The Cobwebs are thick

I cant remember the last time I woke up to take care of just myself. Woke up not just out of the necessity of needing to get something done, but out of a desire to take care of myself and a reward of just feeling good.

Life has been so busy lately that I feel almost as if I have just been functioning out of habit and maintenance mode. Doing what I need to stay sane while the overlaying motivation has been to make progress on a project or to plan something that needs to be done.

 

It has left me feeling as if I have lost my personal power and has begun to show up in my daily interactions with the world around me.

I have been noticing lately that I have been defaulting to stronger opinions around me, not standing up for my thoughts or just allowing others to talk over\for me with no objection or protest.

The last 8 months have been full, to say the least. I started my own business quit my old job, started a new job, met with a Taoist priest to get a blessing and got married in there just to make sure I wasn’t bored.

Through that time, my practice has been put on the back burner. The FAR back burner, and has left me wondering what that practice even was or how I was connected to it.

I’m still not sure I have an answer for that.

I have been questioning every aspect of it, my teacher, my motivation, my existence, my place in the lineage, my dedication and my past experience with the practice itself.

I guess what has really happened, now that I think about it, is that I disengaged from it as thoroughly as I could have without actually stopping altogether.

That mindset has affected my practice and my teaching, I have been feeling disconnected from the moves and the meditation. My mind so full and unquieted no matter how much meditation I undertake.

I have been unfocused, and my connection to the Dantian has been, for lack of a better term, severed by an incessant buzzing of all the things I want to do related to my new job, my business or my new marriage.

All that buzzing has taken an unusual toll on my interactions in the areas I have disengaged in but has also begun to leach into my personal life.

I as if, I have been a ghost drifting around and haunting my past though people can see me, and I am still called to interact with it and have input in its direction. Yet, I interact through a thick fog delaying my responses and keeping deeper insights or feelings on the matters at hand a vague memory.

I guess a more accurate description would be that I have put that part of my life in maintenance mode. Only the bare minimum energy or intention has been set in that direction, and primary power has been diverted towards more vital directives.

Is it time to start powering those systems back up and cleaning out those cobwebs?

I think it may just be time again…

There are a lot of cobwebs that have gathered in the last several months, they may reveal a hidden doorway in that old room.

At the very least, it is time to start dusting things off and seeing if there needs to be a garage sale.

 

Between Two Worlds

 

BetweenTwoWorldsArt Credit: http://maye6.deviantart.com/art/Bridge-Between-Two-Worlds-374582242

 

It appears to me, at this moment, that there are two worlds, opposite each other, that I am torn between.

One World, the world of money, of material things. A world driven by material success and objects as status symbols. The world of fancy dress, the denial of emotion, the suppression of feelings in order to fit a mold projected upon us by external forces.

The Other, a world of self expression. A place where emotions are expressed and cherished, both good and bad, where the drive to move forward is built upon mutual uninhibited self expression and the desire to explore the deeper meanings our interactions and emotional hangups.

Perhaps, torn between in the wrong term. The more I explore this spiritual realm, the more I realize how much both are needed. One will support the family I wish to create, while one frees my spirit to express itself fully with no limitations or denial or the self.

Is there a way to live in both worlds completely and not feel like I am betraying one or the other?

I have no desire to “use” one to complete the other.

That feels inauthentic.

Someone told me recently that in the practice he studied, there are typically two paths one can take in the spiritual journey.

  1. Nirvrtti Marga – You can break free of all society, and go live in a cave for 40 years in order to reach a higher spiritual plane.
  2. Pravrtti Marga – You envelope your responsibilities, raise a family make money and as you find time in between, progress your spiritual journey as time allows.

I have been giving that some thought as of late.

Are the two really different?

Going off in to a cave to find the secrets of the universe seems somewhat self serving to me. A practice that feels driven by the ego, to separate from the “material” world and only seek the connection to the spiritual plane with no interaction to the physical.

Though, so does fully allowing yourself to be consumed with the pursuit of money or with power or status. Or self abandoning by creating a world or structure that is purely based on gaining money for the support of a family or objects. It seems as if that could have the same traps at multiple levels.

So, I guess I kind of reject that they are truly separate paths.

I feel that once one starts down the path of self exploration, it never really stops.

You cant just, get off the ride.

Not without causing damage in one way or the other that will manifest externally eventually. Whether it be a fight with a spouse, an argument at work or even a drug or alcohol problem later down the line to silence that voice.

At least, this has been my experience when I self abandon and try to pretend I didn’t just realize some deep seeded belief or motivation that has powered all my decisions leading up to this point.

It seems easy to just hide away in a cave somewhere, sure it would have its difficulties, but it seems they would all be internal. There would be no way to “express” or test them in the outside material world in which we are all really a part of.

There would be no manifestation of those discoveries back in the “material” world. No opportunity to see how they shifted, or perhaps even upset the things within it and in turn learn to listen and understand how that shifts back and influences you.

Its my thought that you don’t really know if you have discovered something until it has manifested externally. Our experience is all internal and we can make all the conclusions we want on the inside. Make beliefs that aren’t challenged by anything or anyone, but our own thoughts and perspectives, but where the rubber meets the road is when belief is expressed externally and met with the friction of the outside world.

Only then can we put our discoveries to the test, as well as our conviction, and truly understand how they are felt within AND without.

So, no. I don’t see a difference between them.

I will continue to seek the middle ground between them.

Perhaps, it is a path not yet discovered and there is no one to lay it out for me. In which case I shall just continue to follow the clues I see from the people before me as well as the clues within.

Or, perhaps there is a master along my path who pass that knowledge within me instantly.

But, the latter doesn’t really sound very rewarding.

After all, what use is knowledge that isn’t gained through our own experience or pain of change? Is that truly ours? or do we even really understand it?

I don’t know. Maybe I am just missing something.

 

The Flow

Things are beginning to calm down again.

After a trip up to Kalaloch Washington with the family, I came home to a flea infestation and a girlfriend a week away from finals.

The house went on lock down, systematically we began shutting down rooms. Shutting down all access and spreading Diatomaceous Earth over pretty much everything and letting it sit for its 12 hours to seep in to the flea eggs.

Alternating days were filled with vacuuming, washing of the various dog beds (of which there are many, because well… the animals rule the house here) and cleaning said vacuum’s filter out every half a room and waiting for THAT to dry in order to continue on.

That fun task was done in 7 days. 2 of which we had to sleep on the futon downstairs because there was a combo vacuum filter blow out and exhaustion.

Just to add some spice to this super non-stressful routine, my girlfriend and I also decided to throw a dietary cleanse in on top of it. So, no wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, red meat, eating after 7 and I decided to cut my meals in half as well.

There were only a couple of emotional outbursts in those two weeks…. Which I think is pretty damn good considering the bullshit we put ourselves through.

Physically, I feel considerably better. I feel way less bloated in my abdomen, have had little to no gas the last week and have actually had much more energy at the end of the day. I’m not sure if I lost weight or not, but my pants do fit a little looser and that wasn’t really the goal of this cleanse anyway.

Emotionally, things were a little rocky for a bit there. I did not realize how much I had been using sugar and wheat as coping mechanism (or how dependant I had become on them), suddenly I had to deal with a lot of the self doubts and negative self talk I hadn’t even realized were there before.

Lots of things relating to my practice, whether I was kidding myself in ever being able to fully comprehend or give due credit to Tai Chi as an art in my lifetime. Things that hit me pretty hard, but thankfully I have an amazing woman by my side I can rant for an hour and actually pays attention ;).

This week has been going pretty well, had to pull some late hours at work at the beginning of the week, which kind of threw my mental game off, but otherwise I have had the opportunity to get a full 30 minute standing meditation in as well as 30 – 40 minutes of Qigong throughout the day.

Some cool things happen in class the other day as well.

We have been focusing more on push-hands and some of the internal spiral work by just repeating different attacks over and over. As a result, I was able to get to the point of stiffening up mentally\physically to the point where I couldn’t think or feel what was going on with my body, I just kept throwing myself out backwards with no ability to understand it what so ever.

Thankfully, I was able to just repeat it over and over again with my partner until he finally pointed out to me what I was doing wrong and I was able to kind of un-freeze my mind and break free of the hold it had on me. That didn’t happen till the end of class, but I hope to be able to practice that a ton more to be able to beat that habit.

And there is my report for the last couple weeks!

See you next time, until then, keep practicing :).

 

weird-things-34

Blog-Versary

It has been about a year since I started documenting my progress through Tai Chi.

The blog itself has deviated, then refocused only to deviate again. Touching on all sorts of topics in some way or another related to my practice, though admittedly some more obvious than others.

That really emphasizes how Tai Chi has touched every part of my life, bringing different understanding to the oddest of things, from how I eat my breakfast in the morning, to how I move during the day, to my relationship with my family, to how I live within my body and to how I play with my dog every morning.

It is teaching me how to just be more aware of where my intention and attention are at every moment and to also listening for where any tension may lay within me.

Whether it be mental, emotional, spiritual or muscular it has allowed me to be more present with it which in turn, allows me to find out how to release or understand it.

Since I got back from vacation, I have been struggling a bit, trying to get back to the “feeling” I had during practice before break. The feeling of being in the groove as well as the feeling I had in my lower body.

I spent last term focusing on lower body integration and as a result I was able to “think” from my lower body and feel each movement from the lower half. A feeling that was previously absent within me, in fact, I have pretty much lived my whole life ignoring my lower half all together. Treating it as a tertiary support structure to get me somewhere,  so you can imagine being able to finally feel it was quite the experience!

But two weeks off of intense practice let that training kind of absorb in to the rest of my being. I am still able to feel my lower half, but not nearly as intensely as I could at the end of last term.

Anyway, my point is that I have been struggling to get back in the groove within my body the last week and have been trying to figure out what to focus on next for the current term.

During one of those stewing sessions, I realized that instead of trying to achieve some feeling, I should just be allowing myself to be in the state I am in now without trying to make judgement or trying to force it to change.

The state I am now is how I am and there is nothing wrong with it. That is just me and who I am at that moment.

I have been hearing myself say a lot lately, “I’m not feeling myself” or “Im trying to get back to feeling myself” until I thought about it and realized… That IS me.

Whatever out of sorts I am feeling, whether it be grumpy (a common morning theme), awkward, nervous, withdrawn, or just plain out of practice. That is me, and I AM that way so why not allow myself to just be it?

So that is what my training is going to be for this term. Allowing myself to be myself in every form.

So, here’s to a year!

The distance I have come seems pretty significant when looking to where I was and I look forward to more ahead and another year!

 

moretocome

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

 

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!

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

 

 

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

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

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