Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes...

In which I go to the Wudang Mountains*, via Tokyo and Beijing, break my collarbone, find a yoga teacher, end up on the beach at Olowalu, and make woodblock prints from the experience.
* The pictures of the Wudang Mountains in this post are from my 2004 trip not the 2008 trip I describe.
Sun scrolls on mulberry paper back lit in the early morning

       In the early summer of 2008, right after my thesis exhibition, I visited China for the third time. My friend Galen and I met up in Tokyo for a raucous night together with my fellow grad student Mitsuhiro, then spend two days exploring the 798 art district in Beijing before joining our taiji group around Master Dong Zeng-chen. 
The author doing taiji push hands with Master Dong on the hotel terrace. Wudang 

One stop on the trip was the Wudang Mountains, considered the cradle of Daoism, a Unesco world heritage cultural site. The martial arts movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is based on the Daoist mythology of the Wudang Mountains. There are 60 temples, some more than a thousand years old. Our hotel was located right between the Purple Cloud Temple the Wudang Wushu Academy, where 12-18 year old Chinese youth live and practice taiji, meditation and gong-fu eight hours per day. They get to visit their parents once a year. An English speaking young woman acted as our liaison and gave us a qigong lesson one early morning. She impressed me with her incredible grace, natural kindness and style, which were partly expressed, through her posture and the ease with which she carried herself. 
One of the 60 temples at Wudang
 The Wudang Mountain historic site does not allow private cars inside the area. It has become more and more touristy, but there is still a living Daoist culture and I saw an old Daoist monk at the Purple Cloud Temple who had an amazing clarity in his eyes. He was one of the most realized human being I have encountered or recognized so far in this life.

I had just witnessed these young Daoist nuns practice their sword, but came to late to take pictures. There was also a Daoist orchestra playing that day, all at the Purple Cloud Temple, which is the center of the whole area.
Young Daoist nuns hanging out at the Purple Cloud Temple after sword practice.
     The kids practice amazingly hard and their focus, the way they carry themselves is inspiring.
      It is a different experience than the Las Vegas like Shaolin traveling troupes we get to see.


The young women and men equally impressed

and landing. This demonstration was especially put on for our taiji group.

       My posture was always been terrible, even though it had improved over 30 years of practicing taiji. During my time back in school my daily practice had slipped and two month before my thesis I had been so stressed out that I decided to stop drinking completely until my thesis was done, and to meditate again every morning. Now, with school almost done, I still had to write my thesis paper, I wanted to get my meditation practice to another level and inspired by the Wudang Mountain woman to improve my posture. I understood that meditation, good posture and the way I feel are all connected. Then, in August I broke my collarbone bodysurfing and in the fall I wrote my paper that included an initial struggle with the first draft. My doctor had said that with surgery or not, the chance of healing my shoulder well was 50/50. The decision was easy, since I don’t have insurance. Every month I would go to the doctor to get x-rays, but a small gap always remained between the bones. Grad school had brought up a lot of anger and writing the paper I was again drinking 2-3 glasses of wine per day and occasionally more. I suppose this didn’t help my shoulder to heal. 
  By the end of December my taiji friend Geri told me that her yoga teacher Myra Lewin was coming to Oahu from Maui for a one-day meditation workshop. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I went to the workshop and consequently signed up for the 7-day silent meditation retreat starting in early January at Olowalu on Maui. We meditated mornings and evenings, learned pranayama, did asanas for a couple of hours and had integrated breathing sessions every afternoon, during which we could touch on issues buried in the unconscious. We ate vegetarian Auyrvedic food, designed to clear your system and palate.  


Back home I started practicing as much as I could retain.
        The December x-ray still hadn’t shown any improvement of my collarbone. I could still see the separation. The week after the yoga retreat I got my next x-ray. My doctor dropped his jaw and pointed out that the bone had healed perfectly. Since January 2009 I practice every day, have participated in seven more silent retreats, did my own yoga teacher training in 2010, cooked for several other yoga teacher trainings and retreats, and now teach Ayurvedic cooking workshops and yoga. I will write more about yoga in upcoming posts.
       The meditation finishes by imagining a big, golden sun over my head.  Into this sun I can put whatever I like to manifest in my life, kindness, love, creativity, freedom, etc.  Then l let this energy pour into every part of my body, every cell even the space between the cells. This practice inspired me to work on a series of woodblock prints, which I call the sun prints.
     These prints evolved from 12” to 24” all the way up to a 48” plate and a 9” block. I printed them on paper, fabric, in single prints or long scrolls, and on clothes They have appeared in various exhibitions and hang in yoga studios and private homes.
24" sun. 2 layers of background color, 2 layers of sun, glitter.
3 24" scrolls at Compress, Arts at Marks, 10/2009

48" sun scroll

24" sun on red printed paper
24" sun with Love, Love, Love

24" yellow sun with red text (text carved on wood block)

Charlie Wagner with text dress
Sunscrolls in my Studio. Hand printed on Mulberry Paper.
All is Well - Anything is Possible


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