Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Workshop


Tai Chi and Open Focus

I am giving workshop in the Hibernian Hotel Leisure Centre on next Sunday January 3rd from 11am - 2.30pm.

The silent stillness of Tai Chi practice renews body mind and spirit. We will spend time in these soft flowing movements allowing them to heal and renew our bodies. This workshop is designed to introduce beginners to the practice and also to allow experienced tai chi students to deepen their understanding of the art.

We will practice open focus exercises to experience spaciousness within and without. These gentle deep exercises teach us how to open to a wider awareness of our body and the space in and around our body. (Bring an extra layer for the open focus session as people often cool down when sitting still).

To register text 0876616800 or email me @ taichimcilraith@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Receiving Each Day as an Invitation

Each new day is a path of wonder, a different invitation. Days are where our lives gradually become visible.

Often it seems that we have to undertake the longest journey to arrive at what has been nearest all along. Mornings rarely find us so astounded at the new day that we are unable to decide between adventures. We take on days with the same conditioned reflex with which we wash and put on our clothes each day. If we could be mindful of how short our time is, we might learn how precious each day is. There are people who will never forget today. […]

The liturgy of dawn signals the wonder of the arriving day. Magic of darkness breaking through into color and light is such a promise of invitation and possibility. No wonder we always associate the hope and urgency of new beginning with the dawn. Each day is the field of brightness where the invitation of our life unfolds. A new day is an intricate and subtle matrix; written into its mystery are the happenings sent to awaken and challenge us.

No day is ever the same, and no day stands still; each one moves through a different territory, awakening new beginnings. A day moves forward in moments, and once a moment has flickered into life, it vanishes and is replaced by the next. It is fascinating that this is where we live, within an emerging lacework that continually unravels. Often a fleeting moment can hold a whole sequence of the future in distilled form: that unprepared second when you looked in a parent’s eye and saw death already beginning to loom. Or the second you noticed a softening in someone’s voice and you knew that a friendship was beginning. Or catching your partner’s gaze upon you and knowing the love that surrounded you. Each day is seeded with recognitions.

The writing life is a wonderful metaphor for this. The writer goes to his desk to meet the empty white page. As he settles himself, he is preparing himself, for visitation and voyage. Each memory, longing, and craft set the frame for what might emerge. He has no idea what will come. Yet despite its limitations, his creative work will find its own direction to form. Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become.

--John O'Donohue, from "To Bless the Space Between Us"

Monday, 21 December 2009


Thanks Deb for this great pic.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

tai chi


soft full engaging open
breathing in breathing out
advancing retreating
spacious to eternity and beyond

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Suddenly
a bird call
makes it seem

(I don't know
why) like a
holiday

Like getting
a letter
from Loraine.

Cid Corman


Laundromat

Causal, sudsy
social love
at the tubs

After all, ecstasy
can't be constant

Loraine Niedecker

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

More Yielding

When I yield to my feelings and allow them to be, especially the uncomfortable ones I begin to experience freedom. I am no longer trying to escape (in food, television or even practice). I can simply experience the feeling and let it go.This allows me to welcome all feelings in myself and allow others their feelings too, without trying to fix or change them. When I realise deep in myself that feelings are not "real" or true "facts" but rather experiences coming into my awareness to be consciously felt. I can relax into each moment knowing that each feeling when fully allowed can teach me freedom. This freedom comes from getting to know my true nature beyond feelings, thoughts and tensions. That nature, which is ever present waiting for me to turn inward and experience it. The more I turn my attention to this still presence the more accessible it becomes. The choice is there in each moment, to pay attention to the distractions of mind or the stillness of presence.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Yielding

The Chinese word shooing means to yield, to relax, to lose to give up. It is said that when Cheng Man Ching trained with the famous Yang Chen-Fu he would be reminded daily to be shooing to be really really shooing."If you are a little bit not shooing you are in the state of a looser and in T'ai Chi you will be defeated."To me this means that as I practice I need to yield to each moment, to completely relax my body in each step and between each step. By becoming conscious of each disturbing thought, feeling or tension and letting them go as they arise, we yield to our practice. We become present in the moment not repressing or avoiding but yielding to and accepting what is here and now. In learning to do this we learn to live consciously rather than on automatic. Then instead of reacting in habitual manner to events in our lives we become more free to respond in new and fresh ways.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Tai Chi with St. Mary's students


Is this what you mean by Yielding?


Brush left knee and push.

What exactly am I doing?

Looking good.
Many thanks to Emer Hallihan for these photos.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


RIPRAP

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The words like an endless
four- dimensional
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam,each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.

Gary Snyder

Knots In The Grain

"The Japanese term for song bushi or fushi means a whorl in the grain. This is what we call a knot,like a knot in wood. It is a very interesting sense of song - like the grain flows along and then there's a turbulence that whorls, and that's what they call a song." This quote is from an article by Gary Snyder about how his poetry emerges.

I have loved this image ever since I read the article many years ago and have found this idea of a turbulence in the energy very useful in understanding energy movement in Tai Chi and in life (what's the difference).I have often noticed that the postures that have given me most difficulty either in learning or teaching seem to produce a knot in me or the person I'm working with or in both of us. When we manage to unravel this knot something big has cleared or shifted. Then this posture has become very deeply embedded and understood in the body. Sometimes I even feel a healing of old wounds that my body has been holding. The time and love that goes into the unravelling unlocks the energy block causing the knot leaving me lighter and more free.

It seems to me that all the events in our lives also have energy. When we release the events energy as it happens we are free to move on. Sometimes however we don't or can't release the energy and a knot forms. Then we tell the story again and again or repeat the experience again and again until the knot is unravelled and more of our true energy and nature are available to us.For me this is the real work of our lives, to onravel all the knots from this life and the past so the veils are lifted and we are free to "BE".

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cultivating an eagle mind

Human qualities often come in clusters. Altruism, inner peace, strength, freedom, and genuine happiness thrive together like the parts of a nourishing fruit. Likewise, selfishness, animosity, and fear grow together. So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant,” it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony with the interdependence of all things and beings.

Afflictive mental states, on the other hand, begin with self-centeredness, with an increase in the gap between self and others. These states are related to excessive self-importance and self-cherishing associated with fear or resentment towards others, and grasping for outer things as part of a hopeless pursuit of selfish happiness. A selfish pursuit of happiness is a lose-lose situation: you make yourself miserable and make others miserable as well.

Inner conflicts are often linked with excessive rumination on the past and anticipation of the future. You are not truly paying attention to the present moment, but are engrossed in your thoughts, going on and on in a vicious circle, feeding your ego and self-centeredness.

This is the opposite of bare attention. To turn your attention inside means to look at pure awareness itself and dwell without distraction, yet effortlessly, in the present moment.

If you cultivate these mental skills, after a while you won’t need to apply contrived efforts anymore. You can deal with mental perturbations like the eagles I see from the window of my hermitage in the Himalayas deal with crows. The crows often attack them, diving at the eagles from above. But, instead of doing all kinds of acrobatics, the eagle simply retracts one wing at the last moment, lets the diving crow pass, and then extends its wing again. The whole thing requires minimal effort and causes little disturbance.

Being experienced in dealing with the sudden arising of emotions in the mind works in a similar way.

By Matthieu Ricard

From; This is your brain on bliss

Friday, 4 December 2009

Loving Yourself

When I was a child I was taught "Love your neighbour as yourself".My interpretation of this was that loving your neighbour was the important part and that to love oneself was selfish.
Since working with Lester Levinson's release technique this has changed. While at a releasing workshop last summer we were given what appeared to be a simple exercise.
"Look in the mirror and keep releasing (letting go) disapproval of yourself until you have only love feelings for yourself."
Sounds simple, but there was a huge resistance in me to doing this exercise.Being the persistant type I kept at it wondering all the while what the block could be.
Then a memory came back. As a child I loved to play in front of the mirror dressing up and pretending all sorts. When my mother cought me she would scold me and warn me that if I didn't stop "Barnaby" (the devil) would appear to me in the mirror and take me to hell. ( Maybe this is how I got my aversion to seeing myself in the mirror and to loving myself.) In any case once this memory came back a huge weight lifted. I could genuinely begin to love myself and my image in the mirror. This change in my way of relating with myself has transformed how I see and relate to many others in my life. Loving feelings and apreciation come much more frequently. John (my husband) tells me it is like living with the person he got a brief glimpse of when times were really good.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

“We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing
or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.” - Martha Graham.
Thanks to Michael for this quote.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cultivating An Eagle Mind

Human qualities often come in clusters. Altruism, inner peace, strength, freedom, and genuine happiness thrive together like the parts of a nourishing fruit. Likewise, selfishness, animosity, and fear grow together. So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant,” it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony with the interdependence of all things and beings.

Afflictive mental states, on the other hand, begin with self-centeredness, with an increase in the gap between self and others. These states are related to excessive self-importance and self-cherishing associated with fear or resentment towards others, and grasping for outer things as part of a hopeless pursuit of selfish happiness. A selfish pursuit of happiness is a lose-lose situation: you make yourself miserable and make others miserable as well.

Inner conflicts are often linked with excessive rumination on the past and anticipation of the future. You are not truly paying attention to the present moment, but are engrossed in your thoughts, going on and on in a vicious circle, feeding your ego and self-centeredness.

This is the opposite of bare attention. To turn your attention inside means to look at pure awareness itself and dwell without distraction, yet effortlessly, in the present moment.

If you cultivate these mental skills, after a while you won’t need to apply contrived efforts anymore. You can deal with mental perturbations like the eagles I see from the window of my hermitage in the Himalayas deal with crows. The crows often attack them, diving at the eagles from above. But, instead of doing all kinds of acrobatics, the eagle simply retracts one wing at the last moment, lets the diving crow pass, and then extends its wing again. The whole thing requires minimal effort and causes little disturbance.

Being experienced in dealing with the sudden arising of emotions in the mind works in a similar way.

By Matthieu Ricard

From; This is your brain on bliss

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I love to practice Dr Fehmi's attentional exercises. Here is an expert from one I particularly like.
As you continue to read this page allow yourself to be aware of the 3-dimensional physical space between your eyes and the words printed. Let the awareness occur gradually as you continue reading . Because we are conditioned to sense only objects and exclude space, it may take some time for you to become aware of this visual sensation of physical space. Once you do become ware of the space, pause for a few seconds as you gently maintain this awareness.
Now, without shifting your eyes from the screen gradually begin to sense the space that is to the right and the left of the screen. Let your peripheral field of vision widen spontaneously at its own pace to take in that awareness and once you develop that awareness , enjoy it for a few seconds.
Now allow your visual background to come forward, to become as important as your visual foreground; in other words, the whole article, the full screen, the table and the walls behind the screen can be made foreground, simultaneously with the words you are reading. This, too, should be carried out effortlessly and naturally . It may seem difficult at first , but it is well within our capacity to focus in this way. Sit for a few seconds as you gradually maintain this awareness and allow background and foreground to become equally important.
As you continue reading , also include the appearance of space that surrounds your entire body. Allow time for this perception to take place as your visual awareness opens and broadens into 3 dimensions. Now permit yourself to become aware of the space between the lines you are reading, even s you continue to read. Also bring in to your awareness, the space between the words themselves and then the space between the letters of the words your awareness of visual space can continue to expand effortlessly while your awareness of letters, words and concepts continues.
If you notice even small changes during the reading exercise you have begun to experience some of the benefits of open focus.
Last night,I became aware that I was reading in open focus,paying equal attention to the spaces and the words. My heart filled with gratitude at how a simple daily practice can become second nature. Often the simple changes that occur naturally as a result of our daily work become so much a part of us that we don't acknowledge that something significant has shifted. Events like last nights are to be noted and honoured as their memory encourages us in more sparse times.
So do pay attention to the gains from your work as it is all worth your effortless effort.
( Exerpt from Dr Fehmi's "Open Focus Brain" )

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

"God's Wings

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park , forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast...because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live..

'He will cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you will find refuge.'
(Psalm 91:4)
Thanks to Corinna for this story.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


"What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter."
William Shakesphere

Monday, 16 November 2009

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen. --Leonardo Da Vinci

Thursday, 12 November 2009

"Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the
world of sorrows, but we can choose to live with joy...Opportunities to
find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most
challenging". /- Joseph Campbell
Fabulous quote from Corinna

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Gratitude

It seems that we humans are programmed to remember the negative. It is thought that this may be a survival mechanism from the time when had to be on alert for danger at all time.
Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences; it's like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Negative experiences do have benefits: Loss opens the heart, remorse provides a moral compass and anxiety alerts you to threats. But emotional pain with no benefit to yourself or others is pointless suffering and pain today breeds more pain tomorrow. For instance, according to research by psychiatrist Vladimir Maletic, even a single episode of major depression can reshape circuits of the brain to make future episodes more likely
One way to balance this is by cultivating gratitude.
Here is a gratitude exercise developed by Dr. Srikumar Rao which I particularly like and find very affective.
Recall yesterday. Begin when you woke up in the morning think of something you were genuinely grateful for (it could be the warm bed you were lying in, the fact that you had a bed, that you were alive for another day) whatever you truly feel grateful for. Now close your eyes and really experience that feeling , feel it all through your body if possible. Next move on to your time in the bathroom are you grateful for the warm water or maybe it is the toothpaste that leaves your mouth feeling fresh and wonderful.What about breakfast is there some good coffee to drink? Move through your day like this. Was there anything to be grateful for at your work? Now move to the evening. Did you enjoy your evening meal or maybe it was the drink before bed. Review it all and allow yourself to feel genuinely grateful.
I can guarantee that if you practice this exercise before going to bed you will sleep really well and if you're like me you will wake up in great form.
I have been practicing this exercise for a few weeks and can see how it has made me more conscious of all the good things in my life. Now the feeling of gratitude pops spontaneously into my mind more and more often.

Monday, 9 November 2009

I Am So Glad


Start seeing everything as God,
But keep it a secret.
Become like a man who is Awestruck
And nourished
Listening to a Golden Nitengale
Sing in a beautiful foreign language
While God invisibly nests
Upon his tongue.
Haviz
Who can you tell in this world
That when a dog runs up to you
Wagging its ecstatic tail,
You lean down and whisper in its ear,
"Beloved
I am so glad You are happy to see me.
Beloved
I am so glad,
So very glad You have come."







Saturday, 7 November 2009

On Positive Emptiness

Stories remain in our consciousness, often unnoticed, as points of reference for understanding elements of life.However weird or enigmatic they are, or perhaps because of those very qualities, Zen stories have touched the hearts of people for over a thousand years.
One of the most frequently quoted Zen stories in the West seems to be one about a person who went to see a Zen master with a load of questions and arguments. The master kept pouring tea into a cup for the guest until it started overflowing. To the panicked guest , the master said,"If your mind is already filled like this, how can there be room for you to learn?" This seemingly unrealistic story was introduced in Paul Reps's Zen Flesh Zen Bones. Presenting a certain truth about learning, this story illustrates a paradox - the power of what might be called "positive emptiness".
Kazuaki Tanahashi (in Essential Zen)

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Under the trees, among the rocks, a thatched hut;
verses and sacred commentaries live there together.
I'll burn the books I carry in my bag,
but how can I forget the verses written in my gut?
-Ikkyu

Attention Preparation Beginning


Introduction, Preparation, Beginning from Yin&Yang on Vimeo.
D.T. Suzuki when I was studying with him, said the ego has the capacity to cut itself off from experience - whether it comes through the senses or through dreams - and it can also flow with the experience. It has that capacity.
In other words we can change our minds, so that rather than concentrating on our selves in self-consciousness, we can become attentive to environment-outside like today, or be, so to speak, zero in the contemplative setting.
I thought that instead of taking the conventional discipline of sitting cross-legged that I would take this other way. If I approach the world of relativity free of my likes and dislikes, so that when something happens that I don't like, instead of continuing to say I don't like, I ask myself why don't I like it? then here is a clear possibility of changing my mind.
I proceed from one composition to another in a similar way.And then you can take all kinds of things as guides. In other words, you can become an observer of your work and the effect of your work both on yourself and to a lesser extent on other people.
John Cage

Monday, 2 November 2009

Vision in Relaxation

Shaman, salespeople, hypnotists even tai chi practitioners know the fastest way to positively influence the mind is to start with the body. We start with the body because it requires less effort to make a physical change than to change your state of mind. For example most people can't change from tense to relaxed through mental effort alone.But you can easily produce a more relaxed state by making a physical change - such as going for a walk, practicing some tai chi, or by having someone massage your shoulders.
Here is one of my favourite "instant relax exercises " that can be done anywhere for an immediate calm.

Fix your gaze on something directly ahead of you without changing your focus in any way. Allow your peripheral vision to widen.
Without moving your eyes, gradually expand your vision so you can take in more and more of the space around you.
If it feels comfortable, you can take it further; just relax and allow your vision to widen...until you can sense not only the things beside you, but behind you as well.
Now you have a 'visual sense' of being centered and relaxed.

Vision in Learning

Often we pay so much attention to learning the physical postures and applications in T'ai Chi that we forget about how we learn. We learn best by using our whole bodies.

I find that when I am trying to figure things out, like a new posture, my focus can become narrow. This is what most of us were taught in school; paying close attention meant shutting down our awareness into a narrow, concentrated point. This is useful in some cases, like solving a maths problem, but counterproductive when learning T'ai Chi. When I catch myself in 'narrow focus' , I soften and widen my vision.

When our vision de-converges our plain of focus remains the same but our view widens. Even without moving our eyes we take in more visual information around us. This peripheral vision produces a much different type of understanding, one that is broad and holistic and very conducive to learning.

This is not to say that narrow, or converged, vision is not useful in T'ai Chi. When we want to analyse and perfect a posture or when we want to express energy in an application, narrow focused vision is best. For example , the energy delivered in an application can be greatly increased by using our eyes .

Beginners often look down as they yield and this dissipates their energy into the ground . By simply lifting their gaze, the application becomes 100% more effective.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Thayumanavar one of the great saints of Southern India has left the following challenging poem:


You may control a mad elephant;
You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
You may ride a lion;
You may play with the cobra;
By alchemy you may eke your livelihood;
You may wander through the universe incognito;
You may make vassals of the gods;
You may be ever youthful;
You may walk on water and live in fire;
But control of the mind is better and more difficult.
Autobiography of a Yogi











Sunday, 25 October 2009

Ward Off Energy


Here is an approach to Ward Off energy using some of the techniques I learned from Dr.Fehmi in my training with him and from practising with his CDs.
To begin, adopt the posture shown here by Michael.
Relax and feel your feet on the ground. Feel your head as if it is connected to heaven by a string. Now become aware of, and feel, the space around your body and the space between your arms and your body. Now bring your attention to your breath. Breath into your neck, filling the whole area with energy. When breathing out leave this space empty (and full of space). On the next breath fill the neck again and expand your awareness into your shoulders breathing in energy and as you breath out leave the whole area empty and full of space. Repeat the process , breathing next to and filling right into your elbows. Then to your wrists and finally right to the finger tips. Each time you breath out feel your arms becoming more empty, more full of space. Now stay in this posture and allow yourself to become aware of the space around your arms and between your arms and your body. Allow yourself to feel the aliveness of the space between your body and your arms. As you practice, your experience will become more rich, more full, and more fun.
I would love to hear this exercise works for you too.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Finally REALISING that I practice not to get somewhere but to be here now !

Friday, 23 October 2009

More about Lester

Lester . . . “Wait a minute!” he thought. “If happiness is when I’m experiencing love for the other one, then that means happiness is a feeling within me.
“And if I felt unloving in the past? Well, I know I can’t change the past, but could I possibly correct the feeling now inside myself? Could I change the feeling to love now?” He decided to try it. He looked at his most recent unhappiness, the day he left the hospital.
“First,” he asked himself, “was I experiencing a lack of love that day?”
“Yes,” he answered aloud. “Nobody gave a damn about me, not the nurses, not the orderlies, not even Dr. Schultz. They did not care. As sick as I was, they threw me out, sent me home to die so they wouldn’t have to watch one of their failures . . . well, the hell with them. They can all go to hell.” He was shocked at the vehemence in his voice. His body trembled with rage and he felt weak. He really hated the doctor: He could feel it burning in his chest. “Oh, boy,” he thought, “this sure isn’t love.”
“Well, can I change it?” he asked. “Is it possible to turn it into love for the doctor?”
“Hell, no,” he thought, “why should I? What did he ever do to deserve any love?”
“That’s not the point,” he answered himself. “The point is not whether he deserves love. The point is, can you do it? Is it possible to simply change a feeling of hatred into a feeling of love—not for the benefit of the other person but for yourself?”
As the thought crossed his mind, he felt something break loose in his chest. A gentle easing, a sense of dissolving, and the burning sensation was gone. He didn’t trust it at first. It seemed too easy, so he pictured again the scene with Dr. Schultz in the hospital. He was surprised to find that it brought only a mild feeling of resentment rather than the previous intense burning hatred. He wondered if he could do it again.
“Lets see,” he thought, “what did I just do? . . . Oh, yes. Can I change this feeling of resentment into a feeling of love?” He chuckled as he felt the resentment dissolve in his chest. Then it was totally gone and he was happy. He thought of Dr. Schultz again, pictured him in his mind and felt happy, even loving. He saw now, reliving that last meeting, how the doctor had hated to tell him the things he had to say. He could feel the doctor’s pain at having to tell a young man in the prime of his life that his life was over. “Dr. Schultz, you son-of-a-gun,” he said, grinning, “I love you.”
“Well, it worked on that one,” he thought. “If my theory is sound, then it should work on everything.” Eagerly, he began trying it on other moments, and the results were consistently the same. Each time that he asked himself if he could change the feeling of hostility or anger or hatred to one of love, the dissolving process took place. Sometimes he had to repeat it over and over until he felt only love for the person. At times, the entire process would take only a minute or two; at other times, it might take him hours of working on a particular person or event before his feelings were only loving, but he would doggedly stay with it until it was completed on each person and each incident.
His entire life came up for review in bits and pieces. One by one, he changed to love all the old hurts and disappointments. He began to feel stronger as the weight of his pain dropped away. He was happier than he had ever been in his entire life, and he kept it going, feeling even more happiness with each new thing corrected.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Releasing

I have been studying the work of Lester Levenson for a while now. My great friend Margaret introduced me to his ideas a few years ago, and this year I did a Releasing Workshop with Larry Crane who teaches Lester's work. I tell this by way of introduction to an amazing experience I had lately. Releasing is all about letting go of unwanted emotions so we can recognise our true nature ( LOVE ).
All the teachings I have been studying tell me that the world is a mirror for my own mind. Larry taught me that disapproval for anybody else is actually disapproval for myself too. He teaches how to let go of this disapproving energy (not that easy for me). Anyway a friend rang, (one who presses my buttons big time and for whome I had a LOT of disapproval) inviting me to meet.
Reluctantly, I agreed telling myself that not meeting would be resistance and fear. We met and sure enough it didn't take long for my insecurity and disapproval to arise. So each time I caught myself disapproving, I would ask myself if I could release it and let it go ( hearing Larry in my head saying, and more and more and even more).I was doing this for quite a while. It began to dawn on me that it was my mind I was seeing and I began to feel grateful to her for this opportunity to release some of my negative thoughts and emotions. Before I could ask myself the next question, which is , can you give this person some approval? (for no reason !). Even before I had fully formed that question in my head, a wave of hot loving energy passed through my body. I felt healed in some deep way. I wanted to throw my arms around her. I stayed steady and in a while it seemed to me that she had softened we seemed to be more relaxed togeter than ever before and she began to open up about fears that had been bothering her. This powerful event is still on my mind. Did she soften because of the releasing? I don't know, probably never will know for certain, but all the great teachings tell us that if you change the inside the outside will change too ! Now when she comes to mind my heart fills with gratitude and love.
Larry Crane Release Technique ( if you would like to learn more).

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Resistance

Yesterday I caught myself rushing to get the ware washed so I could get to the "more important" things like my tai chi. On noticing I paused to come back to the job on hand. In doing so I felt how tight this rushing had made my body and so I let go and relaxed as best I could. When I was ready to begin my tai chi I could feel a wall of resistance to actually starting. What was stopping me now from doing what I had been rushing toward ? Fear ! As soon as I got started it became clear that I was afraid I wouldn't "get" the new Chen postures I'm currently learning. Interestingly enough as soon as I caught the fear it was easy enough to let go and decide to just play with this new way of moving and be outside my comfort zone.
Recounting these experiences to friend last night I was giving myself a hard time about not being more together and he kindly reminded me of the Tibetan way. He said "remember to treat your mind gently like a mischievous puppy ". So today is a day of loving kindness for my mind and as my body works so hard for me that's' getting lots of love too.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Developing the Witness

In Order to become aware of our different modes of attention it is really helpful to develop the witness. We develop the witness by observing ourselves as we participate in our daily activities. For example I watch myself (when I remember) as I brush my teeth, notice myself tasting the toothpaste, see and feel myself enjoying my morning coffee, and watch dispassionately (as possible) the thoughts and feelings that pass through my mind. This is helpful as it gives me a distance from my emotions or as I often say to myself from " Ann's emotions. This doesn't make me cold hearted (I hope) but does help me to be more discriminating in my responses. Witnessing also develops awareness so I have more choice over my mode of attention. I can choose to widen my focus and include all my senses more often. I can pause to smell and taste the space around, listen to the sounds and the silence feel all the sensations in my body, while noticing the thoughts and feelings passing through, as I do this my eyes automatically soften into peripheral vision. When all this happens spontaneously I have dropped into diffuse immersed attention the witness is gone and " I AM " . It is an interesting paradox that by learning to observe myself, the ability to lose myself and drop into the big " SELF " develops naturally.
Sometimes the rustling in this tree filled silence is heavenly.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dr Les Fehmi

Last year I trained in open focus with Dr Fehmi. I have found that this attentional training to be of enormous benefit to my tai chi practice. Here is an excerpt from his blog to give you a taste.

Most of us are far more reactive than we need to be, and reducing reactivity is one of the things Open Focus does best.
The best way to move out of narrow-objective focus, where reactivity is most extreme, to an Open Focus state, where our attention is more inclusive and immersed, is to listen to one of the recorded exercises available on our web site, www.openfocus.com. Even without the recorded exercises, though, you can sit down and let your attention become diffuse and immersed. Here's how.
Become aware of the space between your body and the walls of the room you are in. As you start to let yourself open and merge with space, you will naturally release stress and tension. To take this further, pay attention to where in your body any feelings of anxiety, fear and restlessness might be located. If you can feel pain, you can dissolve it. Simply move toward and immerse yourself in those feelings, bask in them, accept them and stop fighting. This is a skill we all can develop. The Open Focus™ approach is about attentional flexibility, which leads to release of tension, and not about trying to relax. For more information, check out our book The Open Focus Brain.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn't write anything without hope in it.”
Oscar Hammerstein II
Thanks to my fabulous daughter, Jo , for this quote

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Benefit of Knowing Where Your Happiness Lies

Have you noticed how frustrating it is to look for love and approval outside of yourself? The mind tells us that the answer id outside in the world ; when we get the job or find the perfect partner or have the right amount of money we will be "happy".

This is a lie. Even in Tai Chi practice the mind does this. It says when you understand the postures , when you feel the energy, when you are a success...but I have noticed that none of these things completely satisfy the mind . It's like the Greek story about the mermaids who lured and shipwrecked the sailors on the rocks - the mind keeps luring us with stories of what will make us happy and fulfilled.

With a practice that quietens the mind we begin to realise that the fulfillment is here already. You're already whole and complete. This does not lead to becoming lethargic and having a 'couldn't care less' attitude. Paradoxically, you become more fully present and engaged in everything you do.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Benefit of Persistance

When I was in Secondary school I was about three and a half stone or fifty pounds heavier than I am now.I wanted to do something about it. A medical student I knew got me a diet plan and I embarked on the diet and began walking to and from school. Each week I lost around a pound weight. I will always be grateful to my cousin Laurence who used to come for tea on Tuesday evenings. His encouragement made all the difference. He would ask how I was getting on with the diet, tell me how much better I was looking and how it was really working. I also encouraged myself by buying magazines with diet success stories and books about how to deal with 'food issues'.

When I began Tai Chi , I 'unconsciously' did the same. I read books about people who had succeeded, stories that inspired me , tales of people who, like me, felt they didn't have great talent at their art but plenty of 'love' for it. I didn't bother me that it took me 5 years to learn my first short form; I enjoyed each posture I learned. It did bother me that the applications were complete double dutch to me and I regularly felt completely stupid. But I kept going , knowing that my teacher said "The student needs 3 elements to succeed - talent, persistence and a good teacher," and of the three the one you needed least was talent. I spent time with my teachers and fellow students to absorb the feel of Tai Chi . Slowly , applications and postures revealed themselves (and still do) .

Last year I read of a heart surgeon who has a high rate of recovery among his patients. He encourages his patients to join a support group and be mentored by survivors who help them adopt new ways to live and be happy.

This is what we do when we learn Tai Chi. We find new ways to spend our time . We learn to look inside to find our own answers. We find support and inspiration in our group and much much more.

There are very few photos of me from that time but as soon as I find one I'll show you so you can see for yourself the change.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

When you have been practicing tai chi for a while it is easy to take some of the benefits for granted. I have been thinking a lot about this over the last few days. For example you come expect to have a healthy body, and be full of energy with bright shinning eyes glowing skin a spring in your step. As you progress more subtle benefits such as a much greater awareness of energy. A more sensitive response to and understanding of people and an ability to see things from a bigger perspective or even sometimes from many different perspectives simultaneously also become second nature.
For those of you just beginning here is the second lesson.

Ward Off Left, thanks to Michael.

Ward Off Left from Heartworker on Vimeo.

God guard me from the thoughts men think
In the mind alone.
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow bone.
W.B.Yeats
I am 20 years studying Tai Chi and it still amazes me how these simple postures engross, inspire and rejuvenate me. Chances are, that if you are reading this, you too are captivated by this art and , like me, find it impossible to express in words the depth of your feeling. Or maybe you have just begun Tai Chi and are checking out the Blog . If so, there are lots of benefits to practising this art and I am planning to write about them . How long will this take? I don't know..let's just see where it takes us!

Patience
It takes time to learn the postures of Tai Chi and in the daily repetition of postures and then "forms" the art slowly reveals itself to you ,and in doing so reveals you to yourself. It teaches awareness of the ebb and flow in the body's energy/. You learn to witness the moods that pass through your awareness. It gives a centre in difficult times - a source of inspiration which can always be found inside no matter what is going on outside in your world.

Lately it feels to me, as if all the cells of my body sing as soon as I begin to practise . It is a chorus of thanks for shining the light of consciousness back into the body and the cells rejoice at being bathed in the awareness or 'Chi' which results.

So, if you have just begun or , like me, are a long time lover of Tai Chi , enjoy your practise today..

See you soon again

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Attention Preparation Beginning


Brendan practicing Ward Off Left with the Cork beginners.


Introduction, Preparation, Beginning from Yin&Yang on Vimeo.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

When I pay attention to the silence beyond the sounds or the feeling of the spaces created as my body assumes the Tai Chi postures, my mind becomes quiet, peace descends, time ends and for that moment, there is no me, no you, no outside or inside, awareness IS.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Why do we practice?

Ting jing means "listening energy". It is the art of listening not just with our ears, but with all of our senses, this develops an incresed awareness of ourselves , others and our environment and is one of the greatest benefits we gain from the practice of Tai Chi.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


The water of the spring is clear, fine like crystal.
The water of the pond lies still and placid.
Your mind should be as the water and your
spirit like the spring.
The eight truths of Tai Chi

Monday, 14 September 2009


Not in my words but in the silence
Not in thoughts but spaces
And not in my doing but in being
That peace joy and love reside

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Every moment


I rarely let the word "No" escape
From my mouth
Because it is so plain to my soul
That God has shouted,"Yes! Yes! Yes!"
To every luminous movement in Existence.
Havis

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Silence
A day of silence
can be a pilgrimage in itself.
A day of silence
can help you listen
to the soul play
It's marvelous lute and drum.
Is not most talking
A crazed defence of a crumbling fort?
I thought we came here
To surrender to silence,
To yield to Light and Happiness,
To dance within
In celebration of Love's Victory!
Hafiz

Sunday, 9 August 2009

 

I slept and dreamt that life was joy,
I awoke, and saw that life was Service
I acted and behold, Service was Joy.
Tagore

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Riverside dance of insects in the setting sun

wing beat heron retreat

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Welcome all feelings they are coming up to leave. I spent most if my life pushing my feelings down afraid to feel them, not realising that all they wanted was to be acknowledged and released. Allowing them up is freeing me which is a revelation as I had believed keeping them down was the the way to stay "safe". Welcome especially the uncomfortable ones they really want some space to breathe and then they dissolve and melt away leaving a big open space for love to abide.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Love is the answer to all problems. No matter what the problem is, if you will just apply love to the fullest extent possible and succeed, that problem will drop away immediately. Just don't get aggravated. Just know that everything is fine, everything is alright and just feel love and you'll see that problem resolve itself, no matter how difficult a problem is. When there are problems, if we would love more they would disappear. When love is complete, the problem dissolves immediately.
From " The Power of Love" by Lester Levenson

Friday, 17 July 2009

The only way of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing - to let the mind be thoroughfare for all thoughts, not a select party.
John Keats

Friday, 10 July 2009






Thanks to Steven Murphy for these great photographs!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Letting Go

They say that in India there is a particularly clever way of catching monkeys. As the story goes, hunters will cut a hole in a coconut that is just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. Then they will drill two smaller holes in the other end, pass a wire through, and secure the coconut to the base of a tree. Then they put a banana inside the coconut and hide. The monkey comes down , puts his hand in and takes hold of the banana. The hole is crafted so that the open hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is let go of the banana. But it seems most monkeys don't let go !

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


Corinna's wonderful visitor !

Friday, 12 June 2009

Tai Chi

Soft and spacious, forward backward, expanding and contracting silently magically renewing this life.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

    You do not need to leave your room....

Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait, be still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice.
It will roll in ecstacy at your feet.

Franz Kafka

Friday, 29 May 2009

video

video

video
Last Nights lessons Repulse The Monkey, application with Simon and Embrase Tiger And Return To The Mountain.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Love is the Way

I re-tell this story as I heard it from a good friend.
Lucy's father died when she was very young and still in primary school. Her mother was brokenhearted and so it seemed to this little girl that she had lost both parents.
In school she would ask to be allowed out to the bathroom and on the way she would steal some money from the teachers purse. Then on her way home, she would buy a bar of chocolate for her mother in the hopes of cheering her up.
One day at the end of school the teacher said, "Lucy, wait for me and I will walk home with you today". So Lucy waited and they walked home together. When they got to the shop Lucy went in and bought the bar of chocolate. The teacher asked Lucy "Who is the bar of chocolate for?" Lucy said "It is for my Mum to cheer her up". Then the teacher said "And how about you Lucy? Would you like a bar of chocolate too ?" , "Yes please", the little girl said. This little girl (now a woman) told my friend that she never again stole from her teacher. So for this teacher too," Love is the Way."

Wednesday, 13 May 2009





Thanks to David Nelson for these great photos taken in the library.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

I will never forget my first image of T'ai Chi. It was of two people in Roll Back posture, the serenity and peace in their faces and the calm aura surrounding them captured me then and the practice continues to enrich delight and challenge me still twenty years later. That image was in a book I found in Mallow library an image that changed my life.
How wonderful then to bring the practice of T'ai Chi to life there in the celebration of International T'ai Chi Day. We did that last Saturday and were delighted with the warm reception we received. It was great to practice with long term practitioners like myself and people who got their first taste last Saturday.
Ruari the librarian said he had never experienced anything as "loud" as the silence that descended when we began the T'ai Chi Form. So T'ai Chi really did come to life in the Library ! Many thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

International Tai Chi and Qigong Day Saturday April 25th

We will have Tai Chi practice in Mallow Library on Saturday to celebrate Tai Chi Day.
All welcome to join us between 3 and 4 pm.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The mind tells us that peace comes from letting it figure things out for us. But have you noticed that peace comes from letting go of the mind and being present.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

T'ai Chi Workshop with Steven Moore

“Use energy not force” is the instruction I remember most from my first Tai Chi

lesson in September 1984. It appealed to me instantly – I loved its poetry – but I

had no idea what it really meant: it stimulated my imagination to run riot with

possibility whilst meaning next to nothing to the small part of me rooted in solid

experience. So in these workshops we will be looking at its deep practical meaning –

what it means to use all our knowledge, wisdom and spirituality to maintain an

energetic system – namely ourselves, upon the Earth, with the Heavens above,

interacting with others.

T'ai Chi Workshop with Steven Moore next weekend.
Details on Brendan Mc Elroy's wbbsite see link above.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Compassion is certainly not for the weak

Gandhi, when he was instructing compassion workers at the Dandi March -- where people stood in lines to get pulverized by the British army -- said this: don't just get hit; look at the man hitting you, look him in the eye with love, and preach a silent sermon. Preach that the love in me is far stronger than the negativity with which you strike. Oppose not the man, for he is divine, but oppose his actions, for they are confused when it harms another being. And know that love will always prevail over hatred, that wherever there is injustice, there will always be forces working for justice, wherever there is weakness, strength will be always be found. And all this from a guy who boldly said -- my life is my message.

From iJourney.org

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

"The easiest thing to do in the universe is to love
everyone. That is, once we learn what love is, it's the
easiest thing to do. It takes tremendous effort not to
love everyone, and you see the effort being expended in
everyday life. But when we love, we're at one with all.
We're at peace and everything falls into line perfectly.""
- Lester Levenson

Friday, 13 February 2009

Liang Shen is giving a demonstration and introductory lesson in Chen style Sword form tomorrow morning. Venue AL8 in Aras na Laoi. U.C.C.

http://publicsimonstuff.blogspot.com/ Here is Simon's blog address he has some Chen Sword form on this site few posts back if you want a preview.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Sunday, 8 February 2009

     My greatest wealth is the deep stillness 

in which I strive and grow
and win what the world cannot take
from me with fire or sword.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe



Saturday, 7 February 2009

Ward Off Right


Ward Off Right from Heartworker on Vimeo.
Thanks to Michael

Monday, 2 February 2009


"Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion"
Domocritus

Monday, 26 January 2009

Ward Off Left, thanks to Michael.

Ward Off Left from Heartworker on Vimeo.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Spring Intensive at the Nano Nagle Centre

We will practice Short Form, partner work, figure 8 and open focus exercises; all designed to open us to a deeper connection to, and awareness of, ourselves, our relationship to ourselves the ground under our feet, the space around us, the objects and people in our lives.
 Feb 28th 11 .30 - 6 pm   €60    Evening meal Chez Moi 

Text 087 6616800 or email taichimcilraith@yahoo.co.uk
to reserve a place.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Here is the first posture in our T'ai Chi Form . Welcome to all our new beginners.


Brendan practicing Ward Off Left with the Cork beginners.


Introduction, Preparation, Beginning from Yin&Yang on Vimeo.

"Attention preparation beginning " posted by Brendan today.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Just take the time, slow down and feel the air between your hands. Smell and taste the space as you listen the silence beyond the sounds. Open and feel the earth enter your feet, soften and allow it to spread and permeate your whole body. All this is possible when we practice mindfully.

Monday, 19 January 2009

A quiet day to practice and to be, no better way to fill the heart with joy.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The New T'ai Chi term has just begun and I've been pondering on the benefits of practice. What can you expect when practice becomes part of your life. Look forward to befriending your body finding where it is soft and relaxed and where you are holding tension. Recognising tension is the first step in letting it go, the slow gentle T'ai Chi movements encourage the muscles to soften and relax. Moving with grace and beauty lifts the spirits and enlivens the mind. Learning to use ones peripheral vision opens us to the world and the world to us many new ways. And that's just the beginning.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Key functions and features of your brain

It's shaped by evolution: the main genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees focus on the brain , particularly its social, emotional, linguistic and conceptual abilities

3 pounds, 1.1 trillion cells, including a hundred billion "grey matter" neurons

Always "on": 2% of the body's weight uses about 25% of its oxygen

Average neuron has about 1,000 connections (synapses), a hundred trillion in all

Synapses firing 1 to 100 times a second

Regions linked by brain waves synchronised within a few seconds

Extremely interconnected network full of circular loops

Number of possible brain states: 1 followed by a million zeros

An organ that learns from experiences through life long changes in its structure

The most complex object known in the universe

Reading this in " Measuring the Immeasurable" filled my heart with wonder and joy.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


West Cork stunning today !

Saturday, 3 January 2009




Pushing Hands and Uprooting no more enjoyable start to a new year of T'ai Chi for me!