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?

Friendship

I realized I am really out of practice with friendship.

I have mentioned before how I pulled myself through a lot of my addictions by separating myself from some of the extremely close friends I had back in the day.

There are a lot of positives that came from that, but I always feel a deep sorrow when looking back because often I feel that was the last time I was able to be carefree and allow myself to be completely open with those around me without the assistance of an intoxicant.

An unfortunate side effect to that experience is the nagging distrust I have for myself and others when it comes to dropping down my guard.

That dread of falling back in to old habits, or somehow slipping back in to my self abusive tendencies that in my head, feel like only a moment away from bursting free.

I have built up a behavior of mistrust and unease to remind myself that if let go, I will stop moving forward and go right back to where I started.

This has kept me from many deep friendships.

I recognize this as a new thing I need to heal from, but it is not easy.

Even this post has been extremely difficult to write, I have distracted myself several times to avoid some of the emotions that are stirring up.

It is something I am working on, actively reaching out more. Touching on those fringe areas of conversation that border on all out panic inside me. The fears, the vulnerabilities that I keep only to myself so that no one will see me as weak and I can “keep my advantage”.

Advantage over what? I have no idea.

Perhaps its the advantage of being so closed off that no one can get to me, no one will have anything over me to control me or manipulate me…. Manipulate me like I have manipulated myself?

There is a thought…

The idea that someone could know me well enough to invoke the same change I have created in myself kind of horrifies me.

Knowing all the things I have done in order to change my behavior, the knowledge of how easy it actually is to be influenced or steered in a direction. What if someone else sees that?

Perhaps its my sensitivity to any form of influence or manipulation that provokes that fear. Like a kid who was bullied when they were little, they will recognize all forms of it with much greater sensitivity and a stronger reaction than those without that experience.

Maybe, I have allowed myself to grow hyper sensitive and reactive to it, preventing me from even allowing myself to participate in the positive aspects of them. The aspects that are often present when a group of friends are having an open, raucous and fun discussion at the dinner table.

The kind of conversation that has no point, has no intention other than to enjoy each others company and to poke at each others personalities.

It is a frustrating struggle. To want to open up and join in but to not be able to find the words, or the connecting points to join the conversation, but it is still a pleasure to be around it.

*Sigh*

One day, I will finish repairing the damage I inflicted to rehabilitate myself.

In the mean time, thank you to all those I call my friends.

I enjoy your company and there will be opening, at some point, to a dinner table near you.

 

Friendship-Whatsapp-Status

 

 

Quality

The Tai Chi form has taught me many things that can also be applied to life, but this morning as my eyes opened the idea of quality came to mind.

In the form, quality can take the form of intention.

Intention in the action you are currently performing, an elbow strike, an arm bar, a strike to the solar plexus. These concepts are brought to the form to make sure that your mind is completely present with every moment which brings the “quality” of awareness to your movement.

This idea aligns your mind, energy body, and physical body in the movements. Visibly this shows up as what could be called fullness or completeness in each step, making the form “pleasant” to watch to outsiders with no clear indication as to why.

This same idea can be applied with life.

There is a quality in every move we make, every action we take and it presents itself invisibly to all those around us and people around us react to it. Often unconsciously (though some are sensitive enough to be aware of it).

That quality is what attracts or repels the things around us. It creates the very world in which we live.

What intention do you bring while making meals?

What about when you walk to the grocery store?

How about when you interact with someone who cut you off? or deal with that angry neighbor he always scowls at you?

Your intention is not invisible, I know we like to think our inner most thoughts are, but have you ever stopped to think how those unconscious thoughts have manifested around you? What type of people it has attracted to you?

Or, here is a doozy, what kind of drama  has it created in your life?

 

Practice your intention. Start small, one tiny thing in the morning.

Like pouring your cereal, what is that cereal providing? Are you angry that the cereal is the only thing you have to eat? Are you only eating because you are told you HAVE to eat breakfast? Do you wish you were eating something else?

Try being present with what is in front of you.

Pick the cereal, with the intention of enjoying it.

Pour the cereal, with the intention of filling the space of the bowl.

Grab the milk, with the intention of covering the cereal.

Pour the milk, with the intention of wetting the cereal.

Eat the cereal, with the intention of of being nourished with energy for the day. Energy that will be transmuted in to whatever action you are to be performing.

Action, that will contain trace amounts of the intention of the energy used to perform it.

 

Everything is connected and compounds what came before it. Accumulate your positive reality around you a single grain at a time.

Eventually, you will have a mountain.

quality-approved

Quality Control Approved

Rest? Nah, work.

Why do I always get the feeling that if I rest I will never come back to practice.

I spent so much of my twenties resting, it was one of my most refined skills. Always “relaxing” taking it easy, chilling.

Why do I hate it so much now?

Even the thought of it brings up panic inside my chest.

“No, I cant rest. If I was really passionate about my practice I wouldn’t need to rest. I would find fuel inside the practice itself, you might as well just quit if you need to rest.”

At least that’s what keeps repeating inside my head.

Yet another form of negative self talk.

Here I was thinking I had found someway around it, silly fool.

 

Went to a friends wedding last weekend that set forth an unfortunate chain of events that is still emanating through my life as I write this.

As per expected, there was a great party. Filled with dancing, friends and of course, drinking. Lots of drinking.

Now it had been quite some time since I had gone to a party, so in the back of my mind I held caution. Just a little, left there to periodically sample my intoxication level and stand at the ready to raise the alarm.

Unfortunately, that caution is not well trained and while I was able to maintain my composer, I did not, however, limit my consumption of alcohol.

So, the day after drunk town….

It felt like any hangover day…Really shitty.

Did the normal things;

  • Biscuits and gravy
  • Drive Home
  • Lay on couch and watch movies all day feeling generally sorry for myself

What I wasn’t expecting was the day after that.

See, there was something lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on me the moment my immune system let down its guard, or in this case, was brutally assaulted by expensive bourbon.

That’s right, some sort of virus.

It crashed on me bright and early Monday morning in the form of  a massive sore throat and the energy level of a tranquilized sloth.

So, I decided to “Rest”.

I stayed home from work and let the Tai Chi studio know I was taking some down time to recover.

Ha, down time.

So, instead of just sleeping, I pulled out my work laptop and logged in to the work network to get some work done as I laid there….

Sounds like the perfect relaxing way to recover from sickness right??

As you can imagine, right along side that work came ALL the stress.

All the work stress and NONE of the distractions. Just me, in my cave, sick and hyper focused on work.

I worked more hours that day than I would have if I had gone to work… and it was the same the NEXT TWO days!

That is how I “Recover”.

I drop all the self care and pull my work blankets up over my head.

Well.. at least that’s how I thought I needed to…

Now I find myself STILL sick, a week later.

Still feel like a sloth, but at least several hours after being tranquilized instead of freshly shot up.

I got fed up and did some tai chi this morning, the first all week, and it felt great.

My head is foggy, and I have this weird popping in my ears… but off I still go to work…

I think perhaps my priorities are backwards.

sloth

 

 

 

Soothing the Soul

The single most pivotal\profound experience in my life happened in a dream.

It left me feeling like there was something within me that I needed to share with the world. A feeling so strong that it drove me to separate from everyone and everything in my life and change directions.

At the time I was working construction and generally just being a bum. I was partying constantly, was usually on some sort of drug and spent my hours writing or dancing.

The morning after this dream, everything inside me changed. The lack of motivation I had always felt was gone. The need to communicate something was so strong, so fierce that it was the only thing that mattered any more. I HAD to find a way to let whatever that was out.

So I started going to school, community college to get my head back in the mode of studying and I started to separate myself from the crowd I was hanging around. That was the hardest thing, as I think about it now I have a pain in my heart, I still feel like I abandoned them.

These weren’t just my friends, they were my family. I spent every second with them, but it was the only way I knew how to get away from what I saw as a black hole. A life path that held nothing for me, I could see where it was going and it was no where good.

From there, I tried to just follow my passions. I had no idea what I needed to do and for the most part I had no idea what I was doing. I had no plan, just what was immediately in front of me.

Get the pre-reqs done at community college, go to another college… get degree… then what? A job? Then what? Family?

I ended up going to and art school, fitting now that I think about it, but at the time I was paralyzed with the decision between that and an engineering school.

Paralyzed because I knew I would do fine on either path, but I had no idea which one was the right one, which one was the one that would get this out of me.

Animation and game design ended up being my focus. I have always had a strong inclination toward movement. I could always FEEL movement, I could experience it through dancing and felt I could tap in to something beyond myself when I did.

My specialty ended up becoming, hilariously, optimizing and enhancing artists workflows.

12 years later, I have had three jobs in the gaming industry. One could say I have found success, but to me it still feels like just a beginning.

Like those twelve years were just to prepare me for what lies deep within me, the need, the drive, the command to help.

To communicate something, to help people succeed, to help people find themselves.

I feel I am closer now to this than ever.

Like whatever it is, is on the tip of my brain.

Whatever it is, a part of it is my my journal from 10 years ago which I randomly open up last night.

A writing that I pleaded myself to get out in to the world, but have yet to do.

It is perhaps the closest thing I have to the writing I used to do.

There was a journal I had in my early twenties that I would write in all hours of the night, stories about finding true meaning, about exploring the soul, about tapping in to the eternal knowledge within us and getting out of our own ways to live through it.

I lost that journal in Paris France. I left it on a train that I had rushed off trying to make my stop.

Years of writing and self exploration lost.

To this day, that is the single most profound loss I have ever had. But when I search deep for an answer to why I let that happen, the answer is always:

“You weren’t ready.”

Am I now? I have no idea.

But, for some reason or another I opened my replacement journal directly up to that page last night and I read it.

It floored me. The entry was so clear to me despite remembering writing it and feeling like it was completely unintelligible.

It touched me to the core, validated my journey and gave me a jolt of passion to help try to push me through this next wall of fear and self doubt.

As I search for a reason I happened to open my journal to the ONE spot, the only answer I get is, “It’s Time”.

So, whatever that means, I guess it’s my answer.

HolyFirepanel1

Sausage and Eggs

1-eggs-sausage-milwaukee

There are few things in this world as annoying as being shown how far your perspective of your progress differs from reality.

I have had this wild idea lately to start augmenting the blog with a video log. Thinking that I would be able to explain some of more movement based concepts I am exploring in a better way.

Last night I did a test shoot just to get some sample footage to start editing and messing around with to get a feel for what I need to mess with. I learned several valuable lessons.

  1. I hate watching myself on camera.
  2. I need to get MUCH more comfortable talking to a camera.
  3. My movement is light years away from looking comfortable or correct.
  4. Its going to take a shit ton of self acceptance and patience to get anywhere with videos.

So, im taking that frustration and trying to fuel my practice with it….So far, I just find myself at the bottom of a mountain with nothing but a claw tooth hammer and a ball of twine to climb with.

 

Focus:

Did the 24 this morning twice forcing focus on moving from the dantian, getting my mind in to my body and expressing each move. Making sure to move with full intention and expressing punches and kicks.

Onward and upward. I leave you with this wonderful Tai Chi video

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

The Dream Machine

I have been having crazy dreams lately.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Three-Dantiens-207x300

 

 

 

Plugging In the Charger

For countless reasons, my individual Tai Chi practice has been slipping the last month or so.

My mornings I have ended up sleeping in, my week days have been skipped here and there and my weekends have been spent dealing with life in other parts of the country. Taking me away from my regular routine.

One could say; it has been chaotic, to say the least.

Right on the tail end of all this madness, came along a chakra awareness class meant to stir all your shit right up in front of you in order to, well, to START deal with it. It is a great class, turning into more of several guided therapy sessions than I originally thought, but hey it’s about time I dealt with some of that deep emotional programming anyway.

All this life and self work has really sent me up into my head. Leaving out the balance of body mind integration work and started to lead me back towards that stress and anxiety that got me pushed me down this path in the first place.

In other words, the cable was plugged into the phone but unplugged from the wall.

In class we are working on the 83 form. I have been frustrated in my lack of focus and practice time outside of class in turn leaving me feeling unfocused and unclear in class, but not having time to practice in class because we are learning the next move. Thus continuing spiral of frustration and anxiety.

This is the second full weekend I have had in awhile and I realized today how much I had been missing while skipping my morning practice.

I started the day feeling pretty grumpy and tired.

6 AM was too early this morning.

After we cleaned the guan, the senior students worked on the 83 more. My mind was everywhere, forgetting the moves, thinking about groceries, work… you name it my mind was there.

At one point i was getting frustrated in Tai Chi itself, didn’t even know why I was there or doing it because I felt totally disconnected from it.

Thats kind of when I figured something was really wrong.

After about an hour of this internal struggle, something inside me finally woke up.

What I need to do is STFU and practice, I thought to myself.

So that’s what I did.

I stayed in front of the mirror, refused to let myself get distracted and worked. Around the 5th time through the section we had been working on I was finally starting to feel connected to my body again. Allowing myself to quiet down and slowly experience each move. Letting the motion of my body lead my mind through its energy patterns.

Pure Joy.

The rest of the classes went very similarly, quiet, focused intention on every move, every inch, every position.

Finally the calm is back taking over my brain, like a long drink of cool water after a long hike.

The stress and the anxiety are still right there at the edge of my awareness, I think they always have been. Tomorrow will be more slow, quiet intention as I return to the daily practice I am so reliant on. My hope is through a combination of this chakra class and tai chi I will be able to deal with some of the larger fears and stresses that live deep in the foundations.

I am reminded once more, happiness, contentedness is not a constant state. There are always fluctuations, external or internal, that will shift me around from one end to the next.

I must allow myself to relax and stay connected in those moments to keep the mind and body clear and relaxed or the old patterns start to emerge.

 

Added Bonus!!! My 24 form from about 6 months ago. Captured it in the studio and will be capturing another one soon for comparison!

 

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