Endurance

Distraction comes in many forms.

For me today, it was in the form of chickens, hunger and sheep.

The last week I have been spending some time away for the city and traveling up north to some of the beautiful country that Washington and Oregon has to offer. I find myself today, at my parents farm.

A lovely get away surrounded by nature and nestled nicely in the bottom of a valley which blocks out all noise except for the wind in the trees, the birds chirping, 250 chickens clucking, three roosters crowing and the sheep calling frantically for their morning meal.

It is in the middle of all this, that I find myself practicing.

At first, I did 2 of the 24 form to wake myself up. The first one slightly mentally cloudy, directing the movement mostly from my head but near the end beginning to feel my body wake up.

The second one, considerably slower and more mindful. More focused on where my eye placement was and consciously sinking deeper while moving with more synchronization of the upper and lower half.

Then on to the 83, starting out strong with mental intention and eyes focusing properly until, three things happened… My stomach growled, the chickens kicked up their activity 5 fold and the sheep suddenly sounded as if they had not been fed in weeks.

2 or three of them had broken out of the fence and were behind me getting startled and clucking incessantly.

My concentration broken, I started to get sloppy, but caught myself and started over. Forcing myself to slow down and sink in to the movement each time I restart.

Starting, stopping and going backwards I was able to finally make it to the end. My mind constantly searching for some excuse not to continue by latching on to the sounds and distractions teaming around me, hunger, chickens and sheep…Oh My.

This is day three since I decided to switch things up in practice by doing three full forms a day and my lesson is that I need more practice.

My mental focus needs to build its endurance back up to what it was in order to get my clarity during the form each day. Still trying to figure out if I should eat before or after practice and how much that affects my mental focus as well.

Maybe tomorrow I will eat a larger snack, or grill up a chicken….

Chickens

 

Practice Update

Short on time this morning, so I figured I would just pop on for a brief Tai Chi Practice update.

I am sore :).

Pretty much my whole body, but mainly my Kua (Inner Hips) and my all the way up my lower spine.

It’s a good soreness, like the one that comes after a good workout, and it confirms my suspicions that my movement has indeed changed.

The ongoing focus on incorporating my upper and lower body has start to pay off and I have started to be able to keep my mind in my lower body for longer periods of time. Before, I was moving my upper arms with all my intention in my upper body, treating the lower half as just kind of a tertiary unconscious movement. Unable to “feel” my legs moving, let alone which parts were moving when.

Encouraging progress for sure, but I still have a long way to go in order to integrate it in to my movement without having to thing about it.

There is a two week break coming up in classes for the fourth of July, I plan on using that time to put together a couple more videos I have floating around in my head. I have come to the conclusion that shooting, is the easy part. The editing and graphics are going to take a bit.

So, I am going to shoot three or four videos and spend the next three months editing and releasing one at a time. Not really sure the increments yet, but I imagine it will sort itself out :). But at least I will have content to mess with and hopefully start to release in a more timely schedule.

If you havent already, checkout my YouTube Channel and subscribe so that you get updates on new videos, they wont always have a blogpost associated with them :).

 

CHAKRAS

Authenticity

I have been digging deep the last couple weeks to figure out what it is keeps me continuing to practice.

Usually, I actively avoid doing that when it comes to something that I love, for fear that a deeper analysis will show that I am doing it for the wrong reasons. Or that I just cant get behind the reasons any longer often resulting in my interest fading or disappearing all together and me feeling lost again.

Reasons have varied over the years, to meet people, to stay in shape, to prove I can or even to be seen as hardcore to the people around me. Things that in some form or another become inauthentic under a more focused light. Motivations that just seem to be reaching, grasping, stretching, striving for something that I am not already or approval from something external.

Whether it be worth in others eyes, or my own.

Whether its an image of health that has formed in my mind, or an obstacle that I refuse to be afraid of and get hell bent to obliterate.

Things that steal me from the present, help me ignore what I am going through now but saying to myself “Once I get in shape, I will feel more comfortable with who I am” or ” When I get this thing done, life will be easier from then on”.

But, all to often I find that years go by and nothing has changed. That same feeling or issue sticks around and I find myself searching yet again for something to help keep the present buried and hidden from analysis.

But, Tai Chi is truly the tool I have been searching for all this time.

It’s practice has brought my mind from the future into the present.

Its movement slow, to bring attention to every micro moment. To breath it, experience it, to embody it with every fiber of my being.

Its intention soft, to expand awareness beyond tension. So that thoughts, energy, awareness can move cleanly through the mind, body and spirit without getting hung up on the snags of unconscious rigidity.

But most of all, to be comfortable with who and what I am in this moment. Let the frustrations of what I don’t know melt away. Let the knowledge of my ignorance evaporate and instead of fight it, embrace it.

Comforted by the fact that skills will enhance, knowledge will change and movement always happens through practice and time, but today, today will never come again.

I will never has this perspective again. This filter in which I see the world will only shift every day, so, I try to embody it and live through each moment of its evolution rather than try to force it to become some image I have for it.

So THAT’S why I practice Tai Chi. For the power and knowledge it brings me to this and every moment, that’s why I continue to move forward in the present.

Because each lesson, each practice session, each meditation doesn’t bring me anywhere. They don’t put me in a different place.

No, each method strips a layer from the years of painting over my authenticity.

 

Authenticity

————————————————————–

For those that have subscribed to my YouTube Channel, you may have noticed that I put up my first “Tai Chi Discovery” video.

These videos are going to be focused on little epiphanies I have during my practice, or tools I have discovered one way or the other that have helped me get deeper in to the practice itself.

My intention is to capture my process in learning Tai Chi. I have found that information from masters or proficient practitioners is relatively easy to find, I have yet to come across anyone diving deep in to the actual learning process.

So, thats what I am going to do!

I hope that it will illustrate the depth and complexity of the art and bring attention to it from a different angle in order to bring more people to the understanding of how deeply it can change their life for the better!

All else fails, I will have documented my process so that I can look back and remember the struggles as I pick up students of my own some time in the future.

Here is the latest video and I have more in the works!

Back to The Basics

Whelp, I let it happen again.

I stopped my practice and self care for too long and as a result the last week my mind has been foggy and I have felt unclear and exhausted. I spread myself too thin.

Tried to do too many things, to keep to many things in my mind and the structure collapsed in on itself.

I just bought 4 notebooks and had created intentions for all of them.

One for personal journaling , one for project ideas (relating to youtube videos, blog posts, general internet projects, studio marketing), one for education (writing down information from the MANY books I am reading) and the fourth… well just a journal with no intention whatsoever.

I also have been working on personal videos, blog posts, and figuring out a plan for videos for the Studio itself.

If that isn’t enough, throw a full time job, a girlfriend, and the need to express myself as an individual through travel, time to myself and somehow finding time to visit all the people that mean most in my life.

It is just too much for my to hole, so now I find myself completely wrecked and pretty much in a state of complete paralysis preventing me from doing any of it. Not quite present in any situation just kind of numb and going through the motions waiting for a day like this that I can sit and vent it out in to the world.

I’m still struggling to figure out what to focus on.

On one hand, I really have the drive and need to capture my progress through this amazing journey in the form of videos, blogging and the practice.. but on the other hand… Life and time… Where is all the time?

How do I find the ability to make it ok to NOT work on something until I have time\focus?

How to keep the unexpressed intention from building so much it gets me in a complete dither, unable to function at all….

Bloat up so much that my brain just kind of melts in to a puddle and I lose the drive to even practice in the mornings.

Its frustrating to want to create so many things and not have the time in which to create them while still having a life outside.

It boils down to finding that balance between life, practice, creation and work.

But….That is a lot of things, almost too many things it seems to be good at all of them.

Is a life of only mediocrity waiting for me if I try to balance them all?

Even in school, I knew that certain areas of my study would have to suffer if I wanted to become great at what I was passionate about. I guess I have never considered that and tried to apply it to my life yet. Or do I even need to?

I have in my head an idea that if I incorporate my practice and my studies in to my life, so that I am living and breathing it through each and everyday, that I will be able to reach higher levels of skill more efficiently.

Is that true? Is it a delusion?

Are there certain aspects of life that will always pull me from my practice and demand my undivided attention with zero applications to my practice as a whole?

Or is life my practice?

How do I evaluate the priority of everything?

Well… again, the most logical answer would be to gauge their level of importance to me. That will determine how much time and effort will be spent on the different subjects… but there are also considerations in the requirements to actually proceed forward… IE, I HAVE to work in order to pay for my lessons\bills\rent until I can find a way to make my practice pay for itself.

Long term goal is to find a way that I can start to make money DOING Tai Chi. It will pay for my studys and fund my travels to discover, learn and teach as much as I can about this magical and endlessly complex art.

The trouble I have is trying to figure out where traveling for fun and visiting friends and family fit in.

I have two magnificent nieces that I would never forgive myself for not being a part of their life as they grow. So finding a way to do that is an essential.

I have an amazing girlfriend who supports me and my passions and whom I love to travel and spend time with. So she is most definitely a keeper.

My parents whom I love and miss all the time are always not far from my thoughts ever. So finding ways to connect with them a must.

And of course all of my friends who live off in all corners are constantly on my mind to find ways to see.

Then, most importantly (sorry…not sorry but it is) the training itself, training that by its very nature REQUIRES practice… practice which equals time, devoted, focused time.

Centered, clear headed time. Time where all those pulls are gone, all those distractions dissolved and all the guilt resolved.

Time where the mind hears all things yet focuses on none of them. Where the mind and body unify and create with a pure singular intention.

A state of mind that can only be achieved by letting things go. Letting them take their natural course and only interacting within the boundaries of that path.

I have always felt I would have to leave something behind… But what will it be.

My hope is that it will be the guilt I create for myself every time I choose my devotion to this art over something else.

So a tiny voice inside my head is speaking…. “Go back to the basics”.

Stop trying to hold so much, You cant be everywhere at once. You can only be where you are, so be there. Give where and what you are a chance, cultivate it with the knowledge that there will be a time where you will HAVE more time. This is only the beginning of your journey, don’t give up now. Relax, the knowledge you seek will come. It cannot be forced and you can only learn at the rate in which YOU learn. Give yourself the permission to dig deep in to your life and move past the safety anchors you have left to retreat to if things go south. You will find that those anchors you have left in your mind were merely illusions, an unnecessary drag on something that by its very nature exists without need of restraints or ties to keep it in vision.

All those people, those lives, they are following their own way, honor them by following yours.

 

Well, that tiny voice got a bit bigger I guess.

That should do well to get a couple layers off.

Until next time.

20160405_072403

Fit Is Not Healthy: A Shaolin Monk’s Guide To Exceptional Wellness — shifuyanlei

A great article about a balanced approach to fitness. I have always has a similar feeling to my fitness, trying to keep a balance of all the aspects related to health as opposed to heavily focusing on a single element of it.

Brought to you by a Shaolin Monk 🙂

In the age of social media, many people train for a body they perceive looks attractive to other people. When I was training at the Shaolin Temple, we didn’t even have a camera. Nothing was documented. We trained to conquer our mind and body and become the best we could in our chosen art form. Since […]

via Fit Is Not Healthy: A Shaolin Monk’s Guide To Exceptional Wellness — shifuyanlei

There is no Fast Track

With the internet, there is a limitless library of resources are available to us that previous generations could only have dreamed about.

Literally anything that could be researched or explored is a couple of keyboard strikes away from lighting up our screens and going directly in to our brains.

Books have been digitized, scientists have written blogs, NASA publishes papers, and the old masters once hidden on mountain tops have been captured on video and published on to YouTube for all to see.

With all of this knowledge just sitting there ready to be taken in, I have found it too easy to fall in to the trap of trying to replace knowledge with experience.

Trying to stuff every bit of information on all related subject in to my head at once. Including things that are far beyond my grasp to even comprehend. Comforted with the thought that, “Oh, ill pack it in there and when the time is right I will be able to understand it.”

But, as I go through these phases, and I begin to feel my brain getting so packed I begin to have tunnel vision. I reign myself in.

All of that knowledge, those advance techniques, those advanced energy concepts, those are all being taught by someone who ACTUALLY feels or can experience them. Someone who can interpret the movement or patterns of those concepts from their own reality, not just recite from a book they read or from a video they watched.

Those tomes of information in your head are all just theory.

There is absolutely no substitute for experience and experience is gained through practice. Hours upon hours of careful deliberate movement and mental intention that is pinpointed on FEELING all the parts of the body involved. Peeling back the layers of body insensitivity built upon by years of neglect and misuse.

The secret to mastery, to me, is not cramming more information in, being able to recite every principle or move in manderin, or being able to write all of the branches of tai chi lineage holders by heart. (Though, with time it is a goal I have 😀 )

No, its practice. It’s being able to FEEL, to CONNECT, to EXPERIENCE a unified complete movement and unbroken intention through every motion.

 

I bring this up to remind myself how far I have to go. It has been a year since I did my first recording of the 24 movement form. I posted the video on my YouTube channel and watched it after first viewing the original.

There has been HUGE improvement over the year, (To which I mentioned to my teacher and all he had to say was; “Well hopefully”.)

Much improvement, yet still MUCH farther to go.

I have pulled back on the reading I was doing and have limited it to things only loosely related to Tai Chi. Mostly books on energy healing and the energy body in general to help expand my basic knowledge of the energy body or the philosophical ideologies. Favoring the approach of trying to build this basic knowledge up to build a stronger broader foundation in which to bring my practice up as a whole.

As a result, I have actually had much stronger clarity and focus in my daily practice.

No longer feeling the rush to try some of those more advanced moves\techniques or distracted by figuring out how to work them, without fully understanding how or why.

My hips have opened up greatly, and the 24 is starting to become second hand. Passed the stage of trying to just remember and far in to breaking down the fine corrections\intentions in the movement itself.

I feel much more grounded when doing my form practice and, for the moment, its a great place to stay for a while as I continue to dig the holes for the footings of my tai chi practice.

Simple is better. Breath

 

fast-track-01

 

March 2015 form:

 

March 2016 form:

 

Can you spot the differences?

Friendship

I realized I am really out of practice with friendship.

I have mentioned before how I pulled myself through a lot of my addictions by separating myself from some of the extremely close friends I had back in the day.

There are a lot of positives that came from that, but I always feel a deep sorrow when looking back because often I feel that was the last time I was able to be carefree and allow myself to be completely open with those around me without the assistance of an intoxicant.

An unfortunate side effect to that experience is the nagging distrust I have for myself and others when it comes to dropping down my guard.

That dread of falling back in to old habits, or somehow slipping back in to my self abusive tendencies that in my head, feel like only a moment away from bursting free.

I have built up a behavior of mistrust and unease to remind myself that if let go, I will stop moving forward and go right back to where I started.

This has kept me from many deep friendships.

I recognize this as a new thing I need to heal from, but it is not easy.

Even this post has been extremely difficult to write, I have distracted myself several times to avoid some of the emotions that are stirring up.

It is something I am working on, actively reaching out more. Touching on those fringe areas of conversation that border on all out panic inside me. The fears, the vulnerabilities that I keep only to myself so that no one will see me as weak and I can “keep my advantage”.

Advantage over what? I have no idea.

Perhaps its the advantage of being so closed off that no one can get to me, no one will have anything over me to control me or manipulate me…. Manipulate me like I have manipulated myself?

There is a thought…

The idea that someone could know me well enough to invoke the same change I have created in myself kind of horrifies me.

Knowing all the things I have done in order to change my behavior, the knowledge of how easy it actually is to be influenced or steered in a direction. What if someone else sees that?

Perhaps its my sensitivity to any form of influence or manipulation that provokes that fear. Like a kid who was bullied when they were little, they will recognize all forms of it with much greater sensitivity and a stronger reaction than those without that experience.

Maybe, I have allowed myself to grow hyper sensitive and reactive to it, preventing me from even allowing myself to participate in the positive aspects of them. The aspects that are often present when a group of friends are having an open, raucous and fun discussion at the dinner table.

The kind of conversation that has no point, has no intention other than to enjoy each others company and to poke at each others personalities.

It is a frustrating struggle. To want to open up and join in but to not be able to find the words, or the connecting points to join the conversation, but it is still a pleasure to be around it.

*Sigh*

One day, I will finish repairing the damage I inflicted to rehabilitate myself.

In the mean time, thank you to all those I call my friends.

I enjoy your company and there will be opening, at some point, to a dinner table near you.

 

Friendship-Whatsapp-Status

 

 

Quality

The Tai Chi form has taught me many things that can also be applied to life, but this morning as my eyes opened the idea of quality came to mind.

In the form, quality can take the form of intention.

Intention in the action you are currently performing, an elbow strike, an arm bar, a strike to the solar plexus. These concepts are brought to the form to make sure that your mind is completely present with every moment which brings the “quality” of awareness to your movement.

This idea aligns your mind, energy body, and physical body in the movements. Visibly this shows up as what could be called fullness or completeness in each step, making the form “pleasant” to watch to outsiders with no clear indication as to why.

This same idea can be applied with life.

There is a quality in every move we make, every action we take and it presents itself invisibly to all those around us and people around us react to it. Often unconsciously (though some are sensitive enough to be aware of it).

That quality is what attracts or repels the things around us. It creates the very world in which we live.

What intention do you bring while making meals?

What about when you walk to the grocery store?

How about when you interact with someone who cut you off? or deal with that angry neighbor he always scowls at you?

Your intention is not invisible, I know we like to think our inner most thoughts are, but have you ever stopped to think how those unconscious thoughts have manifested around you? What type of people it has attracted to you?

Or, here is a doozy, what kind of drama  has it created in your life?

 

Practice your intention. Start small, one tiny thing in the morning.

Like pouring your cereal, what is that cereal providing? Are you angry that the cereal is the only thing you have to eat? Are you only eating because you are told you HAVE to eat breakfast? Do you wish you were eating something else?

Try being present with what is in front of you.

Pick the cereal, with the intention of enjoying it.

Pour the cereal, with the intention of filling the space of the bowl.

Grab the milk, with the intention of covering the cereal.

Pour the milk, with the intention of wetting the cereal.

Eat the cereal, with the intention of of being nourished with energy for the day. Energy that will be transmuted in to whatever action you are to be performing.

Action, that will contain trace amounts of the intention of the energy used to perform it.

 

Everything is connected and compounds what came before it. Accumulate your positive reality around you a single grain at a time.

Eventually, you will have a mountain.

quality-approved

Quality Control Approved

Rest? Nah, work.

Why do I always get the feeling that if I rest I will never come back to practice.

I spent so much of my twenties resting, it was one of my most refined skills. Always “relaxing” taking it easy, chilling.

Why do I hate it so much now?

Even the thought of it brings up panic inside my chest.

“No, I cant rest. If I was really passionate about my practice I wouldn’t need to rest. I would find fuel inside the practice itself, you might as well just quit if you need to rest.”

At least that’s what keeps repeating inside my head.

Yet another form of negative self talk.

Here I was thinking I had found someway around it, silly fool.

 

Went to a friends wedding last weekend that set forth an unfortunate chain of events that is still emanating through my life as I write this.

As per expected, there was a great party. Filled with dancing, friends and of course, drinking. Lots of drinking.

Now it had been quite some time since I had gone to a party, so in the back of my mind I held caution. Just a little, left there to periodically sample my intoxication level and stand at the ready to raise the alarm.

Unfortunately, that caution is not well trained and while I was able to maintain my composer, I did not, however, limit my consumption of alcohol.

So, the day after drunk town….

It felt like any hangover day…Really shitty.

Did the normal things;

  • Biscuits and gravy
  • Drive Home
  • Lay on couch and watch movies all day feeling generally sorry for myself

What I wasn’t expecting was the day after that.

See, there was something lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on me the moment my immune system let down its guard, or in this case, was brutally assaulted by expensive bourbon.

That’s right, some sort of virus.

It crashed on me bright and early Monday morning in the form of  a massive sore throat and the energy level of a tranquilized sloth.

So, I decided to “Rest”.

I stayed home from work and let the Tai Chi studio know I was taking some down time to recover.

Ha, down time.

So, instead of just sleeping, I pulled out my work laptop and logged in to the work network to get some work done as I laid there….

Sounds like the perfect relaxing way to recover from sickness right??

As you can imagine, right along side that work came ALL the stress.

All the work stress and NONE of the distractions. Just me, in my cave, sick and hyper focused on work.

I worked more hours that day than I would have if I had gone to work… and it was the same the NEXT TWO days!

That is how I “Recover”.

I drop all the self care and pull my work blankets up over my head.

Well.. at least that’s how I thought I needed to…

Now I find myself STILL sick, a week later.

Still feel like a sloth, but at least several hours after being tranquilized instead of freshly shot up.

I got fed up and did some tai chi this morning, the first all week, and it felt great.

My head is foggy, and I have this weird popping in my ears… but off I still go to work…

I think perhaps my priorities are backwards.

sloth

 

 

 

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.

HolyFirepanel1

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