Finding Time

It’s next to impossible to find time if you never make the time.

So how do you get yourself to make it?

The motivation is somewhere in there, it pops up late afternoon in the most inconvenient time, but for some reason your body is lead and your limbs don’t seem to respond to your brain anymore. What is it that blocks you…. Some imaginary force? Well, completely imaginary actually, right up there in the brain with the rest of it.

Is that the ego?

Convincing you, “its better to just lay here and soak up the bliss of the morning fog for just a couple more minutes.”

Or, perhaps, it is a valid response to the stress and exhaustion from several days of hard work and emotional turmoil, in which case, maybe you should be taking it easy?

The only person that can truly know you, is you. As the saying goes, “Know thyself”

I happen to think that mental battle, that layer of exhaustion, the ego, whatever you want to call it, needs to be better understood in order to know what it is really coming from. Much like when training your physical body, you must know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Is that pain in your leg just muscle ache caused by the intense workout from yesterday, or is it in fact an early indication of an injury that could cause serious harm.

Both of these indicators need to be paid heed, but, while one requires rest and treatment, or even perhaps adjustment of technique. The other just requires a different set of exercises or a longer warm-up.

Its hard to know which one is which, the only way to tell is through listening, experience, and paying attention to everything that is happening internally. Your mind, your body, your spirit. They are speaking and through the mere intention of listening, your will begin to hear.

That should be your guide, only you can really know yourself and the games your mind will play.FB_IMG_1444706583738

Marinate for 24 Hours

So,  I am finally ready to admit something to myself. I am in a yin phase in my training and I am ready for a break.

I was going fast and hard for several months there, not allowing myself any mental downtime and I am ready to just coast to let all that knowledge just marinate inside the brain.

The universe is telling me it is time and I am ready to listen.

September will be a month of madness, I have a 8 day trip to Mexico planned as well as a bachelor party and wedding on two different weekends (Not Mine). If I tried to cram training in as well, I would probably go completely mental. So, I am dialing it back to something a little more reasonable for that month.

I will keep my morning practice and only hit class twice a week, skipping the weekends, since I wont be around anyway. I still have two weeks of normal practice left that will be focused just on well, practice, instead of intensely trying to learn something new.

New classes start first week of October, which brings about a new schedule and structure to programs. It really is the perfect time for a little break before the workload changes.

So onward to an extended vacation!

Focusing on no stress, recovery and light (extremely light) practice.

Not stopping all together, that would just be boring, but not cramming new information or training ideas while I go travel around and visit friends.

This weeks practice\lessons:

This week has been a fairly low key practice week. Just focusing on the drills and meditation to keep my mind relaxed through a high stress work week.

I did make a little breakthrough in the structure of my hips however.

As you may, or may not remember, I was having some knee issues a while back. I was able to narrow it down to several things back then, but found another movement that was causing stress on the framework of my right leg.

As I transition my weight from a right horse stance to a left one, I tend to allow my right knee to turn inwards putting a great deal of stress on the inside of my knee. In order to correct that, I have been keeping that knee\hip rotated outwards as I shifted left, allowing the weight to travel through the center of the leg instead of getting caught at my knee and straining the ligaments.

This new motion has activated muscles that are not used to moving and is shifting the alignment on the underlying structure. I can feel a difference in structure quality and my knee has been popping and shifting a bit as I try to make the movement a habit.

Overall, the result has been less pressure on the knee in general. It even lets me get into a deeper horse stance.

marinade-crop

Get the Memo

This weeks lesson is;

No one’s agenda matters but my own. No matter how much it may suck, or how far it gets my neck out there.

Its too easy for me to get caught up worrying about other people’s feelings, thoughts, or agendas.I will get so involved with other people’s schedules, needs, desires that I can end up losing my own in the process.

Last couple weeks have been a struggle.

I have been so worried about other people’s crap that I lost all the things I have done to keep me centered.

Welp, the line has been drawn.

I am getting back to my center and doing what I know works to get the extra static out of my head so I can think clearly again.

My resolve was slowly diminishing each week, thats how it gets me every time, one little thing after another slips. Then one day I wake up an energetic mess unable to think straight due to  the clutter.

I have been seeing a phrase pop up on me the last couple weeks that has been my saving grace:

“It’s ok to slow down, just don’t stop”  

Well, I have been listening universe. I have maintained a very minimalist practice everyday despite the madness.

Each day I have been doing one set of the 24 form and spending my train time meditating as I head in to work. Just enough to keep a toe in the training door.

Made it to a qigong class monday for the first time in 10 days and it reminded me why I go to those classes. It completely resets my brain. I know most of the moves, so I can focus just on the motion itself and let the monkey mind run off and away with that boom box on its shoulder.

I come out feeling refreshed and clear headed ready to take relax into the rest of the evening…. Totally going to start trying to find a way to do some of that mid day as I roll out my own agenda at work.

Kind of a disjointed blog post this time around… Been feeling really short and to the point lately. Not time for extra chatter 🙂

Todays Practice:

Morning

  • 24 form x1 this morning
  • 15 min train surfing
  • 10 minutes meditation

Evening

  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 24 form x3
  • 30 minutes teaching the 24

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Shapes in the Plaster

Yes! I have time to write today!

Not just physical time, but mental time, so I am sitting with the dog on the couch and dumping thoughts.

Mmmmm…what to write about.

Took the whole week off Tai Chi classes to spend some extra time at work to shore up some of the weak points. Now at least I have a general grasp on what needs to be done and a task list I can follow. Not completely out of the stress weeds…. but working on it.

This morning and yesterday I did get a full 24 in though. I still wake up early enough to have a bit of spare time and gotta spend it somehow! The last class, Saturday, we focused pretty heavily on a couple parts and I didn’t want to completely forget what we were talking about.

When I was a kid, until I was about 22, I lived life with very little inhibitions. I used to stare up at the clouds for hours letting them morph before me. I formed them into different shapes and creatures as they drifted, an almost endless array of forms dancing before me. There was no intention towards them. It was like it was nature’s television, pulling the thoughts and feelings straight from my brain and projecting them on the sky.

This concept showed up on other things as well.

The bumps on a spackled wall, the stains on the floor, the random groupings of fibers on a carpet pointing in different directions. I would find myself lazily focusing on these surfaces and forming cartoon faces, animals of bizarre proportions, and all sorts of crazy things. There was a subtle desire to give them life. Find some way to create them in the real world, but never had the patience to sit down and try to capture them. Too busy keeping myself entertained with all the whacky creations to communicate it to others.

Then went to art school.

In the beginning, the drawing classes had us do a lot of quick sketches, 30 second gesture drawings. One of my favorite things to do was to scribble some lines on the paper then doodle with it until it was some sort of face or creature. I have notebooks filled with these scribbles, it was so much fun.

At some point, however, I began to force myself into a more structured approach to drawing. As I was shown more techniques, I figured I needed to employ them so that I could become a more skilled artist to communicate my ideas. I had to become part of the land of the employed. I no longer had time for these silly flights of fancy. I had work to do.

What happened was exactly what I had intended. My brain shut off that part of my mind. Walling it up and limiting access to it because it “wasn’t the proper way” or “There wasn’t time for this absurdity”.

As the years went by, I got farther away from it. Favoring of a more technical aspect of art and ending up specializing in character rigging leading to lots of programming and technical setup. I got really good at it, but I have always felt kind of a loss for that abstract freedom I used to have. Aware only now, that it not only affected how I saw things, but the flows and direction of thoughts I had.

About a year and a half ago, I started drawing again and also took up tai chi.

The drawing started to melt that wall.

All the tension and rigidity that had been built up for the last 10 years started to melt away, very slowly. I got really in to inks and brushes and was starting to become free again.

I have only recently remembered that part of my life. Those aspects of my day to day, the freedom and unrestricted thought that used to be so easily accessed. It has been one of my main goals to get back to.

I know I am on the right path because a couple weeks ago, I started to see shapes in the plaster again.

IMG_20140515_201606_nopm_

The Scales Have Tipped

There is just doesn’t ever seem to be enough of it.

I have re-written this post several times. I cant seem to get into the groove so I will just go into what’s been going on in the last several days.

I find myself being pulled in different directions. There was just big round of layoffs at work and the shift of responsibilities has been causing me a great deal of stress. Change can always be stressful but I have become relatively used to these kinds of changes.

I have become used to a schedule that allows me to focus the majority of my outside time on Tai Chi. I got into a routine, now I am looking at a potential routine change. One that I am trying to figure out if I want to allow.

My work forces a lot of context switching. I switch from one workflow to another and try to make sure that the artists on my team are able to work as effectively as they can. This requires me to put myself in their shoes and see how they work so I can attempt to predict ways of making things easier for them in the future.

Busy days can be nuts, I sometimes have to go through 5 or 6 people solving their issues and juggling the other tasks I have on my plate. If one artist is stuck, that is my first priority.

It can be a really fun job, but it also has the tendency to wear me out pretty early in the week if the department is really pushing hard.

I guess what I am trying to say is, now I feel am going to have to do even more and I am trying to figure out if I have it in me.

The last several days, I have been tired. Profoundly tired and it has nothing to do with my physical body. It all has to do with the amount of attention and focus I have been devoting to the different aspects of my life. I had achieved a nice balance, a maintainable one between work and life. It was a balance that was so finely tuned that it was easy to tip from one side to the other. Right in that perfect sweet spot.

Last week, essentially a ton of bricks dropped on to the work side of the scale.

I don’t really have a resolution yet. This week I have to find new boundaries and make sure that goes well with the rest of the schedule.

Onward and upward. Wish me luck.

Put this on in the background. Great lecture on time management.

Time Management

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

nautilusFossil

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)

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