Finding Ekstasis: Xeper in the Art of Fighting

Last spring, I began studying Baguazhang. I had spent the year before acclimating to a new job that required me to be in an office forty hours a week. About eight months into my tenure as an office dwelling pencil pusher I started feeling sick. My body ached. My stomach was constantly in shambles. I started shaking all the time. This wasn’t surprising considering the lack of physical activity I was getting between my day job and producing music at home. Both of these things required me to be sedentary for upwards of eighteen hours a day. I would go to bed and repeat the cycle the next day, which, in retrospect is a horrifying experience to re-live in my mind. The process of breaking out of this self-destructive cycle began with my investigation into traditional Japanese fan dancing, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in the fan dancing classes because they happened while I had work. The local Wing Chun school was quite promising, but it was about forty minutes away from where I lived. I did actually start doing Tai Chi for about two months with a rather nice group of people at the local Chinese Cultural center in Tucson, but I quickly bailed on them after realizing that it was a glorified swingers club for people above the age of 55.

I began searching for solutions closer to my apartment and discovered a school that taught internal Chinese martial arts literally a mile down the road. I wrote their association and was informed about their meeting times and attended my first class. The school was hidden in plain sight. The only indicator that the school was different than the houses around it were the two ivory “foo dogs” that stood watch at the entrance. When I entered, I was greeted by paintings and photos of smiling Bagua and Xingyiquan practitioners Dong Hai Chuan, Liang Zhenpu, Gao Yisheng, Zhang Junfeng, Li Guichang and a group of five people slapping the shit out of their bodies. At first I wanted to laugh, but I was quickly beckoned into the circle to join in on the “light” body slapping.

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I later discovered that light body slapping is done at the start of every class to essentially wake the body up by getting the blood flowing. In the context of my initiation this fit in well as a way to physically explore what it meant to literally go from white to red and back again. With every slap, my circulation improved, my blood rose to the surface of my skin, and for a few hours several times a week I began to realize the importance of using exercise as a way to quiet the brain.

Notice, I did not say my practice of Baguazhang shuts down the brain. Baguazhang is an internal martial art. It works by activating different structures in the brain that I don’t normally use while simultaneously quieting the prefrontal cortex. This allows me to stimulate a state of Flow by being able to focus wholly on what I’m doing without being interrupted by my self-consciousness. Bruce Lee referred to this as the “emptying of the cup.”

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Bagua has given me an outlet to stimulate my ability to achieve a state of Flow with greater frequency and ease. My initial experience with using martial arts in this way didn’t come until I was able to have a grasp the basics of my chosen fighting art. Which is why I’ve only really begun to write about it now–this is a new, unexpected development in my personal quest to constantly improve.

Flow requires us to bring several automatized skills together in order to kick up our focus to a level that allows us to experience it. It takes awhile when we begin to learn a new skill or artform before we can actually experience a brain quieting flow-state. Steven Kotler, author of “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” would describe this experience as “Transient Hypofrontality:”

“In flow, parts of the brain aren’t becoming more hyperactive, they’re actually slowing down, shutting down. The technical term for this is transient, meaning temporary, hypo frontality. Hypo[…]the opposite of hyper means to slow down, to shut down, to deactivate. And frontality is the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that houses your higher cognitive functions, your sense of morality, your sense of will, your sense of self.”

I get a sense of deep embodiment when I practice Baguazhang. There’s nothing quite like being locked eye to eye with another person while focusing on multiple outlets of your own physicality. The ancient Greeks called this deep embodiment, ἔκστασις (Ekstasis). Ekstasis can be best described as an altered state beyond the normal “sense of self.” Ekstasis is NOT Flow, but it is a byproduct of being able to achieve Flow on a regular basis. In a Setian context, being able to experience Ekstasis means tapping into my “divine pattern.”

Now just imagine how amazing I feel by being able to achieve Ekstasis a several times a week! Baguazhang has all but become not only a powerful tool, but a conduit in which I can interface with my higher self so long as I continue to practice it or something like it.

Tapping into Flow takes practice. When it comes to my practice of Bagua I fail at tapping into it several times a session. This is usually caused by me trying to mentally dissect forms or movements. In terms of my physicality this “over-thinking” comes from making use of my prefrontal cortex.

I’ve experienced wonderful success imprinting myself with the overload of information I get from my practice the less “think” about it. And the less I think about it, the more I experience Ekstasis by having meaningful personal breakthroughs on a regular basis.

For instance, I was able to fully retain the positions of the nine palaces and the thirteen elbow form last month after working with them each for half an hour. Everything prior to that took several months for me learn. Part of my ability to retain this information comes from the challenge of seeing if I could actually do it, which I could surprisingly, but part of it also comes from a grasp of the basic movements I’ve spent perfecting since last spring.

Bagua has taught me how to get in touch with my immediate physicality–a.k.a. those things that I can see in the mirror. It has also taught me that I am fully capable of interfacing with of my physicality that I previously regarded as impossible to connect with like blood flow, internal energy, successful breathing, and various parts of my brain.

While it could be argued that certain notions of “emptying” the cup could be misconstrued as more of a right hand path philosophy I would argue that the “loss of self” that is experienced by learning to stimulate Flow through shutting down the prefrontal cortex requires the same control it takes to move our sovereign consciousnesses through the objective universe. “Emptying the cup” is something I do voluntarily for the purpose of stimulating Flow in an effort to connect with my divine pattern through Ekstasis.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Ekstasis: Xeper in the Art of Fighting

Keeping Up with the Alex Joneses: An Atmosphere for Apocalypse

We went to go see “Arrival” Friday night. I chose the movie not just because there were aliens in it, but because I was expecting it to be a quiet evening out and a decent flick. Decent movie it was, but it was packed. Go figure. You would think that people would’ve gone to see Dr. Strange instead. It’s pretty obvious though that we are fascinated by the prospect of communicating with beings from another world, because there’s something, clean and humanizing about it. I suppose the reviews helped “Arrival,” but I think the movie was packed because it speaks to our concept of personal mystery. Needless to say, I was shocked there were so many people there to see a movie of that nature. Of course, this week has been a week of shocks. Yeah–I’m going to talk about the giant elephant in the room. King Koopa. I mean Donald Trump. I want to talk about why it was so shocking that he won and why it created an atmosphere that felt socially apocalyptic.

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All hail our glorious new President! Crazy hair? Check! Red power tie? Check? Has a tower named after himself? Check! Plumber alert!
I have lived in an America that is filled to the brim with conspiracy theories. And thanks to the advent of the Internet going  mainstream sometimes in the early 2000s most of us have immersed ourselves in a culture of conspiracy. You know the days, when you start cruising on YouTube or Wikipedia searching for how hummus is made and somehow end up on a video detailing how Nancy Pelosi is a reptilian a la David Icke. Everybody loves a good mystery, and even more, we love uncovering them. We love shining lights in dark holes hoping to find some semblance of clarity to the questions that can’t easily be answered. Type the words “September 11th attacks,” “Adolf Hitler fled to South America,” “the Bilderburg Group,” “moon landing faked,” or “JFK’s assassination” into your search engine and you’ll see what I mean.

Humans are not made for communicating in the smartphone age. We can’t handle it. What makes it even worse as we approach 2017 is the Internet is adapting to us. Have you ever done a search for something you’re shopping for and then it suddenly shows up in the form of advertisements in your social network feed? We all have. It’s like when Netflix suggests a new Hitler documentary to me, because I’ve watched Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards one too many times.

Most of us are too busy in our day-to-day lives to realize that this is especially dangerous because it immerses each one of us in our own little worlds that we can’t seem to break out of. Humans have created a means to give us this tool to create our own little echo chambers and stay there. This becomes even more dangerous when we find “like-minded” people and band together on social media websites, reconfirming the ideas we romanticize in our own worlds with each other. What’s worse is by limiting our exposure to types of people that do not conform to our own sensibilities, we create a reality for ourselves where we don’t have to confront the actual facts–because we don’t have to. People have forgotten what it means to have a civil argument. Instead when something upsets us, we send assassination threats to the President-Elect and hope that this nightmare will somehow end.

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I believe that Donald Trump won the election because we all collectively as Americans bought into conspiracy. Even Donald Trump himself. I guarantee you that he was just as shocked as we were to hear the news that he won the presidency. He even made remarks during the debates that he wouldn’t accept the results of the election because he knew it was “rigged.”

Hillary Clinton has had an amazing track record of dishonesty with the American people in recent memory. Benghazi, the email scandals, stealing the DNC nomination from Bernie Sanders last summer. She’s like the boy who cried wolf. We all expected her to pull it out because she’s so incredibly gangsta that there was no way she could lose. Many people chose not to vote this election because they believed their voice didn’t matter. They believed that a liar would continue to lie to the very end and rig the election against a man who couldn’t possibly win. Hillary was supposed to rig the election. Shit–George W. Bush did in the 2000 election right? It was a whole big conspiracy that George W. won! Right? So why couldn’t Hillary do the same thing? Our votes don’t matter–she’s got this.

The shock came after on Wednesday morning when we all woke up to find that Trump not only won the election, but completely obliterated Clinton in the electoral college. Really, he killed her dead. She had zero chance. She spent her entire political career shrouding herself in lies and in the very end honesty killed it. She didn’t rig the election. And the result was that the story didn’t play out in the way we all thought that it would–both liberal and conservative alike. This is why we are all shocked. And will continue to be until we start seeing how the next four years will go.

My Takeaway

Americans love buying into conspiracy. I think it’s going to take awhile for the shock of this election to go away. I do believe that the political pendulum will swing the other way in the next couple of elections. That’s how it always goes, right? Probably–but maybe not. If there’s anything that this election has taught me is to stop trying to be a goddamn mystic all the time. I can’t always predict the future correctly. And it’s during these times of vulnerability that I have to keep my eyes open. The apocalyptic atmosphere that this event has created cannot be easily replicated.

And so ends the longest week. Things are probably a lot more transparent than they may appear to be.

I’m not saying that there’s no possibility for conspiracy to exist, but in my world, and in my perception of the world around me it’s become all but worthless.

Do you know anyone who actually believes the results of the Warren Commission following President Kennedy’s death? Oswald couldn’t have acted alone! The Warren Commission is filled with lies! One bullet couldn’t have done all that damage! Stephen King wrote a book called “11/22/63” about the JFK assassination, it involves portals and time travel and all sorts of crazy bullshit–but he still has Oswald as the killer. Why though? Maybe because he makes up his own opinions.

Or maybe because Oswald actually did it.

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Keeping Up with the Alex Joneses: An Atmosphere for Apocalypse