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.

sick

I’m staring at the computer screen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

normal-007

Writing Day

It’s Wednesday, my writing day, and I am delightfully hungover.

Not sick hungover, I can just tell I had a couple of extra beers last night and I am feeling satisfied about it.

It was one of those days that I just needed that extra little reset button to put my mind at ease. Thankfully that is not a reset button I have needed much, if any, recently so I allowed myself to indulge a little bit.

Now, I am up at my regular hour just a touch foggy and still looking back in fondness of the nights adventure.

Nothing complicated, just a nice dinner with the roommates and hanging out. My favorite way to relax.

Our household is shifting a bit, getting ready for an additional roommate to ease the financial burden on the house. Requires a lot of shifting of objects and standards of living. Tightening up the ship as it were, getting our ducks in a row before adding another human to the madness.

_________________________________________

Practice is still going well. Every morning, except today, I have gotten 30 minutes of Zhan Zhuang in as well as about 15 – 30 minutes of qigong and stick work.

Still working my way through the qigong book as well. I hit a very interesting part where it is describing several processes for stopping thought during meditation.  Not familiar enough with them to describe them yet, but I am going to try a couple for a week or so and see how well they fit me.

Lots of talk about the emotional mind and the wisdom mind and how they relate to each other and the practice as a whole, still processing some of that as well. The emotional mind is called the Xin and the wisdom mind is the Yi. The over all idea is that you tame the emotional mind and then lead it with the wisdom mind.

So basically, you learn to recognize your emotions and the actions provoked by them and then allow your higher mind, big mind or wisdom mind to them either put those actions in to play or dismiss them as an irrelevant one.

Lots more thoughts on that and how I have been incorporating that in to my life… but like I said, I am hungover.

Until next time!

 

beer

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

Blog-Versary

It has been about a year since I started documenting my progress through Tai Chi.

The blog itself has deviated, then refocused only to deviate again. Touching on all sorts of topics in some way or another related to my practice, though admittedly some more obvious than others.

That really emphasizes how Tai Chi has touched every part of my life, bringing different understanding to the oddest of things, from how I eat my breakfast in the morning, to how I move during the day, to my relationship with my family, to how I live within my body and to how I play with my dog every morning.

It is teaching me how to just be more aware of where my intention and attention are at every moment and to also listening for where any tension may lay within me.

Whether it be mental, emotional, spiritual or muscular it has allowed me to be more present with it which in turn, allows me to find out how to release or understand it.

Since I got back from vacation, I have been struggling a bit, trying to get back to the “feeling” I had during practice before break. The feeling of being in the groove as well as the feeling I had in my lower body.

I spent last term focusing on lower body integration and as a result I was able to “think” from my lower body and feel each movement from the lower half. A feeling that was previously absent within me, in fact, I have pretty much lived my whole life ignoring my lower half all together. Treating it as a tertiary support structure to get me somewhere,  so you can imagine being able to finally feel it was quite the experience!

But two weeks off of intense practice let that training kind of absorb in to the rest of my being. I am still able to feel my lower half, but not nearly as intensely as I could at the end of last term.

Anyway, my point is that I have been struggling to get back in the groove within my body the last week and have been trying to figure out what to focus on next for the current term.

During one of those stewing sessions, I realized that instead of trying to achieve some feeling, I should just be allowing myself to be in the state I am in now without trying to make judgement or trying to force it to change.

The state I am now is how I am and there is nothing wrong with it. That is just me and who I am at that moment.

I have been hearing myself say a lot lately, “I’m not feeling myself” or “Im trying to get back to feeling myself” until I thought about it and realized… That IS me.

Whatever out of sorts I am feeling, whether it be grumpy (a common morning theme), awkward, nervous, withdrawn, or just plain out of practice. That is me, and I AM that way so why not allow myself to just be it?

So that is what my training is going to be for this term. Allowing myself to be myself in every form.

So, here’s to a year!

The distance I have come seems pretty significant when looking to where I was and I look forward to more ahead and another year!

 

moretocome

Endurance

Distraction comes in many forms.

For me today, it was in the form of chickens, hunger and sheep.

The last week I have been spending some time away for the city and traveling up north to some of the beautiful country that Washington and Oregon has to offer. I find myself today, at my parents farm.

A lovely get away surrounded by nature and nestled nicely in the bottom of a valley which blocks out all noise except for the wind in the trees, the birds chirping, 250 chickens clucking, three roosters crowing and the sheep calling frantically for their morning meal.

It is in the middle of all this, that I find myself practicing.

At first, I did 2 of the 24 form to wake myself up. The first one slightly mentally cloudy, directing the movement mostly from my head but near the end beginning to feel my body wake up.

The second one, considerably slower and more mindful. More focused on where my eye placement was and consciously sinking deeper while moving with more synchronization of the upper and lower half.

Then on to the 83, starting out strong with mental intention and eyes focusing properly until, three things happened… My stomach growled, the chickens kicked up their activity 5 fold and the sheep suddenly sounded as if they had not been fed in weeks.

2 or three of them had broken out of the fence and were behind me getting startled and clucking incessantly.

My concentration broken, I started to get sloppy, but caught myself and started over. Forcing myself to slow down and sink in to the movement each time I restart.

Starting, stopping and going backwards I was able to finally make it to the end. My mind constantly searching for some excuse not to continue by latching on to the sounds and distractions teaming around me, hunger, chickens and sheep…Oh My.

This is day three since I decided to switch things up in practice by doing three full forms a day and my lesson is that I need more practice.

My mental focus needs to build its endurance back up to what it was in order to get my clarity during the form each day. Still trying to figure out if I should eat before or after practice and how much that affects my mental focus as well.

Maybe tomorrow I will eat a larger snack, or grill up a chicken….

Chickens

 

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

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

 

 

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