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*

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Help.

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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