Heart of the Work

For nearly 20 years Charles Robinson taught Kai Chi Do exercise classes in the community and in therapeutic settings. Those one hour workouts integrated movement, music, breath work, and meditation, and communities developed around them. People who practiced Kai Chi Do regularly found it transformative.

But Kai Chi Do was always more than a one hour workout. It is based on a philosophy we call the Art of Connection.

At the heart of Kai Chi Do is the belief that we are all One thing. We are all a part of the One thing that contains everything. We reach for and experience that Oneness by feeling Connection – to ourselves, to our Source, and to one another. You know when you’ve got it because the sense of separateness, the feeling of division between yourself and everything else, falls away. That feeling of Connection can last a moment or a lifetime. Connection – with Source, self, and others – is our definition of success.

This is the heart of our work. The feeling of Connection. Discover what it feels like to bring your life into harmony with it. Practice what you seek.

The Math of Useful Beliefs

Photo by mulan

When our daughter was little and learning basic math, she used a variety of devices to represent the quantities associated with numbers.  She used objects, an abacus, and tapping her pencil to count.

Her grandmother was delighted when our little girl finally settled on using her fingers as counting aids.  When I asked Grandma why, she smiled, wiggled her fingers in the air, and said, “Her fingers are always available.”

Useful beliefs are a lot like using your fingers as counting aids.  They are always available.  They keep you self-reliant, because you don’t need anyone else’s help to be able to use them.  They don’t require any special technical skills.  You can take them for granted and only pull them out when you need them.

You might ask, “Isn’t there some objective truth?  You can’t argue facts.”

Often times we don’t know all the facts.  We may have limited information.  Most things are open to interpretation.  We respond primarily to our particular view of the facts, rather than to the facts themselves.  We respond to the meaning that the events or facts hold for us. Sometimes, you have to look at facts in context of the bigger picture.

Abraham-Hicks uses a charming analogy to illustrate this point:  If men broke into your home with axes and hoses and broke up your furniture and flooded the interior of your home with water, you’d be outraged.  Unless those were firemen saving your home from flames.

A useful belief is a thought that feels better.  But don’t go looking for somebody else to do the math for you.  Dogma is blind belief, adopting a system of beliefs prescribed by someone else.

Beliefs are only useful when they are true to you, and when they feel good to you.   You can learn from other people but ultimately you decide.  You just have to ask yourself: does this thought feel good?  And if the answer is no, reach for another point of view.  A single thought can make all the difference.

Gratitude in a halo

A while back Charles and I were going through a tough financial time – the kind of time where you sweat the mortgage and dread the credit card statement. I can still remember the feeling of constant anxiety.

And right in the midst of that, I woke one morning with a strange smile and a single thought:

“I have everything I want.”

You have to understand: Gratitude doesn’t come easily to me. Smiling doesn’t come easily to me. Focus, yes.  Smiling, no.  Charles is the peaceful one.  Unperturbable.  I’m the passionate one.  Fiery and impatient.

This was not a time when I had everything I want.  This was a time when gratitude was so far out of reach that making a list of “things that don’t suck” was a stretch. I was frustrated and angry and scared.

And yet here it was.  This pure and ridiculous thought.  This expansive contentment.

I’d been working the night before with a woman who was in chronic pain. She’d been through a series of spinal surgeries, one after the other. Putting metal hardware into her neck, hardware failing, neck collapsing, pulling hardware out.  And here she was, in a metal halo – drilled into her skull resembling some kind of medieval torture – here she was telling me how grateful she was to me.  And to God and to Life and to her husband and to her doctors and to…it was endless.  Her gratitude was endless.  And it wasn’t just words. It wasn’t a script, and she wasn’t reaching for anything. It was just glowing from her. Filling me.

I know what it’s like to come through a crisis and be so glad that the worst of the pain is behind you, and you survived it, that you praise all that’s holy.  But what does it mean when you’re still in the middle of it, still struggling, still in pain, and feel so blessed?

Spirit in the City

It’s an oppressive myth to think that you have to get away, that you can only find God or Oneness or enlightenment in the mountains or the desert or in solemn meditation. Or that you have to be alone to find it.  It’s oppressive because it sets external conditions on your feeling of connection.  It suggests you have to get away from people to find peace.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, said, “Heaven is right where you are standing.”

Rumi says, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.  There are a thousand ways to go home again.”

We’re all about pulling opposites together (pulling everything together) into a single whole.

Where can you find Spirit in a city?  In the people.

Ring our humanity.  Relate. Resonate.  Discover that everybody, everywhere, from New York to Iran to the West Bank, is just like us. It’s all us. Discover our beauty.

Find the bridges that bring us together, even in the city.