Tag Archives: life coaching

Creating great relationships by modeling others

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsI believe that the ability to create high quality relationships with the people I meet is a very important and highly rewarding skill.

To me, life seems to be all about “relationship, relationship, relationship.” How about you?

I think that most of us move from one relationship to the other numerous times every day, and the type and quality of these relationships also changes many times. Whether it is being with my daughter, talking to a client (long-term or brand new), or meeting a friend for dinner, without high-quality varied relationships, life would really be a drag!

For today’s podcast we are going to learn from (a.k.a. “model”) people who do an excellent job of creating and maintaining relationships with others. I am hoping you find this podcast to be of definite interest, and remember if you let us know your opinions, both positive and negative, Tony and I will do our best to create podcasts on topics that interest you the most.

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 relationships.

So when you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to have better relationships in the future.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockWhen it comes to describing individuals who are excellent at creating relationships with others, I believe Alex Noble does a wonderful job of describing what is important. Here is what he has to say:

“There is a quality in a few unique individuals which I can only best describe as acceptance. In the presence of such persons, I feel safe, at home, and eager to share and learn. Their attitude toward life is gentle and affirming, and this in turn brings out the best and the deepest in me, and makes me feel somehow capable of all the good I have ever hoped to accomplish.”

Alex perfectly encapsulates the type of person I strive to be in my everyday life, even though I often fail miserably at doing so! Indeed I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who does not ascribe to the ideal he sets forth. Parents, coaches, bosses, friends, prison guards… Is there a job or relationship in life where being kind and supportive does not work all that well? To me, I would think not. As long as we don’t equate “being kind” with a person who easily gives in to the dictates of others. Being kind does not at all need to mean “being soft and weak”!

When I first started out as a coach many years go, I thought that my job was mainly to help people get clear and take action. It didn’t take me all that long to realize that in order to help people get clear and take action that I first needed to help them feel safe to share and talk about subjects that were delicate for them.

Next I realized that in order to help them feel capable of change, I needed to be gentle and affirm the good I saw in them. When I was able to do this, my clients wound up feeling much more capable of achieving the goals they had been struggling with.

When working with others, whether in a corporate job, or as a parent, life partner, or friend, there is often a task that either one or both parties want to accomplish. My experience has taught me that the best way to complete the task at hand is to build and maintain a high quality relationship with one’s counterpart. I find that this principle is even more important when the task at hand seems daunting. Two people working together in harmony tend to be much more able than two individuals working separately. Sometimes I like to say that 1 + 1 can equal much more than 2.

If you would like to learn more about what I have to share on this topic, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Would you like to handle criticism better?

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsReceiving criticism from others can often be a painful experience, but it doesn’t need to be that way. And, as we go through life, we are bound to get criticized.

So have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to respond to criticism in a more generative fashion in the future.

Once you get to the podcast on the site, you will see that we have started to include an outline of the key points in each podcast. If you are in a hurry or just like 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 criticism.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockWhat I have learned over time is that giving and receiving criticism is a scary task for many people. Often in giving criticism we worry about the possibility of offending the other person, and in receiving criticism we often feel unappreciated or hurt.

Let me share with you here some of what I have learned in regard to receiving criticism, and then in today’s podcast I will delve into this topic in greater depth.

  1. The more I tend to criticize myself in a given situation, the more I struggle when receiving criticism from others.  At such times I wind up saying something to myself that goes like this, “Gee, I knew what I did wasn’t perfect, but it can’t be as bad as this person is saying!” In such instances what I find is that the criticism I receive actually matches what I thought and that I should have worked some more on the project at hand before asking someone to critique what I have done.
  2. Usually it is not a good idea to ask for criticism on a task or project that you are not fully pleased with. If you are going to ask for criticism on some work that you know still isn’t fully complete, then you will do well to create a clear context for your counterpart. For instance, you might want to say “I know this article is not yet written as well as it could be, but I want feedback on is whether or not you find the main concept to be well thought out.” When you create a clear context like this you make the task of your counterpart a whole lot easier and you will likely find what they have to say, easier to take in.
  3. You might want to let your counterpart know what style of critique will serve you best. Here is a high quality way to ask for critique. You write or say the following to your counterpart: “I would like you to critique the writing I have just done. What would help me most is if you start out telling me what, if anything, you like about the writing, and then let me know about everything and anything you think could be better or different.” Once again, if you ask your counterpart to follow the method you just laid out to them, I think your counterpart will feel more comfortable giving you critique, and you will be much better able to take in what they have to say. If your counterpart leads with a bit of praise, it makes their eventual criticism much more palatable.
  4. Keep in mind that in most instances your counterpart is wanting to be helpful and not hurtful. Most of the time when someone gives youcriticism their intention is to help you, and it is important to keep their positive intent in mind. In receiving criticism, it is good to realize that there is a positive (perhaps hidden) message in even the most stinging critique, and that often strong criticism is a sign that your counterpart feels close enough to you to speak their truth, but they might not be able to deliver it effectively or as gently as we would like. So be thankful for the critique, rather than feeling devastated by the critique.
  5. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this criticism that will help me to do better in the future?” Uncover the positive learning the criticism offers you, and then focus on how you will use what you have learned the next time you face a similar situation

If you take these five points to heart, you will respond to criticism in a more positive manner in the future.

If you would like to learn a good deal more about what I have to share on this topic, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

A good method to help you change careers

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsWell, after nine days in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I must say it is a bit cold here in Tokyo!

Like I said in the last newsletter, this is a good time of the year to think about the direction your life is moving towards. And that is why I was in Chiang Mai, to see if I might like to move there. Not sure yet, but it seems like a good possibility.

How about you? Thinking about making any changes in your life? In today’s podcast we interview Nick Corcodilos, a professional career coach. We are doing two podcasts in a row involving possible career changes because we believe that having a career that is right for you will go a long way towards helping you to feel at peace with your life.

Nick offers some great advice on how to go about changing your career, and I think the advice he gives can help anyone wanting to make a significant shift in their lives. So have a listen and hopefully you will benefit from what Nick has to share.

Before you listen to the podcast you might want to go down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter and read what I have to say about considering the life changes that will benefit you most.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcast 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.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockIn the course of my life I have come to realize that “change” is an ongoing, never-ending process. We move from childhood into being adults, and then we age over time. Along the way, everything in and around us changes. Our work, our relationships, and our concept of self, others, and life in general. And if you have looked in the mirror lately you will likely have noticed that a few wrinkles wind up showing up here and there as well.

Sitting here now, I remember a warm summer day when I was nine years old. I had just been given a prize after getting off a ride on a truck that used to come around our neighborhood during the summer. And what a prize it was! A large Davy Crockett tattoo showing my hero Davy slaying a wild bear. But then the worst of all possible things happened… In the course of transferring the tattoo to my chest, my dad got the tattoo all wet and the ink smeared and the image was no longer an image – unless you were into deciphering Rorschach ink blots. And this was the first time in my life I can remember crying, and cry I did, because I was devastated.

But guess what? Looking back at this event now from the age of sixty-five, I can realize that it did not change the course of my life, and the “disaster” did not prove to be nearly as severe as I felt it was then. Lucky for me that is!

I think the “meaning” of the events and relationships that take place during the course of our lives has a lot to do with our perspective. I was nine years old when my tattoo disaster took place and Davy Crockett was a bigger than life hero for me. Thus when Davy got washed away I felt that an important part of me was also washed away. But now, having matured considerably, I can see that both Davy and the tattoo were figments of my imagination, much like the rest of my life both before and after.

I think that this feeling of being “washed away” shows up especially when we are not prepared for what winds up taking place. I can think of several more times in my life when I had this same washed away feeling of devastation, and yet somehow I not only survived, but I wound up thriving. You see, I think the hard times I have faced have been the catalysts that led to me becoming resilient and learning how to take “the good” along with “the bad”. I believe that we learn much more from our perceived failures than we do from our successes. And yes, I will be the first to say that being successful feels a heck of a lot better than facing up to our failures. But facing up to our failures is really what determines are life going forward.

In order to give ourselves the best chance of having a healthy perspective about life in general and our place in life, we will do well to take the time to be mindful. You can achieve a lot by simply being mindful of what you are doing in the moment, rather than thinking about other things past and present. You can also be mindful by unplugging from your everyday life and concerns and focusing on nothing in particular and everything in general. Listen to, see, feel, and hear, everything taking place in and around you, and notice how even in the wildest times of change, you can experience stillness in the eye of the storm.

I would be remiss to not mention that the experience of being mindful is an experience you can cultivate by engaging in our stress management program! 🙂

In today’s podcast, Nick suggests a path you can take when considering a career change, and I think that what he offers can be a good formula for the many changes you might be considering. In my way of thinking, he suggests a way to align your heart with your head. When you are able to do this your path forward will become clearer, and you will feel that you do indeed have viable options.

If you would like to further explore whether or not you might like to change the course of your life, please have a listen to our podcast. And, if you’d like to know more about Nick, you can find him at http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

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.

Listen_Newsletter

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,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Say yes to success

Introduction

Today’s podcast is in a different format than usual. Today you are going to start out by listening to a coaching session that I did during a teleclass for my friend Molly Gordon. Molly is a coach and savant for entrepreneurs. Her work is life affirming and her website has many great resources.

To set the scene for today’s podcast, I ask for a volunteer to coach, and a lovely lady by the name of Pam steps up. During the course of the coaching I help Pam develop a clearer sense of what “being successful” means to her, and how she can more fully live her success. After the coaching session is over Tony and I debrief the session and give you further insights.

We believe that offering you a live coaching session will be a good way to illustrate how Seishindo Life Tools can be used in the “real world”.

I hope you will read through my Musings further on down the page, and when you are done reading, please have a listen to our 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: Say yes to success.

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!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Musings…

What happens for many of us is that without realizing it, we often have competing goals and desires.

We say that we want to be successful, and or emotionally fulfilled, and yet we find ourselves not fully agreeing with our stated intention.

So in order to properly prepare yourself to truly fulfill the desires you have, it is important to make a simple statement about what it is you truly want, and then sit with that statement and feel into whether or not your stated intention really resonates with you. Can you set a goal and then not internally quibble with yourself about what your goal means to you, and whether or not you truly want to do what it takes to achieve your goal?

As always, I suggest that you set a simple goal that focuses on the positive results you want to achieve, rather than getting caught up in contemplating what you are wanting to do away with. The simpler your stated goal, the better. When you focus on the positive you keep your thinking mind and spirit moving in a positive direction. When your whole self says “Yes” to your goal you will be that much more likely to achieve what you desire.

My suggestion is this- Make a simple statement of intent, and then sit there quietly and notice whether there is a part of you saying “No” or “Maybe”. If there is a part of yourself that questions or disagrees with your goal, it is crucial to appreciate what this part of you is wanting to communicate. Rework your stated intention as many times as necessary until you finally make a statement that your whole self says “Yes” to. When you do away with any and all internal conflict you will find that you are much better able to utilize all of the many resources you have available to you.

So take your time, and sit gently with yourself. Is your initial goal perhaps a goal that you no longer truly desire? Is your initial goal perhaps driven by what someone else wants for you, rather than what you want? Is your initial goal perhaps based upon a set of values that you no longer really believe in? Is your initial goal really something that will help you to live the life you truly desire?

Keep listening to yourself and keep feeling what your whole self has to say. If your rational mind says “Yes” but your emotional self says “No” then you need to delve deeper, to find the statement that truly satisfies all of you. Sit, wait, listen, and feel. When your whole self winds up saying “Yes” only then are you ready to finally move forward.

These are my thoughts for today, and these thoughts mirror what you will hear in today’s podcast, so please do have a listen!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Say Yes to Success – Live Demonstration of Seishindo Life Tools in Action

Play

This podcast features a live demonstration of Charlie working with a person during a teleclass. It shows how to implement the tools of Positive Intention, Goal Setting, and “I am” statements. Charlie also expresses his ideas about what it really means to be successful.

What have you come here to learn?

When new students showed up in Aikido class, one of Sensei’s favorite questions was, “What have you come here to learn?”

When Sensei asked such a question, you could be sure he wasn’t going to accept the first answer someone gave. I was intrigued to see that no one seemed to have a reply that was well thought out. Myself included!

The longer I studied Aikido the more I felt Sensei’s question was a kind of Zen koan, a paradoxical question designed to show the inadequacy of logical thinking. When he asked this question, a common scenario went like this:
“Why are you here to learn?”
“I’m here to learn Aikido.”
“Oh,” sensei would reply. “And what is Aikido?”
“Aikido is a martial art,” the student would say.
“Ah, and what is a martial art?” Sensei would ask.
“A martial art teaches self-defense,” the student would reply.
“Well, if your aim is to learn self defense, you could spend your time much more effectively studying Judo or Karate,” Sensei would respond. “Perhaps you’re in the wrong dojo.”

I rarely raised my hand when Sensei asked questions, but once when he asked why we were sitting there in his dojo, I raised my hand and replied in a clear voice, “I don’t know.”

“Ah,” sensei said. “Finally someone with an honest answer!”

“If you don’t know why you’re here, why waste your time?” he asked.

“Well,” I replied, “studying Aikido helps me understand that a lot of what I think I know doesn’t hold up when put to the test. And a lot of what I do in life, I have no idea why I do it. Aikido is a mirror that helps me look at myself and realize my inadequacies as well as my strengths.”

Sensei smiled and said, “Not a bad answer. It’s good to realize there’s so much you don’t know, as long as you’re confident in your ability to learn.”

“Everyone comes to class wanting something,” Sensei said. “But few students come with the idea of giving. When you’re filled with wanting, you feel empty inside and don’t want to give away the little you sense you have.

“A hungry man hoards what is his and doesn’t share it with others. On the other hand, if you’re already feeling full from all the knowledge you have, you won’t have the hunger to learn something new.”

Sensei pointed to a student who often came to class and said, “You tend to focus on wanting to perfect your technique, and you wind up losing sight of why you’re here. If you were to focus instead on why you’re here, your technique would likely suffer, and you’d wind up with more questions than answers. Are you comfortable with not knowing?”

After a brief pause, he continued, “You need to pay attention while understanding that you won’t know exactly what to pay attention to until after you’ve found it.”

Sensei looked at another student and said, “When you stop fighting with yourself, you’ll realize you already have everything you need. Already having everything you need, you’ll be much more willing to give to others. The more you give, the less there will be to defend.

“If you get to the point where you have nothing to defend, you’ll discover no one wants to attack you. Once you’ve experienced this, your study of Aikido will take on a very different importance. Then you’ll be ready to take your learning to a new depth of self-discovery.”

“You see,” sensei said, “the reason I ask these questions and say the things I do is that your reason for being here determines what you will learn and who you will become. ”

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,
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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,
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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…

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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

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

Integrative Hypnosis

1. Introduction

For the first time ever in my newsletter, I want to present the work of a colleague. Melissa Tiers is a very talented practitioner whose work mirrors much of what I do. By this I mean, that we work in different ways, while following many of the same principles. I particularly love how Melissa maintains a wide open frame to work within, staying open to the many levels of communication that take place in every interaction. She exhibits a deep faith in the ability of her clients to change and prosper.

This interview with Melissa is excerpted from an interview she did with The International Association of Counselors and Therapists.

If you would like to find out more about Melissa’s work please follow this link: http://melissatiers.com/

You can consider this article to be a high quality addition to the four part series I just presented on Seishindo MindBody Coaching.

2. The language of your body – Part 1

IACT: Hello Melissa. Perhaps we could begin by asking what integrative hypnosis means to you.

MT: Integrative hypnosis, to me, means that I have the freedom to do whatever works. It’s an umbrella, under which I combine ideas and processes from Classical and Ericksonian hypnosis, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioral and Energy Psychology and whatever else comes to me in the moment with a client. I think it’s also about an integration of all aspects of the body/mind. I consider integrated change to include neurological patterns, an awareness of the biochemical interplay of emotions, and the energetic system. I think physical change is a natural progression of that. We help people shift their whole “gestalt” and allow for more generative change.The whole unit of self is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.

IACT: The history of results using Integrative Hypnosis is quite compelling. Nearly every professional has an ‘aha’ moment when they know this is the kind of work they want to focus on. What experience brought you to this point in your career.

MT: I think for me it was a series of aha moments that brought me to this work. I would have to say I was always fascinated by altered states of consciousness. Once I got a glimpse of the malleability of mind and perception, I never stopped searching for the boundaries of what was possible.

I have been constantly amazed and humbled by what people were capable of changing. I think the most exciting thing about this field of work is that it keeps expanding. With every new research study, every shift in neuroscience and mind/body medicine, we get to create new interventions. I think we are so lucky to be at the cutting edge of consciousness. I actively seek aha moments every day. And I’m happy to say, I usually find them.

IACT: Do you have a preferred technique you like to use and can you give us an example?

MT: I have so many techniques I love to share with my clients but none that I would say is the preferred technique. I’m a firm believer in utilization so that I never know what I’m going to do until the client is in front of me. This way I go by the language used, the gestures and metaphors, the clients inner strategy for doing the problem, the beliefs that hold it together and all the other resources the client brings in.

If the client describes a lump in their throat, I might have them place their awareness there and explore changing the shape and color of the lump, or listening to what that lump has to communicate. If a client says they have an overwhelming emotion, we might drop down to see what’s underneath the emotion, or use the emotion as a bridge back to where we need to go, in order to change.

I think there is a basic structure to change. A four step pattern that is the foundation for just about every change process. So as long as I keep that in mind and know which step the client is in, any ritual or process can be the preferred technique in that moment.

IACT: Can you expound on the basic structure of change and this four step pattern?

MT: If you imagine that when your client is in their problem state, awash with negative emotions, it’s like they’re wearing a particular pair of glasses that colors everything they can think of. If they are depressed then everything they think of from their past and future is depressing because the brain sorts by emotional/biochemical states. So they say things like, “nothing ever goes right” or “everything in my life is a mess” or “nobody loves me” Step one is getting the client to access their problem state, so we can see what that looks like as well as find the trigger that makes the problem state “automatic”.

Now we have an infinite amount of ways to do step two, which is “dissociation”. Think of it like having the client take off the colored glasses they were wearing in their problem state. Whether we use a relaxed trance to dissociate, have them watch a movie of the problem scene, or have them pull out the kinesthetic aspects, like a spinning feeling in the body,  we are inviting them to step out of their problem state. Dissociation is like removing the emotion from the memory.

Step three involves having the client access a resource state, to help them experience how they want to feel when facing their problem. If you tried to do this without the dissociation of step two they would have a much harder time coming up with a resource or a solution because they would still be stuck in the negative emotional state, so every solution would be clouded by that.

We all do this pattern in many different ways. If you think of a typical hypnosis session we get the client into trance (a neutral dissociated state) and give positive  suggestions or visualizations to get them into a wonderful state. Or if you help the client regress back to the cause of their problem, it’s when you bring in the resources to comfort, forgive or even just inform the younger self. So step three helps the client put on a very different pair of glasses, so they can see other options, opportunities and solutions.

Then in step four we bring the resource state to their initial problem “trigger” so they can experience their problem from the perspective of having the necessary resources to solve their problem. From a resource state of strength, confidence, forgiveness ,or any other more positive state we have them look at the problem. Then we condition the resource state to become the response that crops up as an alternative way of reacting to their initial problem. Now their problem state becomes the trigger for the resource state. Then we future pace to various examples in the past, where they might have had a problem, but now can feel the resource state come up instead. This allows the change to spread and become generative.

I should also mention the fact that some of my most powerful learning has come from the clients that I didn’t help as much as I would have liked. They inspired me to keep trying new approaches, expanding my tool kit and sometimes changing my whole view of certain conditions. I think these sessions taught me how to dance in ways I never knew I could.

IACT: In closing, what final thoughts would you like to leave us with regarding Integrative Hypnosis and it’s impact on the clients we assist.

MT: I think it’s important to remember that there are many ways to change and that ultimately we do what the client believes they need in order to heal. Not what webelieve they need. If we shift beliefs congruently then the inner healing process gets activated. Research on the placebo effect gives us a glimpse into what’s possible when we believe.

So having many different approaches gives us that flexibility. I’m willing to think outside the box because I ditched the box years ago, and thus I no longer know exactly what to expect.

Regards,

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 2

1. Introduction

In my last newsletter I began describing the principles I use when engaging in Seishindo MindBody Coaching. If you did not read the last newsletter you can go here to read it now.

What I want to make clear, is that anyone who is wanting to help another person change can use the principles I describe. A parent, a spouse, a manager, a friend. Indeed, most of the “change conversations” we engage in do not take place in a professional coaching setting.

Not being certain of the best way to describe a process that can take place in many different contexts, I use the terms “your counterpart”, and “the other person”. I would prefer to use something friendlier in nature, but I have yet to find the right term. Please do suggest something if you feel you might possibly inspire me!

Regards,
Charlie

2. Describing Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 2

I invite you now to consider, how the principles I present, can help you to become a more effective agent of change.

Imagine that you begin by believing your counterpart is a highly competent person, who is very definitely capable of living a fulfilling life. The fact that they are experiencing some difficulties in one or more areas of their life, does not take away from all that they are in the world. Be certain to not lose sight of their magnificence! Please consider or even take for granted, that the person you are wanting to help is at least as intelligent and capable as you are. That they already have available to them, all the resources necessary to live the life they truly desire.

Believing this, you might want to take some time to just be present with the other person. Observing them in a respectful, curious manner, breathing with them, appreciating them, and helping them to little by little find their way. Much like a shepherd who keeps his flock moving in the desired direction. If you begin like this you and your counterpart will likely feel at ease with each other, and it might just happen, that the both of you will find a place within yourselves where you feel confident that something generative will transpire.

One “truth” that will likely become more and more obvious to you over time is this– The more you focus on determining the exact details of the problem at hand, the more the hoped for solution will tend to become obscured.

You see, both science and the field of magic have proven over and over again, that we really can only attend to one thing at a time. Magicians use this knowledge to engage in  “mis-direction”. They get you to focus your attention away from the sleight of hand that is taking place, and thus you are baffled by how they make things disappear and reappear. In the everyday world, only being able to focus on one thing at a time is known as “a one track mind”.  When engaged in helping someone change, in most instances your counterpart will strive mightily to mis-direct you towards their problem. If you allow them to do this, neither one of you will have enough attention left over to also pay attention to the solutions that exist on the other side of the coin.

So when someone is struggling… Gently interrupt the way they access and present their problem, so that they don’t get overwhelmed and lose sight of what they dowant. While focusing on the problem will rarely help achieve a solution, the reverse of this is also true. People are not able to access and dwell on their problems, while actively engaged in discovering the positive actions they can take. The more someone dwells on a solution, the more the initial problem will recede into the background of their awareness. You can call this process “re-direction”.

If you pay close attention, you will likely find that the solution your counterpart is desiring, is hidden amongst the words they speak. You will begin to understand that your interaction with your counterpart is a kind of “hide and seek” game, and it is important to not proceed too quickly. In fact, the slower you go when engaging in a change process, the sooner you are likely to achieve the desired goal. So In the beginning, take your time and clear away all of the unnecessary and potentially confusing, words and gestures your counterpart is likely expressing. As you both slow down and simplify, you will both become better able to feel into and emotionally digest all that is being communicated.

Now would be a good time to take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for having gotten this far! You are actively engaged in creating a generative context for change, and now you can both rest easy for a while, as you let the world unfold around you.

Regards,
Charlie

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.”

Biting the hand that feeds you

1. Introduction

Today’s offering is a thorough rewrite of a popular story I presented several years ago. Hopefully this story will give you a new way to look at building a relationship with people you find defensive.

I also want to take this time to remind you that I’ll be teaching a two day workshop in New York City on December 3rd and 4th. The title of the workshop is “Seishindo MindBody Medicine”.

Charlie

2. Biting the hand that feeds you

Many years ago my parents gave me a parrot as a gift. The first thing I learned about parrots is that it hurts a lot when they bite you!

When I got my parrot I was living with my friend Reeves Teague. He had a “country boy” way of dealing with “critters” having grown up in the mountains of North Carolina. Here’s the process Reeves taught me for taming a wild animal.

1. Welcome and utilize the animals current behavior
At first the parrot only wants to bite you. It’s a natural act of self defense. So rather than trying to stop the parrot’s instinctual behavior, encourage and utilize it. Wear something protective on one finger, and extend this finger inviting the parrot to do as he likes.

Welcoming and utilizing the parrot’s current behavior even if it’s aggressive, is very much in the spirit of Aikido. Whether parrot or person, when you don’t act defensive and frightened, your counterpart will feel less defensive and frightened. Its fear that leads to the attack in the first place!

2. Accept the unwanted behavior while offering friendship
The parrot bites your right hand and as an act of friendship you kindly offer him a snack with your left hand. Your response will surprise and confuse him.

3. Encourage defensiveness and playfulness at the same time.
Leave your protected finger in the cage and encourage the parrot to really gnaw on it. After a short while he’ll start treating your finger more like a toy. Once he starts to act playful, offer him a snack with your other hand. Soon, he’ll come to expect and look for the snack. When you encourage defensiveness and playfulness at the same time, you begin to build a bond of friendship.

4. Blur the line between good and bad, trust and distrust.
When you reward the parrot’s “bad” behavior by feeding him, the difference between “good and bad” becomes less clear.

Once the parrot has shown a bit of playfulness, offer him the unprotected hand that’s been doing the feeding. Another way to say this is– Invite him to bite the hand that feeds him! This part of the process definitely takes some trust in the goodwill of the parrot, and on some level he will recognize this. Sensing your trust, he will begin to trust you in return. Sensing your trust, he will either not bite you, or he’ll only take a playful nip at your finger.

Now is the time to offer a snack with the hand he was previously biting. He’ll soon realize that both hands can offer him the food he desires. At this point your friendship with the parrot will deepen.

5. Change the reason for the reward.
After the parrot begins to change his behavior, only give a snack when he’s gentle and playful. Little by little you’ll be changing the reference behavior for getting the snack. Little by little the parrot will realize he only gets what he wants, when he treats you as a friend.

I’ve found this training method, to be the fastest, simplest, and most humane way to tame a parrot, and change the behavior of aggressive children and adults as well. If you’re not into buying a parrot, try it with a defensive person you’d like to have a better relationship with!

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.”

Living Calmness

1. Introduction

For a number of years now, I’ve been writing stories about my life in Japan. I’m finally getting fairly close to having a complete book ready for publication!

Over the years, many of you have written asking me how I came to develop my story telling style. My stories are meant to convey simple life lessons that show up during my daily experience. Lessons that could easily pass me by if I wasn’t appreciating my life and being present in the moment. By sharing my stories with you I hope you’ll learn from what I write, and consider the life lessons you come into contact with as well. In particular, by sharing my experience of having a heartfelt interaction with Japanese people, I’m hoping you can find the common ground you share with my friends here in Japan.

In order to give you a better sense of where my writing starts from, I want to take the time to explain some of the theories Seishindo is based upon. So I’m going to shift gears some and offer you some theory to think about. Hopefully, just like with my stories, you’ll l find what I write to be life affirming and engaging. Please write back when you find the time, and let me know what you think and feel.

Charlie

2. Living Calmness

In Seishindo we believe…..
Each person is very much like a snowflake.
Unique,
Never to be duplicated,
And with a life that’s over all too quickly.

One of our key tasks in life is learning how to appreciate our uniqueness rather than comparing our self to others, or lamenting about what we are not.

We are all born perfect, just as we are. Which does not mean there’s no room for improvement! We are perfectly imperfect.

As we strive to realize our potential and live a fulfilling life, we run into significant challenges along the way. In the process of being challenged we often get confused and wind up losing touch with our “wholeness”. We mistakenly begin to believe that our body, intellect, and spirit, are separate units that often work in opposition to each other, rather than sensing and maintaining the unity that is our birthright.

In Seishindo we strive to help ourselves and our loved ones, regain a sense of wholeness, health, and dignity. Over the years I’ve developed a number of principles to guide this work and offer people a way forward. Today, I’m going to write about the principle of “living calmness”.

Living calmness
When you release your muscular holding patterns, you calm your nervous system and physiology, breathe more freely and easily, and facilitate the release of carbon dioxide.

When you calm your physiology you calm your “somatic mind”, which will lead to you feeling emotionally calm as well. Your “somatic mind” is the intelligence that orchestrates much of the body’s activities and functions, and in particular, it regulates the flow of serotonin in your system. The “brain” that orchestrates your somatic intelligence is based in your enteric nervous system.

When your physiology is at ease, and your somatic mind slows down, you’ll tend to have less internal dialogue and report feeling like you’re living more in your body than usual. This feeling of being fully in your body is what we call “being centered”. When you feel centered, the flow of hormones and neurotransmitters in your body changes. From “fight or flight” to “relax and rejuvenation”. At such times your brain activity slows down as well, and your rational mind begins to feel more at ease.

When your rational mind feels safe and at ease, you open yourself up to the experience of what it’s like to think with your body as well as with your brain.
By cultivating the capacity to think with both your body and your brain, you become better able to wisely work with the unique challenges you face in your life.

When your overall system is calm, you generate greater awareness, high quality health, and a deep sense of well-being. You approach life’s many challenges from a more confident, solution-oriented perspective. You come to realize your “problems” offer you the opportunity to further grow and evolve. You understand that everything is just as it should be, just as it is, and that you have the power to change.

When you enter into such a way of being and perceiving, you come in touch with the Spirit that animates all of life. You realize that this Spirit is indeed available to you at all times, and that you are not “alone”. As you learn how to more often connect your “self” with Spirit, you experience thankfulness and a deep sense of having a rightful place in the world.

How to reach/touch this place of living calmness?
No one that I know, or know of, stays calm and centered all the time. Getting upset is an area of life that we all need to travel through from time to time.

I don’t suggest you try and stop yourself from losing your feeling of being centered. I don’t think this is a strategy that works well. Instead, I think it’s more generative to learn how to regain your center once you’ve lost it. Because indeed you will lose your center numerous, numerous times over the course of your life! So, rather than chastise yourself for once again losing your way, please instead, congratulate yourself each time you find your way back, to feeling whole, healthy, and fully alive.

Over the years, as a result of my own study and practice I’ve developed various exercises that can help you regain your sense of health and wholeness. You can go to the link that follows to begin to explore various Seishindo Practices.
http://www.seishindo.org/practices-about-mindfulness/

Work hard, don’t worry

“Kinkenrikko” Hard work and frugality

There’s a shop in my neighborhood that does laundry and ironing, that I have been using for more than twenty five years now. Over time the master and I have become friends, and I do need to emphasize “over time”. Ishibashi-san works such long hours it was hard to get the opportunity to talk with him.

You see, there was something about his smile and tone of voice when he welcomed people into his shop, that led me to want to know him better. But he was always busy ironing clothing, and I didn’t want to interrupt his work flow. So I had to create a strategy that would induce him to take a few minutes to talk.

I bought two cans of ice cold beer on a hot summer evening, and dropped by his shop just before closing to pick up a shirt I had left with him.
“Would it be bad manners?” I asked, “If I offered you a can of ice cold beer?”
“Well no, it wouldn’t be,” he said, “If you wouldn’t mind me opening up a package of squid, for the both of us to snack on.”
And thus the conversation began!

“We only work six days a week now, but for about thirty years after World War II my wife and I worked seven days a week, usually at least fourteen hours a day. We got up 4AM every morning, had a simple breakfast if we had enough food, and worked until late at night. Our time off consisted of one five day vacation a year. We were happy to have the work, because the work allowed us to have a constant source of food and shelter, and the work made it possible for us to afford having two children.

“When you spend so much time working, you don’t have the time to worry about the future. The more free time people have, the more selfish and self indulgent they tend to become. I must say, I look at young people today and I’m not surprised that Japan is having so many problems. My parents taught me the importance of “kinkenrikko” and I must say I find hard work and frugality to be two of the pillars of a happy life. When people had less they complained less. When people lived within their means, they were much less afraid of losing what they had. Nowadays so many people are frantic and worried, and few people have the time to truly nurture their family.

“The trouble these days is that people build a lifestyle they can’t easily support. If they lost their high paying job and had to work in a laundry like mine, they would feel their life had collapsed. Their children would be devastated if they weren’t able to buy the next generation of game console. People have lost touch with the essentials, and they’ve lost touch with the value of hard work. Hard work is the glue that keeps your life together.

“One more important point is this,” he said. “I think any job where you sit all day, weakens your spirit.

“I sit when I eat and lay down when I sleep, but other than that I stand and move all day. Standing and moving, makes you strong and builds your resilience to adversity. When you stand, you use your whole self, and thus you feel more in control of your life. My father worked until he was 73 and I’m already 79 and still going strong. I want to die standing up, rather than live my life sitting down. Easier is not better!

Problems First – Toyota

1. Introduction

Today’s story is an updated version of a story I often share with my Executive Coaching clients. I think the wisdom of the Toyota approach has a lot to offer you in the day to day living of your life.

Charlie

2. Problems First

Do you find it hard to feel satisfied with who you are and what you’ve accomplished so far? If so, please consider adopting the following perspective.

Toyota is one of the most successful auto makers on the planet. A fact that’s painfully obvious to its competitors.
Having studied Aikido for a few years before first meeting grandma, I could see a definite similarity between the way she bowed to me, and the way I was taught to bow to my sensei.

There’s a phrase used in Toyota that helps them stay focused on striving to be the best they can be. The phrase is “Problems First” and it leads them to look for what can be improved upon in the future, rather than being satisfied with what they’ve already accomplished.

Such a phrase could quickly lead one to feel negative and unappreciated if not framed in the right context. At Toyota they have three suppositions that help to flesh out their credo and give it a positively oriented meaning:

• The hard work and good intentions of everyone in the company is highly appreciated, and each and every worker is meant to be treated with respect.
• No matter what stage of development they’re currently involved in, they realize the concepts of “success” and “achievement” are “moving targets” that will change as the day to day success and achievements of the company continue to evolve.
• They freely acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes.

These suppositions extend up to the CEO, and down to the person emptying the waste bins. Once you really “get” these three suppositions, you can stop trying to make believe you’re “unnaturally perfect”, and instead, acknowledge and appreciate who you are.

Rather than striving to be perfect, at Toyota they share a communal aspiration of “always being capable of improvement”. This is a goal everyone can approach every single day of their life with humility and dignity. It’s also a goal they’ll never be able to say they’ve fully accomplished, and that makes it all the more fulfilling to pursue.

The quality of your work life will significantly improve once the “I have to be perfect.” monkey is off your back. You’ll be free to ask for help, and no longer need to cover up your mistakes and the imperfections you mistakenly perceive yourself as having. Rather than yearning or pretending to be someone else, you can free yourself to simply be perfectly imperfect YOU! Isn’t this the work life you yearn for?

At Toyota, instead of striving to achieve lofty yearly targets, they prefer to set their sights on humble daily and monthly goals they’re likely to accomplish. They set “small” goals that they regularly achieve, and build upon these small successes the very next day. Rather than having their eye on the future, they are focused on today. You can do the same in your own life.

In actuality, if you look closely at what they’re doing at Toyota you’ll understand that “Quality Control” and “Improved Efficiency” are not really goals, but rather idealistic pursuits with no beginning or ending. You never sit back and bask in yesterday’s achievements, as this would only make you fall behind in reaching the goals you’ve set for today. You don’t try to improve because you think something is “wrong”. Instead, you strive to improve simply because you know improvement is something you’re capable of. Holding yourself to high standards can be very gratifying when you start from a place of already appreciating and respecting yourself and your accomplishments.

If you don’t value yourself as you are now, then whatever form of self improvement you undertake in the future you’ll inevitably miss the mark. You won’t find long term fulfillment by striving to be perfect and never making mistakes. You can though discover a deep sense of satisfaction by striving day by day to fulfill your infinite potential.

In the process, you’ll find it paradoxically reassuring to know you’ll never achieve your goal!

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.

Mushin – A concept of innocent simplicity

1. Introduction

There is a lot still going on here, but at this point it seems that barring something unexpected in regard to the nuclear reactors, we should be safe in Tokyo.
Still though, there has been aftershocks every day, and the ones that occur in the middle of the night, are the most unsettling. Oh well… It offers me a good opportunity to practice Seishindo!

I would like to once again offer everyone the Seishindo coaching tool
“Eight Essential Questions- Focus on the Life You Desire”. More than 400 of you have downloaded it since last month, with many people already writing back saying the document has been very helpful.

All too often in our lives, we speak, without really hearing and feeling what we are saying. The Eight Essential Questions” are meant to reconnect your words to your feelings, so you can begin to live with greater clarity and purpose.

If you would like the Questions document, please contact me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Mushin- A concept of innocent simplicity

From time to time I get to meet exceptional teachers in Japan. Often what happens is I go to visit a friend and it turns out that one of the other guests is a highly regarded sensei.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a man that works as an architect. Here is what Okamoto sensei had to say about his work.

“Charlie-san, our host said you have an interest in architecture. She suggested I tell you about the concepts that influence my work, and thus I’ve taken some time to think about this topic. In Japanese culture, and particularly in Japanese architecture mushin is an important concept to understand. In relationship to my work, the two ideas I hold in regard to the meaning of mushin are “innocence” and “free from obstructive thinking”. I strive to make all my work as simple as possible, without any visual, emotional, or physical obstructions.

What I’ve found over the years is, the simpler you make something, the more obvious the obstructions in your thinking appear. Rather than being bothered or constrained by the relationship between simplicity and obstruction, I find it very energizing. In the early stages of each new design, I look forward to discovering the weakness in my thinking. This leads me to understand I sometimes try to hide my weaknesses by obscuring them with complexity. The more simple the design, the less there is to hide behind. I must say that each time I discover this I am humbled. It’s only by being willing to own up to my many personal flaws, that I can little by little do away with the flaws in my designs.

In both my personal and professional life, I attempt to discard all extraneous actions and thought. I strive to be economical, ecological, and graceful, and follow a path of least resistance and optimal effect. I’ve found that I am most likely to embody this way of being prior to reflecting on what I’m doing. At such times, which still only happen rarely for me, I’m in a state of open focus relaxation, and my thoughts and actions occur simultaneously. Nothing comes between my thoughts and my actions, and neither is anything left over, or left undone. When I’m able to embody such a state I feel better both physically and emotionally, and I consider my work to be a reflection of my soul.

Sensei paused to make certain he still had my attention. “If you don’t mind,” he said, “let me please say one more thing, at the risk of filling the space with too many words.

Tao de Ching, the classic Chinese text of wisdom says the following,

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.


If you’ve ever been in a traditional Japanese room or Zen temple you’ll see that these spaces are filled with the same emptiness as described in the quote I’ve just read. Space is filled with “nothing”, as a way to allow for the infinite potential a room encompasses. This is an important part of the Japanese design aesthetic. The experience of “emptiness” is an invitation to empty one’s thinking mind, so that a new, innocent reality might appear.”

3. Seishindo Offer

If you would like to return to a simpler way of living, engaging in some coaching sessions might be just the thing to get you started in the right direction.

Beyond the “Eight Essential Questions” I will give you a series of mp3s that will help you regain your emotional balance, and reduce the stress you’ve been feeling.

Just email me at charlie@seishindo.org and we can engage in a “chemistry check” conversation to see if you would like to explore further.

Charlie

The more you resist, the more you restrict… what is possible

1. Introduction

Today’s newsletter is a rewrite of an article I published several years ago. In looking through my archives to draw inspiration I found the following to still hold great interest for me.

••••

There are two sides to every coin.
The opposite of something you believe to be true, can also be true,
And from time to time I find it important to remember this.
Niels Bohr said, “The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.”

Today’s article is titled “The more you resist, the more you restrict what is possible.” I think there’s some important wisdom in this statement.
And yet someone might write back to me saying “I find what you wrote to be importantly incorrect. If I had not resisted the drugs my friends were offering me, I would have severely restricted what I am capable of doing and being.”

In such a case I would likely write back and say, “Yes, you are correct. Often, the opposite of what appears to be true, is also true, and thus I invite you to consider the possibility of a larger truth, a larger context. Context determines meaning.“

Today’s article is a compilation of notes that were written up on flip charts during a Seishindo workshop. Each workshop, no matter what the content, is rather improvisational in nature. The reason for this is that I attempt to draw out the wisdom that’s inherent in each group. I follow this process because I’m very much aware that “I” am not the only one in the group who has something important to share, something of value to teach. The wisdom residing in the group is much fuller, much wiser, than the wisdom residing only in Charlie.

What’s written below are not “my” words, but rather, the collective wisdom of the people attending the workshop.

Charlie

2. The more you resist, the more you restrict… what is possible

It’s your emotional state that tells you whether or not you’re resisting what’s taking place in and around you.
When you’re upset, you’re resisting what is,
Because it doesn’t match what you want.
The more you resist, the more you restrict…
What is possible.

••••

Before focusing on what you want out of life, you’ll do well to focus on what you’re gladly willing to give,
In advance.

Give first,
To prime the pump of receiving.
When you empty yourself by giving,
You wind up with the capacity to receive much more.

All of life involves give and take,
Like inhaling and exhaling.
When you give you also take, when you take you also give.

In order to receive what you truly want and need,
In order to set the stage to fully receive,
You must first let go of what you currently don’t have.

••••

What you’re experiencing and feeling right now, is the residual effect of your past beliefs and thinking.
In order to have a new experience and feel differently, you’ll need to change what you’re thinking about, and what you believe to be true.

••••

The difference between your hopes and your fears, is what determines who you become.
It’s through focusing on what you want and don’t want, that you become who you are.

••••

You can continue to focus on the hardships you’ve encountered, the bad treatment you’ve received,
Wanting to right the wrong,

Or instead,
You can begin to focus on what you truly want.
The choice is yours.

Retribution and self fulfillment,
Are rarely served on the same plate.

••••

Quiet your thinking mind and your soul will move you towards what you truly want and need.
If you want more than you already have,
Focus first on being thankful,
For what you already have.

The more you’re able to appreciate what you do have, without trying to hold on to what you have,
The more you’ll have to share with others,
And the more goodness you’ll attract.

The better able you are to softly focus on what you do want,
What you don’t want will tend to dissolve.

Whatever you desire over the course of time,
Be it having or not having,
Be it doing away with or receiving,
You’ll wind up strengthening and materializing.

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you’ll wind up being correct!”

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!

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.

Pre-verbal Knowing- Your intuition

As we move from a pre-verbal somatic experience in very early childhood to a verbal rational experience as we grow older, we often tend to disassociate from our earlier and more intuitive form of “pre-verbal knowing”. As we grow up in an industrialized world, we get taught to disconnect from the animal/intuitive/somatic world as well as the world of nature, and in the process our bodies, feelings, and connections to self and other suffer immeasurably.

When you experience something directly, then you can sense there is a way of knowing that precedes language and cognition. Usually, this form of “knowing” cannot be fully articulated, understood, or sensed, by the cognitive self, but is “valid” nonetheless. This pre-verbal somatic knowing is what we strive to learn more about in the study of Seishindo.

One of the main ideas in Seishindo is to melt the thinking mind, so that one can reenter into a relationship with the pre-verbal somatic part of our self, which is indeed intelligent. The purpose of our study in Seishindo is not to change a behavior or to change one’s self via one’s practice, but rather to come to a deeper understanding of one’s true self. The “truth” of what you want to understand is found in the realization of who you truly are. This is a knowledge that comes prior to the need for verbal language. This is a knowledge that comes prior to the need to think.

The world is much too complex and fertile to be fully understood and adapted to by use of the rational mind alone. The more time you spend focusing on trying to find the “correct” answer or method, the less open you will be to sensing the wisdom of your pre-verbal somatic self. When you don’t know the answer, focus on the fact that currently indeed you do not know, and rest easy with this knowledge, rather than attempting to grasp a solution. Give your thinking mind a rest, so that the intuitive somatic mind can come to the forefront and more fully assist you in the creation of solutions. When the somatic mind is used more fully, our fundamental perception of self and the world changes, and our awareness and our ability to be solution oriented increases. When we enter into such a state, the intelligence of the entire system will create the changes that are necessary for our health and well being, as well as for our business success. Easier said than done perhaps, but well worth the effort.

In reading about world renowned stock traders, venture capital business people and futurists, I have found that they consistently make the same basic statement in regard to how they work: “With a good deal of background and experience one can predict long term trends of the future, but it is impossible to predict what will occur tomorrow. When it is all said and done, there is way too much information to sort through prior to making a decision, and much of the information that you do receive is contradictory in nature. In the long run you are only left with your intuitive sense of what to do and not do. Correct action or theory is not based on an absolute. My decisions come from a hunch. An intuitive sense of what has been, what is, and what will be.” This intuitive pre-verbal form of knowing is what we will be exploring in the articles available on this site. Which is not to suggest that we will help you to better play the stock market!

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.

Tapping Into Dual Sources of Intelligence – Part 3 of 3

Cognition, Soma, Mind, and Emotions, are One Complete and Indivisible Unit

“Bill” comes to me concerning problems he is having in his marriage, and as a secondary issue he reports that he is suffering from dangerously high blood pressure. I notice as he sits facing me and begins to talk about his work, that he begins to rock ever so slightly forward and backward, that he is slouching just a bit, with his head ever so much tilted to his right. I also notice that he tends to hold his breath when he pauses, and his face gets red at these times in particular. After a few minutes I distract Bill by asking him about his recent fishing trip to Russia. He really enjoys telling me a few fishing tales, and I notice that as he tells me these stories his posture straightens up ever so much, he is now moving his trunk in a barely perceptible, gentle, right to left rocking motion, as he now tilts his head slightly to his left, and breathes deeply each time he pauses to regale me with another story. Having noticed all of this I ask Bill if we can get back to his original issue while I stand behind him and place my hands gently on his head and neck. Bill is familiar with my work and he is thus comfortable with this form of interaction. (Otherwise, gaining much more rapport and further explanation would be necessary before I would offer to engage in helping him with “hands on” work.)

Thus far, Bill has no idea about what I have noticed concerning his rocking movements and posture, because in this instance I do not want him to try and consciously change what he is doing. Bill is a perfectionist and I don’t want his need for “perfection” to get in the way of his somatic intelligence. I am hoping to help him bypass his usual habit patterns as a first step toward learning something new.

As Bill begins to again tell me of his business difficulties, he again unconsciously moves his trunk forward and backward, and he starts to slouch again. I gently guide him with my hands, without words or any other form of logical explanation as to what I am doing or what I want him to do. I subtly suggest with my hands that he very gently change his posture, and without any verbal form of acknowledgement, he does so. I let his change in posture stabilize and then I begin to suggest with my hands that he move his trunk ever so much from right to left (the way that he tends to move when he is enjoying himself) instead of from front to back (the way he tends to move when he feels stuck.). Most of all of this time Bill continues to talk. Next, my hands suggest that he tilt his head ever so much to his right like he does when he talks about fishing. Now he finds himself discussing his problem while sitting and moving in a way that is quite different from his usual way of eliciting his problem. In working together with Bill, his cognitive self begins with a focus on his problem state, while I help his somatic self to begin to elicit a state of well being. In this way, his somatic intelligence becomes a context for dissolving fixed problems and allowing new solutions to arise. His body leads his brain, which changes his mind, and thus his emotional reaction. Indeed, after a short while Bill states that somehow the problems in “our” marriage don’t seem to be quite as insolvable as before. (He unconsciously switches from “my” problems to the “our” problems of he and his wife) He says, “Funny as it might seem, I am already beginning to imagine some potential solutions.” As he starts to generate some initial solutions his head becomes more balanced over his torso and he is definitely breathing more fully than before. At some point I take my hands off of him and come around to sit in front of him while he continues to think and talk in a solution oriented manner. Now I begin to use various Self-relations processes to assist him in melding his “new” somatic experience with the cognitive understanding that will help him to actually go out and utilize what he has learned. He comes back for a follow-up session in a week’s time, and reports that he and his wife have definitely been doing somewhat better, and he feels like there is definitely hope for a better future. I work with him some more in the same manner as I did last time, but this time filling him in some on what is taking place. Towards the end of the session I teach him two relaxation exercises and send him home to practice. Ten days later I get an email from him which says “Went to the doctor and my blood pressure was down for the first time in six months! Wouldn’t you know it, getting along better with my wife and lowering my blood pressure were bound to go hand in hand.”

In Seishindo we believe that changing the condition, usage, and awareness, of the body helps shift emotions, cognition, and behavior, and brings the entire self into a state of greater balance and well-being. We don’t so much try to get our clients to maintain a somatic-emotional balanced state, as we teach them how to get back to this state when they find that they have strayed and are suffering dis-ease.

In Seishindo we usually don’t create a sharp differentiation between problems of the body/health issues, and problems of the psyche/psychological issues. Indeed we find that often when clients come with psychological issues, the first positive changes they notice is in the condition of their overall health and body usage. The same is true “in reverse.” Clients come suffering from the pain of a car accident or a lingering sports injury, and they might likely report feeling happier and more at ease in life in general, a week or two prior to noticing any physical improvement. Cognitive intelligence, somatic intelligence, mind, and emotions are all woven together into one indivisible and highly creative whole. For educational purposes we can talk about body and brain, intellect and emotions, or conscious and unconscious mind, as if they were separate, but in the living of our life it is just this sense of separateness, that is a sure sign of a living system out of balance.

Learning and adapting with a dual perspective

Self-relations suggests that people tend to identify with one of two basic perspectives when perceiving and understanding life- their somatic self/mind or their cognitive self/mind.

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 language, used in both intrapersonal (internal dialogue) and interpersonal conversations.

The somatic self, on the other hand, is associated with embodied knowing, poetry, 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 language of the somatic self is based on a “felt sense” of the present moment, emotional states, bodily reactions, and the relational connections to all we come in contact with. The somatic self communicates its experience nonverbally yet systematically.

In Self-relations terms, we are advised to tune into “the tender soft spot in the belly” in order to integrate the somatic and cognitive selves. The somatic self’s ability to sense what is taking place, along with the cognitive self’s ability to negotiate among various distinctions, words, strategies, and abstractions allows for the evolution of a mature “relational self.” 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 premises of Seishindo

Recognizing the importance of a relational self, Seishindo is based on the following premises.

1) A supportive environment in which one is accepted, protected and respected will greatly increase one’s ability to learn, adapt, and change.

2) Each person has an innate ability to recognize and create their own personal state of somatic-emotional well-being.

3) To a large extent our feeling of somatic-emotional well-being is determined by our overall sense of balance/imbalance throughout the entire system known as “me” and extending out to include all that we come in contact with.

4) A state of dynamic relaxation in which we combine relaxation with movement and a lively sense of awareness is a crucial element in supporting learning. When we are dynamically relaxed we feel alert and fully alive, and ready for something “good” to happen. We do just enough and nothing more or less, to perform in a graceful, efficient manner without inducing excess effort or tension.

5) Every living system is a communication network that has the instinctive ability to successfully self-organize, that is, to organize one’s “self” and the local environment in order to survive and thrive . Effective self-organization promotes a sense of somatic-emotional well-being and leads to successful relational engagement in the world.. When our physiology is balanced and relaxed and our overall mental and emotional state is healthy, we establish an optimum network for information flow. One of the best ways to stimulate self-organization is to bring a system into a temporary state of imbalance, and then support and allow the system to instinctively rebalance itself. “Imbalance and supportive rebalancing” could for instance involve going to a specialized retreat center for a week in order to work on giving up smoking. The cessation of smoking will likely initially lead to a sense of imbalance. The supportive atmosphere and counseling available at the center could then help to lead towards a healthy rebalancing of ones behavior and feelings.

6) The ability to adapt and change is part and parcel of the act of self-organization. An individual who is dynamically relaxed and continually reorganizing has the greatest likelihood of adapting and changing. The ability to adapt is the reward for learning.

7) A diverse system has many different elements. Diversity is ever present in the non-equilibrium biosphere that we live in; without it, a system cannot sustain itself. 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. A system adept at managing diversity is open to learning from new information and distilling solutions from multiple realities.

8) Human beings are made up of diverse yet interrelated and interdependent parts. Our ability to embrace, comprehend, utilize, and unify the different elements of a given situation leads to high quality solutions and adaptation. The concepts of “right” or “wrong” are less important than the correlation and complementarity of divergent sources of information. For instance, living in a bi-cultural family unit will necessitate that we embrace, comprehend, utilize, and unify various beliefs relating to religion, ethical behavior, and cultural norms. In the process of creating a supportive and loving family unit we wind up developing a “new” culture that is a rich synthesis of the cultural background of both parents. 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.
9) Well intentioned attempts to create change in our lives often only tend to further amplify what is perceived to be problematic. High quality learning and adaptation usually requires an paradigm shift in the way we think and react to the world. For instance, the behavior of an adolescent boy who is deemed to be irresponsible will often further deteriorate when the child is faced with ever more stringent demands from his parents. As a parent, understanding how we can better support the child to develop as a responsible adult, will open up many new possibilities for changed behavior that do not seem possible in an authoritarian relationship.

10) Most of our behaviors and thought processes are habitual in nature. Whatever is habitual tends to feel natural, and what is natural often feels unnatural. Lasting change and learning often requires that we change deep seated habits.

An alternative model of psychotherapy

Somatic psychotherapy attempts to influence clients at their somatic level of experience. They are asked to lead with their body and follow with their rational mind.

Since Somatic Based Therapy assumes that much of what we understand cognitively derives from our verbal interpretation of our somatic language, we tend to look first at the body in order to understand the psyche. We begin with both the client and the practitioner getting a felt sense of the communication of the body. Then we look to enlist the help of the client’s unconsciously generated somatic intelligence, to bring about meaningful change. This change is wrought by the clients 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 then I create a deeper conversation using the various processes of Self-relations Therapy to integrate our dual intelligence into an experience of the relational self.

I hope that what I have explained in these few pages leads you to experiment more with somatic based forms of therapy and have a greater appreciation for your somatic intelligence. Please keep the following in mind. First, I have offered a simple explanation of phenomenon that took me years to understand and are actually quite subtle in nature. Learning how to help people change their unconsciously generated movements and posture usually takes quite a bit of training. If you don’t do it just right, people feel like you are simply pushing them around. Second, each person manifests their movements in their own particular and unique manner. Some people tend to move in various oval shapes, and others weave a bit of a figure eight. Some people are very stiff in their neck but move their trunk a good deal. Other people are fairly rigid in their trunk and move their head and neck quite freely. Still others move in a richly varied combination of ways that defy description. Third, changing your posture and the way you move and breathe has a marked effect on your emotional state, and your psyche, but just as importantly, all of these changes will help to facilitate one’s relationships with others, and an overall sense of belonging in the world. The guiding principle in this work is that we already possess or have access to all that we need in order to live a “successful” heartfelt life. When we respectfully approach our clients and experience their true magnificence we can enter into a relational loop that will help the both of us to realize that we have the potential to live life more fully than we usually realize.

Part 1
Part 2

From: Walking In Two Worlds: The Relational Self In Theory, Practice, And Community

Tapping Into Dual Sources of Intelligence – Part 2 of 3

This article, is an explanation of the principles of the discipline Seishindo, and can also be an aid in further understanding Self-relations Therapy, as developed my Stephen Gilligan. Along the way, what you read might give you some additional insight into how you think about and react to the world.

The Body-The Somatic Self

When working with a client who was an athlete that regularly suffered stress injuries during her training I asked her to “Let your body move some as it feels some of its injuries…….As you move, let your body recall exactly how it has been injured at various times……And then at some point, freeze your body…Sit still…And tell us what your body wants to say in regard to all of the injuries it has received.” After taking a few minutes to breathe and move her body my client stopped moving and spoke these words, “You don’t understand what I am capable of and what is beyond my means. I feel like you are punishing me.” The moment the client finished uttering these words, I asked her to begin moving again, and while moving I asked her to tell us what her body was wanting to say now. This led to a very fruitful conversation about the client’s sense of self worth and how she tended to feel that she wasn’t as talented as other athletes and thus had to work harder than them. She said she was now realizing that she had to love herself with just as much determination as she used in improving her athletic performance. She said, “You can’t enjoy the win, if you can’t love and appreciate the person that did the winning.”
The above treatment session revolved around: Having the body move as it would in the situation that was being explored, and then having the body freeze as it would when injured. We somatically recreated the initial debilitating situation and then while duplicating the “freeze frame” so common to injuries and problem states, the client verbalized what they felt when in this state. From there we melted the freeze frame by once again moving, and we tapped into the wisdom of the body when it felt free to move and express. The client’s body knew what it wanted and needed and the messages it offered up to the rational mind were of great emotional importance.
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, muscular) that we receive and transmit in the course of our lives. When considered as such, we understand that the way we use our body effects our emotional state, and is influenced by past experience, and what we believe. Some of our deepest beliefs are those that we are not consciously aware of having.

The language of the somatic self

A client comes 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 body is tilted somewhat backwards, he rocks just ever so much from side to side, his head is tilted towards the left, and he talks rather quickly while breathing in a shallow manner. I wait until he has told me his story and then I gently say to him “Please change your somatic language so that you can foster greater success in your business activities.” He is willing to comply so I suggest that he does the following –

I ask him to open up his chest and round his shoulders back slightly, tilt his trunk forward ever so much, rock gently from front to back, and tilt his head towards the right. Once he has initiated all of these changes I say to him, “Please tell me what you feel in regard to your work situation now that you are embodying a different somatic conversation.” Basically what I have done is asked him to shift each component of his somatic language that he was embodying while feeling stuck, so that his body could communicate differently which in turn will help to generate a new verbal conversation, and a different set of beliefs.

As he begins to speak I have to remind him to maintain the somatic shifts that I have suggested. His initial response to my reminder is “I have trouble talking while sitting like this.” This is just what I would expect him to say, because his somatic communication as suggested by me, is no longer a match for his verbal conversation. I encourage him to proceed nonetheless so that we can learn from this experience, and he starts to talk once again while maintaining the different somatic conversation that I have suggested. As he continues to recall his past “failures” while maintaining a different physiology, his somatic shifts lead him to spontaneously shift his explanation of his work experience. He starts to talk about how his new job has given him the opportunity to learn unpleasant yet powerfully important lessens in regard to marketing, and how he is beginning to realize how many of his past marketing assumptions needed to be changed to match the conditions of the marketplace. He spontaneously begins to “reframe” and change the meaning of his work experience, and after a short while he states how he realizes that “not being right” has been tough on him, but that he actually is becoming a much better marketer than he was in the past! He is beginning to understand on a deep experiential level, that when we change our physiology we change our somatic conversation, which in turn leads us to change our “relationship to” what transpires and the “meaning” that events have for us. Reframing the meaning of our experience in this manner, usually begins outside of our conscious awareness, and it is a natural and spontaneous response to changes in our physiology and somatic language.

The language of the somatic self 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. This somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as our native tongue. 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 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 helps us to connect to the outside world, and 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, and connect to others. 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 our sensory experience are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations by your somatic self, to form the language of your somatic self. This language “spoken” by the body makes it possible to understand and direct all of the massive information exchange that it takes part in, in collaboration with the brain in our skull. This is a language of immediate experience as compared to verbal language being a communication of abstractions.

Translation and Transformation

In another instance I was working with a teenage boy who compulsively overate pizza I asked him to “Move your right hand back and forth from the table to your mouth, as if you are eating your eighth slice of pizza and move your mouth as if you are chewing….But do so a good deal faster than usual……..As you continue to move….Tell us what your body would say if it could translate your movements into words.” In a couple of minutes time my client translated his body’s movements into the following words, “I am really getting worn out by all of this activity. I need to take a rest” I said to my client, “Please continue to move for a little while longer, and then when you are ready…suddenly freeze your movements with your right hand somewhere held in space… And have your body translate its feelings into words.” He froze in midair and his “body” replied “Enough is enough. Stop eating! I feel like you are attacking me with all of this food.” As soon as these words were spoken I urged him to begin moving again, but to do whatever movements felt best to his body. After about one minute’s time I asked him to translate the movements he was having now into words. This led to a meaningful conversation in regard to the client feeling that no matter what he did in life his parents were standing there saying “Enough is not good enough. You need to do more and better!” As he took some deep breaths and continued to move he said that he was now understanding that it was important for him to live up to the needs of his body and his emotional self, even if what he needed did not match the needs of his parents.

The movements, posture, breathing patterns, tilt of one’s head and neck, and the body’s flexibility or lack of it, forms the basis of somatic language. The body knows the meaning of this language, and when it is asked to translate this language into your native tongue, the results are most often poetic or metaphorical in nature, and somewhat astounding to the cognitive mind.

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 and every time, every living mammal tends to have the same basic response. Massage your baby’s legs some as you change their diaper, and unless they are hungry, they are sure to gurgle rather than cry. Place yourself in a cold climate and your pores will tend to close up in order to retain heat. Go to the tropics and your pores will open to help facilitate an efficient heat exchange. Swallow a poison, and your somatic intelligence will induce you to vomit. Swallow a tonic and your body will quickly absorb it. Tense your stomach muscles, round your shoulders forward, and breathe in a quick shallow manner, and your system will soon report a sense of overwhelm and fear.

Our body translates and transforms all of the communication and information it receives in the course of our lives, both from our own internal world, and the external world as well. This ability of the body to constantly carry out complex translation and transformation processes requires a highly sophisticated “somatic intelligence.” This intelligence of the body can be considered to be our “mammalian consciousness” and tuning into this consciousness brings forth our relational, intuitive, poetic, and feeling qualities. Continue–>

Part 3
Part 1

From: Walking In Two Worlds: The Relational Self In Theory, Practice, And Community

Tapping Into Dual Sources of Intelligence – Part 1 of 3

This article comes from the chapter I wrote for the book “Walking in two worlds: The Relational Self in theory, practice, and community,” edited by Stephen Gilligan and Dvorah Simon

Let me begin by piecing together for you, how my work relates to Self-relations therapy. Some twenty five years ago I began to study psychology and Ericksonian hypnosis. The practice of hypnosis and self hypnosis began to open me up to the immense possibilities of the power of one’s thinking, and the effect that one’s thinking has on one’s physical and emotional well-being.

About three years into my study of hypnosis, a friend told me about what he was learning in regard to coordinating his body with his spirit or ki, as it was taught in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. Based on his description I was hooked before even taking my first class, and in a few years time found myself living in Japan and becoming a full time Aikido student.

One of the major differences between my beginning understanding of hypnosis and that of Aikido, was that I initially thought hynposis took place in the head, and that Aikido was about learning how to use your body differently. Later on, as I got a tiny bit more sophisticated in my thinking I surmised that hypnosis took place “in the mind residing in the head” while it seemed that my Aikido sensei was saying that during Aikido the mind was meant to reside in the lower abdomen. As my Aikido studies continued my sensei explained that indeed the mind was eminent throughout the entire body, and we were told to place the center of our mind in our lower abdomen and “think” and act from there.

It was at just this point in time that I started to hear about an hypnosis teacher in America by the name of Stephen Gilligan who was using what he had learned in Aikido and his other awareness training as an adjunct to his work in therapy and hypnosis. When I first went to Stephen’s classes it was a kind of homecoming for me. I was back in America, and was studying with an American sensei, and this sensei was teaching a form of therapy that matched many of the same things that I had learned in Japan. One of the first things I learned as I began to study with Stephen was hearing him tell his students to “Place your center in your lower abdomen and feel yourself and your experience from this tender place within yourself.” This was very exciting to me as it exactly matched the Aikido concept of placing the center of one’s mind in the lower abdomen.

Understanding from Aikido how to think without needing directions from the brain in my skull and receiving that same wisdom from Stephen was fascinating for me. One of my Seishindo students recently paid me a great compliment when he said to me “Sensei, I have never met anyone that can not think, better than you!” It is true, that after studying Aikido for a while you notice that your ability to act spontaneously and gracefully is actually aided by not using your rational mind as the main source of your intelligence. And in this regard the similarities between Aikido and Stephen’s work started to become much clearer, as I now understood from his training that the power of one’s intellect is not the main source of intelligence when one is in a trance.

In Aikido we learn to sense and react without needing to rationally consider what is taking place. We occasionally used to play a game when fooling around outside of the Aikido dojo. The game involved three students and three metal cups turned upside down and sitting on a table. While the students had their backs turned the teacher placed a small treat like a piece of chocolate under one of the cups. The students would be given a signal, and they would turn around and grab for the cup that they thought had the treat underneath. Invariably certain students had a high percentage of correct guesses, while other students rarely guessed correctly. I would like to say that I gained a lot of weight from playing this game and eating all of the candy, but this is not the case. Initially I guessed incorrectly just as much as most students. It was only after a period of trial and error that I began to understand how to switch off my rational mind and rely on my intution. Little by little I began to realize that the intelligence of the body (somatic intelligence) plays an important role in our ability to relax, improvise, and react gracefully in the face of challenge. Another important point that I noticed from my practice was that the feeling I got when doing certain Aikido relaxation exercises was very similar to the way I felt when doing self hypnosis. By shifting my attention to my body (my somatic self) in Aikido, I could relax in much the same way that I could when shifting the way that I related to the thought processes of my cognitive self in self hypnosis. Many times I have heard Stephen ask, “Where is your attention now?” “Where in your body are you feeling your problem?” Answering this line of questioning necessitates that we shift our main focus of attention away from the cognitive self and towards the somatic self.

The next piece in the puzzle that relates my work to Self-relations is my study here in Japan of something known as Noguchi sei tai. In Japanese sei tai can be said to mean “correctly organized body” and “Noguchi” is the name of the teacher (sensei) that created this particular form of sei tai. Noguchi Sensei (1984)* had already passed away by the time I got to Japan, but his students taught me how to do special exercises that allowed me to use my body in a new way, and release my excess energy. Noguchi Sensei used to say that the body and a spinning top are similar: “If a top isn’t spinning, and if a body isn’t moving, you can’t realize what they are meant for and how to use them.” One of his main premises was that people tend to use unconsciously generated muscular tensing patterns to organize their body and hold onto excess energy in their system. He said that unconsciously tensing various parts of the body inhibits the body’s natural movements, and produces stress and excess tension in the system. It is this holding onto excess energy and the concurrent inhibition of movement that causes illness and less than full health in general. It was his premise that the more serious a person’s health condition, the more they were holding onto excess energy. When you release excess physical tension, you discover that your unconsciously generated body movements change, along with your thoughts and your emotional state. Noguchi sensei said that physical tension and emotional tension are realized as two sides of the same coin. This is something that Stephen also teaches in Self-relations.

A second premise of Noguchi sei tai, as I understand it, is that you need to find a way to encourage and allow the unconscious organization patterns of your body to release with a minimum of direction from your conscious mind. In almost all instances attempting to consciously and willfully change one’s posture and physical holding patterns rarely gets the results that one would desire. The simple reason for this being that conscious thought processes usually involve unconsciously tensing one’s body, such that we freeze rather than free up the nervous system and muscles, to act. In Self-relations terms we would say that the mind that creates a problem is not the mind to use when looking to change one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. The use of the conscious mind as one’s main source of intelligence is often not enough to get the desired results.

Noguchi sensei developed special exercises to help accomplish the unconsciously generated release of excess energy by entering into a state of spontaneous movement. When practicing these exercises I soon noticed that my experience was similar to what I achieved with my Aikido and self-hypnosis practice. By this point in time I was beginning to have a first hand experience of the two centers of control that each person has: One located in the head (the cognitive self) and the other located in the abdomen (the somatic self). It soon became apparent to me that influencing one’s behavior through mental strategies produced different yet complementary experiences from influencing one’s behavior through tuning into the unconsciously generated intelligence of the body.

For example, it is commonly known that well constructed affirmations/mantras can help people to perform more effectively in life. I often suggest to clients who want to be better public speakers that they develop a mantra to the effect of “Relaxed, Confident, and Appreciating the Audience.” Such a mantra can often be quite effective, but the effect will be limited if the client fails to realize that when he does public speaking, he tends to tense his shoulders, round his posture, and breathe in a shallow manner. Superior performance is thus best facilitated by concurrently giving one’s attention to both the communication of the cognitive self in the form of a mantra, and the communication emanating from the somatic self, in the form of posture, movement, and breath. Listening to both “selves” simultaneously gives us the highest quality results. Repeating one’s mantra while concurrently feeling into, relaxing, and expanding, one’s physiology.

In my work with individual clients I began to experiment with having them enter into a relaxed state of awareness by teaching them how to tune into their breathing, posture, and unconsciously generated body movements. I would have them sit on the front half of their chair, take several deep breaths, and then begin to softly and gently adjust their posture, by letting their body move in whatever way it wanted to. I would say something like the following: “Jim, I am talking to you now, and I would like to ask Jim to not move his body….. Instead, I would like to ask your body to move itself, in whatever way it would like to, whenever it is ready to do so, and without the well intentioned advice of Jim.” In the course of this work I soon began to see that when people become actively aware of their body without attempting to consciously change or direct what they are doing, that indeed the body will begin to shift itself, without the need of conscious intervention. The body knows what the body needs. This led me to understand that when wanting to enter into a state of altered consciousness, being sensitive to and subtly influencing the communication of the body was just as important as being sensitive to and subtly influencing the verbal communication that emanated from the brain in one’s skull.

Although my individual practice and my work with clients was progressing well, I still didn’t quite have a complete model for understanding how to coordinate and work with each person’s dual intelligence – somatic and cognitive. I was beginning to realize that the piece I was still missing was finding a way to facilitate better communication between the rational mind and the body. It is Stephen’s work in what is now called Self-relations therapy that helped me to finally synthesize a model of working with people that melds the intelligence of the cognitive self and the somatic self (our dual intelligence) into a single experience of what is called in SR “the relational self.” When we experience ourselves as the relationship between our cognitive self and our somatic self, and join this relationship to our interaction with the outside world, we are able to better generate a sense of health and well-being.

S e i s h i n d o

What follows, is an explanation of the principles of the discipline I have developed, called Seishindo. What I present can be an aid in further understanding SR, and can also perhaps give you some additional insight into how you think about and react to the world. Continue–>

Notes
* “Order, Spontaneity and The Body” by Haruchika Noguchi;
Zensei Publishing Company, Tokyo, Japan.

Part 2
Part 3
From: Walking In Two Worlds: The Relational Self In Theory, Practice, And Community

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.

Somatic-Emotional State: Feeling, without the need to think

Your somatic-emotional state at any given moment in time (the feelings you have prior to thinking about what you are feeling) is made up to a large extent, of a specific habitual recipe of biochemical and neuromuscular activities that you tend to perform without conscious awareness. Bringing awareness to and regaining a natural relaxed control over the activity of your entire system affords you the ability to positively affect your emotions, and your overall health and sense of well being – your somatic-emotional state. Your psychological state on the other hand is usually deemed to be mainly dependent on what takes place inside your head.

Many of us, over the course of time, lose the ability to fully communicate with our body, and we lose the ability to be fully aware of the communication of the body. It is the communication patterns of the body that lead to our emotional state, and our verbal communication patterns. When you limit your ability to communicate somatically and be aware of your somatic conversation, you also limit your ability to feel your emotions, communicate verbally, and be aware of your verbal conversation. Of course your overall state of health and well-being will be affected as well.

The greater your ability to be aware of and embody a full potential range of somatic communication, the greater your ability to communicate verbally and “understand” what you are feeling.

One of many possible ways to think about how we experience life is the following:

Body + Language= Emotional Experience

What we mean here is: The overall condition, usage, and awareness of one’s body, plus the way in which one uses language to describe one’s experience, go together to make up one’s CURRENT emotional experience of self, another person, and or an event.

1. Change the condition, usage, and awareness of your body and you will change the way in which you use language to describe what has or is transpiring, which in turn will change your overall emotional experience of the issue being considered. The six somatic “avenues” that we find most accessible in changing the condition, use, and awareness of the body are, a) Posture, b) Balance and carriage of the neck and head, c) Movement and Flexibility. (This includes muscular holding patterns and micro-muscular rocking movements), d) Breath, e) Facial Expressions, f) Eye movements that occur when thinking about what you want to say, and what you feel. These variables will be of primary importance in determining A) One’s emotional experience. B) The language used to explain one’s experience, and C) One’s ability to be solution oriented. Each person systematically and habitually, orchestrates these variables depending on how they perceive the events and relationships they are dealing with. Making the “correct” changes to these variables will alter the way one perceives what is taking place, and the changes or solutions one believes they are capable of making.

2. Change the way in which you describe your experience, and you will affect and change the condition of your body, which in turn will change your overall emotional experience. We can describe events differently simply by changing the speed, rhythm, tone, volume, and pauses used in our description.

3. Changing one’s emotional experience, will affect and change the condition of one’s body, which in turn will affect and change the language one uses to describe one’s experience. Emotion consists of language AND body – a system that is coherent at a deeper level. When the emotional state changes there is a concurrent change in the body, and in the use of language (including one’s thought processes). If the way we use our body changes and there is no shift in our language usage/thinking, then the bodily changes we experience have not reached our emotions. In such cases long term change is unlikely. If our language usage/thinking changes and there is no matching bodily shift, then our new “ideas” are not having an emotional impact on us. Once again, in such an instance long term change is unlikely. When the emotions truly change, you will notice a change in the body AND in language.

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.

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.

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 tyranny of “What if…?”

What you worry about determines the course of your life. Free yourself from the tyranny of your negative “What if…” scenarios, and you will discover that you have both everything to lose, and everything to gain!

A number of years ago I had a client who came to me in a really bad stressed out condition. He came for one session, and then the next thing I knew I was told he had had a nervous breakdown. When I visited him in the hospital, I was quite surprised to see that his face had a certain radiance to it. I asked how he was doing, half expecting to hear a litany of bad news. Instead, the man smiled and said the following. “I feel very lucky right now. Very blessed. I have let go of nearly everything I was trying to hold onto and I finally became aware of the mantra that I had been repeating to myself over and over again.”

“What happened to me was so surreal.” he said. “I was sitting in an unemployment office and I was feeling more and more agitated. Then all of a sudden I passed out. Or at least they told me I passed out because I don’t remember that part. What I do remember is waking up in this bed, and for the first time in my life, there was this deafening quiet inside my head, and a great calmness in my body that touched my soul. For the first time in my life, for at least a few minutes time I had no internal dialogue. This was a very amazing experience.”

“You see,” he said, “When I first came to see you I was afraid of losing my job, my wife, and my house. I was relentlessly repeating various ‘What if” mantras. What if I lose my job?’ ‘What if I lose my wife?’.As it turned out I did lose my job. And upon getting fired, because my finances were already totally frazzled, I soon had to hand over ownership of my house to the bank. And upon learning about the foreclosure on our house my wife immediately left me. And now I feel like a bright and energetic fourteen year old starting all over again! I have new dreams, new ways of thinking, a whole new life ahead of me now, and perhaps most importantly I have a new mantra.”

“My only sadness is that I wish I would have had my nervous breakdown much earlier in life, so I could have much sooner gotten into living from a place of enthusiasm rather than a place of fear. I just didn’t realize how fantastic a nervous breakdown could be! I have lost everything, but in the process I have gained a completely new way of being in the world. It is such a joy to know that I no longer need to live in fear.”

In the process of finally being released from the tyranny of “What if” this man attained great wisdom and peace of mind. After chatting a bit longer I finally got ready to leave. My ex-client said “One more thing if you don’t mind me suggesting it. When a client comes to you stressed out and fearful, tell him to take a moment, and take a deep breath. Then suggest that the best thing he can do is to have his nervous breakdown right then and there. Invite him to have his breakdown on the spot, so that he can get back into living a full life again, free from stress and fear! Believe me, the sooner you can completely let go, the better. In math, ten minus ten equals zero. In life, if you take everything that you have and minus all of it, you wind up with much more than you ever dreamed of!”

Have you been lucky in life?

Each moment in life, “lucky” or “unlucky”, is to be savored, learned from, and appreciated. Easier said than done? Read this story and it will likely give you a new perspective on your own luck.

I met an exceptional American man in Athens in my younger years. He had a beautiful and gentle French girlfriend, and everyone was always complimenting him and telling him how “lucky” he was. His usual reply was something to the effect of “Lucky or unlucky is hard for me to say, as this is only one small moment in my whole life. But I will tell you this, at this moment, I am very definitely enjoying myself and feeling thankful.”

Shortly after meeting him he was thrown in jail in Greece, which in those days was run by a brutal military dictator. All his friends sat around in Athens talking about how “unlucky” he was, since the police threw him in jail with no real evidence. When I visited him and told him his friends felt terrible about his bad luck he smiled warmly and said, “Lucky or unlucky is hard for me to say. But I am sure I will have a great story to tell some day! And for this I am thankful.”

After several years in jail he was released, and he returned to the States. He was traveling along the coast roads of California, when he met a lovely woman in a roadside cafe, and began to flirt with her. Unbeknownst to my friend, the woman had a boyfriend who belonged to a gang, and the boyfriend soon appeared with his buddies and became furious. In order to “teach my friend a lesson” they proceeded to throw him off the side of the road, and down the rocky expanse leading to the ocean some one hundred feet below. They left him for dead.

Some hours later a rescue crew arrived and made their way down the cliff and they were amazed to find that my friend was still alive. As they slowly hoisted him back up to the roadside, numerous bystanders remarked at how amazingly lucky he was to not have been killed. If my friend had not been unconscious at that time it is likely that he would have said something to the effect of “Lucky or unlucky is hard for me to say, but I can tell you that I hurt like hell!”

In a few days time when he had regained consciousness he discovered that he was paralyzed from the waist down. I called him to see how he was doing. He said to me “What would you say Charlie? Lucky to be alive or unlucky to be paralyzed from the waist down.” I had no ready answer.

Many months later we met in person again. By this time he had already customized his wheelchair to make it more “radical” and he was sporting a buffed out physique from his many hours of weight lifting. He said to me “Previously when people remarked about my life, it was very easy for me to say that I felt neither lucky or unlucky. Now I know very deeply that each moment, lucky or unlucky, is to be savored. If I label my circumstances as ‘lucky’ what will this mean? Will it mean that I am happy about what has happened? If I label my circumstances as ‘unlucky’ what will this mean? Will it mean that I am unhappy about what has happened? And what about tomorrow, and the day after that, and the year after that? Will I let ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ determine how I feel about myself and how I live my life? I certainly hope not!” He smiled warmly as always, and I was thankful to be in his presence.

Learning From Life

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Life has taught me some tough lessons, and the scars do not heal easily.”? What I would like to suggest in this article is that you can learn valuable lessons from the past, rather than allowing the past to limit your future.

The quality of the life we live, is based upon the learning we derive from our experiences. I know that for myself, it is sometimes easy to feel that “Life has taught me some tough lessons, and the scars do not heal easily.” When I find myself thinking like this it means that I have fallen into the trap of believing that “It is ‘only natural’ that an ‘X’ type event or relationship, will lead to a ‘Y’ type response.” At other times it becomes apparent that if I had somehow learned something different from a particular challenging situation, the quality of my life would be much more rewarding.

In working with a client struggling with alcoholism, we spent our first session with the client telling me in detail how he had come to live such an unhealthy debilitating life. In short he said: “Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me. I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next. I learned from my parents that the best way to not have to feel the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria.” When listening to a client tell such a sad story, it is easy to believe that their situation was all but preordained.

As fate would have it, a week after beginning to work with this client, I went to a business luncheon to hear an inspirational speaker discuss how we can live our life fully, and succeed in times of hardship. Indeed, the speaker was truly inspirational. When the talk was over I waited around to thank him.

After introducing myself and thanking him, I asked him how he had come to lead such an exemplary life. He looked around to make sure no one else was listening and in a low voice he said the following: “Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me.I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next. I learned from my parents that the worst possible way to deal with the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria. My parents taught me a difficult but very important lesson. I learned from them that staying present in the moment is the only real chance we have for living a fulfilling life.”

What a truly great example of embodied spirit the motivational speaker offers us. 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. Perhaps the greatest example of this wisdom is present in the life of Nelson Mandela. He is a man that suffered great pain and hardship, and somehow his suffering seasoned his soul in a way that has led him to be compassionate and caring.

In the course of exploring how to live our life more fully we can consider pondering one question over and over again, “What can I learn from the difficulties I am experiencing, that will actually ADD to the quality of my life?” At the very least we can begin to entertain the fact that: We can derive a wide range of learning from any single circumstance, event, or relationship. When we get the most stuck in life is when we believe that the one thing we did learn is the only thing that can be learned.

An Unexpected Gift

By William Spencer.

Last summer, as a 50th birthday gift to myself, I decided to retrace the first part of a bicycle journey I made 28 years ago. That original journey had taken me overland from England through Europe and the Middle East to India. I’ve often contemplated the life-changing experiences from that time, and how the journey redefined me in my own eyes. With a wife, two children, work commitments and six extra inches on my waistline, I wasn’t at all sure what awaited me on this reprise.

Recognizing how important this was for me, my family gave me their blessings. So, in September I found myself in the glorious Loire valley in France. Having only a record of the cities I had passed through, I could not be sure that I would find the same roads I had traveled before, but wanted to try. In the old city of Blois I rented a bicycle, with an arrangement to return it in two weeks to a bike shop in Toulouse, south of France.

France was even more beautiful than I remembered. In the last decade, a passion had seized the nation for planting flowers most everywhere. My way was punctuated with bursts of fuschia, pink and crimson in gardens, village squares and in baskets hanging from lampposts. I cycled along narrow country roads with few cars. The skies became bluer the further south I traveled. As I approached Cognac, I wondered if I should visit the Vignaults. I had stayed with them for two nights those many years ago, on their small farm where they kept a few goats and grew Folle Blanche grapes for cognac. I remember their unquestioning hospitality, boisterous evening meals around a huge table filled with people and a parting gift of illicit triple-distilled cognac. Still, I didn’t know whether they would remember me. Perhaps they were no longer alive. Perhaps they had moved. A lot happens over such a span of time. Although I felt uncertain about arriving unannounced, I decided to visit.

Come with me now. The village of La Brousse has no more than 15 homes, yet as I cycle back and forth along the two streets, I can’t for the life of me remember their house. The village appears deserted, but I find an old woman in her garden. In my halting French, I ask for Monsieur Vignault. As I approach the house, shutters of peeling ochre-colored paint are the only detail that causes a vague tug of familiarity in my memory. I cycle into the small courtyard formed by house and barns. A large-framed old man sits shelling peas on a stone step outside the front door with a bowl between his knees. I ask for Monsieur Vignault. “Je suis Monsieur Vignault,” he responds in a quiet, neutral manner with that wisdom to conserve energy only the elderly seem to have.

He does not recognize me. I explain that I stayed with him almost 30 years ago. He is silent a moment, looking intently into my eyes. Then, with a gentle smile he reminds me of something I had forgotten: Brian, my traveling companion had left behind his tent and M. Vignault mailed it back to England. I laugh out loud at the humor of the moment, me expecting him to have forgotten, yet he remembering more than I. We talk a while, then his son arrives with wife and two beautiful young daughters. I remember Marcel as a gangly 14 year-old zipping about on one of those flimsy French mopeds. He is portly now, and seems to struggle as much as me to remember the past. His mother has arrived with them. She is a small sparrow of a woman, yet at 89 her mind is as sharp as a tack. She adds to her husband’s memories further detail of my stay. They invite me to stay for the evening meal.

The kitchen in which we sit is that of an old couple; outdated furniture and utensils, and griminess not seen with failing eyesight. We talk about the years, condensing major life events into simple sentences to accommodate my French. They tell me they kept just enough vineyard to produce wine for themselves. They sold most of their land as building plots for holiday homes for the British and Dutch retirees who are moving to France en masse. M. Vignault explains that his 30-acre vineyard, which took three days to harvest by hand, can now be harvested in three hours. The new machines pick the grapes by an ingenious combination of high-pressure air and mechanized clippers. “Much has changed,” he observes with a shrug of resignation.

After agreeing I won’t wait another 28 years to return, I say farewell to the family. M. Vignault drives me in his small car to the nearby town where I’m staying. Before going to sleep, I describe the events and feelings of the day in my diary. Suddenly, as I write, I am overcome by a wave of utter, desolate sadness. Sadness at the passage of time. Sadness at how old my good-hearted hosts have become. Sadness at the passage of so many years of my own life. Sadness to find myself 50. I weep and weep, unable to continue writing. Where did all that time go? How is it possible for me to be cycling down the same roads, perhaps a third of my life gone by, yet my inner sense of self not one jot older? Why am I no longer the 23-year-old on his bicycle, headed for India? How does this happen?

The next day something inside has shifted. The wish to retrace my steps no longer holds the same interest as it did yesterday. I remember so little, anyway. And I am now a different person. I have changed and matured. Yesterday afternoon, before visiting the Vignaults, I stopped at the local tourism office. I was amazed to see a map showing that one route of The Way of Santiago de Compostella runs quite close to here. For some years this important pilgrimage route of medieval Christianity has fascinated me. And so, half way into my carefully planned journey, it literally takes a new direction. I visit the monasteries and churches along The Way of Santiago de Compostella. Sitting to meditate in places made sacred by centuries of prayer, I contemplate the passage of time and ask for self-acceptance.

Cycling and introspection go well together; there are many hours to turn things over in my mind. I feel the sorrow of the passing of certain things: the freedom to continue cycling as long as I care to, the ability to take stairs three at a time, the absence of worldly responsibility. The treasures that replace these losses are not as easy to define. Yet, like the road passing beneath me, they support my progress forward. A rich plot of earth ‘my family’ in which the flower of love blooms. A certain steadiness of mind, a sensitivity to others I once lacked.

I would like to be able to tell you that the sadness has completely resolved itself. But you already know that life doesn’t fall into place that neatly. The self-acceptance I prayed for comes in fits and starts. But it comes. Years from now perhaps I will sit on a doorstep shelling peas, and someone who long ago was a guest of ours will arrive unexpectedly. I hope I will smile gently and say, “I am Mr. Spencer.”

William Spencer

About the author:
Originally from the UK, William Spencer has lived and worked in Europe, India, the Far East and the Americas. A defining moment for William came in the 1970’s while cycling from England to India. In the northwestern wastes of Iran, where nothing grows or lives, an orange and brown butterfly spontaneously accompanied him across the desert for several days and nights. This remarkable event represents for William the wonder of grace, that unbidden support from the Divine that guides and buoys us all. William is the creator of Whole-System Learning, a system of learning design and facilitation to engage participants’ head, heart and hands. William’s hallmark and personal passion are using innovative and experiential learning methods to increase attention, retention and application of the learning.

Appreciating your exceptional learning abilities

Over the years, have you perhaps lost sight of the fact that you are a brilliant learner?
“Huh?” you might ask. “Are you talking to me?”
Here is a story to illustrate my point.

I was sitting in a restaurant talking to a Japanese boy in the first grade. I asked him how he was liking school and he quickly exclaimed that he hated school. I asked him why he hated school and he said, “Two reasons. One you have to sit still all the time, and two, there are too many things you have to remember.”

I told him I agreed that being required to sit still was really “dumb”. On the other hand I said “I think you remember much more than your teacher realizes.” This remark caught him by surprise and I felt like he didn’t know whether to agree with me or ask me if I was crazy.

Speaking in Japanese, I asked the boy if he was learning some English. He said he was, and that English was really difficult. I told him that English was actually quite easy to learn, and that most every American child can speak English prior to entering grammar school.

The boy sat quietly for a moment and then replied, “But Japanese children can speak Japanese prior to entering school!”

“Yes.” I said, “Since you have already proven how smart you are in learning Japanese, I am sure you will also do great with English.”

Once again the child was at a loss for words.

The restaurant we were at had heavy paper covering the tables and there were crayons for children to draw with while waiting for the meal to arrive. Noticing the boy had a toy replica of a “MIG” fighter aircraft with him, I picked up a crayon and drew a simple picture of the plane and said, “This is a MIG” as I drew the letters MIG. Next I drew a pig and said “This is a PIG.” as I wrote the word “pig.” Then I drew a branch and said “This is a “TWIG” as I wrote the word “twig”.

Next, I drew a very simple picture of a PIG sitting with a TWIG in its mouth, while flying a MIG, and I said, “See, the PIG is in the MIG, with a TWIG.” feeling like I was replicating Dr. Seuss.

The boy laughed, picked up a crayon, and began quickly drawing all sorts of things. Each picture that he drew, I labeled in English, and he was quite willing to repeat the English words after me. “Wow he said, if school was this much fun I wouldn’t mind going!”

How about you?
Were you forced to learn in a specific manner in school? Are you perhaps today forced to learn in a specific manner at work?
Does anyone acknowledge that you are a talented learner?

Every teacher, parent, and leader, needs to realize that each human being has their own unique way of learning and excelling. When we lose sight of this, children come to dislike school, and adults come to dislike their jobs, partly because they come to believe that something is wrong with them. What a great disservice to humankind!

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to foster school and work environments that adapted to people, rather than forcing the people to set aside their natural learning abilities!

Please take a moment and consider…
You have your own unique and high quality way of learning.
How can you better support yourself to be all that you truly are?

One person’s garbage can be another person’s good fortune

Do you ever feel somewhat depressed because your life isn’t working as you would like? Here is a wonderful story that can help you to understand that life is always presenting you with opportunities to succeed.

Horinouchi Kyuichiro is a Japanese man who went from being a complete business failure, to becoming the president of a $100 million business empire.

While still in his early thirties, Horinouchi ran his family’s business totally into the ground. Bankrupt, shattered, and ashamed, he got in his car, drove away, and deserted his family and his creditors. For months he lived on the streets amongst other homeless people, and spent many hours pondering his seemingly sad fate.

With lots of time to think, he came to realize three things:

1. He previously had no concept of what would bring him joy in life.
2. “Quality of life” was a term he hadn’t understood.
He had been obsessed with “success” and he thought that with enough money to spend, the quality of his life could be purchased.
3. The more he strove for material wealth, the more he found himself to be spiritually bankrupt.

With winter fast approaching, Horinouchi was wandering about aimlessly one day and came upon a broken kerosene heater left in the garbage. Horinouchi had always enjoyed fixing things and he impulsively decided to take the broken heater back to his car and repair it. By the time evening rolled around a ration of kerosene had been bought and he and a small flock of his homeless friends basked in the warmth of the rejuvenated heater.

As Horinouchi sat there, he realized not only had he enjoyed doing the repair work, but he also very much had enjoyed giving the heater a chance at a second life. In that moment he vowed to give himself a shot at a second life as well. Little did he realize that his personal desire to start all over again, would spawn a wonderful rebirth for many others as well.

If you stay in Japan for some period of time you will be amazed at the quantity and quality of household goods that get discarded. You can easily find working TV’s, heaters, toasters, CD players, and computers. People used to believe that the Japanese would never buy such discarded goods because they would feel that they smelled strange and seemed dirty. Horinouchi proved everyone wrong!

He rekindled his entrepreneurial spirit by focusing on doing what he truly enjoyed – fixing things, and recycling goods rather than adding to Japan’s already huge mound of garbage. This time around he realized that by focusing on quality of life and job satisfaction, he would likely achieve financial stability as well. Slowly, he built up a business of collecting, repairing, and reselling merchandise that had been thrown in the garbage.

As fate would have it, Horinouchi established his recycling business at the perfect moment – just as the Japanese economy began its meltdown. As numerous businesses failed, “all of a sudden” people became quite open to saving money by buying second hand goods. With Horinouchi having made the vow to reclaim his life, it seemed like the Universe was pitching in to fully support him.

Eventually he was able to save enough to open his own store, and the rest as they say, is history. Today he has more than 200 franchised stores, with gross sales of more than $100 million a year, and a whole raft of new businesses in the early planning stages.

How about you?

Would you like to reprioritize and recycle your life, by focusing on what brings you the greatest joy?

If you stay sensitive to ALL of life’s offerings, you just might find the key to your success lays hidden in a pile of high quality “garbage”!

Can a truly happy person ever really be “unsuccessful”?

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.”

We-dentity – As compared to “I” dentity

Have there not been times in your life when you felt separate from much of the rest of the world? Many people report having felt very much like an outsider during various portions of their high school career. Developing one’s identity during puberty can be a truly excruciating experience at times. Perhaps it was the sudden onset of acne, or the fact that your folks would not allow you to get your ears pierced like ALL of your friends.

Being “different” is just not cool unless all of your friends are being different in the same way as you. In Japanese culture, many of the activities people take part in during the course of a day are designed to train people to intuitively think, feel, and act, with a “group consciousness”. Feeling like you belong to the group gives one a warm sense of what I playfully call “we-dentity”. Having you own separate way of doing things may give you a sense of independence, but it leads to a somewhat more lonely sense of being, that in the West is called “I-dentity”. Let me give you a sense of how this process of “we-dentity” is fostered in an Aikido dojo.

Everyone is meant to show up on time for class. The slippers each person wears are neatly lined up at the entrance to the dojo, just like the fresh fish that are lined up one next to the other in the local fish store. If necessary, when you enter the dojo you tidy up any of the slippers that are askew. When the slippers are all in place it means the class is ready for instruction. One of the senior students will be sure to check that everything is just right, prior to the sensei arriving.

When the sensei enters, everyone stops what they are doing and bows to the sensei while offering a greeting. All of the students are meant to bow in unison. Group action leads to group mind and a sense of fellowship.

When the sensei is ready to start the class he bows, and each student is meant to start and stop their reply bow at the same time. If the rhythm of the group is off, the sensei is likely to bow again, thus requiring the students to better attune to each other, and better attune to the sensei.

When warm-up activities begin each student moves in unison, and voice is added to further meld the group together. “One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.” Little by little the group mind starts to coalesce. When the voice is added, the group starts to breathe in accordance with the rhythm of the counting. People that breathe together tend to think and act alike. Group breathing leads to group mind and a sense of safety.

At some point, with everyone standing more complex movements are initiated. Specific placement of the feet and soft circular movements of the arms are joined together with the counting and the breathing necessary to fuel all that is taking place. One, two, three, four, the voice counts as the feet and arms move. Everyone moving together, counting together, and breathing together. Everyone modulating their individual activity to match and meld with everyone else. As the energy of the group coalesces the mind of the group becomes one. “One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.” Movement, stillness, inhale, exhale, movement, stillness, inhale, exhale.

Each student begins to sense that:

“My energy feeds the others, the energy of the others feeds me.”

“When I am whole, powerful, and in harmony with the group, the group is whole, powerful, and in harmony with me.”

The boundary line between “self” and “other” softens and “I” become an integral part of “we.”

“Your training adds to my training.”

“I cannot improve without you.”

“The spirit of your life adds to the spirit of my life.”

At such times, there is no one left in the room to attack, because attacking another would be the same as attacking myself.

Having achieved this frame of mind, we begin to practice the art of self defense. Looking to protect “I” and “We” at the same time.

My advice will be simple. I suggest that you notice the movement and flow of people around you. Be it commuting to work, in your work environment, or when meeting up with friends. Notice the times when people move and breathe together in harmony, and when the flow of the group seems to be more helter-skelter. Experiment with moving and breathing with other people, while noticing when you feel a bond to the group, and when you feel separate. Maintain a soft focus on yourself, while also noticing what you need to do to flow with those around you. Talk less and notice more. Feel how the emotion of the group you are in at any one time ebbs and flows. Write to me and tell me about your experience.

Perfect Imperfections

Have you ever caught yourself sitting around thinking that if you were “just” a bit different when it comes to this or that, you would be so much more desirable, wealthy, or good looking? Such conversations can seem so believable while actually being so destructive. What would your life be like if you appreciated your imperfections as the signature of your soul?

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.”

Whether you consider yourself to be “perfect” or not, is an important topic for most anyone that would like to live a happy life. It seems to me that many if not most people, feel they are somehow lacking or imperfect. Because of their belief, they spend a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of anxiety, trying to achieve a goal that moves further away with every accomplishment.

For instance, you lose quite a lot of weight and now you feel that the skin on your face seems to be hanging in a strange way. Or you finally get enough money to buy a new wardrobe, only to find that the fashion for the upcoming season is radically different than what you just bought at a discount. I have a young friend who got his hair cut short for a job interview as an in-store male model, only to find his potential boss sitting there with his hair in a pony tail.

Is it really that life is unfair, or is the problem simply that we are often chasing an image of ourselves that is somehow not all that real or realistic?! Do you try to make it appear like you have no flaws? Or do you relish how such flaws add to your uniqueness? I find in my own life, it is so important to go beyond the oppositional thinking of right or wrong, good or bad, and in the process, accept, and fall in love with, who I really am.

For example:
I truly believe that I have a fair share of people friendly qualities, and yet I know that I still also can be harsh at times. I know that I can be entertaining and intriguing, and that does not stop me from also being boring at times. I am a little bit of everything, and not all of any one thing. I try to understand myself as both/and, rather than either/or. I try to understand myself from an aesthetic that comes from my own heart, and not from the advertisements I see on TV.

The more I stop trying to be perfect, the more I discover just how perfect I already am. Does this sound a bit egotistical? I am talking about the perfect imperfections that the potter sees in her pots. She strives to maintain the soul of what she is making, by insuring that her pots don’t become so perfect that they appear machine made.

I remember watching not too long ago, an interview with Robert Redford. The interviewer wondered out loud, since Redford was getting older, wouldn’t he want to have some cosmetic surgery. Redford looked a bit surprised by the question. He looked intently at the interviewer, and then said, “Cosmetic surgery? Oh my god no! I wouldn’t want to erase my soul from my face. I would rather like to think there is something about me that is somehow unique. I don’t want to look like who I used to be. I want to look like who I am. ”

How about you? Any chance that you are sometimes trying to cover up your perfection, in an attempt to appear perfect?

There is nothing more special than simply being yourself.

And realizing that any subtraction OR addition,

Would simply take away from who you really are.

Your soul has a signature.

Don’t erase it and replace it with someone else’s calligraphy.

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!

Tsunami: Bringing Forth a New Wave of Hope

Has the huge tsunami in Japan had a similar affect on you personally, as it did on much of Asia? Has any of what you believed in been washed away, shattered, or destroyed?

Has the recent tsunami scared you more or less than 9/11?

Or, perhaps the recent tsunami has even led to a deepening of your faith?

I don’t want to seem uncaring, or just downright impervious to feeling, but as horrific as the recent tsunami onslaught was, I think and feel that the waves also brought along with them, a huge surge of rejuvenation, “life”, and a heightened awareness and compassion by humankind. I think we have been awoken to just how much death and suffering there is in the world, regardless of what we see and don’t see on major news programs.

My experience is that every horrible occurrence holds the seeds for new hope and life. Tremendously heart wrenching things take place in the world. Tremendously heart wrenching things have taken place in my own life. Coming to terms with what happens, offers us a tremendous opportunity to start out fresh. Beginning all over again, but from a new space and time. I can say for sure, that every “tragedy” that has occurred in my life, in the long run has added to the quality of my life, and my connection to Spirit. I can say this with heartfelt conviction, and not simply with a passive smiling face. The most challenging moments in our lives, can invariably also be the most rewarding.

The attacks on the World Trade Center were horrendous. More than three thousand people were killed, the hearts of Americans in particular, were shaken, and most of the world was mortified. Americans in particular were alerted to the fact that “we” were facing a wave of terrorism that would not likely be easily contained.

Three years after 9/11, and after billions of dollars spent on protection, we knew that we were still not safe, but at least we were comforted by the fact that airport safety personnel were now confiscating our nose hair clippers prior to boarding, and that such weapons of minor destruction (WmD) could no longer be used to attack the principles of freedom, democracy, and capitalism.

Three years after 9/11 and after billions of dollars spent on protection…
In a way that neither the extreme right nor extreme left of the political spectrum had envisioned…
All of humankind, and even Nature itself was attacked by a new wave, of terrorism.
By a primordial force stronger than the passion and emotion that any of us can hold in our hearts.

This seeming terror attack killed roughly SIXTY FIVE TIMES more people than were killed in the Trade Towers. The numbers are staggering. The loss of life, the disease, the pain of those who literally had loved ones wrenched from their grip, is also staggering. Beyond what any of us can logically comprehend. And way beyond the fear that some of us might harbor in regard to mortal terrorists attacking “our” country.

One huge question seems to be in need of an answer here.

Who will be responsible for making the world a better place, after the tsunami?

In some fundamental way, I hope that the faith and understanding of each person left unscathed “personally” from this disaster, has been shaken. That due to Nature’s massive housecleaning, we will all find new ways to rebuild and embrace the sanctity of life, as well as embracing the hearts and aspirations of those we deem to be our enemies. That due to this primordial shift in what we know to be Planet Earth, we will all have an equally primordial shift in our concern for and connection to, the heart of God, and the living Spirit of all Life.

We have been awakened…
To the destructive,
And to the creative forces of Life.
Now, is the time to commit.
To take some responsibility,
For sharing the workload,
Of making the world,
A more humane,
Caring,
Place to live in.

Please do not miss this important opportunity.

God is talking.

Are you listening?

People are in need. Please contribute on a weekly basis.

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.

Feeling Beneath Our Fears

Listening deeply to your own mammalian nature has the power to profoundly enrich your life.

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a new friend named Tara. She is as beautiful a Shetland sheep dog as I have ever seen. Like many of us human beings, Tara had a sad tale to tell. When just a pup, the first time she was taken for a walk she came upon a horde of kids who suddenly started shooting off firecrackers. Tara was frightened beyond belief and she escaped from her leash and bolted into the far distance. Perhaps never to be seen again her owner feared! Several hours later though, Tara made it back to her house on her own and in one piece.

When I first entered Tara’s house for a visit, she was up on the third floor where she normally hid when guests arrived. Tara’s owner told me that ever since the firecracker incident she had difficulty getting Tara to go out for a walk. Tara confined herself to the tiny backyard for her exercise and toilet activities.

Tara’s owner needed to run out on an errand. I asked for a piece or Tara’s favorite biscuit, broke it into several pieces, and set the pieces out well in front of me. I waited quietly for about ten minutes, before finally hearing the patter of little feet upstairs. Upon hearing Tara gathering up her courage and her curiosity, I began to intermittently make some playful sounds as if I was a tiny firework, showering its brilliant colors in the distance. Psss, Pahh! I concentrated on being a beautiful firework, and not a loud one. Then with my colors expended I sat quietly again and waited. It took an additional fifteen minutes for Tara to finally show her head at the top of the stairs, and then she immediately ran all the way back up to the third floor. From there it took another ten minutes before she made her way down to the ground floor, ate one piece of biscuit and then bolted upstairs again, with no intention of returning in the near future. I marveled at her braveness and was exceedingly pleased with the development of our relationship.

Starting the next day our friendship developed rapidly. This time I sat on the floor and waited with the biscuits closer to me. After a couple of fitful starts and stops, Tara was sitting on my lap. Next I introduced the leash, but didn’t try and put it on her. By the third day she was making her way down to my bedroom in the basement, wondering why I hadn’t gotten up yet. Finally, we were walking around together out in the neighborhood, and passing by the very place of her initial horror.

Tara’s friendship has been a sacred gift to me. She has helped me to better understand my own fears, and the fears of my clients. She has also helped me to understand that beneath our fear there is a longing to be reconnected to life, and to loved ones. A longing to be out and about with a friend on a mild spring day. Whenever I have a client who seems frightened, I always start out by telling them about Tara. It is amazing that a couple of cookies and a cup of tea can calm a new human client as much as Tara’s biscuits helped to calm her.

Both fear and love have specific and different organizational patterns within each of us. The electrochemical network of fear and the electrochemical network of love, as well as the network of muscle usage for the two, are quite different. Once we learn how the body communicates to us we can begin to interact and affect change on the limbic level of primary experience. Deep breathing, stroking by an appropriate other, hugging and physical closeness, all help us to know that we are not alone, and that we are protected. With our limbic-emotional system taking in such sustenance, we can relax, expand our spirit, and be in the world with a sense of belonging, comfort, safety, and excitement. What more could we really ask for from life?

What is your primary identity?

About a year ago I was giving a demonstration of how I facilitate postural adjustments with clients. At the end of the demo a woman in the audience said: “I really loved watching what you do, and it was so obvious that you have worked with animals in the past. Can you please tell us more about your training?” I saw a look of confusion on some of the faces in the audience, but I was very pleased by what the lady had to say. I have learned a good deal about working with people, by the years I spent learning how to train dogs.

As a young boy I had the opportunity to train with a man who was a master at “obedience” and guard dog training. On my first day of study he took me to an industrial site. Behind the fence of one warehouse yard was a madly barking dog who seemed intent at ripping us to pieces. My teacher handed me the keys to the fence lock and said “This is the first time I have seen this dog, and I have been asked to tame him down some. Open the gate and let the dog loose.” I immediately started to think that raising tropical fish would be a better hobby than training dogs.

“I am new to all of this.” I said, “Why don’t you open the gate and show me how to do it?”
“I tell you what” he said, “Either I kneel down about ten feet from the gate and you swing the gate open so the dog cannot get to you, or we will do it the other way around, with you kneeling down out in the open.” It didn’t take me long to start putting the key in the lock, as my teacher moved to an open space and knelt down.

Low and behold, the dog raced out, seeming to ignore my teacher on the one hand, but running around in large loping circles that my teacher was the center of. My teacher was calm and slow to move, and eventually he reached in his pocket and pulled out some doggie treats. Within a minute or two he literally had the dog eating out of his hand.

“The lesson is,” he said, “Every dog that’s been trained in a violent manner barks and growls and appears to be genuinely mean when they are behind the fence. All the dog is really doing is showing you how frightened he is. The dog is expecting to be mistreated by you just as he has been mistreated by his trainer, and thus he is simply trying to protect himself and not the premises. When you open the gate on such dogs they invariably run out of the yard. Mistreated animals have no real ‘home’ to protect because there is nowhere in the world where they feel safe, loved, and protected. If your dog does not feel protected BY you, he will not protect FOR you.”

Intuitively this made a lot of sense. I thought back on the kids that were the most violent in my high school. The ones from my neighborhood, I knew came from violent families. Their outward violence in school was actually a preemptive strike. Just like the mistreated guard dog, these kids were expecting to get mistreated by others, and thus they went into attack mode as a confused form of self defense, NOT as a form of offense. “The louder the dog barks,” my teacher said, “The more frightened he is. The primary identity of a beaten dog is one of fear.”

When you are feeling misunderstood or at risk in a relationship with another person, or when you are having difficulty understanding your own behavior, it is suggested that you pause, take a deep breath, release any excess tension, and ponder this question: “What is the primary identity being expressed here?” Asking this question will help you to have better appreciation and understanding, for how to respond. When we ponder the catalyst for behavior it is common to discover that a problematic behavior is usually generated by a primary identity of fear, isolation, or lack of abundance. The barking guard dog lunging at passers-by is considered mean and violent, when indeed the dog is trying to protect itself from further mistreatment. The primary identity of the dog is one of fear. The same can be seen and understood in human beings. Aggressive and or violent people are expecting attacks from others, and they therefore often mount attacks on others in a confused attempt to protect themselves. Each time the forceful behavior of a frightened person draws a violent response, the person feels as if their “defensive” behavior has been vindicated. Violent responses from others feed a person’s primary identity of fear.

The concept of “primary identity” or what we sometimes call “core identity” is an important part of the philosophy of Aikido. In Aikido we believe that when a person is spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced they will experience their “true” primary identity. This is an identity in which they feel connected to their emotions and their body, supported by others, and protected by the benevolent presence of Spirit/God/”The Force.” I know to many this might seem like a notion that is meant only for dreamers, and not for those that actually have to be active participants in the world, but indeed it forms the basis for a highly effective and pragmatic martial art.

Aikido is not suggesting that we should trust the ethics and honesty of everyone in every occasion. What Aikido IS saying is that a person who attacks another human being is a person who is disconnected from their “true” primary identity, and is thus reacting from a perspective of fear, isolation, and or a believed dearth of resources. The best way to “counter” such an attack is to remain aware, relaxed, and emotionally balanced, while also being concerned for and connected to the well being of your seeming adversary. We are meant to inhale the “true” primary identity of our counterpart, and exhale our connection to them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Aikido experience shows us that our feeling of connection and caring for our counterpart is definitely felt by them on a somatic/unconscious level. When “the attacker’s” feeling mind is touched by a benevolent presence they subconsciously realize that danger is not immanent, and thus their fear and their need for attack, is lessened.

I can say from my twenty plus years of Aikido practice, that responding to aggressive fear with connection and calmness, is a very transformative experience for both parties involved. There is something so special about being in a highly challenging situation, and “poof” prior to thinking you find yourself taking a deep breath, and feeling your muscles respond by relaxing. You notice that your eyes soften ever so much, and that the sounds in the space somehow become more mellow. At the very least, you notice your counterpart becomes somewhat confused, because you are “replying” to their aggression by embracing and absorbing what they are putting forth, rather than by mounting a counterattack. Such interactions sear the memory of my soul, and give me greater faith in life.

The next time you meet someone with a guard dog mentality what will you do?

Keep them barking and lunging behind their self imposed fence? Or let that out to play, so that you can eventually become friends?

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.

From The Perspective of a Child

For a child, a summer day can seem to last forever. This is part of the beauty of a child’s perspective. At the same time, all of us, adult and child alike, sometimes freeze up and lose sense of the fact that we have a future that has not yet arrived. Here is a story of a child’s summer day in Brooklyn, New York.

When I was eight years old a truck housing a children’s ride, used to come around my neighborhood in Brooklyn. You paid your fee, had your ride, and upon exiting, you got some small thank you gift. When exiting the truck one time I got a large sheet of tattoos. I was ecstatic because there was one HUGE tattoo showing Davie Crockett killing a HUGE bear. I ran home to have the tattoo immediately applied to my bare chest, and I remember thinking how it was perfect that I did not yet have any hair on my chest because the hair would only get in the way of the tattoo. And then, as hard as this might be to believe, my father totally screwed up in applying the tattoo, and I was left with black water running down my chest, and then great big tears running down my face, as I was in a state of shock and disbelief. Feeling totally crushed I ran outside and dashed feverishly around the neighborhood hopinging to catch the truck, but it had mysteriously disappeared, perhaps already on its way to Flatbush or Coney Island. By the time the truck did come back again two weeks later, it was giving away some terribly boring small plastic whistles, and the truck never again showed up with tattoos, and in those days tattoos were not to be found in toy stores.

It can be so easy to freeze up and lose sense of the entirety of one’s life. It can be so easy to lose touch with the fact that we still have a future. As a child, especially during the summer time, each day was a grand adventure, and each day would often seem endless, and totally absorbing. This sense of fully being in the moment is one of the true gifts of childhood, and at times it can also be a liability. Because children usually have little sense of the length and breadth of their life, and any one moment can seem to extinguish the possibility of happiness in the future.

I can look back on numerous times in my life, that seemed to play a major role in determining the course of my life. In hindsight I can see that it was not the actual events that determined my future, but whether or not I perceived myself to be “lucky or unlucky”, “cursed or blessed”, “stupid or clever.”

Now I realize that each moment leads to another moment, each event leads to another event. I can choose which moments and events I want to give the most importance to, and which moments and events I will define my life by. By accepting the fact that much of what goes on in life is outside of my control, I can free myself to pay attention to the aspects of my life that I do have some ability to influence. And in times of difficult challenge I can give thanks for the future, knowing that even as day turns into night, and spring turns into summer, that my bad luck will turn into good luck, my sadness will turn to joy. Nothing stays the same.

If you look back at times that you initially thought were quite horrible or devastating, isn’t it true that most of these events, over the course of time, did not turn out to be nearly as devastating as you initially felt they were? Certainly this has been my experience.

By the way, I am still in the market for some Davey Crockett tattoos!

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.

With a little help from our friends

The quality of one’s life to a large extent is determined by the quality of our relationships with others. When we feel we have 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 might appear to be, without supportive relationships it is a difficult challenge for any one of us to maintain physical and emotional health. Children, pets, loved ones, mentors, colleagues, and teachers, can all help us 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 in order 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 towards “joining with” our adversary and creating the energetic connection that can lead towards 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 alienation, and the desire for connection. A sense of separation from others leads to fear, and fear can easily lead to feeling like you are about to be attacked, and thus attacking others preemptively. In Aikido we gain a direct understanding of how a physically and emotionally healthy person requires ongoing enrichment, stabilization, and support from the nervous systems of others.

When we talk about the interaction of nervous systems amongst mammals, we are pointing to the fact 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 with the nervous systems of others. Not all that surprising once you think about it. At the very least, for millions of years mammals have had the need to intuit which other mammals are safe, and which are predators. As mammals we have a limbic-emotional connection with each other that leads to procreation and family structures, and these relationships do not necessarily require the capacity to think, analyze, or rationalize. Emotional understanding of our self, others, and our relationships, comes prior to thinking.

We can easily find numerous 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 find it hard to live successfully with the rest of their community. The same tends to be true for children forced to grow up in harsh, sterile conditions. Indeed with children growing up in orphanages that show little in the way of human contact and emotional bonding, the mortality rate of the children is dreadfully high. High quality health and emotional well-being requires supportive limbic relationships. Our nervous system needs to locate and be nurtured by other nervous systems in order for us to have a sense of stability and completion. A limbic connection with others helps us to develop a deeper sense of safety, calmness, and dignity. Our need to live our life in supportive limbic relationships 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.”

Trust in the moment, and trust in yourself

Do you often get yourself upset and feeling less than fully confident, as part of your preparation for facing a daunting challenge? You can improve your performance if you let your somatic intelligence lead the way.

“You move too much to be effective.” Tamura sensei softly shouted at me. “You need to give your opponent a clearer target to strike at.”

We were in the middle of studying how to defend ourselves from multiple attackers in an Aikido class for senior students in Japan.

Five young college students rushed at me once again, and once again I struggled to cope with them.

“OK, take a break.” Tamura sensei said. “In order for the five attackers to actually hit you they have to first reach you. Your job is NOT to run away from them. You need to create a spacing that leads them to all try and grab or hit you at the same time. Think of the attackers as needing to pass through a gate. If they all try and rush through the gate at the same time they will block each others efforts. Move less, do less, and be calm. Give them a clear target that they all reach at the same time.”

I had heard similar remarks in the past, but accomplishing this in the heat of the moment requires a moving calmness that takes a while to get the hang of. You know in your head what you are supposed to do, but once your heart starts beating faster and your opponents are bearing down on you, you find it really hard to believe in what you are being told.

“Think of it this way.” sensei said. He pulled out a cloth that he used to wipe away his sweat and said, “Here, take this away from me.”

As I grabbed for the cloth, he more or less handed it to me. Just as I was beginning to get a good hold on it he let go of the cloth and grabbed onto my wrist and placed me in a painful hold. I immediately let go of the cloth, and he picked it back up with one hand as he continued to keep me subdued with his other hand.

“You see.” he said, “I am not defending the cloth, I am defending myself. Better to give you the cloth, and then I have both hands free to do as I need.”

“When you move less you offer your opponents a clear target. When you offer them a clear target you will be able to understand how they are wanting to attack. They will attack you in the same manner you reached for my cloth. Confident they will accomplish their mission, because you have made it easy for them. At the last moment, just as they begin to strike or grab, take the target away from them. They will be surprised, and you will have the opportunity to do whatever is necessary.”

He got up and invited the five students to attack him. He moved very little, and it was as if he was making each one of them thread themselves through the eye of a needle. Just ever so much of a movement made by him, made them just miss their target.

“This is what happens often in our every day life.” he said. “You feel like you are faced with a daunting task, and you make your task harder by moving about needlessly and losing your composure. Breathe deeply, be calm, and know the right moment will present itself to you if you have the faith to wait. Don’t force the issue, and don’t force the timing. Trust in the moment, and trust in yourself. Take the initiative by doing nothing.”

You ARE capable. Give yourself the opportunity to excel by trusting in the moment and trusting in yourself. Wait calmly, and you will find that the necessary answers appear before you. Little by little… with lots of practice… and endless patience. Only move when the moment is right. Breathe deeply and begin at the beginning.

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?”