Haiku and the arts

I’ve started doing a unit at uni called The Arts in Counselling. To be honest, I was under the impression it would delve deep into the arts of counselling, learning different techniques, approaches and theories of how to be an excellent counsellor. I was mistaken. It’s about involving art, of many kinds, into your practice; drawing, dancing, writing, walking, meditating, tai chi, nature etc. It’s different from what I expected, but very interesting.

One of the activities we did yesterday was sit down somewhere outside for half an hour and list the pleasurable sensations we were experiencing in terms of our five ‘official’ senses (we have more than five for sure). I sat down at my usual spot at the Japanese garden and really took the time to look for beauty. I found that the closer I looked, the more there was to see, and all of it was really very amazing. The world is full of amazement. And nature is many times more beautiful than the things humankind has crafted.

When we got back to class, we looked at some haiku and composed one of our own regarding our experiences. As I understand it, a haiku tries to perfectly capture an experience, often with nature, following the principle of comparison, contrast or association. I tried to describe water flowing from one level of the pond into the next, then trickling, then dripping on a surface that was both clear as glass and reflective as a mirror. It’s very difficult to describe what I saw and how I felt about it with any length of words, so I’ll let my haiku say the rest.


water trickles down
like raindrops on a window
mirroring the world


It seems simple now, but it takes an awful lot of work to find the perfect phrase, the perfect word, the perfect combination of syllables to capture something in your heart. I think I came pretty close! Well, off to uni for another day of art. Ja!

Busy times and work ethic

I’ve been doing an awful lot the past few days. I was sort of high on the success of my accomplishments for a while. In two days, I had lunch with my future housemates, pre-ordered The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for 3DS, drove to Cockburn (that’s a suburb, pronounced co-burn) Central so Adam could talk to the banks about a loan, bought a snuggie for Beth, pre-ordered another copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for 3DS (this time a limited edition Ocarina Edition which I couldn’t walk past), got a refund on my previous pre-order, checked out potential locations for house-building (I’ll explain more about this later), watched some new anime, made bread from scratch (a delightful process with good company), watched Reign of Assassins, played Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood for many hours, practiced Tai Chi, journaled about Mugai Ryu, caught up on the FaceBook photo challenge, watched The Last Train to Freo (a deeply unsettling thriller so close to home I’m a little paranoid it might happen to me), made appointments to see the dentist and optometrist, saw the optometrist, checked if Giri had any new sword cleaning kits, signed up for a new Medicare card, picked up an assignment (I got a 50%, the lowest mark I’ve ever received because I didn’t realise I had to stamp the date on the coversheet T_T), went to work, came home sick, spent time cuddling with Bethwyn watching My Little Pony (a surprisingly good animated series), Avatar the Last Airbender and Bones, and playing lots more Assassins Creed. That’s a pretty full on three days for me, and it’s been tremendously satisfying getting so many little errands and chores done in a remarkably short period of time.

The rush of success has since been tainted by the persistent and invasive feelings of guilt. When I left work yesterday, I was exhausted, dizzy, unable to form thoughts in my mind (a typical sentence might have gone like this: “unable to.. thinking the words that line up aren’t straight” to describe my inability to form a coherent line of thought), stomach problems, coughing up phlegm and a mildly high temperature. When a young person started talking to me and requiring a little of my attention, I just felt like closing the door in his face and curling up under my desk. Based on this feeling, I decided I was not fit for work. But everything I’ve just said is a way of justifying my decision to go. And the reason I feel so guilty is because I called my manager (who was out at the time) to let her know what I had decided, requesting she call me back so I knew how she felt. She hasn’t done so. This worries me- I’ve taken time off before for not-very-good-reasons and been cautioned not to do it again. I hope she considers this a good-enough-reason. I do. And I think it becomes a problem if a worker is scared to take a sick day when he’s sick. But what really makes me question myself is that when I told my fellow youth worker that I was going home because I was feeling physically uncomfortable and unable to think straight, she instantly fired up and said it sounded like I had no work ethic or commitment to my job. I definitely hear what she said, but I think she misunderstood how poorly I was feeling. And it’s led me to question whether I am a competent youth worker and whether I do have any work ethic.

I’m really struggling here. It’s practically killing my peace of mind. Am I suited for youthwork? Am I suited for looking after (or rather, providing service to) young people? I thought I was, but maybe all my six months has taught me is that:
a) I have anxiety and control issues
b) I hate confrontation and it degrades the quality of my work with people
c) I’m not suitable for such a flexible, uncontrolled job right now.
It would suck if that’s all I’ve gotten from my employment. Well, that’s not all. I can think of some really good, rewarding times, but at the moment I see those as inconsequential, minute and not worth writing down officially. A smile and a hug from a young person doesn’t balance out them yelling at you and then making destructive choices for their life. Maybe I’m not able to help people as much as I thought I was.

But then where do I go? Something well-structured like a government job (Centrelink, a hospital) or highly individualistic with people who want to be there, like counselling. I don’t know anymore. And I kind of just want to stop working for a couple of weeks until I know better, but that’s not kind to my workplace. I should probably be talking to my boss about this rather than posting it on my blog.


Holy crap! I think this is the first time ever I’ve missed writing a blog post for the month! Ah well, all records have to end some time.

So a few things have been happening in my life. First of all, I left my job at the university library as a book shelver. It was a very solid, simple and reliable job with a decent wage, and it took a great deal of convincing that comfortable didn’t mean good. Of all the things I try and fit in my day (training, study, work, friends, Bethwyn, videogames/movies/books/TV series), shelving books wasn’t high on my list of things I enjoy. So my weeks have freed up just a little more. I tend to fill them right back up with new interesting things to do, but I’m still glad I did it.

Work at PICYS has been going well. There are good days and there are not-as-good days, but I’m really grateful I’m getting a decent bite of what it’s like to be a youthworker. Parts of the job are hard for me- being bossed around or trying to connect with someone who  is very different from you- but part of it’s easy and natural- seeing a movie or writing a report. I’m a fairly odd person to end up in social work, but that oddness has its place too. We’ll see where things go!

During supervision while at work, I talked to Tess about how I’ve been feeling, and she made it really obvious that I’ve been struggling with anxiety for a while. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it, or why I was so desperate to not put a label on how I’ve been feeling, but it’s very relieving to finally admit that sometimes I’m not okay. I can spend hours stressing about having to go to training, or hours planning out a week so I fit in the most stuff with the time I allocate. I have a burning urge to fill blank spaces in my schedule, and I obsess about time and when things should be done by. I try so hard to please other people and get positive feedback from them, and I need to control the environment around me and the circumstances of my daily life.

But I’m working on that. I saw one of the university counsellors, and they helped me remember that anxiety is a state of mind, and just because I’m feeling anxious, doesn’t mean I have to be anxious. In the same way that I might feel sad if I saw a dead bird, I don’t need to spiral into depression for hours until I get over it. A big part of my therapy is based on mindfulness- not focusing on the immediate future (which I tend to do- I always think a few hours ahead) but on what I’m currently doing. I plan to start meditating daily (why is it a plan? Why haven’t I started yet? Pah, gotta stop making excuses) and getting enough sleep so I don’t fall asleep in those few minutes of quietude. Maybe nanna naps are what I need?

The other big part of how I’m dealing with feeling anxious is called ACT- acceptance and commitment therapy. To basically acknowledge the thought or feeling (of anxiety, or the compulsion to plan and control to debilitating degrees) without letting it control me. To realise how I’m feeling, and then move on. That’s an amazingly empowering process: to say to my mind “I know I’m feeling anxious right now. Thank you for letting me know”, and then doing and thinking whatever the hell I want anyway. Generally a big part of ACT is to act- to do something, regardless of how you’re feeling. In my case, this means going to training, seeing dentists, going to work, rather than staying at home in my (slightly unhealthy) bubble of video game comfort. Hopefully being aware of how I feel will empower me to not need to feel it anymore. I’m not expecting to be cured of anxiety for life, but I do hope I’ll be able to manage despite it on most days.

Training-wise, I practiced tamashigeri a few weeks ago. It involved soaking tatami mats in water for 24 hours, sticking them on stands and cutting them to pieces with a sharpened katana. I’ll say this much: it’s effortless with the right sword and the sheer willpower. The mats are as dense as a human limb (minus the bone), and they slice like butter if you just swing fast enough. But that’s not what tamashigeri is about. Cutting the mat isn’t the goal- a child could do the same. Acknowledging the target as representative of a human being, and giving that person the honour of a clean, good death is a big part of what it is to practice cut. It’s hard to describe what I mean by a good death. A bad death is a messy one- blood spurting everywhere, great pain for prolonged times, jagged, crooked cutting, broken bones… A good death is clean, no confusion in the sword or the wielder- one cut, one kill. A perfect cut, without hesitation or reserve.

Iaido aside, I’ve finally learned all 108 moves in Moy Lin-Shin’s form of Tai Chi, based mainly on Yang style taijiquan. I picked it up really quickly, and I do not idly brag when I say I am leaps and bounds ahead of all of the beginners, and most of the continuing class. But having completed the beginners course, my journey doesn’t stop there. It’s tempting to just take what I currently know, and how good I currently am and just pick up something else. But to my frustration, there are secrets to each of the techniques that aren’t taught to beginners because of the overload of information. I’m so impatient to move on to Chen Pan Ling’s Tai Chi system, which is far superior for reasons I’ll describe in a moment, but I can’t say I fully know Yang Tai Chi yet. In karate grading terms, I’d say I’m about a 4th kyu, but they haven’t taught me any higher otherwise I would already be in the dans. My goal is to stick around for another month or so and continue to gain from the continuing class until I decide I have much more to learn elsewhere.

I am impatient to learn for different reasons. I was invited on a gashuku recently which was a three-day training camp in a forest/lake area. It was really exhausting/challenging, really educational, and really fun. I learned so much about goju ryu karate, the great versatility of jodo, the seemingly simple but deviously complex nature of the internal arts (such as Tai Chi) as well as practicing wing chun on a muk yang jong. If you didn’t understand that, I basically gained great insight into martial arts I know well, and things I had never considered being important. I learned so much in those 8 hours training a day, and going back to learning three moves a week or whatever is really frustrating. I keenly desire to return to the club that hosted the gashuku  and resume training with them. The teachers there are amazingly well-learned and qualified, and they are no less and no more skilled than Kaneda: they just have different things to teach me, and I hunger to learn while they are still able to teach. I guess I feel like I’m wasting time, because these great masters are world famous, and it’s so convenient for me to train with them but I neglect that for poor reasons. As of next week, I hope my schedule will look something along these lines:
Monday: Moy Lin-Shin Tai Chi
Tuesday: Rest.
Wednesday: Mugai Ryu Iaido.
Thursday: Goju ryu karate.
Friday: Rest.
Saturday: Boxing/general fitness routine with Eugene and his personal trainer.
Sunday: Mugai Ryu Iaido.
At the same time I’ll be training hopefully every day in the sword, as well as trying to fit in a night to train with Wing-sempai in aikido and the kenjutsu/iaido school of Jang de Jong. I’ve made many commitments to people and I just don’t seem to have the time to fill them all at once! I know I’m still young (20-years-old, a sapling in my martial life) and have plenty of years to learn different arts, but I want to seize them all now! I’m sure I’ll find a balance somehow :)

And I’m about done blogging! I’m really tired. I haven’t been sleeping particularly well, and it can be attributed at least in part to Puzzle Quest 2. Beth downloaded it for DS and the first night I started playing it, I thought I’d play for fifteen minutes to wind down before bed. I started at 10:30pm and decided to stop at 5am, just to acknowledge the sheer stupidity of the fact that I needed sleep before work. It’s ridiculously addictive and very enjoyable. Okay, that’s it for real this time. Peace.