Posts Tagged ‘Awareness’

Your Still Small Voice Within

FocusThat still small voice, the spirits, inner vision, gut feeling, sixth sense, or a hunch in my gut told me to do it.  Regardless of how we refer to this phenomena, it can aid our lives in so many ways.  Nurturing this gift can be very beneficial.

Over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes these feelings or voices can take on different meanings.  Allow me to explain.  Sometimes directions can be quite clear to do this or that and circumstances, people, or nature may confirm the feelings within to be true.  These directions may affirm that we did the right thing.  Often, that feeling, usually emanating from our solar plexus, simply confirms what we did was “right”.  Then there are instances when these feelings may be just tests to see if we are listening to the inner guidance as we should.  At times, we may not even know if we averted a negative experience or mortal danger, to which I would say, does it really matter?      

A July 2014 article in the Stanford Report referenced research conducted by a Stanford anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann, citing some interesting results of a study.  This report explained that “voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful.”  The study addressed people who suffer from schizophrenia in the United States, India, and Africa.  The article elaborates that most Americans associate hearing voices as a negative experience or even considered as a symptom of some form of psychosis. Conversely, those from Africa and India experience hearing the voices of their relatives or others actually stimulate positive compassionate enlightenment.

I have experienced similar positive events over the years.  I’ve also noticed when I am most focused on the day to day events, the “voices” are virtually silent.  Monkey MindSome Asian views would suggest that focusing on truly less important day to day events would be listening to the Monkey Mind. When Monkey Mind is silenced, the inner voices, wisdom, even intuition, flow. I would add here that, in my own experience, the voices I hear, never suggest or imply anything that would potentially harm myself or others. I believe the same to be true for others as well.  In fact, they usually encourage, teach, and uplift me. They also keep my inner child in line! 

Speaking of my inner child, I recall an experience that illustrates listening to the still small voice within.  I had simply planned to go see a movie.  No big deal, I don’t go to the theatre as much as I used to, but one had come out that caught my interest.  I was all set to head out when I couldn’t find my keys.  After several minutes of searching, I gave myself a goal. If didn’t find them in a certain amount of time, I would just give up on the plan.  Five minutes before that set time, there they were!  I found them! But then, the gut feeling, the solar plexus squeeze came into play indicating I shouldn’t go.  That’s when the internal dialogue commenced, “Well, I don’t need to go.” Almost immediately came the childlike side’s reply, “But you found them with five minutes left to spare!”  I thought for a second.  “Well, that is true.  I did find them within the prescribed time frame.”  So, off I went to the movies!  “Yay!”  Then the opposing voiced its opposition, a voice I established a relationship with years ago, very specifically stated, “You don’t need to and should not go.”  “Oh boy, I haven’t heard that voice with the associated sense of guidance in a while.”  The dialogue continued for the next several minutes as I continued on toward the theatre.  The uneasy turmoil also continued to roll in my solar plexus during the debate.

Finally, the guiding voice won.  My solar plexus relaxed immediately.  I ran an errand instead while I was out.  On the way back, curiosity kicked in and I wondered if I had done the right thing. 

Red Tailed Hawk in flightA red-tailed hawk flew in front of my car which, for me, was a clear indicator that I had made the right choice.  What’s a red-tailed hawk got to do with this story you ask?  I developed a close spiritual relationship with red-tailed hawks many years before.  I learned through this relationship when circumstances demanded my attention, hawks would come across my path.  When they did, their presence either indicated I needed to pay attention or I had made a proper choice in a given set of choices.  How would I know?  Timing was the indicator for me.  When I made the proper decision, they would present themselves within moments of my query, such was the case this day.  Was a personal disaster avoided?  Did I avoid an accident by listening to the still small voice?  Or, was it just a test of spirit?  For that matter, does it really matter?  No, if I need to know, I’ll find out and that’s okay.

It’s important to listen to the facts, weigh the evidence, and make decisions based sound reasoning and logic. But, sometimes you just need to listen to the voice within.  Go with your “gut” feeling.  The gut decision may or may not involve hearing voices, seeing hawks fly in front of your car, or having someone say just the right thing at just the right time.  Being mindful, is just that, to be filled with awareness, not allowing everyday physical events (The monkey mind) to overshadow the unseen or “unheard” voices of the soul that can prompt and guide our spirits on toward a life in balance.  

Silent Walking

 

 

It all comes down to this, walk aware.  Walk in such a way that you are aware of not only the elements present in your physical surroundings, but also the non-physical world around you.  So, walk aware, feel your gut, reconnect with your inner self, and listen, listen to your still small voice within.

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Qigong – Low Back, Knees, & Hips

570_feel_the_qiQigong supports the whole body even when we focus on specific areas. The previous two blogs addressed the upper body and back. Though those were addressed our whole body benefits. Blood flow increases and Qi moves better as we practice regularly promoting overall well-being.  The side benefits embrace so many, senses, balance,  mental clarity, circulation, bodily functions, and overall awareness to name a few.  It’s like we move and function with our complete body rather than one specific area. 

Think about it.  When we walk, our brain sends messages to our legs and feet to engage propelling us forward, backward, up, down, fast, or slow.  walking_person_silhouette_clip_art_15563Without noting anything else within ourselves or our surroundings, our legs and feet simply continue, doing our bidding, until… we hit a patch of ice in the winter, a root on the path, or a branch, then, then the rest of the body gets involved with a flinch like reaction to the unexpected followed by gyrations, that may put a contortionist to shame, just to keep our balance, which often subsequently fails.  We then find ourselves in a face plant, on our butt, or some other pretzel like configuration, because we weren’t engaging our whole being in the process of simply walking.  mfu0014I’m not saying we’ll never stumble, trip, or fall again, but when these interruptions of movement come along we’ll be more prepared, because we learned to involve our whole being in our movements.  Qigong teaches us to move from our core, our Dantian, our energy center.

In this next section the Low Back, Hips, and Legs will be the focus of our training.  As we train, however, think about initiating your movement from the Dantian.  The torso of the body has upper, middle, and lower Dantian areas, but a primary Dantian location resides about two finger widths below the navel. This may also be referenced as the Hara.  So, as we move, think of initiating or engaging the movement first from that point.  This series of movements may help with disc problems, low back muscle degeneration, stress, or strain, hip joint and associated soft tissues in that region, chronic structural or muscular issues, recovery from injuries, and arthritis.  Other disharmonies may be addressed as well, these are just some examples.

As I’ve stated before, Qigong is one of the less demanding forms of exercise and movement, yet any physical activity should be approached to work within your own abilities and limitations. If you cannot get the full range of motion at first, make it a goal and go as far as you can. If you have any health issues, concerns, or limited mobility consult with your doctor first before exerting yourself more than you should.  The practice of Qigong has been known to improve overall health and personal well-being.  Also, though not mentioned before, the instructions for this series recommend a certain number of reps.  These may be increased or decreased according to your own needs.  If you feel stiff or sore in a given area  couple hours following additional reps, then too many have been done and you should reduce the number of reps.  This is especially true in cases of arthritic conditions or recovery.  Listen to your body.

If you have questions, you may direct them to me through either this blog or through my websitehttp://www.eastwesthealingarts.org.  If you live in the Portland, Maine area, you’re invited to join in for not only Qigong classes, but also Taiji at the Maine Center for Taijiquan & Qigong.  The link is added here http://www.mainetaiji.com/, so you may visit the website for the class schedule and details on our studio.

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Lets begin with the knees.  Before the actual movement, keep in mind the importance of maintaining healthy knees.  The knees and shoulders are the two most common areas for injury and strain because they have more range of motion than other joints in the human body.  We should do all we can to care for these areas.  Let’s begin!

Therapeutic Qigong – Part Three

Position 13 – Knee Rotation

Begin with Feet together.

Place both hands slightly on your hands.

  1. Slowly circle knees clockwise, 4 times
  2. Repeat the knee circles, counter clockwise, 4 times

Important – As you circle your knees, you are also exercising your hips, knees, and ankles.  Don’t forget to breathe evenly.

Position 14 – Side Lunge Turn

Body Opposite 45

Take a big step to the left and place both hands on your waist.

  1. Exhale as you slowly bend left leg and turn your body to the right at a 45 degree angle.
  2. Inhale as you slowly turn your body back to the center position, straightening both legs and shifting your weight to your center.
  3. Exhale as you slowly bend right leg and turn your body to the left at a 45 degree angle.
  4. Inhale as you slowly turn your body back to the center position, straightening both legs and shifting your weight to your center.

Repeat steps 1-4

Important – Bend legs as low as you can.  Keep you back straight

Position 15 – Cover Knee and Stretch Leg

Begin with feet together

  1. Place both hands on knees
  2. Slowly bend both knees with good support from feet
  3. Place hands on the tops of the feet, raise hips as you straighten legs
  4. Slowly roll upper body up and let hands relax at your side.
  5. Repeat above one time

Important Note: Normal breath.  Try to keep hands on feet as you raise hips and straighten legs.  This will aid lower back and associated leg muscle tissues.

Position 16 – Cover Opposite Knee,

Alternately Raise Arm

Take a big step to the left

  1. Cover left knee with the right hand, inhale
  2. Raise left arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.
  3. Straighten legs and cover right knee with left hand, hands now on opposite knees, inhale.
  4. Raise right arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.
  5. Straighten legs and cover left knee with right hand, hands now on opposite knees, inhale.
  6. Raise left arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.
  7. Straighten legs and cover right knee with left hand, hands now on opposite knees, inhale.
  8. Raise right arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.

Important – Breathe evenly.  When in horse stance, keep your back straight.

Position 17 – Arm Raise and Knee Hug

Begin with feet together.

  1. Slowly step forward with left foot, putting weight on left foot.  Raise arms above head with arms straight, palms inward, inhale.
  2. Separate arms to side, lift up right knee with both hands as high as you can, exhale.
  3. Step back with right foot and raise arms up again with palms inward, arms straight, weight on left foot.
  4. Circle arms down to your side and step back with left foot.
  5. Slowly step forward with right foot, putting weight on right foot.  Raise arms above head with arms straight, palms inward, inhale.
  6. Separate arms to side, lift up left knee with both hands as high as you can, exhale.
  7. Step back with left foot and raise arms up again with palms inward, arms straight, weight on right foot.
  8. Circle arms down to your side and step back with right foot.

Important Note: Stretch Arms as high as you can.  Breathe deeply, hug your knees as close to your chest as you can.

Position 18 – Slow Walking Forward / Backward

Begin with feet together, place hands on waist and relax shoulders.

  1. Step forward with left foot, lift right heel, weight on left foot.
  2. Shift weight back to right foot (sit back, bend right knee), lift toe up, heel down.
  3.   Step forward with right foot and put weight on right, left heel up
  4. Shift weight to left foot (sit back, bending left knee), right toe up and heel down.
  5. Shift weight to right foot with both legs straight, left heel up.
  6. Again shift weight to left (sit back) and right toe up.
  7. Step back with right foot.
  8. Step back with left foot, bringing feet together.  Repeat above with opposite foot movement.

Important Note: Walk slowly.  When shifting weight, put full weight on one side then the other, keeping back straight.  When stepping back, step with toes first, and the rest of the foot follows (toe, ball of the foot, heel)         

Qigong For The Back

This is the second installment on the series of blogs dedicated to Therapeutic Qigong.  Practicing Qigong and Taiji promotes balance and wellness.  Each part of this series addresses a specific region of the body.  36 movements make up the complete series of Therapeutic Qigong.

Balance of our being is the result of proper nutrition, physical activity, and nurturing of the spirit.  Aside from implementing dietary practices for our physical well being, Qigong provides many levels of sustenance for the body and spirit.  Physically, range of motion and agility can be improved through the daily implementation of movement.  Spiritually, Qigong provides forms of moving meditation feeding the internal just as food provides the needed nutrition for our bodies to function.

B&W Qigong As we execute Qigong movements Four Elements of Qigong require our focus: Body – Breath – Sound – Mind.  Three of the four apply to the 36 movements of Therapeutic Qigong; body, breath, and mind.  Sound, although very important because they address organs as well through Medical Qigong, won’t be included in these movements.  I will address those in another future blog post.  Body training speaks for itself and moves below the surface into to organs, tissues, and circulation.  Improving balance, proper methods of standing, sitting, and even meditation involve the body.  The Breath, also vital, helps retrain our habits of breathing.  It’s been said if you want to know how to breathe, watch a baby breathe while they nap.  They engage their entire lungs and diaphragm, something our fast-paced world caused us to forget.  When we were much younger and unencumbered, we focused on the elements vital to our being. The slow movements of Qigong guide us back to caring for those vital elements.  It encourages slower and deeper breathing, engaging more of our lungs and diaphragm thus reducing stress along with its many negative affects.  Slow movements allow our Minds to integrate more with our bodies.  More oxygen moves through the body and thus more oxygen in the blood stream and on to other parts of the body.  Through our attention to proper breathing, scattered thoughts of the mind reduce and the bodily movements become more fluid, less encumbered. With this proper attention to the Body, Breath, and the Mind, Qi flows naturally with less restriction and balance is encouraged within our being.Qigong washing

Remember, any physical activity should be approached to work within your own abilities and limitations. If you cannot get the full range of motion at first, make it a goal and go as far as you can. If you have any health issues, concerns, or limited mobility consult with your doctor first before exerting yourself more than you should.  The practice of Qigong has been known to improve overall health for those with High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Arthritis, among many other ailments.  It’s also effective for all ages and can compliment other sports activities such as Martial Arts, Weight Training, Running, and Aerobic Exercises to name a few.

The second series of six detailed in this blog address the back to help relieve various back problems including chronic issues related to back injuries, contusions, arthritis of the spine, soft tissue degeneration, disc problems, and muscle spasms relating to the back.

If you have questions, you may direct them to me through either this blog or through my websitehttp://www.eastwesthealingarts.org.  If you live in the Portland, Maine area, you’re invited to join in for not only Qigong classes, but also Taiji at the Maine Center for Taijiquan & Qigong.  The link is added here http://www.mainetaiji.com/, so you may visit the website for the class schedule and details on our studio.

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Therapeutic Qi Gong

Position 7 – Holding Sky and Side Swing

  1. Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.Interlock fingers in front of your body, inhale, raise hands up above your head as high as you can.  Arms straight.  Palms up.
  2. Exhale while you slowly bend your upper body to the left then return upright.
  3. Repeat step 2 with an inhale before bending to the left.
  4. Exhale while separating hands to side and down, eyes follow left.
  5. Repeat step 1.
  6. Exhale while you slowly been your upper body to the right then return upright.
  7. Repeat step 6 with an inhale before bending to the right.
  8. Exhale while separating hands to side and down, eyes follow right.

Important – Arms straight when fingers are interlocked above your head.  Keep hips still.  Do not swing upper body too fast.  Breathe evenly.  Keep weight in your center.

Position 8 – Tea Pot Push

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Put fists on waist with palms up.  Take deep breath.

  1. Exhale and slowly turn your body to the left pushing right palm forward, left hand remains on waist like a “tea pot” shape.  Focus energy in the center of the right palm (Laogong Cavity {P-8}).
  2. Inhale and turn body back to center, bring right hand back to waist (in fist position palm up).
  3. Exhale and slowly turn your body to the right pushing left palm forward, right hand remains on waist.  Focus energy in the center of the left palm (Laogong Cavity {P-8}).
  4. Inhale and turn body back to center, bring left hand back to waist (in fist position palm up).
  5. Repeat above movements 1-4 once.

Important: Keep back straight when turning your waist, push hand with internal energy, exhale as you push, all your negative energy is going out through the exhale and your palm.  Inhale when you bring hand back, bringing back good energy.

Position 9 – Hip Rotation

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Place hands on hips.

  1. Slowly circle hips clockwise; left, forward, right, and back 4 times.
  2. Slowly circle hips counter-clockwise; right, forward, left, and back, 4 times 

Important: Legs and back are kept straight.  Breathe evenly

Position 10 – Arm Raise Fly Down

Step to left, with feet shoulder width and 1/2 apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.    

  1. Inhale and overlap, slowly raising hands up above the head with arms straight.
  2. Exhale and separate hands, until arms are straight on both sides at the shoulder level, palms up, eyes follow left.
  3. Slowly bend forward until body is at 90 degree angle to the legs, (arms are still outstretched to the sides). 
  4. Slowly bend more and move hands down, overlap hands.
  5. Keeping arms next to your ears, inhale and raise the body, arms and hands above the head.
  6. Exhale and separate hands, with arms straight at shoulder level and palms up, eyes follow right.
  7. Slowly bend forward until body is at 90 degree angle to the legs.  Move arms down and relax hands.
  8. Slowly roll up the upper body one vertebrae at a time.  Arms and hands are held loosely at your sides.

Important – Keep back straight at step 5.  Arms straight at steps 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

Position 11

Lunge Position and Stretching to Side 

  1. Exhale, stepping to the left, turn to left bending left knee, and move right hand fingers straight, to left left on waist.  Right leg straight.
  2. Inhale, turn your body back to center, shift weight to center, legs straight, fists on waist.
  3. Exhale, turn your body to the right.  Bend your right leg and stretch left hand straight out to right. 
  4. Inhale, turn your body back to center position with legs straight, fists on waist, and weight on center
  5. Repeat 1, 2, and 3 above 
  6. Bring left foot back to center.

Important – When in the lunge position, remember to stretch hip to the maximum, keeping arms and back straight.  Breathe evenly.  Breathe out as you stretch out.  Breathe in as you shift your weight to center.

Position 12 – Reach Feet

Begin with Feet together

  1. Inhale, interlock fingers in front of the body and raise hands up above your head, palms facing upward, and arms straight
  2. Exhale slowly bending forward , them downward, as close to your feet as you can, arms straight all the way down.
  3. Release hands, and roll up to starting position with your body relaxed.
  4. Repeat 1-3 above

Important – Keep upper back straight when you are bending forward at step 2.  Upper body and arms move together.