02 June 2020

No online Class Wednesday 3rd June

Dear friends and students, due to unforeseen circumstances, there will be no live Short Form taichi Zoom class on Wednesday this week, but I will return on 10th June. Sorry for any inconvenience. Please feel free to replay any of the last 7 weeks sessions, for an hour of taichi at home. See you all soon. Caro.

27 May 2020

Today's 9-10am Short Form lesson

Thanks to all who came. The lesson will be available to download from Dropbox soon, and I can also email a link. The good news is a student reminded me to press 'record' this week, so it's the whole lesson, hurray...

24 May 2020

Summer workshop update

We have just heard from our usual summer intensive workshop venue the Leander Scout group in Kingston. They are allowed to use the hall for all non-Scout uses, including hiring it to us. For now, we still plan to go ahead with the workshop in the last week of July, and hope that the Covid-19 situation will be such that we can do this. Whatever hygiene, meal time or distancing measures are needed, we will apply. The venue is large, modern and has good hand washing facilities, as well as generally being easy to clean. It may also be wise for us to forego the wonderful buffet style meals for a year, and bring our own packed food for the meal break. With hand gel and washing, and just a couple of people serving teas and hot water rather than our usual amiable crowd in the kitchen, I think it could work fine. I certainly don't mind being tea-lady. Perhaps this is my vocation. If the intensive runs, and people can't travel or attend for shielding reasons, that's totally understandable. But, if circumstances allow, and it is safe to do so, assume that the event will run, even if it is shorter / different from the usual set up. More as soon as I know anything. Mark and I hope you are all well and doing ok. Feel free to get in touch any time. 

20 May 2020

Today's Zoom class details

Here were the joining details for today's short form class 9-10am. All regular and past students are welcome. Fee details and more info in sidebar box to right, on the full version of this website (not the mobile version). They are removed from here after the class for security. the video of the class will be available now by Dropbox, or I can email you the link, get in touch. More later.

13 May 2020

Zoom class details will show here in regular post too from next week

Folks who access the web on their phones can't always see the side bar on this blog, as Blogger does not seem to format well for phones, though I have just spent an hour attempting to rectify this, hence the graphic theme change. From next week I will always make a fresh post with the class link details, and then remove it afterwards and replace it with the new upload details. Hope this helps. 

From 8.40am each Wednesday during lockdown, from 8th April 2020, a post will display the link for the 9-10am Short Form session that would normally take place at Tooting Lido. These sessions are open to all who already study with me or Mark Raudva, or our students. Sessions are available to play afterwards as I upload them to the Dropbox created for students. Get in touch if you need the link for that, as it is not publicly posted.

See you next week on 20th May from 8.45am for a 9am start.

Sessions cost a flat rate of £5 for waged / folks with income. If you have had your income slashed by Covid-19, then please pay what you feel, even if that's only £1. Payments can be made to me via Paypal to carolineross at hotmail dot com. Please put reference 'Zoom class + your name', thanks.

Today's lesson is now on Dropbox

Thanks to all who came along for the Zoom lesson today, it was great fun. We looked in more details at Wave Hands In Clouds. The video is uploading right now and will be on the school's Dropbox by 1pm. If you can't access Dropbox, just send me an email and I can send links to any files you need, including all the lessons so far. 

We both appreciate all your messages, emails and calls. It was nice to hear of the Aberdeenshire / Sweden Zoom meet up last weekend. I hope you all had a good session. 

I just did a morning practice outside by the boat after the class (and another cup of tea...) It was a first for me being watched for a whole short form by a pair of swans (Naughty Hinkleponkle and Landy). They seemed not at all bothered, but neither were they impressed, which is as it should be. As they'd been such peaceful onlookers, I rewarded them with Scottish rolled oats for breakfast, which they love, and are good for them. We basically have the same breakfast, but I prefer mine in a bowl rather than on the slipway. 

No definite news re the Summer workshop yet, until we know what the government says for the summer, we are leaving it open. The Scouts don't know either, so for now, although we know it might have to be cancelled due to ongoing social distancing measures, we will not yet make a final announcement. If it is cancelled, I hope to plan at least a weekend of outdoor T'ai Chi near here, where all the correct protocols can be easily followed. All we can say is, watch this space.

Much love and best wishes to all. Caro.

11 May 2020

Some lockdown ward-off thoughts

Hi there, I have been keeping myself to myself except when I teach the Short Form class on Wednesday mornings. And all GR and GRTC students are very welcome to come along to that via Zoom, details to the right. Between looking after loved ones, making sure there is a livelihood to support us, and taking care of health needs, I have been quiet. Nature, family, art and community have been sustaining, as has T'ai Chi. I hope these have all been sources of goodness for you all too. 

Today I have been thinking much about security, and how people crave respite from uncertainty because they are so atomised. People outsource their uncertainty and it is suffered by others via the usual mechanisms of capitalism and colonialism we know well. Gated communities, 'othering' and scapegoating of low status people in almost all societies, cheap, low-welfare, overseas manufacturing... wherever I look, the main flow is not really money or goods but uncertainty and risk. Or rather, the experience of suffering this uncertainty. As the uncertainty remains, though occulted, and accrues, gaining interest as does capital. They are in fact two sides of the same shell. 

So I am asking myself the question, or perhaps have been for a long time now, am I willing to experience my own uncertainty, risk, insecurity-of-situation, and not foist it onto others, not fortify myself against it with misuse of religion, politics, money, goods, status or other shiny accretions of certainty? To answer yes to this, seems right now to be another way of saying one is a Taoist. Or maybe just a human. 'Things change, get over it', as they say.

Yet, there is more. The Taoists of old seemed a solitary lot, or sometimes grouped together in monasteries, but mainly because Buddhism was on the rise, and it was the way to survive as a Way in China at that time. Some of these schools succumbed to the quest for longevity, with their sometimes rather dubious 'immortality' energy techniques…  to me just another form of resisting uncertainty. The best old writings I find are by those who maintained their practice, humour and wayfaring, whether on a mountain or at home with the family, whether serving at court or drinking wine and playing lute with a friend on a boat. Thinking one has everything sewn up in a theory of everything would be my particular hue on this spectrum of uncertainty-avoidance, but menopause has deepened my colour a little, and reminded me in no uncertain terms about shit happening, as Covid has for others. Perhaps tech-culture's mistaking the map for the territory is a similar attempt at, I think at root is identical with - 'not dying just yet thankyou very much'. It is a great yet not uncommon irony to find Taoists who espouse change really hating it when it happens to us. 

In T'ai Chi we have a posture called in English 'ward-off'. At first glance it is a round shape in the arms, the legs and indeed the whole body eventually. It is the shape which best seems to absorb, distribute and transfer energy, blows, pushes, weight, etc, in action, leaving the best result, no harm done. However, the Chinese word for this 'peng' (pronounced usually 'bung'), doesn't mean 'to ward something off' at all. This is an English word for what the colonial chaps who first saw and described it thought they were looking at. They saw someone keeping something at bay. Ha! that tells you everything about them (and Britain at that time) and nothing about the real qualities of peng, which are lively, soft yet firm, round, elastic, yielding, a meeting place, relaxed, responsive, subtle, and when formed masterfully - almost imperceptible as a 'shape' at all. A non-T'ai Chi person watching our Grandmaster stand in 'ward-off' would have seen an old man just standing there in no particular stance. Reminding me of a favourite Taoist Classics line: 'What is looked at and cannot be seen is called the subtle'. Of course it is entirely possible that early Chinese T'ai Chi artists meeting westerners showed them some wooden-looking shapes just to get them to go away thinking they had stolen secrets. Who could blame them?

When I first learned ward-off it became part of my immaculate defences, for keeping the world at bay. But as John Kells wrote to me, 'We call this a living death.' To keep everything out is to die a little inside every day. Something had to give, to yield. 

There is an upright, flexible, turning, anti-fragile, open expanded way to be, that is helpful in dealing with change, yet not deflecting, denying or seeking to control it. This, in movement, takes many forms, T'ai Chi, butoh, parkour, certain improvisational methods, aikido, indeed many forms of natural movement... It exists in music, theatre, sport, craft, art, gardening... In the realm of words, actions, indeed living a life, there is also a way to have peng and to be yielding. 

But what is not spoken of so much in the Taoist Classics, or the T'ai Chi Classics, is the aspect of community and solidarity. There is much in the Tao of interspecies care and reciprocity, There are many great stories of Taoist and creatures, trees, rocks, whole mountains, in deep conversation and dialogue. But in popular culture 'Tao' it is obscured by the 'lone wanderer' veneration of Lao Tzu. It almost fits too well with the 'Atlas Shrugged' crew in Silicon Valley. Well, only a fraction of writings have been translated into English, and I am only versed in a fraction of those. But 'the principles are few, yet the permutations are endless'.

If I seek to assume responsibility for all my own uncertainty and risk and not farm it off to others, I need to become fully aware of my circumstances, privilege and the mechanisms of 'the world'. I need to discover and practice the inward and outward 'postures' (ways of being in the world and in the heart) that best nurture life, preserve the diversity of its flourishing, and see how utterly interconnected everything and everyone is. In contrast to the hyper-individualists out there and their toxic fortifications of self, I suggest that humans have always known best how to mitigate risk, provide balm for uncertainty and provide the rockpools and side-tributaries of relative safety so that we are not always buffeted like salmon swimming to spawn, fighting the current at all costs to do one important task.

Community. Solidarity. In families, sure, but wider, starting where we live, and where we spend our time (including online). These are the rock pools and side streams, where we can catch our breath, feed, shoal, school, rest, sleep. They are not where we can live our whole lives, as life is in the great river, and in the sea, and this life, as Helen Keller so rightly said, is an adventure, or nothing at all.  The rock pool is a great analogy though, as at some point the tide will cover it again, and return all still living to the wider sea. 

I see our schools as a rock pool and am heartily looking forward to meeting the other crabs, minnows, slugs, mussels and fish again. I am personally feeling quite nudibranch today.

Love to all, Caro x

06 May 2020

Class today

Thanks to all who came to class today, it was lovely to work with you and see your faces. See you next week for more Short Form. Today's class is available as a download on the Dropbox. However, I forgot to press record until 5 minutes in, so you'll need to do the first 4 warm ups on your own! More soon.

29 April 2020

New Short Form class up on Dropbox

Today's class is uploaded onto our Dropbox, just get in touch if you ant me to email you the link to the Zoom recording, if you can't access Dropbox for some reason.

It was a lovely class, lots of warmups, five elements, chi kung, Short Form, and a new posture: waving hands in clouds.

See you soon. Be well.

Meet Humphrey, my neighbour.

Joining the Zoom class on a phone

This blog displays differently on various devices, and on phones it may not be possible to see the link and the sidebars. Blogger is an old platform and although there are many newer better ones, we have been here so long, over 15 years, and have so much written here already, that we have not yet migrated elsewhere.  If you wish to join class by smartphone, I recommend accessing this blog on a pc, copying and pasting the link and password and emailing it to yourself. Then you can open this on your phone as normal. Hope this helps.Call or email with any issues as I am keen to help those who want to join but have had technical issues.

28 April 2020

Online short form classes will continue indefinitely

Hello, hope this week sees you all well and thriving, even under the unusual circumstances. Tomorrow's short form class will run as usual from 9-10am, and all past and present students of Mark's or mine are welcome, as are any students of students, so feel free to pass this info on. The live class runs via Zoom, and the details and password are posted at about 8.40am each Wednesday morning in the box to the right of this post.

Speaking to some of my over 70s students after class last week, I heard that some are going to need to self-isolate beyond any summer relaxing of lockdown restrictions, and so would not be able to return to Tooting Lido class even when it could restart. So I have decided to commit to an online short form class for the foreseeable future, so that no one goes without the chance to practice and learn T'ai Chi. For now, we'll continue in the Wednesday morning slot, and if and when the Tooting class resumes, we will find another suitable time and day of the week. At that point I will also keep the in-person and online classes in sync, as regards what postures we are looking at, for instance, so that folks can easily move between the two formats, or indeed do both, depending on their isolation requirements. I hope this will give you a little continuity and community. Live classes cost £5 (concs available).

I make recordings of each class and put it on the Dropbox each week, these may be useful to get a practice going, or if you miss a class. If you use these, I would hugely appreciate a £2-£5  contribution, for the time and work involved. These are interesting times for Mark and myself regarding livelihood, as everything we both do (T'ai Chi, art teaching, music...)  requires us to be in close contact with people in rooms. Thanks so much to those who are continuing to pay term fees, making one-off contributions for resources, or who are attending classes online or 121s. We are glad you are still practising.

I am not currently taking new students, but depending on how UK life proceeds, a beginners online class may occur. We shall see. Long term advanced students are encouraged to book a 121 Skype session with Mark, which are proving to be helpful, as well as very funny as Mark says he still sometimes speaks to the screen as though it's a long distance call in the 1970s...

Best wishes and love to all. Feel free to get in touch. I will post some lovely nature photos soon, as swans, trees and plants take up much of my time, these days.


14 April 2020

Next Short Form Zoom class is Wednesday 15th April 9-10am

All regular students of any level are welcome to attend this class, which is the online version of the Tooting Lido morning class. We do warm ups, five elements chi kung, front heart salutations and short form, as the partnerwork is currently off the menu...

The link will be to the right of this page in the dedicated box by 8.30am. Just turn up to the meeting and put your box on audio mute with the video on. We take regular breaks to unmute and have questions, etc. There is also time at the end to hang out and chat. Cost is £5, details in the box. If you have lost your income then any amount you feel you can afford is fine. I will record the session.

Thanks to all those who have contributed to Mark and myself for the video resources, by the way. We both really appreciate it. We will film a new version of the Front heart Salutation this week, and try to have something new for you from him each week. He is also doing 12s via Zoom, Skype or phone and video. Get in touch if you want one.

There are more chi kung resources each day at www.instagram.com/greatrivertaichi this week we will finish the Five Elements and then start the T'ai Chi warm up set one move each day. This is a free resource available for all, to help with the isolation. Feel free to share it with friends or family.

I do hope you are all doing OK. Love from the river, Caro and Mark.