What is This?

I have been struggling writing this blog as of late.

The last couple of entries I found myself almost obsessing about the next entry. Wishing that I could immediately sit down and write down whatever thought I was having at the moment. After practice, I would instantly start composing the the next entry in my head. Barely giving myself enough time to even let the practice absorb.

How much of that is healthy?

I am still trying to figure that out even now, as I write this.

The main reason I started this blog is to get the information in my head out into the world in hopes that someone will find what I say valuable. From what I have seen, people tend to go through life keeping the innermost motivations secret. Fearing that they wont be understood or, even worse, they are ridiculous and need to be forgotten or repressed. I wanted to counteract that and put myself out there. One of the scariest things I have done in a while BTW. To try to be a little bit of living proof that, while its scary, it’s ok to get your thoughts out in the world and even a little rewarding to do so.

So, thats why I started it… So what is the topic of this blog?

I guess, i’m not really sure…

I don’t want to limit myself to any topic really. Tai Chi is my main focus in life right now, and it touches every aspect of my day. Influencing the way I think through problems at work, to how I handle conflicts with coworkers and friends. So really, in my mind, everything has some aspect of Tai Chi.

So really what I am saying, as much to myself as anyone else, is that I will be writing about pretty much everything and that it is ok for me to do.

But it still leaves the question, how much writing is ok? How much of my day is ok to think about what to write next?

So, I guess it would help answer that question if I try to define this blog more broadly.

As anyone reading this could probably figure out, especially from this post… It’s a way for me to work out problems I have in my head. Putting them down on paper frees my mind up from having to think about it. It makes it real and it’s actually easier to see a solution.

Ha ha, well now. Since that is out there. I guess I am just going to write as much as I damn well please :). I’ll just write whenever I feel like it, maybe even just get several days ahead in my posts. Wouldn’t that be a trip!

There are no real rules when it comes to self expression, at least in my mind. The only glimmer of a rule in my head, isn’t even really a rule. It’s just a hope, that getting myself out there will help someone who just needed that extra little nudge to follow through with something they have a passion for.

Ma Knees!

My knees are feeling fantastic!

I am still practicing on the high side of my horse stances during form and qigong. I have been paying attention to the subtleties of the higher positions trying to feel the sinking and relaxation in the kua and imagining what the lower stances would feel like when the knees have stopped groaning all together. I have actually been able to go much deeper standing than I was able to in the forced wider horse stances, as odd as that sounds.

Less is more!

I have done a couple things to make sure my knees have been on the mend:

  1. Switched to my Vibrams during the work week.
    1. They have zero heel drop and have allowed me to refocus on stepping on the ball of my feet while walking and standing instead of the heel. I noticed a difference immediately on the walk to work in the morning.
    2. My normal shoes have worn down to the sole on the ball of the foot and were putting my feet in awkward positions as I walked. This in combination with the forced heel strike was aggravating ma knees throughout the day, hence why after work they were hurting.
    3. I ordered a new pair of shoes that are less offensive, to pretty much everyone, so I can get the benefits without the need for explanations :). Inov-8’s are my favorite shoes, they have a large variety of athletic shoes, and are a bit pricey, but they are worth it. My last 3 daily shoes have been inov-8’s, though my workout shoes remain to be Vibrams.
  2. Corrected my posture while at my standing desk
    1. After paying close attention to how I was standing at my desk, it became apparent that I have been leaning forward towards my computer as I work. Putting the weight towards the front of my feet and pretty much straight down the front of my knees. Yeah…no wonder they hurt.
  3. Stood at a higher horse stance
    1. I have been going too wide for my body atm and forcing myself in to positions that strain my joints more than they should. I have been focusing on stretching out the kua and training my body to move in the more relaxed\higher positions of the postures.
  4. Just flat out paid attention
    1. Listening to the body as I move through the day and paying attention to when there is unnatural strain on any of the joints or limbs. When I find them, I experiment around with different ways of moving until I find one that relives the pressure. Movement without pain!

And I leave this post with a great explanation of push-hands by what is turning out to be one of my favorite online sources for Tai Chi Demos, Ian Sinclair

Sundays practice:

  • 1.5 hours primordial qigong
  • 1.5 hours form practice

Mondays Practice:

Kind of a big break through in meditation today, I realized that to be able to stand and meditate with my arms out.. I just have to disengage all my muscles, and they hold themselves up! Only took me a year and a half of meditation to realize I dont have to use my arm muscles.

  • 15 minutes Zhan Zhuang Meditation
  • 24 form x3
  • 83 form x1
  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong
  • 20 minutes push hands

The Edge of a Knife

I think I fear having a normal life. It just seems so mundane to me.

I have spent most my life trying to figure out what\who I am. Why I react the way I do to situations, how different things affect my mood/drive and trying to find what needs these intense addictions I sometimes have are striving to fill. Learning the hard way, bouncing through extremes to find the middle ground on which my feet stay firmly planted.

The end result being… That I am not normal, far from it indeed. I end up following the need for self improvement, attempting to fix some imbalance or weakness I sense in myself.  Some inadequacy I feel driven to hunt down and snuff out.
This tends to lead me to spend a lot of time alone. Not feeling understand, or I guess even not really wanting to be understood. Feeling often that I must do it myself without the aid of anyone else. Thinking that reliance on someone else is some form of weakness.

I’m not sure what that means. There is a deep fear of vulnerability hidden deep in all my actions I suppose. Yet, I often find myself grasping for it in the wrong places due to a lack of fulfilling a need for it nonetheless.

I’m just not sure. There are moments I feel I belong though.  Especially more recently. I have been making choices lately that have been allowing my true self and feelings to come out more and more. The more I do, the more my environment changes to fit those new forms of expression. Shifting almost daily to allow me to be more fully me. I feel less and less like I am holding back, a feeling I have always have, sensing more and more like there are people out there who understand me without explanation.
Yet it terrifies me. It has been so automatic to go along the normal life path like I have been, so comforting to know “how” I should be progressing. Not sticking out, just painting inside the lines.  There are set rules, set paths for what the standard is. The end goal is clear and there are no surprises. Work hard, become a manager, invest, save money, retire, have kids, grow old. Its what we are told by society we are supposed to do.

But I can’t in good conscious do that anymore. It makes me sad to even think about doing that. It just isn’t me,  I have tried that life…  I am still currently living it. It has become a means to an end, yet it still takes up so much of my time and energy.

What do I do now?

I feel I am on the cusp of some decision.

A fork in the road and there is still a fear remaining trying to smother the choice I hear calling to me.

How valid is that fear?

Last Couple Days Practice:

Work got pretty nuts this week and sucked out a lot of my energy. Probably why I am feeling a bit self reflective today :). I missed class Wednesday and Thursday, but I still got up and meditated and practiced in the mornings.

Wednesday

  • 30 minutes standing mediation
  • 24 form x1

Thursday

  • 30 minutes standing mediation
  • 15 min silk reeling

Friday

Met at the park this morning

  • 30 minutes silk reeling
  • 15 min standing mediation
  • 83 form x1
  • 24 form x1
  • 10 minutes pushhands

Saturday

  • 1.5 hours silk reeling
  • 1.5 hours 24 form
    • Taught the opening moves to the new students today

Peng Energy, or “Boing Power”

Here is a great video demonstrating Peng.

Peng is one of the four main directions of energy in Tai Chi. The best description I have heard is “Springy Power” or “Boing” power as described in the video. It’s the idea that, without muscle tension, you can create a structure in your body that requires no effort to maintain and is able deflect incoming energy in to nothing.

I am still learning what my body feels like to have Peng, but this video describes it greatly. I sense it the most during standing mediation, I am beginning to feel my arms being filled almost like a balloon and that buoyancy maintains their structure.

This concept is present through all of Tai Chi and is one of the most vital of all the energies as all the other ones are really just deviations of Peng.

Check Out the video!

Yesterday’s Practice:

Still taking it easy on the knees. They are pretty grumpy at the end of the day, during work I stand for most of the day and when I sit I think I need something to put my feet on something to keep the pressure off my knees.

  • 30 minutes standing mediation
  • 24 Form x1
    • Extremely slowly and keeping a high horse stance. Paying attention to the hips and knees
  • 25 minutes train surfing
    • No real choice in this one. No place to sit on the train

Too Much Butt

I was pretty sluggish and tired this morning, woke up early-ish but got to bed kind of late the night before. I made a valid attempt to meditate in the morning, but there was a much stronger pull to just enjoy the morning and do other things.

Checking in with my knees and they were feeling pretty good for most of the day.  Not much in the way of aches and pains even though yesterday they were popping and creaking most the day. Towards the end of the day they were starting to act up bit. It would appear that something I do while at work aggravates them. Not sure what, so it will warrant further investigation to really pinpoint the issue.

Through practice they didn’t hurt at all, standing and walking were where most of the pain was apparent.

Today’s practice:

Welp…. I was wrong again haha. I had a private lesson, and he pretty much said everything I was doing to correct myself in my last post was wrong :).

Specifically, sticking my butt out too far in my horse stances.

So, I was told to stop thinking about it and just relax the hips, just “Let them sink naturally. Don’t obsess about how to move them”.

Of course, this crazy simple advice led to another little physical\mental epiphany.

I relaxed…All the tension in my hips released, my knees went out and there was no pain even though I was lower than I probably should have been.

Sometimes it really annoys me how easy it is for me to over-complicate things.

  • 24 form x3
  • lots of talk about the proper way to stand and get in a horse stance.
  • 30 Min leading warm ups
  • 60 min form analysis

All About the Form

The knees are a talking.

Last couple weeks I have been noticing some aches and pains in the knees. More acutely in the right knee, but the left has been creating a bit of a racket as well.

For the last couple weeks I have been trying not to hold back during my practice. Allowing myself to get much deeper when sinking and really pushing the horse stances making sure I am going all the way down.

This has really brought to light the fact that I am just plain moving wrong.

After analyzing my form as I practice, the first thing I noticed was that I am allowing my knees to go past my toes in those deeper stances, a very common mistake while doing squats.

In order to correct that, I have to push my butt back farther and keep my weight directly over the center of my foot. In doing this it,  it also points out my ankles are still fairly inflexible, so pushing back strains the ligaments/tendons a lot. Need to stretch more 🙂

That I can work on, but keeping my weight over my foot immediately relieves the pressure that was on my knee and keeps the aches from happening during the movement.

The second thing is that I have been rotating my knees out FROM the knees in my stances. I was told that my knees tend to collapse while doing the form, which is dangerous and can cause injury. So I have been trying to correct it, but was doing it improperly.

I was putting my mental intention on the knees and forcing them outward from the joints, this is completely wrong and extremely dangerous. Now that I am aware of it I can feel the difference, but what I should be doing is rotating my thighs out FROM the hips, or open the kua. This may be hard to visualize, but the more I experiment with different points of movement, the more I realize that where I THINK I am moving directly affects where my body actually moves.

Now that I have recognized these bad habits I need to work on fixing them. Unfortunately, I have already gotten to the point where my knees hurt. So I will have to allow them to recover first.

Going to spend the next several weeks letting them rest. When the pain eases off I will do a couple of test movements just to see how they feel and that will be my gauge for when to commence some of the harder movements.

Until then, much easier workouts. Not as deep in the stances and paying close attention to the subtle weight shifts in the movement itself. Listening to how it feels in a less extreme pose will make the deeper ones later on a little easier when it’s time to shift. But overall, the key during this recovery is NO PAIN!

Practice overview!!

Been a couple days since I have posted. It’s been pretty busy over here!

Saturdays Practice

  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong
  • 1.5 hours form practice\analysis
  • 2 hours push-hands

Sunday

  • 1.5 hours hunyuan qigong
  • 1.5 hours forms practice

Todays Practice

  • 2 hours 24 form practice
  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong

Killer Mutant Snow Goons

I am amazed some form of this is not taught in western schools. Actually….come to think of it…our education system is pretty terrible so not that surprised. But it should be!

Remember how I was going to take yesterday off? Well I kind of lied.

After work I got bored and headed to the afternoon silk reeling class, and I am glad I did. We got a full list of silk reeling exercises as well as went over a new format for classes. I was still tired, I was expecting to just practice but ended up leading for a bit. I got out of it as soon as I could though so I could focus on practice. 😀

That is one thing I am starting to realize. My classes are starting to become focused on learning how to lead and is taking me a little away from the practice itself. That’s totally fine, it’s just something to adjust to. That just means that my morning practice is going to be even more important going forward.

Continued study is the key to being good practitioner of anything, IMO, nothing is more annoying than someone who takes a weekend class on something and is suddenly and expert. Tai Chi\Qigong are extremely deep arts, so deep there really is no end to their study. I will have to be both leading AND practicing in order to truly embody this art and go as deep as I feel I need to. Let me tell you…that is pretty deep.

Today’s practice:

Today was a great morning! Got up super early, didn’t check the phone…and just started a full workout sequence. I blame yesterday’s recharging for the amount of energy I have. Now to just remember that next time I make myself take a break :). The body signals are becoming pretty clear when it is time for a break though. So in theory… It should get easier to take a break right? I just have to remember to listen.

  • x3
    • 6 pull ups
    • 30 squat presses
    • 20 single leg squats
    • 30, 20, 20 push ups
  • ? Min standing meditation
  • 40 min Silk Reeling

I am not a Robot

I think the most frustrating things I have had to deal with lately is the finding out that I have limits.

I have never been a fan of working within constraints, or even acknowledging them.. I have always generally just ignored them so that I could prove they were arbitrary things created by fear of failure, or some other rationalization. To find the constraints that are actually hard wired in to my system\environment and that I have very little control over is rather frustrating.

I know that rest is JUST as important as training. Rest allows the body to absorb the training and gives the mind a much needed break to process things. I guess, since I AM studying tai chi, I should think about it with the idea of yin and yang, one must have a similar amount of the two in order to achieve balance. Too much of one or the other will lead to an unstable structure and will eventually cause the system to fail.

So i guess that is why on an early rainy morning in san francisco I find found myself sleeping in and sitting on the couch writing :). Begrudgingly…. but only a little bit.

It can be difficult to interpret all the signals that are going on in the body\mind. For instance, as I sit here, there are two distinct voices in my head;

Voice 1: “Get up, practice! Dont be a lazy ass, you wont get ANYWHERE if you just sit here. There is too much for you to learn to have a rest day”

Voice 2: “Dude, just chill out. Wednesday and Friday are your rest days.”

But, those are just the aspects in my mind. There is also another level I am learning to listen to  in order to help me make these decisions. I am trying to listen to my body. Right now my body is telling me it is really enjoying time to be settled and relaxing on the couch. Its telling me I have been changing its structure a TON lately and it needs a breather.

Its not just laziness…it’s a feeling deep in my muscles and bones. Its mostly coming from the knees, hips and lower back. They are telling me they definitely need a break. So I am not going to push them. They are the pretty much the most important parts of my body and I should probably ease off them when they start to grumble and creak.

They will be ready to go after a bit of rest and my mind will enjoy wandering a bit and exploring some of the lessons that have been passed on through the week.

So, rest up body. Tomorrow we are going to work on those limits you seem to have.

Todays practice:

  • Nada-damn-thing!

robot

Its All Part of the Same River

None of my meditation sessions are ever the same. Each one has its unique obstacles I must overcome as well as its own lessons to be learned. Sometimes I am able to get past the roadblocks, and sometimes I have to stop and come back later.

However, often times my meditation does follow a generally similar path.

After about five minutes my ego kicks in, trying to convince me I dont have the time to meditate right now, or any of the other million excuses. I try to breathe in to this. Trying to allow my consciousness to relax. Much like my muscles, which kick in later, my ego is tensing up trying to hold on to its grip of the world.

Breath in to the dantian, through the nose and out the mouth.

At about the 15 minute mark, my arms start to ache. I employ a similar tactic, though this time each breath I imagine a ripple of intention, much like ripples in a pond after dropping in a stone, passing from the head down through the rest of the body. It moves slowly, and everything it passes through is sent to relax. I continue this process until I feel the body no longer straining to maintain its standing posture.

About the 25 minute mark I hit another barrier. Its still a relatively new one, so it is kind of hard to describe. In this point of the meditation, I am usually working on allowing my consciousness to sink in to my dantian. More often than not, it is resting somewhere between my third eye and my heart chakra. It just kind of bounces between there throughout meditation.

But lately, there have been moments where it sinks all the way to my dantian, it never lasts long, but it definitely stops by for a visit.

It is most closely related with a level of relaxation that is pretty rare for me to achieve. My body is just floating, and my mind, though still mostly in my head, is loosely aware of my dantian. Usually I imagine a little rubber ball just making circles around it and sometimes find myself talking to it….asking how it’s doing and just seeing if it talks back :D.

So this barrier I seem to sense is the doorway into moving more in to my dantian. It’s like my intention is knocking on a door…or a wall to find the places in between the studs where it can get through the Sheetrock. Or maybe….finding an old ventilation shaft it can sneak into before the guards find it.

Like all the other roadblocks, I have a sneaking suspicion that the key will be to relax more. But finding the WAY to relax will be the difficult part. As with everything, the more attention I pay to it, the more little subtleties I overlooked become apparent.

Its a process that I am told never stops, though it may slow down at times.

There will always a new aspect or perspective to be gained in this practice. I have a long way to go, but if discovery is always going to be this fun, I sure am not going to stop :).

Today’s practice:

  • 35 min standing meditation
  • 1 hour private lesson
    – mostly went over the first move of the 24
  • 45 minutes qigong
  • 30 min teaching the opening move

image

Slow down and feel the world

A great post I found from someone who has been liking mine :). Beautifully said and echo’s my thoughts on things.

“I make tools so I have to do less work”

Playcooks

It’s a paradox of our lives that while technology is constantly invented that saves us time, we use that time to do more and more things, and so our lives are more fast and furious  than ever…

However, it doesn’t have to be this way…

‘It’s only when you stop moving that you can see what really moved you.’

Yes, movement is important to acquire experience, you need it when you want to really ‘feel the world’. But what is even more important – is  just simply stillness.

Only in stillness you can deepen the experience of life, to replay it and try to make sense of it.

For an energetic person like me, perhaps the most ironic lesson  has been around the need to slow down to move forward.

All of us, in short, are getting dizzy from movement, and find that our biggest luxury comes when we’re sitting…

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