The late spring Scholars Garden retreat is an annual tradition. Stephe Watson and I began it at the Chinese Scholars Garden in Staten Island and a few years ago we moved it to the more convivial, buccolic setting of Stephe and Ritu’s Someday Farm in Killingworth, CT. Sixteen acres of bliss!

Rick, Maria, Stephe at SG

The retreat has been a wonderful opportunity for Stephe and I to share recent discoveries and probe the anomalies of this strange world that fascinates us.

This year’s theme was “Living in the Sweet Spot: Your Body and Wholeness”. What are “sweet spots”? They are those ways of moving or holding your body that seem to spontaneously generate effortless power and a sense of well being. The first person I heard use the term that was was Rabbi Andrew Hahn when he gave a seminar on yiquan at TCA in Sedona. I have been using the term since.

In scientific terms, you could say that coherence is maximized and entropy minimized. In more woo-woo language: they are portals to Tao.

Stephe is an engaging and innovative teacher, and loves to cook up fun new ways to explore the mysteries of martial arts, qigong, and meditation. This year he took us on a labyrinth walk with eyes closed, showed us a gentle undulating qigong exercise, and demonstrated how to get the most from your elbow jin…and more. His greatest teaching, however, is the boundless generosity of spirit he shares with every visitor to his domain. Stephe creates an environment that allows everyone to lift their game and embrace new possibilities.

The biggest treat was our ringer: Maria Barrett. She blew some minds with two very powerful ideas, with supporting practical exercises.

The first was the concept of “holding space”and how it brings about tangible effects. The idea is not new, but her approach made it very much alive for everyone there. There is an optimal “safe space” for each person, and it may vary from moment to moment. In a hostile environment, it may be miles in diameter. When making love to someone you love and trust, it reduces to near zero. We “hold space” when we honor the safe space of someone we are with.

Healing can occur just by consciously and respectfully holding space for someone.Maria demonstrated this by asking for a volunteer with a pain they’d like to lose, and someone offered a shoulder pain they had. She then had us form a circle around him until the space felt optimal to him. He felt a moment of peace and contentment and the pain went away.

A related idea was to “put your space behind you”. When someone is unhappy, oftentimes it is because their space is collapsed. They feel impinged on by life and other people. We can help people by becoming aware of how our personal presence impinges on them. By bringing awareness to the space behind us, we create an opportunity for them to expand their own field. This opens them to new possibilities. How often do you put your space behind you in order to draw someone out of their stuck place? The therapeutic uses of this principle are endless.

I didn’t even get to some of the cool things I presented. Maybe next time. Better yet, come to Tai Chi Alchemy in Sedona (September 20-22) where we’ll take Sweet Spots even higher, deeper, and wider.