Practices and Changes

Some years ago I wrote about how much I loved practicing the 8 Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung.  I’d turned to those three for their combined impacts on opening energy flow, building energy and balancing energy.

After faithfully practicing for 5 or 6 years, I started slowly moving into doing kundalini yoga more and always sliding in some sets of my flowing body work.  I’ve never dropped the energy practices, but I’ve rarely done all three.  I’m probably most faithful about the 8 Key Breaths, which I have loved since I first learned them in 1990, with the 5 Rites landing in second place.

Tuesday I felt really drawn to do the three for the first time in ages.  Not only did it feel amazing, but because of the opening unfolding in my body, I could feel energy moving through places I’ve not felt it before. And the fullness and flow of energy in the hara, or sea of chi,… wow… amazing.  It’s been one of the most thrilling things about the slow healing of the many issues in my muscles:  revisiting practices after time gaps and feeling the energy of it.

While I’ve always felt energy build in that area during tai chi or qigong practice, I’ve also been aware the energy wasn’t as full as it should be, nor did flow through the whole area.  So the sense of the bigness of the energy and how well it flowed through both second (where hara is located) and third chakras was a big eye-opener for how much progress my muscles have made.

Much of the super tight core in my face that’s unwinding now is connected into patterns going all the way down my body, so each time a knot or two opens, I feel impacts all the way down.  This was the most intense moment of realizing what this opening means for the flow of energy.  Wow.

PART 2: PRACTICES AND CREATING NEW GROOVES

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

What the Bleep Do We Know!? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I wrote some general benefits of regularly performing sacred practices.  Now I want to talk about how those benefits help you to create new patterns.

Ten years ago, when I bought What the Bleep:  Down the Rabbit Hole, I watched it over and over.  And I especially played certain sections about the science multiple times.  One of the pieces that had a huge impact was the stuff about how we create neural nets, the patterns of thinking and habits of doing that become the fabric of our lives.

The news that an overload of negative patterns can shift your peptide receptors so you can no longer take in positive thoughts, foods, etc.  resonated deeply for me.  And, of course, the idea that you can change those patterns was something I’d been working on since I started off in 1985 with the “you create your reality with your thoughts” philosophy (for more recent converts/younger people, think Law of Attraction).

Most of what I worked with on the creating reality front was mental.  Although my therapist also taught me a number of meditations in which I could release or change something, the process was by and large mental.  And I believe changing your mind is a crucial part of the process.

But it’s not the only way you can make changes.  And, over the course of 30 years of performing various practices, I’ve come to believe that practices can make a huge difference in changing patterns.

BACK TO MINDFULNESS

As noted in Part 1, most spiritual practices, if done with focus and attention, can help train you to keep your mind more quiet and focused in the moment.  If you want to change your thinking, it’s just about impossible to do if you can’t stay mindful enough to realize when you’re running negative tapes or falling into old patterns.

Although I’ve met a few people over the years who seemed to be able to encounter Wayne Dyer or Louise Hay, flip a switch and suddenly be positive all the time, for most of us it requires a lot of work to even notice all the negative tapes playing in the background.  And without mindfulness training of some sort, I don’t see how you can stay present enough to turn around those negative thoughts.

The critical editor in your mind, who constantly criticizes, complains, and points out the bad in everything, tends to run rampant and keeps a flood of those kinds of thoughts racing around.  That becomes a groove; a set of neural nets that only notice and only run unhappy thoughts.

Practices that train the mind to be more quiet over time start creating a new groove in which the mind becomes more comfortable without the constant chatter and it slowly becomes easier to stay aware of your thinking and change its direction.

THE CALM AND BALANCED GROOVE

When I do a yoga set or the Five Tibetan Rites or “sit vipassana” I always notice that the state of balance and calm these practices induce lasts for hours afterwards.  Over the years, these hours of calm have created a new pattern of serenity that carries into pretty much all areas of my life.  And I doubt you’ve ever known anyone who was any more tense, anxious, and neurotic than I used to be 🙂

Combined with the greater mindfulness the practices have also created, I can much more readily notice when anything has thrown me off balance and almost immediately call back the calm.

A big component of Feldenkrais’ and Robert Masters’ (student of Feldenkrais who created the Psychophysical Method I use in my teaching) work is the idea that if you notice how your body normally is held and then do something to release it and purposefully note the change, you will eventually create a stronger pull to the one that feels better.  I think of it as making a new neural net or pattern.

I think the calm, balance and serenity of these practices affect you the same way.  When your mind starts contrasting the anxiety or tension before you practice with the peacefulness afterward, it moves toward the pattern that feels better and begins to hold it more often and more strongly.

I also find after I’ve done the Eight Key Breaths or chanted the Lovingkindness chant, for instance, the negative tapes and thoughts just don’t have a foothold for a while.  My mind is more positive when I feel that centered and balanced.  I’ve noted it’s a great time to say or listen to affirmations as my whole being is more receptive from that calm space.

BYPASSING THE MIND

I tried for a long time to make these changes mainly through mental processes.  I wanted to “think away” the negative thoughts.  I’ve known a LOT of people over the years who want to accomplish the spiritual journey only by working on the mental side.

Over time I’ve learned there are too many levels to us to work just on the mind.  I’ve also found that the ego more easily controls, blocks and redirects mental efforts.

Most of the practices I’ve ever encountered work much more on the spiritual, physical and sometimes emotional levels.  Movement practices often open key areas of the body so both blood and prana flow more readily everywhere.  Sometimes they stretch muscles enough to release emotions and issues held within.

Even more important, they build energy and help to bring it into balance.  When the energy is flowing freely and is balanced, it can shift you more profoundly than just changing your thoughts.

I’ve found it’s often easier to shift if I bypass my mind with practices than if I try to force my mind to change.  About 8 years ago I went back to faithful practice of the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung.  As I wrote a while back, I felt I needed to approach my remaining physical and emotional issues and blocks with energy.

I generally always have several types of practices and some body work going at the same time, so it’s hard to credit one particular thing, but the fact that I’ve finally been pushing through the hold-out muscles and issues can be credited in large part, I feel, to doing those practices.  While I’ve also had AMAZING body work and I also credit the great therapists I’ve seen, I’m not sure their work would have worked as well without the energy practices opening and moving and shifting as much as they did (still do…).

****

As you can see, I really love doing various practices and I absolutely believe those practices have been a major component in the many, many ways in which my life has changed.  In the final part of this series I’ll explore how many of us sabotage ourselves by not practicing and some of the reasons why.

Musing about Enlightenment

Holiday Celebration, Microsoft Clipart MH90410083

 

There’s a lot of talk around spiritual stuff about enlightenment. Seeking it, whether to seek it, what it actually is… I’ve met a lot of people over the years who seemed to me to misunderstand what it means in the spiritual sense. Often people attend a workshop or two, read a few books, have an amazing meditation and start referring to themselves as enlightened. In the ordinary sense of receiving knowledge about a subject, they have learned something about the spiritual realm that they didn’t know before and are thus enlightened. But in the sense that Buddha meant enlightenment, which is attaining a level of spiritual knowledge that frees you from the cycle of rebirth—or I like to think of it as attaining a level of consciousness at which you live as your divine self—I have the impression that the number of enlightened people on the planet is miniscule.

I’m actually fascinated that so many people really seriously want to become enlightened. Oddly enough, for as long a I’ve been on this journey and as much as I’ve done practices and worked to move along the path, I’ve never had even a bit of interest in becoming enlightened. I started out on the journey just deeply unhappy and struggling with health issues. When introduced to New Age thinking as part of therapy I fell instantly in love, but the thinking and the tools just served my purpose of feeling better.

I wound up taking spirituality more seriously and understanding the intertwining of body, mind and spirit enough to realize that I needed to address all three in order to get out of the health issues and into a happier space. Actually my mind turned out to be the easiest thing, in some ways, to impact because the deep unhappiness disappeared almost as soon as I learned a new way of looking at the world. And the more I understood that the way I looked at the world would determine how my life progressed, the harder I worked at holding a positive view.

Along the way I learned that emotional issues can create blocks in your body and spirit and tend to influence the mental chatter that carries on all the time. So even if you’ve decided to be positive and are careful to make only positive statements out loud, unresolved issues can keep a lot of negativity running in your head. Later I also discovered that ancestral patterns of thinking and physical holding can be passed down so that your body and thoughts can be impacted by things that happened many generations back. Until you start exploring those things are hard to note as they’re usually so ingrained in your family that you don’t question them.

I also learned that a lot of practices that move and balance energy impact both your physical being and your spiritual being. I’ve been faithful at lots of practices like yoga, the 8 Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites, the lovingkindness chant, etc. because they help to move along the progress at restoring my twisted, knotted, intertwined muscles to health. I’m aware that my energy is shifting and transforming as I do the practices and that those shifts re-balance far more than just my body but the point for me is never about enlightenment.

I would say if I have a goal spiritually it arises from my belief that we’re divine beings who are here in physical bodies and we’ve forgotten our divinity. I would like to connect with that divine self, but in order to live in a body with my divine abilities. Enlightenment and reaching a state of consciousness that takes me out of the cycle of life and death—just don’t feel interested. Don’t have anything thoughts against enlightenment, just don’t personally care.

I’m curious to hear what people who DO long for enlightenment expect from it or why they want it or anything they have to tell me about why it’s desirable.

 

For me, it’s all just energy

Tonight as I practiced kundalini yoga and felt the giant energy boost from all that breath of fire, I realized that in all this pondering of philosophy I haven’t really remembered that the main thing I’ve believed in for a long time is energy. I’ve written a couple of other posts about energy so I don’t want to repeat the same things here (see:  The Energy of It All and Working with Energy ).

The theory I’ve been operating under for some time is that if everything is energy and I am energy then maybe the way to health is to work on energy. And it’s been working. As I mentioned in my post on working with energy, I’ve been practicing the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung for about five years now in order to balance my endocrine system, balance my energy, build my energy and restore my health. More recently I’ve added kundalini yoga practice, focusing mainly on sets that give a boost to glands and organs.

From the extremely low energy place where I started (one of my friends quipped that I was a “chi free zone” after acupuncturists shook their heads over how little chi I had) it’s been a slow build but in 20 some years of journeying toward health these practices have taken me most of the way.

I particularly like the impact I feel on the nadis. The nadis are a system of energy channels that roughly correspond to the nervous system. When your muscles are twisted up and tight the nadis are blocked so that energy can’t flow freely. When I do these energy building practices I can feel the energy get stronger and stronger in my system and start bumping up against the remaining knots in my muscles. The process of opening the muscles has really sped up since I started working on the energy – helped along by Cremean’s Bodypatterning and the triggers of release work that I designed as well as 26 years of yoga.

Beyond the health benefits, since thoughts are energy and visions are energy and your vibrational level is energy, when you build and balance your energy it changes everything. When you say affirmations and change your mind or sing kirtan and find yourself calm or meditate and become peaceful you are changing energy. When you change the energy you change everything.

Healing Journey Monday: Practices for flow create many levels of healing

Last week I wrote about some movement practices that are good for balance and fluidity of movement: yoga, The Five Tibetan Rites, Flying Crane Chi Gung, tai chi. What I love about those practices is that they do so much more, physically, mentally and spiritually.

According to yoga philosophy a system of channels called nadis runs throughout our bodies. It corresponds roughly with the nervous system and it is these channels that carry prana (or chi, vital force energy) through the body. When muscles are tight or knotted up the nadis are blocked and prana can’t flow. That vital force energy is key to good health as it flows through. When you do practices that stretch the muscles or open the joints you help to open the nadis. When you do practices that build chi you help to keep that vital force strong and flowing through the channels.

When chi is balanced and flowing well it also has a big affect on your mental and emotional state. It’s hard for me to describe but when I’ve practiced yoga or chi gung or pranayama or the Tibetan Rites I’m calm and clear. If I start the practice with any sadness or anxiety or anger it is dissipated when I finish. I’m careful not to use practices to enable denial but you can use them to help maintain balance of mind and emotion.

Connection with the divine requires the free flow of prana through the nadis and the more prana you have the better. These practices do the balancing and building that you need. It’s one of the things I love about the ancient practices and especially the movement practices is the brilliant way in which they heal on every level. Whatever practice(s) you choose to help you with keeping good physical balance and fluidity, you will help yourself so much beyond those benefits.

Sway with me–flowing as you age

During my California trip two friends of mine—who are considerably older than I am—had falls. One received the advice that she needs to build her core muscles or she’ll keep losing her balance and falling. All those present for the conversation later were older and for all of them this was a revelation. I was a little surprised until I realized that I’ve been building an inner sense of physical balance since I started taking tai chi in 1977 and I think I’ve assumed that most other people know it too. While I agree with the doctor that strong core muscles are important I think aging well with physical agility and balance requires more than just a strong core.

In tai chi we talked a lot about moving from your center, or sea of chi. One of the main reasons a lot of dancers really like tai chi and chi gung is that the flowing movements build a strong chi and help you move from your center, which is key in dancing. After a few years of studying tai chi I injured my knee in a car accident and all the bent knee work caused me to drop the practice. I made my way to yoga eventually, where I began to learn a lot about the importance of having flexibility as well as strength in your muscles. When I added Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method and reorganized his work to create my trigger of release sets, I began to really understand how crucial it is to have fluidity in your joints and your movements.

I internalized so much as my body learned all these things over 35 years that although it informs a lot of advice I give to students and the way I perceive people’s exercise needs, I haven’t consciously formulated and expressed my thoughts until now. In order to move through the world with physical ease and balance, to minimize the likelihood of falling and to fall well (lightly with minimum to no injury), you need to be centered and flexible and fluid as well as strong. I’ll be 60 soon and I’m stronger, more fluid, more flexible and more centered/balanced than I was in my 20’s. I’m old enough to be seeing how well that is serving me now and, even more, how well it is going to serve me as I grow older.

I was fortunate that the troubles with my muscles and my health started when I was young so that I was pushed to do all this work. Unfortunately most young people (and yes, I know there are many exceptions—still not the rule) aren’t suffering the effects of stiff muscles or poor balance or pain so they don’t see the value of practices like yoga or the triggers work. If they’re interested in exercise at all they’re usually following the peculiarly American prescription for exercise that’s hard and fast—and will most likely lead to painfully knotted muscles, stiff joints and poor balance as they grow older.

I never gave the core muscles piece a lot of thought. I’ve always worked on abs (literally since I was about 14) and my yoga practice includes a lot of strength postures. The Five Tibetan Rites actually do a nice job of working the core muscles. So I feel like my core muscles are in good shape but I haven’t assigned as much importance to that as I have to having a strong center and ability to stretch and move fluidly, so I’ll have to contemplate the core muscles and how they fit. My theory at the moment is that a strong sea of chi is more important but since it hasn’t become measurable or of scientific interest, the focus of the medical community is on the core muscles; I also think most of the practices that build chi also work on the core muscles but I don’t think the reverse is true – exercises that purely build the core muscles often don’t build and center chi.

I do know that if you want to have a healthy old age the earlier you start working on creating a balance between strength and flexibility in your muscles and keeping your joints fluid and your sea of chi holding strong, the more easily you can flow into being a senior without losing your mobility or suffering a lot of needless falls. The work is up to you. You can’t take a pill or get a shot for this.

C’mon. Dance with me. Sway with me. Let your body flow. Your spirit can’t really flow if your body is stiff and out of balance. Take care of it. Sway with me…  

This post is for ABC Wednesday, which is “S”.

Healing Journey Monday: Working with energy

This is yet another one I posted a long time ago.  It’s been on my mind lately since I’ve reached a place where I’m really seeing the good results of sticking with this plan.  I’ve tweaked this new version a bit as well.

A few years ago — 20 some years into struggling with chronic fatigue and the twisted muscles issue — I hit a new phase in understanding the “energy-ness” of being (see previous post).  It occurred to me that maybe instead of massages and acupuncture and supplements, etc. that work on specific physical aspects,  if I worked on balancing and raising energy I might have more success. Since a good flow of prana through a body that is balanced is a key aspect of good health, it seemed that energy practices could take me there.

I reviewed the many practices I’d learned over 20+ years of workshops and classes and chose three:  (1) the Eight Key Breaths; (2) the Five Tibetan Rites; and (3) Flying Crane Chi Gung.  I picked the Key Breaths because they build a strong energy — enough to start pushing open closed spaces — and they raise vibrational level too.  The Five Tibetan Rites are very balancing and they address the endocrine system which has been one of my major problem areas.  Flying Crane Chi Gung also balances energy, but specifically it — like other forms of Chi Gung and Tai Chi, etc. — builds chi, or prana.

About four years ago I began doing those three practices.  The Key Breaths I’ve done pretty faithfully every day.  With the Rites and Flying Crane I often did one or the other every day but I tried to do all three practices.  What a difference!   In fairness, over this period I was also regularly practicing the routines I’ve designed (and been teaching) combining triggers of release from Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method with traditional yoga and receiving amazing Body Patterning treatments, both of which are clearly contributors. Recently I’ve gotten into Ravi Singh’s Kundalini yoga and I find the yoga done to breath of fire creates a lot of energy and balance.

Over the years I found that all three balance but the feeling tone of each is different and I really like the overall effect produced by doing them all.  It’s hard for me to put in words because it’s more something I feel, but the key breaths build a huge energy and the movements move it throughout the body so there’s an energized sense of balance.  The rites feel like they literally balance my body.  Flying Crane Chi Gung creates a beautiful flow of energy evenly throughout my body.

The process of healing until the point that I began these practices had been incredibly slow and it sped up amazingly in these last few years.  I give a huge amount of credit to the effects of the energy changing practices.  As my muscles return to normal I’m much more able to feel nuances of what the practices do and I feel their power ever more.  I can feel the powerful force of the Key Breaths pushing on blocked places.  I can feel how much my chi has improved.  I can feel the balancing effects of each practice and that there are subtle differences in each.  I’ll never know how things would have gone without the Body Patterning and the triggers of release, but  I think that building and balancing the energy changed everything.
See also 
http://www.scribd.com/doc/249007/Ti-Bet-an-Exercises