Here we go! (if a couple of weeks ‘late’…) 2012 and the thirteenth Maya Baktun have both ended, and as is traditional I pause to reflect on the year just ended and get ready to travel on forward. And what a year it has been – I heard that years of the Dragon come on strong, and if so, this was no exception. It was a year full of unexpecteds and hurdles, a year that galumphed all over the spectrum, a year that started with a bang and kinda ended in a holding pattern yet all still packed with stuff.
Strap in. Long one ahead!
2012 roared into life, being no more than four hours old before a friendship went kinda nova and melted down, leading to some sleepless nights and internal consternation until I could clear and clean it up a week later. While I didn’t realize it at the time, it was quite remarkable that I could complete it in such a short time and have myself available once again to all. And I also didn’t realize that it would set a tone for the year, with so much about to come barreling down the pike that I wasn’t looking for.
Further Confusion this year saw the return of me performing, with the first skit of Rev and I’s creation since 2009. And what a skit it was, wowing the crowd and winning us first place from both the judges and the Audience Choice awards. It was a cap to another fine con, seeing friends, having my tai chi class be insanely attended and packing the great hall, having a blast in the stage fighting and Shaolin seminars, and doing the doctorly thing with a straight sword in the parade. It was grand, a time for play, and as always a fun way to start off the year.
Right after, the year got into full swing. So full of a swing that when March rolled around I had, in a rather reversal of the norm, the sensation of “It’s only March?” (rather than “It’s March already??”). Alas, the year settled more into its usual ‘going by fast’ after that, speeding along before settling into a middling pace near the end. I can’t even say what all went on during those first three months, packed though they were! People, projects and activities, living a full and adventurous life.
One of the big things was getting ready for the China trip. With the ankle injury lasting all of last year it left me with naught but six short months to get my body and endurance up to the level I wanted them to be before the workout I knew we’d get at the temple training hall. So I trained. And I trained. And I trained some more. I began power hiking and later running up the steep secret ninja back entrance trail hill at Rancho San Antonio, with more and more running after it. My endurance shot up like a rocket, and it was great! My quads, however… turns out were not so great. In all my intensity I managed to over train them, leading to a condition of them becoming sore and tired after just starting a workout. All I can say is: oops. I loaded up on mitochondrial support and headed out to China – more on that below. As the year ends, the legs are still not yet fully recovered. Sometimes they do fine, sometimes they don’t do as fine. Going into 2013 I’ll massage them more and begin to rebuild their endurance. I know I’ll have to take it slow, and I’ll err on the side of too slow; if I take it too far then I could do them forever in, and THAT would be no fun.
After all that crazy prep it was finally time to board the flight and my third study tour to China began. The scenery was familiar (though we added Xian and the terracotta warriors this time around, which were duly impressive) and the changes remarkable after a 7 year absence (and 10 years since my first visit – ca-razy!). Deng Feng is now (as I called it) “Kung Fu World” complete with loads of neon signs down the main drag, large hotels and a strange vegas-y atmosphere (gleaned admittedly from our short sojourns into the town, as we stayed at the Temple’s hotel this trip). Wudangshan has taken up the wushu demo kung fu movie mantle full bore, with demonstration shows (amusingly better than the one that I saw at Shaolin this year…) all while taking some actions to preserve the mountain as well. Beijing was Beijing, big city that it is. Familiar it may have been, however, the beauty of the scenery or temples never failed to take my breath away – beauty remains beauty, and I was happy to see them again.
Training: The reason for our trip, and we had four and a half days of it at the Shaolin temple, home to our martial tradition. I was excited! Oddly, at the temple I ended up leading the conditioning classes, which felt a bit odd in its own right and made even more unusual when some of the younger monks joined in one day (so I can now put on my resume I have taught conditioning for Shaolin monks? Woah… ok, now that is cool). Piling on those supplements I played the game to not worry how well I would “do” and just play full out while I was there, and I did. After the first day I always had the feeling “oh gods, I don’t know if I can make it through another class,” with my legs always feeling like they were about to either implode or declare themselves an independent country from the rest of my body. Yet I pushed, and I made it through. Was I where I wanted to be, or did I equal where I was seven years ago? Not even close. But I didn’t get hung up on that or let it get in the way of having a good time and getting some good training. And that continued when we got to Wudangshan, where we spent three half days going through the eight immortals straight sword set, which I liked a lot.
Having trained under Sifu directly these past six years, and being twelve years into my Shaolin training, I didn’t learn anything directly from the training from the monks – it’s not really the format to do so anyway and with a large group and short period of time the forms, while fun, were themselves not insightful. However, just by being there with the sole purpose of training kung fu, four and a half days of pure kung fu immersion, I got a bunch of insights that improved my kung fu, and that rocks. The trip would’ve been great even without that, but what I got out of that just made it that much sweeter.
The pièce de résistance of the whole trip came on day four of our time at Shaolin. I had asked a most unreasonable request of the tour guide if we could observe one of the chant/prayer ceremonies of the monks. And they agreed, and that morning at 0530 a small group of us entered the great hall at the centre of the Shaolin Temple and witnessed the morning chants, even becoming part of them as they walked around the hall, around the central altar and statue, still chanting. I went only to be present and to open my experience to compassion. As we walked around the hall, at a moment I can still remember where I was when it happened, I was bowled over by the feeling and experience of a love of humanity, of the human spirit, of the capacity for people’s greatness, and compassion for everyone. It needs not saying, but it was incredibly moving.
It was a grand node point to the journey stared with Brene Brown’s lecture on Vulnerability last year. Add into that taking the Landmark Forum again (just like kung fu, being immersed and intent only on transformation for 3 and a half days pays huge dividends in insights and transformation, even if I was “doing it again”), and more openings and transformations out of my time at Burning Man. How can life just keep getting better and better? Just like this, apparently. Eight years now since I took the Landmark Forum, and it’s been eight years of ever increasing amazingness. Greater effectiveness at accomplishing what I want, while making life more fun, alive and peaceful? Can’t be beat.
And did it ever come in handy this year, as the unexpecteds and hurdles came on strong and fast. Less than two weeks after returning from China the drain line from the kitchen sink broke, backed up, and led to water and mold damage to chunks of the house, including the kitchen cabinets, my bedroom floor and furniture, the living room, and more. So began an odyssey that is not yet done – six months later. The pipe was fixed quickly (at the cost of, as I joke, two half decent used cars), the mitigation rather fast, but the reconstruction has been marred by poor project management from the general contractor, and that has had the project drag on and on far longer than it need to have. I lived in a hotel room for the majority of this time, and if you count my trip to China, the trip to Burning man, and the hotel time I essentially lived in my house only for about 20 days or so in the second half of 2012. Though I’m technically back here now my stuff is still all in storage and the kitchen’s not done, so really it won’t be until a week or so from now that I’m truly living back in my house.
That I remained good natured about it (and many people told me how surprised at how well I was being about it), even as I began to speak straight and express my displeasure at the contractor, is again a demonstration of the difference transformation makes. I didn’t like it and there was much to have to work around, deal with, pay attention to, and more, and I received grief from some of those around me, but I never got disempowered or had it ruin my day/week/time/etc. It is great that I could take that poop and run with it and maintain happiness and aliveness. Especially as the whole second half of the year seemed to be many blorps of things that went awry, one right after the other, and I gained much experience in dealing with things and having them still turn out one way or another.
If there’s one big thing I noticed about all those blorps, both of what I had to deal with and what those around me had to deal with, so many came down to people not doing what they said they would do. It really brought the perspective of the impact it has on others when we do not following through on our promises; certainly I felt many an impact of those around me not following through. And that impact has me be even more vigilant to the world of my integrity.
As an aside, many of my friends also had water issues with their house this year – if I or we ever ticked off the water gremlins, I am sorry, for sure. May we find peace in 2013 with them.
In a world without water, was Burning Man, a drier and dustier year than my previous two forays onto the playa. I will start by saying this: it is TOUGH packing for BM when you and your stuff are split across three different locations (as I was packing while living in the hotel). Fortunately I made it out there with all my stuff and had a great time, a time so different from previous years in just that perfect way. I connected with many people in new and profound ways, shed and transformed some baggage, danced in the middle of the night, watched sunrises and sunsets, conquered a maze, and had the privilege to hold and create the space for the martial arts on the playa, with packed, packed, packed schedule of packed classes. It was wonderful.
To round off the year excellence my Bloodstone campaign wrapped up on a high note, with much lessons learned and much epicness for the players at the end. We’ve started a new campaign with Jason at the helm and I’m loving it and the character I play. (Bloodstone will return for the final chapter…) I progressed a lot in my internal martial arts skills. I still haven’t finished Sifu’s book (eep!) and I made good progress and still have a plan for completion AND I say again it will be done this year. I sold a whole bunch of copies of my D&D supplements on RPGnow, another year of Aurora, and the DML Canada Day Picnic was great. And I met a great bunch of new friends.
So endeth this year of 2012, an eventful year that just felt WEIRD almost all the time. A year with triumphs and many curveballs (that were usually putted into triumphs (yes, I mixed sports metaphors there)). Happy beginnings and some sad endings. It came on strong… and I guess I could say, quite succinctly, I rode the dragon in 2012.
Now I face 2013 with a fresh page. Welcome new year! May it be filled with peace, possibility and playfulness for everyone.