Tag Archives: mindfulness

Becoming part of the community

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple, but not easy…

Please scroll down and read today’s story.

Becoming part of the community

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

The woman with a broken arm

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

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

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

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

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

The woman with a broken arm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please come and visit some time!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Ultradian Rhythms and Peak Performance States

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

Today I want to talk about transitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast - Attune to your Ultradian Rhythms

In Community,
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Wake up feeling refreshed and energized

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast - Wake up feeling refreshed and energized

In Community,
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An interview with Stephen Gilligan – Part 2

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast - stephen gilligan part 2

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An interview with Stephen Gilligan – Part 1

Today’s Musings

Newsletter_rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Learning

Podcast_Life_Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast - how to change careers

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Overcoming occasional insomnia

Introduction

Podcast_Life_Tools

Well…
I have been in Thailand for about a month and a half now and some wonderful things are happening. It is so great to be feeling like I am in the right place at the right time. It seems that a lot of hard work over the course of many years is all starting to fall into place. 

And, because of what is transpiring for me, I want to say “Keep the faith!”
Sure you might worry, fret, moan, and groan along the way…
But if at the same time, you work hard, do your best to be honest, ethical, and kind to others, while maintaining a good sense of humor…
It will only be a matter of time before Life starts to say “Thank you!” and you begin to feel ever more at home in the universe.

One thing I have been feeling for quite some time now is this-
Fulfilling your dreams…
Is not nearly as important as continuing to have the kind of dreams that fuel your passion for living.

So, I ask you now-
What would it take for you to know that you are definitely on your path?

What would it take for you to realize that you are enough and that you matter?

What would it take for you to realize that the Universe is indeed actively protecting and supporting you?


Please stop by our forum and share your thoughts and wisdom in regard to these questions and more.


These are my opening thoughts for today. Please scroll down the page and see what I have to say about overcoming occasional insomnia and our latest podcast.

Musings…

Newsletter_rock

Who doesn’t like a nice night’s sleep? This question is sort of like asking, “Who doesn’t like a really tasty dessert?”

Unfortunately, unlike a good dessert, a nice night’s sleep can’t simply be bought whenever you like.

If you have trouble sleeping from time to time, then I think today’s podcast will offer you definite value. The exercise I walk you through in the podcast will support you in getting the kind of rest you desire and need.

I think it is meaningful to note that getting a good night’s sleep is an important aspect of stress management. The better you sleep, the more prepared you will feel for the day ahead. A good night’s sleep will very definitely lessen the stress you feel in your waking life.

Let me share some theory about how your thinking can get in the way of your sleeping, while also suggesting some remedies:

  • Most of the time when people are having trouble sleeping they are thinking about situations they are not confident about or that frighten them.
    Needless to say, the more you dwell on the negative, the more difficult it will be to sleep. So what to do? Get involved in thinking about what is going well in your life, while giving your primary attention to your breathing cycle.
  • Whatever you think about winds up leading to corresponding pictures being made in the theater of your mind. And vice versa as well. By looking at specific pictures you will tend to think correspondingly specific thoughts.
    So what to do? Think of situations, people, and relationships that please you and allow the accompanying pictures to float on by. You want to proactively create images that calm you down, rather than rile you up.
  • If you are engaged in problem solving, you will not feel like sleeping.
    So what to do? Make believe you have already solved your problem and make a statement that notes your success. Something like, “I have finally figured out how to get better performance from my team, and work is going great.” Repeat that statement to yourself as often as you like, and notice how the way you feel begins to change. Sleep is likely to come after a satisfying day of work!
  • Whatever your are thinking about will lead you to have physical reactions that match your thoughts.
    So, no matter how important tomorrow’s game might be, rather than thinking about what how the game will hopefully unfold, think instead of the satisfaction you will feel having already succeeded.
  • When you think about something that you find very definitely disturbing, you will wind up releasing various hormones into your system.
    For instance, if you are thinking about a person that really frightens you you will release cortisol into your system and wind up feeling a sense of “fight or flight”.
    By now you will likely already be able to guess my suggestion in this regard. Do your best to keep your mind focused on positively oriented people, places, and relationships, while also monitoring your breathing cycle to make sure it stays slow and expansive.
  • As a general caveat- The more you try and stop yourself from thinking particular thoughts or engaging in specific activities, the more of these thoughts and activities you will tend to generate going forward. In my thinking, one of the worst strategies for attempting to calm your thinking mind is trying to stop yourself from thinking. Rather than attempting to stop yourself, engage yourself fully in most any thought or activity that is positively oriented and calming.

I think I will stop here for now…
Please take the time to digest all that is written here, and then click the button below to listen to the podcast for details.

Podcast - how to change careers

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Mushin Breathing- A Japanese technique for lessening stress

Introduction

Podcast_Life_Tools

Well, here I am again, after a slow amble around the globe.
 
Let me give you a short recap to bring you up to date with me sitting here now in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
 
In May, I packed up my life in Tokyo and flew to Washington D.C. to teach a three-day workshop and also to spend some time with a friend and his family. I must say, when people asked me where I lived, it wasn’t easy for me to say, “I lived in Tokyo for thirty years and now I am on my way to live in Thailand.” Somehow, my words didn’t make emotional sense to me, and I had trouble speaking the sentence all in one go.
 
From DC I took a midnight flight to Istanbul. Not sure what time I landed, but I do remember being worn out. Especially after it took me four hours to get to where I was staying from the airport!
 
Istanbul is just sooo big and spread out and also very exciting when you are not traveling at peak commuting times. A business friend who I had never met in person before proved to be an incredibly kind and caring guide. She helped me get a little bit beneath the surface of the Turkish culture, and I am always intrigued when I have the opportunity to do so in a “new” country. If you go to Turkey and spend any time eating with Turkish friends, be prepared to gain weight!
 
From Istanbul I flew to Tel Aviv. I took a van service from the airport to Jerusalem, and then from there I took a bus to Bethlehem and the West Bank. For now I will just say that traveling in the West Bank was one of the most impactful journeys of my life. A lot of mixed up emotions bubbling and sometimes boiling over in this part of the world. It is important to note that I felt very safe in the West Bank, as long as I wasn’t anywhere close to tension between Palestinian youths and the Israeli military. I found Palestinian people to be kind, friendly, and accepting. I taught Aikido in Jerusalem as part of a peace initiative and found the experience to be very emotionally rewarding.

As a side note- The Pope was in Bethlehem at the same time I was, and even though we didn’t get to have coffee together as planned 🙂 , it was great to see him in Manager Square, along with pilgrims from around the world.

And then finally… I traveled over the course of a day and half, from Bethlehem to Tel Aviv, to Zurich, to Bangkok, to Chiang Rai. I don’t remember how long the journey took. I just remember that there were a lot of layovers and it took too long!

Now I am finally here in my new home, and enjoying myself quite a lot in the third portion of my life. Here is a picture of my house in a lovely compound with lots of birds and flowers, a fair amount of frogs, and a fascinating array of geckos both inside and outside my house.

I am now in the process of setting up part of the house for guests, I already have some local private clients I am doing bodywork with, and my landlord and newly found friend Raem and I will be putting together some workshops in the future. Raem does some very special work using Tibetan singing bowls as a medium for healing.

So, that is my update for today, and I will be writing more about my life here in Chiang Rai as time goes on. 

As you scroll down the page in front of you, you will see that we have a community site up on Google+. Tony and I would love it if you would stop by!

And finally, please continue down the page and find your way to the “Musings” section of today’s newsletter and read what I have to say about the Seishindo stress management technique Mushin Breathing. This is the first in a series of articles and podcasts on stress management. And when you are ready to listen to today’s podcast, please have a listen by clicking the button below. People often write saying that they have found that performing this exercise on a regular basis really helps them to stay calm and feel centered. Hopefully, the same will be true for you!

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rock

Mushin Breathing is a core exercise in the study of Seishindo and stress management. Mushin is a Japanese word that can be said to mean “without conscious thought”.
 
This “state” or way of being occurs when the thinking mind is not fixed on or occupied by thought or emotion, and thus open to everything. I believe that mushin is one and the same as what Westerners refer to as a “flow state”.
 
When you are experiencing mushin you are centered and calm, yet active. You do neither too much, or too little, as you release all extraneous action and thought. Nothing comes between your thoughts and actions, and nothing is left over or undone. Thought, action, and breathing occur simultaneously, and this is the exercise walks you through. It can be a deceptively simple yet fully engaging process. Top athletes enter this state numerous times over the course of their career, and every one of us has had the same life affirming experience from time to time. This exercise will make a “flow state” more accessible to you, and little by little you will begin to notice the benefits of being able to embody such a state.
 
As you engage in Mushin Breathing your thinking mind becomes immersed in the process of coordinating your breathing and movements. You gently focus on experiencing and maintaining the quality and flow of your breath and movements occurring seamlessly together as one. You breathe as you move, pause your breathing and movement, and then move and breathe again. Eventually, you become so involved in sensing the movement of your body and your breath, that your thinking mind doesn’t have enough attention left over to think! This is quite a fun place to get to, and you will find that being in such a frame of “bodymind” offers you numerous surprising benefits, depending on your needs.

The podcast shares a good deal more about this important topic so please follow our link and have a listen.

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Regaining rapport when someone is upset with you

Introduction

Podcast_Life_Tools

In our last two podcasts, we discussed various aspects of creating rapport with others. We talk about this topic a fair amount in Seishindo because we feel it is an important life tool. If you are not having good relationships with others, you will not be enjoying your life and feeling emotionally fulfilled.

One of the things we have noticed along the way is that, no matter how good a relationship is, occasionally there will be a rough patch that needs to be addressed. So today’s podcast and my Musings below will discuss how to regain rapport with someone who is upset with you.

When you are ready to listen to the podcast click the Listen button below. Note that you will see an outline of the key points discussed.

Please share your opinions and insights in our Google Plus community. Tony and I are always happy to hear from you!

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rock

I always find it unsettling when someone I care about winds up getting upset with me. At such times it can be all too easy to descend into internal dialogue about what I might have done “wrong” or what the other person could do to be more understanding. It is rare that such internal talk gets me the results I desire, which is to get the relationship back on a secure footing.

One of the most important keys to regaining rapport with someone is to listen intently to what the other person has to say when they are upset, with the intention of really understanding them. So when listening intently it is important to not be considering how you might want to critique what your counterpart has said. Listen with an open heart and emotionally digest what the other person has just communicated. When someone is upset, the last thing they want to hear is that you think what they said is somehow overblown or ill stated.

So in the early stages of a conversation with an upset person, do your best to refrain from correcting them, unless the whole premise for their being upset is totally off the mark. Give the person the opportunity to let off steam. Trying to discern “right from wrong” will rarely if ever help to get the relationship back on track. Also, trying to explain why you did what you did (if they are upset with you specifically) in the beginning of the conversation, usually doesn’t help.

Another point point in regaining rapport is this:
Keep in mind that you can’t go back and redo what you did or didn’t do, and this is especially important if you have done something that might have been lacking in forethought. Personally, I find that offering an apology will go a long way towards beginning to resolve most issues. And yes, be willing to apologize even when you feel that the other person had a role in what transpired. Make your apology without any conditions and without feeling the need for your counterpart to apologize in any way. Again, what is important here is not “right or wrong” but rather that you are truly sorry that your counterpart is upset with you and that you are empathizing with them.

In some instances, you might need to understand and appreciate that your counterpart’s model of the world is different than yours and thus find a way to embrace and understand these differences rather than get upset by the differences or try to counter their arguments with your arguments. In Aikido we say “It takes at least two people to start a fight. Your job is to not be that second person!”

Keep in mind that when a person is feeling angry or hurt, and they communicate their anger to you, it is actually a sign that they feel close to you and want the relationship to be better, and that is something positive! Does this point make immediate sense to you?

When you think about the relationships people tend to get the most upset about, I think you will agree that it is the relationships that are the most important to one or both person’s involved. Child-parent, intimate partners, long time friends, and yes business relationships as well, because often a lot is riding on the quality of a business relationship. That is why I say, consider this- If the relationship had little meaning or little importance to the other person, chances are they would be a good deal less upset with you or their “upsetness” would be short lived. So it is crucial to keep in mind that “this relationship is really important to my counterpart, otherwise they would not be so upset.”. When you are able to sense the importance of the relationship, you will be much more likely to respond in a way that honors the other person and the relationship.

Please keep in mind that your counterpart wants you to be able to really hear them without judgment, and they are also likely wanting you to feel, acknowledge, and share the pain they are feeling. When you are able to let them know that you do truly feel and care about what they are saying, the relationship will definitely begin to mend, and you will find yourself regaining the rapport that you desire.

The podcast shares a good deal more about this important topic. Please have a listen.

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How to create rapport when meeting someone new

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsToday I will be talking and writing about the best way to start a new relationship with someone. Whether you meet one new person a month or ten new people a day, the way you begin a relationship with someone will go a long way towards determining how the relationship will unfold in the future.

In our last newsletter, I said that we will do best to establish relationships based on shared feelings, interests, and experiences. Today I want to look at what you can do starting out when meeting someone new for the first time, regardless of whether you are shy or outgoing.

Please scroll down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter to read what I have to share concerning meeting someone for the first time, and also be sure to have a listen to our podcast.

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

When you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to feel more at ease when first meeting someone.

And please do join us in our ever-growing, new community on Google +. The details about our community are just below. A lot of interesting conversations going on!

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockOver time, what I have discovered about myself is that I sometimes have an “agenda” in mind when meeting someone for the first time. I might be looking to brag a bit, and I might be hoping the person I meet would like to somehow further engage with me in the future.

At other times I find that I simply wing it and talk about whatever interests me at the moment. In both instances I am mainly focused on myself and what Iwant out of the relationship, and thus I don’t take the time to really get to know the other person. Not the best way to begin a new relationship!

Most Asian cultures, on the other hand, go about making a new relationship in a very different way. They take great care in discovering who you are and what is important to you. You might know very little about your new Asian counterpart after meeting them for the first time, but in most instances you will feel listened to and appreciated. All of which has led me to think about how I can be better at starting up relationships, and what I can do differently.

I think the more we are open to learning about the other person and simply exploring possibilities the better chance we have of creating a good bond with the other person. Realizing this after many years of being mainly self-centered has been an important learning for me.

Let me share with you now some of the specifics of what I have discovered along the way. When starting a new relationship, you tend to do best when you start out by calming yourself and entering into the relationship with as little concern as possible about how the relationship might possibly benefit you. This might not always be an easy task, but it is important nonetheless.

It is best to begin by creating a context or environment that will tend to make the other person at ease with you, themselves, and the conversation in general. When the other person feels that you are totally there, without distractions and judgments, this lays the foundation for rapport and makes a high quality collaborative relationship all the more likely.

When you really take the time and effort to gain rapport with someone and understand them better, it might just wind up changing some of your opinions, and the way you act. You see, often when you really get to understand another person and their model of the world, it changes your understanding of yourself and your model of the world. So the more open you are to the possibility of changing and learning, the better a new relationship will tend to go.

Do you best to find a common ground with the person you are engaging with. Look to find the similarities between your beliefs and opinions rather than dwelling on the possible differences.

This step might seem trite if you and the other person share many of the same opinions, but obviously along the way we all meet various people who hold opinions that are different than ours. So, focus on finding a common ground more so than looking to point out where you disagree or looking to make your opinion clear to the other person.

Be open to the unknown and don’t look to move too fast. Meaningful relationships develop over time. Trusting each other, learning from each other, and appreciating each other are important dynamics that can’t be rushed.

The more you believe yourself to be a kind, caring, interesting person, the more you will make it likely that the other person will feel the same about you. Trust in yourself and trust in the goodness of the other person. When you do, a collaborative relationship is very likely to follow.

The podcast shares a good deal more about this topic. Please have a listen.

In Community,
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An introduction to the art of rapport

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsIn today’s podcast and newsletter I talk and write about how to gain rapport with a wide range of people.

When we truly gain rapport with another person we “bond” with them. We establish a relationship based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences, and in Seishindo we believe that bonding with other individuals is a crucial element in being emotionally healthy and feeling a sense of belonging in the world.

Please scroll down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter to read what I have to share concerning rapport, and also be sure to have a listen to our podcast.

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

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

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockWhen you truly have rapport with another person, you are engaged in a relationship of mutual understanding, agreement, and trust. To me, nothing could be finer!

It is wonderful to be with someone who looks to communicate in a collaborative manner, someone who strives to understand rather than to critique. And I am guessing that most everyone I meet feels the same.

One point I find of great importance when considering forming a good relationship with someone is that you first need to have a good relationship with yourself.

In order to honestly and collaboratively communicate your thoughts and feelings to another person, you will first need to be appreciating and accepting yourself. Being open and receptive to what others have to say begins by being open and receptive to yourself. What I have found over time is that the more a person has negative thoughts about themselves, the more they will tend to be judgmental of others. When you are in a respectful, positively-oriented relationship with yourself, you will be that much more open to the opinions, beliefs, and frailties of another person.

I will admit that I find it important to watch over my tendency to be judgmental. Living in Japan for so long has really given me a great opportunity to be mindful about this. I think it is rather common for Japanese people to judge foreigners concerning some of their “crude” habits, and I also find that myself and other “gaijin” can easily get into complaining and judging Japanese people. Many folks are often just not comfortable with the differences they experience in others.

For me, one significant thing to note when making a relationship with a new person is this: I don’t need to genuinely enjoy being with another person in order to make a good relationship with them. What I need to be able to do is respect the other person and find some appreciation for their point of view. I have learned over time that if I have a difficult time appreciating another person, it says more about me than it does about the them. Sometimes my judgmental nature gets in the way!

I think that, from time to time, we all wind up meeting someone who seems to have a professional level of skill when it comes to annoying and offending others. When I meet such a person, I do my best to understand that the person is likely frightened and thus wanting to keep others at bay. I believe such people exhibit annoying, offensive behavior in spite of themselves. They don’t truly want to be separate from others but being separate seems to create a sense of safety for them. Or better to say a false sense of safety.

So when a person acts in way that leads you to feel offended or upset, first check to see if perhaps you are feeling a bit oversensitive and judgmental and if you feel this is not the case… you will do well to appreciatively consider what the other person might be afraid of or insecure about, and what kind of relationship they would have with you if they felt safe to express their inner feelings. As the Beatles used to say, “Love is the answer and you know that for sure. Love is a flower you got to let it grow.”

In my mind, a life devoid of respectful, loving relationships would be a life not truly worth living. And thank goodness I can’t even really imagine how that could ever happen. Playfully, I like to sometimes say that my desire to have good relationships with others is really a selfish act on my part, because I gain so much by having good relationships!

In Seishindo, we understand that a good deal of what goes into making rapport with another person has to do with the somatic connection you make with the other person. And when I say somatic connection I mean moving, breathing, talking, and adopting a posture that allows both you and the other person to feel safe and invited to share feelings with each other. And making a somatic connection with someone is the main focus of today’s podcast. Tony and I talk about how to use our mammalian consciousness to bond with others.

So when you are ready, please have a listen. And remember, if you go to the site you can read a synopsis of the podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Achieve greater clarity and purpose by resolving inner conflict

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Would you like to handle criticism better?

Introduction

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

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

Once you get to the podcast on the site, you will see that we have started to include an outline of the key points in each podcast. If you are in a hurry or just like to read what the podcast is about, this should help.

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

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

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

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

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

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

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

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

A good method to help you change careers

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Tapping in the the Potential Benefits of Stress

Introduction

If you have been with us for a while you will notice that we have completely redesigned our newsletter. One of our main reasons for doing this was to make the newsletter more user friendly for the many people who read our newsletter on mobile devices. We would love to hear any feedback from you, plus and minus.

In the podcast we offer you today, we look at the positive messages your stress is communicating to you so that you can begin to reap some benefits from your stress.

The idea being, that when you change the way you think about stress, you will change your response to stress, and this will enable you to use the signs of stress that show up in your daily life as a way to help you become healthier and happier. The very same way of thinking is helpful in regard to other signals that your system sends you that you usually think of as being “negative”. For instance, regularly occurring headaches or depression.

When you are ready, scroll down to the Musings section of this newsletter and I will share some of my thoughts regarding how to engage with stress in a life affirming manner.

And when you are done reading…

If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it there as well), then please click on this link: The benefits of stress.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, today’s podcast will show up automatically the next time you open the application you use. That is the beauty of subscribing to a podcast!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Musings…

As I often say, “Your system (your somatic intelligence) communicates to you in a language that is at least as sophisticated and complete as the verbal language you speak.” And it is my belief that every message your system communicates to you is meant to be life affirming. Unlike your rational mind, your somatic intelligence does not attempt to comment on your weaknesses or deficiencies.

Your system is always striving to communicate the activities and behaviors you would do best to engage in in the moment. “You have had enough to eat.”, “Slow down and breathe more.”, and perhaps even, “Smile more and appreciate life.” I believe these are the kind of messages your system sends you. But often we take these messages and turn them into negative statements. Messages like “You eat like a pig.”, “You are overwrought and unhappy.”, and “Why are you so damn unhappy.” We take a positive and turn it into a negative.

In regard to stress, the dictionary says- “Stress is a  state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” And even though I find this to be a pretty generally accepted view of stress, I also find this definition to be a one sided view of stress.

I would prefer to say that “Stress is a communication from your system, alerting you to be ready for action, so you can successfully meet the challenges you are facing.”

When we frame stress is this way, we can see that the communication known as “stress” does indeed have a positive intention. It alerts us to the fact that something important requires our attention. And that is good, right?

And recently I have come to understand another important positive message your system is giving you when you feel stressed. Your system is letting you know that you would do well to engage in heartfelt relationships with others.

Invariably when people talk about stress they talk about three hormones- adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, and cortisol is known as “the stress hormone”. These three hormones interact in the body to create a sense of fight or flight. We could call these hormones the negative side of the coin in regard to stress, and that is the side of the coin that gets looked at the most often. Secrete these hormones on a regular basis and you wear out your system.

But there is another hormone that gets released when the body alerts us to stressful situations, and that hormone is oxytocin. The pituitary gland pumps out oxytocin when stressful conditions are perceived, and at other times as well.

Two nicknames for oxytocin are “the love hormone”, and “the cuddle hormone”.

So although oxytocin is secreted when you start to experience stress, perhaps most importantly it is also secreted at various times when intimacy and human bonding is experienced or desired. When oxytocin is secreted it leads people to crave physical contact and be in supportive relationships with others.
Beyond that oxytocin is also an anti-inflammatory, and it helps heart cells regenerate and heal from stress induced activity.

Oxytocin is the positive side of the coin in regard to stress. When we perceive stress we release oxytocin along with the other hormones mentioned, and when oxytocin is released into the system it leads us to crave human connection, and the desire to care for others, and it also helps us to heal our heart.

So this is the side of the coin I would like to orient you to look at:
When you are feeling stressed you can ask yourself- How can I go about being in relationship with others as a way to relieve my stress?

When we feel stressed we tend to feel separate from others and a sense of being out of control. Yet when we are engaged in supportive relationships with others our stress tends to lessen because we feel that we are not alone, and that we have a network of people we can call on for support.

So, if you would like to understand more about how to tap into the potential benefits of stress, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Tapping into the benefits of stress

Play

Stress can actually be beneficial for you if you learn to think about and respond to it differently. By doing so, you can then use the signs of stress that show up in your daily life as a way to help you become healthier and happier.

Everyday Anger Management

Introduction

I hear from many people that they see ever increasing expressions of anger in their everyday work life and personal life, and certainly we see lots of evidence of this in the news. So I think that understanding more about anger is an important topic for all of us to take a closer look at.

When you are ready, scroll down to the Musings section of this newsletter and I will share some of my thoughts on the topic.

And when you are done reading…

If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it there as well), then please click on this link. Everyday Anger Management

If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, today’s podcast will show up automatically the next time you open the application you use. That is the beauty of subscribing to a podcast!

We would love to get some feedback from you concerning the podcasts. The more you let us know what you do and don’t like, the better we can hone our offering. We are also very open to suggestions for future topics. And as always, we would be grateful if you would forward this email to anyone you feel might benefit from what we have to share!

In Community,
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Musings…

If you take the time to delve deeper into the emotion known as “anger” I think you will find that the angrier someone is over a long period of time, the more difficulty they have in expressing their full range of emotions. Their anger overwhelms them and blocks out the possibility of their feeling emotions like sadness, happiness, and love.

So even though angry people often abuse others, they also seriously abuse themselves. And if you think along these lines you will be able to feel compassion for someone when they express anger.

I am not suggesting you should accept or condone outbursts of anger, but rather take a moment to realize how the angry person is abusing themselves and limiting their ability to feel accepted and loved.

Also, if you happen to be pretty hot headed yourself, then think about how your anger keeps you unhappy, and unfulfilled emotionally. No matter how “right” or righteous you might be, it is rare for someone to feel that they got what they wanted by expressing their anger. Indeed, if you find yourself getting angry, you will do well to ask yourself, “What am I really wanting to express here, and what is the response from the other person that I am hoping for?” If you ask yourself such questions you just might find that what you really want to express is sadness and or emotional pain.

As mammals I think we all very definitely need a heartfelt connection to other human beings if we are to maintain an emotionally healthy life. I believe that being able to experience intimacy with others is a necessity and not just a luxury. When we feel hurt, disrespected, abandoned, or sad, we often tend to cover up these uncomfortable feelings and lose touch with what is really driving our behavior. The result that often comes to pass is that we express anger or resentment instead. And after expressing your anger it is likely that you and your counterpart will feel a greater emotional distance between each other, which is likely not the result you are hoping for.

By consistently expressing only one segment of our entire emotional range (our anger), we limit our ability to give and receive love and feel happy.

These are some of my musings about anger. If you listen to our podcast Tony and I discuss this topic in much greater detail. So please have a listen!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder – 7

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

 

Sit quietly and wait for the mist to burn off…

IMG_9893

2. Thoughts to Ponder- 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indecision with the passing of time becomes decision.
Bill Wilson

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

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

Spend some time alone every day.
The Dalai Lama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

 

Thoughts to Ponder – 6

1. Introduction

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

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

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

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Life is an act of metamorphosis…
Crimson_Rose

2. Questions to Ponder 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder – 3

1. Introduction

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

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Make sure you taste life’s nectar!

Homing_in

Photo by Ruben Alexander

2. Questions to Ponder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If not now, when?

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

The Circle of Life

Introduction

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

The wonder of a beautiful morning!

From_a_distance

The Circle of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Thoughts to Ponder

1. Introduction

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

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

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

2. Questions to Ponder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it really possible to live a life without mistakes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you do differently after receiving this advice?

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

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

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

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

What is it that makes you, you?

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

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

How is it you would like to be remembered?

Are you working towards building a legacy?

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

What are you most grateful for?

And what else?

And what else?

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

What is your definition of success?

What do you love?

Who do you love?

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

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

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

If not now, then when?

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Neural Networks

Introduction

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

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

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

I hope you derive value in what you read!

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Remember to play!

Play_Button

2.The neural networks of emotion and logic

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

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

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

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

How to accomplish this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Wide-angle Perspective

1. Introduction

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

Charlie

View your challenges from a distance.

view_from_distance

Photo by: Yvonne Rikkenberg

2. Wide-angle Perspective

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

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

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

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

So what to do?

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

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

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

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

All the best to you going forward!

Charlie

Unlocking “Brain Lock” – Part 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 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

You are an Orchestra

1. Introduction

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

2. You are an Orchestra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,
Charlie

Suffering and happiness

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

2. Suffering and happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

Courage in the face of perceived failure

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Charlie

2. Courage in the face of perceived failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simplicity

1. Introduction

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

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

Charlie

2. Simplicity

Prior to seeking solutions, look first to simplify

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The meaning of Seishindo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stones of Wisdom

1. Introduction

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Charlie

2. Stones of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You need to openly accept and welcome your problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who were you before your problems manifested?

Who will you be when they no longer exist?

Whatever your answer, be that way NOW!

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

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

Orienting to Success

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

2. Orienting towards Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fran smiles as says, “Rather unlikely!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The experience of “being centered”

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Charlie

2. The experience of “being centered”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rock your boat in whatever direction feels best to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your pelvis resting in the water,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faking It

1. Introduction

I’ll be teaching in NYC and Burlington, Vermont starting in the middle of July.

In Vermont, I’ll be teaching one full day and several evening sessions, as part of a larger Master Practitioner program run by Jonathan Altfeld and Doug Obrien. If you would like to be my guest in any or all of the evening programs, send me an email at charlie@seishindo.org.

You are of course also welcome to take the entire 12 day Master Practitioner Program. If you would like to do that, email me immediately!

And…

It will be GREAT to be back in NYC! Here is a look at the two day program I’ll be teaching there.

Would you like to know more? Please contact me. I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the Seishindo community!

Regards,
Charlie

Seishindo Mindbody Medicine

NYC; July 23, 24 2011

I’m guessing you’ve heard the expression “The mind is willing but the flesh is weak.” It seems to be an important premise underlying much of the Western concept of health and well-being.

“If my damn body wasn’t so stubborn, I’d be thirty pounds lighter and look twenty years younger!”
So sad to see this model of the world prevalent amongst so many people.

Oriental wisdom on the other hand teaches that “the entire unit of self” is intelligent and life sustaining. That at the very least it takes a rational mind, an emotional mind, a body, and a soul, to make up one person, And it’s our job in life to coordinate and integrate these various parts of ourselves in order to live a life that’s emotionally fulfilling.

In Seishindo MindBody Medicine-
We consider the body to be a wise ally, rather than a hindrance.
We practice becoming mindful, and thus appreciative of what we do have, rather than focusing on what we think needs fixing.
We sense an indomitable spirit lies beneath the confusion and fear we all feel from time to time.
We believe in the power of people working together in community.

This workshop will be of great value, if you want to
Feel calm and centered in times of great change
Feel at home in your body, and at home in the world
Slow down and appreciate all that you do have
Refocus your life, regain your health, and rebuild your relationships

You already possess all the resources you need, to live the life you truly desire.
Come join us for a heartfelt experience that goes beyond words!

If you want to know more, or if you want to sign up to attend, you can contact me at charlie@seishindo.org.

2. Faking It

After meeting grandma a number of times she stopped going to her hands and knees when bowing to me. Instead, she began to bow while standing.

The first time she remained standing I worried I might have done something to lessen her respect for me! Years later I realize she began to stand and bow, as a way to show me our relationship was becoming less formal and more friendly.

Having studied Aikido for a few years before first meeting grandma, I could see a definite similarity between the way she bowed to me, and the way I was taught to bow to my sensei.

In Aikido class I was taught to first inhale, and then begin my exhale and bow at the same time. When my exhale was complete I was meant to pause for just a moment, and then finally rise up just as I started to inhale once again. This simple ritual, which involves integrating your breathing with your movement, can be very powerful. You feel a definite connection to the person you’re bowing to, while at the same time feeling a deep connection to yourself.

Unbeknownst to grandma, I decided one day to playfully engage her in a bowing contest. My intention was to bow to her, in the same manner as I bowed to my sensei. I was determined to bow deeper and longer than her in order to let her know I felt she was the one deserving the most respect. I guess, in retrospect, I also wanted to show myself that my bowing was better than hers!

So I rang her bell, and seized my chance.

She opened the door and bowed deeply as usual. Then, just as she bobbed up from her bow like a diver raising her head above water to get a fresh supply of oxygen, I began my bow. I stayed down as long as I thought I could without seeming unnatural, and then just as I was coming up… I saw grandma going back down in the opposite direction. Bowing even deeper than she had the first time, while once again mumbling wonderful things about me.

Not to be outdone, I waited patiently while pacing my breathing to her movements. Just as she started to bob up a second time, I began my exhale and went down a second time. I paused for what seemed like longer than I should have, and then slowly came back up… only to see her going back down!

I’m not sure how many times we did this. Perhaps five complete rounds. All I know is it seemed like an eternity.

It was as if we were connected by a system of weights and pulleys. Her coming up required me to go down, and the same was true when we both went in the opposite direction.

What I felt from the first moment of my little contest, was that her bowing had a presence and a power to it that my bowing didn’t. I felt like the guy you sometimes see in a photo that has an odd looking smile on his face, because rather than really smiling, he’s only pretending to smile. The fact that I was only pretending to bow and show respect, and she wasn’t, was immediately apparent to me, and perhaps to grandma as well.

I was bowing with my body, but not with my heart. I wasn’t bowing as an expression of my thanks. I felt embarrassed and I vowed to myself to authentically show her my respect in the future.

What I learned from my little contest is this-
The thanks and respect we show others,
If it’s to have any real meaning,
If it’s to be more than an empty social ritual,
Must be initiated from a heartfelt sense of appreciation and humility.

Vulnerability can be a strength

1. Introduction

As I inch towards completing my book of stories about Japan, from time to time I rewrite some of my older offerings. Today you get to read one of my very first stories, about a person that had an important impact on my life. Although obaa-chan* passed away a number of years ago, I can still feel her presence in my life.

Please click on this link to have a look at a picture of me and obaa-chan. I think it will bring a smile to your face! Someone suggested I title the photo “Beauty and the Beast”!

Charlie

2. Vulnerability can be a strength

Living in Japan for so long, I’ve learned a great deal about life from a unique perspective. One of my greatest teachers was my wife’s grandmother, who passed away several years ago.

My most enduring memory of “obaa-chan” is the first time I went to her house to meet her. She was 81 years old at the time, and still rather sprite. My wife rang the bell, and obaa-chan called out for us to enter. Just as we opened the door, obaa-chan was sliding down onto her hands and knees to bow. There was something magical and mysterious about this moment. Meeting someone for the very first time, but initially only getting the slightest glimpse of their face. As obaa-chan descended into her bow, I was left looking at the back of her head, with her hair immaculately fashioned into a bun.

As funny as it might seem, the first thought that sprung to mind was a scene from my childhood. A teacher was lecturing me on how to best prepare for meeting an important person. He said, “If time is limited as two men prepare to meet their potential boss, the man looking to show off will take most of his time to polish the front of his shoes until they sparkle. After all he wants to impress as much as possible from the moment he enters the room. The more thorough man on the other hand will give just as much time and attention to polish the back of his shoes as he does to the front. He does this because he realizes the importance of taking care of every detail. He values substance more than flash.

“If you take a moment to think about it, it’s the thorough man that will make the best impression, as he leaves the room, because he looks as good going out, as he did coming in. The show-off with the scruffy heels will leave the impression of a careless man who values image more than substance.”

I thought about this lesson as I looked at the back of obaa-chan’s head, as she paused with her face about six inches above the floor. She had certainly taken the time to attend to every detail!

To be standing there while a person offers their complete supplication was a totally new experience for me, and my next thought led me to consider the importance of this ritual in a culture that’s been strongly influenced by the code of the samurai. Going down to one’s hands and knees to bow would offer an adversary the chance to lop off one’s head! I smiled as I held this thought and realized her show of humility also meant she was asking for my kindness. I had the feeling that by displaying her vulnerability she had somehow left me at a disadvantage! Even though I had yet to really see her face and knew almost nothing about her, I already felt I had to find a way to live up to the respect she was showing me.

Feeling suspended in space and time as I bowed sheepishly, I wondered what else I should be doing as I waited for her to complete this ritual. In that moment I remembered the words of my Aikido sensei. “If you want to truly know the mind of your counterpart, show them your vulnerability.”

*obaa-chan” is the Japanese term for grandmother.

Never underestimate the power of your original self

1. Introduction

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

2. Never underestimate the power of your original self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamentals of Happiness

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Charlie

2. Loss is an essential element of success and happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mind of Aikido and Water

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

http://2hj.org/english/

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

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

Keep the faith!

In Community,
Charlie

2. The Mind of Aikido and Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water expands and contracts depending on circumstances, and the same is true of the human spirit.
When you’re harsh to a child, their spirit contracts.
When you love a child, their spirit expands,
Out past the two of you and into the universe.

The presence of water throughout our ecosystem is similar to the presence of the body’s fluid system. Enveloping and uniting the cells and tissue of the body.
The mind of water, the body’s fluid system, and Aikido, all have the same intention.
Move with, absorb, nurture, cleanse, renew.

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

Regardless of the form it may take—rain, mist, steam, dew, snow, ice—water always has a spherical mind.
This mind of roundness is a key principle in the mind of non-dissension.
In Aikido we project a full round presence to our adversary and flow with their movements.

Just like water, we offer no hard surfaces to bump up against, and nothing to grab hold of.
We encourage our adversaries to follow their course of action to its likely outcome, in the same way water follows the path of gravity downhill.
Moving always towards center, until the time of renewal and rising up again.

Regardless of the obstacles encountered water does not stop, it does not give up.
It searches endlessly for the path of least resistance, and when there is none it rests, consolidates its power, and rises up.
Waiting for another opportunity.
Waiting for the proper moment… an opening.

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

Water joins with, is absorbed by, and surrounds.
It does not strive to act separately, but waits to be moved by the forces of nature.

With a mind of endless effortless rest, renewal, and movement,
As calm when doing as when simply being.
We can realize the end of every journey as a new beginning,
Every destination as temporary, every goal as cyclical.

Beginning complete

We remain complete

With nowhere to go

Nothing to accomplish

Nothing to fulfill

Except our destiny

Our returning

Is never in question.

3. My Offer

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances, you are certainly not alone in these turbulent times.

Write to me at charlie@seishindo.org and I’ll send you a set of questions designed to help you come to grips with what you need to be doing differently.

Charlie

A crisis of faith

1. Introduction

Blessings and thanks to all in the Seishindo community during a time of great upheaval in Japan. And yes, upheaval is exactly what it’s been!

Likely at least 15,000 people have perished, and more than 500,000 people are homeless. Apparently many of the homeless are living in weather that goes down to around freezing at night, and since they fled their homes on a moment’s notice, they have little in the way of blankets etc. Heating fuel and food in the public facilities is scarce, so people are facing some tough times.

So please, do what you can financially, and also very importantly, please send your prayers and positive energy in this direction.

Tokyo is basically still fine, and our main concern is the nuclear facilities. Lets work to transmute all that nuclear energy into an energy that serves humankind and the planet!
There have been many many acts of kindness and bravery, and I shed some tears last night when I turned on the TV and saw rescue crews arriving from around the world to help.

I am posting several times a day on the Seishindo Fan Page on Facebook, and many people have been replying with their support. Please come and join us!
I find Facebook to be a positive environment, so if you have to sign up to see the page, rest assured that it will not wind up being a hassle in the long run.

http://www.facebook.com/seishindo/

All the best to all of us!
Charlie

2. A crisis of faith

The moment sensei walked into the dojo I could tell he had something specific to say today.

Here’s the lesson he presented us with.

Many of you come to class not realizing you’re suffering from a crisis of faith. The less you recognize this, the more it winds up affecting everything you do.

With some of you I get the feeling you’re sitting there while dreading what might go wrong, Dreading that you might show up as being incompetent or uncertain. When I look around to gauge how everyone’s feeling on a certain day, many of you look everywhere else but at me. It’s as if you’re saying “Please don’t call on me sensei!”, and yet supposedly you’re here to learn. What this tells me is your body’s in the dojo, but your thinking mind is somewhere else.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If not, you’re almost certainly not feeling confident.

What are your afraid of? The attack of your counterpart who is simply performing his half of a training task? The judgment of people watching who might say you’re clumsy and unskilled? Or perhaps without realizing it, what you’re fearing most is the attack of your own negative self judgments. Your lack of faith in yourself as a competent learner.

What would your life be like if you believed you were a fine person, an intelligent person, an overall good learner? In other words, what would your life be like if you didn’t think something was wrong with you? Many of you would be quick to reply, ‘Oh no, not me.’, if someone said you were a wonderful person, and ‘Oh yes that’s me.’, if someone said you had a lot of problems that needed fixing.

I talk to you over and over again about the importance of being fully present in class. I tell you that just as you take off your slippers and leave them outside the dojo, you also need to do the same with your limiting beliefs. I know that isn’t easy to do, but ‘easy’ isn’t what we’re concerned with here. What you need to be concerned with is trusting in yourself, and noticing if you go inside your head searching for negative memories, when you don’t have immediate success.

The principles of Aikido are actually rather simple, but simple does not equal easy. In fact I have found that doing things simply usually takes a good deal of hard work. A good deal of practice. I think part of the reason for this is that we think too much and make things more complicated than they really are. If you start out with a lack of confidence you will expect difficulty. When you expect difficulty it means your head is already filled with thoughts before you even begin. The more thoughts you have filling your head, the less you’ll be able to notice what is. The less you’ll be able to notice the simplicity.

Every accomplished artist, whether a ballerina or a boxer, performs with grace and ease. They can do this because they’ve pruned away everything that’s not essential to their performance. They snipped and trimmed until all of the complications and difficulty have been removed. With less to pay attention to they can give much more attention to what’s left. Being confident in their ability, there’s no separation between thinking and doing. There is only One.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If so, you’ll have overcome your crisis of faith!

All the best to you going forward,

Charlie

Pain and Suffering

1. Introduction

Today I’d like to introduce you to Howard Shifke, a new friend of the Seishindo community. Howard has fully recovered from Parkinson’s Disease using a holistic approach he developed on his own. Anybody who has, or knows somebody who has Parkinson’s, can learn a lot and be inspired by reading Howard’s blog. In fact I think everyone and anyone can be inspired by what he has done. I certainly am!

Howard’s philosophy is fully in tune with Seishindo’s, and you can contact him directly by sending him an email at hshifke@gmail.com.

Please mention that you learned about Howard from Seishindo, so we can get a sense of the cross-pollination that occurs.

His blog is here, http://fightingparkinsonsdrugfree.blogspot.com/.

Today’s story is a major rewrite of one I wrote a long time ago. I offer it here as a way of celebrating Howard’s healing, and as an advance celebration for all the healing that can take place in all of our lives.

In Community,
Charlie

2. The benefits of Suffering

Sensei said, “I’m always quite intrigued when I read about monks and priests from the West, that express the same feelings we have in Japan.

I recently read that the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, ‘I became a monk not so as to suffer more, but to suffer more effectively.’ Now I can’t say that’s what led me to study Aikido, but I can say the principle Merton sensei expressed, is one that has guided me over time.

The more new students go on about how excited they are to be studying Aikido, the more I’m led to guess they’re trying to escape from suffering. They fail to realize their suffering is created by their beliefs, and not by the outside world. Trying to run away from suffering is like trying to run away from yourself. Anywhere you go, anywhere you get to, you’ll only find your negative beliefs sitting and welcoming you as you arrive. And that’s why in Aikido we look to create a tiny bit of suffering with some of our practices. It’s a good way to see whether or not you are still trying to escape.

You see, the way you respond to what’s taking place, says much more about your beliefs than you realize. Some of you have started to realize your tendency is to try and escape from an attacker rather than joining with them. You’ll never be able to escape the attacker, because you’ll never be able to escape from yourself.

I believe people increase their suffering, each time they try and avoid it. In attempting to escape from your pain rather than settling into it, you set the stage for further misery. Some degree of suffering is inherent to the human condition.

If you’ve been coming to class for awhile now you’ve heard me ask this question before, ‘If it wasn’t for your suffering who would you be today?’ Your answer will say a lot about the way you feel about yourself, the manner in which you approach learning and change, and the reason why you come to class. You’ll improve the quality of your life by immersing yourself in your struggle, rather than looking to escape from it. By realizing that pain is something you create inside your head.

I suggest you ask yourself, ‘How does my perception of my current problem, my current struggle, mirror my overall beliefs in life?’ If your current situation stayed the same, but you changed your belief system would you still be suffering? 
In other words, how would your problems appear to be different if you were different?

Happiness and suffering are two sides of the same coin. Look for the happiness inherent in your current suffering, rather than looking to fix what you perceive to be wrong.

When you’re suffering, your emotional mind and your rational mind are locked in combat. 
Instead of fighting against yourself, use your whole self to stay cooperatively engaged in your struggle and you’ll find something within you shifts. Over time your struggle will be transformed into a life affirming lesson.

When you feel ill at ease in the world, it’s a signal that part of you is calling out for help. When you willingly heed this call, the value of your struggle becomes apparent. I think we find no greater example of this, then when a person is diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Disease is the body’s way of telling you, the way you’re leading your life isn’t working. Your symptoms are alerting you to the need for change. Be thankful for the feedback. Without it, you would soon no longer be alive.

Koans, paradox, and prayer

1. Introduction

Spring hasn’t quite arrived in Tokyo yet, and we’ve actually had a light dusting of snow these last two days.

But lately, internally I’ve been feeling like spring has already begun, and I have the sense something new is being born into my life. It’s a wonderful feeling to have after a long winter!

I want to alert you all to a business related article on my site that’s ready for download.

Here’s what it says on our site:

You can download the Seishindo white paper “The High Cost of Turnover.” This paper takes a detailed look at the full spectrum of costs involved when an organization loses an employee (instead of coaching them) – and describes specific ways to improve employee retention.

If you think this article might be useful in your career, please download it and have a read. If you’re in the HR field you should find this article particularly useful. Please also feel free to pass this article on to others.

And please, forward our newsletter to others you think might benefit from the Seishindo philosophy. Referrals from Seishindo community members is the main way we get to meet and serve new people.

In Community,
Charlie

2. Koans, paradox, and prayer

Do you know what a “koan” is?

Here’s what the dictionary has to say.

Koan (noun) A paradoxical anecdote or riddle that has no apparent rational solution or meaning. These anecdotes can though, be understood by the intuitive mind.

When practicing Zen, students are given koans to ponder. They’re meant to absorb themselves in the seeming paradox of a koan via meditation and everyday life, until such time that an “alternative truth” emerges. Koans are meant to help make clear, that at times the rational mind impedes the process of understanding.

One well known koan is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Since “koans” and “paradoxes” are so related, let’s also have a look at “paradox” in the dictionary.

Paradox (noun) A statement or proposition, that despite seemingly sound reasoning, leads to a conclusion that appears senseless or self-contradictory

For instance: “The slower you go, the sooner you’ll reach your destination.”

Now, let’s stretch a bit and see how the terms koan and paradox, relate to prayer.

Prayer (noun) ?The act of communicating with a deity (especially as a request for help, or in adoration, contrition, or thanksgiving.)

So far so good?

Are you wondering why I’m talking about koans, paradox and prayer in the same conversation?

Here’s a story that will hopefully make the direction of my thinking clear:

Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who gave her life to helping the sick and poor of the world. She was interviewed countless times, and once she was questioned about how she prayed.

The interviewer asked, “Mother Teresa, when you pray, what do you say to God?”

Mother Teresa replied, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”

Believing he had understood what she just said, the interviewer next asked, “Ah, then what is it God says to you when you pray?”

Mother Teresa replied, “He also doesn’t talk. He also simply listens.”

There was a long silence, with the interviewer seeming a bit confused and not knowing what to ask next.

Finally Mother Teresa broke the silence by saying, “Sorry, but if you can’t understand the meaning of what I’ve just said, I won’t be able to explain it any better.”

To me, this story is a Christian koan!

In fact I think you can extract two koans from the wisdom of the Mother Teresa story.
The first koan is:
“How can you offer up a prayer to your concept of a “higher power” without talking?”

The second koan is:
“What does one attend to when praying, given that God doesn’t speak?”

Most every morning and evening, I take some time to communicate with my concept of “God”. I ask for help for myself and others, give thanks for my life, and acknowledge my many shortcomings and my inability to understand the true meaning of my life. In doing so I concede the inadequacy of my logical reasoning and attempt to temporarily render useless my cognitive mode of processing information, so that an “alternative reality” can emerge.

You see, for me, life is very much like a Zen koan. An absorbing paradox that has no apparent solution. In times of brief clarity I recognize that much of the time I don’t understand what is meant to happen and why, and I realize that my logical reasoning does not help me feel at peace with myself and in the world. When I pray I give my Zen koan over to God, realizing my cognitive mind on its own is not enough to fully understand and appreciate life.

From time to time,
And not directed by me

There are moments of utter stillness,
When nothing is said,
And yet everything is communicated and understood.

The blessings of life are given and received.
And all is just as it should be.
Nothing more, nothing less.

Ah, if only I did nothing more often!

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 Clock is Ticking

How do you react to deadlines? How would you feel if someone said “Hurry up, the clock is ticking and we’ve got to get this completed!”? How well do you cope with stress? Isn’t it amazing to notice how radically your experience of passing time changes depending on the circumstances, with little correlation to the steady flow of time as shown on a clock.

Have you ever sat in a waiting room with a clock on the wall that went “tick tock, tick tock” over and over and over again, until such time that you either wanted to run out of the room, or throw the clock out the window? This kind of experience is especially excruciating when you are waiting for something that you really are not looking forward to, like a treatment from your dentist. In particular, when you are feeling stressed out you experience time distortion. In some instances like when waiting for your dentist, one minute of clock time seems to take forever. At other times when you are working towards a deadline, time appears to slip away without your knowing where it went, and you are left wondering why you are accomplishing so little.

Waiting for a train that is twenty minutes late, when that train is bringing your loved one back to you, is very different than getting to the train station early with your loved one and waiting twenty minutes for the same train to take your loved one away from you. The train is the same, the station is the same, your loved one is the same, and the time on the clock is the same, but somehow, your emotional experience of “twenty minutes” is quite different.

It is important for each of us to understand how the fixed passage of time as measured by a clock, has little to do with our emotional experience of time. Rather than being under the illusion that time rules our life, we will do well to recognize that it is our emotional experience and our mindset that determines how we relate to the ticking of the clock. Restrict your breathing and tense your muscles and time invariably will appear to speed up. You relate to time according to your expectations of what will transpire. Expect that you will be successful and the clock on the wall appears to offer you a bit more time. Expect the worst and you will have difficulty keeping up.

What can you do to have a healthier perspective in regard to time? The first thing you can do is breathe slowly and deeply. When you slow down your body clock, the clock on the wall appears to slow down along with you. The next thing you can do is check in with your body. If you create a feeling of expansion in your body, by aligning your posture and releasing your muscles, time will appear to expand somewhat as well. Furthermore, you can notice your surroundings and extend your awareness out into the space around you. When you extend your awareness to take in the wide range of sights and sounds taking place in your local environment you will also extend your concept of time. Lastly, realize that with any luck, you will have tomorrow to accomplish what you were not able to accomplish today. Every new day, brings new opportunities for appreciating your life and the people you care about.

There is no more important person to love than yourself

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for me to lose contact with the part of myself that generates my emotional experience. Does the same happen to be true for you?

There has been a great deal of research that shows that many people who work in the “helping professions” (and this very much includes stay at home mothers) suffer from what has become known as “Compassion Fatigue” or “Helping Profession Syndrome.” You can become so focused on helping others that you lose touch with how important it is to also help yourself.

I write about this now because of an experience I had yesterday; that might very much speak to your experience as well.

My legs have bothered me since I was a young child. I often have pain in my knees, and it is exactly this condition that led me to become involved in my life’s work. I am known as a skillful bodyworker and yet I find that I rarely use my bodyworking skills on myself. I seem to forget that the skills and sensitivity I use to help others can also be used for ME.

Yesterday my left knee was bothering me, and I finally decided to take the time to help myself.

I sat on the floor with my left leg fully extended. I then took a minute to center as I felt my leg as it was at that moment. Next, I used my hands to feel what my leg wanted to have done to it. I felt for the sore spots and I began to gently and lovingly massage my leg.

Breathing deeply, I massaged my leg slowly and tenderly, yet firmly. I asked my leg to tell my hands what it wanted, and I asked my hands to communicate a story to me of what my leg was saying. I “heard” my leg say, “I am tired and I don’t feel like I am getting enough help in supporting and carrying the heavy load I have to tend with.”

My leg also said, “I feel somewhat neglected and taken for granted. I don’t really feel like I am fully appreciated for fulfilling a challenging task.”

“Hmm…” I thought to myself, “Doesn’t sound all that different from what the rest of me sometimes says!”

Next, I used my hands to reply to my leg. Through my touch I communicated,

“I love you.”

Then I said, “I am sorry for not being more attentive, responsive, and appreciative.” Through my touch I said, “I really care about you and I am going to establish a closer relationship with you from here on out.”

Finally I said, “I very much want to hear from you, without your needing to use pain to shout at me. I will be more attentive to, and more appreciative of our relationship.”

I sat there for a few moments, breathing loving energy through my hands into my leg.

After a while I heard a soft whisper.

“I love you, and I have been very lonely, waiting for you to show up. Thank you so much for caring about me.”

And those words really moved me.

I came away from this experience with a sense of being whole and healthy. I had become one with myself, in love.

The experience I describe does not require any learned skills. All you need to do is take some time and have a heartfelt appreciation for yourself and your needs. When it is all said and done, THE most significant person to enter into a relationship of love and service with is yourself! There is no more important person to love, than yourself.

What is your relationship to Time?

Have you ever thought about how your orientation to time profoundly affects the way you are in the world? Each culture has its own unique way of relating to the concept of “time”. Some cultures perceive time as a room that is lived in. The “room” of time is a constant that stays the same, as we change during the course of our lives. American culture seems to more and more think of time as a commodity there is never enough of. When time is “wasted” a person misses out on an opportunity that may never present itself again. Still other cultures experience time as being circular, without a beginning or an end, and with no clear markers as to past, present, and future. No matter how we think about it, our relationship to time has a profound impact on what we believe is possible. Here is a story to illustrate what I mean.

Years ago I belonged to a healing community in the States. A women who was a member of the group had an infant who was born with a serious condition which was meant to limit the young child’s life span to only three or four years maximum. The woman was totally committed to the health and well being of her infant, and she spent every waking moment praying for her baby. Her prayer went something like this: “Dear Lord, please heal my baby and help him to be fully healthy.” She offered up this prayer countless times a day.

After some months of praying, and with the child’s condition not improving, the mother spontaneously had an important “truth” present itself to her. She realized that in praying for her child to be healed, in a deeper sense she was acknowledging the “fact” that indeed her child was not well at this time. In effect she was saying/praying “Lord, my child is currently ill, and I am asking that you heal him and make him healthy in the future.” She realized that if she was praying a similar prayer for herself, it would be difficult for her to feel good about her chances of being healed if she was continually reminding herself that she was currently not healthy. She realized that even though her child was way too young to understand the words of her prayer, that somehow her words would not be fully supporting her child in feeling and being healthy now as well as in the future. With her new understanding of how her concept of time was deeply affecting her prayer, she revised her concept and began praying the following: “Lord thank you for the health and well being of my child. I am eternally grateful.” Rather than praying for how she wanted her child to be different in the future, she prayed “from the future” and brought her prayer into the present. She prayed from an understanding that her child was “already” healthy, and that he was simply in a rebalancing stage that if allowed to run its course, would naturally bring about a continuation of his healthy state as time went on.

After many months of praying her new prayer the condition of her child slowly began to change. The doctors were surprised and confounded. Little by little the child blossomed into full health, like a flower that is awakened to life by the warm inviting rays of spring sunlight. He eventually entered school along with all of his buddies, and wound up being a shining example of the power of love, gratitude, and an empowering understanding of time.

Please give yourself the gift of believing that you are already everything that you always wanted to be. Breathe into this radical concept, and then simply allow and encourage yourself to grow into your new sense of self.

The whole universe is learning and evolving. How about you?

This article takes a broad look at the topic of evolution, and how it relates to you and me. All of life is intelligent, all of life is learning and evolving, and all of life is adapting to change. It is quite fascinating to think about how the learning that you do is not all that different than the learning of an ecosystem, or a baby bird.

I find it invigorating to consider how creativity, and the ability to learn and adapt, is a natural capacity built into all living systems. The ability to learn is an instinctive and primary trait that is a sign of life itself. Human beings, companies, forests, the ocean, the entire environment of earth, and the solar system. All are living systems, all are intelligent, all are learning, and all are adapting to life… And in the process of all this “living” each system will radically change over time.

It might just be me, but as human beings it so often seems that what we want to be able to do is adapt and change, WHILE staying the same. A feat that is indeed impossible. Learning, evolution, and change, go hand in hand. We can’t have one, without the other two. In regard to the natural world of living organisms and ecosystems, evolution is learning on a grand scale. Evolution is nature learning. Species and ecosystems adapt, radically change, and evolve over long periods of time. Nature “learns” what to do in order to maintain a certain stability, which invariably means adapting to the change in the status quo.

When we take a broad perspective and view the ongoing process of the evolutionary change that takes place all around us, it is clear that nothing stays the same, and also that no one organism or no one “aspect” of the natural environment changes on its own. All of life is involved in a marvelous swirl of co-evolution. Co-evolution is an integral part of adaptation, an integral part of the relationships we share with other life forms, an integral part of you and me. All the learning done by any one species, individual, or ecosystem, is always done in relationship to the learning of “others”. All of life spurs on the innovative process of change and learning in all of life. The system known as “universe” is never static.

The likelihood of any organism or environment surviving and perhaps even thriving, over the long run, depends on the ability to adapt to adverse conditions, new patterns of interaction, and ever changing rules. Evolution is a conservative game of trial and error. All systems, all organisms, (including human beings) are in a constant state of evolution, and thus we are never complete as we are. Evolution is progressive. All of life evolves from the simple to the more complex. The learning and change involved in evolution does not take place in a linear manner, but rather in a highly complex manner where change in any one aspect of a complex system, in some way begets change in all and every other aspect of the system.

In the ongoing process of evolution (be it biological evolution or economic evolution) the environment both causes and selects the characteristics that are most necessary for successful adaptation. You might ask yourself “How does ‘the environment’ cause and select the characteristics that lead to successful adaptation?” A very interesting question to ask! With all of the competition, with all of the seeming chaos, with all of the never before experienced circumstances, how does the system itself stabilize and protect itself in order to evolve and survive? Nature manages to rebalance itself within certain limits that foster its preservation, the economic landscape invariably does the same and “you” of course are also evolving in much the same way. There is an intelligence doing the deciding, it just is not an intelligence that we can honestly say is “me” or “you”. In every living system, excess leads to moderation and deficit leads to short term proliferation. Information is constantly being exchanged and adapted to. The whole universe is learning and evolving. How about you?!

The Body – The Somatic Self

The body can be considered to be a form of ongoing communication, a shaping of and container/containment of all of the messages (chemical, electrical, nutritional, verbal, etc) that we receive and transmit in the course of our lives. When considered as such, we can understand that the overall health, shape, size, proportions, and flexibility of the body is greatly affected by everything we take part in, and all that we believe in. Consider a young Japanese boy training to be a jockey, as compared to a young Japanese boy working out every day in the gym and at the dining room table, in order to become a Sumo wrestler. It is no coincidence that these two boys will have a very different sense of aesthetics, and different ways of approaching life’s challenges, just as a tiger has a very different way of being in the world as compared to a porcupine. The overall health, shape, size, proportions, and flexibility of the body, is an ongoing communication process, and not only does our body contain all of the messages that we receive and transmit in our life, but to a large extent our body determines how and what we receive and communicate as well.

The body can further be considered to be a symbolic translation and transformation of all of the communication/information that we receive in the course of our lives, both from our own internal world, and the external world as well. In order for the body to “make sense out of” all of the various food, chemicals, and electrical impulses that flow through it, it requires a certain intelligence that can translate all of the various input received, in order to give such input meaning, and react “logically”. This intelligence of the body is what I call “somatic intelligence” and this intelligence appears to be organized and controlled largely by the enteric nervous system (what Dr. Michael Gershon calls “The Second Brain” in his book by the same name). The body is able to “speak” a neuromuscular biochemical language that makes it possible to understand and direct all of the massive information exchange that it takes part in, on a moment to moment basis. We create and continue to shape and modify our body to match our experience, and vice versa as well. We shape our body in order to facilitate meaning making, and communication.

Pre-verbal Knowing- Your intuition

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

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

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

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

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

Correctness, Profound Truth, and Paradox

Our usual and “correct” ways of explaining the world, who “I” am, and where “i” am going, are often severely tested in today’s world. This is particularly true at times when we feel disrespected, angry, confused, or demoralized, and we do not yet understand what will constitute “right action”. At such times our current understanding of our circumstances is not all encompassing enough to understand the paradox that envelops us. Usually at such times a search for only one answer or understanding is simply not enough.

Niels Bohr, the 1922 Nobel Laureate in Physics has been quoted as saying:
“The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement. The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” Bohr used the word “complementarity” to characterise the relationship between apparently contradictory phenomena. It is only when seemingly contradictory phenomena are “understood” or appreciated as a whole, that we can begin to offer a temporarily complete description of what is, or what needs to be. In order to feel into the profound truth we need to somehow comprehend, we need a larger less opinionated understanding of the world, our relationships, the environment, and the universe. In short, we need a way of knowing that embraces paradox, and goes beyond what “I” know or believe to be true. This is a form of wisdom that welcomes diverse, complementary concepts of what is “correct.”

Such knowing involves a discourse between our emotions and our intellect. A discourse between self and other. A discourse that is much more comprehensive than a dialogue about right and wrong. A discourse that invites a softening and opening up to the complementarity of what initially appear to be polar opposites. A discourse that requires passion, compassion, and commitment. A discourse that embraces differences, as integral parts of the whole. A discourse that can at times feel dangerous, but yet holds great potential.

In Seishindo we strive to open up our discussions, and our hearts, to the possibility of feeling into profound truth. The paradoxical nature of deep truth is what the Zen student is meant to explore in their practice. In order to make progress, the student is implored to think and do less, and simple “be”. Not at all a simple task, but a task that can be highly rewarding.

Have you been holding onto certain beliefs in your professional and personal life that have been holding you back? What would happen if you surrendered your beliefs and left yourself open to discovering something new? You just might be very pleasantly surprised.

Perfection

I want to talk about the importance of “not-knowing”. Learning something new about ourself, and the world we live in, often requires that we first un-learn what we have learned in the past. We often get taught very powerful yet incorrect lessons as we go through life. For instance, a child incorrectly gets “taught” by a screaming adult, that he is careless, lazy, selfish, or just plain dumb. When the child naively believes what the screaming adult is “teaching” him, the likelihood that the child will learn new and life affirming things about himself in the future, will tend to be seriously impeded. In order for the child to free himself up for new learning, he will need to first “not-know” some of what he has learned in the past. Another way to say this could be “What will I need to unlearn, before I can learn something new?” When wanting to understand the truth, we have to return to our true nature and let go of our opinions, our current condition, our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. When our mind is clear, talking, words, and thinking are not necessary. The truth is just like this.

What we learn in the course of our life, determines the purpose, importance, and outcomes, that we extract from our experience. Whatever we feel we learn about ourself over and over again winds up becoming part of our identity. Our identity sets the foundation for our beliefs. Our beliefs determines how we will be predisposed to act and react in the future. Learning-identity-beliefs go hand in hand. In order to learn something new and life affirming about yourself and the world around you, you will usually have to change your personal sense of identity, and some of your long held beliefs.

Perhaps you say “This all sounds reasonable. Now tell me how I can go about changing what I am learning, my identity, and my beliefs!”

One possible answer would be the following words from a Sanskrit mantra: “Om. This is perfect. That is perfect. From the perfect, comes the perfect. If from the perfect the perfect is taken away, Only the perfect remains. Om, peace, peace, peace.”

Such is the sense of perfection we get when holding a baby. This sense of perfection, is the inherent blessing that exists as the essence of everything. This sense of perfection is present at all times and doesn’t require any healing or change to take place. This sense of perfection is dynamic rather than static, and welcomes the necessary ongoing changes of life. You are invited to simply notice what is, rather than attempting to correct what you believe needs to be different.

In Japanese flower arranging it is common that one of the branches in the arrangement is bent or broken, to signify that the arranger has attempted to present the flowers in a “natural” state. It is the “imperfection” of the broken branch that leads us to understand that the arrangement is potentially “perfect.” We encourage you to look for and appreciate your “broken branches” as a sign of your uniqueness and perfection.

Each one of us, no matter how seemingly evolved we might be, has imperfections and personal ego attachments. These imperfections and attachments are not something to be overcome or transcended, but rather something to be understood, appreciated, and accepted in the course of our life journey. If we do not honor and appreciate our individual shortcomings, then a part of us will always be feeling that we are somehow needing to be fixed.

Learning and Adapting with a Dual Perspective

We can consider each person to have at least two minds or “selves” (a somatic self and a cognitive self), and two brains – the brain in our skull and the brain in our gut (the enteric nervous system). This means that at the very least, each person is bilingual, speaking their native verbal language, as well as somatic language.

The brain in our skull organizes the intelligence of our cognitive self, our intellect, and our verbal language. The brain in our gut organizes the intelligence of the somatic self, our emotions, and our somatic language.

The experiences we generate and make meaning out of with our somatic self are dependent on the pre-verbal sensing of the ongoing changes in our physiology and emotions. We understand our sensed experience by filtering it through the meaning making processes of our somatic language, and this preverbal understanding of experience is archetypal/universal in nature.

The experiences that we generate and make meaning out of with our cognitive self are dependent on the processes we use to translate and “fit” our somatic-emotional experience into a rational framework that can be further understood with the use of verbal language.

A “relational self” is realized from the acceptance, reorganization, and synthesis of the two complementary yet different realities of the somatic and cognitive selves. In this sense we can say that one plus one equals three.

Seishindo suggests that at any one time, people tend to identify with one of two basic perspectives when perceiving and understanding life – the somatic self/mind or the cognitive self/mind. Dividing each person into two possible categories is of course a limiting and artificial construct, just as when we use the terms “unconscious mind” and “conscious mind” but useful nonetheless in helping us to understand how we learn and adapt to life.

The cognitive self is associated with the brain in our skull, thoughts, strategies, mental abstractions, and descriptions of one’s life. The cognitive self understands life mainly by passing it through the filters of verbal language and socially constrained thinking. The main avenue of communication for the cognitive self is one’s native verbal language, and the conversations that we have with ourselves during the course of our internal dialogue, as well as the conversations that we listen to and take part in in various community settings.

The somatic self, on the other hand, is associated with the body, the enteric nervous system (the digestive system), emotion, intuition, movement, a non-verbal felt sense of nature and one’s experience, and the archetypal presence of the collective experiences of all human beings. The somatic self communicates its experience non-verbally yet systematically. It does so via biochemical and neuromuscular reactions.

Dr. Michael Gershon has done some ground breaking research in regard to understanding the importance of the enteric nervous system. I believe that as time goes on it will become more and more evident that what Dr. Gershon calls our second brain is one and the same as what Oriental cultures have for thousands of years been calling hara or tanden. Most if not all Oriental art forms teach the student to focus their attention in the lower abdomen, and to perform with this focus being the primary source of intelligence. In Self-relations terms (as developed by Steven Gilligan), we are advised to tune into “the tender soft spot in the belly” in order to learn from and synthesize the intelligence of the somatic self with the intelligence of the cognitive self. It is just such a dual perspective that helps us to have a fuller understanding of our total experience.

The enteric nervous system or hara, organizes information differently than the brain in the skull, and thus the enteric nervous system offers you a viable alternative to your intellectual experience of life. If you organize your experience differently, you will definitely have a different perspective, and thus a different reaction to what is taking place. By melding the perspective of our somatic intelligence with the perspective of our cognitive intelligence we tap into a new realm of possible solutions. It is the somatic self’s ability to sense what is taking place, along with the cognitive self’s ability to negotiate amongst various distinctions, words, strategies, and abstractions that allows for the evolution of a mature “relational self” as the term is used in “Self relations Therapy”. The ideal is to embed the experiences of the somatic and cognitive selves, one within the other, and in the process to create a new and different experience that includes and at the same time transcends both.

Tapping Into Dual Sources of Intelligence – Part 3 of 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning and adapting with a dual perspective

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

The cognitive self is associated with the brain in our skull, thoughts, strategies, mental abstractions, and descriptions of one’s life. The cognitive self understands life mainly by passing it through the filters of verbal language and socially constrained thinking. The main avenue of communication for the cognitive self is one’s native language, used in both intrapersonal (internal dialogue) and interpersonal conversations.

The somatic self, on the other hand, is associated with embodied knowing, poetry, emotion, intuition, movement, a non-verbal felt sense of nature and one’s experience, and the archetypal presence of the collective experiences of all human beings. The language of the somatic self is based on a “felt sense” of the present moment, emotional states, bodily reactions, and the relational connections to all we come in contact with. The somatic self communicates its experience nonverbally yet systematically.

In Self-relations terms, we are advised to tune into “the tender soft spot in the belly” in order to integrate the somatic and cognitive selves. The somatic self’s ability to sense what is taking place, along with the cognitive self’s ability to negotiate among various distinctions, words, strategies, and abstractions allows for the evolution of a mature “relational self.” The ideal is to embed the experiences of the somatic and cognitive selves, one within the other, and in the process to create a new and different experience that includes and at the same time transcends both.

Some premises of Seishindo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7) A diverse system has many different elements. Diversity is ever present in the non-equilibrium biosphere that we live in; without it, a system cannot sustain itself. A lack of diversity leads to a limited pool of information, alternatives, and solutions that will usually tend to be somehow incomplete, incorrect, and repetitive. A system adept at managing diversity is open to learning from new information and distilling solutions from multiple realities.

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

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

An alternative model of psychotherapy

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

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

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

Part 1
Part 2

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

Tapping Into Dual Sources of Intelligence – Part 2 of 3

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

The Body-The Somatic Self

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

The language of the somatic self

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

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

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

The language of the somatic self is wired into our system at birth and forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves. This somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as our native tongue. This language of the somatic self that we begin to understand while still being in our mother’s womb, is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.

The language of the somatic self does not use or require verbal language although it interacts with it continually, like a music group improvising with a singer, or a horse and rider traversing a path in the forest. The language of the somatic self is the pre-verbal communication that helps us to connect to the outside world, and allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue. It is part of our mammalian consciousness, is intuitive and relational in nature, seems to direct us to join with other life, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the entire course of our lives. This language forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves, and connect to others. Much in the same way that words are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations, to form the content of our verbal language as used by our cognitive self, the various components of our sensory experience are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations by your somatic self, to form the language of your somatic self. This language “spoken” by the body makes it possible to understand and direct all of the massive information exchange that it takes part in, in collaboration with the brain in our skull. This is a language of immediate experience as compared to verbal language being a communication of abstractions.

Translation and Transformation

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

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

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

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

Part 3
Part 1

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

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.

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?

The Language of the Somatic Self- The language of your body

At every moment in time your subconscious mind speaks to you through your body, in a language that is as refined, systematic, and complete as your verbal language. This “somatic” language that your body communicates in forms the basis of the non-cognitive wisdom known as sixth sense, intuition, or “somatic intelligence.” Becoming fluent in somatic language can help you to think less, yet know more. It is like having your own personal consultant, who you can ask for additional insight. Understanding the subtle yet systematic communication of the body can help you achieve breakthroughs in your personal health and well-being, as well as adding significant value to the existing abilities and skills you already manifest in your life.

Once we understand that the body has the ability to act intelligently then it doesn’t take long to consider that the body requires a coherent form of communication in order to successfully perform all of its various life sustaining activities. We call this coherent communication “somatic language” or “the language of the somatic self.” We organize and make sense out of our rational experience by using a verbal language and a corresponding verbal grammar. We organize and make sense out of our somatic experience by using somatic language and a corresponding somatic grammar. Your verbal grammar is the set of rules your cognitive self follows in order to make sense out of the verbal experience it generates and receives. Your somatic grammar is the set of rules your somatic self follows in order to make sense out of the non-verbal experience that it generates and receives. Make an extremely loud noise and a person or animal tends to immediately stop moving, and the blood leaves the extremities and travels to the vital organs. Each time and every time, every living mammal has the same basic response. Place yourself in a cold climate and your pores will tend to close up. Go to the tropics and your pores will begin to open. Swallow a poison, and your somatic intelligence will try to get you to vomit it. Swallow a tonic and your body will quickly absorb it.

Your somatic intelligence does not act in a random fashion. All of the various reactions that occur in your body are systematic in nature and when taken as a whole such reactions make up the language of the somatic self. This language is wired into your system at birth and forms the foundation of your memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and your ability to live and sustain your self. This somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as your native tongue, and it does not use or require verbal language in order for your somatic self to completely understand what is being communicated. This is a concept that is central to Seishindo.

You don’t need to tell yourself to sweat or get a temperature when you have an infection. You don’t need to tell yourself to take your hand off of a hot stove. You don’t need to tell yourself that it is time to digest what you have eaten. Your somatic self will react to the communication it receives chemically, and electrically, and it will do what it deems to be necessary, “all on its own.” This language of the somatic self that we begin to understand while still being in our mother’s womb, is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.

The language generated by the somatic self is made up of the interplay of what we call “The seven building blocks of consciousness.” These seven building blocks are:

  1. The pace, rhythm, volume, and location of one’s breathing and the overall flow of “ki” or vital energy
  2. Posture and balance
  3. Movement, and flexibility, of the entire physical structure
  4. The pace, rhythm, volume, and pressure of the blood supply
  5. The pulsing of the dural membrane, the expansion and contraction of the skull, and of all of the joints of the body
  6. Eye movement patterns
  7. Mood: The electro-chemical and muscular processes taking place throughout our system.

These seven building blocks are the “words” or “morphemes” of our somatic language. When understood as one total communication, the building blocks of consciousness help us create the primary meaning of our experience. For example, suppose you are walking to an important business meeting and your body temperature rises somewhat, you start to sweat, and your heart beats a little bit faster. You notice all of this and you slow down the pace of your walking. Why do you slow down the pace of your walking? Because you just had a “language of the somatic self” communication which informed you of the energy and heat exchange that was taking place within you. You don’t want to walk into your meeting dripping perspiration, and thus you slow down your pace. If there wasn’t a somatic language that could be used by your mind to understand what was taking place internally, and externally as well, then your increased heart rate, body temperature, and sweating, wouldn’t have any meaning.

The language of the somatic self does not use or require verbal language although it interacts with it continually, like a music group improvising with a singer, or a horse and rider traversing a path in the forest. The language of the somatic self is the pre-verbal communication that allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue. It is part of our mammalian consciousness, is intuitive and relational in nature, seems to direct us to join with other life, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the entire course of our lives. This language forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves. Much in the same way that words are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations, to form the content of our verbal language as used by our cognitive self, the various components of the building blocks of consciousness are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations by your somatic self, to form the language of your somatic self. This is a language of immediate experience as compared to verbal language being a communication of abstractions.

Dr. Candace Pert, in her book “Molecules of Emotion” says that there are receptors (sensing molecules that exist throughout our system) and ligands (substances that bind to the receptors and help to create all of the chemical reactions necessary to run our system) that can be considered to be “information molecules.” She refers to these molecules as the basic units of a language used by cells throughout the organism to communicate. We consider this “language” that Ms. Pert is referring to, to be part and parcel of what we are calling the language of the somatic self. Dr. Gershon says that neurotransmitters are the words nerve cells use for communicating. Renowned scientists are telling us that we all “speak,” “listen to,” and understand more than one language. This “other” language is what we are calling the language of the somatic self, and it is highly organized, systematic, and graced with many fine nuances.

What has happened for most of us is that we have truly forgotten that there is a somatic-emotional experience which we base our verbal language on. In actuality our verbal representation of reality is always one step removed from our actual experience. Verbal representations are an edited, convenient, synopsis of our somatic-emotional experience, and lead us to pigeon hole our experience as a discrete event in time. Having forgotten this we think that our verbal language is our experience. But in actuality our verbal language is one step removed form our actual experience. It is an abstract description or labeling of our experience.

Mushin – Peak Performance State

In Aikido and Seishindo we practice embodying various “states” or ways of perceiving and being. We practice entering into various ways of experiencing Life.

The one state we practice entering into most, is known in Japanese as “mushin.” In Seishindo we often refer to mushin as a state of “embodied presence.”

We can consider the term Mushin to be similar to the terms “flow state” or “peak performance state” as used by people in the West. Yet if we look at the two kanji (written characters) that make up mushin, we discover a fascinating concept, that extends well past the usual sense of “peak performance”.

Mushin– Mu (無) Shin (心)
Possible meanings for Mu (無) include,
“Nothing”, “Zero”, or “Emptiness”.
The term signifies a lack of something, but without anything lacking.
Indeed, I would say that what is “lacking” is whatever is not essential.

In Japanese thinking the more “emptiness” there is, the larger the range of possibilities that exist.
If a space is truly empty, then “everything” has the possibility of being manifested. “Emptiness” is very rich in resources.
“Mu” can thus be considered similar to the concept of “less will get you more”.

The thirty spokes of a wheel unite in the center.
It’s this empty center space for the axle, upon which the use of the wheel depends.

Clay is fashioned into vessels.
It’s the emptiness of the vessel that makes it useful.

A door and windows are cut out from the walls, to form a room.
It’s the emptiness that the walls, floor, and ceiling encompass, that allows for the space to live in.

Thus what we gain is Something, yet it’s from the virtue of Nothing that this Something derives.
Dao de Jing; Chapter 11

If you’ve ever seen pictures of traditional Japanese rooms, and particularly temples where zen is studied, you’ll see the rooms are filled with the same emptiness as described in the above quote. A room is left empty, with very little in the way of furniture or anything else to detract from the infinite potential the room encompasses. This is an important part of the Japanese design aesthetic, and in zen temples, it’s also a non-verbal invitation to empty one’s thinking mind as well.

It’s also interesting to look at how “Mu” is combined with other kanji, to form other words.
mu-ryo (無料) no charge/”free”
mu-gon (無言) no words/silent
mu-ku (無垢) no dirt/pure
mu-jitsu (無実) no guilt/innocence
mu-ga (無我) no self(selflessness)/no ego/no “watashi (me)”

The second kanji in Mushin, is Shin  (心) or Kokoro
Although this kanji is one and the same as the kanji for one’s “physical heart”, in this context it means “heart” in the sense of one’s “spirit”.
In English we say, “She has a lot of heart.” Which means, “She has a lot of spirit/kokoro.”

So as a Westerner, at first pass Mushin might look like “empty spirit” or “zero spirit” and the connotation would seem to be that of someone who has given up on life. But after studying the above, we can understand just the opposite is the case. A truly “empty” spirit is enlivened, free, and fills a person with great potential.

It is your breath that fills the house of your body, with the greatest space, the greatest potential. It’s your breath that opens the doors and windows of your house, and helps to create, clean, and empty your space. It’s your breath passing through the doors and windows of your house, that unites “you” and your house with the outside world.

This exploration thus yields the following possible meanings for mushin:
“No thinking mind”
“Innocence”
“A pure state of mind, like when a young baby plays with a new toy”
“Full-empty spirit”.

In Seishindo we describe mushin as: “The state in which your thoughts, feelings, and actions occur simultaneously and spontaneously. Nothing comes between you and another person. Nothing comes between your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Nothing is lacking and nothing is left over. When part of you moves, all of you moves. When ‘you’ are calm, your whole self is calm. Thinking, doing, and being all become one and the same.”

When you embody a mushin state you greatly improve your ability to learn and live with grace and ease. At such times, the structure of your body is open and balanced, and your thinking mind is filled with emptiness. All traces of extraneous thoughts or actions dissolve, and you have a pleasing sense of fullness and great potential.

Maintaining mushin
Mushin is not a state you’ll be able to maintain throughout the course of your everyday life. Mushin is an ephemeral state that’s to be experienced and released. An experience that is lost and found again, many times over the course of even a single day.

When you enter into mushin for even brief periods of time you’re left with “a residue experience.” By this I mean- Even when you enter back into your “everyday mind”, the body memory and emotional traces of your mushin experience linger. You come back into the everyday world with a different sense of reality, a different perspective, a different outlook on life. Having experienced the wonderful fullness this emptiness affords you, you realize there’s more to life than worry, action, and accumulation.

If you’re at all like most of the people I meet every day, and the one I meet in the mirror every morning- During much of your life your thoughts, actions, and feelings occur somewhat independently of each other, and you lack a certain sense of spontaneity and wholeness. To some extent this is part of the human condition, and yet you can definitely also achieve from time to time, a much fuller way of learning and living. How to get “there” from “here” is an experience that cannot be cogently described with words alone. When you’re “fully present in the moment” you feel relaxed, vital, and fully alive. Your internal dialogue dissolves and your attention and awareness are freed up to notice what usually passes by unnoticed. At such times, “there” and “here” dissolve into “Now”!

Mushin = Embodied presence
Embodied presence = Fully present in the moment
Fully present in the moment = Michael Jordan during an NBA final; Tiger Woods at the Masters; My daughter watching her Saturday morning TV programs.

To learn, one accumulates day by day,
To study Tao, one reduces day by day.
Through reduction and further reduction
One reaches non-action,
And everything is acted upon.
(Dao De-Jing, #48)

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.

Old Memories, New Learnings

Here is a Practice that I have found very helpful. It is an important Practice because it gives you the opportunity to change the meaning that past events have for you. In Seishindo we believe that we often face continuing difficulties not because of what has taken place in our lives, but because of what we believe to be true based on what has taken place. We incorrectly judge ourselves as being wrong. This Practice gives you the chance to change your perception of yourself, and your perceived shortcomings. Give this Practice a try and let us know what changes for you.

You will most likely want to read through all of the instructions at least once before actually doing this practice.

1. Sit comfortably with a notebook or journal by your side. Breathe deeply at least five or six times, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

2. Take a moment and think of a time when you seemed to have learned something that is detrimental to your overall well being and sense of self confidence. For instance, you might have spilled your milk as a young child and had the teacher chastise you for being such “a clumsy child” and ever since then you seem to have the tendency to try and prove that your teacher was right.

3. Write down a short description of your chosen event in your notebook, and also write down a succinct phrase that encapsulates what you seem to have learned. For instance; “I am clumsy.” Then place the notebook aside.

4. Become present to yourself sitting in your chair, and begin to pay attention to your posture and your overall feeling. Now, give your primary awareness to the experience of your inhaling and exhaling. Take at least one full minute to do this.

5. Once you feel attuned with your breathing, once again recall the event in whatever way is natural for you.

6. As you sit there in the presence of both your breathing process and the event you are working with, begin to imagine at least three new things that you can now learn from the event you are recalling. Please remember that you are wanting to learn three new things that help you to generate and maintain a positive sense of self worth and well-being. Anything less than this would be less than “the truth.” The idea here is not to gloss over your shortcomings, but rather to appreciate yourself while at the same time noticing what could be improved or changed.

So, in the case of the spilled milk, if your teacher had stressed the importance of keeping one¹s full attention on a challenging task, you might have learned this important truth, without coming to falsely believe that you are a clumsy child.

Continue to give your primary attention to your breathing, and allow ideas to somehow bubble up, rather than actively trying to create new ideas. When you have come up with at least three new learnings, write down your new, and self-supportive learnings in your notebook.

7. Place your notebook aside and go back to paying attention to your posture and your overall feeling as you sit in your chair. Now, again, give your primary awareness to the experience of your inhaling and exhaling. Take at least one full minute to do this.

8. As you breathe, once again recall the event in whatever way is natural for you.

As you sit there, in the presence of both your breathing process and the event, begin to slowly and purposefully state your three new learnings to yourself.

For instance, in the case of the spilled milk. 1. Stay focused on the task at hand. 2. Breathe, move, and breathe, to stay relaxed. 3. Do important tasks one at a time.

Make your own statements now.

After making each individual statement of what you have learned, breathe fully for at least two rounds before stating your next learning. (If your circumstances allow, speaking your new learnings out loud is usually best.)

9. Repeat each learning at least three times, either randomly or in a particular order. If you feel moved to you can also add new learning statements to the initial three that you wrote down.

10. When you feel done, write down anything else that pops into your mind, and also write a brief description of how you feel. Sometimes this last step can be of surprising importance, because you can learn something important simply by taking part in this process.

Keep your new learnings in mind and use them as a mantra from time to time. For instance, if you have tended to feel clumsy, you can repeat your mantras to yourself just before performing in front of others. Doing this will help you to embody your learning. No matter what, go through this whole process again a week or so from now, and see what has changed for you.

If for some reason this practice proves a bit more difficult than you were planning on, you can try again later. Sometimes when we are in the process of learning something new, we might find that what we have learned in the past is somewhat hard to let go of.

The tyranny of “What if…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been lucky in life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning From Life

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

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

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

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

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

What a truly great example of embodied spirit the motivational speaker offers us. The quality of our life is not dependent on the circumstances we encounter. The quality of our life is dependent on what we learn from the circumstances we encounter. Perhaps the greatest example of this wisdom is present in the life of Nelson Mandela. He is a man that suffered great pain and hardship, and somehow his suffering seasoned his soul in a way that has led him to be compassionate and caring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you?

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

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

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

You can’t mass produce uniqueness

Do you spend part of your time working on and worrying about “self improvement”? If so, it is important to not inadvertently stamp out your uniqueness, in favor of a mass produced version of “perfection.”

Here’s a story to illustrate my point.

On a recent afternoon I went to a pottery shop outside of Tokyo, and happened to meet the potter who had stopped in to check on her staff.

After looking around the shop I invited the owner over and we chatted. The first thing she talked about was how a potter never knew what was going to wind up coming out of the kiln. Each kiln opening she said, was somewhat like Christmas morning. Sometimes you got many wonderful gifts, and sometimes you wound up with coal in your stocking. Like when most of the pieces explode in the kiln due to severe changes in atmospheric weather conditions. It is the serendipity she said, that makes the work so magical. “It helps you to stay humble, and you learn to surrender to and accept the unknown,” she said.

Next, she talked to me about design and functionality. Topics important to most all potters. “No sense in having a good looking piece that is awkward to use, and no sense having a boring looking piece that is highly functional.” she said.

Since I was definitely going to buy something, I picked out six pieces to choose from, set them on the counter, and asked the lady to tell me a bit about each piece.

“Let me share with you how I recognize the hoped for imperfections in my work,” she said, “By talking about three of the pieces you have interest in.”

“Notice with this first piece how the glaze is not of consistent thickness over the inside surface. I tried the best I could to smooth out the glaze,” she said, “But this is a very tough glaze to work with.”
“Nonetheless, for me, it is the inconsistency of the glaze that makes this piece so interesting.” she said. “It is the inconsistency that makes for the range of color that the glaze exhibits in this piece.”

“With this next piece you notice that the bowl is not fully round in shape. I am a small woman, and this is a large piece for me to throw on the wheel. In fact it is the biggest piece I am currently able to throw. I love making some this size, because these bowls really test my limits. There is a certain tension present when the shape goes out of being fully round, and this is what draws me to this piece.”

“Finally” she said, “With this third piece you will notice that the price is considerably less than the other pieces.”

“It is a good piece of work,” she said, “but I feel it is a bit ‘too good’ and thus looks like it could have been machine made. That is why the price is considerably cheaper.”

“The shape is perfectly round, and the glaze flows evenly over the entire pot, and thus the piece does not have a sense of uniqueness. I have stopped making this shape and size because I know how to make them all too well. When they come out this perfect I feel like the soul of the pots get left in the kiln.

She bowed ever so much, and said “Would you like some tea? I have some locally grown strawberries, and it is always best to eat them at this time of year, with a warm cup of tea.”

Perfect Imperfections

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

On a recent afternoon I went to a pottery shop outside of Tokyo, and happened to meet the potter who had stopped in to check on her staff.

After looking around the shop I invited the owner over and we chatted. The first thing she talked about was how a potter never knew what was going to wind up coming out of the kiln. Each kiln opening she said, was somewhat like Christmas morning. Sometimes you got many wonderful gifts, and sometimes you wound up with coal in your stocking. Like when most of the pieces explode in the kiln due to severe changes in atmospheric weather conditions. It is the serendipity she said, that makes the work so magical. “It helps you to stay humble, and you learn to surrender to and accept the unknown,” she said.

Next, she talked to me about design and functionality. Topics important to most all potters. “No sense in having a good looking piece that is awkward to use, and no sense having a boring looking piece that is highly functional.” she said.

Since I was definitely going to buy something, I picked out six pieces to choose from, set them on the counter, and asked the lady to tell me a bit about each piece.

“Let me share with you how I recognize the hoped for imperfections in my work,” she said, “By talking about three of the pieces you have interest in.”

“Notice with this first piece how the glaze is not of consistent thickness over the inside surface. I tried the best I could to smooth out the glaze,” she said, “But this is a very tough glaze to work with.”

“Nonetheless, for me, it is the inconsistency of the glaze that makes this piece so interesting.” she said. “It is the inconsistency that makes for the range of color that the glaze exhibits in this piece.”

“With this next piece you notice that the bowl is not fully round in shape. I am a small woman, and this is a large piece for me to throw on the wheel. In fact it is the biggest piece I am currently able to throw. I love making some this size, because these bowls really test my limits. There is a certain tension present when the shape goes out of being fully round, and this is what draws me to this piece.”

“Finally” she said, “With this third piece you will notice that the price is considerably less than the other pieces.”

“It is a good piece of work,” she said, “but I feel it is a bit ‘too good’ and thus looks like it could have been machine made. That is why the price is considerably cheaper.”

“The shape is perfectly round, and the glaze flows evenly over the entire pot, and thus the piece does not have a sense of uniqueness. I have stopped making this shape and size because I know how to make them all too well. When they come out this perfect I feel like the soul of the pots get left in the kiln.

She bowed ever so much, and said “Would you like some tea? I have some locally grown strawberries, and it is always best to eat them at this time of year, with a warm cup of tea.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is nothing more special than simply being yourself.

And realizing that any subtraction OR addition,

Would simply take away from who you really are.

Your soul has a signature.

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

Tsunami: Bringing Forth a New Wave of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please do not miss this important opportunity.

God is talking.

Are you listening?

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

Katsugen Undo

The basics for this exercise are taken from Haruchika Noguchi Sensei and “Noguchi Seitai”. “Seitai” basically means “properly ordered body.”

(If you go to the “Video Practices” section of our site, you will find a video lesson of the basic protocol I am presenting here. Likely much easier for you to follow as you watch me do what I describe here.)

In very 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.

In terms of what we are exploring together, the above means that we often tend to create limiting and habitual forms of somatic communication. We 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 verbal communication patterns. When you limit your ability to communicate somatically and be aware of your somatic conversation, you also limit your ability to communicate verbally and be aware of your verbal conversation. Of course your overall state of 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” your feelings.

Prior to attempting to understand the verbal communication of others:
1) Enliven your own ability to communicate somatically to yourself.
2) Learn how to understand the somatic communication of others.

Haruchika Noguchi Sensei has at least two books that have been translated into English: “Order, Spontaneity and the Body” (this book is his most important I think, and well worth reading) and “Colds and Their Benefits”, Zensei Publishing. Noguchi Sensei used to say that the purpose of Katsugen Undo is to create an orderly way to unconsciously move the body, while adjusting those parts of the body that we cannot move voluntarily.

PART I

  1. Sit on a chair, several inches from the edge of the seat. Move around some in various unprogrammed ways. Move your head and neck around, as well as your arms, bend your trunk back and forth, and tense and relax your muscles. Get comfortable with your range of movement. Feel your spine, neck, and head expanding up towards the ceiling, and feel as if you are “sitting on top of the world” and enjoying the ride. Be certain to feel your breath, and notice what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling. Please also go ahead and make some sounds. Whatever suits you in the moment.
  2. Now with the fingers of both hands, begin to feel the area directly below your sternum. (Your sternum is at the very bottom of your rib cage at the middle of your rib cage. Think of a straight line going from your nose down to your belly button. The sternum is directly on that line at the bottom of your rib cage.) With one hand, find a place about three finger widths below the sternum that feels a bit soft or inviting. This spot should be your solar plexus.Now place the index, middle, and ring fingers of your “other” hand, directly below your first hand. Then bring your first hand down and match the position of the “other” hand. This is not an exact science. Feel for what feels like the right place for you.
  3. With your fingers pressing on this soft spot: Breathe in deeply through your nose all the way down into your stomach. Now exhale slowly through your mouth (making a “haaa” sound) while bending forward. As you bend forward, press your fingers deeply into your soft spot. Time it so that you have breathed completely out, just as you reach the place where you are bent forward as far as you can comfortably go, and your fingers are pressing firmly into your solar plexus area.
  4. Once you have completely breathed out, completely and suddenly relax your fingers and your entire body while remaining bent over.
  5. Breathe comfortably and stay in this position for fifteen or twenty seconds and then sit back up.
  6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5, four or five times. It is likely that you will want to yawn at some point, and that your solar plexus will soften somewhat.

PART II

  1. With your hands resting on your lap, slowly twist your trunk and your head to either side, as far around towards your back as you can. Twist your eyes around as well, as if you were trying to see your spine.
  2. When you reach the point of maximum twist, completely and suddenly relax while returning to a centered position.
  3. Repeat this movement to your “other” side, and then, sit comfortably for fifteen or twenty seconds, breathe, and notice what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling.
  4. Repeat this entire process to both sides, four or five times.
  5. Take a few moments and feel your breath and notice what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling.

PART III

  1. You are to do the same basic twisting movement as in the previous exercise. (Be certain to swing your eyes around.)
  2. This time you are meant to also bounce a bit from your center while swinging both of your arms to the side that you are twisting towards. You bounce, twist your head and trunk, and swing both arms to the side that you are twisting.
  3. At the moment of reaching the point of maximum twist, you flop back towards center and then immediately bounce and twist to the other side.
  4. At the moment of reaching the point of maximum twist to your “second” side you immediately return to center and completely and suddenly relax.
  5. Inhale fairly strongly through your nose and exhale through your mouth (about three times), and then after sitting there for just a few seconds, repeat the entire process four or five times.
  6. When you are done, sit completely relaxed while noticing what you see, hear, and feel. Be sure to feel your breath.

PART IV

Once you have learned what to do, the following steps should be carried out in one continuous movement:

  1. Make a fist with your thumbs tucked inside the rest of your fingers. (This is NOT the kind of fist that you would be making if you were wanting to strike out at something.)
  2. As you breathe in through your nose, bend your arms at a ninety degree angle and raise both arms to your sides, so that your arms are at shoulder height and your fist are facing forward.
  3. Now breathe out through your mouth making a strong “haaa” sound as you tense your entire body (including your face and your anus), throw your head back, and thrust your raised arms strongly backwards as if you were trying to get your two shoulder blades to actually touch.
  4. The moment you reach the point of maximum tension, completely and suddenly relax (but don’t collapse), and be certain to feel your breathing.
  5. Take a few moments to notice what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling, and then repeat this whole process four or five times.
  6. When you are done, sit with your eyes closed, notice your breathing, and allow whatever movement you might have, to continue.

_______________

  1. Open your eyes slowly and breathe rather strongly three or four times, through your nose and down into your stomach and out again through your nose.
  2. Carefully feel your breath and note what you are hearing, seeing, and feeling.

I’m always busy, but nothing much gets done!

I decided to finally clean out the shed in our back yard recently. My wife left the house early on a Saturday morning to run some errands and I knew that my cleaning the shed would please her greatly.

On the way out the door to fulfill my noble task, I take a quick look at the morning mail and notice a past due bill so I run upstairs to write a check.

Upon reaching for the checkbook, I see there is only one check left, so I call my mom in Georgia and ask her to send me more.

My mom tells me my uncle Fred is not doing well, and she makes me promise to give him a call, so I ring him as soon as I get off the phone with her.

He’s happy to hear my voice, and reminds me that I still haven’t sent any recent family pictures. When I get off the phone, I run downstairs, get the pictures, run back upstairs, and put them in an envelope.

I wake my computer up to get my uncle’s address, and the phone rings. My neighbor’s on the line asking me if I can move our bicycles so he can get a delivery. As I move our bikes I see another neighbor taking out their garbage, and realize I need to quickly do the same.

I run in for the garbage and the phone rings again. This time it’s my daughter’s piano teacher explaining the upcoming monthly teaching schedule.

Needless to say, by the time I get off the phone, I wind up just missing the garbage truck, and I slink back to the house knowing my wife won’t be pleased having to keep the garbage for another two days.

At this point in time I realize that I need to establish my priorities and stick to them, or the day is really going to spin out of control.

I sit down to sort myself out, and after a bit of time spent thinking, my wife comes back home and cheerfully asks me what I have accomplished so far today.

Upon hearing her question I suddenly feel the beginning of a panic attack coming on. I missed getting the garbage out in time, I still haven’t written the check for the overdue bill, I haven’t yet addressed the envelope with the pictures for my uncle, and of course I have yet to begin cleaning the shed.

Soon the day will be half over, and not only am I not making headway, but I am losing ground!

Recognizing the emotional pain, I am in my daughter pulls me over to sit on the couch and climbs up on my lap.
“Daddy,” she says, “Why don’t you do what you told me to do the other day when I was upset? ”
“Take three deep breaths…”
“Look around you and notice that indeed the world is NOT falling apart…”
“And give thanks for all that you have, and all of the people who love you!”

Better advice has never been given.

When you find your life spinning out of control, take the time to breathe and feel into the emotional experience you are creating. Regardless of the task at hand, if you maintain a clear concept of who you are and what you are wanting to accomplish, you can stay on track and feel OK with all that transpires.

Wouldn’t it be great, to be as hardy as a weed?!

Life is always ready to teach us a special lesson of some sort or another, if only we would take the time to notice and learn.

The street I live on in Tokyo is so narrow, that cars can barely traverse from top to bottom. Because of this, a system for lining up everyone’s bicycles on one side of the street is necessary and important. My wife, my daughter, and myself, park our bicycles across the street in front of my neighbor’s house. To me it seems unfair for my neighbor to have all this clutter in front of his house, but so be it. My neighbor’s house sits one foot nine inches from the curb. Pretty cozy, isn’t it?

Eight years ago, an innocuous looking weed-tree began growing right next to where I park my bike. You might think that a single weed-tree growing where my bike sits is not a big deal but let me explain.

This little weed-tree started life in a humble manner, sprouting up in a crack between the sidewalk and the wall. Initially it seemed too trivial to pay attention to or pull out, and initially I even cheered it on while marveling at what a hardy pioneer it was.

The little monster grew quite rapidly from day one, and after about six months it was wrapping itself around the front wheel of my bike and birds were coming to rest on it. All of this activity led to bird droppings on my bike seat, which led me to take out my pruning scissors and cut the darn thing about six inches above ground level.

Ignoring the weed in the first place was my first mistake. Cutting it down six inched above ground level was my second. It grew back with a vengeance! In no time at all it had more branches than before, and the base coming out of the crack became more tree like. Foolishly, I was lax again in my approach, and within a couple of months, bird droppings started winding up on my bike seat again.

This time around, needing hedge clippers to get the job done, I cut the weed-tree down as close to the sidewalk as possible, and I must say that I had a sense of “Good riddance!” when I did so.

Well, I think it was the very next morning, or two days at the most, when I went outside to find the bloody thing sprouting new growth. This time I quickly dug away at it with a small shovel, but I couldn’t unearth it, and sure enough, new growth quickly answered the call to arms.

At this point I was beginning to concede a shift in the balance of power. Regardless of my superior education and specialized negotiation skills, the weed-tree was prevailing.

What to do?

I knew by now that there was only one viable course of action. First, I found a new place to park my bike. Next, I went out and purchased some plant food and liberally watered and fed the weed-tree every day. My little beauty grew gloriously and I soon began to lovingly trim it into a “bonsai” shape!

Some years later it is looking truly gorgeous!

Two questions come to my mind, and I wonder if they come to yours as well.

1. What is it that makes weeds so incredibly strong and resilient, while other cultivated plants often so easily wither away and die?

2. Can a weed that is nurtured, praised, and pruned, still be considered to be a weed?

2. Isn’t life much grander once we realize that so much of what goes on is not under our control?

I only hope my spirit, can be half as strong as the tree that has offered itself to me.

The Web of Life

The web of life is always there, ready to teach us a “special” lesson of some sort or another, if only we would notice.

One of my very first days visiting Katmandu Nepal, a shopkeeper and myself sat drinking tea on the steps of his shop, and a beggar soon appeared. He looked to be anywhere from thirty to one hundred years old, he had long scraggly grey-brown hair, and he was barefoot and wearing a filthy garment that looked like a bed sheet that had not been washed for an awfully long time. On top of this garment he was wearing a suit jacket! He had beautiful piercing dark brown eyes, and he smiled in an inviting manner as he asked us for alms. The shopkeeper gave him the equivalent of about one cent. The man smiled and bowed, made one last gesture towards me, just to make sure that I did not want to add to his riches, and then he was on his way.

“Do you know about “karma” the shopkeeper asked?

“In the West, perhaps you call it destiny. We are all connected to each other in some way and the life we are living now is the result of how we have lived in other past lives.” I nodded and said I was familiar with the concept.

“If you give alms of any significant amount to beggars, you intertwine your karma with theirs, and their fate will be dependent on your fate. If you do give, only give a cent or two so that your karma and their karma remain separate. If you give more than that, please know that you are not performing a random act.” I nodded and thanked him for his sage advice.

A week later, walking with a Nepali friend, we came across a woman squatting alongside a very busy road, as she prayed and begged. Her face showed obvious scarring to her eyes and ears. Such scarring usually takes place for various religious reasons, and is not totally uncommon. I was attracted to the energy of this woman and we stopped to converse with her. It turned out that she was totally blind and partially deaf, and my friend had to scream in order for her to hear him. Without her asking I gave her about one dollar and we were quickly on our way.

After that I saw this woman almost every morning and I started giving her two or three dollars each time we met. When I left Nepal for the first time I sought her out with my friend, and had him scream to her and tell her I was leaving, but that I would be back some time in the future. I gave her about twenty dollars that day to help tide her over.

On the last day of my second stay in Katmandu I brought my friend with me again, to tell my beggar friend I would be leaving the next day. There she was crouched down on the noisy, crowded street as she prayed. We approached her, walking amongst boisterous children, busy adults, and livestock with clanking bells around their necks. When we were still about ten feet away she turned towards us, smiled with her scarred eyes and as we reached her she said “Namaste.” Before we could crouch down and scream a reply, the woman asked my friend to thank me for my kindness. “How did you know it was us?” he asked.

“I can always feel the warmth of a kind hearted person.” she said.

I think of her now, and hope in some small way, I might have eased her suffering, if only for a moment, as much as she has eased mine.

Is it finally time to forgive?

In order to free ourselves from the pain of anger and resentment we need to be able to forgive our self and others. The longer we dwell on hurtful situations from the past, the longer we keep our self from living fully in the present. Forgiveness is an act of kindness. An act of kindness to your self, as it leads to a sense of personal freedom.

Recently I had a client who had a lot of resentment towards her mother for many things that she had done to her in the past.
“I don’t want to forgive my mother for what she did in the past.” my client said. “What she did is wrong, and she has never apologized.”
I hear this very same statement from many clients who are living with resentment, whether it be towards their parents, their spouse, or their boss.

I asked my client if she felt that anyone other than herself, was responsible for, and capable of, making her happy. After a rather long and convoluted discussion, she said that when it was all said and done, she realized that she was indeed the only one that could make herself happy.

We sat there together for a while, and then I took a deep breath and suggested that my client do so as well. Here is an idea, I said. “What if as a totally selfish act, done simply for your own personal happiness, you decided to go ahead and let go of the resentment you had towards your mom, so that you would no longer need to have resentment clouding your life. What would that be like?” “You would not be saying that what was done to you was OK. You would simply be letting go of the resentment so that your own life would be happier. Would you want to let go of your resentment if it meant you would feel greater happiness?”

We sat there together for a while and my client’s face softened. She said that if she was able to let go of her resentment, it would be like lifting a weight from her shoulders, and removing a dark cloud from her heart.

“With all you have been through,” I said. “With all of the pain you have suffered, wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to yourself if you could lift this weight from your shoulders and remove the dark cloud from your heart? Would it not be wonderful to be freed from your hurt and resentment?”
She sat there for a while, as tears formed, and she said very softly “Yes, I want to feel good. I want to feel love. I want to feel free.”

“So” I said, “In order to free yourself from pain and open your heart to love, you would be willing to go so far as to forgive your mother if this is what you felt was necessary for your own personal happiness?”
She was somewhat hesitant, but said “Yes.”
“Remember” I said, “I am suggesting that you do this purely for selfish reasons. Not because you want to actually forgive your mom at this point in time, but because you want to free yourself to live a happier life.”
My client said “Yes, when it is said like this, I have the resolve to forgive my mother, in order to free myself to live a happier life.”
“Good I said. “Hold these thoughts and feelings in your heart for a while and then we can talk about how to actually accomplish your forgiving.”

How about you? Are you holding onto any resentment? Are you ready to recapture your happiness? Would you be willing to undertake the radical act of forgiveness in order to free yourself? I certainly hope so.
And if not today, maybe tomorrow.

The Future is Now

This Practice is designed to help you achieve your current goals, from the perspective of the future. Once you can experience the present from the perspective of the future, you will realize that you already have everything you want and need.

As always, you might want to read through the instructions several times so that you can do this Practice without needing to read the notes.

1. Think of a way of being that you would like to be fully embodying.

For instance, being a successful manager in your workplace, or getting along well with your spouse.

2. Imagine yourself already having achieved the goal that you just specified, and make an “I am” statement which signifies you have already accomplished your goal.

For instance, “I am a successful manager at work.” Or, “I am getting along really well with my husband, and enjoying married life.”

Place this statement in the center of an unlined piece of paper.

3. The general experience of success.

In a random manner, write in various locations on your paper how you experience yourself now that you have already achieved your goal.

For instance, in regard to managing people successfully you might experience yourself as being – Calm, friendly but firm, confident yet low key, a good listener, open to new ideas, respectful of others, etc.

4. Imagine an actual scene in which you are manifesting what you have been wanting. Describe how things look, and how you look, by writing down short phrases on the same piece of paper.

For instance (in regard to work): I have a smile on my face, I am with my junior managers, sunlight is shining through the window, I am wearing my favorite black suit, I look at my employees with a friendly gaze, etc.

5. Imagine the sounds you hear as your are successfully achieving your goal, and write down how you sound as well.

For instance: My voice is strong yet soft, there is a lively buzz in the room as people respond positively to my ideas, at times there is a reassuring silence.

6. This time, write down the physical sensations you experience as you regularly achieve your goal.

For instance: Slow breathing emanating from my stomach, a soft gaze, a warm feeling in my chest, a feeling of freedom of movement.

7. Begin to recreate the future in the present.

Sit comfortably…. Breathe deeply several times….

Take some time and slowly read through in a random manner, the various words and phrases you have placed on your piece of paper…. Speak the words out loud….

Read a word or two, and then pause and breathe deeply…. Read a phrase or two, and then pause again, and breathe deeply….. Repeat as many words and phrases as you like….

Take about five minutes for this process.

8. Pause and reflect.

Take a couple of moments and sit with your eyes closed while reflecting on
the experience you are having….

Let yourself have a feeling of floating, as some of the words and images you evoked a few minutes ago, might once again float through your mind….

Sit for a minute or two, or even longer if it feels right….

9. Recreate the future once again.

When you are ready, open your eyes, and once again cycle through the words and phrases on your paper.

10. When you feel done, once again sit and reflect. When you are ready, write down some of your thoughts and feelings on a separate piece of paper. Keep this paper and later in the day, or the next day, reflect on what you have written.

Go through this 10 step process on a regular basis for a couple of weeks or so. It is likely that you will receive a good deal of benefit from this process.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Waiting quietly for a friend

“Waiting quietly for a friend” is one of the core activities of Seishindo. In this Practice we acknowledge the presence of “an intelligence greater than myself” and we invite this presence into our life, into our home, into our heart.

The concept of acknowledging a presence greater than one’s self is of course found in various religions, as well as in poetry from around the world, and it plays a central role in the overall process of Alcoholics Anonymous. As time, and my own practice continues, more and more I am coming to the understanding that a connection to an intelligence greater than one’s self is of prime importance for one’s emotional and spiritual well being.

(If you have done the Heartbeat Breathing Practice before you will find the beginning of this Practice exactly the same.)

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.

Read through these instructions first before actually performing what is asked. In fact you might want to actually read through the instructions several times before actually doing this Practice.

1. 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. Please make sure that you really do this, rather than just reading the words………Please take a couple of deep breaths.

2. As you begin to settle in, 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 and relaxation.

Feel your heartbeat while just sitting quietly, either using your hands or not: You might notice some body movement. This is fine.

3. Begin to notice your breath as well. Breathing in and breathing out through your nose. Feel your breath AND your heartbeat.

4. Sit with your breathing and your heartbeat and have the sense that you are waiting for the sun to rise. You can indeed be fairly certain that the sun will rise, but the time it takes is timeless and cyclical.

5. Now, imagine that you are waiting for a healthy baby to be born. It might be “your” baby or it might be the baby of a friend. The mother is fine and the baby is expected to be totally healthy, and you are sitting there, simply breathing and waiting, and supporting the overall process with your prayers and good will.

6. Now imagine that you are sitting waiting for “God” to arrive. Please allow yourself the opportunity in this instance to interpret the term God in whatever way is most pleasing for you. The mystic poet Rumi used to talk about “waiting for the Beloved.” Other people might feel like they are waiting for “Spirit” to arrive. Some people will conceive of God as being female in nature. Please conceive of God in whatever way works best for you.
You are sitting there knowing full well that God not only will arrive, but in some very important way, God is already sitting there with you.

7. Go back to noticing your breath and your heartbeat. Sit for one minute with this feeling.

8. Now sense or imagine that God is entering your space, and your heart. Please offer some simple greetings and words of thanks, as you continue to also be aware of your breath and your heartbeat. If you are in a suitable space, please speak your words out loud.
Something perhaps like this:

“Thank you.”
Breathing a deep yet relaxed inhale and exhale…….
“So wonderful to have you here.”
Breathing a deep yet relaxed inhale and exhale…….
“Enter please.”
Breathing……
“Thank you.”
Breathing…..
“Please continue to help me.”
Breathing…….
“Please continue to heal me.”
Breathing…….
“Please continue to fill me with your love.”
Breathing……
“Thank you for my loved ones.”
Breathing……
“Help me to remain calm and confident.”
Breathing……

Whatever you would like to say next………..
Breathing……..

Take your time and get into a pleasing rhythm.
Just go with your feeling.

You can repeat any one of the phrases as often as you like.

You can also just sit there with your breath and your heartbeat with no need to speak.

When you are done, sit calmly.
A minimum practice time would normally be five minutes.

Remember, when you calm your breathing you calm your body. When you calm your body, you calm your thinking mind and your internal dialogue. When you calm your body and your thinking mind, you calm your limbic-somatic mind. With your limbic-somatic mind calm, you feel your connection to Spirit, to God. When you feel your connection to God you feel protected, thankful, and calm.

Releasing Into Your Mood

During this practice you will listen to a varied range of musical selections (Up tempo, slow tempo, music without words, music with touching lyrics, etc). It is important to choose a wide range of music so that you can feel how different music genres affect you. Choose a minimum of about fifteen minutes of music or four different musical selections.

You can either sit or stand during this exercise. Indeed you can also sit part of the time and stand for other parts. Whatever suits you best. It is only important that you do not do any one activity to the point of getting tired. You are meant to be free with your body and your thinking, relaxed, and in an free form frame of mind.

Your main task is to simply let go of your everyday frame of mind, close your eyes, and surrender to the music and the moment.

1) Begin the musical selections and either sit or stand.

2) Move with the music.
You can move your head, neck, arms, and torso, in any manner you like. Be chaotic if you wish, or be fairly still. You can scrunch up all of your muscles and then quickly release them as you relax more fully, or you can scrunch up just a few of your muscles and then release them. Whatever you do is OK. Allow yourself to be transported to a new space and time.

Be as you wish. Playful, light, somber, delicately aware. The main idea is simply to know that you have many different choices of how you can be at any one given moment in time. Let go of your everyday constraints and let the music move you.

Important questions to ask yourself and take notes on when you are done
How do different selections of music alter your mood?
What are the physiological shifts you detect in yourself as you shift into different moods?
For instance, you might find that you move your head most with some music, and with other music you might find that you choose to mainly move your chest or your pelvis.
How does your breathing change from selection to selection?
How can you purposefully create these physiological shifts without the music playing? What would you need to do?

Possible Additional Activities
a) Develop an “I am” statement and make this statement at the beginning of each musical selection, and once or twice while the music is playing.
Notice if the different kinds of music changes the way your statement feels to you, and the meaning it has.

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 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.

b) Imagine yourself having a conversation with a significant other, while the music is playing.
How does the music affect the conversation?
You can also have this conversation with yourself and notice how the music affects your internal dialogue.

Relaxing into Awareness

Once you can do this practice without looking at your notes, it’s great to perform this practice in front of a mirror when one is available.

Please sit comfortably, with your hands on your lap, and your feet placed firmly on the floor.
___________

1) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of seeing ……”
(Name three things you see while speaking slowly.)
Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Breathe slowly and deeply.

2) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of hearing ……”.
(Name three things you hear while speaking slowly.)

Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.
Breathe slowly and deeply.

3) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of feeling ……”
(Name three things you are feeling while speaking slowly.
Please be certain to name physical sensations you feel on or inside your body, and DO NOT use labels like “relaxed” or “nervous.”)

Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Breathe slowly and deeply.

4) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of seeing ……”
(Name two things you are seeing while speaking slowly)

Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.
Breathe slowly and deeply.

5) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of hearing ……”
(Name two things you are hearing while speaking slowly.)

Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

6) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of feeling ……”
(Name two things you are feeling while speaking slowly. Please be certain to name physical sensations you feel on or inside your body.)

Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Breathe slowly and deeply.

7) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of seeing ……”
(Name one thing you are seeing while speaking slowly.)
Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Breathe slowly and deeply.

8) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of hearing ……”
(Name one thing you are hearing while speaking slowly.)
Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Breathe slowly and deeply.

9) Please state in a calm, clear voice:
“Now I am aware of feeling ……”
(Name one thing you are feeling while speaking slowly. Please be certain to name physical sensations you feel on or inside your body.)
Go ahead.

Now take three deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Breathe slowly and deeply.
______________________

Make notes on your experience.
Notice how what you are noticing from moment to moment changes frequently. Notice how at times your thinking mind might wander off for a while. Notice how this practice changes your emotional state.

How would you name your emotional state right now? (Calm? Quiet? “Something else”?)

How has your breathing and your posture changed during the course of this practice?

This practice is patterned after an exercise that is commonly called “The Betty Erickson 3-2-1 Exercise”

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.

Utilizing Your Current Competencies

This Practice is designed to teach you how to appreciate and build upon the competencies you already have, to help you excel in areas of your life you would like to be more successful in.

You will want to have a pen and paper handy.
Read through all of the instructions at least once before actually doing the Practice.

1) Develop a relaxed “base” state.
As you sit comfortably, breathe deeply a number of times and move any parts of your body that feel like they want to move. Please really DO this! There is no right and wrong way. Just move your head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs around some, so that all of yourself has the best chance of feeling relaxed and flexible.

Now, take a few deep breathes, and slowly come to a place where you are sitting still while feeling the previous movements still reverberating through your system.

Take at least two or three minutes to go through this entire process, as you get into a feeling state that pleases you.

2) Consider and choose, the core competencies you feel you exhibit in most circumstances in your life.
Some examples of what we mean by “core competencies” are the following:
Well organized; High quality technical skills; Good at making lasting, caring, and or productive relationships; Creative; High quality project management skills (which would include completing tasks on time and on budget); You like to be of service to others; Good at finding the weak points in a project or plan (Good at critiquing); Good at being a supportive team member; Optimistic; Your tendency is to search for what is good for all parties/circumstances concerned; An overriding belief that the “universe” works well for us if we learn how to follow the appropriate principles; You are skilled at understanding the needs and wants of others; You have an uncanny ability to help people live a more productive life; etc.
You can of course consider many different core competencies that are not listed here.

Be generous and kind to yourself, while keeping in mind that “More is definitely not better.”

Write down some sentences expressing your core competencies, similar to the examples above.

3) Pick a domain you would like to feel competent/successful in.
By “domain” we mean a specific “area” of your life. For instance— Family (As a parent, child, or spouse), Career (What career specifically?), Community or Organization (What community or organization?), the Environment (What area in particular), etc.

You can choose either a domain that you have been hesitant to enter, or a domain that you are currently in but not feeling good about the results/relationships you are achieving.

Please write down the domain you would like to be more competent in.

“I would like to be more competent in the domain of ‘X’.”

4) Think about the domain you want to be more competent in, and the core competencies that you wrote down before.
How is it that you can use your core competencies to help you excel in the domain you have in mind?

You might find thinking about this quite illuminating in many different ways.
For instance, you might find that your core competencies show up clearly in business but you do not know how to bridge your business competencies over to your relationship with your spouse.
Or you might find that you are a loving caring parent, but you have no idea how to bridge this competency over into business.

Take your time. Whether you find this task simple or difficult, there is a good deal to learn here.

While not at all simply making things up, you might find that you need to go back and reevaluate your core competencies, to see whether or not you have left out something important.
Or,
You might discover that there is a core competency that you are currently not manifesting in any of your life’s domains, and thus you are struggling.
Or,
This task might seem quite straightforward and clarifying.

5) Develop a clear written statement of intention, which shows how you would like to use your core competencies to help you excel in the domain of your choice.
For instance:
“I want to help to bring about greater harmony and caring within my divided community.”
“I want to foster improvements in productivity and creativity in my workplace.”
“I can set the tone for a more humane workplace.”
“I would like to help other people respect the diverse opinions of others.”
“I want to show my spouse the love I am wanting her to show me.”

Write down a definitive yet concise statement concerning your intention. You might find that this takes a fair bit of trial and error and editing. Take your time, and come out with something that is concise and clear.

6) Now, turn your statement of intention just written, into an “I am” statement.
In order to do this you will:
Make believe you are ALREADY actively achieving your intention, and make a statement about your ongoing achievement in the present tense.
For instance:
“I am bringing greater harmony and love to my family life.”
Or
“I am improving the productivity and creativity in my workplace.”
Or
“I an creating a more humane workplace in my company.”

Please start your statement with the words “I am” and write down your “I am.” statement now.

7) Redevelop a relaxed base state.
Let go of all the thinking you have been doing and check back in with yourself and redevelop your “base state.”

As you sit comfortably, breathe deeply a number of times and move any parts of your body that feel like they want to move. There is no right and wrong way to do this. Just move your head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs, around some, so that all of yourself has the best chance of feeling relaxed and flexible.
Then take a few deep breathes, and slowly come to a place where you are sitting still while feeling the previous movements somehow reverberating through your system.

Take at least two or three minutes to go through this process, and get into a feeling state that pleases you.

8) Once you are feeling relaxed and in rhythm, slowly repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow, relaxed manner, as if you are musing over a great idea.
Take at least three minutes for this. As you continue to breathe deeply, and move as you like, repeat your “I am” statement internally, or out loud if conditions permit.
Repeating your statement out loud, usually adds to the overall power of your words.

Moving, breathing, speaking, all as one activity.

9) Debrief.
Usually this Practice helps people to shift the way they have been thinking and feeling in regard to challenges they are facing. When we start by appreciating our current competencies, and then we move, breathe, think, and speak all as one seamless activity, we tend to shift our emotional state. When we shift our emotional state we tend to shift our perspective and our beliefs about what is possible. Hopefully the same will be true for you. Take some time to feel into and think about what you have learned. You might want to take some notes.

This Practice is designed to teach you how to appreciate and build upon the competencies you already have, to help you excel in areas of your life you would like to be more successful in.

You will want to have a pen and paper handy.
Read through all of the instructions at least once before actually doing the Practice.

1) Develop a relaxed “base” state.
As you sit comfortably, breathe deeply a number of times and move any parts of your body that feel like they want to move. Please really DO this! There is no right and wrong way. Just move your head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs around some, so that all of yourself has the best chance of feeling relaxed and flexible.

Now, take a few deep breathes, and slowly come to a place where you are sitting still while feeling the previous movements still reverberating through your system.

Take at least two or three minutes to go through this entire process, as you get into a feeling state that pleases you.

2) Consider and choose, the core competencies you feel you exhibit in most circumstances in your life.
Some examples of what we mean by “core competencies” are the following:
Well organized; High quality technical skills; Good at making lasting, caring, and or productive relationships; Creative; High quality project management skills (which would include completing tasks on time and on budget); You like to be of service to others; Good at finding the weak points in a project or plan (Good at critiquing); Good at being a supportive team member; Optimistic; Your tendency is to search for what is good for all parties/circumstances concerned; An overriding belief that the “universe” works well for us if we learn how to follow the appropriate principles; You are skilled at understanding the needs and wants of others; You have an uncanny ability to help people live a more productive life; etc.
You can of course consider many different core competencies that are not listed here.

Be generous and kind to yourself, while keeping in mind that “More is definitely not better.”

Write down some sentences expressing your core competencies, similar to the examples above.

3) Pick a domain you would like to feel competent/successful in.
By “domain” we mean a specific “area” of your life. For instance— Family (As a parent, child, or spouse), Career (What career specifically?), Community or Organization (What community or organization?), the Environment (What area in particular), etc.

You can choose either a domain that you have been hesitant to enter, or a domain that you are currently in but not feeling good about the results/relationships you are achieving.

Please write down the domain you would like to be more competent in.

“I would like to be more competent in the domain of ‘X’.”

4) Think about the domain you want to be more competent in, and the core competencies that you wrote down before.
How is it that you can use your core competencies to help you excel in the domain you have in mind?

You might find thinking about this quite illuminating in many different ways.
For instance, you might find that your core competencies show up clearly in business but you do not know how to bridge your business competencies over to your relationship with your spouse.
Or you might find that you are a loving caring parent, but you have no idea how to bridge this competency over into business.

Take your time. Whether you find this task simple or difficult, there is a good deal to learn here.

While not at all simply making things up, you might find that you need to go back and reevaluate your core competencies, to see whether or not you have left out something important.
Or,
You might discover that there is a core competency that you are currently not manifesting in any of your life’s domains, and thus you are struggling.
Or,
This task might seem quite straightforward and clarifying.

5) Develop a clear written statement of intention, which shows how you would like to use your core competencies to help you excel in the domain of your choice.
For instance:
“I want to help to bring about greater harmony and caring within my divided community.”
“I want to foster improvements in productivity and creativity in my workplace.”
“I can set the tone for a more humane workplace.”
“I would like to help other people respect the diverse opinions of others.”
“I want to show my spouse the love I am wanting her to show me.”

Write down a definitive yet concise statement concerning your intention. You might find that this takes a fair bit of trial and error and editing. Take your time, and come out with something that is concise and clear.

6) Now, turn your statement of intention just written, into an “I am” statement.
In order to do this you will:
Make believe you are ALREADY actively achieving your intention, and make a statement about your ongoing achievement in the present tense.
For instance:
“I am bringing greater harmony and love to my family life.”
Or
“I am improving the productivity and creativity in my workplace.”
Or
“I an creating a more humane workplace in my company.”

Please start your statement with the words “I am” and write down your “I am.” statement now.

7) Redevelop a relaxed base state.
Let go of all the thinking you have been doing and check back in with yourself and redevelop your “base state.”

As you sit comfortably, breathe deeply a number of times and move any parts of your body that feel like they want to move. There is no right and wrong way to do this. Just move your head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs, around some, so that all of yourself has the best chance of feeling relaxed and flexible.
Then take a few deep breathes, and slowly come to a place where you are sitting still while feeling the previous movements somehow reverberating through your system.

Take at least two or three minutes to go through this process, and get into a feeling state that pleases you.

8) Once you are feeling relaxed and in rhythm, slowly repeat your “I am” statement to yourself in a slow, relaxed manner, as if you are musing over a great idea.
Take at least three minutes for this. As you continue to breathe deeply, and move as you like, repeat your “I am” statement internally, or out loud if conditions permit.
Repeating your statement out loud, usually adds to the overall power of your words.

Moving, breathing, speaking, all as one activity.

9) Debrief.
Usually this Practice helps people to shift the way they have been thinking and feeling in regard to challenges they are facing. When we start by appreciating our current competencies, and then we move, breathe, think, and speak all as one seamless activity, we tend to shift our emotional state. When we shift our emotional state we tend to shift our perspective and our beliefs about what is possible. Hopefully the same will be true for you. Take some time to feel into and think about what you have learned. You might want to take some notes.

Opposites Attract

This Practice can help you to have a fuller, more appreciative perception of yourself. It has proven to be a Practice that helps people to feel more at ease with who they are, and takes away the need to label yourself in a manner that is restrictive in nature.

So often in life we state things in “black or white” when often there are many shades of grey. One good way to understand ourselves better is to state both sides of a seemingly black and white statement.

As always, please read through all of the instructions at least once before actually doing this Practice. You will want either a piece of paper or your computer handy to write down your “answers.”

1. Write down at least three personal qualities you have which you feel good about. For instance:

I am friendly.
I am a caring person.
I am hard working.

2. Now add to each one of these statements an “alternative reality” which takes into account particular instances when you are different. In other words state a time when the OPPOSITE of each statement is ALSO true.

For instance:
I am friendly in social settings, and sometimes I can also be distant if I am in new surroundings.
I am a caring person with family and friends, but I can also sometimes be cold and uncaring in business.
I am hard working, and still at times I would prefer to just have fun instead.

3. Now reverse the order of these statements, and when necessary change the wording some as well. You might likely find that changing the order of the statements changes your perception of yourself.

For instance:
I am sometimes distant with people, and I am also quite friendly at other times.
In business I can sometimes be uncaring, while I am a loving parent and friend.
I like to have fun, and I am also hard working.

The idea here being to get away from labeling yourself as “one kind” of person, and not the other kind. Most of us show a wide range of behaviors and abilities depending on the circumstances, and it is good to take in the full range of who we are and how we “sometimes” act. The term “sometimes” is important to note here. We rarely if ever exhibit the same qualities “all of the time.” There is no reason to have to be “one type of person OR the other” when in reality we tend to be “both” over the course of time. When we state “I am friendly.” Or “I am a caring person.” this makes it seem like we are ALWAYS like that, and thus we will tend to confuse ourselves when we run up against the times when we are different. You will likely find that it is better to consider yourself “either or” depending on the circumstances.

4. List at least three personal qualities you have which do not please you.

For instance:
I am depressive.
I am insecure.
I am frightened about my future.

When you write down your phrases, do you see how these phrases seem to have a finality to them? Don’t they tend to read in an “all or nothing” manner?

5. Now add the alternative reality for each statement, including different contexts as an important part of your statement. You want to be able to acknowledge when the opposite of your original statement is also true.

For instance:
I am depressive at times, and I can also be upbeat when I am with friends.
I am insecure in personal relationships, and I am confident in work situations.
I am frightened about my future and I also have a lot of exciting dreams.
6. Now reverse the order of these statements, and when necessary change the wording some as well. Once again, you might likely find that changing the order of the statements changes your perception of yourself.

For instance:
I am upbeat when around friends, and at other times I can be depressive.
I am confident at work, and insecure when it comes to personal relationships.
I have a lot of exciting dreams and at the same time I can often be frightened.

7. You now have four groupings of “dual” statements from Steps 2 and 3 and 5 and 6.
Group these statements so that you can easily read all of them.

Now take a couple of deep breaths and check your posture so that you feel open and aware.

SLOWLY state each dual statement one by one, and take two deep breaths in between each statement.

When done take a few more deep breaths and notice the sounds, sights and physical sensations that you feel.

Reflect on what you have learned.
In the future you might find it helpful to consider the full range of your behaviors/qualities rather than locking in on only one aspect of yourself.

Connecting and extending out into the world

This Practice is meant to help you further develop your sense of being connected to other life forms in the world. Friends, allies, enemies, colleagues, loved ones, family members, people with similar interests and concerns, animals, nature, art.

When we feel connected we tend to feel more empowered and more at ease.
When we feel connected to the rest of the web of life, we have a clear sense of “having help.”
When we feel connected we know that truly, we are never all alone.

* * *

Sit quietly on a straight backed chair, in a quiet space.

Breathe deeply.

Sit with your back straight but relaxed, and with your feet flat on the floor, and your hands resting gently on each leg.

Make sure to do this Practice SLOWLY…!

Breathe deeply several times.

Say the following to yourself (It is great to say it out loud if the situation allows.)

1. “I hear……… “(Name whatever sounds you hear in your local environment.)
Take two deep breaths. .

“I see……….” (Name whatever you notice visually. Colors, objects, movements, etc.)
Take two deep breaths.

“I feel…….” (Name whatever bodily sensations your are aware of. [heat in your hands or chest, an itching sensation, the beating of your heart, the clothing on your body, etc.] Be certain to take your time in doing so.)
Take two deep breaths.

Now, say the following:
2. “I am connected to “A” (Name a person, pet, a piece of music, or other art, an aspect of the natural environment, a company or organization)………..”
For example, “I am connected to my wife.”

Take two deep breaths.

3. “And being connected to “A” leads me to be connected (feel connected) to “B”.”
For example, “And being connected to my wife leads me to feel connected to my daughter.”

Take two deep breaths.

4. “And being connected to “B”, leads me to be connected/feel connected to “C”.”
For example, “Being connected to my daughter leads me to feel connected to my own inner child.”

Take two deep breaths

5. And being connected to “C” leads me to be connected/feel connected to “D”.”
For example, “Being connected to my own inner child leads me to feel connected to a sense of wonder.”

Breathe deeply three times.

Now say:
6. “I hear……… “(Once again, name whatever sounds you hear in your local environment.)
Take two deep breaths

“I see……….” (Name whatever you notice visually. Colors, objects, movements, etc.)
Take two deep breaths

“I feel…….” (Name whatever bodily sensations you are aware of, and be certain to take you time in doing so.)

Take two deep breaths

Now, name a new set of connections you are feeling:
7. “I am connected/feel connected to “E”.
For example: “I am connected to the music of Diana Krall.”

Take two deep breaths.

8. “And being connected to “E” leads me to be connected (feel connected) to “F”.”
For example: “Feeling connected to the music of Diana Krall, leads me to feel connected to being in love.”

Take two deep breaths

9. “And being connected to “F” leads me to be connected/feel connected to “G”.”
For example: “Feeling connected to being in love, leads me to be connected to how painful a broken heart can be.”

Take two deep breaths

10. And being connected to “G” leads me to be connected/feel connected to “H”.”
For example: “Being connected to the feeling of a broken heart, connects me the feeling of hope I have when watching an early morning sunrise.”
Breathe deeply three times.

Repeat this process twice more. You can do so by simply cycling back up to the top of the page.

* * *
Once you are done it is great to take a few minutes to think about the experience you had.
You might want to do a bit of journaling.

Today…

This is a simple yet profound Practice that follows the Seishindo principles of Absorption, Utilization, and Balance.

  • Absorb your challenge as you breathe it in and think about it.
  • Utilize the energy that your challenge generates in you. The more important or seemingly difficult your challenge, the more your system will be energized.
  • Remain emotionally balanced and look at all the sides and possibilities of your challenge.

Instead of being fearful and limiting what you are capable of by only dwelling on the negative side of a particular situation or relationship, this Practice invites you to explore all sides of your challenge in a balanced manner, making the possibility of success more likely.

As always the key here is to take your time, speak slowly, breathe deeply, and pause between sentences.
Keep each sentence short and concise. This is important. Long sentences lead to sloppy thinking and getting lost.

You are to speak each sentence out loud if you are in a space that allows for this.
It can often be helpful to repeat this process for several rounds, letting your words change as you go along.

Today, the challenge I face is………… .
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

Today, my weakness in this regard is ………… .
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Look around at your surroundings as you sit quietly.

Today, my strength in this regard is …………… .
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Listen to your surroundings as you sit quietly.

Today, my hope in this regard is …………… .
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

Today, my fear in this regard is ………… .
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Look around at your surroundings as you sit quietly.

Today, the help that I can call on is ……….
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Listen to your surroundings as you sit quietly.

If I successfully face this challenge I will ………… .
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

Today, I know that I can face my challenge again tomorrow, with courage and creativity.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

Today, I can rest in the grace of the world and be free.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

The Paradox of One And Many in Aikido Philosophy

This article is a synopsis of the teaching of Aikido master Koichi Tohei, regarding how to appreciate, empathize with, and respect the diverse people, energies, and opinions that you come in contact with on a daily basis.

Tohei sensei used to say that in a healthy person the flow of their “ki” (the energy inherent throughout the Universe) is like the outpouring of an underground spring sitting at the bottom of a deep lake. The spring feeds water to the lake, much like we can feed the universe healing energy. The spring feeds the lake a constant flow of water without ever being diminished, and this outpouring of water is not impeded by the weight and pressure of the lake bearing down upon it. When ki flows it follows the path of least resistance. This is a path of great power. As human beings we are designed to feed energy to the universe, by following a path of least resistance. This feeding of “our” energy is what helps us to also maintain our own personal health and well being. We receive by giving, because our ki belongs to the Universe, and not to any one individual.

In this article I want to talk about how we can better appreciate, empathize with, and respect the diverse people, energies, and opinions that we come in contact with on a daily basis. I hope to give some small insight into how we can begin to understand the paradox of One common energy source feeding all of the diversity and difference that we see around us. In Aikido we practice what I guess could be called a “physical” discipline to accomplish this. We PRACTICE appreciation, empathy, and respect, in regard to our partner, with the hope that some day in the future our practice will transform into an embodied reality. We practice breathing exercises and meditation, and in the course of these experiences we have a sense of being one with the universe.

In Aikido, as new students we first learn how to balance our physical structure and relax the body’s musculature. It is this balance and release of excess muscular tension that allows the weight of the body’s trunk to come to a natural resting place in our lower abdomen, in the general area of our reproductive organs. This area in our lower abdomen is what Tohei sensei calls “the one point” and he exhorts his students to maintain the feeling of the body’s weight resting naturally in this area. By maintaining physical balance and relaxation we release excess physical tension, calm the thinking mind, and sense a common bond with all of life. At such times we naturally generate a copious flow of ki, and exude a healing presence to those around us. Previously I said that ki is the life force that animates all living beings and that all living beings share and utilize the SAME energy source, the same ki, the same spirit. In Aikido we call this shared universal spirit “reiseishin.” When we balance and relax the body, unify our thoughts and actions, and calm our thinking mind, we manifest an outpouring of “Reseishin” in the same manner that a mother holding her newborn baby exudes and expresses love, protection, and compassion. When we experience the flow of “reiseishin” we naturally appreciate, empathize with, and respect all of life.

For me personally, what is important to say in regard to sensing the flow of “reiseishin” is that the experience is not generated by the activity of the thinking mind. Our sense of unity with all of life comes about when we “do only what is necessary, and nothing more or less.” It is this “doing less” that leads to greater power and a greater sense of connection to life. We gain the paradoxical experience of calmness and action being two sides of the same coin. One being the mirror image of the other. Great calmness leads to great action, like a hurricane radiating out from its calm “eye.” Great action leads to great calmness, as when a strongly thrown top rights itself and calmly spins round its center.

When you balance and relax your body, unify your thoughts and actions, and calm your thinking mind, you move from an experience of duality to an experience of commonality. At such times you understand experientially what is paradoxical to the thinking mind – That so much difference comes from One source.

You breathe deeply and sense the simultaneous inflow and outflow of ki.
You breathe deeply and feel a “heavy-lightness” in the body.
You breathe deeply and sense the “immovable-movement” of your spirit.

When you sense and move with the energy that is manifesting throughout the universe you find that you have a greater ability to live a life that is healthy and fulfilling, a greater sense of valuing and protecting all of life. When you learn to instinctively move with others rather than attempting to oppose them, you quickly come to a sense of intuitively understanding your counterpart’s thoughts and actions, and you increase the likelihood of your being able to gently lead your counterpart in new directions in the future. This is certainly a timely topic given the current conditions in the world today. Aikido is a martial art that wages peace. We have no attack form in Aikido, even though Aikido is very much an effective form of self-defense. As I said previously, in Aikido we cultivate an experience that leads us to believe that all living beings utilize and share a common energy source (ki) that helps to run and maintain our environment as well as our individual human systems. We believe that since we all share a common energy source, that in some important way we are all truly members of the same family, and that we share our lives with all of nature. We do not have an attack form in Aikido, because attacking another human being would be like attacking a family member that you love. One of the main ideas of Aikido is to find a way to honor and protect your own being, your own opinions, your own right to life, while CONCURRENTLY honoring and protecting the same in your opponent. Not at all a simple task, but one well worth trying to embody.

As you learn to locate and maintain your own personal “center”, you discover that your center is both local and global, or as Akio Morita the past CEO of Sony said, “We must think globally while acting locally. We must develop the capacity to be ‘glocal’.” When you experience this sense of being “glocal” you manifest a greater capacity to join and blend with the “ki” of others. You realize that in some very important way we all share the same ki, the same ancestry, the same God, the same life. There is a “oneness” to all of life, and this “One” can never be reduced to zero. From this “One” energy two counterbalancing forces appeared and stimulated and supported each other, and the conditional world was born. The conditional world requires the ongoing working relationship of “opposites.” Night and Day, Male-Female, Yin and Yang. These opposites REQUIRE and support each other. If night were to oppose day, if male denigrates and or suppresses female, if one group of people subjugates another, all of life is diminished in some important sense. The relative world REQUIRES difference in order to maintain the commonality of life. Differences in opinion, difference in beliefs, differences in religion, all lead to a feeding of the “reiseishin” of our common spirit. It is so important for us to realize that “difference” creates the diversity that supports the viability of future life, that opposites are necessary for counterbalance in a conditional world. We must sense our oneness with all of life, while not in any way requiring that there only be one right way, one set of beliefs, one religion.

Three important components in supporting the diversity that feeds life, are Appreciation, Empathy, and Respect.

1. Appreciation of diversity fosters an openness to exploring difference. An openness to exploring difference means that we will have a much richer wealth of ideas and alternatives to draw upon. This is one of the necessary components for successful adaptation. We move away from a concept of “right or wrong” and instead consider what will work best in this particular instance. We welcome and acknowledge the process of trial and error, knowing that all learning requires that we make some mistakes along the way. If we belittle or stifle the answers or opinions that don’t wind up fitting our needs this time around, we denigrate the creative process, and diminish the flow of new ideas in the future.
2. Empathy helps us to be responsive to the needs, dreams, and desires of others. When we are sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others, we soon realize that “MY” way is not the only way. “My” way is not THE right way. “My” way is only one of many ways.
3. Respect is an important component in fostering all of life, because it leads to the manifestation of “reiseishin.” Our task in life is not easy. But luckily, we each have great capacity, as we are each fed by the “One” ki of the universe.

May the importance of differences in opinion and beliefs be appreciated. May we empathize with the plight of others. May we bow to and respect the sanctity of all life.

Jazz Chanting

It is a fairly new Seishindo Practice and my clients and myself have been finding it to be particularly enjoyable, and effective in helping to bring about a change in the way we approach what we perceive to be “problems.”

1. State your “problem” or what you want to be able to accomplish.

If you are stating what you consider to be your problem you might say for instance “I have difficulty getting up in the morning.”
If on the other hand you state what you would like to accomplish you might say, “I would like to get up on time each morning, and feel fine when I get up.”

2. Create an “I am” statement.

You do this by making believe you have already achieved the outcome you desire, and making a statement that signifies this.

“I am getting up on time every morning, and feeling great.”
Within reason, keep your statement as short as possible.

3. Write down in very brief form what seems to hinder you from achieving your goal.

For instance: “I can’t get to sleep at night.” “I have too many worries.” “My baby wakes me up numerous times each night.” “I am just a natural night owl.”

4. Write down what it is about your nature/character, and or life circumstances that can help you to achieve your goal.

For instance: “I have a strong interest in self improvement.” “I have a tremendous amount that I want to achieve in my life.” “I hate feeling stuck or addicted.” “My partner gets up early and I want to share more of my life with him.”

5. Choose some music that is calming, and play it in the background. Usually it is best to have music without lyrics, but music with lyrics can also be fine.

6. Take all that you have written so far and place it on a large piece of paper. Usually I disperse the statements like you will see me doing below.

You might also want to somehow bold certain words to make them stand out, or use different colored felt tip markers.

“I have difficulty getting up in the morning.” “I am getting up on time every morning, and feeling great.” “I can’t get to sleep at night.” “I have a strong interest in self improvement.”
“I have too many worries.” “I have a tremendous amount that I want to achieve in my life.”

My baby wakes me up numerous times each night.” “My partner gets up early and I want to share more of my life with him.” “I am just a natural nighttime person.”

“I hate feeling stuck or addicted.”

7. Create an improvisational jazz chant for yourself.

With your soothing music playing in the background, create a free form improvisational chant, and chant for at least ten minutes.

You want to make sure that you have free time, and you will not be interrupted, and I would strongly suggest that you set an alarm clock if one is available, so that you do not have to check the clock to see if your time is up. Ten minutes would be great, but if you find this too challenging then start out with five minutes.

Before you begin your chanting you want to make sure you are seated comfortably. If you are sitting on a chair, please sit towards the front of the chair and do not lean back against the back of the chair. Take several deep breaths before beginning, and notice whatever rocking motions (if any) your body has at this time.

When you are ready, begin your chanting.

There are an endless number of ways to do the chanting. Usually I would start out by reading through the above text with bolding, once or twice, slowly, with pausing, and taking some deep breaths. After I have done this I would start improvising from there. I will write a few possible improvisations below, for the instance of someone having trouble getting up in the morning.

“Getting up in the morning……..with my partner…….getting up on time……..even though I can’t sometimes sleep at night……..My baby, my partner……sharing more of my life……a natural nighttime person……..I have difficulties……..too many worries………to stay awake at night…….I have a tremendous amount…….Strong interest………strong worries……..strong desire to change……..addicted feeling, feeling stuck………at night……in the morning…..all of the time………getting up in the morning…….

Like any of the other Practices, it might take you a few run throughs before you feel like you get the hang of it, but please do give it a shot, because many people find this Practice to be especially beneficial.

I was doing this Practice recently and I had a concern about following through with certain ideas, rather than flitting from one idea to another. I was doing the Practice as outlined above, and suddenly a thought and an image came to me in an aesthetic fashion. I saw myself sitting by a small river rapids, watching how the water, over time, ate away at the rocks below, and then these words came to me:

Dripping water,
On the surface of a rock,
Penetrates deeply over time.

This poetic statement felt really right to me, and I switched from my other chanting to mainly just slowly repeating this refrain.

I offer this as an encouragement to let your creative spirit soar when doing such Practices!

Who am I? Who are You?

This Practice is quite simple and straightforward. At the same time you can find it to be a Practice that helps you to shift your perception of “self” and “other”, and thus your sense of being in the world.

You can benefit from this Practice many different times during the course of your life. Do it for one five day round, and then do it again at other times whenever you have the desire to do so.

One of the best ways to do this Practice is to create a “prompt” to remind yourself to ask yourself the various questions that are suggested. You can place a card or object in your change pocket that you will notice several times a day when you go to buy something; you can place a card on your desk at work with a question mark on it; you can set some alarms on your computer, and you can place a question mark on the mirror that you look into in the morning. Anything that will help you to remember numerous times a day, to ask yourself the question for the day.

Day One. “Who am I?”

Numerous times during the course of the day, ask yourself “Who am I?” (It is great to ask the question out loud if the situation allows, but asking this question internally is also quite fine.)

Please do not attempt to actively answer the question, but instead, simply ask it in an inquisitive manner. Somewhat in the same frame of mind as asking yourself “I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow?” Or, “I wonder who will win the upcoming election?” I often ask myself the question several times in a row, one right after the other, and then I simply let the question reverberate in my mind for a while.

Day Two. “Who is (he) (she)?”

Pick someone that you have a meaningful relationship with and want to be able to better understand with your heart. Numerous times during the day ask yourself “Who is Jane?” or “Who is Tom?” (Filling in the name of the appropriate person.) Usually I suggest that you ask the question in regard to only one person, but you can do otherwise if you are really drawn to. Asking about one person one time, and another person the next time.

At the end of the day, take some time to write down your thoughts.

Day Three. “Who are ‘we’?”

Today, you are meant to think about yourself and the person you were contemplating yesterday, and wonder about yourselves as “a relationship”. The relationship can be a business relationship, a marriage, a friendship, etc.
For instance, “Who are Betty and I as a couple?” “Who are Bill and I as business partners?” “Who are Marina and I as parent and child?”
Ask yourself your question, numerous times during the day, without attempting to come up with answers.

Day Four. “Who are ‘they’?”

At this stage you have considered yourself, a significant other person as an individual, and your significant other in relationship without yourself. Now you are meant to take a look at the rest of the world.
You can let your question be just as it is above, “Who are ‘they’?” or you can of course customize your question. “Who are our customers?” “Who are our clients?” “Who are our neighbors?” “Who are the terrorists?”

At the end of the day, take some time to write down your thoughts.

Day Five. “Who am I?”

Today you return to the same activity as the first day, after having had the chance to contemplate who and how you are in the world.

Numerous times during the course of the day, ask yourself “Who am I?”

At the end of the day, take some time to write down your thoughts, AND today, take some time to contemplate what you have learned over the course of the last five days. You will likely want to re-read the thoughts you have written down over the course of the week.

* * *

I have done this Practice many times over the years, and I always find that I learn something new each time.

What is natural, what is not?

This exercise is a thought experiment.
In order to understand more about one’s own life, it can be helpful to explore how we define terms like “life” “living” “natural” “nature” and “man made.” By understanding more about what we consider and feel to be “live” we might come in touch more with the life within ourselves.

Please do take the time to ponder the questions asked. If you only read through this thought experiment it will have little value for you.

Assume for the time being, that you come from Mars, or some other distant place, and that you know nothing at all about life on earth.
You are given a long winded explanation about how to discern what is man made and what is natural. You say that you feel like you have some reasonable idea as to which is meant to be which.

You are then shown a conch shell and some children’s “Silly Putty” and asked which one has been created by the intelligence of man and which one has been created by the intelligence of evolution.
Which one will you say is which? Why?

Next you are shown some “Silly Putty” and some mud. Which will you say is natural, which is man made?

Which one will you say is which when shown a brand new Sony robot and a seventy year old human being? Why?

Which one will you say is which when you listen to the sounds of a thunderstorm and the sounds of a heavy metal music group from the 60’s? Why?

You will be taken to a wildlife area and watch a lion hunt, kill, and eat his prey. Afterwards you will be taken to a war torn area where you will watch human beings kill each other. Which scene will you say is natural? Why?

Finally, you will look at yourself in a mirror. Man made or natural?
Perhaps both?

Active Dreaming

This Active Dreaming will take you about 30-45 minutes to explore. The first time around you are advised to read through all of Level 1 (Steps 1-8) once or twice before beginning, so you feel confident you know what to do. Level 2 on the other hand, can be gone through step by step as you read the instructions.

So, once you feel like you understand all of the activities of Level 1, please begin.

Next, you will proceed to do the remaining instructions step-by-step.

Active Dreaming is the kind of activity that you may find useful over and over again in many different circumstances. Feel free to take it with you wherever you go.

Level 1

1) Take a moment or two and think about something in your life that you have been wanting to understand or change in some form or fashion. Choose something that relates to and involves yourself personally.

2) Make an “I am” statement.

State what it is you are wanting to accomplish, as if you had already accomplished your goal.

If your intention is to learn Japanese then your “I am” statement would be something like:
“I am enjoying learning Japanese.”

If you wanted to be a better parent you might say:
“I am a loving and concerned parent.”

If you wanted to lose weight:
“I feel good about my body.”

The shorter the statement the better!

3) When you are ready, clearly make your “I am” statement out loud, so that you can hear what it sounds like. Be certain that your statement is worded in positive terms and in an active present tense. Saying “I don’t want to be so harsh any more” is stating your intention in negative (don’t) terms, and it also signifies that you are not actively performing your intention in the present. In this instance you would do much better to state your desired state as if you had already achieved it – “I am pleasant and supportive with others.”

[Think of it this way: Whatever you say has a tendency to create corresponding pictures in your mind, and these pictures will induce certain feelings and bodily changes, and further internal dialogue. The pictures that you are being asked to create with your use of words, should not contain elements of the undesirable state. So for instance… If you say, “I am no longer overeating” you will still somehow in some way see and feel yourself overweight and/or overeating. You will have a very different image in your mind’s eye if you say “I am maintaining an attractive and healthy body weight and feeling good about myself.”]

4) Start to slowly repeat your “I am” statement over and over again internally as you begin to take a walk around. For instance: “I am enjoying learning Japanese.” If possible, I would suggest walking around outside, unless you have a rather large building to walk around in.

5) In walking around it is important that for most if not all of your walking you walk slowly and calmly. It is also important that you continue to repeat your “I am” statement as internal dialogue, in a slow relaxed manner

Let yourself wander around aimlessly. You will want to walk around for at least 10 or 15 minutes. For many people the larger the space they have to walk around in the more interesting the results.

Be sure to allow yourself a full range of awareness.

Needless to say, seeing what is around you will give way to various thinking. Thoughts of various kinds might also come into your awareness based on what you smell, hear, or touch. Changing your position (from standing up to lying down), spinning around in slow circles, and/or tensing up your body, would also have a marked effect on what you experience. Whatever you wind up doing, simply be aware, AND continue to slowly repeat your “I am” statement, over and over again.

6) As you walk around you will almost certainly find that your mind wanders away from your “I am” statement. This is fine. Come back to your “I am” statement as soon as you notice that your mind has wandered. Please do not allow yourself the luxury of getting caught up in other thoughts.

7) As you walk around (keep a paper and pencil handy in your pocket), notice anything in the environment or about yourself, that grabs your attention. If you can do so easily (in the case of a stick, a flower, a piece of food etc.) pick up the thing that attracts you and bring it along with you. If this is not possible then jot down what it is that has captured your attention and then quickly go back to repeating your “I am” statement. (“I am enjoying learning Japanese.”).

8) When you feel complete, and at least 10 or 15 minutes have elapsed, return back to where you are now, and begin Level 2 of your Active Dreaming.

You might want to read through steps 1-8 a second time before proceeding, so you are confident of what it is you will be doing, and then begin when you are ready.

Please stop your reading of the instructions here.

Level 2

You have now returned back to the place where you will continue your Active Dreaming. Please now accomplish each step one by one, without needing to read ahead.

9) Set down the item(s) that you have brought back with you (if any).

If you were unable to bring anything back with you, then make a simple drawing of the thing(s) and or context that grabbed your attention. Simply having the name of what interested you written down, is not quite enough. It is not at all important whether or not you are currently adept at drawing. The important thing is that you represent your idea of something in other than words. Having 2 items and 1 drawing etc. is also fine.

10) Take at least two minutes and look at the item(s) and or drawing(s), while you breathe slowly. Initiate the breathing from your stomach area, and let whatever thoughts you have just float by as you “only look” at what is in front of you.

Make some simple notes.

11) Think about what it is (concerning the objects, sounds, and/or drawings etc. that you brought back with you) that grabbed your attention initially (when you first saw, heard and or felt them).

Make some simple notations.

12) State what it is about the item(s), sound(s), drawing(s) that grabs your attention now as you look at them. You might have some new ideas from the last step, or you might not.

Once again, make some notes.

13) Take at least another full minute, and once again look at the item(s) and or drawing(s), while you breathe slowly. Initiate the breathing from your stomach area, and let whatever thoughts you have just float by as you “only look” at what is in front of you.

14) Now state how it is specifically that the objects that you have before you seem to relate to both a) Your “I am” statement, and b) Yourself.

One excellent way to do this is to create a metaphor or story based upon the objects your brought back and what you noticed.

For instance: In thinking about enjoying learning Japanese I saw an old abandoned shoe and I realized how comfortable an old shoe can be and how I am feeling really comfortable with my Japanese language ability………”

15) Take another moment or two to take a few breaths originating from your stomach, and then think about your reactions to this exercise.

Make some terse notes.

What have you learned?

Did you not find it interesting to experience how your mind seemed to “self select” objects, thoughts, feelings, that somehow “matched” your “I am” statement?

Active Dreaming is useful in a wide range of human activities.

Making believe that you have already solved a certain situation and noticing your thoughts and reactions when you are in this “I am” state will usually yield very different results than musing over the solving of the problem.

Lots of new ideas usually come out of a session like this. Ideas that people had never even “dreamed” of.

Lucky or Unlucky?

Take a few moments when you are in a quiet space, to note down four times/events/relationships in your life that were seemingly very important at the time of occurrence. Best to choose “two and two” meaning two times that you felt lucky or blessed, and two times when you felt unlucky, or cursed.

Place these four events in the following order:
Lucky-Unlucky-Lucky-Unlucky. Now think of the first event and do whatever works for you to revivify your memory. For most folks I would suggest closing one’s eyes while doing this, but this is not crucial. As you revivify your memory, notice what you feel and don’t feel in your body, and notice your breathing, posture, and tiny rocking movements if any. Carry on until you feel like you have been able to notice your somatic memory of the experience, along with the visual and auditory components of your memory.

Open your eyes and take some terse notes about what you noticed in regard to your breathing, posture, tiny rocking movements, and any other parts of your somatic experience. When you are done with your notetaking, takea deep breath, and move around some until you feel like you have come back to “neutral.”

When ready, do the above again alternately with the three remaining memories (Unlucky, Lucky, Unlucky). Again, in each instance when done, note your somatic experience in detail, and then shake out and come to neutral.

If you are able to follow this kind of process with any success, you should definitely notice that a number of physical/somatic variables are different depending on which type of memory you are revivifying, “lucky or unlucky”. If indeed you can notice the differences, over the course of time you can experiment with changing the physical variables of your memories in order to change the way you feel about your past experiences. The theory being: If you significantly change the way you use your body when thinking about, remembering, or taking part in, specific experiences, you will significantly change the quality of your experience, and how you feel about what transpires. This can turn out to be quite a powerful learning.

And no matter what, if you look back at times that you initially thought were quite horrible or devastating, isn’t it true that most of these events, over the course of time, did not turn out to be nearly as devastating as you initially felt they were? Certainly this has been my experience.

Only Don’t Know

This practice is designed to help you dissolve your usual sense of “knowing” about the world you live in and who you are. It can help you to open up to new ways of thinking and perceiving, and assist you in creating the future you want to work towards fulfilling.

You will most likely want to read through all of the instructions at least once before actually doing this practice.

I developed this practice from the Zen teaching of Seung Sahn. You might find this practice to be somewhat the opposite of exercises that you have tried in the past. Please be open to experimenting and discovering. This practice is designed to help us dissolve our usual sense of “knowing” in order to help us open up to the possibilities of learning something new.

Now make some of the following statements (once again, out loud if suitable), feeling free to improvise with whatever YOU are drawn to feel and say:
“I don’t know if I am successful or not.”
Take a deep breath.
“I don’t know if I am good looking or not.”
Take a deep breath.
“I don’t know exactly where my life is leading me.”
Take a deep breath.
“I don’t know who I really am.”
Take a deep breath.
“I don’t know many things that I would like to know.”
Take a deep breath.
“I don’t know what I don’t know.
Take a deep breath.
“I don’t know what I do know.”
Take a deep breath.

As you feel into the sensations of your breathing as well as all of the sensations in your body, know that “not knowing” and “not fully understanding” is an essential part of the human condition.

Take a few deep breaths and sit calmly for a minute or two, as you feel deeply into your true human self…… .
Really do take this time.
The idea being, to become comfortable with “not knowing” while appreciating yourself fully, and accepting that there is so much that you do not know.

When you are ready, make some notes about what “not knowing” is teaching you.

During the course of the next two weeks repeat this practice numerous times. You might particularly want to do this practice when you are feeling upset, confused, or despondent. It is likely that you will find this exercise to be quite liberating.
Give yourself some time to think about how you can find a sense of calmness amidst all of the ongoing changes in life that you do not fully understand. Rather than attempting to rush into an action or an answer, take a moment to breathe into a sense of feeling yourself fully in the moment.

If for some reason this practice proves a bit more difficult than you were planning on, you can try again later. Sometimes when we are in the process of learning something new, we find that what we have learned in the past impedes us from learning something new in the moment.

The Gift of Forgiveness

This is a simple yet profound Practice. If you have been following and experimenting with our other Practices along the way, you might notice that today’s Practice has a very similar structure to two other Practices. These three Practices (“Today …”, “Today, my anger is about …, and ) follow a particular structure for meaningful personal dialogue that I have uncovered over the years. Little by little, absorb this structure into your bones, and then start creating your own Practices, based on different concerns!

This Practice follows the Seishindo principles of Absorption, Utilization, and Balance.

  • Absorb your upset feelings as you inhale, and feel what is there for you.
  • Utilize your upsetness to help generate forgiveness.
  • Remain emotionally balanced as you feel a wider range of your emotions

Instead of so often feeling angry or resentful and limiting what you are capable of feeling and appreciating, this Practice invites you to use the energy that builds up due to your anger or resentment, as the catalyst for generating forgiveness. The more you are able to feel anger or resentment while not fully giving into it and losing yourself, the more you will be able to enter onto a path of forgiveness.

As always the key here is to take your time, speak slowly, breathe deeply, and pause between sentences.

Keep each sentence short and concise. This is important. Long sentences lead to sloppy thinking and getting lost.

You are to speak each sentence out loud if you are in a space that allows for this.

It can often be helpful to repeat this process for several rounds in one sitting, letting your words change as you go along.

You might want to read through this Practice at least once, before actually beginning.

Choices:

In general, you can:
Choose between using and working with the concept of “anger” or “resentment” for each statement that you read below.

Or, alternate between using “anger” for one statement, and “resentment” for the next statement.

Or, use both terms at the same time, “My anger and resentment……”

It is totally up to you.

If your sense of anger or resentment is strong, you might likely have to do this Practice a number of times before you are able to fully agree with what you are saying. This is often an important part of the process. If necessary, please do give yourself the opportunity to speak the words while still feeling a bit out of alignment with what you are saying. This is part of opening up to the gift of forgiveness.

Today, I am feeling into my relationship with … … . (Name a person or situation that is troublesome)
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I am feeling into my anger (resentment) in this regard.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

Today, in feeling my anger(resentment), I realize that I am missing out on the opportunity to experience the blessing of serenity.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Look around at your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that beyond my anger(resentment), I would also like to feel a sense of deep inner calm.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Listen to your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that I can help improve my overall emotional response to life, by giving myself the gift of forgiveness.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that I would like to exchange my anger(resentment) for a sense of peace and calm.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Look around at your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that feeling a sense of forgiveness, leads to feeling calm, and at peace with myself.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Listen to your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that I can breathe in anger(resentment), and breathe out forgiveness and compassion.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply In AND Out, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I know that I can face my anger(resentment) again tomorrow, with a sense of serenity.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I can rest in the grace of the world and be free.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, my anger is about …

This is a simple yet profound Practice that follows the Seishindo principles of Absorption, Utilization, and Balance.

  • Absorb your anger as you breathe it in and feel it.
  • Utilize the energy that your anger generates in you. The more consuming or seemingly overwhelming your anger, the more your system will be energized.
  • Remain emotionally balanced and look at all the sides and possibilities of your anger.

Instead of being only angry and limiting what you are capable of feeling, and thus limiting your ability to resolve your emotional reaction, this Practice invites you to explore the entire range of your emotions. The more you are able to feel the entire range of your emotions, the more emotionally balanced you will feel.

As always the key here is to take your time, speak slowly, breathe deeply, and pause between sentences.
Keep each sentence short and concise. This is important. Long sentences lead to sloppy thinking and getting lost.

You are to speak each sentence out loud if you are in a space that allows for this.

It can often be helpful to repeat this process for several rounds in one sitting, letting your words change as you go along.

You might want to read through this Practice at least once, before actually beginning.

Today, my anger is about …………..
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly.

Today, in feeling my anger, I realize that I am missing out on the opportunity to feel …………
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Look around at your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that beyond my anger, I also feel ……………
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Listen to your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that I can support myself and my anger better, by realizing that my anger is connected to my feeling of ……………
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that what I would like to feel in the place of anger is …………..
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Look around at your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that feeling peace and calm is a wonderful experience.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Listen to your surroundings as you sit quietly

Today, I realize that I can breathe in anger, and breathe out compassion and love.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply In AND Out, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I know that I can face my anger again tomorrow, with courage and compassion.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly

Today, I can rest in the grace of the world and be free.
Pause, Breathe. Deeply, and Feel the Movement in your body as you sit quietly