8 Auspicious Symbols: Conch by Tom Maloney

The Eight Auspicious Symbols (Ashtamangala) represent different aspects of an enlightened midstream.  The images themselves contain deeply nourishing energetic signatures and are a useful addition to the toolbox of Liberation. 

The Conch, when blown into, disperses the teachings of freedom.  Like an alarm clock, the conch’s song arouses people from the sleep of ignorance into crystalline presence.  In Buddhist art, it is not uncommon to see a hero striking a victorious pose with conch in hand. Interestingly, the conch is always, deliberately portrayed as the “right-turning conch” as opposed the “left-turning conch.”

Lucid 1: Escape from New York by Tom Maloney

I find myself in New York City following a male guide named Jason.  Bikes just sort of appear and we begin to ride.  The attitude is light and we have a free-flowing conversation while weaving through traffic and down alleys.  The destination is a mystery.  Jason is interesting.  He has an authenticity of movement unique to someone who knows many things.  We find ourselves in a kind of vertical moving subway car.  The car is dark but the seats are full of a variety of characters.   Suddenly, the windows shatter and SWAT Team repels into the heart of the car.  An officer confiscates my cell phone and plugs me into a portable blood-drawing mechanism.  At this point Jason is gone and panic rises because I feel a certain vitality being extracted from my center.  As I pull the blood-drawing apparatus out of my arms, the subway patrons rise quickly and move towards me with what appears to be dark purpose.  I instantly become lucid and I know that this is a dream.  I use the skill of Transformation to change the angry mob into a a group of innocuous strangers having neutral conversations about whatever. I wake up into the real world feeling powerful.

The Gift of Being Human by Tom Maloney

Congratulations!  If you're reading “The Gift of Being Human,” there’s a high probability you are a human being.  Or a very special horse.  Or a precocious chimpanzee.  You could have been born as innumerable other beings into innumerable other realms.  You could have been born a Mayfly, saddled with the evolutionary mission to reproduce as quickly as possible since your species’ maximum lifespan rarely surpasses twenty-four hours.  You could have been born into the realm of hell-beings (narakas), enduring eons of intense suffering until any karma has run its course.  You could have been born as a hungry ghost, forced to endure limitless thirst and hunger even with access to plenty of sustenance.  You could have been born a Deva with no faculties to perceive the impermanence of even the most decadently luxurious existence.  But you were not.  You were born a human into the realm of the manusyas.  Your physical body is here, now, on a relatively small, compacted ball of space dust floating in a suspension of particles we do not understand.  After an unfathomable span of time and innumerable incarnations, your individual string of karma has reached a critical mass, an escape velocity. You were handed an opportunity unlike any other.  The opportunity to avail yourself to the awesome power of self actualization.  To hear and apply the wisdom-teachings of humans who learned to lead rich, fulfilling lives unburdened by expectations and doubt.  To escape from the wheel of Samsaric existence in a single lifetime.  To curate your life as you see fit.  To accrue no more karma, neither positive nor negative.  To experience the richness of the entire emotional spectrum; from despair so intense it is life-numbing to joy so uplifting it is life-transforming.  And of course, the opportunity to be acutely aware of mortality as an eventual, capital “T” Truth; dissolving illusions about the importance of petty bullshit.  This is it.  The time is now.  You are here.  Live fully and seek wholeness.

The One-Eyed Man by Tom Maloney

“Jesus, I hope they got a ’25 Dodge.’’ Behind the shed a door banged. A specter of a man came through the dark shed. Thin, dirty, oily skin tight against stringy muscles. One eye was gone, and the raw, uncovered socket squirmed with eye muscles when his good eye moved. His jeans and shirt were thick and shiny with old grease, and his hands cracked and lined andcut. His heavy, pouting underlip hung out sullenly. Tom asked, “You the boss?’’ The one eye glared. “I work for the boss,’’ he said sullenly. “Whatcha want?” “Got a wrecked ’25 Dodge? We need a con-rod.’’ “I don’t know. If the boss was here he could tell ya— but he ain’t here. He’s went home.’’ “Can we look an’ see?’’ The man blew his nose into the palm of his hand and wiped his hand on his trousers. “You from hereabouts?’’ “Come from east— goin’ west.’’ “Look aroun’ then. Burn the goddamn place down, for all I care.’’ “Looks like you don’t love your boss none.’’ The man shambled close, his one eye flaring. “I hate ’im,’’ he said softly. “I hate the son-of-a-bitch! Gone home now. Gone home to his house.’’ The words fell stumbling out. “He got a way— he got a way a-pickin’ a fella an’ a-tearin’ a fella. He— the son-of-a-bitch. Got a girl nineteen, purty. Says to me, ‘How’d ya like ta marry her?’ Says that right to me. An’ tonight— says, ‘They’s a dance; how’d ya like to go?’ Me, he says it to me!’’ Tears formed in his eye and tears dripped from the corner of the red eye socket.

“Some day, by God— some day I’m gonna have a pipe wrench in my pocket. When he says them things he looks at my eye. An’ I’m gonna, I’m gonna jus’ take his head right down off his neck with that wrench, little piece at a time.’’ He panted with his fury. “Little piece at a time, right down off’n his neck.’’ The sun disappeared behind the mountains. Al looked into the lot at the wrecked cars. “Over there, look, Tom! That there looks like a ’25 or ’26.’’ Tom turned to the one-eyed man. “Mind if we look?’’ “Hell, no! Take any goddamn thing you want.’’ They walked, threading their way among the dead automobiles, to a rusting sedan, resting on flat tires. “Sure it’s a ’25,’’ Al cried. “Can we yank off the pan, mister?’’ Tom kneeled down and looked under the car. “Pan’s off awready. One rod’s been took. Looks like one gone.’’ He wriggled under the car. “Get a crank an’ turn her over, Al.’’ He worked the rod against the shaft. “Purty much froze with grease.’’ Al turned the crank slowly. “Easy,’’ Tom called. He picked a splinter of wood from the ground and scraped the cake of grease from the bearing and the bearing bolts. “How is she for tight?’’ Al asked. “Well, she’s a little loose, but not bad.’’

“Well, how is she for wore?’’ “Got plenty shim. Ain’t been all took up. Yeah, she’s O.K. Turn her over easy now. Get her down, easy— there! Run over the truck an’ get some tools.’’ The one-eyed man said, “I’ll get you a box a tools.’’ He shuffled off among the rusty cars and in a moment he came back with a tin box of tools. Tom dug out a socket wrench and handed it to Al. “You take her off. Don’ lose no shims an’ don’ let the bolts get away, an’ keep track a the cotter-pins. Hurry up. The light’s gettin’ dim.’’ Al crawled under the car. “We oughta get us a set a socket wrenches,’’ he called. “Can’t get in no place with a monkey wrench.’’ “Yell out if you want a hand,’’ Tom said. The one-eyed man stood helplessly by. “I’ll help ya if ya want,’’ he said. “Know what that son-of-a-bitch done? He come by an’ he got on white pants. An’ he says, ’Come on, le’s go out to my yacht.’ By God, I’ll whang him some day!’’ He breathed heavily. “I ain’t been out with a woman sence I los’ my eye. An’ he says stuff like that.’’ And big tears cut channels in the dirt beside his nose. Tom said impatiently, “Whyn’t you roll on? Got no guards to keep ya here.’’ “Yeah, that’s easy to say. Ain’t so easy to get a job— not for a one-eye’ man.’’

Tom turned on him. “Now look-a-here, fella. You got that eye wide open. An’ ya dirty, ya stink. Ya jus’ askin’ for it. Ya like it. Lets ya feel sorry for yaself. ’Course ya can’t get no woman with that empty eye flap-pin’ aroun’. Put somepin over it an’ wash ya face. You ain’t hittin’ nobody with no pipe wrench.’’ “I tell ya, a one-eye’ fella got a hard row,’’ the man said. “Can’t see stuff the way other fellas can. Can’t see how far off a thing is. Ever’thing’s jus’ flat.’’ Tom said, “Ya full a crap. Why, I knowed a one-legged whore one time. Think she was takin’ two-bits in a alley? No, by God! She’s gettin’ half a dollar extra. She says, ‘How many one-legged women you slep’ with? None!’ she says. ’O.K.,’ she says. ‘You got somepin pretty special here, an’ it’s gonna cos’ ya half a buck extry.’ An’ by God, she was gettin’ ’em, too, an’ the fellas comin’ out thinkin’ they’re pretty lucky. She says she’s good luck. An’ I knowed a hump-back in— in a place I was. Make his whole livin’ lettin’ folks rub his hump for luck. Jesus Christ, an’ all you got is one eye gone.’’ The man said stumblingly, “Well, Jesus, ya see somebody edge away from ya, an’ it gets into ya.’’ “Cover it up then, goddamn it. Ya stickin’ it out like a cow’s ass. Ya like to feel sorry for yaself. There ain’t nothin’ the matter with you. Buy yaself some white pants. Ya gettin’ drunk an’ cryin’ in ya bed, I bet. Need any help, Al?’’ “No,’’ said Al. “I got this here bearin’ loose. Jus’ tryin’ to work the piston down.’’

“Don’ bang yaself,’’ said Tom. The one-eyed man said softly, “Think— somebody’d like— me?’’ “Why, sure,’’ said Tom. “Tell ’em ya dong’s growed sence you los’ your eye.’’ “Where at you fellas goin’?’’ “California. Whole family. Gonna get work out there.’’ “Well, ya think a fella like me could get work? Black patch on my eye?’’ “Why not? You ain’t no cripple.’’ “Well— could I catch a ride with you fellas?’’ “Christ, no. We’re so goddamn full now we can’t move. You get out some other way. Fix up one a these here wrecks an’ go out by yaself.’’ “Maybe I will, by God,’’ said the one-eyed man.

Steinbeck, John (2006-03-28). The Grapes of Wrath (pp. 210-211). Penguin Publishing Group.

The Third Jewel by Tom Maloney

The Third Jewel is the Sangha, or the Friends of Refuge.  The Sangha is a community of individuals drawn together by the common goal of self actualization.  Members of the Sangha share insights and help each other overcome trials and tribulations along the Way of Illumination through clarifying conversation.  The Sangha can be made up of allies, teachers, guides, and any other being seeking freedom. The Third Jewel provides refuge and power through the communal effort to open the Dharma-Eye.

The Second Jewel by Tom Maloney

The Second Jewel is the Dharma.  The preserved teachings and training methods of the Buddhas and enlightened individuals make up the Dharma.  The Dharma is the roadmap and guidebook on the path toward clarity.  When one has access to the Dharma, responsibility can immediately be taken to improve one’s own quality of life and in turn the quality of life of others through consistent, mindful practice.  Dharma allows the precious opportunity for the aspirant to walk the footsteps of all awakened beings that have come before.

The First Jewel by Tom Maloney

The Three Jewels is a triplet of concepts and ideas that provide refuge for all those who travel the path of self realization. The first of The Three Jewels is the Buddha.  Does this mean that all who seek should deify the man known as the Buddha? No, simply revering a man who attained truth will be of little benefit.  The word Buddha simply means “Enlightened One,” and there have been many of them.  Seekers can instead take comfort in the fact that there have in fact been individuals who used their time in a precious human body to liberate from the wheel of Samsaric suffering and succeeded.  The The seeds of Buddha nature are in every sentient creature, simply waiting to be watered.

Getting Real by Tom Maloney

We live in confusing times.  Ours is a world in which the precious diamonds of insight into the nature of our collective reality are buried under mountains of bloated agendas and misinformation.  A world in which we are told how to think and feel, where intuition and wisdom take second place to immediate, knee-jerk emotional reaction.  A world caught in the grips of fear and insecurity where curation of perceived image is herald as the highest achievement in the human realm.  A world where living in harmony with nature is trivial compared to forcing a desired outcome.  A world where price tags loom over values and relationships.  The world is in darkness but there is an answer.  Compassion.  Having the mental, emotional, and spiritual bandwidth to understand that you're particular reality is not the only one existing.  There are currently 7.4 billion separate realities occurring simultaneously, each of which being perceived as absolute.  These realities come together to create a shared experience in which we are all participants.  But there are no absolutes.  Absolutes lead to dualism, a root cause of endlesssuffering.  When we see someone as good, someone else must be seen as bad.  But there is no good, only harmony.  There is no evil, only confusion.  Endless cycles of dualistic thinking confine our lives to grasping and aversion, leaving no room for contentment and peace.  When we see ourselves as separate individuals, how can there be responsibility?  The actions of one affect the state of the whole, and the karmic web connecting every person on earth is rippled accordingly.  

You are in the park watching a crow peck at loose seeds.  The crow senses you and a look is shared.  There is acknowledgment.  You are the crow and the crow is you.  With this realization suffering becomes an impossibility and abundant virtue manifests effortlessly.

 

Juicing: Bullshit? by Tom Maloney

Juicing is not a bad thing by any means, but it may be misunderstood.  I believe the sudden miraculous benefits we see from all juice cleanses are simply due to hydration, reduced calorie intake, and cutting out junk food in general.  Its amazing what drinking more water and cutting out Twinkies can do for someone’s health.  Also, even though the juicing process destroys some of the vitamins and minerals, a juice cleanser’s net intake of them is most likely much higher than it was before the juice cleanse.  The following are some issues with juicing and juice cleanses that need to be brought to light.

No fiber! 

Juice is simply the concentrated liquid portion of the fruits and vegetables without any of the plant fiber.  We need fiber more than ever in our day and age.  Fiber is healing and supportive to the intestinal track and makes the assimilation of vitamins and minerals more efficient.  Fiber gives a feeling of satiety and regulates blood sugar.  We need fiber and I believe un-fibered juice isn't all it could be. 

Too Much Sugar!

Most juice blends prepared at a juice bar contain some sort of sweet fruit or vegetable (usually green apple, beets, carrots) in order to make them palatable for the average person who may not enjoy the taste of pure veggie juice.  With juicing, all of that sweetness is concentrated into one 14-24 oz drink.  Its not uncommon to see juices with sugar content around 30-40g.  For reference, a 12 oz Coke has 39g of sugar.  Fruit fructose is a better sugar than high fructose corn syrup but it is still sugar.  Also, without fiber to ease the blood sugar, a 40g blast of sugar in one juice can wreak metabolic havoc. 

Short Shelf Life!

Unless you're making the juice yourself or getting it made for you live in person, chances are you’re buying bottled vegetable juice.  The beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in freshly pressed juice are incredibly sensitize to air, light, and heat.  Many authorities say a juice needs to be consumed within 20 minutes of creation to have maximum benefit.  Companies that sell bottled juice add even more sugar to extend the shelf life.  Gross. 

Solution?

1)  Use a blender.  Chop your veggies, put them in a blender, add water, blend.  Fiber is kept intact to ease the blood sugar spike that may be caused by fructose and to help absorption of all the goodies.

2)  Limit how many apples, carrots, beets, and berries are used.  Of course these foods contain massive amounts of life supporting factors but when your juice is 5 green apples and 1 kale leaf, there is a problem.  Its all about proper ratios to make a subtly delicious and healthful blended veggie/fruit drink.

3)  Blended fruit and veggie drinks have a much longer shelf life because of the fiber but it is still best to consume them the day they are made to gain maximum nutritional benefit.

4) Be creative.  Don't be afraid to experiment with the whole array of fruits and veggies.  Kale and apples don't rule the world. 

Have fun!

Lucid by Tom Maloney

Simply put, lucidity is the ability to perceive reality exactly as it is without any kind of filter being applied by the observer.  The opposite of lucidity is unconsciousness. Everybody walks around with a certain amount of lucidity at any given time.  The biggest dip in lucidity for the average person is during sleep when all bodily functions, including mental processes, are taken over by the subconscious.  While sleeping, we relinquish control of the mind and enter a state of blissful unconscious where the true nature of reality takes a back seat to the fantastical adventures and colorful imagery of the dream world.  Usually we have no lucidity during sleep, but what about lucidity in our waking lives?  Most of us continuously weave in and out of lucidity throughout the day, resulting in flashes of the purist clarity followed by moments of the darkest ignorance.  

Although the highest level of waking lucidity is essentially enlightenment, beginning to cultivate awareness is not a daunting task.  There are many ways to achieve lucidity, but the most accessible path is simply choosing to be Mindful in all aspects of life.  Choose your thoughts, don’t let your thoughts choose you.  Chew your food slowly, choosing to spend time with each of the unique flavors as you absorb them into your being.  Think about what to say before you say it.  Meditate, focusing on the mundane sensation of breathing that we take for granted 95% of the time.  Listen to people instead of simply waiting for your turn to speak.  And of course, practice the martial arts!

Ritual Space by Tom Maloney

It’s no secret we live in a society dominated by the material.  We’re told not to bother working on yourself or cultivating your core being, there’s Xanax for that.  Do more, buy more, consume more. If you're not constantly doing or “getting,” there is something wrong with you.  Rampant consumerism is the biggest industry in America and it is in no danger of extinction.  In a world where the mundane and material are seen as the pinnacle of human experience, there is a desperate need for Ritual Space to restore depth, vitality, and meaning to our lives.  Ritual Space does not have to be an actual physical space, although there is something to be said for such locations.  A place, that when stepped into, feels distinctly different in tonality and purpose than the outside.  These places are known in Japanese as “Dojo.”


The word Dojo literally translates as “Place of the Way.”  Traditionally adjuncts to temples, dojos are known as locations for martial arts practice but in reality can be anywhere where the “Way” is practiced.  The Way represents the path of growing awareness, constantly moving towards the light of liberation and away from the dark of unskillful action and speech. Ritual space can be the temple on the secluded mountain in a faraway land.  Ritual space can also be the one hour set aside after a busy day to practice your particular art.  The temple on the mountain may seem more “ritually,” but in reality it is the intent of the practitioner that creates the particular energy of the space.  I implore you to find your Ritual Space.  Maybe its a corner of your room set aside for quiet contemplation.  Maybe its a park with a lake near home.  Maybe its your local Dojo.  Maybe its finding your flow while playing violin, bringing you to a state distinctly different and infinitely more enriching than the profane existence we are peddled as absolute. Maybe its the 5 minute shower every night!  Wherever it is, whatever it is, and whenever it is, everybody needs his or her Ritual Space.

Emotions by Tom Maloney

All living creatures experience emotion. A dog whimpers when his master leaves the house because there is attachment.  A man wins the lottery and laughs because there is joy.  It is a necessary part of life to regularly experience the full range of anger, pride, elation, jealousy, sorrow, grief, and so on.  The number of emotions we experience over the course of a lifetime is absolutely limitless and inspiring. However, there is an important clarification that needs to be made about the human emotional experience.  Simply, there are no negative or positive emotions, only emotions.  Why is it so important that we not label our emotions? Labeling leads to attachment, grasping, aversion, constriction and eventually suffering

Emotion is energy. That’s all.  It’s simply energy manifesting and passing through us in different wavelengths.  One of energy’s fundamental characteristics is that it loves to flow.  It cannot bear being stuffed down, hidden away, neglected, or stopped.  We as humans have a tendency to dislike negative things and like positive things.  We avoid the things we dislike and try to remove them from our life.  Lets use the story of Joe as an example. Joe’s cat has been sick for years and finally one day passes away.  Joe and his family are burying the cat in the backyard when he starts to feel a creeping sadness welling up in his throat and tears forming in his eyes.  Joe is a man.  Not only a man, but the man of the house.  The cat was just a cat and all pets die. Plus, Joe’s father never showed any sadness and Joe never saw him cry once. Real men don’t cry and sadness is for wimps.  Joe is a mentally tough man who wont allow himself to cry.  Years go by and Joe’s marriage is in a rough patch.  His wife is unable to deal with Joe’s ever growing emotional distance from her and the kids. Joe has put up walls over the years to shield himself from having to experience any emotional states he deems uncomfortable or negative.  His back hurts, his neck is tight, his shoulders are bound up, and his zest for previous hobbies has disappeared. His energy is constricted in the emotional centers of his upper body and stiffens his movement.  Joe does not allow himself to experience sadness therefore he does not experience joy. Joe is suffering. To live fully again Joe needs to surrender and allow himself to fully bask in the emotion of grief.

Let’s take another example from the seemingly opposite end of the emotional spectrum.  Maggie loves to party.  Maggie needs to go out every night for drinks with friends and if her friends aren't available, Maggie has no qualms about going to the bar alone.  She loves good food and chatting with the people that she cares about.  However, Maggie has been known to burn the party candle at both ends.  After the bar closes at 2, she has to go to the after-hours lounge until 5. After that, she goes home to her seven roommates and watches a movie until finally her body crashes and she falls asleep for the day.  Day after day the cycle continues.  Like everyone, Maggie loves the positive experience of a rich social life and the good feelings it brings.  But, the reality is Maggie clings to it so tightly because she fears being alone with herself.  Maggie grew up in a house with no siblings and often found herself home alone for long stretches after school.  As a kid she routinely felt sorrow, fear, confusion, and loneliness.  She never wants to feel these negative emotions again and avoids them at all costs.  She abhors silence and always needs to have a plan ready for her next adventure.  In fact, she’ll be planning her next adventure in the middle of her current one!  One day Maggie gets the flu and each of her roommates is gone for the week.  She can’t go out, she doesn't have the energy to chat on the phone, and there is no one around but the eerie, all too familiar stillness she felt as a child.  Without the nonstop barrage of external input, Maggie’s brain fills the void with painful unresolved emotions and she begins to suffer.  What is Maggie’s remedy?  Maggie’s remedy is to simply be lonely.  She can stop resisting and let the energy of loneliness wash over and into her very core until the emotion has lost its charge.  Maggie can realize the cyclical nature of life and take solace in the undeniable fact that everything in this universe is temporary.  The good times don’t last and the bad times don't last, instead they interweave and commingle in this mysterious dance we call human life on Earth.  Maggie’s unskillful behavior is that the instant she saw somethings as good, other things became bad.

What can we do about our emotional situation? I believe the best thing we can do is simply experience emotion.  Don’t cling to joy or run from sadness. Simply let emotions come as they please and when it is their time to go, let them.  Ironically, the best way to achieve profound happiness is to not try.  Simply be.  Be you.  Do the things that nourish you on the most profound level, flow with ease, deeply enjoy the present moment, speak with the heart, and follow your bliss into the sun.

Reinventing the Wheel by Tom Maloney

Xtreme Martial Arts, Super Blast Cardio Kickboxing, Fusion Martial Fitness Crunch, Ultra Deluxe Powerflow Yoga, Special Pranic Breathwork Meditation , Heated Sweatacular Namaste Mindfulness Downdog Flow Class (set to bongo accompaniment). You get the idea.  At what point is the constant adding, fusing, synthesizing, and combining of movement modalities less beneficial and more detrimental to real, lasting results for the practitioner? This is a hard question because it is not a recent phenomenon. Most traditional martial arts styles we have today are in fact combinations and fusions of styles that came before them. How close are the forms we have today compared to what they looked like at their inception? It’s hard to say.  It is natural for things to change over time as disciplines are passed down from person to person.  However this natural change seems to be in stark contrast to the uniquely modern pattern of restructuring entire disciplines for the sake of novelty. Society is moving fast and attention spans are shrinking. What does Trish the Kundalini Yoga teacher do when Sam the Kundalini Yoga teacher down the street offers the same class but with drums, lights, faster flow, aromatherapy, and a 30 minute time frame instead of 60 (same results, half the time!)?  Sam’s class is more fun! Its shorter and there’s music! My brain doesn’t have to work as hard.  Its easier.  You're also not making any progress.

More than ever the brain craves constant stimulation and when it doesn't get it, anxiety arises. When our handheld glowing blue screens turn off, there is an impossible void to fill.  Dopamine has been surging full force all day with the prospect of one more click, one more list, and one more slideshow.  Maybe the next one will hold the promise of resolution I’ve been frantically seeking. 

Its not the outside world that needs to change or the time tested and complete disciplines passed down to us. What needs to change is the brain. We need to embrace the anxiety and sudden loss of stimulation. Thats where true growth happens.  The brain and body crave a state of less external input and simplicity.  Less is more and more is less.  The wheel has been invented. It is perfect in its design and purpose.  We just need to relax, unplug, and let the wheel do its job for us.

Tongue Power! by Tom Maloney

Stuck at the bottom of your pistol squat? Having trouble getting that last pull up? One arm push up feeling wobbly? Nothing beats repetition for building strength and blasting through your calisthenics progressions, but what if we could gain more power just by moving our tongue?

The human body has numerous pathways called meridians that are constantly shuttling internal energy, or qi, through our system so that we function properly on a day to day basis. There are twelve principal meridians and eight extra meridians. Among the eight extra meridians, the Governing Vessel (Du meridian) and the Conception Vessel (Ren meridian) are the most important in the context of increasing physical power. The Governing Vessel starts at the perineum (Hui Yin) and follows the upward path of the spine to the base of the skull (Jade Pillow). From here it travels over the top of the skull, down past the eyes, and stops at the upper palate of the mouth. The Conception Vessel travels down from the base of the mouth (Jade Pool), across the front of the body and around to the perineum, thus coming full circle.

Ancient diagram portraying the Microcosmis Orbit.

Ancient diagram portraying the Microcosmis Orbit.

The upward moving Governing Vessel is associated with fire and aligned with Yang. The downward moving Conception Vessel is associated with water and aligned with Yin. That’s not to say that there is no Yin in the Governing Vessel and there is no Yang in the Conception Vessel, just relatively less. When the tip of the tongue is placed on the hard palate behind the front teeth on the roof of the mouth, the Governing and Conception Vessels are connected in a full circuit. When joined, there is a strong and balanced flow of internal energy through your body. With Qi flowing through the two joined vessels, the Microcosmic Orbit (Small Heavenly Circulation) is created, granting you more power for whatever technique you are trying to accomplish.

Next time you need more physical strength or mental focus, place your tongue on the roof of the mouth to complete your body’s electrical circuit and power through to victory.

Nature Energy by Tom Maloney

In this day and age we all know that being outside is good for us. Many studies exist correlating higher levels of wellbeing with spending time in a natural environment.  Fresh air clears the mind and invigorates the body.  Plus, there is no traffic on the Serengeti!  Today, we actually need to make a concerted effort to interact with our natural environment as opposed to people of the past who simply lived in it.  Our increasingly synthetic world and the natural world are now two separate entities. What humans may gain in efficiency and productivity, they give up in vitality and connection.  American society is incredibly Yang oriented. Always striving and pushing to do more and get more done. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear someone boasting about how little sleep he gets.  As if being so busy you can’t make time for rest is something to be proud of.  It’s not. The nature of Yang is to reach, discharge, extend, rise, expel, activate, produce, heat, and to dominate. The nature of yin is to contract, charge, sink, rest, be passive, and to cool.  Something can only discharge so long before it needs to charge. If something is forced to discharge passed its capacity, vital energy is lost.  Nature allows Yin energy to flow back into the body and recharge its battery.  A lot of the energy that humans draw in from external sources is through the bottoms of the feet (Bubbling Springs, Kidney 1).  These points are especially sensitive to Yin energy, making walking barefoot on the bare Earth incredibly vitalizing.  Rubber shoes can insulate the feet and hinder proper energy absorption.  Sleeping closer to the ground (1st floor vs 25th floor) allows more energy to flow into the body before it gets dispersed and absorbed by synthetic materials.  Sleeping with the phone on Airplane Mode prevents interruption and terminates foreign waves proven to disrupt sleep patterns.  These three quick tips can help retain the vital essence that modern society has a tendency to disperse. 

+/-/= by Tom Maloney

Everyday we have hundreds of experiences.  From waking up in the morning to closing our eyes at night, we are forced to make choices. Choices that shuffle our lives along a continuum of the deepest negativity to the brightest positivity, and everything in between. Even if we lie in bed all day seemingly making no decisions, we are still choosing to lie in bed and seemingly make no decisions. Of all the choices that we make, there are three main outcomes that can occur. Positive, negative, and neutral. A positive result of a choice would be something that adds to our life in some way.  Eating well rewards us with more energy and a strong body. A positive outcome. Eating poorly can lead to states of being that cause disease. A negative outcome. What about neutral? Something neutral neither gives nor takes away from us. By its nature, neutrality is when nothing happens.  Neutral is holding ground.  I think of some reality television as a neutral experience. It doesn't add to our lives in any meaningful way but it’s there and it’s entertaining. It’s easy to digest and doesn't require a lot of brain power. The show ends and we find ourselves in the same place as we were before. Nothing gained, nothing lost (besides time), a relatively neutral experience.  It’s interesting to view all of our choices in this context.  Before each choice we can ask ourselves, “will this decision add to my life or take away from it?”  Of course we can never know the full outcome of any one decision, nor would we want to.  Life is meant to be a mystery.  We can only follow the heart and choose to act.

Fighting vs Sparring by Tom Maloney

Aren’t sparring and fighting the same thing? No way. First, lets talk about fighting. What is fighting? Fighting is not designed to be the best opportunity to hone martial technique in the midst of intense combat. Also, unless two individuals knock each other out at the same exact moment, submit each other at the same exact moment, have heart attacks at the same exact moment, or simply decide not to fight and shake hands at the exact same moment, fighting will always have a proverbial winner and loser. So what is the purpose of fighting? To win. To have. To control. To assert. To protect. To defeat. To stop. Is self defense fighting? Good question. The dictionary defines fighting as, “to engage in battle or in single combat; attempt to defend oneself against or to subdue, defeat, or destroy an adversary.” According to the dictionary, self defense is fighting. This definition makes sense for the discussion at hand because the true difference between fighting and sparring is simply the intention behind the act.  The dictionary defines intention as the, “purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct.”  The intention of a person involved in a fight is to overcome the obstacle at hand by any means necessary in order to emerge victorious.

So what about sparring? What are one’s intentions during sparring? The answer may be different for every martial artist. I can only offer my view. I believe the intention of sparring should be one thing; to be compassionate.  So we would offer our partner flowers instead of punches? No, thats not the kind of compassion I’m talking about. The compassion I am talking about is Authentic Compassion. Authentic Compassion is moving with the best of our martial ability to expose our sparring partner’s weaknesses so that he can grow, all the while having the intention not to physically damage him. If, for some reason, we enter a sparring scenario and choose not to expose our partner’s martial shortcomings then we do him a disservice by not allowing his awareness of combat to deepen. If Bob has a poor middle block and can’t protect his rib, it is Jim’s compassionate duty to take advantage of the opening until Bob learns to how middle block with skill, all the while having the intention not to injure Bob.  And Bob has the same duty to Jim.  Sparring is the laboratory. The workshop. The slow motion machine to hammer out the kinks. How do you know if you've had a successful sparring session? If both partners end with a bow, a thank you, no concussions, new knowledge, new skills, and a deeper understanding of conflict.  Although fighting and sparring have different intentions, they exist along the same continuum of martial combat. Though separate, they cannot exist without one another and ultimately it is up to the partners and instructor to agree upon the proper intention for the intended goal.


Traditional Martial arts the Original MMA? by Tom Maloney

Thats right, you read that correctly. I firmly believe that traditional martial arts, when presented and understood in all their holistic glory, are comprehensive systems of combat falling under the “MMA” moniker that we use to describe “mixed martial arts.” In our current society what constitutes a style as being MMA? Is MMA even a style? If MMA is a mix of other martial arts and someone teaches MMA, are they teaching a mix of a mix of a mix of a mix of styles? At what point does Karate end and MMA begin? 

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Kata by Tom Maloney

Kata. A gift handed down to us by such legendary martial figures as Bodhidharma, Ryu Ryu Ko, Kung Kusanku, Funakoshi, Shimabuku, and The Ksatreya Warriors. On the surface, kata can be described as demanding, body fortifying movement sequences performed by one who is vigorous and resolved.  Kata develops the internal organs, strengthens the muscular system, sharpens the mind, and deeply nourishes the body’s energy. 

Kata’s next level gives us insight into its role as a manual.  Past generations have codified their masterful knowledge of combat into these sequences. Although kata is a guidebook for martial technique, it takes a holistic and keen understanding to pierce each movement’s true purpose. An expert performance of kata will evoke the experience of truly engaging an adversary in combat and emerging victorious.

Deeper still, these moving mandalas allow us to to directly experience our true nature so that we can dispel the illusion of external conflict. Consistent practice gives us the power to overcome undesirable states of being that lead to suffering.  If we can learn to move with truth and energy the gates to abundant living will open before us.