February 2, 2016

Every Day is a Non Zero Day

From now on, every day is going to be a Non Zero Day, and it's going to make your life wonderful.

What is a "Non Zero Day"? The term was coined by Redditor ryans01 in this popular post. You can follow that link to check out his wonderful advice, or continue reading for an overview of his wisdom. Essentially, each day you have to do something - take a walk, write a paragraph, etc. - that puts you closer to being the person you want to be, or achieving your goals and dreams. If you do at least one thing, then your day is a Non Zero Day. A Zero Day is a day when you do nothing to make your life better, and it is the worst thing that you could do for yourself if you want to have change in your life. And really, doing one thing isn't that hard. Hopefully, though, you'll grow the number of things you do from one until every day is so much more than a simple Non Zero Day.

Ryans01 has some other easy rules that you should follow:
  1. Non Zero Days are key
  2. Be grateful to yourself (the current you, the past you, and the future you) and do yourself favors.
  3. Forgive yourself and others
  4. Improve yourself mentally and physically (or "Exercise and Books", as he puts it)
Sounds pretty simple, huh? Well then, it's time to get started!

November 27, 2015

Prayer Before Meals

With the holiday season beginning, I can’t help but let my thoughts fall to the age-old family tradition of praying before we eat. Growing up in a Christian family, every meal was preceded with a prayer. Although I am no longer Christian, this one has really stuck with me. Why, of all things, do I still pray before meals? I do it because I believe it's important, regardless of religion.

Thinking About Food
Our lives are very, very busy, and so we often don't even think about the food that we're eating. Not only are we always rushing about, but we are also removed from the process of acquiring the food we eat. This leads to us not giving thought to where it comes from and to exactly what sacrifices had to be made for it to become our meals. How many plants and animals died to put food on your plate? There were those killed for the actual food, those killed in the process of making land to grow the food, etc. Also, how much energy did it take to get you your meals? There's the manual labor, the energy to run machines to harvest, prepare, and transport the food, and much more. So much energy (from labor, machines, and life) has gone into each and every one of your meals, and it can be easy for all of us to forget.

July 23, 2015

Respectful Prayer

A little over three years ago, I wrote a post about Prayer and Selfishness. In that post, I discussed how traditional Christian prayer could sound selfish because one is typically telling, or even outright commanding, their deity to do something for them. I also suggested some alternate ways of prayer. I thought I should revisit the topic and approach it from a different perspective.

In the "big three" Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), God is seen as all-powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, and demanding of worship. Even the various aspects of God, such as Jesus or the Holy Spirit, mostly fit these qualifications. And it is those same qualifications which make the concept of selfish prayer so ridiculous. However, not all belief systems view their deities in the same manner. There are many spiritual and occult systems that view deities as not something to worship, but rather something to build a relationship with. In these traditions, a prayer where you ask for something directly is not a complete contradiction in beliefs and can be quite a reasonable thing to do. At times, it can even be quite reasonable to outright command a deity.

I tend to think of the various deities in the same way I would think about a revered teacher or master - someone who is wiser and more powerful than myself (and in the case of most deities, wiser and more powerful than any human master). I don't worship my teachers, but I do try to build a mutually respectful relationship with them. I take their opinions seriously, I listen intently to what they have to say, but I do not turn my free will over to them. I may not always take their advice, but I will do it in a respectful way. I may even joke around with them, depending on who it is and what kind of relationship we have cultivated over the years.

Deities are no different. Once you build a relationship with them, you can start breaking out of the bounds of a worship-based relationship. Make sure you treat each one appropriately and with respect. Just because you can joke around or even pull harmless pranks on a trickster god like Loki (if you have that kind of relationship) doesn't mean that you can get away with that same behavior with any deity you want. Much like your friends and family, some aspects of your personality are appropriate in some circles, but can be highly inappropriate in others. Use your judgement, but don't be afraid to grow and break out of the limitations of a worship-based relationship with your deities.
June 3, 2014

The Thirteen Postures of Taijiquan

NOTE:  The examples of the postures given in this article will be from the Wu Family Taijiquan Long Form, as taught in conjunction with the systems of won hop loong chuan and pyong hwa do.  Where applicable, the corresponding postures from the more commonly known Yang Taijiquan Long Form will also be given for reference.  However, not every movement has a counterpart in the Yang form.  It is also worth mentioning that the Wu form has many postures with names that are similar to postures in the Yang form.  Aside from a few exceptions, though, these do not usually refer to same motions.  For example, both forms have a posture called “Repulse the Monkey”, but they are each referring to a completely different set of movements.


 The basis for taijiquan, regardless of style, are the thirteen postures.  In fact, the thirteen postures are what defines a martial art as being taijiquan or not.  If an art contains all thirteen postures, no matter how different from traditional taijiquan it may seem, it can be considered true taijiquan.  On the other, an art can not be considered taijiquan if it is missing any one of the thirteen postures, even if it seems very similar to taijiquan on the surface.  Therefore, it is important for all serious practitioners of taijiquan to understand the meanings of the thirteen postures.  As it is said in the Song of the Thirteen Postures, If you don't diligently search for the meaning, you will only waste your effort and sigh."

Language of Martial Arts

The Chinese language is overflowing with subtleties, nuances, and layers-upon-layers of meanings that go far beyond the scope of most modern Western languages.  At times, it can even be a dramatic understatement to call it “poetic”.  As a result, the vernacular of Chinese martial arts has long been complex and chaotic, especially from the point of view of most Westerners.
May 14, 2014

Impact of Martial Arts on Western Culture

Martial arts has been a pervasive part of human history for millennia. Ever since the first caveman picked up a rock and used it to strike his enemy, and then wondered if there was a better or more efficient way to do it next time, humans have studied martial arts. The oldest known records in the West go back to 4000 BCE, depicted in painting on walls of Egyptian tombs. The precursors to what we now call the “Western World” - the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans - all practiced martial arts in the ancient world. But they were by no means the only ones. Africa was rife with their own indigenous martial arts, and of course so was Asia. These Eastern arts, specifically ones from China, Japan, Okinawa, and Korea, made vast inroads into the Western world during the mid-to-late 20th century, and changed the landscape of martial arts in the West forever.
February 13, 2013

Visualization in Meditation

On several occasions, I've been asked by my students exactly how to visualize something while meditating. This is an interesting question. As an example, let's take a very basic grounding meditation, one where the practitioner visualizes their taiji pole glowing a golden color. One question I've gotten in the past is, "From which perspective should we view the taiji pole?" Should it be viewed from above, from the position of your eyes? From outside of your body looking at yourself? From inside the taiji pole, looking outward (or upward, or downward)? This was a difficult question for me to answer at first, because I had trouble recalling the perspective from which I personally viewed my taiji pole.

Eventually the answer came to me, however. I don't view it localized from a single space. It is viewed from any and all possible angles, simultaneously. While doing the meditation, you exist in all place and view the object of your visualization from any angle you wish, any angle that is necessary at that moment.

But this goes further - you also do not view it from a particular point in time. If the visualization is something that changes in time (such as a light descending or rising), you view it from all times. Before it starts, while it progresses, after it is finished, or anything in between.

Keep in mind that this is not always appropriate to every single type of meditation. But for the most part, when meditating, time and space do not matter.
November 15, 2012

108: The Number of the Cosmos

The number 108 is considered special, sacred, and mystical by many cultures, especially Eastern cultures. It is common in Hinduism, Vedic teachings, Daoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and many yoga practices. We will take a look at where this number shows up and try to understand why it is considered so important.
November 13, 2012

Prayer Beads

The use of prayer beads spans cultures and traditions the world over. It is one of the few religious symbols that is common across most major religions. What we call "prayer beads" can actually take three forms (one of which is not even made of beads):

  1. Necklace Prayer Beads - these are most common
  2. Wrist (Bracelet) Prayer Beads - these are smaller version of the necklace variety
  3. Prayer Rope - these are ropes or fabrics with knots tied in intervals, which serve the same purpose as beads.