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By Ethan Indigo Smith (Reporter)
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The Tai Chi of Shoveling

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I practice Tai Chi. When I tell people that they usually imagine that I must always be soft and gentle. I do aspire to always be so, but Tai Chi assists in dealing with gravity, it does not eliminate gravity, and as we all know Sierra cement requires patience, not necessarily softness and gentleness. Tai Chi is about developing balance and so most often Tai Chi is done in the most Yin manner possible. We move slowly and relaxed to obtain balance after dealing with the gravity of life wherever you are, up to and including the gravity of Sierra cement.

    Tai chi is known as a secular meditation -even applicable to shoveling Sierra cement. When I tell people I practice Tai Chi they generally think it must be nice, but it’s not for them for they deal with exertion up to and including shoveling Sierra cement. This is exactly why you need Tai Chi – to balance said exertion and eliminate potential tension from the most Yang activity of shoveling Sierra cement. When I am shoveling I always look forward to the balance of Tai Chi to heal. I also try to embody Tai Chi principles to shovel more effectively.

    Tai Chi is focused on pushing and pulling. Use this modality when tossing snow and when carry it from one place to another. One arm is pushing, the other is countering the pressure in order to increase the force with minimal tension.

    Our arms are too smart for our own good. Utilize your back and core with proper structure – as much as possible. If ten foot burms do not prevent you from doing so toss the snow over your shoulder.

    Utilize the 70% Rule. Relax as you exert up to about 70% of the time it takes to be tired, by shoveling loads of about 70% of your maximum shovel load, using about 70% of the force it takes to reach tension.

    Relax. Utilize structure over strength. Use your big muscles without unneeded tension.

    Be rooted and activate your legs. One of the most crucial lessons in Tai Chi and hucking Sierra cement just the same is expressed in the tai chi expression, ‘The movement is rooted in the feet, powered with your legs, controlled with your waist and merely expressed with your hands – or shovel.’

    Breathe and meditate. Take time to breathe. Focus on your mantra whatever it may be. This time of year instead of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ I sometimes ‘Oh, melt around my home.’ Breathe and remember it’s going to melt anyway and before that it’s likely going to snow more, so as much as possible, let it go.  


“Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water (and shovel). After enlightenment chop wood carry water (and shovel).” Zen Koan


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