Tag Archives: mindbody integration

The Mind of Aikido and Water

While in Japan I’ve had the opportunity of meeting many exceptional people. One of those was Senta Yamada, whom I met for the first time when visiting a friend.

Uncharacteristically for a Japanese person, Yamada Sensei moved his hands a lot as he spoke. He did this to portray his perception of the movements essential to what he called the “mind” of Aikido and water, whose relationship he explained as follows:

While you sit there, please breathe freely and move your body slightly, so that you can feel the movement and mind my words suggest to you.

Water unites all the world’s land masses, large and small, connecting what is seemingly separate, distant, and different into one seamless spherical whole.

Water has an intelligence, a mind. In Aikido we strive to embody this same intelligence.

We direct the flow of our energy so that it accords with that of others. When encountering those appearing angry and frightened, we make special effort to dissolve any sense of separation, distance, or difference.

And even when moving away from others, we do so with the intent of joining with and returning back to them.

Water not only joins together the land masses of earth, it also unites the earth and sky via never ending cycles of precipitation, movement, and evaporation.

This is the same process human beings mirror in birth, life, and death.

Just like water, we come from heaven, spend time on earth, and return back to heaven once again.

Becoming, being, receding. Living, dying, recycling.

Water expands and contracts depending on circumstances, and the same is true of the human spirit.

When you are harsh to a child, his or her spirit contracts.

When you love a child, his or her spirit expands.

The presence of water throughout our ecosystem is similar to the presence of fluids in the body, enveloping and uniting its cells and tissues.

The mind of water, the body’s circulatory system, and Aikido all have the same intention—to move with, absorb, nurture, cleanse, renew.

When everything is experienced as an integral part of the One, there is no disease, no attack, no separation, death, or destruction.

Regardless of the form it may take—rain, mist, steam, dew, snow, ice—water always has a spherical mind.

This mind of roundness is a key principle in the mind of non-dissension.

In Aikido we project a full round presence to our adversary and flow with their movements.

Just like water, we offer no hard surfaces to bump up against, and nothing to grab hold of.

We encourage our adversaries to follow their course of action to its likely outcome, in the same way water follows the path of gravity downhill … ever moving towards center until the time of renewal.

Regardless of the obstacles it encounters, water does not stop, it does not give up.

It searches endlessly for the path of least resistance, and when there is none it rests, consolidating its power until it is time to rise up again.

Waiting for another opportunity. Waiting for the proper moment … an opening.

A single drop of water has little power, but many drops joined together can sweep away everything in their path, with the relentless force of a tsunami.

Water joins with, is absorbed by, and surrounds.

It does not strive to act separately, but waits to be moved by the forces of nature.

With a constant mind of effortless rest, renewal, and movement.

As calm when doing as when simply being.

We can realize the end of every journey as a new beginning,

every destination as temporary, every goal as cyclical.

Beginning complete

We remain complete

With nowhere to go

Nothing to accomplish

Nothing to fulfill

Except our destiny

Our returning

Is never in question.

Katsugen Undo on a ball (Video)

This video teaches you the exercise protocol known as “Katsugen Undo” as developed by Haruchika Noguchi sensei. Noguchi Sensei was the originator of Noguchi Seitai. By following the protocol shown you will little by little, release muscular holding patterns and feel more relaxed and “in the moment”.

In simple terms Noguchi Sensei said that we all have a tendency to hold on to excess energy that inhibits us from rebalancing ourselves and thus we inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

Give it a try, it really does help!

Wide-angle Perspective

1. Introduction

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

Charlie

View your challenges from a distance.

view_from_distance

Photo by: Yvonne Rikkenberg

2. Wide-angle Perspective

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

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

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

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

So what to do?

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

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

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

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

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 4

1. Introduction

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

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

Regards,

Charlie

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

taj
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock”- Part 4

Engage your challenges a little bit at a time

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

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

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

So what to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 3

1. Introduction

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

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

Regards,

Charlie

Slow and steady is usually the best way forward!

snail
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock”- Part 3

The benefits and detriments of habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 2

1. Introduction

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

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

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

Regards,

Charlie

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

dots
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock”- Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are capable of doing much the same.

Life affirming change is possible!

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 1

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Regards,

Charlie

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

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

2. Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

A solution to your compulsion IS possible though!

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

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

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

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

Easier said than done?

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

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

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

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

The language of your body – Part 2

1. Introduction

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

Regards,
Charlie

Wake up to life!

stress-page-5
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. The language of your body – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

The language of your body – Part 1

1. Introduction

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

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

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

butterfly
Photo by: Ruben Alexander

2. The language of your body- Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,
Charlie

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 4

1. Introduction

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

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

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

Regards,

Charlie

forest-thru-the-trees
Photo; Yvonne Rikkenberg

2. A description of Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,

Charlie

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 3

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 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

The experience of “being centered”

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Charlie

2. The experience of “being centered”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rock your boat in whatever direction feels best to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your pelvis resting in the water,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ebb and Flow of Life

1. Introduction

In my coaching I’ve developed various tools to help people work through issues on their own, prior to, during, and after their coaching engagements with me. One of the most helpful tools has proven to be “Eight Essential Questions- Focus on the Life You Desire”.

If you would like a copy of the document, please contact me.

The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami are still very much with us in Japan as we’re getting numerous strong aftershocks every day. This leads me to once again present a water related story I wrote a number of years ago.

In Community,
Charlie

2. The Ebb and Flow of Life

During my first year in Japan I hitchhiked for two weeks, visiting rural fishing villages on the west coast of Japan. At the time I spoke little Japanese, and relied on the kindness of the people I met.

I visited tiny villages that had no hotels and rarely encountered tourists. Upon entering a village, I would find a kind-looking soul and pantomime that I needed a place to sleep. When my acting skills proved sufficient, I wound up in the house of a family willing to take in visitors for a small fee. After eating with my hosts, I would then be led to a simple room to sleep in.

In one village I had the privilege of staying with a remarkable man and his family. One night the man and I sat on a small wooden dock by the ocean. Using lots of gestures to help me understand, the man told me about his life. He was 63 years old. As a boy he’d been very involved in studying karate, but at the age of nineteen his life changed dramatically. Working on his father’s fishing boat in rough seas, he lost his balance, and fell just as he was throwing a heavy fishing cage overboard. His left leg got caught in the line attached to the cage and the damage caused to the muscles and nerves of his left calf was severe. This left him with a permanent limp.

Once he realized he’d no longer be able to study karate, he made a firm commitment to use his life as a fisherman to further his studies. He read various books written by martial arts masters and then applied the principles of what he learned to his work life.

“One of the most important things I learned,” he said, “is to create a rhythm with your posture, movements, and breathing, that matches the rhythm of nature. When I injured myself on the boat, I was so involved in handling the heavy cage that I lost touch with the flow of my surroundings. I was fighting against the ocean, rather than moving with it. Guess what? The ocean won!”

“Notice the gentle ebb and flow of the water as we sit here now,” he said, “and the sound of the tide lapping against the pilings of the pier.”

“As you sense the movement and sounds of the ocean, notice your breathing, and feel your body responding.”

I began to do as he suggested and felt myself being drawn into a parallel world that was outside my everyday awareness.

“Feel the life force of the ocean, and without doing anything, allow yourself to move with the ocean.

“Breathe, move, and feel your heartbeat.

“Invite your heartbeat to synchronize with the heartbeat of the ocean.

“As you become one with the water, you might sense the fluids in your body ebbing and flowing, like the ocean entering into a shallow inlet filled with coral.

“Like the ocean, you can begin to feel the power of flowing without resisting. Flowing without fighting against.

“Water surrounds and moves past all obstacles, and you can do the same.

“Simply flow.

“A single drop of water, has no power. A single drop of water moving with the flow of the ocean forms a wave. The power of the wave comes from joining with. The same is true of me and you.”

We sat there together for a while. The man, myself, and the ocean.

Not separate, but together.

In that moment I sensed all power is really One.

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.

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!

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

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.

Cultivating Ki Flow and Mindfulness, Manifesting Mind

Starting Line
This article is the second in a three part series. In my first article in this series I talked about “Energy, Spirit and Mind” and introduced how these terms are used in Seishindo. In this article I am going to talk about how to cultivate “ki” the energy that is the source of all life. If this is the first article in this series you are reading, you might want to first read my last article, so you have a better understanding of how we think about “ki” in Seshindo.

No one has absolute knowledge (except through faith) of where ki originates from and no one knows where our personal ki goes to after we die. Ki springs from the depth of the universe as well as from the depth of our soul. The way of ki is a gigantic and fascinating mystery, and one that is well worth exploring. In studying ki we can come to a deeper understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in. Our study of ki can help to liberate us as we become better attuned to the music and poetry of our heart and soul.

Having an experiential understanding of the nature of ki leads us to encounter a natural, creative intelligence, that far transcends the abilities and powers of any one human being. Ki is the common denominator we share with all of life. I believe that ki is essentially, expansive, mutable, and supportive of life, and that it can adapt to an endless variety of forms and functions depending on how it is received, shaped, and utilized by our system.

I wrote above that ki is “supportive of life” and I want to explain this a bit more here. Ki supports life when our system is able to let it flow unimpeded, like when when our immune system spontaneously heal wounds or illnesses. Ki also has the potential to be destructive in nature when it’s flow becomes either stagnant or blocked, as in the case of the body being ravaged by cancer. Noguchi Sensei, the man that developed “Noguchi Seitai” (a Japanese system of health management) used to say “Illness is due to excess energy being trapped in the body. The stronger the illness, the more energy there is trapped.” One of the main purposes of Noguchi Seitai is to facilitate the release of excess energy held in the body so that the body can operate freely, and without impediment. This is also one of the main functions of Seishindo. When the body is stable and able to move freely, our thoughts patterns and emotions will be stable and flowing, and health and emotional balance will be fostered. In my first newsletter I wrote “The quality of our life is not dependent on the circumstances we encounter. The quality of our life is dependent on what we learn from the circumstances we encounter.” In this issue I will say, “The quality of our life is not dependant on the quantity of ki available to us. The quality of our life is dependent on our capacity to maintain a free flow of ki throughout our system.” Our belief system, as well as the way we facilitate the generation and flow of ki within our system are the major determinants of the quality of our life. Free flowing ki energizes and nourishes the body. Blocked ki can damage us and weaken our ability to adapt. The cultivation of free flowing ki is thus an important activity to explore because the manner in which we cultivate, use, and expend ki, is what determines our health and well being, and who and what we become over time.

One of the main functions of Seishindo is to help people cultivate the ability to be calm, fully present, and feeling one’s emotions and bodily sensations, without the need for internal dialogue. When we are at one with our self and our experience there is no need for internal dialogue, for there is no “other one” to talk to. Present in one’s body, present in one’s brain, and aware of and connected to one’s emotions and the environment, but not requiring or engaging in internal dialogue. This is a very special way of being. A way of being that can help us to fully actualize our self in the world. This is a way of being that can help us to deeply connect to our ability to respect, love, and heal, self, other, and the world around us.

Main Course
At every moment in time the ki within your system speaks to you via a somatic language that is as refined, systematic, and complete as your verbal language. This transformation of ki into somatic language is the basis of the non-cognitive wisdom that we call “intuition.” Becoming fluent in this language can help you maintain your health and well-being, foster more heartfelt relationships, and assist you in expressing your creative and healing gifts when working with others in various contexts. When you do “just enough” and nothing more or less, you will create the context for your body to be structurally balanced, flexible, and free to move. This is the way you are designed to be, and at such times your ki flows freely. Structurally balanced, flexible, and free to move and change, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

We have a chemical-electrical-muscular response to events, other people, circumstances, and the intake of energy via food, sunlight, water, and other sources. People further react to: presently occurring events, thoughts about possible future events, memories of past events, and internal dialogue. To a large extent, the responses we have to the energy we encounter and generate are dependent on:
1. The way we use our body (structure, movement, flow).
2. Our system of beliefs, and
3. The default neuromuscular biochemical pathways that we have developed over time due to a tendency towards habitual reactions.

The changes that take place in our body and brain are highly systematic in nature, and these changes determine the quality of our emotional responses, and our ability to think in a creative manner. Something occurs, and we spontaneously feel, think, and react in a specific manner, all of which leads to our somatic-emotional experience. For the most part we have limited awareness and understanding of what actually changes within our system, to cause a change in our somatic-emotional experience. We generalize the “feeling tone” of our experience and we give these generalized feelings rather unspecific verbal labels such as “happy” “in love” “ill” “hungry” “depressed.”

You can think of our various somatic-emotional reactions to life as “recipes”. Increase the blood pressure ever so much, restrict the flow of blood to the extremities a certain amount, increase the speed of your heartbeat, induce certain chemicals into the bloodstream, breathe more shallowly, and think about what could go wrong, and you have created the recipe for “fear.” We each create these somatic-emotional recipes outside of our conscious awareness, and without the conscious knowledge of what the “contents” of each recipe are. Most of this activity is coordinated by what in Seishindo we call “somatic intelligence,” the intelligence of the mobile brain within the body. The task we face when wanting to live a balanced creative life, is to heighten our ability to sense the components that make up our various somatic-emotional recipes, so that we can continue to adapt and maintain a system that is expansive, balanced, and free flowing. When our system facilitates the free flow of ki, we maintain a state of health, well being, and creativity.

1. There is a dynamic life force (ki) which pulsates through each of us. Most people have developed a tendency to inhibit the flow of energy and movement created by ki when presented with challenging situations. When the natural flow of ki is inhibited, the natural flow of information available (images, sounds, feelings, and “solutions”) is also inhibited. Allowing a free flow of energy and movement throughout our system facilitates a free flow of information and thus high quality learning and adaptation.

2. Ki flows best in a system that is balanced in structure, porous, flexible, expansive, and well oxygenated. Therefore in Seishindo we suggest any and all physical exercises and mindfulness training that helps you to accomplish just such a state. This is the kind of state that increases your resilience, adaptive and healing powers, and energy flow. Aikido, Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Gyrontonics, and various Seishindo practices are excellent for this. The idea in all of these practices is to increase your awareness of what is taking place in the moment, while entering into an experience where you “stop stopping” yourself, and your thoughts and reactions transcend the limitations of your habituated “everyday” pace and rhythm. When we use more of all of our self and less of any one part of our self, our system will tend to be healthy and highly responsive.

3. Breath moves ki and delivers oxygen to the system. Oxygen and ki are highly supportive of health, well being, and the formulations of solutions. Every thought we have and every emotion we experience, affects the flow of breath and thus ki, within our system. When we are able to maintain a relaxed breathing process appropriate to the situation at hand, we maintain a free flow of ki, our emotions tend to be balanced, and our thinking tends to be solution oriented. There are many different disciplines that offer various breathing exercises. Any well conceived breathing exercise will be extremely helpful in “training” you to maintain sufficient amounts of oxygen in your system. In my last article I presented the Heartbeat Breathing practice. You can find this practice here.

4. Under normal life conditions, when a system receives a “shock” it adapts and rebalances. Extreme life conditions such as trauma result in extreme adaptations, and quite often the rebalancing part of our recovery does not take place. Usually during times of trauma the person’s energy, musculature, and thought patterns “lock” part way through the cycle of experience, and the natural and necessary rebalancing back to center, does not occur. When we block the natural flow of ki in our system, we block the flow of the “river of life.” Meaningful and lasting change requires shifts in the autonomic, peripheral, and enteric nervous systems, to occur. Such change requires a provoking of the natural wisdom of the body and its capacity to re-balance so that we release the locking of our musculature, and a new higher level of systemwide organization can be allowed to unfold.

The Noguchi Seitai exercise of “Katsugen Undo” offers an excellent method to help release the system so that you can once again open up to the possibilities of life, and facilitate the free flow of ki within your system. (More on this later.)

5. The response of “dissociation” or numbing our ability to feel can be quite helpful as an anesthetic under conditions of pain and extreme helplessness. Such responses however become detrimental to our overall health and well being when they are adopted as a generalized response to potentially painful or frightening situations. It is natural for our system to release the anesthetic of an operation after and hour or so, as our system comes “back to life.” It is also natural to release the dissociative patterns learned when feeling helpless or in pain, so that we can enter back into a life of pain AND pleasure, sorrow AND joy. We need to discover a path for entering back into the flow of life so we can regain access to the full range of emotions that are available to a healthy emotionally balanced individual. When the sensation of flowing ki is anesthetized we lose our ability to feel into the ebb and flow of our experience. Heartfelt supportive relationships are of great benefit here in helping us to trust that it can be safe to feel again.

6. Whatever we avoid, whatever we are unable to feel and bring our awareness into, does not change. When our system does not change, our ki becomes stagnant, and our life force is weakened. When working to re-claim parts of ourselves we have lost contact with we will do well to begin by gently feeling each and every part of ourselves, so that we can eventually come to know that we are whole. Every part of our self is worthy of loving attention and when we bring loving attention to injured or neglected parts of our self, we foster the flow of ki, a softening of the body, and the opening of our heart. Various mindfulness exercises such as meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga, and Aikido, can be very helpful in this regard.

The challenge of living a heartfelt healthy life is threefold:
1) Gain conscious awareness of how you generate your somatic-emotional experience.
2) Recognize the ingredients of the somatic-emotional “recipes” you generate as a result of your experience.
3) Change the recipes you create, and thus change your relationship to your experience and your life “story”.
If you are able to change the habituated and highly specific somatic-emotional reactions you have to events you will transform the way you express your emotions, think, and react.

In order to assist each person in being able to change their consciousness we have developed various practices which I explain one by one in our newsletters. These practices are designed to make the transparent aspects of your experience more obvious. The practices help you to notice and effect changes in various aspects of your experience that were previously outside of your conscious awareness. By taking part in these practices you will learn how to intuit and react to the seed somatic-emotional experience that forms the foundation of your verbal explication of life. In order to cultivate ki, cultivate mindfulness. In order to cultivate mindfulness cultivate a love for all that lives, and all that you are and aren’t.

Over a period of time by performing mindfulness practices, you will also be more likely to understand how to help others change their experience as well.

Practice
In regard to the Seishindo Practices in general, and the theories espoused in the Seishindo newsletters I feel that it is important to say several things.
1. Each person’s life is rich and complex and I am not wanting to convey that any one practice or exercise is “the answer” in regard to living life more fully.
2. When I espouse various theories relating to ki flow, I make such statements fully knowing that we do not live in a vacuum and thus the manner in which we relate to our environment and those around us, is always of paramount importance as well. The degree to which we experience happiness in life is only meaningful in relation to the happiness we share with others.
3. Living one’s life with greater awareness and mindfulness is a gift onto itself. This is the gift that I am hoping to offer in regard to the practices and theories I espouse.
4. These are many valuable paths for achieving what you want in life. What I present in this article is simply one of many ways.

A practice that relates to what you have been reading is entitled “Katsugen Undo”. Roughly translated from the Japanese, Katsugen Undo means “Natural movement that renews life at its root.”

The basics for this exercise are taken from Haruchika Noguchi Sensei and “Noguchi Sei Tai”. “Sei Tai” basically means “properly ordered body.” Noguchi sensei used to say that the purpose of Katsugen Undo is to create an orderly way to unconsciously move the body, while affecting those parts of the body that we cannot move voluntarily.

When we hold onto excess energy we inhibit our self from rebalancing, and thus we inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. In terms of what we are exploring together, the above means that we often tend to create a body structure and a concurrent potential for movement that constricts the flow of ki. The greater your ability to facilitate the flow of ki, the greater your ability to facilitate a healthy state of calmness and well being.

The Ki of Aikido – An Oriental Concept of “Energy”, “Self” and “Mind”

Introduction
This article is the first as a three part series. It will introduce you to the concepts of Energy, Self, and Mind, from an Oriental perspective.
The second article in the series will talk about cultivating “ki” within one’s self.
The third article will discuss how an Aikido practitioner attempts to sense, understand, and blend with the “ki” of their partner, and point to how you can use such a mindset in your daily life.

Preface
There are many different ways to perceive, utilize, and benefit from the energy that is available to us in the course of living our life. What follows is my experience of energy (“ki”) while performing Aikido over the course of more than twenty years. Certainly there are likely to be many other Aikido practitioners that would explain their experiences and beliefs in a manner that is somewhat different than mine. I offer you here, one experience, my experience.

Aikido
Aikido is a Japanese martial art, and it does not have an attack form. We do not kick, punch, or in any other manner, attempt to hurt our opponent.

The meaning of Aikido:

“Ai” To gather or harmonize.

“Ki” Universal life force/energy.
This is the energy that we share with nature and all living beings.

“Do” An artful path of discovery.

“Aikido” An artful path of discovering how to gather and harmonize the energy of the universe.

When we sense and move with the energy that is manifesting throughout the universe we find that we have a greater ability to live a life that is healthy and fulfilling.

“Ki”
In Aikido we believe that all human beings utilize and share a common energy source (ki) that helps to run and maintain our environment as well as our individual human systems. We believe that since we all share a common energy source, that in some important way we are all truly members of the same family, and truly sharing our lives with all of nature. We do not have an attack form in Aikido, because attacking an opponent would be like attacking a family member that you love. Attacking an opponent would also be like attempting to damage the flow of Universal energy in the world, and such acts are likely to have many far reaching consequences.

In the Japanese language words that use the concept of “ki” are common.
“Gen-ki” means “root energy” or one’s “personal health”.
“Ten-ki” relates to “heavenly energy” or “the weather”.
“Hon-ki” relates to “original energy” or “the truth”.
“Yuu-ki” relates to “brave energy” or “courage”.
“Ki o tsukete” means “attach your energy to what you are doing, or “be careful”.

The origin of ki?
Where does ki originate from? In Aikido the answer is poetic in nature rather than scientific. It is suggested that ki was “born” at the same instant as the rest of the universe, and that we are all born from the ki of the universe. Ki is considered to be an energy that we all have equal access to. It is an energy that courses through our system if we do not restrict it. In Aikido we believe that excess tension physically and emotionally, fear, hate, greed, and anger, all cut us off from the universal source of ki. Our daily practice involves working at maintaining a balanced state physically and emotionally, and indeed, practicing ways to cultivate physical and emotional balance is much of what the study of Aikido is about. In Aikido physical and emotional balance are meant to be two sides of the very same coin. Physical balance helps to engender emotional balance and health, and vice versa as well. Often in my professional work with individuals I find myself first addressing the clients physical balance when they come wanting to resolve emotional issues, and I do the reverse as well. I often first address or explore how emotional imbalance might lead to the physical difficulties they are experiencing.

“Ki signature” mind, spirit-Energy manifests as spirit, spirit manifests as mind
Energy manifests within each individual as spirit, spirit manifests in each individual as mind. In some way that is a mystery to all of mankind, the freely available energy of the universe is transformed by each person into one’s own unique “ki signature”, spirit, mind. No two people have the same exact “ki signature”, just as no two people have the same exact written signature. No two people have the same exact spirit, no two people have the same exact mind. The unique way that we each take in, utilize, and expend energy, can be considered to be our “ki signature”, mind, or spirit. Each person starts with the same source of energy, and manifests this energy in a way that will never exactly be duplicated by any other human being.

Thought, body structure,and movement, shape the flow of ki, into spirit/mind
Think of the freely flowing water of a powerful river that comes upon a series of fairly large rocks spread out across the river bed and extend up beyond the water’s surface. These rocks affect the flow of the river but they do not change the nature of the water itself. Ki flows through the river bed of our brain and body. Our thoughts, body structure and movements, are like the rocks in the river bed. These are the main elements that shape ki into individual mind, or spirit The flow of ki is uniquely transformed by each human being, but the nature of the ki itself, is not altered in the process. Just as the pattern of rocks spread out along the river bed is never exactly duplicated in any other place on earth, the pattern of our thoughts, body structure, and movement is also never exactly duplicated. All mind is similar, but no two minds are exactly alike.

A heartfelt understanding of the nature of our spirit will help us to create a healthy alignment of our thoughts, body structure, movements, and actions. When every aspect of our self is fully aligned we have a much greater ability to think, feel, and act in accordance with what is best for us in any given moment. We are better able to adapt and change in a manner that is supports the well being of our entire self and our surroundings.

The misnomers of “mind-body” and “mind and body”
A definition of “mind” that I often use it in my work, is the following:
“Mind is a dynamic, self-organizing, creative system, capable of overcoming physical and temporal constraints. Mind uses and manufactures energy in order to support the self and one’s surroundings, trade information, and adapt to change.”

When considering this definition of mind, we can say that mind manifests equally in the body and in the brain in the skull. Because of this I believe that the terms “mind-body” or “mind and body” as used in the Western world, are somewhat missing the mark and tend to lead to a certain degree of misunderstanding. If you ask a Japanese person to point to their mind, usually they will point to the area of their heart, or they will point to their lower abdomen. If you ask the average Westerner to point to their mind they will point to their head. This is why I think the terms “mind-body” and “mind and body” were developed in the Western world. I believe that the average Western person thinks of the term “mind” in relation to “thinking” or “thought”. Oriental philosophy considers “mind” to be immanent in both the body and the brain. In Aikido we say that we practice in order to calm the mind, by coordinating our thoughts, the actions of our body, and our breath. Or we say that we practice in order to further empower and actualize our mind by coordinating our thoughts, physical actions, breath, and spirit.

When looking to calm our mind we give our primary attention to calming our breath and our heart beat, which will tend to lead towards a relaxing of our musculature and a slowing down or cessation of our internal dialogue. If we calm our body we will tend to calm our cognitive thought processes. Calming the mind can also be accomplished by giving primary attention to the speed, rhythm, and tone of voice of our internal dialogue. If we calm our cognitive thought processes we will tend to calm the body. When we calm both our cognitive thought processes and our body, then we calm our mind. Cognitive mind and somatic mind are part of a recursive feedback loop. You can’t affect one without affecting the other.

Integrating the Intelligence of your Five “Brains”

Many of us live our lives shuttling back and forth between two seemingly different identities that often conflict with each other. Our rational self tells us we need to lose weight and exercise more, while our emotional self has us eating potato chips and watching reruns on TV. These two conflicting identities, living in a single human being, is what I often encounter when clients come for therapy or coaching. The client’s rational self says “I should,” and their emotional self says, “Even though I know I should, I can’t.” Clients come to me hoping to resolve this conflict and to live in a manner that honors and melds the relationship and desires of both identities. This integration of self is one of the primary tasks of personal development.

We can understand a great deal more about why so many people struggle with integrating their emotions with their intellect by looking at the architecture of our total human intelligence. With regard to the information I would like to present here, and speaking simplistically, science currently tells us that as a result of millions of years of evolution, each human being is now the proud owner of an intelligence made up of five brains. Having five brains gives us the possibility for much greater flexibility in living our lives, but having four brains, each performing different functions, also makes for the challenge of integrating information and experiences that are often seemingly contradictory. Just as when we add on new peripherals to our slightly out-of-date computer system and wind up with problems the maker never dreamed of, for the most part we don’t seem to know how to meld the ancient process of emotional response with the newfangled intellectual responses that sprang to life with the development of the neocortex. This integration of the self is one of the primary tasks of somatic approaches to “change” work, and it takes a good deal of wisdom, trial and error, and exploration.

FIVE BRAINS

1. The somatic brain/enteric nervous system (located mainly in the gut).
This brain came first in evolution and existed in very early organisms hundreds of millions of years ago. The enteric nervous system plays a major role in digestion, and in the production and output of the various hormones that are crucial to our emotional and physical wellbeing. For instance, the enteric nervous system produces approximately 85% of the system’s serotonin, a key element in regulating our emotional well-being.

2. The reptilian brain

This brain orchestrates breathing, heartbeat, swallowing, visual tracking, and the startle response. Although reptiles are said to not be able to experience emotion, all of these body functions as just listed do significantly affect the emotions of human beings. Shallow breathing, darting eyes, and an increase in heart rate will very definitely lead to a feeling of fear or anxiety.

3. The mammalian or limbic brain

This brain appeared after millions of years of evolution, and led to animals having emotions, and to suckling and rearing of young by their mothers. The limbic brain melds the circuitry of the enteric nervous system and the reptilian brain into our sense of emotion. Emotions were felt and acted upon long before the ability of animals to reason. Indeed, emotion comes prior to thought, and that is exactly where most people run into great difficulty. Our emotional experience is an immediate and primal response that has very little if anything to do with our ability to reason.

4. The heart

Over the last decade or so more and more researchers have been designating the heart as another seat of intelligence. The heart orchestrates and determines much of what takes place in our system, and learning how to tap into the rhythms of the heart can go a long way towards helping us to live an emotionally stable life. Through the use of mindfulness exercises and biofeedback, we can indeed change the rhythm of the heart, and in the process we become better able to manage our emotions.

5. The neocortex

Last but not least, in its most highly developed form, the neocortex is the singular gift of humans. The neocortex gives us the ability to reason, deal in abstractions, communicate verbally, and be goal oriented. The neocortex has little if any true understanding of emotions. Although talking about our emotions can definitely be of some help, rarely can an intellectual understanding of our deeper emotional patterns help us to change the way we feel and act. Thank goodness, this fact of life is more and more appreciated by therapists, and others responsible for helping people gain and maintain emotional health.

Even with the intelligence of five brains to draw on, we still often find ourselves unable to rectify the paradox of reason and emotion. To live a balanced, satisfying life, each of us needs to learn how to better embrace, appreciate, and synthesize the emotional wisdom emanating from our enteric nervous system our reptilian and limbic brains, and our heart, with the intellectual wisdom of our neocortex. By better attending to our emotions, we help the neocortex to be less of an autocratic leader, and more of a team player. When we are emotionally healthy, we tend to be physically healthy, too, and our worldly goals take on new meaning. Without attending to our emotional experience, we find little solace in our achievements, possessions, and relationships, and little true satisfaction.

THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE AND EMOTION

Our enteric, reptilian, limbic, and heart brains, along with our body, orchestrate and “speak” a language that is at least as complete, sophisticated, and grammatically correct as the verbal language of our neocortex. This preverbal language is the language of love and emotion, and it determines the framework that verbal language is constructed from. Increase your heart rate, breathe shallowly, and constrict your muscles, and this somatic communication will lead you to report that you are tense and ill at ease. Relax and calm your physiology and breathing, and this somatic communication will lead you to a very different verbal conversation, and a different perspective of who you are and what you are capable of. Our feelings emanate from the body, and are reported on after the fact by the verbal centers of our brain, much like a journalist reports on news events. Without a bodily reaction, there is no news to report. We can gain a different perspective of our life by listening to our newscast, but rarely will talking about what has taken place change the emotional experience generated by the body.

When our emotions and our intellect are at odds, invariably we find that the language of our body and the language of our intellect are communicating conflicting messages. When our heart says “No” and our intellect says “Yes,” we rarely wind up achieving our goals. By better understanding how we generate the primal messages of love and emotion that our body communicates, we can meld our emotional and rational desires into one comprehensive whole. We often instead subvert or deny our emotional longings by telling ourselves what we “should” be doing. For millions of years prior to the upstart neocortex coming along, the regulation of the body’s systems was successfully carried out by the enteric nervous system, reptilian brain, limbic brain, and heart. Try as we might, we simply are not designed to have our rational mind tell the body what to do and how to feel. We cannot command ourselves to secrete the various enzymes necessary for high quality digestion, and we cannot willfully direct ourselves to no longer feel heartbroken, depressed, or incompetent. To change our emotional experience, we need to speak to our body in the language of love and emotion.

WE ARE A RELATIONSHIP

Each human being has a primary set of internal relationships that make up the self. Indeed we can say that the primary unit of “self” IS relationship. No one part of the system of self is the commander in chief. No one part of the system is any more intelligent than any other part. Living a fulfilling life is a team effort of the entire self. We need to cultivate a deep appreciation for the vital communication that emanates from the body, and communicate to the body in a supportive life-affirming manner.

How to do this? Learn how to become more aware and mindful of the language your body is speaking. When we change the grammar of the body by stabilizing, calming, and adjusting our heartbeat, breathing, posture, body movements, and visual focus, we begin to affect changes in our overall mood, health, perception, and identity. As our enteric nervous system and our reptilian and limbic brains orchestrate changes in our physiology, we change the structure and quality of our emotions, and thus our thinking, and we change the physical structure and activity of our neocortex as well. Our somatic intelligence initiates the changes that lead to our emotional and physical well-being, and our rational mind will do well to honor such wisdom. Deny or denigrate the language of love and emotion, and you will find yourself constantly at odds with developing the relationship with self that leads to health, happiness, and loving relationships.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS

Beyond attending to the relationship we have with our self, the quality of one’s life is determined by the quality of our relationships with others. When we feel no choice but to face the world alone, we suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and no degree of outward success can replace or repair the lonely feeling in our heart. No matter how talented, wealthy, or trim and fit we appear, without supportive relationships it is a difficult challenge for anyone to maintain physical and emotional health. Children, pets, loved ones, mentors, colleagues, and teachers all can help fulfill our need for connection to other sentient, limbic beings. Our nervous system is an “open loop learning system” that draws on energetic connections with others to continually adapt and hopefully flourish. This concept of “open loop learning” is very much a part of the theory of Aikido. When being attacked in an Aikido class we are hoping to move toward “joining with” our adversary and creating the energetic connection that can lead to stabilization of both parties’ emotions, and a sense of physical and emotional completion. We come to understand each attack as a physical expression of loneliness and separation, and the desire for connection. A deep sense of separation from others leads to fear, and fear can easily lead to feeling one’s self being attacked, and thus lead to attacking others in turn. In Aikido we gain a direct understanding of how a physically and emotionally healthy person requires ongoing enrichment, stabilization, and support from other nervous systems.

PRE-COGNITIVE KNOWLEDGE

When we talk about the interaction of nervous systems among mammals, we mean that the nervous systems of two people in relationship very definitely communicate with, inform, and change each other. Our emotional connection with others clearly affects our moods, emotions, hormonal flow, digestion, body clock, and even the structure of our brains. Without conscious direction, and without the need to think, our nervous systems are always learning from and adapting to our interactions. For millions of years mammals have had the need to intuit which other mammals are safe and which predators. As mammals, we have a limbic- emotional connection with each other that does not require the capacity to think, analyze, or rationalize. Emotional understanding comes prior to thinking.

We can easily find examples of the importance of supportive limbic-emotional contact with others. It is fascinating to note that baby monkeys who have lost their mothers at an early age not only wind up with various developmental problems but they also prove incapable of living successfully with the rest of their community. The same is true for children forced to grow up in harsh, sterile conditions. Children who grow up in orphanages that give little human contact and emotional bonding have a dreadfully high mortality rate. High-quality health and emotional well-being require supportive limbic relationships. Our nervous system needs to locate and be nurtured by other nervous systems for us to have a sense of stability and completion. This is one of the most important offerings we can make to our clients. We can connect with them limbicly, and help them to develop a deeper sense of safety, calmness, and dignity. Our need to live our life in supportive limbic relationship with others is very much a wonderful fact of life, and not at all a weakness to be overcome. As mammals, we all require “a little help from our friends.”

A PATH OF HEALING A PATH OF LOVE

In the personal development discipline of Seishindo, we work along five mutually supportive pathways.

1. We support the client to make a generative limbic-emotional connection to self and others. As mammals acting in the supportive role of therapist or coach, we begin by calming ourselves, and developing the condition of wellbeing that leads to an outpouring of limbic energy. We connect emotionally with our clients and help them to stabilize and restore the vitality of their nervous system, while teaching them alternate ways of reacting to and processing energetic input. This process is largely nonverbal in nature.

2. We increase awareness of and responsiveness to the communication of the enteric nervous system and the reptilian, limbic, and heart brains.

3. We teach how to properly align physiology so as to increase the overall energy flow in the system, and facilitate natural and graceful use of the entire body.

4. We teach our clients how to orchestrate the tiny micromuscular movements that lead to changes in one’s emotional conversation and sense of well-being.

5. We teach our clients how to construct verbal conversations that meld the language of love and emotion with the language of the intellect.

Seishindo methods are eclectic and include Aikido, Sei Tai (A Japanese system of health and energy management), Structural Integration, various mindfulness practices, bodywork which is performed with the client lying down, sitting on large physiotherapy balls, walking, or performing other activities, NLP, and showing clients how the interplay of the carriage of the head and neck, the overall posture, breathing, eye movements, and tiny rocking movements of the torso, all lead to specific emotional conversations.

I hope this article enriches your model of physical and emotional well-being, and offers alternative perspectives to explore.

Yes AND No – Saying BOTH at the same time

This Exercise can be used to help you understand how you often say one thing with your body and another thing with your words; one thing with your heart and another thing with your rational mind. You can also use this exercise to help you better understand what you really want and/or believe in.

Get together in groups of three: The Interviewer, the Client, and an Observer. The Observer is to act as the Interviewer’s colleague, and in particular is to note whether or not each question gets answered “correctly” by the Client. When a question does not get answered correctly, the Observer and or the Interviewer make suggestions for corrections.

Preparatory Stage

1. The Client carefully considers an aspiration that they have been feeling stuck about. Don’t pick something that you are totally stuck on, and at the same time please do not choose an aspiration that isn’t really all that important. Choose something that is rather important to you. The Client is to state their aspiration in a clear short sentence. “I want a better paying job.” Or “I want to get married.” Or … … . The Interviewer is to make sure that the sentence is short and concise. This is important. The Interviewer writes down the aspiration. 2. On a scale of one to ten, the Client rates how likely it is that s/he will achieve their goal. A score of 10 means s/he feels attaining the goal is 100% likely. A scale of 1 means the person feels like s/he almost certainly will not achieve the goal. For the sake of this exercise, please do not pick an aspiration that is an 8-10 to start out with. Better to pick something in the 3-7 range. 3. The Interview asks a series of questions that are meant to elicit info about potentially important elements of the Client’s life. The Interviewer should note and ask twelve basic questions. Each question is to have a “Yes” or “No” answer. The Interviewer writes down these answers in a simple format. Possible questions: “Is your name X?” “Are you a female?” “Are you married?” “Do you like your job?” “Do you have children?” “Is you favorite hobby golf?” “Is your favorite food fried grasshoppers?” “Are you a dentist?” 4. After asking the twelve questions, the Interviewer, along with the Observer divides the twelve questions into two groups of six questions each. At the bottom of each group of six questions the Interviewer adds a seventh question, which is repeated verbatim in both groups. The seventh question is: “Do you feel like you are likely to achieve your aspiration of … … …?”

Level One task:

5. The Client is SLOWLY asked the first group of six questions + one. The Client’s method of answering: The Client is to answer “truthfully” with their head, shaking “Yes” or “No”, while giving the opposite answer with their verbal “Yes” or “No”. So if I was being interviewed and I was asked, “Is your name Charlie?” I would shake my head “Yes”, as I verbally answer “No.” If I was asked if I was a woman, I would shake my head “No” while saying “Yes.” It is important, as much as possible, to shake the head and give the answer at the same time, OR lead a bit with your somatic answer.

Level Two task:

6. The Client is now SLOWLY asked the second set of six questions + one. This time the Client’s method of answering is the opposite of what was just done. The client is to answer “truthfully” with their words, and the opposite with the shaking of their head. So if I was being interviewed, “Is your name Charlie?” I would say “Yes” as I shook my head “No.” If I was asked if I was a woman, I would say “No” as I shook my head “Yes.” It is important, as much as possible, to shake the head and give the answer at the same time.

Level Three Task:

7. All three members sit and breathe for about three minutes. No talking, just sitting and breathing.

Level Four task:

8. The Client thinks about their aspiration again. And once again the Client rates how likely it is that s/he will accomplish their aspiration. Debrief:

  • Which task (words correct and body incorrect or vice versa) did the Client find hardest to do?
  • Which individual questions were most difficult to answer?
  • Did the Client’s feeling of how likely s/he was to achieve their aspiration change?
  • Did this kind of process create confusion for the Client?
  • Is the feeling the Client had doing this exercise at all like the feelings they have when they answer questions that they are uncertain about?
  • Would the Interviewer and or the Observer like to share anything about what they noticed and learned?

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)

Walking With Grace and Power

This Practice serves you well in your daily life, as you come away feeling more centered and calm.

  1. Stand comfortably in a posture that feels “at ease” for you.
  2. Place your feet so they are just a couple of inches apart. Imagine that your two legs and feet are joined together as one unit, and that you are standing on one broad foot and leg, rather than on two ordinary legs and feet. Notice how your sense of balance shifts and how your body moves even as you “stand still.”
  3. Imagine that your pelvic area and lower abdomen (your belly button area and below) are filled with a thick lubricating liquid. The idea being that your lower body feels a liquid ease of movement.
  4. Now, shift your weight “just enough” so that all of your weight is in your right leg. Lift your left leg and take a small step forward. Your left leg should be straight as it touches the ground, first with your heel, and then rolling through the foot into the sole and toes. The width of your entire foot from outside to inside, should touch the ground with equal pressure.
  5. As you have been stepping forward with your left leg, your right leg will have been bending as you roll through your right foot and get ready to take a small step forward with your right foot and leg.
  6. When you are ready to continue moving forward, lightly place your right foot in front of you, touching the ground first with your right heel.Carry through with the same movements and sensations as you did with your left leg and foot.
  7. As you walk, pay attention to carrying the weight of your upper body in a somewhat more forward position than what is usual for you. You let the weight of your upper body fall into the area of your lower abdomen and you let this low center of gravity just ever so much impel your forward. The idea being to your movement from your lower abdomen and pelvis.
  8. Be mindful of your breathing and match it to the rhythm of your footsteps. Whatever works for you is fine. One good rhythm is: Inhale through your nose as you step first with the left foot and then with the right foot. Exhale through your nose as you step again with your left foot and then your right foot. Repeat this breathing rhythm over and over again as you walk.

Breath-Walking

  1. Take smaller steps than usual and walk slowly.
  2. Be certain that your lead foot touches heel first, and that your leg is in a relaxed straight position as the heel of your lead foot makes contact with the ground, and you POUR your weight into this lead foot.
  3. Get a walking rhythm going that matches your breath rhythm. Inhaling and exhaling together with the rhythm of your feet gliding on the ground.
  4. Once you have this going, hold an intention in the form of a mantra.For instance if you were wanting your friend John to regain his health you might speak the words- “John-Health-Love….John-Health-Love.”As another example you could use a four count mantra of “Peaceful, Calm, Happy, Love.”

Possible Additional Activities

  1. Prior to getting into your standing position, make a statement of intention, stating what you would like to accomplish. “I want a better relationship with my spouse.”
  2. Next, imagine that you have already accomplished your intention, and make an “I am” statement. For instance “I am sharing a wonderful life with my spouse.”
  3. Once you have the statement clearly in mind, go ahead and perform the basic walking Practice while calmly and slowly repeating your “I am” statement out loud.

It is likely that you will feel a shift in your emotional state in regard to your intention.

It is also excellent to do the general walking Practice while practicing giving a speech, or going over an important conversation that you are thinking of having.

Breath-Talking

In almost all instances, when we are upset, angry, or stressed, our system gets out of synch and out of rhythm. Often at such times our breathing becomes shallow and we speak rather quickly, as if we need to say it all in one gulp. When we react like this, the more we speak the worse we tend to feel.

If instead you stay calm and talk slowly, in rhythm with a nice relaxed breathing cycle, you will find that you can very definitely alter the way you think and feel. I think you will likely be surprised by the results you can achieve with this Practice.

This Practice assumes you have a situation or relationship that you would like to be able to better understand or change. (If you have not yet done the “I am” Practice better to complete that Practice first.)

Read through these instructions once or twice before actually proceeding.

1. As a “Breath talker” you develop a clear breathing rhythm, in through the nose, and out through the mouth. As you develop your breathing rhythm start out with the same count/duration of the breath for inhaling and exhaling.

2. As you breathe imagine that you are preparing to send a blow dart into a nearby target. Imagine that you send the dart JUST as you begin your exhale. The sound and movement of your exhale in particular, is meant to mimic the imagined action, feeling, and direction, of throwing the dart. You will be making a sound something like “Wwhhou”

Find a crisp, relaxed, breathing rhythm, in through the nose and out through the mouth, and send the dart four or five times.

3. Once you are into a nice rhythm, do away with the “Wwhhou” sound and instead, begin to speak in short phrases in a free form manner, as you exhale.

For example:

“My name is Charlie”… (and then you inhale when you are ready)

“I live in Japan for thirty years now”… (and then you inhale when you are ready)

“Today is warm and beautiful outside.”… (and then you inhale when you are ready)

One short phrase for each exhale, and then inhale in an expansive manner. You can talk about whatever you like, and one phrase can be about one topic, while the next phrase can be about another topic. Just say whatever comes to mind.

4. Once you have the feel of this, stop and take a rest.

5. Now make up an “I am” statement.

Here is how to develop an “I am” statement:

Make believe that you have already achieved the results of something you would like to work on during the course of this Practice, and make a statement that describes how your feel, and experience “life” and or yourself having ALREADY achieved the results you desire. For instance, if you are wanting to lose weight you might say, “I am healthy and maintaining an optimal body weight.”

It is very important that you make an “I am” statement that gives you the mental image and emotional feeling of how you look and feel having ALREADY accomplished your goal, rather than using negative terms that describe how you do NOT want to be. An incorrectly formulated “I am” statement would be “I am no longer overweight and I feel good about myself.” In the same way, a successful athlete would NOT say to herself “I am no longer missing field goals during the important moments of a game.” Instead, she would state what she IS doing, having already accomplished her goal, “I am making my field goals during the important moments of a game.” It is important to keep your “I am” statement simple. In general, the simpler the better.

Once you have made your “I am” statement, get back into your breathing rhythm for several cycles and then speak your “I am” statement several times over several breathing cycles. Start speaking at the beginning of your exhale, pause, inhale, and then speak your “I am” statement again at the start of your next exhale. If you like you can go through more than one breathing cycle before repeating your “I am” statement again. Whatever feels most comfortable for you will be best.

Rest.

6. Now get into your breath-talking rhythm for several cycles and then describe your overall experience as you stay in your “I am” frame of mind. Feel free to say whatever you like, as long as you speak slowly during an exhale, pause, and then inhale expansively.

If and whenever you get out of synch with your breath-talking, stop your speaking as you CONTINUE to breathe, and then start back again with the last statement that you were out of synch with. Staying in synch with your breathing is more important than the words you speak.

At times, depending on your intuition, you might actually want to stop the flow of your current conversation and make whatever other statements come to mind.

For instance: “I am feeling relaxed”… Or, “I can hear other people talking”… “I am wondering what will wind up happening”…

That’s all there is to this process. It is definitely simple, and yet it will likely take you a while to get the hang of it. Please know that I find this Practice to be of great value to people and I think you will likely be surprised by what you learn.

 

 

 

 

 

Somatic Self-Hypnosis

This Practice is rather unique, yet still quite simple to perform. In order to make the instructions as clear as possible, the instructions read quite a bit longer than when I teach this Practice in person.

The purpose of this Practice is to help you understand how the way you use your body creates a different experience of the challenges you face.

It will be best to first read through the instructions once or twice so that you will not have to interrupt yourself later on, by needing to read every step in detail.

As always, breathing and taking your time with this Practice are of paramount importance.

Materials that you will need to perform the Practice:
A. Several hardcover books if available. Soft cover books or even newspapers are also fine. When you stack the books one on top of the other the stack should be roughly six to eight inches high. At least two of the books should be about one inch high when sitting flat on a desk.
B. A clock which clearly show the seconds ticking away. Best if you have a clock that you can place in the room as you like.

Again, as always, this Practice is designed to be done numerous times over a period of time. The results you get over time might be somewhat magical, but the Practice itself is not at all magical. The “magic” shows up in the doing! Performing the Practice numerous times will give you great value.

1. Determine and state a relationship or behavior that you would like to better understand as a result of doing this Seishindo Self-hypnosis Practice.
In Seishindo we strongly suggest exploring what you would like to better understand, rather than striving to change a behavior or relationship. All too often people attempt to change something in their life, without fully understanding the circumstances involved. Our belief is: If you truly understand a situation or relationship, both cognitively and emotionally, you will almost certainly find that a “problem” no longer exists.
Please make a clear statement of intention now. For instance, “I would like to better understand my relationship with eating and food.”

2. Create an “I am” statement.
Here is how to develop an “I am” statement:
Make believe that you have ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED your intention as just stated above. Make a statement that describes how your feel, and experience “life” and or yourself having ALREADY achieved the results you desire. For instance, if you are wanting to have “a better understanding of my relationship to food” you might say, “I am enjoying my healthy relationship with food and eating, and feeling good.”

It is very important that you make an “I am” statement that gives you the mental image and emotional feeling of how you look and feel having ALREADY accomplished your goal, rather than using negative terms that describe how you do NOT want to be. An incorrectly formulated “I am” statement would be “I am no longer overweight and I feel good about myself.” In the same way, a successful athlete would NOT say to herself “I am no longer missing field goals during the important moments of a game.” Instead, state what you ARE doing, having already accomplished your goal. The athlete might say, “I am feeling confident as I continue to make my field goals.” It is important to keep your “I am” statement simple. In general, the simpler the better.

In particular, people often struggle with how to make a statement in regard to “smoking” or “stress”.
We do NOT want to say something like “I am better understanding my relationship to smoking/stress.” because such a statement would have us continuing to think about “Smoking/Stress” Much better to say something like (Depending on your circumstances of course.) “I am in a healthy relationship with my whole self, and feeling fit and fine.” Or, “I am having healthy reactions to life’s many ups and downs.”

It is quite likely that your “I am” statement will change during the course of this Practice, or you might find that your “I am” statement changes the next time you entertain the same issue. This is fine. As long as you continue to state your “I am” statement in positive terms, welcome a change in your statement, if and when a change does occur.)

Take the time now to write down your initial intent, and the “I am” statement that you have created.

3. With your shoes off, stand with one foot on the floor and your other foot resting on top of your stack of books that is roughly between six to eight inches in height. Shift about 60% of your weight to the foot that is on top of the books.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements. If you are in a suitable space, it is best to make your “I am” statements out loud.

4. Switch to having your other foot on top of the books.

Once again, make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

5. Now switch the set up of the books. Work with the two books that are only about one inch thick. Place one book under the ball of your right foot and the other book under the heal of your left foot.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

6. Switch feet. Place one book under the ball of your left foot the other one under the heel of your right foot.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

7. Now switch the set up of the books again. Working with the two books that are only about one inch thick, place each book under the ball of each foot.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

8. Now switch the set up of the books again. Working with the two books that are only about one inch thick, place each book under the heel of each foot.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

9. Continuing to stand with the books under both heels, tighten up your face muscles, raise and tighten your shoulders, and tighten ALL of your other muscles as well.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

10. Stand in a “regular” manner with both feet on the floor. Rock slowly and rhythmically from front to back.

Stand and rock like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

11. Stand in a “regular” manner with both feet on the floor. Rock slowly and rhythmically from left to right.

Stand and rock like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

12. Stand in a “regular” manner with both feet on the floor. Nothing special to do this time.

Stand like this and make your “I am” statement out loud, and then breathe deeply three times. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

After taking your three deep breaths, just stare out into the distance, as then begin to repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow repetitive fashion. Take about one minute for this. Be certain to speak to yourself slowly, and to take at least one deep breath in between your statements.

The “active” part of the Practice is now complete.

Note to yourself your “I am” statement now. Is it the same as before? As I said up top change is fine if it comes, but either way is OK.

Note how you feel now, and how you feel in regard to your original intention and your “I am” statement(s). You might find it useful to take some notes.

Tuning In

This Seishindo Self-hypnosis Practice is great for helping you to better understand and adapt to the various challenges you face in life. As you little by little come to a place of greater understanding, compassion, and self love, you will find your experience of life and your relationships, being transformed. Eventually you will come to understand that ever challenge life offers you, is actually an opportunity to grow and evolve.

We suggest that you strive for understanding, self love, and compassion, and not “change.”

It is suggested that you read through these instructions several times prior to beginning. This will give you the possibility of doing the whole Practice without needing to refer to the notes. Of course do refer to the notes if you need to, but you will likely get the most pleasing results when you can leave the notes behind.

It is important to know that these notes are meant as a general guideline, and there is no need to worry about following the steps exactly as they are written.

What is important, is that during the course of this Practice, you maintain a soft focus with your eyes, SLOW mild mannered internal dialogue/talking, and a deep and relaxed breathing pattern.

If possible, it is best to do this Practice in a location and time that allows for you to make your statements out loud. BUT, much better to do this Practice often only speaking to yourself internally, rather than waiting for the perfect circumstances!

This Practice assumes that you have an issue, relationship, or circumstance in your life that you would like to better understand.

Seat yourself so that you are comfortable.
[I find this Practice a lot more powerful when I look at myself in a mirror during the entire Practice, but this is not at all necessary. You can just sit looking at the wall, or out the window.]

If in any way you feel like you are rushing even a tiny bit, you are to slow down, and begin again. Maintaining a slow relaxed pace is an important part of the overall process.

1) State your intention in regard to understanding an issue / relationship / circumstance more fully.
For instance: “I would like to have a better understanding of my relationship to food.”
It is important to stick to wanting to “better understand” something, rather than attempting to change or fix something that you perhaps do not fully understand.

2) Create an “I am” statement.
Here is how to develop an “I am” statement:
Make believe that you have ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED your intention as just stated above. Make a statement that describes how your feel, and experience “life” and or yourself having ALREADY achieved the results you desire. For instance, if you are wanting to have “a better understanding of my relationship to food” you might say, “I am enjoying my healthy relationship with food and eating, and feeling good.”

It is very important that you make an “I am” statement that gives you the mental image and emotional feeling of how you look and feel having ALREADY accomplished your goal, rather than using negative terms that describe how you do NOT want to be. An incorrectly formulated “I am” statement would be “I am no longer overweight and I feel good about myself.” In the same way, a successful athlete would NOT say to herself “I am no longer missing field goals during the important moments of a game.” Instead, state what you ARE doing, having already accomplished your goal. The athlete might say, “I am feeling confident as I continue to make my field goals.” It is important to keep your “I am” statement simple. In general, the simpler the better.

In particular, people often struggle with how to make a statement in regard to “smoking” or “stress”.
We do NOT want to say something like “I am better understanding my relationship to smoking/stress.” because such a statement would have us continuing to think about “Smoking/Stress” Much better to say something like (Depending on your circumstances of course.) “I am in a healthy relationship with my whole self, and feeling fit and fine.” Or, “I am having healthy reactions to life’s many ups and downs.”

It is quite likely that your “I am” statement will change during the course of this Practice, or you might find that your “I am” statement changes the next time you entertain the same issue. This is fine. As long as you continue to state your “I am” statement in positive terms, welcome a change in your statement, if and when a change does occur.)

3) Once you are clear about what your “I am” statement is for now, SLOWLY repeat it three times while taking a DEEP breath after each statement. It is important that you breathe deeply and expansively. Take your time while doing this.

4) Sit quietly for one full minute or so….
Allow your eyes to lightly rest on whatever is in front of you….
And breathe in and out through your nose….
A bit deeper than usual….
And notice any rocking movements you might have, if any…..

5) Now, state three things that you see….
Now, breathe deeply three times….
Taking your time……

6) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And then, take three deep breaths….

7) Now, name three sounds that you hear….
Now, feeling like you have a luxurious amount of time for this Practice….
Breathe deeply three times….
Taking all the time that you need….

8) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And now, take three deep breaths….

9) Now, state three sensations that you feel inside or on the surface of your body. Please be certain to name three physical sensations. Please do not use terms like “happy” “tired” “sad”.
For instance, you might say “I can feel my heart beating, my posture is rounded forward, and my left eye is a bit more open than my right eye.”

Don’t do anything to change yourself, just note how you are now….
Now, breathe deeply three times….
Taking your time to relax into the moment….

10) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And now, take three deep breaths….

11) Now, state two things that you see….
And then, breathe deeply three times….

12) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And now, take three deep breaths….

13) Now, as you sit comfortably, name two sounds that you hear….
And now, breathe deeply three times….

14) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And now, take three deep breaths….

15) Now, name two physical sensations that you feel, inside, or on the surface of, your body….
Now, breathe deeply three times.

16) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And now, take three deep breaths…..

17) Now, state one thing that you see….
And now, take three deep breaths….

18) Name one sound that you hear….
And now, take three deep breaths….

19) Now, name one physical sensation that you feel….
And now, take three deep breaths….

20) Now, make your “I am” statement….
And now, take three deep breaths….

21) For one full minute or so, allow your mind to wander in any direction it likes….
While at the same time…. keeping a rhythmic feel to your breathing….

22) Now, speak any statements that come to your mind at this time….
You can state how you are feeling physically and emotionally….
You can state any thoughts that come to your mind….
You can state what you hear, see, and feel…..

23) What have you learned?
How do you feel in regard to your initial intention?
How does your “I am” statement feel to you?
What is your emotional state like now?

There are not any right or wrong answers or statements here.
You are only meant to notice your experience.
Your experience will indeed change over time.

Please perform this practice numerous other times so that you can notice how it is your RELATIONSHIP to your initial intention, changes over time.

Only one, Only moving, Only calm

You can initially perform this practice as you follow the instructions step by step on your computer screen. In a short while you will find that you no longer need to read the instructions and you can just take a pleasant wandering journey on your own. Then you might find that your experience deepens and your good feeling grows.

The main idea for this Practice is to notice how movement and breath are important components in all of life. Notice how movement and breath connect all living beings together, as active players in the symphony of life.

If it is convenient for you I would suggest using some slow soothing music when doing this Practice. Keep the music quite low, but definitely audible. Let the music feed your movement and breath.

Although you can do this Practice either sitting or standing, I will describe doing it from a seated position.

“From a seated position, take a minute or two and quiet yourself down……. As you begin to quiet down, notice if you can, your heartbeat….the rhythm of your breathing……. and how your body moves with each breath…….”

“Take a minute and also notice any sounds that are in your local environment……..and note what it is you see around you………”

“Breathe deeply, as you balance the structure of your body, and release the muscles of your face, neck, chest, and stomach…… And then breathe deeply again…………”

“Move around some as you perhaps begin to feel the pulse of life within you…….”

“Breathe deeply, and allow the weight of your body to rest in your lower abdomen…………. Have a sense of your lower abdomen being quite heavy and full, and at the same time feel that all of the rest of your trunk is light, and expanding upwards and outwards…….”

“Sometimes it is helpful to have an image that assists you in feeling both heavy and light at the same time…….. An image that might prove helpful is………..Consider your pelvis to be like a large pot, and your lower abdomen is the water that fills your pot………… Now, let the water in your pot begin to warm up, so that steam forms and rises up from your pot……like the soothing steam rising from a bath tub or sauna………”

As this warming, relaxing steam rises up and washes over you…….. let it fill your upper body and give you the sense that the rising steam leads your whole upper body to ever so much, rise up and expand…………”

“Breathe deeply and feel both the weight of your full pot, and the expansion and lightness of the steam rising up and enveloping and expanding your upper body…… Experience the rising and expanding steam to be an outpouring of ki……..”

“Breathe deeply and notice the movement of the steam…… the movement of your ki……the movement of your body…….and feel an inflow of ki, like a soothing breeze, as the atmospheric pressure around you moves into your space, to balance the lessened air pressure of the rising steam……”

“Breathe deeply and notice that your spirit is quite immovable right now……. Very firm, very calm, very present….As if there is a strong but gentle force expanding inside of you……. while at the same time there is a strong but gentle force contracting inside of you….. Your spirit contracts and expands at the same time…… and your spirit is quite able to move if movement is indeed necessary…….”

“Breathing deeply and sensing a unity with all of life….. doing only what your spirit moves you to do…… and nothing more or less……..Your “doing less” leads you to feel and expand into your power……… while having a greater sense of connection to life…… Great calmness leading to great action…… like a hurricane radiating out from its calm center…….. Great action leads to great calmness, as when a strongly thrown top rights itself and calmly spins round its center……….”

“The expansion and contraction of your breathing…….. The expansion and contraction of your heartbeat….. The expansion and contraction of air currents throughout the world as some areas heat up and other areas cool off….. The movement of the clouds in a light blue sky….. The movement of the leaves on a large tree as a fresh spring breeze passes by………. The rapid flowing of a mountain stream fed by the melting snow moving down the mountain…. The call of a bird……..the crying of a young baby…….. the beating of your heart……….and the inhale and exhale of your breath…… all taking place right now…. feeling this moment……..saying yes to this moment…… feeling one with this moment…….. feeling your movement…….. and sensing how your movement is a movement that is common to all of life……. the entire universe is moving….. the whole world is breathing….. and it is the need for diversity…… the need for differrence…….. both expansion AND contraction………. black AND white……inhaling………AND exhaling……… that balances the world… and leads to an outpouring of spirit……. a sense of Oneness, with all of life……….

Open Perspective

1. Make a statement of intention stated in “positive” terms as to what you would like to accomplish today.

2. Turn your statement of intention into an “I am” statement.

Here is how to develop an “I am” statement:
Make believe that you have already achieved the results of something you would like to work on during the course of this Practice, and make a statement that describes how your feel, and experience “life” and or yourself having ALREADY achieved the results you desire. For instance, if you are wanting to lose weight you might say, “I am healthy, maintaining an optimal body weight, and feeling good about myself.”

It is very important that you make an “I am” statement that gives you the mental image and emotional feeling of how you look and feel having ALREADY accomplished your goal, rather than using negative terms that describe how you do NOT want to be. An incorrectly formulated “I am” statement would be “I am no longer overweight and I feel good about myself.” In the same way, a successful athlete would NOT say to herself “I am no longer missing field goals during the important moments of a game.” Instead, state what you ARE doing, having already accomplished your goal, “I am making my field goals during the important moments of a game.” It is important to keep your “I am” statement simple. In general, the simpler the better.

What is important here is a soft focus with your eyes, and SLOW, mild mannered talking.

If in any way you feel like you are rushing even a tiny bit, you are to slow down, and begin again.

Maintaining a slow relaxed pace is crucial.

3. When ready, take three DEEP breaths and then repeat your “I am” statement again.

4. Now, take ONE DEEP breath and make an “open perspective” statement which is spontaneous and ad libbed in the moment.

What is meant by an “open perspective statement”?

Any statement that has seemingly nothing to do with your intention in doing this Practice, or your “I am” statement. ANY statement at all. For instance you could say something like “It snowed in late April last year.” Or “My daughter will be five years old in a week.”

5. Now again take one DEEP breath…..and make your “I am” statement again……

6. Take another DEEP breath…….and make your next “open perspective” statement……

7. Take another DEEP breath……….. and make your “I am” statement.

8. Take another DEEP breath…….and make your next “open perspective” statement……

And then again breathe deeply ………as you draw to a close.

Debrief
How does your experience in any way match or mismatch your “usual” way of thinking in regard to your statement of intent? How does if feel to make your “I am” statement numerous times? Have you learned something doing this Practice?

Heartbeat Mantra For General Calming

The Heartbeat Mantra Practice is an excellent Practice for developing a state of calmness. It is especially good to do if you find yourself becoming excessive in your thinking, or if you are feeling stressed.

[You will need to understand how to perform the Heartbeat Breathing Practice in order to take part in this process. If you do not feel that you fully understand how to do Heartbeat Breathing, please practice Heartbeat Breathing until you can do so without requiring written instructions.]

If you are in your own space it is nice to do this practice with some low and slow background music playing. If you choose music with lyrics, be certain that the lyrics do not distract you.

As you go through this practice you might notice that your body takes on a subtle rocking motion. Although this rocking motion is not important in and of itself, please allow such rocking to occur if indeed it does start to happen.

From a seated position, take a minute or to and quiet your thinking mind. Usually, a good way to begin the process of quieting down, is to first slowly take several deep breaths.

When you are ready, engage in Heartbeat Breathing for at least two minutes.

Developing your heartbeat mantra
Now stop your heartbeat breathing so that you can read through the following instructions:

For general calming
Read through these instructions first before actually performing what is asked.

Start by taking the page of MANTRAS shown below and placing the page in front of you.
(You can of course make your own page of mantras. Adding colors and simple pictures/drawings, can also be excellent.)

Sit calmly and begin to feel into your heartbeat breath.
Take your time and get into the rhythm of your heartbeat breath.
Once you feel like you have a good feel for the rhythm of your heartbeat breath, just go with the feeling, and stop counting the duration of the inhale and exhale.
Just go with your feeling for a couple of rounds of breathing.

Now, look at the first phrase on the page of mantras, for your entire inhale and exhale.
Repeat the phrase to yourself each time your heart beats, as you look at the phrase and inhale and exhale. Do this for at least one complete cycle of inhaling and exhaling.

So, for instance: You look at “No meaning” for an entire inhale AND exhale, repeating the phrase “No meaning” each time you feel your heart beat.

When you are ready, go on to the next word or phrase.
If you feel like it, instead of moving from one word to the next in an ordered fashion, you can randomly go to any word or phrase on the page that draws your attention.
Look at this new word or phrase for at least one complete inhale and exhale, and repeat the phrase at the same pace as your heartbeat.

Go through the whole page at least once.

This is the whole process.

Note for yourself how you feel right now.
What is your emotional tone right now? How do you experience your breathing? How do you experience yourself? How do you experience the world around you?
Almost certainly, you will feel differently from when you started.
Most people will report feeling a good deal more relaxed, because they have been giving their attention to their breath and heartbeat, while keeping their logical mind occupied with the various phrases being repeated.
If for some reason doing this Practice has not helped you to relax, then you will know that this is an excellent Practice to work with over time.

If necessary read the instructions again, prior to actually beginning.

1… Breathe, 2… Breathe

This is a very simple Seishindo Practice and yet it embodies an important principle of Seishindo – In almost all instances people overheat their system when talking about their perceived challenges.

In Seishindo we pay attention to assure that the words we speak are fully supported by a relaxed physiology and copious amounts of oxygen. When we speak slowly and with purpose, and fuel our process with a sufficient amount of oxygen, we literally give our body the opportunity to digest and thus emotionally understand what we say. When we do this we find that the narrative of our story changes.

What happens when a person’s narrative starts to shift? They begin to see and feel their challenge from a different perspective. Without any prompting or suggestions, an angry husband starts to perceive how he adds to the madness in his marriage. In another instance an upset parent begins to realize that it is only natural for his teenage daughter to begin dating at some point.

I am not sure how to give you the best instruction for this Practice in writing.

You are to cycle through repeating the numbers 1…2…3…4… while taking a naturally full breath in between each number. In this instance you are simply speaking numbers as a way of practicing for later conversations that contain content that is important to you. Speaking the numbers is what we call having “a conversation without content.” You are talking, but about nothing in particular. This is a great way to practice for actual conversations.

“One” spoken toward the end of your exhale…
Then you take a relaxed natural inhale and somewhere along the path of exhaling you speak the number “Two.”…
Then you take a relaxed natural inhale and somewhere along the path of exhaling you speak the number “Three.”…
Then you take a relaxed natural inhale and somewhere along the path of exhaling you speak the number “Four.”…

When you have it just right, you will feel that everything is just right. Just enough pausing, just enough speaking, and just enough breathing.

When you are able to complete two full rounds from 1-4 feeling that both rounds one after the other are just right, you should likely feel relaxed and at ease. You might feel at peace at this time and happy to just sit quietly for a few minutes, or you might feel ready to have a meaningful discussion about a subject that is important to you.

No matter what, this Practice is an important one for learning how to harmonize your words with your physiology and emotional state.

Don’t be surprised if it is not as easy as it first appears!

Practice, enjoy, and learn.

Heartbeat Breath—Calming Breath

If you are in your own space it is nice to do this practice with some low and slow background music playing. If you choose music with lyrics, be certain that the lyrics do not distract you.

As you go through this practice you might notice that your body takes on a subtle rocking motion. Although this rocking motion is not important in and of itself, please allow such rocking to occur if indeed it does start to happen.

From a seated position, take a minute or to and quiet your thinking mind. Usually, a good way to begin the process of quieting down, is to first take a couple of deep breaths.

As you begin to quiet down, notice if you can, your heartbeat. You might simply be able to feel your heartbeat pulsing in you, or you might need to feel your pulse by either placing your hand on your heart; placing your fingers on your carotid artery; or placing your fingers along either wrist. (Use any fingers other than your thumbs.)

If you can’t feel your heartbeat on its own and need to use one of your hands to help you, see after a minute or two if you can feel your heartbeat without needing to use your hand. This would be best in the long run. If you find feeling your pulse difficult, then you will be well served by practicing over time, until you can sit quietly and feel your heartbeat pulsing through you. Sensing one’s heartbeat is a primary technique used in many different health management systems for inducing greater body awareness, relaxation, and health.

Feel your heartbeat while just sitting quietly, either using your hands or not. You might notice some body movement. This is fine. Begin to notice your breath as well. Breathing in and breathing out through your nose. Feel your breath AND your heartbeat, and match the rhythm of the two. For example: Four heartbeats for the duration of the inhale and four heartbeats for the duration of the exhale. Keep your inhale and your exhale equal in length. This is rather important. As a second example: You might count your inhale for four heartbeats and then add a fifth beat as a pause or segue, prior to exhaling. Then count four heartbeats for the exhale, with an extra fifth beat as a pause or segue prior to inhaling.

You might find the duration or count of your breath changes from time to time. This is fine, and quite natural. For instance you might go from a four heartbeat count, to a three heartbeat count. Or you might go from a three heartbeat count to a five heartbeat count. Just be certain to adjust your breathing so that the inhalations and exhalations are once again of the same duration.

A minimum practice time would normally be five minutes, and you can do this practice in many different settings. On a train, bus, or plane. While a passenger in a car. Waiting in a reception room. Just prior to a test. You can take this practice with you wherever you go. If you are in a situation waiting for something to occur, you might likely find that even just one minute of this practice helps you to calm down.

Remember, when you calm your breathing you calm your body. When you calm your body, you calm your thinking and your internal dialogue. When you calm your body and your thinking, you calm your mind.

When measuring the duration of your heartbeat breath, it is important that you actually count your heartbeats and not just arbitrarily count at a predetermined pace. You are looking to meld the activity of your heart with the activity of the breath. After a while as you develop more experience with this practice you can just feel your heartbeats and no longer need to count.

To recap: Feel your heartbeat, and then synchronize your breath with your heartbeat. An inhale of say three heartbeats, a one heartbeat segue, and then a three heartbeat exhale with a one heartbeat segue. Nothing more to do than stay with this process and notice what you feel happening within your system. If you stay with this process for a few minutes you are likely to feel quite relaxed and at ease.

As simple as this Practice is, you might find it somewhat challenging in the beginning. If so, this will be a sign that it is important for you to take the time to delve more deeply into your personal rhythms.

Whole Body Breathing

(This Practice has been influenced by the work of Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen, Linda Hartley, and the study of Aikido and Yoga.)

By bringing your conscious awareness to your entire body, you can increase your health and vitality.

The explanation of this Practice is rather lengthy, but once you get the hang of it you’ll soon understand the process is quite simple and easy to perform.

Keep in mind that once you get comfortable with this Practice, you do not have to follow all of the instructions in a linear fashion.

The best thing to do once you have the basic idea, is simply go with the flow of what you remember and feel, and then reread the instructions from time to time.

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1. Start by lying down

(Laying down for this Practice is not a “must”, but we find that initially it tends to help people get the best feel for what’s going on.)

If you do lay down as suggested, better to lay on the floor, rather than a bed or couch, IF you have a floor you can be comfortable on. The idea is to get comfortable, but not to the point of going to sleep. If you do wind up drifting off to sleep, no worries.

Just do the Practice again in the near future, with the intent of staying awake.

2. Take a minute to slow down and quiet your thinking mind.

For at least three full cycles breath, breathing in and out through your nose, in a slow, full manner….

Breathe so that you can hear the air passing through your nose on both the inhale and exhale….

As you inhale, feel the air coming in through your nose, and filling up your stomach area. As you exhale, feel the breath exiting through your nostrils.

Please like this now over the course of the next sixty seconds or so….

Thoughts will likely continue to come, but simply let them go by, as if your thoughts are floating by you down a river.

3. Remaining calm…. notice your heartbeat….

You might simply be able to feel your heartbeat pulsing in you, or you might need to feel your pulse by either placing your hand on your heart; placing your fingers on your carotid artery (if you know where it is); or placing your fingers along either wrist. (Use any fingers other than your thumbs.)

Take one full minute to feel your heartbeat while lying quietly and breathing.

4. Now, let go of all that you have been doing and begin to become aware of your abdomen….

Use your hand to feel the area of your belly button. Pat yourself a bit, rub yourself a bit, lightly scratch your belly some, and then put your hand back down by your side, while continuing to be aware of and feel your abdomen….

5. Now, you’re to imagine that all of your breath enters and exits your body through your navel, much like it did when you were inside your mother’s stomach….

As you breathe in and out through your nose, imagine you’re a baby in your mother’s womb and your breath is entering and exiting through your navel….

As you breath in through your navel your stomach area expands…. As you exhale out through your navel, your stomach area gets smaller….

Imagine and feel as you can, how the breath radiates from your navel, and travels throughout your entire body….

Let your belly be free so that it can enjoy increasing and decreasing in size, giving and receiving….

6. Now, breathe in through your navel, down through your left leg, and out your left foot.

Then exhale drawing your breath up from the sole of your left foot and moving it out through your navel….

Once again, breathe in through your navel, down through your left leg, and out your left foot.

Then exhale drawing your breath up from the sole of your left foot and moving it out through your navel….

7. Now breathe in through your navel and then down through your right leg, and out your right foot.

Then exhale drawing your breath up from the sole of your right foot and moving it out through your navel…..

Once again, breathe in through your navel and then down through your right leg, and out your right foot.

Then exhale drawing your breath up from the sole of your right foot and moving it out through your navel…..

8. Now, inhale through your navel, up through your stomach and chest, and into your left shoulder.

Then slowly exhale from your left shoulder back out through your navel.

9. This time inhale through your-stomach-chest-left shoulder, and all the way down your left arm and out the fingers of your left hand.

Then slowly exhale drawing your breath from the fingers of your left hand, up your left arm, and then down and out through your navel….

Once again, inhale through your-stomach-chest-left shoulder, and all the way down your left arm and out the fingers of your left hand.

Then slowly exhale drawing your breath from the fingers of your left hand, up your left arm, and then down and out through your navel….

Feel the cleansing process of your breathing….    Oxygen coming in through your navel on your inhale….    Carbon dioxide exiting out through your navel on your exhale….    Breathing and relaxing….

Oxygen in through the navel, carbon dioxide out through the navel….

10. Now, inhale through your stomach-chest-right shoulder, and all the way down your right arm and out the fingers of your right hand….

Then slowly exhale from the fingers of your right hand, up, the arm, and down and out through your navel….

Once again, inhale through your stomach-chest-right shoulder, and all the way down your right arm and out the fingers of your right hand….

Then slowly exhale from the fingers of your right hand, up, the arm, and down and out through your navel….

Oxygen in….. Carbon dioxide out…. Cleansing your body, soothing your entire self….

Breathe in a deep relaxing manner…. Breathing in the worries of the world, and breathing out serenity and compassion…. Breathing in the worries of the world, and breathing out serenity and compassion….

Breathing in and out through your navel….. Breathing and relaxing…..

11. Now, breathe up through your stomach, chest, and neck, and out  the top of your head….

Then exhale from the top of your head, down your torso, and out through your navel….

Again, up through your stomach, chest, and neck, and out the top of your head….

Then exhale from the top of your head, down your torso, and out through your navel….

12. This time breathe as you like, while feeling your facial muscles, your eyes, your forehead, and your scalp….

Then exhale from your scalp, face, and head, out through your navel….

Imagine that you’re rinsing out an open ended container, running the water from the bottom to the top, and from the top to the bottom.

Until such time that everything is nice and clean….

Cleaning and purifying your container….

13. As you inhale and exhale freely, feel how the temperature of your body varies some from place to place on and in your body….

Notice how your breath moves your body…. And how various parts of your body have tiny movements that seem to take place “on their own” without any conscious direction on your part….

Also notice your surroundings as you breathe…. The lighting…. different objects in the room…. the temperature in the room…. the movement of air…. the sounds in the local environment…..

Now, if you haven’t done so already, close your eyes…. and simply feel yourself all over, with your breath emanating from your navel….

In and out…. In and out….

Breathe like this for at least one minute.

14. Now, let go of everything you’ve been doing, and feel your heartbeat again.

Maintain a general sense of breathing in and out through your navel, as you also feel your heartbeat.

Breathe like this for at least two minutes.

Body + Language = Emotional Experience

We fully realize that this exercise might prove to be a bit too complicated for you to try out without having attended a Seishindo workshop. Nonetheless, this is one of THE classic Seishindo exercises and thus we wanted to introduce you to the concepts involved. Hopefully you will enjoy your exploration.

We have not included hormonal changes as one of the somatic variables. The reason for this is that we find it best to work with variables that people can have fairly easy access to altering. The seven variables we have chosen offer us great potential for behavioral change, because we can have a reasonable degree of conscious control over each of these variables, and altering these variables will make the process of change readily available to a wide range of people.

A three person exercise: A Coach, an Observer, and a Client.

I) The Client discusses with the Coach, a situation that is problematic.

II) While the Client is talking, the Coach and Observer are to notice where possible, the following seven variables, with the Observer taking terse notes on the chart provided below:

1) Posture – Especially note the tilt of the torso, and the shape of the chest/rib cage. Consider the chest to be two wings joined together at the sternum. In general: The chest should lead from the sternum area and be rounded back towards the shoulders ever so much. The torso should be tilted ever so much forward.

2) Balance and carriage of the neck and head – People tend to tilt their head to different positions depending on what they are feeling and talking about. Some people tend to carry their head forward of their torso, other people always have their head facing down somewhat.

3) Micro Muscular Body Movements – Does the Client seem to have a somewhat rigid posture, or do they have fluid movement? Fluid movements are usually best. If you are able to very carefully notice, you can detect that the client rocks ever so slightly in different directions, depending on what they are thinking/talking about. (For instance: If a client rocks from front to back when thinking about a specific topic that has a positive connotation, they will tend to rock from side to side when thinking about topics that have negative connotations. Such movements are usually subtle, highly systematic, and of great importance in regard to the way in which we think and feel.) Hand movements, or lack of them can also be important

4) Breath – Does the Client talk only after fully inhaling, or do they talk without having fully inhaled? What location does their breath seem to come from? (Stomach, Chest, Throat) In general, it is best to breathe from the stomach and talk only after fully inhaling. Copious breathing tends to calm the system. Insufficient breath tends to make one feel anxious. In general, when wanting to be more generative you will do best to take deep breaths whenever you would normally pause during the course of conversing, and particularly when you pause to think about what you will say next. Use the breath to slow down your system and also to slow down the pace of your conversation.

5) Facial expressions – Does the Client tense their eyes, or mouth prior to talking? Do they smile even though they are not talking about something that is pleasant?

6) The movement and focus of the eyes – How do the eyes move and focus depending on what is being thought about, felt, or spoken?

7) Speed, rhythm, tone, volume, and pausing of the verbal communication – When wanting to make generative changes in one’s life, most everyone does best speaking more slowly than usual when discussing a problematic situation. In order to remain relaxed and solution oriented, we usually do best to have: A resonate rhythm and tone to the vocal pattern, moderate volume, and ample pausing in between phrases, to allow for sufficient breathing, and processing of what has just been said. When you significantly slow down the pace of your talking, you significantly increase the chance that you will actually feel what you are talking about. Feeling what you are talking about is an important thing to do.

III) Once the Client feels like they have fully explained their situation (It is best that they do this in not more than a minute or two, rather than carrying on with a long winded explanation), the Coach and Observer look at and amend the notes taken by the Observer, and discuss what they noticed regarding the above seven variables, and what variables they need to check out further in order to gain useful information.

IV) Questions/Prompts you might use to gather more information (for instance):
“Please rock your body some from front to back a little bit and once you are rocking, please talk about your situation once again.” Let them talk for no more than a minute, and then thank them and ask them to stop. “This time I would like you to rock your body from side to side and talk about your situation a little bit more.” Again only a minute’s talking maximum. Then ask them, “Does it seem easier or more natural to talk about your situation when you are rocking front to back or from side to side?” Usually the difference will be fairly dramatic. Fill in their answer in the chart below. Do the same with other variables as necessary, until most, if not the whole chart is filled in.

V) Once the Coach feels they have all of the necessary information, the Coach makes specific suggestions concerning how the Client should use their body differently, and change their pattern of speech. (When we say “pattern of speech” we mean the pace, rhythm, tone, and volume, and NOT the actual words.) In general, the Client is simply asked to change each somatic variable so that they are doing something different than what is usual for them. Once these instructions are given, the Client is to tell their story once again.
For example:
If the Client’s trunk was tilted backwards to begin with, you ask them to tilt forward.
If the Client initially had their head tilted to the left, you suggest “Please tilt your head to the right.”
If the Client used their hands a lot while talking they are asked to restrict their hand movements.
If the Client tended to keep their eyes up and to the left while talking, ask them to look directly at you the whole time.

Also, make sure the Client breathes sufficiently and speaks slowly while pausing frequently. This variable in particular is crucial.

If the Client does not continue to maintain the suggested somatic changes, either give them terse instructions that they can change as they continue talking, OR, have them stop, tell them what they need to pay more attention to, and have them start again from the beginning. The method you use here is an aesthetic choice. If you feel they are maintaining the old stuck pattern, it is VERY important that you give them instructions that help them to correct each variable. Of course you will want to maintain a pleasant relationship with them while doing so.

Note: The Pace/Speed of their talking and their Breathing Pattern are VERY important. Make sure they maintain a SLOW pace, and BREATHE in between sentences and when they are thinking.

VI) When the Client is finished talking ask them what is different about their experience. If you have worked well together there will definitely be a change in the way the Client perceives and feels about their situation.

The suggestion is:
Notice when new ideas and shifts in language usage lead to meaningful bodily changes.
And notice when bodily changes lead to meaningful changes in language usage (including thinking and internal dialogue).
And continue to experiment until you notice when shifting one (Body or Language) shifts the other.
And when this happens, you have found a meaningful leverage point for changing ones emotional state as well.

The River of Life – Level II

Develop your river of life.

Now take a moment and let that experience rest.

State to yourself an aspiration that you would like to achieve…..Turn your aspiration into an “I am” statement…….

Revivify your river of life.
Say your “I am” statement out loud and notice your body.
Feel which part(s) of your body seem to want some attention…. Give the soft furry animal of your body what it wants.

“You can become curious about how to live inside any particular part of your body while connecting to your “I am” statement.”
“You can experiment with tensing until you naturally want to “relax completely.” You can shake or vibrate parts of your body, and at times you can be completely still.”

“You can twist parts of your body, or you can keep your torso straight and your arms by your side….Repeat your “as if” statement, and notice how that effects how you feel.”
“You can rub parts of your body, you can arch your back, sink down into your hips and legs, or do anything else that your somatic self seems to be wanting. And now from time, say your “I am” statement out loud, and notice how it feels when it is out there in the world.”
“Pay attention to your desire to do or not do, to be or to change, and let whatever happens take its own course. Repeating your “I am” statement to your self.”

“Feel into the joints of your body. Feel into your wrists, your elbows, your shoulder joints, your rib cage, your hips and pelvis, your knees, your ankles……Exclaiming your “I am” statement to the world. Now Stop! And do absolutely nothing. Can you do that? ”

“Now…..if you’d like, you may make some tiny, tiny movements with your joints. Explore your joints as you would explore a miniature world. There is so much room and freedom in your joints, and you can completely relax your joints so that you can feel into this freedom.” “Now, feel free to do something different, anything different, with the parts of your body that you are noticing, and at the same time keep your as if statement in your heart.”

“Be attentive to any “messages” – emotion, images, words, understandings – that arise in you as you feel more and more deeply into yourself and you explore new ways to express yourself. Notice how shifting your way of moving……and not moving your body… impacts your connection to your “as if” state, and to your self……

These explorations take their inspiration from Jerzy Grotowski and Continuum.

The River of Life Flows Through Us–Level 1: Basic

By engaging in this Practice, you will be able to feel the calmness and life force that emanates when we feel into the continuity that moves through us.

As always, we suggest that you read through the instruction below once, twice, or more, until you feel that you can perform this Practice without needing to stay stuck to the words on the page.

Begin this Practice only after you feel confident that you understand the basics of what you will be doing.

Use the words on the page as gentle suggestions that you can tap into from time to time, and not a rigid set of procedures that need to be followed to the letter.

We suggest that you take a minimum of five minutes to perform this Practice.

Enjoy!

Sit quietly and feel yourself.
Breathe fully several times…….
And give permission to yourself to spontaneously express the movements that occur at every given moment.

What is suggested here, is to “do nothing” except for sitting…. being aware of yourself and your surroundings…. and allowing your natural unfettered movements to come to the forefront of your consciousness.

If you are alive, there is always movement, and there is no need to orchestrate these movements with your rational mind.

Invite your somatic self to do as it desires.
Invite and allow your somatic self to express itself through the movements that are “already” occurring.
Allow your body to be calm, and move if and when it wants to move.

Please do not “do something” to “make” your body move. Simply notice and allow the movements that are already there.
The movements of your rib cage and stomach as you breathe…. changes in your facial expression…. an itching on the surface of your skin…. an exchange of energy, oxygen, and carbon dioxide…. the beating of your heart…. a pulsating feeling that leads to a gentle rocking of your torso…. the desire to adjust the way your head is sitting on top of your spine…. a softening of your visual field…. the body sensations of freedom or restriction…. and the motion of emotion.

Each movement grows out of body impulse, instinct, intuition, and the needs of the system, and not from the dictates of your rational mind.

Invite your somatic self to show you the way it wants you to move, rather than having your rational mind tell you what IT wants you to do.

Be in a state of not knowing what will occur next…. and discover new pathways that delight you and expand your movement capacity, as you sit calmly and wait….
Feel how and where your body wants to move and not move…. moment by moment…. Invite and allow your body to lead you.

When you feel like you are done for now, take a few moments to think about your experience.

This Practice takes its inspiration from two sources. Continuum, and Jerzy Grotowski.

Breathing Together, Becoming One

This is a very simple Practice, and yet it is one of the most powerful in the entire Seishindo repertoire.

As usual I suggest reading through all of the instructions before actually beginning.

This Practice requires at least one partner. You can do this Practice with a friend, a spouse, your child, a colleague, a fellow student. This Practice is fantastic to do with anyone you are in a committed relationship with, personal or professional. It is an excellent way to help people better understand and appreciate each other, from a heartfelt sense of being somatically connected to another human being.

You can also do this Practice with multiple people. For the sake of simplicity I will explain the Practice as if you are doing it with just one person. After that feel free to improvise. I will describe a possible variation or two at the end.

Allow for at least five minutes for this Practice. You might want to go ahead and set an alarm so you won’t need to think about the time. Five minutes is a fine time period. Later as you feel fully comfortable with the Practice you can experiment for doing it ten minutes at a time.

1. You and your partner sit facing each other, certain to be at a distance that is definitely comfortable for the both of you. About the same distance as a usual conversation can be fine. Both of you with both feet on the floor, and your hands resting easily on each leg.

2. Take some time and look at each other. The idea is to be comfortable looking at the other person, without feeling that you need to stare, or that you are being stared at. A soft focus gaze usually works best. Have a sense that you can let all of your facial muscles relax, and that through your eyes, and through a relaxed face, you can really offer your partner a clear understanding of who you are.

3. Without saying which one of you will start out as the leader, one of you begins by breathing deeply through the nose, and then slowly exhaling through the nose. I normally suggest starting with a breath interval of four to five seconds in each direction. A bit more can be OK, if it seems that your partner is OK with a deep breath. As much as you can do so comfortably you are meant to breathe in and out for the same interval of time. So for instance, four seconds of inhale, and four seconds of exhale. If you switch to a five second inhale then you exhale for five seconds as well. I usually count my heartbeat and use my heartbeat as my clock, but you can also of course simply tick off the seconds in your head. If you start out as the leader, it is important to not hold onto being the leader. After three or four rounds of breathing, ease off just a bit and give your partner the chance to be the leader, with you adjusting to them. You can signify the changing of roles with a simple nod of your head. If you start out as the person following, there is no need to have to “all of a sudden” get in synch with your partner. Take your time to get in synch with them. Once you have both been the leader, then there is no longer a leader. You both take it as your job, to comfortably adjust to the other person as necessary. Inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling, while staying connected to your partner with your breath and your gaze. It is important that you both keep your eyes open and that you do not drift off into your own world and lose touch.

4. As you are breathing and staying connected with your partner, allow yourself to also notice all of the sounds in your local environment, all that you can see without moving your head or your eyes. and the motion and internal sensations you feel.

5. Debrief by telling your partner about your experience. Please be careful to not tell your partner the “opinions” of them you might have had as you looked at them. You do NOT want to say things like “You seemed scared.” Or “You looked angry.”
Mainly you want to talk about what you felt, and if you are careful to not denigrate or upset your partner in any way, you can share what you FELT as you were looking at them, with them. Being gentle with your discussion is crucial, because you might be surprised to discover just how vulnerable and or connected your partner feels when doing this Practice. The words you speak will often have a “bigger” meaning than in a more everyday context.

That’s it! Simple, yet most people report having a lovely, powerful experience.

Variations on a theme:
A. With an emotionally troubled or sick child you start out by breathing at the same pace as the child. At a certain point in time (Two, three, five minutes?), simply by being in synch with the breathing of the child you will notice that their breath slows down some and that they become emotionally more comfortable.

I have done this numerous times when on airplanes and a child who I have never met is acting up. Most often I will do this as their parent struggles to control them. It is usually important to get the child’s attention by making a funny face or something similar. It is quite fine for the child to stay with their parent (in fact this is almost always best.) I usually do not make a statement to the parent ahead of time, because I feel that what I am doing is quite non-invasive and definitely friendly. Up to you, though. When done correctly this form of joining with the child’s breathing can really create minor miracles. Even if the child is sitting a few rows up, no problem at all, as long as you get their attention every once and a while so that they know you are there. For me it is pretty usual that the child will be nice and mellow and perhaps even asleep, with five to ten minutes maximum.

With your own child, if they are sick, and comfortable with the idea of this Practice, you can put your hand on their stomach as they lay in bed. Start out by matching their breathing, as your hand rises and falls along with their stomach. When you feel you have a good match you can then use the pressure of your hand to indicate that they slow their breathing down a bit, if it is your intuition that this would help. In the beginning you do not want to explain the whole process to the child because you do not want them to be thinking about whether they are “doing it right” or not. They will intuitively understand what the various pressures coming from your hand mean. At this point my daughter knows all about all of this stuff and she will often ask me to breathe with her.

Simply breathing with your child, without even touching, can be an excellent way to help them to go to sleep.

B. As I stated up top, this is an excellent Practice to do with a life partner, especially if the two of you have been having some trouble in your relationship. In this case we suggest you do it as described in the instructions, and sitting in chairs.
No matter what, it is important to not turn this Practice into a sexual encounter, unless you take a break first, and only then begin in with something else. Why? Because people need to feel fully safe at a time like this, and even with a partner that you are getting along with, it is important that they do not feel like they might need to “perform.”

C. You can of course also do this Practice with any and all other adults. Whenever you touch anyone else, you want to be certain that they are comfortable with your touch, and that you are emotionally clear about what you are and are not doing. It would be a very serious mistake to do this Practice with someone that you are not currently intimate with and turn it into something sexual.

D. This is an excellent Practice to do as a member of a team. Especially a sports team. If you do it with more than one other person, you can start out by alternately looking at the other people and then going to a soft focus gaze to where you are not looking at either person. In this case you will want to adjust your seating so no one is sitting directly in front of you.

E. If you have an even number of people, you can also do this in rounds, first sitting opposite person 1 for a few minutes and gazing at them, then getting up and switching seats, and sitting in front of person 2.

F. This Practice is also great to do with pets. Especially if (a) Your pet is not feeling well. Or, (b) You are feeling a bit down.

Whatever works for you. There can be many variations on this theme.

Do nothing (Being vs Doing)

In this Practice you are invited to feel the difference between “being” and “doing.” The difference between exciting the nervous system as a way of preparing for action, and quieting the nervous system as a way of preparing for action. You can experience letting your somatic intelligence take over getting the task done. Trusting in the moment, and trusting in yourself.

This Practice is purely an exploration, and will yield different results for each different person. You can get quite a bit out of this Practice if you really get into exploring, and it is also easy enough to have this Practice completely pass you by if you rush yourself. You can go through the entire process in no more than fifteen minutes, so give yourself the opportunity to learn something new and enjoy yourself!

(If you have experience with Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais you will find that what is presented here works with similar principles. I draw mainly from my Aikido experience in creating this Practice.)

You will need a table, a chair, a small piece of paper or two (three inches or so, square) and some scotch tape.

Sit facing the table with your stomach about twelve inches away from the table.

Fold the paper in half. Then unfold it so the two halves are at ninety degrees from each other. (A basic “L” shape.)

With the fold of the paper held vertically, tape one end of the paper lightly to the side of the table, and the other side will thus stick out at a ninety degree angle from the table, facing towards your belly button. (By “taping lightly” we mean, use just a small amount of tape, and do NOT try and firmly affix the paper to the table.)

As always in Seishindo Practices, you will probably want to read through the instructions once or twice before actually doing what is suggested. Ideally you want to get to the place where you do not need to follow the instructions in order to do the Practice.

As always (again!) the more your do this Practice, the more you will learn, and the more interesting the process will tend to become. It is a learning process that you are engaging in, and your nervous system as well as your intellect needs to take in information and process it differently than usual.

Place your hands one on each leg, near the top of each leg and close by to your stomach. Right hand on your right leg, left hand on your left leg.

Imagine that in a moment you are going to snatch the paper away from the table, as quickly as you can, with either your right or left hand. Simply imagine that you are going to do this.

Can you notice any muscles or nerves starting to twitch? If not, great. If so, also great. Continue to run through cycles of imagining snatching the paper, until you definitely do not have any twitching whatsoever going on. Now once again imagine that you are going to snatch the piece of paper, imagining using the same hand as before.

This time, at some point in your process of imagining, slowly begin to move your hand and arm a small distance towards the paper. Notice which part of your body moves first. Unless you are quite schooled at such activities, you will be initiating your movement using a part of yourself that winds up adding extra tension to the movement.

Let’s say for instance, that you notice that your hand moved first.

This time, after a couple of cycles of just imagining, make a small beginning movement, moving anything but your hand first.

What part of yourself do you begin the movement with this time? Perhaps your elbow?

This time do your imagining for several cycles, and then make your small beginning movement, by beginning with anything but your hand or elbow.

Go through this process at least four or five more times.

If you take your time and run through this Practice a number of times over the next month or so, you will learn a great deal about yourself, and about how you at times create excess tension and anxiety.

You just might get to the point, if you really stay in a “DO nothing” state, that you find your hand reaches for the paper, “on its own”!

But no cheating!

It is also entertaining and educational to do this Practice using your “other” hand.

This Practice can also be a great deal of fun to do with a friend, or with a child. I am sure you can wind up figuring out how to arrange everything so that you each feel you have an equal chance to grab for the paper. Good to have a third person as a referee and starter. The third person shouts go, and then you both grab for the paper and see who gets to it first. This can be great fun indeed, and no matter how “slow” you start out, if you practice doing nothing, you will find that your speed increases.

Let us know what happens for you!

The ebb and flow of life

This Practice is designed to give you a sense of being connected to the natural world, and knowing you are not alone.

Set aside a few minutes and slowly, very slowly, read the words below. As you read, be certain to take some deep breaths where you would normally pause for an instant when reading in a more usual manner.

One of the most important things you can learn in life, is to create a rhythm with your presence, movements, and breathing, that matches the rhythm of nature. This is a lesson that is taught in most if not all martial arts.

Imagine yourself sitting by an ocean. Perhaps on the beach, or perhaps sitting on a dock or jetty.

The ocean is calm today, and you might begin to feel how the rhythms and sounds of the ocean soothe your soul.

As you sit where you are now, imagine the ebb and flow of the ocean, and the sounds of the tide flowing back and forth, pausing and swirling. As the tide comes in, you can consider that the ocean is exhaling. As the tide goes back out, the ocean is inhaling.

You can sense the movement and sounds of the ocean….
And I want you to notice your movements and breathing…..
As you feel yourself going IN… and OUT… of rhythm with this flow.

Feel the life force of the ocean… …
Its gentle power… …
And breathe with the ocean… …

Feel the life force of the ocean, and without doing anything, allow yourself to move with the ocean… …

Breathe, move, and feel your heartbeat… …
Feeling the pulsing of your spirit, and the pulsing of the ocean… …
Inviting your heartbeat to synchronize with the heartbeat of the ocean.

Now you are becoming one with the water, and the fluid inside your body begins to become a tiny powerful ocean that ebbs and flows throughout your system… …

In and out.
Exhale and inhale.
Ebb and flow… …

Now, like the ocean, you can begin to feel the power of flowing without resisting… Flowing without fighting against…

The water surrounds and moves past all obstacles. There is no forcing, and no need for strength.

Only flow… . The power is IN the flow, and each drop of water is pliant and soft…
No one drop of water is powerful on its own…

Sit there now with your ocean, and with yourself…
Feel your power melding with the power of the ocean.
Not separate, but together.
And you can clearly experience that all this power is really One.

Such is your journey.
And I hope that in some small way, when reading these words now, you can feel the power and the presence that resides within yourself.
The one tiny drop of water that you are.
Not separate, but immersed in the flow of the ocean of life.

You might find it enjoyable to reread these words now, and certainly I hope you will return to these words, and the feelings that you generated, in the future.

Self-regulating Steady States

This Practice can give you a first hand experience of how you can use your own personal speed governor to regulate the overall speed of your system. Coming in touch with “too much and too little” will help you to find the Goldilocks place of “juusst right.”

In Seishindo workshops we usually work with people sitting on large rubber physiotherapy balls. Use a ball for this Practice if you have one. If not simply sit on a regular chair. Sit approximately half as far back on the chair as you usually would when resting against the back of the chair.

Read through the instructions once or twice or more before actually doing the Practice. You will usually get the best results once you are able to do the Practice without needing to read the instructions as you perform.

1. Bounce you torso up and down in small but energetic bounces. There is no need to have your butt leave the chair or ball, but small energetic bounces are what you want.

As you bounce quickly, slowly and deeply breathe in and out. Continue bouncing and breathe in and out slowly and deeply for a second round.

2. On your third round of bouncing and breathing, inhale and then hold you breath as you continue to bounce. Don’t overdo it, but hold your breath as you bounce until you feel like you really need to let it go quickly, and then do so.

3. Perform step 1. again, and this time on the third round of breathing, fully exhale and hold your breath when you reach the end of your exhale. Continue bouncing, and just like before, don’t overdo it, but hold your breath as you bounce until you feel like you really need to all of a sudden breathe in, and then do so.

4. Sit up straight, and sit calmly for one full minute, breathe as you like, while noticing the feeling of your body, and your surroundings.

5. Now slump over a good amount and sit in a slumped, passive posture. As you sit there slumped over count from one to fifteen as you blink your eyes to each count. Count slowly in the following fashion, “One thousand one (blink), One thousand two (blink), One thousand three (blink).” Two counts for an inhale, and two counts for an exhale.

6. When you reach “16” keep your eyes shut inhale fully and hold your breath as before, until you feel a strong need to exhale. As you exhale open your eyes.

7. Stay slumped and run through the same pattern from 1-16, but this time when you reach 16, keep your eyes shut, exhale fully and hold your breath as before, until you feel a strong desire to inhale. As you inhale open your eyes.

8. Sit up straight, and sit calmly for one full minute, breathe as you like, while noticing the feeling of your body, and your surroundings.

9. Sitting up straight, bob your head two times towards your left shoulder as if you were very lightly trying to touch your left ear to your left shoulder (as you count internally “1, 2”) and then bob your head two times towards your right shoulder as if you were very lightly trying to touch your right ear to your right shoulder, (as you count internally “3, 4”). As you head bobs to the left and you count “1, 2” you inhale. As your head bobs to the right and you count “3, 4” you exhale. Be certain to continue to sit straight as you do this.

Continue with “5, 6” to the left again, then “7, 8” to the right, breathing all the while, and continuing all the way until you go back and forth and reach “15, 16”.

10. Sit up straight, and sit calmly for one full minute, breathe as you like, while noticing the feeling of your body, and your surroundings.

11. Now bob your head and touch your chin twice to your chest, as you count “1, 2” and inhale. Then bob your head back being careful to stay within your range of comfort, as if you were lightly trying to touch the top back of your head to your spine, and you count “3, 4” and exhale. Bobbing back towards your chest with the count of “5, 6” and you inhale. Bobbing back towards you back with an exhale and the count of “7, 8”. Continue all the way through until “15, 16”.

12. Sit up straight, and sit calmly for one full minute, breathe as you like, while noticing the feeling of your body, and your surroundings.

13. Briskly turn your head twice to the left as if you were wanting to look over your left shoulder, as you inhale and count “1, 2”. Then briskly turn your head twice to the right as you exhale and count “3, 4”. Continue back and forth until you reach “15, 16”.

14. Sit up straight, and sit calmly for one full minute, breathe as you like, while noticing the feeling of your body, and your surroundings.

For each person this experience will be different.

If you are feeling in a calm, relaxed “steady state” rejoice in the feeling.
If not that is also fine, because it gives you the opportunity to cycle through any or all of the above protocol again.

Eventually more or less, depending on where you start from, you will reach a steady state for today, and then you can do it all over again tomorrow and reach another steady state.

The experience is in the Practice, not in reaching a state of completion.
Cycle through this Practice over and over again, for a long time to come.

Two of Everything

Most people find this exercise to be a great warm-up for getting their creative juices flowing.

Have a seat and get comfortable. Sit in a straight backed chair. Sit up straight towards the front of the chair, and take a couple of deep breaths.

Take a moment and think about how many different parts of you act as one half of a team. How many different pairs of organs and parts you have. How many different relationships.

You have left and right hemisphere in your brain, two eyes, two ears, two shoulders, two lungs, two kidneys, etc. etc. etc. all the way down to your two big toes. Seems that perhaps God had an interest in symmetry, relationships, and perhaps in allowing for a certain amount of redundancy. If the right eye is injured we still can use our left eye. If the left kidney is not working so well, we still have the right kidney. Take a moment and think about the numerous symmetrical pairs that I have not named and see if you can feel each pair as you name them.

Take a couple of deep breaths.

This time around feel each pair as best you can, as you name them. Feel your two eyes as you name them. Perhaps blinking your eyes some will help. Does you vision seem the same out of each eye? How do you feel and how do you see when you blink your eyes some?

Take a deep breath.

Feel both nostrils as you perhaps flare them.

Take a deep breath.

Move both shoulders around and feel the dynamic muscle tension in each shoulder.

Take a deep breath.

Can you feel the action of both lungs filling up with air?

Do you have any sense of both your kidneys?

Or your adrenal glands sitting on top of each kidney?

Take a deep breath.

Feel your left buttocks and your right buttocks. Squeeze each side intermittently and squeeze each side at the same time.

As a male feel both of your gonads. As a female, can you feel both of your ovaries?

Take two deep breaths and let your eyes gaze out into the distance, and then look back at this document when you are ready.

What is the one body part around which most if not all of these different pairs are organized?

For me, I would call the middle point of all this symmetry your spine. Take a full minute and feel your spine beginning at the bottom of your skull, moving down through your neck and then all the way down into your coccyx.

Take a couple of deep breaths.

Now see if you can feel your spine at the same time that you feel some of your different pairs.Your two ears and your spine. Your two breasts and your spine. The two sides of your rib cage and your spine. And other pairs as well………..

Take two deep breaths.

Now take some time and explore both of your hands. Look at both hands and notice how they are different and the same. Look at both thumbs and notice how they are different and the same.

Take a deep breath.

Notice the palms of both hands and how the lines on both palms are different and the same. How the coloration of both palms is most likely somewhat different.

Take a deep breath.

Notice the webbing between each pari of fingers. You might wonder why the thumb is at such a different height than your other fingers. What would your hand be like if the thumb was right up there next to your other fingers?

Take two deep breaths.

Now, clasp your hands together and more both hands around as an intimate pair. Let each hand squeeze the other. Let each hand feel each other. Let each hand know that it has a partner. You can also move your two hands together as if you were washing them.

Take a couple of deep breaths.

Take a moment and think of something that you would like to be more creative in regard to. Your relationship with another person, your relationship with yourself in regard to how you sometimes talk to yourself when you are upset, your relationship with a child or other loved one, your relationship to money, sex, or career success.

Take a deep breath and choose just one relationship that you would like to be more at ease with.

Take a moment and think about how if we choose to, we can frame everything we want to somehow change, as being one part of a relationship.

Take a deep breath.
Consider how you might use “the other half” of a relationship to help you to achieve what one part of you desires.

Take a deep breath.

Think about how one part of you (perhaps your logical self) wants to achieve a certain goal, while another part of yourself which you perhaps cannot name, seems to not want you to achieve your goal, or seems somehow frightened or holding back.

Take two deep breaths.

Holding your two hands lightly together as they sit on your lap, meditate on how you can work more in relationship with yourself or others in order to achieve greater satisfaction in your life. Take at least a couple of minutes for this………………..
Really.

Your mind might have wandered to many different places, or you might have thought of things that seemed to have nothing to do with the task at hand. This is quite likely in fact because the first sign of creativity is a wandering mind, and the second sign of creativity is when we begin to allow ourselves to relate one issue to another seemingly unrelated issue. Thinking in metaphors is a great sign that you are being creative.

Take a couple of deep breaths.

With so many different people reading this exercise, and so many of you whom I have never met, I am certainly not going to predict the results you achieve.

What I will say is that if you follow this method you will likely find that at the very least, you have a very different relationship to the concern that you have been wanting to be more creative about. This is the first step. This is a great beginning. Please explore with this exercise numerous times in the future.

Standing With Grace and Power

When adjusting and testing:

standing wth grace and powerPerson A stands in a natural posture facing in the direction of the arrow The feet should be placed at somewhat less than the width of the hips. The knees are not locked and not bent, but just ever so much feeling soft. The head and neck are an extension of the spine and come straight up from the spine, and have the same basic alignment as the spine. Person B stands in line with Person A’s shoulders and facing Person A.

Person B helps person A to adjust their posture. Pay attention to the head and neck, the sway in the lower back, and the angle of the trunk, which should appear to be ever so much forward from center.
Once Person B feels like they have Person A “standing with grace and power” then Person B is to take their right hand and place the fingertips and the base of the palm of the right hand, on the center of the upper chest of Person A. (Near the top of the rib cage.)

Let Person A have a moment to acclimate to the touch, while both people take a fairly deep breath.
Person B then pushes lightly but firmly against Person A to see if they are indeed balanced. Push according to the current ability of Person A, and NOT with the intent of pushing them over. You should push with an amount of power that facilitates Person A working at between 95% and 105% of their current ability (Their “Power Learning” range). This is very important. Push them too hard and they will learn very little. Push them too softly and they will learn very little.

When being pushed, Person A should have a sense that the force of the push travels mainly in two directions – Up and out of the top of the skull, and Down and through the legs and feet. The push should help Person A to feel as if their spine is being elongated ever so much, while at the same time feeling that the push “grounds” them.

Person A should be quite careful to NOT brace against the force of the push in order to maintain balance. Breathe easily and feel the energy run throughout your entire body.

Find one or two people to practice this with so that you can learn:
A) How to better adjust your own posture.
B) What good posture looks like in others, and how you can help others maintain a posture of grace and power.
C) How to attune yourself to a partner by learning how to work in their 95%-105% Power Learning range.

You can also do this exercise from a seated position. If so, Person A will need to sit somewhat close to the edge of their chair.

Possible Additional Activities

  1. Prior to getting into position, develop an “as if” statement. You make a statement about what you would like to accomplish “AS IF” it was already accomplished.
  2. Once you have the statement clearly in mind, then go ahead and do the practice, and from time to time, in a nice, slow, relaxed rhythm, repeat your “as if” statement to yourself. If you are by yourself, say your “as if” statement out loud.
  3. At the same time that you are doing all of this, notice from time to time how various aspects of your experience change.
  4. Do the practice while practicing giving a speech, or making a declaration to someone.

Releasing into the floor

Lie on your back, on a mat, or a carpeted floor.
If your body is really supple you can lie directly on a warm floor.

If you can do so, lay on the floor without any pillows or anything else underneath you. If it hurts you to do so, use a pillow under your knees or wherever you might need one.

Lying on the floor, get into a rhythmic breathing pattern.
Breathing in and out through your nose.

You will either want to slowly count internally (1,2,3,4) on the inhale and (1,2,3,4) on the exhale,
OR, repeat a “key word” of some sort internally on the inhale and exhale.
The key word should be a word that has a definite positive connotation for you.
Something like (“Relaxed, Relaxed” spoken slowly on the inhale, and again, “Relaxed, Relaxed” spoken slowly on the exhale)

Other alternatives- (Confident, Confident) (Peaceful, Peaceful) (Calm, Calm)
Whatever suits you, as long as the word or phrase has a positive connotation for you.

If you’re wanting to sleep you can use (Sleepy, Sleepy) or (Letting go, Letting go).

If you can, also notice your heartbeat, as you lay there and breathe.
If you can notice your heartbeat, you can inhale through your nose for five heartbeats and exhale through your nose for five heartbeats.

No matter what (if anything) you choose to repeat to yourself as you breathe, it is helpful if you can feel your heartbeat as you lay there and breathe.

If you can’t feel your heartbeat starting out, no worries. Chances are you will begin to feel your heartbeat as time goes on.

As you lay there breathing, tighten and then release (One by one, and slowly) the muscles of your feet and toes, breathe, the muscles of your legs, breathe, your pelvis and butt, breathe, your stomach, breathe, your chest, breathe, your arms, breathe, your hands, breathe, your shoulders, breathe, your neck, breathe and your face, breathe.

Cycle through this pattern two more times.

Now, imagine the floor is softening around you, and your body sinks a few inches into the floor, like it would if you were laying on some soft blankets.

Now “do nothing” and simply feel yourself.

Just now, you might find, that everything is just as it should be.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Only now, and only you, only in this moment.

Perform this practice for at least ten minutes.

This practice is similar to various Yoga practices.

Breathing With Grace and Power

Open expansive breathing and your physical and emotional well being are very much intertwined. Exapansive breathing = Life…  Expansive breathing = An oxygen rich blood supply…  Expansive breathing = Movement…  Expansive breathing = Calmness… Expansive breathing = Freedom.

Most everyone has a tendency to restrict their breathing when they are frightened, anxious, or feeling overwhelmed. It is not “natural” to restrict one’s breathing at such times, but for most of us it is a default habit nonetheless.

The very essence of a habit is that we can perform an action without needing to pay careful attention to what we are doing. Soon we can perform certain habits without seeming to think at all. For many of us, restricting our breathing has become a habit that we do so “well” that we have come to not even notice when and how we do it.

This Practice is meant to reawaken you to the process of breathing, and help you to reverse debilitating breathing habits, so that you can once again, “Breath with Grace and Power.”

Metaphorical explanation of the process involved: Sit up straight, without leaning against the back of your chair. Imagine that your torso is a strong yet supple cylinder that is able to transmit fluid and oxygen through it walls. Your torso-cylinder is hanging from a fairly thick string that is attached to a strong branch of a big tree, and this string cradles your head and neck, so that your throat and sinuses are open and soft. As your head, neck, and torso hang from the branch, your entire upper body rocks back and forth ever so much, as you are moved by a strong yet calming breeze.

The bottom of your cylinder is your pelvic floor which is situated in your pelvic cavity. The top of your cylinder is your palate, sinuses, nose and mouth.

In this practice, air enters your cylinder through your nose and sinuses, and air exits your cylinder through your mouth.

As you inhale, think of each molecule of air as being like a bubble that floats down to your pelvic floor, with each bubble resting on the bubbles around it. You can think of an image of a cylindrical jar filled with water bubbles. When the jar is “just full” you pause for a relaxing moment or two, and then the molecular bubbles start to exit your cylinder through your mouth.

The bubbles near the top of the cylinder of course are the ones that exit first. The bubbles resting on your pelvic floor are the bubbles that exit last. When your cylinder is “just empty” you pause for a relaxing moment or two, and then your inhale begins once again. Inhaling through your nose and sinuses, exhaling through your throat and mouth.

  1. Your inhalation enters your body through your nose and sinuses, and goes all the way down to your pelvic floor. Remain relaxed while practicing this. Do what you can, and no more or less.
  2. When your cylinder is just full, you pause for a relaxing moment or two and then: Your exhalation leaves your body via your throat and mouth.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose making a “Suuu” sound which emanates from the area of your sinuses. What is important here is that you make a slow and constant inhalation, and that the inhalation has some sound to it.
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth making a “Haaa” sound which emanates from your throat, as the air lightly bounces off of your palate. The sound you make is a throaty sound.
  5. While being certain to remain relaxed, build up to a cycle of inhaling for about twenty seconds and exhaling for about twenty seconds.

Perform Breathing With Grace and Power, for a minimum of five minutes. Better to do it for ten minutes if you have the time.

This Practice is very simple, AND profound. You will discover yourself in the process and you will reawaken yourself to the process of breathing, and reverse degenerative breathing habits. Over time, you will once again, “Breath with Grace and Power.”

Stand in “Hanmi”

This is a basic activity taken from Aikido and further elaborated on for our purposes in Seishindo. Performing this Practice from time to time will give you an active experience of developing a calm presence. When you are feeling fully present you will notice that your thinking mind and your feeling mind are both calm, yet active.

In the beginning you might find that doing this Practice leads you to understand just how fluid and perhaps unstable in some regards, your overall sense of balance is. Although you might not love this experience right from the very first, if you stick with it you will find that this simple Practice can be highly rewarding.

This Practice is a primary part of the process that I teach to people wanting to excel at leadership and public speaking.

Stand in Hanmi

These directions are meant to be “approximate” in nature, and not exact. As you practice standing in “hanmi” you will find that your posture and footing changes some over time. If I was there to show you this in person, it would be quite simple to understand. Use my words as a general guide, and don’t be concerned with whether or not you get it all “just right.”

Stand facing in the direction of the two arrows that run parallel to each other (See the diagram just below). As you stand facing “forward” the arrow splayed to the left represents your left foot, with the “head” of the arrow meant to be the tip of your left foot, and the back of the arrow meant to be your left heel. The arrow splayed to the right represents your right foot. Both feet are splayed at approximately a 45 degree angle from “straight ahead.” If your spine was to extend all the way to the floor, it would touch the floor at the space of the darkened square.

Hanmi PracticeThe distance between the two parallel lines with arrows, is about four inches. This alerts you to the fact that your heels and thus the width of your stance as measured from your heels, is about four inches. Both legs are straight, but ever so much soft at the knees. Your weight is equally distributed in both feet.

The distance between the two horizontal vertical lines is also about four inches. This alerts you to how much the toe of the right foot is in front of the heel of the left foot.

Once you have all of the above in place then you rotate your trunk somewhat towards the left, approximately 30 degrees from straight ahead, in the direction of the green arrow.

Gaze out into the distance as if you are looking at a panoramic view.

You can also reverse this stance and have your right foot forward.

When practicing this posture on a regular basis, it is best to alternate from left foot forward to right foot forward, each time you practice. Right foot forward during one time, left foot forward during the next.

Activities for “Riding the Horse” and “Hanmi”

1) Prior to getting into position, develop an “I am” statement.
Think about something that you would like to accomplish. Then, make a statement about what you would like to accomplish, imagining that you have already accomplished your goal.

Examples:
“I am feeling fit and slim and enjoying my body.”
“I am enjoying my work and my interactions with my colleagues.”

Once you have the statement clearly in mind, stand in hanmi and from time to time, in a nice, slow, relaxed rhythm, repeat your “I am” statement to yourself. If you are by yourself, say you can say your “I am” statement out loud.

At the same time that you are doing all of this, notice from time to time how various aspects of your experience change. Your breathing, the movements of your body, your vision, the sounds around you, etc.

2) Stand in hanmi while practicing giving a speech, or making a declaration to someone.

3) Stand in hanmi and imagine yourself being calm and connected during a time of challenge.

4) Stand in hanmi and pray for the well being of yourself, or someone you care about. Stand in hanmi and imagine getting exactly what is most important to you. Stand in hanmi and give thanks for all that you have.

No matter which activity you do, be certain to take some deep breaths from time to time.

Riding the Horse

Think of the image of riding a horse, and the position you would be in while riding. This is the basic position that you are to assume now.

Feet at shoulder width, knees bent as much as makes sense for you and your current physical condition. Breathe fully in and out through your nose. Your abdomen should expand during your inhale.

Intermittently tense and release your shoulders, face, legs, stomach, and any other parts of your body, as you maintain your position. Tensing various parts of your body in a random manner is an important part of this practice.

Modified

Think of the image of riding a horse, and the position you would be in while riding. This is the basic position that you will be taking.

Feet at shoulder width, knees bent as much as makes sense for you and your current physical condition. Breathe fully.

As before- Intermittently tense and release your shoulders, face, legs, stomach, and any other parts of your body. Tensing various parts of your body in a random manner is an important part of this practice.

Now have a sense of what your movement would be like if the horse you are on is standing still and you alternately stand up in the stirrups and then sit back down again. When coming to a standing position, keep the orientation of your back and pelvis as it is when you are “sitting.”

Have a SLOW standing and sitting rhythm. About fifteen seconds in each direction. Inhale through your nose for the entire standing movement, and exhale through your nose for the entire sitting movement.

Possible Additional Activities for “Riding the Horse”.

1) Prior to getting into position, develop an “as if” statement. You make a statement about what you would like to accomplish “AS IF” it was already accomplished.

For example:
“I am feeling fit and graceful and happy with the feeling of my body.”
“I am enjoying my work and my many interactions with my colleagues.”

Once you have the statement clearly in mind, then go ahead and do either of the above two practices, and from time to time, in a nice, slow, relaxed rhythm, repeat your “as if” statement to yourself. If you are by yourself, say your “as if” statement out loud.

At the same time that you are doing all of this, notice from time to time how various aspects of your experience change.

2) Do either one of the above practices while practicing giving a speech, or making a declaration to someone.

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.

Our Very First Tasks of Learning and Adaptation

The very first learning task of every individual is the self-organization and development as an embryo in the womb of the mother. There is a tremendous amount of learning, communication, and self organization going on inside the mother’s belly as the fertilized egg winds up dividing into about 1 quadrillion cells that form the newborn infant. A lot of this learning that the embryo does has to do with how to live in relationship with another human being.

A second and equally important learning task involves learning how to move, and the movement of the mother is a key stimulus here. As we develop inside the belly of our mother we learn from and intuitively understand the movement of the mother, and thus movement offers us one of our first modes of communication and learning and it continues to be of great importance throughout our lives. The genetically determined movements that we respond to and make, offer us a frame of reference within which to organize our first contact with the world.

Movement in regard to health and learning is just as important for adults as it is for children. Our movements represent both an organization of the self, and an organization of information from the outside world in relation to the self. When we constrict our ability to move we constrict our ability to organize information, learn, and adapt. Improve your ability to move freely and you will think and feel with a greater sense of health and well-being.