I’m staring at the computer screen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

 

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The Flow

Things are beginning to calm down again.

After a trip up to Kalaloch Washington with the family, I came home to a flea infestation and a girlfriend a week away from finals.

The house went on lock down, systematically we began shutting down rooms. Shutting down all access and spreading Diatomaceous Earth over pretty much everything and letting it sit for its 12 hours to seep in to the flea eggs.

Alternating days were filled with vacuuming, washing of the various dog beds (of which there are many, because well… the animals rule the house here) and cleaning said vacuum’s filter out every half a room and waiting for THAT to dry in order to continue on.

That fun task was done in 7 days. 2 of which we had to sleep on the futon downstairs because there was a combo vacuum filter blow out and exhaustion.

Just to add some spice to this super non-stressful routine, my girlfriend and I also decided to throw a dietary cleanse in on top of it. So, no wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, red meat, eating after 7 and I decided to cut my meals in half as well.

There were only a couple of emotional outbursts in those two weeks…. Which I think is pretty damn good considering the bullshit we put ourselves through.

Physically, I feel considerably better. I feel way less bloated in my abdomen, have had little to no gas the last week and have actually had much more energy at the end of the day. I’m not sure if I lost weight or not, but my pants do fit a little looser and that wasn’t really the goal of this cleanse anyway.

Emotionally, things were a little rocky for a bit there. I did not realize how much I had been using sugar and wheat as coping mechanism (or how dependant I had become on them), suddenly I had to deal with a lot of the self doubts and negative self talk I hadn’t even realized were there before.

Lots of things relating to my practice, whether I was kidding myself in ever being able to fully comprehend or give due credit to Tai Chi as an art in my lifetime. Things that hit me pretty hard, but thankfully I have an amazing woman by my side I can rant for an hour and actually pays attention ;).

This week has been going pretty well, had to pull some late hours at work at the beginning of the week, which kind of threw my mental game off, but otherwise I have had the opportunity to get a full 30 minute standing meditation in as well as 30 – 40 minutes of Qigong throughout the day.

Some cool things happen in class the other day as well.

We have been focusing more on push-hands and some of the internal spiral work by just repeating different attacks over and over. As a result, I was able to get to the point of stiffening up mentally\physically to the point where I couldn’t think or feel what was going on with my body, I just kept throwing myself out backwards with no ability to understand it what so ever.

Thankfully, I was able to just repeat it over and over again with my partner until he finally pointed out to me what I was doing wrong and I was able to kind of un-freeze my mind and break free of the hold it had on me. That didn’t happen till the end of class, but I hope to be able to practice that a ton more to be able to beat that habit.

And there is my report for the last couple weeks!

See you next time, until then, keep practicing :).

 

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The Watch Maker

Is to just get things done before my next trip.

The week of meditation was kind of perfect to offset the madness of this week. Leaving Friday morning at 4 AM to catch a flight up to Washington for my parents anniversary and the wedding of an old friend who finally decided to “lock it down” and pop the question.

After the wedding, going up to a cabin that my sister’s family rented on the Olympic peninsula until Wednesday.

So with that, comes the catch-up at work. Trying to get everything I know of complete so the team can continue and make sure I get some private practice time in while still making it to class.

Monday, I missed the night class and did not get a chance to practice myself, so I kind of just take it as a day off after the week of well focused meditation.

Tuesday, I was able to make the morning and evening classes, though did not get a chance to do my personal practice in the morning. That didn’t matter so much, as I got my private lesson in and received plenty of things to work on.

This morning, got 30 minutes of good practice in focusing on the several corrections of the form from other day as well as starting to research some dynamic core strengthening exercise. The core may be my next area of focus while I am out at the cabin and going on for the next little bit as it has been pointed out that my gut is probably getting in the way of my ability to sink. (During push hands my intention was getting stuck in my arms and shoulders and I was not able to release it.)

So, spending some time waking my hips, abdomen and lower back up in the form of dynamic exercises should do the trick, much like that couple months I spent doing those hip stretches and kua opening exercises. As an added bonus, maybe I will get rid of some of this extra stomach width I have gathered up :).

Other than that, I have fallen fairly out of practice from push hands. We did a bit last night it was was instantly clear how little I had done it in the last several months. I have set some mental task rabbits on the goal of figuring out a way to get some more of that practice in. They should be able to come up with some ways to cover that within the week or so.

Practice, practice, practice! One day, one exercise, one thought at a time. Slow and steady, layer the experience until it all comes together to tell the time.

 

Watchmaker-1

 

 

Meditation Week

 

Ok, yes. I have been “off” for the last week or two.

I accept that.

Is it who I am? Yes, it is.

Am I fighting it tooth and nail?

No I am not.

But, that does not mean I am not practicing and moving forward with my study.

This week, I have decided, is going to be focused on meditation.

Going back to core of the practice, a relaxed mind centered on the dantian.

Each morning, starting on Monday, I have been doing 30 minutes of zhan zuang (standing post meditation) a quiet practice focused on not focusing, instead relaxing the mind and bringing it to rest on my dantian (center). Attempting, to allow thoughts to drift by unsnagged by my mental net of intention.

The weirdest thing starts to happen after a couple days practice, after settling the mind reaching that point of lightness, I am always able to sense when my alarm is about to go off.

Cant explain it, but literally a “3, 2, 1” counts down in my head, then the alarm begin.

Anyway, its only Wednesday. Still 4 more days to go, we will see what happens by the end!

I am thinking of starting to chose a theme each week to focus on. I feel the need to do that to keep myself from getting to hyper focused on one concept. A weekly shift may just be a good frequency.

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Blog-Versary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, here’s to a year!

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

 

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Endurance

Distraction comes in many forms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chickens

 

Dreaming Of Chen Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6SDAOqM

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

 

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March 2015 form:

 

March 2016 form:

 

Can you spot the differences?

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