Thursday, March 26, 2015

Visiting Master Choi, February 2015

                                      (My book about Master Choi, his life and teachings)

Last month I got to visit my teacher, Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, in Chicago. We scheduled an hour to catch up on many subjects and reconnect after a few years. The hour stretched to three and a half hours! The time flew as it always does when I get to learn and just be with this amazing master.

I stood on the corner for almost 40 minutes waiting for Master Choi to arrive, and it was chilly! And then, there he was driving up and waving. I jumped into his SUV as we looked for a place to park. His ready smile and laughter were infectious. After parking, we actually hooked arms and rushed across the street weaving in and out of traffic like two teenagers, at least he was a teenager!

                                       ( Chut Yu Li Ji, 7 Halberds Strung Like Pearls)

We caught up on what the past few years brought to our lives, him with retirement and me with bankruptcy and divorce.He talked a lot about his mother, who is 97, and about his observations on aging and independence.We talked about our kids and families and all that had happened since we last met, at his 70th birthday party in Minnesota. I got to clear up some misunderstandings and then we were on to Master Choi's favorite subject, martial arts.

                                     ( Master Choi's teacher, Grandmaster Chan Yik-yan)

Master Choi waxed philosophical with the wisdom of looking back on a long career teaching full time. He gave me many ideas for being a better businessman as well as a better teacher. He told me to emphasis healing and health because," You may train self-defense for your whole life and never need to use it. But you need to keep healthy."

                                                          (Hsing-Yi Spear)

At one point Master Choi was so animated and full of energy that I said, "You look like your are 25!" He said not to say that. "I know lots of 25-year-olds who are weak, tense, slow,out of shape, and don't know martial arts. Say I look healthy."

At one point Master Choi looked at me and said,"You look good. You look strong."

Master Choi told me a lot about how he spends his day and his training. He said he never regrets learning martial arts because he always has something to do. "I never regret learning this art. It's like my best friend. I feel lucky. I'm never bored. If I have a whole day free, I don't worry, I just have more time to practice and meditate. I never feel lonely because I have this art."

                                                    (Yi-Ch'uan "control the tiger")

We talked about stretching and strengthening as we age and Master Choi said it is important to stretch and be able to squat so you can get up if you fall. He encouraged me to put "heel to butt" to keep my legs soft and flexible. He also said to never block the circulation, that relaxation is the best for health. He also said to strengthen the bones with gravity and pressure from standing mediation.

He said if you have a headache you can take an aspirin to relieve it, but you can't take an aspirin for a heartache.

Master Choi lamented that as a teacher, he gave many 1s, but the students were looking for 2s. He said,"If I give you two 1s, it's up to you to come back with 2. Then I give you another 1 and you come back with 3."  He said a teacher's role is to teach the basics, principles, and theories. It's up to the student to refine them. He laughed and said there is no school for being president of the USA!

He also reminded me of his three "don'ts:"

Don't be selfish.
Don't be greedy.
Don't be jealous.

He said not to be afraid to die. "You need to be afraid of being sick or weak. If you die when you are happy, NO PROBLEM!"

I got do some sensitivity with him and he was as soft and alert, and fast, as ever. He gave me some new ideas for practice and teaching sticky hands and close-distance sparring. We talked about 9 Joint Harmony and what the other joints do, as he reminded me there are 15 joints, not just 9, in the martial arts body. He gave me more to think about and research in Hsing-Yi's Sam Tai Sek.

Master Choi gave me a last caution. "Plan for when you are 90, don't let it sneak up on you."

I have talked to him a few times since last month, he even called me in Denver, and we are moving into a new cycle of my training. I am excited to be studying with my teacher again and to be privy to his constant exploration and research into martial arts, meditation, healing, teaching, learning, and life. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Remembering Suzanne green River

I attended the funeral today of local Shaman, Dancer, Somatics instructor, Teacher extraordinaire, Suzanne River. I met Suzanne when she and her husband Don came to my studio for Tai-Chi lessons. I realized right away that I was not teaching her, but confirming and collaborating with her! Suzanne invited me to teach at her studio in Chisago MN.

Her memorial service and internment was one of deep feelings of love, appreciation, and unadulterated, raw, POWER! I saw her body in the grave ( a green burial) but her energy was at the top of the grave site in the amazing people attending.

Here is one of her poems from the program. Enjoy, and above all, learn!

"Take good care of yourself.
The Earth knows your care and love.
How do we grieve and rage and
Smile and think in every moment?
How to be with All That Is?
By being All We Are!
I bless All you are
With All I am---forever
So much love and gratitude-


Namaste Suzanne!!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Healing Lady of Culloden Moor

After celebrating the 50th anniversary of the found of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I traveled North to Scotland to visit friends and see my family's marker at Culloden Battlefield. I was met there by Gethellen, my friend from OBOD and an Ovate in the Order. She put me up in the guest suite at her grandmother's retirement home, stating that I "was family." Gethellen picked me up and took me out for breakfast, haggis and bacon sandwiches, and then drove a short distance from downtown Inverness where I was staying, to Culloden Moor.

Our first stop was to a Neolithic site featuring stone circle and burial cairns called Clava Cairns. One of the cairns was worked into a stone fence to accommodate a roadway! The magic, history and feel of that place, coupled with old incredible trees, made me feel as though I had been there before.

The next stop was to the visitor center of the battlefield, just a few miles away. I was already feeling a dread to visit the battlefield where so many lost their lives in such a horrible slaughter. Gethellen took me by the arm and told me everything would be alright, that she goes there all the time and knows the lonely, frightened souls who dwell there.

At the visitor center I saw many artifacts and items from the battle and time period. A room with screens on all four walls showed a panoramic view of what the battle was like, reenacted with chilling effect. I was move to tears. Again, here was a group of people fighting and dying for leaders who were far away and who ran while my ancestors stayed and died.

Walking out on the battlefield, I saw it was really a SWAMP! Standing water, reeds, and very little solid land for the famous "Highland Charge."  1500- 2000 died in under an hour. You could feel it.

Gethellen told me that she walks here frequently and talks to the tortured souls and lets them know it's alright and that they can go on. She feels the fear, pain, anger, and confusion and soothes them with her healing presence. She also healed me. At one point I saw a Hawk hovering over the battlefield and then swoop down into some brush.

Halfway around the walk, Gethellen pointed to a stone and said "there is your Clan Chief." I saw a triangular shaped stone with the simple name Donald on it. I put some tokens of my respect at the base of the stone marker. From my great great Grandmother Asenath McIntire Hayward's gravestone in North Reading ,Massachusetts, I brought a stone chip and laid it on top of the Donald stone where it seemed to glow white.

An awesome night at a local pub with Gethellen, Heather, and Gran drinking BelHaven and sipping Bell's gave me a good send off back to Edinburgh.