Shapes in the Plaster

Yes! I have time to write today!

Not just physical time, but mental time, so I am sitting with the dog on the couch and dumping thoughts.

Mmmmm…what to write about.

Took the whole week off Tai Chi classes to spend some extra time at work to shore up some of the weak points. Now at least I have a general grasp on what needs to be done and a task list I can follow. Not completely out of the stress weeds…. but working on it.

This morning and yesterday I did get a full 24 in though. I still wake up early enough to have a bit of spare time and gotta spend it somehow! The last class, Saturday, we focused pretty heavily on a couple parts and I didn’t want to completely forget what we were talking about.

When I was a kid, until I was about 22, I lived life with very little inhibitions. I used to stare up at the clouds for hours letting them morph before me. I formed them into different shapes and creatures as they drifted, an almost endless array of forms dancing before me. There was no intention towards them. It was like it was nature’s television, pulling the thoughts and feelings straight from my brain and projecting them on the sky.

This concept showed up on other things as well.

The bumps on a spackled wall, the stains on the floor, the random groupings of fibers on a carpet pointing in different directions. I would find myself lazily focusing on these surfaces and forming cartoon faces, animals of bizarre proportions, and all sorts of crazy things. There was a subtle desire to give them life. Find some way to create them in the real world, but never had the patience to sit down and try to capture them. Too busy keeping myself entertained with all the whacky creations to communicate it to others.

Then went to art school.

In the beginning, the drawing classes had us do a lot of quick sketches, 30 second gesture drawings. One of my favorite things to do was to scribble some lines on the paper then doodle with it until it was some sort of face or creature. I have notebooks filled with these scribbles, it was so much fun.

At some point, however, I began to force myself into a more structured approach to drawing. As I was shown more techniques, I figured I needed to employ them so that I could become a more skilled artist to communicate my ideas. I had to become part of the land of the employed. I no longer had time for these silly flights of fancy. I had work to do.

What happened was exactly what I had intended. My brain shut off that part of my mind. Walling it up and limiting access to it because it “wasn’t the proper way” or “There wasn’t time for this absurdity”.

As the years went by, I got farther away from it. Favoring of a more technical aspect of art and ending up specializing in character rigging leading to lots of programming and technical setup. I got really good at it, but I have always felt kind of a loss for that abstract freedom I used to have. Aware only now, that it not only affected how I saw things, but the flows and direction of thoughts I had.

About a year and a half ago, I started drawing again and also took up tai chi.

The drawing started to melt that wall.

All the tension and rigidity that had been built up for the last 10 years started to melt away, very slowly. I got really in to inks and brushes and was starting to become free again.

I have only recently remembered that part of my life. Those aspects of my day to day, the freedom and unrestricted thought that used to be so easily accessed. It has been one of my main goals to get back to.

I know I am on the right path because a couple weeks ago, I started to see shapes in the plaster again.

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Archaeologist’s

I think I am starting to understand why most chinese martial arts are based off of animals.

Animals express pure movement, they don’t have the extra baggage of having to “figure out” the best what to do something or have the capacity of masking their purpose from the rest of the animals. Their bodies are pure illustration of their intention at all times.

When a cheetah chases its prey, it doesn’t think about whether it is using the proper form as its running.

When tiger is lying about, it isn’t thinking about all of the things it needs to do that day, or wondering where or if it will find its next meal. Its purpose and intention is directly connected and communicated through its body.

The deeper I go in to Tai Chi the more I realize it’s really all just about getting back to this state inside the body.  Removing the years of programming I have encorporated into my movement Learning to get rid of all the ideas I have on how I should be doing something and just doing it… Letting the body unlock itself and do things the way it is naturally inclined to do.

I look at this concept and can’t help but realize how far I am from that goal. There is constantly some thought or idea hidden in my subconscious, masking itself cleverly as relaxation, limiting my movement or obstructing my natural motion. The deeper the layers the more difficult and deep the programming is to uncover and modify.

The only key I have found, so far, is to allow myself to pay quiet attention. Passing no judgement on it, but to just allow myself to become aware of it. I try to understand its origins, connections and its uses, comparing it to what I have already learned. I explore its edges, walk around the visible sides up of it and start to carefully excavate around it. Like an archaeologist carefully uncovering the remnants of a long past civilization. Trying to figure out how deep it goes and what secrets it holds.

No matter the size, no matter the depth, thus far I have always been able to get all around and under it in order to extract it.

Perhaps extract is the wrong word, that seems like it’s removing something toxic.

It’s more like I absorb it. Absorb it into the past, allow it to become another bump on the road.

The results are much like when the physical body relaxes a long tense muscle. Suddenly, it unlocks a new more fluid movement and everything around it is different, new pathways of movement to discover and build upon until the next artifact is discovered.

Then it begins again.

Practice this week:

It has been a little slow going getting back to practice this week. Lots of reading and train surfing instead of the normal morning practice

Wednesdays Practice:

  • 20 minutes standing meditation

Thursdays Practice:

  • 30 minutes Dynamic Qigong in the morning
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi.
    • Ended up teach the 24 for 30 minutes of this class

Fridays Practice:

  • 20 minutes train surfing (So Fun!)
  • 30 minutes qigong
  • 1 hour form practice

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Something Is Knocking

It’s been an interesting weekend in the tai chi saddle.

Saturday was the full 9 hour day.

A bit taxing after resting all week to get over this stomach thing and I was definitely more tired than usual during classes. Nothing that wasnt to be expected however, the weird thing about saturday is that I had no connection to my body at all. Usually I get feedback from my body informing me the quality of my movement, but saturday it just felt like I was pulling levers on a backhoe. It was extremely frustrating. I was really regretting having taken the whole week off, all the time between practice I was convinced set me back and there was no telling when I would get back to where I was.

Then sunday came, sunday is the primordial qigong class, a much deeper meditative class focused on cleansing the energy body and gathering\circulating chi through the system.

For the first thirty minutes I had the same sense, zero feedback and couldn’t tell how I was moving through any of the exercises. I got tired of wondering why, so I just let my imagination go. I just let my mind explore the idea of a ball of energy moving around and through my system.

Oh right, should have been doing to begin with.

For the next half hour there still wasn’t any feedback from the body, but the imagery was extremely fun. It kept stealing me away from following the rest of class and I ended up being a little behind. No big deal though :).

It wasn’t until about a minute into the 20 minute standing meditation that I got really really deep.

At first, I became aware of the nagging thought I had been holding back and trying to keep myself from thinking about. It was about all the things I want to write in my blog and how I am going to write them. It has been a couple days since I have written and I guess I still have a lot I want to write down… but regardless my mind kept wanting to go there and I fought it to “focus” on practice. It clearly wasn’t helping.

A little voice deep inside the static of my mind said softly, ”Invite it for dinner. Pour it a drink and listen to its story.”

So, that’s what I did.

Instantly, I was transported in to my center, it was actually kind of a dizzying with how fast it was. I felt deeper than I have been before, but maybe it was just because the transition was so abrupt. Either way, I was digging it and I was fully in my body again.

My arms were out over my dantian resting on the little imaginary chi support pegs. The feeling from the other day was already there, my arms and shoulders were relaxed yet extended. A moment after I was “transported”, I began to have the distinct feeling that my wrists were actually physically being support by something. Not like before, it wasn’t an energetic feeling… there was distinct pressure on the underside of my wrists, some would say an accumulation of chi. Well… this is pretty bad ass, I thought to myself.

So I played with it a little.

My thought process went a little like this:

“Ok, so. If there are pegs extending from my center supporting my wrists. That means those pegs can be moved, they have a base and that base can be shifted, which in turn would move my wrists.”

So, I rotated that base forward. My arms went right along with it, extending farther forward yet still no muscles in my arms were activated. They were still just resting on those pegs.

“Ok, “ I thought “ So if that’s the case the pegs can also be lengthened.”

So, I lengthened them. Just like before the arms up with no muscle activation in the shoulders or arms….

Right about then came the soft “Gong”. The first of three that signify the end of meditation.

Its just never quite long enough is it.

But the feeling stayed with me in to the next class. I was asked to lead warmups, usually not a problem, but normalIy I havent slipped so deep in to myself that I forget what I am supposed to be doing.

It was a struggle to remember what moves came next, I kept falling deep in to each excersize and losing track of where we were. Luckily there was another certificate student there to remind me what was next as my eyes shot open.

The most of the rest of class just continued on like this. It was great, I was fully integrated again. Moving from the center and feeling the body beneath me again.

But then calamity struck.

I played a little fast and loose the night before out at the beach. Having a good time with friends… but maybe pushing my stomach a bit to far too fast, eating one too many sausages…or probably just shouldn’t have had that pabst blue ribbon. Relaxing for the day was done.

Whelp, maybe next time.

In short, that one little thought in my head I kept locked away, not allowing myself to think of it because I felt it wasn’t part of practice, was actually the key to allowing myself to fall back in to it.

I guess that means in order to go forward, I have to relax everything, even the barriers between unpleasant thoughts and memories. Relax and integrate them. Listen to their stories.

Saturdays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 2 hours push hands

Sundays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours primordial qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
    • Interrupted by some stomach issues. Time to go to a medical doctor

Its All Part of the Same River

None of my meditation sessions are ever the same. Each one has its unique obstacles I must overcome as well as its own lessons to be learned. Sometimes I am able to get past the roadblocks, and sometimes I have to stop and come back later.

However, often times my meditation does follow a generally similar path.

After about five minutes my ego kicks in, trying to convince me I dont have the time to meditate right now, or any of the other million excuses. I try to breathe in to this. Trying to allow my consciousness to relax. Much like my muscles, which kick in later, my ego is tensing up trying to hold on to its grip of the world.

Breath in to the dantian, through the nose and out the mouth.

At about the 15 minute mark, my arms start to ache. I employ a similar tactic, though this time each breath I imagine a ripple of intention, much like ripples in a pond after dropping in a stone, passing from the head down through the rest of the body. It moves slowly, and everything it passes through is sent to relax. I continue this process until I feel the body no longer straining to maintain its standing posture.

About the 25 minute mark I hit another barrier. Its still a relatively new one, so it is kind of hard to describe. In this point of the meditation, I am usually working on allowing my consciousness to sink in to my dantian. More often than not, it is resting somewhere between my third eye and my heart chakra. It just kind of bounces between there throughout meditation.

But lately, there have been moments where it sinks all the way to my dantian, it never lasts long, but it definitely stops by for a visit.

It is most closely related with a level of relaxation that is pretty rare for me to achieve. My body is just floating, and my mind, though still mostly in my head, is loosely aware of my dantian. Usually I imagine a little rubber ball just making circles around it and sometimes find myself talking to it….asking how it’s doing and just seeing if it talks back :D.

So this barrier I seem to sense is the doorway into moving more in to my dantian. It’s like my intention is knocking on a door…or a wall to find the places in between the studs where it can get through the Sheetrock. Or maybe….finding an old ventilation shaft it can sneak into before the guards find it.

Like all the other roadblocks, I have a sneaking suspicion that the key will be to relax more. But finding the WAY to relax will be the difficult part. As with everything, the more attention I pay to it, the more little subtleties I overlooked become apparent.

Its a process that I am told never stops, though it may slow down at times.

There will always a new aspect or perspective to be gained in this practice. I have a long way to go, but if discovery is always going to be this fun, I sure am not going to stop :).

Today’s practice:

  • 35 min standing meditation
  • 1 hour private lesson
    – mostly went over the first move of the 24
  • 45 minutes qigong
  • 30 min teaching the opening move

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Something Under The Bed Is Drooling

I think I have turned a corner.

You know the feeling when you are trying to create a new routine. Every day seems like a struggle, you have to convince yourself to wake up early or to actually put forth the effort to practice. Well that certainly wasn’t today.

We had to be at the studio early, like super early, 7 AM to finish cleaning the floor. Well, I got up at 5:30 and I could feel a distinct change. I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say it was just…natural. I got up, made breakfast did some warm up exercises and headed out the door.

Class was really different today as well, it seemed like the energy in the studio was more vibrant somehow. There were about 14 students that showed up for Silk Reeling, usually there are about 6 of us, and the energy was extremely lively. Everyone was talking, laughing, joking and there were distinct groups of people off enjoying separate conversations. I couldn’t detect one person that felt awkward at all, including me… which is completely bizarre. I have always felt at home at the studio, don’t get me wrong. But I have always carried around with me a certain level of anxiety everywhere I go. Like I am not quite comfortable in my own skin. But not today and, now that I think about it, not much this week either.

I don’t really know what that means… or if it will suddenly vanish come Monday morning. But what I do know is that it has been a long time since I have felt this relaxed and at home. I hope it continues to grow with my practice.

Today’s Practice:

Lively practice in class today!! So much good energy all around, deeper horse stances, bigger circles… just good 🙂

  • Mopping the floor. Wax on Wax off style 🙂
  • 1.5 hours Silk Reeling
  • 1.5 hours 24 form practice

CalvinGrownUp

Calvin And Hobbes all Grown Up

The Excuse Machine

It’s amazing to me how even though I know I want to do Tai chi for the rest of my life,  and I know I want to practice everyday…. I still wake up and don’t feel like practicing some times.

The excuse machine was on full this morning. Today was… Oh,  I used up all my intensity yesterday …. I should practice if I don’t feel like it yeah? Maybe I should just go to work early since I need to leave early… My legs feel a little tired… Maybe I’ll just give them a rest today…..Well I had a big break through yesterday… I should rest…  Oh my head just isn’t in it today.

Well… Obviously it wasn’t in it today.

I haven’t been able to pin down what the differences are between motivated days and unmotivated days… But regardless,  I was able to get myself to do some meditation. Even that was a little difficult to focus,  but I managed about 25 min.

In lieu of Qigong this morning,  I continued to read the “The Root of Chinese Qigong”  book by Dr. Yang that I found on my roommates bookshelf a bit ago.  I may not be training my body,  but I am going to further improve my practice in one way or the other.

I am not about to force my body to do something, I have been trying to listen to it more and just be more in tune with it. It wants what it wants I suppose.  I am not going to be able to force myself in to learning everything I was meant to know. That just doesn’t sound very fun :)… And I just don’t think it works like that.

I just decided not to argue with myself in the end. I went the path that had the least “noise”  when I thought about it.  That path was,  breakfast,  read,  meditate,  bus surf.

I’m not sure if I’m on to something,  or if I am letting my laziness get the best of me.  But all I can do is follow the day as it presents itself and just try to be fully aware of which direction is feels the best…. Or is that just another excuse.

Todays practice:

  • 60 minutes of train surfing (I think its time to mix this up. It’s so easy it is turning in to meditation)
  • 25 minutes of stand meditation (Middle position)
  • 2 hour seminar on a new health program. Possibly more details to come.

Getting Rid of the static

We have so much static coming at us every day. Static is the stuff that keeps you occupied but doesn’t actually fill any sort of need, the information and energy coming at you every day, every minute of your life these days. So many more ways to advertise to you, to keep you in the loop, to keep you informed with what your friend of a friend had for dinner tonight. All that energy coming at you, the TV, the computer monitors, the phones. “They are overloading your radar dish, making it hard to find the real signal through the noise”,  as my teacher would say.

I have personally started to become acutely aware of this static. I have begun to notice the place it lives inside my head, kind of constantly buzzing there.

“Wonder what Facebook has on it.”

“Oh, I should check instagram.”

“Oh, who can I send a snapchat to.”

Once I started doing standing meditation more, it started to become louder and louder inside my head. It has been getting in the way of my free thought, distracting me from the things I actually want to think about. The more time I spend on a device, or checking out these websites, the farther away my practice seems to get. Its like it starts to consume my every intention until there is nothing left but updates. GOTTA GET THOSE UPDATES!! I started to wonder, all of that thought spent tuning in to those sites, just wasting away on useless things. What if i started to expend that towards the things I love in life?

So I decided to do a test. Last Thursday I turned my phone completely off for the entire day. It only took and hour before I realized I had was fully engulfed in another addiction in my life. Now… As a little background, I have spent most of my adult life battling one addiction or another. Some are big, some are small but all of them have had some negative impact on my life that I have wanted  to stomp out of existence. A lot of them I still battle and more often then not I end up just replacing them with a more positive one. The REALLY bad ones though…they just turn in to something…you know… “less bad” :). Maybe one day I will get in to that a little deeper, but for now….just an brief intro.

Anyway, after the first hour of having my phone off I had tried to check my phone about every five minutes. I knew the phone was off, I knew I would get nothing from it, yet still, I picked it right up and checked it. I had been doing it so long and so regularly, that it had literally become part of my daily habits. Needless to say by the end of the day, I was going a little nuts. I couldn’t figure out what to do with all of that free time and free headspace! So I gave it another day.

Now lets back up a little bit, about 3 weeks or so.

I was in a private lesson with my teacher and as always we were going through the 24, picking it apart one painstaking move at a time. My teacher looks at me and says “You know, you could possibly show promise at this….”

I am Utterly ecstatic with pride at this sentence. So excited that my hard work was noticed….But trying to keep it completely under wraps…

He then says “But you better start getting in a little better shape.” (Or something of the sort. What I heard was “Ok, your fat and lazy now. Do something about it”)

This is a totally valid evaluation of me BTW. I’m not over weight by any means, but I am also not anywhere near top physical condition. Since I started Tai Chi, I stopped doing any other form of exercise. Given that I have been doing it about a year and a half now…. lets just say any definition or bulk I may have had in my arms\chest has been redistributed to my belly. Turbo gut. mmmhmm

So with that in mind, I had started doing random push-ups through the day. Any time it popped in my mind, at work or at home, I would go to the corner and do a set of 20 push-ups. I have been increasing every week for the set number and have now gotten up to 30 a set. Some days I get on or over 200 a day :D….but, anyway I am devolving. Lets get back to the point.

Now that my phone was shutoff I had some extra time to do…literally anything else. So I started to throw in some pull-ups in as well. There happens to be a pull-up bar near my desk at work that makes it really easy for me to jump over and crank out some out. Not only that, but with my phone off, my mind stayed completely clear that day. I didn’t care what was going on in facebook land, any text messages that came in I could get to later, phone calls….who does that anymore?? I was free!! and I was getting in shape to boot!!

It felt absolutely liberating!

So decided to do that everyday now. I shut my phone off during work hours and dont let anything distract me from my work tasks. Not only does it help me during the day and make my day 1000% times less stressful, but when I get home at night I don’t feel like I have been pulled in a million different directions, like I normally am!!

I have come to realize that I only have a limited amount of attention during the day and I now have a drive to fill that attention with the things that give me feeling of true vitality. Tai Chi has become one of the major providers of this feeling.

Allowing myself to be distracted by all the noise has honestly led me to nothing but a stressful incomplete day. This new approach has left me feeling fulfilled each day, I spend the time and energy learning, doing or acting on something that fills me with a vitality I haven’t experienced since after Highschool. When I had no cares in the world, all that was required of me was to work and party.

Now the spare moments I have I am focusing on one of two things; How can I spend this spare moment practicing\learning an element of Tai Chi or, how long has it been since I have done a push-up\pull-up set. The simplicity is the most freeing experience of a lifetime and its something I am actively trying to get more of in my life.

Today’s Practice:

30 minutes standing meditation

1.5 Hours of Dynamic Qigong (Silk Reeling)

1.5 Hours of studying the 24

Dantian Opening

One of the hardest things for me to do is meditate in public. I can’t help but think “Who is watching me,  what do they think. Am I being too weird? Are they Making fun of me? ” I just cant help it. I mean, I do it anyway, but sometimes it does get the better of me and I stop sooner than I would normally. I tell myself I don’t care what people think, but it is a feeling that is pretty deeply ingrained in me. But hey, fake it till you make it right? Maybe one day I wont care.

This week I was rewarded with some bizarre and amazing results during an outside mediation session.

Tuesday morning was the first instance; I was practicing the 24 form and I suddenly felt as if a new muscle had suddenly appeared in my abdomen. Movements were almost expanding or extending from my center,  or my dantian.  I didn’t know what to think of it,  and the second I started to think about it the feeling disappeared. I immediately knew that this was the feeling my teacher has been talking about this whole time.  “Move from the dantian”   he says over and over again. That was what he meant, awaken the dantian and move from it.

I held that idea as just a concept until this week,  just kind of blindly holding it in my head half wondering if it was all bullshit,  but trudging on anyway. Well now I know it’s not.

After two days of dwelling on that feeling,  focusing on only that as I meditated trying to get the feeling back, I gave up. My teacher always tells me not to obsess about those kinds of things.  To listen to them,  but don’t pay any heed because “It will go away soon”.  So finally I conceded to forget it.  Telling myself “That was probably the only time I will feel that. Time to move on to my practice.” With that thought I was able to clear my mind and relax in to meditation. Later that day though,  my Dantian had another surprise for me.

As I was waiting outside for class,  I was meditating on a bench outside the studio. As always my mind was resting on my Dantian, but only just as a subtle awareness.  Not long after my mind settled and I began to relax,  I felt a very very real pop right at my Dantian. It was as if a tire tube had just pop it’s seal and air was instantly rushing out, filling up my body.  My spine extended, inflating up, and my arms started to lift themselves. Resisting the urge to hold the movement back, my arms kept going up until they hit the table in front of me. Then, it was gone.

For the rest of the night, however, my body felt…. Strange. It was as if the energy in my body had a new pathway opened up and it wasn’t quite sure how to use it. My Dantian felt… Not empty… Not full… But open. My body was, and still is,  trying to figure out what to do with this new feeling. Though, as my teacher reminds me,  I am trying to forget about it so it incorporates naturally in to my practice. Nothing but gentle awareness of it and I will see where it goes.

I now know what the energy body is not just an idea to hold in one’s head. It’s as much a part of me as my leg or arm muscles. I look forward to farther discovering and exercising this system that has freshly showed itself to me.

Today’s practice:

20 min meditation (Inside the dental Chair).

– Forgot about an early morning dentist appointment. From now on will be meeting some of my Tai Chi family early Mondays and Fridays to practice.

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