Archaeologist’s

I think I am starting to understand why most chinese martial arts are based off of animals.

Animals express pure movement, they don’t have the extra baggage of having to “figure out” the best what to do something or have the capacity of masking their purpose from the rest of the animals. Their bodies are pure illustration of their intention at all times.

When a cheetah chases its prey, it doesn’t think about whether it is using the proper form as its running.

When tiger is lying about, it isn’t thinking about all of the things it needs to do that day, or wondering where or if it will find its next meal. Its purpose and intention is directly connected and communicated through its body.

The deeper I go in to Tai Chi the more I realize it’s really all just about getting back to this state inside the body.  Removing the years of programming I have encorporated into my movement Learning to get rid of all the ideas I have on how I should be doing something and just doing it… Letting the body unlock itself and do things the way it is naturally inclined to do.

I look at this concept and can’t help but realize how far I am from that goal. There is constantly some thought or idea hidden in my subconscious, masking itself cleverly as relaxation, limiting my movement or obstructing my natural motion. The deeper the layers the more difficult and deep the programming is to uncover and modify.

The only key I have found, so far, is to allow myself to pay quiet attention. Passing no judgement on it, but to just allow myself to become aware of it. I try to understand its origins, connections and its uses, comparing it to what I have already learned. I explore its edges, walk around the visible sides up of it and start to carefully excavate around it. Like an archaeologist carefully uncovering the remnants of a long past civilization. Trying to figure out how deep it goes and what secrets it holds.

No matter the size, no matter the depth, thus far I have always been able to get all around and under it in order to extract it.

Perhaps extract is the wrong word, that seems like it’s removing something toxic.

It’s more like I absorb it. Absorb it into the past, allow it to become another bump on the road.

The results are much like when the physical body relaxes a long tense muscle. Suddenly, it unlocks a new more fluid movement and everything around it is different, new pathways of movement to discover and build upon until the next artifact is discovered.

Then it begins again.

Practice this week:

It has been a little slow going getting back to practice this week. Lots of reading and train surfing instead of the normal morning practice

Wednesdays Practice:

  • 20 minutes standing meditation

Thursdays Practice:

  • 30 minutes Dynamic Qigong in the morning
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi.
    • Ended up teach the 24 for 30 minutes of this class

Fridays Practice:

  • 20 minutes train surfing (So Fun!)
  • 30 minutes qigong
  • 1 hour form practice

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Something Is Knocking

It’s been an interesting weekend in the tai chi saddle.

Saturday was the full 9 hour day.

A bit taxing after resting all week to get over this stomach thing and I was definitely more tired than usual during classes. Nothing that wasnt to be expected however, the weird thing about saturday is that I had no connection to my body at all. Usually I get feedback from my body informing me the quality of my movement, but saturday it just felt like I was pulling levers on a backhoe. It was extremely frustrating. I was really regretting having taken the whole week off, all the time between practice I was convinced set me back and there was no telling when I would get back to where I was.

Then sunday came, sunday is the primordial qigong class, a much deeper meditative class focused on cleansing the energy body and gathering\circulating chi through the system.

For the first thirty minutes I had the same sense, zero feedback and couldn’t tell how I was moving through any of the exercises. I got tired of wondering why, so I just let my imagination go. I just let my mind explore the idea of a ball of energy moving around and through my system.

Oh right, should have been doing to begin with.

For the next half hour there still wasn’t any feedback from the body, but the imagery was extremely fun. It kept stealing me away from following the rest of class and I ended up being a little behind. No big deal though :).

It wasn’t until about a minute into the 20 minute standing meditation that I got really really deep.

At first, I became aware of the nagging thought I had been holding back and trying to keep myself from thinking about. It was about all the things I want to write in my blog and how I am going to write them. It has been a couple days since I have written and I guess I still have a lot I want to write down… but regardless my mind kept wanting to go there and I fought it to “focus” on practice. It clearly wasn’t helping.

A little voice deep inside the static of my mind said softly, ”Invite it for dinner. Pour it a drink and listen to its story.”

So, that’s what I did.

Instantly, I was transported in to my center, it was actually kind of a dizzying with how fast it was. I felt deeper than I have been before, but maybe it was just because the transition was so abrupt. Either way, I was digging it and I was fully in my body again.

My arms were out over my dantian resting on the little imaginary chi support pegs. The feeling from the other day was already there, my arms and shoulders were relaxed yet extended. A moment after I was “transported”, I began to have the distinct feeling that my wrists were actually physically being support by something. Not like before, it wasn’t an energetic feeling… there was distinct pressure on the underside of my wrists, some would say an accumulation of chi. Well… this is pretty bad ass, I thought to myself.

So I played with it a little.

My thought process went a little like this:

“Ok, so. If there are pegs extending from my center supporting my wrists. That means those pegs can be moved, they have a base and that base can be shifted, which in turn would move my wrists.”

So, I rotated that base forward. My arms went right along with it, extending farther forward yet still no muscles in my arms were activated. They were still just resting on those pegs.

“Ok, “ I thought “ So if that’s the case the pegs can also be lengthened.”

So, I lengthened them. Just like before the arms up with no muscle activation in the shoulders or arms….

Right about then came the soft “Gong”. The first of three that signify the end of meditation.

Its just never quite long enough is it.

But the feeling stayed with me in to the next class. I was asked to lead warmups, usually not a problem, but normalIy I havent slipped so deep in to myself that I forget what I am supposed to be doing.

It was a struggle to remember what moves came next, I kept falling deep in to each excersize and losing track of where we were. Luckily there was another certificate student there to remind me what was next as my eyes shot open.

The most of the rest of class just continued on like this. It was great, I was fully integrated again. Moving from the center and feeling the body beneath me again.

But then calamity struck.

I played a little fast and loose the night before out at the beach. Having a good time with friends… but maybe pushing my stomach a bit to far too fast, eating one too many sausages…or probably just shouldn’t have had that pabst blue ribbon. Relaxing for the day was done.

Whelp, maybe next time.

In short, that one little thought in my head I kept locked away, not allowing myself to think of it because I felt it wasn’t part of practice, was actually the key to allowing myself to fall back in to it.

I guess that means in order to go forward, I have to relax everything, even the barriers between unpleasant thoughts and memories. Relax and integrate them. Listen to their stories.

Saturdays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 2 hours push hands

Sundays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours primordial qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
    • Interrupted by some stomach issues. Time to go to a medical doctor

The Gasey Dragon

I took the last several days off from classes to allow my stomach to settle down. The pain\discomfort has been mostly centralized right over my lower dantian which makes it pretty painful when trying to move FROM the dantian. When I attempted to practice it ended up just making me really dizzy and nauseous causing me to have to leave class and lay down.

So, instead of doing the form or qigong this week, my main focus has been on my meditation. The quiet relaxation seems to help my stomach considerably in the morning and I get longer sessions in since I am not fitting in the forms as well. I have been getting full half hour sessions in this week, long enough to settle the mind into the dantian and settle in to deep relaxation of the muscles to allow for healing.

Today, I got a feeling that has been described to me for a while now but has only been a rough idea in my head up until now.

There is a mental practice taught when teaching the standing meditation postures. It is meant to help relax the shoulders and back and help the muscles release into the posture so that the muscles themselves aren’t holding the posture. One of these concepts is to imagine that your wrists are resting on a pole that extends out and up from your lower dantian.

Its an odd sensation to have, the pressure, or intention, in my arms faded away and went in to the inside of my wrists. I literally felt like there was something they were resting on. The feeling didn’t last too long, but it left me feeling surprised yet again how different thoughts allow you to change way your body is moving.

These can lead the body into different states of relaxation, tension or even change how the body moves all together. That’s why it is so important to understand the intention and the mechanics behind every movement. If a concept is held differently in the head than what is actually happening it can invalidate the entire movement or even cause injury just because the idea of how your body moves that is different from reality.

Last couple days practice:

  • 30 minutes standing meditation
  • Lots of laying down and relaxing

Standing Meditation posture:

LamKamChuen

kittyZuanZhuang

Listening Power

Feet shoulder width apart.

Shoulders relaxed and down.

Spine extended.

Chin down and back.

Hips relaxed, no, more relaxed. There ya go.

Find any tension left in the body. Where is it. Why is it.

Relax it.

Let the momentum shift underneath you. Don’t resist it.

Hard turn…. let the energy pass through your feet to the legs.

Allow it to transfer through your relaxed muscles.

Make a clear path for it to travel.

Align the legs so it passes through the center.

Oops, too much stress on the outside of the legs. Pivot hips slightly, there ya go. Stack the bones on top on themselves.

Hard stop! Sink into the kua!

These are the thoughts passing through my head during the 30 minute ride in to work everyday. It is always a new challenge, the driver is always different and always seems to be a bit drunk in his\her reaction time. Sometimes there is more side to side motion, sometimes the stops are crazy hard and catch me tensing up a muscle which hurls me in whatever direction the jolt is heading.

Its much easier to do when the train is empty. Less worry about knocking some old lady over with a bag full of fruit.

When the trains are more cramped it ends up being more of a high stakes gamble. More of a challenge to put my practice to the test. Can I keep my feet solid??

Bring it on driver.

Truly a great utilization of time when training in Tai Chi.

Push hands is heralded as one of the best ways to increase your body knowledge, awareness and “Listening Power”. This is a very simple form of it. Since I can’t do push-hands one the way to work, I do this instead.

Granted, it only activates the lower half of the body, but it’s the mental awareness that greatly benefits with a practice like this.

The “Listening” power.

Listening to how your body is aligned, how the momentum is moving through that alignment, what areas of your body are weakest and figuring out how to strengthen them.

Listening power is one of the most important skills in Tai Chi.

Once you begin to hear, it allows you to start self correcting. You to hear when the body is in a weak stance, or when your weight is shifted incorrectly. You hear how you sink into the right kua differently than the left kua and you start to accumulate a knowledge base of how your body wants to move. That knowledge is the foundation of your practice, its the meat, the core concept, the main thing you are trying to start to recognize. Once you get that, you have really begun to practice.

Do you know how to listen?

Todays practice:

My stomach was in full revolt this afternoon. I didnt go to class because of it. Not quite sure what is happening in that section… but there is something clearly wrong and has been since the dim sum incident.

35 minutes running

20 burpees mixed in to the slow running spots

1 x 83 (up to what I know)

Energy Vampires

Oh Hello.

How have you been?

Oh, Good.

Yeah, I have been super busy trying to get back into the routine since I got back from vacation on tuesday. It ended up being a great trip, but it made me realize a couple things;

1.) I need a much longer vacation.

2) Driving TO vacation is fun. Driving back, sucks a big fat one.

I ended up staying an extra day up at the cabin with my family, which was much needed as I would have only been up there for half a day if I followed my original plan. In the mornings, my family joined me for qigong outside in the mountain air. I have two nieces, ages 6 and 1, and let me tell you it is the most adorable thing in the world seeing a 1 year old flop around trying to qigong :). One of the highlights of my trip for sure, I only hope my sister ended up getting some video of that little golden nugget.

The week back has been interesting, tuesday I got back into the city at 7 AM after driving all night long and consuming enough caffeine to kill a small horse. I got home and just passed out immediately only waking up for some dim sum before going right back to sleep until tai chi class later that night. The dim sum was a major mistake. It had a nice little food poisoning surprise for me that destroyed my digestive system and I am still (5 days later) dealing with it. Won’t be ordering from there anymore.

Despite the stomach problems, it has been a full week of practice, hitting my regular scheduled times and meditation. Just was never quite centered enough to sit down and write, still feeling a little off, but I felt the pull to get some stuff on to the digital paper.

There is a subject I wanted to at least touch on today, energy vampires.

The things in our lives that eat up our mental energy. These things exist in our heads and in our environment. More often than not hardly even noticed or just absorbed in to our daily operations.

As I was leaving the cabin, my sister mentioned something off hand. She reminded me she had bought a new car and she was really enjoying it. She realized after buying it how stressed out she had been about her old car, always wondering if it would break down, just super tense about going anywhere for fear she wouldn’t make it.

I had some time to ponder this on the car ride; that comment seems like such a little thing. An almost off the cuff realization about just feeling a considerably less stressed. But think about it, that stress was something she was unconsciously living with everyday. A little piece of her mind and energy was being devoted to spinning up the possible misadventures that her car would take her on at any possible moment. How often did that fear prevented her from going out and doing something she may have wanted to do? How often did it affect her schedule? She just lived with it for quite some time. Learned to embody it in to her daily life but was it a conscious decision?

How many of things like that do you have? Stresses that have just creeped into your life that you now live with needlessly?

I have plenty, in fact, I recently just removed one I had.

I needed a haircut. I was long overdue for one in fact, but I just couldn’t get myself out to get one. I was worried the way it would make me look, the time had to find to get one, the instructions I would need to give the barber…etc. Finally, I was ready to get it done, I was at my family home and I was sick of it. Just one snafu, there were no barbers open!

I was done worrying about it, it was currently 105 degrees out and I wanted this hair out of my face. So I grabbed my moms trimmers and shaved it.

After I did, I felt relieved, I didn’t have to waste anymore thought on it. I had been spending so much time worrying about it that there was actually a weight lifted off me. I realize now that weight had been slowing getting heavier as the weeks went by without a haircut, the maintenance was getting harder, the hats weren’t quite fitting as well…just one thing after another adding to the self consciousness of what was on my own head.

I realize that this is a completely ridiculous example. There are much bigger things to worry about and obviously the solution is to just get a haircut more often….but it’s just a minor example of how easy it is for stresses to pile up on our lives. How many of them are needed? How many of them are conscious stresses?

What if every week, we actively removed an unneeded stress? Would that allow ourselves to be more fulfilled? Would we utilize that extra energy for something productive or beneficial to ourselves?

I have no idea, but it’s food for thought. I for one am going out to buy a pair of clippers.

Todays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours Primordial Qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 2 hours nap (Totally Counts)

Prime The Pump

Somehow, I always end up forgetting how important warm-ups are. Progressing through practice it’s easy to start to pinpoint a single thing to work on and go right for it without noticing the resulting mental shift until several days after switching things up.

Warm-ups, I reminded myself today, are not only for the muscles. They are also important for helping to get the mind in the right place for practice. The very nature of tai chi requires your mind to be present and paying attention through every movement at all times. Any excess chatter in the mind gets in the way and randomizes your mental intention, making it close to impossible to be fully present in practice.

I am on vacation now!

i have returned to the families farm to enjoy a couple days of relaxation and then we all head to a lake in the middle of nowhere for even more relaxation. I arrived late last night, so today is the first I get to enjoy the calm non-city life and it is absolutely fantastic to be surrounded by so many animals and trees again. There has been a growning need for me to be away from the city lately and this is only the first stage. The lake will be even better MUCH farther from civilization and away from any feelings of obligations.

Got up early this morning in time to get some practice in before the insane northwest heat wave hits.

As I walked up amongst all the chickens to find a practice spot, I was struggling to get myself to settle down and start moving. My thoughts were scattered to the wind, thinking about all the things I wanted to work on, how nice everything around was, the smells, the sounds, the energy were all kicking up old memories of the old days growing up and I couldn’t help but be taken away with them.

So I stood there rather confused about where to start and how to drop back into practice, but then the thought occurred to me…

“Why don’t you just do the warm ups?”

Derp. Of course you dolt.

Warm Up qigong exercises it was then.

After the first three exercises my mind was quiet and ready, a feeling that as of late has been escaping me. My mind was back on how my body was moving, feeling my hips (the main area of focus the last couple weeks) and how they were transitioning between the weight shifts as I went through the basic warm ups.

It felt great to have that focus back.

So I dared to slip into a more intense practice, I deepened my horse stances, put my mind deep inside my kua. I was intent to focus on keeping my knees almost completely still and I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, not allowing them to get to mu weight directly on them.

I doubled the reps I was doing for each exercise  in order to feel a nice burn in the upper quads and the inner hips. It was an absolutely great set of Qigong that lasted about 30 minutes. I came out of it with a nice sweat and a focused non chattering mind.

After that I moved in to the 83 and my mind was there completely.

I approached this 83 very slowly, making sure to methodically transition and focus on each move. There was no stuttering this time. I was completely aware of each position, how my body was flowing between them, where the weight was on my feet and was trying to feel the how the movements start at my dantian and go out. This was by far one of the best practices I have had in several weeks.

I didn’t time it, but my guess would be that it took about 15 minutes to get to tornado kick in the form. Still really far behind, but today’s practice boosted my confidence back up. i’ll be able to catch up to the rest of the class :).

I finished off the practice with about 10 minutes of standing meditation. I would have liked to have gone a little longer, but the dogs started barking down by the house and the sun was much higher in the sky, so it was getting pretty warm. I guess I will just have to get up earlier next time :).

Today’s Practice (in summary):

  • 30 minutes deep qigong (Focusing on the hips and leg strength)
  • 15 minutes 83 form
  • 10 minutes standing meditation

The Hunger Games

Hunger is probably my biggest nemesis when it comes to distraction. As soon as the hunger drum strikes with that deep empty sound, all abstract and logical thought drains out of me faster than water out of a busted dam.

Waking up hungry is even worse, it puts me in a state of unfocused zombie like wandering, much like from night of the living dead.I find myself unsure of what to do with myself or how to direct myself into what my morning routine is.

That friends, is where I find myself this morning.

I tried to eat first thing, but didn’t have much in the kitchen that wasn’t going to take some time to cook. Boiled eggs is where I settled, so I put some water on the burner to boil. While that did its thing that water on a burner does, I began practicing the 83 form.

I was focusing on the part of the 83 I had gone over yesterday in a private lesson, where I realized that I was waaaay behind the rest of the class and my ability to learn new moves has been reduced to a trudge through a muddy marsh.

I am about 10 moves behind from the rest of the class, due to assorted absences and teaching other students the 24, work getting in the way, etc, etc…  Needless to say, the feeling that I have been slacking is acutely present in me today and compounded by the fact that my brain is fuzzy with hunger and exhaustion from the late night at work, frustration abounds.

The 83 this morning was a struggle to focus on. To say the least.

I would go through the moves once with great difficulty, stuttering as I went seeming to forget what the next move was until my mind cleared a little. At the end of the moves my mind would immediately wander somewhere else, usually back to my stomach and the eggs that were still cooking. This went on for 7 more times and it didn’t get much easier.

Even after the eggs were shoved in to my face my brain still had the after effects. I had reached the dreaded hunger zone where it left a residual after effect of general lethargy and confusion. The danger zone as it were.

The effect lasts quite some time unfortunately, so I figured I would meditate instead of trying to go into the silk reeling exercises I really wanted to do.

My original goal this morning was to go for a full 30 minutes however, my mind had other intentions.

My thoughts were so scattered and unmanageable that it was all I could do to just focus on sending waves of relaxation through my body. Sections of my body were not cooperating however, areas that were just relaxed would tense up again as soon as the intention left the area and it was as if they stopped existing at times. Causing me to really breath deep and relax again just so I could sense the muscles again.

I maybe had about 5 minutes of actual mediation before my brain completely gave up on me. Ending my meditation at about 26 minutes. Not a bad session, but it was certainly an uphill battle the whole way.

So, I decided to just write the experience down while it was fresh in my mind. There are days like this, it happens, it’s just kind of the way it is. There is so little time in the day to do everything I desire to do. I pack my day so full that the offset of one thing just screws up the timeline for the rest of the week. Its really hard for me to accept that at times.

Part of me wishes I was kind of a robot, so I could just plow through all the things I want to learn and do. Not having to worry about balancing all my different systems and aspects of my personality in a way that allows me to stay energized.

But, i’m not, and TBH its kind of beautiful when you can get to the point where you achieve an understanding of how you are. When you start to realize when to eat, what you should eat, the types of activities that drain you, the people that drain you, the people that energize you, the places you feel at home and the cultivation of it all.

Those to me are the true purposes of my training and my time here on this earth, to learn the balance of the life I have around me and truly be in it at every moment not missing a beat because I truly see and feel what is going on and who I am.

Todays practice:

  • 26 minutes Zhan Zuang Meditation
  • section of the 83 7x
  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong (Hopefully)

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