Rest easy, my beautiful friend.


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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I’m excited.

Part of my training as a Quanzhen Longmen Pai monk is that I’m required to go on a three night retreat at a retreat center. Now that my wife is done with tax season (she’s a tax preparer), it gives me time to be able to plan and book a hermitage in the Chicago area. I found the perfect one just south of Chicago. I can’t wait. From the description from the lady I booked the reservation with, it’s small, simple, and surrounded by trees. Perfect. As long as it’s got a bathroom and a fridge, I’m happy. And it does, so there ya go.

My next step will be to create my own schedule. My mindset for this retreat will be to mimic an actual Taoist retreat, or at least my idea of one, which will be to do plenty of neigong/meditation, other qigong styles, read scripture, complete my qigong certification studies, and do my wushu exercises. And of course work on my practice journal, which I’ve been neglecting so much, but I’ve been so busy with my acupuncture practice.

So that’s going to be it. I’ll have to create a schedule for each practice and stick with it. I’ll have to summon my military-like discipline, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. For the first time in a long time, I’ll be alone with nature, no one to bother me, and hopefully even get a massage :)

I’m excited!

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For the past few weeks that I’ve been an emotional mess. Last week reached its peak with the sentiment of unexplainable loneliness and despair, and a resounding sadness for humanity as a whole.

Help,” I murmured to myself out loud one day as I sat alone in my empty and dim office.

And then it all happened. Last Thursday a shaman invited me over to his nearby office and we had an amazing talk. Later that day, a friend came by for an equally energizing conversation. Just last Sunday, I reconnected with my closest friends from back in acupuncture college. And last Tuesday, I had an amazing chat with a friend of mine living in Seattle who gave me a profound tarot reading, guiding me, and showing me which way to go in life.

As much as I quite proudly fancy myself as an introvert and a loner, preferring solitude and quietness over everything else, there will be times when you simply just yearn for the comfort of friends. I love my wife and my kids, but I also need the company of friends whom you can connect with on a deep, spiritual level, who can anchor you with hope and inspiration, and remind you that you’re not alone outside of the matrix. It’s a different type of energy that your family can’t provide unless they cultivate as well.

Aside from my recent bouts of short-temperedness (probably due to the spring-wood, “rising yang” season), I feel more energized and inspired now. Mostly relaxed and at ease. The darkness of the previous three weeks have subsided, and I’m mostly myself now.

I cried for help, and my angels listened. “Help” is the most powerful prayer next to “thank you.”

And to my friends, spirits, and angels who inspire, guide, and protect me… thank you.

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It’s a lonely path.

My path is a lonely path, I wouldn’t recommend it to most people. Having a wife, two kids, and an elderly mother to care for, it’s not like I can pick up and move into a proper Taoist monastery for intensive training. Not to mention having a more than full time job as a business owner and Navy reservist. I also don’t know many people who call themselves “Taoists,” and if they do, I don’t know of any who would want to practice as deeply as I do. Well I did, but for some reason that friendship ended. Not sure why.

So that’s my dilemma. It’s lonely sometimes. Most times I’m happy with going about this mostly on my own, but the days that I can’t, I feel pretty sad. I know that I have my mentor/master and others in my group an email away, but sometimes I just want a face-to-face interaction and enjoy the nuances of a live conversation.

I’ve once wondered if I can turn back into simply a “normal” way of life. I can’t, it’s impossible. I can’t unsee what I saw, and I can’t un-experience what I experienced. I’m already deep down that rabbit hole whether I like it or not. I think I always have been. 

I’ve lately felt claustrophobic and withdrawn, and I hope it passes. But one part of me just wants to take a good friend with me and just walk. Go for a hike in the woods. Be with nature. Or just simply go outside.

Maybe I just need a good drink. Or to listen to some Count Basie.

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What is Not-Two?

Here we go, another entry-level Taoist perspective. But I love this koan. It’s a koan that’s an ongoing assignment from my Taoist master.

Not-Two, to me (so far), means that you’re not literally “one” with everything in the cosmos, but you’re not exactly “two” (or separate) from everything in the cosmos.

When you hear a lot of people who practice Eastern philosophical traditions, you hear about this “oneness.” That we are all “one.” But what I love about this “Not-Two” is that it feels more “real.”

Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream* gives us the understanding that everything around us is palpably different from us, that by releasing our egos and transforming our heart-minds to open our eyes to see the perspective of all things, we can truly experience the Tao… the Tao that connects all things in the cosmos.

In other words, we’re not all necessarily “one” because there’s a real palpable difference between myself and the rest of the cosmos, yet the Tao is the force that connects myself with all things in the universe… therefore, we’re Not-Two.

Believing that we’re all “one” (like we’re all this one huge clump of matter and consciousness) isn’t exactly correct, but believing that we’re eternally separate is delusion. The truth is right in the middle. Not-Two. Not-Two is harmony, destroying the dichotomy between oneness and separation.

Believing that something being different from me isn’t the same as believing something is separate than me. For example, I was on a Navy base a few weeks ago. Obviously there’s a difference between myself and the Navy base, but for me to be located at the Navy base, the Navy base depends on me, and I depend on it… so there can’t possibly be a separation between myself and the Navy base. Therefore, the Navy base and I are not “one,” we are not “separate,” we are simply “Not-Two.” My house and I are Not-Two. The world, the galaxy, and the universe and I are Not-Two.

And no matter where I am and what I’m engaged in, the Tao and I are Not-Two. This is an ongoing exercise for me. I’m still no good at it though :)

*The Butterfly Dream: Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. 

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Liberation is hard sometimes.

An aspect of Taoist meditation is liberation from the matrix of society. And for those of us who choose to stay within this “matrix,” as opposed to wandering off into the mountains or hermitages, it’s a difficult thing to deal with.

A side-effect of this “liberation” is that one day you’re going to hop off of that meditation cushion and see this matrix in all its ugliness. It’s a real, palpable thing. And once your eyes have been open, there’s no way to un-see it. There’s just no turning back. It changes your life, it changes everything and sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it hurts.

Everyone knows that there’s suffering in the world. Murder, war, rape, greed, hate, racism, sexism, selfishness, desperation. But not everyone knows that all of those things share the very same origin within the human psyche. And a lot of us unknowingly perpetuate it every day without even noticing. But there are those of us who understand “reality,” and can see it right down to its very root.

Being unable to see reality (or seeing it, but not doing anything about it) causes us suffering. But once you see it, you have the responsibility to help other peoples’ suffering if they let you. It’s lonely and frustrating and infuriating and it makes you on the edge of living a life of indignation – standing on the mountain top and yelling “WHY CAN WE NOT SEE WHAT WE’RE DOING TO OURSELVES?!”

But you have to be compassionate because no one can see what you see. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough talent, artistry, credentials, or charisma to express my ideas, so no one listens. To others, I’m just another voice that no one can hear through the white noise of megalomania and narcissism. And already being an introvert and a loner, it makes me want to withdraw even more.

A voice inside of me screams at me every day.

“You were never meant to have what they have, or be what they are…. because you can ‘see,’ and most of them don’t want to. It hurts, I know. But it’s reality. You can never go back. So deal with it, and move on.”

This incredible sadness I feel for humanity is my pitfall as a practitioner. I want to be able to be a guide and have compassion without experiencing grief (or even indignation), so I have to research this for myself. I am, after all, an entry-level urban Taoist monk.

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Neigong Poem

My xin (heart-mind) is a feather
Drifting gently downwards,
As I smile into the sun
Whose love is radiated in the ten directions
For the ten thousand things to cherish.

I wrote this after coming out of an amazingly energetic and insightful meditation one day. This was just an observation of what was happening internally.

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