Archive for September, 2006

Running day – September 27, 2006

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

MM,

I went for a run. It has been a while since I did some serious running, so I decided to head out on my mile and a half route. I ended up running most of it, and walked the last quarter mile. My time for the first part was 8 minutes 51 seconds. Walking the last quarter mile took 4 minutes 56 seconds.

The change in weather the past month has affected my motivation to run. I think my body just wants to hibernate. It is the dark time of the year again. It’s funny how I always feel better after the winter solstice – it’s the waning sunlight that affects me. The 10k run at my do jang is around the first week of November, so I’ll have to push up the running. This time we are running in the evening. That will suit me better considering my nocturnal habits. :)

Hopefully, next week I can motivate myself better and get out for some longer runs. Things feel like they are settling down a bit, and the exercise will help. I just have to keep my goal in mind.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Why I Consider Myself “Pagan” – for those who may ask

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

MM,

Occasionally, I go on message boards. This time an interesting topic was brought up, and it spawned some amusing comments.

The topic was pretty much “what is pagan?”. Through that it was mentioned that many of the Asian cultures are “pagan” in practice. This was something that I personally observed as well, myself being part of the Asian culture (specifically Chinese). It was early in my studies in paganism that I realized that the practices that my mother engaged in were pagan. Realizing this and also knowing a bit about my ancestors (who were likely peasants, not poor, but peasants nonetheless), I concluded that through my bloodline I was born pagan. My ancestors were, for all practical purposes, pagans (though I hesitate to call modern Chinese people pagan because I don’t like placing labels on people and some Chinese may follow other religions such as Christianity, Catholicism, or Buddhism). Such is why I always called myself “pagan” and do not call myself “neo-pagan”.

I consciously choose to follow Wicca (a neo-pagan religion) and practice witchcraft because I felt a connection to these practices. Strangely enough, it was my Wiccan studies that sparked a renewed interest in studying my own culture more, in particular its spiritual practices.

Chinese culture is fascinating because it is quite rich and varied. The country itself started out with different tribes. Along the way, different groups emerged and mixed together. China, the country, is named for its first emperor, Qin, whose rule began in 221 B.C. Prior to that, China was divided into distinct territories and cultures. It is only recently within the last sixty years that China has been able to have some stability. The people of China over time developed and adopted many different spiritual systems. They weren’t afraid of learning foreign ideas. Thus, they adopted Buddhism from India at a time when China already had Taoism. The Chinese people today tend to be a mix of Taoist, Confucianist, and Buddhist (Ch’an Buddhist to be more precise) – quite an eclectic mix. Perhaps that is why I consciously choose to be eclectic in my spirituality.

My mother is traditional Chinese. She mixes Taoist, Confucianist, and Buddhist ideas while continuing to practice some folk traditions. The folk traditions of China before it was China likely became absorbed into Confucianist and Ch’an Buddhist practices. My mother follows the traditional Chinese calendar (the lunisolar one I discussed before on this blog) as a way of keeping track of when certain spiritual rites should be performed – the most common ones being the autumn moon festival and the new year’s festival. It has been only recently that I’ve looked at other festivals that are celebrated by following the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Coincidentally, many of these festivals fall around the same time as the Wiccan Sabbats. 😀

I grew up with some very pagan practices, even if I didn’t understand them at the time. Now, I’m fortunate to have the chance to study these practices and have a reference point for whether or not I’m getting it right. (Thanks, Mom!)

Thus, even though I follow a neo-pagan religion (Wicca), I am very much pagan in heritage.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

P.S. Time being the way it is, I haven’t had any time to study Chinese history in more depth. :(

A Short Run – Monday, September 25, 2006

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

MM,

Yay! I finally got out for some fresh air and a run. It was a short run though. I ended up doing so much that I didn’t have time for a longer run before I met up with Nathan. In any case, I did a half mile run at a decent pace – 4 minutes 25 seconds. I hope to get some more exercise this week. I need it. I tend to get sick when I don’t exercise.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

My First Ritual as Summoner

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

MM,

This past Sunday was my first ritual as Summoner. It was an interesting night. Since it was a Sabbat night (Harvestide), the temple ended up quite packed. It was hard for me to keep an eye on everything going on inside the circle with a packed house and also considering my height (5’3″). Overall though, I felt I did a good job. I can get better at it, I know that already. It being my first night as Summoner, I was a tad nervous. Over time, I will just get comfortable and used to being in public so much that it should be almost second nature. I was always a little shy in front of large groups, but never quite as shy in front of people I’m comfortable with. Such is the reason I decided to do this. I wanted to get used to being in front of a large group of people whose attention would be focused on me. (In taekwondo, it occurs to me the students are more concerned with making a mistake and their own training instead of how I’m teaching them. Perhaps that is why it is easier being in front of the taekwondo students.)

The ritual was an interesting ritual. Being Summoner is definitely different than being a participant. You are denied the emotional connection to divinity on one level, but are still connected on another. I did feel more grounded. This also allowed me to think about the ritual on a more practical level, and I also got to watch other people’s reactions to the ritual experience.

Since it was a feast night, it was a long night. People tend to linger for a while. Since it is my duty to keep an eye on the Priestess and ensure her safetey, I stayed until she had left. Her husband was Priest for the ritual, so he did much looking out for her, which definitely helped.

Overall, I think people are receptive to having a woman act as Summoner, a role traditionally given to a man of the community. I think my experience as a martial artist has helped me in this. I’m not unfamiliar with being in an authority position since I have experience teaching taekwondo. In my experience, if you are confident in what you are doing, people sense that and will be more confident in you in response.

After the ritual, I was asked by some of my acquaintances and friends how I liked being Summoner so far. So far, it’s good. I like it. It is something I always wanted to do for the community. It’s something that I think suits me naturally – I’ve always had more yang energy in the sense of being active instead of yin which is associated with being passive.

I was pretty tired when I got home that night. I didn’t eat much all day because I was a little sick last week. In fact, I’m still a little sick, but I’m getting over it. There has been much excitement this past week with all the new things happening and the changes occuring, but it’s dying down a bit. Hopefully, in the next few weeks I’ll feel a little more settled.

Blessings,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

My First Tai Chi Class

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

MM,

I have always been interested in tai chi, and Nathan and I have been discussing taking a martial art together. This past Saturday, we took the opportunity to try out a tai chi class.

The tai chi style we ended up trying out on Saturday is Wu style. There were a few schools we found searching online, but this one seemed to be a good one that was easy for us to get to. There was a good one in the suburbs, but since neither of us drives, we were looking for a school downtown or within easy access to frequent public transit. In any case, the school we went to is the Toronto branch of the International Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan Federation. The academy is run by Eddie Wu, the descendent of the person who created Wu style tai chi. All things considered, we were hopeful the school would be top notch.

The class on Saturday was from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. We arrived a bit early so as to be able to talk to whoever was in charge there. Then we changed into some training clothes. I brought my black pants from my gumdo uniform and a black T-shirt. Then, one of the instructors there took us aside and gave us some basic exercises teaching us correct posture and stances for tai chi. These exercises were fairly simple. However, for me, relaxation exercises that involve movement often involve me thinking about them too much and they aren’t quite as relaxing at first! I expect after a while once they are routine, they will be automatic and much more relaxing for me. In any case, since both Nathan and I have quite a few years of experience in martial arts, the instructor put us with some other beginners (they were only a few weeks ahead of us, but hadn’t taken martial arts before) and went through the first little bit of the basic tai chi pattern for the Wu style. This was the fun part for me because I always loved doing my taekwondo patterns.

Once we started the pattern, the stances felt more natural than in just the basic exercise drills. Because the stances emphasis movement and changing energy, it was easier to understand how to do the stances while doing the pattern rather than just standing still. We got to do quite a bit of the pattern, but it’s still pretty far from the complete pattern. The problem, of course, is that we don’t remember the schematics of the pattern yet, so it is hard to follow along because you have to keep watching the instructor.

In any case, it was interesting to try out. I can’t wait to learn the whole pattern and just work on refining it, but I’m going to take my time. I’m not planning on switching martial arts. Rather I decided to take tai chi as a complement to my taekwondo training. Since I switched do jangs over a year ago, I’ve been worried about the lack of training in hand techniques and stances at my new do jang. When I do end up taking a patterns class in taekwondo, I end up teaching it and don’t get the practice I would like. In any case, working on the tai chi patterns should help me maintain the precision I had when I used to do stance work more. I have to say at this point that I love the taekwondo do jang I train at, the Master treats everyone like family and is quite sincere, but he has a slightly different training style than what I’m used to when I was a colour belt.

I found the tai chi class to be challenging in a different way than taekwondo. It’s more meditative which is what I wanted. The interesting thing is that I felt a little energized after taking the class. I probably could have gone for some cardio afterwards. (However, I didn’t sleep too well the night before and was a little sick so in this case the tai chi class was good enough.) The tai chi class felt like a good warm up for me. Like all martial arts, tai chi utilizes the whole body – you will feel it.

The last twenty minutes of the class was set aside to run through the whole pattern as a entire class. It was challenging to try to keep up and try to do a bit more of the pattern just by following along. I think I got nearly halfway through before it got too complicated for me to intuit the next moves. (Since it is a pattern you can intuit some parts of it because some parts repeat but with slight modifications.) So, I stepped out and joined Nathan on the side to watch the rest of it. I have to say that even though tai chi emphasizes slow movements (referred to as isometric exercise), when you’re doing the pattern it goes by faster than watching it. I think once I learn the whole pattern (which consists of 108 forms), I will try doing the pattern slower and faster to get a different feel for it each time. My guess is if you do the techniques faster, you can definitely see the martial arts application of tai chi.

After the class, we spoke with the instructors there some more. I had some questions about some of their intermediate and advanced classes. They suggested that since Nathan and I both have martial arts experience, we could come to the martial class whenever. However, I don’t do much grappling sparring and I get enough of it at taekwondo, so I might pass on that. I was mostly interested in the health, push hands, and application classes. The health classes include meditation and qi gong among other things. Obviously, the focus is on using tai chi for health reasons. The push hands class will be interesting to try later. Those who study kung fu can compare this to “sticky hands”. Push hands works with energy concepts that need to be developed from working on the basic pattern and it is done with a partner. This will be interesting for Nathan and I to do together sometime. The application classes include things such as sword and sabre forms as well as rolls and break falls.

The two instructors at the school both have over twenty years of practicing tai chi. I have to say they both know what they are doing and they seem to be quite aware of other martial arts. They mentioned that another instructor there has a taekwondo background, so it will be interesting for me to meet him at some point. Eddie Wu, the head of the Toronto academy, is currently in Hong Kong. We were told he would be back in October. Hopefully, we will meet him then.

Overall, the experience has been interesting. The instructors and people there seemed nice. The energy there is quite meditative and relaxed which provides a good learning experience. Nathan and I plan to go back. Nathan is actually going to sign up. I, on the other hand, have commitments to taekwondo still. I hope that in the next five years I will make it to fourth dan (Master) and will then be able to teach taekwondo. For me, it makes more sense to go to the tai chi classes when I can instead of signing up on a package deal. The rates are $65 per month. One class is $15. I don’t expect to be able to attend five times in a month on top of running, weight training, taekwondo, my Wiccan studies, and making some time to work on reiki. All of this is part of my spiritual practice; however, some things take priority at different times. To avoid burn out, I’m not afraid to take my time with some things.

Another interesting tidbit… part of the basic posture for practicing tai chi includes placing the tongue on the top ridge of the mouth while breathing through the nose and keeping a straight alignment along the whole spine. This is also a posture that is used in Japanese reiki exercises where breathing is done all the way down to the tanden (navel) past the diaphragm. In tai chi as with reiki, this posture allows easy flow of energy (chi or ki) through the body.

Blessings,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Changes and renewal

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

MM,

The past year has been an year of personal growth for me by turning inward. During the past year, there were many things I had to work through, and I’m glad to say that I seem to have gotten through this period without any emotional scars. In fact, it has been a healing cycle for me. At the same time, I have learned a few things and some interesting lessons. These lessons have been necessary for the next stage of my spiritual path, and for that I thank the deities who watch over me. (Coincidentally, for those who know a bit about astrology, Saturn made a conjunction to my natal Sun this year. This translated to dealing with a lot of restrictions and boundaries, but it turns out this was good for me.)

A new cycle has started for me as mentioned in a previous post. So far it has been interesting. It seems the adjustment period right now will be the hardest – opportunities still like ahead of me, all I need to do is step through. It is funny that what you ask for sometimes is the hardest thing to do.

This cycle is also another one of renewal. Last year, I ended up taking time off from my Wiccan group so that I can focus on some other aspects of my development. Though I have not completed quite everything I wanted to, I have been able to return to the group and continue where I left off. In this, I feel that I am moving forward instead of just turning my wheels.

For this website and this blog, this means that I will be able to write about some other things that I have been wanting to write about in addition to what I have been writing the past year. I hope that readers will find this an interesting addition to this blog.

Thus, I shall end this blog by writing a bit about my group ritual this week. It was an interesting ritual based around the theme of changes at this time. Being a small Wiccan group, we each spoke about some of the changes that were happening in our lives lately. Then, since it was Harvestide (our autumn equinox Sabbat), we celebrated with a little feast and chatting. We did something a little different by calling upon our higher selves to join in the ritual and celebration. The ritual energy was nice and quiet, somewhat meditative which seems to suit this time of year. Overall, nice, relaxed. I felt quite grounded afterwards. :) Though I wonder if I felt grounded because I was the earth element for the ritual. I made up a purification based upon the Chinese character for mountain. It had a nice earth feel. After I got home, I got the sense that I needed to write some additional verses to the purification that could be used as well by expanding the earth part and writing parts for air, fire, and water. I will need to set aside some time to reflect on this.

Blessings and Happy Autumn Equinox,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Change is afoot – something new

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

MM,

In a previous post, I mentioned that a great opportunity came up for me to advance in one of my life goals. This relates to my Wicca studies at the Wiccan Church of Canada (WCC). At WCC, there is something called a Summoner and a Handmaiden, both of who help the Priesthood in ensuring the ritual runs smoothly with no interruption. The Summoner’s job is basically to protect the High Priestess from any physical harm and to be head of security. The Handmaiden’s job is to set up the ritual space and ensure that the performance of the circle is carried out smoothly. The Summoner stands guard outside the ritual. Normally, the Handmaiden position is held by a woman and the Summoner position is held by a man. This year, the best candidate for the Handmaiden position was a male, so they required a female Summoner (for the purposes of retaining the appearance of male and female polarity in a ritual context). I’m pleased and honoured to say that I have been given the opportunity to hold the Summoner position!

This is something I’ve always wanted to do for my community. I’ve been hoping for the opportunity, and now it is here. My installation ritual was last Sunday (September 17) and my term has officially started. This, however, means that I have to be at ritual every Sunday night. That is a big commitment, but one I was willing to take. I’m hoping that the year will be a positive experience for both myself and the community as a whole (there may be some people who aren’t receptive to having a woman act as Summoner). I’m relying on my experience in martial arts to help me not only in the act of defense, if required, but also in dealing with men’s preconceptions of a woman’s capabilities. I’m hoping that my experience teaching and training in martial arts will give me the ability to read people accurately and to judge their motives. The Summoner role requires someone who can welcome new people to the community (i.e, be a good PR person) as well as someone who can protect the community. It’s a big challenge and one I’m looking forward to overcoming.

Unfortunately, this new commitment means I may have to put some things on the back burner for about a year. I’m hoping this won’t be the case, but I’m trying not to burn out. Aside from the public ritual at WCC, I’m also part of three other Wiccan groups – two of which are important to my studies, the third is fairly important, but isn’t a commitment right now. Combining that with martial arts and reiki, it will be a very busy year ahead. *sigh* Someday, I will be able to combine all this in my life. This is just what I get for having too many interests (though they are all part of my own spiritual path).

So that is what is new with me. Another thing that might be new in the upcoming weeks is more focus on spiritual topics on my blog. If you only have a vague understanding of paganism and Wicca, you may not quite follow what is going on, but I will endeavour to explain things as best I can without having to resort to a “Beginner’s Guide to Paganism/Wicca” (though I know there are books out there like that).

That’s about it for now. I have lots of work to do still, but it is getting late. I need to make sure I get proper rest.

Blessings,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Do jang and gym days – September 14 and 20, 2006

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

MM,

Wow, I managed to get into the do jang last Thursday (September 14). It was good to get back to the do jang. I’ve missed taekwondo so much. It was one of our crazy kicking classes.

After I got home from the do jang, I went for a run. I ended up with some cramps because I drank some water on the way home. :( I will just have to go for a run some other time.

My weekend was busy as usual.

I went to the do jang tonight (Wednesday, September 20). I skipped out on the poomse class and went to the regular martial arts class. We did some neat kicking combinations. Hehe… it’s been a while since I’ve done tornado kicks – I almost forgot how fun they are.

After the do jang, I went to the gym and did a little bit of weights. I hadn’t eaten much today so I decided that I shouldn’t push too hard (though I did increase the weight on the leg press :D).

Leg lifts
Pull-ups (aka chin-ups, military and parallel)
Dips
Leg press
Hamstring flexor (called seated leg curls)
Hip adductors
Lateral pull downs
Seated row
Seated chest press
Pectoral fly
Shoulder fly
Shoulder lift (this is called the shoulder press)

Free weights:
Situps (on a incline bench; worked out the obliques as well by doing double punches during the situp)

Tomorrow or maybe Friday I can get a run in. I need to run. I can feel the lack of good cardio and nothing beats the running. It’s just so hard to cross train taekwondo, running, and weight training. Now, I’m thinking of adding in tai chi. At my do jang, we don’t work on hand techniques quite as much as I would like and I want to learn tai chi sword style one day, so I thought I should check out a tai chi school. I’ll post a bit about that later.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Training update – August 18 to September 12, 2006

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

MM,

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update on my training. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I spent two and a half weeks working on my mom’s house; thus, I was too tired from all that work to go workout properly.

I did manage to get some running in and this week I finally made it into the gym. I’m hoping to get back to the do jang tomorrow night. I miss my martial arts training very much.

Here’s a quick summary of my running the past few weeks.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I went for a two mile run. The week had been stressful at my mom’s house, so the run helped with that. My time for the first mile was 8 minutes 18 seconds. The second mile was 8 minutes 50 seconds. Two miles took me a total of17 minutes 8 seconds.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I went for a mile a half run. My time was 12 minutes 51 seconds.

Monday, September 4, 2006

I went for a mile run. My time was 8 minutes 57 seconds.

So, I’ve been slowing down a bit on my running. Hopefully, as my life settles down to some semblance of a routine, I’ll be able to bring the speed back up. Right now, I’m mostly concerned with being able to finish the longer distances.

As I said, in an earlier post, my life has been crazy the past three or four weeks. It’s just about to settle down now. 😀 Yeah, I can breathe again. I seriously felt like I couldn’t breathe until today. Because of all the painting I’ve done at my mom’s, last week I felt like I might be coming down with something. I’ve spent a week catching up on work I need to get done and trying to catch up on rest.

Sunday (September 10), because of all the stress lately, I went to the gym for some weight training. I kept it light seeing as I hadn’t been in the gym for almost a month. All I’ve gotten lately was running. In any case, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. (Must be because of all the physical work on my mom’s house – painting ceilings work the arms and back apparently. I’ve been pretty sore in the upper back. Of course, this didn’t replace the cardio, which is why I kept up with the running more than the gym.) I did single sets of most of the weight exercises as usual.

Leg lifts
Pull-ups (aka chin-ups, military and parallel)
Dips
Leg press
Hamstring flexor (called seated leg curls)
Hip adductors
Hip abductors
Seated row
Seated chest press
Pectoral fly
Shoulder fly
Shoulder lift (this is called the shoulder press)

Free weights:
Situps (on a incline bench; worked out the obliques as well by doing double punches during the situp)
Bicep curls
Weighted squats
Additional shoulder exercises (front and back shoulder joint)
Wrist strengthening

Monday (September 11th) I was planning on going to the do jang, but I didn’t sleep well Sunday night. I decided it was best I stay home and rest. Yesterday, I ended up staying home again as I still felt like I didn’t get enough rest lately.

Today, I’m glad to say I’m feeling more rested and more on my feet. I think part of the problem might be that I kept forgetting to take my vitamins those days I had to go to my mom’s. I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. :( Usually I can go a few days without vitamins, but I need to take them fairly regularly. I have a fast metabolism supposedly, but I also wonder if my body just doesn’t absorb nutrients from food properly. Supposedly, you can’t eat enough in one day anymore to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need. This is simply because food is processed rather than being found in its most natural state. Food in its natural state such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains retain its nutrients better than foods that have been processed before being ingested. It makes sense when even just boiling vegetables takes out many of the nutrients. (If you boil vegetables, it’s probably better to just drink the water. Home made vegetable soup is a good idea.) Okay, enough about nutrition. I’m not a specialist, but I tend to come up with my own conclusions based on observations as well as research.

As I said, I’m feeling better today, but I still have work to catch up on. Kronos just keeps on turning the wheel. I’m hoping next week, I’ll be able to pop my head into the do jang and get a class in. I miss taekwondo, though I think about martial arts all the time. Oh, I did do a quick run-through of my taekwondo and gumdo patterns just to make sure I didn’t forget anything or my body forgot how to do anything. My kicks are still fairly good. It’s the leg press and squats – they really make a difference.

Okay, lots more to do. Be back soon, I hope.

BB,
Cassandrah
(whose life has somehow been turned upside down and all around that she doens’t know which way will be up afterwards)
Brigid’s Flame