The Five Phases that are part of Taiji, yin yang, Daoist philosophy are a great reminder that we are interconnected with everything around us. When we are in balance, there's a good chance harmony prevails!
When we aren't in balance, well...things can feel sticky, small, tight, emotional.
When that sensation of feeling compressed - whether it's compressed for time, or compressed emotionally, or compressed physically in the shoulders or somewhere else - those are the signals to slow down. To pause and create some time and tenderness for yourself.
And I mean it. These are the times to not react with a mouthy statement to shut conversation down. It's the time to say "Wow. I am so angry right now I have to walk away and settle."
Or, "I feel so overwhelmed and hurt I can't talk right now."
This is what it takes to step away and incorporate the tools from the 5 Phases. This is where the Earth Phase shines because it helps us digest our experiences. It asks us to...
We humans are so lucky. Each of us is given three advisors for life. Some people call them energy sources, others centers of energy. Taiji’ers call them dantians. You may call them anything you want. I personally like Larry, Curly, and Moe, which will make sense later.
These centers are always informing us. Always.
I talk about them in class all of the time. We have meditations about them. Many of my posts are related to them. But let's review:
Upper Dantian (Moe)
The upper dantian is located between the eyebrows in the center of the head. This is where thoughts, ideas, perspectives, chatter resides. Also known as the mental center, it is a guide or an advisor to help you make decisions about every daily activity you conduct. It may throw out judgments or criticisms about you to consider as truth. It may bring up past memories to guide you in creating a choice today. It may offer up things to worry about out of the blue. It may conjure up a story about a family situation you are...
Yesterday my husband, Brad, and I were on a hike that crossed many streams and rivers. At one of the many pauses at a bridge overlooking the river, I noticed the shadows of waterbugs on the bottom of the water at the edge of the river.
Their skinny bodies were so interestingly exaggerated by the reflection! Watching them, it was like I had an inside view of what inspires Hayao Miyazaki’s animated creatures.
I have this sense of wonder after time spent in nature. I feel more childlike. Able to see beyond the mundane.
Have you felt the mundane? Have you noticed the rhythm of life feeling like a single path that has been walked over and over and over creating a groove you can't seem to get out of?
Boy, I have.
And I’ve been walking that path for a while partially from the effects of how COVID has shifted life. I have simply been doing life. Not sensing the richness, the fullness, just the daily routine creating a groove of a path like a poor dog chained in the...
This week on a walk I saw a sign that made me pause and think. It read:
It's this year's tagline for Pelatonia, an annual bike race raising money for cancer research. It's motivational for those who are completing this amazingly challenging bike ride fundraiser.
But I was thinking simply about the three words and our culture.
I remember being in middle school and the track coaches, Mr. Price and Mr. Mann (seriously, does it get any better than those two names? Can you picture the scowling faces and beige polyester shorts with the two snaps at the waistband?!). They would always yell at us after practice:
"If it don't hurt, it don't help!"
There's a good message to send hormonally challenged kids whose brains still have 10 more years of development: ignore your internal messages and wisdom.
But seriously, these messages don't just come from coaches, academia, parents, or bosses. It's simply part of our lifestyle. We're simply an intense bunch. We're a...
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...
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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