Brief Vacation Reflections

This time yesterday morning I was sitting in paradise.

9 days of beautiful sunsets and sunrises, delicious food and great company.

Life can truly be simple if we allow it to be.

Among our trip there, there was much Tai Chi on the beach, meditation in the sun and  naturally, swimming in the ocean and by the end of it I was finally starting to truly relax. Only to be confronted with the reminder that responsibility was calling me to go back home in a day.

I need a month vacation, maybe even five weeks. Maybe someday I will go in to the stages of relaxation I have discovered on long vacations…In short though, it takes me 2 weeks to truly relax and forget the outside work. After that, a new stage of consciousness occurs in which all of a sudden… you are trying to figure out who you are without any attachments to force you in to action. That my friends, is when the true vacation starts.

If you ever get a chance to go to Tulum Mexico, I highly suggest it and soon. The resorts have started to take hold we stayed at a place called Nomade. Originally, we were set up in a tent but, the super accommodating staff upgraded us to a room after we mentioned how loud the construction was without walls. Its the off season there right now, super cheap stays…but you pay the price of listening to construction and a lot of the restaurants have strange hours.

The staff is extremely friendly there and the entire atmosphere is set to be very open and relaxed, almost slightly forcefully so.

We stayed several days just around the hotel to get the vibe, but we had this strange feeling of unease the longer we were there. Next to everyone on the beach in the hotel areas was on their cell phones and it seemed that everyone just wanted to be left alone. Most attempts with conversation with anyone but the staff often lead to dead ends and an awkward silence. The few we did connect with though were some of the deepest connections we have made in a while.  Eventually, we began to get the vibe that were were being held in what someone else’s idea of a relaxed environment was, like being held in someone else’s dream and the things around us were just somehow ever so slightly off.

So we explored more.

We connected with a local that was able to guide us on a tour of one of his loves, snorkeling on the reef. He is a truly amazing individual, excited at the opportunity of being able to take us out and share that with us and we truly honored to meet such a great human. He also showed us where the locals hangout, a local beach and camp ground called Pancho Villa about 15 minutes from the hotel we were staying at. Where there is great camping for much cheaper than what we were paying, but obviously without ANY of the amenities, and an atmosphere that was way more less constructed in feeling.

It was run by locals and it was much more come and go as you please. Hammocks stretched between trees in the camping areas, chairs placed in random groves of shade, a dive shop ran by clearly people that just loved being there and a bar run by people wearing whatever they wanted to and the only order there was that the customers were there for the same reason, to relax on the beach, drink, eat and laugh.

We discovered this place too late, however, and were only able to experience it our last day. A small last little taste of how the locals see their home and something that connected much deeper with us than being catered to.

The resort construction was in full swing there, so I fear that those little local areas may be threatened, but when we go back we will be staying in a tent for 30 dollars a day and hanging out with what feel more like true explorers on this earth.

Don’t get me wrong, we loved where we were staying. The service was amazing, we made several deep connections with people we would not have made if we were not staying there and the food was delicious. If you are looking for a catered experience and don’t want to see seaweed on the beach (they rake it every morning), like a honeymoon or special occasion then go there or make it your home base and explore outward.

But if you are looking for a more local authentic experience, there are other options that are much better suited to give you a more connected experience with the people there.

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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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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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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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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!!

 

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Back to The Basics

Whelp, I let it happen again.

I stopped my practice and self care for too long and as a result the last week my mind has been foggy and I have felt unclear and exhausted. I spread myself too thin.

Tried to do too many things, to keep to many things in my mind and the structure collapsed in on itself.

I just bought 4 notebooks and had created intentions for all of them.

One for personal journaling , one for project ideas (relating to youtube videos, blog posts, general internet projects, studio marketing), one for education (writing down information from the MANY books I am reading) and the fourth… well just a journal with no intention whatsoever.

I also have been working on personal videos, blog posts, and figuring out a plan for videos for the Studio itself.

If that isn’t enough, throw a full time job, a girlfriend, and the need to express myself as an individual through travel, time to myself and somehow finding time to visit all the people that mean most in my life.

It is just too much for my to hole, so now I find myself completely wrecked and pretty much in a state of complete paralysis preventing me from doing any of it. Not quite present in any situation just kind of numb and going through the motions waiting for a day like this that I can sit and vent it out in to the world.

I’m still struggling to figure out what to focus on.

On one hand, I really have the drive and need to capture my progress through this amazing journey in the form of videos, blogging and the practice.. but on the other hand… Life and time… Where is all the time?

How do I find the ability to make it ok to NOT work on something until I have time\focus?

How to keep the unexpressed intention from building so much it gets me in a complete dither, unable to function at all….

Bloat up so much that my brain just kind of melts in to a puddle and I lose the drive to even practice in the mornings.

Its frustrating to want to create so many things and not have the time in which to create them while still having a life outside.

It boils down to finding that balance between life, practice, creation and work.

But….That is a lot of things, almost too many things it seems to be good at all of them.

Is a life of only mediocrity waiting for me if I try to balance them all?

Even in school, I knew that certain areas of my study would have to suffer if I wanted to become great at what I was passionate about. I guess I have never considered that and tried to apply it to my life yet. Or do I even need to?

I have in my head an idea that if I incorporate my practice and my studies in to my life, so that I am living and breathing it through each and everyday, that I will be able to reach higher levels of skill more efficiently.

Is that true? Is it a delusion?

Are there certain aspects of life that will always pull me from my practice and demand my undivided attention with zero applications to my practice as a whole?

Or is life my practice?

How do I evaluate the priority of everything?

Well… again, the most logical answer would be to gauge their level of importance to me. That will determine how much time and effort will be spent on the different subjects… but there are also considerations in the requirements to actually proceed forward… IE, I HAVE to work in order to pay for my lessons\bills\rent until I can find a way to make my practice pay for itself.

Long term goal is to find a way that I can start to make money DOING Tai Chi. It will pay for my studys and fund my travels to discover, learn and teach as much as I can about this magical and endlessly complex art.

The trouble I have is trying to figure out where traveling for fun and visiting friends and family fit in.

I have two magnificent nieces that I would never forgive myself for not being a part of their life as they grow. So finding a way to do that is an essential.

I have an amazing girlfriend who supports me and my passions and whom I love to travel and spend time with. So she is most definitely a keeper.

My parents whom I love and miss all the time are always not far from my thoughts ever. So finding ways to connect with them a must.

And of course all of my friends who live off in all corners are constantly on my mind to find ways to see.

Then, most importantly (sorry…not sorry but it is) the training itself, training that by its very nature REQUIRES practice… practice which equals time, devoted, focused time.

Centered, clear headed time. Time where all those pulls are gone, all those distractions dissolved and all the guilt resolved.

Time where the mind hears all things yet focuses on none of them. Where the mind and body unify and create with a pure singular intention.

A state of mind that can only be achieved by letting things go. Letting them take their natural course and only interacting within the boundaries of that path.

I have always felt I would have to leave something behind… But what will it be.

My hope is that it will be the guilt I create for myself every time I choose my devotion to this art over something else.

So a tiny voice inside my head is speaking…. “Go back to the basics”.

Stop trying to hold so much, You cant be everywhere at once. You can only be where you are, so be there. Give where and what you are a chance, cultivate it with the knowledge that there will be a time where you will HAVE more time. This is only the beginning of your journey, don’t give up now. Relax, the knowledge you seek will come. It cannot be forced and you can only learn at the rate in which YOU learn. Give yourself the permission to dig deep in to your life and move past the safety anchors you have left to retreat to if things go south. You will find that those anchors you have left in your mind were merely illusions, an unnecessary drag on something that by its very nature exists without need of restraints or ties to keep it in vision.

All those people, those lives, they are following their own way, honor them by following yours.

 

Well, that tiny voice got a bit bigger I guess.

That should do well to get a couple layers off.

Until next time.

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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

Attention Strikes

I woke up with that old familiar energy to over-analyze.

The energy that is hyper focused in the brain and is hell bent on figuring out every step of ever task I have to do today.

How I will get dressed, how I will get to work, what I will focus on when I get there. Down to the very detail of which file menus I will open and which order.

Thankfully, I caught myself before I got too deep.

After about 20 minutes of that (it used to last days), I got up and started practicing the 24 and the 83 form.

The image that comes to mind when I think about that experience is a rusty brake pad.

Like when a car sits outside for about a week with no use and the first time you press the brake the whole car lurches and grabs several times before that rust rubs off and slows normally.

That’s how my brain felt going through the 24.

After the first couple moves I eased in to it and was able to focus on two things:

  1. Transitioning through each move smoothly and evenly. Not stopping move to move.
  2. Cranking my right knee open. Still the bane of my existence is the fact that my right knee always collapses in.

The 83 was considerably tougher. Not only do I not have enough room in my living room to practice it, so I had to keep stopping and moving as I approached the wall, but I also realized that some careless person had gone and discarded all their old chewing gum over my brain floor and I had to keep stopping to remove it from my shoe.

So I learned a couple things today.

  1. I need more practice.
  2. It seems like it has been forever since I have practiced the form.
  3. Stop chewing mental gum.
  4. I need to go to the park next door for more room.
  5. I need more practice.

So, I think its time to get back to my more strict training routine so I can more smoothly approach each of the forms.

 

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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!

 

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The Great Divide

Recently, I have been playing with the idea of a separating my waist and hips.

Exploring around during Qigong with that concept and how it would play out in the body.

During meditation several weeks back, I started to become aware of the tension inside my hips and was sending waves of intention down to try to let it go. As I did this, I noticed an almost sensation in my legs that felt as if I had opened up the flood gates of blood to them. The feeling went  all the way down in to my feet, which began to feel like they were pulsing.

Along this same time, during certain meditations, I began to notice a feeling of electricity building up and shooting around inside my body. Much like the blood flow feeling, it’s like it was just a trickle before and now energy was free to flow more openly through it giving sensation to the areas around it that were asleep before.

I mention that, because today a different sensation started to encroach onto my awareness. An almost heaviness, that I could shift around internally from side to side through the body, or throw around to power my motion.

After about a week and a half off, I started a practice session this morning.

After some warming up, I noticed that my hips were moving with a lot less tension then before but there was still some tension inside the inner kua and the lower abdomen. So, I sent down the intention of letting that tension go.

Instantly, that tension melted away and I was able to sink farther than I have been able to comfortably in the past. Not only that, but my movement was originating in the waist instead the hips, which were hardly moving at all, yet the waist felt like it was almost going 360 degrees around my body with no effort what so ever. It changed the entire movement, I no longer had to think about each part of my body. Instead, I was just gliding from one move to the other with all my muscles relaxed.

 

I could swing my waist from side to side and it moved completely independent from my hips, which stayed pointing straight ahead as my waist was going one direction to the next.

No idea what this means. I often find that coming back after a break I have a different sensation in my movement. It will most likely go away as I dive back in to regular practice, but it is kind of exciting to feel the increased awareness of what is going on inside my own body.

That is all the motivation I need to keep going. To keep learning, exploring what is on the outskirts of my awareness in an attempt to shine more light on it.

 

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