The Karate Kid and Balance

I was born in 1975, and when I was a kid, Star Wars was huge. The other B-movie kind of saga which had a big impact on me in the eighties was the original Karate Kid trilogy. I started doing Seido Karate when I was about eight, and made my way to yellow belt, but I stopped there, because it really wasn’t providing me with that something sacred which I hoped it might.

All of these years later, I think of when I was diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome as the chaotic factor in my life which was out of balance in a big way. Then, one day, a friend told me about a Chigong master who was coming to town and doing individual healings. He advised me that Zhineng Chigong was what I needed, and so I committed to learning it. My teacher told me that Chigong was the original martial art, because healing and consciousness precede the need to learn to fight. The blissful feelings it brought about, along with the positive culture, and techniques I could incorporate into my daily life were providing the disciplined sacred space that I needed.

Fear, worry and self-doubt are all part and parcel of being diagnosed with any disease (especially when Western medicine tells you there is no known cure!). Michio Kushi, in his Macrobiotic theory, talks of there being a background and a foreground, and that usually our preoccupation is with the foreground, which is occupied by our fears, vices, and perceived flaws. The background is the positive things which are going on in our lives, often brought about by our efforts to remedy the negative.

So I don’t think my aim is to become a Pollyanna, brimming with positivity  no matter what, but to develop something like dialectic reasoning, as Mr Miyagi does effectively in this scene where Daniel is focusing on the foreground of the Karate tournament (the object of his fear). Mr Miyagi reminds Daniel of the lesson about balance, and shows him the photo of Ali (the object of his love and happiness).

I like to think of the Cobra Kai as being the disease, as its credo seems to be ‘No Mercy”.

That little master is the wise centre in us all.

 

Continuing Along with Painting and Chigong

Zhineng Chigong was working well for me, so the following year I learnt the second method, otherwise known as “Body/Mind Form”. It involves a lot more stretching and opening up of the meridian channels than the first method. I was devoting two to three hours of every day to chigong. I was taking steps to change my diet, as I had read a graphic novel called “Epileptic” in which the author writes about his being brought up with a brother who had severe epilepsy, and his parents’ struggle to try to find an alternative treatment for him. Their journey at one point lead them to stay at a Macrobiotic commune, where the author’s brother enjoyed quite a lengthy period without seizures, until the commune had to move off the land, and so was fractured, leaving him and his family having to search for another solution.

I just happened to be looking on a clearance table in a bookstore one day, when I came across “The Macrobiotic Way” by Michio Kushi. I think it was marked down to ten dollars; what a bargain for such a great little book! I had been struggling with my diet, as taking Tegretol had made be somewhat irregular, and a diet based on whole grains just seemed to make perfect sense to me. I had decreased my tegretol dosage a little by now, and was taking 100mg fast release in the morning, and 400mg slow release in the evening (as I have nocturnal epilepsy).

I had taken it upon myself to seek out a part time job, which I knew would be tough, considering the arthritis, the need to wear shades to prevent my eyes both from bright light and from dryness, and the fatigue. I got in touch with a local agency set up to help those with disabilities find jobs, and long story short, I got a permanent part time position with a market research company, which allowed me to work from home. The idea of “cold calling” and the thought of having to deal with disgruntled respondents didn’t bother me, as I saw the opportunity to put into practice some of those Toltec and Chigong principles and techniques I had been learning, in order to stay calm and focused in tense situations.

The extra money I was earning allowed me to fund my own solo exhibition in an underground gallery which had just started up in the central city at the time, called simply “The Room”:

birthlossdeath 2010      crush on worry 2010

feet in a line1 cropped      housefly 2010      love is being

my job 2010      Seizure 2010

mathematical shane 2010      Rimbaud socrates 2010

The show was called “Swallow Or Be Swallowed”, a quote I had taken from Joseph Campbell whose books i was reading at the time which seemed to sum up the attitude one needs on the healing and artistic journey.

Basquiat, Dubuffet, and Cy Twombly were heavily influencing my stylistic and technical approach at the time. I had found in Neo-Expressionism a way to release my anxiety, and to create large paintings (A1 or A2 size) which could communicate in a very graphic way thought feelings and ideas as they arose.

I was still dissatisfied with the lack of consistency of style and theme.

I was hoping to find a way of resolving this issue, and to have another show at The Room in maybe 6 to 8 months. Little did I know, however, what was in store for Christchurch City…

 

Picking Up the Pieces

Having been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, and having researched into all of the horrible things it can do to a person, I sunk into a depression which probably lasted for two to three months. I remember the song going around and around in my head at the time, with its catchy line “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone?”. Yep, this is the one:

When you’re down, everything about the world looks stupid, empty, horrible, unfair, and oppressive.

I was fortunate at the time to be reading Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, which gave me a fresh perspective on things. The Toltec concept of the Warrior is that a warrior thrives on challenges, and is an “artist of spirit” who is concerned primarily with the pursuit and preservation of energy.  They believe that I warrior firstly must accept his/her fate (which is ultimately death), And once that fate has been accepted, then the warrior can commit the ultimate audacity of attempting to change it.

I now had a different song lyric going around and around in my head. It was “I know the pieces fit, ’cause I watched them fall away.”:

I forgot to mention that I had just been through a break up only months prior to getting the diagnosis, and Schism seems to be division both between male and female, but also a kind of divorce from the spirit.

In Toltec terms, spirit, and god mean the same thing as “intent”, and shamanic healing requires the mastery of intent to gather and direct “energy”.

There were no shamans around little old Christchurch, but a friend had told me about his learning Chigong, the ancient Chinese healing art, and told me of the Master who taught him, Yuan Tze, and that this man was coming to town and doing individual healings. I went along and spent about 30 minutes explaining my health problem to him, as he sat across from me, gazing attentively but dispassionately.

He told me that if I learn and practise Zhineng Chigong, then my symptoms would gradually ease over time, until ceasing altogether. He then got me to stand and close my eyes as he did some healing chigong on me. I remember the feeling of my body warming up as he was doing it. I then signed up for a six session tutorial on how to do the first method of Zhineng Chigong, known as “Lift Chi Up, Pour Chi Down”, as well as “wall squats” and “stretching chi”. Within a month I had noticed improvement, so I kept on attending weekly lessons and practises, and was amazed at how many challenging little techniques there were to learn.

Aside from that I was slowly learning how to deal with my symptoms, by breaking them down and dealing with them one at a time. I hadn’t heard this song back then, but it sums up the process very well: