Qigong Self-Care for Warm Winter Days  

The unusually warm Virginia weather in late February has confused some of the trees and flowers into blooming several weeks early. Nature follows various cues like changes in temperature and sunlight to shift into the next phase of development. The trees and plants think it is spring already! When spring arrives, they will have spent their blooming energy.

Your body may have been feeling a higher energy as well – like you do in springtime. Mine has. It has been delightful to sit in the sun, take a walk or a run without bundling up, and grill outside. All these things are good, but the Chinese Five Elements philosophy says we are still in the Winter Phase, so we should not overdo it.

The energy of winter is like a lake that has iced over – peaceful and still. It is a season for rest. Some animals hibernate. Plants slow their growth. The normally cold Virginia temperatures make us want to take it easy. Winter is a time to conserve energy so that when spring arrives, we are prepared for the demands of the new season.

So, how should we live during these warm days in winter? It is fine to get outdoors and enjoy these warm days in the middle of our Virginia winter, but we should recognize that it is not yet spring, and behave accordingly. Continue to do all the winter things. Rest more. Eat warm, cooked meals. Take naps, or become absorbed in a good book or simple hobbies. This is not the time to start a big project. Practice meditation or breath work, and stretch your body more. Enjoy slower movement. Release your fears, and allow yourself to really enjoy a gentler pace. If you live in sync with the energy of the Winter Phase for four-to-five more weeks, you will reap the energetic benefits when spring really arrives.

This is Qigong – living the natural way – going with the flow of the natural unfolding of life.

 

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Finding Your Heart’s Desire as You Navigate Life’s Changes

Clarifying your heart’s desire while navigating life’s changes isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. The Chinese Five Elements philosophy can be a helpful guide.

I have spent the past year following what is in my heart. Or so I thought… When I left my full-time job and a career of 39 years, I had a beautiful plan that I imagined would support what my heart desired, and as the weeks and months have unfolded, I have discovered – to my surprise – that my plan may have come from somewhere else (not my heart). Have you ever found yourself in this kind of dilemma?

Some things about the plan fell into place easily over the summer, as if meant to be. Others did not, and brought surprise, disappointment, and sadness. In September, I reminded myself that good things take time, and to be patient. I felt nourished by the things that were “working,” and somewhat depressed by those that were not. As I went forward with patience as my guide, still following my beautiful plan, I experienced more unplanned moments. Typically, they felt like a kind of emptiness, or void. They did not bring “happy heart” feelings. I felt down. I slept more, and ate more, and withdrew a bit from group activities and personal interests. It was during these periods that I often felt most uncomfortable – in my body, mind, and spirit.

The Chinese Five Elements tell us that Autumn is the season of letting go – releasing what is not serving us and what is ready to go. The element is Metal, which has a cutting quality. It can be a time of grief, sadness and sorrow. Mother Nature experiences this too, and many trees let go of their leaves. It is a good time for decluttering our homes, and if we are aware, we may find ourselves, as I did, needing to declutter our hearts and minds. At some point this fall, my mind cleared enough to remember this and I began to go with the flow of the natural unfolding of things, and let go of expectations for my beautiful plan.

Winter is the season of becoming still and gentle. This can be easy if we have let go of excess during autumn. The element is Water. This season serves our healing by helping us release our fears – about everything – and settle into a deep peace with what is. That is what I am presently feeling – a grateful stillness – but it has not come easy. I have had to let go of expectations, plans, and assumptions – over, and over again – to get to the peaceful void. Think of the stillness of a frozen pond and you understand the energy of the Winter season. Beneath that surface stillness, life is teeming with possibilities, which are protected and nurtured by the icy top layer. Rest beneath the surface of things and enjoy this season of gentleness and peace.

In just a few short months, Spring will come around, the ice will melt, the ground will soften, and our energies will rise again with the Wood element. Imagine the tall trees pushing up through the surface of the ground from tiny seeds below. I anticipate that by then, much of the truth in my heart will be preparing to reveal itself to me.

Summer, the season of Fire, and the season of heart energy itself, may bring with it clarity of my heart. I will be open to receiving it whenever it comes, and between now and that time, I will do my best to clear obstacles, rest in the peaceful voids, and nurture my body, mind, and spirit according to the natural way – not according to my beautiful plan.

 

Indian Summer will bring the fifth element: Earth. This will be a time of grounding – centering within myself. It will be so much easier with a clear heart and focus. There is always some new life lesson to be learned, and as well, some old life lesson to be relearned, isn’t there?  There is always some new lesson to be learned, and as well, some old lesson to be relearned.

A Month is a Long Time for the Body

It was January 2006 and I was experiencing my first cranio-sacral therapy session. I was working toward certification in Healing Tough.  My natural healing studies were a respite from my high-stress corporate job. They brought a degree of balance to life but I didn’t realize my job was slowly killing me. I knew I was exhausted, wasn’t sleeping well, had gained weight, felt more frustration, anger and depression – but I was too busy and too tired to find a solution. I continued to push through extremely long hours at work and the rest of my life was severely shortchanged.

When the cranio-sacral therapist asked me about my job I told her, “I just need to push through the next couple of months.” That’s when she said to me, “A month is a long time for the body.” Self-care was a brand-new concept for me then. It had great appeal, but seemed impossible to fit into my schedule.

I wasn’t sure how to stop harming myself but knew I needed to try. The following year, I discovered Medical Qigong (MQ) therapy and Qigong self-care practices. I went for regular MQ treatments and took lots of Qigong classes. I made the self-care practices part of daily life. My health began to improve. I felt better. I had hope. It was an awakening for me.

I left that job ten long years later. I had made some positive changes during that time, but because the stress had continued to build, so had some health issues. I had developed severe Adrenal Fatigue because my body was in continual “fight-or-flight” mode. My cortisol levels were the opposite of what they should be – lowest at 7 a.m. and highest at 10 p.m. At my weakest point, somewhere around mid-2012, I had only about 2 hours a day when my mind was sharp and able to focus and my body had enough strength to handle a few tasks. The rest of the day I existed in a drowsy, foggy-headed state. Qigong was the only healthy, happy part of my life.

I continued to take small steps toward making positive changes. After four years of lifestyle changes and loving myself enough to schedule self-care into every day, my adrenal glands are healing and my cortisol levels have normalized. That’s a long time for healing, but it took decades of self-abuse, under the guise of being “busy” and “responsible,” to make myself sick. The self-care modifications were not easy and I needed help. Change takes time. I had to learn how to prioritize healing. Love is a powerful force. We don’t hesitate to share it with others, yet often put ourselves last.

You can heal too. Qigong can help. Love yourself enough to find out how. Start now to change your stress into vitality!

Medical Qigong

What is it? What are its benefits?

Medical Qigong is one of the four branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which are: acupuncture, herbs and diet, massage therapy and medical qigong. It is a powerful energetic healthcare protocol for releasing stress and emotional buildup, restoring energy flow, establishing healing mind-body connections, and rebuilding organ strength. It works with the body’s internal energy centers and pathways and with the surrounding bio-field. Medical Qigong assists the body to activate its innate self-healing capability by correcting the root cause of illness, which is always the internal imbalance of Yin and Yang. It treats the overall imbalance instead of the specific medical condition or symptom, such as headache or poor digestion. Treatment of the imbalance nearly always results in diminishing or eliminating the symptoms. Medical Qigong involves knowledge of the different energetic characteristics of the internal organs and organ systems, the nervous and immune systems, and the various tissues of the body. It is a holistic modality that addresses the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of one’s life and health.

Medical Qigong practitioners train for many years to understand their own subtle energies and imbalances before exploring another person’s subtle energies and imbalances. They must learn about the human anatomy and physiology as well as the energetics of the body, mind and spirit. These treatments go beyond the self-cultivation of typical self-care Qigong practiced as a physical discipline or therapeutic activity.

Who should receive it?

Anyone can receive Medical Qigong.

What types of health issues can it treat?

Medical Qigong is beneficial as a treatment for acute and chronic illness, as well as a powerful preventative or maintenance treatment. It is used today alongside western medicine in hospitals across China, and has garnered respect in the U.S. and around the world in recent decades.

Specifically, Medical Qigong can address many common ailments or health concerns, including physical, mental or emotional stressors like: physical pain (including joint pain), high blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety or depression, organ weakness (kidney, bladder, reproductive, heart, lung, small-and-large-intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas and stomach), mental fog, general overall body weakness, sluggish/slow energy, lower back pain/stiffness/weakness, and more. Medical Qigong can be helpful in addressing body-disconnection issues related to chronic illness, lack of body awareness, and negative body image. It can also be an excellent adjunct therapy to western medicine for specific diseases of all types.

What to expect during a Medical Qigong appointment?  

The initial Medical Qigong session will take about two hours; follow-up sessions are about 1.5 hours. Part of that time is spent teaching certain guiding principles of Chinese medicine, and Qigong self-care practices, but most of the time is the Medical Qigong treatment. The session will end with written prescriptions for the patient—not for medicines or herbs, but for specific Medical Qigong practices to be done at home to support the healing process between sessions and to improve self-care. In this regard, Medical Qigong is a real partnership between the practitioner and patient toward resolving the patient’s healthcare concerns.

The Medical Qigong treatment is done on a massage table in a safe, relaxing setting. Clothing remains on, except for shoes, belts, certain jewelry, and eyeglasses. Medical Qigong involves a combination of light touch, acupressure and sweeping movements along energy meridians of the body. When working to clear the bio-field surrounding the body there is no touch. One specific Medical Qigong technique, called Chi Nei Tsang (which translates to “energy of inner organs”), also involves massage of internal organs within the trunk of the body. This helps the patient release emotions held deep within the organs and tissues of the body, which can cause energy blocks and ultimately, disease.

If your goal is preventative you will benefit from quarterly sessions, as the seasons change. Some people prefer to come more often – monthly, or every six-to-eight-weeks. If you have an acute healthcare issue, you will benefit from weekly sessions for two-to-three weeks, followed by checking in periodically afterward. If your condition is chronic, monthly sessions will help, but more frequent visits yield even more benefits—especially during flare ups.

 

Mind-Body Stress Relief: Be Aware… Pause… Breathe…

Mind-Body Stress Relief: Be Aware, Pause, Breathe

When stress or emotions overwhelm us, we tend to cycle anxious thoughts in our minds. As stress moves into our bodies we may feel exhausted, or we may feel a super charge of adrenaline in our muscles, or a faster pulsing of our hearts. Our lungs and heart may feel raw. We find ourselves fully engulfed in our thoughts and feelings.

The mind and body are inextricably connected – the body responds to what the mind thinks. Most of us have experienced this and know it to be true. When our mind is depressed, angry, fearful, sad or anxious, our bodies are weaker in some way. When our mind is courageous, kind, calm, happy or centered, our bodies feel stronger and more grounded.

One gift of healing we can give ourselves is awareness – the awareness that stress has moved from our heads to our bodies.

A second gift of healing is the pause. As soon as we become aware that our mental stress has moved into our physical bodies, we can pause and take in that awareness. We can ask ourselves: to where in my body has the stress moved? How do I know this – stiffness? Pain? Pulsing or tingling? Muscle weakness? Internal heat moving through the body?

The third gift is our breath – a powerful healing agent in stressful times. Try this after you pause:

  1. Sit or lie still and close your eyes.
  2. Inhale slowly and gently through your nose – as deeply as you can without forcing it. If you are greatly stressed your first few breaths may only go as deeply as your upper chest.
  3. Exhale very slowly and completely through your mouth.
  4. Repeat these steps, slowly, gently, and as deeply as you can without forcing. Each new breath will soften and relax the muscles of your diaphragm, chest and back, ribcage, and abdomen – and your vital organs – allowing your next breath to go a little deeper. It may require a few minutes of breathing in this way before your breath can go deeply enough to benefit your lower abdomen, lower back, and digestive organs in the lower trunk of your body.

This is Medical Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) – ancient Chinese healthcare for the modern world. Breathing in this way will not only relieve your body of the effects of stress – it will also help to relax your mind. Two days ago, I lowered my blood pressure from 135/76 to 109/76 in three minutes with this practice.

 Be Aware… Pause… Breathe… I urge you to give this a try once a day and see for yourself.

Nature is Taking Care of Me

Nature

“Nature nourishes the physical body, supplying our daily life-force energy and giving us the power to heal ourselves.”

“To follow the Tao, you need to live in harmony with the patterns and energy of nature. As such, nature is your teacher. Learn about abundance as you watch trees bearing fruit. Learn about happiness as you see birds greet the day with singing. Observe the way trees bend and sway in a storm, and learn about flexibility…you may be feeling disconnected–not grounded. Know that it is time to spend some time with nature. Take time today to feel the healing force of water, or to look at the trees, or to place your bare feet on the ground. Observe the behavior of animals. If you are facing a challenge, maybe it is time to stay close to the ground’s energy and focus yourself within, much like a turtle going into its shell. Remember as you meditate today that it is time to focus inwardly, to regenerate and to refresh your natural state. Know that nothing is forced in nature; everything takes its due course.

~ Tao Cards

At 6:30 pm, after a long day of very low energy, I walked barefoot onto the cool, green grass. I spread two towels in a spot that would conceal me a bit from the patio, then lay down on them in my back yard–right on the ground as if it were sand at the beach. I looked up to notice one little faint cloud on the blue sky behind the treetops, then closed my eyes. There was a very light breeze, and I focused on my breathing. When I opened them again, the sky had changed–the little fluff of a cloud replaced by three thin wisps that had been dragged across the blue. I thought how peaceful this felt, and how I hadn’t done it in a long time. Childhood memories of lying atop picnic tables and in hammocks floated into my mind. I closed my eyes again and asked the earth to receive all of my tension. Beginning at my feet, and moving slowly up to my crown, I talked to all of my bones, muscles, fascia, arteries, blood vessels, various other tissues and layers of skin. I told each of them to release every harmful thing they could let go of right down into the ground. It didn’t take long–less than one minute–and it didn’t stop for more than 30 minutes. First, one leg shook, then the other, throwing out stress through the ankle joints and knees. Then my arms. Sometimes rhythmic and smooth; sometimes jerky, and bouncy. Then a series of shudders initiating from my solar plexus… I wondered for just a second how this much stuff got hung up in my body and needed releasing, but I let that thought go too.

One of the things that I teach is how our bodies hold onto stress–from excessive emotions, overwork, too much sitting or too much striving, poor nutrition, too much time on electronic devices, and more–various imbalances in the ways in which we live our lives. I am no different, just because I teach ways to help. Sometimes, things get out of balance. We live in a very chaotic world. We have to make time to regularly release these pent-up stresses before they become illness or dis-ease. I know this first-hand. Nature will take them from us  if we will let them go. Find some time each day, if you can, to walk barefoot on the ground, touch or hug a tree, really enjoy flowers and other plant life, let the breeze touch your skin, look up at the sky, clouds, and treetops… hold your pet… whatever you find in Nature that opens and clears your body, mind and heart. These natural relationships could save your life.          ~ Joy

Note for my last post: my job is safe…for now

Stop by my website at http://www.goodenergyforlife.net

Expansive Wu Wei

Non-Action (Wu Wei)

“Through letting go of the need to force happenings and events, we achieve non-action.”

“Non-Action is based on the premise that there is a divine way, the way of the Tao. The less you interfere with life, the more that it unfolds as it should.” Perhaps you are “…feeling your life is out of control, or that you do not have the ability to make things happen in the way you want them to happen. Know that it is time to let go and to stop trying to force things to happen. It is time to flow with life’s cycles. Observe the way nature responds. Like nature, non-action is a state of being that does not require any conscious will. Know that everything that happens does so for a reason. Take some time to live in the present moment and observe without judgment. Know that sometimes non-action is the most active thing you can do. Any situation that presently exists in your life is there as a lesson. Just observe it and let it take its course. Let go! Do not try to control the outcome – trust the process!”

~ Tao Cards

Today, I do not know if my full-time job will be eliminated on June 7th. It is a period of waiting, on one hand; on the other hand, it is a period of expansiveness ~ of opening to my potential ~ of acting without controllingWu Wei.

This is my first blogpost. I will let you know what happens…        ~ Joy

Visit my website at http://www.goodenergyforlife.net