Give it a Name

The last two week I have had three incidents where I found myself in a foul mood.

I don’t know about you all, but when I get in those moods my first inclination, that can sometimes last for weeks, is to ignore. To invalidate those feelings as “bad” or as unacceptable behavior and I tighten up and try to force myself in to a more tolerable state of mind.

I cant think of one instance where that has actually worked though.

Instead, all it does is limit my ability to appreciate what is going on around me. I get so tense that after a couple days it becomes all I can think about. Compressing me in a vice grip of happiness and tranquility.

Restricting my world into a single pin prick of awareness.

Until that is, I allow myself to give it a name and get to know it.

I find a way to give myself permission to feel it and often that comes from first understanding it.

Yesterday, it was frustration, frustration in the process of learning.

Annoyance in how far I need to go and wishing my knowledge of a technique translated to the ability to perform it.

I had no comprehension of this, until I allowed myself to write in my journal, where there was much anger and cussing. In the end however, it allowed me to understand it for what it was realized I should allow myself to feel it. To let myself use the frustration as a energy source to practice and push me forward.

I believe the entry ended something like “Fine, fuck it. I’ll be god damn frustrated if i want to be.”

Then, almost immediately, my world opened up again. Accepting those feelings as valid and allowing myself to experience them.

Monday, I was given a name of something I didn’t even know was bothering me. Something I just took as an inevitable response to working on computers for 10 – 11 hours a day.

It was a tension I get right behind my eyes and often takes me hours to get rid of. This video sums it up perfectly… its a short one so its easy and worth the watch :).

After watching that video I realized that is EXACTLY whats going on. I am spending do much time focused so intently on my computer screen that all that tension just keeps building and building until its a solid mass of some insoluble material.

But, after it was given a name, I was able to understand it and I immediately began to relax that space in order to let that pressure dissipate through the rest of my body. In the process, I found a great exercise I can do during the day that keeps that pressure at bay and prevents it from building up too much.

The third instance was last week, the Grumpy Face post. I was god damn grumpy. I felt disconnected, unfocused and EVERYTHING was annoying me.

The dogs toenails clicking on the floor, dogs getting in the way, cats meowing, people being awake…. you name it and it was bugging the hell out of me.

I had also recorded myself doing the 24 that morning and as I watch it now you can almost taste my fury :P. (Ill post it at some point and add a link here :))

But after I wrote and decided to choose to just let myself be grumpy, I was just… not grumpy.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that is just as easy as saying, “Oh, i’m grumpy now i’m just going to be grumpy.”

No, that just seems like its giving yourself permission to be an asshole.

I’m talking about understanding the reasons BEHIND the feeling. WHY am I grumpy. Once I understand why THEN I can accept it and allow myself to settle in to it.

Its like I give myself a little piece of candy for exploring…

“Ok, you dug around and found me. Here is a treat. Be grumpy as shit and enjoy the hell out of it now that you know why.”

GiveItAName

Sausage and Eggs

1-eggs-sausage-milwaukee

There are few things in this world as annoying as being shown how far your perspective of your progress differs from reality.

I have had this wild idea lately to start augmenting the blog with a video log. Thinking that I would be able to explain some of more movement based concepts I am exploring in a better way.

Last night I did a test shoot just to get some sample footage to start editing and messing around with to get a feel for what I need to mess with. I learned several valuable lessons.

  1. I hate watching myself on camera.
  2. I need to get MUCH more comfortable talking to a camera.
  3. My movement is light years away from looking comfortable or correct.
  4. Its going to take a shit ton of self acceptance and patience to get anywhere with videos.

So, im taking that frustration and trying to fuel my practice with it….So far, I just find myself at the bottom of a mountain with nothing but a claw tooth hammer and a ball of twine to climb with.

 

Focus:

Did the 24 this morning twice forcing focus on moving from the dantian, getting my mind in to my body and expressing each move. Making sure to move with full intention and expressing punches and kicks.

Onward and upward. I leave you with this wonderful Tai Chi video

Grumpy Face

All up in my head and grumpy as hell.

I’m not sure what the deal is this morning.

Am I hungry? idk… I just feel like my head is in a giant San Francisco fog bank this morning, despite it actually being a very nice day.

The neighbors outside light has been flashing on and off at irregular intervals for the last two days. At first I thought it was someone trying to figure out what all the light switches did, but i guess its not…just a broken light..

That pretty much defines me ATM. I think I have control or understanding about what and how my body and mind reacts but then, whatever it is i am working on just seems to shut off without warning. I suddenly just seem so far away from it.

I KNOW that is the natural method for a lot of this stuff, we get a glimpse of it then it goes away and eventually it just sneaks back in after some seemingly random amount of time and practice.

Sigh.

I suppose there is a great deal of frustration right now associate with my writing. I haven’t had a chance to sit down lately to do it and as a result I can feel the mental cruft that has layered upon my mind. I think this time i let it cruft for a bit too long bc it is considerably harder to get through the layers.

So now I just sit here in frustration. So, I may as well take advantage of it and just do some bitching….

I recorded myself doing the 24 this morning, it was terrible. Not even going to post it, going to reshoot it. One look at the first move and I can tell I am totally in my head.

My arms look like they are moving through jelly and completely disconnected from the rest of my body.

My back is all crooked and my hips all completely disjointed.

Its probably not that bad, but I want to be grumpy right now.

Maybe Ill let myself figure out why later.

grumpycat

Flippity Floppity

I feel like I have a lot to catch up on here today.

Life has been pretty crazy lately and has been keeping me from my practice.

Mornings have been filled with anxiety about work and I have been letting myself open my computer instead of meditating or doing drills and the toll is apparent.

I come home exhausted, almost zombie like, back like a crane operator pulling levers to get from one point to another instead of living inside my body.

I got some meditation in this morning, but it was a struggle. There was just too much bouncing around in my brain to let it drift through. Instead, I decided I just needed to write.

So, here I am.

One the the most frustrating things about being disconnected again, is that last week I was able to get a little bit of a break through and now it just seems like a distant memory.

During Qigong, I was able to consciously split my mind in to two parts.

In Tai Chi and Qigong, there is a mental practice along with the physical movements. The mental intention has direct influence on the quality and structure of movement. In the idea the idea is to separate your intention from your attention, that is mostly just a concept to me,  but last week I was starting to get a taste of something that seemed to fit along those lines.

What I was beginning to be able to play with was the idea of being able to leave a considerable amount of my awareness in my dantian as I shot little rockets of intention up and out through my arms and legs to do a movement. I was conscious of those probes, how they were moving, where they were and was able to sense the quality each part of my body around them as they moved. All this while the main “hub” of my awareness was firmly planted like a lead ball in my abdomen resting on my kua, or inner hip joints.

What this did with my overall movement was take out all the extra tension in my arms,hands, back, head. I was able to do a move without tensing muscles but more like creating a wave that originated from my center and traveled through the center of my limbs.

I suppose that sounds a little bizzarre, but it felt really damn cool.

I got three or four days of practice with that feeling, but then as my morning routine got mangled the feeling slowly dissipated.

Extremely frustrating, but I am trying to see it like every other aspect of Tai Chi and life.

Ride the waves of your revelations for as long as you can, hope you have the wisdom to know when to jump off, then paddle back out to sea and wait patiently for the next set.

 

crane

Attention Strikes

I woke up with that old familiar energy to over-analyze.

The energy that is hyper focused in the brain and is hell bent on figuring out every step of ever task I have to do today.

How I will get dressed, how I will get to work, what I will focus on when I get there. Down to the very detail of which file menus I will open and which order.

Thankfully, I caught myself before I got too deep.

After about 20 minutes of that (it used to last days), I got up and started practicing the 24 and the 83 form.

The image that comes to mind when I think about that experience is a rusty brake pad.

Like when a car sits outside for about a week with no use and the first time you press the brake the whole car lurches and grabs several times before that rust rubs off and slows normally.

That’s how my brain felt going through the 24.

After the first couple moves I eased in to it and was able to focus on two things:

  1. Transitioning through each move smoothly and evenly. Not stopping move to move.
  2. Cranking my right knee open. Still the bane of my existence is the fact that my right knee always collapses in.

The 83 was considerably tougher. Not only do I not have enough room in my living room to practice it, so I had to keep stopping and moving as I approached the wall, but I also realized that some careless person had gone and discarded all their old chewing gum over my brain floor and I had to keep stopping to remove it from my shoe.

So I learned a couple things today.

  1. I need more practice.
  2. It seems like it has been forever since I have practiced the form.
  3. Stop chewing mental gum.
  4. I need to go to the park next door for more room.
  5. I need more practice.

So, I think its time to get back to my more strict training routine so I can more smoothly approach each of the forms.

 

focus

Old Habits are Dying too Easy

Words are not coming easy this morning.

I know I have a lot to say, or ask, yet the questions do not come out. They just exist is the hazy fog of confusion. Confusion that mostly just surrounds my daily life.

I extract general ideas on how to proceed with things;

“Oh if I just keep practicing my circles, I will find my dantian.”

“If I meditate everyday, I will eventually relax in push hands.”

“If I keep my mind on my dantian, it will eventually form.”

That’s all well and good, but what am I doing? How does this affect me? Whats the point?

Every layer I can feel get peeled back, a thicker layer with deeper roots takes its place. On top of that a whole new perspective is exposed that needs to be explored and understood before progressing. A different way to view things, or new tools in which deal with something that was held back before.

For example, after that Chakra Healing course, I now have to actually deal with my emotions.

What a massive pain in the ass.

I sit here and have to actually talk things out or express them in a healthy way in order to put my mind at ease so I can progress through the day. Whether its an uncomfortable situation that comes up from my past, or an action taken by someone that doesn’t sit well with me. Its got to be put out there or it just cakes over all my mental processes and gums up the whole system.

So annoying actually being conscious of where my issues are and feeling the cleansing relief of actually dealing with them. It makes it impossible to go back to old habits.

Curse you self care, for no longer allowing me to binge watch netflix or drink for days on end without looking deeper in to the deeper reason why.

No one said you could come in here and muck with my self destructive system.

 

erosion

The Great Divide

Recently, I have been playing with the idea of a separating my waist and hips.

Exploring around during Qigong with that concept and how it would play out in the body.

During meditation several weeks back, I started to become aware of the tension inside my hips and was sending waves of intention down to try to let it go. As I did this, I noticed an almost sensation in my legs that felt as if I had opened up the flood gates of blood to them. The feeling went  all the way down in to my feet, which began to feel like they were pulsing.

Along this same time, during certain meditations, I began to notice a feeling of electricity building up and shooting around inside my body. Much like the blood flow feeling, it’s like it was just a trickle before and now energy was free to flow more openly through it giving sensation to the areas around it that were asleep before.

I mention that, because today a different sensation started to encroach onto my awareness. An almost heaviness, that I could shift around internally from side to side through the body, or throw around to power my motion.

After about a week and a half off, I started a practice session this morning.

After some warming up, I noticed that my hips were moving with a lot less tension then before but there was still some tension inside the inner kua and the lower abdomen. So, I sent down the intention of letting that tension go.

Instantly, that tension melted away and I was able to sink farther than I have been able to comfortably in the past. Not only that, but my movement was originating in the waist instead the hips, which were hardly moving at all, yet the waist felt like it was almost going 360 degrees around my body with no effort what so ever. It changed the entire movement, I no longer had to think about each part of my body. Instead, I was just gliding from one move to the other with all my muscles relaxed.

 

I could swing my waist from side to side and it moved completely independent from my hips, which stayed pointing straight ahead as my waist was going one direction to the next.

No idea what this means. I often find that coming back after a break I have a different sensation in my movement. It will most likely go away as I dive back in to regular practice, but it is kind of exciting to feel the increased awareness of what is going on inside my own body.

That is all the motivation I need to keep going. To keep learning, exploring what is on the outskirts of my awareness in an attempt to shine more light on it.

 

continental_divide_part_7_all_steps_01

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.

image

Hulking Out

Aggression. Frustration. Confrontation. Pissing Matches.

These are the things I actively avoid. These are the things I have come to associate with negative emotions\reactions.

These are the things, we as a society, have allowed ourselves to drink too deeply of.

Instead of the standard of confrontation being empathy or application of logic, like… “Why is this happening”, “What part am I playing in the escalation of this”, “Is this even necessary?” “What is REALLY going on”. We have come to accept physical violence expressed either verbally, or through physical\emotional violence.

Instead of frustration being expressed or acknowledged as emotions, like “When you do that thing, it makes me feel undervalued because of blah. I would appreciate you not doing that”. We lash out, or worse yet, internalize it. Directing it inwardly and letting it to build up until the containment seal breaks and infects whomever or whatever is around at the time.

There are healthy ways to express all of these, you kind of HAVE to express all of these, they are a part of us. They cannot be completely ignored, nor can they be expressed in a way that results negatively to yourself or your environment. Got to find that balance, find that root, of WHAT is causing those feelings and express THAT.

I haven’t learned to do that. I suppress those feelings the moment I feel them. I won’t let myself be an aggressive male, I won’t let myself be someone who resorts to physical\verbal violence, I push it ALL down. Contain it and don’t allow myself to express those aspects of… well me. (Consciously anyway)

Through this process, as my teacher would say, I have become very yin. So afraid to seem aggressive or express it in any way that the automated response is retreat or withdrawal.

I seem to have lost the yang.

Maybe not lost, I know where it is contained. I can feel it yearning to come out. Those times when I am tired, I flash back to the times that I wish I had thrown a punch, those times I was cornered, a coiled, fiery ball of anger and fear, wanting to lash out and attack with all its force. Yet, contained by an impenetrable wall of logic saying, “This can only end badly if you let it escalate. Use your words, boy.”

There is no regret for not striking but still, I can’t help but wonder in those exhausted and frustrated moments,  what IF I had thrown that punch, tackled that clown, kicked that douche bag in the face. Expressed my rage, exerted myself and CLAIMED that space that was being challenged MY SPACE. Laying waste to my him, tossing him to the ground in utter defeat. Could I have done it?

There is no way to ever know.

So instead devolving back into an animal, I find myself here.

Week 4 of a chakra awareness class  and focusing on the heart chakra, where apparently, that containment system is. All that suppressed aggression and Yang energy have been clawing to be let out and expressed.

It didn’t take shape until last night after practice on the long walk to the store. I wanted to punch something, I wanted to exert my dominion of the space I was holding, I wanted confrontation, I wanted to show how much space I filled, I wanted to YELL.

I was walking very full, I felt like there was a bubble 20 feet around me projecting myself into the space all around me. A bubble full of just presence projecting challenge to anyone wishing to breach it.

I did not know how to express any of it. Aware that it needed to be released, but no clue how to do it healthily without collateral damage. I kind of started to empathize with the hulk.

Then I made the connection.

The form. I would yang the fuck out on the form.

So when I got, I yanged the fuck out. It was fantastic. In fact, writing this I feel like going back and doing it again. Totally did it.

I stamped, I kicked, I punched, I held my space.

Holding my space. I should probably do more of that. In all aspects, don’t be afraid to hold it… but don’t be an asshole.

 

hulk

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!

 

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