I talk a lot about yin and yang in the healing arts I teach. Maintaining balance in our lives is crucial to our health (mental, emotional, physical). It allows our spirit to have consistent space to thrive so we speak and act from a wise space.
I haven’t always felt so wise lately. More angry and sad.
But this symbol is a description for a way of living a flowing life so we aren’t stuck in emotions, thoughts, or attached to physical sensations. It reminds us that there is no black and white to our lives.
And yet here we are.
We’re faced with another great divide in our country that illustrates the real dangers when the interdependence of black and white is made unstable.
When yin is overcome with yang the imbalance creates havoc whether it’s reflected in the body (health and wellness), economic structure (rich and poor), politics (left and right), or humanity (racism, xenophobia).
And when we ignore it or are distracted from it for long periods? As...
The symbol of Taiji is about balance. Right now we are living in a time that requires a lot of shifting to stay balanced. And while I was practicing this morning something occurred to me.
I've been avoiding my scans of social media because of the overwhelming fear and anger in us humans right now. For some it presents as literal fear: fear of not having basic needs met, fear of a loved one becoming ill, fear of not knowing how life will be in the future.
For others, it presents as anger. Anger due to the lack of trust in elected officials (and fearful of the changes they may or may not make), wanting to blame someone or thing responsible, anger because of the lack of control in an uncontrollable situation.
There's a lot going on.
You know, we are human. We feel fear, anger. We should. Fear keeps us safe.
But when fear grows and overwhelms, we aren't in balance. And we begin to react in ways that are damaging, destructive, irrational.
This internal fear has to get back...
Most people have the idea in their heads that we are held upright by the bones in our structure. But without fascial tissue (the fibrous connective tissue that holds structures of the body together) we'd be a helpless heap on the floor.
Hard to do laundry that way.
We are supported, bound together, and held upright by the tensile strength of fascia. So it's probably a good thing to take care of it.
Caring for and strengthening the net of tissue that connects so much of our body is just starting to become a clear and important part of physical training. Practices like Taiji and Qigong, and even massage therapy and other bodywork are all great practices for creating and maintaining a strong, supple system of connective tissue in the body. Bottom line: it prevents injury by increasing elasticity in the body.
So many injuries are the result of putting too much demand on tissue...
The transition from Winter to Spring is really noticeable outside, but we rarely are quiet enough to notice how it affects us inside.
In your quiet practices of qigong or taiji, you may feel a little lighter as the cold, quiet, watchful winter (especially here in Ohio!) begins to move into a warmer, livelier and active spring!
Spring gives us a lift! We feel it emotionally! We start looking forward to being outside whether it's simply sitting on the porch watching the world go by or exercising outdoors more often.
Mentally we begin planning - whether it's for a summer vacation or planting flowers or a garden or a new project at work. Spring is a time of inspiration!
You'll notice yourself feeling more physically active when you are balanced and spring arrives. You may want to stretch and take walks and move around and get some things going. Sitting in the quiet of still waters is over! The water is moving up and feeding the growth of wood!
This is the transition....
Happy New Year! This is a practice I like to do before any transition. And a New Year is definitely a transition.
The main key is to drop into noticing without analyzing. Without searching for an answer or trying to create one. Trust what bubbles up and put it down on paper.
Remember, these kinds of practices are just like taiji. They have a form, but the flow within should always move naturally. Let go and allow the natural current to lead you.
Let me know what you come up with!
We tend to talk a lot about what the weather is like outside. It's one thing that we can all share without a whole lot of argument, am I right?!
Looking outside and noticing fog, storms, or sun prepares us for what we need to do to put on (or take off!) before heading out.
I'm curious, though, how do you prepare when you notice your internal weather patterns? When your mind is stormy? When you're feeling depressed? When you're feeling foggy? When you're excited?!
Do you know?
Most of the time I get a universal answer: avoidance.
When our internal weather is not a peaceful sunny day, we do everything to try to get it back.
Do you do any of these?
1. Avoid through distraction: working long hours, surrounding yourself with noise (music, podcasts, phones, working out, socializing)
2. Avoid through medicating: do you find yourself drinking caffeine, popping ibuprofen, reaching for adult beverages after work to change how you feel?
3. Avoid through geography! We even relocate hoping...
The most effective way to get control of your emotions is to stop trying. This is the basic foundation of taiji and qigong.
It begins by noticing our mood, our emotional state. And with the slow practice of taiji and qigong you'll get better and better at it.
Here's what noticing does: Imagine yourself in the last stressful situation you experienced. Maybe work is overwhelming, or family life is really tense. You're right in the thick of feeling overwhelmed or furious. You want to lash out to end the overwhelm.
It's like the picture below. Who knows what that picture represents? We're so deep into the pixels that it could be anything. Just like emotional situations. You're right in the details. Focused in on the tiny pixels of whirling thoughts, emotions and physical reactions. You zoom right into the crisis. The picture is about one thing: this situation. There is no room or space for anything else.
Enter the act of noticing.
Noticing allows you to...
Years ago I was visiting a working historical farm in Ohio. Roosters and hens were running around everywhere and a little boy was watching them with his mom.
"Look at all those chickens! How many colors do you see on them?" The mom asked.
"Those are roosters," her son corrected.
"Well, no honey, not really," the mom countered. "All of them are chickens. The girls are hens and the boys are roosters."
"Well, that's a rooster. And that's a rooster." The little boy pointed directly at the roosters.
"Yes! You're right! Now, how many different colors are on the rooster?"
This questions and answers continued. The "corrects" and "incorrects" were dispersed.
This experience stuck with me. It reminded me of how much of our lives are spent analyzing, comparing, evaluating. So many of our conversations and experiences are seen through our ability to analyze. Many of us have jobs that support our lives that are rooted in being able to examine and label what is around us.
So, it's been a crazy busy time. You're feeling spent, energyless and ready to fizzle. And yet, you're expected to push through more.
We've all allowed ourselves to be pushed to the place where we feel completely done.
That's where the power of Peng comes in.
Never heard of it? Peng is the name of an energy in Taiji and Qigong practice that is spoken of in terms of self-defense, but it's such a limited way of looking at it and using it. Peng maintains the pffhtt of a spark and sets the flame.
We cultivate it with the breath and with mindful intention.
Peng is outward expanding energy
So, let's start.
Peng, in very simple martial arts terms, helps us bounce away an opponent.
But, if we were to expand out and notice how this energy can apply in our lives, it's fascinating and much more applicable to life.
For instance, when we only have a spark of energy it can show up as follows:
Do you find your taiji, qigong or yoga practice left in the classroom and not helping to guide your life? To build the balance you need when you're challenged with trying times?
I'm curious, is your thinking in the way of your being?
The Tao Te Ching, centuries old, reminds readers to move back and notice that our thoughts are not here to dictate our actions, but to guide them.
Thoughts really are more poetry than they are directives.
If you've felt your life is dictated by the money you make, by the schedule you keep, by the obligations that are yours, these are the signs your practice is dead. Your practice is only working for the shell of your body.
There is no place for Shen (spirit).
When these signs come to your awareness, it's time to recalibrate. If you want to maintain balance, this is the time to own it - no matter the external influences that try to dictate your value: job,...