Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soaring like a Crane

I spent the weekend at the beach with my galfriends - 'Sister Circle's' annual retreat at the Sylvia Beach Hotel - marvelous! It was rainy but not to cold; by Sunday had cleared off & there were high tides, so lunch at Depot Bay offered lovely view (without danger of being swept away!)

In a few weeks I'll begin Level III of Soaring Crane Qigong. ('chee gong') with Jo Ann Albrecht.
This form is designed to energize those in very poor health - "Professor Chen (who brought this form to Oregon) was diagnosed in 1982 with terminal cancer. Doctors gave her a 25% chance of recovery. In search for a cure, Professor Chen was introduced to Qigong.
"At that time, Professor Chen was an English Professor at University of International Business and Economics in China. After her remarkable recovery, Professor Chen became a devoted practitioner and has dedicated her life to teaching Qigong."

Jo Ann studied with Professor Chen & offers the teachings in a clear, dedicated way.

I have been practicing this form for ~ 8 years, having begun studying Tai Chi/qigong in my early 30s. My massage mentor suggested it as a way to learn good ergonomics, & felt it was well suited for exercise classes (& hoped we'd learn to teach it!)
When I lived & worked at Breitenbush Hot Springs, I had the opportunity to offer a 'daily well being' program & developed a style of 'drop in' Tai Chi which incorporated quite a bit of Qigong, focusing on the basics of breath, slow movement, attention to posture, & releasing 'negative' energy or chi, then bringing in positive energy.
Guests & fellow staff members often commented on my youthful appearance/radience after a class - & I looked forward to those bi-weekly offerings. When one of the cooks began offering Yoga classes, I sat across from her at dinner just after her first class, & noticed that same 'glow!'

In preparation for class, I've re-read the Soaring Crane level I manual, & been pulling out other qigong books. 'Qigong essence of the healing dance' by Garri Garripoli - one I ordered from Powells Books some time ago, is fascinating, with chapters on healing, on children & qigong (the author played with chi as a child, & assumed everyone did!) & interviews with masters from US, China & Canada; including one of his mentors, 92 year old Duan Zhi Liang. who does qigong in the morning, then 'spars with Kung Fu masters a third his age' before going to his offices & offering Chinese medicine & medical qigong (charging ~ $1 US per treatment!)

Gerri speaks of qigong as a dance, master Duan "uses the Chinese word hundun when he refers to his family's form of Qigong - 'chaos' ..." (p 26) mixing up movements, doing them in a different order each time, truely a 'dance.' This fits well with the classical Russian Ballet I began with (in my late 20s) where the teacher would listen to music, eyes shut, then give us the warm up routines for that day! One student, who'd studied ballet with my Tai Chi teacher (!) was quite puzzled that there was no set 'warm up' - it varried from day to day & class to class. Hundun.

This is the way I've taught Tai Chi/qigong; varying the order, using the same routines, but mixing them up, 'listening' for what to teach that day. The 'set form' of the Soaring Crane routines attracts me; will I actually teach this way?? (If I'm certified to teach it!!)

From Qigong essence: "When I began (with Master Duan) I had years of training in Tai Chi, ... in a world that seemed a bit crazy & unmanageable, perfecting my Tai Chi forms & repeating the prearranged sequence provided a sense of pride & security. Master Duan entered my life with his chaos theory & turned everything on its head. This 92 year old master never did anything in the same way or order twice." (p 17)
& "Bring the principles of Qigong into the basic activities that consume your life. With each step that you would normally take in a semiconscious way, bring consciousness into it. Link a deep breath to it. ... Reach for the door handle, . . . breath out. Pull it toward you . . . breathe in. ... Link a breath with action, this will slow you down." (p 33)

Essence of Qigong - bring presence to our daily activities!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Since childhood, I've loved the line in a poem: "October's Bright blue weather" - a day like today!

With fall & return to school, it's a great time for all of us to think about packing lunches - & what fun options are available theses days!!
I was admiring stainless steel sets on-line, looking for 'the right one,' & a friend gifted me with this sweet three tier 'tiffin' - which closes with bails - rather like my dad's old aluminum mess kit!
They're sitting on a napkin I made last winter - there's a pocket for the chopsticks & spoon in the middle. This is reminiscent of one of the first 4-H sewing projects - a roll up placemat with pocket for utensils - I carry it in my purse! The Half moon napkin is double sided, & folds into a cute 'Christmas tree' - I made a bunch using fat quarters for my MOMs group gals last holiday season.
I've been reading about ideas for packing bento & tiffin sets, even the recommended amounts. Whew!! The height conversion chart puts me at 165 cm (typical Japanese woman is shorter, at 157) so the lunchtime amount would be closer to 800 calories (the recommendation for 157 cm is 600 calories/boxes containing ~ 600 ml).

Each tier of my 'tiffin' holds 2 cups, about 480 ml - so the contents of two well packed tiers is about the 'right' amount for lunch!! As 'Biggie' says: "So you ordered a bento box online, it arrives and you’re shocked at how tiny it is. People try to tell you to just eat less, but you have a sneaking suspicion that you may have accidentally bought a bento box sized for a 2-year-old instead of an adult."
LOL - that's exactly how this looks - & the amount of salad I'd normally pack explodes out of one of the tiers - so I intend to get a glass storage container to keep in our large fridge at work for several days worth of greens, & pack other veggies in the tiffin!
There's also a sweet tutorial on tying a furoshiki - which does double duty as a wrap for lunch & placemat! Since I already have the napkin & utensils, I'm set! I may also get a larger stainless steel container (our natural foods store carries several options) for days I'll be elsewhere & want a bigger salad! I also have a couple of stainless steel water bottles (two sizes) for days I'm not at the office.

I'll make my first furoshiki out of a couple of 'fat quarters' binding them with solid red or brown bias tape. I've thought of making a bag as well, but may just do this!! Love the comment "The Japanese Minister of the Environment recognizes the furoshiki as ideal for helping to minimize the waste of plastic bags." A small basket is another option.
This is a lovely way to meet your own dietary needs - gluten free, low carb, diabetic . . . just pack what YOU can eat!!
* use rice, quinoa or other GF grains; you can add sauted veggies to the grain or lightly stir fry - & think 'nutrient dense' - quinoa & amaranth are two of these super foods!
* pack small fairly solid veggies - cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, olives, shredded carrots & beets - eat from the rainbow - choose bright colours for maximum nutrition
* my set has a small sauce/dressing container, save your 'wet' ingredients for that
* when you're cooking for the week, make some of a main dish in ramekins or cut small servings from the main dish - freeze some for a variety of meals (label & try to use fairly quickly!)
* add spices to yogurt or kefir for dipping veggies - savory or sweet
* Keep some 'basics' at work - gluten free tamari or Braggs Liquid aminos, flaked nori, wakame or other seaweed to sprinkle on salad, a container of your homemade salad dressing (most commercial dressings are made with corn, soy, safflower etc. oils -stick to coconut & olive oil for maximum health!
* Pack your favorite eating utensils, & find napkins in colours you enjoy - anything you can do to make meals more fun & colouful.
* Pack whole, in season fruit separately when possible
* Think of creative ways to use leftovers (planned overs!) - I cook my grains (usually quinoa w/ a T of teff & one of amaranth) without seasoning, then season according to the meal, grate stirfry some veggies to add, etc
* if you have kids, engage them in packing/ choosing their own lunch fixings.
* when preparing veggies, toss onion skins, garlic, veggie trimmings (no dirt or mold) into a bag in the freezer to make stock - you can freeze some of the stock in an ice cube tray, then pack in a covered container to toss in when you're cooking veggies or soup!
* Peruse the bento sites for more beautiful & creative ideas for making your packed meals something to look forward to!
* Friends of mine have a blog with meal & recipe suggestions for using the veggies from our local CSA shares - this is another great resource! Check their archives for what's in season where you live.
* Tiffin/bento packing is great for increasing your consumption of local, in season food.

Please share your ideas for fall meals & ways you 'pack your lunch' - Happy eating!