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.

20160405_072403

Fit Is Not Healthy: A Shaolin Monk’s Guide To Exceptional Wellness — shifuyanlei

A great article about a balanced approach to fitness. I have always has a similar feeling to my fitness, trying to keep a balance of all the aspects related to health as opposed to heavily focusing on a single element of it.

Brought to you by a Shaolin Monk 🙂

In the age of social media, many people train for a body they perceive looks attractive to other people. When I was training at the Shaolin Temple, we didn’t even have a camera. Nothing was documented. We trained to conquer our mind and body and become the best we could in our chosen art form. Since […]

via Fit Is Not Healthy: A Shaolin Monk’s Guide To Exceptional Wellness — shifuyanlei

There is no Fast Track

With the internet, there is a limitless library of resources are available to us that previous generations could only have dreamed about.

Literally anything that could be researched or explored is a couple of keyboard strikes away from lighting up our screens and going directly in to our brains.

Books have been digitized, scientists have written blogs, NASA publishes papers, and the old masters once hidden on mountain tops have been captured on video and published on to YouTube for all to see.

With all of this knowledge just sitting there ready to be taken in, I have found it too easy to fall in to the trap of trying to replace knowledge with experience.

Trying to stuff every bit of information on all related subject in to my head at once. Including things that are far beyond my grasp to even comprehend. Comforted with the thought that, “Oh, ill pack it in there and when the time is right I will be able to understand it.”

But, as I go through these phases, and I begin to feel my brain getting so packed I begin to have tunnel vision. I reign myself in.

All of that knowledge, those advance techniques, those advanced energy concepts, those are all being taught by someone who ACTUALLY feels or can experience them. Someone who can interpret the movement or patterns of those concepts from their own reality, not just recite from a book they read or from a video they watched.

Those tomes of information in your head are all just theory.

There is absolutely no substitute for experience and experience is gained through practice. Hours upon hours of careful deliberate movement and mental intention that is pinpointed on FEELING all the parts of the body involved. Peeling back the layers of body insensitivity built upon by years of neglect and misuse.

The secret to mastery, to me, is not cramming more information in, being able to recite every principle or move in manderin, or being able to write all of the branches of tai chi lineage holders by heart. (Though, with time it is a goal I have 😀 )

No, its practice. It’s being able to FEEL, to CONNECT, to EXPERIENCE a unified complete movement and unbroken intention through every motion.

 

I bring this up to remind myself how far I have to go. It has been a year since I did my first recording of the 24 movement form. I posted the video on my YouTube channel and watched it after first viewing the original.

There has been HUGE improvement over the year, (To which I mentioned to my teacher and all he had to say was; “Well hopefully”.)

Much improvement, yet still MUCH farther to go.

I have pulled back on the reading I was doing and have limited it to things only loosely related to Tai Chi. Mostly books on energy healing and the energy body in general to help expand my basic knowledge of the energy body or the philosophical ideologies. Favoring the approach of trying to build this basic knowledge up to build a stronger broader foundation in which to bring my practice up as a whole.

As a result, I have actually had much stronger clarity and focus in my daily practice.

No longer feeling the rush to try some of those more advanced moves\techniques or distracted by figuring out how to work them, without fully understanding how or why.

My hips have opened up greatly, and the 24 is starting to become second hand. Passed the stage of trying to just remember and far in to breaking down the fine corrections\intentions in the movement itself.

I feel much more grounded when doing my form practice and, for the moment, its a great place to stay for a while as I continue to dig the holes for the footings of my tai chi practice.

Simple is better. Breath

 

fast-track-01

 

March 2015 form:

 

March 2016 form:

 

Can you spot the differences?

Give it a Name

The last two week I have had three incidents where I found myself in a foul mood.

I don’t know about you all, but when I get in those moods my first inclination, that can sometimes last for weeks, is to ignore. To invalidate those feelings as “bad” or as unacceptable behavior and I tighten up and try to force myself in to a more tolerable state of mind.

I cant think of one instance where that has actually worked though.

Instead, all it does is limit my ability to appreciate what is going on around me. I get so tense that after a couple days it becomes all I can think about. Compressing me in a vice grip of happiness and tranquility.

Restricting my world into a single pin prick of awareness.

Until that is, I allow myself to give it a name and get to know it.

I find a way to give myself permission to feel it and often that comes from first understanding it.

Yesterday, it was frustration, frustration in the process of learning.

Annoyance in how far I need to go and wishing my knowledge of a technique translated to the ability to perform it.

I had no comprehension of this, until I allowed myself to write in my journal, where there was much anger and cussing. In the end however, it allowed me to understand it for what it was realized I should allow myself to feel it. To let myself use the frustration as a energy source to practice and push me forward.

I believe the entry ended something like “Fine, fuck it. I’ll be god damn frustrated if i want to be.”

Then, almost immediately, my world opened up again. Accepting those feelings as valid and allowing myself to experience them.

Monday, I was given a name of something I didn’t even know was bothering me. Something I just took as an inevitable response to working on computers for 10 – 11 hours a day.

It was a tension I get right behind my eyes and often takes me hours to get rid of. This video sums it up perfectly… its a short one so its easy and worth the watch :).

After watching that video I realized that is EXACTLY whats going on. I am spending do much time focused so intently on my computer screen that all that tension just keeps building and building until its a solid mass of some insoluble material.

But, after it was given a name, I was able to understand it and I immediately began to relax that space in order to let that pressure dissipate through the rest of my body. In the process, I found a great exercise I can do during the day that keeps that pressure at bay and prevents it from building up too much.

The third instance was last week, the Grumpy Face post. I was god damn grumpy. I felt disconnected, unfocused and EVERYTHING was annoying me.

The dogs toenails clicking on the floor, dogs getting in the way, cats meowing, people being awake…. you name it and it was bugging the hell out of me.

I had also recorded myself doing the 24 that morning and as I watch it now you can almost taste my fury :P. (Ill post it at some point and add a link here :))

But after I wrote and decided to choose to just let myself be grumpy, I was just… not grumpy.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that is just as easy as saying, “Oh, i’m grumpy now i’m just going to be grumpy.”

No, that just seems like its giving yourself permission to be an asshole.

I’m talking about understanding the reasons BEHIND the feeling. WHY am I grumpy. Once I understand why THEN I can accept it and allow myself to settle in to it.

Its like I give myself a little piece of candy for exploring…

“Ok, you dug around and found me. Here is a treat. Be grumpy as shit and enjoy the hell out of it now that you know why.”

GiveItAName

Grumpy Face

All up in my head and grumpy as hell.

I’m not sure what the deal is this morning.

Am I hungry? idk… I just feel like my head is in a giant San Francisco fog bank this morning, despite it actually being a very nice day.

The neighbors outside light has been flashing on and off at irregular intervals for the last two days. At first I thought it was someone trying to figure out what all the light switches did, but i guess its not…just a broken light..

That pretty much defines me ATM. I think I have control or understanding about what and how my body and mind reacts but then, whatever it is i am working on just seems to shut off without warning. I suddenly just seem so far away from it.

I KNOW that is the natural method for a lot of this stuff, we get a glimpse of it then it goes away and eventually it just sneaks back in after some seemingly random amount of time and practice.

Sigh.

I suppose there is a great deal of frustration right now associate with my writing. I haven’t had a chance to sit down lately to do it and as a result I can feel the mental cruft that has layered upon my mind. I think this time i let it cruft for a bit too long bc it is considerably harder to get through the layers.

So now I just sit here in frustration. So, I may as well take advantage of it and just do some bitching….

I recorded myself doing the 24 this morning, it was terrible. Not even going to post it, going to reshoot it. One look at the first move and I can tell I am totally in my head.

My arms look like they are moving through jelly and completely disconnected from the rest of my body.

My back is all crooked and my hips all completely disjointed.

Its probably not that bad, but I want to be grumpy right now.

Maybe Ill let myself figure out why later.

grumpycat

Flippity Floppity

I feel like I have a lot to catch up on here today.

Life has been pretty crazy lately and has been keeping me from my practice.

Mornings have been filled with anxiety about work and I have been letting myself open my computer instead of meditating or doing drills and the toll is apparent.

I come home exhausted, almost zombie like, back like a crane operator pulling levers to get from one point to another instead of living inside my body.

I got some meditation in this morning, but it was a struggle. There was just too much bouncing around in my brain to let it drift through. Instead, I decided I just needed to write.

So, here I am.

One the the most frustrating things about being disconnected again, is that last week I was able to get a little bit of a break through and now it just seems like a distant memory.

During Qigong, I was able to consciously split my mind in to two parts.

In Tai Chi and Qigong, there is a mental practice along with the physical movements. The mental intention has direct influence on the quality and structure of movement. In the idea the idea is to separate your intention from your attention, that is mostly just a concept to me,  but last week I was starting to get a taste of something that seemed to fit along those lines.

What I was beginning to be able to play with was the idea of being able to leave a considerable amount of my awareness in my dantian as I shot little rockets of intention up and out through my arms and legs to do a movement. I was conscious of those probes, how they were moving, where they were and was able to sense the quality each part of my body around them as they moved. All this while the main “hub” of my awareness was firmly planted like a lead ball in my abdomen resting on my kua, or inner hip joints.

What this did with my overall movement was take out all the extra tension in my arms,hands, back, head. I was able to do a move without tensing muscles but more like creating a wave that originated from my center and traveled through the center of my limbs.

I suppose that sounds a little bizzarre, but it felt really damn cool.

I got three or four days of practice with that feeling, but then as my morning routine got mangled the feeling slowly dissipated.

Extremely frustrating, but I am trying to see it like every other aspect of Tai Chi and life.

Ride the waves of your revelations for as long as you can, hope you have the wisdom to know when to jump off, then paddle back out to sea and wait patiently for the next set.

 

crane

Cardboard in the Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They will only change their pitch.

 

 cardboardintherain

Mischievous Me

 

The deviant, the troublemaker, the bear poker.

Hater of routines, defier of convention, conflict creator.

I am the one who marks on the clean walls. The one who shifts the furniture just enough.

When neglected too long, I am the one who will ruin you.

I gather strength as I am overlooked. As I am suppressed through routine, through quelling adventure, repressing creativity, or withholding expression.

That builds my power. I will come at you in a tidal wave as your “proper” side gets fatigued.

A wave that will overwhelm and wreak havok upon you.

I don’t like to be ignored. I like to play.

I must create, I must sculpt, I must write, I must paint, I must hunt.

I am the rugged individualist, who must propel through every path least traveled. Must blaze through uncharted territory with nothing but my wits and my experience to guide me.

I must be fed.

If I am not, I’m that feeling in your chest that you need to scream.

That feeling you need to flip that party switch.

I am the party. I am the alcohol. I am the drugs. I am the rage, the frustration, the search for something else. The yearning to feel fulfilled. The hole in your being.

I am your individuality.

I am fire. I am destruction. I am fury.

I am every unexpressed thought or emotion. I am every fear. I am every instance of anger.

I am danger.

Fear me, respect me. But don’t deny me. I am you. I am the self. I am but a part, but I still am.

Feed me for fear of my feasting.

Listen to me for fear of my retribution.

Live with me for fear of not being whole.

Love me bc I am you.

I must not be neglected, I must thrive or I will be your end.

Find me, cultivate me, incorporate me.

I love to be included.

Together we could make beautiful things.

 

mischeivous_calvin

Prime The Pump

Somehow, I always end up forgetting how important warm-ups are. Progressing through practice it’s easy to start to pinpoint a single thing to work on and go right for it without noticing the resulting mental shift until several days after switching things up.

Warm-ups, I reminded myself today, are not only for the muscles. They are also important for helping to get the mind in the right place for practice. The very nature of tai chi requires your mind to be present and paying attention through every movement at all times. Any excess chatter in the mind gets in the way and randomizes your mental intention, making it close to impossible to be fully present in practice.

I am on vacation now!

i have returned to the families farm to enjoy a couple days of relaxation and then we all head to a lake in the middle of nowhere for even more relaxation. I arrived late last night, so today is the first I get to enjoy the calm non-city life and it is absolutely fantastic to be surrounded by so many animals and trees again. There has been a growning need for me to be away from the city lately and this is only the first stage. The lake will be even better MUCH farther from civilization and away from any feelings of obligations.

Got up early this morning in time to get some practice in before the insane northwest heat wave hits.

As I walked up amongst all the chickens to find a practice spot, I was struggling to get myself to settle down and start moving. My thoughts were scattered to the wind, thinking about all the things I wanted to work on, how nice everything around was, the smells, the sounds, the energy were all kicking up old memories of the old days growing up and I couldn’t help but be taken away with them.

So I stood there rather confused about where to start and how to drop back into practice, but then the thought occurred to me…

“Why don’t you just do the warm ups?”

Derp. Of course you dolt.

Warm Up qigong exercises it was then.

After the first three exercises my mind was quiet and ready, a feeling that as of late has been escaping me. My mind was back on how my body was moving, feeling my hips (the main area of focus the last couple weeks) and how they were transitioning between the weight shifts as I went through the basic warm ups.

It felt great to have that focus back.

So I dared to slip into a more intense practice, I deepened my horse stances, put my mind deep inside my kua. I was intent to focus on keeping my knees almost completely still and I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, not allowing them to get to mu weight directly on them.

I doubled the reps I was doing for each exercise  in order to feel a nice burn in the upper quads and the inner hips. It was an absolutely great set of Qigong that lasted about 30 minutes. I came out of it with a nice sweat and a focused non chattering mind.

After that I moved in to the 83 and my mind was there completely.

I approached this 83 very slowly, making sure to methodically transition and focus on each move. There was no stuttering this time. I was completely aware of each position, how my body was flowing between them, where the weight was on my feet and was trying to feel the how the movements start at my dantian and go out. This was by far one of the best practices I have had in several weeks.

I didn’t time it, but my guess would be that it took about 15 minutes to get to tornado kick in the form. Still really far behind, but today’s practice boosted my confidence back up. i’ll be able to catch up to the rest of the class :).

I finished off the practice with about 10 minutes of standing meditation. I would have liked to have gone a little longer, but the dogs started barking down by the house and the sun was much higher in the sky, so it was getting pretty warm. I guess I will just have to get up earlier next time :).

Today’s Practice (in summary):

  • 30 minutes deep qigong (Focusing on the hips and leg strength)
  • 15 minutes 83 form
  • 10 minutes standing meditation

Expanding Awareness

Had a little mini revelation the other day while doing standing meditation.

I was thinking about the concept of perception and awareness. There are a huge number of things that I am aware. Hundreds of things, in fact, multiplied by every sense we have. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, thought and all of the senses going on in the body. Most of which I tune out, there is just no way I couldn’t possibly pay attention to it all.

There is a common description used when describing how to meditate, particularly applied to those thoughts that suck you in while attempting to “silence the mind”.

“Treat your thoughts like clouds in the sky. Don’t focus on one cloud, allow the clouds the drift freely through the sky. Allowing them to pass, unfettered from one side to the other”.

Well it occurred to me, that this concept shouldn’t just be limited to thought. Granted, everything in the end comes down to thought, but it should also apply to all the senses.

Getting my mind to a spot where it is aware of everything, but nothing at the same time. Allowing my perception to absorb all of my awareness and let the input flow freely into my consciousness without hitting the snags of focus.

I have been talking a lot about de-cluttering my mind lately and I feel like this little epiphany is directly related. I have started to become consciously more aware of the things that take up attention in my mind, the deeper I go, the more layers I find and the more sensitive I become to new ones forming or old ones popping back up. Slowly the layers are at least becoming more visible at each new discovery there is a level of analysis on its impacts and level of necessity.

I have been unable to completely purge facebook from my life as of, yet however. I realized it had become a fairly large form of relaxation for me and I didn’t have anything else to fill its time. So, instead of completely cutting it off, I have greatly reduced the amount I use it, or rather the REASONS I use it. I don’t allow myself to just pick it up and check every moment, I make a conscious effort to only pick it up WHEN I am ready to take a quick little mental break. Just the intention change has made a huge difference in the drain on my attention levels and has reduced the stress that just mindlessly picking it up every free moment caused.

I have taken that approach to my learning and practice as well, giving myself dedicated specific intention for each study session or practice as well as a dedicated time for relaxation.This has allowed me to feel a little more solid in the day to day. Doing this has greatly improved my focus at work as well as my tai chi practice. My mind is able to focus directly on what is in front of me and what I am actively doing, instead of what I SHOULD be learning or doing or stretched out across 8 different things.

This little milestone has actually helped me considerably this last couple days as I have started back from my vacation. I am allowing myself dedicated recharge time and am taking a little mental check-in on my mental\physical status when I feel I need to learn\do something. I only proceed if I am not feeling any level of exhaustion mentally or physically.

On top of all this, my mediation practiced has just leveled up. I am going forward with the idea that all of which I perceive is the sky and the little pockets of awareness are clouds. Floating through wherever the wind will carry them. Present, yet only conscious of them.

So far so good. Lets see how it goes!

Tuesday’s Practice:

Private lesson today. We went over the first two moves of the form in GREAT detail

  • 15 minutes standing meditation
  • 1 hour private lesson. 24 Form 1 time full. 6 times just the first two moves
  • 1.5 hours Advanced Tai Chi. 83 Form 1 time all the way through, rest of the night was learning moves 32 through 46

Today’s Practice:

  • 24 form x3
  • First two moves x4
  • 1.5 hours Dynamic Qigong
  • 47 pull ups throughout the day

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