I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. – e. e. cummings

The maple tree was there all along; overshadowed by a tall oak growing a few feet away.

When the oak got sick I was sad, but it had enjoyed a long life providing a home for generations of birds and squirrels and bearing witness to many changes to its surroundings.

In many ways, the oak had become too privileged over the years. His large canopy had taken most of the sunlight and his vast root system had pulled in increasingly larger doses of the available nutrients. During his years, he should have shared more with his neighbor, the maple, but he didn’t know how, plus his large size controlled his needs.

Of course, it wasn’t the oak’s greed that killed him, but his privileged position had taken a silent toll on his neighbor, the maple. Once he was gone, it was amazing how quickly she prospered. With better light and access to nutrients she filled out, finding her intended posture and taking her spot in the backyard. The maple was totally transformed and each year, in the fall, she showed off all of her newfound beauty.

Japanese Watercolor - 1943
This boy is off to the fields after his morning Tai Chi, maybe. The watercolor belonged to my father and came home with him from San Francisco in 1943.

Soon I moved my morning Tai Chi practice to the ground near her. I wanted her transformation to enable mine.

They say that when one door closes, another will open. Cancer closes many doors – and opens many more. At least that is how it was for me. After cancer, I started to explore alternative healing and exercise ideas that had never before entered my mind. Tai Chi was one of the doors I opened.

My first centering breaths each morning were to ask about her: did she have a good night? does she have enough food and water for the day? My feet feel her response as I go on with more centering breaths, asking her to bring energy into the ground around me, to my legs, into my core, to fill my heart center with her Qi, to soften my face and strengthen my mind. My final breath directs her Qi energy down the line of my back, so she can share her graceful and erect posture.

Facing west, with the moon often still visible in the early morning sky, I continue my practice of spinning silk where my body sways from side to side and my rag doll arms just follow along; then into my embrace the moon sequence where my final posture places my extended left palm over my clenched right fist, encouraging me to live my day in peace as a better option to war.

Of course, sometimes my routine gets interrupted. I try to adjust in a new setting but it is just not the same.

It was after a two week absence that I returned to my early morning routine with the maple. On that quite morning, as I started my centering breaths, there was a sudden burst of movement in her tallest branches. She seemed to be waving and saying, “Good morning, I’ve missed you.”

What else can explain her brief motion on such a still morning?

I can’t speak for all people and my tree can’t speak for all trees, but I am better because of my tree and I think my tree is better because of me.

Why pick just one tree when there are so many? Because that is the point – to pick just one and get to know it better. Maybe it all starts here and moves forward by living in a world that is kind and greets others in the morning. One tree, one person at a time.

Tai-Chi CoupleWhat do you think when you see people doing Tai Chi in the park? Have you wanted to learn this ancient mind/body/spirit practice? Don’t wait for something like cancer to lead you to a better life. If now is the time, we can talk about how and where.

Can you see ways Tai Chi/Qi Gong, Reiki, meditation and acupuncture could fit in our western society, or would you rather just take a pill? Tell me your ways of cooping with our stressful lifestyles.

Is communing with nature possible, or just an excuse people use to get out of going to church or synagogue?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran


Tai Chi Mike (Mike Gentile)
Tai Chi Mike (Mike Gentile)

Tai Chi is the most popular form of exercise on earth. It is no longer just a Chinese phenomena. It is rapidly spreading throughout the world. It is more popular now than ever before because the millions of people who practice it are living a more active life than those who don’t. As a result, many Western doctors are now recommending it to their patients, especially the elderly. Tai Chi is one of the Levine Cancer Institute offerings in Charlotte. Levine’s Sifu is Tai Chi Mike (Mike Gentile).

Tai Chi accumulates energy and leaves you refreshed and relaxed when you finish. The graceful, slow speed of the styles, coupled with an emphasis on deep breathing and mental focus, creates balance, flexibility and calmness, which relieves stress and allows for the integration of your mind and body.

Just 20 minutes of Tai Chi each day can dramatically improve your coordination and balance, which for the elderly, can significantly cut the risk of falls.

… modified remarks by Mark Johnson, Santa Rosa, CA

This video shows the popular Beijing 24 movement form. Learn it and you can join any group in the world. But be patient, because as Tai Chi Mike says, “You will be a beginner for the first three years.”