Knowing

My qigong master once said, “When we practice our qigong, we realize the brilliance of our own intuitive knowledge. But if we don’t practice, we not only forget what we know, but we forget that we knew.”

About a month ago, one of my former classmates from acupuncture college came into my office for a treatment. It’s been years since I’ve seen her, but that day she stopped for a second and said that I looked like a “monk.” I was pretty flattered because I knew that she meant that I have the appearance of someone who cultivates every single day. Being a person who cultivates as well, she could read that in me. And it’s not because I have a bald head and wear beads on my wrist. I guess I have a “look.” But I’m not going for a look.

I’ve been doing meditative practice since 1995, but it was only within the last 8 years when I started doing it more regularly, and it wasn’t until March of 2014 when I started doing it virtually every single day. And it wasn’t until I started doing qigong every single day that I’ve noticed the changes it can provide me. I posted this in a previous entry (twice, actually by accident lol), but my energy level is up, my mood is more stable, and I get angry/stressed/depressed a lot less.

But the most important thing that’s been happening to me is “knowing.”

In Taoism, there’s a distinction between intellectual knowing and intuitive knowing. Intuitive knowing is the raw form of knowledge that you get internally, and intellectual knowing is the type that you get from books or schooling. Even though intellectual knowledge is highly valued in our society, it doesn’t quite give us the complete picture. I also believe that in our society we don’t take enough time to cultivate our intuition. I think it’s important to have a good grasp of both.

Looking at the Yin-Yang symbol (technically called the “Taiji” or Tai Chi”), if Yin means “internal,” and Yang means “external,” then the result of the harmony of both internal knowledge (intuition) and external knowledge (intellectual) is what’s called “wisdom.”

And to me, that’s true “knowing.”

The reason why “knowing” is so important to me is because I’m in the field of Eastern Medicine. There are times when I’m intellectually at a loss when coming up with a treatment strategy for a very complicated case. But that’s when looking internally for answers helps tremendously. And every time I do that, the answers are clear as day, and my patients’ conditions improve.

People call it intuition, or a gut feeling. In any case, in order to find the “right” answer using your intuition takes a lot of the skill that meditative practices provide you, particularly in quieting all that background noise in your head. It’s the stillness of your mind that allows you to quiet all the voices and imagery in your brain that will make the answers to all your deeper questions about life jump at you like a pop tart. But it takes a lot of work to get there.

 

The Tao of IDGAF

“I Don’t Give A Fuck” is an attitude that could either mean you’re a total asshole, or that you’re conserving precious emotional energy.

You must research this.

A lot of times, when people say that they don’t care, it can often mean that they’re giving themselves an excuse to act selfishly. People like that genuinely don’t care about the consequences that their own actions have on themselves and on others. Like people who drive recklessly or people who go around instigating others. That’s just being a total asshole.

But mindful “not giving a fuck” is a true skill. It’s an art. It’s a craft that you shape to perfection out of stone. To be truly skillful at IDGAF means that you care deeply about your loved ones, forging an upward path for human society, and the well being of our planet and everything in it… but have no fucks to give about the bullshit people throw at you.

In our society, we’ve been conditioned to react in certain ways to certain stimuli… ie. to get angry whenever anyone pisses you off, whether they cut you off on the street, or if they call you names. We’ve been told that it’s “okay” to get angry if that guy in your office calls you a total pudwacker for being a White Sox fan, or if an acquaintance gives you a passive-aggressive comment on your last facebook post.

So to a lot of people, being angry is “okay.” But is it really?

In the medical theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the liver has the energetic function to make sure energy circulates properly. By energy, I mean the proper circulation of blood, fluids, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. The proper overall circulation is what keeps everything in your body running smoothly. But if the circulation is impeded or depressed, then you have a condition that is called “stagnation” (technically it’s called “Liver Qi Stagnation,” but don’t worry about that).

The most common causes of stagnation are physical trauma, poor lifestyle choices (bad food and lack of exercise), and most importantly to this post – emotional stress and anger. When stress and anger occur, your circulation goes out of whack, and all of your energy rises upwards like hot smoke. Your body, especially your head, becomes hot (think of the phrase “hot headed”). It affects your nervous system, the way you think, the choices you make, and in many cases, anger causes pain and tension in your head, neck, shoulders, and even lower back. If this goes on for prolonged periods of time, this lack of proper circulation can affect your digestive system, and then now we’re really in trouble – diarrhea, constipation, colitis, GERD, acid reflux, etc. I can actually go much further than this, but just know that stress and anger can snowball into a myriad of horrible medical conditions over time.

So realizing the Tao of IDGAF is important for emotional and physical health. Being able to distinguish between times to truly care about stuff versus times to not care about certain things takes a lot of skill and tremendous effort. Just like an athlete doing basic drills every single day to master his craft for the big game, you have to do your basic drills in order to master yourself for the big game of life.

The first basic drill is understanding that people spread their negativity around because they themselves are suffering. Anger and stress are suffering, and it’s many peoples’ nature to try to get you to join them. But it’s up to you to not absorb their energy. Whenever someone’s being a punk ass, just keep your distance, don’t act on any angry impulse, and simply tell yourself, “Whatever. That’s their suffering, not mine.”

The second basic drill is to build yourself an invisible violet bubble. I like the color violet because not only is it the color of healing, but it’s also the highest frequency of all visible light. So whenever anyone throws their disgusting energy at you, it dissolves right on the bubble. You’ll hear their words and see their actions, but their intent won’t penetrate you. Just use your intent to surround yourself with that barrier.

The third basic drill is to spend just a few minutes in the morning and/or evening, sitting down, closing your eyes, and being aware of your breath. Just breath in and feel the breath moving into your nose and down to your belly button. When you breath out, just feel the breath going out of your belly button and out your nose. Just fully experience that breath, the way it feels, the way it sounds. Build on a daily practice of mindful breathing just a few minutes a day, and you’re building a world of tranquility. This is the most important exercise.

All of these drills take time, so don’t let it bother you if you find it difficult to do at first. And don’t worry if you fuck up, because I fuck up too. A lot, actually. That’s why they call this “spiritual practice.” Just keep practicing. The healing is in the journey itself, not the “goal.”

But I promise you, it’s worth the hard work. You deserve inner peace.

In advanced meditation, you won’t even need to be mindful of your breath. In the advanced version of the Tao of IDGAF, you question the very nature of this thing that you call “self.” But that’s later. Much later. Just breathe.

And just for kicks, here’s a phenomenal guided meditation to start realizing the Tao of IDGAF:

Cultivation of Stillness

Here’s an excerpt from an esoteric classic of Taoist scripture of which I will remain nameless for absolutely no reason at all, but enjoy:

“During the twelve double-hours of the day,
Constantly seek clarity and stillness.
The numinous tower of the heart emptied of all things:
This is called clarity.
Not allowing even a single thought to arise:
This is called stillness.

The body is the dwelling place of qi.
The heart is the residence of the spirit.
When intent moves, spirit is agitated;
When spirit is agitated, qi is dispersed.

When the intent is stable, spirit remains fixed;
When spirit remains fixed; qi gathers.
The perfect qi of the Five Phases
Then gathers together and forms a pinch of elixir.”

It’s interesting to note that even though my studies in medical qigong and Taoist priesthood seemingly come from a vastly different place, through this scripture, the intent is exactly the same.

People say I’m weird.

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O hay, I’m 41 years old!

The upside of living a life virtually free of categories and self-pigeonholing is that you feel limitless, seeing the brilliance of such a vast array of fun and intriguing ideas, arts, and lifestyles, teetering on the brink of esotericism, all of which merging themselves into my very being. Or something like that. Words are hard.

The downside is that you don’t know where you belong. Society tells us we should belong somewhere or to belong to something. Even people who consider themselves to be rebellious or alternative have more of a sense of belonging than I do. But somewhat to my dismay, my brain says, “Pfff who cares?”

Sometimes it’s kinda lonely. Relating to people is hard.

Then people would be inclined to ask me about the acupuncture or Taoist communities, and why don’t I just hang out with them. To be honest, I practice those things in my own way, and so I find many fellow practitioners of both arts irritating sometimes. But don’t mistake that for being mean or self righteous or elitist, I just have this annoying thing about me that takes an idea and does with it what I want, like it’s a piece of play-doh, to be bent and shaped for my own personal use, to fit my personality or lifestyle.

But shouldn’t all things be that way?

Even my military service is weird. Who’s ever heard of a practitioner of healing and spiritual arts bringing those ideas to the military and succeeding in at least the unit level?

I’m just weird. I even weird out my dog. A lot of people think I’m weird. They even tell me. But what I think is weird is when people think they’re normal. Normalcy is weird.

Stay weird.

*high-fives Chuang Tzu*

Deeper now…

In Taoist meditation, specifically Zuowang, or “Sitting in Oblivion,” there’s that state you enter where you lose track of your physical body, your senses, and your thoughts cease. In some circles, they call this “emptiness,” and in other circles, they call it “wuji,” “void,” or “primordial chaos.” In either case, it’s pretty rad.

I’ve had some pretty off the wall things happen during the times I actually reach this state, like actually communicating with one of my friends who just happened to be in that state at the same time, or reaching some sort of insight to a question or problem that has bothered me. But for the most part, I’m in this profoundly relaxed state of mind (or no-mind?) where, when my meditation is over, I feel as if nothing can bother me. Not even if someone comes up to me and calls me a panty-waste.

But I’ve found that the more I practice my meditation diligently and painstakingly, the more I reach that state of ultimate relaxation, the less that the daily and mundane things bother me.

In the book of Zhuangzi, he talks about perfected men being able to walk into water and not get wet, and walk into fire and not get burned. Not literally, of course, but he meant to say that the more you cultivate stillness and quietude within yourself, the more you can go about your daily life unscathed by the wretchedness of the matrix of our human society. You can stay centered amidst the flying egos once you go outside or log onto facebook.

I have miles to go before I can get to that point, but I find myself getting closer by a centimeter each day.

My Taoist Practice

There’s so many lineages and practices that one can choose from in order to consider themselves “Taoist.” They can be one or any combination of many practices and philosophies involving martial arts, energy work, spiritual work, philosophical work. Actually, you really don’t need any of it, or maybe just one of them, to consider yourself Taoist because Taoism means the study of the “way” or “path,” and many times it means that it’s the practice and realization of the way the universe works in order for you to live in harmony with it for a better life. You can actually call yourself “Taoist” by just understanding the basic principles of Yin/Yang and Wu-Wei, and building from there.

I actually started through simple philosophy via the book, “The Tao of Pooh.” It’s a really awesome primer into Taoist philosophy if you ever want to get started. And from there you can get into deeper stuff. Actually, before even that, I bought a book of random Taoist principles and sayings back in 1995, but found it a bit too rudimentary, kind of like how oversimplified infographics and jpeg-quotes are nowadays on facebook and tumblr. But even before that book, my first awareness of Taoism was through my mom. In 1992 she was reading this book, which I learned later on in life was a book about qigong, and started walking all weird. I was like “Mom, what are you doing?” She said that she was walking like a bear because it had some health benefits, and called it Taoism. I was like “…okay.”

Little did I know that I’d evolve so deeply into that path that I’ve fallen down this enormous, almost infinite, rabbit hole that I could never ever go back. Taoism can be deeper than mere philosophy, and it’s more than just “a way of life.” It’s indescribable.

Some people call themselves Taoists because they’re awesome at martial arts and realized the Tao through martial arts. And that’s cool too. Even though I’ve studied tae kwon do, muay thai, eskrima, and shaolin kung fu, I don’t really consider myself a “martial artist.” Plus I have modern weaponry for self defense, use your own assumptions of what they may be, though I prefer to run. And if I do practice a martial art, it’s because I love the movements and use them as a form of qigong.

Other people choose to call themselves Taoists because they study the Tao Te Ching or Zhuangzi and try to live by those principles. And that’s great too. And sometimes they also (or solely) learn stuff like Chinese astrology or Feng Shui geomancy. And that’s cool too. It’s all Taoism.

As for me, I call myself Taoist because of my healing practice of healing myself and others through medicine and spiritual practice. But for me, I enjoy reading esoteric Taoist scriptures, meditating/neigong, and contemplating “Not-Two” because they enhance my healing practice. I feel like the more I understand the Tao in its highest and deepest levels, the more I can understand the universe, humanity, and the human body in their highest and deepest levels, therefore the more I effective I am at healing myself and others.

So there’s a myriad of ways to practice Taoism, and to narrow it down, I choose Traditional Chinese Medicine (physical medicine), Medical Qigong (energetic shamanism), and Quanzhen Longmen Pai Taoism (spiritual practice). They’re the best for me as an individual and what my endeavors are.

Rest easy, my beautiful friend.

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My “sista from anotha mista…” You were my first real teacher and mentor when I decided to turn my life around by entering the realm of eastern healing back in 2007 by enrolling into shiatsu school. Your teachings helped me so much, that when I decided to ditch shiatsu for acupuncture, I did really well in my first year. When I first met Michael Lomax and learned his style of Medical Qigong, I couldn’t wait to tell you about him, as I knew you’d be a gifted healer, and you proved me to be right. Expectedly, you quickly became better at it than I was, and you became my mentor once again.

You inspired me to teach both the Tao and Qigong. You inspired me to dig deeper into my neigong practice and kept reminding me what I was doing wrong, the very things that I taught you at first. Just you being you taught me that it was okay to be both spiritual and an uncompromising smart ass at the same time. You were real, and  you were my spirit example, my spirit animal.

I thoroughly enjoyed our deep, heart to heart “lily pad” talks about the Tao and healing, and how we considered each other as “brother and sister of the Tao.” Right from the moment we met, I knew you were going to be something very special in my life. Together, we were like Yin and Yang. My water and your fire. “Rebellious Qi and Bad Ass Bodhisattva.” I sure wish we did come out with that comic book.

I just wish we didn’t lose touch since December. I wish I knew why, because you meant so much to me as a friend. I remember helping you out of one of the toughest moments in your adult life five years ago, I wish I could have done so for you again had I known you were going through such a hard time. I promise to not beat myself up over this, but it still hurts. I love you as much as anyone can ever love a friend.

And you were always a good friend to me, so supportive, so enabling. Again, you were like a sister to me.

I’ll never forget how you let me perform acupuncture at Urbancore when I was struggling in my first year of practice. And it helped tremendously, it gave me the necessary boost. You’ve done so much for me, and I know you’ll always be there for me still, just as you were today when I asked you for your help in the qigong treatment of a patient with a difficult condition. And it helped tremendously thanks to your spirit. I know you’ll always be here for me.

But it still hurts, it hurts so badly. I try not to feel selfish about it, but I feel so devastated. I long for your friendship again, your hug, your voice, your sarcastic laugh, your fire.

You’re my spiritual sister in the Tao, and I wish we shared more time together. I’m forever grateful, I’ll always feel indebted to you, I’ll always be your apprentice, and I’ll always be your “brah.”

Rest easy, my beautiful friend. With a heavy heart, I’ll miss you always.

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