Articles, Uncategorized

I Should Be Dead

Dead

I know it, the reaper came, hovered and left. I stood between the worlds for months after a collapse with a second serious infection, 5 life saving and crippling surgeries on top of the 9 I’d already had and a second round of months of a cocktail of life saving, gut wrenching, antibiotics and hallucinogenic pain killers left me in serious doubt as to whether I was still meant to be here.

But here I am… still feeling ‘out of place’ and on borrowed time. Pain is a constant reminder and fatigue is always pulling at the back of my eyes and keeping the handbrake on my body. Everything has to be done slowly and carefully, teaching me ‘mindfulness’ in a most unexpected way, death always feels like it could it come with the next breath.

But this is not bad. It gives me perspective and vision that was not available to me before. Other people have a ‘bucket list’ when on borrowed time and try to fit everything into whatever time they have left, frantically running round like headless chickens trying to be distracted from their future demise having lost all perspective due to fear. I’m lucky because a lifetime of meditation and study allows me to sit in the ‘Tao’ and to see my finite life from an infinite mind.

What is important? It’s important to be ‘at ease’ with what and who you are and what part you have to play in this theatre of life. You are born out of this world and not into it. You are a part of everything in this theatre and have always been here in one way or another since the ‘big bang’.

My disability slows me down, this makes me pay attention to everything I rushed past before, ‘paying attention’ to everything, time, places, things, people, their characteristics, actions, words and this opens doors that I never saw before. Sitting still and in constant pain allows me to find that ‘place of refuge’ in my mind where the infinite me that holds all wisdom exists and pain is put into perspective.

I stopped contacting people that didn’t contact me and I let them go. I stopped talking to people that only contacted me when I was ‘useful’ and I let them go. I stopped taking part in the circus of ego feeding, back slapping events that only fed the negativity of needing to be an accepted part of it and fear of being excluded.  I stopped worrying about people, things and places because everything eventually turns to dust, all matter is impermanent. I learned that sometimes anxiety, depression, pain and suffering just arises, but it will pass if you let it be and don’t hang your hat on it. Nothing belongs to me – it’s all transitory.

If I smile with my face I immediately feel better, if I smile from the heart, I feel content and at peace, ‘letting go’ is the capacity to just watch everything as it passes, pay it attention but see it for what it is. If you know the names of your demons, they can’t touch you. Helping people is better than harming them, allowing them to be what they are, without imposing your wishes on them creates a healthy relationship. Building bridges is better than blowing them up, food parcels work better than bombs, inclusion works better than exclusion, ‘spreading the load’ in society makes ‘being human’ turn into humankind.

I don’t need to go anywhere, I don’t need to do anything, I don’t need to become anything, on the contrary, the best me is when I let go of all that desire and then intelligently engage with life from the right perspective and let it all happen naturally.

The more you stir the pot, the more trouble you create, the more you try to ‘make your mark’ and impose yourself and your views over others, the more they will reject you. When you create harmony in yourself, when you spread that into your environment, when you support all the building bricks of life on this planet – then you’ve really got the right perspective.

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Standing Neigong

standing

Standing Neigong

Several people have today messaged me asking questions about neigong and to explain the benefits and basics of how we do it in our training system.

The benefits of Standing neigong are as follows:

Good posture
Good balance
Good rooting
An understanding of left/right and upper/lower body harmony
Good breathing
An aware, focused sensitive and intense mind
Emotional intelligence
An intuitive understanding of yin and yang

The 5 basic postures are:

Neutral
Upper Yin
Upper Yang
Lower Yin
Lower Yang

There is an excellent set of videos called ‘stand still – be fit’ that can be seen here:

 

The basic way that we teach at Shi Kon is as follows:

Neutral
Stand with the feet pointing to the front and under the line of the shoulders.
Straighten the body and raise the head ‘as if suspended by a rope from above’.
Place the tongue to the top palette with the eyes looking straight ahead.
Loosen ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and wrists.
Lightly and actively stretch the myofascia up through the crown of the head and out through the fingertips .
Gently spiral the myofascia outwards from both feet upwards not affecting the ankles or knees and gently opening the hips, releasing the buttocks and lower back to allow the spine to lengthen and to stabilise the core into the diaphragm.
Turn the palms of the hands to face backwards returning them to the inwards position from the wrists only.
Gently pull the PC muscle until it engages the tailbone.
Find your natural breathing rhythm as taught in class breathing from the dantien.
Ensure left and right harmony in feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows,wrists and hands.
Ensure upper and lower harmony of feet to hands, ankles to wrists, knees to elbows and hips to shoulders.
These basics are maintained at all times and then:

Upper Yin
Bring the arms up and rest their weight onto your core.
Gently bow and connect the 3 bows of legs, spine and arms.
Connect with the energy and rest the mind and emotions on:
Patience
Kindness
Tolerance 
Compassion

Lower Yin
Is the same apart from the arms being down in the same frame in front of the Dantien.

Upper Yang
In upper yin turn the hands over at the wrists and slightly cup them bowing the 3 bows more intensely connecting with the energy and resting the mind and emotions on:
Resolve
Determination 
Courage
Power

Lower Yang
Is the same apart from the arms being down with the same frame until the thumbs point to the middle of your legs.

Apart from the occasional fist, crane beak and needle hand the entire Tai Chi form is the transitioning of these hands, therefore essential learning for any Tai Chi practitioner. In Shi Kon we don’t hold any position for too long but transition from one to the other learning how to switch polarity and mindset at will.

This is only the basics and a reminder for those training in the Shi Kon system, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU ARE TAUGHT BY A PROPERLY REGISTERED SHI KON INSTRUCTOR.

 

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Articles, Uncategorized

Mindfulness

mindfulness

 

MINDFULNESS

Our use of the word ‘mind’ in English can be quite versatile.  As a noun it describes our awareness, consciousness and thought, as a verb it can mean ‘to take care of’ like in ‘mind the child’ or when getting on a train ‘mind the gap’, so to be ‘mindful’ is to increase our awareness and consciousness and to take care of our thinking and feelings.

So we ‘mind the mind’, we take care of it.  All the time we remain mindful, we are watching our thoughts, emotions and actions and this act in itself is life changing. Most of the time we are not aware of them because we are them, this is the mindless state as written in the Dhammapada – ‘The mindless are as if dead already’.

When we start to watch and take care of ourselves we begin the process of investigating why we think or do things and the effect those actions have on ourself, others and our environment, this means we become aware of our karma and also begin ‘minding’ others and the world around us.

We realise that we have the choice  – ‘alive, aware, caring and careful’ or ‘dead, thoughtless, not caring and zombie like’, it’s scary when we realise how many ‘zombies’ there are in the world and that we were one of them – and will continue to be if we don’t practice mindfulness continuously!

Any activity that brings us to this calm, aware, focused and sensitive state is mindfulness training, focusing on our breath and/or a calming activity like Tai Chi, walking, sitting, standing or laying down, with good posture and deep breathing will help, too often people become ‘result driven’ and try too hard finding it self defeating. Good posture, deep breathing, allowing and watching the thoughts come and go will gradually reduce the activity of of the brain and bring us to that lovely mindful state where we become aware that we are far more than just one individual, isolated, emotionally damaged, zombie.

When we are in this engaged, mindful state we realise that by letting go our negativity, life becomes much easier as we become more emotionally intelligent, can see all points of view and not want to create unnecessary harm and friction. The irony is that we are more likely to live a happy successful life with meaning and purpose when we can ‘fit in’ with the right kind of lifestyle and people.

Good posture and deep breathing alleviates excessive tension and calms both mind and body, this reduces damage in the body, lowers blood pressure and reduces the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke and many other related illnesses.  It helps us to engage with others and a learning environment, meaning that whilst alive we are learning and using the brain cognitively, reducing the chance of dementia and other forms of early demise.

‘Mindfulness is the path to the deathless – the mindful never die, the mindless are as if dead already’ – Dhammapada 21

There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t begin a mindful life from this moment on, I started 40 years ago and have not regretted a single ‘engaged’ moment….

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Winner Or Loser?

this-line-is-zero

Winner Or Loser?

So many people just don’t get it.

If you want to be a winner, you have to learn to win more than you lose.

Firstly you have to decide who and what you want to be.

If you want to be a good traditional martial artist then you have to do more work in that direction than in any other.

It’s your choice. Draw a line in your life and call it ‘Zero’. Every moment you are mindful, in good posture, breathing properly, caring, polite, courteous, determined, resolute, courageous and working with emotional intelligence  you are in the + zone, every moment you are doing the opposite, you are in the – zone. at the end of the day, how many hours did you spend in which zone?

Obvious really.

People tell me they want to be good at Tai Chi, then I see them working on how they look to others, worrying about how others perceive them, becoming arrogant and boastful, doing exercises and techniques that stiffen their body and require aggressive, external, muscular force, and when they come to see me, they’ve got worse not better, they’ve done more work in the – zone than in the +. It’s all a question of balance and direction.

Tai Chi requires good posture, breathing and the right ‘Taoist’ attitude toward life and others, this is developed by constantly working with neigong (inner work) with meditation and standing postures and then development of the neural system, bodycore, spinal flexibility, open joints and myofascia, this is developed through the qigong (energy work) these skills are the underlying principles that are preparation for the dynamics and strategies that are then expressed through the techniques using kung fu (time and effort) with persistent practice in the + zone.

A Tai Chi body and mind is unique and cannot be trained in any other way than the prescribed method unless you want to become something else. So few people ever get around to learning the whole system.

Private, personal study is essential and this needs enough mentoring from someone that is able to pass the complete perspective along. If you don’t have sufficient ‘corrections’ to keep you on the right path, your training will degenerate without you realising. It’s too easy to miss those vital mentoring sessions because life gets in the way and there are always financial, business and family pressures, but the price of not taking them is also very, very, expensive and good mentors are very few and far between, have pressures of their own and are not there forever. Lose one and for the rest of your life you’d wish you made those sessions.

So every day be mindful of staying in the + zone, understand that this will determine your success or failure. The term ‘Buddha’ means ‘one who is awake’ – you need to become  your own Buddha and stay awake and in the + zone and never drop into the – one. Every night before you lay your head on the pillow, ask yourself the question and count the hours of + and – and the answer as to why you are or are not successful will be self evident.

It’s simple, but simple is not always easy.

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Poems, Uncategorized

Mass Slaughter

moon

I have been kept in prison;
Forced to take drugs,
Forced to have sex;
And my children were slaughtered.

When I become useless to my captors;
I too will be killed.
The terrorists have no compassion,
They say everything is for the ‘greater good’.

Their leaders manipulate them,
They are constantly taught to have no compassion for me;
If they want to be fed,
They must torture and kill me and my babies.

The mass slaughter should end;
One day compassion and kindness should rule,
Respect and equality for all should be normal;
But I fear that day is a long way off;
And the end to my torture and imprisonment nears with my death.

Because I am cow.

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Poems, Uncategorized

Inside Out

20160720_074908

How do you want people to treat you?
Then treat them the same way.
You want respect?
Then give it and earn it.
You want people to see you as a good martial artist?
Then work hard and become one.
You want respect as a martial arts coach?
Then act like one.
You want to be treated as an adult?
Then behave like one.
You want the coach to teach you well?
Then be a good student.

I study people and most can’t see the obvious.
They complain about their treatment,
That they’re not treated with respect,
That they’re not taught properly,
That their students don’t respect them as coaches;

They blame everyone and everything apart from themselves.

They didn’t look inside.

Remember we live from the inside out, not the outside in.

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Poems, Uncategorized

I See You

steve pray

I see you….
Because I meditate and practice neigong,
I see you,
I see the savage beast when the mask slips,
Maybe only for a second,
But I see you.

I also see the angel,
When you have pure altruistic compassion,
When you really care;
When your caring is free from fear or pity,
When there is no desire for an end result,
That’s when your angel is looking through your eyes.

My unfettered mind see’s how you wear your body;
The tension borne from fear,
The bowed head, the lazy slouch,
The jutting chin and darting eyes;
The deepest muscles ‘holding’ your darkest fears;
I see you in there.

I also see when your body is free;
When your natural beauty shines through,
When you are tall and straight,
Tension free and shining,
When you float as you move like your angel,
I see you you in there.

You cannot hide from an open mind;
My eyes are not camera’s,
I’m looking from my deepest soul,
It ‘perceives’ until you and I are one,
I become you and then I really ‘see’ what and whom you really are.

I see you….

 

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