Polyphasic Sleep and Better Thinking
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Category — kungfu yay

And you thought I couldn’t squee out about shoes

I need to give some love to Mad Rock shoes.  

My first pair were ballerina shoes on juice:

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But then they got a hole in the leather, I swear for no reason I can fathom.  

madrock shoes with hole

D:

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!

IMG_20140409_080444934 IMG_20140409_080525026

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’ve invented an emote!

I invented this in honor of / to communicate accurately with my Sifu.  It goes like this:

–/@–

Or in other words,

aangbows

 

(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

I own my stomach!

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

Walking and being bigger: Receptiveness

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

Reminds me of taiji

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 now, a bit on how kungfu works

Why are so many kungfu styles named after animals?

It's actually simple.  What do animals have less of than humans?  Right: Psychology; self-referential thinking-constructs.  What are animals?  Examples of evolution expressing itself as complex biology, similar in many ways to our own complex biology.  But what don't they have?  Self-generated, psychologically-generated, tension.  They don't (generally; or if they do, much less than us) "worry themselves sick", or get so hung up on regrets about the past that they can't unslouch their shoulders or un-knot themselves enough to sleep well.  

An animal is a machine.  We are too (we're animals too), but they're a level more "purely machine" than we are, not having that emergent self-consciousness thing going haywire in their software all the time.  And as a result, they can do physical feats that astonish us:  Cats can fall or leap huge distances and land gracefully; rodents can move and carry many times their body-weight; snakes can do a pull-up with their f*cking chin and move like greased lightning — and none of them have ever taken a single Pilates class, or done a single crunch to "get/stay fit".  Why?

The answer is simple physics:  It's because they're *not using any more effort than they mechanically have to*.  A muscle doesn't fire in a leaping cat unless it needs to fire, and to tense just that much:  A catbody that tenses its back muscles 15% more than needed to execute a leap is less evolutionarily-successful than a catbody that only burns the calories it needs to to catch the next meal.

"Show me a cat that can't relax," said a master once.  And of course, what's rule one of kungfu?  *Relax.*

Kungfu takes its movement cues from animals for a simple reason:  They're examples of what efficiency looks like.  If we want to learn to use what the human body can do in its best capacity as a conduit of perfect physics, we need to unlearn the things that prevent us from moving like animals.  Those things, those habits of civilization and domestication, cause tension, and unnecessary muscle tension is the great ruiner of all physical activity.

January 30, 2014   No Comments

Reporting for Deontology, Sir!

Happy New Year and Post-Holiday Recovery, everyone!  

How about this year we all resolve to sleep better and think better, by whatever actions take us in the right direction?

 

Here's my one year report, cap'ns!  (Actually, this is just a report of the things that I accomplished or am building upon from last year to this.  There were plenty of failures to, but you know who has two thumbs and doesn't give a shit about past failures?  THIS GAL.  ;)

I started a new writing project that is Sooper Secret And Therefore Exciting!  Maaaaybe I'll talk more about that eventually, but possibly not; suffice it to say that I'm really geeked to have a new Personal Dare on my plate.

I did a lot of polyphasic-advancement stuff in 2013, I suppose — publishing the Second Edition, plus a pretty good handful of interviews, plus hooking up with a few really fascinating persons who are advancing knowledge in different ways related to and surrounding polyphasic sleep.  In 2014 I hope to finish brushing up this site, will probably do a few more interviews (there are actually two on my plate right now!), and maybe actually do something proactive to spread good information.  [I KNOW RIGHT?  I'm considering kicking off that task by doing an AMA on Reddit, as a polyphaser who's actually been at it for years, not just a couple months.  Would love to hear your thoughts on that!]

I kicked butt in kungfu!  Learned a bunch of applications (i.e. rillyfighting) and also more of the internal-arts thing than I'd ever thought possible; plus I made mad progress on my flexibility.  (Yes, if you were wondering, it is a little weird — and a little marvelous — to be coming into middle-age and to be more fit and flexibile than you ever were as a teen. ;)  And probably got much better in hockey, too, though most days it still feels like I SUCK; *but* this may be because of the seriously high quality of the people I play with, and that's a win too.  Oh yes, and I tried climbing for the first time in 2013, and while I only did a bit of it, I did get up to v3 in gym bouldering, and I went sport-climbing and even set my own leads once.  Will definitely do that more too, when I can.  And sailing!  I almost forgot; this was the year I first tried sailing, and two races and a bunch of classes later, I'm still ridiculously in love with it.  OH RIGHT AND I SHOT A FISH:  My first catch with a speargun was a nice-sized blackfish, perfect shot, on breathhold under 50ish feet of water.  THAT was an incredible feeling, and well worth the two years of effort I've put into swimming and diving.

There's other stuff, probably, but I'm sick of typing…having a Real Writing Project sucks the bloggage right out of me, but to be honest?  That's kinda fine.

 

I hope you all had a billowing wad of accomplishments too, and may you a) have great plans for the future and b) not get too attached to them, because we all know how plans work, don't we?  ;)

January 7, 2014   3 Comments

Not entirely about Cannonfist

So, I've been kind of loose and flapping about what to do with blog-type postings of stuff lately.  I've lost my organizational thread, I think; there's both too much to put AND too many places to put it.  I have the same amount, or possibly more, "readers" on Facebook than here; yet I don't want to talk about the same stuff with them, and branching out from either is problematic.  So if you've been wondering where the overhaul that I've been talking about is, well, it exists, but it keeps getting halfway and then getting changed.  Do I want a main portal page that can split off into The Everything?  Or a carefully curated set of URLs with different content?  

I have no idea yet, but if there's one thing I've learned it's that carefully studying a question, holding it up to the light as it were, for long enough always attracts the answer.  So I'm still pondering that.

I've also taken on a HUGE short-term project, so expect me to disappear a lot in long-form, but since I'll be in front of my computer a lot, possibly get pretty verbose on Twitter and/or Tumblr.  (Thanks to IFTTT, Twitter gets auto-posted to Tumblr.  I can't *really* figure out what to post on Tumblr yet, but I have a few friends who run *great* feeds, so I often repost their stuff if I suddenly find the time.)

I have to figure out where to put Ubersleep (the easiest, as it has its own URL at ubersleepbook.com already), my taiji stuff (especially as I gradually move towards teaching(!!!)), this writing project (if it works; will need it's own page and URL and all that shit), other writing (to avoid pseudonym issues with any of the other two) and just B.S. (though possibly I should cut back on that, or make a page for — just thinking aloud here — taiji and fiction that can hold the occasional hey-community B.S. post?  Maybe move my tendency to get poliphi over shit to a forum like the rest of the world?  (Actually that's not a bad idea…if I impress anyone I can pull them "into" my writing site(s); could be a good source.  There's a writer I really like who just about used Something Awful as his launch-pad to success, and at least two have done it with Reddit…).  I own puredoxyk.com but don't want to rely on it too much for Reasons; I also own yieldandovercome.com, which is a nice taiji URL and maybe OK for something else too?  HHMMMMM.  LOTS OF H's AND M's.

BUT FOR NOW, while I fill up Evernote and Google Docs trying to figure that out, here's a video of one of the Chen Grandmasters (his name is Chen Bing, and I know I shouldn't find it funny that such a big guy with such a ridiculously intimidating line of work — I mean, "Hi, I'm a Grandmaster of one of the most terrifying kinds of kungfu, how are you?" — is named "Bing"…but come on it totally is funny) doing the form I'm currently trying to learn.  It's very short, so watch it and get some Culture, damn it.  ;)

 

I know this sounds silly because that doesn't look like an easy form to anyone I've showed it to, but trust me when I say that It's a lot harder than it looks.  I mean a) Grandmasters kind of make everything look easier but also b) all that force you're seeing thrown around is 100% internally-generated.  You could get your strongest kickboxer-Crossfit-muaythai-weightlifter-whateverbadass and he'd be ohhhh, at least two years from being able to throw a single one of those punches correctly?  Those are all the kind of punches (and elbows and knees and everythings) that I've been writing about, which have taken so much study to be able to even do *basically* correctly, and which are done INcorrectly the world over by both the 90% of people who don't know what internal force is and the 75% of those who do know who are just doing it wrong.  Chen Bing's style isn't the same as my sifu's, who's style descends from Chen Zhenglei's (and I'm not really good enough to have a style yet), but he's HELLA good (duh) and if you've ever wanted to see what internal-style-kungfu's generated force looks like (when it's not actually hitting anything), now you can say you have.

Yay!  Enjoy your Sunday.  I've got a million words to write.  ;)

December 15, 2013   2 Comments

To be moved: How taiji can solve all your problems by changing their verbs

Among the many fundamental things about Taiji that are tricky to grasp and incredibly powerful when you do, lately I'm being blown away by this one:

It is never as powerful, useful, or meaningful to move as it is to be moved.

How do you "be moved"?  Simple(ish) — instead of pushing something with your muscles, you shift your focus to perfecting how everything is lined up and balanced so that the energy can flow through you as smoothly, as uninterrupted as possible.  (See also "Redirecting Lightning".)  

Yes, you do both things all the time:  The difference is where your focus is.  Try this little exercise:  Stand up and lift your arms to straight out in front of you.  Great; put them back down.  Now, focus on your core (stomach / oblique) muscles, feel them activate, and without doing anything at all with your shoulders or biceps, let your arms float up.  The latter is trickier — especially the part about keeping your shoulders relaxed – but the end-result is more graceful/controlled, and because it uses core rather than arm muscles, hella stronger.  In the first case, you're just forcing energy through; in the second, you're clearing a path for energy to follow.  (Bonus exercise:  Try the above and focus on feeling the kinetic energy that drives the motion coming all the way up through your feet and legs to your core-muscles and then floating your arms up.  Now drop everything, shake it out and just lift your arms the old way again, and feel the difference.  Wild, eh?)

The energy is there already — you have motion in you (unless you're dead), and making more is as simple as putting a little pressure on the ground with your foot — so the challenge is really to make it go the right way.  Which is, considering the subtlety of the energy we're talking about — are you with me here, physicists? — an impressive task.

You can't, by the way, learn to do this without learning to feel said energy.  There's no shortcut where you just "put your arm at thirty degrees and blah blah blah".  There are certainly guidelines, but at the end of the day whether they're working comes down to just one thing:  Where'd the energy go?  Did it get stuck and/or dissipate, or did it go where you wanted?

Other ways to say it:

Instead of initiating / forcing / "doing the yang", you relax / prepare / "focus on the yin".  

The act of moving still has to happen, but it is in essence easy; the hard part, and the part that gives strength and perfection to the movement, is all the space of non-movement around it.

You don't "bring (a) God"; you prepare the altar just so.  The god is arguably there all the time (whether because it's omnipresent or a metaphor for energy / existence or whatever); what makes this different from everything else is how it's prepared — the intention and reality of it, and its ability to channel that energy effectively.  This is the essence of what we look for in an altar, a ritual, a prayer; yeah?  Something that can channel god-energy.  It's not your energy that matters, which is why even very inexperienced spiritual people know that the person loudly wishing for a million dollars isn't doing praying right.

(Holy shit guys.  Praying–correctly–is taiji training.)

"Moving" in the life-activity sense is pretty easy, too.  You can always create change, though anyone can tell you how much easier it is to create bad change than good change.  All bad change requires is unleashing some energy.  Good change requires aim:  In fact, arguably it requires just aim.

You don't "throw a punch" any more than you "bring a God":  Even though the act in that case does come from you (well…we could argue that the energy you're channeling is just as validly "god-energy" as the one that's making the trees grow, but let's leave that for another time), acting is 1% of your total effort, the other 99% of which is prepatory stillness.  

When you get good, you can do this work quickly (perhaps like a "good" spiritualist doesn't need much in the way of trappings anymore); but when you're a student, you may spend five minutes just standing there, adjusting everything, in service of calling forth a single motion.  (Yes, to answer the implied question, I do this.  Pretty often.  Probably looks seriously weird from the outside, heh.)

Other ways to mean it:

Quick, name your three biggest challenges right now.  Better job?  Huge goal?  Lacking something relationship-wise, or need a new purpose in life?  

Do you think the best answer to those things will come from "moving" — from throwing action at them — or from standing still and preparing everything so that the energy that's all ready all over the place can flow through you in the right ways?

You've heard the same ten thousand platitudes I have, about how like attracts like, about how if you do the right thing the right opportunities will come to you.  But why?  How can you make it happen?  Do you "just wait"?

Well, yes and no.  You don't just wait, or to say it another way, you don't do nothing; you in fact do nothing.  You do the 99% that isn't the action itself — you clear all the blockages; you make the altar, the body, the pathways, the yin bits, perfect.  And then, because the force for such changes doesn't come from you, you hold still and wait for a bolt of it to come — which, depending on the force required, usually doesn't take very long; most life-changes are predicated on types of energy that fly around among humans all the time.  (Right?  We're not talking about preparing the ground for the coming of the next Messiah here; we're talking about getting the right frame of mind together to accept a pulse of finance, or friendship, or luck — all pretty common things.)

This feels totally different.  

It's both easier and a million times stronger.  

When you do it right, you tend to be dumbstruck, looking at your hands and wondering where the hell that came from.  

It's not that there are "things you can't do" in this world.  It's that there are things you can't do in this world; that require the kind of power that can only come from yin-doing, from making the situation such that they can happen with maximal efficiency.  

The difference is that between a toddler throwing blocks and a student constructing a block-throwing robot:  So much more preparation "work" goes into the latter, but what you see, the final outcome, is just a shockingly more powerful and efficient use of the same simple energy that's there all the time — in fact, what you see is one person flailing with all their strength and missing, and someone else sitting back and having a nice drink while perfect shots just happen for them.  You wouldn't say the student put in "less work" than the toddler, but because their work was more focused on preparation and efficiency, at the moment of throwing, they're having to do very little — in fact, if they prepared right, then the less they "do", the better.

"Stillness," says the I Ching in places, "is a sacrifice that you make to enlist the help of the Creative."

It is a sacrifice, too — it's difficult, when you desperately want to Fix The Things, to force yourself to focus on the yin-stuff and on being ready for the energy when it comes.  When you're hurting or miserable in some way, you want to poke it, to do something about it, not to let it be there; but that's exactly the point.  Tensing around it will hold it still, and shoving it will only cause damage.  Flailing, in any sense, is never optimal.  Even if all you can do is force yourself to relax, even if you accomplish nothing else in either the yin or the yang sense, you're better off for not having made things worse than if you just started throwing (literal or metaphorical) wild punches.

OK, I think I've run out of usefully different ways to say it.  But yeah, Internet!

I'm about to go try my punching skills on my job problem.

Wish me luck.  ;)

 

October 24, 2013   2 Comments

Resurrection from death by blushing

I haven't disappeared!  I am, in actuality, almost completely re-structuring this site, and hopefully improving things a ton in the process — but that process is largely invisible from the yonder beyond the fourth wall, so I apologize for the apparent radio-silence.

I did run across this article this morning on embarrassing yourself, though, and in doing so I realized that it was a good vehicle to help me make a point I've been meaning to get to here at some point anyway.  From the title, I think you've probably figured out what it is, but indulge me in a short story:

Once upon a time, there was a depressed and unhappy young-ish woman who, in spite of numerous blessings and accomplishments, could never seem to win the fight to get out of bed for more than one day at a time.  She struggled constantly with self-loathing, despair, and a lack of direction; and rather unsurprisingly given all that, in her mid-twenties found herself divorced, homeless, jobless and pretty well fucked.  

As happens when the karmic troops raze the fields this way, many decisions were made, good and bad, and a new life built, also with flaws that eventually took it apart — but one thing happened then that changed everything forever, and that would eventually prove the foundation for a more permanent, deep-seated and trustworthy happiness and sense of self-worth:  The young woman finally girded her courage and took a martial-arts class.  Ten years later, whatever else has happened, she's fit, confident, much more at home in her own mind and body, parsecs more socially well-heeled, and spiritually much closer to peace and understanding than she ever suspected she'd get.  Starting so late in life — being 28 and still fumbly and stiff in a class where the really good people started as kids — may have felt overwhelming at first, but as it turns out, years of study make a difference, and the difference between 28-and-fumbly and 35-and-badass is huge.  

That's all a very neat story, yeah?  But let's unpack a bit of it that happens far too quickly:  The young woman…took a martial-arts class.

What was the pivotal moment there?  

Researching and choosing a place to study?  She'd done that many times before.  Steeling herself and going to that first difficult class?  Maybe–that was hard all right, and it's probably the part they'd show in the movies.  But she'd done a first class before, several times, and it didn't do anything but make her feel even more clumsy and embarrassed and cut-off from everyone else than before.  It certainly didn't help:  She went home after that first class and cried, and–well, no, that's a lie.  She was crying before she got all the way in the car to go home.  "Alienating" is not even the word for stumbling your way through something that makes you look stupid in front of people you don't know but really wish you could impress.

Ok, so…What about the fifth class?  No, she'd done fifth classes before…they're just as embarrassing and difficult as first ones, if not a bit more so.  

Sixth, then?  Tenth?  Fiftieth?

What was it, when was it, in the process of that big verb "took [martial-arts]", that the woman found something that turned her life around?  When did it stop being scary and embarrassing and difficult and start being fulfilling and wonderful?

Well, it's been almost a decade now and I'll say this, as I get my gear together to bike to my lesson this morning — much more advanced lessons now, three times a week plus self-study – it's still embarrassing.  I may look somewhat "cool" to some people on the outside now, but there's always so much more that I don't know, and endless ways to screw up, and big holes in my skills that are easy for anyone to spot — and the better I get, the more advanced people I find myself around, so I'm perpetually in situations with endless opportunities to look stupid.  It's not as hard to make myself go to class as it used to be, since a) it's become a habit (I developed a hard rule in the first year that I was only allowed to miss a class I'd planned on attending if there was a stone-cold emergency stopping me, and now by default I don't miss classes), and b) I've gotten to see so many of the positive benefits that I can easily convince myself that it's worth the cringing.  But it's never stopped being embarrassing.

And that's actually a good thing.

It wasn't just getting over being embarrassed that got me all the good I've gotten from kungfu – it was learning to appreciate being embarrassed itself.  Sort of like when you learn to appreciate the pain of sore muscles (because it's a sign that you're getting stronger) — the pain of embarrassment is a signal.  It means that I'm getting out there and learning, pushing myself to places I'm not comfortable, and hanging around people I admire (or I wouldn't care enough about what they thought to be embarrassed).  I didn't "get past" the embarrassment involved in going to those early martial-arts classes:  Instead, I learned to appreciate embarrassment, and now, instead of avoiding it, I grit my teeth and seek it out.  Which is why I learned to play underwater hockey…and sail…and spearfish…and started climbing…and plenty else, personal and professional.  Knowing that something will embarrass me at the beginning (and possibly longer) has become a sure sign that it's something I'll probably be glad I did.  And because of that, the humiliation itself isn't really so bad.

So go on!  Do something embarrassing today!

(This message brought to you by your local Screw Stodgy Old People Club and the letter "O!"  ;)

 

October 4, 2013   7 Comments