This blog includes reflections, creative work and resources. It is a glimpse of one person's journey within the realm of inquiry, experience with the human body and spirit. Look for ideas rather than answers. No claims are made. Perfection is not implied. I write as inspired to do so. Take what works for you, leave the rest. If you share anything from this blog, either verbally or in writing, please do your best to give credit where credit is due. Thank you for visiting.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
To approach 5 Element theory, a background in Yin Yang theory is primary. The blog uploads with the more recent post first so although I am covering the material backwards it will fall into place as it needs to.
The 5 Elements
"Without growth there is no development. Without control, hyperactivity will lead to harm." - Ancient Saying
The elements fall into in a circle. This is called the supporting or creation cycle. In the most simplest terms:
Fire burns, the remaining ash turns into Earth.
Within Earth we find metals.
Whether through human engineering or simply Water falling on or through Metal within the Earth, Metal channels & directs Water.
Water helps trees (Wood) grow.
Wood produces fire.
What remains of the Fire turns to Earth...
When charted in a circle with starred arrows in the center, a controlling cycle is found inside:
Fire forges & shapes Metal
Earth channels Water as in shapes of rivers, disbursing it into mud or containing it as ponds or lakes
Metal (in the form of an ax or saw) cuts Wood
Water extinguishes Fire
Wood controls Earth (shading it, roots moving it, shaping it, its debris building it)
A harmful promoting cycle also exists which can be approached another time.
There are no hard and fast rules. For example, dumping dirt on a fire will extinguish it. Although there are stronger tendencies, the dance and interplay can move in many directions.
Each element has corresponding meridians (lines of energy points used in acupressure & acupuncture) and organs, emotions, physical & personality characteristics, season of the year and influences interpersonal relationships.
Fire: small intestine, heart, triple burner, conception vessel meridians
Earth: spleen, stomach
Metal: lung, large intestine
Water: kidney, bladder
Wood: gall bladder, liver
Fire: joy & happiness
Earth: sympathy, love
Metal: grief, sadness
Fire: Most yin of all, a more active, flamboyant person, the dancing flame, sometimes exhibiting too much courtesy, red glow to the face, laughs a lot, tends to use humor to hide true emotions.
Earth: Day-to-day worker, maintains, nurtures, gets things done, has endurance and stamina, perhaps heavier in the hips, can be depressed and have a martyr or victim image as often the personality is one quite busy supporting and nurturing others. The negative state of an Earth type is worry.
Metal: Very yang, logical, organized, perhaps has a monotone voice, slow to trust others, generally "metals" tend to be wealthy, has a very good or a very bad sense of smell
Water: On the positive, displays courage; on the negative displays fear. Sleep is necessary for good health. Family stress can be problematic. Deep emotional therapies are helpful.
Wood: Sometimes tall, thinner, tree-like. Enjoys planning, design. Although strong and flexible with deep roots there remains a vulnerability to the wind, winds of change. When angry, will clench their jaw, fold their arms or maybe throw stuff. Although we may associate Fire with anger, the real heat of this emotion is found closer to the burning Wood.
So far, do you really identify with one of the elements? Now, some people identify strongly with one, while others may easily have predominant characteristics of two.
I most identify with Wood yet see myself in all of them.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
During silence practice today I could feel the mightiness, the fighter within reaching across and through the web of timelessness. Although the current life situation is not important in the big picture, I sensed this current anger and the way I'm managing it as groundwork for a higher calling where a fighting spirit is for the highest good. Maybe it will be this lifetime, maybe another. And then I let it go...
A person I know who is "on-the-path" had an incident where she got in a yelling match with someone in her neighborhood over her dog relieving itself. It was unsettling for her to have the inner tiger roar. It was the "old her" she said. She did not realize the seed was still there. The best part about it was she did not keep the incident to herself! In leading a group study she brought it up. Revealing her vulnerability, a few tears flowed as she reflected and discussed the experience. Now, as a spiritual teacher had she kept the experience a secret who knows how it would have resolved within her, if ever. I will never forget her courage. Strength is demonstrated when we are honest.
Change is a constant. For once (finally) I am feeling it as neither positive or negative necessarily but rather the expression of energy right now.
From the M.C. Yogi song Son of Shiva the lyrics include: "now Shiva's like this: truth, consciousness & bliss but he's crazy when he's angry so don't get him pissed". Afterward in the story there is ensuing chaos, loss and grief but thanks to the gods, it all works out. Here is the link to the song:
So, I turn it over to a force much greater. Relationships are more important than the worldly situation. Perhaps eventually there will be forgiveness all around. Maybe relationships will mend. Maybe we'll be better off not reconnecting. What is most important for me though is growth from the experience, reaching beyond old patterns.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
I write this in the raw state I've been in for a few days. But my intention is to allow it to be instructive, with any luck.
So many times I have felt anger and with it, the false notion that since I am supposedly on-the-path I should be some sort of flower child and in an "it's all good" state. Wrong. The path I've been on in recent days has been more like a war path! That was written in jest of course. It's not a path of action actually, but I am riding with changes within myself, the relationship I have with a few people, using my tools and opening to growth. The other positive is my husband and I are growing together in this. We are adjusting our ideas of what we consider appropriate with regard to relationships with others, the type of people we welcome into our life circle, how being nice includes setting boundaries along the way, how we humans owe it to one another to speak up and how relationships do not have to go beyond anything more than being on a "hello" basis. And how sometimes other people's actions create the type of relationship that is appropriate.
I had a palpable body experience yesterday. My body was alive with anger, every cell vibrating. I breathed. I and my husband coached me to do so. I got in the ocean. I took a walk. During it perspective pulsed in and out.
The situation is out of my control. A decision was made by others that very likely effects my husband and me (and perhaps other people) financially, socially, aesthetically and energetically. And... I know there is enough strength within me to triumph. There is a silver lining. I'm seeing it already. If I found the silver lining other times, I will certainly find it in this.
The other interesting thing is my husband and I are observing the meanness rising up from within and coming out in our words as we process our experience. We are taking turns pointing out that we don't intend to go down such roads but rather acknowledge the existence of anger. As opinionated and strong as he is, he is often more soulful than me!
Interestingly, the chapter my partner study and I are on in Soul Without Shame is entitled "Strength". I am experiencing strength. I am growing. I am growing up.
God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change.
Courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference. -Serenity Prayer
Whew. Thank you for reading. Again, I hope the risk I took here is for the highest good.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
At 17 and already quite aged, her legs were giving out. As difficult as it was, the best thing to do was to give her a humane end. Like the first night I ever had with her, I slept next to her on the floor. [Being a Newfoundland-Lab mix Kara was always hot anytime it was over 40 degrees (no exaggeration) so she did not like sleeping on the bed.] She came to us in late August 1993 when my husband (boyfriend at the time) rescued her from a city street. Kara had street dog habits so needed to be in a crate. I slept on the floor next to her that first night. Sometime during that last night while next to her, I spoke with Spirit and asked for a sign. Although a humane end seemed appropriate I needed to be sure.
The story goes back a ways first. In the late 90's a yoga teacher told me about crows and how they signal the connection between this plane and the afterlife. Although we both live in Virginia Beach I had not seen her in years. Earlier that month I saw her in Chapel Hill at a yoga workshop.
So, the day after sleeping next to my dog for the last time, I drove her to the veterinary office. My husband was to meet us there. While we waited I took her out of the car so she could be in the grass. Then I noticed something I've never witnessed in my life and I grew up with plenty of crows in the neighborhood. A crow was on a lamp post about 15 feet away and 15 feet up, looking down at us, cawing. It was not upset but just, well, communicating and did not cease. When my husband arrived I asked him to tell me what he thought, "Is that crow speaking to us or what?" He said yes, indeed it was. Trust me, he is a science and math guy and does not embrace "the mystery" as readily as many. Although I feel the decision to give Kara a humane end was the best one, the crow's call was just what I needed to hear. When we came out of the office with Kara's body wrapped in a blanket* the crow was gone.
*We learned a long time ago to allow the other animals at home to see the body of the deceased pack member. At the time of Kara's death we had 2 other dogs and a cat. Watching them process the situation is amazing. It only takes 5-10 minutes for everyone to seemingly understand and there is no mourning period afterward like we've seen other times without this opportunity. I could write an essay just about this!
Photo of Kara, she's the fuzzy one in the foreground:
Monday, May 21, 2012
Joseph Rael, a very inspiring Native American teacher, tells the story of a bird who helped him avoid a fire. The bird swooped around him where hot ash burned without Joseph realizing it. The story is told in the book Being & Vibration.
I have a milder swooping bird story. My husband and I were running the same system of trails but separately. What we do is plan to meet at the trail head at a certain time and otherwise go our own way. I was on the return trip, jogging a long and mostly uneventful stretch. A bird never swooped in front of me over the course of the hour, except this one time. The bird's swoop from my right to my left caused me to turn to watch it. In doing so I caught sight of a figure in my peripheral vision, behind me about 100 feet back. It was my husband who I had not seen in nearly an hour. In fact, I had not seen many people at all over the hour. It was as though the bird was a partner, providing a signal.
There's another significant bird story but the connection has as much to do with the human being in-tune as the bird. Back in the 90's I was expecting someone at my home one afternoon. She is an intuitive, giving and compassionate person, with people but especially with animals. I spent the morning in the yard doing chores with a complete lack of significant wildlife connection. As soon as the woman arrived an adolescent blue jay landed on the fence close by, looked at her and started (I kid you not) conversation. He then landed on her, played with her hair, chattered, swooped around her head. I was uneasy since at the time I was recalling being dive-bombed by jays as a kid. But my guest wasn't. She understood, listened. Long story short, it was determined by a wildlife rescuer that the jay was raised by a human and then released. A few years later a new friend told me his daughter-in-law was a bird rescuer. As we became acquainted we realized our blue jay connection. She had the jay and was planning to keep him in the aviary for life since he was still attached to people.
Somewhere on this blog is the story of the crow outside the vet office the day we said goodbye to our old dog.
5/22/12 Update: After looking around it seems I have not posted the story of the crow and my old dog. I'll create a separate post for it.
"A tiny bud of a smile on our lips nourishes awareness and calms us miraculously. It returns us to the peace we thought we lost." - Thich Nhat Hanh
Observe classic works of art for this expression. Raphael's cherubs are a perfect example:
Sunday, May 20, 2012
There's a story behind how she connected with Virginia Beach. If I have the story right, in the early 2000's a male teacher from one of our local studios was in New York attending an advanced class. In walked an older woman who set up beside him. In his mind he wondered if she realized it was an advanced class. Well, he was delightfully surprised to witness her abilities. Afterward, he got to know her and told her she must come to Virginia Beach sometime. She did! A couple of times!
I will never forget Tao.
Friday, May 18, 2012
I think it is a worthy question to ask any yoga teacher. What do they mean when they say "breath..."?
The information below comes from some of my answers to the Barratt Breathworks Level 1 written exam from June 2001. It is a simple outline the basics of healthy, natural breathing. I will eventually create an audio guide as body and breath education. But, for starters, this Monday morning we will explore the lessons in class.
Primary Muscles of Respiration:
4 layers of abdominal muscles
Secondary Muscles of Respiration:
The basic movements of the central, pelvic and vocal diaphragms during inhalation and exhalation:
The central diaphragm drops on the inhalation, moving the internal organs and creating a greater amount of space in the chest. With greater pressure outside the body, air moves into the lungs to balance out this pressure. With the exhalation the central diaphragm relaxes and billow back up into the chest, pushing the air out of the lungs.
The pelvic diaphragm and the vocal diaphragm play a secondary role in respiration and are less known for their role in breathing. Each supports the central diaphragm by allowing it to function effectively. The pelvic diaphragm drops and broadens on the inhalation. It retracts and narrow on exhalation. The vocal diaphragm lifts up on the inhalation and drops with the exhalation.
The three phases of optimal breathing in sequential order:
1. abdominal 2. thoracic 3. clavicular
A review of the Yogi Complete Breath, the movements of the breath and the body during this form of breathing:
The Yogi Complete Breath is the way we are designed to breath, engaging all three breathing spaces: low, middle and high spaces in the respiratory cycle. Diaphragmatic in nature, it is integrative, fundamental to the core and foundational in pranayama practice. It is not a technique, although it is sometimes used in conjunction with yogic breath techniques. Breathwork is a process of dismantling and freeing the innate breath, clearing the interference of a natural process leading to full expression of the Yogi Complete Breath. It is a deep full breath beginning in the belly, which rounds gently. Moving into the lower ribcage and sternum, this area expands in the front, the sides and back. As the breath moves the belly draws in slightly guiding the breath through the middle breathing space into the upper breathing space. There is a sense of fullness without strain. The inhalation connects with the exhalation. There is no pause between the in-breath and out-breath. With the exhalation there is a sense of complete emptying, the chest drops followed by the middle and then lower breathing spaces. There is a pause at the end of the exhalation. The inhalation rises gently from the pause.
The basic movements of the breath through the abdomen, central diaphragm, intercostals during inhalation and exhalation in unrestricted breathing:
Note what is described below is unrestricted breathing. If your experience does not relate at all or in part, relax! This is why you are learning and practicing! This said, let's explore the optimal.
One should move towards allowing the breath to emanate from the particular area of the body rather than forcing a mechanical movement. The breath will swirl-in and fill space. The movement of the breath is different from movement of the body. If areas of restriction are sensed, rest with the feeling rather than judging or resisting. In this way, there will be no strain in the breath or body, particularly in the areas perhaps not fully engaged in the act of and opening-to breathing.
Abdomen A hand can be placed on the abdomen initially to gain a greater awareness. In unrestricted breathing the breath should be sensed and felt in the abdomen when the hand is taken away. If awareness is lost, return the hand to the abdomen. The breath should rise and gently fall in this area without a feeling of effort. It will feel familiar, natural. The back and sides of the body will softly expand with the inhalation and retract gently on exhalation.
Diaphragm The breath at the diaphragm will be sensed at the lower ribs, where they join the waist. Again, the breath should rise and gently fall in this area without a feeling of effort. With unrestricted breathing it will feel familiar, natural. The back, sides and front of the body will expand as the inhalation carries the breath in to fill the space. A gentle retraction, tightening of the abdominal muscles yet a letting go in the upper body comes with the exhalation. It will feel natural and easy to breath in this area in unrestricted breathing.
Intercostals Intercostal movement of the breath is felt around the upper ribs, front, sides and back. With inhalation, the spaces between the ribs will expand as the breath enters and fills the space. Exhalation brings a slight and gentle retraction. Breathing here should feel effortless. Chest breathers will experience ease and a natural feeling breathing in this space. Chest breathing serves us well in aerobic activity but can be somewhat anxiety producing if it a habit.
On a personal note, prior to meeting Kathleen Barratt and being guided by her, I did not understand breathwork and what is had to offer. Fortunately I had "a little asana under my belt" so there was at least an elementary understanding of synthesizing physical and mental awareness. The more yang pranayama practices in yoga class served to only heap more tension onto and into my body. Breathwork was the gentle unraveling I needed. In time I could approach more structured pranayama. More importantly however, breath awareness became and is a tool for my gauging experience in present time: be it anxiety, recognizing an intuitive sense, self-assessing being off physically and making adjustments accordingly.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
In June I'd like to have a mysore/individual practice including a reading every 10 minutes or so. We did this once with interesting results. As Angela Farmer says, the body loves metaphors. When movement, awareness, poetry and the natural environment come together it is enriching!
This week expect a post from my Barratt Breathworks final from June 2001. I came across the written exam and find it to be an informative outline. Universal Brotherhood Movement had a call newsletter articles and I thought I'd submit one. When finished it will be posted here. And expect a post on the benefits of inversions. If there's a topic you have questions about please let me know.