Have you seen Invictus?

“The holiest place on Earth is where an ancient hatred becomes a present love.”
—  A Course in Miracles

We saw the movie Invictus this weekend, and loved it.   It was surprising!   Most people know a little bit about Nelson Mandela, but do you know how he promoted reconciliation and unity of his country after apartheid?  Invictus tells a small piece of that story – the piece that involves rugby.

Anyone would agree that South Africa’s apartheid, which literally means “apartness” or separateness, was abuse on a massive scale.  And yet Nelson Mandela knew that the only way for South Africa to thrive was to build collaboration, and overcome the reflex for revenge and punishment.  Understand – there had been a time, when civil disobedience failed, that Nelson Mandela supported armed revolt against brutality.  He was considered a terrorist and spent 27 years in prison.  (In fact, the US didn’t take him off their terror watch list until 2008.)

Despite the history of apartheid, despite his own personal suffering, he recognized the need for peace.  When apartheid was finally banned, he looked forward, not back.   He said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Here are some of the lessons of Invictus:

  • People can change.
  • One person with a clear vision can change millions.
  • Reconciliation begins by doing things together.
  • Everyone can be better than they think they can be.
  • When you’re inspired, you can defy the experts and exceed your own expectations.
  • Your equanimity and warmth, even in the face of adversity, will bring out the best in the people around you.

Nelson Mandela photo Creative Commons © on

Spiritual high

When I was writing our last post, I came across this audio-video montage of Ram Dass talking about Attachment and Addiction.  Charles’ approach to recovery is so similar and aligned with Ram Dass’ comments on this subject – and Ram Dass is such an elegant speaker – that I thought you’d enjoy watching it.

There’s one point Ram Dass made in this recording, that I’d like to focus on.  He says you don’t really get immediate gratification from a spiritual approach to recovery –  you get something bigger than the rush you get from drugs, but you have to wait for it.

There are tools that will give you an immediate gulp of pure Life Energy that goes straight to your head, with no detours.  Let’s face it:  Kai Chi Do gives you a spiritual high. That’s why we say it’s a metaphysical workout for body, mind, and spirit.  The high comes from recovering your connection – what Ram Dass calls healing the separation.

But the challenge is learning how to keep the high – how to live your connection. Not just while your doing Kai Chi Do…or yoga, or meditation, or doing breathwork, or whatever works for you… but all the other hours of the day.   In your relationships, in your job, in your thoughts.  That’s the part you have to cultivate and savor over time.

That’s really our work.  That’s what Charles teaches.

It goes beyond recovery.  It’s just about having a full, vivid, and deliciously satisfying life.

You’re not what you think

“The panic mounted, adrenalin shot through my system – my mouth became dry, but along with this, a voice sounded inside – inside what, I don’t know – an intimate voice asked very quietly, and rather jocularly, it seemed to me, considering how distraught I was, …”but whose minding the store?”  When I could finally focus on the question, I realized that although everything by which I knew myself was gone, still I was fully aware! Not only that, but this aware “I” was watching the entire drama, including the panic, with calm compassion…Now I need only to look within to that place where I Knew.”
Ram Dass, Be Here Now, 1971


Even before we got into cognitive psychology, there was Ram Dass – telling the story of how he mentally shed his identities one by one, until…..well…. what’s left when you no longer define yourself by your work, your interests, your skills, your relationship, your ethnicity, your financial status, your name – even your body?  What’s left when you no longer believe that these are who you ARE?  They’re just things you have or things you do.

How do you define yourself then?

And what happens when you discover that you’re not even your thoughts?  You HAVE thoughts, for sure, but you have THEM, they don’t have YOU.  You are the thinker, not the thought.

One of the people who attended the Kai Chi Do Retreat this month told us that the most valuable change she made during the weekend was loosening her attachment to thoughts that were tormenting her.   It was such a relief.

You are the still quiet awareness between the thoughts – what Eckhart Tolle calls “the gap”.   When you quiet your mind, you can loosen your grip on thoughts that hurt you, and remind yourself of who you really are.

And Kai Chi Do quiets your mind.

One Truth Many Paths

“My religion is very simple.
My religion is kindness”.
—–  Dalai Lama

We have a dear friend whose wife is concerned that Kai Chi Do is an Eastern practice that takes him away from Christianity.  And just the other day I read a newspaper article about a Karate school that took “all the Buddhism and Eastern philosophies out and put Christianity in”.

We think this is just sad.  In both of these situations, Christianity and Eastern philosophies are being polarized – as if they are opposed to one another – as if one is good and the other is bad, one is right and the other is wrong.

What we believe is that the Source of who we are includes everybody and every thing.  We believe that Christianity is a religion of love, not dogma.  And love is great, wherever you find it.  We believe that there’s only One Truth, that is expressed in a myriad of beautiful ways in many different religions.  We believe that we are One thing.

Kai Chi Do is a celebration of inclusion.  It’s a celebration of our connection to Source, Self, and to one another.

It’s not a religion.

Our friend has a deep love for Christ and he’s been a martial artist for decades.  He sees how Eastern and Western philosophies complement and enhance one another, and he loves Kai Chi Do.

So how can he resolve his wife’s fears about his “Eastern” beliefs?

We advised him to put his relationship with his wife first.  No belief or practice or religion is more important than his marriage.

Then, we suggested he find their common ground.  Find what they agree on – like the One Truth that runs throughout the different religions.

When it seems hard to find something you agree about, it’s because you’re still focused on your differences.  Start simple.  For example, they can agree that they both want their marriage to work, they both want to feel respected, they both want support to pursue their interests.

Our friend and his wife both want to be right.  And they both are.

It means having the courage to talk it through, to find the points of agreement, and build on those.    What are the specific parts of Kai Chi Do that they both agree on?  Maybe she can agree that it’s great exercise.  Maybe she can agree that it’s a nice place to meet interesting people.  Maybe they can agree that the meditations are really prayers.

Sometimes, the differences really are only semantic.

What keeps you in great shape? Do more of that!

Murray’s orchids

“Reward what you like and pursue what you want.
For now, forget about what you don’t like
and don’t want”.
Rob Brezsny


We have little routines each day, including our “family traditions”. In the mornings I make breakfast and pack lunches. When Shanti comes home from school, we talk about her day.  We have family dinners at home every night – We all treasure these dinners together. We have Turkey Taco Tuesday, test recipes on other nights (but still have our standby favorites) and on Sunday nights Grandma joins us for dinner at our house. On Sunday mornings our family does Kai Chi Do with anyone who will join us.

At work, Charles does Kai Chi Do every morning  (He LOVES it!)  He has his schedule of groups and clients each day.  He has his lunchbox and his man purse and his Bose.  Shanti has her schedule of dance classes. I have my work schedule and my daily To-Do lists (complete with yellow stickies).

Our family routines are as important to us as the routines of showering and brushing our teeth every day. They keep us grounded, give us continuity, and have a warm familiarity. There’s a certain amount of predictability that feels very stable and comforting.  And we make happy memories.

These are some of the things that keep us in good shape. I don’t mean our muscle strength and flexibility – although Kai Chi Do certainly helps with that. I just mean our daily sense of well-being – our mental hygiene.

We also look forward. Not just looking forward to special events and occasions. We just look forward. We focus on what we can do to improve our present moments and our future. We don’t dwell on the past. And don’t spend a lot of time thinking about things that hurt us or trying to figure out “why” things happened the way they did.  We don’t nurture blame or regrets – We may have some – We just don’t feed and water them and eventually they lose their roots.

One of my clients once told me he had “Lot’s wife syndrome” – He said that he had a bad habit of looking back. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?

When we look forward, we look at “what” and “how” – clarifying the vision and learning the method of what we want. These days we’re less captivated by worry – We spend less time trying to figure out how to avoid what we don’t want. It’s just a lot more direct and constructive this way.  It just feels better.

And you see that’s such an important signal right there.  Find the things that keep you in great shape – the things that increase your sense of well-being, the simple daily routines, the mental hygiene, the healthy habits – and do more of that!

There’s less room in your life for what you are trying to get rid of, if you fill your mind and time with the things you cherish and adore.