Colds, Exhaustion, Frustration and Food

I haven’t written in my journal or my blog (obviously) in over two weeks.

When I got back from vacation, I was completely floored for 4 days with, what I am assuming to be, the flu. Since then, I have been trying to get my strength back to practice at full capacity again. My morning routines have fallen away as I have been restless through the night fighting off night sweats and yet to have a full nights rest, leaving me exhausted for much else then trying to get ready for the work day.

I have been to several classes, but as I was not sure if I was contagious I missed a week and a half after I got back. Since then, I have gone to 4.

We are learning the sword in the advanced class, so that has been memorization and the other classes I have been leading or going through the 24. I have picked up some new concepts from the reviews, but over all I just feel extremely distant from my practice.

Without my personal practice time, I loose my connection to my body in class and I am not able to delve as deeply in to the forms, or the movement in general. I begin to look at it again through the analytical mind instead of discovering the movement through my body.

This has lead to a lot frustration internally that tries to lash out looking for someone or something to blame it all on. From my inability to ask the right questions, to looking for more teachers, to wondering if I have ever been actually developing in the first place.

But the crux of it is, I have not been practicing and the blame rests squarely on me and my exhaustion. But perhaps blame is the wrong word, it implies wrong doing, I have just been too tired to focus on full training.

It’s a couple weeks of this built up that I woke with yesterday morning. A morning with eyes open at my regular time (7AM), feeling awake and with more energy I have had in the last couple weeks.

So naturally, I decided to work out AND train.

I have read that working out can help boost the immune system, and in the past when I was training for intense obstacle course races, I had broken this cycle of getting sick during the winter. So the answer must be that I need to start sweating regularly again.

I kicked the morning off with 15 minutes of meditation, to get my mind right. Then I went in to my routine.

Squats, leg lifts, crunches, squat holds, scissor kicks and hip thrusts. Aimed at getting my legs and core activated and the blood\sweat pumping.

It took about 30 minutes total, but was aimed mostly for intensity and I worked up a really nice sweat.

Then it was time to train, I practiced what I learned of the sword twice, then timed 15 minutes of stick work targeting a deep horse stance and keeping my mind centered and focused on the activity at hand,or at least pulling the attention back when I felt it wander. (After almost two weeks without meditation it was quite the greased hog to settle down).

Then it was time to eat, I was feeling really good!

3:00 hit at work, it was time to do Qigong with a coworker. We have been doing 15 -20 minute routines just as a nice afternoon break, yet another thing that has not been done in 4 weeks. (Vacation + sickness + exhaustion).

So, I was all jazzed and feeling great so we went off and did a full 30 minutes. It was probably one of our best sessions, we both worked up a sweat and I was able to correct a couple of movements for him.

Overall, I was feeling pretty good about myself and honestly really excited about being able to start real practice again.

Then about 5:30, I started to feel it.

A flushing of my cheeks and a heat to my face. At that moment, I realized that I had also been coughing today more than the last couple. One that was more insistent than just a nagging piece of phlegm that had dislodged and needed to be expelled.

The worse kind of cough, a dry pointless one.

My girlfriend, out of pure chance, made her famous chicken soup last night.

Perfect timing, I thought to myself.

I gobbled it down, along with tea and zinc for dessert.

But it only helped momentarily.

At 10 the coughing started again, and I could feel the pressure in my sinuses start to build. It was taking hold.

Coupled with an open window last night, and the heater in the house being turned off. I woke up sick.

I was up sneezing at 5 AM, blowing my nose and wheezing yet again.

I woke up long enough to gargle with salt water and write an email to my teacher saying I’m not coming in for fear of infecting others.

Needless to say, I am pretty god damn tired of being sick.

This time I am going to defeat it fully. I am going to be eating chicken soup every day and drinking tea with every meal, I will just take stock of my studies and read some books. Practicing VERY lightly until I feel strong for more than a day.

sick

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.

ketchup_demon

 

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

Authenticity

I have been digging deep the last couple weeks to figure out what it is keeps me continuing to practice.

Usually, I actively avoid doing that when it comes to something that I love, for fear that a deeper analysis will show that I am doing it for the wrong reasons. Or that I just cant get behind the reasons any longer often resulting in my interest fading or disappearing all together and me feeling lost again.

Reasons have varied over the years, to meet people, to stay in shape, to prove I can or even to be seen as hardcore to the people around me. Things that in some form or another become inauthentic under a more focused light. Motivations that just seem to be reaching, grasping, stretching, striving for something that I am not already or approval from something external.

Whether it be worth in others eyes, or my own.

Whether its an image of health that has formed in my mind, or an obstacle that I refuse to be afraid of and get hell bent to obliterate.

Things that steal me from the present, help me ignore what I am going through now but saying to myself “Once I get in shape, I will feel more comfortable with who I am” or ” When I get this thing done, life will be easier from then on”.

But, all to often I find that years go by and nothing has changed. That same feeling or issue sticks around and I find myself searching yet again for something to help keep the present buried and hidden from analysis.

But, Tai Chi is truly the tool I have been searching for all this time.

It’s practice has brought my mind from the future into the present.

Its movement slow, to bring attention to every micro moment. To breath it, experience it, to embody it with every fiber of my being.

Its intention soft, to expand awareness beyond tension. So that thoughts, energy, awareness can move cleanly through the mind, body and spirit without getting hung up on the snags of unconscious rigidity.

But most of all, to be comfortable with who and what I am in this moment. Let the frustrations of what I don’t know melt away. Let the knowledge of my ignorance evaporate and instead of fight it, embrace it.

Comforted by the fact that skills will enhance, knowledge will change and movement always happens through practice and time, but today, today will never come again.

I will never has this perspective again. This filter in which I see the world will only shift every day, so, I try to embody it and live through each moment of its evolution rather than try to force it to become some image I have for it.

So THAT’S why I practice Tai Chi. For the power and knowledge it brings me to this and every moment, that’s why I continue to move forward in the present.

Because each lesson, each practice session, each meditation doesn’t bring me anywhere. They don’t put me in a different place.

No, each method strips a layer from the years of painting over my authenticity.

 

Authenticity

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For those that have subscribed to my YouTube Channel, you may have noticed that I put up my first “Tai Chi Discovery” video.

These videos are going to be focused on little epiphanies I have during my practice, or tools I have discovered one way or the other that have helped me get deeper in to the practice itself.

My intention is to capture my process in learning Tai Chi. I have found that information from masters or proficient practitioners is relatively easy to find, I have yet to come across anyone diving deep in to the actual learning process.

So, thats what I am going to do!

I hope that it will illustrate the depth and complexity of the art and bring attention to it from a different angle in order to bring more people to the understanding of how deeply it can change their life for the better!

All else fails, I will have documented my process so that I can look back and remember the struggles as I pick up students of my own some time in the future.

Here is the latest video and I have more in the works!

Quality

The Tai Chi form has taught me many things that can also be applied to life, but this morning as my eyes opened the idea of quality came to mind.

In the form, quality can take the form of intention.

Intention in the action you are currently performing, an elbow strike, an arm bar, a strike to the solar plexus. These concepts are brought to the form to make sure that your mind is completely present with every moment which brings the “quality” of awareness to your movement.

This idea aligns your mind, energy body, and physical body in the movements. Visibly this shows up as what could be called fullness or completeness in each step, making the form “pleasant” to watch to outsiders with no clear indication as to why.

This same idea can be applied with life.

There is a quality in every move we make, every action we take and it presents itself invisibly to all those around us and people around us react to it. Often unconsciously (though some are sensitive enough to be aware of it).

That quality is what attracts or repels the things around us. It creates the very world in which we live.

What intention do you bring while making meals?

What about when you walk to the grocery store?

How about when you interact with someone who cut you off? or deal with that angry neighbor he always scowls at you?

Your intention is not invisible, I know we like to think our inner most thoughts are, but have you ever stopped to think how those unconscious thoughts have manifested around you? What type of people it has attracted to you?

Or, here is a doozy, what kind of drama  has it created in your life?

 

Practice your intention. Start small, one tiny thing in the morning.

Like pouring your cereal, what is that cereal providing? Are you angry that the cereal is the only thing you have to eat? Are you only eating because you are told you HAVE to eat breakfast? Do you wish you were eating something else?

Try being present with what is in front of you.

Pick the cereal, with the intention of enjoying it.

Pour the cereal, with the intention of filling the space of the bowl.

Grab the milk, with the intention of covering the cereal.

Pour the milk, with the intention of wetting the cereal.

Eat the cereal, with the intention of of being nourished with energy for the day. Energy that will be transmuted in to whatever action you are to be performing.

Action, that will contain trace amounts of the intention of the energy used to perform it.

 

Everything is connected and compounds what came before it. Accumulate your positive reality around you a single grain at a time.

Eventually, you will have a mountain.

quality-approved

Quality Control Approved

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.

 

continental_divide_part_7_all_steps_01

One with the Earth

I find it much easier to stand while meditating.

I have been taking a course that is designed to allow a deeper understanding of yourself through increased awareness of the chakras and the emotional charges inside them. One of the major tools of this course is a guided meditation introduced in a standard sitting position. A position that is not one that my hips and lower back relax into easily. Regardless, I have been trying to settle into it without much luck.

As the first imagery is introduced I am instantly met with resistance. My mind gets stuck in the hips and back as they fight to find a relaxed position. The imagery in particular is one of rooting. Sprouting roots from my feet and perineum (root chakra) and allowing them to penetrate deep in to the center of the earth creating a link between me and the planet. Needless to say, my roots don’t go very far.

So I decided to try something different. Yesterday I went back to standing and was immediately greeted with a different experience.

I started at the train stop in the middle of the street. As I took a couple of breaths and let my mind sink to my feet, the world around me instantly became muted and distant. I could feel my body melt downwards and my stress just liquefy and flow down in to my feet, which immediately got a very physical pulsing sensation in the arches. I felt connected to the earth, as if my lower half and the earth were one piece and it would take a massive force to move me from my spot and I hadnt even begun to try to root yet.

To put this to the test, I decided to continue on the train when it got there (only partly due to there being no seats).

I stood in between the doors as I got on and took my stance.

Again, I was immediately shown that same grounded feeling. This time, however ,I was starting to notice a distinct tingling in my dantian and my intention would pass through it. Kind of like the feeling associated with “getting the chills” but localized to a particular area.

I was solid, the train and me were one. The normal turns and shifts that would cause me to shift my feet were nothing more than a tiny ripple, diffusing in to the ballistics gel of my body. It was by far the most grounded I have ever been on the train and it lasted until I hit the subway where I then took the rest of the ride to write down my experience.

Structurally and mentally that was the most grounded I had become, however, the guided meditation itself had its issues. The roots still have trouble getting deeper than a couple feet and moving on to the other stages gets muddy and lost at times. So, there is still a lot to work towards, but these little victories help me know that I am making progress.

I am going to continue experimenting with different postures, the fact that some are more difficult just tells me I still have things to work on and I look forward to discovering what they are.

Alex_Grey-Spiritual_Energy1

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.

marinade-crop

Get the Memo

This weeks lesson is;

No one’s agenda matters but my own. No matter how much it may suck, or how far it gets my neck out there.

Its too easy for me to get caught up worrying about other people’s feelings, thoughts, or agendas.I will get so involved with other people’s schedules, needs, desires that I can end up losing my own in the process.

Last couple weeks have been a struggle.

I have been so worried about other people’s crap that I lost all the things I have done to keep me centered.

Welp, the line has been drawn.

I am getting back to my center and doing what I know works to get the extra static out of my head so I can think clearly again.

My resolve was slowly diminishing each week, thats how it gets me every time, one little thing after another slips. Then one day I wake up an energetic mess unable to think straight due to  the clutter.

I have been seeing a phrase pop up on me the last couple weeks that has been my saving grace:

“It’s ok to slow down, just don’t stop”  

Well, I have been listening universe. I have maintained a very minimalist practice everyday despite the madness.

Each day I have been doing one set of the 24 form and spending my train time meditating as I head in to work. Just enough to keep a toe in the training door.

Made it to a qigong class monday for the first time in 10 days and it reminded me why I go to those classes. It completely resets my brain. I know most of the moves, so I can focus just on the motion itself and let the monkey mind run off and away with that boom box on its shoulder.

I come out feeling refreshed and clear headed ready to take relax into the rest of the evening…. Totally going to start trying to find a way to do some of that mid day as I roll out my own agenda at work.

Kind of a disjointed blog post this time around… Been feeling really short and to the point lately. Not time for extra chatter 🙂

Todays Practice:

Morning

  • 24 form x1 this morning
  • 15 min train surfing
  • 10 minutes meditation

Evening

  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 24 form x3
  • 30 minutes teaching the 24

2015-01-03

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