We had a great Retreat!

The energy of the universe comes at us, comes at us and we filter it. We create a meaning process around it. There’s a lot of blocked energy, collectively. It must be transformed if we are to evolve. We could say that when the primary energy of the universe meets consciousness, and when consciousness transmutes it, you have the evolutionary process.
—–Interview with James O’Shea at



The Weekend Retreat was so uplifting that we could really feel how each personal transformation makes a contribution to our collective well-being.

Participants kept thanking us and it was so humbling because their growth came from their own willingness, openness, receptivity, and intention. Each person released layer after layer of resistance and armor, and as each layer was let go, the bright joyous Spirit of that person was more and more present. Watching that transformation is so inspiring.

The Weekend is like a series of small incremental changes in how you feel and the way you look at things.  And the little changes start stacking up and accumulating and all the while you’re feeling lighter and happier and more relieved. And suddenly, before you know it, you feel different.  You feel better.  Life is suddenly more playful, more free, more forgiving, more hopeful, easier, more loving.

And it’s a very intimate experience – the process of releasing resistance is very intimate.  Because beneath that resistance is the authentic you.  When you share that with other people – and it’s safe – it makes a deep and lasting connection.

In one process we did, everyone identified their “anchor”, the thing holding them down.  What it looks like.  What emotions and memories it has.  Then we did breathwork, pulling in Life Energy and then relaxing and letting go.

The funny thing about breathwork is how your nose does all the work of transforming your thoughts and feelings.  Your job is just to be the Breather – not to get trapped and hold onto the thoughts or emotions – and then, at a certain point, you simply become the Breath.   And the thoughts and the feelings that were obstacles before find their own natural resolution.  It’s really kind of amazing.

And after the breathwork, we did a Fire meditation where each person said what they needed to say to feel complete and be willing to let go of that thing that’s been holding them back.  And then we burned the “anchors”.  We released all those restrictions over to the power of the flame, the Spirit of Fire.

All the Elements were working with our transformation this weekend – Root, Air, Fire, Water, Earth.

I have to admit, when the weekend was over, I had a momentary thought, “Oh no!  How do I take this back to the real world?”

And then I remembered – we are the real world.

7 Things to Look For in a Teacher or Coach

photo © Wong Sze Fei

To really benefit from a teacher or coach, you need to be able to give them your trust.  Not everyone deserves that gift.  But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between form and substance.  And when you are in pain or personal crisis, you could be willing to try anything.

Here are some our ideas about what to look for in a teacher or coach (and how to be a good one):

They help you to become more powerful, rather than fostering dependency. There’s a subtle trap that healers can fall into:  They need you to be sick in order for them to have someone to heal.  This is why we don’t believe in people being “patients”.  We don’t believe in the sick role because we know that everyone is powerful.

They know that you are the expert in what you need. You don’t need any more people in your life telling you what to do.  This is the trap of the expert role.  It’s an “I know something you don’t know” or even “I’m the boss of you” attitude.   That’s arrogant; It’s condescending.  And it’s controlling.  But don’t think it’s always obvious.  Well-meaning people can fall into this trap when you ask them to make decisions for you.  Don’t do that.

They know they’re a piece of God, but they also know that they’re not the whole enchilada. Steer clear of anyone who wants you to worship them.  Remember the first commandment – Thou shalt have no other God before me – and choose a teacher who wants to create leaders, not devotees.

They can make a mistake. Beware of people who are too holy. We already mentioned the teachers who encourage you to worship them – the ones who create a holy hierarchy with them at the top.  But there’s another type of phony holy – the hypocrites.  The ones who don’t practice what they preach.

On this subject, you might want to read a book called Meeting the Shadow.  It explores, for example, the achievements and the death of Chogyam Trungpa.  Trungpa Rinpoche started over 100 Meditation Centers including the Shambhala Meditation Centers and Retreats and he founded Naropa Institute, the first accredited Buddhist University in North America.  He also died, at the age of 48, from complications of alcoholism (as well as cocaine and Seconal).

The problem is not that he was fallible – The problem was that his secrets and hypocrisy were an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust.

You feel safe with them.  Avoid a teacher who evokes fear.  This often shows up in the message that there’s only one Way and you’ll suffer if you don’t follow (their interpretation) of it.  But leading by fear can also come in the form of criticism, disapproval, and group pressure to conform.  It is thinly disguised in the teaching to “accept 100% responsibility” that really delivers blame. Listen to your inner guidance system and don’t allow anyone to lead you with fear (or anger or intimidation).

They encourage your growth.  The first time Charles went to India to see Sathya Sai Baba, the people who led the group were upset that Charles and Sai Baba formed a bond.  They said to Charles, “If Sai Baba is your spiritual teacher now, who are we to you?”  We didn’t hang out with them too long after that.

You want a coach or teacher who loves it when you find a whole truckload of supports, resources, and tools.  They get a thrill from your path of exploration and discovery.  They’re not competing with anybody else and they’re not competing with you.  They’re not jealous.  They celebrate when you’re happy.  They don’t own you, and – as much as they love you and care about you – they don’t need you.

They help you problem solve. We’ve seen therapists and gurus who are completely non-directive.  It’s the opposite of the expert role, but it’s still a kind of condescension, like they’re above it all and they’re just waiting for it to dawn on you that the solution to every problem is to transcend it.  Stuff matters!  If you’re hurting, it matters to you.  Find a teacher who shows compassion and will actually give you constructive suggestions.  They don’t drown in your pain but they don’t just sit in the I.T. (the Ivory Tower) either.

Most of the cautions about teachers boil down to someone having a “Big Me – little you” attitude or trying to possess you.  Don’t buy it.  Give your trust to people who respect you and can help you to find the best in yourself.

Releasing Resistance – The Ball

The BallStruggle and pain is like a rubber ball that you’re holding under water. The rubber ball represents our true Self.  The pressure of you holding the ball down is your resistance.  As you let go of the resistance, the true Self bounces to the surface.

Once your true Self is at the surface, you move into a state of Awareness.  You let go of control, and you allow your true Self to come to the surface, and suddenly you have an expanded view — A broad open spacious Awareness.

Once you have Awareness, you have access to Understanding — You have a new perspective on the details of whatever has been troubling you, whatever was evoking your resistance.  Understanding brings clarity.

Once you have Understanding, you have access to Compassion – kindness and patience towards yourself and towards others. You begin to make decisions that are more fluid, more responsive, more gentle, rather than just trying to bully and push your way through towards what you want.

Once you feel Compassion, you have access to Love.  You live from a pure state of Being and you become an environment that evokes Love.  When you are in that state, stuff just works.  Life, running smooth.  You’re creative, designing, celebrating, collaborating.  Love is Magic Time.

Release resistance and you have access to Awareness.

Awareness gives you access to Understanding.

Understanding gives you access to Compassion.

Compassion gives you access to Love.

And Love gives you the real magic of Life.

Restoring Your Power

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards;

as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”

— Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

© Sergey Shlyaev –

Sometimes the best way to restore your power is to give up.  It’s one of the little ironies of life.

I have to admit, that’s been my week.  Giving up felt a little sad at first, and then, gradually, it felt like a relief.

Trying too hard doesn’t get you better results.  It gets you frustrated and exhausted. You’re pushing, pushing, pushing – focused on what you don’t have. Pushing against, rejecting, what is.

One of the lessons of the physical and energetic experience of Kai Chi Do is this:  No force, No resistance.

When you push – no matter how well-intentioned you are, no matter how right you are – you evoke resistance.  Push people, they dig in.  Push life, get pushed back. Push harder, get clobbered.

The alternative is to yield.  Step out of the struggle.  It doesn’t mean you agree with something you think is wrong.  It just means you unhook your emotional attachment.  And find your own balance.

Giving up means accepting where you are, and doing what’s within reach – doing what you are able to do – taking the next logical step.

When you stop holding your breath, you get inspired.

The Easy Way to Do Kai Chi Do

Listen to the wisdom of your body. Maintain the rhythm and form – the grace, precision, and coordination – of each movement, but pace the speed and size of the movements and breath to your own needs. Travel the wave of Energy with the group.

To enjoy Kai Chi Do (and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?) you have to do it at your own pace.  Give up those competitive drives for an hour and just listen to the wisdom of your body.

When you listen to music you want the sound loud enough that you can hear it, but not so loud that it hurts your ears.  It’s the same with the movements of Kai Chi Do – Set your pace so that you can feel the tune of your body – the pump and pulse of energy – but not so intense that it’s painful.

Here’s a few tips for finding a pace that feels great to you:

  1. Don’t try to keep up with Charles (or anybody else). Okay – face it – Charles does Kai Chi Do at least 6 days a week and he’s always been a hound for exercise.  Athletes half his age struggle to keep up (he was born in 1956, if you were wondering).  Watch him for rhythm and form, but find the intensity that’s right for you.
  2. Smaller and slower. The faster and bigger you make the movements, the more intense the experience will be.  So if you need to pace it down and lower the “volume”, make the same movements as the leader, but do them smaller or slower.  To make smaller movements, keep your elbows slightly bent, and close to your sides.  Keep the rhythm but go at half pace.  You can also make the pumping of your legs shallow rather than deep, or even keep your knees straight.  Regulate and vary the pace by going bigger and faster, or slower and smaller, as you need, throughout the different Elements of a Kai Chi Do session (Haven’t we all had days where we were praying for Fire to end so we could relax into Water?).  Stay with the process from beginning to end, just do it at a pace that feels good.
  3. Flexibility, not strength. If you want to take your Kai Chi Do up a notch, shoot for flexibility, not strength.  Focus on gradually increasing the range of motion of each movement, rather than worrying about your stamina or muscle strength.  There’s enough reps (repetitions of each movement) for strength to build on its own.
  4. Form and focus, not force. Rather than trying to force your body to do more than what feels good, focus your attention on improving the form – the grace, precision, and coordination – of each movement.  Graceful is smooth – Make movements flow like you are a dancer.  Precision is about keeping control of your muscles – No floppy doing-it-like-you’re-sleeping Kai Chi Do – Keep your muscles awake and stay fully in charge of them.  If you’re doing a Thrust, snap it at the end.  If you’re doing Chi Circles, integrate the top and the bottom so they are in the same vertical plane.  Be aware of the shape of your hands and fingers.  Coordinate what your hands and your legs are doing, the actions of your left and right hand.  (Coordination exercises your brain).
  5. Let the group carry you. The momentum of the group will carry you along and help you to go further than you thought you could go.  Let yourself stretch just a little – Keep the “music” of the movements loud enough that you can hear them – and then feel your connection to the group.  Go with them, and relax into it, as they travel the wave of energy.