Category Archives: Spirituality

Wooded pathe in Kyoto

“To Know the Way”

Wooded pathe in Kyoto
We Go the way

Pooh knows what he’s talking about.  I guess you could say Benjamin Hoff knows what he’s talking about, but I prefer to hear a tiny little Pooh voice saying this to Piglet or Eeyore or, more likely, Christopher Robin.

“To know the Way,

We go the way,

We do the way.

The way we do,

The things we do,

It’s all there in front of you.

But if you try too hard to see it,

You’ll only become Confused.

I am me and you are you.

As you can see;

But when you do

The things that you can do.

You will find the Way.

And the Way will follow you.”

~ Benjamin Hoff

~
The Tao of Pooh

The picture is of a path in a temple in Kyoto Japan taken by me in June 2010.

Happiness, Anger and Metaphor

Passengers in back of pick up truck
Along for the ride

I have this wonderful, wise qigong friend, Francie. She says the greatest things. She wrote a few days ago on Facebook –

“I choose happiness every time. Once upon a time I wouldn’t or couldn’t. How am I able to choose happiness in the midst of all that happens to me and others? For me, a steady Sheng Zhen practice has helped. Meditation has helped. My mind is stiller and can see more clearly the transitory and the permanent, which is change. It’s impossible really to say how this happened, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings of sadness, anger, fear . . . these feelings just don’t rule me anymore. They are more like companions along for the ride.”

I’m not quite there yet but I’m on my way and frequently those bad feelings are just along for the ride.

She has a way with words.

As I have noted on this blog before, I am a fan of metaphor.

Eliminate the Negative

Relaxed wrist

Language is important. Negative language can have a powerful effect on who we are talking to. And probably an effect that we really don’t want.

Let me start with a real life example.

I was practicing qigong with a new teacher. We didn’t really know each other and it was just practice, not a class. I was following his movements and when we got to one of the movements he said “Don’t bend your wrists like that.” All qi flow stopped. What should I do? Fortunately, I remembered another teacher that when making a similar movement had suggested in a gentle and general way to “relax the joints and flex the wrists just slightly.” What a difference the two approaches had on me. In the latter I was given a better way. In my head I was saying “Yes, that is nice. It feels good.”

Negative statements frequently leave us with nothing to do. There is no action to take. It leaves us feeling powerless. Positive statements that suggest an action give us something to do. When we are about to make a negative statement we can take an extra second and think of a way to say what we want positively, in a gentle and encouraging way. Instead of telling a child not to run around, we can tell them to please walk. I heard a mother tell a group of rowdy teenagers in a grocery store to please be mindful of the people around them and behave in a courteous manner. Using positive statements make us feel better as well. It’s a kinder way. Using positive words opens our hearts.

Next we need to apply this to the way we talk to ourselves. Be positive and kind. Tell yourself what you want to do, how you want to act.

I started thinking about this subject a long time ago, but recently at TEDx Maui 2013 there were two talks related in some way to this idea.

Kim Rosen: Remembering Our First Language: Poetry As Medicine For Our Time

Jenelle Peterson: Engaging Students In Conversations That Matter

 

Open Mind – Open Heart and TEDxMaui

I’m pretty sure an open heart leads to an open mind. Keeping an open heart is a hard thing to do on an everyday day all day basis. Stuff happens and defensively we close up. I think an open mind leads to an open heart. The more we know and understand the less fear we have and the safer we feel. Then it is easier to open our hearts.

In less than two weeks we, on Maui, have an exceptional opportunity to open our minds.  I heard of TED a long time ago and have listened to many 20 minute talks on line and many have inspired me. Last year I worked at the TEDxMaui for half a day, listening to a few of the talks.  They were truly amazing! This year I have a ticket.

I only saw a few last year. Here is my favorite TEDxMaui 2012. Lani Medina Weigert & Pomai Weigert – Lessons of Sustainable Aloha 

The first TED talk I listened to is Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability.

If you follow my Facebook Page or Twitter feed I’ll post some more inspiration in the next few days. Just click on the icons on this page to follow.

TEDxMaui is Sunday, January 13 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului.

Water as Metaphor

Calm Waters in Surrey Maine

 

I feel inspired to write a bit about water. I might even say compelled. It was on my blog list in a vague way, but circumstances kept bringing the theme to the top. I seem attracted to water metaphors in picking quotes to inspire me in my blog.

My second blog post, Bad at Meditation, referred to thoughts that interrupt meditation as  jetsam on the river. In preparing the most recent photo challenge blog, Home is…, I realized that I think of water as home or at least a large part of home. When I refer to water I tend to refer to it in a natural form – ocean, river, pond. When I practice qigong the movements frequently flow like I am in the water or I am water.

Recently, I read an article that talked about being like water. It suggested being like water to adapt to our environment just as water takes the shape of the vessel it is in. I like the “be like water” idea but I’m not as attracted to the idea of taking the shape of the vessel. I do understand the meaning but it doesn’t resonate with me.

I prefer this quote from a Sheng Zhen booklet Messages of Love. The poem is entitled Stilling the Mind. My favorite part is

Do not keep agitating

The waters of your mind.

Do not hold what you do

Dropping it over and over

Into the clear waters of your mind

Endlessly making ripples

 

Let go of what you do

Let it go like a pebble dropping, sinking

To the bottom of the lake.

If you do not chase it

If you do not plunge in after it

The ripples of it’s passing

Will once again return to stillness.

 

This is the kind of metaphor that works for me.  “The ripples of it’s passing/Will once again return to stillness”  is so clear to me.  Different metaphors resonate with different people.  Tell me the ones that resonate with you.

LINKS:

Stilling the Mind (complete poem)

The article that refers to water taking the shape of the vessel, Increasing Happiness with Tai Chi and Qigong, by Jeff Simonton,  is from Yang Sheng Magazine, a big favorite of mine.  Sometimes it is very technical but frequently just plain practical.

H2O Water and Five Elements post 2/2/13

 

T

It’s a Matter of Perspective

Ant’s View

I’m really enjoying the creativity this photo challenge that Maui Shop Girl started has done for me and this blog.  The blog idea is Maui, qigong and practical spirituality.  Creativity is a mindfulness practice, but I didn’t want to post random pictures with no relation to the theme of this blog.  More creativity is required.  The challenge this week was a ant’s view. The picture at the top is an ant’s view.

My View

My view is  a little different.  Sometimes we all need a little incentive to look at things from a different point of view to put things in perspective.  What is important to me may not be what is important to another.

Breath and Breathing

We are told to stand up straight put our shoulders back and pull in our tummies. Our appearance is so important. The shoulders back and relaxed is actually a healthy way to stand for our breathing if we don’t over do it and push past what is comfortable. To find that sweet spot of comfort and good posture I usually push until it is a little uncomfortable and then release a little. Relaxing the shoulders is important too. Now the chest is open and the lungs can fill comfortably.

But that “pull in the tummy” part is not the best for good full breaths. Singers know this and sing from their bellies. But I’m not talking about holding that note forever, so just a gentle rise and fall of the belly is the goal. If you can, take a few minutes to watch a baby breathe. If not try to watch a cat or dog. Watch the belly rise and fall. We should still breathe like babies do.

I find lying on the floor with your hands gently on the belly is the best way to practice belly breathing. A bed or couch will do though. With your hands on your belly you can close your eyes and feel the rise and fall. The idea is to just let the belly fill and then the chest. If you are lying down you are less likely to contort the body to make this happen. Then let the air out gently and slowly but naturally. I practiced on the floor many times before it felt natural. This is the best way to breathe all the time but is important for any energy work like qigong, yoga and tai chi or for stretching, exercise and meditation.

It is so relaxing and healthy getting all that oxygen.

Here is a link to some fun breathing exercises from Dr Weil. I have used the relaxing breath technique before but have gotten out of the habit. I’m going to start again. I forgot how effective it is.

There is also an eight minute video if you want more on the relaxing breath.

What I Mean by Practical Spirituality

something to be grateful for

Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being.”

~ David Steindl-Rast ~

Most of us live in the real world. We are not monks, priests or nuns living cloistered or separated lives. We have family, jobs, friends and stuff to get done. Spirituality should be reflected in and reflective of our daily lives. Otherwise what’s the point.

I think spirituality without reality has great potential, at least for me, to become an escape mechanism making it actually more difficult to live in my life. Escape and denial have occasional value but in my experience present a whole host of other problems.

One of the ways I integrate spirituality in my life is through gratitude. I use a stop and smell the roses approach. What can I appreciate and show thanks for? It makes me more mindful as I go about my day looking at things from the point of view what to be grateful for. Living on Maui gives a lot of opportunity for gratefulness. It is especially easy for me to be grateful now with the birth last month of my granddaughter.

I have friends who have kept gratitude journals. Usually at the end of the day they write down what they have to be thankful for. Some days it is just a beautiful flower they passed on a walk.

Another way I integrate spiritually in my daily life is to try and do something nice for someone or something. Maybe it’s remote like picking up some trash on the beach or more direct like calling a friend who has been a little down. Connecting is part of my spirituality practice.

Sheng Zhen Qigong is a large part of my spiritual practice too, but more about that in another post.

Tell me what you do to in your practical spirituality.

Bad at Meditation

The cat meditates where I do

 

Let me first say that I am not an expert on meditation. I might even say I’m bad at it, but that is the point of what I have to say. I don’t think you can be bad at it if you are practicing at all. And I mean at all. If you sit once a week for 10 minutes and just breath in and out that’s something. Any meditation is better than none.

Of the many preconceptions about meditation is the pose. A full lotus position is not required. I can only dream of crossing my legs like that. A chair, a seiza bench are good, even lying down can be OK. A straight back is a good idea, but if you find that difficult due to body issues or the time and place you have to meditate, do the best you can. I like anywhere outside the best.

Another preconception is that meditation is hard or hard work. But almost everybody already meditates without being aware of it or even trying. Eckhardt Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh talk about the idea that everyone already meditates. Sometimes it’s more about allowing something to happen than forcing anything. Take the time, just sit.

Thoughts may come and go, and that is OK. Master Li has told us to acknowledge the thought and just say “bye bye” to the thought. I have also heard the suggestion that you let the thought flow by like jetsam on a river. I like that thought.

My best hint is – smile. It actually does physically act to relax you and make you feel happier.

When I have difficulty with too many thoughts and what is called “the monkey mind,” I will look for a guided meditation. I have a CD from Dr Weil that has a few. I have tried the Deepak Chopra meditation 21 day challenge as well. There are quite a few online too. Just Google “guided meditation.”(or use any search engine) There are many on YouTube. Everyone is different and different meditations may be better for different people. We all change from day to day and what isn’t successful one time might be the next.

Just do it!