Category — Taiji
Difficulty concentrating today.
Strange bruises up and down my forearms from spinning (staff-spinning! Am learning to spin staves and holy hellfire is it awesome).
I tend to go looking for food when I'm tired. (Yes, when you're polyphasic you have more chances to sleep, but you also have to miss less of them due to stress before you feel ickyshit.) Thankfully apples are tasty and make me feel full, so yay lack of nutritional consequences.
I will be carless again for a while, it looks like. I had gone a year carless, rather enjoying that you can do this in Boston and I'd never done it before, until I bought my last car six months ago. That car (which darnit, I loved) was totaled in an accident this month, and I won't be able to afford to replace it for a while, so back to carless I go! To keep it from being depressing, I will treat it as an adventure, a reason to get better at fixing my bike and skateboarding on the very lumpy streets and sidewalks, and an opportunity to learn some more cultural lessons.
I owe a video to, um, who or whatever I'm doing the videos for. Better be quick before too much else builds up to talk about, I think. One thing I'll put here to save myself some time there: Physical exertion often brings about some degree of 3D; I think that's in part why some people do it, especially the really extreme/scary kinds. BUT it feels TOTALLY different to do it on purpose, for example when you're swimming six inches from the bottom on your tenth consecutive underwater pool-length with twenty or less seconds to breathe in-between, and there's nobody there to make you keep going all the way to the other wall but you need to if you want to get better, so as a last-ditch effort you reach in and twist…and suddenly you're looking at the bottom of the pool in 3D, and your heart-rate drops and you make it the rest of the way clean and easy as underwater pie.
One other interesting 3D thing: What you see in 3D, you remember. Something about that focus writes things really, really clearly into your (or at least my) mind. I can still count the dirt-grains on the pool-bottom, and that was two days ago. Hmm!
Had my evals for taiji today. Am doing okay — fundamentals getting a bit ahead of form, but it's warm out so I'm adding forms-practice in the park some mornings starting next week. Had an AMAZING experience where the instructor is patiently explaining, explaining, explaining how to switch focus (I KNOW RIGHT) from using muscular force to allowing chi-force (later; that's a book and a half) to drive your movements, and I've heard it before but suddenly I get it, it happens, and the whole physical world goes FLIP HAHA and oh my shit, I feel awesome. It lasts about thirty seconds, but it was thirty seconds I'd have gladly paid a year's tuition for again and again. That…well, if 3D is a different dimension of attention, this was the corresponding different dimension of physical control. (And think about how easy it is to control where your attention is — how little effort it takes to move it — versus how easy it is to control your entire body, and you'll realize why it takes decades to learn this thing. The analogy is conjecture of course, but I'll stand by it for now.)
And writing is awesome…I'm 7/10 done with my novella (yup), I think my epic poem about Detroit is finished (yeah I know) and I got an idea for an updated Desiderata-type bit of prose that's only about 1/3 finished but really fun (shut up hehe).
The key to difficult times is knowing where your keys are. Mine are in taiji, in writing, and in being able to communicate with people — having contact and conversations, and maybe also some drinking and snogging if I'm lucky. ;) So however tricky and tired and expensive and etcetera things are lately, I know that I'm doing okay, because I know what lights to measure by.
May yours be known and shine bright, too!
March 29, 2013 No Comments
Yes, those are warm-ups.
Yes, I know people whose warm-ups look much like this. (Mine look sort of like this too, but only if you take it apart into components and do it at half speed and three-quarters as far. ;)
I've been rededicating myself to my martial studies this past month — with good results; I'm sore in places I can't describe again! — both for obvious reasons and as part of the NYE project, which connection I hope I'll explain in another video soon.
Anyway, the moral of the video is that if you love something and do it well, even the warm-ups will be badass!
(You think I'm joking, but I'm not…)
February 24, 2013 No Comments
There are approximately ten thousand posts backed up in my brain right now, but I've no idea when I'll get a chance to write them, so instead you get one of the (many!) good bits from the Tao Te Ching:
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.
No fight: No blame.
March 13, 2012 Comments Off
I had one of those tiny physical moments yesterday that explodes into a psychological OH YEAH DUH … that was a moment, literally an otherwise meaningless moment in the shower, of refocusing.
Life is powerfully, powerfully distracting, especially as you slam into full adulthood and all the filters that kept out various influences are removed. This isn't oops-too-much-RSS-browsing distraction; this is full-on fight-or-flight-level hardcore psychological distraction.
- Faced with the insecurities of providing for yourself and others, of economic wibbly-wobbliness and the suddenly finite number of years before retirement, you throw yourself into working and saving money (easily 80h/wk, all told)
- Faced with the heady freedom of being allowed to do anything you can legally get away with, you wind up "trying on" hobby after hobby, filling your free-time and emptying your wallet on lessons, equipment, outings, and materials, all for things you'll probably hardly ever do again;
- Faced with the daunting task of raising a child "correctly", you throw yourself into planning activities, events, and lessons into every possible moment, as well as into cooking and cleaning things into an acceptably perfect childhood environment;
- Faced with the sudden relative lessening importance of social activities (what? I'm old enough to party all I want and now partying doesn't mean much anymore??) as well as, for some people, the sudden ease of actually pulling it off (wait, I used to find this scary? ha!), you grab any opportunity to go to a gathering, eating up your evenings and killing your attempts to wake up early and do stuff;
- Overwhelmed by the 80-hour work weeks, the pile of clamoring social engagements, the kids, the house, the classes and outings, you retreat into television for hours or days at a time, often finding yourself too exhausted to even get dressed if you don't absolutely have to.
…And welcome to adulthood. ;)
When I was young I thought, of course I'll be a writer, writing comes easy to me and I love it. But then…was I going to write instead of working and saving money? Hmm, no. Write instead of parenting? No way. Write instead of going out and doing stuff? Well, that one was easy when I was a bored and scaredy kid, but this weekend I can literally go to three parties and a SolidWorks design class and free-diving in the ocean if I want — all with people I like.
When I found taiji I thought, oh, THIS is the thing; this is the perfect physical component to my philosophic life, the mental components of which are of course reading and writing. I love taiji like I've loved few other things; I often think that if I had nothing else but a life of constant taiji, space to write about it, and some pretty trees to look at, that'd be great.
But when to practice? At home, with the kid bouncing around and things begging to be cleaned? At work, in the five minutes between meetings? Making the time to get to class once a week is epic difficult, though I do it, doggedly, but far too often without having practiced at all in the in-between.
And when to write? I get up around 4:30am, but the writing, it turns out, takes more than just getting up.
More often than not I surf blearily, drinking coffee and trying to gather my thoughts and the day's plans, until it's time to head out for work.
I never wanted to admit that I couldn't do everything, that I was going to have to say no even if something sounded awesome, involved a really cool person, or I'd never done it before. But you just can't have everything all at once; if you want that nice retirement plan and health insurance, it's going to cost you big-time, as is the perfect kids' lesson-plan and the clean house and oh yeah, the novel and the black-belt. There are sacrifices, and some of them really suck. Welcome to adulthood.
But the important thing is to make these decisions as consciously as possible, I think.
So this weekend, that's what I'm doing — I'm refocusing things. I'm putting some recurring plans in place, for writing and practice, that will get absolute priority…even from work, and cleaning, and parenting. (To clarify regarding a common misconception: no, more parenting is not always better; kids need time and activities to themselves too. It's just up to the parents to schedule that so that it gives us time as well — and that's no mean feat.)
This weekend I re-remember what's most important, and I state clearly to myself what I'm willing to bend for (work emergencies? Sudden opportunities?) and what I'm not. This weekend I re-invent my Super Picky Schedule to be super picky about the things I want out of life too, not just the things I feel responsible for.
And there's another element to Refocusing: The Present. By acting intentionally rather than responding to pressures (i.e. all the "faced with"s from the list above), you bring your focus into the moment more. …Make no mistake, this is probably why a lot of people don't do it. Swimming naked in the Now can be a lot less comfortable than a nice ride in a pre-built boat that just goes where the waves push it.
But this is life. It's not about being comfortable. We all get to sleep sooner or later… ;)
July 23, 2011 2 Comments
Boy, they weren't kidding when they said the answers are in you. I'm learning so much philosophically from studying the mechanics of my own body, it isn't even funny; and it isn't funny how angry it's making me that there aren't classes in this in the academic world, either.
Here's something I learned from trying to perfect a Qi-driven punch. (By the way, I capitalize Qi the way I'd imagine we'd capitalize Ocean if there was only one; and I italicize it to note that it's a transliteration of a foreign term and should be pronounced "chi".)
Intentional living is a lot, lot more about letting go at the right time than it is about reaching for anything. Reaching, wanting, desiring things is pushing your energy out into a void, because the thing you're aiming for isn't there yet. It's also, by necessity, neglecting to put that energy into doing the best you can with what you're already holding.
Everything you hold, you will need to let go of. Other things will be placed in front of you and you'll need to let go of some things in order to take new things; sometimes you'll also need to let go because it's just time for those things to enter non-existence (or time for you to). Fearing or obsessing about what that's going to be like is both pointless (you simply can't know what it'll be like) and, again, wasting energy that you could be using to do the best job holding them that you can.
So you throw* a perfect punch* by using your energy correctly: You focus on what you're holding; you be ready to let it go when it's time — not too soon, and not too late. If you're ignoring it to reach for other things, or to fear letting it go when the time comes, you're letting go too soon. By releasing (any energy: physical, emotional, etc) at just the right time, you gain incredible power.
In other terminology, perfect yang is surrounded by perfect yin. Since we move in time, and the yang is a split instant whereas the yin is all the time that leads up to and follows it, the yin is much more accessible to our control.
In other, other terminology, you can make a perfect action by getting all the stillness on either side of it just right.
*insert any verb & noun here
March 26, 2011 2 Comments
First, they’re cool. And if you know a physical art that you like, then by necessity you’ve made yourself cooler in your own estimation. Woot for self-esteem.
(Oh, and by “physical art” I mean the set of physical skills that would include–to different degrees–kungfu, playing an instrument, skateboarding, calligraphy, and dance.)
Secondly, the experience of going from poorly or fairly physically fit to being physically fit is one of the most amazing things this world offers. To notice new strength, pulsing new energy, new physical *and* mental abilities on a regular basis is…superherolike, even!
Thirdly, they do fantastic things to your vocabulary. Often you get to learn all these archaic and/or foreign terms, and moreover you really learn them, complete with the somatic (moving, living) meanings. Or if the art is more humble, maybe you still get to learn what’s really meant by “fakey pop shove-it”, which is also pretty darn cool.
[That "cool" (for your chosen hypothetical definitions thereof) is an inherent good is a given, by the way. It must be, due to its being a direct descendant of Fun, and the inviolate Eighties Movie Theory of the Inarguable Superiority of Fun. ...I'm only partially kidding. In a sense the EM Theory is simply pointing out how we know in our guts that fun and cool -- interesting and enjoyable -- things are good, and how we lose touch with this intuition as we age. When I'm up on one foot like Jet Li I know what it is to feel cool, and I know it's a wonderful thing.]
The fourth awesome thing about a physical art is that it makes you really aware of how much you could lose if you were injured. This in turn makes you more careful about dumb shit (like wearing seatbelts), and also more grateful for how you’re able to enjoy your body now.
And that’s the fifth thing, in a sense: You get to enjoy your body. This is a particularly profound thing for a lot of women, I think. For many women the body is a burden in one or more ways — whether or not it’s popularly perceived as “nice”. But regardless of gender, I’m beginning to realize how little many people — even healthy people in generally good shape who have decent sex lives — really get to enjoy being in their bodies and using them really well. The experience of feeling like you’ve attained some mastery with your body is…well, it’s just as awesome as it looks in the movies, I think.
So there you have it! Five darn good reasons to get into a physical art. Here’s how:
- Pick one you think is cool — seriously, that’s how I chose mine (in fact it’s how a lot of the high-up students in our Temple did), and I couldn’t have chosen better.
- Then grab hold of your Art and don’t let it go.
- Profit! ;)
July 1, 2009 5 Comments
Because I needed a new project, you know. …I wonder if neophile.com is taken? (Poop, yes it is.) But still. I had to take a moment there and revel in my own ridiculousness.
So, for the last week and a half I’ve been working through section 1 (of five) in the “Shaolin Workout” (see giant pic below).
This book has an interesting gimmick: It was written by perhaps the most famous living Shaolin monk, Sifu Shi Yan Ming. (Note: In Hanan province Mandarin, “Shi” is pronounced “Shir”. I think it sounds funny; I smile every time I say it. Which is kinda cool in its own way. ;) …You can learn about him anywhere (and should, if you find that kind of thing interesting), but for “consumer purposes” probably what counts is that this is the Sifu who teaches a) the Wu-Tang Clan, b) Bjork, and c) a hundred thousand (at least) kungfu wannabes who’d be at his school in a red second if we could afford it.
To be honest, I kinda thought the introduction, which has a nice history of the Shaolin Temple as well as a detailed accounting of Sifu’s fascinating life-story, and the beautiful photography of an astonishingly cool-looking person, was worth the price of the book on its own. So take my recommendation to buy it as either a Definite Yes, or an As Yet Uncollapsed Waveform, depending on whether you care if the workout actually works or not.
“Does it work?” is the question I’ll be answering sometime in the near-ish future.
So far, I can say these things about Section One (under the Mercy Cut):
May 26, 2009 5 Comments
John over at Tai-Blog posted this cool Tao Te Ching quote:
“The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself; The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete. “
In other words, for “the sage” (which is literally “the enlightened person” in the language of old Chinese texts), life is not a zero-sum game.
The sage doesn’t have to choose, as many of us believe we do, between taking more for ourselves and giving less to others. Instead, giving to others is how the sage gets more for hirself.
This also reminds me of a Native American saying I was lucky enough to learn: The best place to store your extra food is in your neighbor’s belly.
Most modern people approach life as though it is a zero-sum game: To get something, you must take it from someone else. To find happiness, you must contribute in some way to someone else’s misery. In order for you to have an abundant life, someone else must suffer scarcity.
And while the truth is more subtle, it isn’t that subtle, if you can let go of the fear that makes running in and taking as much as you can carry sound like the only reasonable option.
It’s called give-and-take, and there’s a reason the “give” comes first. When you give, you free up something else for the taking. If you need something specific, you have to figure out what to give so that you can get that thing. As long as you give, then take, the balance is preserved.
Nature used this principle to build a huge abundance of life in nearly every crack of this planet (and human beings using zero-sum thinking are killing it off at breathtaking speeds). It’s not new science, and it’s not far-out hippie mumbo-jumbo either. It’s just the same old “there is no spoon” angle: Rather than reaching out and forcing the world to bend to your will, you bend first, and if you do it right the world moves exactly how you wanted with no effort on your part. This is also the essence of the classical Taiji wisdom “Yield to overcome“.
Give, and ye shall receive — makes a lot more sense than “ask, and ye shall receive”, doesn’t it? When I was a kid, I was always so frustrated by that saying — ask who? Ask God? Well, I asked God for a pony and I didn’t get it, so I must be asking wrong…how do you ask so that you actually get results?
The answer, I think, is by giving.
May 11, 2009 Comments Off
China has been an area of intense study for me recently, so I thought I should share some of my discoveries and realizations.
One is that some of the coolest blogs ever deal with China. Maybe it’s because it’s such a country of secrets, with a simultaneously ancient and powerful, yet almost completely buried and lost, traditional culture. Maybe it’s because of the mind-boggling dichotomies that one runs up against continually in talking about it: the startling beauty and rampant neglect, the highly advanced art and severely retarded politics, the graceful, intelligent mysticism and clunky, often clueless social mores.
But for whatever reason, I think I could read myself sick on China-related blogs and still want more (shut up, that wasn’t meant to be a Chinese-food joke! ;) …Here are a few I’m liking now:
Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy — May not fascinate you as much as me, since it’s a philosophy prof’s blog, but I love reading his reports on how academia is discovering, and in many ways catching up to, ancient Chinese philosophy.
The Useless Tree — Also a philosopher’s blog, but this one’s much less academically-oriented and more about comparing Eastern and Western wisdom and teachings. Very cool.
The China Beat — Full of history, politics, essays, book recommendations, and all kinds of mind-boggling stuff. I always find myself wanting an extra day in my life just to follow their links!
Meiguozi — talk about creative; the author of this one is designing new Chinese characters for modern concepts. This was the first one I saw, and it dropped my jaw:
It’s a character to represent Sierpinski Triangle. IS THAT NOT FREAKING AMAZING. I think I want a tattoo of it! ;)
Besides blogs, there’ve been some great books — most notably The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices, which is an obsessively-compelling and truly heartbreaking look at what life was like for Chinese women, in all different walks of life, in the ancient and far-away years of the 1990′s. The combination of the content and the publication date ought to be enough to give a feminist a heart-attack at half a mile; and any human being worth their salt, at a hundred paces. But it’s amazing stuff, stuff you never hear about even today, and which will totally change your view of the world — and not necessarily for the worse. It’s a very compassionate, sympathetic detailing of what are often shocking inequalities and injustices, and how they arise, not usually from malice, but from ignorance, long-embedded teachings, political manipulation and simple fear.
I’ve also been poking at the language a lot, wishing I could learn it, but pretty sure I can’t do it on my own. I’m not terrible with languages, but self-teaching oneself Mandarin is pretty damn tall order! Gah, it’d be worth it, though, just to be able to translate some of the poetry with even a few of the proper connotations intact. I’ve bought a few books — an old-old volume on Chinese Calligraphy that I’m supplementing my clumsy attempts-from-cheap-how-to-books with, and a cute kid’s book called The Pet Dragon, which is a really cute introduction to the basic letters, and which my daughter absorbed completely in less than a week. (Did I also mention she can count to ten in Chinese? That’s my girl. ;)
Also, as often happens to people who start reading about China, I got sucked into reading more about Pingfang and Unit 731. Which you really can’t avoid, any more than you can avoid reading about the Holocaust if you study Israel. Unlike the Holocaust, though, this crime against humanity (also of nearly unbelievable scope and cruelty) was never admitted to or apologized for by the country that committed it, and America has been actively complicit in its cover-up. Moreover, due to the nature of Chinese citizens, especially rural and recently-rural ones, many people have allowed themselves to be convinced that it’s best just to let it go and pretend it didn’t happen. o.O
DUH WARNING: Follow links to info about Unit 731 at your own risk and preferably not right before bedtime.
What a paradox is China!
I love it, but I don’t think I want to go there. (At least, not without insider help.)
I adore reading about it, but it gives me nightmares regularly.
I’m horrified by the politics of cruelty, bald-faced lies and corruption, yet every time I look hard, I see the same things at work in my own backyard.
(Want an example? The American government put together a series of meetings about health care reform that included a) people who want to keep the Insurance Industry in power, and b) people who want it to share power with the government. When a Doctor’s group and others went to a meeting and protested the lack of even a single advocate to speak for the idea of a Universal, single-payer, non-Industry system, they were jailed and silenced. The government never addressed their concern except with thinly-disguised pro-Industry propaganda.)
Oh, also, funny fact? I’m actually related to someone who’s a noted Sinologist, specializing in the subject of women in China. Needless to say, I’m trying hard to re-establish contact with him — I’ve never even read his book!
May 8, 2009 Comments Off
Alright all you thinkers and schemers and reluctant believers, have some fun with this video, because I know I did:
Is this proof of, or evidence for, the existence of Qi energy?
May 7, 2009 3 Comments