Monthly Archives: October 2013

Napping the High-Tech Way

Napping iPhone

Napping iPhone

Even before I attended the retreat where I learned about Daoist napping, I had flirted with another sort of napping—high-tech napping using the MotionX Sleep app for iPhones.

Used during the night, Motion X monitors your movement so that it knows when you’ve fallen asleep and when you’re cycling from light sleep into deep sleep and back again. It triggers your phone’s alarm to wake you in the morning within the time window you’ve specified but while you’re in light sleep, so that you don’t get out of bed with that risen-from-the-dead feeling. (It also calculates things like your “sleep efficiency,” which I find ironic since I always thought sleep was when you didn’t have to worry about being efficient.)

I bought the Motion X Sleep app to find out if I might have sleep apnea, but I discovered it had a feature I didn’t expect—the Power Nap!

If you napped with the app, your iPhone’s alarm would wake you prior to the first time you’d enter deep sleep. By default this would be 26.5 minutes after you’d fallen asleep, although as the app got to know your sleep habits, it would adjust the time.

I slept with the app for two nights and one Power Nap. I was fascinated. Continue reading

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Napping the Daoist Way

Napping hands

Napping hands

Finally! A spiritual practice that requires no discipline, that is simply lovely, lovely, lovely!

I learned about Daoist Napping several weeks ago, at a retreat held by the Taoist Studies Institute (TSI) at its retreat center outside Seattle, and I have taken a nap every afternoon I could since then.

I never used to nap. If I was hit by a wave a fatigue in the afternoon, I would drink a cup of coffee or tea—which I’ll bet a lot of you do, too.

But a key element of qigong practice is listening to one’s body and tending to its needs—and not just as an isolated entity but in relationship to what’s going on around it, like the changing of the seasons.

The TSI retreat was held shortly after the autumn equinox, and it dealt with ways we can nourish ourselves as we settle in for fall and winter—ways like treating ourselves to restorative, Daoist-style naps.

Here’s how to nap the Daoist way, according to Harrison Moretz, TSI’s founder and executive director: Continue reading

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Animal Magnetism

Waiting at the refrigerator door...

Waiting at the refrigerator door…

I keep hearing stories about pets being in tune with the state of their owner’s qi. A woman’s dog curls up and takes a nap when she’s grounded and relaxed while practicing taiji but leaves the room when she’s not. A man’s cat throws up when he’s feeling stressed.

And once when I was doing qigong in the woods, feeling quite blissed out, I became aware of a presence near my right hand, looked down, and saw a large black nose attached to a large black dog. The dog very gently sniffed my hand and then walked away.

It was very cool. Neither of us was perturbed. I do have to admit that I had encountered that dog in those woods before. And our mutual non-perturbedness might have been different had the animal been a bobcat, a coyote or a bear, which have also been seen in those woods—although then again, I’ve heard that wild animals can read a person’s energy and know what he or she is about.

But still, it was very peaceful, very cool.

My cats, on the other hand….

Sometimes they’ll come into my study when I’m doing qigong and rub around my legs. In the beginning I fancied they were attracted by my flowing qi. Then I thought to look at the clock and realized they were lobbying to be fed, which they begin to do about an hour before the earliest time I might possibly feed them. They were not the least bit interested in my qi.

I was disappointed.

So much for my animal magnetism….

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Knees, Take Three

A knee bent too far

A knee bent too far

I look down at my knees and think, whoa!, those enormous knobs were built to last!

But periodic twinges, family history and national knee replacement statistics tell me they weren’t: Ten percent of Americans 80 or over have had at least one knee replaced, as have 4 percent of men and 5 percent of women over 50, according to ABC News.

Weighing too much is a prime reason our knees go south on us—but that’s a different blog.

I’m writing about knees in my qigong blog—indeed, for the third week in a row—because misusing your knees in taiji and qigong, and in a lot of other activities, can damage them, too.



For my taiji teacher Joe Pau and most others I’ve known, warnings about injuring knees from habitually twisting and over-bending them are practically mantras.

Knees are being strained when we bend and they end up farther forward than our toes. You don’t have to bend very deep for this to happen: Even a shallow bend done hips forward will do it, as I discussed in “Bad Bending” two weeks ago. (And by the way, there are now photo illustrations with that post as well as with this week’s.)

Knees are also being strained when we twist them—and we all do that a lot, and not just in taiji or qigong.

Knees are a hinge joint, as in open-shut-open-shut. That’s it. They’re not supposed to swivel and twist like our wrists and our hips do.

So, another experiment:

Stand up with feet shoulder-width apart and turn your shoulders as far as you can to the left. Now look down at your right knee. Has your right knee twisted so that it is now to the left of your right toes?

A friend’s taiji teacher likens this to twisting a chicken drumstick and thigh to pull them apart. Continue reading

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