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

Cardboard in the Rain

I grew up out in the country, what I consider a farm.

Back when I was around 11 or 12,  we used to burn all of our paper waste out in “The Burn Barrel” out in the front yard.

Once or twice, we went out to the old rusted trash can, poured some gas on its contents and set fire to all the newspaper, garbage mail, wood  and whatever else got collected during the week.

One particular week, we had bought some large appliance, either a refrigerator or dishwasher I’m not really sure at this point, but, like all paper waste, the box was moved out by the burn barrel once it had been emptied.

I could see the burn barrel from the front window and next to it, that box. Sitting in the grass awaiting its fate.

One day it started to rain, as it often did in Washington, and for some reason I was compelled to watch the box as the rain fell upon it. I felt empathy for the box, sitting out there in the rain by itself. It had been created and then put to use as a protector of whatever it held and was now discarded and forgotten awaiting its fiery doom.

As I stared at this box, I was suddenly compelled to go outside to the box and climb in it. It was still rather intact and the water had not yet penetrated the outer shell of cardboard, so the inside was nice and dry.

I crawled in, closed the lid behind me and laid down.

It was here that I experienced my first moment of complete peace and silence in my mind.

My senses were completely overwhelmed, the smell of wet cardboard, grass, and rain filled my nose.

The sound of the rain on the cardboard all around me filled my ears with a ryhtmic echoing, each drop layering on top of the last in an endless beat.

My eyes closed almost immediately as I was taken away from every thought in my head and absorbed directly in to the present moment.

I’m not sure how long I laid inside that box. Could have been just a minute, or could have been an hour. It was a timeless vortex.

Eventually, the water started to come through and I was brought back to myself. I left the cardboard box in the rain and helped to burn it several days later.

I had tried to go back after it had dried, but it was not the same.

The cardboard had warped and it had started to collapse. The structure had been compromised in every way.The sounds of the rain were no longer crisp, but muted and dull. Absorbed through the softened paper around it. No longer echoing in that transcendent beat that melted me.

I have had many boxes sense then. Of all shapes, sizes, and forms. Each with a lesson, each with a world it has shown me until its structure melted and it no longer was able to sustain the doorway it once had.

I have departed each box with great sorrow, thankful for what it has taught me, yet sad that what I had experienced will now just become a memory, destined to dull as the next one forms.

My hope is that one day, I will no longer need a box.

That the rain will fall directly on my skin and create that unfathomable rhythm within me and I will become own portal to the present.

I will be able to create my own window and that although my structure will change, the sounds will not loose their crispness.

They will only change their pitch.

 

 cardboardintherain

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

The Dream Machine

I have been having crazy dreams lately.

The more I pay attention to my dreams the more involved they get. Im not talking about like a 5 minute random dream where all this crazy shit happens. I am talking about all three lord of the rings extended edition. A full story arc as well as continuing characters following a continuing story line.

I checked my facebook memories and apparently 5 years ago today I wrote;

What does it mean when you have episodic dreams everynight, and everytime you hit the snooze button you fall right back in to them where you left off… Kind of makes me not want to wake up…”

How is that for crazy? Maybe its something to do with the moon or something…Or maybe its because I have been meditating more and writing down my dreams… Most likely I am completely clueless.

That said, lets talk about my practice for a bit. Seems like it has been a while since I have mentioned what I am working on.

 

The Chakra class has introduces a new type of meditation that I have added to my weekly practice. I have been alternating between the standing Zhan Zhuang meditation and the sitting “Rooted” Meditation through the week and after each session I have been writing down what I experienced and any thoughts that come up and over all it has been helping me to process quite a bit.

It is pretty enjoyable to mix things up like that, it has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of meditation and that it has the potential to have limitless applications or approaches. The two forms have increased my awareness of different areas of my body and where I hold tension, as a result I have been conscious of a deeper level of tension I hold in my body. Through breath I am able to relax it and some of the aches I had before now melt away.

We have finished the 83 Form in class, it is still extremely rough for me, but none the less the whole thing is locked away in the brain somewhere. I, regrettably, have not been practicing as much as I would like in the mornings so the routine is kind of gnarled in several areas. It seems like the on practice I am able to get in lately is practicing in my head at bus stops or when I am cooking dinner.

Train surfing has become ridiculously easy. I have even started doing it on crowded trains with no worry of running in to anyone anymore. Using a forward horse stance is still a little dodgy, but I picked up a fix for a bad habit of raising my kua in the forward stance which has really helped me stabilize it more and allowed my to stand a little more solid.

Played a game of ping pong the other day, I usually get pretty caught up with it once the points start going and I start to get uprooted. This game was different though, I was able to stay rooted and relaxed and was able to return balls and react quickly. I sometimes went too far on the relaxed side and didnt go for the ball at all… but gotta find that balance right? So I think I may start to use that as a training bit for push hands.

Meditation and kua work have really leveled up the last several weeks. I feel a little more aware of my hips and dantian which is allowing me to correct a little more accurately.

Oddly, my awareness of the dantian has shifted locations, or rather maybe its just a new area of numbness. Since I have been able to feel my hips and waist more, there is an area deeper in my core that has no awareness what so ever. Maybe that’s the dantian? Or maybe it’s just the next area that needs to wake up.

One day maybe the picture will be complete…but until then, onward!

 

Three-Dantiens-207x300

 

 

 

Chi

Ok, I am ready to call it what it is. I have started to feel Chi in my body.

String him up, he took another step down the woo woo path.

That’s right, that mystical “energy” you always hear about associated with eastern medicine and martial arts. That thing that even though, I want to believe its real, my western mind says, “No way to prove it, your making shit up. You cant trust your own internal instruments.”

I have felt it a number of different ways, sometimes it feels like weight that I can shift around with wherever my attention goes. Sometimes it feels like increased circulation in certain parts of the body, and sometimes, like 10 minutes ago, it feels like a little point light traveling through the body attached to, again, wherever my attention goes inside my body.

Attention is weird. The more I meditate the more I have become acutely aware of a specific point in which my mind actually is.

Right now it mostly lives in three different spots, either in the center of my head, my dantian, or my feet.

These are the areas that come with the most awareness with them, but I am able to shift it around the body at will at times.

Now when I say chi like a point light… I mean that once my attention goes to one of those points the area around it “lights up” almost draws power from that point and i am able to “feel” or become aware of a sphere around it that was almost numb before.

Or…Maybe its not chi at all, maybe its just increased focused awareness.

Whatever it is, the more I pay attention, the larger the point light gets. So I am just going to keep practicing.

 

pointlight

The Paper Man

The paper man, assembled from every expected aspect of the canned society. Written down and stored in a box.

A box stored in the heart of the man.

A man who does all the things “expected” of every man of the age. He goes to work, he pays his taxes, he chases women.

Doing what he can to pass the time until death comes.

But there is a dark spot in the man. A spot he fears to enter. The time between the script of his created self and the next day.

A place where there is nothing. A hole that exists in where there are no tasks to be completed. No smiles to put on. No hands to shake.

Thats where it shows itself and he dare not ever enter it.

So he fills that gap with booze, with drugs, with women. It blurs the gap, fills it with a hazy memory, easily forgotten.

For that, that is the spot where dreams lay and he dare not dream. For dreams are unwritten, unscripted.

Dreams are unknown.

Dreams could be fire. Fire could burn this paper man, leaving nothing but the horrors that live in the boundless wasteland of the imagination.

image

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

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!

 

Archaeologist’s

I think I am starting to understand why most chinese martial arts are based off of animals.

Animals express pure movement, they don’t have the extra baggage of having to “figure out” the best what to do something or have the capacity of masking their purpose from the rest of the animals. Their bodies are pure illustration of their intention at all times.

When a cheetah chases its prey, it doesn’t think about whether it is using the proper form as its running.

When tiger is lying about, it isn’t thinking about all of the things it needs to do that day, or wondering where or if it will find its next meal. Its purpose and intention is directly connected and communicated through its body.

The deeper I go in to Tai Chi the more I realize it’s really all just about getting back to this state inside the body.  Removing the years of programming I have encorporated into my movement Learning to get rid of all the ideas I have on how I should be doing something and just doing it… Letting the body unlock itself and do things the way it is naturally inclined to do.

I look at this concept and can’t help but realize how far I am from that goal. There is constantly some thought or idea hidden in my subconscious, masking itself cleverly as relaxation, limiting my movement or obstructing my natural motion. The deeper the layers the more difficult and deep the programming is to uncover and modify.

The only key I have found, so far, is to allow myself to pay quiet attention. Passing no judgement on it, but to just allow myself to become aware of it. I try to understand its origins, connections and its uses, comparing it to what I have already learned. I explore its edges, walk around the visible sides up of it and start to carefully excavate around it. Like an archaeologist carefully uncovering the remnants of a long past civilization. Trying to figure out how deep it goes and what secrets it holds.

No matter the size, no matter the depth, thus far I have always been able to get all around and under it in order to extract it.

Perhaps extract is the wrong word, that seems like it’s removing something toxic.

It’s more like I absorb it. Absorb it into the past, allow it to become another bump on the road.

The results are much like when the physical body relaxes a long tense muscle. Suddenly, it unlocks a new more fluid movement and everything around it is different, new pathways of movement to discover and build upon until the next artifact is discovered.

Then it begins again.

Practice this week:

It has been a little slow going getting back to practice this week. Lots of reading and train surfing instead of the normal morning practice

Wednesdays Practice:

  • 20 minutes standing meditation

Thursdays Practice:

  • 30 minutes Dynamic Qigong in the morning
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi.
    • Ended up teach the 24 for 30 minutes of this class

Fridays Practice:

  • 20 minutes train surfing (So Fun!)
  • 30 minutes qigong
  • 1 hour form practice

nautilusFossil

Something Is Knocking

It’s been an interesting weekend in the tai chi saddle.

Saturday was the full 9 hour day.

A bit taxing after resting all week to get over this stomach thing and I was definitely more tired than usual during classes. Nothing that wasnt to be expected however, the weird thing about saturday is that I had no connection to my body at all. Usually I get feedback from my body informing me the quality of my movement, but saturday it just felt like I was pulling levers on a backhoe. It was extremely frustrating. I was really regretting having taken the whole week off, all the time between practice I was convinced set me back and there was no telling when I would get back to where I was.

Then sunday came, sunday is the primordial qigong class, a much deeper meditative class focused on cleansing the energy body and gathering\circulating chi through the system.

For the first thirty minutes I had the same sense, zero feedback and couldn’t tell how I was moving through any of the exercises. I got tired of wondering why, so I just let my imagination go. I just let my mind explore the idea of a ball of energy moving around and through my system.

Oh right, should have been doing to begin with.

For the next half hour there still wasn’t any feedback from the body, but the imagery was extremely fun. It kept stealing me away from following the rest of class and I ended up being a little behind. No big deal though :).

It wasn’t until about a minute into the 20 minute standing meditation that I got really really deep.

At first, I became aware of the nagging thought I had been holding back and trying to keep myself from thinking about. It was about all the things I want to write in my blog and how I am going to write them. It has been a couple days since I have written and I guess I still have a lot I want to write down… but regardless my mind kept wanting to go there and I fought it to “focus” on practice. It clearly wasn’t helping.

A little voice deep inside the static of my mind said softly, ”Invite it for dinner. Pour it a drink and listen to its story.”

So, that’s what I did.

Instantly, I was transported in to my center, it was actually kind of a dizzying with how fast it was. I felt deeper than I have been before, but maybe it was just because the transition was so abrupt. Either way, I was digging it and I was fully in my body again.

My arms were out over my dantian resting on the little imaginary chi support pegs. The feeling from the other day was already there, my arms and shoulders were relaxed yet extended. A moment after I was “transported”, I began to have the distinct feeling that my wrists were actually physically being support by something. Not like before, it wasn’t an energetic feeling… there was distinct pressure on the underside of my wrists, some would say an accumulation of chi. Well… this is pretty bad ass, I thought to myself.

So I played with it a little.

My thought process went a little like this:

“Ok, so. If there are pegs extending from my center supporting my wrists. That means those pegs can be moved, they have a base and that base can be shifted, which in turn would move my wrists.”

So, I rotated that base forward. My arms went right along with it, extending farther forward yet still no muscles in my arms were activated. They were still just resting on those pegs.

“Ok, “ I thought “ So if that’s the case the pegs can also be lengthened.”

So, I lengthened them. Just like before the arms up with no muscle activation in the shoulders or arms….

Right about then came the soft “Gong”. The first of three that signify the end of meditation.

Its just never quite long enough is it.

But the feeling stayed with me in to the next class. I was asked to lead warmups, usually not a problem, but normalIy I havent slipped so deep in to myself that I forget what I am supposed to be doing.

It was a struggle to remember what moves came next, I kept falling deep in to each excersize and losing track of where we were. Luckily there was another certificate student there to remind me what was next as my eyes shot open.

The most of the rest of class just continued on like this. It was great, I was fully integrated again. Moving from the center and feeling the body beneath me again.

But then calamity struck.

I played a little fast and loose the night before out at the beach. Having a good time with friends… but maybe pushing my stomach a bit to far too fast, eating one too many sausages…or probably just shouldn’t have had that pabst blue ribbon. Relaxing for the day was done.

Whelp, maybe next time.

In short, that one little thought in my head I kept locked away, not allowing myself to think of it because I felt it wasn’t part of practice, was actually the key to allowing myself to fall back in to it.

I guess that means in order to go forward, I have to relax everything, even the barriers between unpleasant thoughts and memories. Relax and integrate them. Listen to their stories.

Saturdays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 2 hours push hands

Sundays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours primordial qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
    • Interrupted by some stomach issues. Time to go to a medical doctor

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