Magicians

I have always wanted to believe in magic. The idea of a mystical power that can be seen and manipulated by some wizard.

My first inclination on strange occurrences is in fact always magic first, then slowly the analytical mind battles its way to the forefront of my brain and starts to break it apart.

Classic example… I was out in the back yard with my roommate and on the ground there was a round blue hairy mass shaped like an egg on the ground.

“Oh!! An alien egg!!!”  I had exclaimed.

“Umm…. No”, my roommate uttered with a raised eyebrow. “That is a rotten lemon.”

I guess Tai Chi has that appeal to me. I feel like I am in the realm of wizards  who have spent centuries toiling away and the hidden mysteries of chi and the human body. Passing their knowledge down the best they can to the people that will listen and practice.

But it’s getting lost. So few practice the art anymore it seems, lots of the masters are gone, the demands of the modern world prevent delving in to the depths of the art as far as some of the old masters. The cultural revolution led to the destruction and deaths of thousands of the old masters. Only a handful survived,  and the ones that did went in to hiding.

The knowledge lost makes me a little bit sad. I suppose that is part of the reason I want to focus so intently on it. I could spend my whole life learning it,  and barely scratch the surface of what has been learned. Most of the Tai chi masters spent their lives studying multiple martial arts by the time they took up Tai chi. I have done nothing of the sort.

What happens when there aren’t any more masters? The knowledge learned in Tai chi can’t be held in books, all books can do is show you how to practice. Only the people who have that passion for it will uncover the knowledge. But, maybe that is the way it’s supposed to be.

Only a rare dedicated few become magicians.

Here are some links on the cultural revolution if you are interested:

http://www.history.com/topics/cultural-revolution

http://people.howstuffworks.com/chi-kung-exercises2.htm

Vacation Brain

Second day back of relaxing. Forced myself to sleep longer than normal, even though the animals were trying their best to get my lazy ass up. It was fan-damn-tastic.

Did some more consideration of what my schedule is going to look like in the future.

I am thinking that Wednesday and Friday nights are going to be my relaxing days. They are the most free for chilling and should be enough to let me decompress and relax a bit, just have to be sure to allow myself to not DO anything.

Sundays I am going to start to get hiking back in there as well. Nothing like some fresh air to clear the head, plus my dog wouldn’t hate me as much :).

During the weekday I am going to alternate my practice in the mornings between jogging(TBD), Hunyuan Qigong, and Tai chi practice (of varying intensity). I will include meditation when it feels right and shoot for about 30 minutes when I do it. During the days I will cycle off days with push-ups, pull ups and squats. I will alternate those three exercises during the week so some weeks I will do legs twice… Etc.

Writing it out makes it look like a lot… I may need to revisit it later and write it in a scheduled form so I can see it all together. The idea will be to keep the energy level up during the week but still get some good practice and exercise in allowing for deeper intensity while practicing.

I have advanced Tai Chi tonight, it will be my first class back and I am both excited and nervous. I really want to drive back in but I have a fear of burning out as well. I hope that I can find a routine that allows me to go as intense as I want to but still be able to rest… There is so much to learn, I just need to step back and accept that I can’t run as hot as I have been and not burn out.

Today’s Practice:

We had a light practice as we were all relatively low energy for the late class.

  • 1.5 hours Advanced Tai Chi (24 form x 2 and once through the 83)

The Brain, Unplugged

Ok. So it turns out I do need some down time.

I took the last 3 days off of anything Tai chi and went up to visit some friends. It was good to give my brain a rest. I realized I got kind of caught up in all the things I needed to learn and was trying to cram it all in to every possible crevice.

Unstructured time is important, I have to remind myself yet again,  keeps me sane and just gives my brain a break.  Going to make sure I fit more of that in going forward so I don’t burn myself out.

The rest of the week is going to be pretty laid back. Going to ease back in slowly so I don’t completely ruin the vacation  brain I still have going on. I will spend most of the week figuring out what the proper balance is to achieve the level of training I want,  as well as keeping myself some down time.

Today’s practice:
not a damn thing.

The Morning Fog

I woke up this morning thinking I was starting to get a cold. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I had that foggy barely conscious feeling of a sore throat, and my brain was just…well moosh.

I got up two hours later than I normally do with an awareness of soreness all over my body and a lingering of sweat from last night’s sleep still on my skin. Something is definitely afoot.

A thought occurred to me as I zombied around the house trying to figure out what was up. I realized that I had spent an unusual amount of energy the other day being fierce and full. An amazing amount of focus and drive was pushing through each move… And I had done nothing to recoup that energy since then.

My head drifted to our Sunday morning primordial(Hunyuan) qigong exercises. This practice is mostly focused on energy gathering, and cleansing the energy body… So I thought… Ok, let’s give this a shot and see if this woo woo stuff kicks in.

So after I enjoyed a smoothie with banana, spinach, blueberries, almond milk….. Aaaaaannnddd that last mint chocolate ghiradelli square… You know… For good measure. (Absolutely Heavenly BTW….highly recommend) I decided to mix up my morning routine a bit.

I started with some meditation. I chose a different pose today than the one I normally do. I chose a t-pose with my palms pointing towards the ceiling. In my head I imagined energy being absorbed through my arms like a radar dish and sinking in to my Dantian. I stayed like this for about 10 minutes. It was surprising how easy it was to hold the position. I could feel my arms relax in to it and was vaguely aware of a sensation of energy ACTUALLY flowing through me. Imagined or not… It felt really good and was making me feel considerably more charged up.

After that, I did 20 minutes of some of the energy gathering Hunyuan sequences. I don’t know the names of them yet… But I kept my intention light and my awareness gently on gathering external energy and bringing it to my center.

After that I was charged up. Not fully but considerably more than I was! I felt like doing the form again! So …. I did! Man it felt really good, this time I was just trying to be “full” and focused on each movement instead of fierce. It was different than a couple days ago, instead of feeling like energy was being pushed out…it was more like I was just filled up like a balloon… But I still started to break a sweat. I was less acutely focused, but there was a feeling of my body being full. I only did it once this morning I did want to risk losing energy.

This experience made me kind of start to understand how all these different practices and energy cultivation can play off each other. I am going to start to think about and pay attention to my energy levels and start utilizing some of these new tools to redirect… And even invigorate my energy levels… I will need to talk with my teacher more about how to mix these up properly so that I can try to achieve some balance.

Very exciting stuff over all though. I love discovering these new applications and awareness of my body….

Ok, woo woo land… I think there may be something to you worth exploring more.

Today’s Today’s practice

took it pretty easy today. Need to recoup my energy.

10 min meditation
20 min Hunyuan Qigong
1 24 form easy intent

The Excuse Machine

It’s amazing to me how even though I know I want to do Tai chi for the rest of my life,  and I know I want to practice everyday…. I still wake up and don’t feel like practicing some times.

The excuse machine was on full this morning. Today was… Oh,  I used up all my intensity yesterday …. I should practice if I don’t feel like it yeah? Maybe I should just go to work early since I need to leave early… My legs feel a little tired… Maybe I’ll just give them a rest today…..Well I had a big break through yesterday… I should rest…  Oh my head just isn’t in it today.

Well… Obviously it wasn’t in it today.

I haven’t been able to pin down what the differences are between motivated days and unmotivated days… But regardless,  I was able to get myself to do some meditation. Even that was a little difficult to focus,  but I managed about 25 min.

In lieu of Qigong this morning,  I continued to read the “The Root of Chinese Qigong”  book by Dr. Yang that I found on my roommates bookshelf a bit ago.  I may not be training my body,  but I am going to further improve my practice in one way or the other.

I am not about to force my body to do something, I have been trying to listen to it more and just be more in tune with it. It wants what it wants I suppose.  I am not going to be able to force myself in to learning everything I was meant to know. That just doesn’t sound very fun :)… And I just don’t think it works like that.

I just decided not to argue with myself in the end. I went the path that had the least “noise”  when I thought about it.  That path was,  breakfast,  read,  meditate,  bus surf.

I’m not sure if I’m on to something,  or if I am letting my laziness get the best of me.  But all I can do is follow the day as it presents itself and just try to be fully aware of which direction is feels the best…. Or is that just another excuse.

Todays practice:

  • 60 minutes of train surfing (I think its time to mix this up. It’s so easy it is turning in to meditation)
  • 25 minutes of stand meditation (Middle position)
  • 2 hour seminar on a new health program. Possibly more details to come.

Fierce and Full

In the private lesson yesterday, my teacher pointed out to me that it looked like my lower and upper body were holding back.

This really struck a chord with me, as its is something I have been acutely aware of in other aspects of my life.

I have always felt like I was holding something back. Holding back ideas, holding back my passion, holding back interest…just holding back something. Never pushing myself to that extra limit, always pulling up before reaching my potential.

People that know me would say…

“If that’s holding back, I don’t want to see your at full throttle.”

And they are right, I get intense when I am really in to something and yet despite that, I still always feel I am holding back…. 3 years of intense obstacle races, years of drunken out of control parties, crazy hours working on school projects, intense singular focus on work projects…. Yet, still always had the feeling that lingering feeling. Almost like I am waiting for something worthy of my full attention and intensity.

My mind can be a highly focused whirlwind. When it gets pointed at something everything else disappears and I live and breath that thing until I take it to the edge its capacity. More often then not though, I learn it doesn’t have the promise I originally thought and move on without looking back.

In the past, it has led to bad decisions, bad relationships, and tricky situations in general.

I never wanted Tai Chi to be that way. I started slow… For me :)… I went to class 4 times a week and practiced every morning for 2 hours. I learned the first form pretty quick…. At least the over all choreography (I hope to never stop learning corrections to the form). It took over my exercise routine time. So to me, it was just exercise and nothing more. I of course was really in to it, but it was kind of a probing cursory interest for about a year.

Well, I turned a corner one could say. I find myself wanting to take Tai Chi to that place I have never been. The place where I take it past my comfort zone, right past the point of passive interest, and straight past the point of no return.

I have amped up to next level and as a result I had yet another breakthrough in my form this morning:

Fierce and full.

Those were the concepts I was left with after my private lesson to kind of start exploring.

Fierce.. Not in a vicious way. Fierce like…. This is all of me to my limit. Not angry, not vicious, fierce just completely taking up the space my body and presence require. Fierce like, I am here, in the present and you have my full undivided attention.

Full, very similar to fierce. Full like my body is completely extended, my legs and arms released from inhibition. Completely involved and focused in each move, expression of intention from ever limb and every part of the body with a purpose.

With that in mind, My form completely changed. Half way through the first run through, beads of sweat started forming on my forehead. By the end, my arms had a layer of sweat on them as well. The speed did not differ from my usual (still too fast), yet my body and mind were fully engaged in each moment. This was a completely new feeling, allowing myself no distracted thought. Fully in the moment of what and how my body was moving. I think this was a taste of what Tai Chi is supposed to be. At least its a glimpse of a new level of practice
Three more times I did the form just like that. I have gained a new respect for the form and each movement.

Going forward I will be fierce and full. No more holding back and no more excuses. World of tai chi, here I come.

Todays Practice:

After the intensity of that form practice I got pretty tired later in the day. Took it kind of easy in the evening Dynamic Qigong class.

  • 24 form 4 times intensely
  • 120 pushups throughout the day
  • 14 pullups
  • 30 squats
  • 1.5 hours Dynamic Qigong

Stealing Practice

One of the things I enjoy the most about Tai Chi is that its teachings can be applied to almost every situation in daily life. Not only philosophically, but in physicality as well. I have been adapting it and stealing practice in almost every action during the day;

While on the bus, I practice redistributing the inertia from the starts, stops and turns through my root structure (IE, I bus surf). I have gotten really good at standing sideways (facing the side, the usual power stance) and can almost go the full 30 min without moving my feet at all. I am slowly easing myself in the standing in a forward horse stance (Facing toward the front of the bus) but I have found that it requires a lot more effort and it wears me out a lot quicker. Soon though!

While at work, I am fortunate enough to have a standing desk. So I focus on rooting and keeping my attention on my dantian. I am now standing most of the day and the moments I do sit I almost immediately start to get restless. Makes the days I am exhausted really hard :).

While walking, I am always focusing on extending through my spine and relaxing my shoulders. Letting them float down, and keeping my lower back flat and full while relaxing the hips. The shoulders are the most tense spot of my body, all of my stress goes straight there and pulls them up to my ears.

There are a million little ways to incorporate practice\exercise in to daily life. I have always held the belief that exercise should be a continuous thing, not something you cram in to a really intense 30 minutes of the day. Bodies are meant to move, its how they find their greatest vitality.

Been a couple days since I have posted. So, a quick catch-up on the last couple!

Friday Practice:

Met at the rec center with a couple of students this morning, still working out the kinks of how best to utilize this time. Things are settling in to form practice\discussion and next week we will start doing regular push-hands. Short day today as I had to get to work to utilize the few hours we had before we had our company outing.

  • 24 Form x2
  • 20 minutes of silk reeling

Saturday Practice:

Alcohol is rough…add a splash of hot tub in the mix and it multiplies it 10 fold. Only got a couple hours of sleep, but managed to drag myself out of bed for our early morning cleaning of the studio before all of the classes started. The senior\certificate students will be showing up early Saturdays to take care of that from now on to ease some of the responsibilities of our teacher. Both of the new students received keys to the studio today. Now him and I can enter the studio when ever we want. Quite a great honor bestowed upon us.

There are now 4 senior students at the studio who have committed themselves to the practice and a great community so far! I am really excited to see how things progress for all of us and the studio!

  • 1 hr Studio Cleaning
  • 1.5 hr dynamic Qigong
  • 1.5 hour 24 Form Review
  • 2 hours push hands class

Sunday Practice:

Oh….Thats today!

Got to bed rather late again, and still some lingering after effects from the hangover. Mostly just sluggish and antisocial :). Towards the end of classes attention was starting to wander, which was disappointing as we had our first disciple\certificate student class. We started going over the form in extreme depth, one of the steps in getting us to the point where we can feel confident in the form to be able to evaluate and correct it while teaching early students.

  • 1.5 hours primordial qigong (ending in 15 min standing mediation)
  • 1.5 hours beginning form (24) practice
  • 1 hour 24 from breakdown

Dividing The Day

I woke up today with last nights thoughts still in my head, “I am going to take a couple of days to absorb the knowledge I have gotten over the last few days.”

I woke up a little later than normal, just tying to take it a little easier and set out immediately to go have a half hour mediation session. I was practicing the “Holding the Ball” pose that my teacher and I run through and was able to achieve close to the level of relaxation in the shoulders of when my teacher was guiding me. I felt fairly accomplished and greatly relaxed, but at about the 19 minute mark I got hungry and got pulled out of it. That was fine, as my teacher said go with it, so I was off to make breakfast.

With breakfast in tow, I just sat in the front room in the quiet. It was absolutely wonderful, nice and peaceful and no input, nothing commanding my attention…Well apart from my dog who was trying to lick my face…as always. The phone was off for the day, and I had nothing that needed done at the moment. It was exactly how I wanted to start the day.

At the end of my smoothie, I had a revelation. I have the capacity to learn all the things I want to, I just need to cut the crap out and dedicate focused time towards my interests. There have been too many times in my life that I have made excuses to “Let it settle”, then end up going on a 4 day netflix binge where no conscious thoughts pass through my brain at all.

So that time is over, I would much rather cut the excess noise than to allow my brain to stagnate. The capacity is in me to be able to learn everything I want, but only if I make the smart cuts to my daily routine. Basically stop using the extra bandwidth with facebook…or random memes.

So, going forward I will be making a conscious effort to divide up more day and approach it a little less haphazardly. Starting with these general concepts:

  1. When I’m at work, I work. No phone, no facebook.
  2. When I’m not at work, I’m not at work :). No dwelling on the day.
  3. When I feel like reading something, read it. Don’t try to limit exposure for fear of burn out. Just follow my interests.
  4. When I feel like practicing something, practice it. Don’t wait for the perfect time. If you are on the bus, be the weird guy.

Todays Practice:

With a much clearer head today I was able to pick up both my tai chi magazine, and my qigong book. When I clear my head and just sit to read with me agenda everything just kind of gets absorbed without stress. So good 🙂

  • 19 minutes standing mediation
  • 1.5 hours Dynamic Qigong class
  • 40 minutes bus surfing

Burning the Candle

I have been pretty exhausted lately. I think I may be burning the candle from both ends a bit….seems like every spare moment I have I am reading or practicing something Tai Chi related, couple that with a brain intensive job and a tired person I be.

It’s tough when there is so much I want to do! Hard to kind of remember to sit back and relax and let it all happen in its own time. There is just so much knowledge out there I want to absorb and incorporate in to my practice. For instance, I just started reading the Tai Chi classics today in my spare moments at work. I am only a couple of pages in and there is already so much that I wanted to start practicing it immediately. II was mentally practice where I stood and quickly realized that wasn’t the best type of practice I could be doing, I was only partly present in the practice and had several other things on my mind.

I will try to include a little bit of it in tomorrow mornings practice however. It is hard to keep myself in check as I read more about the art but, There is a natural progression and process that needs to happen in my body, as my teacher keep reminding me, that I need to respect and allow to occur. Forcing these things could cause injury which could end up taking me out for days or weeks.

So with that in mind I think the next couple days I will allow the new knowledge to soak in and incorporate itself. No more new knowledge for a spell.

It is also about time for a phone cutoff. Been slipping a bit on keeping facebook and instagram in check :). Its all a process, I have been checking it less, but it is definitely creeping back up on me.

I got my first edition of tai chi magazine today!! That is part of the reason I have been so stoked and been cramming information in. If you haven’t heard of it here is the address. Its super cheap for a year subscription and has TONS of good info in there.

Anyway, keeping this post short tonight so I can get to sleep early. Going to get up at 6 again to start my full routine. There has been several interruptions the last couple days that has prevented me from doing the full routine as I would prefer. Back to the routine!!

Todays Practice:

I had another dental appointment today so I didnt get a full morning session in again.

  • 20 minutes silk reeling
  • 15 minutes Zuan Zhuang meditation x2 (one before class at night)
  • 1.5 hours advanced tai chi (83 practice form)

Follow Your Path

i was talking with my teacher about Zuan Zhuang meditation today. Mainly about the different postures I should be trying out and the mental intention I should maintain as I am practicing. it led to a great discussion about the many different forms of mediation and all the different possible combinations that have been attempted. The best thing about this particular private lesson was something he said as we were closing up the studio.

He was about to lock up the door and he stopped, turned to me and said:

“If you are ever meditating and you get bored. Stop.

Meditation should never be boring.

You should stop and try to figure out why you are bored. More often than not you will find that your mind is somewhere else, which is fine. Sometimes that happens, so, figure out WHY your mind is there.

Never force yourself in to meditation because you THINK its something that must be done. Listen to yourself and follow where your practice will naturally lead you.”

I think that is true of everything.

it’s so ingrained in us to force things to happen that we think should. Whether we saw someone else do it a certain way, or we have an idea of what we want for ourselves. That’s not what its about to me.

It’s about learning where you are naturally driven, finding that sweet spot you are pulled to. That spot you find when you aren’t working, you are playing. The place you can live for hours on hours and when you look up, the day has past and you didn’t even notice. The skill or practice you can sit to read about and your attention never wanders. Instead you sit there like a sponge, absorbing every ounce of wisdom you can until you are so tired you fall asleep on the spot. Only to wake up the next day to continue exactly where you left off.

Once you get the taste of that knowledge, you cant help but have a thirst for it. The tricky part is to keep feeding it. Because it can go away, it can stagnate if you let it. DON’T LET IT. That is you. It’s a part of you and if you let it, it will push you to achieve your highest potential. Just allow it its natural course.

Learn to listen to it, learn to feed it, to cultivate it and it will bring you vitality you never thought possible.

Whelp… Thats all I got for today :).

Todays Practice:

Met with a couple of other students in the park this morning. It led me through kind of a rushed day that ended up utterly wiping me out by the end of the day. But it was good to practice in the park in the morning. It was bitter cold from the wind, and next time I will bring pants that are a little thicker. They meet Monday and Friday. It will be rough for a couple weeks as I adjust to the new routine, but will be good to interact more with other students and be able to do push hand drills as well.

  • 15 Minutes of warmups
  • 24 Beginner form 2X
  • 83 Form up to elbow to heart
  • 1 hour private lesson. Discussions and practice standing meditation and theory

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