Wholehearted Enthusiastic Summer Solstice 2020 Greetings!
Greetings of the Summer Solstice to you all. As I write this to you today, I invite you to dive deep with me into to the depth and meaning of “Wholehearted” and “Enthusiastic!” This is an invitation to the amazing deep dance of our times and to awaken your own deep enthusiasm for all of life.
Summer Solstice 2020. a year, and a season of great change! In this moment we are in the middle of three eclipses in a row, with the central solar eclipse coinciding with Summer Solstice. With the solar eclipse the image suggests that the shift and change of our times is midway in the making. It’s a powerful time of awakening. It includes some shouting, and some deep listening. Many voices are calling loudly, on the streets, and in our hearts.
Join with me now as I explore the nature, promise and possibility this time of change holds for humanity. First I need to frame this with some prophetic words from “Black Elk Speaks” the Legendary “Book of Visions” of an American Indian.
For many years, I believe it is safe to say we have been living in the time of what Black Elk’s vision called the “Third Ascent:” In this ascent, “All the animals and fowl that were the people ran here and there, for each seemed to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules: and all over the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting.”
And even though we may be still living through this wild time of madness and confusion, with people fighting and running every which way following their own visions like angry beasts, there is yet the promise of the fourth ascent ahead of us! In this ascent, “’All over the universe they have finished a day of great happiness.’ And looking down I saw that the whole wide circle of the day was beautiful and green with all fruits growing and all things kind and happy.”
Being an eternal optimist, I believe this day of “all things kind and happy” is possible, in our hearts, and in our nations. On this day of Summer Solstice greetings in the midst of this season of eclipses, I call out with wholehearted enthusiasm for the dawn of a new day!
Let’s break that greeting down!
- “Wholehearted” is a vast and inclusive energetic awakening. For those not familiar with the term I recommend the book “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. There you will find a solid and workable ten-step path to awakening within you your wholehearted feeling for life.
- “Enthusiasm” is also a vast and important feeling within the wholeness of the heart. You know it when you feel it. It is a deep, “connected to source” kind of feeling. When enthusiastic you have the feeling of being “all in!” Aligned with your truth, connected to your vision, and willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work on that which makes your heart sing!
To identify, acquire and develop your natural “enthusiasm” for life, let’s explore some helpful Chinese Medicine ideas! Enthusiasm need not be just a fleeting feeling. It can be an actual sustained experience mindfully generated, when you are in possession of the awareness and skills necessary to its generation. This awareness and skill is developed through the lens of what I share below.
In Chinese Medicine, we speak of Five Fundamental Substances; the Jing, Blood, Moisture, Qi and Shen. Of the Five Substances three of them exist on the “material plane.” They are called “Yin.” They are tangible. You can hold them in your hands, take samples, look at them under a microscope. Determine their constituent parts. These are Blood and Moisture and Jing.
Blood and Moisture are the most readily graspable through our awareness of bodily functions. The activity of blood is something we measure all the time. Blood pressure, pulsation, circulatory system functions and nutrient distribution throughout the body. Moisture too is something we are acutely aware of at almost every turn. Hydration, sweat, saliva, mucus, sexual fluids, etc…
Jing, a “foreign term” may, as a concept, seem the least palpable of the three yin substances. Yet, it is simply the very foundation tissue that makes up of our entire body. Jing is our genetic material. It unfolds into the face we recognize in the mirror, and to which we imbue so much value. Jing is that which holds and directs all of the ancestral traits; gender, ethnicity, eye color, hair color, size and structure; handed down to us to construct the persona we come to know. We often either curse, or bless these traits, but ultimately we must come to terms with them. We often hold a sense that these ancestral traits are accountable for our very place and position in the social order into which we are born.
Now Qi and the Shen occupy a less “tangible” space among the fundamental substances. They are described as “yang,” ephemeral, ether, of the sky. You cannot “hold” these qualities in your hand, cannot place them under a microscope for examination. And yet we know them in our feelings, our consciousness, our attitudes, beliefs, values, our very awareness of life expression itself.
Qi is the animating force of mind, the awake consciousness that observes, notices and imbues all things with life. Without human living Qi, human tissue is lifeless, blood does not flow. We note this in the cessation of life in the body when we die. The heartbeat stops, Blood no longer flows. “Time of death” is declared. Moisture yet has an active part to play as bodily decomposition ensues, but the Qi of life has left. So, when we are alive we are imbued with living human Qi!
What of Shen? Shen in a word is “spirit.” It is the very breath of life itself. We might call it the “super-conscious” in the West. It is this stuff of religion. Religious zeal is indeed one place where we might readily see Shen’s expression. We also see it at political rallies, athletic and artistic performances, music, dance. It is evident in painting, sculpture, color and light. When our Shen is high, our eyes are bright and sparkly. When it is low we are depressed and the “light has gone out” of our eyes.
You see, Shen and its quality as it expresses itself through the Jing of our lives, is the actual root ingredient of all enthusiasm. Without Shen in Jing there is no enthusiasm. Without Shen in Jing you do not throw yourself into a cause or project. Without Shen in Jing NO LIVES MATTER, no political position carries any interest, no art is performed, no muse appears to inspire you to expression. Without Shen in Jing, sports contests would not take place, battles over ideologies would not be fought. Blood would not flow. Existence itself is no more.
And here’s where it gets exquisite. The interplay of Yin (Jing) and Yang (Shen) is the dance of life itself. Shen and Jing exist together to co-create enthusiasm! When there is a split between our Jing and our Shen, we are in something akin to post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Anxiety reigns, our sleep is disturbed, we may be in hyper-vigilience or on hyper-alert. This may seem quite animated for a time, yet it cannot be sustained. It is ultimately debilitating and draining.
When Jing and Shen are in harmony, we are in something akin to post-traumatic-triumph!
And to do this, there are three basic steps.
- Connect to your breath, emotions and body
- Express what is latent within you in a safe and generative space
- Share your expression with the world in a powerful way
When we are at peace with anything and everything that has transpired in our lives, and have converted that experience through our breath, emotions and body into creative expression, then we are stronger and better for all of it. We tap into our enthusiasm for life and share that with a world waiting for our deep true expression!
In the words of Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
So when I send you a “Wholehearted Enthusiastic Summer Solstice Greeting!” it means all this!
May your Jing and Shen ever be in harmony, your life imbued with the infusion of spirit through and through the very tissues of your being! May your expressive passion, creative intensity of feeling and high awareness of the interconnectedness of all things be strong and flowing.
If we are to realize the beauty of the fourth ascent, when “all over the universe we have finished a day of great happiness,” and WE can see that “the whole wide circle of the day was beautiful and green with all fruits growing and all things kind and happy.” then the wholehearted enthusiasm that is the birthright of each and everyone is going to be required!
If you are intrigued by what I share here, and would like to learn my signature system for uniting Jing and Shen and generating wholehearted enthusiasm in your life, I invite you to book a free “Enthusiasm Call” today!
Wishing you a blessed summer season in this time of great global awakening.
Book your time to learn more about my signature system for uniting Jing and Shen and generating wholehearted enthusiasm in your life! Book a free “Enthusiasm Call” today! https://HeartMindSessionScheduling.as.me/enthusiasm
Anger and Sadness, Emotion Resolving Into Virtue
In our current saddened state, violence has erupted again. (Did it ever stop?) The fatal misuse of force by a white police officer toward a black man, has enflamed the country. All in the midst of the pandemic that has people scrambling in fear, stir-crazy with home confinement, job loss, social distancing, the closing of schools, churches, restaurants, sports and entertainment and the shutting down of gatherings of all kinds. Is it any wonder that society has reached a boiling point?
Anger and Sadness have long been recognized in Chinese medicine as the emotional expression of the Wood and Metal elements. Students of the Five Elements will be quite familiar with these. As these emotions appear in our lives, we recognize them as clues to unlocking the pattern of dis-ease we are experiencing.
Wood governs Liver. Metal governs Lungs. Western medicine is beginning to recognize that anger damages the liver, and sadness damages the lungs. The deep correlation between emotions and organ functions is irrefutable.
The body/mind connection is more and more recognized in the practice of true medicine. The strictly mechanical model that separates the physical from the emotional and spiritual may be expedient and stoic, but sadly it misses the majority of signs and symptoms, and ultimately the path to the remedy for the troubles that beset us.
Fear enters our story regularly, the emotion associated with Kidneys, the Water Element. This connects us to our very deepest feelings about life and death, the vital essence of life itself. We all face these basic issues of access to resource, and the management of that resource for the good of all.
This is not superficial bullshit going on. This cuts right to the core of humanity and the crux in which we find ourselves.
Wood, Metal and Water are three of the Five Elements represented in our story so far. Their examples provide a touch stone for launching off into the discovery of what is going on here. Yet our personal, social, and ultimately our cultural response to the fiery moment in which our civilization finds itself calls upon us to access and express all the elemental qualities.
Fire Element joins the discourse, the element of the Heart, the very core of our sovereign nature, the seat of compassionate insight, the spark of awareness in each and every heart. When adulated, the Heart suffers anxiety that can further fuel the flames.
In my last article I wrote about tears. I spoke of the key part they have to play in making our way through this difficult passage. I bemoaned the stoic culture that eschews tears. The instructions and conditioning to which we have all been subject at one point or another, to “suck it up.” Truth be told, sorrow is messy. Tears are messy. Anger is messy. Grief is messy. Anxiety is messy.
Tears have many faces, one of which is angry rising up to attempt to correct the injustice of untimely loss.
These are not light subjects my friends. The deep medicine of emotions and virtues does not shy away from any of it.
The question is whether our culture is mature enough, strong enough, wise enough to create a container that is strong enough to hold all of it? To welcome all of the honest emotional expression of the people. That is the truly courageous act called for in these times.
To allow emotions to be expressed, so that they develop into sweet virtues, that is the promise of a full expression. It represents a mature response, a powerful invitation to growth, beauty and love.
When we freeze our grief, freeze our tears, we limit the expression of that which needs must be expressed. When we restrain our voices, when we hold back our anger, we test the bottle in which we are trying to contain it. When we ultimately create containers in which we can allow for the true expression of all of our honest emotions, without explosive destruction and into beauty and love, we will be able to transcend this bottling up, and ultimately save humanity’s place on this precious Earth.
The Earth Element, the last of the Five to be mentioned here, is the ground upon which we all stand, the very atmosphere in which we all live and breathe. The fertile ground of all life. With meat shortages threatened, supply chains shut down, farm workers sickening, we worry. We worry about where our next meal may be coming from. We grocery shop wearing masks, the store shelves still being stocked by “essential” workers.
It’s quite a chapter in the long story of human life being written this day. How will our culture creatively move through this time into a resolution of all the terrors and challenges that face us? It’s an initiatory time. ALL of humanity, is going through an intense rite of passage. As with all rites of passage what is old is being burned away, a new beginning emerging.
What will that new beginning hold? Will we be more mature? Will the passage lead us to a brighter day? That remains to be seen on many, many levels. Each of us in our individual situations will experience a variety of outcomes as each of us evolves through these times.
Yet there is hope in the emergence of virtue. Let’s return to the emotions that are heralds of the pattern, and take a look at the energy of promise contained within each one. In Five Element study we learn the correspondences and correlations of the functions of body, mind and spirit. Indeed, we learn that the emotions do not exist in a vacuum, but actually are a part of a continuum, and an intricate interrelation with all of the other emotions.
Take Anger and the Liver for instance. There are many levels of the expression of anger. From frustration, to indignation, to anger, to rage. These are all expressions that take place when boundaries (Metal) are violated, and needs (Earth) not met. Anger is a righteous response to unacceptable conditions. Indeed, it is reasonable and right to expect that when boundaries are violated, honest anger is sure to follow.
The question is whether the expression of that anger is allowed for and contained so that it doesn’t boil over into violence. Sadly, it seems in many instances that only violence speaks loudly enough for this important emotion to be acknowledged and responded to.
Yet, I beg to suggest that there is another way. Those who have been initiated through to that other way have the responsibility to shepherd in the possibility. You see, the virtue associated with the wood element is Benevolence, or Kindness. Rather than malevolence, malice and violent rage, we have the chance to evolve into Kindness. Let me give a mild example.
Once in my mid-life I happened to be invited to attend Zazen meditation services at a Zen monastery deep in the forest of California. I was a teacher at a “nearby” healing arts institution, about a 45-minute drive from the little monastic enclave. I thought it would be instructive and exciting for my healing arts students to enjoy a taste of Zazen practice in this very beautiful and real setting. So, I organized a field trip! Seven or eight of my students piled into two cars to make the trip to the monastery. The service began at 9am. We got into our cars by about 8:10.
We arrived at the monastery about 9am on the dot. We quickly got out of the cars and made our way to the Zazen hall for services. The monks and others had already entered the hall. The Roshi, greeted us (silently, for this was a Zen meditation hall). He busily organized us all without words and got us all into the meditation hall and on our cushions in efficient fashion. We enjoyed a fine service and deep meditation. I must say that I was quite pleased that I could bring my students to this profound experience.
After the meditation service, we retired to the tea room to share a hot green tea and receive teachings. After all were settled into place the Roshi called out my name.
“Matthew,” he said. “It would be unkind of me not to admonish you! You arrived late for service, with 8 new people unaware of the ways of our service. This caused great disruption at the last minute!”
I blinked, calmly took a sip of hot tea, swallowed, and acknowledged my transgression. I was indeed at fault. Had he not admonished me, I would not have been aware of this. Without that awareness, I would never have the chance to correct it. Indeed, the Roshi’s admonishment was a kindness to me. He also acknowledged that I “handled the admonishment well.” Which helped me to understand the “right and elegant use” of anger in this case. I bowed in silent gratitude. I was never late for a service ever again!
You see from this rather “mild” story of what can be considered a “minor” transgression, that the expression anger is indeed a kindness. Indeed, when we are not made aware of our transgressions, we go blindly forward, trippingly oblivious to that fact that we have stepped out of line.
To this I suggest that here is the root and hopefully the promise of the fiery demonstrations taking place all over the country in reaction to the use of fatal force by police officers. The killing of innocent men is indeed a transgression that must be brought to light. Will the admonishments given by the crowd be heard by those who are guilty of these transgressions? That remains to be seen. So far, this cycle of violence has not yet restored a lasting peace.
Yet, if we can as a culture, creatively allow for this natural expression of rage, then perhaps we will begin to wake up to the necessity for change, and a more elegant and effective, culture-wide creative response.
Revenge and violence expressed in demonstrations across the country is simple, not at all elegant. It’s easy to access the energy of anger and revenge. The harder part is doing the work to reform the culture and convert our collective pain into lasting positive benefit. It is doubtful that these demonstrations will be seen as a kindness. It is more likely that they will be seen as “senseless” and be met with even greater tightening of response, and a continuation of the violent cycles that are all too familiar in human history.
For “Wood Element” alone cannot solve these intense “Wood Element” conditions. Other energies must be brought to bear. The root of the matter must be plumbed.
It is not within the scope of this article to explore and exhaust all options. Indeed, Water could be used to douse the flames that have risen from the addition of Fuel to the Fire. The Ashes of destruction left in the wake of the unrest may be built into Monuments, a solemn reminder of the monumental struggle undertaken here. Ultimately, Ashes can be scattered in loving, honorable mourning for the loss of life, limb and sanity.
Sadness lies at the root of this whole sorry affair. Losses long felt and left too often unacknowledged and expressed in isolation. Tears choked back. Grief frozen into monolithic towers within bodies, minds and hearts of the people. Frozen grief, long unexpressed, foments into violent retaliations. Unless containers can be built for the honest full expression of our pain, without fear of being carted away to the asylum or incarceration, I’m afraid the cycles of violence will only continue.
The great ocean, great salty body of tears laps upon all of our shores. It refuses no rivers. The wetlands and the estuaries are teaming with life. The mountains covered with snow spawn rivers all over the planet, and deep underground rivers continue to flow. Our tears too must be allowed to flow, our righteous anger to find expression, our world be awakened to kindness and compassion.
I offer the following verse. I beg you read it slowly and take it in.
Allow your Anger to resolve to Kindness,
so that you will not be overwhelmed by Sorrow.
Allow your Sorrow to resolve to Acceptance,
so that you will not be overwhelmed by Anxiety.
Allow your Anxiety to resolve to Love,
so that you will not be overwhelmed by Fear.
Allow your Fear to resolve to Wisdom,
so that you will not be overwhelmed by Worry.
Allow your Worry to resolve to Faith,
so that you will not be overwhelmed by Anger.
This is the fullest expression of true medicine to heal the wounds and woes of this world. Emotions, honored as signs, can be taken for what they are, the impulse for creative expression and transformation. This can ultimately transform ashes into virtues. Virtues arising in cleansing tears. Kindness, acceptance, love, wisdom, and faith all the virtuous expressions of power and beauty for a weary world.
It’s not the first time humans have faced a viral pandemic. And it probably won’t be the last, at least I don’t think so. For those who survive this time, there will be an attempt to learn from the experience. What worked, what didn’t? What helped, and what made it worse?
Many episodes through history have taught us things about how viral pandemics work. We see how they spread, how contagion and transmission happen, and what ultimately mitigates and arrests them. Each pandemic is different and each time there is a learning curve to find the best path forward.
The spread of Small Pox among Native Americans is a particularly rich example from history. From it, we can learn many profound lessons of what it means and how best to deal with a pandemic. If you have an interest, I highly recommend you check out this informative article:
Of course, we have yet to see all that the COVID-19 virus will teach us. The full story has not yet been written. In the meantime, we put into place the best practices we know. Mitigation techniques are implemented: quarantine, hygiene, social distancing to create minimal or reduced exposure to limit the transmission, and ultimately stop the spread. That’s worked before. Short of a “cure” it’s the best tool we’ve got so far.
So, here we are in quarantine. We’re looking ourselves in the mirror and asking what can I do? How can I help? Besides just staying cooped up and avoiding contact with other people, commerce and the world around me. That’s a big question.
This challenge asks us to dig deep and really evaluate our life choices. For each of us, it is shows a different face. For parents, you’re now learning to homeschool your kids. For working folks in “non-essential services” you’re having to learn to work from home. For folks like myself, a self-employed bodywork therapist, it means taking on a whole new approach to providing healing arts services.
Essential sector folks still go to work. Only now they risk exposure and are clamoring for protective gear and protective measures, and ways to take care of themselves during this time. Not everyone can be a Father Damien ( https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Father_Damien ). We’re all working to apply, as fast as we can, “best practices” for containing and not facilitating the further spread of the contagion.
The face of this pandemic is new. COVID-19 knows no race, nationality, country or group of people that are particularly vulnerable. It is effecting everyone. It’s truly “color blind.” And here we are, the entire human family facing a contagion that is stealthy, wily, everywhere and deadly for many!
The much coveted YouTube status of “going viral” takes on a whole new meaning. Indeed, going viral in our deeply interconnected world, in multiple languages, is now possible! This is true for both the dark and the light! An inspiring music video or global meditation can wrap around the world. So can a life threatening contagion.
So, here we are under quarantine. An antiquated but time-tested reaction to contagion. Quarantine, from the Italian, Quaranta, referring to the 40 days of isolation practiced as a mitigation measure during the bubonic plague! Only now, in epic proportions. Not just one ship in the harbor, but almost all of human commerce nearly ground to a halt. Almost the entire world under “stay-at-home orders,” as we hope to halt the spread of the virus.
So, I return to the central question, what can we do? How can we be more a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem?
Years ago in ceremony an elder teacher gave teachings about the coming Earth Change Prophecies: “One region will be too hot, one will be too cold. One too wet, and one too dry. Contagion will sweep the earth, species will die out, and mother earth will begin to withhold her increase.” ( https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Black-Dawn-Bright-Day/Sun-Bear/9780671759001 ) The teacher spoke of the Earth as a living being, and compared humans to the fleas on a dog’s back. During the time when the fleas get too populace the dog scratches and scratches and shakes and shakes, and then some medicine comes along to eradicate the fleas!
Without dropping fully down into a pit of despair, the truth is that many will rise with “medicine” to face these challenging times. We will do our best to mitigate this impending viral spread. If past experiences are any guide, there will be a triumph over this adversity in the end. In this epic “battle with ominous forces of change,” the elder went on to say that “some will do great and grandiose things, but most of us will just do the little things, and help each other out, day-by-day.”
When I heard that, the words “just do shiatsu!” rang out loud and clear in my head. I found my path forward as a healing artist using skilled human touch. I’m grateful to say that I have been helping people out, day-by-day, ever since. Though shiatsu is not a cure all, and has not been the remedy for everyone for everything, many have found it to provide profound benefit.
Yet, sadly for this modern Western world, Shiatsu does not rise to the level of “essential work.” Indeed, human touch itself is being vilified as a facilitator for the spread of the contagion. So, in my world, I am put on notice to discover and develop new ways to deliver inspiring, day-by-day support services. I am deeply grateful for the pathways that have been given to me. I look to the wisdom traditions that have been central to my life path for decades.
These profound traditions have taught me much, and endowed me with a set of unique skills and insights. As a bodywork therapist I have been blessed to be a grief consoler, pain reliever, introspective-internal researcher, shame and addiction counselor, mind, body, spirit teacher, singer, coach, guide, foodie nutritionist, student of philosophy, meditator, and Qigong movement meditation guide. I am deeply grateful to have so many tools in my tool kit for facing the unknown, and staying healthy in a natural and holistic way, in the face of whatever challenges life throws at us.
Now the COVID-19 challenge together with strict quarantine measures, faces us all. As we live through this time of quarantine, I’m here to serve with stay-at-home practices drawn from the rich traditions of indigenous wisdom. I am developing learning programs to bring to you and ask you to stay tuned as I bring these into production. Many insights and time honored practices can be transmitted through the internet for you to learn, follow and benefit.
These deep wisdom ways have been my life work and I’m excited to bring them to you through the power of technology. I encourage you to soak up as much as you can. I’m now offering Meridian Gesture Qigong practice online, three times a week. In these classes I bring this rich wisdom of the meridian channels of life energy directly to you. Please join me!
Because, besides avoiding contact, we must build our immune system to be strong in the face of the winds that blow ever more strongly around us each day. Meridian Gesture Qigong provides us with a natural, powerful, self-nurturing practice to do just that!
Indeed during these changing times, there will likely be a pharmaceutical researcher who develops the coveted COVID-19 vaccine. I also just saw in the news that the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner corporation invented a new medical ventilator that can be mass produced in record time and will save lives! Yes, indeed there will be those who do “BIG” things during this time!
For most of us though, we will simply find a way to get by, day-by-day under challenging, changing conditions. I’m grateful to be a part of the solution from my home hide away! I look forward to the day when we all come out to gather together once more in joyous celebration.
Why Toilet Paper?
The reason why people are hoarding toilet paper during this pandemic is actually pretty clear. Though it does involve a certain “leap” in understanding.
You see the, COVID-19, novel coronavirus of 2019, SARS-2 is a Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome. When you understand the link between the lungs and the colon, you will understand the rush for toilet paper.
Listen, the lungs and the colon are two sides of one functional coin. In a phrase: Intake and Elimination. They are both on the “front lines” in our interaction with the world around us. Actually one at the “front end,” and the other at the “back.”
When you are newborn your first breath establishes you as an independent being. They slap you on the butt (figure that!), and then you cry! The cry isn’t necessary actually, it just confirms that you are breathing on your own! That is all.
It’s actually quite possible to start life without a slap on the butt and a howl! It just happens to be convention. It’s easy for the otherwise busy physician, who might not have time to await the baby’s natural impulse to breathe! So, however it happens, the first breath establishes the first stage of independence from mother.
Yet, at least two other major concerns still keep us dependent. To eat and to clean up our own poop! As infants, we cannot yet feed ourselves. We depend on mother for that. And of course, though we poop on our own, we don’t yet have the ability to clean up after ourselves. We depend on mother, and often father, for that too.
Indeed, this cleaning up of poop is often the only role that father has in the early parenting phase. Dad doesn’t have working mammillary glands, so instead of having a job at the front end, he has the job at the back end. (Many a night time diaper change by this veteran father will attest to that!)
Indeed, diapering and then a couple years down the line potty training, make up a large part of our early childhood experience. To become truly independent human beings, in addition to breathing on our own we must learn to feed ourselves and eventually, to clean up after ourselves!
So, here we are, Covid-19, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome – 2. By threatening our breath, it threatens our independence! Frightening in its life threatening dimensions, it also means that in that sickened state, we will drop back into dependency. We will become dependent on people, medicine, machines to keep us alive. And we won’t be able to wipe our own butts!
Is it any wonder that we would rush for toilet paper? Besides being a very convenient method for cleaning up after ourselves, it is also a symbol of our independence. I breathe on my own. I feed myself. I wipe my own butt.
My lungs and my colon, my own intake and elimination. My own independent “front and back line” with the world around me. Pretty basic. It’s personal empowerment at its most basic level.
That’s why people are rushing to hoard toilet paper in the face of this pandemic.
In the somatic therapies professions there is a powerful set of teachings, which I have come to call the Circle of Satisfaction. In challenging, changing times, when fear and uncertainty are the order of the day, it is worth reflecting upon.
This particular circle teaching came to me through various teachers in the Hakomi Integrative Somatics discipline. I thank them for this shared insight. I hope you may find it helpful to shed some light on your personal walk at this time.
It is a circle, so it’s hard to say where it begins. For the sake of getting started though, let’s jump in with the step called Effective Action. Not a bad place to start, as it is often foremost in people’s minds. Especially at this time of the pandemic. There is currently a deep question about just what actions (or non-actions) we must take, and how effective they will ultimately be.
Of course, it doesn’t apply only to our choices to protect ourselves and our world from the spread of this virus. Effective Action covers so many areas of life and choice in each and every moment. From personal hygiene to human interaction, we all strive to take and enjoy effective action that yields the results we seek.
So, let’s say we take effective action… what follows? Satisfaction! This makes sense. If I am successful at taking effective action, this will lead to a sense of satisfaction!
Then? I can Relax! Ah, wouldn’t that be nice? To relax, let go, be complete, be able to rest from action and simply be rather than do. We are human beings after all, not human doings!
In the middle of our relaxation, we have time to reflect. This work happens on our lonely porch. In your own private room in your heart, you slow down enough to listen to the voice of your spirit within. From this rumination place much powerful insight has been delivered to humanity. Visions, theories, discoveries of awareness all arising from this inner state of being.
This place is the “final” stage of the circle of satisfaction, the place of Clarity. And from clarity, effective action arises once more. And around the circle we go again.
Effective Action leads to Satisfaction, that leads to Relaxation. And in our Relaxation, Clarity arises, and that leads us to more Effective Action!
Nice! Right? If only it could be this way. If only life could always run this smoothly.
We would protect ourselves from this virus through effective actions, that leave us satisfied, and help us discover that place of deep relaxation. Then clarity arises, about the whole experience.
Yet, it doesn’t always seem to flow so smoothly. There are blocks and danger zones along the way. In the somatic therapy world these have been termed Barriers.
Before we can take Effective Action for instance, we may meet a Response Barrier. We simply don’t know how to respond effectively, and so we may freeze and not respond at all. This can of course be a wise moment to pause and back up and look for a little more clarity before plunging ahead and making things worse!
Sadly, before we get to satisfaction, we may encounter a Nourishment Barrier. This is a formidable barrier. Myriad examples can be explored that keep us from being satisfied, keep us from being nourished. One common one is that everything we consume comes with some level of toxicity. And in order to protect ourselves from exposure to toxicity we quarantine ourselves off from all contact.
I could go on and on and on about this wicked nourishment barrier, and sadly I have seen its effects on hundreds of clients over my three decades of therapeutic practice. It’s a tricky one indeed.
In this current situation of the Covid-19 epidemic, I had a powerful reflection. Back in the 90’s, the HIV virus was making it’s way around the world. It was very frightening to many people, until finally it was understood that the virus was only transmitted through sexual contact. The remedy then was simple, though not easy for everyone. Either abstain from sex, or use protective measures to halt the spread of the virus. it worked!
Effective Action grew out of Clarity, leading to Satisfaction and ultimately Relaxation.
With Covid-19 of course, there is still little clarity. With time and experience some clarity will likely arise. Yet truly effective action that is wide spread and known is still not the current reality. Satisfaction is but a dream, and relaxation far off over a distant horizon.
So the nourishment barriers go up! Ostensibly to protect us from the ravages of toxic consumption. Which of course ultimately also deny us any chance to attain satisfaction.
But let’s just say we do attain satisfaction, somehow, someway. We find ourselves satisfied that we’ve done all that we can, and it has yielded satisfactory results. What if even then we still do not allow ourselves to relax?
Ah, there’s the rub. No rest for the weary. Soldier on my friends. Proverbs like: “A man’s work may come and go, but a woman’s work is never done!” ring in our ears. Ever and always, another dirty dish to wash. Indeed the work goes ever on and on.
A British business theorist once coined the term ingellitance. (a clever play on the word intelligence, don’t you think?) Perhaps some of you may recall this reference. Sadly, I can’t remember his name at this time, and google searches yield nothing on this profound theorist. At any rate, one of the tenants of ingellitance is the idea that “work expands to fill the time allotted.” Indeed, this is a brilliant description of the barrier that keeps us from our relaxation!
In the circle of satisfaction, this is called the Completion Barrier. It’s that wall that is often so hard to pass through. It blocks you from ever getting to that moment when you say, “my work is complete.”
Every artist who has ever painted a painting knows this well. There’s always one more brush stroke, one more use of color, one more way of bending light to bring out just the right nuance. Until finally you say, “Enough! It’s done! I can co no more.” Truly, this is a big moment. When you finally set down your brush and walk away from the canvas.
The same holds true for activists of all stripes. Is the work ever done? Can you allow yourself to be complete just as you are, and where you are? This is getting past the completion barrier. In many ways, we are always a work in progress. Being able to pause from the flurry, however, is essential to get to the place of relaxation.
In this circle, please note that without relaxation, you will never get to clarity!
Funny that, clarity. In college, I had a professor who would lay great insights upon our young supple minds. He would look at the room of blank stares and query, “Clear as mud?” Did we have any chance of grasping the great insight he was sharing with us? Perhaps some, others not. Curious indeed.
So, how is it that clarity arises? And what blocks it? Sadly enough, another block can stop us, it’s called the Insight Barrier. This is where we actually stop ourselves from having any clarity or insight! So many reasons why we might do this. Perhaps it’s easier to stay in the “clear as mud” zone? At least here you can never be accused of being dull, or dimwitted… because you admit it up front!
Ah, many a great insight has been quashed by fear of being wrong!
And so, the danger zones abound. Response Barriers keep us from Effective Action. Nourishment Barriers keep us from Satisfaction. Completion Barriers keep us from Relaxation. And Insight Barriers keep us from Clarity.
Knowing where you are in any one of these stages of the Circle of Satisfaction can help you to know where and when to pause and search for a different tack.
Indeed, you can sail in all directions, except directly into the wind!
Sometimes tacking is the only way to make any forward progress. Taking a step back, or a calculated side step is often necessary before taking a step forward!
Here we are all of us at various stages of life and process. The grand side step is underway! For my part, I support us all in being aware of all the barriers that might keep us from attaining the clarity we need to lead us to effective action, to satisfaction and ultimately to a sigh of relaxation in the midst of this great storm.
Wishing you all well with your journey through life. Keep up your good spirits as we weather this storm together. Blessings to all who provide heroic support at this time. And to all of us who labor under these conditions, may we all discover the path forward into the ongoing Circle of Satisfaction!
In loving health and peace to you all,
Time, Like Water Flowing
Mostly we think about time as linear. But truly it is a continuous flow, like water.
Water is never lost, it simply changes form. From solid to liquid to vapor, water on this planet is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere around us, and everywhere within us. Its flowing and changing forms are also in every way continuous, flowing and unbroken.
Let’s start at the mountain spring. High in the mountains the water springs forth. It bubbles out from the rock, or flows from snow melt into rushing liquid, jumping over and around rocks and boulders as it laughingly follows its nature to seek low ground.
It becomes a brook, grows into a creek, spills out into a lake, cascades over a cliff into a waterfall. Rushes down a canyon in a whitewater flurry. Joins with other creeks, rolls through woodlands.
Creatures come and drink from its banks. Logs fall across its path. It pools, eddies and flows on. As it reaches lower elevations it stretches out into a wide river curving sinuously across the planes.
As it reaches the sea it spreads out in a marshy brackish delta. Ocean tides now swell and reduce its volume and soon it is one with the great ocean.
This great liquid sea covers about 71% of our planet surface. In the extreme north and south and at high elevation, water is frozen into ice. Glaciers creep across land masses, carving and calving and joining the great ocean.
Wind and temperature lift water up in vapor into the sky. Clouds form and build and fall down again in liquid rain, from snowy hale, to drizzles, to torrential downpours. The land masses get alternately drenched by it as masses of vapor laden atmosphere swirl and curl through the sky.
Indeed water is everywhere flowing, changing, swirling converting, transforming, conveying.
Now, the invitation is to see time and water as one. Rather than linear time marching ever forward, see time flowing, looping and continuing forward, backward, up, down and all around.
Imagine your life like water. For many it seems that youth is the mountain stream. The child springs forth from its mother’s womb, like the spring from the rock. It then grows and grows, finding its way forward, over and around obstacles. And rambunctious youth is like white water, careening through the twists and turns of growing up.
Adult life then follows, like the broad, strong, meandering river winding its way across the great plain. And finally elder life, like the delta, brackish with its tidal flow, rises and falls until finally it joins fully with the great ocean.
So your entire lifetime can be seen as a river flowing. And the invitation to see your life as a river brings with it the awareness that your youth and your elder-hood and all of your adult years are all happening all the time. Complete with storms and cloud rides, and underground traverses, waterfalls and dams, pools and lakes. The river of your life is in continuous flow.
So when you are feeling stuck in linear time, drop down and into this watery flow. Go up stream to your past and reclaim an insight hard won, an obstacle overcome. Go downstream into your future and find the broad meandering purposeful flow. Go ahead and venture out into the ocean where your personal identity completely dissolves back into oneness with all that is.
Indeed time can be in this way a multi-faceted ride, filled with limitless potentials and possibilities of all shades. Released from linear prison, ride the waves of time and life, down and up, across and through, and feel into the great vastness of possibility that is there for you.
Water, time, rivers wide, oceans deep, storms and calm, life offers you this reflection, carrying you through every situation.
Enjoy the ride, water and time are ever flowing.
The Judgment of Paris, and the Path of Personal Sovereignty
In our lives there are moments of truth, when we must choose that which we find most precious. For different people this happens at different times, and multiple times to those who live a long life. There simply come points in life where you must drop the illusion of “having it all” and choose one, most precious, important thing and devote your life, your energy, and your will to its realization.
In ancient Greek mythology, the goddess Discord threw a golden apple with the inscription, “To the Fairest,” into a wedding feast of gods and high personages. Three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite squabbled over which of them was the fairest, and worthy of receiving the golden apple. Zeus wanted no part in the choosing, and so he left it to Paris, Prince of Troy, to decide. Who Paris chose is a point of ancient historical allegory that started the great Trojan War.
Confronting Paris in his task of judgment are no less than the formidable forms of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. These goddesses represent all that stands before a person in their path to identifying their deepest wishes. Power, wisdom, and beauty, each in their own domain. Paris, of own free will must choose. In so doing he knows he will get one, but alienate the other two. Yet still, his choice puts one goddess on his side, and in return for his choosing, she grants him what he most wishes.
Even though his choice led to ten years of terrible war and siege, and ultimately his own death and the downfall of his city, I imagine that Paris did not regret his choice. For when we choose that which we truly love and find most precious, and dedicate our lives to it, we are connecting to our own deepest inner truth. We let the chips fall where they may.
Of course, on this human path, there is no Zeus to lay the task at our feet, but there it is. Choose we must. And the question arises, how do we do that best?
The search for one true path and direction faces each of us, and many voices of many “gods and goddesses” cry out to us through people, places and things. We look for signs, we ask for direction, we pray for guidance. To find and land on solid support can be elusive and quixotic.
One day we believe we are fighting the good fight against true demons and monsters. the next day we awaken to find we have been tilting at windmills!
In these complicated multi-cultural times, the search for true, wise allies and a reliable, mature mentor is fraught with difficulty. To find and select a solid direction for your life can be elusive.
For common folk of earlier times, the art of looking for wisdom and guidance was a simple matter of following the orders spoken by those in possession of the accumulated wisdom of the world. Gods and demi-gods, deities, and those born into divine lineages reign over all choices. A commoner had but to admit their ignorance and defer to the golden ones who hold the orb and the scepter.
The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Norse peoples all had their gods. Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths all look to the God of Abraham. The East Indians have their Ramayana and Upanishads with a vast array of deities. Native Americans, Polynesians, and Indigenous peoples the world over have their guides, their above and below Beings. All peoples have had versions of Priests, Ministers, Shaman, Chiefs, Kings, Queens, Emperors, Pharoahs, Popes and Professors.
Slowly, over millennia the mortality of these “god-men” became exposed. Poison god-men appeared, corrupted by powers vested in them. Fragile, mortal, fallible men, attempting to deflect all power back to some divine source, became transparent.
“Look, he bleeds!” the people cried. A spear lanced the side of the god-man.
So, what is the divine force? Who are the immortal beings? How can common person have access to this divine realm? Over and over dynasties and regimes have claimed exclusive access to divine right. Time after time they have crumbled in the face of their own mortal vanity, power hunger and ultimate ignorance.
“Ignore the man behind the curtain” is no longer possible.
Smoke before the mirror is blown away by the breeze of insightful perception. Sham leaders, would-be god-men, so-called infallible leaders have been brought down at every turn.
Enter the modern scientific method. Our blue planet orbiting the sun. We activate our personal, human powers of observation. We make hypotheses and test them. We accept both “success” and “failure” of our experiments as the ultimate arbiter of truth.
Even here we find the “observer bias.” Facts become murky. True only in so far as the eye of the observer sees what it wants to see. A world of alternative facts emerges, all fades into shades of gray.
White light shines through a prism, breaks into all the colors of the rainbow!
Where is the true font of wisdom? Where in the ever changing flux of matter and energy does one find a solid truth upon which to stand, to hold true? Where, who and what can one turn to when searching for enduring truth and ultimate reality?
For each human being, this is a journey. It involves a deep dive of discovery of ultimate personal sovereignty. On this personal journey, five freedoms have been articulated.
Awaken your Five Freedoms! Perceive, think, feel, choose and imagine!
Personal sovereignty calls for personal accountability. If you do not have the right to your own perceptions, thoughts, feelings, if you defer to the god-men, or goddess-women to tell you what to see, think and feel, then your own desires and choices are of no account. It does not matter what your point of view might be. From there you cannot be held accountable.
How grand and easy that seems to be! And yet how fraught with peril. How many times must a woman hear the words, “Don’t worry your pretty little head!”? How long must we suffer with ignorant men pulling levers and playing god, and telling us “Father knows best!”? How intricate and treacherous this path to discovering personal sovereignty when in community or family. How thick the weaving of interdependency, how thin the line of co-dependency.
When the cloak of personal sovereignty is thread bare, ripped, torn and poorly fitted, we are in trouble.
So where do we turn to affirm our perceptions, refine our thoughts, discern our actual feelings? When emotions rise and fall like tides, how can we root down into that place from which one can honestly discover true desires and guide oneself to wise choices?
We may still turn to holy scriptures, stories handed down through generations. Poets, prophets and visionaries in their meditations and creative expressions bring piercing insight to life. Be careful now that you not find oneself again in the grip of some ancient dogma, some “laying down of truth,” a so-called “truth for all time.” The apotheosis of man to god has been repeated over and over in the history of peoples all over the world.
Decide rather to simply develop yourself through the guidance of old tales. Rather than follow a dogmatic bonding allegiance to another’s truth, begin to use discipline to help you find your own path to authentic, personal sovereignty.
It has been said that, “Personal vision is the highest authority. In the absence of personal vision, follow tradition.”
Wise tradition can guide us in a daily regimen, an embodied practice, an education that gives us tools, builds our skills to discover our true self. What is required is a method to clarify perceptions. To sort through myriad thoughts that flash through consciousness. A reliable path of introspection and slowing down into truly feeling, and developing emotional intelligence. And accompanying this pursuit, the necessity of that solemn vow to personal responsibility.
Gather wise allies around you. True allies don’t do your thinking for you, or tell you what you “should” feel. Rather they support you in your authentic personal inquiry, and ownership of your point of view. And they watch as you hold yourself to it.
True allies show themselves through supporting your personal expression, authentic desire and empowered choice.
We find ourselves at play in the fields of life. Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Space surround us. These are the ultimate arbiters of the conditions of our life walk. We breathe the air, drink the water, warm ourselves by the fire, nourish ourselves by the good earth, and take inspiration from the rotation of the heavenly spheres. Light and shadow dance before us, day in, day out, season by season, breath by breath and step by step.
These are the Gods, goddesses, deities, devas, kings and queens, lofty ideas handed down in stories, through priests and prophets, poets, songwriters and great Nature. They guide us to awaken wisdom within. Our greatest allies are not those who seek to rule over our consciousness, but rather those who recognize and support our unique and beautiful personal expression.
Find your allies in this way, and you will be forever satisfied with the abundance of life that supports your every breath, in body, mind and spirit. With every step you take, every move you make, your creative expression is your greatest gift to the ever unfolding story of the world.
Play your part! Add your voice and vision to the great tapestry of life!
Find for yourself the allies that do not insist that you to see it their way, but guide you to see it your way! Wise allies help you honor yourself and bring forth that which lies within you. Good mentors, help you refine the genius that is your contribution.
Like Paris, I ask you here, what do you choose? Hera, Athena or Aphrodite, or some other high virtue? What do you hold most precious? What qualities within you will you water and grow into the genius of your contribution to the world?
Awakening from the Trance
To awaken from a trance, I must first be aware that I am in a trance. And I must make a decision to wake up! The decision follows from an invitation from someone who already made that decision. With that invitation I admit that the story I’ve been telling myself, or the stories I’m being told, just don’t add up.
With so many spin doctors spinning their versions of alternative facts, it’s easy to be mesmerized into a trance. A United States statesman once said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.” In an increasingly digitalized and streaming media world, the line between fact and fiction is being effectively blurred.
In deciding to awaken from my trance, I open my eyes to a perspective on life that previously eluded me. I realize that my own perceptions deserve and need validation, and I do not need to give my power away to other’s dominating moods and temperaments. And in deciding to awaken from my trance, I accept that there are three essential steps: awareness, action and accountability.
I realize the many dimensions of the trance. The most common one expresses itself as the drama triangle. Three ubiquitous roles; victim, persecutor and rescuer show up as the only three roles that I, and all my relations, and all the players in the world around me have been playing.
Awareness awakens me from this trance in a flash of insight, in sunshine or rain, a mountain high, a tumbling waterfall, a rolling ocean or rushing stream, a squirrel running along the top of a fence the behaviors of friends and loved ones. I’m invited to a realization of the interconnectedness of all things.
Stuck in the drama triangle, I see that I have been unhappy in my own skin for a vast number of fantastic reasons. And I staunchly believe that none of these are my fault! A deep internal discomfort has been there since long before I can even remember. And, I have consistently reached for something outside myself to rescue me, to help me feel better.
How beautiful this impulse toward finding relief, I do not want to feel badly forever.
To go beyond the internal pain and suffering that naturally draws me to seek remedy, I am driven to reach for people or places or things to bring me relief. To the extent that these things actually do bring me relief, they may actually perpetuate my trance.
That cup of coffee in the morning, that cigarette on break, that beer or wine that takes the edge off, that vacation to an exotic location, that news cast, or my favorite personality talk show, all show up to rescue me. They distract me from my inner pain, for a while. The operative phrase here, “for a while.” They provide temporary relief. When their effects wear off, the pain remains, deeper and more recalcitrant than before.
With awareness I have started on the path to awakening from the trance. The three roles of the drama triangle are not my only option!
Awakening I am called to notice the pain that drives me to play victim. I see that I have fallen into the habitual use of temporary remedies to rescue me. I realize that there’s actually not enough coffee, tobacco, alcohol, news or sex in the world to make the change I’m seeking. Though all of these are ubiquitous, and will constantly fill my void forever if I continue to let them.
Now begins the heavy lifting. Instead of being a victim, I enter my memories, I feel my pain and discern these as gifts, rather than curses. The temporary fixes have run their course. Co-dependent enabling of my victimhood now must end. No easy task set before me, challenging me to my core.
An astute observer notes that “when a victim feels his pain, he reaches for his crutch to distract away from the pain once more.” To actually feel my pain proves a threatening idea. It threatens to throw me back into my old habits. Without true support, unconditional love, clean, non-additive alternatives, this idea of awakening becomes an impossible challenge.
I must find and develop true, nourishing support on the arduous path of healing from inner pain and turmoil. Not an intellectual task, yet demanding intellect, the tools I seek need to provide nourishment to the starvation of my inner being. I need true allies to make these essential changes, to wake up from my codependent trance.
I have repressed my inner pain and turmoil my entire life. The prospect of finding lasting relief appears foolish and impossible. Truth is, if I continue to look outside myself it will remain elusive. At last I am alert to the fact that this is an inside job!
The way in is the way out. The only way out is through.
That which previously seemed a curse, now I see as blessing.
This is the full moment of awareness. Inner pain has been driving me to distracting behaviors. These behaviors no longer serve. They do not bring lasting relief. I awaken to this truth. My next step involves choice.
Action now appears as the second stage of my awakening. I am not a victim, but an actor! Rather than habitual reaction from a victim place, I make a conscious choice to act with full awareness of my actions. I deliberately choose to end the behaviors that are distracting. In doing so, I will see what I’ve been hiding inside all this time.
Instead of drinking the liquor of my trance, I drink a glass of water. I slow down and take deep breaths. I take a walk in the sustaining beauty of nature. I swim in the sea. I practice mindfulness, meditation and exercise. I take refuge in a quiet conversation with a dear friend. I nourish myself with wholesome foods and plenty of restful sleep. I find a professional counselor or bodywork therapist, trained to listen to my cry; body, mind and spirit.
With conscious action, the numbing effects of my crutches slowly but surely wear off. The raw painful feelings at the core of my being reveal themselves. The nourishing milk of compassion pours over my pain. It brings me the true relief for which I’ve been longing.
I am not a victim. Nothing happens to me. Everything happens for me.
Rather than being a victim, I am an actor. A creative human being, co-creator of my experience. This new awareness inspires me to aligned action. Action empowered by awareness, and taken with full acceptance of my personal responsibility. It lifts me up to a higher perspective.
Conscious action brings me to the third step in awakening; accountability.
I am responsible for my actions. I accept the consequences of my choices as my revered teachers. They guide me in each moment to greater and greater awakening.
I am not persecuted by people or circumstances. Insensitive perpetrators do not seek to destroy me. Rather challenges and opportunities are presented before me. I meet them creatively now with my new-found ability to choose a different response.
Rather than making co-dependent choices, seeking rescue and salvation, I call forth allies. Allies who believe in me and support me in my walk toward truth and beauty with unconditional love. I let go of the false allies who would spin me around with their dogma and diatribes. I am not so easily fooled by the doctoring of the news and the world of alternative facts built to obscure my pure perceptions.
Awareness, action and accountability have helped me heal from my inner pain that drove me to seek external relief. I no longer mask, hide or run from myself. I reveal and feel to heal. I awaken to the full mystery of the gifts of life, dark and light, and all shades in between. I see that life is now set before me as a banquet.
With awareness, I take conscious action and accept the full responsibility for the consequences of my choices. The trance of victim, perpetrator, rescuer no longer holds me in its grip.
With each breath I take, with each and every step I take, I awaken.
Much love and healing to you all,
Matthew Sweigart, AOBTA®-CI
HeartMind Healing Arts
The Three Pillars of Practice
In mastery, there are three stages: Practice, Experience and Insight.
In the practice stage you repeat your forms over and over as you reach toward mastering the craft. With this repetition you gain experience. Over and over and over accumulated experience grows in your body and mind. From this experience, you will gain insight. And the insights illuminate the skills that are building in you, feeding a sense of profound accomplishment.
What’s important is that you do not stand still in your insight! Keep growing. Turn those insights back into your practice. Gain more experience, and stay open to ever new insights. These three pillars will accompany you on the path toward mastery in any field. They have certainly been ever present for me over thirty years of Shiatsu practice.
Shiatsu is a Japanese bodywork discipline, it follows the many arts of Japan such as tea ceremony, flower arranging, archery and Tsumo wrestling. The method of learning to move and respond from your Hara, the center of your being, your feeling center, is at the core of all Japanese arts. And this is supremely evident in the floor-based bodywork practice of Shiatsu.
Of course, you don’t have to have a desire to crawl around on the floor and move people’s bodies about in this way, awakening and activating life energy of body mind and spirit through acu-points and meridians, to appreciate the three pillars of practice. You can apply this understanding to any and every endeavor in your life.
The areas of life experience where I’ve applied these principles have included the arts of HeartMind Shiatsu and Qigong, Singing, Writing,Tai Chi, Relationships, Co-parenting, Shamanic Ceremonial Ritual, Grief, Pain and Trauma Healing, and Men’s Work.
In a series of essays, I offer you an in depth article each week. The articles will cover a wide range of topics rooted in these areas, from my decades of personal and professional experience.
In applying the three pillars to the craft of writing, I’m following the maxim that “a good article isn’t just written, it is re-written!” I’m growing and gaining insight into each of my topics, as I write from my own personal experience and gather insight from the current conversations of various masters in each field. My sincere endeavor is to share the insights that I have gained to help you develop your own mastery of living.
I have three articles in process. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, enjoy applying the three pillars of practice to whatever endeavor you are engaged in today!
Practice regularly. Build experience. Gain insight. And Don’t stand still in your insight! Apply it back into your practice.
Over time, your mastery of your craft will help the entire world be a better place.
Wishing you a fine Sunday!
Matthew Sweigart, AOBTA® – Certified Instructor
Why Chinese Medicine?
So, I’m not into political posturing. I don’t think that Chinese medicine actually has that much to do with the Chinese. Well, it has something to do with the Chinese. I mean only in so far as they had the original perceptions of life energy flow that were articulated in this way. Beyond that, it has little to do with the Chinese, and much more to do with the perception of life energy flow for all human beings.
The ancient sages articulated a comprehensive mapping of the surface of the body correlated to all the various life functions that need to be performed on a daily basis. That is the brilliance of Chinese medicine. In ancient, early history, sages and masters sitting in contemplation of how things worked put together a complete system of evaluation of the ebb and flow of all things in nature.
What strikes me about this system is that the Chinese weren’t the only ones to see things in these ways. Acute observation of the nature of life and all things in the living ecosphere has been a part of every culture in history. Some use microscopes and telescopes to focus the vision on a very narrow and precise range of activities. Others broaden the lens, step back and take in a wide range of phenomenon and look for the correlations.
I would put Chinese medicine in the latter category to start, and then discover how it narrows down the field, step by step, to put together a complete picture of the workings of life on this planet within the greater context of the movement of our planet through the heavens. Seeing the patterns at the core of all activity, the interconnections and interactions of all things, is the core of Chinese medicine.
For myself, as a bodywork therapist, working with issues of body, mind and spirit through healing touch, movement and inquiry, the Chinese medicine map has been my key tool for deriving insight, seeing patterns and making artful and creative interventions to bring about greater harmony where dissonance has settled in.
Like a concert musician tuning their instrument, Chinese medicine identifies the strings and the keys of the body mind spirit, and supports the tuning up of the vibrations of each string, so that when the tones emerge they reveal a beautiful melody with intricate harmonies.
Examples of this ancient perceptual approach to harmony arises in every session I give. I was recently working with a client who reacted with great sensitivity to a point that I contacted just below her knee. When I pressed upon the point between the superior heads of the tibia and fibula, just below the knee joint, she almost jumped to the ceiling. And I was not pressing that hard either!
She went on to tell me that she has had this particular pain for many years. No chiropractor, orthopedic physician or physical therapist could explain it, or find anything “wrong” with the tissue in this area. Well, for those of us versed in the meridian map of Chinese medicine, we know very well that this point on the body is called “Leg Three Miles,” point number 36 on the Stomach meridian. It has to do with promoting stamina and endurance.
Without laboring my client with the theory, I simply asked/stated that this point is about endurance. Enduring this, enduring that, handling whatever arises, day after day. And as I acknowledge her for her long journey and deep need for stamina and endurance (she’s a single mom of two teenage daughters!) it was like a thousand light bulbs went off in her consciousness. She actually began to cry for all that she has had to endure.
Chinese medicine, in its brilliance, had given me an interpretation of the use of this particular point. And to my client, she thought that I was psychic, and she had an instant breakthrough regarding this long standing pain in her upper shin.
Interestingly enough, I was also drawn to work the area below her inner ankle. Again, this was a tender point and the site of long standing trauma. My client had been a gymnast in her youth. You could just see her tumbling down the mats, and over the apparatus, flying through the air in somersaults and sticking her landings, repeatedly giving insult and injury to her ankles, not to mention her knees, hips and entire body.
But all that external physical repetitive stress aside, while working with the energies at her inner ankle, I was drawn to make a statement describing her personal stance toward life. “This is me. Take it or leave it,” I suggested. And immediately she once more exclaimed, “Oh my God! How did you know? That’s my mantra!” Indeed, how did I know?
Once again, perhaps I’m somewhat psychic. We all are, to a certain extent. And I’ve had thousands and thousands of hours interacting with clients in the treatment room over three decades. But all that aside, simply put it is the beauty and power of the Chinese medicine model. In their brilliance the ancients saw that the inner ankle is reflective of the deepest, inner truths that one holds about oneself. The inquiry goes like this. “Who am I today?” And this inner inquiry can lead to a stance toward life based on who you know yourself to be.
So you see, I don’t need to be psychic to make such inquiry. I simply need to know the point, and what the ancients have described as the function of that point. Knowing that function, I can help my clients craft empowered and creative responses to their life challenges, equipped with valuable personal insight from the patterns of their bodily pains and sensations.
With another client, I was honored to meet the complex concerns of aligning action with inner truth. Here I was grateful for the Chinese medicine technology of understanding the relationship between the Liver and the Heart. You see the Liver is the channel that relates to visionary action. And the Heart is the organ wherein one’s deepest truths are held. It stands to reason that in order for one’s visionary action to be satisfying, it is best to align it with one’s deepest truths. Yet, this was not easy for this particular client. There was a disconnect.
As I explored with him the nature of his condition we found many jagged memories of difficult interpersonal interactions. His biography was littered with confrontations with loved ones, some violent, some simply neglectful. These memories were painful and many. And Chinese medicine teaches us that memories are held in the Blood.
Extend that to the Liver and the Heart functions, and we can see the problem. The Liver detoxifies, and nourishes the Blood. The Heart circulates the Blood. If the Blood is filled with toxic memories and experiences, then the Liver will be overworked, and the Heart will not be all too interested in circulating that toxic soup around the body.
It’s essential for the Liver to be supported to clarify and nourish the Blood, so the Heart has an ample supply of healthy fluid to circulate around the body to support all life. Utilizing the sensitive points of Liver and Heart on the body, the big toe, ankle, calf and inner thigh, and the sensitive area on the arm under the bicep and along the ulna to the pinky finger, and giving the client exercises to move these channels, I helped him learn to support the purification of his memory-filled Blood, and gently pump his Heart. The challenges that this client faces were given an airing and a path to healing.
Again, Chinese medicine taught me, “To nourish the Blood you must move the Blood. And to move the Blood you need to nourish the Blood.” In this case, helping the client to come to terms with the insults and injuries of his life, and to lift out of victimhood and into empowered co-creator of his life, with point work, meridian stretching, breath-work and right mindfulness, we discovered a path to move and nourish his Blood. And we brought greater personal truth and clarity to the creation of his taking satisfying visionary action in his world.
These are just three examples from thousands in which my work has been supported and informed by this brilliant system of awareness and understanding. Beginning with my introduction to Yin and Yang as a model for understanding how the energy of life moves, to the intricacies of the meridian map of the body, I have been inspired and supported time and time again with the wisdom and sophistication of this vast system of life.
So again, I ask, why Chinese medicine? Because this brilliant system masterfully traces the intricate harmony and balance of all life functions, in nature and in the three tiered awareness of body, mind and spirit in human life. There is simply no other system in the world like it. It maps the intricate correlations of mind and spirit into full embodiment through acu-points and meridian channels of life energy circulating throughout the living body.
The best part is, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a master physicist to put these principles of life to work for you. In my career life, I have created several study guides that share this vast system in a highly accessible manner. And right now, my entire collection of educational materials is on sale as a set. If you want to add the power of this masterful system of awareness and understanding to your healthy lifestyle choices, I urge you to consider adding my highly accessible materials to your health and healing library today!
This inspiring work has provided with me with profound and insightful support in my clinical practice for more than 30 years, and it is my deep honor to bring it to life in clinic and classroom, books and charts and video lessons. I encourage you to take the step today to get started in deepening your skill with these incredible tools, to help you create your own best, most-realized life, for yourself, your family, your clients and the world!
Thank you so much for subscribing to our email notifications. We hope you’ll stay in touch, and we look forward to serving you for years to come. Some of our future articles include “Calling in Wise Allies,” “Stages of Awakening Healing Energy” “Nourishing the Starving Inner Being,” and “Gods of Plenty, Gods of Destruction, the Path to Balance.” Keep your eyes open for these and many more articles on healing and growth in the days and months to come. I hope to see you in person or online in class or clinic in the near future!
Matthew Sweigart, AOBTA®-CI
HeartMind Healing Arts
The current complete Sweigart HeartMind Shiatsu Collection of publications is now available as a set at a special price! With your order, you will receive Pathways of Qi, Touching Ki, HeartMind Shiatsu Meridian Chart (large), the HeartMind Bodywork Harmonizing Heaven and Earth DVD with Companion manual, and Elemental Meditations. The total retail value for this collection is $221. For a limited time, you can purchase the entire collection for just $157!
Simply click on the following link and you’ll be taken directly to the page where you can order you complete collection of works on Shiatsu, Five Elements, Meridians and Meridian Qigong by Matthew Sweigart! A great addition to any professional library.
P.S. In my next live class, I’ll be leading a one day workshop Touching Qi from Surface to Source, with the Eastern Medical Therapies Education Center in Boston, MA, March, 15th! For those on the East Coast, I’d be happy to see you! Check out more information on the program here! https://www.facebook.com/events/629871321082066/
As I reflect on the theme of this day in the U.S.A., I am struck by this idea that “set the nation free!” It’s an inspiring and exciting idea, that “we the people” could rise up against an oppressive government, take that government into our own hands, declare our independence from tyranny and become a free people!
This most Western idea is inspiring and exhilarating, and yet, it carries with it an inherent challenge. One government was overthrown, yet still a new one was put in its place. And the new one was written with a charter to not repeat the sins of the former heads of state. That is a huge charter to live up to, and into.
Now there’s an important thing to understand here. Independence actually does not exist in isolation. It is truly only ever understood in relation to its “opposite,” dependence. Dependence is the predicate to independence. And it follows that one actually creates the other. The quality of ones independence is directly related to the quality of ones dependence and vice versa! This is a fundamental truth of a dynamic relativity.
In the case of the American Revolutionary War, the dependence on the British government in the colonies, was perceived to be oppressive, and burdensome. “Taxation without representation” and other concerns of the arrangement were considered a deep crime against sensibility, unjust, unfair and tyrannical. What the “good British fathers” were doing with their levy exacted from their colonies was deeply wrong, mistrusted, held in contempt and reason for revolt!
Men of strong mind and body stood up to fight the power. Armies were formed, and slogans were written, and with strong will the seats of power were wrested from the oppressor, and the United States became a free nation. Lofty ideals, and a new set of guiding principles were forged in the fire of this revolution. And new levers of government were put in place.
And yet, government it still is. Taxes are still levied, a common treasury is maintained, and assets are built for the generally agreed upon public good. In this new “democratic” way of government, a transparent and rousing public debate is maintained as the root of making decisions for our common path forward. A “representative governing body” with “checks and balances” takes the helm. This brilliant conception was built to thwart the possibility of ever being run by the whims and machinations of another tyrannical leader, who might rise to power, making decisions from his/her own fancy, rather than truly for the people.
That is the idea. And you see here that our “independence” is based upon our experience of the “dependence” that came before. Now, at more than 200 years of age, this idea itself has become the new seat of power. And the definitions of independence that it relies on, still harken back to those heady days of revolution. The “stern remorseless sweet ideal,” to revolt against tyranny is still exhilarating, and can be exhausting.
Let’s think about this a minute. As children we are dependent. If our parents are good and kind, and capable, they take good care of us. They create a good home, shelter, clothe and feed us as we learn and grow. In time, we come into our independent abilities. Then, as we take our first faltering steps out the door into the world, we receive their continued support and love. And we return that love with gratitude to them for their kindness and constant support.
If on the other hand, our parents were rude, rough, unloving, prickly, incapable, even cruel and abusive we do our best to grow up as fast as possible, run away, and slam the door shut behind us, never to look back. And when we do look back, as we inevitably will, we look back in anger and pain, and blame them for their abuse and our pain. And sadly, this keeps us locked in that very pain we were trying to flee.
You see, the quality of our independence is directly relative to the quality of our dependence. If our dependence was oppressive and manipulative, our independence is likely to be fierce, and fiery and reactive. If our dependence was loving and kind and and respectful, our independence will likely reflect these virtues as well. Ultimately, there is no running away! Slamming a door in anger, though it may feel good at the time, can actually keep your more attached to what you think you have left behind. And so the question is, what kind of independence is that?
We are all dependent, and we are all independent, all to various degrees, in various stages. If we would truly be independent in a healthy way, let us take care to create healthy and balanced dependence to begin with. We needs must create a healthy and balanced interdependence on one another, to build for our common interest and our common good. And to continue to discover that good interest together, if we ever wish to live in true independence and freedom.
Of course, this is all well and good, and yet it is also easier said than done. Yet it is possible. Some new tools are simply going to be needed to truly do it… rather than just say it! Establishing a healthy living, breathing and mutually interdependent world, where true freedom is experienced by all, is indeed a noble work. And that is the subject for my next article. Stay tuned for my next post, where I will explore a set of tools designed to help establish healthy freedom, in the context of a healthy, balanced interdependence.
The Three Treasures and the Path of Healing
In ancient, traditional Hawaiian healing practice and philosophy, honor is given to the three part nature of life. There abide the sub-conscious, conscious, and super-conscious aspects of Being. The subconscious, they call the Unahiplili, or the “friendly unconscious.” This is the realm of the primal bodily mechanisms of organs, blood, and moisture. These systems operate without the need for any conscious intervention. The conscious is called the Ohane, the Spirit of the Will. Forces that arise in the Ohane focus our minds, the choice to live in love and gratitude, and to allow it to move through you and permeate all aspects of your Being. The super-conscious is called the Aumakua. It is the pure spirt essence that shines in the light of your eyes and is carried on your breath. The Aumakua is the place where all experience can be purified and cleansed of all attachment.
In Classical Chinese Medicine these three aspects of Being can be seen reflected in Three Treasures; the Jing, the Qi and the Shen. The Jing is the friendly, primal unconscious, the Qi is the Spirit of the Will and the waking consciousness, and the Shen is the Purity of Spirit. All three, when operating harmonically, combine to create healing action. With your HeartMind, where the Qi of true consciousness resides, you communicate with your Jing (essence of Being, embodied in this life) through conscious gratitude and love. With an established connection between Qi and Jing, then you have the power to directly beseech your Shen (spirit) to help you rise in a spirit of grace and gratitude.
This is using the Three Treasures for the sacred art of healing.
With grace and gratitude, directed through your HeartMind consciousness, form a pearl of light. Take this pearl of light, and with your sacred breath draw it throughout your body. Let this pearl be “sticky.” It attracts the pain of buried unresolved emotion stored in your body. This can include physical injury as well as mental and emotional anguish.
In spirit there is no injury. Spirit cannot be injured. The injury at the level of spirit comes when we forget that we are connected to spirit. The art of healing is remembering your connection to spirit and honoring it with gratitude.
The ego does not own the healing, though it may want to. Be aware, your ego is a good source of consolidation for your confidence and your presence, and the place where you have choice. That is all. Dance with it. And let it be. And when you enter the healing space, let it be observing, on the side, if anything, knowingly get your ego out of the way of spirit. And to keep the ego occupied in a healthy way, use it to keep an eye on the horizontal realm of time and space.
Healing takes place in the spiral realm of time. Time is not linear in this realm, time spirals in circles moving through time. There is a linear time, and that is the world where we make agreements to meet, and where we keep appointments. Where we are conceived, gestate, are born, grow old and die. This is important for the ego to track. For when we drop into the spiral time of healing, we must keep one aspect of self anchored in awareness of linear time, lest we spiral out with the healing energy into infinity.
And of course, we will spiral out into infinity in the healing space. In the healing infinite space all time can be accessed. That injury that happened when you were a child, that injury that happened to your mother, father, grandmothers, grandfathers that was left unhealed and turned into a heavy stone. With spiral time you can visit there with grace and gratitude and release it back to the eternal.
Your HeartMind holds your ego. With practice you hold it lightly, in truth and higher vibration. It can then travel between the worlds. It can drop into the deep places, where the stones of pain and hurt can be found. And it can rise to the high places where infinite love, compassion and non-judgment rule the field of action.
And in the purity of life unfolding, even the lower, deep places are not only the realm of pain and hurt, they are also the realm of manifestation and “getting things done.” The bowels digest the food, make the nutrient rich blood, eliminate the waste products of living. Like a tree dropping leaves or sloughing off bark or bud skins so that the flowers of life can emerge.
We are flowers, we are trees, we are flowing rivers of life. The waters of our rivers nourish the growth of our being, and also carry away the silt that would clog us up. It is carried off to where it can nourish other forms of life. The lotus grows in the mud, muck and mire of the swamp. The flower that it yields is fragrant. We smell the fragrance of the lotus and it transports us to higher states of being. And still we breath in and we breath out. And the fragrant oxygen we breath in feeds us, while the fragrant carbon dioxide we breathe out feeds the lotus. It’s a circle. Honor the circle. It’s all a circle.
As I child I was raised by spiritual people. They were religious people, but not in the sense of wearing the cloth, or being members of an order, but rather good, plain common people who lived from love in their hearts, with love of the divine in the traditions in which they were raised. My father was a simple, fun loving man who laughed heartily and ate with gusto. One of my vivid memories of Dad’s down to earthiness came every spring on long family drives through the Ohio countryside. The farmers dutifully spread manure on the fields in spring, and as we drove alongside the fields we kids would wrinkle our noses. Dad would take a deep breath, and say with a big smile, “Smell the fresh country air!” We responded with “Oooo Dad, you’re crazy!” But inside, I knew exactly what he meant, and to me, the smell of manure on the fields was one of profound beauty.
The lower realms indeed, the gritty lower realms of life are life itself unfolding, life itself. This is a cherished beauty of life. And in this dance of nutrient density, combined with warmth of sun and life giving waters, the seed breaks open its shell, the root anchors deep in the soil and the sprout shoots to the sky. And indeed, the earthy smells of Ohio countryside in Spring are juxtaposed in my mind to the fragrance of Springtime blossoms in Charleston, S.C. balanced by the oh so fragrant smell of the marshes at high and low tide.
In pain and injury, some judgment has taken hold to squeeze out the growth of this cycle. Some cling to the bud, or flower, some deny the dropping of the chafe back to earth, some are repelled by the fragrance of the muck and mire. And this reaction actually stagnates and solidifies into a sour encrusted cancerous canker. With breath of grace and and gratitude we may move this encrusted canker once more. We may release the clinging and judgment and allow the processes of life to dance forward.
In this we use breath, exercise, good food and herbs, healing touch and body mobilizations and a lightness of spirit to engage with all life. We experience the luminescent pearl of spirit and it dances through our body clearing away the detritus of daily living that we might be fresh and new in each moment, receiving the lightness of being and releasing the stones of pain and hurt.
This healing is brave, courageous, honest and intentional. It is the act of not denying the pain, or trying to ignore or suppress it, but rather to feel it, with loving non-judgment. It is a part of the magnificent process of living, growing, blooming and dying. To envelope all in higher love and gratitude, that is the grace of spirit radiating through all. We are in our essence, pure spirit, unencumbered by pain and suffering. The path of healing is to learn to yield with grace to this ultimate truth.
Announcing the launch of our Professional training! Along with some important foundations of the HeartMind philosophy.
Check out this quick video.