Spiritual experience

If you’re not interested in hearing about the topic of spiritual experience, then please don’t feel like you have to read this post, as this is about a series of spiritual experiences that has happened to me, with the biggest happening last Monday. I am someone who is a strong believer in philosophy, the discovery of truth, that the power of rationality can find the answers, that science knows a lot of the answers, but is in itself a new religion against things that it does not agree with. In that sense I’m inbetween science and religion, I want to know the true truth of the world. So this spiritual experience might seem too wacky, and if your more into only the natural sense of the world, than this post isn’t for you.

I now presume if you’re still reading that this topic peaks your interest, so let me get started with the most recent experience. Last Monday I went to a Qigong class, and this style of Qigong is something I tried out once prior to my time in China, but is only the second one I have been to since my return. Qigong is all about improving the flow of your natural energy be known as chi (Qi) around the body, it is meant to improve physical, mental and spiritual health. I am someone who rationally thinks that chi exists; it is just that the west has a different term for it.

Well last Monday during one exercise which is meant to hold Chi, and is in a physically sense making tense in certain muscles (shoulders mainly) for a long period of time, and then you release this energy. Normally you fill the tension release and then your muscles fill better. But the experience I had that evening was very strange. Normally I feel like an energy that most people feel warm, but I feel is cool around the body, it could be just sweat and body mechanics, I don’t know. I also know that when you do Qigong with other people, you feel more positive energy in the room, like you do at a rock concert. Well this time during the endurance phase, my shoulders felt intense pain and heat (nothing to strange as endurance isn’t my strong point), and then when we changed it to the part where it releases this trapped or built up energy, I felt the energy tense around my heart, it started to build with this kind of pressure all around my chest, building from my arms, and all I can think of was that I was absorbing too much chi, like everyone’s energy plus my own was building up inside of me, and then it felt like cold fire erupted from hands, about 6 inches in the air from both hands, and this build up of excessive energy was being released.

I know it sounds strange, but that was what it felt like at the time. The next event was when we had to meditate to the music. And as it got more peaceful, and my eyes were half closed, I could see a eye in between my eyelids. Now I know it wasn’t a reflection of my own eyes (if that’s possible) as I clearly have brown eyes, and this eye was blue with a green circle within. Talking to my sister after the class she told me that it sounds like it was my third eye, which I find strange as she has never experienced anything like this and she seems to be more spiritual than I am.

Now before I tell you about others, let me get one thing clear apparently to experience these things you are meant to be a believer in that faith, whether it is Hinduism, Buddhism, or the branch of Qigong I was practicing. But I am not, I am very open minded, a lot of what the says makes sense, but equally there are things they say that I can’t agree with.

This lead me to think about any other previous spiritual experience I have had, well the previous time I took this Qigong class (never on my own) I saw this third eye, which I thought was just a reflection in my eye lids. And on both occasions my ribs hurt a lot less and I can move a lot more.

But this isn’t just isolated to this Chinese practice, I have felt this when I did Yoga, Ironically it was P90X yoga, which is so strainful and too tense to be any good, but I had to complete it, but after 90mins of hell there was the meditating part, and omg I felt very Zen like, and felt something in the middle of my forehead, and saw something in my eyelids.

Then before that was when I went to a church with my grandmother. Now most churches I feel nothing, but this one church I felt this cold but friendly presence. Which is very strange seeming that I had my first spiritual experience the previous day.

We went to this Buddhist show in a town hall in Bath, and there were a few Buddhist nuns giving a real interesting chat. My sister is really interested in this stuff, and I am just very open minded. Well the nun’s came to bless us, and she touched my head. And it felt like that an egg went down my head and neck, I even checked to see if there was egg on my head. There wasn’t. My sister tells me that this is Chi flowing down your head, and that the nun could of given me some Chi.

It is definitely something to ponder, but for most of my life I have never had any religious experience, all the way up to my great depression when everything went wrong, I hated myself and I nearly made a stupid mistake. I prayed for some spiritual experience to show me the way. It never did, it was pure philosophical logic that stopped me making a mistake and put my head straight, even though that took a very long time to do so.

So I must of lost something back there in the abyss t start getting these experiences, but that doesn’t explain why I have been experiencing them. I really appreciate them, but I am not a believer of that Qigong styles faith, or anything else, I am just really open minded. They often say that you have to be a believer to experience it, but one of my best friends (who is a pagan) said to me why do you have to be a believer to experience something.

So far I have had an experience in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and this Qigong style which is a sort of Buddhist religion. Surely this means that all of them are partially right in an ultimate truth?

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Thy inner animal

The tribal blood,

Thy inner animal,

What is my animal spirit that guides me,

He is strong yet gentle,

Blunt yet noble,

Is very energetic,

Yet loves a nap,

He is wild yet tame,

But what animal are you?

I believe that our strongest sides,

Our noblest sides,

Our gentlest sides are our inner animal,

Which animal are you that lends me my greatest strength,

What is it that makes you so noble,

The question for me is what animal I am most like,

But what animal are you most like?

Who am I?

I am proud and loud,

Yet I am quiet and shy,

I am as strong as an Ox,

Yet as gentle as a kitten,

My heart is full of dreams,

Yet the land is holding me back,

I was born to swim,

I yearn for adventure,

Yet home is the only haven that I know,

Fear and aggression are both allies and enemies,

That I must confront night and day,

I fear the loss of what I know,

I fear that I may never do what my heart yearns,

My aggression what I like to call my tribal side,

Maybe from Maori lineage,

Makes me stronger against my foes,

Whether sparring or in life,

The tribal blood gives me the spirit of life,

People tell me not to dream,

To stick to the real world,

But what is the real world,

I am defined by my dreams,

What is a soul without dreams,

Without my dreams,

Who am I?

The path of a karateka – Gradings

My friend finally achieved his brown belt in the last grading, and it has been really inspiring to see the journey he went through not only prior to the grading but actually in the grading where the harder it got, the better he performed, it was his baptism under fire and when he finally believed in what he could do again his skill levels evolved in the grading.

When we both first met each other we pretty much became instant friends, that is a rare thing to happen to anyone and the only other time it has happened to me was in China when I met this cool guy who instantly became my best friend. Back to my karate friend we both shared the same passion for the art of Goju Ryu which is a rare thing in a beginner as some are just there for fitness, or self-defence or a sport and activity to do, where I and my friend loved the art of Goju Ryu in itself. He was probably my first real friend in Goju Ryu as we were both of a similar Grade (kyu)level to go on our karate journey. We both loved to analysis bits of what we do and let the art form of our karate come out, and we were both able to evolve at a similar rate. So we were both able to share this journey together and help each other to improve, and we are both of the opinion that this is the perfect martial art for us.

Fast forward a few years and after my year of redemption we both still loved Goju Ryu (as we do today) but we both needed a break from it. It’s like when you are writing fantasy stories you love a world you have created very much but you need to create other worlds to let you recharge and be able to put more energy into it. I went to China to finally live a dream and explore other martial arts there, where my friend focused on his private training at home.

We both returned to Goju Ryu at the same time refreshed and with our passions for the art bubbling with enthusiasm, but there was a change whereas I grew in confidence from my experience my friend grew in doubt he should of attempted his brown belt grading before but the fear of achieving it and what the status of it would mean within the club held him back. The longer the wait was the worse the fear became and his skill levels were overshadowed.

In his mind’s eye he didn’t view us as equals any longer and the more his fear held him back, but this is very much part of the journey of a martial art to overcome your fear and demons and let them evolve you.  When it was green lighted that he would go for his brown belt was the next step in his journey, he started focusing on areas he needed, and I helped him with some extra training for his grading. He couldn’t believe that I had 100% confidence in him that he would pass his grading, and I reminded him that it was the same with my last grading after all my injuries.

When he came to the grading there were highs and lows, but it was amazing to see the evolution in the man, when it came to his sparring he started to fight with the speed and confidence that he use to have prior to this big fear, but with far more skill more associated to his true level, it was amazing to see this mix of new with old and to see the real karate ka come out.

What has really changed in him is his confidence, after china he viewed me as a higher grade and would except my opinion over his, now after his evolution he will stand his ground on his view on karate. It’s good to have the old warrior back.

Inspiration for travelling

I have always wanted to travel and see the world, to explore the Amazon, to train with the Shaolin or the Samurai, to meeting tribal people, to meet cultures of all kinds. As I grow up there are more places I want to explore, and for different reasons, Okinawa to see where the birth place of karate started, to having a wild time in Rio.

My Dad is perhaps one of the biggest inspirations for my need to travel. He spent a whole year travelling through Europe, north Africa, India and the middle east with his then girlfriend, his best friend and his best friends girlfriend, in a hippy van that he customised for a long period of travel, with its own water purifier and extendible attachment for extra room whilst sleeping, that was several decades ago.

To this day he seems to be defined by his experience of his great adventure, with many of his great tales stemming from that period of his life. The many adventures he had, the danger he faced, the beauty he saw and embraced in the world, I believe that it was this journey that helped develop him into the man he is today.

My mother has been another inspiration, of perhaps a different kind, she is from New Zealand and travelled in her early 20’s, to England, where she met my father. She is also a well travelled person, but hasn’t been able to do as much as she has dreamed of. If I ever get the money to, I hope I can lead her to some of the places that she has always wanted to go to.

At one period in my life I gave up on my dreams, which is as anyone knows me is not a good sign. I let life get to me, and I have had to slowly rebuild myself from that point. When I discovered that you could train in China and a cheapish price, and that my friend from karate was planning to go, I was hooked I had to go! It was a dream that I had since I was a small boy, but stopped believing I could. Despite my families fears of me being in a strange country where you do not speak the language and with its own many dangers, my mum helped me to realise I could follow one of my dreams, so I went to China!

My 3 months of training in the Fujian province, and my three weeks of travelling with my best friend (who I met at the Kung Fu school)to Xian, Beijing and Shanghai, has not only been a dream come true, but has helped transform me, define me in ways I don’t yet fully understand. Most of that is for another post.

I want to say, thank you to my dad for inspiring me, and thank you to my mum, for helping me to finally live one of my dreams, it has given me the belief that not only I can, but that I will follow more of my dreams.

Finding my martial path, my discovery of Goju Ryu

I’ve always wanted to study a martial art, from when I was a little boy, watching the shaolin monks on television performing all their superhuman feats, and training every day. I was jealous, I wanted to do that. As it happened I spent my teens playing rugby (which has helped me in my martial arts but that is for another article) and didn’t get to try martial arts until I started university. I was stoked, there were so many choices, I tried out taekwondo and jujitsu, but I had only one in mind Jiu-jitsu.

I had a lot of fun in my taekwondo session; it was very fast, lots of hitting and striking and some pretty girls as well. But I had already ready chosen the martial art I was going to train in, Jitsu. I wanted to be like a modern day Samurai, “the last Samurai” was my favourite film at the time, and I wanted to emulate their honour, strength and discipline. I know, I chose it for the wrong reasons; I didn’t do it because it was fun, but because I should do it.

Jitsu gave me a lot of grounding, a foundation if you will for my future Goju Ryu. I learnt to throw, fall, do basic locks and react to multiples, basic knife training etc. Jitsu did me a lot of good, and to this day my locks and throws are some of my strongest aspects, thanks to a large part to Jitsu.

I should of seen the signs that I was in the wrong martial art, I always asked about if we did some kind of kata/form, because I am a slow learner (I’m not an idiot, I just need to study it at my own pace)and I liked the idea of practicing a sequence by myself, I knew I would progress at a much faster wait, rather than wait for the next session. Combine that with the fact that some of the mates I enjoyed training with stopped going, my enthusiasm waned and I would put seldom appearances for the two years I was there. I would say in total I had about one full year of training out of the two years, but my heart wasn’t with it anymore, new faces were already ahead of me in the belt system.

So while Jitsu gave me a great foundation, I no longer enjoyed it and needed to search and find a martial art that suited me, It was time for me to go. For the next 6-9 months I did yoga with my sister, and let me tell you this, I don’t think its girly, and I find it extremely painful, flexibility is not a strength of mine, especially back then! It helped me to stay in stances over a period of time, and to use my breathing to help ignore and diminish the agonising pain I was in. Two qualities that I didn’t know at the time, but would help me build a strong foundation for my path into Goju Ryu.

I also tried to encourage a friend to be more active and we both did historical fencing at the university sports centre. While he enjoyed it a lot, he lost his motivation when I was giving it up. The problem was that they kept getting new people every week so the beginners would do the same drill all the time, while the advanced did their own thing. It was quite frustrating progressing for a few weeks, then literally starting from scratch again.

I tried Ninjitsu for one day, and while it gave me a eureka moment that made me discover how to do hip throws (I could never do them in Jitsu) they were a very cult like group that I didn’t fit into.

One day as I searched the university sports and societies website, I discovered a newly formed club called combat karate. The main association was at another university, and they had just set up this branch at my university. On its webpage its description was that of punching and kicking, throwing, weapons, self defence etc. I was excited I could learn a new martial art, while still developing my Jitsu skills, I had to try. I never knew that you could do a martial art that did striking and throwing and locks, this seemed mystical to me, I wasn’t aware of martial arts like this, nor really MMA.

Let me set one thing straight I was never interested in Karate; I always assumed it was just a commercial half assed thing for kids, not a real martial art. Boy was I wrong.

My first session I learnt to strike, do throws, and learnt the first 5 bunkai (bunkai is the self-defence aspect of kata, broken down into a realistic situation for training and practice). I had a lot of fun in the session, and it scared the hell out of me. I realised that it must be the real deal, it was the first martial art I had come across that scared me, and I wanted to do something that was realistic. Also it was the first martial art that I really enjoyed, since my few taekwondo sessions, I finally found the right martial art for me, I finally took up a martial art for myself, doing the things I wanted to do in it.

My sempai realised how motivated I was for it, when he finally taught me the whole of the first kata (which is really simple, but looks very complicated to someone who has never done kata before), then we had a three week break during Christmas, and he was surprised that I memorised the kata, because most people wouldn’t of bothered to practice during the holidays. Of course it wasn’t very good, I was a beginner, but I had the pattern and the sequence down. I was a Karate man now. It has been nearly four years since I started Goju ryu Okinawa karate, and I haven’t regretted it.