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.