Waking from a Depressing Habit

The lifting of clouds from Mount Rainier is like the lifting of the veil of depression.

The lifting of clouds from Mount Rainier is like the lifting of the veil of depression.

I was re-reading the manual for Level I Yi Ren Qigong the other day and found a passage about how practicing qigong can help us change harmful habits and negative patterns of thought:

“It’s easy for the mind to lie and have illusions, but when the body begins to be aware, it can actually correct the mind’s misconceptions. This is one of the key points of Yi Ren Qigong practice. When a person becomes more energized and as the awareness of the body increases, the body will start revealing that person’s mental habits.”

This wasn’t anything new. I’d heard Dr. Sun—Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, the man who developed Yi Ren Qigong—say similar things at many a qigong seminar.

I’d think, “Sounds great—but I don’t see any of my negative patterns disappearing; I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Voila!

Voila!

Now, however, perhaps I do—or at least I may have an inkling as to how it might work.

I’ve danced with depression my entire adult life—probably my kid life, too, only I didn’t have that word back then. After I started practicing qigong, my periods of depression didn’t seem to last as long, but I still went there—and recently I definitely did.

Depression has always felt like something beyond my control. When I’m in it, I’m in it—although thankfully I never get so far “in it” that I can’t function; I just experience a lot of self-hatred, anguish and despair. When I come out of it, I realize that I have come out of an altered state, but I have no idea how I got into that altered state or why I now feel better.

However, about two weeks ago, during a period when I was in and out of despair, I was able to see how one patch of dark thinking had quite likely caused another—had, indeed, caused me to spiral further downward. I could also see how I might have made things different. Continue reading

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Daoism Online: The Scholar Sage

This morning I finally began reading the posts I’ve been receiving from The Scholar Sage: Online Daoist Magazine, which is put out by Damo Mitchell, the British teacher/writer who has figured in my blog quite a few times, and by others in his orbit in the UK.

I was either too busy or too tired when the first post arrived, so I marked it with a red flag and thought “later.” When the second one came, I didn’t want to read it until I’d read its predecessor, and while at that point I might have had time/energy to read one, I couldn’t manage two. And so it went, as one became two and two became ten over the course of six weeks.

But this morning, when I finally tackled the lot, I was pleased that I did, and I wanted to spread the word.

Several of the posts are video clips, including one 6-minute post on do-it-yourself foot massage which focuses on key acupuncture points, featuring Shiatsu therapist Donna Pinker (http://www.scholarsage.com/foot-massage-acupressure-points/). I’ll be revisiting it tonight; foot massage seems like a nice right-before-hitting-the-pillow practice, and Donna has a wonderfully calming voice.

Among the written posts, my favorites were: Continue reading

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Y’all Come: Qigong Classes This Fall

for blog face and handsMother Nature may yet throw us a curve ball, but it definitely feels like fall is coming. My body thinks so; my garden thinks so; my newspaper is full of ads for back-to-school supplies. And so it’s time to write about the qigong classes I’ll be teaching in Redmond, WA this fall.

I’ll be teaching two types of qigong—Taiji Qigong at the Redmond Senior Center and Yi Ren Qigong, Level I, in the classroom at the Vitamin Life store on Redmond Way. I’ll also be giving a free presentation at Vitamin Life at noon on Saturday, Sept. 13, during which I’ll talk about qigong in general and Taiji Qigong and Yi Ren Qigong in particular.

Some details on all of the above:

Free public presentation on qigong at Vitamin Life in Redmond, noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13:

I’ll explain what qigong is and why I think it’s worth doing. And we’ll do some Yi Ren Qigong, since qigong should be experienced, not just talked about. Vitamin Life is at 15830 Redmond Way—and there’s no need to pre-register for this presentation; just come.

Taiji Qigong (aka Shibashi Taiji Qigong) at Redmond Senior Center, ongoing classes, 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. Wednesdays:

Taiji Qigong is a relaxing, flowful system of qigong based on Yang-style taiji. It consists of 18 movements which I bookend with an energetic warm-up and close-down and accompany with music. Continue reading

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Qi Dimension, Take 2

A stone wall Thomas Merton might have seen burning

A stone wall Thomas Merton might have seen burning

A couple of weeks ago, Janine Larsen, who is the executive of the Pacific Northwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association and also a member of my UU church, spoke at a Sunday morning service about her Buddhist spiritual practice.

She called her talk “Cultivating Irrational Mind,” although I wish she’d called it “Cultivating Non-Rational Mind” because, for me, the word “irrational” brings forth images of people shouting and being nasty and totally unwilling to consider anyone else’s point of view during an argument or at a political gathering. But, then, it was her talk….

And it was a wonderful talk, full of things I particularly needed to hear that morning when I was deeply into my late-life crisis. I asked her to send me a copy so I could have some of her words to hang on to.

When I printed it out and read it, I put a giant star in the margin where she quoted UU lay leader David Rynick as saying, “Spiritual practice is what we do repeatedly with the intention of moving closer to that which is most true and alive for us.”

Yes…. Yes. And I should probably add that I definitely view qigong as a spiritual practice.

Farther on Janine said that Buddhist meditation has helped her grow a more spacious mind, that she occasionally experiences internal quiet when she is being still, and that she can more readily let things go and trust who she really is instead of worrying about who she thinks she is or should be.

Which I think/hope is the direction qigong is taking me. Indeed, perhaps what I have termed my late-life crisis is merely the result of the ways qigong is changing me. Change, of course, is not always comfortable.

Janine spoke of Zen Buddhist koans, the seemingly nonsensical stories that Zen teachers use to get their students to shift from logical analysis to intuitive, non-rational understanding. She presented several examples of stories that would once have driven me nuts, including the poem “In Silence” by Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk, mystic and amazingly prolific writer. Continue reading

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Harry Potter and the Qi Dimension

A stone wall Harry Potter might have walked through...

A stone wall Harry Potter might have walked through…

This past weekend, I viewed the first of the Harry Potter movies for the second time. Watching it with grandchildren was even more fun than the seeing it in a theater as an unaccompanied adult.

Later, my son and I talked about one aspect of the Harry Potter movies: the interface of the world of magic and the world of Muggles (that’s you and me).

For example, in that first film, “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone,” Harry boards the train for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by walking through a stone wall at Platform 9-3/4. Platform 9-3/4 is located between platforms 9 and 10, which are being used by Muggles who are coming and going in conventional fashion—and yet no one notices Harry and his fellow Hogwarts students disappearing into a wall.

Are the Muggles oblivious because they’re too wrapped up in their own world to observe signs of another world, or does some sort of magic spell keep them from noticing?

OK, I do get that the Harry Potter books and movies are fiction, and the point is scarcely worth getting worked up over.

But it struck me that there are similar issues around the “qi dimension” vs. everyday reality. Continue reading

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How Super the Moon…

An almost supermoon

An almost supermoon

I am trying to do my womanly bonding with the moon, really I am. But it’s so complicated (and I can hear guys saying, “well, duh, so are you women”).

There’s that problem of it rising and setting at inconvenient times, either past my bedtime or during the day, when it’s just a cold, white specter in the sky. There’s the problem of it sometimes being reduced to invisibility, a state known as “new moon,” for reasons not clear.

And then there are the clouds. Even in July there can be clouds in Seattle.

But there seem as well to be a host of optical illusions that I simply don’t understand.

For example:

According to the Seattle Times, Saturday, July 12, was the first of three supermoons, so called because the moon looks particularly large because it’s closer to earth than usual. (The other two supermoons this year will be Aug. 10 and Sept. 9.)

At about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, I was in downtown Redmond on the City Hall campus—and the moon was enormous, definitely a supermoon. Big, round, golden, so close you could almost reach out and embrace it.

I drove home, a distance of less than 10 miles with an elevation gain of less than 500 feet, and went out on my patio, which is a primo viewing spot for full moons. The moon looked smaller than it had in downtown Redmond. How could that be?

I took its picture nonetheless—and then compared the picture to the pictures I had taken from the same spot the night before, when the moon was almost full and presumably, therefore, only almost super.

But darned if the moon wasn’t bigger in the photos taken the night before—which is why the picture you see here is the almost-supermoon.

There’s doubtless an explanation….

 

 

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Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones…

Dem bones...

Dem bones…

Perhaps 12 years ago, which was a couple of years after I began studying taiji, I had one of those experiences that remains with you forever, an experience that may last only a few seconds but that somehow gets copied into memory in such exquisite detail that recalling it feels like reliving it.

I was walking across the campus of the school where I worked when it occurred to me that perhaps I could relax my lower back as I walked the same way I was learning to do in taiji. Actually, it wasn’t something I could “do,” but more something I could choose to let happen. So I let it happen. And it kept happening and happening, and suddenly I felt stricken about doing what I was doing in a public place.

I remember thinking that my butt must have dropped at least three inches—and I wondered if anyone had seen it and thought I was doing something really strange.

I am thinking about this experience now because I may have had another one like it yesterday. The day before, I’d seen a physical therapist for advice on dealing with my scoliosis, which has been getting worse with age. (I am spiraling down, instead of pancaking, which is what most people do as they lose height.)

I thought he might recommend orthotics to keep my right foot from toeing out and my right knee and hip from collapsing in.

Instead, he directed my attention to my rib cage. Continue reading

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