The Dragon Journals
The Dragon Journals

Journal Archives: January 2001 - March 2001.

1st January 2001

Happy New Year! !

I'm not particularly fussy about New Year's resolutions, but there are 3 areas I've decided to review and have a look at making some changes: health, finances, and work.

Health: For me, this art encompasses both physical fitness and mental well-being. Last November, I decided to take a few months away from the study group to reflect upon and to review my personal approach to this art. This may now become part of my approach: a few months' intensive interaction and feedback, and a few months for personal reflection. Another possibility is to attend only one session per month but to really focus upon whatever has been taught at that session in my personal practise. In either case, I will be rejoining the study group in mid-January, and will see what I feel works best for me.

Finances: One of the SGL's of this art is a financial planner and believes that financial health is just as important as physical and mental fitness. As a professional accountant, I am sorry to say that my personal financial planning skills are weak - it's fine to understand theory, but in practise we don't always do what we preach. So, on the financial side, my bloke and I have decided to sit down and design a financial plan that will allow us to continue to visit family, pay debt, reduce taxes and also allow for visits to The Gompa in Arlington, Texas to study this art with Shifu Painter.

Work: Last but not least, I have placed it last only because I believe strongly that you work to live, not live to work. However, since I spend most of my time either at work or on work-related tasks, it is important that my business life is well integrated and is not impeding, for example, on my loved ones. For example, if I go to a study group class on a weeknight, the class begins at 7pm. This does not allow enough time for me to go home (on such a day, I would leave the house at 7am and not return until 10pm), so the additional time would be spent at the office. If I can coordinate my time to use this type of break appropriately, I may be spending fewer weekend days either at work or working from home. I am also planning to review my department and since we will be setting performance goals for everyone for 2001, can use it as an opportunity to set achievable goals not only for each person, but as a planning tool for the department as a whole, to allow us all to balance work and personal lives.

So, even though I don't usually believe in resolutions, those are my plans ... not only for the New Year but for the foreseeable future. You see, for me, New Year's is at best a good time to reflect on my personal goals and make corrections to ensure my path is leading towards them, not away from them. In a sense, it is the completion of the circle; a time to reflect on what happened in the past and to make corrections for the coming cycle.

... and yes, I did spend some extra time on my practise today! ;)

10th January 2001

Just a quick thought: am I the only person who breaks resolutions as quickly as possible after making them?

You guessed it. The one real resolution I made: daily practise. Immediately on the following day here is what happened: No more walking uptown, no more practising and surprise, surprise, I caught a cold just before leaving England! Ah well, live and learn... and learn... and learn... I'm just getting over the cold now; I'll be starting to practise again tomorrow. Right now, however, I'm feeling dead sorry for myself SO - I'm off to bed with my cold remedy *sniff*...

22nd January 2001

Finally the work deadlines slacken slightly; a bit of personal time and a chance to return to the study group tomorrow...

Not sure how I'll feel about this studying with the group; no matter what anyone says this art is a reflection of the INDIVIDUAL, and it is certainly a diverse group of personalities which have embraced it. Feedback can be either limiting or instructive - or both - depending on how you read it, and I'm not entirely sure how well I read and accept feedback as I am extremely stubborn! On a happier note, Dr. Painter will be arriving in Canada to provide personalised feedback to the current study group, which should be extremely instructional.

24th January 2001

Note: 23 consecutive days without bagua, is the correct amount of time to turn legs to instant jello when you next stand in wuji for your standing meditation practise.

28th January 2001

Some days it feels like you're just starting over, all over again... or as some would put it "it feels like deja vu all over again"! *sigh*

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3rd February 2001

Well, thinking about something is NEVER the same as doing it, but I have been spending some of my "spare" time in the last few days updating this website with mostly design changes, and some inconsistency/error corrections, and I've discovered an interesting side effect: just thinking about this art relaxes me.

Now you may be thinking, as I did, that it's the web site itself (updating, doing graphics, playing with HTML, etc.) that were the major contribution to the relaxation, but the fact of the matter is, that's only partly true. I recently updated and continue to update a section of my company's employee website, and although it is interesting and fun work, it just doesn't have the same effect.

Updating this site makes me want to go run in circles, as Shifu might say.

4th February 2001

Continuing my thought from yesterday...

Many years ago, I was involved in competitive swimming. For me, it was the result of watching Mark Spitz and other Olympic-level swimmers, and thinking, "Now there's something I might be good at..." Some years of hard training later, I realised that the talent and interest in swimming belonged more to others than to me, and left it. However, I have never forgotten something said at a party, by a (then) well-known Canadian champion. At that party, one swimmer, who had trained since early childhood and who, like the rest of us, had not achieved Olympic status, asked him, "How did you do it? How do you do it? I mean, you didn't start until late but managed to make the "nationals" ? Any advice for us?" His reply was simple yet profound: "Yes. Do nothing but swimming. I eat swimming, breathe swimming, I even dream about swimming. I train in the morning and in the afternoon. When I'm not in the pool, I'm thinking about swimming. There is nothing else."

To me, that one statement reveals a profound truth. To achieve personal excellence, be it in swimming, business, finances, family, or your martial art training, you need focus, almost to the exclusion of everything else. What I like about the martial arts is that any true martial training appears to incorporate family values, integrity, and personal ("spiritual") growth as linked profoundly to the physical training. So by virtue of applying yourself to the martial art, you are training also to be a better person.

Focus is hard work, but the rewards are the excellence to which we aspire. My intentions are ... not yet the same as my efforts. Let's see if I can't focus better and come up with a better way of training for me!

19th February 2001 at 12:20 a.m.

Another *busy* day, and still not enough time - for anything!

Once again I find myself wrestling the "practise demon". ...

Tonight, it's a bit late for an update as I am heading off to bed, but with less than one week before our Shifu himself arrives for a semi-private workshop, I don't feel "ready" for it. Let's see how things turn out...

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2nd March 2001

Very much happened, but no time to record! On my next update: Shifu's visit, a return to practise, moving John, and more...

5th March 2001

Shifu's visit
On the weekend of February 23-25, the Canadian Jiulong Baguazhang Association held a semi-private workshop with Dr. Painter, our Shifu, to allow us to have a workshop "just for us" - as close to getting private sessions as possible without visiting the Gompa in Arlington, Texas. There will be "public" workshops in April and November - meaning that if you are reading this and don't know anything about it but would want to attend, the workshop is open to all. However, this workshop focussed on areas we needed to work on to further advance in this art.

I was pleased that our Shifu noticed the improvement in my balance and in my "root", but embarrassed that I had obviously not practised in a while. I'd like to be one of the people selected for a demonstration but I'm sure I'd have to toughen up a bit more for that to happen. On the other hand, I was used to demonstrate how you would use bagua to move through a crowd while guarding someone (me) so it was an interesting feeling from that perspective.

On Friday night, we discussed the Tao Te Ching and its concepts. On Saturday, we WORKED. A small correction may make a huge difference, as I found a much greater stability once I learned how to 'round the top of the back' - not exactly what it sounds like, but difficult to describe in other words. It effectively corrects the posture slightly and with me, it has made an interesting difference in feeling how the body works as a unit. We also worked on the posture (opening and closing leg crease properly), had our linear walking corrected, and briefly reviewed the 'ba' step... it may not sound like much, but trust me - this will be plenty to work on between now and Shifu's next visit! Finally, on the Sunday we were updated on specific behaviours considered proper within the martial setting (known as "Wu de"), and they are essentially the good manners your mother (should have?) taught you in how to show manners, consideration, and respect for others. If you think that's easy, think again. Over the past few years, I have noticed a general decline in manners and politeness over every culture where I have either lived or visited, and in some areas while manners are still evident, consideration and respect are not as evident. I am convinced that this is a societal woe, and if I have noticed a decline over my own short life span, just imagine how far away we are from the code of "Wu de"! We all have far to travel...

So, that's my summary of the weekend. It's a summary only as I have too many notes, and to be honest I'm not sure how much sense they'd make if I included them here... On another note, Sihing Eric took several photos and I hope to have his permission to use one or two of them, since I was wearing my hifu for the weekend, and Dr. Painter kindly complimented me on it as well. Kudos to mum and I hope to have a photo or two to show you soon!

The updates on practising and 'moving John' will have to wait until next time I see... ;)

10th March 2001

Practise! ... and, moving John...
A few words tonight (ok, maybe more than a few), just to update my thoughts and keep it honest. As time passes we tend to re-write reality and I find that even my writings of a few months ago surprise even me at times, so I want to take a few minutes tonight to record some recent events and relax in the enjoyment of reflecting on positive experiences.

If I've been a bit maudlin lately, it's been due to having less time to myself than normal for the past few months. Although some pressure usually tends to centre me, more can elevate both my self-absorption and unhealthy stress levels. I mean, in the face of a loved one with raging toothache and possible infection, complicated by denial of the need to visit a dentist or doctor, just how important is a one day delay in a work-related project?

And yet, having resolved the dental crisis (the family is now one root canal richer and $500 poorer), tomorrow I'll revisit my work obligations, projects I've taken on, income taxes that the government wants me to file (now), reports required before the end of this month to prove I am maintaining my professional educational levels, a home PC that needs upgrading before one piece of faulty hardware damages the rest of the box, bagua practise, laundry ... hmmm.... well maybe I'll get everything on the list accomplished in one Sunday. Right?

Well, maybe not. I've certainly proved to myself that if I don't set aside time to practise, then my other loves, interests and obligations will surely fill the time. On the other hand, if I don't look after myself, then without practise it is only a matter of time before my temper shortens, my tremor increases, my writing suffers, my patience disappears, sleep is interrupted by cramps... and quite aside from health benefits, I like this art. Once I realised I was "saving it for dessert" instead of putting on the "main course", it became understandable to me that I was putting aside practise in favour of 'obligations'. What nonsense!

And, as a result of getting back into practise - yes my muscles are still punishing me for the long break - believe it or not, I am beginning to feel some changes where the lessons are beginning to make sense. The movements start to feel right. Breakthrough? Maybe a bit early to tell for sure, but I am definitely learning something, and that's always rewarding.

By the way, "moving John" is not a fancy new catch-phrase, pop song, or super secret baguazhang technique. It's something that I was able to do in class the other night for the first time, using the appropriate bagua moves. It did not involve muscle. Please understand, John stands not only a head taller than me, but is quite a solidly built man. If you've seen my photos, you will realise that it's not likely that I'll be muscling ANY of the men in this group no matter what level of training I achieve. If I am able to move someone, then it means I'm doing something right. Even though it is a small step forward, (John was not acting as an opponent nor was he doing anything other than "being there") I am pleased to be moving in the right direction, rather than standing still or moving backward.

And yes, I'll be catching up on work for tomorrow and until mid-April, so diary entries between now and May will be short. A small part of what I've worked on this site today has been as a celebration of these small accomplishments - my present to me, as it were. I hope you take the time to celebrate as well and if you have nothing to celebrate, then find something - it's important. Hope you have a great weekend. I certainly intend to.

17th March 2001

3 steps forward, 4 steps back...

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Everyone's Irish today...

Is it the luck of the Irish I wonder? Here I am, learning more and feeling as though I'm turning a corner, then something happens to make me wonder about it all.

Here's a bit of background, and what happened: this past week has been "March break", meaning that the school used by the CJBA was shut all week and not available to us for classes, and as a result I made special arrangements to ensure that I would feel safe in walking from the subway to our alternate location, a church in a somewhat risky area of town. This worked fine on Tuesday.

I had considered not going to class on Thursday, but at the last minute I decided not to be too proud to ask for help. Although it was late, I decided to email the group on Thursday morning to see if anyone could meet me at the subway and walk me to class, and back to the subway after class. I was very happy when Sihing Eric called and arranged to meet me.

And now, the "luck of the Irish" bit... at 5pm, realising that I'd been too busy to use the washroom and really felt a (ahem!) PRESSING need, I went to 'do my business' and was dismayed to realise that a bladder infection had hit me rather suddenly.

So, just in case you were wondering, no, I am not 100% healthy, 100% of the time. I was, however, quite annoyed with myself. I am convinced that this should not have 'snuck up' on me so suddenly and felt very offended that my body hadn't given me any of the usual warning twinges earlier. You see, once a 'full blown' infection takes hold, only antibiotics will do, and my doctor's office had shut at 4:30pm. By the time I found out where the clinics were and telephoned, the ones nearby all shut at 6pm, and the time was 5:55pm. One clinic's doctor refused to wait just 5 minutes for me to arrive, knowing that all I required was a prescription. Some Hippocratic oath, huh?

In the end I found a clinic near home and with medication, after a few painful hours the worst of it subsided. Now really, if the infection had made itself evident earlier, my doctor would have been available, and probably the medicine would have kicked in before class.

So, I am recovering nicely but a bit more disappointed in the health system, and a bit wiser about the limitations of my influence today on my body's health. Is it possible that with longer time spent on the health practise, I would not have had an infection? Maybe...

22nd March 2001

All work and no play?
... and, just in case you think that practise is the only challenge, think again.

This art is neither for the timid, nor the faint of heart, nor those without endurance. There are times when I wish I had never heard of the art, because quitting isn't an option for me anymore, I know deep down I want to continue. But improvement is slow, long in coming, and longer in being noticed.

And, just for tonight, well, I wish I could do this all on my own.

26th March 2001

GOOD practise, and version 3.1 :)
"All good things come to those who wait."

I've no idea who said this originally (anyone who cares to educate me on this please feel free to email me; otherwise please bear with me...), but it seems to carry a double meaning for anyone practising an internal art. That is to say, the silence, the 'waiting' that is learned through our quiet sitting and our quiet standing, does bring good things... See? Sometimes I DO think, despite my years of education and training *grin*...

The thought originally jumped into my head because of ongoing frustration (see note above) and feelings of defeat, that have once again been quashed by a GOOD practise session. Tonight, my man and I played bagua together and I had a GREAT time. I feel really, really, good. Does it matter that I'm not as advanced as I wish? No, not really. Then again...

These wonderful feelings are what always lead me back to my resolve to play bagua daily, no matter what. After all, there is not only such a joyous feeling (why on earth would I not want to feel like this every day?), but also, it is that daily workout that is going to result in the advances that I wish for when I'm feeling low.

So, I've decided to call this latest resolve (it's an ongoing cycle of practising, falling off the baguawagon, and getting back on) by a name that will make sense to most computer programmers: I am now up to version 3.1 in my bagua practise. That is to say, I am now beginning year 3 (hence the 3 in my logic), and this is my "starting fresh" or ".1" for year 3. Now any computer user can tell you that version 3.1 may not be as good as version 2.8, but the programmer always intends for the new version to be an improvement over the old. Hence I find the analogy quite good and a bit quirky - oh ok a bit like ME anyway.

So, here I am, version 3.1, stretched, stood, linear walked, willow bended, twin dragonned, and circle walked for tonight. Good night!

28th March 2001

Startled!
Yesterday I was startled.
Now, anyone who's been reading this regularly, or who engages in this sort of art, will understand and/or remember my disappointment of a few months back, when I reacted poorly to being taken by surprise. After all, is the training not having any effect, am I training badly, or what?

Let me take it a few steps back... have you ever been startled? I mean, really, truly startled? The kind where you look first, register second, then leap out of your skin and leave a somewhat astonished perpetrator looking at you saying "oh come on, it wasn't THAT bad you're exaggerating!" ?

Well, I have. It even affected my work at one time, it was so bad. You see, I would concentrate so well that anyone walking up behind me could easily startle me, and at one workplace, a boss accused me of faking it. I still think he should have recognised that it was at the very least rude to walk up behind me, but I eventually quit that job and moved on to better pastures so I suppose I should be grateful to the spineliss sh*te. [/end rant]

In any event, my reaction has always been extreme and the sharp intake of breath, usually succeeded by the raised shoulders and dropped objects, was not faked but did indeed look extreme (even to me).

The latest incident (up until now) of course being the one in the subway previously mentioned...

So it was with some surprise and not total displeasure that I have a new development to report... last night, after most people had left work, I was feeding the fish in my office ("Onefish" and "Bluefish", sadly "Twofish" passed away last year) when an office mate excitedly walked into my office, saying loudly "I balanced!!!" ... This of course, just at the moment when I was turning away from the acquarium back towards the office door, but not early enough to actually see or notice anyone walking in. Don't get me wrong, I did startle, but it was different. Yes I did shudder and start to intake breath, but I did not rise, rather, I settled down, and found myself in a dragon stance. Next thing you know, both my office friend and I were in fits of laughter, as she well knew that this was a new reaction for me from my own facial expression.

Breakthrough! Well, a step in the right direction in any case, and I intend to celebrate each of these small victories. They are hard enough won.. :)


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