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

 

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!

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?

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

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

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

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 81 other followers
Follow The Restless Raven on WordPress.com