Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bandon T'ai-Chi Retreat

Walking the beach

I just got back from my annual trip to Bandon on the Oregon Coast where my teacher Andy Dale holds a T'ai-Chi retreat. This year the events were organized by Ken Wright who did a great job coordinating the various instructors and scheduling the classes. It's a pretty informal affair with 6 or 7 classes offered each day. Students pay $10 per class directly to the instructor. The "dojo" is the beach. This year Ken set up a blog to help publicize things as well.

I taught 3 classes: Healthy Knees, Guiding Your Own Practice, and one on T'ai-Chi Troubleshooting where I invited people to bring their problem movements to see if I could help. This last class was my least attended but most enjoyable. I'm thinking of just offering 3 Troubleshooting classes next year.

To me, this annual retreat isn't really about making money. I'm lucky if I can pay for one night's motel room. It's really about hanging out with Andy, bringing a few of my students, taking classes, seeing how my work resonates with people, how the other teacher's work resonates with me, and mostly, it's about walking the beach each evening with my old friend Joel Hartshorne. He started studying T'ai-Chi with Andy around the same time I did 25 years ago, (although BaGua has always been his favorite art).

For the past 3 years we've had a tradition of walking 4-7 miles each night along the beach in front of the Sunset Motel where we all stay. (The Sunset is great by the way, not too expensive, friendly help, lots of different types of accommodations.) We know this beach really well by now and can practically walk it blindfolded.

If you haven't been to Bandon, it's got an amazing beach. There are these huge monolithic rocks in and out of the water. Some are huge, others small, but all of them are beautiful and very cool at night. And it's never crowded! And I mean never.

This year there was almost no moon so the stars were truly awesome. The tide rolls in and out and we sometimes hang out and practice as it comes in and see if we can stay just out of the incoming surf's reach. But mainly we just walk and talk and see the nighttime sites. And amazingly, there's almost always no one else out there.

At one point I wondered out loud if we were imprisoned on this beach and would not be released until we had walked the equivalent of the distance to the nearest star, how long would it take us? How many circuits from one end of our beach walk to the other? Of course neither of us could do the math in our heads and we...uh...gave up pretty quickly.

But here's the actual math: Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year (60 X 60 X 24 X 365). So, forgetting about leap years, that means light travels 5,865,696,000,000 in a year (31,536,000 X 186,000). The nearest stars, according to our latest wisdom, are around 4 light years away which would be 23,462,784,000,000 miles (5,865,696,000,000 X 4). Since our beach walk round trip is about 4 miles, we divide 23,462,784,000,000 by 4 which gives us a total of 5,865,696,000,000 trips up and down the beach!

The average walking speed of human beings is around 3 miles per hour; but since we stop and practice, take our time, and are walking on sand, I'm thinking it's more like 2 mph. Since each round trip would take us two hours (4 miles divided by 2), we take our trip total (5,865,696,000,000) and multiply by 2 and we get 11,731,392,000,000 hours of walking. We take that total and divide by 24 to get the total number of days: 488,808,000,000. Divide that total by 365 and we get the total number of years we'd have to walk to win our freedom: 1,339,200,000. Only about 1-1/3 billion years of beach walking! That's only a bit more than a third the age of the Earth...(Special thanks to

I was thinking as I walked this year that there are some things I'm really glad to have done in my life. Things that make me feel OK about dying.

I'm glad I got to record, perform, and write so many songs. I wanted to be James Taylor when I was young and while that level of success is beyond me now, what I've really enjoyed most is just sorting out so many things in my life and expressing them musically.

I'm also really glad that I learned to practice and teach T'ai-Chi. I became fascinated with Chinese philosophy and martial arts back in high school when I first say the TV show "Kung Fu". I wanted to be sage/bad-ass like David Carradine's character and while I've let go of the whole combat side of that dream, I feel I do have some things to offer people about health, balance, self-defense and living less forcefully. And I do it for a living which is really amazing to me.

I'm also really glad to have been married for 15 years to my wife Samarra. I always wanted to be in an intimate relationship where my partner and I could both really be ourselves and be accepted and loved that way.

I'm glad I found a way to live in a small town and make a living. I dreamed of living close to Nature for many, many years and now it's my life.

I'm also really glad that I got to see a bit of the world. While I'm anything but a "traveler", (I hardly ever leave Ashland), I have lived in New York City, Evanston Illinois, rural Iowa, Seattle and Naples Italy for a year when I was young. I've seen some really amazing wildlife and witnessed many of Nature's little and larger miracles.

And now I add to the list that I'm so glad that I got to walk along one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere with a good friend, talking about our lives, practicing unforced balance, and making each other laugh.

Thank You Bandon!

Thank You Joel!

Thank You Stars!

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