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.

 

Crazy Dreams

I woke up in the middle of the night after a crazy dream… I was compelled to write it down and this is the result :):


Catching the world in plastic bags.

Reviving life by thinking and running around catching it all in plastic bags. Tons of plastic bags, fitting everything in it. Everything shrinking to fit inside.

Creating silliness and stopping to enjoy the things around us. But focusing so much on what is ahead or behind.

Chasing cars and trying to put them in a plastic bag. Pure silliness.

Chasing the long lost reality will get you nowhere. But creating your own will lead to the greatest treasures. The past is gone, create something from today.


planet_bags

I have taken December off from physical training.

Instead I have been meditating on yin. Trying to figure out what it means to do something you love, without focusing on an end goal. Doing for the sake of doing, instead of doing for the sake of achieving.

I made some considerable break throughs this week, but the most important one is I have found my laugh.

It was hidden deep inside the moment, no longer thinking of how I would be training next, or day dreaming about the day I start my own school. I found myself in the present, interacting with those around me with no buffer time. (You know, that time where you spend trying to decipher hidden meanings from the conversations and the responses get catered to the scenario…No? You dont? oh… well there is a snippet of my brain for you.)

My mornings have been consisting of compassionate awareness meditation. Allowing my monkey mind to express its frustrations and its need to drive forward as to better understand where all that is coming from. Still a lot to uncover, but I have started to discover some of the fear and the insecurites that have been rooted in a lot of my long term training.

Fear of seeming weak, fear of letting my body fall apart, fear of being seen as unfocused and well dumb. Its has been rooted in there for so long that I kind of forgot that I should look at it.

The funny thing is, as soon as I realized it and allowed myself to accept it there was a physical weight that lifted from my shoulders. I started asking myself, what do I feel like doing right at this moment? If I had no THING to do, what calls to me?

Suddenly, I had\have space in my mind and was free to laugh and joke with strangers waiting for the train.

Much like Super Adam, the drunken me, I was laughing and having a good time with people I was never going to see again. But, not only strangers. I have been more engaged and present with people I have known for much longer. Able to laugh and joke freely, from the heart, like I haven’t done in ages without the aid of alcohol.

It has been truly liberating, I will continue with my mediation and see where I end up at the end of december.

Oh! I also forgot to mention, my cough and all signs of flu\sickness have vanished. I think have been bottling things up and forcing things instead of trying to listen. Just like Malcolm said, but don’t tell him I would hate for it to go to his head.

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.

sick

Brief Vacation Reflections

This time yesterday morning I was sitting in paradise.

9 days of beautiful sunsets and sunrises, delicious food and great company.

Life can truly be simple if we allow it to be.

Among our trip there, there was much Tai Chi on the beach, meditation in the sun and  naturally, swimming in the ocean and by the end of it I was finally starting to truly relax. Only to be confronted with the reminder that responsibility was calling me to go back home in a day.

I need a month vacation, maybe even five weeks. Maybe someday I will go in to the stages of relaxation I have discovered on long vacations…In short though, it takes me 2 weeks to truly relax and forget the outside work. After that, a new stage of consciousness occurs in which all of a sudden… you are trying to figure out who you are without any attachments to force you in to action. That my friends, is when the true vacation starts.

If you ever get a chance to go to Tulum Mexico, I highly suggest it and soon. The resorts have started to take hold we stayed at a place called Nomade. Originally, we were set up in a tent but, the super accommodating staff upgraded us to a room after we mentioned how loud the construction was without walls. Its the off season there right now, super cheap stays…but you pay the price of listening to construction and a lot of the restaurants have strange hours.

The staff is extremely friendly there and the entire atmosphere is set to be very open and relaxed, almost slightly forcefully so.

We stayed several days just around the hotel to get the vibe, but we had this strange feeling of unease the longer we were there. Next to everyone on the beach in the hotel areas was on their cell phones and it seemed that everyone just wanted to be left alone. Most attempts with conversation with anyone but the staff often lead to dead ends and an awkward silence. The few we did connect with though were some of the deepest connections we have made in a while.  Eventually, we began to get the vibe that were were being held in what someone else’s idea of a relaxed environment was, like being held in someone else’s dream and the things around us were just somehow ever so slightly off.

So we explored more.

We connected with a local that was able to guide us on a tour of one of his loves, snorkeling on the reef. He is a truly amazing individual, excited at the opportunity of being able to take us out and share that with us and we truly honored to meet such a great human. He also showed us where the locals hangout, a local beach and camp ground called Pancho Villa about 15 minutes from the hotel we were staying at. Where there is great camping for much cheaper than what we were paying, but obviously without ANY of the amenities, and an atmosphere that was way more less constructed in feeling.

It was run by locals and it was much more come and go as you please. Hammocks stretched between trees in the camping areas, chairs placed in random groves of shade, a dive shop ran by clearly people that just loved being there and a bar run by people wearing whatever they wanted to and the only order there was that the customers were there for the same reason, to relax on the beach, drink, eat and laugh.

We discovered this place too late, however, and were only able to experience it our last day. A small last little taste of how the locals see their home and something that connected much deeper with us than being catered to.

The resort construction was in full swing there, so I fear that those little local areas may be threatened, but when we go back we will be staying in a tent for 30 dollars a day and hanging out with what feel more like true explorers on this earth.

Don’t get me wrong, we loved where we were staying. The service was amazing, we made several deep connections with people we would not have made if we were not staying there and the food was delicious. If you are looking for a catered experience and don’t want to see seaweed on the beach (they rake it every morning), like a honeymoon or special occasion then go there or make it your home base and explore outward.

But if you are looking for a more local authentic experience, there are other options that are much better suited to give you a more connected experience with the people there.

ketchup_demon

 

I’m staring at the computer screen.

Whenever I get up and go away, I am compelled to sit down and write, yet as I sit here nothing comes to mind. It all flitters away the second the bootup sound hits my ears.

All of a sudden, nothing to say, nothing to share. No experiences from the last week to reflect upon, just an overwhelming urge to search the internet for reasons why my girlfriends phone doesn’t reliably send text messages.

Someone else’s problem to solve, to distract me from my own. Distract me from the feeling that I have spent so much time practicing, that I no longer know what to do with myself when I am not?

Is that it? Not sure, still searching for the reason perhaps.

This week was a draining one. Often working till 8 or 9 at night and, unlike last week, only got to meditate 3 times. This was partly due to being hungover mid week…which btw was a horrible idea, despite my claims to the contrary. That morning was great, possibly.. but then 2 hours later I realized I had to stay awake for the rest of the day…oops.

Today I got some practice in at the park, 15 minutes of meditation along with several forms. The final form was very yang, very explosive as I dug out that suppressed energy from the weeks haul, but overall the term I would use to define the forms was sluggish.

I got some 48’s in just to make sure i kept it fresh. Tomorrow will be the 83, aiming for 2 run throug’hs chiming in at an hour or so of practice at least.

Wading through several days of built up mental stress caused the forms to feel a bit like I was mentally trudging through knee high mud. Though, it felt great to be out there. The sun was out and there was sounds of laughter from the kids learning to ride their bikes and playing on the playground.

Seriously missing my afternoon practice. I have been breaking off around 3 every other day to do some Qigong with a coworker, but we only do about half an hour. Perhaps next week I will start to throw an hour or so of form work at night to get rid of the days stress.

normal-007

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.

_________________________________________

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!

 

beer

Wuji – Emptiness in Emptiness

It will be an interesting month.

Work has picked up considerably and we are now required to work 10 hour days until October.

Kind of sucks for my afternoon classes as I will no longer be able to make them, but it has allowed me to focus on some aspects of my personal practice that were unclear before.

Knowing that I was going to be at the office until 8 every night, it released the pressure of sticking to a schedule off and suddenly I didn’t have that extra anxiety in the morning that I didn’t even realize was there. I was able to focus completely on my practice and still got to work at the same time.

30 minutes of meditation and 20 minutes of stick work every morning for the last week (except Monday).

Sunday, I got a full two hours of my own practice at the park which was incredible, I did 30 minutes of qigong, 20 minutes of stick work, then I did the 23, 48 and 83 Erlu forms. The 83 was a bit rusty, but I took it very slow and just paused at the moments I was stuck until the next move came to me.

I started “The root of Chinese Qigong” again, which I never finished the first time. I had put so much pressure on myself to remember everything that I just burned out.

For the last couple weeks I have been suffering from a crisis of resolve. Wondering if I was wasting my time in all this, or if I was just convincing myself that I was feeling the sensation of chi, relaxation you name it. Wondering if I had just allowed myself to be hypnotized by the mysticism of it all and was just blindly going through the motions. (Which I realize now, I was because I was partially disengaged)

I felt like I had frozen in progress and that I was just kidding myself that I could teach this in the future at all. I was convinced I didn’t know anything and that my knowledge was so thin it would blow away at the slightest gust of wind.

I have had this intention to read all these books, to grow my knowledge, and yet I had not read any of them. Basically, I felt like a fake who was not doing justice to this ancient practice and that I should just quit.

Not to digress too much… but, I realized that the only way I was going to learn or to feel satisfied, was to do two things.

  1. Start reading and retain the information I could. Not stress so much about retaining everything, just letting the things that stick, stick  and the stuff that doesn’t well… I will come back around to it.
  2. Dive in to the meditative side of personal practice to build a greater foundation for pushhands, form and just general life. (I also realized the importance of building familiarity with the wuji state of mind. You begin to be aware of where your mental center is at all times.)

One late night last week working, I just picked up the book and started reading it again.

I was feeling exhausted, the exhausted I usually feel right before I decide to go to bed or just shut my brain off and watch a movie (which i have been doing a lot of lately to distract myself). After the first page, I noticed a palpable wave of relaxation just pass through me.

I was not “straining” to read the book. I was actually relaxing in to it.

The words kept going by and I was finding myself not only understanding them, but enjoying where they were taking me.

So, I have been reading at work for breaks and when I get home at night as a way to wind down and decompress.

I seem to have accidentally brought over the intention I had during meditation, to detach all value and purpose from the action. In doing so, I was able to enjoy it just for what it was, not to reach some end goal of knowledge or relaxation, in the case of mediation.

To actually be present in the moment of action completely and fully with a focus and relaxed mind.

I now can see the reason the old masters stood in mediation for two hours every morning. it changes you. My thirty minutes will have to do for now.

wuji

The Watch Maker

Is to just get things done before my next trip.

The week of meditation was kind of perfect to offset the madness of this week. Leaving Friday morning at 4 AM to catch a flight up to Washington for my parents anniversary and the wedding of an old friend who finally decided to “lock it down” and pop the question.

After the wedding, going up to a cabin that my sister’s family rented on the Olympic peninsula until Wednesday.

So with that, comes the catch-up at work. Trying to get everything I know of complete so the team can continue and make sure I get some private practice time in while still making it to class.

Monday, I missed the night class and did not get a chance to practice myself, so I kind of just take it as a day off after the week of well focused meditation.

Tuesday, I was able to make the morning and evening classes, though did not get a chance to do my personal practice in the morning. That didn’t matter so much, as I got my private lesson in and received plenty of things to work on.

This morning, got 30 minutes of good practice in focusing on the several corrections of the form from other day as well as starting to research some dynamic core strengthening exercise. The core may be my next area of focus while I am out at the cabin and going on for the next little bit as it has been pointed out that my gut is probably getting in the way of my ability to sink. (During push hands my intention was getting stuck in my arms and shoulders and I was not able to release it.)

So, spending some time waking my hips, abdomen and lower back up in the form of dynamic exercises should do the trick, much like that couple months I spent doing those hip stretches and kua opening exercises. As an added bonus, maybe I will get rid of some of this extra stomach width I have gathered up :).

Other than that, I have fallen fairly out of practice from push hands. We did a bit last night it was was instantly clear how little I had done it in the last several months. I have set some mental task rabbits on the goal of figuring out a way to get some more of that practice in. They should be able to come up with some ways to cover that within the week or so.

Practice, practice, practice! One day, one exercise, one thought at a time. Slow and steady, layer the experience until it all comes together to tell the time.

 

Watchmaker-1

 

 

Meditation Week

 

Ok, yes. I have been “off” for the last week or two.

I accept that.

Is it who I am? Yes, it is.

Am I fighting it tooth and nail?

No I am not.

But, that does not mean I am not practicing and moving forward with my study.

This week, I have decided, is going to be focused on meditation.

Going back to core of the practice, a relaxed mind centered on the dantian.

Each morning, starting on Monday, I have been doing 30 minutes of zhan zuang (standing post meditation) a quiet practice focused on not focusing, instead relaxing the mind and bringing it to rest on my dantian (center). Attempting, to allow thoughts to drift by unsnagged by my mental net of intention.

The weirdest thing starts to happen after a couple days practice, after settling the mind reaching that point of lightness, I am always able to sense when my alarm is about to go off.

Cant explain it, but literally a “3, 2, 1” counts down in my head, then the alarm begin.

Anyway, its only Wednesday. Still 4 more days to go, we will see what happens by the end!

I am thinking of starting to chose a theme each week to focus on. I feel the need to do that to keep myself from getting to hyper focused on one concept. A weekly shift may just be a good frequency.

calm

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!

 

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