructions correctly.
2) You don’t have to suffer being with people who don’t know shit because the teacher is there to guide everyone.
3) There is no losing, only winning.
4) There is no violence, only positivity, peace and love.
5) It will calm you and take away all the stress of the past week, will make you cool, collected and happy.

What I love most about my exercises is that they use my body’s natural movements as exercises and teaches me to go along with my body and not against it. It uses soft movements to exercise your muscles and flowing movements to make your blood flow and your heart race. It may seem like an “easy” workout (as my boyfriend views it as something boring) but it’s a workout nonetheless, a workout for the body and its essence, plus the sweat and minus the pain.

Peace, love and I ought to use scented oils next time.

*”The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.” – Wikipedia. I just found that beautiful!