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Everything posted by relaxer

  1. I have been standing for about two and a half years now and practicing taichi Yang style long form in the ChenManChing/TT Liang/Ray Hayward Lineage for the past year. I just met and practiced with my Taichi teacher this past month and he strongly emphasized the incredible importance of standing, not just as a foundation, but as a stand alone, COMPLETELY whole practice as it is. I've re-established my standing practice since then and I'm amazed at its power. It's easy to leave something as simple and subtle as standing behind for something more active and "challenging". I understand that the apparent lack of subtlety and strength in my taichi practice is inherent in my lack of experience and not the PRACTICE ITSELF. I, however, am consistently amazed by the capacity of standing to immediately affect the internal and external aspects of my being, to provide a solid sense of well-being, calm confidence, and a rootedness in-the-body. I previously held the sense that STANDING could be likened to working on the engine. After hours, days, months, and years of practice, one would be able to take this engine and install it into a taichi "vehicle", at which time the subtleties of alignment, movement, and breath become more apparent and subject to the focus of awareness. Now, I'm not so sure. I wonder if standing is BOTH the engine and the vehicle (long term). I understand that this metaphor is messy because at assumes a moving toward some endpoint, goal. I would replace "a moving toward some endpoint, goal" with moving toward a better understanding of this organism's relationship to BEING. I expect to get some flak for a question like this for a couple reasons: 1. Everyone is different. Some will choose to stand and do nothing else. So, in that sense, STANDING is the whole, the engine and the vehicle, from beginning to end. 2. Some will never stand and come to similar realizations and enjoyment of life AS IT IS. As I come to the end of this post, a question reveals itself. For those of you who have stood, who have established that relationship, how longterm has it been for you? Is there a law of diminishing returns at work here, ie does standing pay off big time at the beginning, and not so much later on? At which time, would one be advised to move into a practice like taichi or the like? Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm enjoying my standing and taichi practice a lot lately and I'm thankful for the availability of a place like this to throw out these questions that bubble up from time to time. ben
  2. Hello Brothers and Sisters, This is a bit last minute, but I am heading out to Seattle from South Dakota tomorrow for the next week. Are there any teachers that you could recommend? If I get down to Portland, I would love to go to Gregory Fong's school for I-Chuan. Currently, my main areas of practice are Yang Long form (Chen man Ching - T T Liang - Ray Hayward Lineage), Standing, and basic Chi kung. Any good places to practice? Thank you for taking the time. I'm looking forward to my trip. I'm heading there for a national ceramic art conference called NCECA. It's the largest one of the year in America. Take care. Ben
  3. Feel free to email me at [email protected] anytime. Good luck, brother. I hope your health is good and your spirit high.


  4. Hi Mark.

    I just did a search for ankylosing on the forum because I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and sure enough your name popped up and I read your post. I've been on Enbrel for much of the past 8 years and now I've gone off. I'm going through some tough pain these days. Have you been able to put the disease into remission? How have you dealt with it? Any medications ...

  5. Any recomended concentration meditation?

    If you guys haven't read Thomas Cleary's translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, I would highly recommend it. I'm am just finishing it after having come off a Vipassana retreat and the similarities to what we're talking about here are staggering. I'm coming away with this: Ultimately, awareness/ turning the light around is very subtle. We have our senses and objects in the mind to aid in the movement from gross to subtle, but the whole point seems to be a movement into the essence, the real, which contains no object. It is incredibly subtle but all pervasive. It is just light. The Secret of the Golden Flower contends that breath is the pathway to the Mysterious. As such, even breath is used as an object for a while until in becomes neither external nor internal, it is all pervasive. Time and time again, it reads that this requires incredible diligence and persistence. There is a quote in there that says something like, a day without practice is a day spent walking as a ghost. There might be fast track vehicles to conscious clarity, the quieting of the internal rumbles, but simplicity and subtlety seem key here. I don't trust a practice that steer too far from basic elemental awareness as the vehicle. Mind-based mantra, visualization, and the like seem a bit risky. If we play repetitively in the gross, it is there we plant our garden. Subtlety must unfold of itself in the light of consistent practice. Sharpening, sharpening, sharpening, until there is spontaneous convergence of the wordless. That which is effortless and cannot be named. Call me an idealist, but I think it takes a lot of work and trust and diligence in whatever practice you're working with. If you're jumping around from one thing to another every couple of weeks, it might mean that the universe is trying to tell you something. The breath is gross, the breath is subtle, the breath is essence, the breath is fire, the breath is water. Don't you think? Why not watch something that humble contains such brilliance???
  6. Any recomended concentration meditation?

    I understand that it could be taken as a high level generalization. It was something that the teacher touched on briefly at the retreat that resonated with my direct experience. I have an intuitive sense that putting awareness on breath will quiet the surface BY quieting the depths. I've known people who do mantra and visualization meditation. While I believe that they have interesting meditations, I just get overwhelmed by their quality of ungrounded-ness. I know I'm running the risk of generalizing here, but I would rather hang out with a dude that meditates with discipline on his breath for a couple hours a day than someone who repeats mantras or imagines balls of multicolored light. Anapana seems to work on all levels at once. Mantra and the like seem to work on the inner-dialogue which then creates a space to work into the depths. It's all worth something. Anapana feels safe and reliable and deep in a way that mantra and visualization don't. Awareness of breath is just THAT, just that one path. When you get into mantra and the like, you've entered into a field of infinite paths. It's easy to get lost in there. I don't have access to a good teacher. I think this is a pretty normal problem. It seems right to work with breath in my case. There's not as much risk of getting lost. I could be wrong. Most of this is just intuition based on personal experience.
  7. Any recomended concentration meditation?

    I just got back from a 10 day Vipassana Course. The first 3 and a half days entail 10-12 hours per day of seated meditation with awareness on breath, ANAPANA. After that, there is a movement into Vipassana. I'm astounded by the power of Anapana. It is simple and powerful. There are no frills, just good honest work. Believe me, the work pays off. The teacher, SN Goenka contends that visualization meditation and other object meditation such as mantra do well to quiet the surface conscious mind, but don't penetrate the depths. I think he speaks truth. The clarity that was established with Anapana feels much more solid and full. It feels very, very natural and not at all contrived, like some object and imagination-based practices can seem. If you haven't already considered doing a Vipassana course, I would. It's free, so finding the time and energy is the only factor. It looks daunting, but the is a lot of support available at these retreat centers that can't be seen, but it is definitely palpable. In my experience: If concentration is what you're after, nothing beats the breath. Anapana is the cat's meow. It's solid, it's safe, and it's reliable. ben
  8. I am

    NICCCCCCCEEE. I like it.

    Brothers on sisters, We've touched on the subject of life as practice. ALL of life, from eating - to walking - to talking to Mom, exists as mirrors. The experience itself is a reflection of our state of being, and through exposure to this reflection there is awareness of the entity that is identified by name, our name. Truth is reflected. The experience of this truth is so subtle and seems to exist only in present moment awareness. When the mind is loud, the reflection just flickers on a broken mirror, hardly able to be integrated, lost. A well-structured and dedicated practice can flower over time. Isn't it beautiful when a practice that was once viewed as a "tool" for some sort of advancement becomes a love affair with the very act itself. This is what I would refer to as flowering. There is no short cut to flowering. A plant must mature and in due time, under the right conditions and nurturing, a flower may appear. It might not. Once one flower appears, many seem to follow. "Practices" that were once ignored become new playgrounds for awareness and interest. Flossing teeth can become a rich practice. Floss from the center. I am rambling. One particular aspect that I really love about this place is our ability to relate the experience of our practices. By understanding the way others have nurtured their practices into flowering, we might gain a deeper and clearer seeing into new methods of nurturing our own. Thanks for this. to the question: I've had a love and been drawn to trees for a very long time. I used to spend entire summers in them. Some have used trees in "spiritual" practice in one way or another since the dawn of man. My teacher often relates stories of one of his teachers, a master from Singapore. His teacher always spoke very highly of trees. He stressed the importance of treating them as you would another human or friend. If you've never met, take the time to introduce yourself, tell her your name and ask permission to spend some time with her. I always like hearing these stories. They seem to be a mixture of esoteric mysticism and hard pragmatic lessons for life. When I was younger, I often shrugged such stories off as flowery eastern metaphor, hippy stuff. As practice has deepened, is see the pragmatic nature of the wisdom in those words. So I now wonder, How many of you were chosen by trees as a student? How did your "practice" with them begin? How was it sustained? There is no tree-communication college, unfortunately. Currently, my main practice is in clay. I understand that the best way to receive wisdom, often, is to sit and be silent. I, however, would never tell a student to just sit by a piece of clay to discover its nature, to learn from it. For this, action is required. This is what good clay tradition is built on- discovering the most efficient way of opening to the voice or taste of clay. The Japanese call it TSUCHI AJI "taste of clay". How does one efficiently open to the "taste of tree"? Are there traditions built around this river of human experience? If so I would really like to hear some stories or any wisdom that you may have been given over the years (eg ceremony, ways of communicating, ways of offering, ways of showing respect). I really like the site and enjoy reading your words. For some reason I've been thinking about this a lot lately... The trees must be speaking up... Thank you for taking the time to read this. ben
  10. The Chinese Difinition of Chi Kung

    Yes, all action can be related to breath. It is the nature of existence. But, in learning to brush your teeth, is it necessary to regulate and focus on breath? No. It might help later on, but it's not necessary. Language is approximation. ChiDragon, are you saying that a new word should be invented for this western approach or are you discrediting all practices that don't focus solely on breath regulation for development? What's your intent? If it's inventing a new word, let's do it and be done with the semantics. It might just be me, but I find it a pretty boring back and forth.

    Thanks for the description of your ceremony. It sounds like a great one. I live in South Dakota, USA. It's Lakota country. I've only been able to practice with and learn from very few native healers, but the power of the experiences, though few, is strong and deep. The Yew tree is also very fascinating. I'm going to do some searching tonight on the subject. Does this mean ON the roots, as in bottoms of feet on the root itself? mmm That would make zhan zhuang pretty tough : ) I'll give it a try. Why not befriend a tree?
  12. Fasting, not on food, but on sleep

    Interesting post. I have done my share of fasting (food, not sleep), and have found it an amazing practice. I have always felt more alive and peaceful as a result. I've been looking into the paleo-diet lately. I haven't done a lot of research yet, but it seems to honor fasting as an integral part of health, even on a small scale. It's odd that we live in a time in which we feast nearly every day. Up until only very recently, our bodies lived on the model of calorie restriction as the norm with intermitent intervals of feasting, like after a successful hunt. No sure why, but something about that makes sense. The paleo-diet seems to honor these bits of knowledge. About the sleep: That's intriguing. I know that lack of sleep has been pretty stressful on my body in the past. It seems that when I do miss a day or more of sleep, that is the time that I get sick. But getting sick isn't all bad right? Maybe it's my bodies way of purging something deeper. I'd like more info on this, but right now, I'm going to keep sleeping as much as I can...hehe ben

    Thank you for the replies. It seems like you're both pointing to bringing an open sensitivity/receptivity to open the lines of communication. This feels right. Like I said before, there are no shortcuts. I, however, still can't help but feel a vacuum of knowledge when it comes to this topic. Cultures must have certain protocols in establishing connection. It must sound as if I'm getting picky and asking for the million dollar answer, like I'm out to get something from this type of communication or practice, but it's a little more subtle than that. It must come from my Japanese ancestry. In that culture, there is usually a way of doing things. There is a way to enter a room, to inspect of tea bowl, to sharpen and put away a blade, etc... For a while, I thought it was all so mechanical, but after a while you realize the wisdom and beauty in the old ways. In America, there is no way of doing anything. Everybody seems to be doing it for the first time, which is beautiful in it's own sense, but usually it's pretty ugly to watch and lacks any sensitivity to the layers and beauty of the act itself. ben
  14. 'No self' my experience so far...
  15. Find A Master

    that's what she said...
  16. Brothers and sisters, I hope you are healthy and well. About an hour ago, I found out that my Grandma passed away. I don't ask for pity or even for you to have me in your thoughts. The death of a loved one is something we all must face. I want to honor her life and her spirit. I will burn sage and sacred wood and sit in silence watching my breath in devotion to her life, filled with my love for her and the life she gave me. This is all I know to do. It feels right. Are there any practices or rituals that I may practice to ease her passage, to honor her spirit and energy in these hours and days following her death? I am curious and eager to learn. Thank you. ben
  17. The Life of Arts and the Art of Life

    WOW! Thanks for the video and post! I'm definitely inspired. Practice, play, and spontaneity are all so evident not just in your movements, but even in the editing. Thanks for that. Yep, those are my fingers in the that film. he he It's fun to get a taste for other taoist arts. Thank you H. E.
  18. The Life of Arts and the Art of Life

    I hear you. That's too bad, you know? It's a good topic. The great thing that I've found about working in clay and being among other dedicated artists is the joy and humility in just engaging the act. There is an absence of contraction on any doer, or egoic belief in separation. There is just the act, the unfolding, and joy in that. (Not always, but enough for it to be seen often) There's a double edged sword with the whole martial arts/ chi-kung/ meditation game. So many people seem to be after something... Be it enlightenment, massive chi balls, third eye sensations, etc,etc,etc... But as I write this, maybe it's a normal unfolding and necessary at the beginning of any practice. I had to go through a period of getting to know the material by setting goals and striving to make certain forms. Maybe this is the same thing. I just think it's healthy to realize, though, that this period is just the beginning of the path. It's saying hi to and shaking hands with the material. Why is it that so many "advanced" practitioners still seem to be going wild over what they can and cannot do? Maybe I'm just in the wrong part of the globe right now... There aren't many people who seem to have really incorporated their practice into the fabric of their like I've seen some artists and musicians do... That's cool about what you said concerning the movement of taichi and being a potter... I've definitely experienced that first-hand. One must be centered to throw a pot with beauty and efficiency... It's beautiful to seen someone throw "internally". There are hardly any movements, but so much is done. It's conversely very messy and disjointed to see someone that doesn't have a relationship to his center try to move clay. It looks like a big misunderstanding, and not so much a flowing conversation.
  19. Favorite Meditation Technique

    Great topic! A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a Vipassana course. I'm on the waiting list. I hope to be lucky enough to get a spot. Could you relate your experience a bit? You said that you received noticeable effects and still are, could you elaborate on that a bit? I've done a 5 day retreat with Adyashanti, but nothing with seated meditation as such integral focus. This technique and discipline seem to be a catalyst for some real integration and realization of things as-they-are. and just because it sweetens the pot a little bit, did you have any beautiful body, mind, or spirit experiences bordering on the mystical?? Thank you. ben
  20. The Life of Arts and the Art of Life

    I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately. I make my living working with clay. While zhan zhuang and Yang Family taichi have been incredibly nourishing practices, clay is my main teacher, at least for now. The number of hours I've spent with the material dwarfs any amount of time I've spent in meditation or form work. I am familiar with my clay practice in a way I'm not with my meditation and form practice. I think the 10,000 hour rule applies well. Beyond a certain point, the type of practice doesn't seem to matter, the insights become universal and the level of mind, body, and spirit integration is palpable. There's a catch though... The 10,000 hours must be hours of awareness and presence. If one is not present and aware, the time goes up in smoke. I think that's why meditation, chi kung, and form work pay such dividends. It's as if there is a call for awareness and presence in the very acts themselves. It is easy to become unaware while brushing your teeth, taking a shower...the monkey mind wanders, here and there, too many objects... Playing music, working with clay, moving paint- these require a communication between so many aspects of our organism. Such communication yields an experience of integration, unity. I just finished making a film with a friend that is part of an exhibition up now. Maybe it conveys the feeling better than my written word: The film is part of an installation of hundreds of clay objects, half of which are functional small bowls and the other half are sculptural clay guardian head figures. Here is the write-up that goes along with the installation. Do anything enough and it will live in your bones, your muscles, and the spaces between. The act itself seems to sink deep into the body. Walking, driving, wedging clay, throwing a pot: trace any voluntary act far enough back and you'll find it began in the head as a concept, as a series of broken, awkward segments of intentional movement. Through repetition the segments become longer, until eventually an unbroken line of integrated movement flows through time. The body begins to take ownership of the act. The mind becomes unaware, it moves on to other affairs. The body is left to dance with and learn from the cycle of doing. We live, we are, we do. I have thrown thousands of bowls. The movements live deep in my body. It is like a wheel that goes on spinning even while I am away from the studio. Without conscious awareness, the cycle repeats. An effortlessness and beauty inhabits such familiarity and ease. The mind becomes still, free to question and to roam. In this stillness, I began to explore ancient Japanese ceremonial objects, African tribal art, and man's prehistoric relationship to clay. My relationship to clay was changing. New questions required new ways of working, of doing. This piece speaks to that change. It speaks to a movement from bone-deep familiarity to a conscious involvement in new, curious cycles. Great topic... Crazy and beautiful universe, indeed.

    Hi Everyone. I've been looking into rebounding as an addition to my practice after running into it here and there on some past threads. I've done a little digging online and people seem to really believe in it's potential to give some real benefits. If you have experience with it, could you explain how you think it did or didn't benefit you? If used along with a standing practice, is there a potential risk of negating standing's benefits by "dispersing" chi? I haven't heard anything of the like, but I thought I'd ask. Are there any downsides to the practice in how it might relate to other qigong/tai chi practices? Thanks for taking the time! ben

    HAHAHAHHAAAHA that's funnny.
  23. standing on my friend's sideways head.

  24. Fatigue

    Hi buddy. Thanks for starting the good topic. Just my two cents, via a conversation with my teacher recently: Simplify. One month ago, I was trying 5 or 6 different practices, MCO, Reverse Breathing meditation, taichi, standing, 21-chikung, etc... I was all over the place and not experiencing balance that I knew was possible. My teacher told me to go back to the foundation, to standing zhan zhuang, that's it. I've been at it for a month and I haven't felt better in a long time. It's wonderful. It takes courage and humility, though, to go back to something so "rudimentary". This might be a way to get things back to ground zero. Maybe you can push through the fatigue and start isolating practices that might agitate. As an artist and teacher in clay, it's the same thing. If a student listens and trusts my advice to practice the simplest techniques, after a very, very short period of time, his ability travels light years beyond the person banging their head against the wall by trying to do too much, too soon. I'm not saying I haven't seen people progress in this way, it's just a lot more painful for them and and for me to watch. Ultimately, it's not about progressing in the ability to move the clay. It's about getting to a place of comfort and communion with the material at which time the material itself is a mirror for your deepest mysteries, the Tao. Here the paradox arises. Yes, technique seems necessary to achieve this, but more importantly, it's the ability to listen. When we can truly listen, hear what is happening, we can react with balance. In clay and in body practices, it's often the foundation practices that put greater emphasis on the LISTENING. Putting energy into them is bound to compound exponentially. Good luck, my friend!! ben