Soothing the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel I am closer now to this than ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Years of writing and self exploration lost.

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

“You weren’t ready.”

Am I now? I have no idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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Give it a Name

The last two week I have had three incidents where I found myself in a foul mood.

I don’t know about you all, but when I get in those moods my first inclination, that can sometimes last for weeks, is to ignore. To invalidate those feelings as “bad” or as unacceptable behavior and I tighten up and try to force myself in to a more tolerable state of mind.

I cant think of one instance where that has actually worked though.

Instead, all it does is limit my ability to appreciate what is going on around me. I get so tense that after a couple days it becomes all I can think about. Compressing me in a vice grip of happiness and tranquility.

Restricting my world into a single pin prick of awareness.

Until that is, I allow myself to give it a name and get to know it.

I find a way to give myself permission to feel it and often that comes from first understanding it.

Yesterday, it was frustration, frustration in the process of learning.

Annoyance in how far I need to go and wishing my knowledge of a technique translated to the ability to perform it.

I had no comprehension of this, until I allowed myself to write in my journal, where there was much anger and cussing. In the end however, it allowed me to understand it for what it was realized I should allow myself to feel it. To let myself use the frustration as a energy source to practice and push me forward.

I believe the entry ended something like “Fine, fuck it. I’ll be god damn frustrated if i want to be.”

Then, almost immediately, my world opened up again. Accepting those feelings as valid and allowing myself to experience them.

Monday, I was given a name of something I didn’t even know was bothering me. Something I just took as an inevitable response to working on computers for 10 – 11 hours a day.

It was a tension I get right behind my eyes and often takes me hours to get rid of. This video sums it up perfectly… its a short one so its easy and worth the watch :).

After watching that video I realized that is EXACTLY whats going on. I am spending do much time focused so intently on my computer screen that all that tension just keeps building and building until its a solid mass of some insoluble material.

But, after it was given a name, I was able to understand it and I immediately began to relax that space in order to let that pressure dissipate through the rest of my body. In the process, I found a great exercise I can do during the day that keeps that pressure at bay and prevents it from building up too much.

The third instance was last week, the Grumpy Face post. I was god damn grumpy. I felt disconnected, unfocused and EVERYTHING was annoying me.

The dogs toenails clicking on the floor, dogs getting in the way, cats meowing, people being awake…. you name it and it was bugging the hell out of me.

I had also recorded myself doing the 24 that morning and as I watch it now you can almost taste my fury :P. (Ill post it at some point and add a link here :))

But after I wrote and decided to choose to just let myself be grumpy, I was just… not grumpy.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that is just as easy as saying, “Oh, i’m grumpy now i’m just going to be grumpy.”

No, that just seems like its giving yourself permission to be an asshole.

I’m talking about understanding the reasons BEHIND the feeling. WHY am I grumpy. Once I understand why THEN I can accept it and allow myself to settle in to it.

Its like I give myself a little piece of candy for exploring…

“Ok, you dug around and found me. Here is a treat. Be grumpy as shit and enjoy the hell out of it now that you know why.”

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Sausage and Eggs

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

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

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

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

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

 

Focus:

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

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

Flippity Floppity

I feel like I have a lot to catch up on here today.

Life has been pretty crazy lately and has been keeping me from my practice.

Mornings have been filled with anxiety about work and I have been letting myself open my computer instead of meditating or doing drills and the toll is apparent.

I come home exhausted, almost zombie like, back like a crane operator pulling levers to get from one point to another instead of living inside my body.

I got some meditation in this morning, but it was a struggle. There was just too much bouncing around in my brain to let it drift through. Instead, I decided I just needed to write.

So, here I am.

One the the most frustrating things about being disconnected again, is that last week I was able to get a little bit of a break through and now it just seems like a distant memory.

During Qigong, I was able to consciously split my mind in to two parts.

In Tai Chi and Qigong, there is a mental practice along with the physical movements. The mental intention has direct influence on the quality and structure of movement. In the idea the idea is to separate your intention from your attention, that is mostly just a concept to me,  but last week I was starting to get a taste of something that seemed to fit along those lines.

What I was beginning to be able to play with was the idea of being able to leave a considerable amount of my awareness in my dantian as I shot little rockets of intention up and out through my arms and legs to do a movement. I was conscious of those probes, how they were moving, where they were and was able to sense the quality each part of my body around them as they moved. All this while the main “hub” of my awareness was firmly planted like a lead ball in my abdomen resting on my kua, or inner hip joints.

What this did with my overall movement was take out all the extra tension in my arms,hands, back, head. I was able to do a move without tensing muscles but more like creating a wave that originated from my center and traveled through the center of my limbs.

I suppose that sounds a little bizzarre, but it felt really damn cool.

I got three or four days of practice with that feeling, but then as my morning routine got mangled the feeling slowly dissipated.

Extremely frustrating, but I am trying to see it like every other aspect of Tai Chi and life.

Ride the waves of your revelations for as long as you can, hope you have the wisdom to know when to jump off, then paddle back out to sea and wait patiently for the next set.

 

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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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Layers of paint

When you try to open the window of an ancient unkept house, the kind with those old single pane windows with frames that appear to be more paint than wood. The latch, so covered with paint over the years, sticks. You have to wrench it open over and over forcing the built up paint to scrap off in to a path.

The more I get used to writing everyday,  the more I feel like my brain is that latch and the paint is every unexpressed idea or emotion. Every thought I feel gets held back or delayed until “later”, one more coat of paint upon the last one, until I feel like I’m slogging knee high through a marsh with every thought getting thrown in the cue keeping me from being present moment.

Stuck processing things from days before whether I want to or not.

Writing scrapes off that previous layer of paint. Stripping my brain down and preparing it to process the next thing clearly and in the moment.

Despite this knowledge, I still struggle to actually sit down and write. Falling on the excuse of not being in the usual position or in the quiet. Things aren’t “perfect” so I can’t just make my space for self care.

So, now I am writing in the midst of the Christmas chaos.

Children running around, people chatting, the roofer on the roof trying to fix the leak, bacon cooking, dogs barking, mom running around trying to frantically find things for the people on the roof…. Me sitting on the couch a quiet pocket of relaxation and internal quiet watching it all around me,  happy to be amidst the comfort of familiar voices and holiday insanity.

Just peeling away yesterday’s paint.

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Plugging In the Charger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started the day feeling pretty grumpy and tired.

6 AM was too early this morning.

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

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

Thats kind of when I figured something was really wrong.

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

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

So that’s what I did.

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

Pure Joy.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The wall of fear

I keep a wall between myself and the world around me.

A large, hideous, cold stone wall. I can see it as I close my eyes, its tall, its gray, and its numb. Comfortably numb. Its the wall that keeps my empathy at bay.

The wall that keeps me from commenting on the pain I see in someones eyes.

The wall that keeps me from telling a stranger I love them when its clear they need it.

The wall that keeps me acting “normal”. Keeps me in line and following all the social norms of the people around me.

The wall that bounces inquiries about “How I am Doing” back with “I’m good”. When in fact I could fill a good 20 minutes expressing the multitude of emotions and feelings I was having in that exact instance.  Instead, bouncing off that expanse of wall with the generic, flat, canned response of “I’m good”.

The wall that keeps me from blurting out at the talk of money, or how to get more, that I don’t care about money. I don’t care about how to get more of it. I don’t care about changing my life to be more financially solid. What I want is to have a community of people around me that care about each other.

That want to expand self knowledge to the next level. To looking beyond this fantasy world that we build around us to make us feel better about having absolutely no goddamn clue what the hell is going on. Building these stories around us that hide the fact that we are actually all making this shit up as we go along.

Whenever I say that, people think I am kidding. I often find myself wondering if they think they are actually aware of what is going on around them.

What truer form of creation can you have then to take the day as it presents itself and make something of it. You have an idea, but that’s all you have of how the day will unfold or what you want to get done.

You will never know how that day will actually happen until you are in it. At that moment you have a choice.

You can choose to ignore the beauty around you and push through only focusing on the task in front of you, or you can look at it in the beauty of the moment, the beauty of beginners mind.

How would you look at that moment if you allowed yourself to see what was around you for the first time. Never again in the history of the universe will what is around you exist in that way again. Can you spot the miracles?

How many completely unique things can you spot in that moment? How many of those things speak to you personally? How many of those things are related to you? How many of those things are because you are there in that moment?

I am tired of this wall. I am going to melt it with the fire of a thousand suns, I am going to work towards taking it down piece by piece with my bare hands if I have to in order to uncover the pain that it hiding from me.

Pain and fear, so many fears. Pain I want to feel, I am tired of the numb. I just want to open up the real me and start living without limits.

Laying the foundation

Its easy for me to fall in to depression.

When I was in my 20’s I tended to have huge spikes of happiness followed by equal magnitude lows. I refused to take medication for it, often falling to self medication, but slowly started creating a routine for my life.

I discovered, through the reading of many self help books, that a routine could help me manage more consistently day to day and start to get some of the major swings under, relative, control. It took multiple years to get to a point where I was able to create a more constructive life for myself and has lead to several great friendships and life events that have created an great foundation for me to work with.

The progression of my free time has also evolved. Before I started this little routine building procedure, I was feeling overwhelmed with the minuscule  amount I was doing everyday. My day would consist of going to work, about 8 – 9 hours, making some sort of pizza or otherwise easy to cook “food”, then sitting in front of the T.V. until I passed out. That was too much for me and I often wondered how I would ever find time for anything else.

Fast forward to now, I find myself going to work for 8 – 9 hours, cooking something from scratch for breakfast and dinner, working out or meditating for an hour before work, leading\practicing tai chi after work everyday, spending up to 14 hours on the weekend studying tai chi and finding time to spend some time with the people the amazing people in my life. All that, and I am still wanting to find ways to do more.

I look back and I am amazed at how far I have come and it all started with the idea of just creating a routine.

8 years it took me to grow that. One layer at a time and just now the concrete has started to cure.

There has always been a catch, however, when I find myself in the same routine for too long it becomes stale. Being in the same place at the same time everyday doing the same(ish) thing each time tends to get monotonous and I would fall in to old habits to mix things up, usually involving drinking too much, just to make things feel fresh again and revive my perspective of my progress.

The last couple weeks have been packed with travel and a commitment to continue my practice in between. The whole time maintaining this idea that I will be able to get back to “Normal” and be able to continue on this tightly packed schedule I have. But, today as I see several weeks of full practice ahead of me, baring any other unforeseen life events, I realize how valuable switching things up is. Going in to the next couple weeks I am excited to put my whole focus back in to my practice and my studying, i will again be able to pour all my extra attention in to it all the way up until thanksgiving break. After which, there will be another pause and then an intense couple of weeks back in to practice.

I am starting to realize sometimes it is the lack of a routine that helps to keep the routine alive. It breaths new life in to it and challenges it to make sure it is still valid. My routine is not my life, it does not define me, it does not dictate my every move, but it is a PART of my life. It is the structure I can deviate from, the rules I know so well that I can begin to deviate from and create new experimental art.

Without that, I am just blindly throwing paint on to a canvas.

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Marinate for 24 Hours

So,  I am finally ready to admit something to myself. I am in a yin phase in my training and I am ready for a break.

I was going fast and hard for several months there, not allowing myself any mental downtime and I am ready to just coast to let all that knowledge just marinate inside the brain.

The universe is telling me it is time and I am ready to listen.

September will be a month of madness, I have a 8 day trip to Mexico planned as well as a bachelor party and wedding on two different weekends (Not Mine). If I tried to cram training in as well, I would probably go completely mental. So, I am dialing it back to something a little more reasonable for that month.

I will keep my morning practice and only hit class twice a week, skipping the weekends, since I wont be around anyway. I still have two weeks of normal practice left that will be focused just on well, practice, instead of intensely trying to learn something new.

New classes start first week of October, which brings about a new schedule and structure to programs. It really is the perfect time for a little break before the workload changes.

So onward to an extended vacation!

Focusing on no stress, recovery and light (extremely light) practice.

Not stopping all together, that would just be boring, but not cramming new information or training ideas while I go travel around and visit friends.

This weeks practice\lessons:

This week has been a fairly low key practice week. Just focusing on the drills and meditation to keep my mind relaxed through a high stress work week.

I did make a little breakthrough in the structure of my hips however.

As you may, or may not remember, I was having some knee issues a while back. I was able to narrow it down to several things back then, but found another movement that was causing stress on the framework of my right leg.

As I transition my weight from a right horse stance to a left one, I tend to allow my right knee to turn inwards putting a great deal of stress on the inside of my knee. In order to correct that, I have been keeping that knee\hip rotated outwards as I shifted left, allowing the weight to travel through the center of the leg instead of getting caught at my knee and straining the ligaments.

This new motion has activated muscles that are not used to moving and is shifting the alignment on the underlying structure. I can feel a difference in structure quality and my knee has been popping and shifting a bit as I try to make the movement a habit.

Overall, the result has been less pressure on the knee in general. It even lets me get into a deeper horse stance.

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