Category — better thinking
I need to give some love to Mad Rock shoes.
My first pair were ballerina shoes on juice:
But then they got a hole in the leather, I swear for no reason I can fathom.
I sent the company that picture, and they said, no fuss, what size and what's your address; we'll send you a replacement. Yay! And they did, in less than a week.
Oddly, the new pair aren't the same model as the old ones. (Those are "drifter"; these are "phoenix".) I'm not sure why the switch, but I tried them on and I think I'm in love, so I'm not giving them back!
These are like superman's ballet-shoes. The laces give them a crazy foot-forming ability the others didn't have, and the soles are much chunkier — the bottoms have an actual ridge around the toes, which I predict will be awesome to stand on when one has about 1/8" on which to stand. :)
And–AND–one of my favorite silly things about the first shoes was that they said "SCIENCE FRICTION" on the soles: What a shockingly cool phrase! It wore off as I used them, but oh well. And yet, in a stroke of omgwtfgenius, the new pair has that phrase carved into the deep rubber on the bottoms, guaranteeing that it'll last a while! Hell yes upgrade!
So here's to good companies and cool feetwear and my favorite kungfu partner, Gravity. ::toast::
April 9, 2014 No Comments
I invented this in honor of / to communicate accurately with my Sifu. It goes like this:
Or in other words,
(No post could ever actually express the gratitude I feel for my Sifus and what they've taught me. This one is just meant to nerd out. Though…it might be a good time to say Wow, am I grateful for the classes I've been able to teach lately…they've taught me SO much; it's incredible. I'm super fortunate to be allowed to share those lessons with such awesome people!)
March 28, 2014 2 Comments
Crazy, so I'm an ENFJ now. I was an INTJ when I took it last, at least a decade ago; and I find the changes enlightening.
My preferences for social extraversion and judgement over perception are fairly slight (22%), but my preference for intuition is in the eighties. That's the philosopher brain, according to Jung. And that's the strongest, clearest part of me, and the one that's been with me the longest; the Self I remember discovering as a child. That I really found it kind of easy to excel in a college Philosophy program is, well, apparently predictable. Or backdictable (redictable?), or both.
And the F, the new F, the valuing of personal situations over objective criteria in decision-making, and that's almost forty percent, well, that I find kind of funny, because that's a change I was trying to make deliberately, and apparently, according to the test, it stuck. When I was younger, more depressed and isolated, and I understood less, I thought that it was, because it could be proven on paper to be, sometimes logical to do hurtful or evil things. I changed my mind when I realized that no consequence, up to and including terrible tragic outcomes, can erase or excuse or make ok the deliberate exercise of cruelty. (Note that I said cruelty, not violence. Violence isn't always cruel, and cruelty is very often non-violent.) We are not fucking wizards who can predict all the effects of our outcomes so clearly that we in our Sherlock Holmesiness know that our cruelty will have an effect for the greater good "in the long run" or "in the big picture", whatever the hell that is from our tiny points of view. We are people, individuals living together, and the only terrible tragedy we can prevent is this one, the one where we hurt someone on purpose, or as collateral damage through some related assholery. It is my logical conclusion, having been a T all those years, that the way to be a good person is to not hurt people. And of course that's an ideal to aspire to, so all I can do is try my best to not hurt people — but damn, if everybody did that, what a world, eh? As my categorical imperative, governing my moral choices, I'm ok with that.
Oh and this amused me about the "F" too: "focuses on the experiences and sensations of the immediate, physical world. With an acute awareness of the present surroundings, it brings relevant facts and details to the forefront and may lead to spontaneous action." HAHA KUNGFU MUCH? Hmm…actually, you think kungfu might have caused it to some degree? ::creepy::
And the change from "I" to "E" is its own story, which involved discovering that what I and others thought were introverted tendencies were actually extraversion (yeah, it's spelled with an "a"; did you know that? Somehow I didn't!) being stifled by social anxiety issues. I acted like an introvert but I hated it, basically. Now that I have a better read on what makes me feel good, I do choose extraverted (I kinda like the "a", really; it's classy) things to do about as often as the 22%-above-random number I scored suggests.
So that's an interesting update to my knowledge of the Meyers-Briggs test and stuff, and was worth doing with my otherwise-nothing-really Friday night. (To be fair, I have to be out of the house before four in the morning tomorrow.)
Enjoy your weekends!
March 21, 2014 1 Comment
That's not a political statement — I was singing this morning (and realizing that my life doesn't involve enough opportunities to really open up and sing; I need to fix that!) — it's a literal one.
Taiji (or more broadly the internal martial arts) is, I often find myself saying, a lot like bene gesserit training, especially in one particular way: It involves gaining mental access, voluntary control, over all* of the muscles in your body. It is also, as my sifu often says, really just one giant complicated abdominal exercise.
That exercise is "complicated" because, unlike to do a basic/normal situp or what have you, this one requires you to "find" (haptically map, I guess) and gain control of much more than just your "upper abs", "lower abs" and "obliques". There are rib-muscles that need flexing, soaz that needs accessing, and more funny little muscles and tendons** in your hips than I could describe in three posts.
My abdominal area has always been this really…fraught thing, psychologically. I've noticed tons of body- and mind-patterns that obviously grew out of trauma that my mind and body have associated with my stomach, especially my lower abdomen. Besides the psychological load from a childhood as a bullied pudgy kid and some near-misses with eating disorders, there's also physical trauma there — I have a five-inch or so scar on my lower abdomen, an emergency surgery which landed me with more than 250 stitches and a severed abdominal wall. So that muscle had to heal, and I had to re-learn to walk and sit up and do a plank, and those things have always felt weaker since then.
So for me, this realize-ation, this mental and physical, feeling and controlling, access to my stomach is kind of an incredible thing. (I still have miles and miles of work to go in this area, mind you — even without any initial handicaps, it's something some people study for a lifetime anyway. But what I've achieved so far is really profound and worth appreciating in words!)
And there's more, too. As a woman, and as I mentioned a pudgyish one, I've always been super-sensitive about the layer of fat on my stomach. Trying to un-train myself from the automatic tension of trying to look skinnier is a brutally tough part of my martial arts, and just in general my lower stomach is always the thing I've tried to hide when I want to look attractive. Amusingly but predictably enough, losing enough weight to go from barely-pudgyish to woah-don't-lose-more-weight (and let's not get hung up on numbers; I barely weigh ten pounds less than I used to, but I'm four sizes smaller in the pants — muscle is heavy)…didn't make me feel any better about my stomach.
But taiji did.
As I get more…access to those muscles, as I can more and more control them, relax them, feel them twirl and slide and wind up and release energy (and relaxing my shoulders and chest and arms to let it pass through, maybe with any luck out into some innocent punching-bag ;) — it's been a revelation. I love my stomach now, inch or two of fat and all. Not to be TMI, but the other day I took a racy selfie centered on my stomach, and not for any reason other than that *I* thought it was sexy. If you'd told me even five years ago that that would happen, I'd have laughed in your face.
I guess the greater point here is that having a body can be pretty great, and it gets greater when you (gasp!) pay attention to it. There are beginner and advanced levels of paying attention, as I think I've made clear by now; a dash of advanced attention to my stomach has not only done wonders to repair an old injury — to the point where those muscles are now in better shape than they ever were; under my inch of fat I have a hell of a six-pack — but resolved a fistful of psychological hangups I'd been dealing with since childhood, transforming them — if I may get a little flowery — into sources of joy.
*shorthand; maybe not exactly all but I don't care for now
**tendons matter: because they're connected to the ends of your muscles, they can (and sometimes must) be relaxed. And if relaxing a specific part of a specific muscle sounds really tricky, you're starting to get the idea. ;)
March 21, 2014 2 Comments
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT
"Anger makes you strong," is a common sentiment.
Well, I'm here to argue it.
I was the angriest kid you ever met. I could be quiet or friendly enough, but as far back as I can remember, I just smoldered, all the time. I was usually "the quiet one", but when I felt cornered — which wasn't always when you'd expect — it would come out like a freight-train on PCP. I couldn't fight worth a damn, but I never fought on purpose — not once, until I picked up martial arts at the age of thirtyish — all of my violence was cornered-rat explosiveness, which worked in a sense, if you didn't count the intense amounts of collateral damage it caused.
Harder with age, Sharper in the dark
When I was young, general sexism and bullying fed my anger; as I got older and shouldered my way into Detroit, and into worse and worse social groups and scenes, everything fed it, and I learned to hide it less, because being a quiet smoldering white chick is a lot less safe than being a leather-and-spikes-and-visible-weaponry snarling fuck-you white chick.
That was all a long time ago, but anger doesn't dissipate with age; it just sits there getting old and hard unless or until something breaks it up. I still have a metric shitload of it, I suspect, though I've been making an effort for years to bleed it out of my outward/social, and lately my inward/psychological personalities too. (The latter is much harder — nothing I ever did to anyone in the outside world out of anger compares to the things I've done to myself. Trust me. Anger also grows sharper in the dark.) I can at least recognize it now, though it's surprisingly difficult to set aside the temptation to resort to it pretty much all the time.
Staying alive at what cost? Shrapnel…
Anger is like a trampoline: If you hit bottom and it's there, you'll bounce back, propelled by the energy of the explosion. That can feel like a life-saver when you're in a freefall, when you see the ground coming up and then you hit rock bottom and something in you flares and thinks, nuh-uh, FUCK this. I am NOT going to be killed by X. You want me gone, world, you're going to have to send in some bigger guns than this. I'm here until you drag me out kicking and screaming, damn you!
And then, amazingly, you survive. You shamble out of the smoking wreckage feeling utterly spent but, amazingly, crazily, alive.
The problem is, like all explosions, that one a) burns fuel and b) involves collateral damage. It takes resources, for one thing: building and maintaining an emotional store of explosives keeps you tethered, to a degree, kind of like maintaining a weapons-store at your house; it's never resource- or cost-free to "have protection" like that. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
And the collateral damage is significant, too. The things that happen when it goes off are often extreme, unintentional, messy, or all of that and worse. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
…and addiction too.
Keep it up, and you learn to rely on anger as a survival mechanism, and it gets easier to rely on and harder to move past or give up the more you use it. (This is an addiction based on, not dopamine, but adrenaline — kicking it means defying not your pleasure-centers, but your fight-or-flight mechanisms. Have fun!) So not only do you get stuck on using anger whenever you need rescuing, you can also get addicted to feeling it when things are fine. You've got X years of historical data that goes SHIT SUCKS –> SHIT GETS SCARY –> ANGER KICKS IN –> SURVIVAL HAPPENS! WIN! LIFE! –and the incredible rush that goes with surviving when you thought you weren't going to.
Now, what happens when things are just…ok? Or meh? Or difficult, but not scary, really; and just leave you wishing you could feel a Win! Life! moment, just to draw strength from it? Well, people without "anger issues" (as I guess we can call them) typically go climb a cliff or camp in the woods or hell, even just go drinking or something, and they find their YayWinLife rush and get back on with things. But as someone who's been using anger as your primary life-saver and motivation to survive horrible shit for years, that's where your mind and your chemistry goes first. (Nothing handy to be angry at? Oh, you'll find something…often yourself. Which is double great because then you get hurt by it coming and going, pre- and post-explosion.)
Resistance: Really, actually, futile.
The thing is, anger is just a name for a specific form of "No-ness", or what I find it easy to call Resistance: The state of mind that pushes away. It's not efficient, and if aimed sloppily, it can put holes in your inner ceilings, start fires, and generally wreak all kinds of havoc.
What it almost never does is actually free you from the thing you're pushing against: Rather, it binds you to it, for reasons like those described above, and others.
It also burns you out: You'll get off the bottom, but then you're wasted by the effort, and chances are that things aren't better enough to really let you slump in relief, either. Burning anger is like burning nitrous: it works, but it costs, and the costs will catch up. If you want endurance, sustainability, and real change, you're going to need fuel that you can burn slowly, and control. (Some people say their anger burns slowly and controlled, but they're wrong: They've just buried it so far that the heat is hard to feel. It's still raging under there. Anger only rages. Again, you should probably just trust me on that. ;)
How not to be angry, or how to recover from having made a habit of surviving via anger for most of a lifetime, is totally another post; but this was useful to write down; thanks, Internet!
March 14, 2014 No Comments
This week's lesson is about being receptive, and balanced, and relaxing into being *bigger*.
I've been able to use walking as taiji practice for a while now, and that's been *super* useful. As I learn more about what the internal parts — specifically what people rather vaguely call the "core", but which I understand now to mean a thousand distinct muscles — do in taijichuan as a martial art, I've gotten to a place where I can practice with them while I walk. Not every time, but many times, I now manage to shift my weight and relax my hips and engage my lower stomach and open my chest all just so, and I hit this stride that feels…well, amazing. Walking like that feels like doing gentle situps, but it takes all the stress out of so much else, and optimizes all the forces at play to such a degree that I feel I could walk like that forever and never tire. And I go faster, too, which is odd because it shortens my stride — yet I gain more speed walking-as-practice than I do trucking full-out with huge steps.
I also…get bigger. (Apologies if this doesn't make much sense, but as I'm sure you know by now, writing it down is part of how I grok it.) Yang energy, or "the creative", moves in straight lines — think of beams of light. If it's moving, it's fast and direct; if it's stopped, it's "off". Yin energy, "the receptive", moves in circles — like the planet. When it moves, its energy spirals outward, moving with gravity in a less-direct and less-100%-wham, but still incredibly powerful (and sustainable) way; when it's still, it closes in around itself like a flower, storing energy inside. One's literal, kinetic sense of self — the haptic awareness of where your body is — changes depending on how the energy in your body is moving. Mostly these are subtle changes and/or related to energies we don't pay attention to, so we may not notice, in these terms, when we "are bigger" or smaller. But I've been learning to detect and control those forces for a while now, and one of the interesting effects is that if you can get the balance, the spiral, the spin from inward out and back again just right, it…unfolds you. (Again, maybe think flowers.) All the tiny parts of you that were holding tight relax, but you're not at rest; you're spinning a ball, and the motion is fast and effortless, but constrained by nothing other than the gravity that's helping it go faster. And you, your idea of the boundaries of you, expands. I can't really describe it other than to say that it feels like being bigger — having a wider range of sense-perceptive area, I guess?
The trick is, this is yin energy. As soon as you forget that, forget how it works and why, or try to wield it like yang energy, it all dissipates. Yang energy is expressed tension, and it's the absence of tension that makes this "receptive" energy possible. (It's called receptiveness, by the way, because while it doesn't mean being weak or not moving — do you think of the planet as weak or unmoving? — it does have as a characteristic being open, paying attention, and making room for everything. The phrase "yield to overcome" applies here.)
OK, time to go for a walk. ;)
March 11, 2014 No Comments
Hey, napping world, and other awesome people! Just letting you know that I will be at the awesometastic Penguicon again this year — it's the first weekend of May — and wow am I doing a ton of stuff this time!
The polyphasic presentations last year were standing-room-only, so they'll be back — and improved! — this year. One's a more focused presentation on napping, which I hope will be useful to both poly- and mono- folks. The other is a "Birds of a Feather" meeting for polyphasers and people interested in it: There was so much great discussion last year, I figured we could just devote a whole event to it. ;)
I'm also doing some non-polyphasic stuff, because, well, I find it all very interesting and I suggested the panels and the organizers for some reason agreed, yay! I love to blather about this stuff, so I'm sure I'll have fun, and I hope everyone else does too. Here are the official descriptions so you can judge for yourself!
Advanced Napping: In Public, At Work, Even Instead of Sleep (1 hour): "The science is pretty unanimous: Naps help improve concentration, energy, mood, and may be linked to other health and lifestyle benefits too. But how, in the real world, can you really get the naps you want? Long-term polyphasic sleeper and author PureDoxyk will give tips and answer questions about napping in public, negotiating naptime at work, prioritizing naps, and teaching yourself to fall asleep quickly and wake rested."
Polyphasic Sleep BoF (2 hours): "Have you ever tried, or wanted to try, polyphasic (nap-based) sleeping? Come to this open discussion and talk to other people — including some long-term polyphasers and the author of the book _Ubersleep_ — about your experiences, your curiosity, or your doubts."
Taiji! (1 hour): "Ever wanted to study the traditional Chinese internal martial art of Taiji (Tai Chi)? Get a taste of it here, and sample the health benefits while you're at it! This session, led by a longtime student, will cover basic movements and body alignment based on the awesome Chen and Wudang styles. Wear loose clothing and know your body, fitness & limitations — there will be opportunities for more advanced practice for those who want it."
What's the Deal with "Internal" Martial Arts? (1 hour): "You see it all the time in movies (think Kung Fu Hustle): The martial artist whose style is soft and flowy, but who somehow mysteriously is ten times more powerful than the Chuck Norris guys. What's the deal with the "internal"-power styles, like Taiji and Bagua? What's really the difference between an internal and an external martial-art, and which is really more powerful? What's the secret to the One-Inch Punch? What characters in movies, anime, and scifi are doing which styles, and how accurately? Come get your questions answered!"
- How To Hold Your Breath Until People Give You What You Want (1 hour): "Fun fact: There's a simple trick you can do to double your breath-hold almost immediately. Apnea is a fascinating study from a psychological, physical and meditative perspective — come learn about it, including trying that trick out! Marie is a licensed freediver and an underwater hockey player."
…So, yeah, that should be fun; and !@#% I have a lot of work to do! ;)
March 8, 2014 2 Comments
It's good to get out of your head. And it's good for many reasons, but I want to hit on one: It's good to see that other people out there are struggling too, that everyone has a big tangly psychological story-arc; that the messy painful trickiness of having a life is happening all around you, in a hilarious diversity of permutations.
There's an old parable which goes, "A grieving woman went to a Buddha, begging for help stopping her terrible, constant pain. The Buddha agreed to make her a medicine that would fix it, and gave her a list of ingredients to gather. One of them was, 'mustard seed from a home that has never experienced a loss like yours'. The woman walked all over China, knocking on doors and asking people about their tragedies in a desperate search for a home that had never experienced one. And she was cured."
Cured because, of course, the act of seeking out the stories of others' similar experiences helped put her grief in perspective. And perspective — which is not always the same thing as distance — is a great healer. It's like a magic telescope that you can use to look at a gaping wound, turn a knob and shrink it to the size of a scrape. Honestly held up to the world, viewed in the context of what life is, our pain is both smaller and friendlier than it feels.
One of my other favorite "old parable" type things — I've probably written about it before — concerns a young pelagic wave who talks to the sun as he's moving through the vast expanse of the ocean, surrounded by other waves as they journey together. Eventually he sees that the waves ahead of him are crashing on the shore, and freaks out (rather predictably I guess…wouldn't that be like finding out that everybody explodes on the day they turn 50?).
The sun says to him, "But you're mistaken, little one. You are not a wave, and you can't be destroyed. You are the whole ocean."
You, and I, are the whole ocean. These experiences, this body, this perspective is just a wave, one of zillions that the ocean is doing.
(Tangentially, I love the Sun as a backaphor* for the Higher Power in this story: It must be really amused, from its point of view, by the shit the waves say to it. Then again, from that God's-eye view, the ocean (or the planet, or humanity, or carbon-based life) is a single creature with an incredibly diverse form of consciousness. As a unit it has known, experienced, done and felt an unimaginable variety of things, but it doesn't — I assume — integrate all of those experiences into one voice, instead preferring the authenticity of a zillion first-person points of view.)
[*backaphor, right? Because actually God is a metaphor for the sun? I kinda like the word, but maybe it's a face only a mother could love. ;)]
March 7, 2014 3 Comments
Oh my god why isn't there more art like this?? I love this.
The scrolling is just so…peaceful to me.
Yes, yes, I have That History, of tinkering for hours and watching make scroll its deliciousness and feeling that rush of pseudopower, of moving through a dimension in which I'm barely an avatar. But I think it stands as an awesome artistic element even without that — it just says so much, with so little, it reminds me of taiji.
February 25, 2014 No Comments
and other stimulants
the sensation of waking up
Coffee and smoke and other things
that have a side-effect of a feeling of aliveness
the first gasp
after minutes without air
the control that must be iron just so
it can feel amazing when it inevitably shatters
of the jaw or the eyelids or both;
pushing against the tendency to shut down
in the face of speed or height
or water or the kind of physical contact
that sets off all of those chemical fear-things
“Oh my god it’s on my face”
“oh my god it’s throwing a punch”
and my task is just to open up
to let it happen
Light in the darkness
feeling in places that are hard to reach
Soreness deep in the core-muscles
staring hard into the dark under meters and meters
and marching the paths of the subconscious
holding torches lit by will
and, yes, by logic
Laying blazes on trails
finding out that others have been here
or might be soon after
Translating from languages that only have intent in common
February 20, 2014 2 Comments