Dr. John Aguilar, Jr, DAOM, EAMP

Archive for the ‘Mind & Meditation’ Category

What’s Your Priority in Life?

In General, Mind & Meditation on August 3, 2011 at 10:57 am

I, most sincerely, believe that health should be the top priority in one’s life.

Perhaps it doesn’t sound too risky of a statement to put out there, but when it gets right down to it, when we get completely honest with ourselves, it may become threatening to our lifestyle.

How often do we make choices in life that place the impact on health second to other concerns?

How often do we enter into, or stay in, relationships (friendships or romantic) that we know aren’t good for us?

Or – here’s a big one – How often do we choose, or stay in, jobs that don’t allow us enough time (or energy) to exercise, to move our bodies to prevent disease, as mentioned in the article Even With Regular Exercise, People With Inactive Lifestyles More at Risk for Chronic Diseases?

Sitting at a desk for eight hours isn’t healthy, yet so many are in that position – health takes a back seat, and there’s the controversy.

Can we really make health the most important thing in life? Is it possible to be healthy, feel truly happy while preventing disease, and still pay bills and put food on the table?

On the surface, these needs seem to conflict, as evidenced by the vast numbers of people accepting greater risk to health for a job or career that slowly saps them of life and vitality. It would seem that sacrifices and compromises must be made and that health is so often one of those.

As with so many such interesting ponderings, though, I believe that if you take a closer look, if you truly, sincerely, investigate that belief and the reality born from it, you may be surprised.

To start with, there is a basic assumption being made, though possibly subconsciously. That belief is that we’ll be happy with the money we make from the job that takes so much time and energy (robbing personal health of those precious commodities). Or we’ll be happy with the things we buy with the money we make, or we’ll find happiness in some future state that the current suffering will bring us.

Or, maybe, we think staying in a bad relationship is “worth it” because of the nature of the happiness it provides. Or we think eating whatever we want is freedom and that will make us feel good…

The variations are endless, but the underlying idea is that the things we do that push health to the back seat are so often done because they seem to promise that we’ll feel good or be happy.

That lie has been around for a long time and appears in so many of our world’s philosophies and religions. It boils down to a belief that satisfying desires will, well, lead to the satisfaction of desires.

There is forever that temptation that “If I just do _______, then I will feel happy.” “I just need: a night out, a week off, a hamburger and fries, a drink, a job that pays a lot, a big house, another car…”

The simple test of this belief is to look how you feel after. Did you find happiness, real happiness?

Most often, satisfying such desires leads to a shallow and fleeting sense of happiness or peace. It doesn’t run very deep in the soul, and it only lasts a very short time. Then, we need another night/weekend/week off, another drink, another raise, more furnishings for our bigger house, a newer car…

All the while, we put health second to fulfilling those desires.

So the first thing we learn upon deeper inquiry is that there may very well be a false assumption that that for which we are sacrificing our health will bring us true and lasting peace or happiness.

Fulfilling desires does not lead to the end of desires. Taking that job that doesn’t really allow space in our schedule for enough exercise because it will makes us enough money to be happy probably isn’t going to work out. More money just doesn’t lead to happiness.

Taking some time off is a great thing, but if you continually need to take large chunks of time off, or always absolutely need weekends off, you’re probably just venting tension and stress, which feels good, but isn’t actual happiness (same thing with going out, drinking and staying up late – something about it feels good, but it brings neither peace, nor happiness).

Meanwhile we’ve compromised our health.

Now, coming from a whole different angle, I would propose that health is the one thing in life that can improve the quality of everything else in life. By making it your top priority, you increase the overall enjoyment of everything you do.

Though I could make arguments, I actually think this is a common enough experience that people just need to be reminded of it. When we feel good, actually feel good – as in after a good night’s rest, or recovering from an illness and now appreciating what good health feels like – everything is better.

And, bonus, when we’re in that place and “bad” things happen, it doesn’t affect us nearly as much, water off the duck’s back, as it were.

Maybe at some point in your life you had a really good exercise routine; you were feeling good! Chances are you were much better able to deal with negative events in life.

When you are healthy, all of life is better.

As we bring that into awareness, as we fully realize that, and hold that awareness, life will start adjusting itself.

How?

Well, we make thousands of choices a day, many of which we are barely conscious of. Those choices are made based on certain beliefs about life. Our beliefs, then – what we understand about the world – powerfully influences the choices we make and the direction of our life.

Where we come to understand that doing those things in life to bring that superficial and temporary peace is not worth it, and that, when we put health first, everything in life gets better, we start making choices based on that understanding. The “how” simply unfolds.

Hold attention and awareness through the day and that wisdom will automatically assert itself. When you are offered that promotion and raise at work and that tingling excitement of what that extra money could do for you starts burning, the deeper wisdom will surface. You will know that another car will not actually make you happy, and that the sacrifice in sleep required for the increased duties, will actually detrimentally affect all aspects of your life. And the decision is easy (or, at least, easier). (Of course, not all promotions are bad :)).

It’s tempting to get caught up in that “how” of changing our life for the better. How do we make health the top priority? The answer doesn’t come by way of giving you an answer, but instead by way of leading you to realizing the truth. When you know these things, spoken of above, truly know them, and when you maintain that awareness through the day, and not lose sight of it in all the tumultuousness of the day, then the answers come.

As clichéd as it is, the answers come from within.

You simply have to look, investigate closely, for the reality of things. Knowledge and real wisdom of how to be truly happy and peaceful (= healthy) will become obvious.

The Power of Relaxing

In General, Mind & Meditation, Tai Chi on June 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

It really is the simple things that matter. Take relaxing, for example…

Let’s try a simple exercise – Make a fist, a tight fist. Hold it. Now, relax it. Repeat, but hold the fist for longer, then relax. This acts as a very simple analogy for our daily cognitive/emotional lives. We tense with effort and purpose, to accomplish a certain task. Then, once that task has concluded, we relax and let that temporarily built-up tension release.

Over and over, we tighten-up to engage some challenge or obstacle, then loosen-up when the task has ended. Tense, then release, and repeat.

There is a simple brilliance to this. It works well. The martial arts, at the higher levels, emulate this. A Tai chi master in combat is the embodiment of fluidity and softness, being thoroughly relaxed, until he strikes. At that moment, it is as if lightening strikes. From out of nowhere, a power manifests that overcomes all defenses of the opponent.

I, actually, have experienced a taste of this. In Tai chi sparring, I have felt as if I were chasing a ghost, unable to “find” my opponent to deliver any amount of force, much less an actual strike. And that was because he was completely relaxed. In response to all my movement and effort, he wouldn’t resist, causing tension, but, instead, he would relax and flow. By doing this there was never enough hardness or tension in his body for me to engage in order to generate the “friction” of solid contact. (The fact that you have to be tense to some degree, you have to resist, in order to be punched is an interesting thing…)

Then, suddenly, there would be a flash in his body, followed immediately by an exploding flood of power that drove right through my defenses like hurricane winds through a card house. It was a beautiful, if scary thing…

The secret of his actions actually lays in the fluidity – the openness – followed by a single, well-timed, instant of power, of effect. We, to some degree, mimic this on a daily basis (the role of the Tai chi master, not his opponent… well, perhaps some days we play the same role I enjoyed in the above example ;)). We stay relatively relaxed until effort is required, then we engage.

Tai chi is a martial art of the highest caliber and it makes for an equally superior system of exercise to maximize health specifically because it emphasizes being completely relaxed, until it is time to strike, time to take action.

We tend to focus on the action/effort part, the doing, but this simple act of relaxing is profound, truly profound. It is, essentially, opening, or “dilating”, the channels of the body. Once these channels are opened, blood and energy can circulate freely to fix and repair, strengthen and support, cleanse and purify, all the systems of the body. With the simple cognitive intent and direction of “Relax”, the body automatically initiates the full gamut of healing actions.

Think of that fist you made. The power or strength of the fist comes from temporarily locking down the channels. By blocking them, you create a static force or strength that’s better able to engage a target you wish to break through.

Then, by opening and relaxing the hand, you open the channels to allow the free flow to return. Try the exercise again, and pay close attention to the sensation of the tight and strong fist, versus the open, loose, relaxed hand.

There is a time and place for both. For the purposes of health and healing, I like to emphasize the openness, though. We seem to have the tensing part down. This comes instinctively. We automatically tighten up whenever we engage a challenge. No need for intentional thought.

The reverse isn’t necessarily so, though. There is the same natural instinct to relax and let go, but this we often override. The challenge is over; the need for the fists, for effort has passed, but we worry or fear that it’s not really gone, or that it’s gonna come right back, so we retain some of that tension. And this is what is called “stress”.

We walk around with some degree of tension that isn’t actually necessary, preparatory effort with no target to act against. On some level, we are still actively ready to do battle, even though no threat is currently present.

Yet, and this is important, we’ll actually report that we’re “relaxed”. We’ve psychologically adapted to this level of tension in our bodies and, now, consider a semi-active, partially tensed state, as being relaxed.

In a way, this explains all disease. The body’s basic self-healing mechanisms are impeded by the partially blocked channels. In a way, it’s that simple. We are designed to heal and repair, but innate design isn’t given full reign.

If we could just relax, completely relax, in between those moments of needing a clenched fist, the body would automatically start fixing and repairing whatever needs tending. When we walk around as if still engaged in battle, or, at least, on the verge of becoming engaged, the body isn’t in a place for healing, and so it won’t, can’t.

The power of relaxing is profound. In a way, it’s very easy. It’s, originally, instinctive. We are designed to be able to walk both sides of life, engaged and laid back. We are made this way so that we can both cope with the obstacles of life, as well as be completely healthy and happy.

So, just as in a good Tai chi class, always relax. Relax, relax, relax.

Don’t worry about being prepared, tensing up, to take action. Yes, it serves a purpose, but, at this moment, is it required? Right now, do you need to fight? If not, let that reality sink all the way, deep into your bones.

Release every muscle. Relax every joint. Just let go, and the body’s instincts will kick in, automatically, and start taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of. That’s what it is designed to do; no effort required. Just relax…

I know – Easier said, then done, right?! But, hey, practice makes perfect, so practice everyday; every moment you think about it, relax…

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Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com
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Placing the Cart Before the Horse (or Acting Before Knowing)

In General, Mind & Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga on June 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm

In my continued studies of the Chinese medical Heart system and the Anahata cakra of yoga, I’ve come back, again (for the nth time), to the simple concept of stillness preceding movement, as the natural order of things. In matters of health, illness, and healing, this simple concept has far-reaching and immediate implications.

In Chinese medicine, there is a central aspect of the Heart that is the void. Even on a gross, mechanical level, the heart organ, as a pump, is absolutely dependent on its emptiness to maintain its function. A clogged, blocked pump is a broke pump.

On the more subtle levels of being, this void is just as important to our healthy living. Where the emotional heart clings, holds onto thoughts and emotions, the person suffers, and where the heart experiences, but allows all to flow through, the person can find peace.

When holding this peaceful void, this presence to experience without attachment or holding onto, a person is set – open – to receive.

What does a person receive, in their hearts, through their hearts, when they are able to enter that stillness?… Awareness, knowingness, an understanding through clear perception – direct perception of reality, as it is, uncolored by the “knowledge”, based on experiences, of the mind…

Truth, in a word.

This is neither distant, nor difficult. It happens all the time, every moment, right now. It’s just not, currently, as… efficient as it could be.

Think of your attempts to know something. It happens nearly constantly, but try to feel the movement from the very beginning. If you’re quick – really, really quick – you can catch that very first impression, that initial knowing.

Within a billionth of a second, though, the mind enters. The thinking, analyzing, comparing and contrasting, measuring and judging intellectual mind jumps onto the scene and immediately distorts that original, crisp impression.

You knew, but then you questioned…

You still know, but continue to doubt. The servant has become the master…

And that would be fine, if there were nothing to do, nothing important about life. But there is. We have decisions, big and small, countless of ‘em a day.

Now, thinking about the opening lines – stillness preceding movement – we always begin in stillness, such is the nature of things, but our actions tend not to be guided, rooted in that stillness and the awareness that such stillness invites, but, instead, we act based on all the rumblings and frenetic actions of that thinking mind.

Going no further, it is already evident how a life lived rooted in the ceaseless movements of the mind simply can’t lead to real happiness or true health.

Simply put, the mind analyzes, but it’s the heart that knows.

Think of walking around a house you’re unfamiliar with, eyes closed. You’re looking for a box sitting on a shelf, in a room, on the second floor.

Undoubtedly, the analytical mind can be of service. You can reach all around you, taking in input from what you touch. You can walk around and adjust which direction you go based on walking into objects and whatnot.

But compare that person, walking into walls, flailing about with their arms outstretched, tripping over the carpet, to the person who stops and opens their eyes…

With eyes open, and seeing the inside of the house around you, you can then use the mind as a tool, to act based on, in accordance with, and guided by the perceptions of the heart, as the analytical mind was intended.

Taking action without truly seeing, knowing with our hearts, is, essentially, stumbling through life, as if in the dark. Even if you find what you want, you won’t recognize it.

The problem, of course, lays in calming that mind so that we can hear with the heart, stilling the ceaseless mental fluctuations, so we can enter stillness, experience the void, in order to truly know.

This calming the mind is a complex topic.

Acupuncture can be practiced with this as the ultimate goal. Symptoms are specific indicators of how 1) the system is disrupted, blocking clear perception with the heart, and 2) how the person is suffering either directly from the obstruction, or more generally from not being in contact, and thus guided, by the heart. I believe this is the highest form of medicine, in fact, the only way to truly end suffering.

On a day-to-day basis, you can actively work to calm the mind to better allow awareness through the heart. Breathing is probably the quickest and easiest way to bring the active mind to a standstill.

Yoga has this concept at its core, the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. A good yoga class will give you many tools, and working one-on-one with a teacher will maximize all yoga has to offer.

Tai chi is also a great tool, much in the same way as yoga.

Or, simply, just pay attention.

By merely looking, and holding attention, the mind is calmed, the heart engaged. The longer you hold such focus, the more empowered heart’s awareness becomes and the weaker, the more translucent the mind’s rumblings appear.

By acting in absence of the heart’s guidance you put the cart before the horse and risk a very… eventful life ;).

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Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com
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Further Thoughts on Freedom and Health

In General, Mind & Meditation on June 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Continuing on from my last post on the nature of freedom and personal health, there is a common saying that I’d like to address – “You can be anything you want.”

If you know me, you already know why this bugs me, and, perhaps more importantly, why it can be detrimental to your health.

Though there is something important being imparted in those words, that statement, itself, isn’t true. And, in the big picture, truth is our only hope for full health.

As I’ve said before, there is something about “being free to do as one pleases” that seems to be an essential aspect of good health. Or, put another way, illness is, essentially, being blocked, in one way or another, from fully living your life.

Clearly, then, the idea that you can be “anything you want” is important. In a way, any other thought would lead to a basic cognitive obstruction, i.e., not having that basic freedom would seem to prevent health.

However, the simplicity of the statement comes at the compromise of reality, and neither true health nor happiness can be obtained under delusion. Joy attained while under the influence of an illusion is always empty. Any state of health dependent upon false perceptions is weak and temporary, continually under threat of a devastating revelation.

The reality that’s being sacrificed is the fact that we are unique (which, oddly, doubles as a gift and source of strength, confidence, empowerment, etc… but more on that later).

You are very definitely you. The more you get to know you, the more you realize that, yes, you are human, but you are very much an individual.

Sure, we all have many things in common, but, without a doubt, there has never been the specific composition of traits, peculiarities, thoughts, experiences, etc., that make you you.

And therein lies your limitations, as well. You are you. You are not me. You cannot be me. You and I are unique.

Think about those people that have risen to great heights in their respective fields. We call them “gifted” or geniuses. They are different, in obvious ways, from everyone else. As are we all, we just don’t all get the opportunity to so clearly maximize that which makes us unique…

But you are unique. You have your own gifts. And you don’t have others…

So there it is.

Sorry. ;)

Here’s the application for health: You will find the greatest happiness possible being you! Again, cliched, but, well…

Trying to be something you are not leads to frustration (from being impeded in fulfilling that goal) and endless suffering. Such attempts only appease the mind and its endless list of “should”s.

The beauty is that, if you discover who you are (yes, I know, very, very tough), your whole life can change. Suffering (the bad kind, anyway) ceases.

From that point on, all your “suffering” comes by way of doing something that is fully, deeply, profoundly rewarding (which is still suffering, but it is very, very different).

So forget being anything you want to be (that just screams mental/intellectual “should”, in my mind, anyway). Instead be you. Let that you, inside, unfold.

Of course, deep, deep down you really want to be you, but that’s a different want; that’s a soulful want, not a mental one, and the mental so often gets seating behind the megaphone in your head…

So, yeah, sorry, you’re limited, very, very limited… much like a funnel, dissuading movement off a certain course, guiding you a specific direction and not others. If you can let go and flow, though, you’ll find yourself being directed right to the dead-center of bliss and radiant health.

Seriously ( ;)).

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Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com
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Personal Freedom and Health

In General, Mind & Meditation on June 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm

When you get down to the essence of what constitutes health, so often you come across the idea of being “free” or unimpeded in living your life fully.

You want to be free of any pain that would stop you from doing what you want. You wouldn’t be encumbered by negative moods that get in your way of enjoying life, and so on.

Even, clinically, so often I see obstruction of qi-energy or blood as part of a patient’s disease pattern. The appropriate treatment strategy is to course or “move” qi and blood, to release that energy so that it may go on its way… and there’s the interesting thing…

What would you do with absolute freedom?

I believe this is worth serious consideration. So often we think only of “let me be free”, give me some time off from work, release me from the obligations of __________, but what then?

I often pose this question, in one way or another, to patients, and almost every time there isn’t a clear response. It seems we’re not really sure what we would do with so much free time.

There is, of course, the standard “lay on the beach”, “lay on the couch”, or “just do whatever I want”, but the absence of a genuine answer, I think, is of great importance.

Perhaps, we are doing what we’re doing and meeting so much obstruction, in one form or another, because we don’t know any other path. Perhaps we are in the position of wanting to be released from our stresses and constraints, ultimately, because we’re unsure of what to do.

This is a very subtle – almost obvious – twist, but it allows for some important revelations. It places ignorance at the root of our suffering, as opposed to any outside oppressive force, e.g., “the universe”, the wife, the boss, the “damn economy”, and so on.

And that would mean the answer doesn’t lay solely in “doing” anything, quitting your job, moving, getting a divorce, and so on. Instead, the answer is in learning, understanding, coming to know what you want to do with life.

If freedom to do whatever you want means anything, then there must be something to do. What is it that you want to do so badly doing anything else will inevitably lead to suffering because you’re not doing this thing?

Chances are you’re not really sure… hence, not doing it and wanting that vacation so bad or some time alone, away from ___________…

By bringing all this up, I hope to sort of help prioritize things in your life. Everyday you do a thousand things… at least. I would urge you (and this is the acupuncturist in me speaking) to give much time and energy into looking inside. There are efforts to sustain, such as paying bills, eating food, etc. Then there are efforts to change, to change course, change direction, so that your efforts are leading in a direction of being done with the daily stress, beyond the simple and fleeting “feel good” of the weekend off and an occasional three-day weekend.

Choose the use of your attention and focus wisely. Do what you must, but spend every moment you can searching for that one thing that will bring absolute relief.

Maybe a change of jobs or partners is needed. Maybe things are so bad, maybe there’s something negatively consuming so much of your energy that it simply needs to be removed.

Just don’t stop there. Without the inner awareness we’re talking about, all such solutions are temporary. Quit one bad job, and in two, maybe three years, the duties, title, and company may be different, but nothing will have changed. Where the internal environment remains unchanged, where that fundamental ignorance remains, the outside world will simply change in appearance and form.

And there is a vicious cycle, of sorts, to watch out for (if you haven’t experienced it, yourself, you know someone who has). There is getting so far off path, getting so caught up in a life that is empty and unfulfilling, that the daily grind becomes so severe you are left with no time, energy, or attention to invest in introspection. And without such inward investigation, awareness of the path out of the situation may not visit you for a long time.

Take the time, now, and everyday, to ask yourself what you want, truly want, that deepest desire that, if fulfilled, would release you from suffering forever.

A clue would be that it lays in walking a certain path, not in any sole accomplishment. It lays in the active fulfilling, manifesting of purpose. If you were completely free, what path would you naturally take?

Purpose is innate in existence. Perhaps that’s up to philosophical debate… unless you’ve experienced it.

Maybe you think you’ve found it, but are unsure. Or maybe you need some guidelines to help determine whether you’ve found it, in the early stages of discovery.

One, there is a peace. Stress happens, but it isn’t really stressful. There is simply an ok-ness (and it’s not a practiced one, or something that required any thought or effort on your part).

Two, you have zero regrets. You get to the point where you realize everything that has happened – especially the bad stuff – was absolutely necessary to get you where you are. And it’s obvious. So much so you are filled with deep appreciation for all the times life kicked your butt.

Three, needs are drastically reduced, desires are much less of a presence in your life. Instead of living with a constant pressure to get somewhere or do something, you are simply more present to every moment. Each moment gains more importance compared to possible future ones. “Here” becomes ok. “Now” is comfortable, versus merely existing to get you somewhere.

Four, the future feels like a gift, icing on the cake, versus something upon which you are painfully dependent.

And, lastly, perhaps most importantly, stress and pain are welcomed. You have seen how greatly challenge and adversity have aided you – they have gotten you to this great place – and so you welcome those things that threaten to unseat you from your place of peace.

There is nothing to defend, nothing to protect against – you have discovered the secret that life is in flow, in movement; happiness and peace are found in a way of doing things, in living a certain way, not in having done or accomplished anything. Your happiness isn’t derived from anything you are holding onto, but by how your life is lived, and so the fear of loss or destruction has little influence over you.

Ironically, so much of this could be heard as a cliche, and thus easily ignored because you have heard these things so many times before. So often, this external world has reflected to you to find out why you’re here. It has suggested your being is not random. The proof is in the suffering experienced by not only acting with incomplete awareness, but by acting as if there were no purpose…

Ultimately, all things – coming from the external world when you’re not looking within – will repeatedly, over and over, try to point you in the direction of fulfilling your destiny. Be it by causing deep pain in wayward action, or by offering the most subtle of nudges to alter course, you will hear these cliched words over and over…

I, for one, am honored to relay them! ;)

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Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com
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So I’ve been studying the Anahata cakra (the “Heart chakra”)…

In General, Mind & Meditation, Yoga on June 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Unconditional love, real love, can’t be done.

It’s impossible to decide to love somebody, then just do it. Or, at least, that’s not unconditional love.

True love, that purest expression of love, flows naturally, spontaneously, effortlessly through truly knowing, seeing someone for who they truly are.

To truly love somebody, forget that desire – just let it go. You can’t willfully love someone. What you do through effort will always pale in comparison to this pure love.

Instead, try to understand that person, not through analysis, which, ultimately, inevitably, comes down to reducing them to some specific aspects or traits, then comparing those traits or characteristics to some external template of some sort, some predetermined concept of good/bad, right/wrong, and basing your “understanding” and acceptance of them on how those traits of theirs stack up against this idea in your head…

But, instead, understand through seeing them.

Look and see who they are. Look closely and without your focus being distracted by thoughts, fears, or memories…

And don’t think. Don’t think about what you see. That, again, just reduces them – the real, breathing human being in front of you – to a concept. They no longer are that person having a hard time, but the abstract concept of “a person” having a hard time, stripping them of everything that makes them them, or worse, you project onto that abstract version of a generic “person having a hard time” past experiences you’ve had with people having a hard time. Either way you are no longer even truly interacting with that person in front of you. How could you come to understand them, much less truly love them?

Strive to see them for who they truly are – Right there, right then.

And don’t stop.

If they are mad or sad, keep looking. That “being sad” is not some random thing they’re going through. Keep looking, look deeper. See how that being sad is occurring in response to a deeper experience. Look.

Be careful of asking questions, even. We are there to receive them, to receive, hear, listen… Too often questions are meant (perhaps subconsciously) to guide, direct, or suggest, to do, really, and we are there to be non-doing in a completely open, wholly receptive presence.

And if you find yourself asking questions to probe, to stimulate… perhaps they’re not in a place to give, to share, in which case it won’t happen, period.

Through looking, simply, intently looking (which, by the way, is the greatest way of showing you care, this giving of your full, undivided attention) you will slowly see. You will see that they are beautiful, truly beautiful.

You won’t “understand” it. This isn’t a defensible argument for their being a good person we’re creating…

We are simply – ever so simply, genuinely – looking and seeing that, wow, this is a beautiful human being in front of us, and from that, from that seeing and knowing directly, you will love them.

Once you see a person for who they truly are, once you see (because you really looked) that glorious, impossibly glorious, happening that is them in that moment…

Well, you’ll know. There are no words… just a perfection, a beautiful perfection of being… and you won’t be able to control it. You won’t be able to control yourself… love will just happen…

Honor as Medicine

In General, Mind & Meditation on May 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm

The power of Chinese medicine allows us the sensitivity, in diagnosis, to interpret thoughts and feelings in a way that allows us to lead healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives. (Hence, my dedicating my life to it :).)

In doing this, Chinese medicine opens up a whole new world of health and healing, truly redefining what “medicine” means, to incorporate all aspects of life – Everything is both a reflection of, and contributor to, your health. Chinese medicine, thus, empowers the person in a major way.

And it allows us to view rather abstract, but very real, tangible, even, concepts like honor. We all know what honor means, but no definition, or collection of words, could ever truly convey the richness of its meaning. You know what it means by experiencing it; you know it simply by knowing it.

Take a second and explore the idea of honor… feel it and let it work into and through your body…

How does it feel? What’s your reaction to it? What’s the visceral, body-level definition of what it means to be honorable, to have honor, to act in honorable ways?…

To me, there’s a rooted power, a strength in genuine righteousness to it, a standing up for – asserting – truth when it isn’t easy, when the temptations to lower your head and cower away are almost overwhelming.

If you really take some time with the feeling, you may actually notice changes in your body. You may sit up a little straighter. You may stick your chest out, just a little though, and you may even relax a little and find a true comfort in this simple concept.

This response is real; it’s genuine, and it’s not based on any mental activity or analysis. It’s knowable through the basic nature of being human. You could say it has a certain intrinsic “energy” to it. That is, it’s real, but difficult to pin down.

Part of the gloriousness of Chinese medicine is its ability to take this very real experience and apply it to medical practice, to health and healing. You could say it gives useful meaning to these experiences of the human being.

And that idea of it having a certain “energy” to it is an all-important link between your direct experience and the system of medicine.

Over thousands of years (no one knows how many, exactly; most likely, at least, two, quite possibly upwards of five), Chinese physicians have collected, investigated, and cataloged these experiences, correlating them with the physical functioning of the body in health and illness.

And, most importantly, they passed on this information from generation to generation.

So what is honor in the body? What can it do for health? How is it disturbed in illness?

Ultimately, those questions are best answered through your own direct, personal experience. However, I’ll share a little of my own experience, combined with over a decade of studying Chinese medicine and its sister system of thought Taoism.

Honor is the spontaneous action that occurs upon alignment of deeper spirit with momentary thought-consciousness. It’s when you know something to be true – you simply know it - and you fully acknowledge that fact.

It’s when you admit to yourself, often in very, very difficult times that what you know is right is, in fact, right. And how do you know you are really honoring the feeling? When you spontaneously act upon it.

It is the aligning of the most deep sense of what’s appropriate, for lack of a better word, with what you consciously acknowledge.

Some mental exercises may help to draw this out. Think of some time you’ve had a very strong feeling. You honor it, by allowing yourself to fully experience it, without holding back and without judgement.

Now, think of some interaction you’ve had with another person and your feelings of the situation aren’t the same as what you may be putting on. Dating is a good example. Maybe the other person is more into you, than you are into them, and maybe you carry this on, for a bit, you know, to give the relationship a chance.

At some point the incongruence, the fact that your feelings and their feelings don’t match, becomes too big to ignore. You honor that person’s feelings, as well as the relationship (and yourself) by being honest and letting them know how you feel.

Honor, thus, is closely related to truthfulness and sincerity (in my mind, at least :)).

Now, in bringing your conscious thoughts in line with what you feel deep inside, you dissolve a blockage, of types.

Again, if you think about it, there is a very basic feeling better when you get those little “lies” or untruths out of your body. I mean, you’re “fine” with ‘em inside, but, man, is it a relief to be honest with yourself. It’s almost as if you function better, more optimally or something, when you get your conscious, day-to-day thoughts and mind in line with what you feel and believe deep, deep inside.

The fact that this is a healthier way to live needs no further argument – It’s obvious.

Chinese medicine simply codifies all this into specific terms and concepts to help us when things get so complicated we can’t figure ‘em out so simply on our own and we need the help of a professional.

Chinese medicine also follows the evolving line of poor health from the mental state of hiding our feelings from ourselves to the poor physical well-being, impeded physiological functioning, that inevitably arises when cognitive-emotional obstructions persist over time.

As always with Chinese wisdom, all the above is so simple and obvious, yet simultaneously challenging and elusive to practice in the “real” world.

Good luck and enjoy the ride! ;)

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Let Distraction Be Your Guide

In Mind & Meditation on April 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm

By now, everyone’s heard of meditation. A lot of people have even tried it.

In my discussions with patients, one of the biggest challenges to meditation seems to be distraction. “I’m always getting distracted!”, they say.

In my view, distractions are great opportunities to increase the power and effect of meditation, and here’s why. Meditation is often used as a tool to calm the mind. In order to do so, we must come to know the mind – You can not control, much less conquer, that which you do not understand.

Where we sit cross-legged, try to empty our mind, then, inevitably, enter battle with the random mutterings and musings of intellect and imagination, we engage in a futile battle. After all, those thoughts and feelings are parts of you - Where you enter combat against yourself, you can’t win.

Instead, when a thought arises, realize it is from a source within you (most likely, an unknown source). As such, it is an emissary of the the very entity you wish to get to know better. Treat it as such!

When a “random” thought arises, sit back and watch it; allow it to tell its story. Don’t engage it, necessarily, but allow it to express itself – let it be heard. Within the message it shares, you will find guidance to a part of yourself, in fact, calling out for attention.

Every distraction is a voice, your voice. Listen, and, if upon receiving attention, it has nothing important to share, it will dissolve away.

But if it has a message, if it keeps popping up because, deep down, some part of you needs it to keep popping up, then, by giving it your undivided attention, you will learn something new of your own depths.

And once you get what you need, there will be no reason for you to find distraction in battle with yourself. You may, then, sit calmly in peaceful meditation.

:)

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Ancient Chinese Saying: Jus’ Keep It Real, Yo’!

In Mind & Meditation on February 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

A NY Times article, brought to my attention by Tamara Hutchins, discusses some research done about the effect of either repressing negative emotions or forcing positive ones (1).

As you could probably guess by title of this post, fakin’ it, it turns out, just doesn’t work. And, I’d bet, most everyone already knows this.

I mean, we don’t really enjoy forcing a happy mood when we’re bummed, and, if we take a close look, a really close, introspective look, we actually kind of want to be in a bad mood, when we’re in a bad mood. Not that we enjoy it, but it just feels… more appropriate? It’s hard to put words to it, but it simply feels better to experience whatever mood you happen to be experiencing.

This, of course, is right in line with classical Chinese medical thinking. I like to think of the basic moods as like other, basic, bodily functions. We don’t like to hold it in, when we have to use the bathroom, and if forced, say for a doctor’s appointment, it’s quite difficult and uncomfortable.

Emotions are similar. In Chinese medicine, where mind and body are on equal ground, both understood as merely different avenues for expression of the underlying person, specific emotions are seen as reactions to stimuli, just as goose bumps are to a chilly gust of wind.

Negative emotions may be negative, but they’re not bad. They’re basic responses, fundamental ways of experiencing and expressing events in life.

Now, obviously, there are exceptions. Just as with any physical symptom, if a bad mood begins to dominate one’s life, take control and start altering behavior, then it needs serious attention, but, even then, it needs attention, not suppression.

And, level II Chinese medicine, if you sit and give attention to bad moods, instead of ignoring, repressing, or replacing them, they can be a boon of insight into life.

This is most easily seen with frustration and anger. Those are primal responses to overcome something that’s wrong in life. They are the righteous assertion of your deepest self where it’s being inhibited or blocked. We need that type of energy to overcome obstacles. It has an important place in healthy living.

When emotions are repressed, as was pointed out in the article, they just get worse. You can think of them as being like a warning light in your car; ignore it at your own risk.

In Chinese medicine, the experience of a wide range of emotions is a sign of healthy functioning of the being. It’s only when that free expression is prohibited that the emotion, truly, turns ugly and becomes actually destructive in life. (In a way, they’re just doing their job, fulfilling their role in your life and health – If you ignore a warning, that warning really should get louder and bigger.)

I love it when this wisdom makes it to the popular press! :)

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1. O’Connor, A. The Claim: A Fake Smile Can be Bad for Your Health. NY Times, Feb. 22, 2011. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/health/22really.html.

The Energetics of Ethics, Part II

In Mind & Meditation, Yoga on February 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

In the first part, we talked about how there is a basic, instinctive, negative reaction to violence and lying. I suggested that, maybe, the near-universal list of moral conduct, such as don’t lie, cheat, steal, etc., is actually based on fundamental human nature. That is, by instinct, by basic, innate nature, most would avoid doing those things.

I also linked the “violation” of this innate code with internal energetic blockages. When we break one of the rules, we feel it; we just feel bad, different and separate from rationally judging ourselves for having gone against some objective “right” action.

This bad feeling is a response to injury, just as cringing when we stub a toe. The injury caused by some immoral act is an internal obstruction of energy. I, personally, describe the feeling as a “kink”, or a wrinkle, one that I know, if I want to get rid of the feeling, I will have to iron out at some point (and, thus, I hate causing wrinkles).

In traditional yoga – a complete, fully comprehensive system of health and healing – the moral code is contained within the yamas and niyamas (technically, “abstentions” and “observances”). I believe they are part of a system of health and self-realization because of the importance of adherence to basic nature.

Health is a reflection of the body and being acting as they are designed to. Physiologically, health is the free flow of prana (something like energy, qi, in Chinese medicine). Where that flow is diminished or obstructed, disease ensues. As immoral acts obstruct that flow, they are unhealthy.

Hence, yoga incorporates the yamas and niyamas in the same way and for the same reason it includes postures and breathing practices. And classical yoga actually defines the “Eight Limbs” of yoga, which includes those practices, as well as the higher practices of meditation.

There’s an interesting twist we can put on things, here. As the yamas are the first of the eight limbs, and ahimsa, non-violence, is the first yama, it is suggested that that is the most important yogic practice (according to “Classical” yoga, as laid down by the sage Patanjali, in the highest written authority on yoga, the the Yoga Sutras.)

In following, practicing non-violence sets the foundation for the higher practices of postures and the highest of meditation. That is, the spiritual aspirant would avoid harming others (and self) just as they would practice the physical postures. It’s all considered yoga.

The twist, when understanding morals as basic to good health, is that any movement towards better health will result in more moral conduct. You can actually gauge progress, or state, based on the spontaneous actions of an individual. The person that just, naturally, is more kind and honest is, most likely, in better health.

This may seem a bit odd, but, again, when we realize that such conduct is a natural expression of the human being acting freely, according to their inner nature, i.e., when they are healthy, it becomes quite obvious.

Try another mental exercise. Imagine someone who lies a lot, maybe someone you’ve met, or maybe you have to visualize them. Think about watching them, or, if you can, walk in their shoes for a bit… How does it feel?

Pretty icky, if you ask me. They simple aren’t happy. The lies and deceit are a direct reflection of their unhappiness in life. There may be some very superficial and very temporary moments of feeling okay, tied to the the avoidance of pain implicit in deceit, but they are deeply unhappy people.

Now think of people that tend towards violence. Again, these people aren’t at peace. There’s fear, chronic anxiety or worry. The immoral conduct is an expression of their internal “off-ness”.

Now, think of the genuinely kind people. They just seem… healthier! There’s more flow, more glow. It’s, clearly, a better place.

And when you are forced to lie about something, you most likely feel bad about it. It may actually make you sick to your stomach, at least until you can apologize and “make it right”.

There is so clearly a connection between health and righteous actions. Yoga just made a point of putting it all together.

To take this one step further, and perhaps a bit more controversial… Think about the effects of past “bad” things you’ve done. Again, not things that you (or another) has judged as wrong, but the actually bad things you’ve done.

Are they still there? Are those things still with you? Do you still feel bad?… and the rough question – Have you actually buried some of those thoughts and feelings because they were so gross feeling and so persistent, you had to cover them up, forget them, or “move on”?

The therapeutic action of yoga, as well as acupuncture, is the opening up of obstructions. That is how they achieve their affect. Internal organ function is regulated by adjusting the flow of qi or prana through the system.

Where lies and theft block energy, they block that activity and cause harm; the system is derailed from proper functioning. It is very much like a wrinkle that needs to be addressed to be removed or, as is stated in the Chinese medical classics, like a stain that needs scrubbing or a knot that needs untying. That work is exactly what yoga and acupuncture are doing.

This simple unveiling of mind-body interconnectedness also reveals how psychotherapy can be so powerful. Speaking out loud about, opening up those repressed guilty feelings is – literally - opening up the flow of healthy energy through the body. You can feel it!

In more pure “religion”, versus philosophy, spirituality, or healing systems (a difficult differentiation to make, some times), there is the idea of “confessing” “sins” and the relief, release, and forgiveness that follows. At its core, is this any different than what we’re talking about in yoga, acupuncture, or psychotherapy?

It’s an interesting line of thought. There truly seems to be a fundamental, forgive the term, truth underlying all these various approaches.

In my studies of Taoism, specifically Complete Reality Taoism, it is said that the single most important concept or practice, above all exercises, meditative techniques, herbs, chants, etc. is sincerity. Simple sincerity. In all your thoughts and actions be sincere… so simple, but so, so powerful… Honesty, forthrightness, first with yourself, and with others.

Being true to yourself, to your inner nature, is the clearest path to health, happiness, and, apparently, enlightenment! What a fun journey! :)

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