Where kids see connection

I was talking to a friend today, who works as a Montessori teacher.  She’s not familiar with Kai Chi Do so I was explaining that Kai Chi Do  builds our feeling of connection.  And she said, I just have to tell you:

Last week I was sitting with a five year old boy and out of the blue he asked me, “Do you know how we’re all connected?”

I said, “No, tell me.”

This little boy, with one bright blue eye and one green eye, said to me, “The air that touches my skin touches your skin too.  You can’t see the air but it touches all of us.  It connects all of us.  It holds us together.  That’s how I’m connected with someone on the other side of the world.  The same air touches all of us!”

I laughed and said, “Where did you hear that?”

And he said, “My brother told me.”

(His brother is just 18 months older than he is!)

Sketch by Lucia Whittaker, on Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0


18 Tips to Quit Smoking

One of the things I love about Kai Chi Do is how open my breathing feels for days after a session.  It feels like I have more room to breathe.  Like I’ve expanded.

So I was really pleased when one of our regular participants in Kai Chi Do told me he quit smoking – He said to me, “I just couldn’t keep doing this process, feeling  great, and then light up a cigarette.”

I’ve never been a smoker, but I’ve coached many people who’ve quit, so here’s a few tips for support:

1.  Find your reason for quitting. Don’t just wait for the reason to dawn on you;  Go looking for it.  What makes you want to quit? Sometimes it helps to make a list – what you like about smoking, what you don’t like about it, and what you might like about being smoke free.  Uncover your own personal reasons to quit.  The reasons don’t have to be about your health.  One of my favorites was a guy who told me he was quitting because he didn’t like the idea of cigarettes having control over him.  Or a woman who told me she quit because smoking causes wrinkles.

2.  Find your urgency. Why now?  Why do you want to quit NOW?  Why do you NEED to quit now?  How important is it to you? How much does smoking contradict the goals you have for yourself?  How much does smoking contradict the person that you want to be?

3.  Find your strength – If you’ve quit before, how did you do it?  What helped?  What led up to you starting again?  You can use information about your past relapses to identify your vulnerabilities and proactively plan some strategies to cope with them.

4.  Ruin it for yourself. You want to get to the point where you just can’t enjoy a cigarette anymore because any pleasure you used to get out of it is outweighed by the desire to quit.

5.  Plan a reward. The cost of cigarettes is a great reason to quit.  Think up a great way to spend the money you save in your first month of quitting.

6.  Plan stress busters. Many, many, many people smoke when they feel stressed.  It’s the most common reason I hear for relapse in people who’ve quit.  Smoking suppresses feelings.  Logic says that smoking is not going to help fix your problem, but smoking has helped you avoid and stuff your feelings before, and when you’re just looking for some quick relief, that’s the time you’re most likely to pick it up again.  You need to plan for this in advance.  Some great healthy stress busters are: Exercise (Kai Chi Do!), 10 connected breaths,  2 minutes of Chi circles with SA breaths, listen to music, watch a movie, take a hot bath, sing out loud.  Anything that will reduce your level of frustration and clear your head.

7.  Stay busy. Boredom is the other end of the stress continuum – and just as risky.  Get a hobby, start a project, get a job, volunteer, but get busy.

8.  Sit through the storm, as Charles would say.  This means you listen to your feelings without acting on them.  You pay attention to how you’re feeling, in fact you heighten your awareness of your feelings. You recognize and acknowledge them, but you don’t act them out.  You don’t kick the dog.  You don’t yell at your husband.  You don’t reach for a cigarette – or a Twinkie.  You sit with your feelngs.  You notice them.  You wait.  You quiet yourself. And the feelings pass.

9.  Put a fence around it. Set up some new rules to further restrict your smoking. Rules like: no smoking in front of the grandkids, no smoking in the house, no smoking in the car.

10.  Get a buddy. Ask someone to quit with you.  It will get your competitive juices flowing.  Caution about this though: If your buddy starts smoking again that doesn’t mean the game is off and you can smoke now too.

11.  Delay. Make a decision to wait longer and longer intervals between smokes.  If you’re smoking every 3 hours, make a decision to wait 4 hours today, 5 hour tomorrow.  Keep training yourself to wait longer – It will build your confidence that you don’t NEED it.

12.  Change your routine. If you usually smoke after meals, make the decision to give up meal time smokes and only smoke at some other time of day.

13.  Ration and reduce. Count out a supply of cigarettes for yourself each day.  Gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you allow yourself each day.  Smoke only half of each cigarette.

14.  Stop buying them.

15.  Set a date. Make a commitment. Tell somebody about it.

16.  Quit again.  If you fall off the smoke-free wagon, quit again – immediately.  Don’t let one cigarette be your excuse to smoke another.  Look at the relapse as a lesson in what not to do – and plan a strategy to overcome whatever suckered you into it again.

17.  Know that the craving will fade in time.
Revisit your reasons for quitting often.  They’ll help keep you motivated.

18.  Breathe. Do Kai Chi Do or breathwork or pranayama to breathe more deeply and to put your attention on your breath.  Healthy, open, easy breathing.  Life energy in, then relax.  SA, then Aaahhh.   You’ll get inspired!

Your thinking is regulating your energy

I started Kai Chi Do last Sunday in crabby mode. I’d been crabby for a couple of days actually.  I was just feeling frustrated – Stuff had come up during the week that needed my attention, and I kept reordering my To-Do priorities each day, and the things I really wanted to be doing kept getting lower and lower on the list.  There was one particular conflict that had me feeling trapped.  Can you relate?

So I go into Kai Chi Do in not the best mental attitude.  And an interesting thing happened.

At first, Kai Chi Do felt really hard to do.  It was almost like a parlor trick.  Each time my mind started chewing over how some fool had pissed me off, and how they must really be trying to do that, and in fact they are probably deliberately doing it, and I’ve got the evidence!  Well, my arms were so heavy that I could barely lift them.  I thought, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through the whole session today. Let me just try doing these chi circles a little smaller.  Skip pumping my legs, I’m just going to stand here like a tree and see if I feel better.”

I know enough to stay with it.  I’d do a few SA breaths and my mind would lift for a few minutes and my arms felt lighter and I’d get back in the rhythm and groove again.

Then back I went to my ruminations.  It was like my mind said, “Yeah. Good. You got a little energy, but don’t forget you’re still upset about…”

And each time – it’s funny now – I’d feel so tired again.  And after a few cycles of this, I said to myself, “Whoa!  Look at that!  Your thinking is regulating your energy!”

Seeing the pattern was the easy part.  “Okay, fine. So my thinking is regulating my energy.  Now what?”  I was still very crabby and we were already in Fire.  I wasn’t shaking this one off.

When I feel bad, or when one of my clients feels bad, I’ve found one question that really seems to help.  You have to be ready for the question.  And it has to be asked with compassion.  But it can be really useful.  The question is, “how can you think about this in a way that would feel just a little better?”

So I asked myself that question.  I really wanted to feel better.

My upset was focused on one particular person (and all my interpretations of their behavior).  The feeling better thought was, “How can we collaborate better?”  Well, that opened up some possibilities.  And it felt better than any of my conspiracy theories.  And my arms felt a little lighter, and my legs got more bouncy, and one feeling-better thought led to another, and I was smiling a little, and pretty soon Kai Chi Do was actually feeling pretty darn good.

The energy gates were unlocked and open, and the energy started flowing freely.  Just in time for the Spirit of Water.

It’s amazing how that happens.

Photo by Ed Schipul, Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

Awareness softens the fear

“And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief,
of holding on.

The attitude of faith is is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
— Alan Watts


Awareness is an expansive space where energy can flow more freely.   But awareness isn’t all lollipops and roses.  Awareness can be painful and challenging.  Sometimes you become aware that you’re in a situation that is threatening.

But you’re on the right road when you raise your awareness.   Because even being aware of something that’s painful is better than pretending it’s not there or numbing yourself to it.

Awareness softens the fear.  Once that happens, you’ll feel hope.  You’ll have choices.

It’s like coming out of the dark.


Photo by Prayoga D. Widyanto, Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0

The illusion of control

“When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
Alan Watts


When Charles was leading a group in breathwork yesterday, people became aware of how they hold tension in their bodies.  And they realized that the tension represented experiences or memories of events that were challenging for them.  At first, they were fighting the tension.  Tetany.  Struggle. Fear.

But then when they finally relaxed, and cried, it was like a ton of bricks had been lifted.

Physical discomfort is a signal that you’re holding an emotional pain.  The insight and memory of events creates the space for you to heal or be liberated from the pattern of energy that hurts you.  Increasing your awareness about the flow of energy in your body, and the blocks or resistance to that flow, gives you the opportunity to change.

But that doesn’t mean that you know the cause of your physical discomfort or pain.  That’s a common misunderstanding in the mind-body healing community.  Having a memory associated with a pain doesn’t mean you know the cause.  You don’t have to know where the pain came from.  You don’t have to judge the memories.  When you judge and blame, you’re continuing to inflict harm.

Causes are complex.  There are multiple factors that influence an outcome, including outcomes such as illness or pain.  Thinking that you know the cause of something gives you the illusion of control.  And it is an illusion.

We’re not saying that you can control outcomes.   You’re not to blame for your pain.  We’re saying that it’s beneficial to let go of control.  When you breathe and you relax or you do movements like Kai Chi Do, you are in a state of allowing — not control.  From a state of allowing, that’s when your awareness increases.  That’s the benefit of breathwork.  That’s the benefit of Kai Chi Do.  It helps you get into a state of allowing.  From that state, the miracle happens.  Miracles such as healing, insight, realization.  When you are in a state of allowing, whatever idea or thought or insight you need can come to the surface — through the path of least resistance.

Trying to control outcomes is living in fear.  It’s expecting pain.  Anticipating it.  And the more you try to make something happen, the more effort and tension you apply, the less energy you have flowing.

You can’t be inspired if you are holding your breath.

It’s when you relax, when you are receptive, that the realizations you need come to you.  The more you relax, and let go of controlling the outcome, the more Life juice you deliver to that goal and intention.   And what you need can reach you.

photo by David Paul Ohmer at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0