Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Water Element - Winter

Death and Rebirth - The Old Falls Away, Giving space for the New to be Born

The Water element is Yin - feminine, soft, and yielding. Energy moves downward and motion is quiet and still. Keeping the Water Element in balance conserves your resources - your energy, time, and money. Water associates with essential fluids - blood, hormones, lymph, marrow. Its black color contains all the other colors.

Our chi sinks downward, into the root, our Earth connection. Like the animals do in winter, we strive for more rest, and time to rejuvenate and replenish. The trees are bare. Now is a perfect time to take advantage of the longer days; go to bed earlier and rise later.

It is a time of inner reflection and personal cultivation. Read, study, think, and meditate. Gentler yoga practice and softer exercise in general. Because it is the Water Element, winter is a time to be more aware of your kidneys. Keep them warm.

Eat fewer raw foods and more warming foods. Healthy, rich soups are wonderful now. Eat more whole grains and nuts, and more root foods.

This is a perfect time for Metta Meditation. Practice a bit every day!

Some Good Reading:

The Spirit of the Water Element: Why Weren't We Taught This In School?


The Tao of Food: Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

How To Stay Healthy In Winter

Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutrition Guide to Eating with the Season (Winter)

Monday, September 23, 2013

5 Minutes of Magic

Fall 2013 Approaches

This year has been filled with emotion for so many - from personal challenges to strange weather in the U.S. to  chaotic situations around the world.

Overcome as many of us are, we consider outside responsibilities many times over before considering ourselves. Emotional, physical, and psychological needs are pushed to back 

burners as finance, family, and even political issues grab our attention. It is at precisely these times that we must step back and examine ourselves honestly. 

Fall is a time of preparation - we go through our houses, cleaning out old stuff. We prepare our yards for winter. We begin to slow down. But what about us? How are we truly feeling? What are we doing to take care of ourselves?

5 Minutes of Magic

That's it. Just 5 minutes. Sit on a straight-backed chair, reach your spine upward, really FEELING it release and open. Focus your attention on your breathing. Notice where you 

feel tension in your body and simply observe it without trying to do anything about it. Keep your lips together gently, without pursing them. Count 10 breaths - backward. 

Now place one palm on your abdomen - just below your navel. When you inhale, allow your abdomen to expand.  When you exhale, contract your abdomen, releasing the toxins from your body and emptying your lungs from the bottom. Once again, count 10 breaths - backward. 

Just notice how you feel. Observe your physical body, your thoughts and your emotions. 

Learn more about breathing practices and how you will benefit from them.

Dr. Weil

Yoga Journal

Real Simple

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Healing and Spirituality - What's the Connection?

Sneaking just around the corner of our consciousness is the notion that grandma might have been right all along.  Strange remedies, gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle cures, sound advice, lots of love, and regular visits to church, synagogue, mosque, and other places of worship.  Grandma, now, in hindsight, seems to have known it all.

Who is Grandma?  Whether she’s Native American, an old Chinese sage, a Hindu shepherd, a Greek fisherman, Grandma is Grandma throughout the world and the ages.  She has the secrets that science is now revealing and giving us permission to experiment with.

It’s not just the chicken soup; it’s the chicken soup with Grandma’s love.  It’s not the tea; it’s the tea after a long, happy, loving walk home from church.  It’s not just the herbs; it’s the herbs that were grown in Mother Earth by Grandma, with love, respect and honor for all living things.

My Grandma prepared a concoction of Venduzes: scary, the preparation and the procedure.  Any pulmonary problem and here we go:  lie on our stomach with our backs exposed. Here’s the recipe:  thick-walled drinking glass; butter knife wrapped in rag and tied with string; glass of alcohol; burning candle.  Here’s the procedure:  dip rag/knife in alcohol; light it with candle; place burning knife in glass and swoosh around, removing all the oxygen; fast place glass open-end on back; our skin gets sucked up (a little) into glass; keep going with more glasses.  When Grandma is done, she removes the glasses, and voila! we’re better!  For Real!

Think back.  What about your Grandma?  What “home-made” remedy did she have for you?  I’m sure that she did.  Keep thinking.  What else did she do?  Oh, yeah, she LOVED YOU.  She MADE YOU LAUGH.  She FORGAVE YOU.  She SAID PRAYERS WITH YOU. 

What do we all have in common, from the jungle, to the prairie, to the sheep-covered mountains, to the desert, to the city?  We call our religions and our philosophies by name, to identify them so that we can relate to them as ours, but we all truly believe the same thing.  We all come from the same place. 

Love of Mother Earth.  Take only what we need.  Put back into the Earth what we will not use.  Connect with Her. 

Turn our eyes upward to the Heavens.  Experience the wonder, the majesty, the vast glory of the Universe.  Stand.  Feel.  Know the energy that exists above and below us.   Connect to that energy.

Yoga. Chi Kung. Reiki. Therapeutic touch.  Pipe Ceremony.  The power of prayer.  Bio-energetics.  Massage.  Mantras.  Medicine Wheels. Reflexology.  The movement of  internal energy for the purpose of healing.  These modalities are now being studied, analyzed, cross-tabulated, labeled, insured.  We have succeeded in complicating the simple.  It is merely ENERGY.  These, and countless other methods, are tools to awaken, channel, focus and utilize our energy for our health and for the healing of others.

Which is CORRECT?  Of course, all are.  Energy is energy and the channeling of that energy can be studied and cultivated over time.  It is the practitioner’s INTENT that is the primary force behind the healing technique.  It is not merely the Venduzes; it is the movement of energy, the clearing of internal pathways (meridians) that is the healing mechanism.  My Grandma didn’t know the word meridians.  But yours might have.  My Grandma and yours, regardless of their nationalities, their races, their belief systems, or their concoctions, would have been friends.  They would have SHARED their knowledge, their procedures, and their remedies.  Without saying specifically, they would have known that their commonality rested in their knowledge of Energy and would never have even used the word.  They would have drawn their knowledge from observation of Earth, from an innate respect and love for Her, and the resulting modalities would have emerged.

Our healing abilities lie within us and are empowered by our beliefs and our spirituality.  It is our connection to ourselves, each other, and nature which empower the practitioners of “Alternative Methods.”   For my Grandma and yours, they are NOT the alternative; they are the Way.  The Taoist Way is the Native American Way is the ancient Greek Way is the Zulu Way is the Zen Way.

On your path to Spirituality, do not forget your Healing.  While you heal, do not lose your Spirituality.  Brain surgeon.  Priest.  Medicine Man.  Simply be still. Quiet.  Feel the Earth below and the Heavens above and allow the loving energy to move through you as part of your preparation for your day’s work.  Recognize that you are a part of it all, and that you are all of it.   Respect the knowledge obtained in the thousands of years before you stood where you stand doing what you do.

And, whenever in doubt, ask Grandma.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Challenging Times - Meeting the Challenge

Regardless of our political views, we seem to sense deep unrest all around us. Trouble around the world, senseless murders of children, weather anomalies here where I am in New York, affect us on a large scale. On the other side of the scale, we face the stresses of everyday life - work, money, family challenges,  email, social media, never-ending texts. We have very little time for reflection, yet, these are the times when we need it the most. Some of us choose reflective paths - Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Qigong.

Many of us have chosen to expand those reflections and to consider what we might do to counteract the powerful negative energies that we feel around us. We feel an inner unraveling - a profound and deep sense of loss within ourselves. This loss would not heal by external factors, but rather, by a change in how we conduct ourselves and our lives.

For the many of us who engage in "spiritual" practices, our meditations became deeper and more meaningful. Yes, the stress and tensions in our bodies were eased during meditation, but, as we continued to practice, the easing began to change our minds and hearts as well. We know that there is evil, and the horrors around us overshadow something very important - that there is also GOODNESS. Meditation helped us rekindle that awareness.

We saw Goodness after 9/11 - Goodness was chosen over evil, acceptance over anger, peacefulness, with strength, over conflict. At the same time, we were stronger, more self-aware, more able to confront the challenges that we all face, and to overcome the "slings and arrows" that life tosses at us.

What connection is all of this to "breath, body, balance?" Frankly, everything. As a nation, and as individuals, we were thrown of our centers, threatened and enraged, confused and unsure. It became necessary to realign ourselves inwardly, and to remember that we ARE happy, productive, loving, and caring people. The situation forced us to examine ourselves.

Our desire to feel at ease with the world is a very strong one. It seems to be far easier to become anxious than it is to stay (or become) relaxed. Anger comes more readily than acceptance. Sadness seems to come easily - happiness must be cultivated.

One of the most profound, yet rather simple methods that I use, and have used with hundreds of people, is Metta Meditation. It is four statements repeated over and over. However, it is not merely the statements that are important.

It is our INTENT, our awareness, and our bringing the statements to fruition in our awareness.

Start practicing this. Start with 10-minute sessions. Here are some helpful hints:

1. Put your whole heart into each statement - MEAN IT
2. Allow other thoughts to come and go - DON'T CONTROL THEM
3. Clearly visualize the person to whom you are directing the meditation. The clearer and more detailed the image, the more profound the meditation will be.

You can replace "I" with "YOU" or "THEY" as you wish. For example, you can direct the meditation toward yourself, toward someone else, or to an entire group of people.

Find 10 minutes every day to practice this. If it is helpful to you, jot down notes afterward. Write about how you felt, where your mind went, and how your body feels. Don't make it an ASSIGNMENT. Allow it to be a natural outcome of the practice. See how your responses change over time.


May I Be Safe
May I Have Peace of Mind
May I Have Physical Well-Being
May I Have Ease of Being

Special Note:
I work with many people who are facing serious health challenges. They use this meditation frequently. They do the meditation before undergoing a treatment or surgery. It helps them stay grounded,calm, and deeply reduces their fears and anxieties.

I am confident that it will help you as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Chi of Winter

Chinese cosmology and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are grounded in the principles of Yin and Yang. Each season falls along the path of balance between these two energies. Fall takes us from the Yang of summer to the Yin of winter. As the daylight lasts for shorter periods of time, autumn prepares us for more quiet times and relaxed activities, and introspection.

Winter is the time of rest and quiet, of the stark colors of white, blue, and silver, and the Water Element.

What Can We Do To Balance Our Energies and Live In Balance with Winter and Water? 

Begin with the breath. We are in the process of conserving our energy, immersed in the full Yin of winter. At the same time, we are moving away from the transition of fall. Use Qigong breathing to keep this transition in balance and harmony. Don't overexert yourself (too much Yan), but keep your strength and stamina balanced.

Zhan Zhuang - Standing on Stakes (Standing Meditation)

Although this practice is wonderful all year, winter is an especially powerful time for Zhan Zhuang. In winter, we sink our Chi deeper into Earth, deeper into our root.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width. Bring your attention into the Bubbling Wells, the balls of your feet. This is your Yin connection into the Earth, and you want to begin to focus your attention there. Of course, the brain is active with thoughts, and standing quietly will become tiring as you try to quiet your mind and relax your body. This is the essence of the practice. Keep at it. Feel each breath, and allow the thoughts to come and go without trying to control them.

As you continue to stand, switch your breathing to Buddhist or Post-Birth breathing. As you inhale, allow Tan Tien to expand and feel your lungs filling all the way to the bottom. Contract Tan Tien to exhale, releasing the negative energy from the core of your being. Now, in autumn, extend the exhalations so that they are longer than the inhalations. (Note: many breathing practices suggest counting. While this is fine, many people find the counting to be distracting.)

Maintain this stance until your body begins to feel tired. Don't let that stop you - rather, let it inform you. Use that awareness of tiredness or tension as an opportunity to relax one of the parts of your body that feels tired. Focus on the particular area, exhaling and relaxing it further and more deeply. Continue on with each other part of your body that is tense, exhaling and relaxing. You will be very surprised to discover how tense your body was, and by contrast, how relaxed it can become.

We always begin with attention direction at our physical bodies. As they relax, our attention can be diverted inward, to the energy body. Releasing outwardly physically expands the opportunity to ease the organs and systems inwardly. At a very deep level, we begin to heal. Find ten minutes every day to engage in this practice. The return on your investment will be tremendous!

Breathe and smile...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Our Bodies Need to Move

Human beings, like other animals, were designed and crafted with movement as our purpose. Before industrialization, we hunted, fished, and farmed. Our internal clocks matched the sun, especially before we had the resources to light the night.

Sitting or lying down is reserved for RESTING, not as the ways we spend our days. Modern lifestyles are so often the antithesis of the original intent, and we subliminally accept this life without giving enough consideration to the consequences. Unhappily, we respond to our bodies only AFTER we discover that something is wrong, and then we scurry to healthcare providers to treat and/or repair the damage.

While our current medical technology has given us powerful ways to treat illness and helped to lengthen life, we forget lose sight of the miracles that are bodies actually are, and of the power that we have to enhance our innate healing powers.

Consider beginning a daily practice which includes movement of some kind. Select the thing that is most enjoyable to you, select a time, and honor it with the importance that you give to your many other tasks to perform during the day. Walking is optimal, as it can be done at any pace, and then increasing that pace over time. Start with a short interval and increase it over time, aiming for 30 minutes 5 days per week.

Use the links below to learn more about the benefits of walking.
Walking Benefits

8 Astonishing Benefits Of Walking

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Practicing Metta Meditation is a beautiful way to begin meditation practices. The affirmations give us direction and purpose, and we are less likely to have our minds wander about, jumping and frolicking, diverting our attention from the silence that meditation brings. Those affirmations begin to train our minds toward a state of “Mindfulness” where we become singly focused and aware.

At some level, ALL meditation is mindfulness. We can be sitting, Buddhist-style or Japanese Zen-style. We can be silent or reciting a mantra. We can be standing, Chinese-style Zhan Zhuang, quiet and still, standing on stakes. Walking and other moving meditations are joyful and invigorating. We can be praying, allowing ourselves to open and connect to energies beyond our own, giving thanks and offering compassion.

The heart of all of them is mindfulness. We become aware of our thoughts, emotions, reactions, the sensations in our bodies, our angers and fears, our hopes and anticipations. With practice, the mindfulness of meditation moves beyond the practice and insinuates itself into our daily lives. We begin to LIVE MINDFULLY, not just take time to PRACTICE MINDFULNESS.

As a person who enjoys moving, I love walking meditation, and have found time in my schedule to incorporate that at least 5 times each week. Early morning, sun recently arisen, quiet contemplation, and the development of a PACE helps to start my day with direction and purpose, yet without frenzy and anxiety. I find that I accomplish more, which is, of course, my goal.

Another form of moving meditation is TaiChi, or Taiji. This is beauty and grace in simplicity, not to mention a powerful martial art. The slow, graceful movements stimulate chi, or lifeforce, and promote healing and a state of relaxed calm. Nothing can throw you; nothing ruffles your feathers. Wonderful to watch, it is not learned in a few short classes. TaiChi is a series of very specific motions, done with precision and attention, strung together to comprise a Form. There are two best-known Forms – the 108-Movement and The 24-Movement. TaiChi is taught at adult education classes for a very reasonable price, and it is the beginning of the road to changing your life.

Whatever you chose, the element that will be the greatest challenge is the directed attention of the mind. The development of mindfulness, a deeper knowing and understanding, changes our energies and affects how we meet the challenges of each day. We learn to be “In The Moment.” Our attention is focused on NOW; yesterday is over and tomorrow has not arrived. Simple words to write and to say, but challenging concepts to incorporate.


I hear these dangerous two words more than any other. Working with adults and children with serious health challenges, I hear this admonishment often. The ideas coming from this exclamation are simple – how can I relax, stimulate ease and calm, sit quietly, when ALL OF THIS IS GOING ON??

It is precisely BECAUSE you are faced with these challenges that mindfulness practice is so necessary. While these struggling souls initially discount the benefits of this practice, they are ultimately the ones who benefit from it the most. Why should that be? It is because they face life-threatening situations, and they are open to trying anything that might help them cope with difficult times.

If you are practicing any type of meditation, you are including mindfulness, whether you have made that a goal, or not. To begin a practice, start with your breath. In the first place, it is always there! Readily available for concentration, your breath is a natural starting point for mindfulness. Start with 10 breaths, becoming increasingly aware with each one. Your mind will probably wander after the third breath; this is where the challenge begins. Just keep going – WITHOUT JUDGMENT – and continue breathing. After the 10 breaths, exhale a long cleansing breath.

Practicing Outside of Meditation

Here’s a good place to start – with your words. We are often very tense, and we don’t really know it. Someone says something that hits us the wrong way, and we REACT. Depending upon our mood, we might strike back verbally, or, we might withdraw, attempting to avoid any confrontation. Neither option benefits us. Sit up or stand up taller. Take a breath in. Exhale slowly. You only need ONE BREATH. Be aware of what you are thinking and feeling. Wait. Do NOTHING. Feel yourself GROUNDED. Feel your feet on the floor. Then, consider what has been said to you. You will probably be delighted to realize that there was a third option, and one that resolves the situation in a far more advantageous manner than either of the first two. Even silence – no response at all – might be what is called for. If you do chose to speak, your words will have less of an edge (if you became angry) and less of a whine (if you became upset).

Balance – Breath and Body – Take it from There

Monday, January 21, 2013

What I Am Learning

I love to talk, teach, and write. I have been teaching computer skills for more than 30 years. In addition, I have been teaching the Eastern practices of Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditation for more than 20 years. Both have brought me tremendous satisfaction over those years.

This blog is devoted to those Eastern practices. The joys that they have brought me, as well as the feelings of health, strength, and calm,  have inspired me to share them with others. Working with people of all ages and in many different environments is both an honor and privilege.

From 8 to 80 and beyond, we can all flourish when we engage in these modalities on a regular basis.

At first, I viewed Yoga and Tai Chi as merely physical practices. Between the two, Yoga was easier. However, as a Type-A personality, I had little patience for the slow movements that Tai Chi demanded. Persistence won over that impatience, and I continued to practice until Tai Chi became a major foundation for my actions and behavior, as well as thoughts and feelings, each day.

I have learned so much from my personal practice, but much more from working with others. I have educated myself in health, especially as it pertains to the Eastern traditions, eating proper foods, and encouraging and nurturing a healthy approach to life.

I wish you health and joyfulness through the connection of breath and body in order to bring balance into your life.