Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Back to Basics

Lately I’ve been feeling drained, like my life force is seeping out of me. Absent any other symptoms indicating illness, I’ve been puzzled by this general malaise. Last night I gave it some focused thought. What is different in my life? What has changed in recent weeks? Two things came to mind.

First, I’ve been spending a lot more time online looking at the news. I don’t have a TV anymore, but apparently that doesn’t stop me from overindulging in screen time. Click click click. Read this article. Watch this video. Just one more. I hadn’t fully appreciated the toll that takes. It’s like stuffing yourself with toxic junk food, except that it doesn’t taste as good as powdered sugar donuts. It feels icky. 

So this morning I went back to my usual avoidance of the incessant drumbeat of outrage. That doesn’t make me an uninformed or uncaring citizen. It makes me sane. I’m saying it makes me sane – I’m not speaking for anyone else. The urge several times today to just take a peek made me realize how this addictive habit had infiltrated my life. 

Second, I realized that my usual practices of martial arts and meditation had been shortchanged recently because of some other commitments, primarily helping my grandson with his remote learning every day. That is an important commitment to me, and I enjoy my time with him, but it has definitely affected my daily routines that nurture my body and my inner well being. 

So this morning, I got up and made sure to carve out enough time to spend with some cleansing qigong exercises and an extra long time of meditation. After the school work was finished this afternoon, I practiced with my martial arts weapons and took a long walk. I may not be able to fit that much in every day, but I see now that for me, it needs to be a priority that I honor better than I have been lately.

As I went through my day today, the phrase that kept coming to me was “back to basics.” Going back to what I know works for me. Nothing fancy. Simple. Like ABC. 

Attend. One of my favorite words. It calls me to the present moment. It guides me to suspend my inner chatter and to look and listen. Pay attention.

Breathe. You’ve probably heard me say before that everything we need to know, we can learn from breathing. Breathing is our best teacher, mentor, guide. Everything is in the breath.

Center. We all have some sort of practice that centers us. For me, it is martial arts and meditation. For some it is prayer. Or yoga, art, music. Or a walk. Or a bubble bath (I like that one too.) Whatever brings you back to yourself in this moment. Fully present. Fully balanced. Aware. Awake. 

My straying away from these basics over recent weeks has shown me how essential they are to my well being. I am ending this day feeling better than I have in a while. 

I hope that if you are struggling with all the things happening in our world right now, if you feel the drain of stress or anxiety, you will take some time to identify what is basic for you, and then give yourself permission to honor what will sustain you and nurture you. 

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. ~the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Love Your Thymus

This is not my typical post (do I have a typical post?), but I wanted to share this because it helps to support our health during these times when our immune systems could use a little energizing.

Do you know about your thymus gland? I am not an expert at all, so this post is from the perspective of a lay person who listens to her body and tries to understand how all its energy systems work together. About the thymus, I know that it nestles on top of or in front of your heart behind your sternum. It is critical in generating and “training” the cells that boost our immune system to protect our bodies from infection. The thymus is largest in childhood and decreases in size and potency as we age, but we can nurture it at any age to increase its power and effectiveness. 

Here is a little exercise I use to give my thymus some support. It only takes a minute. Give it a try and see if it feels right to you.

First, lift your elbows and hold your hands in front of your chest, fingers curved inward.

Now holding your elbows in place, gently tap your fingertips on your sternum, alternating hands, 15-30 seconds, or as long as feels right. Your alternating hands will settle into a rhythm that feels relaxing and refreshing. This tapping loosens up any blockage and activates your thymus energy. (Note that you are also tapping over your heart, so that’s good too!)

After you finish tapping, rest for a few seconds. Feel the lingering vibration from the tapping. 

Then once again, lift your elbows with hands facing your chest. This time, interlace your fingers. Place them directly on your chest over your thymus. 

“Rake” outward by keeping your fingers in contact with your chest as you pull your hands apart. As your hands reach the edge of your chest, “flick” them outward. Do this several times. 

This movement takes the density or blockages that have been loosened up by the tapping, and clears them from your thymus and surrounding area. (Again, the heart benefits as well.) 

Finally, rest your hands quietly over your thymus, sending some love and appreciation to this little powerhouse of immunity.  

That’s it. If you give it a try, let me know what you think. Meanwhile, keep practicing safe and healthy habits. Wishing everyone good health and happiness. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Liminal Space of Possibility


Sitting by the fire
In the dark early morn
Watching out the window
As shadows emerge from blackness
Shadows becoming trees
As light seeps into the forest
The sun will be here later
Now is the time of in between
The liminal space of possibility
The secret taste of sweet unknown

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 75

When rulers tax too much
People starve
When rulers interfere too much
People rebel
When rulers demand too much
People give up
One who lives in harmony with life
Enjoys true wealth

I have taken great liberty with the Chinese text in my translation here. However, when I contemplate the Chinese characters, this is the essence of what emerges: We create imbalance in our lives and in our communities through excessive control. 

All the Tao Te Ching passages about governing can apply literally to a government, but I find them most helpful in a more personal context. We have created so many layers of control in our lives – the external control of laws and moral codes, and the internal control of self-improvement and self-judgment – that we exhaust ourselves with the constant struggle to always do better and be better. We have lost our connection to the natural energy that permeates all creation. 

Nature is inherently balanced and self-correcting. A friend recently observed that when we stand, our bodies are always making micro-adjustments to keep us vertically aligned. We don’t consciously direct our bodies to do this; nor do we calibrate the needed corrections and send instructions to various joints and muscles. Balance is our natural state, and it is naturally maintained. Imagine what would happen if that weren’t the case. 

We take this kind of balance for granted. We trust our bodies to take care of certain functions without our interference. Yet we are hesitant to trust nature in general, and our own natures in particular, with respect to how we function as individuals and how we function as a society. Why is that? How have we become so distanced from nature’s harmony and rhythm, that we no longer hear its wisdom and guidance? We no longer sense when we are out of alignment, and if we do become aware, we seek to restore alignment by the very same artificial methods that got us out of alignment in the first place. 

We don’t need to change who we are; we just need to be who we are. We need to trust that who we are is exactly who we should be. The strain of trying to be something else is wearing us out and killing us all. So perhaps we can explore this trust and investigate the fear that blocks it. No need to judge them. Just get to know them – the trust and the fear. Let them teach us. Let them show us the way home. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

It Is Done


It is done
All efforts have failed
"Effort" will inevitably fall short
In our quest to contain the infinite