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.

Standard
Articles, Uncategorized

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.

 

Standard
Articles

Feather On The Breath Of God Qigong

P1040592

Ahhhhhh…. ‘Feather on the Breath of God’ by Hildegard Von Bingen, one of my favourite albums to practice qigong and form to. Hildegard was a 12th century Christian abbess, visionary, mystic and healer, she wrote the most beautiful music to lift your soul and raise your spirit. ‘Feather on the Breath of God’ describes the feeling of qigong and taiji perfectly.

We were practicing ‘medical’ qigong, scattering the energy throughout the body with exercises such as ‘dropping post’ and ‘trembling horse’ and cultivating it with exercises like ‘stroking Kwankung’s beard’, ‘kidney circles’ and ‘golden ball’. I could feel myself relaxing and the familiar tingling and pulsing sensations associated with an unrestricted flow of energy as my tension eased, posture corrected itself and the meridians opened. With this ‘warm up’ I knew that we would be working on the ‘Taiki’ form that Sensei had put together to provide karateka with the links between taiji and karate.

“Taiki!” (I was right) It was good to practice a form that related directly to the qigong we had just been practicing. As I stretched and twisted my torso and limbs I could feel the movement promoting the flow of energy – you would think that the links between taiji and karate were pretty tenuous, and yet this form showed just how direct they really were. Techniques such as jodan uke, gyakuzuki in karate are fair lady plays at shuttles in taiji. Uchi uke in (Wado) karate is roll back in taiji, gedan barai, gyakuzuki in karate is brush knee in taiji, and soto uke in (Wado) karate is part wild horses mane in taiji.

In the background, the inspirational music written by Hildegard continued, with the monophonic hurdy gurdy background tones coupled with the soaring female soprano voices made a strange but compelling mix of ancient western religious mysticism and eastern taoist exercise.

I felt no ‘argument in heaven’ as I moved to the music and ‘reeled silk’, this meant keeping the thread of the movement even, not too tense (as that would snap the silk), not too loose and sloppy (as that would cause the silk to do the same and snap when taken up) and not jerky (as that would also snap the silk) the lilting background rhythm matched the movement perfectly and the soprano voices matched the feeling of my energy.

The first section was qigong in martial arts, the second, giving the trapping skills and deadly elbow strikes but still twisting and stretching the torso against a fixed and rooted base in classic qigong maneuvers, the third section is the uke or receiving part, quickly going into circles, curves and spirals, all unbalancing and weakening the opponent with one hand whilst dispensing ‘karmic justice’ strikes with the other. The fifth part of the form focuses on the legs with locking, trapping dislocating and kicking leg skills.

“That felt good” said Dave as he sat down afterwards for Q and A.
“Yeah the mix of qigong and form to the music is magical” said Pam, “I can’t describe how uplifting it is”.

“Yeah we noticed” said Dave with a mischievous smile.

“Don’t lower the tone now Dave” said sensei. “Does anyone have any questions?”

“I have Sensei” said Pam, “you always talk about the ‘trinity of kata’ and say how the ‘medical’ aspects are of prime importance and I can see how the exercise is good for me and how calming the music and movement is, but am I missing something?”

Sensei smiled. “Your body and subconscious mind aren’t, only your thinking mind is” said sensei.

“Explain…” said a frustrated Pam.

“Firstly, a well structured posture, an alert mind, softened muscles and tendons and deep natural breathing allow a ‘free passage’ of energy through the body. This is the first stage of good mental and physical health. When you practice these exercises and form, your mind and body will reap the benefit, even if your thinking mind can’t see how.”

“So is that like mol gik or wu chi in chinese or mushin or zazen in Japanese?” Asked Dave.

“Yes,” said sensei. “But then we need the motion of the exercises and form to activate the physical ‘pumps’ for the energy, blood and waste expulsion in the body. This will also strengthen the muscles, heart, bones and ligaments and help remove waste from the lymphatic system. The different types of breathing bring more air into the lungs and therefore more oxygen into the bloodstream and up to the brain making us feel more alert. Breathing is also the doorway between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, meaning that we are able to positively affect the function of the internal organs by the control and regulation of the breath.

The ‘martial’ aspects of what we do, make us focus that alert mind with a ‘life and death’ aspect of what we do, enabling us to have a well focused and ‘alive’ intention, sending our energy to where we want it to go. The techniques make us more spatially aware and balanced meaning that our ‘mind’ permeates all of our body.

This means that we can identify dis-ease in our body long before we would otherwise be able to. The pumping of energy up through the governor vessel and draining down through the conception vessel feeds all the meridians of the acupuncture system and nourishes the body internally.

By working on the mind we can affect the body and breath, by working on the breath, we can affect the body and mind, by working on the body, we can affect the mind and breath, so as you can see, there is another trinity there, this is the sanchin or ‘battle of three elements’ (mind, body and breath) that affect the state of man. Martial arts training can bring these into harmony, thereby resolving the conflict. Sanchin kata is named and structured around this battle.”

“In effect, the health benefits can’t really be separated from the skills or martial aspects then?” asked Dave.

“Exactly!” said sensei, “but equally they can’t be ignored, they are a trinity, not three separate entities.”

“They are inextricably linked”, said Pam “but there’s a lot more to do with the health aspects like the chakras and alchemical process… you haven’t talked about those yet”.

Sensei laughed. “That’s right Pam I haven’t, but that’s getting deep for a Q and A session and would require a full lecture or course on the subject.”

Sensei then gazed out across the class. “The fact is that martial arts have an ingenuity that is unique, the trinity of health, skill and martial application fosters a kind of power that in their isolated form, none of these individual qualities are able to.

Students that work only on the fighting application don’t have the internal tools to make their techniques work so well and can become quite violence obsessed, eventually maybe causing illness and oddly, often the pendulum swings from violence to religious obsession. Those that work only on skill are often ‘empty vessels’ winning competitions for the sake of vanity – and those who only train for health are never able to achieve it without the necessary skills and mindset.

“That is why studying the trinity is essential….. Shall we go again?”

Standard