Tai Chi Progress

My under­stand­ing of Tai Chi seems to come in the form of a sine wave: the more I learn, the more I real­ize I don’t know, and as I adjust for more and more details, other details get lost.

For the last few months, I felt like I was get­ting nowhere. The con­cepts made sense in my brain, but not in my body. My teacher has said that Tai Chi is already too intel­lec­tu­al­ized, and as a per­son who’s never been very phys­i­cally co-ordinated and tries to com­pen­sate in SHEER MENTAL POWA!, this holds true espe­cially for me. Until I’ve mas­tered telekine­sis, how­ever, I’ll be reliant on more tra­di­tional means of movement.

In the last cou­ple weeks I feel like I’ve reached another level of under­stand­ing, as rudi­men­tary as it may be.

One thing that helped a lot is when a senior stu­dent showed me what ward-off (peng) felt like. As he stood with struc­ture in his body, I tried to push him1, but ended up push­ing myself off him and falling over. In order to move him, I was forced to use the proper tech­nique (since he’s con­sid­er­ably big­ger than me), and expand with my entire body — legs, waist, arms, chest, lungs — instead of sim­ply try­ing to move through him.

Then we reversed roles and he pushed me until I could chan­nel his energy through my feet. It was the first time I ever felt grounded, instead of sim­ply under­stand­ing the idea. I still don’t really under­stand it, inso­faras I couldn’t explain it to some­one else.

Adapting this all to the form is some­thing else. I try to focus on one thing at time2 but it falls apart in other places. At this point, I’m just try­ing to get all the gross mechan­ics to be nat­ural with­out hav­ing to think about it, hop­ing that I’ll even­tu­ally be able to fine tune every­thing else.

  1. It reminded me of the feel­ing of squeez­ing a rub­ber stop­per, some­thing with give but not much, that becomes expo­nen­tially dif­fi­cult to com­press. []
  2. Such as stay­ing at one level with­out being rigid (con­sid­ered “breath­ing”), relax­ing my lower back, think­ing of my body being anchored through my legs, and keep­ing struc­ture and intent in my palms. []

Things I Learned At The Whiskey Bar

Outside The Whiskey Bar

Inside The Whiskey Bar

  • Everyone — and I mean every­one — between the ages of 25 and 30 used to watch The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
  • The token Asian guy has a fra­ter­nal con­nec­tion with the other token Asian guy in every clique
  • Fire has the abil­ity to bring out people’s pri­mal natures, and make them throw their hands in the air and wave them like they just don’t care (or some rea­son­able fac­sim­ile thereof)
  • Some peo­ple think they’re never too old to get hooched up for a Saturday night
  • A good DJ can make you feel like you never left high-school
  • Even at 27, I still look like I’m 18, accord­ing to the bouncer who carded me

Solo Artist

This week, the sound from my right head­phone started crack­ling and promptly died. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to my music with only the left chan­nel until I can find a replace­ment pair.

This has led to the unfor­tu­nate dis­cov­ery that when singing to your­self at a cer­tain vol­ume, OTHER PEOPLE CAN STILL HEAR YOU.

How To Interpret Nothing

(I’ve been writ­ing this in my head for four years. Four years and seven months, to be precise.)

So one last touch and then you’ll go
And we’ll pre­tend that it meant some­thing so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beau­ti­ful but you don’t mean a thing to me

—Death Cab for Cutie, Tiny Vessels

Ghost picture

I got this pic­ture in New Jersey. It’s the most pecu­liar size for a pho­to­graph: 3 7/16 by 4 13/16 inches.

For some rea­son, I see it prop­erly like this — land­scape ori­en­ta­tion, with the white stripe on the left — when it could just as well be rotated any other way. This is the bias I place on it. The way I view it.

It almost looks like a room with a wall in frame on the left, and the cam­era has metered for a flash off the wall, under­ex­pos­ing the rest of the pic­ture. There are two smears in the black­ness. Maybe an out-of-focus object, maybe a fin­ger­print on the lens.

I didn’t take the pic­ture. Someone else did, thought it was bad, and was about to throw it out before I asked for it. Someone who took me for granted. Someone who’s world I lived in but for a week, in the midst of the intense sum­mer humid­ity and coitus inter­rup­tus.

I’ve kept it in one of my note­books since. The edges have turned yel­low, and the cor­ners blunt from handling.

Every time I look at it, I like to think that I see some­thing in that grain and that noise. That something’s there; I just don’t see it because there isn’t enough light to expose it, but it exists nonethe­less. Some pho­to­graphic kōan, where I become that which I seek.

But I know there isn’t, the way I know it was noth­ing more than pass­ing moment, a week for­got­ten, a life unchanged.

And I’ve been hap­pily fool­ing myself ever since.

Psychoanalytic Reflections 03

My ther­a­pist is on vaca­tion now. When he gets back, I’ll start to see him on a bi-monthly instead of weekly basis. At first he sug­gested that we slow down only once I get a han­dle on my anx­i­ety, but when I explained that the ses­sions were putting me in a neg­a­tive cash-flow sce­nario, he under­stood and agreed1.

  • My depres­sion is gone. Most likely, it was a side effect of my anx­i­ety, or gen­er­al­ized anx­i­ety dis­or­der, which is mostly gone now.
    • The root of this is from my habit of pre­dict­ing neg­a­tive out­comes and ask­ing too many “what ifs”, which I’m still learn­ing to control.
  • There’s this idea of learned help­less­ness that I strug­gle with. The big­ger issue is that when I feel help­less, I get depressed as a result, about things out of my con­trol such as the weather.
    • I love how the prac­ti­cal side of psy­chol­ogy falls in line with Taoism. In this case, I think of verse 29 of the Tao Te Ching:

      Allow your life to unfold nat­u­rally
      Know that it too is a ves­sel of per­fec­tion
      Just as you breathe in and out
      Sometimes you’re ahead and other times behind
      Sometimes you’re strong and other times weak
      Sometimes you’re with peo­ple and other times alone
      To the Sage all of life is a move­ment toward perfection

  • One issue I had a hard time under­stand­ing was my belief that attempt­ing some­thing is a waste of time if I don’t suc­ceed. I sup­pose that it seems rather silly now that I think about it (such as avoid­ing get­ting in a rela­tion­ship just for the fact that one may get hurt), but I spent an entire ses­sion on this sub­ject alone. It’s a prob­lem because I give up on cer­tain things before I try, and lose impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties as a result.
  • I’m start­ing to become more aware of my auto­matic thought pat­terns. I’d auto­mat­i­cally avoid cer­tain sit­u­a­tions because they would give me anx­i­ety, or pre­dict how other peo­ple would react based on past expe­ri­ences, with­out even real­iz­ing it. This is wrong.
  • I was a lit­tle skep­ti­cal about the use­ful­ness of thought records at first, but now that I’ve fin­ished about a half-dozen, I notice a change in my thought process. Every time I get flus­tered, I think in my head of what I’ll write down later (sim­ply because I don’t have time to write it in the moment) and just doing this helps a great deal.
  • My ther­a­pist is a fan of Chappelle’s Show (which is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be a low-class and crude form of humour), because it breaks social bar­ri­ers by mak­ing fun of stereo­types, thereby rob­bing them of their sig­nif­i­cance. This makes him the coolest middle-aged white guy ever, and makes me want to smoke a spliff with him.
    • He also calls weed, “grass”, which is cute.
  1. We’re both baf­fled by the fact that the ses­sions aren’t cov­ered by OHIP, whereas phys­i­cal health prob­lems are. []