I came to my practice from a need to quiet my mind, de-stress, heal and bring about self-awareness. In our busy lives we often find it hard to connect with ourselves, or the moments we find ourselves in. I used to live more in my mind and less in my body awareness. I would go through my days unaware of the stressful pace I pushed myself to make each moment count. I seldom gave myself time to rest or to check in with myself. I never noticed my tight muscles, my quick shallow breaths, the exhaustion setting in and the disappearance of joy in my life. I held the belief that I could not afford to rest.
I did not understand that tai chi was more than just a bunch of movements and breath work. Yes, I felt the benefits from doing tai chi such as being more aware, feeling more relaxed, happier and uplifted in spirit after doing the slow movements and deep breathing, but after a few hours, I would return to my hectic pace of living. I would forget what I had practiced. I did not integrate the principles of tai chi into the way I moved through life.
During this time of the pandemic I have had to practice on a deeper level the art of tai chi and qigong. I have had to slow down the pace of my days, pause and listen, come to awareness that pushing through to accomplish things does not really achieve any worth when it is at the expense of my health or my enjoyment of the day. I need time and space to breathe, to allow things to unfold naturally and effortlessly, to trust that all things will happen when they are meant to, to smile, to be. This approach is more in sync with the spirit of tai chi. This is when my tai chi practice truly supports my life. The slow movements and breathing of tai chi and qigong assists me to live in this awareness.
In the spirit of Tao and Tai Chi, my truth does not lie in this or that, them or us, black or white, Democrat or Republican. For me, divisions cannot unify! We are more than our divisions. After all, we all come from the One and we all will return to the One!
Here is one of my favorite quotes by Rumi. It starts out with these words,
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Who will join me? I would love to see everyone!
Image by Pexels visionpic.net
In all ages humanity encounters challenges and the need for inspiration. Here is a poem from Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet. I found the poem in Lucy Cooke's book Life in the Sloth Lane. Funny how ancient wisdom can appear anywhere.
The last time I was in the heart of the pine grove there was a pile of pine cones right where I wanted to do my tai chi. My instinct was to move them aside so they would not be in my way; instead, I left them where they were and practiced around what I perceived to be an obstacle under my feet. As water moves around rocks, I moved around the pile of pine cones while doing my tai chi form.
Today when I arrived, the pile of cones had been formed into a circle. Seeing the transformation of the pile into a circle awakened my perception. First, I realized that my view of the pine cone pile as an obstacle was perceived by another person as a chance to create.
Secondly, I realized that when I let things be, possibilities can blossom forth. I do not always have to be the doer making effort to change something. I can allow space to see what manifests.
When my body is relaxed and my mind is quiet, I become more aware of my senses. I am more engaged with life in a positive way and less trapped in my mental struggles. Tai chi and qigong helps me to achieve a sense of relaxation and a quiet mind.
My spiritual teacher Ishwar Puri told me that we have 8 senses. The first 5 senses are the senses of sight (perception), hearing, touch, taste and smell. The 6th sense is intuition, which is our soul level awareness. The 7th sense is common sense. The 8th sense, which is the most important, is a sense of humor. We can laugh and play. Life doesn't have to be so serious when we come to our senses!
Spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle states, "Life isn't as serious as (the) mind makes it out to be."
A big part of the practice of tai chi and qigong is to learn how to relax our bodies and quiet our minds so we can live more harmoniously. Our minds can be consumed by our thoughts, emotions, feelings, actions, reactions, how we relate to other people and situations. This all can seem like serious business because our "monkey minds" or overly active minds can get involved.
I have seen this occur with my own monkey mind. At this stage of mental agitation, I depend on the slow, flowing movements of my tai chi and qigong to bring me back to a place of relaxation, grounding, and emptiness from mental drama. Life doesn't have to be as serious as my mind makes it out to be.
Here is a poem that has helped me through difficult moments:
It does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of those things and still
be calm in your heart.
There are so many ways we could respond to Covid-19. When facing uncertainty, anxiety, fear or a sense of powerlessness, we may choose to respond in some of these ways. Some of us might steadily consume news and information in the hopes of educating and protecting ourselves. Others might avoid the media and place our attention on our daily tasks. A lot of us might find comfort by watching our favorite TV programs, reading books, eating comfort food, going for walks or a run, sleeping more, talking to our therapists, practicing our meditation, yoga and tai chi when we are stressed. We might try to connect with our friends through texting, emailing, and other online face-to-face apps like Zoom, FaceTime and Skype. We seek others to comfort us in our state of fear and anxiety. Perhaps we do a combination of all of these things to try to balance and calm ourselves. Personally I have tried several of these ways during this uncertain time.
How does all of this truly make me feel? Does it bring me a sense of lightness, inner peace and clarity? Is my mind still grasping for safety and security? Am I practicing self-care? Am I even aware of how I am feeling? Is my attention scattered? Am I tense and aching from the stress I hold inside? Is my breathing shallow? Is it time to pay attention to how I truly feel right now? Can I self-check for a moment? These are some of the questions I ask myself.
Once at a spiritual gathering someone said to me, “The internet can be very helpful, but more importantly is our inner net.” What is happening inside our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies? Spiritual teachers share this message of going inward to help us navigate our human lives as we connect with a greater awareness. When we can place our attention inwardly instead of outwardly, we can start to get in touch with our true nature. We can truly listen to how we are feeling when we calm our minds. Our attention can become more focused. We can even separate our attention from our minds; thereby, allowing our souls to speak. My spiritual teacher Ishwar Puri said that our intuition is our soul speaking. We can be guided by our intuition on how to best live our lives, especially during challenging times.
From knowing our true nature and listening to ourselves we can quietly sit in courage. Here is a saying that has brought me comfort: One of Homer’s best lessons for our world is that courage is not just for the battlefield or witch’s cave. Often it appears in our daily lives. During this time of great uncertainty let us try to have compassion for ourselves as well as for others. We all are trying our best to meet this virus challenge. There is no right or wrong way of thinking, being or acting, but if we can go inward to our center, perhaps we will also benefit from this way of responding. Let us practice what the Buddhist practitioner Tara Brach calls “The Sacred Pause” and check in with ourselves, even if it is for a moment. Perhaps we will be able to be compassionate warriors instead of worriers while we sit in courage.
Important note on breathing: The (inhale) and (exhale) indicates which type of breathing each segment of the posture requires. Do not just inhale and exhale at the end of each segment. Breathing should be done throughout the segment.
The following 3 postures are the first 3 postures from a series of 16 postures known as the “Temple Qigong”. On the video I have done each posture once. You can do the postures separate or string them together.
RISE AND FALL TO HARMONIZE THE QI–stand with legs together, sink weight into feet, palms face upper thighs, rise up a little with body as palms rise to forehead (inhale), allow palms to fall (exhale), back of hands draw up to heart level (inhale), palms fall (exhale), repeat 5-10 times
RISE AND BLOSSOM THE GOLDEN FLOWER-stand with legs together, sink weight into feet, palms look at upper thighs, rise up a little with body as palms rise to heart (inhale), palms open out and sink into feet (exhale), rise up (inhale), palms return to center (exhale), draw palms up to forehead (inhale), allow palms to fall (exhale), back of hands draw up to heart level (inhale), allow palms to fall again (exhale), repeat 5-10 times
RINSE THE BODY WITH QI- stand with legs together, palms at side, sink weight into feet, rise up a little with body as arms gather upward to forehead (inhale), allow palms to wash down center of body (exhale), repeat 5-10 times
The more you practice these postures, the more relaxing and natural they will feel. It isn't about being perfect. Relax into the flow of the movement. Enjoy! Also see the directions on my previous blog for more postures.
FILL THE BODY WITH QI (BUBBLES)- stand with legs wider than shoulders, palms are looking up as they rest 1 and 1/2 inches under your belly button (lower Dan Tien region), raise palms to throat (inhale), turn so palms look outward (exhale), continue with raising palms to top of head (inhale), flip palms to look at top of head, separate palms as they open out (exhale), at shoulder height turn palms so they look at earth (inhale), continue to form a bubble around you as palms come to rest again at lower Dan Tien (exhale), repeat Bubbles 8-10 times
SUN GREETS WILLOW-stand with legs wider than shoulders, shift weight away as the opposite hand brushes outward, circle palm to forehead as you shift weight to the center (inhale), present the palm to opposite side as weight shifts away, return to center (exhale), repeat same side 3-5 times, switch palms, do other side, when comfortable with single palm try alternating with double palm
The next posture, Wave Hands And Circle The Clouds, comes from a series of 16 postures known as the "Temple Qigong" postures.
WAVE HANDS AND CIRCLE THE CLOUDS- stand with legs wider than shoulders, weight shifts to right leg as right arm circles up like a wave (inhale), left palm looks at heart level as weight shifts to the left (exhale), lower palm looks at heaven, repeat 3-5 times, try the other direction with the opposite arm and leg
Enjoy these qigong postures! I will be sharing the postures from my last video soon.