Colds, Exhaustion, Frustration and Food

I haven’t written in my journal or my blog (obviously) in over two weeks.

When I got back from vacation, I was completely floored for 4 days with, what I am assuming to be, the flu. Since then, I have been trying to get my strength back to practice at full capacity again. My morning routines have fallen away as I have been restless through the night fighting off night sweats and yet to have a full nights rest, leaving me exhausted for much else then trying to get ready for the work day.

I have been to several classes, but as I was not sure if I was contagious I missed a week and a half after I got back. Since then, I have gone to 4.

We are learning the sword in the advanced class, so that has been memorization and the other classes I have been leading or going through the 24. I have picked up some new concepts from the reviews, but over all I just feel extremely distant from my practice.

Without my personal practice time, I loose my connection to my body in class and I am not able to delve as deeply in to the forms, or the movement in general. I begin to look at it again through the analytical mind instead of discovering the movement through my body.

This has lead to a lot frustration internally that tries to lash out looking for someone or something to blame it all on. From my inability to ask the right questions, to looking for more teachers, to wondering if I have ever been actually developing in the first place.

But the crux of it is, I have not been practicing and the blame rests squarely on me and my exhaustion. But perhaps blame is the wrong word, it implies wrong doing, I have just been too tired to focus on full training.

It’s a couple weeks of this built up that I woke with yesterday morning. A morning with eyes open at my regular time (7AM), feeling awake and with more energy I have had in the last couple weeks.

So naturally, I decided to work out AND train.

I have read that working out can help boost the immune system, and in the past when I was training for intense obstacle course races, I had broken this cycle of getting sick during the winter. So the answer must be that I need to start sweating regularly again.

I kicked the morning off with 15 minutes of meditation, to get my mind right. Then I went in to my routine.

Squats, leg lifts, crunches, squat holds, scissor kicks and hip thrusts. Aimed at getting my legs and core activated and the blood\sweat pumping.

It took about 30 minutes total, but was aimed mostly for intensity and I worked up a really nice sweat.

Then it was time to train, I practiced what I learned of the sword twice, then timed 15 minutes of stick work targeting a deep horse stance and keeping my mind centered and focused on the activity at hand,or at least pulling the attention back when I felt it wander. (After almost two weeks without meditation it was quite the greased hog to settle down).

Then it was time to eat, I was feeling really good!

3:00 hit at work, it was time to do Qigong with a coworker. We have been doing 15 -20 minute routines just as a nice afternoon break, yet another thing that has not been done in 4 weeks. (Vacation + sickness + exhaustion).

So, I was all jazzed and feeling great so we went off and did a full 30 minutes. It was probably one of our best sessions, we both worked up a sweat and I was able to correct a couple of movements for him.

Overall, I was feeling pretty good about myself and honestly really excited about being able to start real practice again.

Then about 5:30, I started to feel it.

A flushing of my cheeks and a heat to my face. At that moment, I realized that I had also been coughing today more than the last couple. One that was more insistent than just a nagging piece of phlegm that had dislodged and needed to be expelled.

The worse kind of cough, a dry pointless one.

My girlfriend, out of pure chance, made her famous chicken soup last night.

Perfect timing, I thought to myself.

I gobbled it down, along with tea and zinc for dessert.

But it only helped momentarily.

At 10 the coughing started again, and I could feel the pressure in my sinuses start to build. It was taking hold.

Coupled with an open window last night, and the heater in the house being turned off. I woke up sick.

I was up sneezing at 5 AM, blowing my nose and wheezing yet again.

I woke up long enough to gargle with salt water and write an email to my teacher saying I’m not coming in for fear of infecting others.

Needless to say, I am pretty god damn tired of being sick.

This time I am going to defeat it fully. I am going to be eating chicken soup every day and drinking tea with every meal, I will just take stock of my studies and read some books. Practicing VERY lightly until I feel strong for more than a day.

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Writing Day

It’s Wednesday, my writing day, and I am delightfully hungover.

Not sick hungover, I can just tell I had a couple of extra beers last night and I am feeling satisfied about it.

It was one of those days that I just needed that extra little reset button to put my mind at ease. Thankfully that is not a reset button I have needed much, if any, recently so I allowed myself to indulge a little bit.

Now, I am up at my regular hour just a touch foggy and still looking back in fondness of the nights adventure.

Nothing complicated, just a nice dinner with the roommates and hanging out. My favorite way to relax.

Our household is shifting a bit, getting ready for an additional roommate to ease the financial burden on the house. Requires a lot of shifting of objects and standards of living. Tightening up the ship as it were, getting our ducks in a row before adding another human to the madness.

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Practice is still going well. Every morning, except today, I have gotten 30 minutes of Zhan Zhuang in as well as about 15 – 30 minutes of qigong and stick work.

Still working my way through the qigong book as well. I hit a very interesting part where it is describing several processes for stopping thought during meditation.  Not familiar enough with them to describe them yet, but I am going to try a couple for a week or so and see how well they fit me.

Lots of talk about the emotional mind and the wisdom mind and how they relate to each other and the practice as a whole, still processing some of that as well. The emotional mind is called the Xin and the wisdom mind is the Yi. The over all idea is that you tame the emotional mind and then lead it with the wisdom mind.

So basically, you learn to recognize your emotions and the actions provoked by them and then allow your higher mind, big mind or wisdom mind to them either put those actions in to play or dismiss them as an irrelevant one.

Lots more thoughts on that and how I have been incorporating that in to my life… but like I said, I am hungover.

Until next time!

 

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Soothing the Soul

The single most pivotal\profound experience in my life happened in a dream.

It left me feeling like there was something within me that I needed to share with the world. A feeling so strong that it drove me to separate from everyone and everything in my life and change directions.

At the time I was working construction and generally just being a bum. I was partying constantly, was usually on some sort of drug and spent my hours writing or dancing.

The morning after this dream, everything inside me changed. The lack of motivation I had always felt was gone. The need to communicate something was so strong, so fierce that it was the only thing that mattered any more. I HAD to find a way to let whatever that was out.

So I started going to school, community college to get my head back in the mode of studying and I started to separate myself from the crowd I was hanging around. That was the hardest thing, as I think about it now I have a pain in my heart, I still feel like I abandoned them.

These weren’t just my friends, they were my family. I spent every second with them, but it was the only way I knew how to get away from what I saw as a black hole. A life path that held nothing for me, I could see where it was going and it was no where good.

From there, I tried to just follow my passions. I had no idea what I needed to do and for the most part I had no idea what I was doing. I had no plan, just what was immediately in front of me.

Get the pre-reqs done at community college, go to another college… get degree… then what? A job? Then what? Family?

I ended up going to and art school, fitting now that I think about it, but at the time I was paralyzed with the decision between that and an engineering school.

Paralyzed because I knew I would do fine on either path, but I had no idea which one was the right one, which one was the one that would get this out of me.

Animation and game design ended up being my focus. I have always had a strong inclination toward movement. I could always FEEL movement, I could experience it through dancing and felt I could tap in to something beyond myself when I did.

My specialty ended up becoming, hilariously, optimizing and enhancing artists workflows.

12 years later, I have had three jobs in the gaming industry. One could say I have found success, but to me it still feels like just a beginning.

Like those twelve years were just to prepare me for what lies deep within me, the need, the drive, the command to help.

To communicate something, to help people succeed, to help people find themselves.

I feel I am closer now to this than ever.

Like whatever it is, is on the tip of my brain.

Whatever it is, a part of it is my my journal from 10 years ago which I randomly open up last night.

A writing that I pleaded myself to get out in to the world, but have yet to do.

It is perhaps the closest thing I have to the writing I used to do.

There was a journal I had in my early twenties that I would write in all hours of the night, stories about finding true meaning, about exploring the soul, about tapping in to the eternal knowledge within us and getting out of our own ways to live through it.

I lost that journal in Paris France. I left it on a train that I had rushed off trying to make my stop.

Years of writing and self exploration lost.

To this day, that is the single most profound loss I have ever had. But when I search deep for an answer to why I let that happen, the answer is always:

“You weren’t ready.”

Am I now? I have no idea.

But, for some reason or another I opened my replacement journal directly up to that page last night and I read it.

It floored me. The entry was so clear to me despite remembering writing it and feeling like it was completely unintelligible.

It touched me to the core, validated my journey and gave me a jolt of passion to help try to push me through this next wall of fear and self doubt.

As I search for a reason I happened to open my journal to the ONE spot, the only answer I get is, “It’s Time”.

So, whatever that means, I guess it’s my answer.

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The Dream Machine

I have been having crazy dreams lately.

The more I pay attention to my dreams the more involved they get. Im not talking about like a 5 minute random dream where all this crazy shit happens. I am talking about all three lord of the rings extended edition. A full story arc as well as continuing characters following a continuing story line.

I checked my facebook memories and apparently 5 years ago today I wrote;

What does it mean when you have episodic dreams everynight, and everytime you hit the snooze button you fall right back in to them where you left off… Kind of makes me not want to wake up…”

How is that for crazy? Maybe its something to do with the moon or something…Or maybe its because I have been meditating more and writing down my dreams… Most likely I am completely clueless.

That said, lets talk about my practice for a bit. Seems like it has been a while since I have mentioned what I am working on.

 

The Chakra class has introduces a new type of meditation that I have added to my weekly practice. I have been alternating between the standing Zhan Zhuang meditation and the sitting “Rooted” Meditation through the week and after each session I have been writing down what I experienced and any thoughts that come up and over all it has been helping me to process quite a bit.

It is pretty enjoyable to mix things up like that, it has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of meditation and that it has the potential to have limitless applications or approaches. The two forms have increased my awareness of different areas of my body and where I hold tension, as a result I have been conscious of a deeper level of tension I hold in my body. Through breath I am able to relax it and some of the aches I had before now melt away.

We have finished the 83 Form in class, it is still extremely rough for me, but none the less the whole thing is locked away in the brain somewhere. I, regrettably, have not been practicing as much as I would like in the mornings so the routine is kind of gnarled in several areas. It seems like the on practice I am able to get in lately is practicing in my head at bus stops or when I am cooking dinner.

Train surfing has become ridiculously easy. I have even started doing it on crowded trains with no worry of running in to anyone anymore. Using a forward horse stance is still a little dodgy, but I picked up a fix for a bad habit of raising my kua in the forward stance which has really helped me stabilize it more and allowed my to stand a little more solid.

Played a game of ping pong the other day, I usually get pretty caught up with it once the points start going and I start to get uprooted. This game was different though, I was able to stay rooted and relaxed and was able to return balls and react quickly. I sometimes went too far on the relaxed side and didnt go for the ball at all… but gotta find that balance right? So I think I may start to use that as a training bit for push hands.

Meditation and kua work have really leveled up the last several weeks. I feel a little more aware of my hips and dantian which is allowing me to correct a little more accurately.

Oddly, my awareness of the dantian has shifted locations, or rather maybe its just a new area of numbness. Since I have been able to feel my hips and waist more, there is an area deeper in my core that has no awareness what so ever. Maybe that’s the dantian? Or maybe it’s just the next area that needs to wake up.

One day maybe the picture will be complete…but until then, onward!

 

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Layers of paint

When you try to open the window of an ancient unkept house, the kind with those old single pane windows with frames that appear to be more paint than wood. The latch, so covered with paint over the years, sticks. You have to wrench it open over and over forcing the built up paint to scrap off in to a path.

The more I get used to writing everyday,  the more I feel like my brain is that latch and the paint is every unexpressed idea or emotion. Every thought I feel gets held back or delayed until “later”, one more coat of paint upon the last one, until I feel like I’m slogging knee high through a marsh with every thought getting thrown in the cue keeping me from being present moment.

Stuck processing things from days before whether I want to or not.

Writing scrapes off that previous layer of paint. Stripping my brain down and preparing it to process the next thing clearly and in the moment.

Despite this knowledge, I still struggle to actually sit down and write. Falling on the excuse of not being in the usual position or in the quiet. Things aren’t “perfect” so I can’t just make my space for self care.

So, now I am writing in the midst of the Christmas chaos.

Children running around, people chatting, the roofer on the roof trying to fix the leak, bacon cooking, dogs barking, mom running around trying to frantically find things for the people on the roof…. Me sitting on the couch a quiet pocket of relaxation and internal quiet watching it all around me,  happy to be amidst the comfort of familiar voices and holiday insanity.

Just peeling away yesterday’s paint.

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Plugging In the Charger

For countless reasons, my individual Tai Chi practice has been slipping the last month or so.

My mornings I have ended up sleeping in, my week days have been skipped here and there and my weekends have been spent dealing with life in other parts of the country. Taking me away from my regular routine.

One could say; it has been chaotic, to say the least.

Right on the tail end of all this madness, came along a chakra awareness class meant to stir all your shit right up in front of you in order to, well, to START deal with it. It is a great class, turning into more of several guided therapy sessions than I originally thought, but hey it’s about time I dealt with some of that deep emotional programming anyway.

All this life and self work has really sent me up into my head. Leaving out the balance of body mind integration work and started to lead me back towards that stress and anxiety that got me pushed me down this path in the first place.

In other words, the cable was plugged into the phone but unplugged from the wall.

In class we are working on the 83 form. I have been frustrated in my lack of focus and practice time outside of class in turn leaving me feeling unfocused and unclear in class, but not having time to practice in class because we are learning the next move. Thus continuing spiral of frustration and anxiety.

This is the second full weekend I have had in awhile and I realized today how much I had been missing while skipping my morning practice.

I started the day feeling pretty grumpy and tired.

6 AM was too early this morning.

After we cleaned the guan, the senior students worked on the 83 more. My mind was everywhere, forgetting the moves, thinking about groceries, work… you name it my mind was there.

At one point i was getting frustrated in Tai Chi itself, didn’t even know why I was there or doing it because I felt totally disconnected from it.

Thats kind of when I figured something was really wrong.

After about an hour of this internal struggle, something inside me finally woke up.

What I need to do is STFU and practice, I thought to myself.

So that’s what I did.

I stayed in front of the mirror, refused to let myself get distracted and worked. Around the 5th time through the section we had been working on I was finally starting to feel connected to my body again. Allowing myself to quiet down and slowly experience each move. Letting the motion of my body lead my mind through its energy patterns.

Pure Joy.

The rest of the classes went very similarly, quiet, focused intention on every move, every inch, every position.

Finally the calm is back taking over my brain, like a long drink of cool water after a long hike.

The stress and the anxiety are still right there at the edge of my awareness, I think they always have been. Tomorrow will be more slow, quiet intention as I return to the daily practice I am so reliant on. My hope is through a combination of this chakra class and tai chi I will be able to deal with some of the larger fears and stresses that live deep in the foundations.

I am reminded once more, happiness, contentedness is not a constant state. There are always fluctuations, external or internal, that will shift me around from one end to the next.

I must allow myself to relax and stay connected in those moments to keep the mind and body clear and relaxed or the old patterns start to emerge.

 

Added Bonus!!! My 24 form from about 6 months ago. Captured it in the studio and will be capturing another one soon for comparison!

 

One with the Earth

I find it much easier to stand while meditating.

I have been taking a course that is designed to allow a deeper understanding of yourself through increased awareness of the chakras and the emotional charges inside them. One of the major tools of this course is a guided meditation introduced in a standard sitting position. A position that is not one that my hips and lower back relax into easily. Regardless, I have been trying to settle into it without much luck.

As the first imagery is introduced I am instantly met with resistance. My mind gets stuck in the hips and back as they fight to find a relaxed position. The imagery in particular is one of rooting. Sprouting roots from my feet and perineum (root chakra) and allowing them to penetrate deep in to the center of the earth creating a link between me and the planet. Needless to say, my roots don’t go very far.

So I decided to try something different. Yesterday I went back to standing and was immediately greeted with a different experience.

I started at the train stop in the middle of the street. As I took a couple of breaths and let my mind sink to my feet, the world around me instantly became muted and distant. I could feel my body melt downwards and my stress just liquefy and flow down in to my feet, which immediately got a very physical pulsing sensation in the arches. I felt connected to the earth, as if my lower half and the earth were one piece and it would take a massive force to move me from my spot and I hadnt even begun to try to root yet.

To put this to the test, I decided to continue on the train when it got there (only partly due to there being no seats).

I stood in between the doors as I got on and took my stance.

Again, I was immediately shown that same grounded feeling. This time, however ,I was starting to notice a distinct tingling in my dantian and my intention would pass through it. Kind of like the feeling associated with “getting the chills” but localized to a particular area.

I was solid, the train and me were one. The normal turns and shifts that would cause me to shift my feet were nothing more than a tiny ripple, diffusing in to the ballistics gel of my body. It was by far the most grounded I have ever been on the train and it lasted until I hit the subway where I then took the rest of the ride to write down my experience.

Structurally and mentally that was the most grounded I had become, however, the guided meditation itself had its issues. The roots still have trouble getting deeper than a couple feet and moving on to the other stages gets muddy and lost at times. So, there is still a lot to work towards, but these little victories help me know that I am making progress.

I am going to continue experimenting with different postures, the fact that some are more difficult just tells me I still have things to work on and I look forward to discovering what they are.

Alex_Grey-Spiritual_Energy1

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