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A poem for a rainy day: Inner Practice

January 17, 2017 1 comment

It is a dreary day here in Maryland. It is dark and gloomy with rain coming down steadily. It is a good day to practice!

Inner Practice

The breath begins with emptiness.
The inner curve of the belly
Is a waiting, a pause,
An anticipation of the new.

The breath proceeds with a rise.
The curve of the belly fills with
An action, expansion;
Excitement lifts on an inner note.

The breath rises on its inner path.
The spine straightens and lengthens,
Action peaking, seeking the crown,
Expanding outward and upward, reaching.

The breath follows the inner curve.
The skull bone directs its passage,
Downward through the hollows of the face,
Ending in the empty space guarded by teeth.

The breath remains in this inner space.
This is a waiting, a pause.
Inaction holding, resting in peace,
A suspension of the doing – just being.

The breath descends from its quiet rest.
The inner curve of the chest opens
With soft action, a contraction,
A sinking downward and inward.

The breath expels what no longer serves.
The inner curve of the belly forms,
Compressing, flattening, sending out
The last of the used, the spent, the old.

The breath ends in emptiness,
The inner curve of the belly restored.
Resting, contemplating, anticipating
The inner practice of breathing.

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©2017 Richard W. Bredeson. All rights reserved.

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Evolve Your Light – Richard’s Commentary

November 27, 2014 Leave a comment

As I was writing my Morning Pages the other day it came to me that I want to go deeper with Qigong. Why? I had raked leaves the day before and loaded 15 bags from the front yard – heavy work. As the evening descended my muscles and joints began to remind me that I am older than I think. But I did some breathing and reminded my body that I practice Qigong; all the twisting and pulling motions of raking leaves is not unlike certain Qigong moves I make in practice. In fact I was very mindful of these motions as I raked.

Last year when I raked leaves from that front yard I ended up with stiff muscles in my back for a week afterward. This year I woke up the morning after and felt great. So, I raked more leaves ahead of the East Coast storm we enjoyed yesterday. There is no question in my mind that my body practices are keeping me younger in body than my age in years would indicate.

My plan is to Evolve My Light, or I could say “Evolve My Qi” and take further steps down this path of growth. Why? Here’s how Rosemary answers this question:

Now, at whatever your current age is, those souls are looking to you for your light to shine on the path that you are sharing. How do you shine your light? By living your soul’s purpose, by being the light that you already are.

“Those souls” are everyone in my community. They include you, dear reader. My “soul’s purpose” is to build community. And my approach is to build community around Qigong. Qi is Life Force; it is Light; it is Love. By continuing to go deeper with my Qigong practice I am answering the call that Rosemary reminds us we are here to do.

I am reading some excellent books on Qigong and Taiji. And I am putting the word out I am looking for deeper instruction. At this time I am between classes that I have been teaching because I am feeling this call to go deeper before developing my next series of classes. Naturally I always learn more by teaching as well; a new class will be offered early in the New Year.

What form does your light take? How are you “Evolving Your Light”? This is the most important question you can ask yourself! Why?

YOU are in charge of the development and evolution of your own consciousness. No one around you can do it for you. You were not born to find answers and then stagnate. You are here to learn the next thing, to study, to grow, to evolve.

Never stop. There is no end here, no bottom to the deeper!

I am grateful to Rosemary for this important reminder! Enjoy your “gratitude day” today as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US.

NEW MOON IN SAGITTARIUS I CHING GUA: SHI-MULTITUDE

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

The New Moon in Sagittarius appeared on Saturday morning, November 22, 2014 at 7:32 AM EST. That morning, shortly after the Moon was exactly conjunct with the Sun and newly in the sign of Sagittarius, I sat with my yarrow stalks and cast an I Ching Gua (a six line hexagram) to determine the energies for the coming month. And the result is an interesting one that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to.Shi-Multitude

It’s pictured here: only one Yang line at the 2nd position. All the rest are Yin lines. And there are no changing lines; this is a stable, some might say “stagnant” energy for the month.

My primary source for interpreting my I Ching practice is Taoist Master Alfred Huang’s The Complete I Ching. While most English translations of the Shi is “Army” Master Huang goes back to the older meaning, “Multitude.” In ancient China there were no standing armies. If there was a need for an army – only two reasons required one: defense against invasion and to overthrow a tyrant – military units were assembled from among the peasants who had some training in military action while they were idle during inactive farming seasons. I too prefer the older interpretation of the word and this Gua.

For me this hexagram represents a community. Rosemary and I both have been writing and thinking a lot about community, how important it is for human evolution. Humans are social beings. We have survived and evolved through gathering together in groups of mutual support and aid. In our modern world we seem to have lost this concept. We have turned to a “dog-eat-dog” world of competition, everyone for themselves, “whoever dies with the most wins.” We also seem to have lost any recognition or respect for leadership. With the “me first” attitude so prevalent there is no trust of anyone who might propose a movement toward progress.

This Gua, Multitude, speaks to this modern social dilemma. Note the second line is the only solid, Yang, or strong line in the hexagram. The Yin lines seem to pivot about this second line, the leader of the multitude. “He” derives his authority from the Yin line at the fifth position, a line representing feminine energy. There is excellent balance between masculine and feminine power in this Gua and the other Yin lines represent the community.

It is time for all of us to find our communities. If we are not in community we can either find one to join or build one. There is stability in this Gua, no changing lines, to emphasize this message. The key meaning is in Confucius’ Commentary on the Decision:

Shi is a multitude.
Persistence is for righteousness.

One who is able to lead the multitude
To persist for righteousness
Is able to bring peace to the world.

Firm and central,
He obtains a response.
Taking the risk of dangerous action,
He confronts no hindrance.
Relying on this,
He maintains public order,
And people follow him.
Good fortune.
What mistake should there be?

Fu-Turning BackThis month I also want to offer the Mutual Gua to shed more light on this energy of “Multitude.” This Gua is formed by taking the inner lines to form a new one: the second through fourth lines form the bottom trigram and the third through the fifth lines form the top trigram. This yields Fu which means “Turning Back.”

Master Huang says we should always look at the Mutual Gua: “The hidden meaning of any Gua lies in it’s mutual Gua; it should not be ignored.”

Turning back means to return to the beginning; to repeat a cycle. The Gua is said to represent the eleventh month in the Chinese Lunar calendar and the bottom Yang line can represent the Winter Solstice and return of the Sun. The Decision for this Gua says it all:

Turning back.
Prosperous and smooth.
Going out and coming in.

No harm.
Friends arrive.
No fault.
The Tao of falling away and turning back,
In seven days comes the return.
Favorable to have somewhere to go.

We look now toward Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Enjoy community. Find community. Build community. Thrive and evolve. The energies of this time support you!

Many blessings and gratitude for you, kind readers!

PS: Sorry to increase the length of this already long post, but I wanted to add this from Rosemary about the energies of Sagittarius:

According to The Mountain Astrologer magazine, ‘Sagittarius is the sign most associated with discovering the meaning of life and our role in it.’ Are you ready to begin a new cycle of living your purpose? Can you commit to evolving your consciousness and shining your light more brightly?

Choose to Celebrate! – Richard’s Commentary

October 30, 2014 Leave a comment

The press does a great job of getting us into fear. This word is the center-point of Rosemary’s post. It seems, especially since 9/11, that there has been a deliberate campaign to keep us fearful. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but think about it; watch the news (FOX or MSNBC) and listen for the undercurrent, the focus of the articles, the energy of the reporters or anchors. What is your sense?

Now, I don’t even want to go into the motivations for this, if there even are any. Sensation sells. And if the commercials on news channels are any indication then the news is all about selling. And maybe it’s that simple.

The key point here is we have choices. We can choose to listen and believe everything we hear on the news. If we do there is good reason for fear! Ebola is big in the news with a handful of people here in the US who have come down with the virus and one unfortunate death. But it is well controlled, contained and the chances of an epidemic here are next to none. So why all the frenzy and controversy? It sells; it keeps us tuned in. We have a choice – to tune out!

I am not suggesting a total “news fast” here, although there are many, including some of my esteemed teachers, who recommend avoiding the news, all media for that matter! I do limit the amount of news programming I watch and I watch with a very critical eye and ear, looking at the underlying story, motivation, nuance. And most importantly I choose how to react.

That said, if you ask Rosemary she would say I often over-react at the nonsense that is being spouted and reported as news.  Maybe that’s my choice!

Here’s the key to Rosemary’s Exploration:

There are a lot of fear-mongers who would invite you to feel fear. There are a lot of situations in the world that, when focused on, will generate fear. There are, though, a lot MORE situations that invite us to celebrate.

Rosemary goes on to list many, even down to the functions of our bodies, the meals we eat and the air we breathe. Do you celebrate your stomach for taking care of the meal you just ate?

One of the methods I choose while practicing Qigong is the “inner smile” made popular by Mantak Chia. As my practice winds down and I begin the closing breathing and self-massage, I go through my inner organs in my mind’s eye and thank them with a smile! This is my way of celebrating my health, my body and my physical life. Fear, bad news, horror stories of violence and greed will not give me ulcers. I smile to my stomach and offer my thanks and praise for the awesome work it does!

And if that sounds too weird to you, then choose other ways to celebrate. Maybe it’s your safety record as a good driver. Maybe it’s a fabulous accomplishment by you or a family member. Look for the good news from the simple, everyday successes to the complexities of technology that allow you to read this half-way around the world, instantly.

As Rosemary concludes:

Celebrate! You are reading this. Fear reminds you that you have forgotten to celebrate what’s good, what’s going well. Choose to focus on celebrating and let the fear take a back seat. There’s always something to celebrate, even if it’s just that next breath that you take!

Are You the Director or the Actor in the Play that is Your Life? – Richard’s Commentary

October 16, 2014 Leave a comment

This is such a wonderful question Rosemary asks. It’s one of those questions that makes you go “hmmm”! It stops me and makes me think. And, it’s another one of those questions that take me inside, to examine, to evaluate, and maybe, just maybe to shift!

Here’s the key to Rosemary’s Exploration:

What did you used to believe about yourself, life, the world around you that might be holding you back today? Is it your unconscious mind that is the Director while you and your conscious mind are merely the Actors on the stage?

It’s those old beliefs, those old programs that run on automatic when our attention strays, when “unforeseen situations arise,” or when we simply get caught off guard in a moment of weakness.

Here’s a simple example that is trite but true, a cliché of our times: driving in traffic I still find myself getting upset by unconscious drivers who are in some way impeding my progress! Then I realize I am being unconscious myself in my angry reactions. I take a breath, go briefly inside to remember my impatience is getting in my own way, release frustration and then move along more smoothly – until the next inattentive driver annoys me!

This is a life-long habit. I probably learned it from my father, even though in rural Wisconsin he did not face the driving difficulties we have here in the East! I know I am being the Actor in my little stage play about driving in traffic and my unconscious mind is the Director in this play. It is a hard habit to break and I get plenty of opportunities to practice!

I find my breath work, as part of my Qigong and Yoga practices help me overcome, or at least recover from habits of a lifetime. As long as I remember to breathe intentionally I can short-circuit the old programming and my conscious mind can recover control and direct my life.

Here’s how that works: one of my practices is to employ the Hamsa mantra as taught by Swami Muktananda (ref: I Am That The Science of HAMSA from the Vignana Bhairava). This is probably the simplest yet most profound mantra in the Yogic tradition. “Ham” means “I am” and Sa means “that.” It may also be seen and pronounced or read as So’ham “that I am” depending on personal preference and breath flow.

Ham is the sound of the breath as you inhale. Sa or So is the sound of the breath as you exhale. My natural breath includes a more lengthy pause after exhaling so I use Hamsa as my breath mantra; in other words it seems more natural for me to inhale before I exhale. Practice both ways; if it seems more natural for you to exhale first then So’ham may be the better way for you to use this key mantra.

For that matter you can even use English here inhaling on the “I Am” and exhaling on the “That.” The real key is to become aware of the breath and then become intentional about breathing through the recovery from habitual action and reaction you are working to reprogram. As Rosemary writes:

You can’t just decide to do things differently and have your unconscious mind let go of those old beliefs. They are programs that are running all the time. They are beliefs that trump conscious decisions many times. 

The work is to go inside and uncover the programs and reprogram your mind.

Breath work is an excellent tool to aid you in the reprogramming effort.

Be Your Brightest Self! – Richard’s Commentary

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Rosemary’s article and post this week continues this conversation about “being the light.” I have heard her and the multiple “sources” she channels say many times “you are the light of the world.” This is an easy phrase. Many of us have heard it most of our lives as quotes from the New Testament of Christian Bibles. Jesus frequently said this about both himself and his followers.

But when that simple phrase is closely considered it is not necessarily the easiest concept to embrace! In particular here is one challenge Rosemary throws out:

And when you are having a bad day, do you seek the light within yourself or do you try to pull others into your bad mood to commiserate with you?

OK, I don’t think I try to pull others into my bad moods. But I do have them. And when I am in a mood that is not necessarily of the lightest variety, do I seek the light within? Not always! Do you know what I mean? Are there moods you experience that are dark but you want to stay there, to feel them, to wallow for just a bit? There’s a soothing quality to these moods sometimes.

But consider others around you. I have to pull this notion toward me first when I am in one of my moods. Now that I’m retired I “work” at home. And, yes, it is actual work to keep two businesses going. The point is I am home, with Rosemary, a lot. We do have a big enough house to spread out and go to separate rooms. However we are frequently and often together; our moods rub against each other. It is much easier and more pleasant to reach for the light, even when I am in the darkest of moods – it’s only fair!

How do I do this? As I’ve written many times I have lots of practices to move my moods around: body practices include Yoga and Qigong and I do one or both almost daily. My mental practices include reading, research and my “morning pages.” My “pages” are the quickest way to shift my mood. I enjoy writing anyway; to write about my moods is a sure way to dig in to them, sift through them and finally shift them. Some of my page writing begins quite negatively. But by the end of the third page they always end on high notes! I don’t even know how this works, but it is true. It’s a wonderful practice, for me, and the reason I’ve been doing it for years now.

My spiritual practices include several forms of meditation. But it is difficult, for me, to meditate when I am in a mood. The mood needs to be shifted first. I need to “seek the light within” first and be in that space of light in order to still my mind. But there is one Koan meditation practice that does work; I’ve written about it here before. It is to simply ask the question “what is this?” when the mood insinuates itself enough to be recognized as “a mood.” The question is answered and then repeated several times until the root cause is revealed. It works. You might wonder at first if this is more like a mental practice, but as the questioning and answers move deeper the process does become meditative.

You may ask “why go through all this; moods change eventually.” Hopefully for most of us this is true enough. But here’s what Rosemary says about the “why”:

Your purpose on Planet Earth is to be your own Sun, to shine your light. Those around you are looking to you to shine. They need the light of your love and warmth as much as they need the Sun’s. Who are you to withhold that light from them?

It starts inside. We need ourselves to be lights for ourselves! And this radiates out to those closest to us. And it continues to radiate out to the neighborhood, the community, everyone we encounter from store clerks to friends, from family to strangers (friends we just haven’t met yet). Imagine if we all knew this purpose and became “suns” for everyone else on the planet!

For one thing we’d all have shining eyes – and that would be something to smile about!

MONDAY’S POEM: Anger

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Life is so interesting! Last week I finished a summer series of Qigong classes with the theme: “Transforming Emotions to Virtues.” I followed the Five-Element scheme so deeply rooted in Chinese approaches to life and health. And my first class several weeks ago was on the Wood Element and transforming Anger to Creativity through Forgiveness.

Today, as I searched through my archives and journals for a “Monday Poem” I came across this one I wrote in February 2010.  This was a few years before I began my intense practice of Qigong and study of the Five Elements! But even then I knew how to transform Anger. And yes, my predominant element is Wood!

Anger

It’s easy:
Just fear the mistakes,
Fear failure.
How does that feel?

Anger is a defense.
Anger trumps pity.
It is better than loathing.
It can feel good.

Anger can be productive.
It can motivate.
It can compensate,
And cover insecurity.

Mostly it destroys.
Shiva rises and
Clears the path
Through the waste of failure.

Anger operates at
An instinctual level.
Grow and forgive.
Breathe and live!

©2014 Richard W. Bredeson. All rights reserved.