The Cobwebs are thick

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it may just be time again…

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

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

 

Between Two Worlds

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

That feels inauthentic.

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

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

I have been giving that some thought as of late.

Are the two really different?

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

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

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

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

You cant just, get off the ride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will continue to seek the middle ground between them.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Flow

Things are beginning to calm down again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there is my report for the last couple weeks!

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

 

weird-things-34

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

 

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