I came late to the Kai Chi Do party.  Charles was doing Kai Chi Do for decades before I got involved.  I enjoyed watching!  But I was afraid to try it.  I was afraid of exercise.

I was the kid who was the last one picked for teams in phys ed.   And, as a matter of fact, I skipped phys ed for the last two years I spent in high school.

When I was a teenager, my big exercise was walking.  I walked everywhere because I left home before I was old enough to get a driver’s license.  I sometimes rode a bicycle – because it was faster than walking.  And I enjoyed dancing (although dancing in public music venues was a little bit like high school – The singer in our favorite band nicknamed me “The Worm”.)

Once I got a driver’s license, all those big muscle groups started to, well, soften.  (They weren’t exactly firm to begin with). I prided myself on fine motor coordination skills – the little movements that take place mostly in your eyes and the tips of your fingers.  Exercise was too much like work.

Once I finally got up the courage to give Kai Chi Do a try, it was work!  I had to learn how to pace myself, so that I could enjoy Kai Chi Do without feeling strained.  Once I did that, it was a turning point.  That’s when I got hooked.

I have to admit that I’m still not fond of exercise – although I think there’s a lot of truth to “use it or lose it” when it comes to our bodies and my body feels a little tighter and more contracted if I miss a week of Kai Chi Do.  But it’s not the physical benefits that keep me doing Kai Chi Do.

I don’t do it for my heart or my lungs or my strength or circulation.  I do Kai Chi Do because I like what it does to my head.

My mind gets quiet and calm.  It lets me release thoughts that are causing me stress or pain and discover what’s left when those are gone.  (Do you know what’s left when those are gone?) It’s an altered state of consciousness for me, a shift in perspective that feels pure – without contradiction.  It feels open to receive.

Kai Chi Do is a tool for us.  It’s one of many that we use to follow a certain path in our lives.  A spiritual path – one that keeps us grounded and in Spirit at the same time.  A path of relationships.  We were on that path together long before I ever did Kai Chi Do.   The path is a feeling that we call Connection.

And that’s why I do Kai Chi Do.  Because it gives me that feeling.

Why do you do Kai Chi Do?  Use the comments link and please tell us:  How does it make you feel?

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Solve problems like Einstein did

Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

He was a smart guy.

How often do we “worry” our problems, rubbing them over and over with our mind like they were mental hangnails?  Rubbing them until our emotions are raw?  We keep looking at the problem from the level of consciousness that created it.  And getting nowhere.   Same thoughts, same feelings, same results.

So how do you change the level of your consciousness?

1.  You change the way you feel, or
2.  You change the way you think, or
3.  You bypass your mind.

Each of these consciousness-changing strategies has its place.  And it’s a great thing to know how to use all three approaches – you might not want to bypass your mind while you are driving, for instance.

  • Tips for changing how you feel

Abraham-Hicks talks about feelings as an emotional scale.  I like the image because it makes me think of a musical scale – each note is perfect. On the emotional scale, each feeling is a point of attraction, with access to certain kinds of experiences.

Have you ever noticed how when you feel anxious you can only access anxious thoughts?  And the more you struggle against the feeling, the more trapped you are in it?  You can’t shift the feeling by condemning it. You can only access the thoughts and images that match your feelings.

Once you feel differently, you can barely remember what was so compelling about your fears.  It’s like you’re standing in a different room.  And really, you are – because each emotion is its own level of consciousness.

Here’s just a few of the infinite variety of healthy ways to change how you feel:

Switch tasks – do something different, give your mind a new job for a little while.
Practice mindfulness – being present in the moment instead of being in the past or the future.
Distraction – watch a movie, do a handicraft, do art, read a good book, clean the closet.
Play – go geocaching, play Scrabble, wear a funny hat.   (Years ago, Charles and I successfully defused several arguments by trading shoes). And if you don’t know how to play, we’d suggest you check out www.zefrank.com and try some of his free interactive toys online – the guy’s a genius.
Listen to music – and we recommend you sing, especially if you are tone-deaf.

(Eating, drinking, drugging, shopping and off track betting are noticeably absent from this list of healthy ways to change how you feel.  They may give you a temporary lift, but they won’t help you solve any problems.  They just make more problems.)

  • Tips for changing how you think

Your thoughts and your emotions are all tied up together.  You can change the way you feel by changing the way you think.  It gets a little tricky though – because you can’t fake it.  You can’t pretend to change your level of consciousness just like you can’t pretend to fly.  You’re either flying or you’re just flapping your wings.  So you have to be willing to be honest with yourself.  Be honest and ready to change.

Find a thought that feels good. This sounds easy, but it takes a little bit of work at first.  It’s a mental staircase, not a wish.  You start where you are and you think around on the subject that is bothering you.  You think around with the clear intention of locating one single thought that makes you feel just a bit lighter.  Just one single thought – that’s all you are looking for.  You know it when you’ve found it because your muscles relax a little, your forehead gets smooth, you take a momentary sigh and breathe a little deeper.  Once you find that thought, nurture it.  Start to think about the thought that made you feel a little better.  Once that thought feels strong, start looking for the next thought that feels a little better, and the thought after that.  Pretty soon, you find yourself looking at the problem from an entirely different perspective.
Honor the messenger.   Your feelings are reliable, even relentless, messengers.  They tell you how your thinking feels.  It’s your thinking, not your circumstances, that activate your feelings.  If you treat your emotions as the honorable messengers that they are, they can guide you to a new level of thinking.  They give you direct feedback about where your thinking is taking you.  Use that feedback to guide you to thoughts that feel better.
Brainstorm –  Talk about solutions and consider every possibility, even wild and crazy ideas.  Some of our best ideas are wild and crazy.  Brainstorming is about breaking free of mental constriction.  Tearing down the walls and letting your mind loose.
Prayer – This is prayer, not begging, pleading, bargaining or defending.  Exercise faith.  Pray as if your prayers have already been answered.
Appreciation – Find something beautiful.

  • Ways to bypass your mind.

We love practices that change our level of consciousness by bypassing our minds.  It’s so direct.  So elegant.  So fun!  And sometimes – when we’re really stuck – it seems to be the easiest route.

Sleep – Everybody changes their level of consciousness every day.  They go to sleep.  Sleep lifts your resistance off your problems temporarily.  Even if the moment is brief, when you first wake up, there’s an instant – before you engage your mind in your problems again – when you feel relaxed.   Sleep can also bring inspiration, even if it comes in symbols that you have to decode.
Exercise – Take a walk. Run. Bicycle. Do yoga. Take a mental vacation – Sweat and forget.
Breathwork – Conscious connected breathing. Pranayama.  Let the breath clear and uplift your mind.
Meditation – It’s been said that meditation is using the mind to get beyond the mind.   Eckhart Tolle teaches that meditation is experiencing the gap between thoughts.  That gap is pure awareness.
Kai Chi Do – We saved the best for last.  Kai Chi Do uses the body to raise consciousness bypassing the mind.  It combines music, movement, breathwork, meditation, exercise, prayer, appreciation, play, mindfulness.  Wow!  Some combo, huh?  I love how – when I’m doing Kai Chi Do – my mind drops into my body and I feel calm and clear.

What would Einstein say about that?

Photo of Albert Einstein posted by BlatantNews on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0


Spiritual Games for New Years Eve

Only through time, time is conquered.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

We like to play spiritual games on New Year’s Eve.  We stay home, have a quiet intimate evening with our family or a few friends, drink a little Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider at midnight (truly living on the edge!), and we play spiritual games.

Each year we do an activity with the clear goal of raising our awareness and uplifting our consciousness and having fun all at the same time.  The games always help us to look over the previous year – give ourselves acknowledgment for achievements and identify what we’d like to do better – and develop clear intentions for the upcoming year.

So we thought we’d share some of these consciousness games with you, and maybe you’ll give one or two a try and get on the wavelength with us.  If you do – we hope you’ll leave a comment and tell us how it worked out for you!

  • Bright Spots: Charles encourages people to identify “Bright Spots” every day.  New Years Eve is like the Bright Spots of all the Bright Spots – your personal Top Ten for the year.  Bright Spots are points of awareness. They’re not always happy spots but they’re moments when you realized something very important to you.  They’re little epiphanies and insights that help you steer in the direction of what you want including who you want to be.  It’s especially fun and useful to keep a journal of these from year to year.
  • Gratitudes: List all the things you are grateful for in the past year.  This game may be familiar but it is still very powerful and profoundly uplifting.  Gratitude feels good and the more time you dwell on the things you feel grateful about, the better you feel.
  • Reviewing your Goals: Make 3 lists: 1. Things I Accomplished in 2010, 2. Things I Hoped to Accomplish This Year but Didn’t, 3. Things I Intend to Accomplish in the Coming Year.  Looking back and reviewing the year allows you to give yourself credit where credit is due, to use your disappointments or frustrations constructively, to see your progress, and to declare your direction for the coming year.  It helps you to identify goals and is an invitation to the Universe to assist you in meeting them.
  • Wheel of Fortune: This is a visioning tool developed by Catherine Ponder, and written in her book The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity.  Take a large piece of oaktag type paper (approx. 24″ by 36″) and make a small circle (maybe 4 or 5 inches in diameter) in the middle of the page.  Then divide the page into 4 quadrants with the circle in the middle.  The inner circle represents Source or Core Energy.  Label the four quadrants: 1. Spirituality and Personal Growth, 2. Relationships and Family, 3. Fun and Recreation, and 4. Business and Finance.  Then build the Wheel of Fortune.  This is a visioning tool.  Use pictures and words to represent your vision, what you want, for each of the quadrants, and use a picture or word in the center that represents Source to you.  We’ve had amazing results with this tool.  We make it a collage of pictures from magazines and personal photos, and sometimes we write affirmations or just  a single word in each quadrant.  Be as specific as you can.  We hang the Wheel somewhere we can see it throughout the year.  One year, when we first moved to Florida, we cut out a picture of a couch from a magazine, and added it to our wheel in the fun and recreation quadrant.  When we actually bought a couch and brought it home, we discovered that our couch had the EXACT same palm frond print that was in our wheel picture!  Exactly!  We also discovered that it’s very important to believe what you want is possible.  In other words, when you look at your wheel throughout the year, you want it to trigger your confidence and desire (not your self-doubt and resistance).  It’s your thought and emotion that makes the magic of the wheel.
  • Vision Board: A vision board is very similar to the Wheel of Fortune, but the collage has no center and no quadrants.  It’s a “gestalt” of your vision for yourself, a unified sum.  The vision board was made popular in a book called The Vision Board – Secrets to an Extraordinary Life by Joyce Schwartz who talks about how the Vision Board activates The Law of Attraction to fulfill your desires. You can see examples of Vision Boards by clicking the icons at the bottom of the I have a vision.org website.
  • Mask Making: We did this one year and totally missed midnight.  We were all so captivated by the activity that we completely lost track of time.  By the time we looked up and took a breather, we realized it was 2am and we were all energized!  By the way, this is a great one to do with kids, but adults become very kid-like when they’re making a mask.  It’s great to do with a buddy, who will apply the materials to your face, but it can be done alone using a mirror.  Here’s what you’ll need: Quick drying plaster gauze (you’ll need one or two rolls per mask), water based KY jelly, scissors, a dish of warm water, feathers, beads, any other stuff you might want to attach to your mask face (like yarn, shells, small coins, glitter, sand, small mirrors, sequins, plastic “gems”).  You’ll also need glue, paints (water-based, we use Crayola “Washable Paint” or acrylic or tempera paint), paint brushes, a cup of water to rinse your brushes, a paper plate to use as a paint palette, and newspaper or plastic tablecloth (to protect your workspace). We buy most of these products at Michaels but most craft supply stores carry them.  It’s helpful, if you’re able, to have a microwave on hand for making the quick drying gauze  just a little bit quicker, for the impatient among us.  Here’s how you make your mask: Cut the plaster gauze into small strips, vary the sizes and shapes – such as 1 inch by 2 inches, 2 inches by 4 inches.  You’ll want to apply the smaller strips in small contours – like around your nose and chin – and bigger strips on areas with larger contours – like your forehead and cheeks.  Your buddy applies a nice layer of KY jelly to your face including your lips, your eyebrows (not on your eyelids – your mask will have holes for the eyes), and apply a smidge of KY to protect your hairline from sticking to the gauze.  Then wet one strip of gauze at a time, run it between two fingers to squeeze excess water out of it, and apply the strip to your face.  Leave “holes” for your eyes and your nostrils (so you can breathe!), but do apply gauze to the rest of your face (keep your lips closed) and gently shape the gauze to the contours – your lips, the crease beside your nose, your cheeks, your forehead, your chin.  Once you have a few layers of gauze on all of your face (except the eye holes), sit quietly for 10 or 15 minutes while the gauze dries.  You want it to be firm enough that it will hold its shape when you take it off your face.  Once it is firm, gently shimmy it off your face.  If it’s kinda firm but still needs to harden, put it in the microwave for a few seconds – Don’t overcook!  Then begin to paint and decorate your face mask.  We use the mask to express the part of ourselves that we feel in the present moment or a part of ourselves that we hope to express in the new year.
  • Fire Meditation: We love the fireplace in our home, but a candle is just as wonderful for meditation.  The fire is about purification, releasing and liberating yourself from any struggles or conflicts of the past.  Connect with your breathing, connect each breath while you concentrate on the flame with one-pointed focus.  Begin to relax into the flame. Allow the flame to become a part of your energy as your relax. And use your breath to continue to relax fully and completely into the energy of the flame.  Relax your mind.  Don’t try to make it “about” anything.  Let go of your notions of what you should get out of the meditation and just allow yourself to experience quieting your mind and being with the flame.  Come into your center by holding your hands in prayer before you put out the flame. And relax into the energy that’s been released. Allow yourself to integrate the moment.
  • Breathwork: We love conscious connected breathing.  Take circular breaths, relaxing into each breath, pulling on the inhale, relaxing on the exhale, and connected each exhale to the next inhale.  Pulling in Life Energy with each inhale and releasing resistance with each exhale.  Gently. Gently.  This is great to do with a buddy.  You breathe with their support.  Then it’s their turn to breathe with your support.  The role of the support person is to create a safe space, to be loving and accepting and attentive to each breath.   You do this breathing exercise for about 20-30 minutes, until you feel a sense of completion.  It’s surprising, but you may have feelings come to the surface.    Just watch them and let them pass, don’t get too attached to them or try to figure them out.  Just go with the flow of your breath.
  • Dakini Oracle: The Dakini Oracle is a deck of cards with illustrations on them and a short phrase.  They are similar to Tarot cards, but we like the Dakini because the pictures are so evocative and easy to interpret (and we find them less structured than Tarot).  Shuffle the deck while you hold a question in your mind, fan the deck and choose 6 cards.  Lay the cards face down from left to right.  The first two cards represent the past, the middle two cards represent the present, and the two cards on the right represent the future.  Now, we don’t consider this fortune telling.  It’s not the cards or some outside being telling you about your future.  We think it is you talking to a deep inner part of yourself.  And we believe that it helps clarify your own understanding of where you have been and where you are heading.  And if you don’t like the cards you got, choose another card and lay it on top of the first pick — You can change your future and you can change your perception of the past or present.  It’s your choice.  And using the Dakini helps you make your declarations about how you want your life to be.
  • New Years Affirmation Tattoo: Develop an affirmation that loves you.  This isn’t a goal affirmation.  This isn’t something you want or hope to achieve or fix.  Write an affirmation of loving words that you want to tell yourself.  If you saw the best in you, what would you say?  Begin with the words, “I am…”  or pick a single word that you know represents your best intentions and make that your affirmation.  Write your affirmation in washable paint or washable marker (washable!) on your body.  Pick the spot – do you want it on your forehead?  Across your chest?  Over your heart?  If it’s in a spot where you’ll need to read it in a mirror, then look in the mirror and write it on yourself backwards!

And if you hit the sack early tonight, give these games a try on New Years Day!

And – just a note – You may not have received yesterday’s post in your email because it was a BIG file!  I interviewed Phyllis Singer about “The Depths” movements that we use to begin each Kai Chi Do, and it was AMAZING!  If you haven’t seen and heard it yet (it’s got audio!), check it out here.

Many blessings in the New Year!

Mandala photo art by Bill Brown at Flickr Creative Commons attribution 2.0

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Environ-Mental Health: fixing the cracks in our consciousness

The chimney is getting a makeover today.  It’s mental health feng shui.  We’re catching up on home repairs.

The cracks in the chimney finally came to the surface of my consciousness.  It’s been crumbling for months.  I remember glancing up when I walked the dogs, and seeing the cracks, and it was like only my eyes saw them.  My brain took little notice.  I remember there was a single snippet of thought once, that “we probably need to get that fixed,” a millisecond brain check on whether we knew how to get it done, and then my attention was elsewhere.  Barely a blip in the radar.

But it was there.  Sending me a message.

Have you ever heard of the Broken Windows theory?  Malcolm Gladwell talks about it in his book, The Tipping Point.   The theory says that broken windows in urban neighborhoods send a message, and the message is that crime is tolerated.  It sends a message, “This place is neglected. ”  And where vandalism is the norm, crime escalates.  If you fix the broken windows, you nip the problem in the bud, so to speak.  You intervene when the problem is still small.  Fix the broken windows and you send the message, “Someone’s keeping an eye on what goes on here.  We care about this place and we’re keeping it orderly.”

It all starts with a signal, a meaning we interpret from the environment.  Research has shown that fixing the “broken windows,” fixing the environmental signals in a neighborhood, is more effective at reducing crime than misdemeanor arrests.  Prevention is more effective than punishment.

I think fixing the chimney is more than just a way to keep out the rain.  The cracks were sending us a subtle, below the radar, message – of tiny decay.  And fixing up the house, getting repairs completed, sends a different signal.  It’s a visual affirmation of well-being.

And the visual self-talk seems even more direct than words.  We feel it, rather than think it.  We fixed a little crack in our consciousness.

Do you have any cracks that need fixing?

Tree-House image by danimages @ fotolia.com