I spent four hours at King Spa yesterday with a good friend. In the hot whirlpool, a staff member told us to use our “spa voices.” We were having way too much fun catching up, telling stories. Way too loudly apparently.
From the moment we walked in, there was something wonderfully pleasant in the air. A scent. Very herbal and woody. It followed us all afternoon. Finally, before we left, I asked one of the staff, who shared that it was the bags of herbs that were hanging throughout the spa and were for sale–all different kinds. Her favorite was Gam Cho (甘草) or licorice, actually used very often in oriental medicine to harmonize the mixtures of other herbal remedies. According to Chinese medicine, Gam Cho is a qi invigorating herb, which helps reduce inflammation, promote balance and general healing.
I bought a bag and brought it home. And now Gam Cho is in the house. Without a whirlpool or salt saunas or lazy boy chairs to distract it. Without needing to use its spa voice, it can focus solely and patiently on working to balance the energies in this house. It can ubiquitously and quietly infuse itself into the air we breathe to get our qi flowing without obstruction. It can turn on its anti-inflammatory properties to support shalom bayit.
Created by Jack Ohman for the Sacramento Bee.
A student has been sharing with me the peripheral entries in her journal/notebook after class on most days. Today, and with great pride, she showed me her entry in her journal and then the actual hand it was based on (see photo below for the recording of this distraction). I’m not entirely clear why she is determined to show me these random entries as opposed to her detailed Constitution notes or reflections on some deep and meaningful quote I have given the students (well, I do have a few theories…). She also finds it personally exciting to be the first person in the class and the last to leave the room.
In class she is mostly on task and regularly shares her very honest comments about the material we are exploring. She always asks pretty meaningful and thoughtful questions always framed with a healthy skepticism. There is something so very dry and droll, sophisticated and witty, delightfully quirky about this student’s humor, intelligence, and point of view. She is very engaged in class activities, but I don’t think that even if I were to make my classroom activities yet more engaging that she would stop this recording of a stray and random doodle or thought, or stop its sharing with me at the end of class.
I really, really, really find this student absolutely fascinating. I don’t know exactly what trajectory she will take this year, but I am enthusiastically there for the ride.
There’s a woman in my qigong and t’ai chi class who usually drives me crazy. Every time she comes into the class she goes straight to the temperature control to make sure the room is warm enough for her which is way too hot for everyone else. If you are warming up doing some of the movements she will walk right up to you and begin a conversation— usually in a voice way too loud. She will interrupt others, changing the subject and direction of conversations, so that she can be heard and noticed. She always asks way too many questions of our teacher which causes the work of our class to be delayed. Fortunately, once the class begins, she is quiet and engaged and focused.
Lately I have embraced this woman as part of my qigong practice. She forces me to let her know in as diplomatic a way as possible what my needs are (i.e., being left alone while focusing on postures before class). She forces me to tell her when she is interrupting so that original conversation can reach its organic closure and then her issues can be addressed. She encourages me (without any awareness on her part) to be direct but kind, clear but assertive about my needs and everyone else’s in the class.
I am sure that this particular qigong/ t’ai chi posture is the hardest one so far that I have experienced. I am still not entirely graceful yet in its execution and I haven’t yet fully integrated it into my practice without great effort of thought, intention, and control, but I am clearly making progress. And so is she.
—————————————————-(illustrated by Gavin Aung Than 2014)
A wedge of dawn this morning as I worked my way south to work. Up late preparing for class and grading papers. Up early to get to school before traffic on Lake Shore Drive gets too solid and clogged and before the parking becomes impossible in Hyde Park. Somehow today’s wedge of dawn made it all worthwhile, pushing open the day at the lake’s horizon in stunning triangular beauty. It’s all I can do to pour coffee into my body to wedge open my eyes.
It’s a sacred experience having the lake accompany me at my left on my morning journey to work each day, on my right as I head home. I just have to remind myself to pay attention.