Tag Archives: emotional health and well-being

Becoming part of the community

Today’s Musings

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Life here in Thailand is going really well for me. Little by little I am feeling more at home here, as I continue to find my way.

When coaching clients I often have people tell me that their life is just not what they want it to be, and that they feel trapped. I rarely have any simple answers or solutions for them, but what I do say is “Stay on your path and keep on listening and paying attention the best that you can.” As it used to be said in the 60’s “Keep on keeping on!”. Sometimes we need to sit in an uncomfortable place and work on simply being there, while doing our best to feel thankful. Remaining attentive to possible changes that we might need to make in order to generatively alter the course of our life.

What I do on a regular basis is spend some time most every morning giving thanks for what I DO have, and I usually do the same thing when laying down to go to sleep. Doing so gives me the perspective I need to live a positively oriented life.

I am always interested to read interviews of great athletes who never won the league title in a particular sport. Often what happens is the interviewer says something like “Even though you had a great career, do you walk away feeling disappointed because you never won the championship?” Usually the reply is something like this, “I played the game I love, I had many great teammates along the way, I excelled at what I did, and I made a ton of money. Geez, what would my life be like if I walked away feeling disappointed!”

So in simple terms, I think we will all do well to focus on the positive and let go of our disappointments.

Our lives could likely be “better” and our lives could also likely be a whole lot worse. The task at hand is to feel thankful for what we DO have rather than bemoaning what we do not have.

Simple, but not easy…

Please scroll down and read today’s story.

Becoming part of the community

There is something very interesting that I have noticed when living in a new culture. Somehow there seems to be what I call “the grapevine effect” where numerous people spontaneously start interacting with me in a new way. What I find so interesting is that this change in relationship takes place in various different settings all within a short time frame. It is as if a message got transmitted across my network of acquaintances informing people to change the way they relate with me.  

Everyone here in Chiang Rai started out calling me “khun Charlie” which is very much the same as people calling me “Charlie-san” in Japan. Using “khun” is the way that Thai people signify that they are respecting you. But then something interesting started happening within the space of one week. Four different people in four separate settings started calling me “lung Charlie” with “lung” meaning “uncle”. When I asked a Thai friend what led to this difference when speaking to me she said, “Oh this is really nice. It means that people are feeling like you are becoming a part of their extended family. It means they are feeling closer to you.” One young musician I play music with now even calls me “papa Charlie”. It is wonderful to know I am becoming an accepted part of the community, and again, very fascinating to me that numerous people shifted their perspective within the fame of one week. 

Another thing that has happened is that I now all of a sudden have a number of language teachers out in the community. My ability to speak Thai is still pretty primitive but more and more people have decided to help me learn more. For instance, when I go to the stall where I buy most of my vegetables the lady has started picking up and naming each vegetable she has, and asking me to repeat what she says. Lately she does this each time I show up, and it is a really great way to help me learn.

My friend that I wrote about in my last story decided to give me a math lesson the other day, and what really makes me smile is that she dove right into teaching me without first asking me if I was ready for her lesson. I can count fairly well, but it still takes me a bit of thinking to get the numbers out of my mouth. So the other day when I bought three items from her she added them up on her digital calculator as she called out each number. Then she decided to take me through some addition and subtraction, which she again showed me on her calculator, Then she handed the calculator to me and started calling out numbers, while she checked to see that I punched them in correctly. We carried on like this for a few minutes and then she proclaimed that I was really doing well and learning a lot. 

Last weekend I was walking down the street and I came upon a big party out in someone’s yard. I stopped to have a peek and one of my neighbors who I had yet to ever speak to invited me in. Soon I was being introduced to the guest of honor- An 88 year old woman who was celebrating her birthday. Next, I was given some ice cream and a group of children gathered around me to look at “the farong”. So I took the opportunity to juggle three pieces of candy that had been sitting on the table, and then I did a magic trick which left even the adults baffled. After that, one of the grandmothers attending the party started tugging on my arm, so that I would get up and do some dancing along with her and her friends. I did pretty good following the “step” of the dance, but I had no sense of how to move my hands and arms like they were. They certainly got a lot of enjoyment out of watching me though!

So now when I move around in my neighborhood I am feeling more and more connected to the community, rather than feeling separate and alone. People are welcoming me into their lives and that gives me a wonderful feeling! 

In Community,
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The woman with a broken arm

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

As I have written to tell you recently, I am currently living in Chiang Rai, Thailand. So far things are going really well and I am very much enjoying my life here. I love being in a new country and finding so many things to be unique and different than what I have experienced before. Every day there is something new to learn. A new word, a new phrase, a new custom that I had never been introduced to before. I am still very much feeling like an explorer in a new uncharted territory, and I find myself feeling alive and a bit excited most every day.  

As I said in my last newsletter to you, I am transitioning, and as part of that transition Tony and I have put our podcasts to rest for the time being. We each learned a lot over the last year or so and we are both thankful to have had the opportunity to serve you.

The next part of my transition is cutting back these newsletters from twice a month to once a month. I am doing this so that I have the time to take part in the many work activities that are presenting themselves to me here. 

Although you will not hear from me as frequently as before I hope you will stay tuned for more from me. I am not going away! Coaching members of the Seishindo community is still one of my passions in life and I am still very much available as a coach, so don’t hesitate to ask if you need some help from me. Also our Stress Management program is still very much alive and well, so do have a look and a listen.

The woman with a broken arm

After living as a “gaijin” (outside person) for 30 years in Japan I have become a “farang” living in Thailand. The term farang originally was meant to be anyone of European descent and I am not yet sure if the meaning now extends to any person who is not a Thai native.

Many of you have read my book “Pure Heart Simple Mind- Wisdom stories of a life in Japan” and the stories I share with you now will be similar in content and style. Today’s story is titled- “The woman with a broken arm”.

There is a store in my neighborhood that I am very intrigued by. It is quite a rundown shop with the front awning looking like it will collapse any day now. Indeed the awning is so bent over that I have to bend over to make my way inside. There aren’t any doors or windows in the store, and the woman owner has some metal fencing she puts up at night around the perimeter when she closes up. She sleeps on a small wooden frame bed that interestingly enough is placed pretty much in the middle of the store. She can be quite abrupt at times and I am guessing that a potential thief would not want to encounter her if they ever tried to break in. 

When I recently mentioned the shop and the owner to my landlord, she said, “Back when most everything was legal you could get most everything there. Opium, hashish, and who knows what else, along with daily necessities. Actually I have never been in the store because I don’t get a good feeling whenever I pass by. One thing I do know though is that this woman is known to be tough and I guess she has to be to deal with her clientele.”

Nowadays opium and hashish are no longer on the menu but the woman does sell a good deal of home brewed alcohol. A number of scruffy looking guys hang around off to the side every day starting at about 4PM, sipping the alcohol in oversized shot glasses. I did let one of the clientele talk me into a small sip one day and my throat burned while my eyesight seemed to improve for about thirty seconds or so. I haven’t been drawn to have any more though, so I guess I will just have to settle for wearing eyeglasses instead!

Shortly after moving to my house the shop owner broke her left forearm. I have no idea how this happened, but I am pretty certain that she likes to have at least one or two drinks daily, so she might have lost her balance one night. 

I walked into her shop one day to buy a few bottles of club soda which I often drink with a bit of ice when eating dinner, and the lady was out cold on her bed. It was around 2 in the afternoon and quite hot, and I couldn’t help but think that napping at this time of day was not a good idea as the inside of her shop is rather hot and stuffy. I had to call out several times to rouse her and she very definitely was not in a good mood when she woke up. 

Speaking little to no Thai at the time, I still managed to lightly touch her upper left arm and then the area around her cast as I talked to her in a gentle voice, using by best English. She had no idea what I was saying but she did seem to soften some. After not more than a minute of giving her some healing energy I paid my bill and took off. 

I went in again two days later, and she was awake and in a better mood than the last time. So I started touching her arm again and this time I lightly pulled on her fingers which were fairly swollen. Once again, my mini-treatment didn’t last for more than about a minute, and then I paid my bill and off I went. 

The next time I went in there were a few customers standing around drinking and I thought it might not be appropriate to touch her and thus I just paid my bill. When she handed me my change she squeezed my hand and smiled at me and I felt wonderful in receiving her friendship and acknowledgement. 

I never did a full treatment on her but I did actually get to the stage that I would work on her for about five minutes at a time, and she would wind up putting a small food treat in my bag as she said “Thank you” in Thai. 

Now she has had her cast off for about a month and we are slowing becoming friends. What I have taken to doing is opening up a Thai language app on my phone before going into her shop and pulling up a phrase or two that I can say to her. She really gets a kick out of this and she has taken to introducing me to her customers telling them that “this farang is my friend.” She really enjoys our interaction, and most of the time she remembers the phrases that I spoke the last time and prompts me to repeat the phrases again. My ability to speak Thai is still totally primitive but she always tells whoever is around that I am learning so quickly! 

These kinds of interactions with “everyday people” really add to the quality of my life and help me to feel “connected”. I am still very much a “gaijin” here, a “farang” but at the same time, step by step I feel that I am finding my way into the culture. 

Please come and visit some time!

In Community,
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Ultradian Rhythms and Peak Performance States

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

Today I want to talk about transitions.

If you have been following Tony and me over the last year you will know that we have been producing a podcast and newsletter every two weeks and that I moved to Chiang Rai, Thailand about three months ago.

Life for me has been very rewarding since moving. Lots of different positive opportunities and activities have popped up and I find myself very much enjoying my day to day life.

And I have also found myself to be somewhat conflicted…
I have been asking myself- Should I more fully move into the opportunities that are presenting themselves here or should I stay the course that Tony and I have created and forged together? “To be or not to be, that is the question.” 🙂

And from Tony’s side, he also has life presenting him with new opportunities….

So we have both decided to refocus our lives and thus our priorities. which means that today’s podcast will be the last podcast for awhile. Or perhaps it is clearer to say that we are putting our podcasts on hold so that we don’t create more of a workload than we can handle in a balanced manner. But I AM still going to be sending you newsletters!

I tend to have a compulsive personality. Perhaps I could even say “obsessive-compulsive”! I eat and talk fast, tend to work a lot, think of new ideas quickly, and I love most anything that is new, bright, and shiny! So, with my personality I have tended to often have more on my plate than I can handle in a relaxed manner. I wind up overloading myself and then trying to gulp down all that is in front of me. That is part of the way that I wound up gaining a lot of weight over the years, and when I finally figured out how to manage my weight, it had a lot to do with slowing down and reducing my portion size. Which is what I am in the process of doing now.

I am writing about my transition today for two reasons. 1. I want you to know about the changes taking place with me and the offerings you receive from me. 2. I want to give you the opportunity to think about how you might also like to make some transitions in your own life.

I would like to suggest that you take five or ten minutes every day over the next week or so to think about what you are doing, where you seem to be going, and why. Are you perhaps on a treadmill and no matter how fast you run you never really get anywhere? Are you perhaps stuck in the past, trying to accomplish something that isn’t in alignment with who you are now? Or maybe you have been coming from a place of scarcity, feeling like you will never have enough?

For me, with Tony’s help and support, I have come to realize that “less can be more”. With less in front of me I give myself a much better chance of fully appreciating, digesting, and improving what I do have. I give more thought to quality, as I deal with less and less quantity.

When you take the time to think about the dreams you are attempting to fulfill, you might possibly find that your dreams are out of date. For instance, no matter how much you might have wanted to start your own print newspaper, I would suggest that you consider starting an online “newspaper” instead. Also think about what led you to get on the path you are currently following. Did you start out thinking about your strengths and how you can do what you are best at? Or did you perhaps start out on a new path taking the first possibility that presented itself?

There is lots to think about, and the sooner you take the time to consider your life in a relaxed, supportive manner, the greater your chances will be of living the life you truly desire.

In ending my writing today I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Tony Padgett. He has been a guiding light and a primary source of support for me, these last couple of years in particular. He is one of the finest friends a person can have.

Stay tuned for more from me. I am not going away, I am just transitioning. Coaching members of the Seishindo community is still one of my passions in life and I am still very much available as a coach, so don’t hesitate to ask! Also our Stress Management program is still very much alive and well, so do have a look and a listen.

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

In our last two podcasts we talked about how to fall asleep easily and how to wake up and get out of bed feeling ready for the day ahead. Both of these topics (sleeping and waking) deal with recurring rhythms that take place on a daily basis, and these daily rhythms are known as Circadian Rhythms- Recurrent cycles that are repeated once every 24 hours.

Ultradian Rhythms are what we talk about in today’s podcast, and right here and now I am going to give you some of the important points that we talk about – some highlights. Please listen to our podcast to get much more depth and breadth. Ultradian Rhythms are recurrent periods of time repeated more than once a day, regardless of whether we are asleep or awake.

For instance, bowel activity, release of hormones, and cycling back and forth between mainly using either our right or left brain hemisphere to direct how and what we think. Often we tend to not pay attention to our Ultradian Rhythms, and when we do so, stress and ineffective activity is sure to follow. But when we do pay attention, what we discover is that every hour and a half or so we each need to take a rest break and give our system the chance to relax and rejuvenate.

When we don’t follow our Ultradian cycles and rest, we get tired and lose our mental focus, tend to make mistakes, get irritable, have accidents, and feel stressed. Indeed, people involved in the field of industrial safety recognize that ignoring a person’s ultradian rhythms tends to lead to industrial accidents created by “human error”.

So, taking a 15-20 minute break every 90-120 minutes is not just a luxury, and you don’t need such breaks because you are lazy or bored. Your system is designed to require such breaks. Taking a break allows your MindBody to recover, rest, reenergize, and revivify itself. When you do so you will be more productive, feel more emotionally balanced, and notice and utilize your peak performance states When you attune to your Ultradian Rhythms and take sufficient breaks you will cultivate:

  • Increased creativity
  • Better physical health in general (This is especially true for “seniors”.)
  • Better emotional health and self esteem
  • Better weight management (When you follow your URs you will have less feelings of cravings and addiction.)
  • Better relationships (When you follow your rhythms, you will be less irritable, and better able to listen to others. You will be feeling more “in synch” with yourself which will lead you to be more in synch with others.)
  • A healthier sex life (We will say a tiny bit more about that in our podcast.)
  • Better results with less medication (When a person’s ultradian rhythms are paid attention to and medication is taken at the right time of day, people need less medication to get the same or better results than in more usual situations.)
  • A reduction in psychosomatic symptoms.

What I have just shared with you here gives you a good taste of today’s podcast. Listen to what we have to say and you will draw inspiration for your life going forward. Click the button just below and have a listen our podcast!

Podcast - Attune to your Ultradian Rhythms

In Community,
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Wake up feeling refreshed and energized

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

Recently I had to go outside of Thailand for a couple of days so that I could apply for my new long term visa. I wound up choosing Vientiane, Laos as my destination. 

For me, much more than the usual sightseeing most folks do, I prefer watching and interacting with people. Most any day, I would rather visit a crowded traditional market than a museum. In Vientiane I met a small cluster of young monks sitting outside their temple. I sat down and chatted with them for about 45 minutes, only to finally realize that the temple had just closed for the day, and I was not a bit disappointed. I knew I hadn’t missed a thing!

Being that I have done bodywork for most of my life, when traveling in Asia one of the things I like to do most is sample the work of the local people. So I walked around for a while until I found a massage shop that had a nice feel for me, and then I went in to sample their offering. I chose a one-hour traditional Lao massage and then I was introduced to six potential people and asked to choose who I wanted to work with me. There were five women ranging in age from about 20 to 50 years old, and one young man with a shaven head dressed very simply. I chose the young man because I felt a warmness from him when he looked at me and because it was the first time outside of Japan that I had the opportunity to be worked on by a man.

He had a gentle intensity to him and I was intrigued to discover that he spoke a basic form of English that he had learned along the way. He was 19 years old and yet he had the presence of someone much older. What was most fascinating was that, as he worked on me, he told me things about myself that he learned by touching me. As I laid on a futon on the floor he said “Big heart” after kneeling alongside me and laying his right hand on my stomach for about 20 seconds or so. “Lonely a little” he said after placing his left hand on my chest. Next he said “no marry” which I took to mean his correct understanding that I am single. 

At some point he was sitting cross legged above my head and he placed both of his hands over my face. “Friendly man” he said, then “let go sadness”. Next I was surprised to hear him say “You father” and I took this to mean he knew I had at least one child.

Towards the end of the massage he was sitting with his back against the wall and he placed a large thin cushion in front of his chest and invited me to recline into his chest. He did various rocking movements and then said “Breathe”. I took a deep breath and he said “Again” and I took another deep breath. and then he tapped my stomach and said “Close eyes, breathe big”. I did just that for several rounds, and then we both came to a place of being very still, very quiet. I felt deeply protected and cared for and had this wonderful sense of being held by my mother. Or perhaps it is more correct to say that I felt he was offering me the experience of being a child held by his mother. I felt sadness, a feeling that I can only describe as “love”, and a great sense of freeing myself from my everyday concerns. I knew in that moment that the thing to do was to fully surrender to life, to let go of my thinking mind, so that I could more deeply touch my feeling mind.

One of the sweetest parts of the experience was when we bowed to each other once the massage was over. I had this deep sense that I had just met myself as a young man. That he and I were part of the same lineage system, tapping into the same field of wisdom and love. Both touching and being touched and feeling an experience that is common to all human beings. Knowing that beneath the surface there is a constant yearning to be seen and touched by others. No right or wrong, no good or bad, just the experience of witnessing and being fully accepted. In such moments all is just as it should be, just as it is.

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

Waking up feeling ready for the day ahead is one of the most important activities you can engage in. You can wake up feeling rested and energized by focusing on the positive aspects and relationships in your life.

When it is time to wake up, if your head is filled with tasks that you don’t enjoy or relationships that are problematic you won’t want to get up and face the day. So especially if you have a challenging day in front of you, it is best to spend a few minutes when you first wake up, and before you get out of bed, to think about the circumstances and relationships in your life that you are thankful for. When you do such thinking you will feel more appreciative of all the good things in your life, and thus you will feel more energized.

Even as you read this text now, take a moment to do what I suggest and see if it doesn’t leave you feeling more thankful and at peace.

Considering what your dreams for your life are…
The things that you really want to accomplish, you really want to do.
The activities that you really want to be a part of.

The activities and relationships that can help to define who you really are, deep down inside.

Take some time now to think of the people in your life that you care about and are thankful for. And internally say their names, slowly, one by one…
Friends…
Family members…
Loved ones…
Colleagues…
The people in your life that support you and care for you and about you.
The people in your life that enrich the quality of your life.
The people in your life that bring a smile to your heart.

And please also take the time to consider the many aspects of your life you likely usually take for granted. A roof over your head, food to eat, clean water to drink, and simply the fact that you are here now, engaging in life.

You see, the more you take the time to be thankful for the many wonderful aspects of your life, the more you will want to get up and start again. Being thankful is a great way to keep your life in perspective.

For me it is like this… I wake up on a particular morning and think “Wow, I have so much to do today and I am not sure I can get it all done.” I say these words to myself as if I have a tape playing in my head that I have no control over. But next, I become somewhat mindful and I say to myself, “I love my daughter and I wish she was still just 6 years old so I could take her and her friends to the zoo this Saturday. I am so thankful for all the love she has brought into my life.” And when I say these words I see us at the zoo and smile as I remember the curiosity and fear my daughter had when she once stood in front of a lions cage. “Oh dada” she said, “Are lions always hungry? Do they always want to eat people?” I bent down and gave her a hug and said, “Well Marina, I don’t know if lions are always hungry, but best to keep your distance, and good to know that you always have mommy and dada to depend on.”

Having just run this scenario through my memory bank I realize that there is much more than just “work, work, work” in my life, and I am thankful for all the wonderful times I have spent with my family and friends. I realize just how much my family and friends add to the quality of my life and I feel blessed to have shared so much love. And when I feel thankful I also feel much more ready to face the day ahead.

What I have just shared with you here gives you a good taste of what today’s podcast is about, I hope you will listen to what we have to say and draw inspiration for your life going forward.

You can click the button just below and have a listen. I hope you will wind up feeling more thankful for all the wonderful aspects of your life.

Podcast - Wake up feeling refreshed and energized

In Community,
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An interview with Stephen Gilligan – Part 2

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

Hi all…
Living in Thailand gives me a much greater sense of living with nature than I have ever had before. Even though I have traveled throughout much of the world, I still am very definitely a “city boy” and thus living here is proving to be a new and exciting experience. Here is some of what I have been noticing and thinking about…

When you live in a place where it never really gets cold and there is a lot of rain as well, then everything just grows, and grows, and grows. With a fair amount of the greenery in the compound I live in, you can notice growth on a daily basis. Having grown up in New York City, I am familiar with the saying “The city never sleeps,” but here in Thailand I think a better saying would be “The vegetation never sleeps.” Sometimes living here seems a bit like an Alfred Hitchcock movie because everything just keeps on growing and taking over more and more space, including attaching to the walls of my house. I had a dream the other night that I slept for a week and upon waking up vines were blocking most of the light from coming in through my windows. Dreams are rarely if ever, true to life!

I am finding it hard to know what is a weed and what is a plant that has been added by our gardener. On two occasions I went around the compound with our landlord and said “Why don’t I pull this out before it overtakes the space?” and her reply to my queries was, “Oh no, don’t pull that out, that is a plant we use for cooking.” So I have started to pay more attention to some of my neighbors when they are out working in their yards, and it is becoming clear to me that there is a lot of local vegetation that is part of the basic Thai diet. It pleases me to see people living in harmony with nature.

Being that it is always either warm or hot here, the housing is not at all airtight, and that means that I have a number of creatures that share my house with me. I am guessing that I have at least a half dozen geckos in the house at any one time. I find these “guys” to be cute and they do help in eating whatever insects they can get ahold of. I have been tempted to go to a local pet shop and see if they sell “gecko food”. Feeding them would be my way of saying thanks, but then I realized they might no longer bother to eat the insects in my house.  I had a bit of a startle response today when I opened my mailbox and a gecko jumped out!

Yesterday I found my first toad inside my house and I must admit that I got a bit squeamish. I was pretty certain it couldn’t bite, but “Who knows what this beast might be capable of!” so I called in my neighbor knowing that he is a toad enthusiast and he trapped the little critter and set him (or her?) free out in the garden.

Part of my neighbor’s consideration in liberating the toad was to not leave it in a place where one of the local cats would have easy access to it. The cats in my neighborhood are another source of learning for me. I have a number of small screens in my house that slide open and closed and I was surprised to find two of the screens partially opened the last couple of days. My first thought was, “Hmm, it hasn’t been all that windy, so I can’t imagine how these screens got opened.” Well today I went to my upstairs bedroom to get a piece of clothing, and there was a local cat napping on my bed! Turns out that the cats have learned over time how to scratch the screen open, and they do the same with some of my neighbors as well. I don’t so much mind seeing a cat in my room but open screens lead to mosquitos coming into my house, which definitely is not fun when it comes time for me to sleep.

So I must say I am currently at a loss for what to do. If I keep all the windows closed the house becomes too hot. Keep the windows open and I am bound to be sharing the house with cats and mosquitos. All of which left me consideingr how I could benefit from these tiny challenges. Which lead me to an idea for a new business- Gecko rentals! I could gather and train a troupe of geckos to go into houses and consume whatever insects and other critters are there, and charge a few dollars a month for this service. But prior to starting up such an enterprise, I think I would need to figure out what to do with all the of the tiny “droppings” the geckos invariably leave behind. Hmm, do you have any ideas that might prove useful here? If so, we could perhaps become business partners.

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

With today’s podcast, we are finishing up the interview with Stephen Gilligan, who is a licensed Psychologist practicing in California and has developed his own method of therapy called “Generative Self.” If you didn’t catch the first half, we suggest you go here and have a listen first.

Having been an active participant in the interview with Stephen Gilligan, I have listened to today’s recording a number of times, and I feel that there is a lot of great information presented in a friendly format. Here are some of the themes that stand out the most for me:

The meaning of everything that takes place in your life depends on your belief system and frame of mind. Break your arm in early life and this might lead to your studying physical therapy as a profession. Or, it could lead to your forever complaining about how clumsy you are. Get kicked off your high school basketball team as a freshman because the coach felt you just weren’t good enough, and this could lead to your feeling and acting like a failure for years to come. Or you could instead use this early failure as the fuel that feeds your fire of personal determination, much like Michael Jordan did. The choice is always yours to make, whether you realize it or not.

In a number of our podcasts, Tony and I have talked about “positive intention”- believing that someone does what they do for reasons that are meant to be helpful and life affirming. Sometimes it takes a good deal of soul searching to come up with someone’s positive intention, but we believe it is crucial to do so. In his own words Stephen said much the same. In our model of the world/our belief system, we believe that people always have positive intentions, but often we have less than stellar strategies for fulfilling our intentions.

Another theme was- Believing that we all belong to numerous highly intelligent systems. Universe, earth, nature, the various communities we belong to… especially “the community of self”. Stephen and I talked at length about how every aspect of every one of us has the propensity to be highly intelligent and life affirming. In our work with clients Stephen and I both often ask “In regard to the health challenge you have, what is the deeper life affirming message your somatic self is attempting to communicate to you?” In other words, “What is the positive intention hidden behind your presenting symptoms?” These are not easy questions to answer but if you believe that your entire system really wants you to be healthy, you might discover that the illness you have can wind up being a great gift. Maybe not a gift that you would ever ask for, but a gift nonetheless… as Stephen would say “a terrible gift”.

Much of what we talked about in our interview with Stephen was built upon the understanding that “life is not necessarily easy” and we of course know this from our own personal experiences. Sometimes what takes place in our lives is hard to come to terms with. In my coaching practice I particularly like to work with people who are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, be it a serious injury or illness, or a business situation that has really gone sour. One of the first things I listen for is my clients determination. It is not uncommon to have someone say, “Gee, what you are suggesting to do won’t be easy.” A common response by me will be “Yes, likely the way forward won’t be easy. Do you want to go for it nonetheless? Accomplishing something great is rarely if ever, easy.” In conversations with friends and clients I often like to playfully say “Life is a full time activity.” I am not sure that we ever get to fully retire and take it easy. Indeed many people who live a long life always have something new that they are wanting to accomplish or create.

We talked about a number of other topics as well, and it is our hope that you will listen to what we have to say and draw inspiration for your life going forward.

You can click the button to read an outline of the interview and also listen to Part Two. Enjoy!

Podcast - stephen gilligan part 2

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An interview with Stephen Gilligan – Part 1

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

Hi all,
Since moving to Thailand a couple of months ago I have been sharing my Thai experience in the introduction to our newsletter. So here is a bit more today…

I have been finding the people I meet to be kind and caring with a wonderful sense of humor. When you move to a new country and most of the people don’t speak any of the languages you speak and you don’t speak their language all that well, every day you go out you will be sure to have some interesting experiences. 

Let me tell you about a short encounter I had the other day during lunch-
I went into a noodle shop that I had visited several times before. I know enough words to squeak out an order, but not all that much more. The mother of the owner was in the shop this time around and she decided it would be nice to have a conversation with the new “farong” in the neighborhood. (“Farong” is the Thai word for “foreigner”.)

First she said it was hot today, and I could understand that, so I nodded my head “Yes”. Then she made another statement which I could not understand, but I guessed that “Yes” was a safe answer, and I replied “Yes”. Well, I think she became somewhat confident in my Thai language ability because she then went on a bit of a riff in fluent Thai. 

At the end of her soliloquy, I could tell by the intonation in her voice that she had asked me a question. I had no idea what she had asked and thus I had no idea what to reply, so I made a gesture to hopefully show I was confused and didn’t understand. Seeing my “reply” she got up from where she was sitting and came over and sat down at my small table and immediately started gabbing away with a smile on her face. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she did seem to be enjoying herself! After about a minute of talking, she asked me another question, and I gave the same gesture to try and let her know I had no idea what she was talking about. Which led her, I think, to try and explain herself even better!

We engaged like this for about five minutes or so and then her son came to my table to serve my noodles. He winked at me and then took his mom by the hand, apparently asking her to get up and help him do something on the other side of the small shop. As she was doing the assigned task she was still actively talking and at some point another person in the shop who could speak some English called out to me and said, “She just told her son that she thinks you are a very nice young man, and she would like to talk to you more some time.”

I couldn’t help but smile… And now I am looking forward to seeing her in the future when I can speak at least a few more words of her language. 

These are the kind of encounters that really wind up enriching the quality of my life!

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

Tony and I had the pleasure to interview Stephen Gilligan, Ph.D for the current podcast episode. Stephen is a leader in the field of generative psychology, and during the interview we were able learn his thoughts on how we can live a life that is less stressful and thus more emotionally fulfilling. Due to the amount of material we covered, we decided to split the interview into two parts.

For me, interviewing Stephen was a blast from the past. In many ways it seems to me that Stephen and I have been like two butterflies flitting around in the same large field, and only first meeting each other after both of us had logged a good deal of flight time.

I started out on my flight path by studying various healing and bodywork modalities, adding in Ericksonian Hypnosis, getting deeply involved in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), while also getting nicely swept away by my study of Aikido and moving to Japan.

Stephen on the other hand was a psychology major who happened to be studying at UC Santa Cruz, the school that was the nexus point of a number of exceptional human beings, and the gestation of NLP. Not only did Stephen study with Richard Bandler and John Grinder (the founders of NLP) in their early days of teaching, and Gregory Bateson as well, but through Grinder and Bandler, he came to meet and study with Milton Erickson, and eventually he began to seriously study Aikido as well.

So simplifying the above, the “areas” where our  flight paths overlapped were: Ericksonian Hypnosis, NLP, Gregory Bateson, and Aikido. And each in our own way, we learned a lot that is similar and complementary. Let me explain…

My study of Ericksonian Hypnosis started mainly with John Grinder. One of the things I noticed early on with John was that whatever response he got from a “client” while teaching was quite alright with him. He accepted and acknowledged whatever the client said, and he UTILIZED the response of the client to help create positively-oriented change. As an example- If he held up a black placard and asked the client what color the placard was, John wasn’t at all concerned with whether or not the client said “black”. This was quite intriguing for me to experience. It was as if there were no right or wrong, but only acceptance of the client’s experience and model of the world.

Then when I moved to Japan and started to study Aikido with Tohei-sensei I got to see that he had the very same way of reacting as John did. Tohei-sensei would ask a student to attack him and regardless of the attack the student mounted, Tohei-sensei seems quite at ease with what the student did. If the student kicked, that was quite ok. If he instead punched, that was also quite ok. Tohei-sensei UTILIZED the attack as a way to neutralize the attacker and lessen the aggression being expressed.

I found the similarities between John and Tohei-sensei to be deeply fascinating, and I felt truly blessed to be witnessing two great teachers with very different backgrounds, responding in very much the same way. Although John never studied Aikido, he used to say that Aikido and NLP are both based on the same principles- Going with the flow and utilizing whatever was manifesting at any given moment.

Stephen and I have talked and shared a good deal over the years, and we have very similar models of how we approach our work. One of the many gifts that Stephen offers his students is the understanding of how Milton Erickson engaged in the very same process of utilization .

So what I have written here, sets the beginning context for what Stephen and I talk about in today’s podcast. So let me stop now and give you the chance to listen to the podcast. I hope you will get as much enjoyment from this interview as Tony and I did!

A wide range of topics were covered in this interview, so you can click the button to read an outline of the interview and also listen to the podcast. We’ll finish up with Part Two of the interview when we publish the next newsletter in two weeks.

Podcast - how to change careers

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Learn from your past, rather than being defeated by it!

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsOften, we have a tendency to limit our future due to what has transpired in the past. When we do this we wind up assuming that since some event or relationship did not work out previously, we will not be successful in a similar context in the future. I think a more generative way of thinking involves learning from the past, rather than using it to limit our future.

Today’s podcast will talk about such topics, and I will write more below in the Musings section of this newsletter. So please have a read, and then a listen!

If you go to the podcast on the site, you can see an outline of the key points of today’s podcast. Some people like to read the outline before listening as it gives them a clearer roadmap to follow.

When you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to better learn from your past.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockOne thing is clear in regard to many highly successful people – They failed once, twice, or even three or four times before finally hitting upon a plan that worked. And what highly successful  people do is learn from their mistakes and then do things differently the next time around. The same is true of successful athletes. People who are successful in the long run tend to use their early failures to be more successful in the future. In fact they use their early failures to help motivate themselves to be more successful in the future.

But when mere mortals like myself wind up not being successful in a certain task or relationship it can be all too easy to ask “Why didn’t things work out?” and often when I ask myself such a question, I realize I am looking to assign blame rather than looking at what I could do differently and better the next time out.

Often when I am coaching people they say something like, “I keep asking myself why my relationship with my spouse turned bad.” And usually it is rare that they come up with an answer that will help them to form a plan for how to do things differently in the future.

You see, if you are going to focus on what went wrong, or what someone else did wrong, you will do well to also focus on what went right and what was well done. You need to learn from both the good and the bad if you are to succeed in the future. So instead of asking yourself “Why” something didn’t turn out well you will do better to ask yourself “What could have led to success here?” When you ask yourself this question you won’t need to wind up staring at the negative side of the coin. When you focus on what went wrong you will tend to only see and realize the negative while missing out on the positive.

Also, when debriefing the past consider whether or not you are focusing on what you do truly want, or if instead you are focusing on what you would like to avoid the next time around.

For instance, asking yourself “What did I do that led me to remain overweight?” will yield different answers and a different future than asking yourself “What is my best current plan for achieving a healthy body weight?”

There is meant to be a tribe in the Andes mountains where the people gesture in front of themselves when talking about the past, and behind themselves when talking about the future. I am not sure how they came to think and talk this way, but I certainly find what they do to be very interesting. If I am not mistaken, I remember reading quite some time ago that the ancient Greeks had a saying which was, “Your past lies in front of you, and your future behind you.” So perhaps both cultures shared a similar wisdom.

My thinking goes like this- Everything that we see and everything we experience is subjective in nature. What we see or experience is predominantly based on what we believe to be true. This is particularly so when we are looking at or experiencing something that is new or unclear. We tend to “see” what we expect to see. When I write this now I can recall numerous scientific experiments that make this quite clear, but when I am in my everyday experience, I find this concept much harder to fathom.

Just today I was in a restaurant in Tokyo for lunch and there was a group of students who had just graduated high school and they were out celebrating. When they left the restaurant their table was looking quite messy. One Japanese customer remarked, “Gee the kids of today have no concern for keeping everything in order. I would be highly embarrassed to leave the table looking as it does.” The master of the restaurant replied, “Gee, I wish I was as young as them and had so much enthusiasm for what lies ahead.” Same “messy” table, yet two very different points of view.

Or even consider this… most other folks in Tokyo and I are very much waiting for spring to truly arrive. I was talking to a neighbor at around 8 this morning and we both remarked, “Gee, it is still pretty cold isn’t it!” And just about that time a happy looking kid walked by wearing a T shirt and no jacket. Obviously the kid’s concept of “cold” did not match the concept of “cold” that my neighbor and I had.

So do your best to remember that everything is relative, everything is subjective. And remember that even when you have failed in the past you did not do “everything” wrong!

Another idea is this- Think of your past as an experiment that occurred and your job is to change the results of the experiment the next time around. It is your job to decide what needs to be done differently, and what needs to be done the same.

Use your past failures to motivate you to do better in the future, rather than using your past failures to defeat you a second time.

In Community,
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Achieve greater clarity and purpose by resolving inner conflict

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsI believe that “life is a series of challenges.”

And when I write that, I wonder if you perceive me as having just communicated, “Life is a series of struggles,” or if instead the message you get is something more like, “Everyone faces numerous challenges in their life and it is crucial that we are able to face our challenges in a positively oriented manner.”

I believe your interpretation will depend a lot on whether or not you find yourself needing to frequently deal with inner conflict. Inner conflict leads one part of you to say “Yes” to a desired outcome, while another part of you says “No.” (We discuss this type of conflict in our Anger Management video which can be found here on our website.)

For instance, you might likely encounter inner conflict when having made a clear commitment to yourself to lose weight. Things go well for the first few days, and then you go to a friend’s house for dinner, and they offer you “the best chocolate cake on planet earth.” How can you say “Yes” to the cake, while also saying “Yes” to your weight management goals? Even as I type that question now, it seems like it might be a zen koan – a question that has no logical answer. Indeed I believe that often the most important issues we face in our life are paradoxical in nature.

Today’s podcast focuses on resolving your inner conflicts so that you are better able to act with clarity and purpose – in other words, resolving or solving the paradoxes you are faced with. Not necessarily an “easy” task, but certainly a task that you are definitely capable of accomplishing, and we give you the steps to help you do just this.

If you go to the podcast on the site, you will see that we have started to include an outline of the key points in each podcast. We started to do this as a result of feedback from some of our listeners. If you are in a hurry or just want to read what the podcast is about, this should help.

Before you listen to the podcast you might want to scroll down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter and read what I have to say about inner conflict.

When you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to act from a place of greater clarity and purpose.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockAs “one” individual, we often tend to cast competing votes when it comes to important issues that we face in our lives. For instance, one part of us says “Yes” to wanting to get in shape and exercise more, and another part votes for postponing our exercising regime until the weather gets warmer. This “self competition” is somewhat like being a politician who needs to satisfy two voting blocks that have very different outlooks on life. There is the challenge of needing to craft an initiative that will please both the liberals and the conservatives. Certainly not a simple task and perhaps even a task that can seem impossible at times.

My friend Stephen Gilligan likes to playfully say that many of us seem to have an evil twin that shows up at all the wrong times with the intent of sabotaging whatever plans have been made. So what to do?

I believe that a crucial life skill is having the ability to listen to, appreciate, and synthesize the seemingly competing goals and voices we all have at times. We need to understand that our emotional self often wants immediate gratification with little understanding of the long term consequences of our actions. At the same time, our logical self tends to make goals that don’t take the needs of our emotional self into account. In my life, “the trick” seems to be having the capacity to listen to my emotional self from the perspective of my logical self and vice versa. To craft goals and actions that take into account both voices, both selves. Only then am I able to gain an intuitive understanding of the paradoxes I am faced with, dissolve my internal conflict, and act with clarity and purpose.

When wanting to act in a more decisive, life-affirming manner, I think you will do well to step back and consider how much you find yourself arguing with yourself, and how much you attempt to achieve solutions that are either black or white, rather than achieving goals that are fashioned from a more collaborative point of view. In regard to weight management, I have been working on listening to “Mr. Slim” and “Big Boy”, the names I have given to two of my personas in regard to self-image and weight management.

Big Boy likes to eat pizza and drink beer and finds that the opportunities to do so are somewhat limitless. Mr. Slim on the other hand is very much into the importance of being at a healthy weight and has disdain for anyone who does not see the “obvious” benefits of following his plan of action. Having lost around seventy pounds over the last two years has necessitated me teaching these two guys how to have a collaborative, respectful conversation with each other. Helping each persona to find the similarities and common ground in their seemingly disparate views of life. The results have been highly rewarding, and I believe that you are also definitely capable of crafting new “self-relationships” that can serve you well.

The more you are able to respect and appreciate the synergy your various internal competing points of view offer you, the more energy you will have to successfully meet the many challenges you face. Living a life that offers you significant emotional fulfillment is one of the many benefits you will receive!

Have a listen to today’s podcast, and let me know what both of you think!

In Community,
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Are you on the right career path?

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsWell, once again we are launching into a new year, and I am wishing everyone the best.

To me this is a good time of the year to think about what direction your life is moving towards and what you might like to do differently this time around. I am not talking about making a bunch of lofty resolutions, but rather I suggest thinking about what actions you can take to do some things differently. Little baby steps that will lead to “different”, life affirming results.

Slow down, breathe more, and take one step at a time in a positively oriented direction. If you do so the overall quality of your life will improve and you will feel more empowered. Little by little, baby step by baby step.

Along the line of thinking about what changes you might want to make in your life, today’s podcast is meant to help you decide if you are on the right career path.

I present a tool that I often use with clients, and my clients have told me they also find this tool to be quite useful in deciding on whether or not they are in the “right” relationship with a significant other. So have a listen and hopefully you will benefit from what we have to teach.

Go down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter and read what I have to say about deciding if you are on the right career path.

And as you scroll down, please take a moment to notice that my book “Pure Heart Simple Mind- Wisdom stories from a life in Japan” is now available and on sale in electronic format (PDF). Many people have written telling me how the book has really been nourishing for them, and you might find that the same is true for you.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, open your player and today’s podcast should show up automatically. If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it there as well), then please click on the button just below.

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Musings…

Newsletter_rockIn the course of my work, I meet many people who feel trapped in their current job. Sometimes they don’t care for the company they are working for, sometimes they no longer have interest in the field they are working in, and some people feel like they don’t have the skills to be doing anything else. And thus people wind up feeling trapped.

I can tell you from my work that a lot of people have a lot of pain around the issue of what they “should” be doing work-wise. It can be really horrible going to work everyday when you are unhappy with what you are doing. Because of the suffering I see people going through, Tony and I decided to do today’s podcast.

You will have the best chance of excelling in a career when it is suitable, appropriate, and agreeable to your whole self. Fairly often I find that my clients are engaged in a career, or wanting to engage in a career that really doesn’t fit who they are, and thus they struggle. They have one foot on the gas and their other foot on the brake, and when they struggle they tend to think they must be doing something wrong. But their problem stems from their attempting to engage in a career that really isn’t a good fit for who they are and what they want out of life.

The way I see this situation usually play out is for every reason a person has for wanting a different career, they have at least one other reason why they feel they “can’t” change. Financial reasons, family reasons, or simply because they don’t have any other clear skills that they feel they can use in order to forge a new career. The outcome is that people feel trapped and they wind up with the feeling that their is out of control.

In today’s podcast we suggest a path that we often suggest- Working with one of our tools to see how you can align your heart with your head; your thinking mind with your emotions. When you are able to do this, the path forward will become clearer, and you will feel that you do indeed have viable options. And yes, viable options does not mean your path forward will be “easy”. Few things that are really worth accomplishing in life are “easy”. It is the ongoing effort you give that makes your goals that much more satisfying when you get to the other side.

If you would like to further explore whether or not you are on the right path in life, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
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What to do when facing failure

Introduction

Everyone has failed numerous times in their lives, and indeed some degree of failure is inevitable. So rather than trying to avoid failure I think the important point to consider is what we do after having failed. When we learn something from our failure and thus alter what we do in the future, then “failure” can be an important life affirming learning experience. On the other hand, when we believe that the failure we faced today is a sign that we simply are not all that competent, then we wind up limiting what we are capable of in the future.

In today’s podcast we are going to look at failure as feedback, rather than looking at failure as a sign of incompetence. We engage in an activity or relationship and the world around us gives us feedback. Sometimes positive and sometimes not so positive. The task we face in life is to adjust and adapt based on the feedback we receive. Failure can be a great teacher, letting us know what works and what doesn’t work, and what we need to continue doing as well as what we need to be doing differently.

So, without further ado, If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our website (and you can download it as well), then please click on this link: What to do when facing failure. If you are already subscribed to our podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, the podcast should already be showing up in your feed. And, as always, you can find our back catalog of podcasts by clicking on this link: Life Tools.

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Musings…

amazonI have been traveling in Peru and Ecuador for the last three weeks and I have once again had the opportunity to look at life from a new perspective. I have seen stunning beauty while traveling for 24 hours round trip on a ferryboat on the Amazon river. I have lived for five days in a remote jungle camp that taught me a lot about living close to nature, and I have made my way through numerous cities along the way.

I am sitting here now in Cuenca, Ecuador, thinking about how to describe my experience, and I feel that the best way to do this is to share some random thoughts and feelings with you-

Many people throughout the world live in great poverty. Although this is rather sad to see I am also heartened by the many folks I have come across who live with a wonderful sense of happiness and dignity, regardless of their economic condition. I realize that I have much more than I often appreciate.

Nature can offer us a great sense of wonder and give us a powerful experience of just how “tiny” we are in the overall scope of life. The Amazon river is teeming with life, change, and constancy.

In our jungle camp we went out late in the day to set the fishing nets, and then returned to the nets in the early morning to harvest our breakfast. Not unusual to take in 20 or so small fish and have them served with some local plantains harvested nearby. It led me to understand just how “simple” life can be. Simple but not easy!

amazon_monkeyI met many wonderful people happy to share a few moments or a few hours with a gringo, and at the same time whenever I was on crowded streets I needed to be wary of pickpockets. Sometimes the pickpockets were young children working as part of a team.We stood on the second deck of our ferryboat after arriving back to Iquitos and watched in wonder as many people surged off the boat and many others then surged onto the boat to buy the cargo on the main deck. Lots of fresh fish and fruits, and lots of bargaining going on.

Whenever I travel I am amazed by the differences and similarities I find in various cultures. Japan and the United States offer a very different experience of life than South American culture, and yet there is always something that is the same. The “sameness” I find when traveling is the kindness that people often gladly offer to strangers. One of the richest experiences in life is to ask someone for help, when you don’t share a common language. Perhaps, as one of my fellow travelers remarked, the universal language of life is love.

I have met many wonderful young children along the way, and had several fantastic experiences of giving an impromptu harmonica performance to kids I met while waiting for a boat to arrive, and also playing for people while taking our ferryboat ride on the Amazon. Certainly music is another universal language that can easily be enjoyed and understood by all.

ButterflyMy trip has given me the opportunity to pause and ask myself “Where am I, who am I, and where am I going?”. Certainly the journey is much more important than the destination.

amazon_butterflyMy trip has also once again made it clear to me, that the people I share my life with are so important to me, so crucial.

If you go to the Seishindo fan page on Facebook you will be able to see some of the pictures that my friends and I took.

I hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Tony and I are so thankful to be able to share with you what we have learned along the way. For your convenience, the link to the podcast is here: What to do when facing failure

In community,
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Reframing your relationship to change

Introduction

Today we have a small surprise in store for you. Today’s newsletter Musings is being written by my good friend Tony Padgett. Tony and I are doing the Life Tools Podcasts together and I thought it would be great for everyone to get to know him a bit. Also at the time you receive this newsletter, I will be in the jungle in Peru, not too far from the Amazon river. I checked and there are no internet connections, no cellphone towers, and no convenience stores. At some point in the future I will write some about my trip, but for now, let me introduce Tony….

Tony has been working and living in Asia for the past 23 years, the first 17 of them in Japan and the last 6 in Singapore. In addition to his study in Hypnosis, Aikido, and NLP, Tony has worked for a variety of companies including Toyota, Seiko, and Canon as well as few financial institutions. He is currently managing a team of 100 people and has seen an led a variety of change management programs during his career, so I thought it would be appropriate for him to write this version of the newsletter.

Which brings me to the point…this week’s newsletter and podcast is about “Reframing your relationship to change”. We look at how to reframe our relationship to change and engage our challenges from a positive, self-empowering perspective. Due to the nature of the topic, this is one of our longer episodes, so we recommend you listen to this a few times in order to fully absorb and understand each step.

If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our website (and you can download it as well), then please click on this link: Reframing your relationship to change. If you are subscribed already via iTunes or another podcast player, the podcast should already be showing up. And, as always, you can find our back catalog of podcasts by clicking on this link: Life Tools.

Without further ado, I’ll let Tony take it from here.

In Community,
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Musings…

In my 23 years of business, I have seen a variety of change programs implemented. Some of them have been good but most not-so-good. And the reason I would say most of them have failed is because they did not capture the emotion of the teams involved. They try to rely way too much on the logical reasons behind the change (e.g. pull out the PowerPoints and show the cost savings, gains in efficiencies, etc.) rather than speak to the teams that were going through the change and give them an emotional reason for why they should buy into the change program to begin with. The change may be good for the company, but why was it good for the employee? Moreover, when a change program is implemented to save costs, I am sure most were thinking…I had better watch myself since if they are looking to cut costs, maybe I’m next!

And, while a change program may have been technically completed, I would say many of them still failed because they left most employees feeling neglected or dis-empowered since they felt no direct connection to the results or were not engaged in the process. The change effort may have changed people on the outside, but their internal behaviors didn’t change.

While change is sometimes obvious as with a change program, another type of change is the ability to grow and adapt to the environment around you–a more indirect type of change. I am sure we all have seen companies that have failed because they kept to the status quo since it’s always harder to start change than it is to sustain it. In the podcast, we discuss one of the more well-known stories…..Kodak. Kodak missed the opportunity to change–they did not move into the digital film arena, and now they are struggling to remain relevant, and there are even reports of the company going bankrupt by September this year.

The key to being open to change is to accept that change is inevitable and that we need to be open to change to adapt and grow. There is no way that we cannot not change! Our bodies changes, the weather changes, and even our opinion changes (especially as we get older, at least in my experience!) The challenge will be is if we change in a generative way or simply change because we are forced to. The former way will bring a lot more positives into your world while the latter will not be lasting.

We tend to not be open to change just because it makes “logical” sense. We tend to change when we feel good about the change itself, as discussed above there is an “emotional” component that influences us to change. Our podcast addresses how to take our limiting reactions to change and modify them into a more positive, generative way to viewing change and thus the way we feel about change overall. By changing our limiting behavior and being open to change, we believe we can then live our lives to the fullest potential.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and thanks for listening! For your convenience, the link to the podcast is here: Reframing your relationship to change.

Yours truly,

Tony

Reframing your relationship to change

Play

We look at how to reframe our relationship to change and engage our challenges from a positive, self-empowering perspective. Due to the nature of the topic, this is one of our longer episodes, so we recommend you listen to this a few times in order to fully absorb and understand each step.

Positive Intention: With yourself

Introduction

Our transition to podcasting is now pretty firmly underway, and today you are receiving the link to our third podcast relating to “Positive Intention”. Today’s podcast walks you through how to use the concept of positive intention to forge a better relationship with yourself.

Read through my “Musings” further on down the page, and also our offer of a free digital version of my book.
And then when you are done… Please listen to today’s podcast- If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, today’s podcast will show up automatically the next time you open the application you use. That is the beauty of subscribing to a podcast!

If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it as well), then please click on this link: Podcast 3: Positive Intention- With yourself

If you missed either one of our first two podcasts you can listen to them, and or download them, here:
Podcast 1: Positive Intention- Introduction

Podcast 2: Positive Intention- With others

We have received some wonderful feedback that leads us to believe we are on the right path, and both Tony and I would love to hear from more of you! The more feedback we get from the Seishindo community, the more we will learn about what you are really wanting to hear us talk about and teach. We look forward to offering you tools that will help you to live a more fulfilling life!

If you are interested in Japanese culture, intercultural issues, and mindfulness, you will likely find my book to be of special value. Click here to have a look inside my book.

Musings…

These last couple of weeks have really given me a lot to think about, and a lot to feel into and absorb. Because so many of you have been receiving my newsletters for a number of years now, I want to share my recent experience with you, rather than simply talking about theory.

Whenever a loved one passes away a lot of memories flood up from the past. One of the things that intrigues me the most about this process is that memories just seem to appear on their own, without any prior conscious thought on my part. I am sure you have all had a similar experience numerous times in your life. When this happens the most is during what is sometimes called “twilight times”. Just before going to sleep, immediately upon waking, while sitting on the train, or any other time when we are not thinking about anything in particular. I would love to know more about how this process takes place. Where are these memories stored, and what is the trigger that leads to one memory and not another? So much of life is mysterious and unknown!

In a wonderful act of serendipity, as we put out our podcasts on “positive intention” I have been drawn to give this concept a lot of thought in regard to my dad. My dad was a courageous New York City fireman for many years, and he saved numerous lives in the course of his work. My dad also had a number of personal demons he struggled with during his life. This led him and me to not always have the best relationship, even though we both tried our best.

So I have spent a good deal of time over the last couple of weeks, coming to a heartfelt understanding of what my dad’s positive intentions were, and also my own positive intentions in regard to being in relationship with him. Lots of food for thought, and lots of emotions to somehow sort through.

You see, I do know that my dad always had a positive intention when disciplining me and criticizing me. Intellectually, I can understand this fairly easily. What takes a good deal more work though is coming to an emotional understanding of what this means. There are two points we have been talking about in our podcasts on positive intention that are important to consider here:

1. Even though our intentions are positive, we often engage in less than stellar behaviors or strategies when attempting to fulfill our positive intentions. Keeping this point in mind I have found it important to appreciate that my dad did indeed have positive intentions, even when his behavior seemed to suggest the opposite. The more I am able to keep this in mind, the more I am able to appreciate my life with my father. It has led me to the realization that he did indeed always want the best for me.

2. Forgiving others for what they have done, is not the same as condoning what others have done.
I think this is a point where people often get stuck when they have been involved in challenging relationships.

In this regard, I have found that it is again important to separate out my dad’s positive intentions, from the behaviors and strategies he used in attempting to fulfill his intentions. When I do this, I can appreciate what his positive intent was, while at the same time forgiving him for the hurtful things he said and did. And I can do this without needing to try and condone some of what he did. The better able I am at doing this, the better able I become at liberating myself from many of the negative emotions I have carried with me over the years.

In sharing my thoughts and feelings with you today, I hope that you will be able to benefit going forward in your own life!

And we would like to ask for some help please…

The more positive reviews we get for our podcasts on iTunes, the better we will show up in the iTunes search results. Better search results leads to more people joining the Seishindo community, and benefitting from what we have to share. So, if you are enjoying our podcasts, we would really appreciate a favorable review!

If you already have iTunes installed on your computer and you have an iTunes account then please use this link to leave a review-
itms://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/seishindo-life-tools/id639589158

It will open iTunes for you and then you will want to click on the tab for “Ratings and Reviews”

And as a way to thank you for your review, we would like to offer you a gift. The pdf version of my book, “Pure Heart Simple Mind- Wisdom stories from a life in Japan.”

After leaving a review on iTunes send us an email at life-tools@seishindo.org with “Podcast review” as the title of your message, and please tell Tony what country you are in, so we can keep track of where people write from. After receiving your email Tony will send you a link to the book.

For those of you who have the time and interest, thanks so much for helping out!

Positive Intention: Part 3 – With Yourself

Play

This podcast explores how we can have a better relationship with ourselves, and in the process, wind up having better relationships with others by leveraging the concept of positive intention.

It’s a new day, a new dawn – Positive Intention with others

Introduction

I entitled today’s newsletter, “It’s a new day, a new dawn” because on May 9th my dad passed away at 10PM, just two hours before my birthday. So for me, life is very much starting a brand new cycle.

I have been very blessed in the last few years. My mom passed away three and a half years ago, and I was there with her in her closing moments. The same was true for me and my dad.

My dad was 93 years old as he headed out of the building, and I have already had someone seeking to identify me, ask if I was Charles Jr. I replied that perhaps at the age of 65 I was now just Charles, or Charlie.

Everything is fine as I sit here in Atlanta Georgia, but since I have been writing to the Seishindo community for more than 12 years now, I wanted to share this transition with you all.

Please cherish life.

It truly is a gift!

In community,

Seishindo Life Tools

Sensible solutions for life’s everyday challenges

Life Tools Cover Art 1400 x 1400 v1Today’s podcast starts up where we left off last time, discussing the concept of “positive intention”. This podcast talks about how to improve your relationships with others, by assuming that people really do want to be involved in relationships that serve all parties involved.

A pretty radical concept!

The death of a loved one can really get you thinking about what their overall positive intention in life was. When I think about my father-Both his good points and the inevitable flaws that we all have-I have found it very important to “remember” that his positive intention has always been to love me and protect me, even though at times, I didn’t fully understand the methods he used.

You see, when we assume that people act from a place of positive intention we assume that people have life affirming reasons for doing what they do, even when their behavior would lead us to believe the opposite. Understanding this life affirming principle can truly be a blessing. Both for you, and the people you are in relationship with.

To listen to our second podcast please click below. We look forward to offering you tools that will help you to live a more fulfilling life!

You can find the podcast here:
http://seishindo.org/podcast-002

A description of our Life Tools podcasts

(Since the podcasts are still brand new, let me give you some of the same information I posted last time out.)

Our free bi-weekly podcast is designed to give you straightforward, easy-to-understand solutions, for the challenges life brings your way. During each episode, I will offer step-by-step instructions on how to help you solve a particular everyday challenge that most people face. From these podcasts, you will receive insight on how to improve your relationships with others, maintain a solution oriented outlook in life, and feel more emotionally fulfilled.

Each podcast episode is between 15-25 minutes in length depending on the topic. You can listen during your commute to work, your workout at the gym, before you go to sleep, during your lunch break, or whenever and wherever you find the time. We hope that our podcasts will enhance your overall “Seishindo experience”.

You can subscribe for free and little by little you will come to live a more solution oriented life. One tool at a time, one podcast at a time.

So please do join us in this new endeavour! You can add to our podcasts via iTunes by clicking the following link: Add to iTunes.

Or, if you are using another podcast player, you can copy and paste this RSS feed directly into your player:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Seishindo-LifeTools

And if you are totally new to podcasts and want to learn more, just continue reading!

Do let us know what you think! Feedback from you will help determine the future course of our podcasts.

We’ve created a Life Tools community forum

When wanting to give us feedback go to the link just below and scroll down the page a little bit and you will see the Life Tools section of our forum.

In case you are wondering what a podcast is

Podcasts are audio files you can listen to on a computer, smartphone, and audio player. In essence, they are like individual radio shows that you can listen to on demand. In fact, you can also listen to them directly from our website as they are published (we will give you a link to our website for each new podcast in future newsletters).

However, it is even more convenient if you subscribe to them with iTunes or a podcast player application on your computer or audio device. Every time a new podcast is released, iTunes or your podcast player will automatically download the next episode the next time you open the application.

If you are new to this and using a computer, we suggest using iTunes since it is the easiest way to get each episode and the application is available for both Windows and Macs. (If you don’t have iTunes, you can download it at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download. If iTunes is installed on your computer or device, all you need to do is click on the iTunes button below which will take you to our podcast on the internet. From there, click “View in iTunes” which will take you to our podcast in iTunes, and then you can simply click “Subscribe” and all of our previous podcasts will be delivered to your iTunes player while future ones will be delivered, without your needing to do anything. Just go to your iTunes app and listen whenever you like. And did we mention, it is completely free!

So…
If you haven’t add the podcast yet yet please click on this link, and let this new journey begin!

Once again…
If you use something else other than iTunes, you can also subscribe by copying and pasting our RSS feed into your podcast player application:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Seishindo-LifeTools

Enjoy!

In community,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Positive Intention: Part 2 – With Others

Play

This podcast explores how we can have better relationships with others by assuming that they have positive intentions – in other words, by assuming each person really does want to be engaged in relationships that serve all parties involved.

Positive Intention

Introduction

For some time now, I have been working on simplifying the concepts we use in Seishindo so that more of our community can derive the same benefits people get when they engage in coaching with me.

My long time friend, Tony Padgett, kickstarted my thinking a few months ago, and the two of us started reworking and repurposing the concepts and tools we use in Seishindo.

The outcome of our work is a brand new podcast series entitled:

Seishindo Life Tools

Sensible solutions for life’s everyday challenges

I am thrilled to present you with the very first of our podcasts, which you can listen to today, at your leisure. It is entitled “An introduction to the concept of positive intention”.
You can find the podcast here:
http://seishindo.org/podcast-001

Positive Intention

Positive intention is a fundamental concept in Seishindo, that you can use to improve your relationship with others, and also to improve your relationship with yourself. Our definition of positive intention is- An intention or goal that is meant to bring about beneficial results for everyone involved. No one is hurt or demeaned along the way.

When we assume positive intention we assume that people have life affirming reasons for doing what they do, even when their behavior would lead us to believe the opposite. Or, I can even say, We especially want to assume positive intention when a person’s behavior would seem to suggest the opposite.

Going forward…

The both of us are really excited to present our podcast series to all of you and we are hoping that you will derive great benefit from what we have to offer.

So in the foreseeable future, our podcasts will be my main offering to the Seishindo community.

Just as always, this newsletter will still come to you twice a month, and beyond letting you know that a new podcast has been served up, I will share some of my thoughts about the things in life that intrigue me and get me energized.

A description of our Life Tools podcasts

Our free bi-weekly podcast is designed to give you straightforward, easy-to-understand solutions, for the challenges life brings your way. During each episode, I will offer step-by-step instructions on how to help you solve a particular everyday challenge that most people face. From these podcasts, you will receive insight on how to improve your relationships with others, maintain a solution oriented outlook in life, and feel more emotionally fulfilled.

Each podcast episode is between 15-25 minutes in length depending on the topic. You can listen during your commute to work, your workout at the gym, before you go to sleep, during your lunch break, or whenever and wherever you find the time. We hope that our podcasts will enhance your overall “Seishindo experience”.

You can subscribe for free and little by little you will come to live a more solution oriented life. One tool at a time, one podcast at a time.

So please do join us in this new endeavour! You can subscribe to our podcasts via iTunes by clicking the following link:
Add to iTunes

Or, if you are using another podcast player, you can copy and paste this RSS feed directly into your player:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Seishindo-LifeTools

And if you are totally new to podcasts and want to learn more, just continue reading!

Do let us know what you think! Feedback from you will help determine the future course of our podcasts.

We’ve created a Life Tools community forum
When wanting to give us feedback go to the link just below and scroll down the page a little bit and you will see the Life Tools section of our forum.

In case you are wondering what a podcast is

Podcasts are audio files you can listen to on a computer, smartphone, and audio player. In essence, they are like individual radio shows that you can listen to on demand. In fact, you can also listen to them directly from our website as they are published (we will give you a link to our website for each new podcast in future newsletters).

However, it is even more convenient if you subscribe to them with iTunes or a podcast player application on your computer or audio device. Every time a new podcast is released, iTunes or your podcast player will automatically download the next episode the next time you open the application.

If you are new to this and using a computer, we suggest using iTunes since it is the easiest way to get each episode and the application is available for both Windows and Macs. (If you don’t have iTunes, you can download it at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download. If iTunes is installed on your computer or device, all you need to do is click on the iTunes button below which will take you to our podcast on the internet. From there, click “View in iTunes” which will take you to our podcast in iTunes, and then you can simply click “Subscribe” and all of our previous podcasts will be delivered to your iTunes player while future ones will be delivered, without your needing to do anything. Just go to your iTunes app and listen whenever you like. And did we mention, it is completely free!

So…
If you haven’t subscribed yet please click on this link, and let this new journey begin!
Add to iTunes

Once again…
If you use something else other than iTunes, you can also subscribe by copying and pasting our RSS feed into your podcast player application:
http://www.seishindo.org/category/seishindo-life-tools/feed/

Enjoy!

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

 

Positive Intention: Part 1 – Introduction

Play

This podcast introduces the Seishindo view about positive intention and how it can help people live more fulfilling lives. Positive Intention will be a key and fundamental tool we will use in future podcasts.

The Risks and Rewards of Personal Freedom

Introduction

Today, I am re-publishing an article I first wrote about eight years ago. Recently a Japanese textbook publisher found this story on the internet and published it in a textbook for learning English. I got my complimentary copy late last week, and it was sweet to see the story set up in textbook format, with various vocabulary words underlined and defined. It is always wonderful to have someone show appreciation for my work, and it always brings a smile to my face when one of you writes telling me you appreciated a story from this newsletter. Thanks so much for letting me know!

Have you signed up for our complimentary stress management course yet?

If you are wanting to live a life that is more emotionally fulfilling, you can sign-up here.

I also want to invite all of you to visit the Seishindo Community Forum. We have a wide range of interesting articles and other information and we are waiting for you to visit, interact, and share with us. The more of you who sign up, the greater the pool of wisdom.
Please visit us by going here. http://www.seishindo.org/forum/

One way or the other, I would love to hear from each and every one of you!

In community,
Signature

YOU too, can be a superhero!
The boy in a costume of superhero

2. The Risks and Rewards of Personal Freedom

One of the first things I noticed about my new parrot was that he couldn’t fly. Chico’s wing feathers had been trimmed and thus he was earthbound just like us humans. Once the weather turned nice, I took Chico and sat him on a branch of a tree in my backyard to make him happier.

At first he seemed upset. He walked back and forth on the branch looking like an anxious father walking back and forth in a maternity waiting room. I was surprised to see that he didn’t flap his wings and try and fly. Somehow he just seemed to know he couldn’t, and I always wondered how he knew such a thing.

One day while Chico was walking on the branch of the tree, he seemed even more anxious than he had been when I first took him outside months ago. He was moving back and forth and talking a lot. Then all of a sudden he stopped walking, made a deafening screech, and started madly flapping his wings for the first time ever. About three seconds later he lifted off from the branch like the space shuttle at Cape Canaveral! I was amazed and shocked. I didn’t know he had been waiting all this time for his feathers to grow back. It now seemed obvious that he had been cagily biding his time.

Chico made his break for freedom on a Monday afternoon, and by late Monday night I was pretty sure he was not going to return home. Finally on Tuesday evening Chico returned, but he stayed up on a high branch where I couldn’t reach him. I talked to him softly and showed him some food, but to no avail. Then I took his cage inside so he would not think that coming back meant getting caught again. Finally I made him a promise that if he did come back I would let him out every day when the weather was nice. Shortly after making my promise, he flew onto my shoulder and I took him upstairs.

From that day on, when the weather was good I would always let him out early and he would fly around and be back home before dark. His routine continued like this for about two months and then suddenly Chico became ill. The vet said that he had caught a disease from the pigeons in the neighborhood. Within a few days he died, and I felt conflicted and sad.

I kept thinking that if I had not set him free to fly every day, he would still be alive. But then after a week of torturing myself I realized that the quality of one’s life is much more important than the number of years one lives. After all, what does it mean to be a bird if you can’t fly?

Chico made his first flight for freedom on a Monday afternoon in April. When will you make yours? You too can take a chance when the conditions are right, knowing that in your own way, you also were born to fly. If you don’t set yourself free, what will be the purpose of your life?

It is my thought now, that the quality of your life is dependent on feeling your essence, and living the design that is you. If you are a fish your life needs to be all about swimming. If you are a bird your life needs to be all about flying and spreading your message of freedom to all you meet along the way. What is your essence? What were you put on this earth to do? If you don’t let yourself be free and express your heart you won’t be fulfilling your reason for living.

3. My Offer

If you would like some help in better understanding yourself and reinventing you life, I can likely help. You can go here to see what others have said about my coaching. http://www.seishindo.org/about-us/kudos/ Send me an email at charlie@seishindo.org and I will send you some information. If you like what you read we can have a complimentary “chemistry check” conversation so you can get a feel for how we might work together.

Regards,
Signature

Thoughts to Ponder – 7

1. Introduction

Have you signed up for our complimentary stress management course yet? I hope that many more of you will find the time to sign up and begin to live a life that is more emotionally fulfilling and less stressful. You can go to this link on our site and find out all the details.

I also want to invite all of you to visit the Seishindo Community Forum. We have a wide range of interesting articles and other information and we are waiting for you to visit, interact, and share with us. The more of you who sign up, the greater the pool of wisdom.

Follow this link, register as a member, and help us to create a life affirming community.

One way or the other, I would love to hear from each and every one of you!

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

 

Sit quietly and wait for the mist to burn off…

IMG_9893

2. Thoughts to Ponder- 7

“You gave your life to become the person you are right now.
Was it worth it?”
David Thoreau

“When we find inspiration, we need to take action for ourselves and for our communities. Even if it means making a hard choice, or cutting out something and leaving it in your past.”
Aron Ralston

As we open to what is actually happening in any given moment, whatever it is or might be, rather than running away from it, we become increasingly aware of our lives as one small part of a vast fabric made of an evanescent, fleeting, shimmering pattern of turnings. Letting go of the futile battle to control, we can find ourselves rewoven into the pattern of wholeness, into the immensity of life, always happening, always here, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Sharon Salzberg

“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”
George Harrison

In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King

We need to listen carefully to the wisdom of our symptoms and to try to decode their meaning, because some of us have learned to settle, to fall silent, to deny that unfair circumstances exist or matter, and then to call our compromises “life”. But our bodies, our deeper unconscious selves, remain harder to fool.
Kat Duff

True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the profound desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.
Bill Wilson

Indecision with the passing of time becomes decision.
Bill Wilson

Excellence is the result of caring more than others think wise, risking
more than other’s think safe, dreaming more than others think practical, and expecting more than others think possible.”
Anonymus

“People sleep, and when they die, they awake.”
Mohammed

Spend some time alone every day.
The Dalai Lama

What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.
Ellen Burstyn

Life is so short we must move very slowly.
A Thai saying

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.
Richard Moss

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving
Lao Tzu

A snowflake never falls in the wrong place.
A Zen saying

Love
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
Bill Wilson

What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labor, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?
George Eliot

Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
Mark Twain

I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am
with you.
Roy Croft

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
Aristotle

Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time… It tells us to
tell each other right now that we love each other.
Leo Buscaglia

Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.
Alexander Smith

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
David Thoreau

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

 

Thoughts to Ponder – 6

1. Introduction

Our complimentary stress management course is up and running and many people are already receiving valuable life lessons. I hope that many more of you will find the time to sign up and begin to live a life that is more emotionally fulfilling and less stressful. You can go to this link on our site and find out all the details.

I also want to invite all of you to visit the Seishindo Community Forum. We have a wide range of interesting articles and other information and we are waiting for you to visit, interact, and share with us. The more of you who sign up, the greater the pool of wisdom.

Follow this link, register as a member, and help us to create a life affirming community.
http://www.seishindo.org/forum/

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Life is an act of metamorphosis…
Crimson_Rose

2. Questions to Ponder 6

Concerning not knowing and “nothing”
“Nothing is more real than nothing.”
This quote is attributed to Democritus but it also plays a pivotal role in various Oriental wisdom practices

“If we could agree that for six months we would not ask How?…this might elevate the state of not knowing to being an acceptable condition of our existence rather than a problem to be solved, and we might realize that real service and contribution come more from the choice of a worthy destination than from limiting ourselves to engaging in what we know will work.”
Peter Block, “The Answer to How is Yes”

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”
Bob Dylan

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.”
Wendell Berry

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
André Gide

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.”
author unknown

“What we call ‘I’ is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. When your mind is calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing, no world, no mind nor body, just a swinging door.”
Pema Chodron

“To do is to be.”
Socrates
“To be is to do.”
Plato
“The way to do is to be.”
Lao-Tzu

“The real voyage of discovery lies not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men…”
Roald Dahl

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity, a pessimist sees a
calamity in every opportunity.”
Sir Winston Churchill

“If one day you have a big problem, Don’t turn to God saying you have a big problem, Turn instead to your problem saying you have a big God.”
Quran

“You never conquer a mountain. You stand on its summit a few moments; then the wind blows your footprints away.”
Arlene Blum

“To dare is to lose your “foothold” for a moment. Not to dare is to lose yourself.”
Sören Kierkegaard

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”
Paul Hawken, “Growing a Business”

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another
with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Winston Churchill

“It takes four bad investments to make a good venture capitalist,”
Charles Kaye, President of the venture capital firm Warburg Pincus

On being judgmental
“We judge others by their behaviors, but we judge ourselves by our intent.”
Manager Tools

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Mother Teresa

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”s
Oscar Wilde

Miscellaneous
“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
Richard Moss

“The best defense is no defense, which is another way of saying “The less defensive you are, the better able you are to defend yourself.”
An Aikido principle learned over the years

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder – 5

1. Introduction

I thought that spring was about to arrive in Tokyo, but the last couple of days the weather has been close to freezing, and at night, a bit below that. 🙁

The complimentary Seishindo stress management course has been well received by many of you, and I would love to have more of you sign on. No cost, and no strings attached for a five week course that can help you learn how to better manage your emotions. Click on the link in the right hand sidebar of this newsletter, and files will be delivered to you shortly thereafter.

Even if you are not needing any stress management skills, you might like to come join us in our community forum. Also no cost to register and participate. The link for the forum is:
http://www.seishindo.org/forum/

One way or the other, I would love to hear from each and every one of you!

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Are you bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready for life?

That_Impish_look

Photo by Ruben Alexander

2. Questions to Ponder 5

Do you wish your life was easier?
“There are always two choices. Two paths to take.
One is easy. And its only reward is that it is easy.”
Unknown

Is there anything in life,
That is really worth doing,
That is “easy” to accomplish?
When you say, “But it won’t be easy!”
Are you really saying that you doubt whether or not you are capable?

Just because something is simple, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to do.
Charlie

“The Dharma life, that of following our instinct for freedom, requires involvement in everything. Every emotion, every mind state, every expression of being is valuable, important to know and learn from. Evolving a realistic Dharma attitude helps to keep these things in perspective.

At times the process is arduous and all-consuming, requiring heroic patience, courage, and determination. At other times, the way is silent, intuitive, and imperceptible. It can be a magical process, whereby we smile as we absorb life’s delicious blend of beauty and intrigue. Then, without notice, a storm of torment, origin unknown, sweeps over us and takes us to our knees. Being alive and engaged with all dimensions of reality is an odyssey no one can prepare us for. No amount of training or spiritual practice makes direct experience any less daunting.”
Alan Clements

If you limit your choices to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that’s left is compromise.
Robert Fritz

Are you waiting for things to be “just right” before you feel happy?
“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards. They try to have more of what they want so they will be happier.
The way it actually works is the reverse.
You first must be who you are, then love what you do, in order to have what you want.”
Margaret Young

“In every single thing you do, you are choosing a direction.
Your life is a product of choices.”
Dr. Kathleen Hall

“We all need to decide whether to “play it safe” in life and worry about the downside, or instead take a chance, by being who we really are and living the life our heart desires.
Which choice are you making? ”
Charlie

Do you find yourself avoiding change”
Change has a considerable psychological effect on the human mind.
To the fearful it is threatening because it means things might get worse.
To the hopeful it is encouraging because things might get better.
To the confident it is inspiring because a challenge exists to make things better.
King Whitney Jr.

How can you focus on the positive while remaining aware of the need to change?

There are two primary choices in life- Accept conditions as they exist, or accept responsibility for changing them.
D. Waitley

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
John Cage

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
Anatole France

Don’t change: Desire to change is the enemy of love.
Don’t change yourselves: Love yourselves as you are.
Don’t change others: Love all others as they are.
Don’t change the world: It is in God’s hands and he knows.
And if you do that change will occur
Marvelously in its own way and in its own time
Yield to the current of life unencumbered by baggage.
Anthony de Mello

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
Edith Wharton

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder – 4

1. Introduction

Today is part 4 in a series of “thoughts to ponder”. What I have been doing is going back into my warehouse of stored quotes and, and adding a bit here and there.

If you have been enjoying what you have been reading, please drop me a line and let me know.

And oh… Our complimentary stress management course is attracting more people every week. Why not give it a try? There is a sign-up link to the right.

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Be sure to find the guiding light in your life!

Guilding_light

Photo by Ruben Alexander

2. Questions to Ponder 4

Do you tend to live in your past rather than learn from your past?
Do you spend a good deal of your time recounting stories of difficult times you have had in the past? Do you spend a good deal of your time telling stories of positive outcomes you are expecting in the future? I think that very few people would be able to answer “Yes” to both of these questions!

What I have found over the course of my life is this- The more a person spends time telling “war stories” from their past, the less likely they are to have a satisfying future. Indeed, the more stuck people are by the challenges they face the more they tend to live their life from the perspective of their past, with little sense of a future that works.

“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.”
Eyemadreamer

We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.
Kahlil Gibran

Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible.
Cherie Carter-Scott

When you are sitting in the midst of your problem,
what is more real to you – your problem,
or the fact of being here.
Your presence in the here and now is the ultimate fact.
Suzuki Roshi

Go, not knowing where
Bring, not knowing what
The path is long and the way unknown
The hero knows not how to arrive there by himself
Russian fairy tale

“The future, is no more uncertain than the present.”
Walt Whitman

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Mother Teresa

“Today is yesterday’s pupil.”
Benjamin Franklin

“Don’t go backwards, you have already been there.”
Ray Charles

Do you beat yourself up for not being perfect?
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”
Sam Keen

Is it not our imperfections that make us perfect?
Charlie

Haim bought the perfect suit!
Haim went to a tailor, and tried on a suit.
As he stood before the mirror, he noticed the right hand side of the suit jacket was lower than the left hand side.

“Oh,” said the tailor, “Don’t worry about that. Just hold the left side down with your left hand and it will be perfect.”

As Haim proceeded to do this, he noticed the right lapel of the jacket curled up some instead of lying flat.

“Oh that?” said the tailor. “That’s nothing. Just turn your head to the right and hold the lapel down with your chin and it will be perfect.”

Haim complied, and as he did so he noticed the length of the pants was a little short and he felt the crotch was a bit too tight.
“Oh, that’s not a problem,” said the tailor. “Just pull the crotch down some with your right hand. Not only will the length of the pants increase, but you’ll have more room in that all important area as well.”

Although Haim felt somewhat awkward doing all of the hand and head movements, he agreed with the tailor that the suit was an excellent value and he purchased it.
The next day was a holiday, and Haim decided to stroll around the neighborhood showing off his new suit. As he limped through the park with his chin holding down the lapel, his left hand tugging on the suit jacket, his right hand pulling his crotch… two old men stopped playing checkers to watch him stagger by.
“Sidney, oh, my God!’ said the first man. ‘Look at that poor crippled man!’

Sidney reflected for a moment, and then replied….
‘Yes, Moshe, the crippling is terrible, but you know I wonder… where in the world did he buy such a good looking suit?!”

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder – 3

1. Introduction

Well, our brand new site and community forum is finally up and running, and I am very pleased with the results. We have had close to 100 people register for our forum and complimentary stress management course in our very first week, and I feel gratified with all the support! Please do come and join us. If you are appreciating my newsletter then I think you will find a lot to appreciate in our forum and course. We have taken the principles I espouse here, and turned them into actionable activities.

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Make sure you taste life’s nectar!

Homing_in

Photo by Ruben Alexander

2. Questions to Ponder

Do you feel like something is missing in your life, that something is missing within yourself?

Realizing that you are always changing, how can you feel complete when your life is yet to be complete?

It is important to regularly update your perception of who you are. If not, you will be mistakenly perceiving yourself as you were in the past.

Do you appreciate who you are and the challenges you have successfully faced? If you don’t feel that something is missing in you, then you won’t feel that something is missing in your life.

Eugene O’Neill said, “Life is for each man a solitary cell, whose walls are mirrors.”

When you look to change what you see in the mirror, realize that the mirror is only reflecting what you believe to be true. Change your beliefs and you will change what the mirror reflects back to you.

Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

You will be happy when you are thankful for what you do already have. Chances are, that you take for granted the many things you have. This is a common “mistake” we all often make.

Are you so busy searching for answers that you don’t take the time to be happy?

Swami Chetanananda said, “Life is not about finding answers. It is about learning to live in the middle of complete uncertainty and doing so gracefully.”

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.”

Have you noticed that you tend to have an habitual way of responding to the world that stops you from responding in a more solution oriented manner? How would changing your beliefs change some of your habits?

Do you actively think about how you can help make those around you feel happy and fulfilled?

Doesn’t it make you feel good when you are around people who are playful and smile often?

Have you realized yet that regardless of the circumstances of your life, you can be happy?

Every time you find yourself feeling happy, you are investing in the future of yourself and those you care about.

You are your most important relationship. You must first have a healthy relationship with yourself before you can have a healthy relationship with others. The more you love and appreciate yourself the more you will be able to connect with others. The more you love and appreciate yourself the greater the likelihood of finding suitable, emotionally healthy partners.

Spend some time alone every day.
Spending some time by yourself will strengthen your ability to be in healthy relationships with others.

What will you need to do differently if you are to live the life you truly desire?

Are you uncertain about your path in life?
Pablo Neruda said,
“All paths lead to the same goal,
To convey to others what we are.
And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song–
But in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our consciousness.”

“If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.”
Carl Sagan

The goal you work on today, determines who you will be tomorrow.
If you don’t have a clear dream you are working to fulfill, it will be all too easy to give into the emotions of the moment.

Ask yourself,
“If I take this action now, how will I be impacting the course of my future?”

If not now, when?

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

The Circle of Life

Introduction

My mom passed away on December 11, 2010.
I wrote this newsletter then to commemorate her passing.

I am publishing it again today, with the hope that it will help you to ponder the circle of your life.

Christmas is sneaking up on us. Please don’t overdo yourself! In Japan, the average person, child or adult, only receives one, or two gifts at the most. I really like it that way!

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

The wonder of a beautiful morning!

From_a_distance

The Circle of Life

Shortly after being diagnosed with late stage brain cancer, my mom began to lose her ability to communicate in words. She went from saying “I’m thirsty, please give me a glass of water.” to eventually only being able to say, “Water!”. Her ability to understand what was being said held up well, but the brain power necessary for her to craft a verbal response lessened day by day.

I wasn’t about to let the decline in my mom’s verbal skills, hinder our ability to “talk”. I created and taught her a simple series of hand signals, and most importantly a “secret” winking system, so we could continue to communicate just as we always had. This was particularly important when my mom wanted to say something private to me when others were in the room.

A wink of the right eye by either one of us, meant everything was fine.

A wink of her left eye meant my mom didn’t care for what was happening, or that she was in pain. Once, when a friend brought her some homemade food she didn’t particularly care for, she blinked her left eye at me twice, and then winked once with her right eye as she turned and smiled at her friend.

I deeply enjoyed how clever and playful my mom was being, and I was reminded of when I followed a similar learning path with my daughter.

When I first began to teach my daughter Marina to wink, it was the same pattern you notice with most children. The first thing she did was blink both eyes and then look at me a bit confused. She knew she hadn’t accomplished a wink, but she had no idea what went wrong. I winked at her again, and she gave me back another double blink. At this point I felt like I could literally see the wheels turning inside her head, and I was fascinated to engage my daughter in such elemental learning.

As you might have already discovered for yourself, in many ways aging is the mirror opposite of growing up. When growing up, we develop and hone new skills. As we age, some of what we’ve learned fades away, and we wind up being more childlike once again.

As my mom’s condition continued to decline, she lost her ability to wink with one eye and could only manage a two eyed blink. In most instances I could still understand the meaning of her communication, based on whether or not she was smiling.

In the last hours of my mom’s life, keeping her eyes open was more than she could manage. She laid in bed with her eyes closed as she gave every ounce of remaining energy to simply breathing.

Holding my mom’s head in my hands I told her over and over again that God was waiting for her. As I kept up a steady breathing rhythm to help support her own breathing, I said, “Now is the time… Now is the time… This is the perfect moment… I can hear God calling your name… He’s calling you to come back home.”

At the very end, my mom’s laboured breathing calmed down a bit and she opened her eyes and blinked twice. At that moment I clearly knew she was giving me a “Yes” signal. Letting me know she was OK, and ready to leave.

Upon closing her eyes she took one last breath and gently released herself into the ocean of life.

For me, her passing felt very similar to the wonderful energy that filled the room when my daughter Marina was born. I felt very blessed to be so fully immersed in the circle of life.

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder

1. Introduction

Today’s newsletter comes from one of the lessons in our upcoming year long stress management course. Hopefully these questions will lead you to think about the life you truly want to be living.

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Sometimes it is good to just float
along with life and see where it takes you.

2. Questions to Ponder

Here is a quote from Benjamin and Rosamund Zander,
“In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.”

I believe this way of thinking is helpful in regard to managing stress. Most people have lots of goals that they are striving to achieve, and in their desire to be more successful, they try and push through life, rather than allowing life to unfold.

What I am suggesting is that you learn how to relax, and let life come to you. That you set a context, create the environment, the set of cirumstances, that will give you the best chance of feeling at ease and in control of your life.

And when I say that it helps to feel at ease, and in control of your life, I am not suggesting that you can be in control of everything that goes on around you. What I am saying is that you can be in control of how you react to what goes on around you, and the plans you make. As you calm yourself, and come to understand what you truly want in life, then you will become better able to let life unfold, and make course corrections as necessary.

In life, it is easy to be reactive to the challenges that are right in front of you. And when you are reactive you tend to not fully think through a situation, and instead act impulsively.
The key to right action is to be calm, have a good measure of self confidence, and learn how to take in the big picture, so that you can ask the right questions.

And to ask the right questions, you need a good understanding of the situation you are facing. And sometimes asking the right question can help to clarify what is truly important. So I suggest to you now, that asking the right questions is more important than having the right answers. And certainly The right question is more important than the right answer to the wrong question!

I ask you to consider the following questions, because I think by pondering over what is asked, you will become better able to set a healthy context for your life, and then let your life unfold, as you continue to make the course corrections that will lead you to feel calm and in control of your emotions.

The task at hand is to give your primary attention to your breathing, and just let the questions float past you.

No need to answer all of these questions now. What is important is to find the questions that are most important to you. These will be your “right questions” and it will likely seem that certain questions stick out much more than others. Once you have a sense of what the most important questions are for you, little by little you can work on coming up with the answers that will help you to live the life you truly desire.

Which is worse, failing, or never having given an all out effort?

Since we can learn valuable lessons from our mistakes, why are we usually so afraid to make mistakes?

Is it really possible to live a life without mistakes?

What criteria do you use to determine whether or not you are living the life you truly desire?

Are these the criteria you want to base your life on?

Why do we tend to do so many things we don’t like, and like so many things we don’t do?

Are you responsible for the consequences of your choices?
Being responsible for one’s thoughts and actions, is very different than looking to assign blame.

Do you realize that you can show keen judgment without the need to be judgmental?

Do you appreciate yourself for who you are, or judge yourself for who you are not?

Are you caught in a job or career that you don’t really care for?
If so, are you making a detailed plan that can help you to do the kind of work that you really want to be doing?

Have you figured out yet, that not getting everything you want is an essential part of happiness?

Are you doing what you believe in, or are you simply doing whatever is in front of you at the moment?

Realizing that you only have a limited time to live, do you feel like you are spending your time wisely?

If you could give a young child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you would give yourself just one piece of advice, what would it be?

What will you do differently after receiving this advice?

Are you holding onto people or circumstances from your past, that you might be better off letting go of?

Rather than saying that you feel the way you do because of your current circumstances, how can you change the way you feel and what you believe in, as first steps in changing your circumstances?

Do you have a dream that you are actively engaged in making a reality, or are you just living day by day?

What will you need to do differently if you are to live the life you truly desire?

What is it that makes you, you?

If someone asked a friend to describe the kind of person you are, what would your friend be most likely to say?

If you had the chance to describe yourself, what would you say?

How is it you would like to be remembered?

Are you working towards building a legacy?

Are you the kind of friend you would want as a friend?

What are you most grateful for?

And what else?

And what else?

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
What will you need to do to feel that way more often?

What is your definition of success?

What do you love?

Who do you love?

What is your definition of what it means to love another person?

Do you realize that appreciating others is the best way to receive appreciation from others?

Have you realized yet that change is inevitable, but suffering is optional?

If not now, then when?

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Neural Networks

Introduction

Little by little the weather is changing here in Tokyo. Sometimes cold, sometimes warm and sunny, sometimes chilly rain. Winter can’t be too far away!

The Beta Testers for the Seishindo Stress Management program have been getting started, and I hope to soon offer the course to all of you. Still working on untold small tweaks to get the entire software program up to speed.

In each of our lives, we have to work at balancing our emotions and our logical mind, and this is what I write about in this newsletter.

I hope you derive value in what you read!

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Remember to play!

Play_Button

2.The neural networks of emotion and logic

Recent scientific research shows that people find it difficult to be empathetic and analytical at the same time. When your brain activates the neural network that makes it possible for you to feel your emotions, it suppresses the neural network used to be analytical. You might have noticed just this if you have ever fallen in love with someone, only to later find out that their way of being in the world does not match your ideals.

You will have also noticed how these two neural networks cancel each other out if you have ever asked yourself how a politician or business leader could have made such a heartless decision. The more analytic a leader is the less able they are to consider the human cost of their decisions. Due to our neurology, it is indeed a challenge to be both empathetic and analytical at the same time.

Over the years, I have developed an intuitive understanding of this phenomenon in my work with clients. When people are feeling stuck and unable to change, they either get overwhelmed by their emotions, and inhibit their capacity to be analytical and act logically, or they are overly analytical and cannot tap into the emotions that would lead to a heartfelt decision. When people feel challenged they tend to either make goals for themselves that do not take their emotions into account, or vice versa

One of the main tasks we face when wanting to live a fulfilling life is learning how to cycle from one neural network to the other, rather than overusing one network at the expense of the other. Learning how to cycle between both networks is thus a basic aspect of my coaching.

How to accomplish this?

By gently leading my clients to activate whichever neural network is being underused.

When a client tends to be overly analytical I ask them questions like,
“How do you feel when you act the way you have been acting?”
“How would you like to be feeling right now?”
“How do others feel when you act the way you do?”
“If you were already feeling happy and fulfilled, how would you be living your life differently?”
I encourage them to activate their emotional network while allowing their analytical network to rest.

When a client tends to be overly emotional I ask them questions like,
“Do you have a plan you are following?”
“If not, what plan seems to make the most sense right now?”
“If you were to advise someone who was having problems similar to yours, what would you say to them?”
“Please name one or two short term goals you have for yourself.”
I encourage them to be more analytical and less emotional.

In both instances I ask my clients to breathe fully, release excess muscular tension, sit in a well balanced open posture, and slow down. When they do so they find themselves much more capable of accessing the kind of thinking and feeling that will lead them to live the life they are truly desiring.

When you engage in balancing your neural networks what you will notice is, you tend to use one neural network more so than the other in a way that is habitual. Not all that different from using your right hand for some tasks and your left hand for other tasks. One of your two neural networks becomes “primed” to be the most active. Thus you need to gently lead yourself to cycle between both networks so that you can develop a way of being in the world that leads to a sense of emotional and logical fulfillment. When you learn how to cycle efficiently between both networks you find yourself developing an holistic point of view that embraces both logic and emotion. Less of “this” or “that” and more of both.

With a little practice and training, you will find yourself much better able to live the life you desire!

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Wide-angle Perspective

1. Introduction

I am very happy to announce that we finally have begun to send our stress management course to our Beta Testers! We believe we have created something special and would love to have you join us. Some time in the next couple of weeks I will send out an announcement inviting everyone to take our beginner’s course. Stay tuned!

Charlie

View your challenges from a distance.

view_from_distance

Photo by: Yvonne Rikkenberg

2. Wide-angle Perspective

Your physiology plays a major role in determining your emotional state and how you perceive the world. I have written about this on many occasions. Usually when I write about physiology I emphasize the importance of your breathing and posture, and today I would like to take this concept a bit further by writing about how you and your world change when you slow down and allow yourself to have an open focus, wide angle perspective. When you change the way you attend to life you change your experience of yourself and the world you live in.

Invariably, when you experience stress you feel incapable of cultivating the life experience you deeply desire, and that is much of what stress is all about- Feeling incapable or out of control. When you feel stressed you perceive yourself and the world around you in a tight focus. The tighter your focus, the more you miss out on the many opportunities for change that are all around you. When you are stressed it is like looking at the world through a telephoto lens. A lens that only allows for a narrow field of view and a magnified image of your perceived problem. The tighter your focus the larger your problem appears to be, the more alone you feel, and the less you breathe. The tighter your focus the more the present moment and your potential future gets overwhelmed by your past!

When you change your perspective to open focus-wide angle, you come to realize that you have only been constructing one of many possible realities. Change the way you focus and attend to the world and you will change your reality and your sense of what is possible. Learning and the living of one’s life, is a creative act of self-discovery in which you extract meaning from everything you encounter. You are constantly engaged in the artful and “artificial” synthesis of diverse and paradoxical fragments of “information” into a new integrated whole.

When you are experiencing stress you lose your sense of context (circumstances and setting), proportion (the relationship of one “thing” to another), and scale (the relative size of one “thing” compared to another). The more exaggerated or out of whack these three components of your experience are, the more you will experience anxiety, fear, and stress.

So what to do?

You can change the way you pay attention, which in turn will change what you pay attention to, which in turn will change your perception of what is possible. When your awareness is expansive and wide angle you can achieve a deeper fuller sense of being an active participant in life, an active player in life, an active team member, who is not alone and separate.

You can cultivate the capacity to have a compassionate, composed experience of your life. An experience that is expansive, multidimensional, and multicolor. An experience similar to the many times in your life when you felt great and had the sense that your life really can be all that you have been hoping for.

Slow down your thinking mind by breathing fully, sit up straight, tense and then release various muscle groups throughout your body, place your current challenge in the context of your entire life, and look at your challenge from a distance with the perspective of a wise person. Consider the many resources you have available to you, and the many other times you have overcome challenges. Imagine your have already overcome your challenge, and ask yourself “What did I do to accomplish this?” Let the answer to this question “come to you” slowly over time. You really do have the ability to achieve all you truly desire!

My stress management course has exercises that will help you to change into a wide angle perspective. In a few weeks time you will be able to sign-up for our five week complimentary program.

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 4

1. Introduction

This newsletter is the fourth and last in my series on “brain lock”.

Hopefully you have found this series to be insightful and thought provoking. I would love to hear from you regarding what I have written

Regards,

Charlie

Whatever you experience, it depends on your frame of reference.

taj
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock”- Part 4

Engage your challenges a little bit at a time

We have many, many emotional reactions in our lives prior to thinking, If a man pulls out a gun while you are waiting in line at the bakery, chances are your pulse immediately quickens and you might even begin to sweat. Once you realize the gun is only a toy and the man hands it to his son to play with, you will likely soon calm down again.

Because we have a visceral response to emotionally charged events or relationships prior to thinking, we often wind up reacting in a way that defies logic, even when we desperately want to be logical.

No matter how many times we might tell someone, “There is no need to be afraid.”, if they sense danger they will respond with fear. Such responses quickly get passed to long-term memory and thus we will tend to easily reproduce the same fearful reaction to dangerous situations in the future. In other words, good or bad, right or wrong, many of our emotional responses are learned over time.

So what to do?

In my coaching practice I have my clients pay attention to the physiological responses they have when feeling challenged, more so than having them talk about their challenges. I do so for two reasons.

1) The physiological reactions that lead to emotional responses are activated outside of our conscious awareness.

We don’t really know “how” we create the feelings we have, and thus talking about our feelings, our emotions, often won’t get us the results we desire. Indeed the more we talk about a particular feeling (let’s use “stress” as an example), the more we will activate the physiological responses that lead to feeling stressed. The more we talk about a perceived problem, the further away we get from uncovering the solution we desire.

2) Logic does not play an important role in the development of undesired emotional states. In order to change our emotions we usually have to go beyond logic, and reach or touch a more primal elementary aspect of our experience, our self.

During my coaching sessions I teach my clients how to breathe in a slow expansive manner and adjust their posture so that they feel fully alive and resourceful. Once they are feeling resourceful I introduce a topic they have been struggling with. Rather than asking them to describe their struggle in detail, I ask them to just mention their struggle, and then place it aside while they refocus their attention on their breath and posture. Next, I ask my client to tell me about something in life that pleases them. Once the client has returned to feeling calm and resourceful I ask them to again mention their struggle, and then again refocus on their breath, posture, and a pleasing experience. Soon, they learn to think about their struggle while at the same time maintaining a sense of feeling calm and resourceful. In the process, they learn how to rewire their brain and do away with past compulsive behavior caused by “brain lock”.

Rather than having my client talk about their “stress, Stress, STRESS!”, I lead them to experience calmness, a little stress, calmness, a bit more stress, and eventually a feeling of calm resourcefulness, as their stress reactions slowly dissolve. Fairly soon, what was once experienced as an insurmountable set of circumstances, comes to be experienced as a challenge they feel capable of overcoming.

This really is a graceful, life affirming way to engage one’s challenges!

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 3

1. Introduction

Once again, thanks for the feedback on my recent newsletters. It is always great to hear from people, and know for sure that my work is “reaching” you.

This newsletter in my third in a series on “Unlocking your brain”.

Regards,

Charlie

Slow and steady is usually the best way forward!

snail
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock”- Part 3

The benefits and detriments of habits

Because of our instinct to survive, we have an evolutionary predisposition to pay attention to anything and everything that concerns our safety and well-being. If you had to think before you jumped out of the way of a speeding car, or if you had to make sense out of a loud noise before you reacted, chances are you would not be here to read these words!

We are all programmed to pay attention to anything that might threaten us or serve us, and we do so instinctively, prior to thinking. Lucky for us that we have this capacity to act before thinking, and on the other hand it is this very capacity that at times makes us illogical!

We are all creatures of habit. Some of our habits we learn through conscious repetition. If we had to start anew and learn how to drive a car each time we got behind the wheel, or if we had to re-learn how to tie our shoes every morning, life would be a lot more challenging to engage in! We learn how to perform these and many other tasks by consciously practicing until such time that we no longer need to think about what to do.

We also all have many other habits that we learn unconsciously, and thus we sometimes wind up having a great deal of trouble un-learning such habits. I had a client by the name of “Bill” who as a child in a new school was often belittled by his classmates when he asked the teacher a question. Now, even as a 35 year old adult he still shied away from asking questions. This “habit” created a lot of problems for him in his life, but try as he might he was unable to act differently, because he was stuck in a bit of “brain lock”.

Step 1. He realized he needed to ask a question.

Step 2. He become anxious about asking a question and thus diverted himself in some way.

Step 3. He defaulted back to Step 1, again realizing his need to ask a question, but once again quickly diverting his attention, and not raising his hand.
Here is how I helped Bill. Because he had no money to pay for sessions, I put him to work for me as my “assistant”. I gave a talk at a large conference and I brought Bill along and told him I needed to collect some important marketing information from the attendees. I instructed him to say and do the following: “After the talk is over I want you to go around, introduce yourself as my assistant, and say that I am asking participants for feedback regarding my talk. Then you are to ask them the three specific questions I have prepared for you. Be certain to speak to at least a half dozen people, and later I will debrief you on what was said.”

As I had guessed, because he was asking the questions for me, he did well at the task and was not anxious. Two weeks later at a small class I asked Bill to tell the other students that I had asked him to ask four specific questions about the theory of my work. He asked my questions with little hesitancy. During that same class I said to him in front of the group, “Well Bill, now, how about a question from you?” He asked a question with a bit of hesitancy, and I made sure to compliment him on the quality of his question.

Several other tasks like this were created for Bill, and after his“assistance” over the course of three months time he reported without my asking, that he was feeling a lot more confident and rarely struggled to ask important questions any more. Being that this is the third newsletter in this series, I will ask, “Do you understand the unlocking process I engaged in with Bill?”

Please write and let me know! Either way, “Yes, or, “No” I will be happy to hear from you!

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 2

1. Introduction

Summer is little by little starting to wane here in Tokyo.
Thank goodness! I am just not made for the combination of high heat and high humidity.

This newsletter is Part 2 in my series on “Unlocking Your Brain”. The theory and work described can yield great benefits, and I hope these newsletters help you get a taste of what is possible.

In this newsletter I will describe a client session to give you an idea of how this process can take place.

Regards,

Charlie

Your life is made up of patterns. Change the patterns and you change your life!

dots
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock”- Part 2

I have a client who I will call “Jim”.
(I have asked for “Jim’s” permission, and changed some details to make his identity hard to discern.)

Jim comes to me because he is creating problems for himself in regard to giving public talks, which is an important part of his job.

What happens is this-
He gets really anxious prior to giving a talk. So before leaving his office he finds numerous tasks that he compulsively feels he must complete before he goes out. He does things like answering emails, making calls to clients, and talking to his boss about an upcoming project. He leaves late and arrives to his talk late. Recently he has been arriving at his talks a half hour late and his audience is upset and restless, and the organizers are clearly annoyed. The interesting thing is, that he is actually a good presenter, and thus he has no idea why he gets so nervous beforehand.

I believe that trying to understand “why” he does what he does is a slippery path at best, so I suggest that we work on helping him to unlock his brain instead.

Here is the process we follow-
He lets me know the time for his next presentation and we agree to talk on the phone a half hour before he needs to leave, to arrive on time.

So he calls me at the appointed time, and,
Step One, he reports feeling anxious and out of sorts.
Just as we both expected.

Step Two, he says that he would love to change the way he is feeling.
We both agree that this is an excellent idea.

Step Three involves helping him unlock his brain.
I know Jim has a hobby that he is quite passionate about and I ask him to tell me in detail what his last outing was like. When he begins to talk he is still clearly upset but soon as he tells me about some of the high points of his adventure he starts to get animated, and the enjoyment he feels when engaging in his hobby becomes clearly palpable. He reminds me of a young child telling his father how much he enjoyed one of his summer adventures.

Jim carries on for about twenty minutes, and occasionally I interject statements like, “Wow, sounds like you were having a great time!”

Finally, I ask Jim how he is feeling now. He says, “Gee, I feel like I was just doing some wonderful time traveling!”

“Yes indeed!” I reply. “And now it is about time to leave for your talk. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes” he says, “More ready than I would have imagined!”

Turns out that he left on time and gave a great talk!

So what did we do? I helped him to unlock his brain.

Rather than staying stuck in running through Steps One and Two over and over again, Jim instead interrupted his pattern and engaged in talking about something enjoyable. The more he engaged in talking about what brings him joy, the more he dissolved his feeling of anxiousness.

He took the signal of anxiousness as a sign that he needed to, A. Stop what he was doing. B. Become mindful of his intention to perform with excellence, and C. Engage himself in a pleasurable activity as a way of unlocking his brain.

Jim and I engaged in a similar process two more times, and after that he let me know that he could now do the same on his own. He also said, “Wow, I have a whole new lease on life and I find that I am doing much better at accomplishing tasks at work that used to leave me feeling frazzled.”

You are capable of doing much the same.

Life affirming change is possible!

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 1

1. Introduction

Much of my work is a melding of principles I have learned in NLP, Ericksonian Hypnosis, Aikido, and Noguchi Sei Tai, as well as a lot of study in various disciplines such as Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and Craniosacral Therapy. What often happened in the past is, I discovered that two “different” subjects I was studying, were based on the same principles. This way of learning really excited me! Especially when I found a Japanese sensei teaching something that echoed what a Western teacher had said.

Over the years, a lot of what I learned has found its way into scientific research, and this also excites me as I find people from such disparate paths all touching some of the same basic “truths”.

Today I am going to start a new series of newsletters. I will be writing about what has recently come to be called “brain lock”. I am using the great book titled “The brain that changes itself” by Norman Doidge, as the reference point for this series. I have been on the trail of these ideas for quite some time, and this book really fits everything together in a clear, well thought out manner.

I hope you find these concepts as interesting as I do!

Regards,

Charlie

One small drop of change, can make a BIG difference!

small-drop-of-change
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 1

Many times, we find ourselves caught up in compulsive behavior. To use a stark example, let’s take a look at what “PubMed Health” says about OCD-
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).
Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.”

When I look at this definition it certainly describes my behavior at times! And I think we can see that such behavior is often what we engage in when we feel stressed out, insecure, or addictive.

Recent scientific research tells us that compulsive behavior occurs when three different areas of the brain “lock up” and thus fail to act in a solution oriented, life affirming manner. When our brain “locks” we wind up believing that there is no other way to act, than to continue with our compulsion or addiction, regardless of the disappointing results we get. Sound at all familiar? 🙂

The three step locking process
1. You get a sense that something needs to be different, or that something is “not right.”
In short, you feel uneasy, and you don’t like the way you feel.

2. You become anxious and thus strive to change the way you feel.
Your anxiousness leads you to do things like smoke, drink, or eat an entire box of chocolates. (There are of course MANY other examples of compulsive behavior.)

3. Default back to steps 1 and 2.
When the brain is locked up, you don’t get a sense of having really taken care of your anxiety so you engage in steps 1 and 2 over and over again. And you wind up having another cigarette or drink, or another piece of chocolate. You act compulsively because you don’t get feedback that tells you that you have taken care of the situation, and you feel incapable of trying any other alternatives.

A solution to your compulsion IS possible though!

A three step Unlocking Process
1. You get a sense that something needs to be different, or that something is “not right.”

2. You become anxious and thus strive to change the way you feel.
This time around though, you realize that it your compulsive behavior that you need to change and that you need to do something different than usual, that will help you to feel at ease.

Because of the realization that you need to do something different, you engage in an activity that is life affirming and healthy, instead of your compulsive habit. You take a walk in the park, chat with a friend, play with your children, listen to music etc.

3. Upon engaging in an activity that helps you to feel at ease, your anxiety lessens, and you recognize that it is time to place your original concern aside and engage in the rest of what you need to be doing.

Easier said than done?

In the beginning yes, but even a few minutes spent doing something that is pleasing, before diving back into your compulsion, will weaken the strength of your brain lock. And then little by little, you will be able to spend enough time doing what is pleasurable, and find that your anxiety and addictive tendencies subside. As you create an alternative way to act, and thus feel, your brain “unlocks” and you become significantly less compulsive, and feel more at ease.

I am going to be writing more about this process, but I will tell you now that my experience with many clients over the years, leads me to understand the importance and power of unlocking your brain.

Life affirming change is possible, and YOU are capable of making the changes you desire!

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

The language of your body – Part 2

1. Introduction

We are in the midst of our usual hot summer weather here in Tokyo. It seems that many other places around the world are also experiencing a lot of heat. I hope you are taking it easy and finding ways to cool down!

Regards,
Charlie

Wake up to life!

stress-page-5
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. The language of your body – Part 2

A client who I will call “Jim” engages in video coaching with me, wanting to discuss his “utter failure” in his new job as a marketing manager. As he talks, I note that his shoulders are rounded forward, his trunk is tilted somewhat backwards, he rocks ever so much from side to side, and he talks rather quickly while breathing in a shallow manner. All these components of his physical behavior, when looked at as a non-verbal communication pattern, make up what in Seishindo, we call “the language of the body”, or “somatic language”.

Jim begins his session by communicating his “utter failure” with his body, and it is only after his body begins “talking” that he engages in a verbal description that matches what his body says.

When Jim is finished talking, I suggest that he tell me his story again, but only after first initiating a different set of body language patterns, so that he can begin his story from a different perspective. With my prompting, Jim rounds his shoulders back a little bit and opens up his chest, tilts his trunk forward ever so much, rocks gently from front to back, and breathes slowly and expansively. By doing what I suggest he begins to embody a different conversation. After he resumes talking he spontaneously says that he does not experience his situation as negatively as before. He makes this statement without any guidance from me.

I encourage Jim to continue talking while maintaining the new body language pattern I have suggested, and he soon mentions how his new job has given him the opportunity to learn unpleasant yet powerfully important lessens in regard to marketing. He says he now realizes that many of his past marketing assumptions needed to be changed to match the conditions of the current marketplace. He spontaneously begins to change his explanation from one of “utter failure” to “an embarrassing yet very necessary business lesson that he is thankful for”. He states how “not being right” in his new job has been tough on him, but that he actually is becoming a much better marketer than he was in the past!

He begins to understand experientially that to a large extent his emotional responses to circumstances and relationships, are initiated by his body. When he changes the way he uses his body, he changes the “conversations” his body engages in, which leads to a different understanding of his circumstances. When he begins to use his body in a relaxed and expansive manner, he has a new emotional understanding and appreciation for what has been taking place. This is a key learning I hope to share with all my clients. Rather than attempting to help people fix circumstances they perceive as negative, I instead strive to help them realize how they generate negative thinking with their body. When you learn how to use your body in a solution oriented manner, you wind up feeling much more able to successfully meet the challenges you face.

If you tense up your shoulder muscles, look down toward your feet, and breathe in a shallow manner you will not report feeling relaxed and confident, and yet this is exactly what clients will often do prior to explaining how they would like to feel more relaxed and confident!

The way you use your body, sets in motion the emotional tone for the way you think and feel. When feeling challenged, it is crucial that you begin by first using your body in a solution oriented manner, prior to engaging in verbal descriptions of how your are stymied. Much more than most people realize, when you describe a situation that has been problematic for you in the past, what you are really doing isembodying your problem in the moment. My suggestion is to start out by communicating well-being and competency with your body, and then see how that changes your experience of past events. A body that communicates in a positive manner, leads to solution oriented thinking. When you change the way you use your body, you change the way you think and feel, and what you believe to be possible!

Regards,
Charlie

The language of your body – Part 1

1. Introduction

It is my hope, that you find my newsletters both insightful and entertaining. Sometimes I focus more on the entertainment, and sometimes more on offering insight.

Today’s newsletter is the first of a two part series, explaining how Seishindo practitioners think about and utilize “the language of the body” when working with clients.

I hope that in some small way, this newsletter leads you to reconsider who you are!
Charlie

butterfly
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. The language of your body- Part 1

The language your body uses to communicate, is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as the verbal language you speak. The “wiring” for your somatic language begins its development while you are inside your mother’s belly, and it forms the foundation of your verbal language patterns, memories, learned responses, and emotional make-up.

The language spoken and understood by your body, is what enables you to make meaning out of your experience prior to understanding your native tongue. It remains your primary means of understanding your experience, throughout the course of your life.

In her book “Molecules of Emotion” scientific researcher Candace Pert says, “There are receptors (sensing molecules that exist throughout our system) and ligands (substances that bind to the receptors and help to create all of the chemical reactions necessary to run our system) that can be considered to be “information molecules.”

She refers to these molecules as the basic units of a language used by cells throughout the organism to communicate.

In his book “The Second Brain” Dr. Michael Gershon says that neurotransmitters are the “words” nerve cells use for communicating.

These two renowned scientists are telling us that we all “speak,” “listen to,” and understand a primary language that does not depend on our verbal abilities. This “other” language is what in Seishindo we call “the language of the somatic self”, or, “the language of the body”.

The language of your somatic self does not use or require verbal language, although it interacts with it continually, like a music group improvising with a singer, or a horse and rider traversing a path in the forest. This language of your somatic self is a primary communication and information exchange that makes it possible for you to connect to and understand, the workings of your body and brain, your personal sense of “self”, your relationship with others, and the world around you. Somatic language makes it possible for you to make meaning out of your experience prior to learning your native tongue. It is part of the mammalian consciousness that all mammals share. It is intuitive and relational in nature and seems to direct us to join with other life. Just like words are systematically and artfully joined together to form the content of your verbal language as spoken by your cognitive self, the various components of your sensory experience are systematically and artfully joined together to form the language of your somatic self. This language makes it possible for you to intuitively understand and direct all of the massive information exchange your body takes part in, in collaboration with the brain. It is a language of immediate experience as compared to verbal language being a communication of abstractions.

Your body is a tireless worker, attempting to protect and nurture you at every given moment. It is crucial that you learn to appreciate, understand, and heed what it has to say!

Instead of simply agreeing with Descarte and saying, “I think, therefore I am.” I believe you will be much better served by considering this statement as an alternative, “I listen to the communication of my body, in order to better understand who I am.” Living a fulfilling life requires a lot more than just thinking and logic!

Be still, and only listen.
Your body has many life affirming messages that it would like you to understand.
Life affirming messages that are crucial for your health, and emotional well-being.

Warmly,
Charlie

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 4

1. Introduction

This is the last in a series of articles describing the concepts involved in Seishindo MindBody Coaching. I hope that what I have written offers you a life affirming way to engage in the world.

If you haven’t read the first three articles in this series, you might want to begin here.

We had a typhoon come by last week, but the weather in Tokyo is beautiful now. This is a pretty time of year, and soon the heat will be upon us full blast!

Regards,

Charlie

forest-thru-the-trees
Photo; Yvonne Rikkenberg

2. A description of Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 4

I would like to help you understand that your “symptoms” or “problems” alert you to the fact that what you are currently doing is not working all that well. Every symptom or seeming problem is thus a communication of a positive need for change. As you learn how to trust in your ability to change and prosper, you will realize that your problem is not a problem.

Do your best to understand the emotions you express, while at the same time striving to stay somewhat emotionally neutral. In other words, appreciate and honor your emotional state, while continuing to believe that something life affirming is in the process of unfolding.

As you learn to slow down you will become better able to pay attention to what you do not say or do. “Doing nothing” is a very rich form of communication!

Please stay away from trying to logically understand why you do what you do. because your logical mind is usually not capable of solving the paradox you are grappling with. You will likely need to somehow surprise yourself in the course of discovering your solutions.

When you breathe, adjust your posture, and keep an expansive focus of attention, you will cultivate the ability to rest in your place of “not knowing”. Slow down, stop talking and just feel, as you wait for the answers you have been searching for. This process is similar to waiting for a friend you have not seen in a long time, to arrive on your doorstep.

Surrender to the moment, using your thinking mind to notice everything in and around you. You can breathe and be curious while waiting to receive the solutions that show up.

I will help you get to an experience of “pre-verbal knowing”- Making way for the knowledge and wisdom that is deeper and fuller than what can be described in words.

Every seeming “negative” has a mirror image “positive” aspect. Every weakness you have is also a strength, and every strength a weakness.

You have a “resource state” and this way of being in the world needs to be experienced more so than talked about. When you reside in your resource state you will be oriented towards positive outcomes. When you reside in your resource state you move towards your goal, and what you say and do, matches what you think and feel. This state is ephemeral in nature, so you will find it many times, and also lose it many times.

I want to help you experience that “mind” and intelligence are present in every cell of your body, The whole of who you are is much more than the sum of your parts.

Through the experience of coaching you will come to realize that traveling back to your past memories when wanting to solve a problem, will usually only make you feel incapable of change. I therefore invite you to bring your problems into the present moment, as you have many resources now that were not available to you in the past.

Being engaged in actively finding solutions, is very different than trying to determine “right and wrong.”

As most every successful person knows, failing does not feel good, but you learn much more from your failures than you do from your triumphs. Learn from your past, rather than living in your past.

Every successful search for a solution has a “tipping point” where you start to realize positive change is possible. These “Ah hah!” moments almost always occur prior to knowing what the actual solution is.

You are in the process of needing and desiring to express the fullness of who you are. Slow down, trust in yourself, and trust in the moment. You already have access to everything your heart truly desires!

Regards,

Charlie

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 3

1. Introduction

This is the third newsletter in a series that describes the process of Seishindo MindBody Coaching. I am offering this series as a way to support you in being a “change agent” to others who need help. If you have yet to read the first two articles in this series, please go here.

In the last newsletter I said that I wanted to find the most artful way to talk about the process of coaching others, and I asked for some advice. Thanks to those of you who wrote! Your wisdom is very much appreciated. Taking the advice offered, in this newsletter I am going to “talk” to you as if I was taking you through a session with me.

Once again, please let me know what you think about the process, and please offer me feedback!

For those of you fairly new to my writing and style…
The process I describe below, I would only engage in once my client and I had a good comfortable feeling for each other. I would only be suggesting any of what follows if my client was happy to explore such a process with me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Life as art–A description of Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 3

As we begin today, I would like to borrow a concept from Self-relations Therapy, and invite you to use each and every event and experience you encounter, to awaken to the goodness and gifts of the self, the world, and the connections between the two.

So rather than slipping into a place of dismay and frustration because you feel stuck, you can take the role of my client, and imagine you are in the midst of creating a movie about your life. You can consider yourself to be the lead character in this movie, the director, and even the composer of the sound track that will eventually be selling as a CD!

As you begin to approach your challenge as an artist would begin a new project… Slow down and notice the finer points that will lead to creating something heartfelt and poignant. As you begin to try out the lines of your script, speak in a way that allows your words to resonate and fill the space we are in. I encourage you to imagine we are sitting in a theater that has great acoustics. The only audience being just the two of us. I invite you to imagine this theater as a safe environment that is much bigger than your perceived problem. At some point in this process you will begin to hear the difference between when your voice is held back and constrained, and when your voice is resonant, clear, and filled with spirit. When you voice is held back and constrained, the same will be true for your creativity and problem solving skills. When you voice is resonant solutions will start to become more apparent.

Next, attune to the rhythm of your words, as you listen for and feel how your expression reverberates both within you and out into the space around us, both logically and emotionally. I gently encourage you to breathe, relax, and “speak your soliloquy with a calm presence”. I will move with you as a way to better feel the cadence of your words. Then after a short while, please slow down the tempo and simplify what you are expressing. Say and do “just enough”. Less will get you more.

Little by little, as you slow down and simplify, you will begin to move closer to your solution. Little by little, as I get in rhythm with you, you will begin to realize you are not alone in this world. As we build a sense of harmony and trust between us, I will likely offer you some accompanying lines, to enrich your script.

Now is a good time to modulate the outpouring of your energy, and to lessen the intensity of your presentation. I am suggesting that you stay within a certain threshold of expression, so you can keep your whole self engaged, and not feel overwhelmed. This will allow you to tap into resources that are outside of your everyday awareness. The idea is to get energized by the challenges you face, rather than contracting, and tensing your muscles and your thinking mind. You will be able to recruit and utilize more and more of yourself, as you educate and retune your nervous system over time.

At this point I also want to invite you to notice “negative space”. The space between and around the main topic of your conversation.

In photography, negative space is the area which surrounds the main subject in a photo, with the main subject being considered as “positive space”. Negative space defines and emphasizes the main subject as part of a larger whole. It provides “breathing room” and allows for a more balanced perspective. Negative space gives your eyes somewhere to rest and prevents your subject from appearing overly large or out of proportion. Notice how you can change your reaction to your challenge, as you place it in a spacious setting. (See the photos below.)

Here is a close-up picture of a bug with almost no background (very little negative space)
Bug-large

Below is a picture of the same bug, with lots of background (negative space).
Which picture do you prefer?

Even though it is the same bug, does it appear at all different in the two photos?
Bug-small
Photos: Ruben Alexander

At this point you have once again accomplished a lot. So now it is time to rest. You can begin to have a sense of how important it is to express your challenge in an artful manner. Realizing that the way in which you perceive, conceive, and express your challenge very much changes your sense of what is possible. Please, don’t make your challenge any bigger than it needs to be!

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 1

1. Introduction

My recent teaching trip in New York City proved to be one of my most enjoyable and productive times ever! I want to especially thank Joel Elfman for all his hard work, and his great marketing and organizing. Working with Joel has proved to be a great blessing for me. I also want to thank Marje Palmieri for putting forth the energy and effort to launch a new round of my Performing with Passion series. Through her I had the opportunity to work with some truly gifted opera singers and other performers. Martha Eddy and I shared the stage for an enjoyable mini-workshop entitled “Movement and Flow- Essential Components of Change”. Martha and I have been friends and colleagues for many years, and it was great to work with her for the first time in a long time.

Last, but certainly no least, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Melissa Tiers, a new friend and colleague who is a talented hypnotherapist and coach. Melissa and I explored “The nature of change” and along the way I learned quite a lot. Based on what I learned with Melissa I will now be presenting you with a series of articles describing Seishindo MindBody Coaching, and then I will cap the series off with an interview of Melissa that I recently read and found quite interesting.

I hope you will find the next few newsletters to be thought provoking and informative.

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

2. Describing Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 1

I am always thinking about how to best describe and teach Seishindo MindBody Coaching. You see, much of what I do when coaching has developed with a certain amount of serendipity, along with a good deal of both formal and informal learning. I started out with concepts from NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis, and then I added principles from Aikido, Noguchi Sei Tai, Gregory Bateson, and Self-relations Therapy. Along the way I developed a method that usually proves to be rather effective, and yet I more and more realize that what seems “obvious” or even “natural” to me, at times comes across as somewhat mysterious to those I teach. Actually what I realize now as I write this, is that my process of teaching others very much mirrors the process of my clients wanting to teach me the essence of their challenges. My clients start out describing what seems “obvious” and even “natural” to them, and yet along the way we both usually discover that I am not able to fully follow what they are saying. Having not lived the same life as my clients I find it necessary to ask them to clarify what to me seems like “fuzzy logic”. Thus I often say, “I hear what you are saying, but somehow I can’t quite understand what you are wanting to convey. Can you please somehow restate what you have just said, in a simpler fashion?” Less words leads to greater clarity.

The process I am going to follow in clarifying my coaching process with you now, is to “talk” to you as if I am your client, while striving to keep my explanation as clear as possible.

When engaging in Mindbody coaching, what I say and do is always somewhat different, because I strive to join with the flow of information being presented. I find it crucial to begin without a preconceived notion of what should take place, and instead I fully engage myself in a search for meaning. I look to first understand my client’s model of the world, while also checking in to ensure they are fully understanding what they present to me. You see, the points that seem fuzzy to me, often turn out to be fuzzy to them as well. Thus they might say, “I feel a lack of confidence.” And I might reply, “What exactly does a lack of confidence mean to you? How specifically does a lack of confidence feel to you?” Such questions lead to a search for answers that usually aren’t considered, as I look to foster a style of communication that makes sense both logically and emotionally.

I find the best way to achieve clear, simple communication is to begin by becoming fully present in the moment. I call this process, achieving a “still pond” experience. When a pond of water is buffeted by the wind, we can’t clearly notice the ripples created by each stone we toss in the pond. When a client’s description of their circumstances is buffeted by their emotions, it is difficult to understand exactly what they are wanting to convey.

The task of calming the waters begins by calming the body. Soon we become aware of how a relaxed balanced body and ample amounts of oxygen, leads to a simpler more direct description of the changes desired. I engage in this calming processwith my clients. We slow down our breathing, and breathe a bit more fully than usual, as we also give some of our attention to everything we are seeing, hearing, and feeling. The belief being, that the information that leads to solutions, is being communicated everywhere in and around us, and not just in our heads. When you straighten and align your posture, and breathe more fully, you calm your body. When you calm your body you also wind up calming your thinking mind. When you calm your thinking mind you “throw less stones in the pond” and thus there is less verbal information to process. When you say less, you can better notice the effect of each stone, each idea, each belief that you express.

Reaching this point in my description I become aware of the next important concept in MindBody Coaching – Not trying to accomplish “too much” in any one session. Taking part in coaching is similar to eating a tasty meal. No matter how good the food, the more you eat in one sitting, the less you will actually taste what you consume! So I will stop here for the time being, rather than feeding you too much at one time. Let’s consider today’s newsletter to be “one session”. Please take the time to mull over and digest what I have written.

I’d love to hear what you think and feel, about what I have written so far!

We will continue with this discovery process in my next newsletter, so please stay tuned for more.

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

You are an Orchestra

1. Introduction

I am having a wonderful time here in NYC, working with colleagues new and old, and meeting some members of the Seishindo community for the first time. I feel very blessed that my work offers me so much satisfaction and fulfillment.

When meeting folks for the first time, they often have a lot of curiosity, and thus a lot of questions. Which is great! I have written this piece today, as another way of helping people understand what Seishindo is about.

I would love to hear your feedback, so please drop me a line at charlie@seishindo.org

Regards,
Charlie

2. You are an Orchestra

Rhythm, Flow, and Syncopation
Our brainwaves, heartbeat, enteric nervous system, craniosacral system, breath, blink rate, and swallow rate, are all metronomes that beat at different speeds and rhythms, creating a musical pattern similar to the interaction of various percussion instruments in an orchestra.

It is the rhythm, flow, and syncopation of our various body systems that plays a crucial role in determining how we think and feel.

Music, as compared to noise
When our various body systems meld together in collaborative expression the overall self is supported and strengthened, and a beautiful music is played. When our body systems are at odds with each other, the flow of our systemic energy is constrained and the rhythm and music of the system breaks down into noise.

What makes for life supportive music?
Scientific research tells us it is the pace and rhythm of neural activity, that determines information flow. Change the rhythm and pace of neural activity and you change the quality and quantity of information that flows throughout your system. Change the rhythm and flow of neural activity and you change the music your system plays.

Also crucial to the making of music is the strength or “volume” of each individual body system. For instance- A big booming heartbeat at 60 beats per minute, will effect the system much differently than a weak heartbeat that is also 60 beats per minute.

Tuning and adaptation
Your system as a whole is always adapting to itself. If one of the metronomes of your system alters its beat, your body’s other metronomes adapt to this change and start to match it. This is similar to when a drummer speeds up or slows down and the rest of the jazz quartet follows suit.

When we affect change in the pace and rhythm of any one of our body systems, over time we change the organization and rhythm of our entire self. For instance- Breathe in a fast paced shallow manner, and before long your entire system will respond. Shallow breathing leads to less oxygen entering your system, and more carbon dioxide remaining in your system, and thus you will soon feel anxious, or even stressed out.

When you change the overall pace and rhythm your system is playing at, you will change the way you think and feel. Self-communication is a recursive loop.

The music you play, leads to your emotional state
When listening to music, isn’t it obvious that some music tends to soothe you, while other music excites you and leads you to want to get up and dance?

Adding lyrics to your music
Guess, what? The lyrics you add to your music also have a profound effect on how you feel.

In Seishindo we find that when people describe feeling unable to achieve peace of mind, the way they describe their circumstances usually leads them to become further upset. If you create some beautiful sounding music, and then add depressive self-defeating lyrics, you will only wind up feeling horrible when your song is done. Don’t rush through your lyrics. Be certain to craft them carefully.

So, what to do?
In Seishindo, while respectfully listening to all our clients have to say, we give our primary attention to the full range of their musical performance. By helping our clients create life affirming music and lyrics, we find they become much better able to effect the life changes they truly desire.

As I often say, it is my strong belief that you already possess all the resources necessary, to live the life you truly desire!

Warmly,
Charlie

Suffering and happiness

1. Introduction

Today, I would like to introduce you to a new friend of Seishindo, her name is Melissa Tiers. Melissa is a talented hypnotist and coach whose work nicely dovetails with mine.

Melissa and I will be doing an evening presentation in NYC on April 27, entitled “Exploring the nature of change”. 

I would also like to introduce you to my long time friend and colleague, Dr. Martha Eddy. Martha has an amazing background in many different somatic modalities and Martha and I will be doing a presentation in NYC on April 28, entitled “Movement & Flow – Integral Components of Change”.

And last but not least, I would like to again remind you about the two day workshop I am doing in NYC on May 5, 6, Seishindo Mind Body Coaching”.

I am looking forward to seeing some of you in New York!

Regards,
Charlie

2. Suffering and happiness

A paradox is a kind of puzzle or riddle. A paradox is a thought, belief, or statement that appears to be contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a truth.

From time to time we all get caught up in the paradoxical differences between “What we think and what we feel”, or “What we think is best and what we actually do.”

You’ve come face to face with this paradox if you have ever said to yourself, “I know I really should be doing X (fill in the beneficial behavior of your choice), but for some reason I just can’t get myself to do so.”

Why is it that your thinking and your doing; your thinking and your feeling, sometimes seem to contradict each other? What is this contradiction about?

I ask these questions now because I believe the answers you give can help you suffer less and be happier overall.

It seems to me that in the course of living our lives most of us lose touch with what will truly bring us happiness. We come to think that our happiness depends on other people, our accomplishments, and the wealth and power we obtain. We get a good job, marry a nice person, and perhaps even buy a new house, but often, something is still missing, and something or other feels “off”.

I believe this is so because we have yet to understand what the conditions are that lead to our truly feeling fulfilled. Indeed, it’s often our current concept of happiness that winds up preventing us from being happy!

Borrowing from the concepts of Buddhism I offer you the following thoughts to ponder:

1. Suffering is inevitable.
There’s no way around it. From time to time we all suffer.

2. Suffering has causes.
The more you can understand and take responsibility for how it is you create your suffering the more you’ll realize you are not a victim of life.

3. The more you try and avoid suffering, the more you will suffer.
A plain and simple truth!
When suffering knocks on your door, invite it in for a cup of tea. Like any other guest, after being courteous, you should kindly say that you need to attend to other matters.

4. Happiness is indeed possible, and perhaps even inevitable.
It might not always be “easy” to be happy, but happiness is always a possibility nonetheless. And no matter what, you will not be happy all the time. Neither will anyone else!

5. Happiness is one of many paths you can choose.
You discover and travel on your path towards happiness, every time you are mindful of your experience and thankful for what you do have.

6. The path of happiness is rarely a straight line.
You will invariably find that you sometimes need to follow the path life offers you in a given moment. Regardless of whether or not this path leads you straight ahead.

7. No matter how intelligent you might be, your intellect is not enough to help you understand who you are and what you truly need.
The wisdom of your body, your emotional self, and your heart, also need to be listened to and respected.

8. Nothing stays the same.
Suffering and happiness are both ephemeral. Both will come and go many times over the course of your life.

9. The reason why you’re suffering has little to do with the circumstances of your life, and everything to do with your beliefs.
The longer you believe your emotional state is due to the current circumstances of your life, the more elusive you’ll find happiness to be.

10. Cultivating happiness leads to the discovery of who you truly are.
Self-discovery and peace of mind go hand in hand.

11. The better you understand who you truly are, the more you’ll feel at home in the universe.

12. Everything is just as it should be. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I wish you all the best, in your pursuit of happiness. Many wonderful experiences await you, and from time to time, a bit of suffering as well!

Regards,
Charlie

Courage in the face of perceived failure

1. Introduction

I had a wonderful time teaching in New York City, and as always I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of you through private sessions while I was in town. I want to take this opportunity to thank Joel Elfman and Anson Mau for sponsoring and managing the workshop, and I also want to thank my long time friend Stephen Roger for his support of my work.

As I mentioned last time out, my forthcoming book is at the printers. We are trying to create the possibility to have it for sale by Christmas. Not sure yet, so stay tuned!

Today’s story involves work that was done at one of my previous workshops. It is common for one or two people a day, to come up and have me work with them individually in front of the group. The results of these sessions are often beautiful to behold.

In sharing this encounter, I want to let you know that- I have changed the name of the person I worked with in order to preserve her privacy, and I have also asked her permission to share her story. She was very happy to say “Yes” as she hopes that others in the Seishindo community might learn from her experience.

Charlie

2. Courage in the face of perceived failure

The fear of failure is an emotion that knocks on everyone’s door at one time or another …

Here is what “Karen” had to say about failure, when I worked with her in the front of the room at a recent workshop.

Karen and I start out as I often do, talking about various topics, as we wait for the right thread of conversation to emerge.

I have no idea what the right thread of conversation will be, but I’m confident we will find it, if we engage each other with open hearts and minds.

At some point Karen states she’s been doing a lot of meaningless work for quite some time. She says she’s been doing the work no one else in her company wanted to do. As a result of this, she says she’s lost touch with herself and her dreams.

In a heavy, dark voice she says,
“Fifty two years old, and look at me, I’m a failure!
“A broken marriage, a broken career, and nothing to show for all my suffering.”

Her words touch me deeply, and I take a deep breath to help center myself.
Then I thank her for having the courage to share such a powerful message.

“Failure or no failure,” I say, “it’s very special to be with someone who is able and willing to expose and express their pain. Standing up to one’s perceived failures, is an act of great courage.”

I take another deep breath and look around the room some, wanting everyone to know it’s OK to gently respond if they care to.

I look back at Karen and begin to tell her about some of my own failures.
I don’t have to reach too far, to recall a number of disappointments and disillusionments.

Little by little, spontaneously and honestly, most everyone in the room shares some of their failures as well.

Getting fired … A broken marriage … A broken friendship … Trouble with one’s children …
Rather quickly the list grows long, and it soon becomes apparent that no one in the room has been “only successful”.

At some point I ask the group if anyone would be willing to share their definition of “failure”.

There is silence …
And then Karen, all of a sudden looking inspired, says, “Failure is when you try to make believe you are someone other than who you are.

“Failure is when you come to believe there aren’t any viable alternatives in life, to the way you’ve been living.

“Failure is when you don’t share your experience with others because you’re convinced it’s only you who is suffering. That somehow all the madness has occurred because something is wrong with you.

“Failure is feeling you are incapable of finding satisfaction and love.”

Karen takes a deep breath, looks around, and adjusts her posture, before finally saying, “Failure is sitting slumped over as I tend to do, and feeling like you are powerless.”

Tears begin to ebb down Karen’s face, and the entire group is touched by her courage and pain.

People transition from listening with their ears, to ‘someone else’s’ experience,
To feeling with their hearts, how Karen’s words and sorrow are shared by all of us.

Such is the power of a supportive, caring community.
The courageous sharing of any one group member, can lead to the healing of all who are present.

“I” becomes “We”,
And it is this “we-dentity” that gives us the courage to stand up and face our greatest fears, and seeming shortcomings.

At such times, “failure” is transformed into a triumph of human spirit.

Everyday mind and time

Everyday mind and your concept of time

“How unstable was your thinking mind?” Sensei asked, after we had just spent an hour doing a specific breathing exercise. “I’m guessing that in the last hour most of you were very busy thinking, even though you’re meant to sit quietly when doing this exercise.” When I heard him say this I wasn’t sure whether to smile or frown, because he was certainly describing me!

“Such is your everyday mind.” Sensei continued. “You don’t know how to stop yourself from thinking, and the more you try to stop, the more thinking you do. Instead of experiencing the here and now, you run around in your thinking mind worrying and wondering about the past and the future. One moment you feel great, and the next moment you feel terrible. You make it all up in your head, and your experience has little if anything to do with reality.

“In fact,” he added, “the more you study, the more you realize the term reality is a very slippery concept to grasp. You come to realize that what you usually think of as ‘real’ is really only the content of your thinking mind.

“Rather than trying to understand reality, I think we can better spend our time exploring relativity. By exploring how each thing, each thought, each feeling, is relative to all the rest of your experience, you can learn a great deal. Relativity teaches us there’s always more than one perspective, always more than one belief, always more than one understanding, in regard to any one moment in time.

“Einstein talked about placing his hand on a hot stove for one minute, and how that minute felt more like an hour. He then talked about sitting with a pretty girl for an hour, and how that hour seemed to pass so quickly.

“What he describes is very much like the experience of sitting and breathing. Minutes of chaotic thinking feel like hours, and calmness passes you by all too quickly. You manipulate and distort time, and you create a sense of connection with or separation from life itself.

“A human being is one infinitesimal part of an infinitely large universe. A tiny, tiny, something, existing for a few moments in time and space. When we feel separate from the rest of life our pain and suffering increases, as does our distortion of time. When we feel ourselves fully connected to life, everything is just as it should be.

“When I have you sit and breathe, I usually start by taking down the clock at the back of the dojo and placing it outside. You all see me do this. and yet many of you look back numerous times for the non-existent clock. With your sense of time so distorted, I wonder what information you’re hoping the clock will provide.” I felt embarrassed when I heard him say this, because more than once I was certain I could hear the ticking of the clock!

“Our belief in and dependence on time creates a kind of prison that restricts our ability to fully live and experience life. In the course of your study it’s my hope that you’ll begin to free yourself from this prison and experience how you share your pain, your pleasure, and indeed all of your life with the rest of the universe. The more you can realize you’re not alone, not separate, the more you’ll realize just how fleeting every moment is. Both the pleasure and the pain. It’s all to be experienced, appreciated, and then let go of, so that you can be ready for the next experience.”

Simplicity

1. Introduction

Today I would like to further introduce you to the concepts of Seishindo.
It’s my hope that what you read will lead you to better understand yourself and help you live a more solution oriented life.

Please pass my newsletter on to others you feel might benefit.

Charlie

2. Simplicity

Prior to seeking solutions, look first to simplify

What I’ve learned over time, is that high quality solutions are invariably simple.

Conversely, when people feel incapable of finding a path forward, they invariably formulate their challenge in a way that’s overly complex. It’s the complication they’ve built up in their mind, that obscures their solution.

When people come to me looking for help, I carefully listen to how they describe their challenge. When looking for a needle in a haystack, the smaller the haystack the better! When you simplify your challenge, you will simplify the task of finding your solution.

Thus the first steps in a Seishindo change process involve slowing down, breathing more fully, pruning away all unnecessary complication, and feeling the emotional impact of the words spoken.

In Japanese culture, simplicity is a virtue, It’s considered to be the ultimate sophistication.
In Japanese art forms, one is meant to strive for simplicity. To do so, requires an unwavering soft focus, and clear, unfettered awareness of self and ‘other’.

When creating a bonsai,
The master simplifies and prunes away all but the bare essentials
Exposing a beauty that was previously obscured.

When we take off our masks, and share with an open heart,
We expose our beauty and free ourselves to express our hidden truth.

At such times the essence of who we are can shine through,
And find its rightful place in the world.
As we return to the innocence of childhood,
Yet bringing with us the wisdom we’ve discovered along the way.

Keep your whole self open to experience, and your connection to the many resources life has to offer you,
By gently expressing your truth, while striving to understand the hopes and fears of others.

You can find your connection to life everywhere, and at any time.
By pausing and letting your vulnerability resonate out into the world.

An open heart will lead you to the experiences and understanding that cuts through illusion.

Follow your heart,
It will guide you to a place of love, acceptance and fulfillment.

The meaning of Seishindo

In my years of study and practice, and in my everyday life, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the importance of ‘purity’ and ‘simplicity’.

What I’ve learned along the way, forms the basis for the human potential discipline I’ve created, called Seishindo.

Here’s an explanation of the kanji (Japanese pictograms) that make up the word Seishindo.

The first kanji is “Sei.”
The most basic meaning for “sei” is “refined”, but the meaning extends further to include, “spirit, energy, vitality, semen, purity, excellence, and skill”.

In Seishindo, I have chosen the meaning “refined and pure”.

The middle kanji is “Shin”
The meanings of “shin” are “spirit, heart (in the metaphorical sense), and mind”.
If you ask a Japanese person where their mind is, they will point to their heart.

When we combine “sei” with “shin” we have the poetic interpretation, “Pure heart, Simple mind”.

The third kanji. Is “Do”
In everyday parlance it means street, or road.
As used in the Japanese arts, “do” refers to an artful path of study.
As in Judo, Aikido, Chado (tea ceremony), and Shodo (calligraphy).

Seishindo is thus “An artful path for discovering your pure heart, simple mind”.

The path that leads to solutions
When striving to find solutions, look first to simplify,
By pruning away all that obscures your vision,
Your understanding.

In the process of creating ‘less’,
You’ll illuminate the inherent beauty of the essential.

Stones of Wisdom

1. Introduction

Welcome to all, and especially to the new subscribers that show up every week.

During the last few newsletters I’ve been writing about the theories and principles that Seishindo is based upon. Because of this I’ve been “downloading” lots of scrawling from old restaurant napkins, and from the margins of books.

In reading, I hope you’ll discover a deeper connection to yourself and the wisdom you possess.

Enjoy!

Charlie

2. Stones of Wisdom

Your thoughts have energy,
Energy is a fuel.
Your thoughts, and the energy they manifest, can sustain your life, or weaken it.

The more you talk about what you don’t want; The more you think about what upsets you- The more you feed these circumstances and relationships, with the energy of your thoughts. Whatever you imagine over the course of time, you’ll wind up manifesting.

Your thinking mind creates an energy field
Your thinking mind affects the way you use your body and breathe.
The way you use your body and breathe also creates an energy field.
The melding of these two energy fields is who you are.

Your energy field resonates, and attracts people and circumstances that have a similar frequency,
While repelling those with a significantly different frequency.

Your body, just like the body of a classical guitar, is a resonator.
When you adopt a balanced, relaxed posture, you increase your capacity to be harmoniously in tune. You increase the likelihood of your spoken word being deeply connected to your body and your emotions. At such times, generative change is immanent.

Your body is the seat of your emotions.
When we experience problems, we tend to experience our emotions and our logic as opposites. Like the two poles of a magnet.

The more we experience problems, the more we usually want to move towards one pole and away from the other. To get wildly emotional or rigidly logical.

You need to openly accept and welcome your problems.

“Easier said than done!”
Likely so!
But very necessary nonetheless.

Treat each “problem” as a guest at your door.
Invite each problem that shows up, into your life, and into your heart.

Your problems are your guides, your teachers.
Even though your problems seem to be the opposite of what you want.
Or maybe especially because of this reason!

Whatever shows up in your life that you don’t allow in or accept,
Usually winds up attacking you endlessly.

You see, it’s rarely our problem that’s the problem,
Rather, it’s the fight we create, between seeming opposites that leads to our problems in the first place.

Accept what is, while synthesizing and adapting.
Create a respectful relationship between opposites.
Between what you have and what you want.
Thesis and antithesis, leading to synthesis.

During times of great change, multiple, seemingly contradicting truths, need to be melded into a larger more encompassing whole.
This is the difference between “and” and “but”. The difference between dialogue and monologue. Dialogue and diatribe.

Who were you before your problems manifested?

Who will you be when they no longer exist?

Whatever your answer, be that way NOW!

When your attention is stable, calm, and open focus,
Your body relaxed
And your emotions balanced,
You generate a field of endless possibilities.

Center yourself, recognize your true heart’s desire, and open to the abundance of resources available to you.

Orienting to Success

1. Introduction

Today I’m going to write about how the philosophies of Seishindo can wind up playing out in some of the individual work I do with people.

What you’ll be reading is a synopsis of an actual session that took about an hour in total to complete. I’ve honed everything down to the bare essentials, so you’ll find it easy to follow along.

I’ve cleared this story with the person I worked with, and changed her name so as to protect her privacy.

I think this kind of story can be helpful for both private individuals and coaches. As it is a new style of writing for me, I would love to hear your feedback!

Regards,
Charlie

2. Orienting towards Success

In a recent seminar I was working in the front of the room with a participant, as I often do.

Fran told me in detail about the challenges she was facing with her son.

I said, “Please consider the challenges you face with your son, as a dream you would like to fulfill. Please tell me your dream.”

Fran replied, “My dream is to have a loving, caring relationship with my teenage son.”

I asked her, “How are you feeling now, having spoken your dream?”

Fran replied, “That it won’t be easy!”

“Well” I said, “Imagine a marathon runner is sitting where you are now, and she states her dream of winning a gold medal in the next Olympics. When I ask her how she feels having spoken her dream, she replies, ‘That it won’t be easy!’ How likely do you think it is, that she’ll fulfill her dream?”

Fran smiles as says, “Rather unlikely!”

“It’s obvious isn’t it?” I say, “If this woman is focusing on all the hard work involved, she likely won’t wind up doing all the hard work involved!

In your regard, I’m wondering if you’re concerned about the amount of hard work you’ll need to put in, or if instead you’re worried about whether or not your efforts will prove successful.

Do you think it’s possible to achieve a cherished goal, without being open to some unforeseen difficulties cropping up along the way? Do you think it’s possible to fully strive for your dream, without accepting the fact that you’ll likely need to put in a good deal of work?”

Fran took in all I had to say, took a deep breath, and replied, “I love my son so much that I’m terrified of losing him. My terror has literally frozen me and left me unable to move.”

“Yes” I said, “It’s rather common that people want something so much that they freeze up and do nothing, except worry about the fact that they might fail.

John Wooden was one of the most successful coaches in the history of college sports in the U.S. Coach Wooden never spoke to his players about winning or losing! He never exhorted them to go out and win. Instead, he had his players focus on their mindset and the actions they’d need to take, to perform to the best of their ability. He wanted to make sure his players didn’t distract themselves from the task of winning, by worrying about whether or not they would win!

So I suggest to you now, that you do the same. Instead of worrying about whether or not you’ll be successful, focus on your mindset and the necessary actions you’ll need to take, in order to fulfill your dream. Cultivate a positive mindset and a plan of action, follow your plan step by step, and make the necessary corrections along the way. By doing this, you will greatly increase your chance of success.”

Fran agreed to take some time to brainstorm on her own. Towards the end of the workshop I had her come up again to finish her process. She reported feeling much more confident about the possibilities of her relationship with her son. She said, “In the process of orienting towards being successful, I became aware of important points that had eluded me in the past. I realized that the more I want something the more I tend to worry. And inevitably, the more I worry the less I do, to help myself achieve my goal. From this point onwards I’m going to focus on transforming my dreams, into positively oriented actions.”

The experience of “being centered”

1. Introduction

As I said in my last newsletter, I am shifting my writing for awhile to give you a better sense of the basic principles that make up Seishindo.

I’m hoping that by reading about the basic principles of Seishindo, you’ll deepen your sense of feeling embodied, healthy, and fully alive.

Please write to me, letting me know how this new series of articles reaches you!

Below is an exercise I’ve designed to help you have an experiential understanding of what it means to be centered as we think about it in Aikido. In Aikido practice, when you’re centered you’re said to be “keeping one point”.

Charlie

2. The experience of “being centered”

Can you make an image in your mind’s eye of a monohull sailboat? Perhaps a boat that sits on a large lake, and comfortably holds you and a couple of friends out for an afternoon’s outing.

There’s a mast rising straight up from the centerline of your boat, yes? The mast is meant to be strong, while also being lightweight and flexible.

Chances are as you read these words, you’ll be sitting somewhere.
As you sit, imagine yourself to be a scale model of this sailboat as you make your way through life.

Think of your spine as being similar to the boat’s mast. Strong, lightweight, and flexible.

As you sit facing forward, your boat is facing straight ahead.
Imagine it’s a calm day out, and your boat rocks ever so much.

Depending on your feeling, you can rock your boat from back to front, or from side to side.

Rock your boat in whatever direction feels best to you.

The rhythm of your rocking is meant to be similar to the rhythm of a mother rocking her young baby in her arms.

Feeling this rhythm now in your own body, take three deep breaths as you allow your rocking motion to get ever so much bigger.

Every sailboat of course has a hull. Without a hull there would be no boat..

As you sit there now, imagine that your pelvis forms the structure of you hull, and that the deck of your hull is in line with the top of your pelvic girdle and your navel. The major portion of your hull/your pelvic structure, sits in the water, and your spine is rising straight up from the center of your pelvis.

As you most likely know, every monohull sailboat has a keel at the bottom of the boat’s centerline, and it’s the keel that gives the boat stability. How does the keel accomplish this? Well in very simple terms, the keel is quite heavy compared to the weight of the rest of the boat, and the keel sits below the waterline. It’s the weight of the keel resting at the center of the hull, below the waterline, that creates the stability.

You experience yourself as having a keel when the muscles of your torso are relaxed and your spine is straight, and thus the weight of your torso falls into the lower portion of your pelvis. It’s the weight of your torso resting in your pelvis that creates your keel.
With the top portion of your imagined keel a couple of inches below your navel and the bottom of your keel resting on the seat you’re sitting on.

It’s your keel that keeps you stable, and in terms of Aikido your keel is what we call your “center” or “one point”.

As you’re sitting there now, imagine that the bottom portion of your spine melds with your keel.

Your pelvis rests in the water, and the weight of your keel, your “one point”, sits below the waterline and gives you stability, as your boat gently rocks in the water.

Nothing more to do now, but to engage in an image and the feeling this image gives you.

Your pelvis resting in the water,

The weight of your torso resting in your pelvis creating your sense of a keel,
your center, your “one point”.

And it’s your keel reaching all the way down to the bottom of your pelvis that gives you stability,

With your strong, lightweight, flexible spine connected to your keel.

As you rock gently in whatever direction feels best to you,

Take three deep breaths now,
Having the felt sense of your “center” being in your lower abdomen and pelvis.

As you feel how your rocking motion gives you the sense of being calm, centered, and able to move with the currents and winds of life.

Never underestimate the power of your original self

1. Introduction

Although there is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding the nuclear situation up north, for the most part life in Tokyo has settled back down. Because of the nuclear plants no longer generating power, we will be faced with some extra challenges this summer, but such is life!

The people close to the devastated area in the north are still suffering tremendously, and any further help in the form of donations, is still greatly needed.

Thanks again for all the support people have been offering me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Never underestimate the power of your original self

As part of my process of writing this newsletter, I have lots of nuggets of information stored in various locations. Today’s newsletter brings together thoughts and experiences I’ve been ruminating on for a while now.

We increase our suffering by failing to appreciate the opportunities and learning our current challenges offers us. There is no life without challenges.

When we attempt to escape from what we find unpleasant, we miss out on the possibility of learning life affirming lessons, and achieving what we most desire. Attempting to move away from what we don’t want leads us to settle for the scraps of life instead of feasting on the meal.

Indeed the more you try to avoid suffering, the more suffering you’ll wind up experiencing. The same is true of illness.

You’ll improve the quality of your life by striving to better understand what’s confusing you, rather than looking to escape from your turmoil.

“Solution” and “problem” are two sides of the same coin. With a solution in hand, there is no problem. Look for the solutions inherent in your current situation, rather than looking to fix what you perceive to be wrong.

Instead of fighting against the seeming competing desires you have, use your whole self to stay cooperatively engaged in your struggle and you’ll find something within you shifts Over time your struggle will be transformed into a life affirming lesson.

Wanting to experience peace of mind is a fine goal to have, if you also realize you’ll sometimes have little choice but to feel distressed. In fact, much of life happens in between the two.

Nothing stays the same forever and thus change is inevitable. Today’s suffering will turn into tomorrow’s happiness, and eventually you’ill surely suffer once again. That’s just the way life is.

Accepting that change is inevitable helps you move with life rather than attempting to hold onto either the “bad” or the “good”. As you open up to the need for change, you’ll find yourself suffering more effectively. Peace of mind is sure to follow!

In Aikido we understand that if we follow the direction of an attack without impeding the attacker, the confusion being expressed will be fully expended and a new, more life affirming relationship can then begin to emerge.

You need some silence and solitude in your life so that you can begin to hear the inner voice of your original self. This is not the voice of your internal dialogue. This is the voice that’s hidden in the depths of your soul, and it speaks to you without words.

It’s your internal chaos that destroys your capacity for inner peace, and not the world around you. Its your internal chaos that weakens the root energy of your life force and the wisdom of your original self. You need to strive to know yourself as you were in the beginning of your life. Know youself as you were as a very young child- Filled with amazement and curiosity.

A happy life is not built upon understanding why. A happy life requires that you live in the midst of uncertainty and do so gracefully. When you’re graceful there’s a beauty that exudes from the way you move and carry yourself, because you do only what’s necessary. Nothing more and nothing less. When you’re graceful there’s a sense of proper proportion, an ideal relationship, between yourself and the rest of life. Between your happiness and your sadness. You sense your life is “just right” as it is, and thus there’s a stillness that permeates your being.in the midst of the unknown.

When you experience grace in the midst of illness, defeat, or other suffering, you’re able to appreciate the small pleasures of life, and each challenge you face serves to strengthen the dreams you hold in your heart.

Fundamentals of Happiness

1. Introduction

My birthday came round again on May 10th and I want to thank all of you who sent me a greeting. Lovely to be held by the group in this way!

My “Eight Essential Questions- Focus on the Life You Desire” is proving to be quite popular. Close to 1,000 people have downloaded it so far, and I’m getting lots of good feedback, including suggestions for future improvements.

The Eight Essential Questions” are meant to help you reconnect your words with your feelings, so you can begin to live with greater clarity and purpose.

If you are interested in receiving the document, please contact me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Loss is an essential element of success and happiness

I was sitting around having dinner with a few friends, about a month after the big earthquake and tsunami up north of Tokyo.

“Now is the time for the Japanese people to show their true spirit,” Suzuki-san said. “You never really know the heart of another person during good times. It’s not until some form of disaster that you find out what people really believe, and what they base their life upon.

In Japanese culture we are taught to celebrate success in a subdued fashion, keeping in mind that tomorrow brings a new set of challenges. We are taught that success is fleeting and doesn’t last all that long.

As time goes on, I think Japanese people have come to misunderstand the meaning of success, and the happiness it can bring. It seems that these days people confuse success with winning, or being able to say, ‘I am better than others.’. In my mind, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe you can’t really understand success, until you’ve tasted defeat. Loss is an essential element of success and happiness.”

I nodded my head and said nothing, knowing my friend was speaking an important truth.

“You see,” Suzuki-san said, “I grew up as a farmer, and as a farmer you soon learn that a good crop is often followed by a bad crop the following season. Also, as a farmer you share the water used for growing your rice, with all your neighbors. Because each person needs to depend on the good will of another, you can’t celebrate a good harvest unless your neighbors also did well. In our rice growing culture we learned that water and success, are meant to be shared with the entire community. During hard times you also shared your food with your neighbors if they had none, knowing they would do the same for you.

So now, as a nation we need to share with each other once again. Those of us with more, need to give to those who have less. It’s in the act of giving that you feel your connection to others. When you give you offer up thanks for all you have, and realize you don’t live this life as a separate individual.

Times like now help you realize how fleeting success and happiness are. It’s only after losing everything that you can finally fully appreciate how much you had before. A healthy person tends to take their good condition for granted, until they get sick.

These days it seems people don’t really experience appreciation, because they’re always wanting something more. People don’t seem to know what it feels like to be satisfied. I taught my children to not base their good feeling on something that will likely be gone tomorrow. I also taught them to not base their good feeling on what they can buy.

As you’ve heard me say before, I believe losing World War II was a great gift for the Japanese people. A very harsh gift, but a great gift nonetheless, because losing tested the strength of the Japanese soul. We had to reevaluate our culture and discover what this defeat really meant for us. We had to dig deep to find our hearts laying underneath the rubble of the bombings.

And now, I fervently pray we find the courage to accept this earthquake and tsunami as another gift meant to test our spirit. I’m hoping that the coming years are a time for great renewal in Japan.

The Mind of Aikido and Water

1. Introduction

Thanks to all for the wonderful support that so many of you in the community have offered me over the last couple of weeks! Very much appreciated.

There is a LOT to still be determined here in Japan, but don’t believe all of the exaggerated stories about radiation etc. that you’ve been reading. The devastation in some areas has been huge, and many people need a LOT of help, but meanwhile, most of the rest of us here are coping well, while striving to live a calm day to day existence.

Below is an URL for a non-profit that is doing wonderful work in Japan. They’ve been feeding the homeless and needy for years, and they have really stepped up their activities to aid the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Even if you have already given, further donations are very much needed!

For every 1,000 yen donated (about US$12 these days), they deliver 10,000 yen worth of food to the needy!

http://2hj.org/english/

The tsunami in particular has led me to stop and pause. The power of the incoming water was beyond what I imagined possible!

To honor the victims of the tsunami I have rewritten, and am presenting today, a story I wrote several years ago. It’s based on an evening spent with Senta Yamada Sensei, a leading teacher of Tomiki Aikido. Since I wrote this story, sensei passed away on August, 8, 2010, so I would like to honor him today as well. He was a wise and wonderful teacher to all who made his acquaintance.

Keep the faith!

In Community,
Charlie

2. The Mind of Aikido and Water

While in Japan, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many exceptional people. Recently when visiting a friend I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Senta Yamada sensei for the first time.
Uncharacteristically for a Japanese person, he moved his hands a lot as he spoke. He did this to portray his perception of the movements essential to the “mind” of Aikido and water.

When he first started to talk he said to me,
“While you sit there, please breathe freely and move your body some, so you can feel the movement and mind my words suggest to you.

Water unites all the world’s land masses, large and small. Connecting what is seemingly separate, distant, and different, into one seamless spherical whole.
Water has an intelligence, a mind,
And in Aikido we strive to embody this same intelligence.

We cultivate our energy flow to “become one with” others. Especially those appearing angry and frightened.
We strive to dissolve any sense of separation, distance, or difference.
And even when moving away from others, we do so with the intent of joining with and returning back to them.

Water not only joins together the land masses of earth, it also unites the earth and sky via never ending cycles of precipitation, movement, and evaporation.
This is the same process human beings mirror in birth, life, and death.

Just like water, we come from heaven, spend time on earth, and return back to heaven once again.
Becoming, being, dying. Life, death, recycling.

Water expands and contracts depending on circumstances, and the same is true of the human spirit.
When you’re harsh to a child, their spirit contracts.
When you love a child, their spirit expands,
Out past the two of you and into the universe.

The presence of water throughout our ecosystem is similar to the presence of the body’s fluid system. Enveloping and uniting the cells and tissue of the body.
The mind of water, the body’s fluid system, and Aikido, all have the same intention.
Move with, absorb, nurture, cleanse, renew.

When everything is experienced as an integral part of the One there is no disease, no attack, no separation, death, or destruction.

Regardless of the form it may take—rain, mist, steam, dew, snow, ice—water always has a spherical mind.
This mind of roundness is a key principle in the mind of non-dissension.
In Aikido we project a full round presence to our adversary and flow with their movements.

Just like water, we offer no hard surfaces to bump up against, and nothing to grab hold of.
We encourage our adversaries to follow their course of action to its likely outcome, in the same way water follows the path of gravity downhill.
Moving always towards center, until the time of renewal and rising up again.

Regardless of the obstacles encountered water does not stop, it does not give up.
It searches endlessly for the path of least resistance, and when there is none it rests, consolidates its power, and rises up.
Waiting for another opportunity.
Waiting for the proper moment… an opening.

A single drop of water has little power, but many drops joined together can sweep away everything in its path,
With the relentless force of a tsunami.

Water joins with, is absorbed by, and surrounds.
It does not strive to act separately, but waits to be moved by the forces of nature.

With a mind of endless effortless rest, renewal, and movement,
As calm when doing as when simply being.
We can realize the end of every journey as a new beginning,
Every destination as temporary, every goal as cyclical.

Beginning complete

We remain complete

With nowhere to go

Nothing to accomplish

Nothing to fulfill

Except our destiny

Our returning

Is never in question.

3. My Offer

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances, you are certainly not alone in these turbulent times.

Write to me at charlie@seishindo.org and I’ll send you a set of questions designed to help you come to grips with what you need to be doing differently.

Charlie

A crisis of faith

1. Introduction

Blessings and thanks to all in the Seishindo community during a time of great upheaval in Japan. And yes, upheaval is exactly what it’s been!

Likely at least 15,000 people have perished, and more than 500,000 people are homeless. Apparently many of the homeless are living in weather that goes down to around freezing at night, and since they fled their homes on a moment’s notice, they have little in the way of blankets etc. Heating fuel and food in the public facilities is scarce, so people are facing some tough times.

So please, do what you can financially, and also very importantly, please send your prayers and positive energy in this direction.

Tokyo is basically still fine, and our main concern is the nuclear facilities. Lets work to transmute all that nuclear energy into an energy that serves humankind and the planet!
There have been many many acts of kindness and bravery, and I shed some tears last night when I turned on the TV and saw rescue crews arriving from around the world to help.

I am posting several times a day on the Seishindo Fan Page on Facebook, and many people have been replying with their support. Please come and join us!
I find Facebook to be a positive environment, so if you have to sign up to see the page, rest assured that it will not wind up being a hassle in the long run.

http://www.facebook.com/seishindo/

All the best to all of us!
Charlie

2. A crisis of faith

The moment sensei walked into the dojo I could tell he had something specific to say today.

Here’s the lesson he presented us with.

Many of you come to class not realizing you’re suffering from a crisis of faith. The less you recognize this, the more it winds up affecting everything you do.

With some of you I get the feeling you’re sitting there while dreading what might go wrong, Dreading that you might show up as being incompetent or uncertain. When I look around to gauge how everyone’s feeling on a certain day, many of you look everywhere else but at me. It’s as if you’re saying “Please don’t call on me sensei!”, and yet supposedly you’re here to learn. What this tells me is your body’s in the dojo, but your thinking mind is somewhere else.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If not, you’re almost certainly not feeling confident.

What are your afraid of? The attack of your counterpart who is simply performing his half of a training task? The judgment of people watching who might say you’re clumsy and unskilled? Or perhaps without realizing it, what you’re fearing most is the attack of your own negative self judgments. Your lack of faith in yourself as a competent learner.

What would your life be like if you believed you were a fine person, an intelligent person, an overall good learner? In other words, what would your life be like if you didn’t think something was wrong with you? Many of you would be quick to reply, ‘Oh no, not me.’, if someone said you were a wonderful person, and ‘Oh yes that’s me.’, if someone said you had a lot of problems that needed fixing.

I talk to you over and over again about the importance of being fully present in class. I tell you that just as you take off your slippers and leave them outside the dojo, you also need to do the same with your limiting beliefs. I know that isn’t easy to do, but ‘easy’ isn’t what we’re concerned with here. What you need to be concerned with is trusting in yourself, and noticing if you go inside your head searching for negative memories, when you don’t have immediate success.

The principles of Aikido are actually rather simple, but simple does not equal easy. In fact I have found that doing things simply usually takes a good deal of hard work. A good deal of practice. I think part of the reason for this is that we think too much and make things more complicated than they really are. If you start out with a lack of confidence you will expect difficulty. When you expect difficulty it means your head is already filled with thoughts before you even begin. The more thoughts you have filling your head, the less you’ll be able to notice what is. The less you’ll be able to notice the simplicity.

Every accomplished artist, whether a ballerina or a boxer, performs with grace and ease. They can do this because they’ve pruned away everything that’s not essential to their performance. They snipped and trimmed until all of the complications and difficulty have been removed. With less to pay attention to they can give much more attention to what’s left. Being confident in their ability, there’s no separation between thinking and doing. There is only One.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If so, you’ll have overcome your crisis of faith!

All the best to you going forward,

Charlie

A crisis of faith

1. Introduction

Blessings and thanks to all in the Seishindo community during a time of great upheaval in Japan. And yes, upheaval is exactly what it’s been!

Likely at least 15,000 people have perished, and more than 500,000 people are homeless. Apparently many of the homeless are living in weather that goes down to around freezing at night, and since they fled their homes on a moment’s notice, they have little in the way of blankets etc. Heating fuel and food in the public facilities is scarce, so people are facing some tough times.

So please, do what you can financially, and also very importantly, please send your prayers and positive energy in this direction.

Tokyo is basically still fine, and our main concern is the nuclear facilities. Let’s work to transmute all that nuclear energy into an energy that serves humankind and the planet! There have been many many acts of kindness and bravery, and I shed some tears last night when I turned on the TV and saw rescue crews arriving from around the world to help.

I am posting several times a day on the Seishindo Fan Page on Facebook, and many people have been replying with their support. Please come and join us!
I find Facebook to be a positive environment, so if you have to sign up to see the page, rest assured that it will not wind up being a hassle in the long run.

http://www.facebook.com/seishindo/

All the best to all of us!
Charlie

2. A crisis of faith

The moment sensei walked into the dojo I could tell he had something specific to say today. Here’s the lesson he presented us with.

Many of you come to class not realizing you’re suffering from a crisis of faith. The less you recognize this, the more it winds up affecting everything you do.

With some of you I get the feeling you’re sitting there while dreading what might go wrong, Dreading that you might show up as being incompetent or uncertain. When I look around to gauge how everyone’s feeling on a certain day, many of you look everywhere else but at me. It’s as if you’re saying “Please don’t call on me sensei!”, and yet supposedly you’re here to learn. What this tells me is your body’s in the dojo, but your thinking mind is somewhere else.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If not, you’re almost certainly not feeling confident.

What are your afraid of? The attack of your counterpart who is simply performing his half of a training task? The judgment of people watching who might say you’re clumsy and unskilled? Or perhaps without realizing it, what you’re fearing most is the attack of your own negative self judgments. Your lack of faith in yourself as a competent learner.

What would your life be like if you believed you were a fine person, an intelligent person, an overall good learner? In other words, what would your life be like if you didn’t think something was wrong with you? Many of you would be quick to reply, ‘Oh no, not me.’, if someone said you were a wonderful person, and ‘Oh yes that’s me.’, if someone said you had a lot of problems that needed fixing.

I talk to you over and over again about the importance of being fully present in class. I tell you that just as you take off your slippers and leave them outside the dojo, you also need to do the same with your limiting beliefs. I know that isn’t easy to do, but ‘easy’ isn’t what we’re concerned with here. What you need to be concerned with is trusting in yourself, and noticing if you go inside your head searching for negative memories, when you don’t have immediate success.

The principles of Aikido are actually rather simple, but simple does not equal easy. In fact I have found that doing things simply usually takes a good deal of hard work. A good deal of practice. I think part of the reason for this is that we think too much and make things more complicated than they really are. If you start out with a lack of confidence you will expect difficulty. When you expect difficulty it means your head is already filled with thoughts before you even begin. The more thoughts you have filling your head, the less you’ll be able to notice what is. The less you’ll be able to notice the simplicity.

Every accomplished artist, whether a ballerina or a boxer, performs with grace and ease. They can do this because they’ve pruned away everything that’s not essential to their performance. They snipped and trimmed until all of the complications and difficulty have been removed. With less to pay attention to they can give much more attention to what’s left. Being confident in their ability, there’s no separation between thinking and doing. There is only One.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If so, you’ll have overcome your crisis of faith!

Pain and Suffering

1. Introduction

Today I’d like to introduce you to Howard Shifke, a new friend of the Seishindo community. Howard has fully recovered from Parkinson’s Disease using a holistic approach he developed on his own. Anybody who has, or knows somebody who has Parkinson’s, can learn a lot and be inspired by reading Howard’s blog. In fact I think everyone and anyone can be inspired by what he has done. I certainly am!

Howard’s philosophy is fully in tune with Seishindo’s, and you can contact him directly by sending him an email at hshifke@gmail.com.

Please mention that you learned about Howard from Seishindo, so we can get a sense of the cross-pollination that occurs.

His blog is here, http://fightingparkinsonsdrugfree.blogspot.com/.

Today’s story is a major rewrite of one I wrote a long time ago. I offer it here as a way of celebrating Howard’s healing, and as an advance celebration for all the healing that can take place in all of our lives.

In Community,
Charlie

2. The benefits of Suffering

Sensei said, “I’m always quite intrigued when I read about monks and priests from the West, that express the same feelings we have in Japan.

I recently read that the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, ‘I became a monk not so as to suffer more, but to suffer more effectively.’ Now I can’t say that’s what led me to study Aikido, but I can say the principle Merton sensei expressed, is one that has guided me over time.

The more new students go on about how excited they are to be studying Aikido, the more I’m led to guess they’re trying to escape from suffering. They fail to realize their suffering is created by their beliefs, and not by the outside world. Trying to run away from suffering is like trying to run away from yourself. Anywhere you go, anywhere you get to, you’ll only find your negative beliefs sitting and welcoming you as you arrive. And that’s why in Aikido we look to create a tiny bit of suffering with some of our practices. It’s a good way to see whether or not you are still trying to escape.

You see, the way you respond to what’s taking place, says much more about your beliefs than you realize. Some of you have started to realize your tendency is to try and escape from an attacker rather than joining with them. You’ll never be able to escape the attacker, because you’ll never be able to escape from yourself.

I believe people increase their suffering, each time they try and avoid it. In attempting to escape from your pain rather than settling into it, you set the stage for further misery. Some degree of suffering is inherent to the human condition.

If you’ve been coming to class for awhile now you’ve heard me ask this question before, ‘If it wasn’t for your suffering who would you be today?’ Your answer will say a lot about the way you feel about yourself, the manner in which you approach learning and change, and the reason why you come to class. You’ll improve the quality of your life by immersing yourself in your struggle, rather than looking to escape from it. By realizing that pain is something you create inside your head.

I suggest you ask yourself, ‘How does my perception of my current problem, my current struggle, mirror my overall beliefs in life?’ If your current situation stayed the same, but you changed your belief system would you still be suffering? 
In other words, how would your problems appear to be different if you were different?

Happiness and suffering are two sides of the same coin. Look for the happiness inherent in your current suffering, rather than looking to fix what you perceive to be wrong.

When you’re suffering, your emotional mind and your rational mind are locked in combat. 
Instead of fighting against yourself, use your whole self to stay cooperatively engaged in your struggle and you’ll find something within you shifts. Over time your struggle will be transformed into a life affirming lesson.

When you feel ill at ease in the world, it’s a signal that part of you is calling out for help. When you willingly heed this call, the value of your struggle becomes apparent. I think we find no greater example of this, then when a person is diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Disease is the body’s way of telling you, the way you’re leading your life isn’t working. Your symptoms are alerting you to the need for change. Be thankful for the feedback. Without it, you would soon no longer be alive.

Lessons learned from hard times

1. Introduction

Hi to all!

In my part of the world, the sun is shining a bit longer than it was a few weeks ago, and the temperature is rising in fits and spurts. All of this gives me hope, that indeed there will be another spring!

It’s my wish for all of you, that even in the coldest days of winter you’ll feel the call of spring in your heart.

In Community,
Charlie

2. Lessons learned from hard times

I have many fond memories of sitting in a small room in my wife’s grandmother’s house, sipping tea, and giving “obaachan” the space to say whatever was on her mind.

When I asked her about World War II here’s what she had to say.

“The death of loved ones, natural disasters, wars, and divorces. All of these events give us cause to stop and reflect on our lives.

World War II taught me a lot. It seems to me that in all wars, both sides tend to be correct in standing up for their values, and quite short-sighted in denying their shortcomings.

I think this is also true in personal relationships that aren’t going well. People fail to realize and acknowledge their own shortcomings, and this prevents them from recognizing there are always two people responsible for the failing.

When the war ended I was grateful to still be alive and I was ready to redirect my life. Having withstood the war I was pretty certain I could withstand everything life had to offer.

A lot of precious lives were lost and many people died at a very early age. The war broke my heart and caused me to reexamine everything I thought I knew. I was pretty certain my heart would break a few more times before I died, and I needed to take the time to better understand how life is full of suffering and joy, love and hate.

I found myself wondering what all the killing had accomplished. What truths had the war revealed? What lessons were to be learned by every Japanese person? Surely our culture needed to redirect itself, and I wondered how this would be accomplished, and if indeed it would be accomplished. Before the war life had a certain familiarity that felt comfortable. Up early every morning to start the day, and work well into the evening. All with a sense of an endless rhythm and flow, with one day leading to the next. By the end of the war, everything had been turned upside down. Everyone was so busy rebuilding shattered lives and attempting to make up for lost time, that few people took the time to sit and reflect.

I realized I was going to have to let go of great sadness in order to begin the next stage of my life. Having seen so many people die, I found it important to place the focus of my attention on the newborn babies in our neighborhood. Watching them grow, and flourish, under the gaze of a loving mother. Life was indeed continuing to spring forth and I knew it was important to focus on the positive.

The war led me to understand the world is being destroyed by the anger and resentment that is stirred up by our leaders. Beneath all the bad feelings lies a deep fear that is big enough to destroy all of life. When our fear, anger, and resentment overflows into war, it squeezes the love from our hearts and there are no winners. Only survivors.

God is the Spirit that lives within each of us and gives us life. Who we are, depends to a large extent on how we love. We need to nurture our fear and our anger with kindness, so that hope, health, and compassion will spring forth in each of us. Regardless of the country we were born in, or the values we hold dear.

There is a great deal of fear and anger in the world today. Please consider how you can nurture with kindness all those you meet and enter into relationship with.

Twelve fundamental premises of Seishindo

Twelve fundamentals that support learning, adaptation, and personal fulfillment
These are the principles that guide my work with clients

1) Human beings are self-organizing systems. We are each born with an innate ability to learn, and adapt to life. We each possess the instinctual ability to recognize, create, and maintain, health and well being.

2) Change is inherent in the differences and potentials that drive a universe that is not at rest. The ability to adapt is one of the primary rewards of learning.

3) A state of dynamic relaxation in which we feel alert and fully alive, supports our ability to learn, adapt, and thrive.
When we’re dynamically relaxed, we do just enough and nothing more or less, to perform in a graceful, efficient manner, At such times there is not any need for excess efforting or tension.

4) The body as well as the brain in our skull, is intelligent, and “mind” resides in the body as well as in the brain.

There are currently five main avenues of study we draw upon here:

A.   Research by Dr. Michael Gershon and others show that we indeed have a second brain in our gut (the enteric nervous system). This concept has been known in most every Oriental art form for thousands of years.

B.    Research conducted by Candace Pert presents a model of a “mobile brain” that moves throughout the entire body. Her work leads to the consideration of the brain as a dynamic and ever changing information network that is present throughout our entire system.

C.    Research by Stephen Porges, puts forth the Polyvagal Theory. A theory that emphasizes the pivotal role of the heart in social interactions and emotional well-being. The theory states that the vagus nerve, a nerve likely found only in mammals, provides input to the heart to guide behavior as complex as forming relationships with other people as well as disengaging from others. His theory has stimulated research and treatments that emphasize the importance of physiological state and behavioral regulation in the expression of several psychiatric disorders including autism and provides a theoretical perspective to study and to treat stress and trauma.

D.   The study and practice of “Shin shin toitsu” Aikido, as developed by Koichi Tohei.

E.    The study and practice of “Noguchi Sei Tai” as developed by Haruchika Noguchi.

When we work within these models we can quickly understand that most of the system-wide activity of “our mind” takes place outside of our everyday conscious awareness.

We can indeed utilize and learn from this subconscious intelligence of the body, and this proposal forms the basis for the change work done in Seishindo.

5) High-quality learning is best facilitated by becoming aware of and consciously responding to, four brains, instead of just one.

A. The enteric nervous system

B. The heart

C. The limbic brain

D. The neo-cortex

When we are aware of and consciously respond to four brains, we greatly increase our ability to act with wisdom, creativity, emotional balance, and compassion.

6) All of the various electro-chemical and neuromuscular reactions that occur in our body are systematic in nature and when taken as a whole such reactions can be considered to make up a somatic language.

Our ability to communicate in and understand somatic language is wired into our system at birth and forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves.

Our somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as our native verbal language. Somatic language does not use or require verbal language in order for our body to completely understand what is being communicated. Somatic language is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.

7) Our memories and our emotions are seamlessly intertwined. Our body and all of its cells and tissues retain traces of our previous experiences. Our memories and our emotions are made up of bio-chemical and neuromuscular activities that form the basis of our consciousness, are habitual in nature, and affect our perception of our current experience. Long term memories are activated by our entire system, as a byproduct of our experience.

8) Much of what we accomplish when learning and adapting takes place outside of our conscious awareness and is orchestrated by the subconscious intelligence of our body (the somatic self).

Exceptional learners in any one particular field rarely know specifically what they do when they perform with excellence, they “just do it” by accessing the information network of their entire system.

In regard to our overall health and well being, we have limited conscious awareness of how we go about secreting enzymes and hormones to digest food and support various life sustaining functions, or how we activate our immune system. A healthy person nonetheless effectively performs such tasks on a regular basis.

9) The system known as “I”, contains all the resources necessary to live a fulfilling life.

At the same time, the information that passes us by without being noticed or used, is always much greater than the information we are aware of and utilize.

Great hope, seasoned with a reasonable dash of humility would thus serve all of us well.

10) The personal difficulties we experience when attempting to maintain a healthy, emotionally balanced life, are largely due to

A. Habitual patterns of holding excess energy within our system.

B. Habitual patterns for organizing and utilizing only a selected portion of the incoming information available to us.

When we hold onto excess energy we inhibit ourselves from rebalancing, reorganizing, and adapting, to meet the challenges of ongoing events, thoughts, and feelings. Such holding patterns inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. When our somatic-emotional system supports a varied range of information gathering, organization and utilization, life moves through us in a continual process of change and rebalancing.

11) Any behavior, experience, or response may serve as a resource or limitation depending on one’s belief system and perspective.

In alignment with this thinking we believe it serves a person well to consider that: “There are no mistakes, only outcomes. There are no failures, only feedback.”

Following this line of thinking we say-

In our experience it appears that most people believe it’s particular events and circumstances that determine the course of their lives. We believe people will be better served by considering how their reaction and response to particular events and circumstances determines the course of your life. One person’s moment of failure and defeat, can be another person’s moment of awakening and rededication.

12) A system that is adept at managing complexity and diversity is a system that is open to learning from new information and distilling solutions from multiple realities.

A diverse system has elements that are different in nature, kind, character, and quality. Diversity is ever present in the non-equilibrium environment that we live in, and indeed the ongoing viability of any system depends on a certain minimum requisite amount of diverse elements. A lack of diversity leads to a limited pool of information and alternatives, and solutions that will tend to be somehow incomplete, incorrect, and repetitive.

It’s the ability of a system to embrace, comprehend, utilize, and unify the multiplicity of interrelated elements in a given situation that leads to high quality solutions and adaptation. In such systems, the concepts of “right” or “wrong” are less important than the correlation and complementarity of divergent sources of information. Robust systems thrive on complexity, and use it as an impetus for fostering generative compromises that enhance the overall integrity of the system. In unbalanced systems complexity tends to create a state of confusion and chaos.

In the practice of Seishindo we believe it serves you well to:

Fine tune your ability to be aware of:

A. The bio-chemical and neuromuscular activities that usually take place outside of your conscious awareness, but that nevertheless form the basis of your consciousness.

B. Your information gathering, processing, and utilization strategies, and how you can expand upon what you’re currently capable of.

C. How you sometimes tend to habitually hold onto and thus inhibit the total flow of energy within your system.

Practice various “whole self” exercises that promote a free flow of energy within your system, and a more balanced somatic-emotional experience.

Learn how to better utilize both your somatic organization and intelligence as coordinated by your enteric nervous system (the brain in our gut), and your cognitive organization and intelligence as coordinated by the brain in your skull.

Seishindo works from the supposition that much of what you understand cognitively is derived from your verbal interpretation of your somatic language. In Seishindo we look first at the body and its somatic communication, in order to understand the psyche. We begin by getting a felt sense of the communication of the body.

Next, we look to enlist the help of the innate subconsciously generated somatic intelligence, to bring about meaningful change. This change is wrought by our innate and preverbal sense of what needs to be different somatically in order to bring about a greater sense of psychological health and well-being. Once the somatic experience has begun to change we can then engender a heartfelt conversation, to integrate the dual intelligences of the cognitive and somatic, into a generative experience of the self in relationship with itself.

Grassy plains and horses – Innovation?

Innovation: Is it a quality of positive thinking you need to develop, or a common thread in the fabric of all of life? 

The evolution of every person, every business, and every living thing in nature, takes place “in relationship with” all of the rest of life. Here is a story to explain this concept. In the industrialized world, man has decimated grassy plains, in order to build cities and urban sprawl. A major decrease in grassy plains leads to a major decrease in horse populations, since they have less plains to roam over, and urban trails are better suited to cars than to horses.

As we decimate our natural surroundings to build our cities, people look to somehow bring “a bit of nature” back into their life. You can think of a suburban lawn to be the bonsai equivalent of the “grassy plains” that were stripped away to build the urban sprawl that you might live amongst.

When creating the grassy plain known as your lawn, you will of course want it to be firm enough to walk on. You will thus rent a roller that you fill with water in order to make it heavy. As you push the heavy roller around on your newly laid sod, the weight of the roller will press the grass and the earth below it, and make it firm. If instead, you took the water you used to fill the roller, and fed it to a thirsty horse, the horse would roam over your suburban grassy plain, and the horse’s hooves would press the earth and the grass until it was firm. This would save you a lot of work, plus the fee for renting the roller.

Next, in order to maintain your lawn, you will need to buy a lawn mower. Over the course of many Saturday afternoons you will spend many long hours walking the lawn mower around your yard as you cut your grass. If instead of buying a lawn mower you bought a horse, the horse’s teeth would cut the grass for you. And the horse, being more intelligent than a lawn mower, walks itself around your property, without needing you to push it and direct it as to where to go. The horse could be maintaining your grassy plain, while you are in the house relaxing. What the horse does at its leisure (trimming the grassy plain) you do only with a great deal of effort.

But not to worry, for you are very proud of your beautiful lawn and perhaps at times even happy to maintain it. And in order to do the best possible job of keeping your lawn healthy, you discover that you have to fulfill one more function that the horse naturally fulfills for the grassy plain. You need to substitute the lawn food that comes out of the rear end of the horse, by going out and buying a bag of fertilizer. What the horse gives freely and amply, you wind up having to pay for, and work to spread around.

The decimation of grassy plains and the concurrent sharp decline in horse populations, has forced man to co-evolve “in relationship with” grassy plains and horses. In the process, man has had to put in a lot of hard physical labor, and innovate many different tools and products, in order to make up for the horses.

Personally, I would prefer a lot less innovation in regard to horse replacement tools and products, and a lot more innovation in regard to how we can preserve nature and spread the workload around a bit. I am sure that grassy plains would prefer to grow naturally, with the horse as the caretaker, rather than man with his machines and chemicals.

*This story has been adapted from a Gregory Bateson story in his book “Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind“.

The Clock is Ticking

How do you react to deadlines? How would you feel if someone said “Hurry up, the clock is ticking and we’ve got to get this completed!”? How well do you cope with stress? Isn’t it amazing to notice how radically your experience of passing time changes depending on the circumstances, with little correlation to the steady flow of time as shown on a clock.

Have you ever sat in a waiting room with a clock on the wall that went “tick tock, tick tock” over and over and over again, until such time that you either wanted to run out of the room, or throw the clock out the window? This kind of experience is especially excruciating when you are waiting for something that you really are not looking forward to, like a treatment from your dentist. In particular, when you are feeling stressed out you experience time distortion. In some instances like when waiting for your dentist, one minute of clock time seems to take forever. At other times when you are working towards a deadline, time appears to slip away without your knowing where it went, and you are left wondering why you are accomplishing so little.

Waiting for a train that is twenty minutes late, when that train is bringing your loved one back to you, is very different than getting to the train station early with your loved one and waiting twenty minutes for the same train to take your loved one away from you. The train is the same, the station is the same, your loved one is the same, and the time on the clock is the same, but somehow, your emotional experience of “twenty minutes” is quite different.

It is important for each of us to understand how the fixed passage of time as measured by a clock, has little to do with our emotional experience of time. Rather than being under the illusion that time rules our life, we will do well to recognize that it is our emotional experience and our mindset that determines how we relate to the ticking of the clock. Restrict your breathing and tense your muscles and time invariably will appear to speed up. You relate to time according to your expectations of what will transpire. Expect that you will be successful and the clock on the wall appears to offer you a bit more time. Expect the worst and you will have difficulty keeping up.

What can you do to have a healthier perspective in regard to time? The first thing you can do is breathe slowly and deeply. When you slow down your body clock, the clock on the wall appears to slow down along with you. The next thing you can do is check in with your body. If you create a feeling of expansion in your body, by aligning your posture and releasing your muscles, time will appear to expand somewhat as well. Furthermore, you can notice your surroundings and extend your awareness out into the space around you. When you extend your awareness to take in the wide range of sights and sounds taking place in your local environment you will also extend your concept of time. Lastly, realize that with any luck, you will have tomorrow to accomplish what you were not able to accomplish today. Every new day, brings new opportunities for appreciating your life and the people you care about.

There is no more important person to love than yourself

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for me to lose contact with the part of myself that generates my emotional experience. Does the same happen to be true for you?

There has been a great deal of research that shows that many people who work in the “helping professions” (and this very much includes stay at home mothers) suffer from what has become known as “Compassion Fatigue” or “Helping Profession Syndrome.” You can become so focused on helping others that you lose touch with how important it is to also help yourself.

I write about this now because of an experience I had yesterday; that might very much speak to your experience as well.

My legs have bothered me since I was a young child. I often have pain in my knees, and it is exactly this condition that led me to become involved in my life’s work. I am known as a skillful bodyworker and yet I find that I rarely use my bodyworking skills on myself. I seem to forget that the skills and sensitivity I use to help others can also be used for ME.

Yesterday my left knee was bothering me, and I finally decided to take the time to help myself.

I sat on the floor with my left leg fully extended. I then took a minute to center as I felt my leg as it was at that moment. Next, I used my hands to feel what my leg wanted to have done to it. I felt for the sore spots and I began to gently and lovingly massage my leg.

Breathing deeply, I massaged my leg slowly and tenderly, yet firmly. I asked my leg to tell my hands what it wanted, and I asked my hands to communicate a story to me of what my leg was saying. I “heard” my leg say, “I am tired and I don’t feel like I am getting enough help in supporting and carrying the heavy load I have to tend with.”

My leg also said, “I feel somewhat neglected and taken for granted. I don’t really feel like I am fully appreciated for fulfilling a challenging task.”

“Hmm…” I thought to myself, “Doesn’t sound all that different from what the rest of me sometimes says!”

Next, I used my hands to reply to my leg. Through my touch I communicated,

“I love you.”

Then I said, “I am sorry for not being more attentive, responsive, and appreciative.” Through my touch I said, “I really care about you and I am going to establish a closer relationship with you from here on out.”

Finally I said, “I very much want to hear from you, without your needing to use pain to shout at me. I will be more attentive to, and more appreciative of our relationship.”

I sat there for a few moments, breathing loving energy through my hands into my leg.

After a while I heard a soft whisper.

“I love you, and I have been very lonely, waiting for you to show up. Thank you so much for caring about me.”

And those words really moved me.

I came away from this experience with a sense of being whole and healthy. I had become one with myself, in love.

The experience I describe does not require any learned skills. All you need to do is take some time and have a heartfelt appreciation for yourself and your needs. When it is all said and done, THE most significant person to enter into a relationship of love and service with is yourself! There is no more important person to love, than yourself.

What is your relationship to Time?

Have you ever thought about how your orientation to time profoundly affects the way you are in the world? Each culture has its own unique way of relating to the concept of “time”. Some cultures perceive time as a room that is lived in. The “room” of time is a constant that stays the same, as we change during the course of our lives. American culture seems to more and more think of time as a commodity there is never enough of. When time is “wasted” a person misses out on an opportunity that may never present itself again. Still other cultures experience time as being circular, without a beginning or an end, and with no clear markers as to past, present, and future. No matter how we think about it, our relationship to time has a profound impact on what we believe is possible. Here is a story to illustrate what I mean.

Years ago I belonged to a healing community in the States. A women who was a member of the group had an infant who was born with a serious condition which was meant to limit the young child’s life span to only three or four years maximum. The woman was totally committed to the health and well being of her infant, and she spent every waking moment praying for her baby. Her prayer went something like this: “Dear Lord, please heal my baby and help him to be fully healthy.” She offered up this prayer countless times a day.

After some months of praying, and with the child’s condition not improving, the mother spontaneously had an important “truth” present itself to her. She realized that in praying for her child to be healed, in a deeper sense she was acknowledging the “fact” that indeed her child was not well at this time. In effect she was saying/praying “Lord, my child is currently ill, and I am asking that you heal him and make him healthy in the future.” She realized that if she was praying a similar prayer for herself, it would be difficult for her to feel good about her chances of being healed if she was continually reminding herself that she was currently not healthy. She realized that even though her child was way too young to understand the words of her prayer, that somehow her words would not be fully supporting her child in feeling and being healthy now as well as in the future. With her new understanding of how her concept of time was deeply affecting her prayer, she revised her concept and began praying the following: “Lord thank you for the health and well being of my child. I am eternally grateful.” Rather than praying for how she wanted her child to be different in the future, she prayed “from the future” and brought her prayer into the present. She prayed from an understanding that her child was “already” healthy, and that he was simply in a rebalancing stage that if allowed to run its course, would naturally bring about a continuation of his healthy state as time went on.

After many months of praying her new prayer the condition of her child slowly began to change. The doctors were surprised and confounded. Little by little the child blossomed into full health, like a flower that is awakened to life by the warm inviting rays of spring sunlight. He eventually entered school along with all of his buddies, and wound up being a shining example of the power of love, gratitude, and an empowering understanding of time.

Please give yourself the gift of believing that you are already everything that you always wanted to be. Breathe into this radical concept, and then simply allow and encourage yourself to grow into your new sense of self.

The whole universe is learning and evolving. How about you?

This article takes a broad look at the topic of evolution, and how it relates to you and me. All of life is intelligent, all of life is learning and evolving, and all of life is adapting to change. It is quite fascinating to think about how the learning that you do is not all that different than the learning of an ecosystem, or a baby bird.

I find it invigorating to consider how creativity, and the ability to learn and adapt, is a natural capacity built into all living systems. The ability to learn is an instinctive and primary trait that is a sign of life itself. Human beings, companies, forests, the ocean, the entire environment of earth, and the solar system. All are living systems, all are intelligent, all are learning, and all are adapting to life… And in the process of all this “living” each system will radically change over time.

It might just be me, but as human beings it so often seems that what we want to be able to do is adapt and change, WHILE staying the same. A feat that is indeed impossible. Learning, evolution, and change, go hand in hand. We can’t have one, without the other two. In regard to the natural world of living organisms and ecosystems, evolution is learning on a grand scale. Evolution is nature learning. Species and ecosystems adapt, radically change, and evolve over long periods of time. Nature “learns” what to do in order to maintain a certain stability, which invariably means adapting to the change in the status quo.

When we take a broad perspective and view the ongoing process of the evolutionary change that takes place all around us, it is clear that nothing stays the same, and also that no one organism or no one “aspect” of the natural environment changes on its own. All of life is involved in a marvelous swirl of co-evolution. Co-evolution is an integral part of adaptation, an integral part of the relationships we share with other life forms, an integral part of you and me. All the learning done by any one species, individual, or ecosystem, is always done in relationship to the learning of “others”. All of life spurs on the innovative process of change and learning in all of life. The system known as “universe” is never static.

The likelihood of any organism or environment surviving and perhaps even thriving, over the long run, depends on the ability to adapt to adverse conditions, new patterns of interaction, and ever changing rules. Evolution is a conservative game of trial and error. All systems, all organisms, (including human beings) are in a constant state of evolution, and thus we are never complete as we are. Evolution is progressive. All of life evolves from the simple to the more complex. The learning and change involved in evolution does not take place in a linear manner, but rather in a highly complex manner where change in any one aspect of a complex system, in some way begets change in all and every other aspect of the system.

In the ongoing process of evolution (be it biological evolution or economic evolution) the environment both causes and selects the characteristics that are most necessary for successful adaptation. You might ask yourself “How does ‘the environment’ cause and select the characteristics that lead to successful adaptation?” A very interesting question to ask! With all of the competition, with all of the seeming chaos, with all of the never before experienced circumstances, how does the system itself stabilize and protect itself in order to evolve and survive? Nature manages to rebalance itself within certain limits that foster its preservation, the economic landscape invariably does the same and “you” of course are also evolving in much the same way. There is an intelligence doing the deciding, it just is not an intelligence that we can honestly say is “me” or “you”. In every living system, excess leads to moderation and deficit leads to short term proliferation. Information is constantly being exchanged and adapted to. The whole universe is learning and evolving. How about you?!

The similarities between Aikido and NLP

What you read here are the notes of a talk that I gave recently about the similarities between Aikido and NLP.

These notes were written with my dual perspective as an Aikido instructor, and a Trainer in NLP.

Aikido is a martial art that can help a person achieve a greater sense of relaxation and well-being, grace, balance, compassion, and overall awareness.

The principles of Aikido can be incorporated into our daily life and we can achieve immediate benefits from our study. Students come to learn how changes in their physical/mental/emotional state affects all that they do. All people of all ages, regardless of their fitness or condition, can benefit. It is hoped that students come away with an increased overall feeling of well being, health, and vitality.

NLP: “Neuro” Signifying that all experience is received through the neurology of our 5 senses;

“Linguistic” referring to the coding of the information received through the 5 senses into language;

“Programming” as a description of the way in which this coding is organized by the brain.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a field of study that can help people to achieve greater creativity, relaxation and well-being, compassion, grace, and intelligence, in the performance of their life’s activities. In this sense the potential outcomes can be very much the same as in Aikido.

The techniques that NLP uses to help a student become more advanced in the study and application of the art, have a great deal of similarity to the principles of Aikido. John Grinder, one of the founders of NLP used to call Aikido- The physical expression of NLP.

The originators of NLP decided to study people that performed with excellence.

One of the main purpose of NLP is to help students transfer the formulation of excellence as studied in others into one’s own life.

In Aikido, Ueshiba sensei studied with various masters in the martial arts. One of the main purposes in Aikido is to help students transfer what they learn on the mat into their everyday life. In Aikido we are not meant to be learning how to fight, but rather we are meant to learn how to live in a heartfelt generative manner.

It is very important to note that NLP in one way of thinking, is a synthesis of what has been learned by studying the patterns of various exceptional people. Aikido is a synthesis of the process of various exceptional martial artists.

The creators of NLP carefully noted what they observed while watching several geniuses in particular, perform in the course of their work. NLP distilled the principles of high quality performance/learning that were uncovered. In order to teach these principles, exercises and techniques were created in order to give the student an experiential understanding of these principles. The exercises and techniques of NLP are much more signposts to be followed, rather than skills to be mastered. The same is true of Aikido. In the real world we are not meant to apply exercises or techniques, but rather we are meant to be able to adapt the exercises and techniques to the situation at hand. It is the ability to adapt what we know to the situation at hand that is a beginning sign of mastery. This is a process of learning how to model excellence in one’s self and others. Flexibility, expanded awareness, openness to not knowing, and “knowing” what to do while not knowing, are some of the important ingredients for every student.

It is important to keep in mind that each student makes NLP and Aikido into a different study, depending on what it is they have in mind to accomplish.

NLP people tend to say that 90% of all communication is non-verbal, meaning that the actual words spoken are only 10% of what is being communicated. Akidoists tend to say that we must learn to understand our counterpart’s “mind” by using our “hara” or “one point” (which is characterized as an area in the lower abdomen), to tune into the “hara” of our counterpart.

There are many metaphors to describe our perception of life. Some people say that there is a kind of “glue” that holds everything together. Other people say that there is a common thread running through the entire fabric of life. Aikido calls this “glue” or common thread “Ki:” or Universal Energy and we practice in order to have an experiential understanding of “Ki.” I believe that NLP practitioners have the same task.

Aikido students approach their study from a beginning place of experiencing one’s physical body in relation to movement, balance, and flow.

Most NLP seems to begin with a more thought oriented approach that explores the common thread of how each mind works when in an optimal state.

We can use the study of NLP and Aikido to form habits that are more beneficial then the one’s that we are currently performing. We form new habits via the exercises and roles that these arts require us to carry out. As we learn the “proper habits” of these arts we hope to be able to concurrently generalize these new habits into the various other parts of our lives where they “fit”.

Ethical/Perceptual Framework

The model of teaching and learning that I am explaining suggests the importance of always considering what is best for ALL parties concerned in any given situation. This attention to “The whole” as compared to attention to one or more of the various parts of the whole, is in my mind the very essence of these two systems. In NLP, even as a salesman or other person involved in working in a field that requires swaying the client towards a particular service, product or way of thinking, the model requires that we assist the client in clarifying their needs and objectives, so that they act in their OWN best self interest. In Aikido, even when we are attacked, we are meant to take care for the attacker, as well as for ourselves. When we act in such a manner (in either art form) it is natural for the other person to develop a sense of trust and a more enduring commitment to relationship with us, and thus they will tend to take “our” needs into consideration as well.

In Aikido- “Keeping one point” (becoming centered) leads to a balance of mental and physical activity. We hope to achieve this in our study of NLP as well.

In NLP and Aikido we look to understand and feel that there is always a cybernetic loop of energy between “self” and “other”. We are all already connected to everything.

In both NLP and Aikido it is suggested that we continually extend our “ki” and send our mind/breath freely, out into the Universe, while “keeping one point” (remaining balanced) and maintaining a state of dynamic relaxation.

In both NLP and Aikido it is suggested that you learn how to understand the emotional impact of your partners beliefs, their sense of identity, and the way in which they perceive the situation that exists in the moment.

In both NLP and Aikido it is suggested that at all times you respect your counterpart’s “ki”. In this sense we can say that it is important to respect your counterpart’s model of the world. We work at understanding how to understand and respect our counterpart, while at the same time not necessarily agreeing with their model of the world.

In both NLP and Aikido the student explores “putting myself in the place of my counterpart” which amongst other things means understanding how I would react and feel if I had the same model of the world as my counterpart. We work at “becoming my counterpart” by adapting their breathing pattern, posture, and movements. In NLP this can be called “creating rapport.”

In both NLP and Aikido we work at learning how to perform with confidence. Especially at those times when the conscious mind does not know exactly what is occurring, or what to do next.

I see both NLP and Aikido as practices that can help us have greater awareness and compassion, while simultaneously accessing the full potential that exists at any one time.

When someone is in stress they tend to use only their “most valued” and most habituated modes of coping, rather than the full range of their abilities. This can be likened to a person in a rowboat that is sinking– The person will toss things out of the rowboat in reverse order of importance, until at last they are left with only what is vital to their survival and well being. In our study of NLP and Aikido we are meant to put aside what is not necessary, until we find ourselves embodying “the little bit that remains”– A pure heart and a simple mind. This means that we have less complications to deal with, but are left with much greater potential, compassion, and commitment.

The Body – The Somatic Self

The body can be considered to be a form of ongoing communication, a shaping of and container/containment of all of the messages (chemical, electrical, nutritional, verbal, etc) that we receive and transmit in the course of our lives. When considered as such, we can understand that the overall health, shape, size, proportions, and flexibility of the body is greatly affected by everything we take part in, and all that we believe in. Consider a young Japanese boy training to be a jockey, as compared to a young Japanese boy working out every day in the gym and at the dining room table, in order to become a Sumo wrestler. It is no coincidence that these two boys will have a very different sense of aesthetics, and different ways of approaching life’s challenges, just as a tiger has a very different way of being in the world as compared to a porcupine. The overall health, shape, size, proportions, and flexibility of the body, is an ongoing communication process, and not only does our body contain all of the messages that we receive and transmit in our life, but to a large extent our body determines how and what we receive and communicate as well.

The body can further be considered to be a symbolic translation and transformation of all of the communication/information that we receive in the course of our lives, both from our own internal world, and the external world as well. In order for the body to “make sense out of” all of the various food, chemicals, and electrical impulses that flow through it, it requires a certain intelligence that can translate all of the various input received, in order to give such input meaning, and react “logically”. This intelligence of the body is what I call “somatic intelligence” and this intelligence appears to be organized and controlled largely by the enteric nervous system (what Dr. Michael Gershon calls “The Second Brain” in his book by the same name). The body is able to “speak” a neuromuscular biochemical language that makes it possible to understand and direct all of the massive information exchange that it takes part in, on a moment to moment basis. We create and continue to shape and modify our body to match our experience, and vice versa as well. We shape our body in order to facilitate meaning making, and communication.

Correctness, Profound Truth, and Paradox

Our usual and “correct” ways of explaining the world, who “I” am, and where “i” am going, are often severely tested in today’s world. This is particularly true at times when we feel disrespected, angry, confused, or demoralized, and we do not yet understand what will constitute “right action”. At such times our current understanding of our circumstances is not all encompassing enough to understand the paradox that envelops us. Usually at such times a search for only one answer or understanding is simply not enough.

Niels Bohr, the 1922 Nobel Laureate in Physics has been quoted as saying:
“The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement. The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” Bohr used the word “complementarity” to characterise the relationship between apparently contradictory phenomena. It is only when seemingly contradictory phenomena are “understood” or appreciated as a whole, that we can begin to offer a temporarily complete description of what is, or what needs to be. In order to feel into the profound truth we need to somehow comprehend, we need a larger less opinionated understanding of the world, our relationships, the environment, and the universe. In short, we need a way of knowing that embraces paradox, and goes beyond what “I” know or believe to be true. This is a form of wisdom that welcomes diverse, complementary concepts of what is “correct.”

Such knowing involves a discourse between our emotions and our intellect. A discourse between self and other. A discourse that is much more comprehensive than a dialogue about right and wrong. A discourse that invites a softening and opening up to the complementarity of what initially appear to be polar opposites. A discourse that requires passion, compassion, and commitment. A discourse that embraces differences, as integral parts of the whole. A discourse that can at times feel dangerous, but yet holds great potential.

In Seishindo we strive to open up our discussions, and our hearts, to the possibility of feeling into profound truth. The paradoxical nature of deep truth is what the Zen student is meant to explore in their practice. In order to make progress, the student is implored to think and do less, and simple “be”. Not at all a simple task, but a task that can be highly rewarding.

Have you been holding onto certain beliefs in your professional and personal life that have been holding you back? What would happen if you surrendered your beliefs and left yourself open to discovering something new? You just might be very pleasantly surprised.

Perfection

I want to talk about the importance of “not-knowing”. Learning something new about ourself, and the world we live in, often requires that we first un-learn what we have learned in the past. We often get taught very powerful yet incorrect lessons as we go through life. For instance, a child incorrectly gets “taught” by a screaming adult, that he is careless, lazy, selfish, or just plain dumb. When the child naively believes what the screaming adult is “teaching” him, the likelihood that the child will learn new and life affirming things about himself in the future, will tend to be seriously impeded. In order for the child to free himself up for new learning, he will need to first “not-know” some of what he has learned in the past. Another way to say this could be “What will I need to unlearn, before I can learn something new?” When wanting to understand the truth, we have to return to our true nature and let go of our opinions, our current condition, our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. When our mind is clear, talking, words, and thinking are not necessary. The truth is just like this.

What we learn in the course of our life, determines the purpose, importance, and outcomes, that we extract from our experience. Whatever we feel we learn about ourself over and over again winds up becoming part of our identity. Our identity sets the foundation for our beliefs. Our beliefs determines how we will be predisposed to act and react in the future. Learning-identity-beliefs go hand in hand. In order to learn something new and life affirming about yourself and the world around you, you will usually have to change your personal sense of identity, and some of your long held beliefs.

Perhaps you say “This all sounds reasonable. Now tell me how I can go about changing what I am learning, my identity, and my beliefs!”

One possible answer would be the following words from a Sanskrit mantra: “Om. This is perfect. That is perfect. From the perfect, comes the perfect. If from the perfect the perfect is taken away, Only the perfect remains. Om, peace, peace, peace.”

Such is the sense of perfection we get when holding a baby. This sense of perfection, is the inherent blessing that exists as the essence of everything. This sense of perfection is present at all times and doesn’t require any healing or change to take place. This sense of perfection is dynamic rather than static, and welcomes the necessary ongoing changes of life. You are invited to simply notice what is, rather than attempting to correct what you believe needs to be different.

In Japanese flower arranging it is common that one of the branches in the arrangement is bent or broken, to signify that the arranger has attempted to present the flowers in a “natural” state. It is the “imperfection” of the broken branch that leads us to understand that the arrangement is potentially “perfect.” We encourage you to look for and appreciate your “broken branches” as a sign of your uniqueness and perfection.

Each one of us, no matter how seemingly evolved we might be, has imperfections and personal ego attachments. These imperfections and attachments are not something to be overcome or transcended, but rather something to be understood, appreciated, and accepted in the course of our life journey. If we do not honor and appreciate our individual shortcomings, then a part of us will always be feeling that we are somehow needing to be fixed.

Learning and Adapting with a Dual Perspective

We can consider each person to have at least two minds or “selves” (a somatic self and a cognitive self), and two brains – the brain in our skull and the brain in our gut (the enteric nervous system). This means that at the very least, each person is bilingual, speaking their native verbal language, as well as somatic language.

The brain in our skull organizes the intelligence of our cognitive self, our intellect, and our verbal language. The brain in our gut organizes the intelligence of the somatic self, our emotions, and our somatic language.

The experiences we generate and make meaning out of with our somatic self are dependent on the pre-verbal sensing of the ongoing changes in our physiology and emotions. We understand our sensed experience by filtering it through the meaning making processes of our somatic language, and this preverbal understanding of experience is archetypal/universal in nature.

The experiences that we generate and make meaning out of with our cognitive self are dependent on the processes we use to translate and “fit” our somatic-emotional experience into a rational framework that can be further understood with the use of verbal language.

A “relational self” is realized from the acceptance, reorganization, and synthesis of the two complementary yet different realities of the somatic and cognitive selves. In this sense we can say that one plus one equals three.

Seishindo suggests that at any one time, people tend to identify with one of two basic perspectives when perceiving and understanding life – the somatic self/mind or the cognitive self/mind. Dividing each person into two possible categories is of course a limiting and artificial construct, just as when we use the terms “unconscious mind” and “conscious mind” but useful nonetheless in helping us to understand how we learn and adapt to life.

The cognitive self is associated with the brain in our skull, thoughts, strategies, mental abstractions, and descriptions of one’s life. The cognitive self understands life mainly by passing it through the filters of verbal language and socially constrained thinking. The main avenue of communication for the cognitive self is one’s native verbal language, and the conversations that we have with ourselves during the course of our internal dialogue, as well as the conversations that we listen to and take part in in various community settings.

The somatic self, on the other hand, is associated with the body, the enteric nervous system (the digestive system), emotion, intuition, movement, a non-verbal felt sense of nature and one’s experience, and the archetypal presence of the collective experiences of all human beings. The somatic self communicates its experience non-verbally yet systematically. It does so via biochemical and neuromuscular reactions.

Dr. Michael Gershon has done some ground breaking research in regard to understanding the importance of the enteric nervous system. I believe that as time goes on it will become more and more evident that what Dr. Gershon calls our second brain is one and the same as what Oriental cultures have for thousands of years been calling hara or tanden. Most if not all Oriental art forms teach the student to focus their attention in the lower abdomen, and to perform with this focus being the primary source of intelligence. In Self-relations terms (as developed by Steven Gilligan), we are advised to tune into “the tender soft spot in the belly” in order to learn from and synthesize the intelligence of the somatic self with the intelligence of the cognitive self. It is just such a dual perspective that helps us to have a fuller understanding of our total experience.

The enteric nervous system or hara, organizes information differently than the brain in the skull, and thus the enteric nervous system offers you a viable alternative to your intellectual experience of life. If you organize your experience differently, you will definitely have a different perspective, and thus a different reaction to what is taking place. By melding the perspective of our somatic intelligence with the perspective of our cognitive intelligence we tap into a new realm of possible solutions. It is the somatic self’s ability to sense what is taking place, along with the cognitive self’s ability to negotiate amongst various distinctions, words, strategies, and abstractions that allows for the evolution of a mature “relational self” as the term is used in “Self relations Therapy”. The ideal is to embed the experiences of the somatic and cognitive selves, one within the other, and in the process to create a new and different experience that includes and at the same time transcends both.

Some Thoughts and Ideals to Ponder

Pondering the following thoughts and ideals can likely benefit you in many ways.

  • The meaning of your communication can be understood by the response it elicits in others.
  • The “map” that you use in order to help you “navigate” through your life should not be confused with the actual territory that the map is meant to represent. The world that you believe in, is very different than the world that many others believe in.
  • Everyone lives in their own unique model of the world. What we each individually perceive and understand is our own unique version of reality and is not duplicated in any other living being. Rest easy with this knowledge and you afford yourself the possibility of many new and wonderful learnings that are not available to people who believe that their version of the world is THE correct version.
  • No matter how poor their performance, people always do the best they are capable of, given their unique model of the world, their currents skills and abilities, and the situation at hand.
  • People have all the resources necessary to make any desired change. Actually activating these resources can be another whole story.
  • Hold the positive worth of each individual as a constant, while sometimes questioning the value and appropriateness of their behaviors.
  • “The Problem” is, that you do not fully recognize the true magnificence of who you really are, and in the process of not fully recognizing your own magnificence, you will tend to devalue both yourself and others.

Fundamentals That Support Learning & Adaptation

Today I would like to explore ten fundamentals that support learning and adaptation.

1) Human beings are designed as self-organizing systems. We are each born with an innate ability to learn, and adapt to life. We each possess the instinctual ability to recognize, create, and maintain health and well being.

The ability to adapt and change is part and parcel of the act of self-organization. Change is inherent in the differences and potentials that drive a universe that is not at rest. The ability to adapt is the reward for learning.

2) A state of dynamic relaxation in which we feel alert and fully alive, supports our ability to learn. At such times we do just enough and nothing more or less, to perform in a graceful, efficient manner without inducing excess effort or tension.

3) The body as well as the brain in our skull, is intelligent, and we can consider the unconscious mind to reside in the body as well as in the brain in our skull. Recent scientific research by Dr. Michael Gershon and others show that we indeed have a second brain in our gut (the enteric nervous system). This is a concept that has been known in most every Oriental art form for thousands of years. Other research conducted by Candace Pert presents a model of a “mobile brain” that moves throughout our entire body. Her work leads to the consideration of the brain as a dynamic and ever changing information network that is present throughout our entire system. When we work within the models presented by Gershon and Pert, we can quickly understand that most of the system-wide activity of “our brain” takes place outside of our everyday conscious awareness.

We can indeed utilize and learn from this subconscious intelligence of the body, and this proposal forms the basis for an emerging field of study which has come to be called “Somatic Psychology.” Tapping into the subconscious intelligence of the body can positively affect how you feel about yourself, the amount of stress you experience in trying to keep up with an ever changing environment, and the degree of success you have in interacting with and adapting to the world around you

4) High-quality learning and adaptation are facilitated by utilizing two sources of organization and intelligence in a complementary manner – our somatic organization and intelligence as coordinated by our enteric nervous system (the brain in our gut), and our cognitive organization and intelligence as coordinated by the brain in our skull.

By tapping into our somatic organization and intelligence we gain a second source of information (a different perspective) to balance, contrast, and complement, the organization and intelligence of our rational mind. By tapping into the intelligence that is resident in the body people can rekindle their innate and creative learning abilities.

5) All of the various electro-chemical and neuromuscular reactions that occur in our body are systematic in nature and when taken as a whole such reactions can be considered to make up a somatic language.

Our ability to communicate in and understand somatic language is wired into our system at birth and forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves. Our somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as our native verbal language, and it does not use or require verbal language in order for our body to completely understand what is being communicated. Somatic language (the language of our body) is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue,
and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.

6) Our memories and our emotions are seamlessly intertwined. Our body and all of its cells and tissues retain traces of our previous experiences. Our memories and our emotions are made up of bio-chemical and neuromuscular activities that form the basis of our consciousness, are habitual in nature, and affect our perception of our current experience. Long term memories are activated by our entire system, as a byproduct of our experience.

7) Much of what we accomplish when learning and adapting takes place outside of our conscious awareness and is orchestrated by the subconscious intelligence of our body (the somatic self).

Exceptional learners in any one particular field rarely know specifically what they do when they perform with excellence, they “just do it” by accessing the information network of their entire system.

In regard to the maintenance of our overall health and well being, we have limited conscious awareness of how we go about secreting enzymes to digest our food, the hormones that we secrete for various life sustaining functions, or the process we use to activate our immune system. A healthy person nonetheless effectively performs such tasks on a regular basis.

8) The personal difficulties we experience in our attempt to maintain a state of somatic-emotional balance are largely due to habitual patterns of holding excess energy within our system, and our habitual methods for organizing and utilizing only a selected portion of the incoming information that is available to us. When we hold onto excess energy we inhibit ourselves from rebalancing, reorganizing, and adapting, to meet the challenges of ongoing events, thoughts, and feelings. In the process, we inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. When our somatic-emotional system supports a varied range of information organization and utilization, life moves through us in a continual process of change and rebalancing.

9) A system that is adept at managing complexity and diversity is a system that is open to learning from new information and distilling solutions from multiple realities. A diverse system has elements that are different in nature, kind, character, and quality. Diversity is ever present in the non-equilibrium environment that we live in, and indeed the ongoing viability of any system depends on a certain minimum requisite amount of diverse elements. A lack of diversity leads to a limited pool of information, alternatives, and solutions that will usually tend to be somehow incomplete, incorrect, and repetitive.

Complex systems are made up of diverse yet interrelated and interdependent parts. It is the ability of a system to embrace, comprehend, utilize, and unify the multiplicity of interrelated elements in a given situation that leads to high quality solutions and adaptation. In such systems, the concepts of “right” or “wrong” are less important than the correlation and complementarity of divergent sources of information. Robust systems thrive on complexity, and use it as an impetus for fostering generative compromises that enhance the overall integrity of the system. In unbalanced systems complexity tends to create a state of confusion and chaos.

10) When wanting to engage in high quality learning we will do well to “speak” to our self in a way that the somatic self can best understand rather than mainly relying on verbal instructions given to the cognitive self. The cognitive self strives to “correct what is wrong” and or “do what is correct” and in the process we tend to pay attention to “fixing” or improving specific parts of a total activity. When we pay attention to specifics, we tend to have internal dialogue and strive to correct separate “arcs” of activity, rather than paying attention globally to the overall activity we are involved in. We become pre-occupied with what we think we “should” be doing, rather than being fully engaged.

When wishing to learn a new activity or subject matter, improve our performance, or re-program the self, we will do best to communicate mainly via felt sense, images, and “the aesthetics of sound” (Volume, rhythm, pace, and resonance.). In short, we will do best to communicate primarily to the somatic self, while allowing the cognitive self to be somewhat passive. The language that your somatic self understands best, is NOT your verbal language. Once again, this is a premise that is central to Seishindo. We need to give the somatic self an active role in learning. In order to accomplish this, we need to speak more directly to the somatic self, and fully engage our pre-verbal experience.

Cultivating Ki Flow and Mindfulness, Manifesting Mind

Starting Line
This article is the second in a three part series. In my first article in this series I talked about “Energy, Spirit and Mind” and introduced how these terms are used in Seishindo. In this article I am going to talk about how to cultivate “ki” the energy that is the source of all life. If this is the first article in this series you are reading, you might want to first read my last article, so you have a better understanding of how we think about “ki” in Seshindo.

No one has absolute knowledge (except through faith) of where ki originates from and no one knows where our personal ki goes to after we die. Ki springs from the depth of the universe as well as from the depth of our soul. The way of ki is a gigantic and fascinating mystery, and one that is well worth exploring. In studying ki we can come to a deeper understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in. Our study of ki can help to liberate us as we become better attuned to the music and poetry of our heart and soul.

Having an experiential understanding of the nature of ki leads us to encounter a natural, creative intelligence, that far transcends the abilities and powers of any one human being. Ki is the common denominator we share with all of life. I believe that ki is essentially, expansive, mutable, and supportive of life, and that it can adapt to an endless variety of forms and functions depending on how it is received, shaped, and utilized by our system.

I wrote above that ki is “supportive of life” and I want to explain this a bit more here. Ki supports life when our system is able to let it flow unimpeded, like when when our immune system spontaneously heal wounds or illnesses. Ki also has the potential to be destructive in nature when it’s flow becomes either stagnant or blocked, as in the case of the body being ravaged by cancer. Noguchi Sensei, the man that developed “Noguchi Seitai” (a Japanese system of health management) used to say “Illness is due to excess energy being trapped in the body. The stronger the illness, the more energy there is trapped.” One of the main purposes of Noguchi Seitai is to facilitate the release of excess energy held in the body so that the body can operate freely, and without impediment. This is also one of the main functions of Seishindo. When the body is stable and able to move freely, our thoughts patterns and emotions will be stable and flowing, and health and emotional balance will be fostered. In my first newsletter I wrote “The quality of our life is not dependent on the circumstances we encounter. The quality of our life is dependent on what we learn from the circumstances we encounter.” In this issue I will say, “The quality of our life is not dependant on the quantity of ki available to us. The quality of our life is dependent on our capacity to maintain a free flow of ki throughout our system.” Our belief system, as well as the way we facilitate the generation and flow of ki within our system are the major determinants of the quality of our life. Free flowing ki energizes and nourishes the body. Blocked ki can damage us and weaken our ability to adapt. The cultivation of free flowing ki is thus an important activity to explore because the manner in which we cultivate, use, and expend ki, is what determines our health and well being, and who and what we become over time.

One of the main functions of Seishindo is to help people cultivate the ability to be calm, fully present, and feeling one’s emotions and bodily sensations, without the need for internal dialogue. When we are at one with our self and our experience there is no need for internal dialogue, for there is no “other one” to talk to. Present in one’s body, present in one’s brain, and aware of and connected to one’s emotions and the environment, but not requiring or engaging in internal dialogue. This is a very special way of being. A way of being that can help us to fully actualize our self in the world. This is a way of being that can help us to deeply connect to our ability to respect, love, and heal, self, other, and the world around us.

Main Course
At every moment in time the ki within your system speaks to you via a somatic language that is as refined, systematic, and complete as your verbal language. This transformation of ki into somatic language is the basis of the non-cognitive wisdom that we call “intuition.” Becoming fluent in this language can help you maintain your health and well-being, foster more heartfelt relationships, and assist you in expressing your creative and healing gifts when working with others in various contexts. When you do “just enough” and nothing more or less, you will create the context for your body to be structurally balanced, flexible, and free to move. This is the way you are designed to be, and at such times your ki flows freely. Structurally balanced, flexible, and free to move and change, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

We have a chemical-electrical-muscular response to events, other people, circumstances, and the intake of energy via food, sunlight, water, and other sources. People further react to: presently occurring events, thoughts about possible future events, memories of past events, and internal dialogue. To a large extent, the responses we have to the energy we encounter and generate are dependent on:
1. The way we use our body (structure, movement, flow).
2. Our system of beliefs, and
3. The default neuromuscular biochemical pathways that we have developed over time due to a tendency towards habitual reactions.

The changes that take place in our body and brain are highly systematic in nature, and these changes determine the quality of our emotional responses, and our ability to think in a creative manner. Something occurs, and we spontaneously feel, think, and react in a specific manner, all of which leads to our somatic-emotional experience. For the most part we have limited awareness and understanding of what actually changes within our system, to cause a change in our somatic-emotional experience. We generalize the “feeling tone” of our experience and we give these generalized feelings rather unspecific verbal labels such as “happy” “in love” “ill” “hungry” “depressed.”

You can think of our various somatic-emotional reactions to life as “recipes”. Increase the blood pressure ever so much, restrict the flow of blood to the extremities a certain amount, increase the speed of your heartbeat, induce certain chemicals into the bloodstream, breathe more shallowly, and think about what could go wrong, and you have created the recipe for “fear.” We each create these somatic-emotional recipes outside of our conscious awareness, and without the conscious knowledge of what the “contents” of each recipe are. Most of this activity is coordinated by what in Seishindo we call “somatic intelligence,” the intelligence of the mobile brain within the body. The task we face when wanting to live a balanced creative life, is to heighten our ability to sense the components that make up our various somatic-emotional recipes, so that we can continue to adapt and maintain a system that is expansive, balanced, and free flowing. When our system facilitates the free flow of ki, we maintain a state of health, well being, and creativity.

1. There is a dynamic life force (ki) which pulsates through each of us. Most people have developed a tendency to inhibit the flow of energy and movement created by ki when presented with challenging situations. When the natural flow of ki is inhibited, the natural flow of information available (images, sounds, feelings, and “solutions”) is also inhibited. Allowing a free flow of energy and movement throughout our system facilitates a free flow of information and thus high quality learning and adaptation.

2. Ki flows best in a system that is balanced in structure, porous, flexible, expansive, and well oxygenated. Therefore in Seishindo we suggest any and all physical exercises and mindfulness training that helps you to accomplish just such a state. This is the kind of state that increases your resilience, adaptive and healing powers, and energy flow. Aikido, Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Gyrontonics, and various Seishindo practices are excellent for this. The idea in all of these practices is to increase your awareness of what is taking place in the moment, while entering into an experience where you “stop stopping” yourself, and your thoughts and reactions transcend the limitations of your habituated “everyday” pace and rhythm. When we use more of all of our self and less of any one part of our self, our system will tend to be healthy and highly responsive.

3. Breath moves ki and delivers oxygen to the system. Oxygen and ki are highly supportive of health, well being, and the formulations of solutions. Every thought we have and every emotion we experience, affects the flow of breath and thus ki, within our system. When we are able to maintain a relaxed breathing process appropriate to the situation at hand, we maintain a free flow of ki, our emotions tend to be balanced, and our thinking tends to be solution oriented. There are many different disciplines that offer various breathing exercises. Any well conceived breathing exercise will be extremely helpful in “training” you to maintain sufficient amounts of oxygen in your system. In my last article I presented the Heartbeat Breathing practice. You can find this practice here.

4. Under normal life conditions, when a system receives a “shock” it adapts and rebalances. Extreme life conditions such as trauma result in extreme adaptations, and quite often the rebalancing part of our recovery does not take place. Usually during times of trauma the person’s energy, musculature, and thought patterns “lock” part way through the cycle of experience, and the natural and necessary rebalancing back to center, does not occur. When we block the natural flow of ki in our system, we block the flow of the “river of life.” Meaningful and lasting change requires shifts in the autonomic, peripheral, and enteric nervous systems, to occur. Such change requires a provoking of the natural wisdom of the body and its capacity to re-balance so that we release the locking of our musculature, and a new higher level of systemwide organization can be allowed to unfold.

The Noguchi Seitai exercise of “Katsugen Undo” offers an excellent method to help release the system so that you can once again open up to the possibilities of life, and facilitate the free flow of ki within your system. (More on this later.)

5. The response of “dissociation” or numbing our ability to feel can be quite helpful as an anesthetic under conditions of pain and extreme helplessness. Such responses however become detrimental to our overall health and well being when they are adopted as a generalized response to potentially painful or frightening situations. It is natural for our system to release the anesthetic of an operation after and hour or so, as our system comes “back to life.” It is also natural to release the dissociative patterns learned when feeling helpless or in pain, so that we can enter back into a life of pain AND pleasure, sorrow AND joy. We need to discover a path for entering back into the flow of life so we can regain access to the full range of emotions that are available to a healthy emotionally balanced individual. When the sensation of flowing ki is anesthetized we lose our ability to feel into the ebb and flow of our experience. Heartfelt supportive relationships are of great benefit here in helping us to trust that it can be safe to feel again.

6. Whatever we avoid, whatever we are unable to feel and bring our awareness into, does not change. When our system does not change, our ki becomes stagnant, and our life force is weakened. When working to re-claim parts of ourselves we have lost contact with we will do well to begin by gently feeling each and every part of ourselves, so that we can eventually come to know that we are whole. Every part of our self is worthy of loving attention and when we bring loving attention to injured or neglected parts of our self, we foster the flow of ki, a softening of the body, and the opening of our heart. Various mindfulness exercises such as meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga, and Aikido, can be very helpful in this regard.

The challenge of living a heartfelt healthy life is threefold:
1) Gain conscious awareness of how you generate your somatic-emotional experience.
2) Recognize the ingredients of the somatic-emotional “recipes” you generate as a result of your experience.
3) Change the recipes you create, and thus change your relationship to your experience and your life “story”.
If you are able to change the habituated and highly specific somatic-emotional reactions you have to events you will transform the way you express your emotions, think, and react.

In order to assist each person in being able to change their consciousness we have developed various practices which I explain one by one in our newsletters. These practices are designed to make the transparent aspects of your experience more obvious. The practices help you to notice and effect changes in various aspects of your experience that were previously outside of your conscious awareness. By taking part in these practices you will learn how to intuit and react to the seed somatic-emotional experience that forms the foundation of your verbal explication of life. In order to cultivate ki, cultivate mindfulness. In order to cultivate mindfulness cultivate a love for all that lives, and all that you are and aren’t.

Over a period of time by performing mindfulness practices, you will also be more likely to understand how to help others change their experience as well.

Practice
In regard to the Seishindo Practices in general, and the theories espoused in the Seishindo newsletters I feel that it is important to say several things.
1. Each person’s life is rich and complex and I am not wanting to convey that any one practice or exercise is “the answer” in regard to living life more fully.
2. When I espouse various theories relating to ki flow, I make such statements fully knowing that we do not live in a vacuum and thus the manner in which we relate to our environment and those around us, is always of paramount importance as well. The degree to which we experience happiness in life is only meaningful in relation to the happiness we share with others.
3. Living one’s life with greater awareness and mindfulness is a gift onto itself. This is the gift that I am hoping to offer in regard to the practices and theories I espouse.
4. These are many valuable paths for achieving what you want in life. What I present in this article is simply one of many ways.

A practice that relates to what you have been reading is entitled “Katsugen Undo”. Roughly translated from the Japanese, Katsugen Undo means “Natural movement that renews life at its root.”

The basics for this exercise are taken from Haruchika Noguchi Sensei and “Noguchi Sei Tai”. “Sei Tai” basically means “properly ordered body.” Noguchi sensei used to say that the purpose of Katsugen Undo is to create an orderly way to unconsciously move the body, while affecting those parts of the body that we cannot move voluntarily.

When we hold onto excess energy we inhibit our self from rebalancing, and thus we inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. In terms of what we are exploring together, the above means that we often tend to create a body structure and a concurrent potential for movement that constricts the flow of ki. The greater your ability to facilitate the flow of ki, the greater your ability to facilitate a healthy state of calmness and well being.

The Ki of Aikido – An Oriental Concept of “Energy”, “Self” and “Mind”

Introduction
This article is the first as a three part series. It will introduce you to the concepts of Energy, Self, and Mind, from an Oriental perspective.
The second article in the series will talk about cultivating “ki” within one’s self.
The third article will discuss how an Aikido practitioner attempts to sense, understand, and blend with the “ki” of their partner, and point to how you can use such a mindset in your daily life.

Preface
There are many different ways to perceive, utilize, and benefit from the energy that is available to us in the course of living our life. What follows is my experience of energy (“ki”) while performing Aikido over the course of more than twenty years. Certainly there are likely to be many other Aikido practitioners that would explain their experiences and beliefs in a manner that is somewhat different than mine. I offer you here, one experience, my experience.

Aikido
Aikido is a Japanese martial art, and it does not have an attack form. We do not kick, punch, or in any other manner, attempt to hurt our opponent.

The meaning of Aikido:

“Ai” To gather or harmonize.

“Ki” Universal life force/energy.
This is the energy that we share with nature and all living beings.

“Do” An artful path of discovery.

“Aikido” An artful path of discovering how to gather and harmonize the energy of the universe.

When we sense and move with the energy that is manifesting throughout the universe we find that we have a greater ability to live a life that is healthy and fulfilling.

“Ki”
In Aikido we believe that all human beings utilize and share a common energy source (ki) that helps to run and maintain our environment as well as our individual human systems. We believe that since we all share a common energy source, that in some important way we are all truly members of the same family, and truly sharing our lives with all of nature. We do not have an attack form in Aikido, because attacking an opponent would be like attacking a family member that you love. Attacking an opponent would also be like attempting to damage the flow of Universal energy in the world, and such acts are likely to have many far reaching consequences.

In the Japanese language words that use the concept of “ki” are common.
“Gen-ki” means “root energy” or one’s “personal health”.
“Ten-ki” relates to “heavenly energy” or “the weather”.
“Hon-ki” relates to “original energy” or “the truth”.
“Yuu-ki” relates to “brave energy” or “courage”.
“Ki o tsukete” means “attach your energy to what you are doing, or “be careful”.

The origin of ki?
Where does ki originate from? In Aikido the answer is poetic in nature rather than scientific. It is suggested that ki was “born” at the same instant as the rest of the universe, and that we are all born from the ki of the universe. Ki is considered to be an energy that we all have equal access to. It is an energy that courses through our system if we do not restrict it. In Aikido we believe that excess tension physically and emotionally, fear, hate, greed, and anger, all cut us off from the universal source of ki. Our daily practice involves working at maintaining a balanced state physically and emotionally, and indeed, practicing ways to cultivate physical and emotional balance is much of what the study of Aikido is about. In Aikido physical and emotional balance are meant to be two sides of the very same coin. Physical balance helps to engender emotional balance and health, and vice versa as well. Often in my professional work with individuals I find myself first addressing the clients physical balance when they come wanting to resolve emotional issues, and I do the reverse as well. I often first address or explore how emotional imbalance might lead to the physical difficulties they are experiencing.

“Ki signature” mind, spirit-Energy manifests as spirit, spirit manifests as mind
Energy manifests within each individual as spirit, spirit manifests in each individual as mind. In some way that is a mystery to all of mankind, the freely available energy of the universe is transformed by each person into one’s own unique “ki signature”, spirit, mind. No two people have the same exact “ki signature”, just as no two people have the same exact written signature. No two people have the same exact spirit, no two people have the same exact mind. The unique way that we each take in, utilize, and expend energy, can be considered to be our “ki signature”, mind, or spirit. Each person starts with the same source of energy, and manifests this energy in a way that will never exactly be duplicated by any other human being.

Thought, body structure,and movement, shape the flow of ki, into spirit/mind
Think of the freely flowing water of a powerful river that comes upon a series of fairly large rocks spread out across the river bed and extend up beyond the water’s surface. These rocks affect the flow of the river but they do not change the nature of the water itself. Ki flows through the river bed of our brain and body. Our thoughts, body structure and movements, are like the rocks in the river bed. These are the main elements that shape ki into individual mind, or spirit The flow of ki is uniquely transformed by each human being, but the nature of the ki itself, is not altered in the process. Just as the pattern of rocks spread out along the river bed is never exactly duplicated in any other place on earth, the pattern of our thoughts, body structure, and movement is also never exactly duplicated. All mind is similar, but no two minds are exactly alike.

A heartfelt understanding of the nature of our spirit will help us to create a healthy alignment of our thoughts, body structure, movements, and actions. When every aspect of our self is fully aligned we have a much greater ability to think, feel, and act in accordance with what is best for us in any given moment. We are better able to adapt and change in a manner that is supports the well being of our entire self and our surroundings.

The misnomers of “mind-body” and “mind and body”
A definition of “mind” that I often use it in my work, is the following:
“Mind is a dynamic, self-organizing, creative system, capable of overcoming physical and temporal constraints. Mind uses and manufactures energy in order to support the self and one’s surroundings, trade information, and adapt to change.”

When considering this definition of mind, we can say that mind manifests equally in the body and in the brain in the skull. Because of this I believe that the terms “mind-body” or “mind and body” as used in the Western world, are somewhat missing the mark and tend to lead to a certain degree of misunderstanding. If you ask a Japanese person to point to their mind, usually they will point to the area of their heart, or they will point to their lower abdomen. If you ask the average Westerner to point to their mind they will point to their head. This is why I think the terms “mind-body” and “mind and body” were developed in the Western world. I believe that the average Western person thinks of the term “mind” in relation to “thinking” or “thought”. Oriental philosophy considers “mind” to be immanent in both the body and the brain. In Aikido we say that we practice in order to calm the mind, by coordinating our thoughts, the actions of our body, and our breath. Or we say that we practice in order to further empower and actualize our mind by coordinating our thoughts, physical actions, breath, and spirit.

When looking to calm our mind we give our primary attention to calming our breath and our heart beat, which will tend to lead towards a relaxing of our musculature and a slowing down or cessation of our internal dialogue. If we calm our body we will tend to calm our cognitive thought processes. Calming the mind can also be accomplished by giving primary attention to the speed, rhythm, and tone of voice of our internal dialogue. If we calm our cognitive thought processes we will tend to calm the body. When we calm both our cognitive thought processes and our body, then we calm our mind. Cognitive mind and somatic mind are part of a recursive feedback loop. You can’t affect one without affecting the other.

Integrating the Intelligence of your Five “Brains”

Many of us live our lives shuttling back and forth between two seemingly different identities that often conflict with each other. Our rational self tells us we need to lose weight and exercise more, while our emotional self has us eating potato chips and watching reruns on TV. These two conflicting identities, living in a single human being, is what I often encounter when clients come for therapy or coaching. The client’s rational self says “I should,” and their emotional self says, “Even though I know I should, I can’t.” Clients come to me hoping to resolve this conflict and to live in a manner that honors and melds the relationship and desires of both identities. This integration of self is one of the primary tasks of personal development.

We can understand a great deal more about why so many people struggle with integrating their emotions with their intellect by looking at the architecture of our total human intelligence. With regard to the information I would like to present here, and speaking simplistically, science currently tells us that as a result of millions of years of evolution, each human being is now the proud owner of an intelligence made up of five brains. Having five brains gives us the possibility for much greater flexibility in living our lives, but having four brains, each performing different functions, also makes for the challenge of integrating information and experiences that are often seemingly contradictory. Just as when we add on new peripherals to our slightly out-of-date computer system and wind up with problems the maker never dreamed of, for the most part we don’t seem to know how to meld the ancient process of emotional response with the newfangled intellectual responses that sprang to life with the development of the neocortex. This integration of the self is one of the primary tasks of somatic approaches to “change” work, and it takes a good deal of wisdom, trial and error, and exploration.

FIVE BRAINS

1. The somatic brain/enteric nervous system (located mainly in the gut).
This brain came first in evolution and existed in very early organisms hundreds of millions of years ago. The enteric nervous system plays a major role in digestion, and in the production and output of the various hormones that are crucial to our emotional and physical wellbeing. For instance, the enteric nervous system produces approximately 85% of the system’s serotonin, a key element in regulating our emotional well-being.

2. The reptilian brain

This brain orchestrates breathing, heartbeat, swallowing, visual tracking, and the startle response. Although reptiles are said to not be able to experience emotion, all of these body functions as just listed do significantly affect the emotions of human beings. Shallow breathing, darting eyes, and an increase in heart rate will very definitely lead to a feeling of fear or anxiety.

3. The mammalian or limbic brain

This brain appeared after millions of years of evolution, and led to animals having emotions, and to suckling and rearing of young by their mothers. The limbic brain melds the circuitry of the enteric nervous system and the reptilian brain into our sense of emotion. Emotions were felt and acted upon long before the ability of animals to reason. Indeed, emotion comes prior to thought, and that is exactly where most people run into great difficulty. Our emotional experience is an immediate and primal response that has very little if anything to do with our ability to reason.

4. The heart

Over the last decade or so more and more researchers have been designating the heart as another seat of intelligence. The heart orchestrates and determines much of what takes place in our system, and learning how to tap into the rhythms of the heart can go a long way towards helping us to live an emotionally stable life. Through the use of mindfulness exercises and biofeedback, we can indeed change the rhythm of the heart, and in the process we become better able to manage our emotions.

5. The neocortex

Last but not least, in its most highly developed form, the neocortex is the singular gift of humans. The neocortex gives us the ability to reason, deal in abstractions, communicate verbally, and be goal oriented. The neocortex has little if any true understanding of emotions. Although talking about our emotions can definitely be of some help, rarely can an intellectual understanding of our deeper emotional patterns help us to change the way we feel and act. Thank goodness, this fact of life is more and more appreciated by therapists, and others responsible for helping people gain and maintain emotional health.

Even with the intelligence of five brains to draw on, we still often find ourselves unable to rectify the paradox of reason and emotion. To live a balanced, satisfying life, each of us needs to learn how to better embrace, appreciate, and synthesize the emotional wisdom emanating from our enteric nervous system our reptilian and limbic brains, and our heart, with the intellectual wisdom of our neocortex. By better attending to our emotions, we help the neocortex to be less of an autocratic leader, and more of a team player. When we are emotionally healthy, we tend to be physically healthy, too, and our worldly goals take on new meaning. Without attending to our emotional experience, we find little solace in our achievements, possessions, and relationships, and little true satisfaction.

THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE AND EMOTION

Our enteric, reptilian, limbic, and heart brains, along with our body, orchestrate and “speak” a language that is at least as complete, sophisticated, and grammatically correct as the verbal language of our neocortex. This preverbal language is the language of love and emotion, and it determines the framework that verbal language is constructed from. Increase your heart rate, breathe shallowly, and constrict your muscles, and this somatic communication will lead you to report that you are tense and ill at ease. Relax and calm your physiology and breathing, and this somatic communication will lead you to a very different verbal conversation, and a different perspective of who you are and what you are capable of. Our feelings emanate from the body, and are reported on after the fact by the verbal centers of our brain, much like a journalist reports on news events. Without a bodily reaction, there is no news to report. We can gain a different perspective of our life by listening to our newscast, but rarely will talking about what has taken place change the emotional experience generated by the body.

When our emotions and our intellect are at odds, invariably we find that the language of our body and the language of our intellect are communicating conflicting messages. When our heart says “No” and our intellect says “Yes,” we rarely wind up achieving our goals. By better understanding how we generate the primal messages of love and emotion that our body communicates, we can meld our emotional and rational desires into one comprehensive whole. We often instead subvert or deny our emotional longings by telling ourselves what we “should” be doing. For millions of years prior to the upstart neocortex coming along, the regulation of the body’s systems was successfully carried out by the enteric nervous system, reptilian brain, limbic brain, and heart. Try as we might, we simply are not designed to have our rational mind tell the body what to do and how to feel. We cannot command ourselves to secrete the various enzymes necessary for high quality digestion, and we cannot willfully direct ourselves to no longer feel heartbroken, depressed, or incompetent. To change our emotional experience, we need to speak to our body in the language of love and emotion.

WE ARE A RELATIONSHIP

Each human being has a primary set of internal relationships that make up the self. Indeed we can say that the primary unit of “self” IS relationship. No one part of the system of self is the commander in chief. No one part of the system is any more intelligent than any other part. Living a fulfilling life is a team effort of the entire self. We need to cultivate a deep appreciation for the vital communication that emanates from the body, and communicate to the body in a supportive life-affirming manner.

How to do this? Learn how to become more aware and mindful of the language your body is speaking. When we change the grammar of the body by stabilizing, calming, and adjusting our heartbeat, breathing, posture, body movements, and visual focus, we begin to affect changes in our overall mood, health, perception, and identity. As our enteric nervous system and our reptilian and limbic brains orchestrate changes in our physiology, we change the structure and quality of our emotions, and thus our thinking, and we change the physical structure and activity of our neocortex as well. Our somatic intelligence initiates the changes that lead to our emotional and physical well-being, and our rational mind will do well to honor such wisdom. Deny or denigrate the language of love and emotion, and you will find yourself constantly at odds with developing the relationship with self that leads to health, happiness, and loving relationships.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS

Beyond attending to the relationship we have with our self, the quality of one’s life is determined by the quality of our relationships with others. When we feel no choice but to face the world alone, we suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and no degree of outward success can replace or repair the lonely feeling in our heart. No matter how talented, wealthy, or trim and fit we appear, without supportive relationships it is a difficult challenge for anyone to maintain physical and emotional health. Children, pets, loved ones, mentors, colleagues, and teachers all can help fulfill our need for connection to other sentient, limbic beings. Our nervous system is an “open loop learning system” that draws on energetic connections with others to continually adapt and hopefully flourish. This concept of “open loop learning” is very much a part of the theory of Aikido. When being attacked in an Aikido class we are hoping to move toward “joining with” our adversary and creating the energetic connection that can lead to stabilization of both parties’ emotions, and a sense of physical and emotional completion. We come to understand each attack as a physical expression of loneliness and separation, and the desire for connection. A deep sense of separation from others leads to fear, and fear can easily lead to feeling one’s self being attacked, and thus lead to attacking others in turn. In Aikido we gain a direct understanding of how a physically and emotionally healthy person requires ongoing enrichment, stabilization, and support from other nervous systems.

PRE-COGNITIVE KNOWLEDGE

When we talk about the interaction of nervous systems among mammals, we mean that the nervous systems of two people in relationship very definitely communicate with, inform, and change each other. Our emotional connection with others clearly affects our moods, emotions, hormonal flow, digestion, body clock, and even the structure of our brains. Without conscious direction, and without the need to think, our nervous systems are always learning from and adapting to our interactions. For millions of years mammals have had the need to intuit which other mammals are safe and which predators. As mammals, we have a limbic- emotional connection with each other that does not require the capacity to think, analyze, or rationalize. Emotional understanding comes prior to thinking.

We can easily find examples of the importance of supportive limbic-emotional contact with others. It is fascinating to note that baby monkeys who have lost their mothers at an early age not only wind up with various developmental problems but they also prove incapable of living successfully with the rest of their community. The same is true for children forced to grow up in harsh, sterile conditions. Children who grow up in orphanages that give little human contact and emotional bonding have a dreadfully high mortality rate. High-quality health and emotional well-being require supportive limbic relationships. Our nervous system needs to locate and be nurtured by other nervous systems for us to have a sense of stability and completion. This is one of the most important offerings we can make to our clients. We can connect with them limbicly, and help them to develop a deeper sense of safety, calmness, and dignity. Our need to live our life in supportive limbic relationship with others is very much a wonderful fact of life, and not at all a weakness to be overcome. As mammals, we all require “a little help from our friends.”

A PATH OF HEALING A PATH OF LOVE

In the personal development discipline of Seishindo, we work along five mutually supportive pathways.

1. We support the client to make a generative limbic-emotional connection to self and others. As mammals acting in the supportive role of therapist or coach, we begin by calming ourselves, and developing the condition of wellbeing that leads to an outpouring of limbic energy. We connect emotionally with our clients and help them to stabilize and restore the vitality of their nervous system, while teaching them alternate ways of reacting to and processing energetic input. This process is largely nonverbal in nature.

2. We increase awareness of and responsiveness to the communication of the enteric nervous system and the reptilian, limbic, and heart brains.

3. We teach how to properly align physiology so as to increase the overall energy flow in the system, and facilitate natural and graceful use of the entire body.

4. We teach our clients how to orchestrate the tiny micromuscular movements that lead to changes in one’s emotional conversation and sense of well-being.

5. We teach our clients how to construct verbal conversations that meld the language of love and emotion with the language of the intellect.

Seishindo methods are eclectic and include Aikido, Sei Tai (A Japanese system of health and energy management), Structural Integration, various mindfulness practices, bodywork which is performed with the client lying down, sitting on large physiotherapy balls, walking, or performing other activities, NLP, and showing clients how the interplay of the carriage of the head and neck, the overall posture, breathing, eye movements, and tiny rocking movements of the torso, all lead to specific emotional conversations.

I hope this article enriches your model of physical and emotional well-being, and offers alternative perspectives to explore.

The Language of the Somatic Self- The language of your body

At every moment in time your subconscious mind speaks to you through your body, in a language that is as refined, systematic, and complete as your verbal language. This “somatic” language that your body communicates in forms the basis of the non-cognitive wisdom known as sixth sense, intuition, or “somatic intelligence.” Becoming fluent in somatic language can help you to think less, yet know more. It is like having your own personal consultant, who you can ask for additional insight. Understanding the subtle yet systematic communication of the body can help you achieve breakthroughs in your personal health and well-being, as well as adding significant value to the existing abilities and skills you already manifest in your life.

Once we understand that the body has the ability to act intelligently then it doesn’t take long to consider that the body requires a coherent form of communication in order to successfully perform all of its various life sustaining activities. We call this coherent communication “somatic language” or “the language of the somatic self.” We organize and make sense out of our rational experience by using a verbal language and a corresponding verbal grammar. We organize and make sense out of our somatic experience by using somatic language and a corresponding somatic grammar. Your verbal grammar is the set of rules your cognitive self follows in order to make sense out of the verbal experience it generates and receives. Your somatic grammar is the set of rules your somatic self follows in order to make sense out of the non-verbal experience that it generates and receives. Make an extremely loud noise and a person or animal tends to immediately stop moving, and the blood leaves the extremities and travels to the vital organs. Each time and every time, every living mammal has the same basic response. Place yourself in a cold climate and your pores will tend to close up. Go to the tropics and your pores will begin to open. Swallow a poison, and your somatic intelligence will try to get you to vomit it. Swallow a tonic and your body will quickly absorb it.

Your somatic intelligence does not act in a random fashion. All of the various reactions that occur in your body are systematic in nature and when taken as a whole such reactions make up the language of the somatic self. This language is wired into your system at birth and forms the foundation of your memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and your ability to live and sustain your self. This somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as your native tongue, and it does not use or require verbal language in order for your somatic self to completely understand what is being communicated. This is a concept that is central to Seishindo.

You don’t need to tell yourself to sweat or get a temperature when you have an infection. You don’t need to tell yourself to take your hand off of a hot stove. You don’t need to tell yourself that it is time to digest what you have eaten. Your somatic self will react to the communication it receives chemically, and electrically, and it will do what it deems to be necessary, “all on its own.” This language of the somatic self that we begin to understand while still being in our mother’s womb, is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.

The language generated by the somatic self is made up of the interplay of what we call “The seven building blocks of consciousness.” These seven building blocks are:

  1. The pace, rhythm, volume, and location of one’s breathing and the overall flow of “ki” or vital energy
  2. Posture and balance
  3. Movement, and flexibility, of the entire physical structure
  4. The pace, rhythm, volume, and pressure of the blood supply
  5. The pulsing of the dural membrane, the expansion and contraction of the skull, and of all of the joints of the body
  6. Eye movement patterns
  7. Mood: The electro-chemical and muscular processes taking place throughout our system.

These seven building blocks are the “words” or “morphemes” of our somatic language. When understood as one total communication, the building blocks of consciousness help us create the primary meaning of our experience. For example, suppose you are walking to an important business meeting and your body temperature rises somewhat, you start to sweat, and your heart beats a little bit faster. You notice all of this and you slow down the pace of your walking. Why do you slow down the pace of your walking? Because you just had a “language of the somatic self” communication which informed you of the energy and heat exchange that was taking place within you. You don’t want to walk into your meeting dripping perspiration, and thus you slow down your pace. If there wasn’t a somatic language that could be used by your mind to understand what was taking place internally, and externally as well, then your increased heart rate, body temperature, and sweating, wouldn’t have any meaning.

The language of the somatic self does not use or require verbal language although it interacts with it continually, like a music group improvising with a singer, or a horse and rider traversing a path in the forest. The language of the somatic self is the pre-verbal communication that allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue. It is part of our mammalian consciousness, is intuitive and relational in nature, seems to direct us to join with other life, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the entire course of our lives. This language forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves. Much in the same way that words are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations, to form the content of our verbal language as used by our cognitive self, the various components of the building blocks of consciousness are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations by your somatic self, to form the language of your somatic self. This is a language of immediate experience as compared to verbal language being a communication of abstractions.

Dr. Candace Pert, in her book “Molecules of Emotion” says that there are receptors (sensing molecules that exist throughout our system) and ligands (substances that bind to the receptors and help to create all of the chemical reactions necessary to run our system) that can be considered to be “information molecules.” She refers to these molecules as the basic units of a language used by cells throughout the organism to communicate. We consider this “language” that Ms. Pert is referring to, to be part and parcel of what we are calling the language of the somatic self. Dr. Gershon says that neurotransmitters are the words nerve cells use for communicating. Renowned scientists are telling us that we all “speak,” “listen to,” and understand more than one language. This “other” language is what we are calling the language of the somatic self, and it is highly organized, systematic, and graced with many fine nuances.

What has happened for most of us is that we have truly forgotten that there is a somatic-emotional experience which we base our verbal language on. In actuality our verbal representation of reality is always one step removed from our actual experience. Verbal representations are an edited, convenient, synopsis of our somatic-emotional experience, and lead us to pigeon hole our experience as a discrete event in time. Having forgotten this we think that our verbal language is our experience. But in actuality our verbal language is one step removed form our actual experience. It is an abstract description or labeling of our experience.

Mushin – Peak Performance State

In Aikido and Seishindo we practice embodying various “states” or ways of perceiving and being. We practice entering into various ways of experiencing Life.

The one state we practice entering into most, is known in Japanese as “mushin.” In Seishindo we often refer to mushin as a state of “embodied presence.”

We can consider the term Mushin to be similar to the terms “flow state” or “peak performance state” as used by people in the West. Yet if we look at the two kanji (written characters) that make up mushin, we discover a fascinating concept, that extends well past the usual sense of “peak performance”.

Mushin– Mu (無) Shin (心)
Possible meanings for Mu (無) include,
“Nothing”, “Zero”, or “Emptiness”.
The term signifies a lack of something, but without anything lacking.
Indeed, I would say that what is “lacking” is whatever is not essential.

In Japanese thinking the more “emptiness” there is, the larger the range of possibilities that exist.
If a space is truly empty, then “everything” has the possibility of being manifested. “Emptiness” is very rich in resources.
“Mu” can thus be considered similar to the concept of “less will get you more”.

The thirty spokes of a wheel unite in the center.
It’s this empty center space for the axle, upon which the use of the wheel depends.

Clay is fashioned into vessels.
It’s the emptiness of the vessel that makes it useful.

A door and windows are cut out from the walls, to form a room.
It’s the emptiness that the walls, floor, and ceiling encompass, that allows for the space to live in.

Thus what we gain is Something, yet it’s from the virtue of Nothing that this Something derives.
Dao de Jing; Chapter 11

If you’ve ever seen pictures of traditional Japanese rooms, and particularly temples where zen is studied, you’ll see the rooms are filled with the same emptiness as described in the above quote. A room is left empty, with very little in the way of furniture or anything else to detract from the infinite potential the room encompasses. This is an important part of the Japanese design aesthetic, and in zen temples, it’s also a non-verbal invitation to empty one’s thinking mind as well.

It’s also interesting to look at how “Mu” is combined with other kanji, to form other words.
mu-ryo (無料) no charge/”free”
mu-gon (無言) no words/silent
mu-ku (無垢) no dirt/pure
mu-jitsu (無実) no guilt/innocence
mu-ga (無我) no self(selflessness)/no ego/no “watashi (me)”

The second kanji in Mushin, is Shin  (心) or Kokoro
Although this kanji is one and the same as the kanji for one’s “physical heart”, in this context it means “heart” in the sense of one’s “spirit”.
In English we say, “She has a lot of heart.” Which means, “She has a lot of spirit/kokoro.”

So as a Westerner, at first pass Mushin might look like “empty spirit” or “zero spirit” and the connotation would seem to be that of someone who has given up on life. But after studying the above, we can understand just the opposite is the case. A truly “empty” spirit is enlivened, free, and fills a person with great potential.

It is your breath that fills the house of your body, with the greatest space, the greatest potential. It’s your breath that opens the doors and windows of your house, and helps to create, clean, and empty your space. It’s your breath passing through the doors and windows of your house, that unites “you” and your house with the outside world.

This exploration thus yields the following possible meanings for mushin:
“No thinking mind”
“Innocence”
“A pure state of mind, like when a young baby plays with a new toy”
“Full-empty spirit”.

In Seishindo we describe mushin as: “The state in which your thoughts, feelings, and actions occur simultaneously and spontaneously. Nothing comes between you and another person. Nothing comes between your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Nothing is lacking and nothing is left over. When part of you moves, all of you moves. When ‘you’ are calm, your whole self is calm. Thinking, doing, and being all become one and the same.”

When you embody a mushin state you greatly improve your ability to learn and live with grace and ease. At such times, the structure of your body is open and balanced, and your thinking mind is filled with emptiness. All traces of extraneous thoughts or actions dissolve, and you have a pleasing sense of fullness and great potential.

Maintaining mushin
Mushin is not a state you’ll be able to maintain throughout the course of your everyday life. Mushin is an ephemeral state that’s to be experienced and released. An experience that is lost and found again, many times over the course of even a single day.

When you enter into mushin for even brief periods of time you’re left with “a residue experience.” By this I mean- Even when you enter back into your “everyday mind”, the body memory and emotional traces of your mushin experience linger. You come back into the everyday world with a different sense of reality, a different perspective, a different outlook on life. Having experienced the wonderful fullness this emptiness affords you, you realize there’s more to life than worry, action, and accumulation.

If you’re at all like most of the people I meet every day, and the one I meet in the mirror every morning- During much of your life your thoughts, actions, and feelings occur somewhat independently of each other, and you lack a certain sense of spontaneity and wholeness. To some extent this is part of the human condition, and yet you can definitely also achieve from time to time, a much fuller way of learning and living. How to get “there” from “here” is an experience that cannot be cogently described with words alone. When you’re “fully present in the moment” you feel relaxed, vital, and fully alive. Your internal dialogue dissolves and your attention and awareness are freed up to notice what usually passes by unnoticed. At such times, “there” and “here” dissolve into “Now”!

Mushin = Embodied presence
Embodied presence = Fully present in the moment
Fully present in the moment = Michael Jordan during an NBA final; Tiger Woods at the Masters; My daughter watching her Saturday morning TV programs.

To learn, one accumulates day by day,
To study Tao, one reduces day by day.
Through reduction and further reduction
One reaches non-action,
And everything is acted upon.
(Dao De-Jing, #48)

The power and beauty of an ugly duckling- What is your element?

How do you perceive of yourself as a person? Consider the three different and separate domains a duck inhabits, and you will come to understand what it means to be in your element.

Certainly the phrase “ugly duckling” must have been coined by someone watching a duck waddle around on land. If indeed “waddling” is the only thing a duck could do, I imagine they might feel more than a tiny bit embarrassed and awkward. One thing would be certain. They could never win the 100 yard dash, if the competition was opened up to include all the rest of the animal kingdom.

Have you not also had the chance to see a duck slip into the water and effortlessly glide past, as if they might be sightseeing? The moment they make contact with the water they appear to be more elegant and serene. All of a sudden they seem to belong; to be in their element. If you had not previously seen them waddling, it would be hard to imagine they had even an ounce of awkwardness.

Even if ducks inhabited only these two domains the change we perceive in their presence and power would be exceptional. But the real moment of truth in understanding “duckness” comes when they heed the call of the wild, and lift off into the sky. Instantly you understand they embody a set of design criteria that was not previously evident, and their power and beauty is a sight to behold. Now the term “ugly duckling” is hard to comprehend.

Who a duck is, and how they are in the world, changes radically depending on the domain they are inhabiting. Are you not very much the same? In some domains you excel, and in other domains… well let’s face it, you waddle.

But please understand something very important, and hold this knowledge close to your heart. Not only does your waddling not detract from your ability to fly, in some mysterious way, it helps you to fly even better.

Who you are is always changing. And at the same time, who you are is always staying the same. Keep in touch with your ability to fly, regardless of where you are or who you are with. You have been designed to prevail and excel. Your grace, power, and beauty are inherent.

You can’t mass produce uniqueness

Do you spend part of your time working on and worrying about “self improvement”? If so, it is important to not inadvertently stamp out your uniqueness, in favor of a mass produced version of “perfection.”

Here’s a story to illustrate my point.

On a recent afternoon I went to a pottery shop outside of Tokyo, and happened to meet the potter who had stopped in to check on her staff.

After looking around the shop I invited the owner over and we chatted. The first thing she talked about was how a potter never knew what was going to wind up coming out of the kiln. Each kiln opening she said, was somewhat like Christmas morning. Sometimes you got many wonderful gifts, and sometimes you wound up with coal in your stocking. Like when most of the pieces explode in the kiln due to severe changes in atmospheric weather conditions. It is the serendipity she said, that makes the work so magical. “It helps you to stay humble, and you learn to surrender to and accept the unknown,” she said.

Next, she talked to me about design and functionality. Topics important to most all potters. “No sense in having a good looking piece that is awkward to use, and no sense having a boring looking piece that is highly functional.” she said.

Since I was definitely going to buy something, I picked out six pieces to choose from, set them on the counter, and asked the lady to tell me a bit about each piece.

“Let me share with you how I recognize the hoped for imperfections in my work,” she said, “By talking about three of the pieces you have interest in.”

“Notice with this first piece how the glaze is not of consistent thickness over the inside surface. I tried the best I could to smooth out the glaze,” she said, “But this is a very tough glaze to work with.”
“Nonetheless, for me, it is the inconsistency of the glaze that makes this piece so interesting.” she said. “It is the inconsistency that makes for the range of color that the glaze exhibits in this piece.”

“With this next piece you notice that the bowl is not fully round in shape. I am a small woman, and this is a large piece for me to throw on the wheel. In fact it is the biggest piece I am currently able to throw. I love making some this size, because these bowls really test my limits. There is a certain tension present when the shape goes out of being fully round, and this is what draws me to this piece.”

“Finally” she said, “With this third piece you will notice that the price is considerably less than the other pieces.”

“It is a good piece of work,” she said, “but I feel it is a bit ‘too good’ and thus looks like it could have been machine made. That is why the price is considerably cheaper.”

“The shape is perfectly round, and the glaze flows evenly over the entire pot, and thus the piece does not have a sense of uniqueness. I have stopped making this shape and size because I know how to make them all too well. When they come out this perfect I feel like the soul of the pots get left in the kiln.

She bowed ever so much, and said “Would you like some tea? I have some locally grown strawberries, and it is always best to eat them at this time of year, with a warm cup of tea.”

Are you able to say both “Yes!” and “No!”?

I hear from many people that they see ever increasing expressions of anger in their everyday work life and personal life. Understanding the process of anger is an important topic for all of us to take a closer look at.

If you take the time to delve deeper into your own anger or resentment, you will often find that you are seriously limiting your ability to feel and express what you truly feel. In the process of limiting yourself, you become the victim of your emotions. You might, for instance, be angry because you feel that someone else should be punished or held accountable, but in the long run your anger will only wind up punishing yourself. You might wind up resenting the way you are treated at work, but if you take a look you will usually find that your resentment limits your ability to get the kind of treatment you truly desire.

If you feel stuck in a situation where you can only say “Yes” then your response will not come from your heart, and your response will not be supported by your emotions. When you feel unable to say “No” then you will likely find that no matter what you say verbally, “No” becomes the default response you want to give to others. You will likely find yourself even more frustrated as you understand on an emotional level that you are never sharing your true feelings and opinions. When you are able to speak the truth of both your “Yes” and your “No” in a calm manner, you will find that you experience a sense of emotional freedom and well-being. Wouldn’t it be great if you felt it was safe to express your true opinion at work, and with all your significant others?

When it is all said and done, when we delve deeply into our emotions, we almost always find that our strongest and most habitual response is covering up other feelings that we are not fully aware of. When we feel hurt, disrespected, abandoned, or sad, we cover over these feelings and lose touch with them, by expressing anger or resentment instead.

When we find ways to tap into our deeper emotions we invariably find that we have been neglecting some form of pain or discomfort. When we neglect or simply don’t notice our deeper emotional reactions, we lose the ability to express our full range of emotions. In the process we find that by consistently expressing only one segment of our entire emotional range, we limit our ability to be happy and feel at ease within ourselves and with those that we interact with.

It is important to remember that our emotions emanate from the body. When you are feeling angry, your body generates a specific set of reactions that inform your rational mind of your emotional experience. When you are feeling respected or loved your body generates a very different set of reactions. With Seishindo you can explore the process of how your body generates your emotional state and you can come to understand how at times you say one thing with your body and something rather different with your words. You can come to understand how you wind up confusing yourself when you say one thing with your heart and another with your logical mind. If you do wind up confusing yourself on a regular basis, you will find that your overall health and vitality suffer in the process.

Only when you feel like you have the right to say “No” can you truly engage your heart in saying “Yes.” This is very important for leaders, parents, and spouses to keep in mind. Only when your body and your rational mind communicate the same message in a congruent manner, will you find yourself feeling empowered and at ease. Take the time to gently explore your feelings and you will find that your emotional well-being resides deep inside yourself, waiting to be touched and acknowledged.

Be sure to see our video about Anger Management to get the full insight!

I’m always busy, but nothing much gets done!

I decided to finally clean out the shed in our back yard recently. My wife left the house early on a Saturday morning to run some errands and I knew that my cleaning the shed would please her greatly.

On the way out the door to fulfill my noble task, I take a quick look at the morning mail and notice a past due bill so I run upstairs to write a check.

Upon reaching for the checkbook, I see there is only one check left, so I call my mom in Georgia and ask her to send me more.

My mom tells me my uncle Fred is not doing well, and she makes me promise to give him a call, so I ring him as soon as I get off the phone with her.

He’s happy to hear my voice, and reminds me that I still haven’t sent any recent family pictures. When I get off the phone, I run downstairs, get the pictures, run back upstairs, and put them in an envelope.

I wake my computer up to get my uncle’s address, and the phone rings. My neighbor’s on the line asking me if I can move our bicycles so he can get a delivery. As I move our bikes I see another neighbor taking out their garbage, and realize I need to quickly do the same.

I run in for the garbage and the phone rings again. This time it’s my daughter’s piano teacher explaining the upcoming monthly teaching schedule.

Needless to say, by the time I get off the phone, I wind up just missing the garbage truck, and I slink back to the house knowing my wife won’t be pleased having to keep the garbage for another two days.

At this point in time I realize that I need to establish my priorities and stick to them, or the day is really going to spin out of control.

I sit down to sort myself out, and after a bit of time spent thinking, my wife comes back home and cheerfully asks me what I have accomplished so far today.

Upon hearing her question I suddenly feel the beginning of a panic attack coming on. I missed getting the garbage out in time, I still haven’t written the check for the overdue bill, I haven’t yet addressed the envelope with the pictures for my uncle, and of course I have yet to begin cleaning the shed.

Soon the day will be half over, and not only am I not making headway, but I am losing ground!

Recognizing the emotional pain, I am in my daughter pulls me over to sit on the couch and climbs up on my lap.
“Daddy,” she says, “Why don’t you do what you told me to do the other day when I was upset? ”
“Take three deep breaths…”
“Look around you and notice that indeed the world is NOT falling apart…”
“And give thanks for all that you have, and all of the people who love you!”

Better advice has never been given.

When you find your life spinning out of control, take the time to breathe and feel into the emotional experience you are creating. Regardless of the task at hand, if you maintain a clear concept of who you are and what you are wanting to accomplish, you can stay on track and feel OK with all that transpires.

Teaching others to be kind, and positively oriented

In many different circumstances that life brings our way, we need to learn how to join with and utilize a person’s current “bad” behavior in order to induce them to act in a more positively oriented manner. Sometimes we might call this “leadership”, sometimes “parenting” and sometimes it means being a supportive spouse or partner. Rather than telling a person they are doing something “wrong” and demanding they act differently, if we validate the other person’s beliefs and opinions, change will often occur “on its own.” Nothing taught me this better than my time spent with my parrot!

Many years ago my parents gave me a parrot. The first thing I learned is that parrots can be dangerous to be around. They can do major damage to your fingers and other body parts. At the time, I was living and working with my friend Reeves Teague. He understood animals from a “country boy” perspective having grown up in the mountains of North Carolina. Here is the process for modifying negative behavior that I learned from Reeves, and modified over the years.

1. Invite an attack with an open and loving countenance.

The parrot is going to try and bite you no matter what, as a natural act of self preservation. Instead of trying to stop him from biting you, utilize his current behavior and encourage it. Wear something to protect your fingers, and invite the parrot to bite you.

Welcoming and utilizing the parrot’s current behavior even if it is violent, is very much in the spirit of Aikido and Ericksonian Hypnosis.

In Ericksonian Hypnosis you utilize the client’s “bad” behavior and join with and validate their current model of the world, rather than trying to change the client and give him the message he is doing something wrong.

In Aikido when you encourage your counterpart to express themselves physically, and they attack you, they are actually following your directions, and doing what you have asked. At such times the attack becomes definitely less violent, as the attacker unconsciously realizes that on a deep level they are cooperating with you.

Whether the activity be Aikido training, parrot training, rearing children, or dealing with an angry person at work, when you welcome the attack, the attack winds up being a lot less vicious, and it lasts for a much shorter amount of time.

2. Encourage violence and tenderness at the same time.

Leave your finger in the cage and encourage the parrot to gnaw on it. With your free hand gently rub the parrot’s head much like you might do with a dog or cat. When you and the parrot are tender and violent at the same time, you are beginning to engage in the act of play. This is a tricky path to navigate at times, but the results you can get will often be nothing less than amazing.

3. Reward the negative behavior and thus reframe the meaning of the behavior.

When you reward the “bad” behavior, the behavior is no longer bad. The parrot bites your right hand and you reward him by giving a snack/reward with your left hand. The relationship is circular in nature. It doesn’t take long before the parrot loses his enthusiasm for biting you. He still very much wants the snacks you feed him after each attack, but he would rather not have to do all of the biting to get the goodies.

4. Blur the starting and stopping points, blur the difference between good and bad.

The parrot has been biting one hand and you have been nuzzling the parrot and feeding him with your other hand. Now take the hand that has been doing the nuzzling and feeding and present it to the parrot for biting. When the parrot takes a playful nip, you nuzzle him with the hand he was previously gnawing on.

When you encourage the parrot to bite the hand that feeds him, his confusion will be obvious!

5. Change the reason for the reward.

After the “break in” period you only give a snack (reward) when the parrot is gentle and playful. Little by little you thus change the reference behavior for getting the snack. Usually at this stage, anyone that moves slowly can play with the parrot with little concern about getting bitten.

I have found the above method, to be by far the fastest, easiest, and most humane way to tame a parrot, and calm down children and adults that appear to have a violent streak. Take some time to think about what I have written here, and how you could implement the same basic process with someone you have been struggling with. With a bit of creative thinking on your part, you will wind up having much better relationships with people who have tended to be harsh and negative in the past.

Wouldn’t it be great, to be as hardy as a weed?!

Life is always ready to teach us a special lesson of some sort or another, if only we would take the time to notice and learn.

The street I live on in Tokyo is so narrow, that cars can barely traverse from top to bottom. Because of this, a system for lining up everyone’s bicycles on one side of the street is necessary and important. My wife, my daughter, and myself, park our bicycles across the street in front of my neighbor’s house. To me it seems unfair for my neighbor to have all this clutter in front of his house, but so be it. My neighbor’s house sits one foot nine inches from the curb. Pretty cozy, isn’t it?

Eight years ago, an innocuous looking weed-tree began growing right next to where I park my bike. You might think that a single weed-tree growing where my bike sits is not a big deal but let me explain.

This little weed-tree started life in a humble manner, sprouting up in a crack between the sidewalk and the wall. Initially it seemed too trivial to pay attention to or pull out, and initially I even cheered it on while marveling at what a hardy pioneer it was.

The little monster grew quite rapidly from day one, and after about six months it was wrapping itself around the front wheel of my bike and birds were coming to rest on it. All of this activity led to bird droppings on my bike seat, which led me to take out my pruning scissors and cut the darn thing about six inches above ground level.

Ignoring the weed in the first place was my first mistake. Cutting it down six inched above ground level was my second. It grew back with a vengeance! In no time at all it had more branches than before, and the base coming out of the crack became more tree like. Foolishly, I was lax again in my approach, and within a couple of months, bird droppings started winding up on my bike seat again.

This time around, needing hedge clippers to get the job done, I cut the weed-tree down as close to the sidewalk as possible, and I must say that I had a sense of “Good riddance!” when I did so.

Well, I think it was the very next morning, or two days at the most, when I went outside to find the bloody thing sprouting new growth. This time I quickly dug away at it with a small shovel, but I couldn’t unearth it, and sure enough, new growth quickly answered the call to arms.

At this point I was beginning to concede a shift in the balance of power. Regardless of my superior education and specialized negotiation skills, the weed-tree was prevailing.

What to do?

I knew by now that there was only one viable course of action. First, I found a new place to park my bike. Next, I went out and purchased some plant food and liberally watered and fed the weed-tree every day. My little beauty grew gloriously and I soon began to lovingly trim it into a “bonsai” shape!

Some years later it is looking truly gorgeous!

Two questions come to my mind, and I wonder if they come to yours as well.

1. What is it that makes weeds so incredibly strong and resilient, while other cultivated plants often so easily wither away and die?

2. Can a weed that is nurtured, praised, and pruned, still be considered to be a weed?

2. Isn’t life much grander once we realize that so much of what goes on is not under our control?

I only hope my spirit, can be half as strong as the tree that has offered itself to me.

The rewards and risks of personal freedom

We all need to decide whether to “play it safe” because we are worried about what could go wrong,  or instead take a chance, and be who we really are and live the life our heart truly desires. Which choice have you been making?

One of the first things I noticed about my newly purchased parrot, was that he couldn’t fly. Chico’s wings had been clipped and he was stuck here on earth just like us humans.

Once the weather turned nice I took Chico and sat him on a branch of a tree in my backyard, hoping to make him happier. At first he seemed confused. He walked back and forth on the branch looking like an agitated father pacing back and forth in the maternity waiting room. I was surprised to see that he didn’t flap his wings in an attempt to fly. Somehow he knew he was incapable. I always wondered how he knew such a thing.

One day, while sitting on his branch, Chico got way more agitated then he had been when I first took him outside months ago. He was pacing back and forth and talking up a storm. Then all of a sudden, he stopped pacing, let out a spine tingling scream, and started madly flapping his wings for the first time ever. About three seconds later, he lifted off from the branch like the space shuttle at Cape Canaveral! I was amazed and shocked. Little did I know his feathers had been growing back in, and just like a sly convict, Chico had been biding his time until the moment was ripe for escape!

Chico made his break for freedom on a late Monday afternoon, and by late Monday night I knew he was not coming home. Finally, on Tuesday evening Chico returned, but stayed way out of reach. I talked to him and showed him some food, but to no avail. Then I took his cage inside so he would not relate coming back to getting locked up again. Finally, I made him a firm promise that if he did come back I would let him out every day the weather was nice. Shortly after making my solemn oath, he flew onto my shoulder and I took him upstairs.

From that day on, whenever the weather was good I would let him out early and he would fly around and be back before dark. This routine lasted for about two months and then suddenly Chico became ill. The vet said that he had contracted a disease from the pigeons in the neighborhood. Within a few days he died, and I mourned his loss.

Just once the thought crossed my mind that if I had not set him free to fly every day, he would still be alive. It was then that I realized that the quality of one’s life is much more important than the number of years one lives. What sense is there in being a bird if you can’t fly?

Chico made his initial break for freedom on a late Monday afternoon in April. When will you make yours? You too can take a chance when the conditions are right, knowing you too in your own way, were built to fly. If you don’t set yourself free, what will be the purpose of your life?

I would suggest that the quality of one’s life is dependant on feeling one’s essence, and living the design that is you. If you are a fish, your life needs to be all about swimming. If you are a bird, your life needs to be all about flying and spreading your message to all that you meet along the way. What sense is there in being you, if you don’t really let yourself free and express your heart?

Are You Feeling in Control?

When it is all said and done, do you feel like you mostly stay on an even keel emotionally in your business and personal life? Here is a story about how easy it is to lose one’s emotional balance.

Recently, I was coming home from an evening business meeting in Tokyo. I walked a block, and like all good citizens do in Japan, when I got to the corner and the light was red, I stopped and waited for it to turn green before crossing.

Just as the traffic signal turns amber, to warn drivers to slow down and stop, a motorcycle and its rider slowly grind to a halt. The guy has on a backpack, there is a huge bundle tied to the back seat of the bike, and he has other stuff hanging from the bike handles. He looks like a homeless person who still has enough money to own a bike.

With the bike stops the man uses his feet to balance himself, just as riders always do. The only thing different in this case, is that the man and his bike are leaning quite heavily to the left, as if he has no sense of straight up and down, and can’t feel the pull of gravity.
He wobbles once… he wobbles twice… and then swoosh… .
The man, his motorcycle, and all of the stuff he is carrying with him, slide down to the ground.

My first thought is “Wow, this guy must really be drunk, I better get him off his bike and make sure he can’t drive for a while.” As I weigh all the variables that might be involved, I notice that everyone else is simply crossing the street as if nothing has happened.

As the guy struggles to get back up, the light turns green and now cars start to whiz by, and I get worried that he will get hit. So as fools often do, I rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I say hello in a loud voice to let him know I am nearby. As he turns to look, I reach out and take the handlebars and right the bike, and walk it over to the side of the road. As I had hoped, he follows along after me, dragging his belongings.

I put the kickstand of the bike down, and the guy starts apologizing profusely, while also thanking me and pointing out how clumsy and foolish he is in general. This act of contrition is a lovely art form in Japanese culture. And I must admit, for the average Westerner, it takes quite a good deal of trial and error practice to reproduce.

I smile at the guy, and playfully ask him if he has had a tough night, and a bit too much to drink.

“No, no, nothing at all to drink.” he says. “My girlfriend just broke up with me, and I am broken hearted. We divided everything up as equally as we could. I kept the bike and all the rest of what I am carrying. She kept her belongings and the sidecar for the bike, which she always rode around in with me. I guess it’s going to take a while to get used to no longer needing to balance her weight.”

I nod my head and smile, to signify that I understand what he is talking about, and indeed, what he says, somehow really touches me.

We look at each other for a moment or two with a sense of brotherhood, and then his face suddenly livens up and he says, “Now that I think about it, maybe I’m the lucky one. I can still get around, but she’s left sitting all alone by the side of the road!”

As human beings we have an emotional system, a physical system, an intellectual system, and a spiritual system all working together (hopefully!) at the same time.

Homeostasis comes about when the dynamic range that a person’s multiple systems operate in, create a harmonious balance, and flow together at their optimum. Take in enough food to fuel the system, but not enough food to overburden the system or give yourself a negative emotional image. Take in enough oxygen to fuel your creativity and all of your physical activities, but not enough to hyperventilate. Depend on a friend, loved one, or colleague to support you, but not to the point that you lose your own sense of balance, and self. Life is a balancing act, and as long as we are alive, the need to maintain, lose, and once again regain our balance, goes on constantly. We don’t so much maintain our balance as a constant. Much more so we need to lose and regain our balance over and over again.

What will you want to do, to regain and maintain your emotional balance? Take a moment and notice if you feel “off” or not. If you are feeling unbalanced, then please consider how you might need to alter your relationships and your activities, so that you can once again feel like you are on an even keel.

Is it finally time to forgive?

In order to free ourselves from the pain of anger and resentment we need to be able to forgive our self and others. The longer we dwell on hurtful situations from the past, the longer we keep our self from living fully in the present. Forgiveness is an act of kindness. An act of kindness to your self, as it leads to a sense of personal freedom.

Recently I had a client who had a lot of resentment towards her mother for many things that she had done to her in the past.
“I don’t want to forgive my mother for what she did in the past.” my client said. “What she did is wrong, and she has never apologized.”
I hear this very same statement from many clients who are living with resentment, whether it be towards their parents, their spouse, or their boss.

I asked my client if she felt that anyone other than herself, was responsible for, and capable of, making her happy. After a rather long and convoluted discussion, she said that when it was all said and done, she realized that she was indeed the only one that could make herself happy.

We sat there together for a while, and then I took a deep breath and suggested that my client do so as well. Here is an idea, I said. “What if as a totally selfish act, done simply for your own personal happiness, you decided to go ahead and let go of the resentment you had towards your mom, so that you would no longer need to have resentment clouding your life. What would that be like?” “You would not be saying that what was done to you was OK. You would simply be letting go of the resentment so that your own life would be happier. Would you want to let go of your resentment if it meant you would feel greater happiness?”

We sat there together for a while and my client’s face softened. She said that if she was able to let go of her resentment, it would be like lifting a weight from her shoulders, and removing a dark cloud from her heart.

“With all you have been through,” I said. “With all of the pain you have suffered, wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to yourself if you could lift this weight from your shoulders and remove the dark cloud from your heart? Would it not be wonderful to be freed from your hurt and resentment?”
She sat there for a while, as tears formed, and she said very softly “Yes, I want to feel good. I want to feel love. I want to feel free.”

“So” I said, “In order to free yourself from pain and open your heart to love, you would be willing to go so far as to forgive your mother if this is what you felt was necessary for your own personal happiness?”
She was somewhat hesitant, but said “Yes.”
“Remember” I said, “I am suggesting that you do this purely for selfish reasons. Not because you want to actually forgive your mom at this point in time, but because you want to free yourself to live a happier life.”
My client said “Yes, when it is said like this, I have the resolve to forgive my mother, in order to free myself to live a happier life.”
“Good I said. “Hold these thoughts and feelings in your heart for a while and then we can talk about how to actually accomplish your forgiving.”

How about you? Are you holding onto any resentment? Are you ready to recapture your happiness? Would you be willing to undertake the radical act of forgiveness in order to free yourself? I certainly hope so.
And if not today, maybe tomorrow.

The Paradox of One And Many in Aikido Philosophy

This article is a synopsis of the teaching of Aikido master Koichi Tohei, regarding how to appreciate, empathize with, and respect the diverse people, energies, and opinions that you come in contact with on a daily basis.

Tohei sensei used to say that in a healthy person the flow of their “ki” (the energy inherent throughout the Universe) is like the outpouring of an underground spring sitting at the bottom of a deep lake. The spring feeds water to the lake, much like we can feed the universe healing energy. The spring feeds the lake a constant flow of water without ever being diminished, and this outpouring of water is not impeded by the weight and pressure of the lake bearing down upon it. When ki flows it follows the path of least resistance. This is a path of great power. As human beings we are designed to feed energy to the universe, by following a path of least resistance. This feeding of “our” energy is what helps us to also maintain our own personal health and well being. We receive by giving, because our ki belongs to the Universe, and not to any one individual.

In this article I want to talk about how we can better appreciate, empathize with, and respect the diverse people, energies, and opinions that we come in contact with on a daily basis. I hope to give some small insight into how we can begin to understand the paradox of One common energy source feeding all of the diversity and difference that we see around us. In Aikido we practice what I guess could be called a “physical” discipline to accomplish this. We PRACTICE appreciation, empathy, and respect, in regard to our partner, with the hope that some day in the future our practice will transform into an embodied reality. We practice breathing exercises and meditation, and in the course of these experiences we have a sense of being one with the universe.

In Aikido, as new students we first learn how to balance our physical structure and relax the body’s musculature. It is this balance and release of excess muscular tension that allows the weight of the body’s trunk to come to a natural resting place in our lower abdomen, in the general area of our reproductive organs. This area in our lower abdomen is what Tohei sensei calls “the one point” and he exhorts his students to maintain the feeling of the body’s weight resting naturally in this area. By maintaining physical balance and relaxation we release excess physical tension, calm the thinking mind, and sense a common bond with all of life. At such times we naturally generate a copious flow of ki, and exude a healing presence to those around us. Previously I said that ki is the life force that animates all living beings and that all living beings share and utilize the SAME energy source, the same ki, the same spirit. In Aikido we call this shared universal spirit “reiseishin.” When we balance and relax the body, unify our thoughts and actions, and calm our thinking mind, we manifest an outpouring of “Reseishin” in the same manner that a mother holding her newborn baby exudes and expresses love, protection, and compassion. When we experience the flow of “reiseishin” we naturally appreciate, empathize with, and respect all of life.

For me personally, what is important to say in regard to sensing the flow of “reiseishin” is that the experience is not generated by the activity of the thinking mind. Our sense of unity with all of life comes about when we “do only what is necessary, and nothing more or less.” It is this “doing less” that leads to greater power and a greater sense of connection to life. We gain the paradoxical experience of calmness and action being two sides of the same coin. One being the mirror image of the other. Great calmness leads to great action, like a hurricane radiating out from its calm “eye.” Great action leads to great calmness, as when a strongly thrown top rights itself and calmly spins round its center.

When you balance and relax your body, unify your thoughts and actions, and calm your thinking mind, you move from an experience of duality to an experience of commonality. At such times you understand experientially what is paradoxical to the thinking mind – That so much difference comes from One source.

You breathe deeply and sense the simultaneous inflow and outflow of ki.
You breathe deeply and feel a “heavy-lightness” in the body.
You breathe deeply and sense the “immovable-movement” of your spirit.

When you sense and move with the energy that is manifesting throughout the universe you find that you have a greater ability to live a life that is healthy and fulfilling, a greater sense of valuing and protecting all of life. When you learn to instinctively move with others rather than attempting to oppose them, you quickly come to a sense of intuitively understanding your counterpart’s thoughts and actions, and you increase the likelihood of your being able to gently lead your counterpart in new directions in the future. This is certainly a timely topic given the current conditions in the world today. Aikido is a martial art that wages peace. We have no attack form in Aikido, even though Aikido is very much an effective form of self-defense. As I said previously, in Aikido we cultivate an experience that leads us to believe that all living beings utilize and share a common energy source (ki) that helps to run and maintain our environment as well as our individual human systems. We believe that since we all share a common energy source, that in some important way we are all truly members of the same family, and that we share our lives with all of nature. We do not have an attack form in Aikido, because attacking another human being would be like attacking a family member that you love. One of the main ideas of Aikido is to find a way to honor and protect your own being, your own opinions, your own right to life, while CONCURRENTLY honoring and protecting the same in your opponent. Not at all a simple task, but one well worth trying to embody.

As you learn to locate and maintain your own personal “center”, you discover that your center is both local and global, or as Akio Morita the past CEO of Sony said, “We must think globally while acting locally. We must develop the capacity to be ‘glocal’.” When you experience this sense of being “glocal” you manifest a greater capacity to join and blend with the “ki” of others. You realize that in some very important way we all share the same ki, the same ancestry, the same God, the same life. There is a “oneness” to all of life, and this “One” can never be reduced to zero. From this “One” energy two counterbalancing forces appeared and stimulated and supported each other, and the conditional world was born. The conditional world requires the ongoing working relationship of “opposites.” Night and Day, Male-Female, Yin and Yang. These opposites REQUIRE and support each other. If night were to oppose day, if male denigrates and or suppresses female, if one group of people subjugates another, all of life is diminished in some important sense. The relative world REQUIRES difference in order to maintain the commonality of life. Differences in opinion, difference in beliefs, differences in religion, all lead to a feeding of the “reiseishin” of our common spirit. It is so important for us to realize that “difference” creates the diversity that supports the viability of future life, that opposites are necessary for counterbalance in a conditional world. We must sense our oneness with all of life, while not in any way requiring that there only be one right way, one set of beliefs, one religion.

Three important components in supporting the diversity that feeds life, are Appreciation, Empathy, and Respect.

1. Appreciation of diversity fosters an openness to exploring difference. An openness to exploring difference means that we will have a much richer wealth of ideas and alternatives to draw upon. This is one of the necessary components for successful adaptation. We move away from a concept of “right or wrong” and instead consider what will work best in this particular instance. We welcome and acknowledge the process of trial and error, knowing that all learning requires that we make some mistakes along the way. If we belittle or stifle the answers or opinions that don’t wind up fitting our needs this time around, we denigrate the creative process, and diminish the flow of new ideas in the future.
2. Empathy helps us to be responsive to the needs, dreams, and desires of others. When we are sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others, we soon realize that “MY” way is not the only way. “My” way is not THE right way. “My” way is only one of many ways.
3. Respect is an important component in fostering all of life, because it leads to the manifestation of “reiseishin.” Our task in life is not easy. But luckily, we each have great capacity, as we are each fed by the “One” ki of the universe.

May the importance of differences in opinion and beliefs be appreciated. May we empathize with the plight of others. May we bow to and respect the sanctity of all life.

I hope you are not too proud to learn from a dog

My German friend Kirsten has been volunteering at live-in facilities for older people. She goes to visit these people with her dog “Charlie.”

Recently, Kirsten visited a woman of 87, who was lying motionless in her bed, suffering from both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The woman had a totally blank look on her face, and did not seem to respond at all when Kirsten and Charlie entered the room.

Slowly and gently, the dog was placed on the bed next to the woman, and after being told the German equivalent of “Good girl” a few times, the dog settled in next to the woman, seemingly quite content.

Then little by little, almost as if watching a movie frame by frame, the most extraordinary change came over the woman. Very subtly her breathing softened and became more rhythmical, and the corners of her mouth started twitching, as if she was at the very beginning stages of learning how to smile again. In fits and starts, her cramped hand with her fingers drawn and stiff, began to move towards Charlie. There was a fascinating series of actions that took place in a divinely orchestrated manner. The woman’s face and mouth twitched, her hand inched forward in a lurching manner, and her fingers also twitched as they softened and opened back up. Finally after more than five minutes of effort the woman touched the dog and her hand came to rest alongside his back. At this stage the dog made a sound and a movement, like he was entering into a sleep state, at which time the woman let out a sigh of exhaustion, and upon exhaling her face became radiant with a beautiful smile. Indeed it was hard to recognize that the woman was the same person who was lying in the bed when Kirsten and Charlie had entered the room fifteen minutes earlier. The woman was not able to express herself verbally, but she had certainly expressed her feeling of contentment nonetheless! The staff at the home told Kirsten that the woman slept in great comfort once they left.

Next week, Kirsten went back to visit the woman again, but this time Charlie had little interest in laying next to the woman. So, feeling a bit disappointed, Kirsten took the woman’s hand and stroked her arm as if she was lovingly stroking her dog. As Kirsten sat there with the woman, she breathed in a deep, relaxed manner, and she rocked herself back and forth ever so much. Slowly but surely, without really thinking about it, Kirsten began to tell the woman about walking with her dog on a beautiful spring day. She talked about the sparkling sun, the smell of flowers, the radiant colors, and the wonderful feeling of inhaling cool, fresh air. Little by little, once again, a fascinating series of actions took place. The woman’s hand and face twitched, and Kirsten followed an impulse to duplicate the movements the woman’s hand and arm had made during the first visit. Finally when Kirsten rested the woman’s hand on her (Kirsten’s) stomach, once again the woman took a deep breath, her entire body relaxed, and once again a beautiful smile appeared on her face. “Oh” Kirsten thought, “Isn’t it nice to know that I can help the woman, just as well as my dog can!” She thought to herself, “It really is just a case of slowing down, opening one’s heart, and feeling into the connection we all have as living beings.” A simple yet profound truth. Such is the nature of healing – working to help people have an experience that comes before words, before thinking, before judgment. Without words, we cannot separate ourselves from others. Without thinking there is no pain. Without judgment there is no right and wrong, good and bad. When you are only here, only now, you will “only” experience your core self, and feel at peace.

What can you learn from a steam engine?

A simple metaphor sometimes leads to a change in the way one perceives and lives one’s life. I hope this description of a steam engine will lead to new and meaningful insights about yourself.

As you get a sense of how your system naturally slows down and speeds up, you will have a much better ability to support the overall “steady state” that leads to health and well-being.

Let’s look at a steam locomotive in order to understand more about ourselves, and the importance of self-regulating mechanisms. Coal is fed into the furnace of the steam engine. The burning coal heats the water supply and turns it into steam. The steam drives the engine’s pistons which power the wheels. Too little steam and the train slows down and even stops. Too much steam and the train goes too fast and the engine is likely to blow apart. The design issue thus becomes, how to regulate between “too much” and “too little.” Not at all that different than human beings.

In order to keep the speed and power of the train within an efficient range between “too much and too little” a speed governor was designed as an integral part of the engine.

1. As the steam pressure in the engine builds, the train’s speed increases. A speed governor sits on top of the engine somewhat like the bleeder valve of an old fashioned pressure cooker. An increase in engine pressure and thus train speed lifts the “arms” of the speed governor up.

2. Each degree the arms of the speed governor raise up in response to increased pressure and speed, winds up decreasing the size of the aperture that allows steam into the engine. The smaller aperture opening leads over time to less steam pressure and the train slows down. Greater speed makes the governor’s arms go up, which in turn reduces the steam available to the engine and thus over time, the train begins to slow down.

3. As the steam pressure and speed of the train lessens, the arms of the governor go back down. As the arms go down the size of the engine aperture opening increases, and thus the amount of steam allowed into the engine increases, and the speed of the train once again begins to increase.

An ingenuous design is it not? Higher pressure, and higher speed, leads to lower pressure and lower speed, which in turn winds up leading to higher pressure and higher speed. Such is the beauty of a self regulating system. Up leads to down. Down leads to up. Faster leads to slower. Slower leads to faster. If such a self-regulating mechanism was more readily available in human beings, perhaps we would not get drunk, smoke cigarettes, or have various other naughty habits. Perhaps.

“Nature” also seems to have numerous self regulating mechanisms at work. In a climax forest for example, when “too many” trees grow in an area, there is a lessening of sunlight to the lower portions of the trees, and dampness sets in. Over time, this leads to trees dying off, which leads over time to more sunlight once again reaching the ground, which leads to a spurt in new growth of shrubs and trees.

The efficient running of a steam engine, the ecology of a forest, and healthy human beings, all require a self-regulating mechanism be in place. In this way we can say steam engines, forests, and human beings, all have “mind.” The steam engine “knows” how to fulfill its purpose, and so does the forest. Yet as human beings we often don’t do so well.

At this point in time, it seems that man has perhaps found a way to remove the governor from the engine of life, and take control over the environment and various life forms. We now have the power to control life in a manner that Nature likely never intended. Perhaps as a species, our need to “go faster” has begun to create a runaway train.

Where do “I” begin and end?

Today, I am inviting you to explore the boundaries of “self.” I ask you to ponder where “I” begins and ends. What is part of “me” and what is outside of “me”? Who and what is “you”? What is “us” and what is “them”? If I was to show you a picture of “me” standing in a crowded room of friends and family, and ask you to draw a line around “me” how would you do so? Would you simply draw an oval encompassing my frame from head to foot? What if I showed you a picture of me out in nature. Would you draw a line around “me” taking in as little sky as possible?

When you think of “your self” does your definition of self include sunlight, potable water, food, a certain range of temperature and humidity, and air to breathe? Most likely you don’t think of your “self” in quite this manner, but why not? If any of these all important elements are not present, “you” will soon cease to exist. You can’t live without sunlight and water, but sunlight and water can live without you! Man needs nature. Man’s very life depends on nature. But nature does not need or depend on man for life. Unless we say in this modern day and age, that nature depends on man to not destroy it, and man so often seems like he could care less.

When we say that an action/corporation/product is ecological we refer to how it supports the interdependence of all living organisms within an environment, which is itself a living organism. When we destroy any part of our natural environment we destroy a part of ourselves, because our personal ecology is fully dependent on the ecology of the natural elements that surrounds us.

I ask you again, “Can you live without potable water, oxygen, food, and sunlight? Can you live if the temperature and humidity of the earth’s atmosphere was to change by more than about 15% on average? Can you live without depending on the natural elements for your life? Why is it that people in the industrialized world tend to label as “primitive” those cultures that teach that man and nature are inseparable, when indeed this is the case?

All of life requires an ecology, a balance, a conservative and corrective interplay between elements and energies. Every living system needs to be able to self correct, and every living system depends on elements outside of “itself” in order to maintain “itself.” None of us live as separate entities depending only on our own will and intelligence.

Lately most human beings tend to treat the natural environment as a disposable item like a paper napkin or a pair of shoes. We use nature as a convenience item, or we use nature as a way to make money, and then we move on when we deplete the natural resources in a given area. Some people even treat their relationships with other people in a similar manner, and it is not all that surprising, if you really think that “me” is fully contained inside the boundaries of your own body.

When we disrespect nature we disrespect and misunderstand “me.” When we are confused about who and what “me” is, it is that much easier to disrespect and misunderstand others. Just like human beings, no country is separate and complete unto itself. I hope that we will come to understand that caring for nature means caring for “me.” That caring about “me” means caring about you. That caring about my country means caring about your country. That caring about “us”, adds to the quality of all of life.

No Thinking, No Suffering

It’s our thinking that creates good and bad, right and wrong, sorrow and joy. When we actively engage in “no thinking” there is both no suffering, and no consolation. Read a striking story of the Zen master Seung Sahn adapted by Charlie Badenhop.

There is a story told by the Zen master Seung Sahn. Many years ago there was a young man living in Korea, and the young man felt that his life was quite empty. So he shaved his head and went up into the mountains to live the life of a monk. He studied diligently for a number of years, but still felt that he did not really understand how to be free.

The young man had heard of certain Zen masters living in China so he gathered his meager belongings and started a long and arduous journey across arid plains.

Every day he would walk for many hours, and would stop only after finding a patch of land that had a source of water. Finding water was not at all a simple task in such dry lands, but a task necessary for preserving his life. There were many times he had to walk until quite late in the evening before finding a suitable location in which to rest and be refreshed.

One day was particularly hot, and the monk walked on endlessly, unable to find an oasis. As day turned into a moonless night, the pace of his walking slowed considerably so that we would not fall and hurt or kill himself. When he did finally find a shaded area he collapsed on the ground and slept for several hours. He woke up some time after midnight and he was tremendously thirsty. He crawled around on his hands and knees in the darkness, and ran across a roughly made cup that must have been left by a previous traveler. The custom of leaving a cup with some water in it, for the next traveler to drink from was quite common. He drank the meager amount of water in the cup and he felt very blessed and very at peace with the world. He laid down again and slept quite comfortably until awaking to the light of the early morning sun.

Upon sitting up he saw what the night before, he had taken to be the roughly made cup. It was a shattered skull of a baby wolf. Ths skull was caked with dried blood, and numerous insects were floating on the surface of the small quantity of filthy rain water still left in the bottom portion of the skull.

The monk saw all of this and immediately started to vomit. He had a great wave of nausea, and as the fluid poured forth from his mouth, it was as if his mind was being cleansed. He immediately felt a deep sense of understanding. Last night, since he couldn’t see he assumed that he had found a cup which had been left by a fellow traveler. The water tasted delicious. This morning, upon seeing the skull, the thought of what he had done the night before made him sick to his stomach. He understood that it was his thinking, and not the water, that made him feel ill. It was his thinking that created good and bad, right and wrong, delicious and foul tasting. With no thinking there was no suffering.

Having realized this, his journey was complete, as he no longer needed to find a Zen master.

Recipes For Stress

It is within your power to reduce the stressful reactions that you have, and a key to changing your reactions is being able to track the way in which you generate stress.

Recently, a coaching colleague told me a story about his client “Jim” who gets into many arguments and confrontations with others. After each altercation Jim spends a good deal of time attempting to convince my coaching colleague as to how the other person’s behavior was the catalyst for what took place. One of his favorite expressions is “I hate it when people jump to conclusions without first getting all of the facts.” In return my colleague has spent a good deal of time trying to show Jim how his behavior and thinking play a key role in creating his many problems.

Recently, Jim asked my colleague to accompany him on a business trip. On the second day of their trip they are walking down the street together late at night, having just finished a marathon business negotiation. They are both feeling a little bit ill at ease because they are not familiar with their surroundings, and they are concerned they might be targeted for violence since they obviously are not part of the local population.

All of a sudden they hear another set of footsteps walking behind them. Jim wheels around to see who is following them, and as he does so the man behind them quickly places his hand inside his coat in the area of his breast pocket. Fearing the worst, Jim wheels back around and dashes out onto the street in an attempt to get away from the gun he believes the man is pulling out. Boom! Jim gets hit not by a speeding bullet, but by a speeding car.

The man who Jim had been frightened by runs towards him as he lays bleeding on the street, and uses the handkerchief he already has in his hand, to stem the flow of Jim’s blood. It turns out that luckily for Jim the man is a doctor. Fairly soon the bleeding is stopped and it appears that Jim will need some stiches and a cast for his broken left leg, and after about thirty minutes an ambulance arrives to take Jim to the hospital.

Once Jim is on the stretcher and before being hoisted up into the ambulance he thanks the man for his help, and then asks, “Excuse me, but do you mind if I ask you what you were pulling out from under your coat when I first turned around to confront you?” “Why the very same hankerchief I used to stem the flow of your blood.” the doctor says. “I have been having my usual spring allergy response, and I was just ready to have a violent sneeze when you all of a sudden dashed out in the street and totally distracted me. My goodness, just now I am realizing that this is the first time today I have gone more than ten minutes without sneezing!”

“Now please let me ask you a question.” the doctor says. “Why in the world did you jump out in the street immediately upon seeing me?” Jim quickly replies “Well, we were in a dangerous neighborhood, and all of a sudden out of nowhere you were following us, and it seemed clear that you were reaching for a gun or other weapon. How would you expect me to react?”

The doctor smiles and says “Well, my friend, it seems to me that you jumped to numerous inaccurate conclusions. First you thought that the neighborhood was dangerous when in fact it is one of the safest neighborhoods in our city, although most likely a much poorer neighborhood than where you come from. Since you thought you were in a dangerous place you were predisposed to something dangerous taking place. I am guessing the fact that it was late at night, only added to your sense of fear.” “Yes” Jim said, “All of what you say is true.”

“And the fact that initially there was no one else walking on the street except for the two of you, most likely made my footsteps sound much louder and more ominous. Is this not so?” Jim slowly nods “Yes.”

“So” the doctor continued, “With those kinds of thoughts and fears running around in your head, when I stepped out of my house to go visit a patient you immediately thought that I was following you although frankly I hadn’t even really noticed you, as I was beginning a build up to a big sneeze.” “The only thing that made sense to you in the frame of mind you were in, was to believe that I was a criminal pulling out a weapon.” “I’m sorry.” Jim said.
“No need to be sorry.” the doctor says. “You have not caused me any harm.” “Indeed you have helped me to have a much clearer understanding of how my clients create stress for themselves.”

The doctor pauses for a moment and then says, “Let’s imagine that you and your friend were walking down this very same street, but at two o’clock in the afternoon instead of late at night, and there was one or two people already walking in front of you, and one person already walking behind you at a comfortable distance. How do you think you would respond to my coming out of my house in such an instance?” “Hmm.” says Jim. “I might not have even noticed you!”

“And here is another idea the doctor says. “What if everything initially happened just like it did this evening, but you had taken some self defense training and felt confident in your ability to defend yourself, and also perhaps partly because of your training, you had the tendency to be both relaxed and aware. How do you think you would have responded then?” “I can’t say for sure since I never had such training.” Jim says, “But pretty much guaranteed at the very least I would not have jumped out in front of the car.”

“And since you have been so kind so far.” the doctor says, “One more thing if you don’t mind.” “Your fear of being in dangerous surroundings led you to block out the only real danger that was present – A car speeding down the street. Perceiving danger all around you, you jumped in front of the only danger there was, and thus you created a self fulfilling prophecy.”
“Yes” Jim says, “I feel quite humbled. This is a difficult way to learn a very important lesson. But better that I learned this lesson today rather than continuing to struggle for many years to come. Now I can truly understand what happens when one consistently jumps to conclusions without having all of the facts, and assumes that something terrible will take place. Thank you for all of your assistance.”

Does this story have any special relevance to you and how you sometimes react to what is going on around you? In any one circumstance there can be many possible responses. and many possible outcomes. Have a different set of beliefs and you will respond differently. Have a different set of capabilities and training and you will respond differently. Change the way you use your body and you will respond differently. Change the environment that you are in and you will respond differently.

To learn to track the way in which you generate stress, try one of the classic Seishindo Practices – “Body + Language = Emotional Experience”.

Stress is a particular emotional state. Emotion consists of language AND body. Emotion is a system that is coherent at a deeper level than language or body taken separately. When your emotional state changes there is a concurrent change in your body, and in your use of language (including your internal thought processes). When your emotions truly change, you will notice a change in the way you use your body AND a change in the way you think about and describe your experience. When your emotions truly change you will feel better about who you are and what you are capable of. Greater self awareness leads to a more relaxed and creative use of your entire system. When you feel better, you think better, and new solutions begin to become apparent. All of which leads to a greater likelihood that you will meet the challenges you face with great success.

Our Very First Tasks of Learning and Adaptation

The very first learning task of every individual is the self-organization and development as an embryo in the womb of the mother. There is a tremendous amount of learning, communication, and self organization going on inside the mother’s belly as the fertilized egg winds up dividing into about 1 quadrillion cells that form the newborn infant. A lot of this learning that the embryo does has to do with how to live in relationship with another human being.

A second and equally important learning task involves learning how to move, and the movement of the mother is a key stimulus here. As we develop inside the belly of our mother we learn from and intuitively understand the movement of the mother, and thus movement offers us one of our first modes of communication and learning and it continues to be of great importance throughout our lives. The genetically determined movements that we respond to and make, offer us a frame of reference within which to organize our first contact with the world.

Movement in regard to health and learning is just as important for adults as it is for children. Our movements represent both an organization of the self, and an organization of information from the outside world in relation to the self. When we constrict our ability to move we constrict our ability to organize information, learn, and adapt. Improve your ability to move freely and you will think and feel with a greater sense of health and well-being.

A small piece of carpet can add to your self-confidence

Although many human beings might feel miffed by the thought, there is a profound set of similarities amongst all mammals, and especially between dogs and humans.

Have you ever noticed how the way you feel about yourself sometimes depends on whether or not you get an external confirmation of your value? The same is true for dogs. Dogs and humans both have a “primary identity” that determines perception of the world, behavior, and one’s sense of self worth. Let me explain how my teacher nurtured a positive primary identity in the dogs he trained.

My teacher’s first rule was to “Treat your students with firm yet gentle kindness and endless patience.” No matter what the dog did (especially with puppies) he would calmly and gently, without any trace of annoyance, let them know when their behavior was not what he wanted.

His second rule was “Consistently foster and support a primary identity of love, acceptance, and protection.” My teacher used to say, “Never tell the dog that s/he is “bad” or “stupid”. If you tell your dog he is bad, he will start to feel bad. Once your dog is feeling bad, he will start to act bad. And all the dog will really be doing, is confirming what you have been telling him!” “Don’t confuse the primary identity of the dog, with the dog’s behavior. No matter what happens, your dog is a “good dog.” And sometimes your “good dog” will have lousy behavior. “Good boy, good dog, don’t gnaw on the table leg.” “Good boy, good dog, don’t you dare lift your leg on those curtains!” “No matter what happens, it is very important for your dog to know that his primary identity never changes, regardless of his behavior.” “If you think in terms of “good dog” now “bad dog” later, your affection for your dog will change like the weather and he will become confused, and not know who he really is.”

The third important rule in dog training is to “Teach by example.”
If you want your dog to be strong and calm, then you must be strong and calm in your dealings with him. If you want the dog to love you and live for the opportunity to protect you, then you need to teach love by example. You don’t ask the dog to love you, you don’t expect the dog to love you just because you feed him and give him shelter. The dog winds up loving you as a natural reaction to your love for him. The dog comes to understand his own heart, through the experience of your heart.

The fourth rule he called “The length of the leash.”
In the beginning, it is very important to not let the leash be either too short and restrictive, or too long and overly allowing. You need to be able to gauge and sense the dogs understanding of what you would like him to do, in relation to what he would like to be doing, at any given moment. Too restrictive and the dog feels coerced. Too loose and the dog has no idea what you want. And it is important to occasionally let the dog do what HE wants to do, even when this is somewhat counter to what you would like him to do. This is crucial to building relationship. In the end, you want to take off the leash completely, and let the dog be, with his own sense of right and wrong.

The meaning of any act or verbal communication, can only be fully understood by taking into account the specific context that such behaviors are performed in. Does this make clear sense? If we take the phrase “I love you.” the meaning of these words will vary greatly depending on whether I speak them to my wife, my daughter, my parents, or the woman that lives next door. If I stand up and start undressing in my bedroom, this will be considered completely normal behavior. If on the other hand I stand up and undress in front of the crowd during the Rugby World Cup, I am likely to be arrested and escorted away. The act of “undressing” has no clear meaning, unless we identify the location/environment/context, where the undressing is done.

Our “primary identity” on the other hand, is considered to be the identity we have regardless of the context we are in. It is the identity that we carry with us everywhere. Our primary identity doesn’t change with the weather, and it doesn’t change depending on praise, criticism, or being ignored. When you can bring a self affirming primary identity with you as you enter into various new and challenging situations in life, you will discover that you live with a greater sense of enjoyment and fulfillment.

My dog training teacher had a very fascinating way of helping the guard dogs he trained, to feel respected, protected and loved, regardless of the situation/context they were in. Here is how he accomplished this. First of course, he started out by treating his dogs with love and respect, and by showing them an infinite amount of patience as they were learning. This of course is crucial. Then, the next thing he did was a true stroke of genius. He would cut a small piece of carpet for each dog he trained. He would place the carpet in the dog’s sleeping area, for him to lie on each night. He would also take this carpet during the day and set it down in various locations, and sit the dog on the carpet, as he praised the dog for being good. Whenever he moved to a new location, he would have the dog stand up, and he would pick up the carpet and carry it to the new location, set it down, sit the dog down, and again, praise the dog for being a “good boy.” Soon the piece of carpet took on the distinct odor of the dog, and my teacher said that this led the dog to feel “at home” when sitting on the carpet. Next, my teacher would teach the dog to pick up the piece of carpet himself, and carry it to wherever they were going. The dog would then set the piece of carpet down when they stopped, and sit on top of it, with my teacher all of the time praising him for being a good dog. Now my teacher said, “The dog begins to feel that he truly belongs in every place that he travels to, and no matter where he goes, he receives my love and appreciation. Soon the dog takes on this love and appreciation as the core of his primary identity.”

And I ask you now, if this strategy works so brilliantly with dogs, would the same basic strategy not work just as well with human beings? Ask youself, “What is the small piece of carpet you carry around with you wherever you go?” “Would your life not be very different if you changed your piece of carpet to one of love and appreciation?”