Qi Gong

Perhaps I should not cycle to an exercise group…

To the Meeting house, in sweltering September sunshine, for the Qi Gong group. This is exercise for the middle aged, and we have four middle aged women plus Simon, our leader. Could we have it outside? It is mostly performed outside in China, but the wind might be a distraction. Though it is better with your feet on the ground than on floorboards, as the energy (his preferred word) flows through the Earth.

We start simply by breathing. Stand with feet apart at shoulder width, knees not bent exactly, just enough to be not locked straight, pelvis held in the middle, not tilted forward or back for a straight rather than rounded or over-curved spine (you know which is which) and breathing with the stomach moving in and out rather than the chest rising and falling. This is not how I am used to breathing. I feel it in the diaphragm. Simon says that breathing when standing chest out tummy in, as in the army, is a submissive posture designed to promote unquestioning obedience. I thought it was a sign of manhood to intimidate outsiders, but he says his stance is the powerful one. These things are cultural.

Nor am I used to breathing so slowly. We are taking it easy, to start with. I move my right hand from thigh level to above the head, while the left hand does the reverse, and breathe in all that time- but I am not used to taking so long to breathe in, and am full early, or to breathe out, and want to breathe in.

Breathing, at the start, men’s hands are over the belly left over right, women’s right over left. Or the other way round. Whichever, this is a momentary discomfort and consciousness for me.

After simply breathing, we do light loosening exercises, rotating ankles, knees, hips and neck, and shoulders, letting the relaxed arms swing round and hit the kidneys. More hitting, tapping up and down the arms, legs, torso and head. Tapping the head reduces tension and can cure headaches he says. Tap round the pineal gland, where the energy comes in.

It seems to me that he is not a true believer. The Energy is a metaphor, or even a story which he tells without belief, a part of his constant patter- or, he has no interest in persuading or teaching us, he simply says these things matter-of-factly. I find him difficult. He is talking about spiritual matters, more personal than even our feelings, yet perhaps because of this he seems closed off, behind boundaries or walls.

The exercise I find most difficult is standing with my arms in front of me, hands slightly apart, as if cuddling a beach ball. We are standing like this longer than I find pleasant, and I have been pulling on my handlebars or putting my weight on my arms, cycling. If I were to practise I would do this, and also consciously breathing more slowly.

It is a boring, dull, and slightly unpleasant hour, but I will go back to try it again rather than judging it on one go.

Sketch 7, Draft 1

1927_Klee_Variationen_anagoriaThis is not what I do. This is not who I am. This is not what I believe. But it might be. And that might be good.

When do you change your mind? There was a time when I was absolutely certain of my former understanding. Now I know different. In between came a series of experiences challenging my earlier view and opening me to a different one, then confirming that different understanding. I have moved from right to left, Caliban to Ariel, rationalist to mystic, self-denial to self-expression, and in this experience my old way fractured from top to bottom, and green shoots of new life poked through.

Noticing everything is bliss and danger, distraction and- I notice everything. I see the marks on the floor from the wrong kind of training shoes, the bars on the walls and the ropes from the ceiling, the sound my footsteps make, Anthea’s footsteps though I do not see her, no, I glance at her then drop my eyes. The sports hall expands, its ceiling the sky, its walls miles away, and I sit on the floor, resigned to whatever might happen. The way of being in me which would have been dismissive, judgmental, denying any possible value in this is silenced by my pain, but I am not, yet, a believer. I fear, but have sufficient trust in Anthea’s good-will and ability to hold the process that I go along with it. I see no alternative.

Anthea creates a flowing circle of healing energy around me so that only the highest and finest energy may come through, and asks me to focus on my chakras, a concept new to me. What colours do I see? I have no mind’s eye, so if I close my eyes cannot see anything, such that if I imagine a room I will imagine a verbal description of it. She insisted, and I plumped for red.

“Imagine your coccyx uncurling beneath you, extending downwards into the Earth. It roots you in the Earth, in our Mother Gaia, and energy from the Earth flows up for your healing.”

I try. I really do. I imagine my coccyx warily pushing down into the Earth, but it pulls back, unable to trust.

I speak my pain. I am begging that psychiatrist. “Do you have any idea what I feel? What did you do to diagnose? Can you not see that I am female?” Then I speak my anger at my mother. I imagine her on her death-bed, in the middle of that sports hall, and I prowl round it screaming at her. The foam is on her lips. “What did you mean, you still have work to do? Did I ever smile? Did you ever smile at me or touch me?”

I hear the Carpers at the back of my head. There are three of them. Anthea tells me to sit them in a chair in front of me, then bring them into my heart and love them. At this moment I realise:

I can channel the healing energy of God.

The first is like a baby whom I can pick up and cuddle. The second has a chalk-board and chalk, to lecture me. The third is black, a mass of energy. I need to make friends with it, as with a wild predator. I need to integrate, love and calm these aspects of me.

God’s Love is intimate.

At Anthea’s suggestion I have a shower then go to bed. In the shower I feel the healing energy of God channelled through my hands.

This piece comes from the Writing 201 course:
What’s your angle;
intros and hooks;
finding your key moment;
setting the scene, putting it into practice.

Here is the whole piece, most of the sketches tacked together in more or less the order I want, but needing quite a bit of editing.

in Meeting

Magritte The Large FamilyIt seemed I was a fountain of Qi, my hands warm with it, my body enlivened. I felt present, noticing the beauty of the poinsettia and the azalea cutting, the length of its stamens and pistil, and the reflections in the glass lampshade.

Moment judging. Is this “centred down”? Is this better than that feeling two weeks ago, that I could not stop my mind racing,  and had to read because I felt so dry? It is, now. I am allowed to enjoy it, rather than merely be suspicious of it.

One of us is rocking. This is a stress symptom, a mental health symptom, and here is one of the few places it is welcomed. I think we are right, actually: it is a human reaction to a change or dissonance in a person’s way of thinking or feeling, which is a good thing, a precursor to growth if not growth itself. Another wipes a tear from her eye. Here is a place where we may be in touch with emotion, and be supported in it.

I spent time thinking of a beautiful memory of my father, in September this year, when he had surprised and delighted me, and missed him.

Strange that K’s ministry should answer Nick’s interpretation of judging so beautifully. I described Nick’s view of judgment in the afterword, and Peter said I had sounded like his father, a lawyer. The way of treating the words “then you will be able” as if it were a statute. Well, I am a lawyer, and I love the precise use of language to convey a particular meaning and that meaning alone- and the creative interpretation of the language to mean something else, when my case requires it- but I also dabble in poetry, and love language using allusion and paradox. I find Jesus’s sayings more like koans than statutes.

Speaking to people, face to face, who share my spiritual quest! I also spoke in afterword of the deflationary theory of truth, and how I can believe in God as The All. After, S emailed me this poem:

They call Him Emptiness who is the Truth of truths,
in Whom all truths are stored!
There within Him creation goes forward,
which is beyond all philosophy;
for philosophy cannot attain to Him:
There is an endless world,
O my Brother! and there is the Nameless Being,
of whom naught can be said.
Only he knows it who has reached that region:
it is other than all that is heard and said.
No form, no body, no length, no breadth is seen there:
how can I tell you that which it is?
— Kabir – Songs of Kabir – LXXVI  (transl. Rabindranath Tagore)

Quantum healing

GaneshThe phone call changed everything. Should I just go home? But what would I do, there? I might as well carry on as planned- even, it might be better. I left Friends House and took the Tube to Morden. On this mild, windy night, there is a smell of gunpowder and explosions from fireworks, and around Maria’s flat block children take turns to set off rockets, watched by their mother.

Maria’s compact flat is lovely. She is petite, just over 5′, and slim in proportion. She welcomes me, gets tea, introduces me to John her partner(?). I may get completely distracted, this evening, so I tell her my news, and she is extremely sympathetic- for my news gives me a privilege, though some will hunger to give me what seems, to them, to be a gift.

Behind me is a large banner of Ganesh, his nostrils pointing outward to sense me. In front is the circular satin mat on a circular mattress, with a circle of black cushions. There are several Buddhas and candles around. My mobile is not, usually, switched on, so S left a message for me on Thursday. Why she had not emailed or used facebook, I don’t know. I just got the message, which may be a synchronicity.

-This place is the best place for me I could be, right now.
-I’m honoured, honoured, that you would think that, says John.

They are going to the South-west. John, a chef, wants also to grow the food he cooks, and do the whole with conscious spiritual intention. Maria wants to organise retreats based on similar experiences to this evening. “You hug beautifully”, she says, “Have you been to Osho Leela?” Yes, though I learned to hug so well elsewhere.

Ganesh 2Two more arrive, two have cancelled, and we begin. Maria tells us to visualise the Qi (she uses the word “energy”) coming up from the earth and through us. We breathe in, slowly, together, imagining this. Her voice, the breathing together, the slow repetitive music, the candles….. all create the atmosphere. I am filled with energy from Earth and father Sky.

We take it in turns to lie prone for ten minutes, then supine, while the others massage us all over with oil. Before each receives s/he states her boundaries: I have none, though when R says “not inside her yoni” I think, yes, that would be a boundary, Some would particularly like to be touched on the face, and scalp, which is most sensitive. I love it. I love the beauty of the bodies as I caress them, and I love giving the caresses.

At the end we collapse in a cuddly heap together. At one point, Maria, standing while I kneel, hugs my cheek to her abdomen. As J, R and I are staying over, we lie on the mat and Maria puts a duvet over us. I lie in front of R, spooning, her breasts in my back, her arm round my waist. I find it so hard to thole, being aroused by my submissive posture, so far from the control I crave, so inaccessible most of the time- but I enjoy it.

And (this is new) whatever my sex thing I might feel ashamed of it. As with everyone: I can respond in that way occasionally, I have to keep it within bounds almost all the time, and Shame is an extremely efficient way of doing that. This thought liberates me to find space for it: I can pack it away, so at those moments in which I may be sexual it behoves me not to be ashamed.

In the morning after tea and toast I go to the Klee exhibition. In my mind is my news, of my father’s death.

Justifications

http://prayerwarriors.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/power-in-prayer-and-praise-music-video-tuesday-november-18-2008/healing-hands/Justifications are unnecessary.
I express myself female because I am transsexual.
I want to practise Reiki because I can channel healing energy, or Qi.

Well. I want to practise Reiki because it is a wonderful placebo, and I have the showmanship to carry it off. If you can fake sincerity, you have got it made. I express myself female because I am a transvestite pervert who has lost all sense of proportion. Or something.

I am fairly sure that the theory of autogynephilia is trivial. Yes, we get turned on by the thought of us female. No, this does not cause us to transition: if it did, “gender dysphoria” could have no meaning.

Some think there is that causal link, though I think the cause is likely to be the other way round. What do I do with contrary evidence?
-Blot it out of consciousness, ignore it, deny it, pretend it is not there, collapse weeping thinking of it occasionally-

Acknowledge it. It exists. It will not make me change my actions. It does not affect my situation: few cissexual folk care. What matters is my reaction to it. Is it a threat? Only if I find it so.

I have felt my hands grow warm, and I have felt warmth seemingly communicated from another’s hands, without touching. Others have valued my attention. And I want that to be the reason why I perform healing: I want it to connect to the reality of the other person.

I spoke to a man who has given several types of Healing over thirty years, and said it seems it’s just placebo. He said, “Yes, that’s about the size of it”. That shocked me. I should have asked straight out, “How do you let yourself do it, if that is all it is?” He told me of spending time with Shiatsu practitioners, and how lovely that was.

What I want is a reason for doing this. My inner rationalist should sense my hands growing warm, sense heat or coolness as I pass my right hand over someone, and use inductive reasoning to connect that to a measurable positive result for the other. It does not work that way.

Relax. It is alright. What I have instead is that I want to do this, that I like to do it, and that other people seem to like it too. It is not this amazing mystic calling, which I cannot follow without perfect certainty that it is right; it is a thing I can do if I want to. And- placebo is a powerful effect.

Spiritual moments

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Ki_obsolete.svg/500px-Ki_obsolete.svg.pngTwo moments this morning. Oh, the sweet clarity when I know the human body in front of me is my enemy, and I must incapacitate it: one body, mind and purpose. And- seeing the faun in the woods.

In the dojo, we are working on kicks. We repeat series of ten mawashigeri, taking turns to kick the pad, all full focus. I need to relax into presence to keep this up. So I do. Then side kick. In kumite, the kick has to be above the belt, but in self-defence that is harder to manage and vulnerable to the foot being grabbed- so we practise the kick to ankle level, which would break the foot. When Andy stands in front of me, suddenly this becomes real for me, and I kick that spot. A possibly incorrect translation of Seiunchin is “storm within the calm”- I love that. The calm of Presence and the storm of the attack.

I am groping towards it, and I would love to understand- this presence, or unity of purpose, or clarity of mind, which sees the task in hand and carries it out, whether the task is a physical confrontation or cleaning the house. In an interaction with another human being, what has this to do with the unconscious ways we establish our pecking order, or build relationships? In what sense is it something in me, and in what sense something in us? But, more than understanding it, I would like to do it. So, in my morning kata, sometimes I just fall prey to my tail-chasing thoughts, and sometimes I perform the kata; but it feels quite different, facing another person. It seems possible to me that I was enabled to reach that state through Andy’s generosity. The control we impose, to prevent hospitalising each other in kumite, comes after this and not before.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/60/Character_N%C3%BC3_Trad.svg/500px-Character_N%C3%BC3_Trad.svg.pngThe other moment was kneeling in my ritual space, before class. I have been channelling Qi to my chakras again, it feels good so I do it, and this morning I felt not in the right place to do that. OK. Be where I am, in the moment, in the ritual.

I went back to the two ways of being, centre of the universe and worthless and the way between, I am a human being. Now, I am in my shadow self, which I have learned is unlovable. It is as if my Qi ritual is for the lovable bits, as if this part is unworthy. Therefore, this part is what I must love especially. A friend compared me to a deer poking my nose out of the woods, daring someone to come and play with me- possibly Paul felt the same, 1 Cor 12:22-23- those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.

I felt so vulnerable, coming out of my ritual space before I ritually put on my gi for class. That ritual may also affect my spiritual state.

Snakes II

Vanity, thy name is Clare, a friend used to say. Well, I do love something beautiful round my neck.

P1000707

P1000710

P1000723

P1000727

Snakes 2

Snakes 1

P1000705I met J here a year ago, and had not seen her since. Out of the blue she texted me, and we agreed to meet here again. Good job I had my phone switched on.

This beautiful creature can prosper on two rats a month. (Yes, I meant the beautiful creature with the smaller head.) How much we have lost by becoming warm-blooded! A large snake which can dislocate its jaws to swallow a goat might only eat once that year. They need handled daily to keep them tame, and with that handling can seem friendly. Her feeder reassured me that her hissing was friendly, and I felt calm and delighted to be with her.

And with J. We had tea in the museum, then went upstairs to see the snakes and other creatures, including a six inch snail. We chatted. She has had dreadful experiences with Abrahamic religion- she found one church horrid and hypocritical in practice and especially in eschatology- but has spiritual experiences. She finds herself attuned with someone, so that (more than once) they have emailed each other at the same moment.

This emboldens me to speak of healing. No, I do not believe any particular dogma about it, but only my own experiences. For example, I hear I should attune to the Spirit-energy surrounding me, and channel healing rather than giving of myself- and I have experience of two different sensations, one of which was tiring, the other enlivening. So I do not say, the dogma is Truth, but it does fit my experience.

And I am stuck on the words, the description. It is all very well giving reiki energy for your general well-being, but how do you apply a placebo to something specific, like irritable bowel syndrome? Tell the patient that it applies. “I am fixing it with these manipulations”.

J has had Osteopathy, which she found effective, but it involves serious manipulation. He twisted her neck, and you could hear it click. I would worry that could be harmful- I would want peer-reviewed double-blind studies to verify its effectiveness, and consider possible harm- but I might find it easier to believe than fairly gentle pressure for a few seconds on a particular spot, or more gentle motion of the neck. It is this certainty thing again. I want greater certainty than I can have.

I was not giving reiki at all, for months, but recently a few times I have knelt in my ritual space and channelled Qi to open my chakras. (As good a description as any other for what I was doing.)

Kata seminar

P1000681

Shihan and senseiI looked at the attractive woman in her thirties, and caught her eye. We reached an unspoken agreement, and smiled. -I’m Clare. -I’m Lindsey, she said. Then we started hitting each other. Funny way of spending a Sunday morning.

Each blow was practising a particular move, explained by Shihan Stacey Karetsian. My problem is that the blow has to come in very slowly before I may see it and block it.

There were over two hundred of us in a sports hall in Nottingham, to hear Shihan on kata. First we did press-ups, and I am mortified to see how few I could do, even girly press-ups, balancing on the knees rather than the toes. He said to make the strike count, we need that upper body strength: chest, back, biceps, triceps, exercised by variations on the basic- he called them “push-ups”. Squatting, and rising very slowly, holding position, can get the thigh muscles working. So can staying in sumo stance.

What do I take away? Lower the stance, making it stronger and more stable. There is not one bunkai (application) of any one move in a kata, but whatever you want, or can make of it. For example, a block can be used as a strike.

Gichin Funakoshi- I only heard of him on 26 March, and I am fascinated- could defeat an opponent without a strike or block, by facing them down. Reading that, I see how at the moment I cannot. I practised Seiunchin for this morning, and because I am fed up with standing in the class on Saturday, seeing others make moves and not knowing what P1000638they were doing, so just adopting the posture they end up in. This morning the orange and yellow belts were told to do Saifa, my next kata for the grading, and I made a mess of it, among several others all doing it correctly. I hear the snap of the gis around me, and botch, after all that practice.

I wanted to ask why we teach kata in that way. I was rather hoping for a mystic explanation from morphogenetic fields or Ki. Unfortunately I have only felt that working the other way. I know it is strike, kick, and so should the people around me- and unaccountably I was confused at the count of Ni, and kicked first. I sensed others doing that too. And while Dave can do a sequence faster than I can, having had the experience, with him beside me I find it difficult to do it slightly slower, correctly- so I do it wrongly, at his speed. However the explanation I have had was prosaic: it is the only way. It is easier with one-to-one tuition.

So I could have come away dispirited. But I enjoyed the chat in the car. S’s granddaughter is just setting up home, and she talked of troubles when she did- not knowing how to cook, and everyone has turned all their washing pink in the machine once. Oh, well, cheese on toast again. And Zara said she had only known two people she did not like in karate. One of the senseis is gay, and this man said something really stupid and offensive to him. She can’t think why anyone would be like that. He did not stay long. The other tried, but could not control his punches. He would hit people hard, and it hurt- so at the grading a sensei hit him hard so he could feel what it was like, and he did not come back after that.

Zara gave me a lift, and five of us picnicked in the car, sharing food.

P1000669

Outside

File:Steelcity Kascha.JPGFbfnd had an MRI scan, and asks alternative health practitioners for their thoughts on that. She really does believe this stuff, it is not just stage-dressing for placebo.

Thursday 24th. I have not been off Eagle’s Nest since Friday. Now I get hot hurrying over the snow that fell then, still crunchy underfoot as it has never thawed. There is a man at the bus stop with a huge dog, in jogging bottoms, a hoodie with hood pulled up, baseball cap and- a scarf over his mouth and nose. Does he want to look like a bank robber? The dog jumps up at the roadsweeper’s cart, and he holds it back, telling it off.

I treat myself to the upper deck, and he joins me at the front of the bus. Young dog, is it? Two and a half. It is an American bulldog; they do not have the same breathing problems as an English bulldog. He also has two Staffies at home, which have just had a litter. He does not breed them for money, he will have to find homes for them. This one did not cost him anything, the owner asked if he wanted a dog.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Kuan_Yin_Sea.jpgMost of the puppies were fine, but one was much smaller, and had poorly developed hind legs. They bent the wrong way. So, for a week after birth he held it and bent the legs the other way, and now it is fine. Mmm. Patience and kindness was not the first stereotype I had in mind. He moved to Marsley, which he finds so quiet, from the teeming metropolis of Zhuzhkov. He would find Landwart Magna, up the road, quieter.

I can be giggly-girly with Lizette. We hug, then sit together on the sofa in the coffee shop and she paints my nails. Even with girly types, I am usually far less physical, more intellectual. She wants people to correct her English, and English people do not. We are too reserved, and we do not want her to lose face. In Peru, there is no benefits system and you have to study and work hard to survive. So, she is more adaptable than we.

She showed her sister her living-room via Skype, and her sister told her the feng shui of it. It is important not to have clutter, especially in the corners of the room. Lizette has also spent some time with the Healing Trust in Nupton. A man there had such a calm manner, such beautiful eyes, she trusted him completely.

I can do that. I look into her eyes and tell her affirmations, and then channel Qi to her third eye chakra. People don’t believe this stuff- I don’t believe it! -and I love to do this with her. My experiences of feeling warmth come back to me, as real not impossible.

She goes to her training, I go to the supermarket. I decide to stay in girly mode for a moment, looking around me, noticing things. I divide myself. There are permissible ways of being, and I get permission or not from those around me- or imagine I do, whether they know it or not.

Scanning

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e4/St._Andrew_Stratelates_%26_St.Theophanes_of_Naousa_Orthodox_Icon.jpgIn Tate Britain, my coat is over my arm, and my right hand is out scanning the Qi in the art works, especially the sculptures. I love that Paolozzi. On the Frank Auerbach, the paint is smeared on and piled up, crevices then piles an inch thick. I had not seen paint on canvas like it. Opposite is a Francis Bacon, study of a dog: I recognised it was his by the shape of the creature, and the peculiar shade of red round the bottom edge. Large parts of the canvas have no paint at all.

I was scanning at the 5Rhythms dancing last night. I scan with my right hand, give energy with my left, so if blessing I would raise my left hand. Both hand chakras do both, but the left is stronger at giving and the right is stronger at scanning. I had scanned before, but I got the idea here that one hand would be stronger at scanning.

I have a sceptic-rationalist explanation for this practice. I am applying my intuition to the art works, and I am using the sensation of heat or cold in my hand to make a non-verbal channel for my intuition to reach my consciousness. It is another way to respond to the art work.

Over coffee, Helen and I discussed whether intention is necessary to make something “art”. I do not think technical skill is necessary, that is craft, only, but “Fountain” was art because of Duchamp. I spotted two labels hanging from a tree, each with a word on, and wondered if that was accidental or whether it was “art”. Perhaps both: machine-made art has a human intention and human creator behind it, but if an object found by Duchamp is art, why not an object I notice myself? If it raises a response in me, similar to a response I might have to a found object in a gallery, does that make it art, or something else, just as valuable in that moment?

Back at Helen’s flat, after salmon and wine I gave my rationalist explanation of the scanning, and she asked why? I have noticed that I do not know what I like, only what I ought to like, or what it is permissible to like- permissible by me, of course, I have internalised my own bonds. Or, what I have learned that it is possible to like, I prefer to learn that from others, it is easier than noticing myself. So here am I noticing something which I love and value- scanning for Qi- and I need to create a rationalist explanation. Why? Why can I not just like it because I like it?

Because I am so terrified of insanity. I delayed transition for years because I imagined that it was not real, it was a fantasy, I was sliding down the slippery slope to a sexual fantasy. And- the female self is me in a way the male self never was. And- my intuitive self is me in a way the rationalist self is not, a deeper, realer me. I am still terrified, still craving the reassurance the rationalist explanation gives me, but trusting my instincts might fulfil me more.

Saying I am “scanning for Qi” is a verbal formulation applied to a spontaneous act, an act I find valuable. Perhaps I do not need that verbal formulation either. St Theophanes has his right hand up- what is he doing with it?

There was an Edwardian sculpture of children playing on a beach. The marble is beautiful, and the girl’s hand is so perfect. The artist has even caught a slight depression in the skin of the boy where the girl’s hand touches it, an effect which astounds and delights me. I can see why Pygmalion might fall in love with such a creation.