There are two major steps to becoming relaxed:
You can't become relaxed if you don't know you're stressed. You have to build awareness of when the tinglings of stress begin so that you can become curious and discover why it is you're body, mind, emotions are responding by creating the sensations of stress.
Stress sensations come in many forms. Here are a few examples:
1. Angry - when you impatiently snap back at people, feel rageful when things don't go as planned, aggressively try to make things happen
2. Depressive - when you feel overwhelmed at life's unexpected turns, when you no longer try because your passion is gone, or when you've stopped caring
3. Anxious - when you really don't feel there's time for anything and you're literally running, speeding, talking fast, expecting people to move out of your way, your business is more important.
If any of these describe you, you aren't alone. We have all experienced every one of these sensations at some point....
I find it so fascinating to talk to people about anger. Everyone has such a rich history with this emotion ranging from packing it away and not feeling it to bursting it out with every irritation. And there's a huge spectrum between these disparate responses.
If we think in terms of energy or qi, anger can be powerful. As it builds like a kink in a hose, it can move us to take action quickly when the kink is released. The buildup of anger can drive us to speak up, be heard, and finally own our space. Anger can drive a country or nation to protest oppression and shift legislation.
Anger is simply the buildup of qi.
But if we can only take action or let anger release when the pressure of blocked qi gets to a blowing point, we've got an issue. Blowing up because someone driving in front of you isn't going as fast as you want isn't a good use of your qi. Sitting at home stewing over an unresolved argument and building frustration by creating stories in one's mind isn't...
At the beginning of the year, I began an in-depth study of the Element of Water with students and teachers of taiji and qigong.
It was an amazing exploration of a way of living that truly brings some equanimity and balance.
We literally played in the felt sense of being water - releasing all tension and simply being held. It created a true sense of relaxation, or in our world "song." But we went beyond the physical and looked at the other aspects of ourselves honestly exploring how we can be held emotionally, mentally, energetically.
We live through difficulties and water simply teaches us to pause and listen.
This gathers our energy. It gives it a space to be held, nurtured, like a fetus in the water of the womb. Simply practicing being.
If you were to drop into a container and had the ease and ability to take the shape of it, letting go completely, held and supported in peace, wouldn’t that be incredible? To be that trusting, relaxed and flexible? And not just...
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...
Sometimes it helps to be reminded that you're not alone on this path to being fully present in your life. Stay connected with simple practices, reminders and humor that come in my monthly newsletter.
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