Danny had the last of his Cross River Wilderness Centre Tai Chi Retreats last weekend.  What a beautiful place.  The Centre is entirely off-grid.  They use solar and hydro power.  Propane appliances.  They have beautiful cabins with attached bathrooms or you can stay in a teepee.  I, trying to get as close to nature as possible, stayed in a teepee.  Danny, who’s only known city life, stayed in a cabin.  My teepee was warm and dry, even in a thunderstorm!  The food was amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed the wood-fired hot tub after each long day of exercise.  A First Nation Elder lives at the Centre and leads sweat lodges and vision quests.  Here are some photos from the weekend.

Below is a video we recorded on Saturday, before lunch. Danny demonstrates one type of hard chi kung called Iron Shirt Chi Kung. There are no tricks, he’s not wearing any padding under his shirt, it’s the real deal. Click here for an older blog post with more on hard chi kung from Danny.

The training really started for me the Thursday I flew from Austin to Calgary.  Danny started showing me some of a Shaolin stick form and then I attended one of his regular Thursday classes.  Danny and I met about 11 years ago, so it’s interesting to see how he runs his classes these days.  I figure he’s taught about 6,000 classes since the last time I was a regular attendee!  Danny teaches 2-3 classes a day, 6 days a week.

On Friday we drove out to the mountains and to the Centre.  We got ourselves settled in time for a tub and then a jam by the bonfire.  It was a nice night.

We started Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:30 with breathing exercises.  These exercises involve abdomen movements that massage your internal organs and increase circulation to them.

At 8 we’d wander from the yurt down to the main building for a yummy breakfast.  After a nice long leisurely break, allowing time to digest, we headed back to the yurt for stretching, standing meditation and chi kung.  It was nice to try one of Danny’s newest chi kungs, Tai Chi Chi Kung, and to have a full 30 minutes to do the standing meditation. In class, we usually only practice it for 15 minutes.

On Saturday, the hour of sitting meditation followed lunch.  As we all ate too much and were sleepy after lunch, on Sunday, Danny kindly moved the meditation to be before lunch. The meals by the way were awesome! Steak, homemade blueberry apple bread, tortilla pie, salads, steamed veggies, salmon, ginger curry soup….

After the sitting meditation, we then worked on the Dharma-Zen 24 form.  I also practiced the Shaolin Long Stick Form.  On Sunday, we were all feeling pretty comfortable with the forms, so Danny led us all in the Dharma-Zen 48 form, which is the 24 form repeated, but the second time through you go the opposite way.

The most amazing part of the weekend for me was the hour of sitting meditation on Sunday.  I was comfortable and really had a nice experience.  I became very conscious of two knots in my back that I’m often entirely unaware of.  They started to ache and ache and ache.  Stress knots from sitting at a computer all day.

While I was sitting, I started breathing into these knots.  I felt them loosen and relax and it even felt like energy was raining down out of them.  It was the most amazing thing.  I’m going to build more sitting meditation into my practice.  A really wonderful experience.

I left the retreat energized, with three new forms to practice, a better understanding of the rest of Danny’s curriculum, and having learned and laughed with Danny and the other students.  I’m very much looking forward to March, 2010, when Danny’s coming to Austin to teach a similar workshop.

Practice hard,