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.

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

 

 

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

Back to The Basics

Whelp, I let it happen again.

I stopped my practice and self care for too long and as a result the last week my mind has been foggy and I have felt unclear and exhausted. I spread myself too thin.

Tried to do too many things, to keep to many things in my mind and the structure collapsed in on itself.

I just bought 4 notebooks and had created intentions for all of them.

One for personal journaling , one for project ideas (relating to youtube videos, blog posts, general internet projects, studio marketing), one for education (writing down information from the MANY books I am reading) and the fourth… well just a journal with no intention whatsoever.

I also have been working on personal videos, blog posts, and figuring out a plan for videos for the Studio itself.

If that isn’t enough, throw a full time job, a girlfriend, and the need to express myself as an individual through travel, time to myself and somehow finding time to visit all the people that mean most in my life.

It is just too much for my to hole, so now I find myself completely wrecked and pretty much in a state of complete paralysis preventing me from doing any of it. Not quite present in any situation just kind of numb and going through the motions waiting for a day like this that I can sit and vent it out in to the world.

I’m still struggling to figure out what to focus on.

On one hand, I really have the drive and need to capture my progress through this amazing journey in the form of videos, blogging and the practice.. but on the other hand… Life and time… Where is all the time?

How do I find the ability to make it ok to NOT work on something until I have time\focus?

How to keep the unexpressed intention from building so much it gets me in a complete dither, unable to function at all….

Bloat up so much that my brain just kind of melts in to a puddle and I lose the drive to even practice in the mornings.

Its frustrating to want to create so many things and not have the time in which to create them while still having a life outside.

It boils down to finding that balance between life, practice, creation and work.

But….That is a lot of things, almost too many things it seems to be good at all of them.

Is a life of only mediocrity waiting for me if I try to balance them all?

Even in school, I knew that certain areas of my study would have to suffer if I wanted to become great at what I was passionate about. I guess I have never considered that and tried to apply it to my life yet. Or do I even need to?

I have in my head an idea that if I incorporate my practice and my studies in to my life, so that I am living and breathing it through each and everyday, that I will be able to reach higher levels of skill more efficiently.

Is that true? Is it a delusion?

Are there certain aspects of life that will always pull me from my practice and demand my undivided attention with zero applications to my practice as a whole?

Or is life my practice?

How do I evaluate the priority of everything?

Well… again, the most logical answer would be to gauge their level of importance to me. That will determine how much time and effort will be spent on the different subjects… but there are also considerations in the requirements to actually proceed forward… IE, I HAVE to work in order to pay for my lessons\bills\rent until I can find a way to make my practice pay for itself.

Long term goal is to find a way that I can start to make money DOING Tai Chi. It will pay for my studys and fund my travels to discover, learn and teach as much as I can about this magical and endlessly complex art.

The trouble I have is trying to figure out where traveling for fun and visiting friends and family fit in.

I have two magnificent nieces that I would never forgive myself for not being a part of their life as they grow. So finding a way to do that is an essential.

I have an amazing girlfriend who supports me and my passions and whom I love to travel and spend time with. So she is most definitely a keeper.

My parents whom I love and miss all the time are always not far from my thoughts ever. So finding ways to connect with them a must.

And of course all of my friends who live off in all corners are constantly on my mind to find ways to see.

Then, most importantly (sorry…not sorry but it is) the training itself, training that by its very nature REQUIRES practice… practice which equals time, devoted, focused time.

Centered, clear headed time. Time where all those pulls are gone, all those distractions dissolved and all the guilt resolved.

Time where the mind hears all things yet focuses on none of them. Where the mind and body unify and create with a pure singular intention.

A state of mind that can only be achieved by letting things go. Letting them take their natural course and only interacting within the boundaries of that path.

I have always felt I would have to leave something behind… But what will it be.

My hope is that it will be the guilt I create for myself every time I choose my devotion to this art over something else.

So a tiny voice inside my head is speaking…. “Go back to the basics”.

Stop trying to hold so much, You cant be everywhere at once. You can only be where you are, so be there. Give where and what you are a chance, cultivate it with the knowledge that there will be a time where you will HAVE more time. This is only the beginning of your journey, don’t give up now. Relax, the knowledge you seek will come. It cannot be forced and you can only learn at the rate in which YOU learn. Give yourself the permission to dig deep in to your life and move past the safety anchors you have left to retreat to if things go south. You will find that those anchors you have left in your mind were merely illusions, an unnecessary drag on something that by its very nature exists without need of restraints or ties to keep it in vision.

All those people, those lives, they are following their own way, honor them by following yours.

 

Well, that tiny voice got a bit bigger I guess.

That should do well to get a couple layers off.

Until next time.

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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

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