Stairways To Heaven

It's been an intense week of training, which has seen my body undergo some painful but necessary changes. A deep tissue massage from a fellow student has finally released much of the tension in my lower back and has helped my shoulders drop, too. For two days after the massage my body felt as if it was screaming at me and I didn't sleep more than three hours a night until the tension finally released. I feel as though a great weight has left my body. There's still plenty of work to do on my hips but I'm confident these small steps are all leading in the right direction. I'm very grateful to have the time to explore my body again and heal myself in any small way I can.

On my day off last week my friends and I travelled up onto the higher mountain, perhaps for the last time on this trip. First thing on Thursday morning we took the buses and gondola straight to the "Golden Summit" which, while packed with pilgrims and tourists, was an incredible sight. The summit complex consists of two or three tiny Daoist altars to Shen Tian Shun Di, the god of Wudang mountain. The altars are hundreds of years old, covered in gold and overlook the entire Wudang mountain range. To give you a sense of how high it is, to climb from the bus stop to the summit takes approximately four hours. I was very happy to take the gondola and even then there's still plenty of steep stone stairs to climb before you reach the very top.

We then journeyed back down the mountain a little to the Nan Yan temple complex, part of which is built into the sheer cliff face. Nan Yan is said to be the place where Shen Tian Shun Di finally attained 'The Way' or enlightenment and is therefore a highly venerated place. Even though it's popular with tourists and pilgrims it's still another quite demanding climb up yet more ancient stone stairs until you reach the temple and palace complex from the bus stop. My legs were definitely beginning to burn but then we were refreshed by some delicious Daoist teas, one of which was infused with Ginseng and sent us skipping further down the mountain to The Purple Heaven Palace. It's here wherr Tai Chi was invented. I had already visited the palace but wanted to spend some time by myself practising my Forms on the ancient stone platform where Tai Chi was born. When my friends finally made it up yet more stairs to where I was, we managed to get some great photos of us practising on this surprisingly seldom visited and little known historical site.

By know my friend's pedometer confirmed we had climbed over 140 stories and we were glad to make it to our final destination of the day without having to climb any more stairs. The Carefree Valley is a monkey reserve where visitors can wander around and watch the local monkies scramble around the pathways and rock faces. We even encountered a couple of wild boar there, too. I was glad to get out of there with all my belongings because those monkies had fast hands, that's for sure.

An exhausting but entertaining day full of natural beauty was finished off with a huge bowl of noodles and some dumplings, of course.

We still haven't heard anything about our trip to Beijing and I'm not entirely convinced it's that likely to happen now. Even so, I'm continuing to work hard refining Tai Chi 28 and learning new movements of Taiyi Wu Xing Chuan every day. I now only have less than three weeks left and am keen to finish the Form before I leave, even if that means missing out on Beijing.

I'll be posting another video of my progress on Friday, so keep your eyes out for that and wait for next weeks penultimate post from the beautiful Wudangshan.

Xie Xie,

Keith Abraham Playful Dragon