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.

 

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.

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Brief Vacation Reflections

This time yesterday morning I was sitting in paradise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we explored more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ketchup_demon

 

I’m staring at the computer screen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 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 :).

 

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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!

 

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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

 

Dreaming Of Chen Village

I just watched a documentary on Chen Village the other day. The village in China that is largely thought to be the birthplace of Tai Chi.

The video went through some of their training techniques and the amount of time they spend practicing, it made me super jealous.

They train in three sessions a day up to 3 or 4 hours each, morning, afternoon and night. How great would that be! I am lucky if I get to practice twice a day for half an hour let alone 4 hours.

I lack the discipline and focus to get myself to practice that much. Often, I just lead myself to complete and utter distraction after an hour and end up trailing off into thoughts of work, life, or what I want to eat.

It got me thinking though, what if I went over there to study for a couple months? Could I pull that off?

I think in the back of my mind I have always wanted to go over there and study hardcore for a while. It almost seems necessary in my career if I want to teach this to people.

In fact I will pull it off! That IS going to happen… Its just a matter of when and how much I need to save!

How cool would that be!?!? To study with some of the lineage holders of the art itself for a while and get the time to breath and eat it every day for…what, how long? 3 months? A year?

Maybe it would help get me closer to this woman who won 1st place at a competition recently for Chen style. (Another catalyst that has me all stoked to practice)

The way she sinks and moves in to her hips is crazy! I have only just begun to even understand how my legs move underneath me, let alone move how she does!

This coming from a guy who spent 4 years doing 10 – 20 obstacle course races a year!

Exciting stuff, I love being reminded of how little I know. There is so much to discover!

Even in the documentary, Grand Masters are explaining how much their Tai Chi has improved each year through their practice.

Truly amazing and humbling stuff. Just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what stage you are at, there is always something new to learn, so learn to love the process!

No end in sight, and loving every moment of it!!

 

6SDAOqM

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