Stretching your Way to Beauty

Young woman in paschimottanasana pose, home interior background,

Regular physical activity can help keep a person young. Our bodies are designed by nature to be used. As my father says – “What we need is a good sweat”.

However, ‘civilised’ modern living moves us moving us further and further from this. A lot of the more desirable and higher income jobs are also some of the more sedentary. Office jobs and professional occupations expend lots of mental energy, but little physical. Even jobs that do require activity don’t necessarily make for healthy people.

As a counterbalance, we have to incorporate regular activity, exercises, training or gym-work into our daily lives. Even cleaning your home with vigour (a practice of George Ohsawa) can make a difference. But first the habit to do so has to be made and then maintained. If not, it is so easy, to go the path of least resistance – of doing nothing physical and gradually becoming unfit as the years progress. Eventually when you get old, it catches up with you.

Regular practice of any sports or exercise is what is needed. It doesn’t matter whether it is tai chi, yoga, martial arts, dancing or gardening. It is the activity that keeps you young and mobile.

An old English proverb:

A rolling stone gathers no moss

Movement keeps us clear of Ki-energy stagnation and muscular restrictions. It keeps us loose and supple.

Here is an quote from the Yoga teacher Richard Hittleman from his book – Be Young with Yoga:

Flexibility and Grace; Stretching your Way to Beauty

Usually the first physical characteristics of which we become aware when we see someone is his or her movements and posture. The way in which a person moves, gestures, walks, sits and stands actually makes a strong impression upon us.

Isn’t it true that if a person, regardless of age, moves with a certain sprint and agility that he appears youthful and alive? Is there not something magnetic and radiant about the man or woman who walks, stands and sits with natural grace and poise? And on the other hand how quickly we will regard as “old” those people who have allowed their spines and limbs to grow stiff. Stiffness and tightness will always lead to varying degrees of immobility, slumping, stooping and awkwardness and we seem to be instinctively repelled by those characteristics which detract from what should be the natural beauty of the body.

Flexibility, balance and poise are not characteristics which can be “faked”. That is, you cannot force a good posture or move with grace and agility if you don’t really feel these naturally. But in reality the body is the temple of the spirit; therefore, it is the natural condition of the human body to have the attributes of youth and beauty and it is only through neglect that they are lost. We can regain them as we stimulate and increase the vital force through the Yoga exercises.

The major offenders from the standpoint of stiffness, tightness and resulting lack of agility and poise are the spine and back. The joints also play a major role… The Yogi will tell you that you feel and look as young as your spine is elastic. You have only to look at the people around you to determine the truth of this idea. Your friends and relatives who may be young in years will appear to be “aging” as their spines and joints stiffen and they find it increasingly difficult to accomplish the necessary tasks of everyday life, let alone moving their body with agility and poise.

On the other hand you will find a certain “ageless” quality in that person who regardless of age in years, has maintained the elasticity of his spine. He walks, moves and bends with ease and grace; he appears poised and agile and as such is bound to radiate the characteristics of youth, health and even optimism, attributes which we find so positive and attractive.

Be Young With Yoga, by Richard L. Hittleman. Pages 155-156

 


Be Young, even if you’re Old

Some examples of how daily exercises over a lifetime (in any discipline) can help you ‘Be Young’:

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Madam Suzelle Poole – Started ballet at 7 years old and was still dancing at age 77. (YouTube Video BBC3)

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Tao Porchon-Lynn, 93 year old yoga instructor, and listed in the Guinness Book of Records. (YouTube Video)

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And…

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Jack Lalanne (YouTube Video), The American Exercise guru – age 95


Obviously, these people have made physicality a major part of their life, far more than the average person. But we all have the potential to maintain some level of youth-ness. And I would argue that we have a duty to do so for the betterment of society and to enjoy and help our families.

The challenge is how to add more activity into our daily lives.

Maintain the basics

I think, simple daily exercises can be a good starting point. As Richard Hittleman said – a supple and loose spine is a sign of youth and health. For example, something like the basic forward bend can help stretch and loosen the muscles around the spine. This is one of the basic exercises promoted by Richard Hittleman in his book – Be Young with Yoga.

Here is the exercise as taught in Richard Hittleman’s book:

Preliminary Leg Pull – Technique No. 1

preliminary leg pull picture

preliminary leg pull picture
Images from ‘Be Young With Yoga’ by Richard Hittleman

The Preliminary Leg Pull:

  • Encourages elasticity in the spine through a concave stretching movement. Also reduces stiffness.
  • Helps relieve tension in back.
  • Strengthens and stretches the legs.
  • Makes leg muscles and skin more firm and taut.

Instructions

  1. Sit on the floor. Extend your legs in front of you. Bring your feet together and make sure the back of the knees touch the floor.
  2. Extend your arms in front of you, kepp arms at eye level.
  3. Very slowly stretch forward, as far as you can aim to reach the furthest point of your legs.
  4. Grasp the furthest point of your legs, which you are able to hold without strain. For exmple, the knee, calves, ankles, feet or toes.
  5. Gently and slowly, bend your elbows and pull yourself further, beyond the point where you can longer stretch confortably. Stop when the movement becomes difficult.
  6. Do not strain. Never jerk or fight to go further. Hold the movement motionless for 10 seconds.
  7. When finished, slowly raise your trunk upright and and rest for a few moments. Then repeat the exercise again.
  8. Gradually increase the exercises by a few seconds each week until you can hold for 20 seconds. Practice 3 times a day either in the morning,  afternoon or evening

Advisory

Make sure legs are straight and knees not bent. When you pull forward, do so by bending the elbows.

Never jerk or force yourself to go further and never strain. Hold the pose in a relaxed way. Over time, your will find your spine will automatically and naturally gain in elasticity and flexibility.

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My note: This book was written in the 1960s. However these-days  it is more common practice to carry out the forward bend with a straight spine, head more upright and to ensure the bend comes from the hips. In these photos, it looks like that the model is bending her neck and head downwards. This may not be the best form.

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Richard Hittleman also advises:

Important things to know about the Preliminary Leg Pull

This technique will be an indication as to how stiff and tight you may have grown in ‘Key’ areas throughout your back and legs. The PRELIMINARY LEG PULL will begin to loosen these tense and cramped spots and provide you with elasticity of the spine. By following the directions exactly as given and holding your extreme position without movement for the number of seconds indicated, you will soon be able to place your forehead very close to, if not actually on your knees.

Next Post

BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE: Paschimottanasana – The Yogic Forward Fold


Genki Health Japanese Woman stretching


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References and Images

Be Young With Yoga, by Richard L. Hittleman. Thorsons Publishers Ltd. London 1962

Featured Image from http://www.123RF.com

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Physical Toil, Not Whole Foods will give you a Long Life

We have a Whole Foods close to where we live. They’ve got a great selection of foods and products, but generally we avoid shopping there, because at the prices they charge, I’d need to take out a bank loan.

There is this old joke: –

Only sick people shop in health food stores.

Is it true? Possibly. The first time I ever went into a health food shop was after I got sick with a digestive illness in my 20s and I started to learn about diet.

I tried out all sorts of foods and supplements. Things like: Quinoa – made me vomit, Udo’s oil – too oily for me, Spirulina – gave me a boost of energy when I first started taking it, but then the effects stopped, Rescue Remedy – like those fresh-breath sprays from the 90s, and various organic fruits and vegetables for juicing – definitely needed to take out a bank loan to buy those.

I don’t mean to criticise health food shops. I think they are a great alternative to the awful and exploitative conglomerates/corporations like Tescos and the rest. Though I do sometimes feel we get better value and food quality from some of the smaller businesses by non-British, which sell simple ingredients for cooking staple foods. The kind of stuff our ancestors have been cooking for centuries.

Recently, I discovered Polish bread sold in a local off-license food store. It tastes a lot better than the standard bread from supermarkets and is much cheaper than bread from the health food shops, which I understand is called ‘artisan bread’. As though bread is a piece of architecture.

I think that a lot of the foods and products they sell at Wholefoods are ego items. It’s a way to feel more healthier and wholesome by spending more money on products that have a ‘healthy’ label.

On the other hand, there are things you can buy  in health food shops that you can’t get in regular shops – like flouride-free toothpaste. So I am grateful for them to give us a choice. Isn’t it curious why Tescos can stock 5 or so different brands of fluoridated toothpaste, but not one single non-fluoride option? Or is that my conspiracy mind kicking off? Perhaps it depends on the store.

Organic Fried Chicken

I wonder what would happen if Macdonalds sold an Organic Big Mac for £1 more. Would people be tempted to buy it, telling themselves that it is healthier? Or if KFC sold battery free organic fried chicken? Maybe not. I wonder why they haven’t attempted it yet.

It wouldn’t be difficult for KFC to fence off a section in their factory farms, cram it full of chickens allowed to run around on their short stumpy legs, (hence free range) and throw organic chicken feed at them. They could even inject them with organically derived antibiotics and organic growth hormones so they plump up just great.

It’s not so far fetched. If Burger King can make the so called vegetarian – ‘Impossible Burger’ (and get sued (ironically) by vegetarians because they are cooked on the same grill as meat – yes that did happen), then organic Big Mac’s are quite possible. By the way, there will come a time in the future where Macdonalds and Burger King will have to display disclaimers on their menu boards to stop themselves getting sued.

Burger King Products are manufactured in a place that processes and handles MEAT.  Vegetarian options may contain TRACE amounts of MEAT!

If you are a true vegetarian, you have no place philosophically, stepping foot in a Burger King. Certainly not giving them any money to fuel their animal-killing empire. Perhaps an exception can be made if you just want to use their restroom, but even then it’s still pretty questionable. I mean, you’d have to be close to pissing yourself in the street to accept that it is justified to use, hence justify, the existence of a Burger King or Macdonalds.

Physical Toil

Anyway, the point of my article is that whether you buy the best and healthiest food’ or not, the most important component to robust health and a longer life is physical work, toil and activity. In fact, a combination of an active physical life and simple foods are key factors in reaching an old age. Certainly junk foods and snacks are not good for us, but I also think that the so called ‘health foods’ don’t matter as much as we think.

You can eat all the organic mung beans and soya you want, but if you don’t use your bodies the way nature intended them to be used, good health is not guaranteed. And our bodies are meant to be used. Conversely, you can eat a less than optimal diet, but if you are active throughout your life, you can maintain a good level of health.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from the octogenarian Qigong master Geoff Pike. He passed away a few years ago after a very long life. He also survived cancer in his 40s.

Cauliflower Sid

I once worked with a lumberjack named Cauliflower Sid, who ate little but tinned cauliflower, as the ever growing mountain of tins outside his tent testified. But he also felled more timber than men half his age. He was seventy-two and died at eighty two after falling from a galloping horse. I have shared the dubious delicacies taken from fly-blown saddle bags with men who are sixty and as lusty as nineteen year olds. The fact is, the average lumberjack, cattlehand, seaman, soldier or labourer will often out-work, out-play and out last his diet-conscious brother because his daily existence keeps him fit. With the greatest respect for health foods, such men have probably never heard of ‘we are what we eat’, otherwise they would all have gone to an untimely grave under a monument of empty cans, bacon grease, dried meat, hard tack and bangers ‘n mash… not to mention the hard liquor.

Consider the huge work force of the Third World. Throughout the East you will find middle-aged to old Chinese women trotting up and down the planks of building sites all day balancing baskets of sand and cement; Indians, Indonesians, Filipinos and Malays labouring ten to sixteen hour days – all on a bowl of rice, a chunk of dried fish or meat and a spoonful of green vegetables if they’re lucky. They smoke cheap cheroots, drink cheap booze, gamble half the night, bear many children and usually call it a day in their eighties, with a roomful of respectful great-grandchildren paying for a festive send-off.

All this should indicate that physical toil is nature’s exercise which all of us were built to perform, and it helps greatly when it comes to avoiding the results of inadequate or unwise diet. How does this knowledge help us in our own situation, surrounded as most of us are, by a convenient variety of highly refined processed, frozen, dehydrated supermarket edibles?

If we are honest with ourselves, we probably accept that a dramatic change in our eating habits is unlikely to last. If there are certain things you really enjoy eating and that you have always eaten, giving them up altogether may not seem worth the sacrifice. Perhaps it isn’t. With the tremendous research and millions of words written on the subject of ‘eating for health’, we all have a fair idea of what we should and shouldn’t put into our stomach.

If we are not prepared to take a course in mathematics in order to compute the exact measurements and balance accurate combinations, there is always a simple formula.

  • Eat less meat and more fish and fowl.
  • Eat less carbohydrate and more protein and grain.
  • Eat less processed food and more raw vegetables.
  • Eat less animal fats and more vegetable oil.
  • Eat less white sugar and sweets and more honey and raw sugar.
  • Eat less white flour and biscuits and more fresh fruit.
  • Eat less refined cereals and more roughage.

The Power of Ch’i, Geoff Pike

Geoff makes some interesting points in this extract. However, there are some statements which I would question. When he describes the lifestyle of the Third World workers of drinking, gambling all night and living to their 80s, I don’t think this applies to everyone. Because even with a life of physical toil and labour,  if you don’t look after your body and diet, you can wear it out quicker. Bear in mind, these are countries lacking in medical care. Also, I am not sure about his advice of eating more vegetable oil rather than animal fat. I think that there is some research to show that animal fats are actually more healthier than processed vegetable oils. But either way, I think the quantity of fats in general needs to be reduced. Other then these points, I think his writing is pretty valid.

A personal example

For example, my father who has recently reached his 80’s has spent his entire life doing physical work as a farmer, brickie, and then as a gardener for the last 40 years, along with various other jobs here and there. He still works as a gardener at the time of writing this article. I worked with him for a few years, and can say, I didn’t enjoy the work as I am much more suited to working indoors and prefer wearing clean clothes (yes I’m soft), but I totally respect him for being able to do what he does, especially in the winter and rainy weather. And England does rain a lot.

I also see that it is this lifetime of physical toil that has conditioned him this way and has enabled him to get to the age. He has a simple diet of his own grown vegetables, store-bought porridge oats for breakfast (a favourite of Rupert Murdock, so I’ve heard), and some fish or meat bought from a local butchers or fishmonger. He is not fussy where he shops as long as they have the simple foods he wants at reasonable prices.

My father never eats sugar, biscuits, crips or chocolate and definitely not Macdonalds though occasionally he will eat from a fish and chip shop. He has no taste for those foods. He also happily drinks regular tap water.  Not filtered, – just regular tap water.

Additionally, my father has never once stepped foot in a Whole Foods store. Perhaps I should encourage him to go. I’d love to see his reaction when he saw the prices. The shelves of a Whole food store with its packaged products are a far cry from the homegrown veggies of a London allotment. Which one is really healthy?

I think also the nature of processed food has changed. Cauliflower Sid survived on tinned cauliflower. It may have been lacking in vitamins and nutrients, but it is still better than some of the processed and junk foods, he would have been able to choose today, which contains all sorts of additives, chemicals, especially appetite-inducing substances like MSG. It’s ok as a treat here or there, but this stuff is bad for you in large doses.

Changing habits

The problem is that I, like many other people of my generation and younger, have been adulterated by snacks, sugar, junk and convenience. I wouldn’t even know personally how to grow my own veggies. These processed snacks and foods are very addictive like a drug. It takes willpower to break these addictions. They are comfort foods as well as stress-dealing foods.

The risk of them is that the more stress you have, for example due to a shitty job – the more of these foods you will eat, and the more damage you will gain whether it is weight-gain, or disruptions to your hormonal system. It becomes a kind of vicious circle, because you start feeling worse about yourself and so keep on eating more of these foods in order to lift your mood, but it only makes the problem worse.

When Macdonalds is better value than health food…

We have more junk food available. It’s the only thing that is not affected by inflation. Doesn’t that seem strange? Whereas everything else is becoming expensive – bills, living costs, rentals, and salaries are stuck. Additionally, we work more than previous generations, with more women and men in the workplace, more stress and more pressure. Consequently we have more obesity and increases in diseases. General health is on the decline.

Bread and circuses anyone? Keep people’s bellies full, then they won’t get too upset that they are getting a raw deal.

Antidote

I think one thing that can help us all is by getting into physical activity. Be-it sports, or regular training of some sort. Because when we learn to appreciate and respect our bodies, we also care more about what we put in them. It becomes not a vicious circle, but instead a ‘splendid’ circle, because as you feel better about yourself, you feel more encouraged to live and eat more healthier.

In other words, “We Eat to Live. Not Live to Eat”, as my dad has sometimes quoted to me.

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Next Post

Longevity and Yoga


Genki Health japan Promo 5


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References and Images

Featured Image from 123rf.com (Nadejda Panina)

The Power of Ch’i. Geoff Pike. 1981 Outlet

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Making Difficult Decisions: Listen to your Heart

Making Difficult decisions

Sometimes we are faced with choices. These may be choices to change your life course. Or to move someplace new. Perhaps start a new job, or relationship.

Choices can lead to big changes in your life. And so it is normal to be a little anxious. Most choices require an active decision on your part. Do you take the new path or stick to what you know? What is the right choice for you? What to do… What to do?

How to make a decision

One time, when I had to make a big decision, I spoke to a colleague who advised me to make a list of all the pros and all the cons of the possible choices, and then make a decision based on that.

This idea of running through the pros and cons seems sensible. It seems logical, but it doesn’t work for me. On that occasion, even if I did the list and decided that one of the choices was better, I still found myself second-guessing and pondering again on my choices. I would basically keep changing my mind. Not good.

I think that human life is not always logical. Certainly not the way I live it. I prefer an intuitive approach.

This made me think of something the British philosopher Alan Watts once said when making decisions. It went something like this – ‘you spend hours and hours going through the pros and cons of a decision, and then finally when the time comes to make a choice, instead, you make a snap decision based on how you feel’.

Yes, this sounds right to me.

Listening to your internal advisor

The advice that really speaks to me came from the Russian author Vadim Zeland, in his book series called ‘Reality Transurfing

Reality Transurfing.jpg

Vadim says that if you have to really convince yourself to go ahead with a particular decision, then this is the heart speaking to you that it is not right.

He believes that your heart knows on a deeper level what is right for you and what is wrong.

I have learnt that if you feel any unease deep in your heart over a decision, or you have to convince yourself to make a decision a certain way, then it is not the right path.

I recall something my driving instructor once told me many years ago, when I was learning to drive. She said, ‘when you are at a junction and you are not sure whether you can go, then don’t go’.

One example from my own life was the choice to move to a different part of the country for work. Though logically, it seemed a good choice to take. I could never shake the feeling that it was wrong for me. There was a lot of doubt in my heart and mind.

In the end, I overrode my heart, and chose what I thought was the logical decision. I moved but it didn’t work out. Even after making the decision, I could never shake the feeling that it was the wrong choice. Numerous small obstacles came up. My family was unhappy. In the end, it didn’t work out, and I ended up backtracking, but I lost time and money doing so. Fortunately in the end, I also learnt from this experience. I learnt that I had to trust my heart and intuition more and listen to it, when making big decisions.

The alternative space

The Russian author Vadim Zeland talks about the ‘alternative space’ – a different dimension or reality, which your heart is tuned into. This means that your heart (not the physical organ) sees the different possibilities, realities or future behind a choice.

On the other hand, the mind (which we tend to use when making decisions), attempts to use logic, but probably more likely operates on past-conditioning when making decisions. The mind may also operate from a perspective of fear or survival and can override any messages coming from the heart. You can think of the heart as intuition. Also what we call the ‘gut feeling’.

I believe that if we can follow our heart, it can lead us to a more fulfilling and prosperous experiences in life.

Anxiety and Fear

A choice to do something new or different can be scary. It is natural to feel some fear when embarking on a new endeavour. But you have to distinguish whether this fear is just the normal kind of anxiety a person can get from doing something new, or whether it is a message from the heart telling you that this is the wrong choice for you.

A sense of fear and anxiety when doing new things is normal and will help you to grow if you overcome it. On the other hand, a sense of unease about a decision may well be the heart directly communicating to you from the ‘alternative space’, that this particular decision is not right and can lead to an undesirable outcome.

Fear or Heart?

If decisions scare you, you should judge whether this fear is because you are being challenged or stretched in a way that you are unfamiliar with, but which may be good for your development. Or is it fear, because your heart is communicating with you that it is the wrong decision?

If the heart is communicating to you that it is a wrong choice, the feeling will be heavier and tied in with a sense of foreboding. The choice simply feels wrong, regardless of whether it would be best for you from a logical standpoint. It may also be a choice that you have to continuously persuade yourself to do, or one where you can’t stop having doubts about it, even after making a decision.

Signposts

I also believe that life throws us small signposts or synchronicities when you embark on a new life or path that is in tune with your spiritual and life development. These are signs from the universe that you are going the right way. So just keep going.

These signposts may be things like meeting a new person that you totally in tune with. Or even obstacles simply disappearing from in front of you, making the path smoother. It may even be money flowing to you, to encourage you on your way.

On the contrary, when you are not in tune with a decision or choice, you may find many small annoyances or obstacles keep coming up. For example, you may meet more annoying people, who just keep turning up in your life. Or perhaps if you move somewhere new, small things keep breaking down – and you have to deal with them. It may seem coincidental but I don’t believe such things are. They are negative synchronicities.

When a choice you make is in tune with your heart, then the decision will make you excited even if it will be difficult. These feelings are good indicators that it is the right path and is likely to lead to all sorts of interesting experiences in life.

Next Post

Courage and Taking New Paths


Genki Health Japanese Asian Woman Meditating


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References

Reality Transurfing Steps I-V. Vadim Zeland. 2016

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Japanese garden bridge – Silvia Lüthi.  akupunkturplus.ch

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Longevity and Yoga

Fit and strong woman doing push ups

The one thing I have learnt about having two young kids in my 40s, is that the earlier in life you can have them, the better.

Children… even just one of them takes a lot of energy on a daily basis. With my first kid, more of my hairs went grey. With my second, kid, I started losing hair.

I have found I have less time, and that I tend to focus a lot more of my energy on my family than on work, travel, entertainment or other projects.

As we enter the new decade, I would like to focus more on my own long-term health and longevity. As my kids grow older, I assume their demands on me will remain high, although what they require from me will change.

I would like to keep myself relatively healthy for as long as I can, to be able to support them and at the very least, teach them some good habits and educate them the way I want them to be educated.

The direction of this blog will reflect my drive to focus on health and longevity. I will write more on health and fitness, and share what I do and learn with anyone else who is interested.

Longevity Through Yoga

I found an old book called The Manual of Yoga by the author Desmond Dunne, written in 1956. In one chapter, he talks about how we can attain longevity through the practice of yoga. Here is a passage:

If you would live to a ripe old age, then you must take Yoga seriously. Yogis, particularly those of India, have succeeded in prolonging this earthly existence for an incredible while. They can preserve their vigour and youthful appearance till far beyond the normal span of life. Naturally we in the West cannot expect to obtain exactly the same results as they do, for they devote the whole of their time to this aim of remaining young, but we may emulate them to some purpose. Despite the difference in their environment and mode of existence, we can, provided we are prepared to make sufficient effort, in some measure retain youthfulness and add to the length of our years.

We generally appreciate but little what we have gained with ease, and are so apt to lose it; and once it is gone, we would have it back and cannot recover it. One can fritter aways one’s opportunities to survive to eighty or more, waste one’s health as if its supply were an inexhaustible pitcher. But even if one had unwisely done so, Yoga will enable one to make good the loss.

Follow its instructions regularly and with fervour, carrying our its exercises, rhythmic breathing, relaxation, and keeping to a sensible choice of diet, and you will have a good chance of adding many years to your span your life. But make no mistake, you will have to sacrifice a considerable amount of your leisure, and put out a great deal of effort, to win this coveted prize. Too many people expect to do so without lifting so much as a little finger. However, not being so fortunate as to possess an Aladdin’s lamp, which if they did they might not have sufficient energy to rub, they are bound to remain disappointed. Yoga, like any other pursuits which are worth striving after, cannot be achieved without prolonged and persistent application.

The Manual of Yoga, (p94) 

 

The Coveted Prize

I think the same advice can apply to other health practices and disciplines such as tai chi, qigong, dancing, even bodybuilding, as we can see from Jack LaLanne, who was in his 90s and still exercising. Better health and a degree of longevity can be attained, but we have to work to gain it.

We are spiritual beings occupying physical bodies. Our bodies are designed to be used regularly, but modern living (supposedly civilised), actually discourages it. So many jobs these days don’t require a lot of physical activity. Additionally, many of us consume a lot more food than we need. I think that many of us can get to our 50’s or 60’s without too many complaints, but then the kind of life we have led will then start to catch up with us then and affect our bodies.

As Desmond writes, ‘make no mistake, it takes a great deal of effort to achieve longevity and we have to sacrifice leisure to attain it’. I think the process can and should be enjoyable and is definitely worth it. And that sacrifice is daily activity or exercise and regular healthy habits.

Starter Steps

Here are some simple starter points.

  • Set a goal every morning that one of the first things you do is some gentle stretching, callisthenics , qigong or any kind of exercise, even if just for 10 minutes.
  • When watching TV or Youtube videos or reading a book or blog (like this one), get on the floor and do some gentle stretching at the same time.
  • Also whilst sitting at home when watching TV or reading, try and adopt the half lotus, Japanese seiza or cross legged pose (if you cannot do the first two). It will help open up your hips and improve your posture.
  • Eat smaller portions of food. And consume higher nutrient dense foods – veggies, rice and some protein.
  • Go for a walk every day and walk at a moderate to fast pace.
  • Finally, read a chapter of The Genki Self Health Guide every day and leave a positive review on Amazon for me.🙂

These are all ideas I aim to do every day. They are also all ideas from my Genki book. Simple approaches for better health!

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Next Post

BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE: Paschimottanasana – The Yogic Forward Fold


Genki Health japan Promo 5


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References

The Manual of Yoga. Desmond Dunne. 1956 W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, London.

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Woman doing push ups from 123rf.com (Yes, it has nothing to do with yoga, but I liked the picture)

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Courage and Taking New Paths

Courage Thumbnail Shamo

Sometimes in order to move your life forward, you have to put yourself forward. You have to make decisions or choices that stretch you. It may be going for a new type of job, or promotion or creating a new business. Or it could be training in a new field, for which you have little experience in previously. It may even be moving to a new city to escape a place where you were stagnating. Or it could be writing that book or creating something to put out there for others to gain from.

It’s something, we have to go through

It is likely that in our lives, at some point, we would have had to done this already. For example, the young man or woman, embarking on a new career early on, would have required courage to do so. It may have been scary and challenging, with some difficulties early on. It also would have required meeting a whole load of new people from different backgrounds and getting on with them. However, if you passed through these challenges, you would develop confidence and sufficiency at this new work. As well as self-belief. It is at this point, you are actively learning and growing as a person. As we all need to do.

Once a person becomes comfortable after passing this stage, one of the pitfalls would be to stop growing and be content with where you are. In the past, some people would be able to stop and stick with this level of development for the rest of their lives. There is nothing wrong with that. But in this age, where jobs and work are less secure, it does not hurt to stay hungry.

Staying at the same place can also get boring. For example, my father has been a gardener for the last 40 years. A few years ago, he started to tell me how he was getting bored of his work and wanted to do something different. So he started to invent a new design of seeding tray. Perhaps, if he’d had the same thoughts 20 or even 10 years previously, he would have come up with a lot more different ideas and opened up a new type of life and work for himself. Still, better later than never.

The easiest option for everyone is to stick to what you know. But some people would like to do something different before they get too old to do anything new. And if you embark on something new, you may just find a re-emergence of those feelings of fear and anxiety. The same kind of feelings you may have had as a young person starting off in a new job. That is what it is like to be young again. Do you remember it? Youth is about exploration. Don’t get old too early. As I wrote here – youth is as much a mental state as a physical one.

A friend told me this:

My only advice to guarantee prosperity and contentment is to go where the risk lies. Unless you are extremely uncomfortable, nothing will change.

The path of courage

It is the path of courage. And it involves taking a leap of faith sometimes. To do something new, may require you to move away from the path you know well and to do something different. You may have done well for yourself the last 20 years. Perhaps in a job, where you know everything in-and-out. You know all your co-workers. They know you. Why would you want to start doing something new and scary again? The answer is – to grow of course. And maybe even to find something you are really good at.

Leap of faith

I think the best analogy comes from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There is this scene where Jones enters an underground cavern. He comes to a ledge overlooking an abyss. He needs to get to the other side, but there is no way across. Not even his trusty whip could be used.  As he looks down, all he sees is darkness and a likely drop to his death.

But this abyss is one of several tests to reach the holy grail. For this particular test, it is required that the challenger must take a ‘leap of faith’. There is no other way to cross. He must take one step into the abyss and into certain death.

Jones closes his eyes and takes the step. He expects to fall to his death, but something happens. His foot finds a step. It was there all the time, hidden in plain sight by the darkness and by optical illusion. It first required an act of faith on his part to find it.

Another scene that fits, comes from the classic movie – The Matrix. Neo must leap from the building and jump to the other side. This test is different. In order to make the leap, Neo must believe in his own abilities. There can be no doubt in him, otherwise he will fall, which he does the first time.

These are analogies from popular movies. But I think the same applies to real life. Obviously I’m not talking about leaping from buildings, but I am talking about getting started on something new – something, that you really want to do, but have never gotten round to, because life got in your way. Here’s a hint – life will always get in your way. The challenge is to make time in your day to work on something else.

And I think that once you get started, you may find that the path was already there – just waiting for you, but hidden. When the flow in your life starts moving, you may find new doors open up for you that you never imagined were there.

And whilst the sensible and most comfortable thing to do in life, is to continue on our everyday path, doing what we already know; If you are one of those types of people agitated by feelings of – ‘I really want to do this before I die’, then now is the time to get into it. Those feelings, are your heart communicating to you. The heart operates within the realm of possibilities. It does not operate from the same calculated and logical decision-making processes that the brain operates by. Instead, the heart, knows what is good for your soul. So listen to it when it whispers to you.

Sticking to dead-end lives

Many years ago, I was stuck trying to survive, doing minimal wage jobs in hospitality and hotels, just to pay the bills and rent. I was putting my acupuncture business on hold because I thought it was more important to pay just to live.  I figured that paying bills was the priority in life and that I could build my business in my spare time. However, there was no spare time. There was never any spare time. Or energy. Or motivation. I wasn’t even at the level of the mouse in the mouse-wheel. It felt more like I was a rat in a sewer tunnel, running round and round in a circle, in muck.

Low income jobs are traps to suck your time and energy and keep you on the mouse-wheel. They never pay enough for you to do anything else, and you always get treated like a disposable object.

One night, I’d had an especially bad day at work, and something snapped in me. ‘That is enough!‘ I said to myself I will not do this kind of work anymore. Instead I will focus on my acupuncture business, even if it doesn’t work. Even if I go bust, I don’t care. As long as I do it.

And that is what I did. I quit those jobs and threw myself into my own business. I  found a place to work from. I made flyers and handed them out in person. I made a website and listed it on several different online directories. I met and trained with fellow acupuncturists and other therapists. I volunteered for an acupuncture organisation. I threw myself out there.

And things got harder financially. Even, when I was working my low-income jobs, I had often struggled with bills. Now I’d stopped doing that, there was even less money. It put a strain on my relationship and we needed to take a break for a while. I had to leave my apartment and move into a shared house.

No regrets

Looking back, do I regret it? No definitely not. It was hard at the time, but it eventually brought me to where I want to be in life.

This time of struggle provided an opportunity to redefine my objectives in life and what I really want. While I was no longer having all my time and energy sucked by a dead end job, I had the chance to consider my life purpose and self-exploration of other potential talents. This time gave me the mental and physical space to start writing. I have always been writing, but it really took off in this period, and has never reduced.

There are some things I wrote back then – such as my ‘How to Start a Complementary Therapy Business on a Budget‘ which is still being read today. Some people even buy it as a kindle book, even though it is available as a free PDF.

Sometimes such choices are necessary for growth.


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Release the stagnant, invite fresh flow

By releasing this one thing that wasn’t working in my life, I invited fresh energy and a new experience into my life. Gradually, my practice started picking up. I was renting space at a local clinic on an adhoc basis and I was getting more and more inquiries. The business manager mentioned on a few occasions, how I was always calling them to book rooms several times a week. This was a good sign.

Also a new opportunity to work in a paid position as an acupuncturist in a hospice came up some time later. This came about, because I had more time to volunteer doing acupuncture for a healthcare charity. This was something I could never do, while I was spending all my time in a low income job.

After a while I was able to get a new place for myself – small but mine. As I became more satisfied with my acupuncture work and who I am, my relationship resumed and became much stronger than before. Now I have children. A break is not a bad thing in a relationship, particularly if things get a bit stagnant.

When I look back at this time, I am truly grateful to the universe for allowing me those opportunities and experiences, even though, sometimes, they were difficult things to go through. Yet, none of this would not have been possible, without a leap of faith on my part in the first place. By releasing things that are not working for you, it enables new energy and flow to come into your life. You must close one door to open another.

Disclaimer

By the way, I do not advocate quitting your job to start a business! There are much easier and smoother ways to transition into something new. If you have obligations, bills, mortgage to pay, or dependents, then you have to be responsible, possibly even delaying your actions. The important thing though, is to get started, even in a very small way. For example, starting a new part-time course, or setting up something in your spare time. it may be applying for a new job, or aiming higher in your current work. I also strongly advise against taking on debt to finance it. However, if you don’t have anything to lose, then you can be more gung-ho about it.

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Ochiru no Alice (Falling down Alice)

Thumbnail Ochiru no Alice

Are we the dying, the poisoned, the shepherded – carroted and sticked? Living in an age where down is up. Wrong is right, everything is backward. Where disease is health. Freedom is slavery, our thoughts are not our own. It matters not whether you take the red pill or the blue pill, or even if you are aware of what that means. Because whether you think you know the truth or not, it keeps changing. What you think is true is false. What appears good, is really bad. And what actually is Good, is ignored.

We have always been at war with Oceana… Or was it Eastasia? Does it even matter?

Worse is that it is intentional. Subsequent generations are played with… toyed. Like rats in a cage, set pointless tasks to evaluate them for pointless reasons. To study how we behave under certain circumstances, how we react to certain stimuli. Why? For no reason other than control. Possibly, even for entertainment.

How does the scientist feel as he looks upon his cage full of rats. His clipboard in hand, studying whether the rats go right or go left. Do they fight or love? Do they eat or starve? Do they grow tumours or lose their hair? Their fate is in his hands. Is this what it is like to play God?

We like to think we are the highest forms of life on this planet and we play this game telling ourselves that we are a benevolent species aiming for perfection – for equality. But its cognitive dissonance. The way we call ourselves animal lovers because we love our pets, but turn a blind eye in the supermarket aisle at the rows of meat packaged in plastic. How did they get there? – We cannot think on it. And skin care products. Drugs, pharmaceuticals. Let’s not lie to ourselves. I am not vegetarian. I simply say that if we must exploit, then we should do it knowingly.

But really, it is us that are the experimented on. We are the rats. And we experiment on each other. We do not realise that we are only really a few steps away from doing what we do to animals – to humans. Perhaps it would only take one unstoppable virus that kills all of our livestock and then how long would it be till we have battery farms for humans?

Soylent Green is your future. You know that it would suit you.

Everything

You can take any aspect of life right now – politics, geography, education, health, medicine, disease, rights, the law, the environment, animals, food. Anything at all, and its all backwards,

Behind the presumed ‘truth’ – the official line, you will find those sidelined voices that speak out things contrary. Things are not as we believe them to be. And then those same voices will be criticised, ridiculed, marginalised, censored and given the ‘conspiracy’ label.

We used to joke about those guys walking around with ‘the end is nigh’ signs, or nutters wearing homemade tin foil cap. But now, I’m not sure people laugh at them anymore.

The Herd, or is it Horde

The common herd, another word for society, will accept the standard ‘truth’ and will join the chorus against those that question and doubt. Get in line, conform! They scream. Kind of like Donald Sutherland’s character in the final scene of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’

They are not one of us!

It is a societal form of peer pressure. Consider that ‘herd’ is a term that refers to animals – to lifestock. Do you want to be part of the herd? Do you want to consider yourself as just another sheep or cow?

Have you heard the expression ‘herd immunity’ in reference to vacc*ination? Stop and think what they expression is calling us. That we are animals – no different to cattle, or in perhaps – cats, dogs, or horses, which are more privileged animals.

Rabbit Holes

You could pick any number of worldly issues and go down that road explaining how the believed truth should be questioned. But, what would be the point. There are plenty of people who have questioned and researched it.

But I ask –  what if everything you thought was true, really was completely untrue. What is even these bodies, this world, the people around you was not real. Yes we are talking about ‘awakening’ – ‘Enlightenment’ – The breaking of the mind – of reality to see what is beyond our noses.

Perhaps the reason why the world is so upside down is because a greater force is shaking it up so much in order for us to awaken from our slumber.

“Wake up, you’re asleep, you’re in a game. You’re hallucinating? What you think is real is actually a hallucination. It’s a game? Its VR, and you’ve got to wake up soon. You are running out of time! Most people only have around 50 to 70 years. Some more, some less. So what are you doing sleeping!”

Screenshot from Red Drawf episode – ‘Back to Reality’, a drama, set onboard a mining spaceship in the future and lost in deep space. Here the crew awaken and find out they have actually been living in a computer simulated total immersion  game.

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Ochiru no Alice – Alice falling down the rabbit hole

Would you be willing to escape the lab cage? The walls are comforting, secure. A domesticated dog or cat does not escape to the wild. It cannot. It would not survive a few nights. It has had its wild instincts domesticated out of it. Kind of like what is happening to our younger generations with technology and liberalism. Even me too.

The Soul

In olden days, religions talked of the soul. We don’t hear much of it anymore. As though the soul is a construct. A make-believe story.

Yet, without a realisation of the soul, we have only the body. If we believe in only the body, what a devastating thing death will be! To believe that this is it. How hard we will grasp on to life right to the very end.

A spiritual friend tells me – “We are not our bodies”. I struggle to absorb this statement into my being. Intellectually I get it. But I do not ‘know’ it.

And the planet… What if this was really a prison planet for our souls?

The eternal soul which passes from body to body. Reincarnation, rebirth after reincarnation. Life full of worries and sufferings. Over and over again. Do you really have anything more to learn by being a woman or a man again or being born in this part of the world or that part? Won’t the lessons just be the same?

And if the planet is a giant prison. Then even those gatekeepers – the leaders, the politicians, the presidents, and the secret leaders behind those gatekeepers are no different to the prison guards. They themselves a form of prisoner, because  they too spend their best years behind the bars with the horde, just with a few more privileges.

Break Throughs

It is typical for a guru to attempt to break a student’s with questions or koans (unanswerable questions).

Here are some ideas for you to consider

  • Despite the billions spent on Medicine and pharmaceuticals, and finding cures, why instead do new diseases crop up? And why is there no end in sight to the original diseases we are fighting?
  • Why don’t we learn about managing money at school, even though our entire life, and in fact, out entire existence will be  governed by it? Instead, we are encouraged to spend, buy and voluntarily walk into huge, lifelong debt. Mortgage anyone?
  • Did slavery really go away, or has it been replaced with a different system?
  • Is cancer a natural consequence of the world we live in? Will our age be defined not by the number of people that get cancer, but by the number that don’t?
  • What if this increasing cancer rate was intentional?
  • And finally, what if just for one day, every time you heard a mainstream news story, you decided to believe exactly the opposite?  Yes, it means believing that the world is flat!

Prison world

A prison is typically seen as a cold place with an undercurrent of violence. With hardened people running on survival instinct. It has a dense and heavy vibration. Still, within those walls, there will be friendships, goodwill, trust, support and camaraderie. These are the positive traits of humans that can remain no matter how much hell, war, famine or evil is imposed on a society.

But still is is a prison, with walls, restrictions, rules and a squashing of human dignity and respect.

Workplaces can be the same. Imagine working in a call centre with a overly-stressed manager, ridiculous targets and having to ask permission to use the toilet (kind of like a Chinese Apple factory). And you’ll see another kind of prison. Again a dense repressive energy. This is the repression of human potential and spirit being squeezed into a small hole. Our spirits are not meant for this surely?

Is that not the same vibration of the earth? – That of a prison. Where the desire to compete, to struggle, to get one up, to stick your head over others. To get so much money so you can buy toys that make you look more important, or at least to be able to keep up. with everyone else who buys the same story – that we are our wealth, that we are our status. A world governed by fear that others will take what we have, or that we must take to get ahead. So let’s beat them to it.

And yet, for all our efforts, in the end are we truly at peace? Even the person who gets top marks in life and gets the prefectures badge, the respectable job title… No, very few are ever really at peace at the end of their life. Mindsets carry on to the end. Does anyone even know what it is like to feel at peace – truly at peace in the world? Few do.

By the way, I realise that by far the greatest obstacle for us from attaining any kind of spiritual awakening, wisdom or even peace of mind, comes from one of the greatest underrated dangers to all of us. This is entertainment, light and electricity.  The most obvious are our entertainment devices – the smart phone  (all unless you want to use it to read my stuff, of course),and previously the TV.

Entertainment sucks our attention. Before you know it, you could easily spend half your life binge-watching numerous TV series on streaming services. Artificial light upsets your natural sleep cycle.  Our smartphones are addictive. TV is hypnotic and makes the young mind impatient and lazy. Losing the ability of creativity, critical thought, logic and imagination.

And maybe that is the plan.

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The Master’s Way: Become more Rounded with Hobbies and Interests

Woman taking down notes in diary

A few years ago, I was hugely into 9 ball pool. I went to a pool club on days off and would play or practice for 3 hours straight. Sometimes I’d do it for 6. This was in Japan and pool halls in Japan are great value. It cost me 1000 Yen for 3 hours, playtime (about £8). 

My pool hall was in Kamata, in a kind of downtown area of Tokyo. On the way to the pool hall I would walk through a somewhat seedy district full of pachinko parlours, Chinese restaurants and hostess clubs. It was great.

I still sucked at pool, but over the weeks and months, I started to improve and made some good friends at my hall.

Be more interesting

The point of this article is that hobbies and interests have benefits to our mind and bodies. They make us more rounded as people, but also as practitioners. I think we learn things through hobbies that can help us achieve mastery in other things. Especially in my case, something like acupuncture. I believe that having interests in life, makes us more interesting as people. It gives us a perceptible glow that others can pick up on. A kind of internal passion that is attractive.

Health

Though, I spent hours in a darkened, smoky hall, away from fresh air and sunlight, playing pool provided me with certain health benefits, not least being temporarily shaded from all those other hard-nose-to-the-mill salaryman, rushing, careering, cramming the rush hour trains on their way to offices, meetings and oppressive workplaces. I suppose I was a slacker, but it was fun. My pool partner Kikumaru-San was an accountant, though he seemed to spend more time playing pool than working.

All the bending, stretching to reach shots and moving around the table keeps you thin. You may notice that most snooker players are usually quite lean. There is actually a lot of energy expenditure and movement in pool. It helped keep me relatively flexible.

Pool is  a game of concentration and emotional balance. You have to focus on the shot. You also need to develop patience and focus to practice shot after shot, over and over again.

Emotional training

And you have to learn not to get too emotionally upset when losing to someone, as happened often. One thing I learnt is that you can occasionally beat a superior player to yourself, if they lose their composure but you keep yours. Hint: Don’t drink alcohol.

When people lose their composure, no matter how good they are, they start making mistakes, which then turns into frustration and tension, even anger. This causes them to miss shots they would normally pot 10 times out of 10. And if you keep your composure and can pot, then you can win games, when ordinarily they would destroy you in minutes.

This is not to say, I was a high level player. I was mediocre. But I did have my moments.

Minerals 

And pool hall usually have bars. Bars sell Guinness, which contains minerals and b vitamins, which are good for you. Case closed.

Some pool halls in Japan even allow smoking (banned in the UK). So if you are reminiscent for the past, with its smoke-filled cafes and pubs, then go to Japan. 

Rounded interests

I think that hobbies are things that therapists, in fact anybody, can and should do – whether it be dance, yoga, martial arts, drawing, painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, singing, deep-sea diving, acting, flower arranging… the choices are many. 

All of these hobbies and interests make a person broader and well rounded. They also give a person balance. 

Martial Arts

I think in Japan, acupuncturists are quite balanced in their interests. My colleague in London, Eitaro, a Japanese acupuncturist is a black belt in Aikido.

One of my earlier acupuncture teachers, Mr Honda also has a black belt in aikido. He taught three classes a week in Yokohama.

One of his acupuncture students – Ishimaru, was a karate guy and came from Osaka.  He could be cheeky and made fun of me at the beginning, basically because I didn’t understand Japanese and didn’t have a clue what the teacher or anyone was talking about (nothing has changed since), although I later became friends with him. 

I have met many acupuncturists over the years, but these two stood out. I think it was their interests and hobbies, which made these particular individuals stand out more for me. 

Another good example of this is Mr Taniuchi.

Mr Taniuchi

In 2016, I visited Japan and went to Mr Taniuchi’s acupuncture clinic. Mr Taniuchi is a blind acupuncturist and member of the Toyohari association. I interviewed him for my book – The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan.


Blind Acupuncture in Japan


What really stood out for me is that despite being blind, Mr Taniuchi had a huge interest in building strength and physical fitness. Before he went blind as a young man, he was into judo. He had to give it up when he lost his eyesight. However, this did not stop his love of exercise.

2016-03-27-08.26.58.jpg
Mr Taniuchi teaching at the 2016 Toyohari Workshop in Tokyo

Exercising at Work

Before meeting Mr Taniuchi, I had heard from another Toyohari member that during breaks, Mr Taniuchi would lift weights in one of his treatment rooms.

Mr Taniuchi came to London, to teach in the European acupuncture seminar. During the group meal afterwards, Mr Taniuchi initiated an arm-wrestling match with all of the Toyohari members, and subsequently beat everyone. He easily dispatched all his opponents with a cheeky grin on his face.

His interest in arm-wrestling had begun when he beat one of his patients at an arm wrestling fight. This patient then invited him to his arm wrestling group. Mr Taniuchi went along and got really into it. 

Mr Taniuchi is not a big person but he showed me how you can build real strength and bone and muscle density with regular weight training.

Though, I don’t think any of us pasty-faced, limp-wristed acupuncturists provided him with any real competition. 

The lesson was actually quite straightforward and very relevant to people who work with energy. As we focus on the energetic aspects of life, Don’t neglect to focus on the physical. We need a balance of yin and yang.

Hobbies add to us

Perhaps, Mr Tanuichi’s armwrestling is not directly related to his acupuncture or healthcare in general. But it does make Mr Taniuchi a more interesting person. It also means that he can relate more wider to people. Especially young men who feel that strength and fitness are important, would be especially inspired by his interest in arm wrestling. 

Also, I am sure there are crossovers. There will be things about his arm-wrestling that would make him a better practitioner. Not withstanding, the general health benefits that regular weight exercises has the body.

Miro and Diving

Another example is my friend Miro Baricic. He is an acupuncturist with an interest in diving.  This is one of the most physically demanding activities that a person can do. Swimming into the depths of a lake or body of water requires strong muscles, stamina and lung capacity. There is no doubt, that this will have positive effects on his health in years to come. 

Additionally, he found an ancient sword in a deep lake Norway and made the news!

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Miro sword


What has 9-ball pool got to do with acupuncture?

To finish, I will answer – how does a hobby like 9 ball pool make you a better acupuncturist? Or any hobby?

The answer is that there are skills we develop which can be transferred to our acupuncture practice. Or any practice we take on. 

Here’s how:

Precision and Intention

9 ball pool is about precision and intention.

Before you even go into the stance, you must decide what shot you are going for. And you must decide where you want to position yourself for the next shot after.

Acupuncture is also about precision and intention, (especially in a system like Toyohari).

Before treating a patient, you must position yourself in the best way to reach your patient and that allows a better flow of Ki in your wrist and arm.

Accuracy

In pool, you pay special attention on your stance, measuring the shot and taking aim.  Even the pause before you strike has great significance.

This is because you must hit the cue ball at a very specific point on the ball. If you hit over centre, the cue ball follows after the target ball. If you hit under centre, the cue ball will spin backwards after hitting the cue ball. If you hit dead centre, the cue ball stuns and can stop dead on a straight shot. Hitting to the right or left of the cue ball also causes it to follow a different trajectory. Hence why precision is so necessary. You want to aim to position your cue ball in an area ready for the shot after. If you don’t do this, the cue ball will end up somewhere you don’t want it.

Like the cue ball, when needling the acupuncture point, you must find the correct location of the acupuncture point or you can miss it and not get the desired effect. 

Here is an extract from Shudo Denmei discussing his teacher’s accuracy when locating the correct acupuncture point:

Some practitioners locate points by rote and thereby fail to take the time to examine the area around the points carefully. My teacher practiced the Sawada style of acupuncture which puts great emphasis on locating acupuncture points where there is some palpable reaction. He was very particular about point location, and at certain points would press the skin with the head of a match or the end of a blunt pencil to find the tender spot. When he examined an acupuncture point carefully, he literally looked for reactions one square millimetre at a time. As a result, I learned to locate points with special care. When I am looking for a point, my fingertips are constantly on the move feeling for differences…

Generally speaking, the skin surfaces at acupuncture points on meridians with imbalances is less resilient than the surrounding area. Sometimes a tight band of tension of a knot-like induration can be palpated in the subcutaneous tissues with the fingertips. In other cases, the patient may feel tenderness when these points are pressed.

Shudo Denmei – Japanese Classical Acupuncture, p168

Delivery and Action

In pool, the drawing back of the cue, the pause and then striking the cue ball is the crucial moment. 

Your aim must be correct or you may miss the shot. You mind must be calm and focused. Your breathing as calm as you can make it no matter how pressured you feel. You learn to maintain calm though hours of practice. It is like a form of mental training or meditation.

When taking a shot, you must let go of tension, breathe normally and avoid holding your breath. If you feel any tension or worry, you can miss even easy shots. Likewise you must not feed any negative feelings like anger, frustration or fear. This can occur easily if you are losing to someone.

All of the above applies to acupuncture needling (again especially in Meridian Therapy).

Needling focus and intention

With the needle, you advance to the skin and insert it with intention. Your needling technique must be correct or you can miss the spot. You learn to do this through years of regular practice. To be calm and focused on feeling and connecting with the point and the patient. You must be relaxed and yet alert. Your touch must be soft. Holding the needle firmly, but not gripping with force.

The Chinese acupuncture bible, the Huangdi Neijing places importance on the sensitivity of needling with this quote:

In order to reinforce the deficient activity of the organs, it is advisable to insert the needle as carefully as a blind person handles things, inducing the vital energy, and then withdraw the needle as swiftly as a mosquito or a horsefly flies off as soon as it has landed, and as a taut string of a lute is broken suddenly.

HuangTi Nei Ching Ling Shu, The Cannon of Acupuncture – Ki Sunu. Page 33

Needling is not something you just do, like slapping paint on a wall or slopping a few bricks down in a hurry. A painted wall or brick wall can be created with beauty and care and be appreciated for it. Or it can look like a bodge job and noted as one.

The technique itself is a part of the treatment, not just the end result

In the West, Medical doctors, nurses and allied health professionals can learn acupuncture in a few weekends, learning point prescriptions for specific conditions like knee pain, back pain, stopping smoking or nausea. Acupuncture becomes a kind of Oriental painkiller. Ki does not exist. It is explained with endorphins and so on.

With such an attitude, the delicacies of technique are discounted.  All that matters is sticking the needle in without connection, without care. The famous Japanese acupuncturist Shudo Denmei writes this:

According to Yanagiya Sorei, forcing the needle is akin to rape, and if all we do is stick the needles in people, we are nothing but needle stickers. These words are really to the point. The secrets of acupuncture are no different from those of life itself. We need to pay attention to all we do. Qi is gathered around the point by stroking, brushing, and pressing the point. When the preparation is good, the area becomes slightly reddened. When the skin is ready to receive the needle, all one has to do is place the needle tip on the point and the needle practically goes in by itself. 

Introduction to Meridian Therapy, Shudo Denmei. Page171

Conclusion

My overall message here is to cultivate other interests and hobbies. It will make you more rounded and there is a crossover. No matter what you do, you can find parallels with your profession. Like with my example of 9 ball pool. 

Taking the time to learn something new will help you develop discipline, patience and an appreciation of the small details. Such things can help you in other fields of work. 

Improving by Observing Nature (& art, sports and movies)

Traditional Chinese medicine is based on Taoism, which is based on the observation of nature. Observing nature does not just mean observing animals, seasons or the cycles of the sun and moon. It is also about observing the daily activities that humans do. Yes, 9 ball pool falls into this category.

It may be the reason, why the Japanese put so much emphasis on perfecting the art of flower arranging (Ikebana) or Calligraphy, or even perfecting the air conditioning unit in a car.

Take a look at their electronic toilets to see how precision and beauty can be applied even to something like a toilet. If you can’t get to Japan to see it, you can always try and visit the Japanese embassy in London to see one. There seems to be an innate desire for perfection in all areas of life and work. And yes, even things like going to the toilet. A philosophy where the minute details are just as important as the overall outcome. 

The act of doing is as important as the final result

Even the process of learning a new hobby is part of this process. As a beginner you suck. But as you practice more, you gradually develop your ability until you become fairly capable.  You start to get recognition from others. As you improve further, you become more experienced and may even be able to guide others. There is beauty in this full process. We always admire the final product, but what of the full journey?

Another example can be felt when walking up a mountain. Why do people want to walk up mountains? It is extremely tiring and your legs ache for days afterwards. It is so much easier to go the gym, instead of getting bitten by bugs and overtaken by elderly Japanese walkers wearing their hats and fanny-packs.

When I have walked up mountains, I remember feeling satisfied when I got to the top , but then I would suddenly feel at a loss.

‘Oh, Ok, I’m here, now what should I do?’ I’d think. And then as soon as I felt rested enough, I would start descending again.

I realised that it is really the journey that gave me the pleasure. Not being at the top. The top is just for taking Instagram selfies with my selfie stick.

The act itself is as important as the result

This is the real application of being in the now. Every weave of the flower stem in Ikebana, or stroke of the quill as in Calligraphy is important in its own right. Every moment, every act is a frame in time. It all leads to the end result, which when that point comes, could be said to be dead, because it is finished. It is a metaphor for life.

It is not the final result, but the journey that gives life meaning. Which is why, when people have accomplished something great, they then start to seek the next challenge. This is because they recognise that life is about motion. To sit back and enjoy your successes leads to stagnation.

The famous Japanese aikido teacher and author Koichi Tohei in his ‘Book of Ki‘ talks about ‘always extending your Ki (energy)’ to be healthy. Once you relax your Ki, you can grow stagnant, slow down, old, even get sick. Here is an extract from when he returned from fighting in the War in 1946:

The day I returned, I began farming. My mother recommended I take a month’s rest at a hot spring resort. I said, “No, mother. I could endure hardships like sleeping on the ground because I did not relax my Ki. If I slack my Ki now, I’ll be in trouble. I’ll start farming in order to keep my Ki strong. I’ll visit friends and relatives after I get used to it.” After a week, I began visiting. I did not get sick at all. I heard later that some returning soldiers went to the spring and died since their Ki weakened. I again realised the importance of filling myself with Ki.

Book of Ki: Co-ordinating Mind and Body in Daily Life. Page 86

Perhaps it is the same way, a person who retires after working hard for many years, looking forward to a life of afternoon pub, daytime TV, cruises and general relaxation -finds himself losing his energy, becoming bored, dull and gets really sick for the first time in his life. It is because he is no longer projecting his Ki.

So always project your Ki. Keep on moving until you truly reach a time, when you feel ‘it’s enough‘; Now is the time to sit back and observe the others on the mouse-wheel.

Practicing a different hobby may even give you a new perspective on your other work. Having wider interests in other things that are different to what you do for a living can make you a broader and more rounded individual. It will make you more interesting as a person. Life is short, just a few decades at best. Just enough time to master one single act. 

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Energetic Blocks and Suppressing Life


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CHAPTER THREE (NARRATED VIDEO): Visit to Mr Taniuchi’s Clinic – The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

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Here is the Chapter Three (YouTube Narrated Video) – Visit to Mr Taniuchi’s clinic. Taken from the book – The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan. Narrated by Caroline Graham.

Available in a series of videos on my YouTube Channel. Book available on Amazon.

Chapter Three: Visit to Mr Taniuchi’s Clinic


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Blind Acupuncture in Japan


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CHAPTER TWO (NARRATED VIDEOS): Interviews with Teachers – The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

Chapter 2 Featured Image Blind Acu

Here is the Narration for Chapter Two of the Book – The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan. Narrated by Caroline Ann Graham.

Available as videos on my YouTube Channel.

This Chapter is broken down into different videos.


Chapter Two (A) Video


Chapter Two (B) Video: Interview with Mr Taniuchi


Chapter Two (C) Interview with Mr Abe


Chapter Two (D) Interview with Mr Michio Murakami


Chapter Two (E) Interview with Mr Hideaki Iwashita


Chapter Two (F) Interview with Mr Akira Fukushima


Chapter Two (G) Discussion of Interviews


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CHAPTER THREE (Narrated): The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan (Coming Soon)


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If you Become a Dog, Look for the Joy in Sniffing your Own Butt

Kakegurui

If you become a dog, enjoy it.

At some point in your life, you may lose things that are important for your ego in society. Your status, your money, your job, your home. Maybe even friends or lovers.

So if it happens, just accept it and say F*** it. If you do your best, or made what you thought were the right decision, yet still lost status and face, well F*** it. Shit happen. Don’t beat yourself up too much or blame yourself and see yourself as a useless human being. Life is full of decisions and forces out of our control. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes wrong. But just keep going.

Our wellbeing is often tied into our perception of status and how (we think) we appear in the eyes of ‘society’.

But who is society? People around us – friends, work colleagues. They are busy worrying about how they look to others. We are all worried about how we look to others. What a neurotic world we live in.

As a woman at a job used to say some mornings when she came in: “Good morning Fellow Slaves”. I told her, “It’s too close to the truth”. We become slaves to the perception of status.

Society is status orientated

We’ve all had this – meeting someone at a party – the ‘what do you do?” question. For several reasons, its a pretty pointless question. Or you are asked to fill in your occupation on some kind of registration form. Those are worse, because the answer you give in the moment can define you generations later, when your descendants look at those papers (and judge).

Those of us, with a less ‘straight and narrow’ approach to life may change their occupations many times at various time in their life. In that case, what do you write?

“Shop worker, office worker, manager, driver, teacher, actor, farmer, therapist, writer, unemployed, gardener…”

Or what do you write, if you are one of those guys that electrocute battery hens to death for a living? Or inject tumours into lab rats. Awkward.

“So what do you do?”

“Well, I torture and kill animals for profit.”

And that is why we invented fancy job titles.

What you do can change from week to week, month to month, year to year. You may do many different things in your life. What exactly is the true answer?

Uusally this question refers precisely to salaried work? Not everyone does that.

Answers are usually graded. Top marks go to doctors, lawyers accountants, corporate workers. Mid range marks go to clerks, admin, sales, nurses. Lower marks get graded to services – (even though arguably they are more essential to society and may often have more money than mid range marks) -e.g builders, gardeners, plumbers, pest control.

Booby marks go to those unemployed or with suspiciously (non work-type) professions. That sometimes includes acupuncture – depending on the type of party.

Overall its all pretty much pointless. Because if you going to rate someone, you may as well rate them on income and their wealth, rather than on a job title. This may sound materialistic, but jobs and job titles can be temporary and always changing. Whereas wealth pretty much stands for itself. and that is all anyone really takes notice of anyway.

So at a party, when someone asks “And What do you do?” Just answer, “I have a net worth of £110,000, how about you…?”

Pause… “Oh… Erm… I have a Tesco club card!”

‘Keep Face’ Book

And you may be surprised but a lot of people that look good ‘on paper’, ie with status, professional careers, fame, or big houses new car etc – may actually be insolvent, carrying lots of debt and that includes mortgage debt.

You hear often of bankrupt celebrities. They get lots of money, but either they overspend or some unscrupulous accountant or business partner rips them off. I think that true wealth probably doesn’t reveal itself too much. It comes in the form of people wih modest lifestyles, simple appearances, second hand cars and simple diets. Basically saving more than you spend.

Ultimately it is all pretty much unimportant and the reason for that is very simple. No one cares about you. People only care about themselves.

All that matters is you are satisfied with what you are doing. You are happy with what you are doing in life. If you truly are happy with your path, than you will greet everyone in that party exactly the same manner whether it is the garbage collector or the surgeon. Everyone will be interesting in your eyes.

Most people don’t do this. That’s why they play the point system.

Jewel in the Rough: Where else can you find one?

One of the most interesting guys I met was whilst working in a factory, in my hometown in my early 20s.

He was a man in his 50s, fit, and with a positive zest and enthusiasm for life. He was friendly to everyone. At the time, I was a temp, after having just dropped out of law school and was suffering with recurrent gut health problems (colitis). I was feeling pretty miserable. Even more so working in that factory.

But this guy told me his story. He wife had been suffering from cancer. She died a few years earlier. He had to stop working. And after her death, it hit him hard.

But, his tragic story became a story of inspiration. He decided he was going to learn karate, which he did so with enthusiasm and passion. He practiced regularly. He became a black belt. It made him fit and strong, both mentally and physically.

And though he worked in a factory with low pay and inherent instability, he had a positive vibe around him. His positive attitude livened up all the other factory workers – these middle aged women. He sometimes taught them karate moves. He taught me one. He was friendly and engaging with everyone. Including me, on the very first day I came. He shared his story openly and I was glad he did as I was only given one shift there.

He was even considerate towards a young female worker who suddenly felt faint as she had missed out on her breakfast to lose weight. Not a good idea when doing physical labour.

Lifelong impressions

Could you imagine being the kind of person who leaves a lifelong impression on someone after only a 30 minute conversation? We all imagine that celebrities or Presidents have that kind of power. But I think it can come from anyone potentially, with an interesting life.

Though brief, he left a lifelong impression on me. From a status point of view, he’d be down on the scale. As a human being with a life of interest, he was way up there. For a young man, hearing a story of how someone went through an extremely difficult loss, but maintained a positive frame of mind by taking on a mastering a new hobby was extremely inspiring. It made me question the issue of status and how imprisoned I was by its power over us.

‘Important’ People

On the other hand, being from a law family, I frequently met ‘respectable’ people, at the ever-frequent and torturous ‘dinner’/house parties I was subjected to from my mother.

One of the worst people I met was the owner of a law firm. He had the wealth, the status, the fancy car and clothes, but he was a dick. The only time we spoke, he was rude and antagonistic to me. At the time, I was young and naive, but usually very respectful to any elders I met. Big mistake.

He was one of most repulsive people I’ve met in my life, and left me feeling lousy about myself. He was also quite out of shape, which may be a reflection of his internal mind. No doubt he had some issues, which material success can only make worse.

This is not to say all people with humble jobs or high status jobs are like this. There are cool people and dicks everywhere.

It is healthier to idolise a rock than Ariana Grande (or insert celebrity name here if it is not 2019)

The worst thing to do is idolise or pedalastise people based on their status in society. They could be the worst people ever. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Celebrity worship is even worse. Worshipping celebrities – basically worshipping a fantasy is naive. The person we see on the screen in a favourite movie is not real. It is made up. You may as well worship a piece of wood on the ground. Celebrities are a story. Some are like a blank canvas, so we we can fill in our own worshipful story for them. But they’re all fake.

All except for Stephen Segal, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone of course.

Points

If you are dissatisfied or playing societies’ game of one-up-man ship, it means you are playing the point system. Unfortunately the point system imposes limitations on us, by keeping us stuck in the game. Even if you are at the top status wise, you can still be just as insecure as someone lower down in the system. Even more so.

Forever Home Improvements

Perhaps that is why there is so many shows about renovating your kitchen. People have to look for new ways to impress, to keep up, to portray your status. Perhaps people are looking for fulfilment by improving things they can improve on – like their kitchen, or building a loft renovation. Or buying a 4×4, SUV even though you live in the city, and the closest you come to nature is when you drive past some cows along the motorway.

Or you could buy a Tesler. Thats the current status symbol. It used to be BMW’s or porches. But now every Jack and Bill is driving one.

Down Dog

So what happens when you become a dog? In other words you lose your status. You lose something that is essential for the ego.

There are three possible paths.

One is the downward spiral. Your psyche is broken. You see no way out. You drop into that deep black pit. In its bleakness and pain, it is strangely enough, warm and comfortable. The longer you are there, the more you want to stay. This path imposes limitations as it means you are effectively in ‘stopping time’. You are withdrawing from life. At worse, it leads to extreme decisions. Even suicide.

The other is the Rocky Balboa path. You play Eye of the Tiger on a loop. Fight! Push hard! Struggle, suffer and dig your way out of it. It makes for an interesting story later on. You take on the role of the hero – fighting against reality, to bend it to your will. And overcome it with success or be crushed. And if you succeed you can relive your glory by telling people your rags to riches story. Even better, you can sell it as a program and make money.

A third path, is to fully embrace it. Enjoy being a dirty dog. Own it. Absorb it. Let go resistance. It could be as the Buddhists call it – ‘the middle way’. Embrace it with humour. See the irony of life. Perhaps yesterday you were flying high. But today you are a dog. Tomorrow you may be a dog still. Or maybe you’ll be flying high again. Doesn’t matter. Either way laugh at it and enjoy being the dog.

Debt

Perhaps you are stuck in debt. Massive amounts of debt.

I met some Americans some years ago at a seminar. They talked about the kind of debt students were getting from university fees at acupuncture college. Another person talked about her medical bills. These debts ran into the tens of thousands.

I thought to myself that this kind of debt is unpayable. At that point, you might as well stop stressing about it. Just accept it and say “Fine. I’m an indebted son of a bitch. Bite me.” At that point, there’s no longer any point in getting stressed about it. Instead, just figure out how to live daily life without it inconveniencing you too much.

A country cannot indebt its citizens to this ridiculous extent without there being a consequence in the future. Is this the modern version of indentured slavery? I think it is.

Fight the debt

You could take the Rocky path. Listen to Eye of the Tiger, buy all those Dave Ramsey books and dvds (on credit card). Fight your way out of debt. Like slaying a dragon. Some people do it. But there are some who just can’t.

The Dave Ramsey plan still depends on your earning more money than your debt is worth and cutting your spending. But not everyone can take an extra job or even increase their earnings.

No matter how much Eye of the Tiger you listen to, you probably can’t do more than two jobs without going postal at some point. Can you really scrimp and save, as inflation secretly increases and you have a family to support? Sure some can, but many struggle. Are you telling me that everyone who buys a Dave Ramsey book becomes debt free? If so, there would be no debt problem in America.

So if you can’t pay it, just accept it.

Aim to pay it off. Work, budget and manage your debt collectors. Make a plan. But ultimately, there needs to be a degree of acceptance.  Never think you are a terrible human being for being in that situation or that there is no way out.

We live in a time of easy debt, high (and hidden) inflation and stagnant wages. You are playing against the house in the gambling system of a world with funny money. This is the economy, which is really like a small town casino. The house wins. The house always wins. The best you can do, is keep your wits and emotions in check, don’t drink too much and plan to get out of the casino without too much of a loss.

Relationships

So someone leaves you for another Chad or Betty. There are billions of people on the planet. Think on that. Billions of women or men that can F*** you up some more if you want. It is not the end of the world. Be grateful and enjoy your break.

Or maybe you are the Chad or Betty.

Lives can be long and there are billions of people on this planet. Is life really meant to be spent with just one person? Relationships open us up to new experiences and ways to develop our personality. Do you want to play as bonobos or chimps?

Or apes? Treat them mean, keep them keen.

Some matches help us grow at one point in life, but then can suffocate us at another. Some things need to be gone through together, especially raising kids. But then some relationships are just toxic for adults and kids.

Maybe better to just buy a playstation and some woodbines. And cheaper too.

Hitting bottom (no, not spanking – I mean literally)

Anyone can hit bottom. No need to feel ashamed. Why add that extra layer of suffering. Some of the most charming people are those who have hit bottom. It makes a person more humble. It can be a great way to lose your ego.

It’s all part of the journey. Life has ups and downs. When life is up, people think it will always be that way. When life is down, it can feel like the bottom is dropping out of your universe.

I know some of the pain, but there are those that have fared worse. And so much will happen in life for as long as you live. Perhaps it is a training ground for our souls, as some say.

Failure, breakup, loss, money woes, embarrassment, and sickness, has hurt badly, but I notice that each time it happens it causes me to withdraw and go within. To ask myself, ‘is this the time to change my life course again?’.

Feed your soul and spirit

It’s taken years, but the main thing I’ve concluded, is to go put your mind, your desires and goals on doing what is important for your soul. If you have something that makes you tingle. That gives you life, then do it, no matter what. You don’t have to give up a regular job or family to do that. There is always a way to do what you want. Just do it on the side.

Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler

Here’s an example from Japanese anime. You’ll learn more from watching Japanese anime than you ever will from watching the BBC. Yes, Eastenders and the news are so enlightening.

Kakegurui is an anime about an elite high school, where the students are not judged on academic acheivement or atheltisicm. They are judged on their gambling skill.

All the students are children of the elite – politicians, business tycoons etc. The status of the student is based on how much money they win from gambling. The people who win have a higher status and more power over the others. The students who lose with debts, become nothing more than servants, or ‘pets’ to the other students.  They even get a pet name. If they are male, they become a dog. If a female, a cat. And they must wear a pet tag around their neck.

‘Mi-ke’ / ‘Mittens’

In one scene, the main character Yumeko loses a huge gamble with the student council and loses all her money. She falls millions into debt.

According to the rules of the school, she loses her status and falls to the level of ‘pet’.

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Her classmates ridicule her for her loss of status, and take satisfaction in planning to treat her as a pet. In her case, a cat.

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Howver, instead of become upset. Or refuse, Yumeko simply gets on her knees and plays the role of cat perfectly. She accepts her failure without regret. She does not care how she appears.

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Her classmates are disturbed by her unexpected reaction.  Instead of bullying her or making her feel bad, it is them that are shocked and want to leave.

Screenshot 2019-10-12 at 23.19.01

Yumeko places no value on her status or how she is percieved to others. She did not even feel any negativity to the person she lost to. She saw it as part of the game, which she ends up winning later on.

This kind of mindset is extremely empowering. If you do not fear losing status in the eyes of others, it frees you up to live a life of authenticity, as well as to follow your ultimate goals.

The animators make it clear that despite her huge loss, and seemingly weak position, actually, Yumeko has an intense amount of internal strength. This is apparent by the red, almost demonic eyes. This is the Eye of the Tiger.

Screenshot 2019-10-12 at 22.54.13

Perhaps this approach may seem irresponsible, but what is the alternative. You let it crush you. You disappear and drink yourself into oblivion, and give up?

The Pit.

Loss can hit hard and send you down into a pit. It may be difficult to get out. But I think that the pit has a purpose. It gives you a space to withdraw into. If you can pass through the self-hatred, blame, and other demons of the pit, you have the chance to turn this into a positive journey. It can provide introspection and deep reflection. To go spiritual.

The pit is an analogy to Alice’s rabbit hole.

Descent into the Well

In the Haruki Murakami book ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicles‘, there is this wonderful scene where the protagonist descends into a well in his back garden to escape from his life. Once down there, strange things start happening to his mind. He is transported to different places. Even into the mind of his antagonist. It is similar to the movie ‘Being John Malkovich‘.

It is apparent that, spiritual awakening comes not from how many hours and years you meditate, chant, attend a class, or worship an icon of your favourite guru. It comes from solitude and that dark place, where we all fear to tread.

Hence, why we hear of famed spiritual masters from the past who disappeared into the mountains, deserts, caves or jungles alone for 40 days and nights, or however long it took, for them.

Look at Ekhart Tolle. He didn’t attain his awakening from meditating or postive thinking or even ‘being in the moment,’ which he talks about all the time in his books. He got it from being stuck in weeks and months of an intense depression and sitting on park benches, until finally, it just came to him after an intense period of introspection. He went into the hole. Buddha also did the same.

The dark place, the hole, as I call it, is where awakening can occur. Ever wonder why life seems to throw so much shit at you. One disaster after another. One problem after another. You throw your arms up to the sky and ask why? Oh why me!?

I’m a good person. I do good things for charity. I help people. But this still happens?

Perhaps it is to make you resilient. To toughen you up.  Or to teach you a lesson. Perhaps it your karma. You were one of Stalin’s henchmen in a previous life. Maybe there really is no meaning. Just a random act. Or genetics..? Doctors like using that term.

But what if it is the universe’s way of driving you deep within. Or even your own soul’s doing? Down into the black hole where transformation and awakening can occur. That place cannot be reached in the world of daily life, jobs, holidays, renovating kitchens, SUVs, TV, caring about politics or buying houses.

That whole lot of shit sent your way; it’s purpose is to awaken you. Will you look at it, or turn away? This is the choice everyone will be faced with at some point. And sometimes many times in the same life.

Find your pleasure.

So forget status and how you look. Instead ask – what gives you excitement in life? What makes you come alive? Chase it. And if you become a dog in the process, it doesn’t matter.

Another way is humour. Humour is the antidote to worry and fear. This is the reason why the British are said to be so funny. The British have developed humour as a way of dealing with difficulties in life. Traditionally, they have a dry, tongue-in-cheek humour.

It come from hundreds of years of being exploited by the ruling classes to fight horrible wars and basically being trodden upon in poverty. Think ‘going over the top’ in the trenches in WWI. Life is more comfortable now and we have become horrendously complacent, almost slovenly, but it wasn’t always so in England. Once this was a damp, poor, grim place to live and work. (Wait, it still is!)

To end, a poem

A close friend of mine says that “poets are gay”. He means that in the American high-school sense of ‘uncool’ or ‘lame’ rather than homosexual, and was specifically referring to acupuncturists that write poetry.

Not sure I agree. I would recommend he read some Chuck Bukowski. Might change his mind about poets in general. Though maybe not about acupuncturist poets.

So anyway, I deicided to write a poem. Another gay acupuncturist writing poetry.

Here it is:

When you become a dog

 

The best thing about being a dog.

Is sniffing your own butt.

And not caring what other dogs think.

Because they are sniffing your butt too.

 

The best thing about being a Cat.

Is licking your own crotch.

And not caring what other cats think.

Because they are licking theirs too.

 

Behold Man. Master of them all.

 Man builds Towers. The cats hunt mice.

Man flies to the Moon. The dogs chases balls.

Mighty Man. Looks down on all

 

But alas, a Man will never reach the peaks.

Of the canine. Or the feline.

For no matter how much he stretch and strain.

His butt and crotch, he’ll not reach.

 

The undiscovered country.

Where no man’s nose can meet.

Or tongue can greet. And what’s more

He’ll always care what others think.

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Energetic Blocks and Suppressing Life

energetic-blocks-and-suppressing-life.jpg

Spiritual beings not physical

I read a quote this week.

We are not physical being having spiritual experiences. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.

The physical world is like the virtual reality for our spiritual beings. The problem is that we take the physical world all too seriously and ignore the soul. We forget that we are spiritual beings. It is like the TV series Red Dwarf, where the characters all discover they are actually characters in a Virtual Reality computer game called ‘Better than Life’.

The purpose of dis-ease

Is this not the purpose of sickness, accident and illness or even unwanted situations in life? To shake a person out of a state of comfort and relative stability. To push them into exploring and seeking out new paths and life experiences.

Or is there no meaning to disease? It is all just random. Or genetics?

Clearing blocks

All of our experiences create blocks both mental and physical. Are you even aware of the blocks in your own body? Few people are, except when they see a therapist, who puts them in touch with their body.

If you could release all your blocks, can you imagine just how liberating it would feel?  It would be as though you are a completely different person. What could you go on to do? What are your potentials that you are locking in tight into your body?

This does not just refer to spiritual powers. It could be more down-to-earth things. For example, a new life course or letting go of a relationship that isn’t working for you. Or a change of work or lifestyle and doing something new and scary – a new business, travel, new people, changes.

Suppressing the superman within

What if superman decided he had to purposely suppress his own powers. He thinks to himself that he doesn’t have to time to be running around being a hero and flying around in spandex.

No, he needs to take his life and career serious. He has a really good chance of promotion and a pension at the Daily Planet, but he needs to put all his energy into that.

So he hides away his spandex and plays at being Clark Kent every day putting in the long hours, meeting the deadlines, sucking up to his boss. He gets pasty faced and short tempered, living on a daily dose of coffee and bagels.

Clark starts smoking and puts on a few pounds. He enjoys a few late nights and drinks at the strip club with Jimmy when Lois is out of town visiting her mother. Who? Clean-cut Jimmy the press photographer? He wouldn’t do such a thing! Ah ah, he would do too. He’s not been the same since that stag-do in Reno.

Perhaps Clark plays at superman two weeks a year or occasionally on Sundays if he has the energy, which is hardly ever. He leaves all that saving the world stuff to another lifetime.

Meanwhile Lex Luthor follows his dreams and decides to run for President. And actually has a good chance of winning. If Trump can do it, so too can Lex.

I know who I find more interesting to follow – Lex.

Life creates blocks

This is an analogy. We carry all sorts of blocks in our musculature and our mind. These blocks limit our potential. The irony is that they use our own energy against us, just to keep themselves in place.

Our inner superhero

What is our inner superman (or superwoman)? What would we look like without all our mental, emotional and physical blockages in life? If I had to express what I think it is with words, I would describe it as freedom, lightness, playfulness, joy, trust, abundance and love. The opposite to what a lot of people feel.

This is why such exercises like qigong, yoga and meditation can help to unblock this. Although, in some cases, a strong dose of spontaneous qi activation is what is needed to clear out those channels.

In my book The Genki Self Health Guide, I wrote about tension  and ‘strictus’ – a tightening  of the energy Channels of our bodies caused by tension. This impacts our health in a negative way. There are so many things in life that cause the tightening of our energy channels.

What is not noticed is the accumulative effects of this tension over years. We adopt holding patterns in our musculature. We adopt postures, habits, and mannerisms, which become entrenched. They cause our personalities to change, even result in emotional and psychological problems.

We need to shake it all free to be truly healthy. To try to get back the looseness mentally and physically of a toddler. That is real health. Not pharmaceuticals or fast cars. Health is freedom from tension.

As Bob Marley sings:

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. Nobody else can free our minds…

And bodies too…

And buy my book.


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CHAPTER ONE (Narration): The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

Thumbnail Chapter 1

Here is the Narrated Video for Chapter One: The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan, as shown on my YouTube Channel.

Narrated by Caroline Ann Graham.

YouTube Video: Chapter One: Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

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Chapter Two (Narrated): The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan


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Bio-Energy: Energy Exchange with a Voodoo Priestess, by Caroline Graham

Bio energy voodoo priestess

Bio-electricity is a kind of electrical force, which I believe also refers to the Qi/Ki energy of Chinese medicine.

On this website, I have written previously about a phenomenon called ‘Spontaneous Qi Activation‘, which I would describe as a kind of bio-energetic charge that is passed from a practitioner, with a high level of Ki energy, to someone with a relatively lower level.

This charge itself activates the receiver’s own qi, causing them to clear their own Energetic Channel (Meridian) Pathways, by setting off lots of spontaneous bodily movements such as flailing limbs, joint rotations, jumping up and down, dancing, even making various sounds.

But I believe that this bio-energy charge can be shared in different ways between people. When two people with a similar charge or spiritual development meet (whether they are aware of it or not), it may be possible that this charge can be felt by either of them when they touch. Possibly also, if they connect their heart chakras (ie – by hugging).

Bio-Electricity and Qi/Ki

‘Bio-electricity’ is a term describing a form of organic or human energy, and I think for Westerners, this is easier to comprehend or accept than words like ‘Qi’ or ‘Ki’ or ‘Prana’, as it sounds more ‘scientific’. Of course, it is hugely ‘unscientific’ so if that bugs you, then please stop reading.

This bio-electricity or bio-energy, is not strictly the same as the electricity running through our pylons and wires in the house. But it is similar. This bio-energy is the motive and living force within us. And it is something that can be built up by prolonged energy work practices like meditation or qigong. It is also potentially the key to healing. And it manifests in different ways.

Meeting with a Voodoo Priestess

In this short interview with a friend and colleague – Caroline Ann Graham, a fellow acupuncturist, told me of a physical exchange she had with – no less, a modern voodoo priestess in New Orleans.

In this account, she told me of a powerful electric-type charge she got when she had physical contact with the priestess.

Though, she did not use the term ‘bio electricity’, I have chosen to use this word as I consider that what she felt was a connection of this ‘bio-electricity’ or Qi/Ki. I have chosen to interpret her encounter as an energy exchange caused between two people that were ‘vibrating’ on a similar level. Other people may disagree with my interpretation. Feel free to put me straight in the comments.

In this interview, Caroline recounts how on a holiday around America, she took part in a tour to visit a local Voodoo Priestess. The meeting was short but it left a life-long impression, and may even have been a major turning point from moving Caroline onto a new path from being solely a professional West-End singer and onto the path of the healer.

Caroline describes this energy as a kind of ‘electricity’ which passes from the Priestess to her, through simple touch and almost blew them apart. It was that strong a sensation.

Here is an abridged transcript of the interview. The video interview recording follows at the end.


Interview with Caroline Graham: Meeting and Energy Exchange with a Voodoo Priestess

I was with my husband and we were on a great tour of America for holiday and to celebrate an anniversary

You know how it is. We were in the hotel and we were looking up stuff that you can go and see and do. And in one of these little brochures was the idea of going to visit a voodoo priestess in her sort of temple.

We didn’t know anything about it except received wisdom of a bit of stuff about animals and usually quite dark doings, you think of voodoo – sticking pins in dolls and all that malarkey. I was pretty much ignorant of it all but forever on the spiritual quest to see what is what. I said ‘lets go and see this’.

We booked in and we were taken in a group. There were quite a lot of people – about 20 or 30 people. And in we all filed in and sat down either on the floor or on various chairs. And sure enough, there she was. A wonderful black lady, who her sort of opening gambit was that she felt that it was a good idea to open up her place and explain exactly how things work and the fact that it is ‘to do good works for the community’. But interestingly, if you had asked me ten or fifteen years ago whether I would end up as a voodoo priestess, she said ‘I would have laughed at you. My background is I picked cotton in the fields in the Southern states. Then I trained to become a nurse’, she said. And I guess she got, what would be our equivalent of ‘the call – the call to do the work’.

Channeling

So there she was and she said ‘what I am going to do is I’m going to channel what I feel are the questions in the room or the reasons why you have all come. And be inspired from your thoughts, and sure enough she began to move almost rhythmically and became very very fluent and very expansive and so on. And I thought ‘this isn’t quite how she began with her nature and her presence’. It was like she was filtering. Like in American Indian parlance – the ‘hollow bone’ if you like, for channelling information.

And she also explained about Christianity coming into the Voodoo realm and how many of the symbols were adapted, and so you have this sort of juxtaposition, rather like we have in things like mistletoe at Christmas and stuff like that. Stuff absorbed into later religions from the pagan heritage as it were.

Anyway, it got quite interesting because she would go around and point up people in the audience – ‘oh you are so and so, or you are interested in so and so’, and she was right.

You are a ‘Seeker’

And then she turned to me and said: “Ah! – You are a seeker” and that resonated with me a lot because at that time I was very much hunting for the unseen. I had always straddled the arts and sciences, and with the rise of quantum theory and explaining all the stuff that is difficult to explain, and of course sensing the unseen in life, in terms of energetics.

I was a singer, still am, but I was a professional singer and you are dealing with the flow of energy and so of course you are interested. And so she said – “yes you are a seeker” and then she proceeded on and so forth and in the end she finished and it was a very warm atmosphere and people started to file out.

It is typical of me to linger and I was actually the last to leave. And she came to me and I said ‘I wanted to thank you for your talk’. Then suddenly she put her arms around me in a tight embrace and we were like two firecrackers! Whoop!

There was this energetic charge that shot us apart and she said

“Ah. You are the same as me!”

And honestly, when I think of it now, I get tears in my eyes, because emotionally I knew the truth of it. And it does not mean that I am going to become a voodoo priestess but it was ‘like’ recognising ‘like’.

A changing experience

And I came out in a mess as I am now explaining this to you now. And I was thinking ‘goodness’ because my husband had remained outside. He had said you can go in but I don’t want to go in, as he is not interested in these kinds of things, but he is very happy as long as I am happy and delighted for me to have that experience.

So of course I wanted to clear myself before going back to him because he would think that I would have been upset by some ghastly sort of thing. But actually it was tears of joy and of feeling a sense of rightness or corroboration or provenance for the fact that my path was not illusory and so that I could proceed with gusto.

Entering the path of the Healer

And I did go on to do things, like experience the wonderful work of the Sacred Trust in this country, run by Simon Buxton, who wrote a terrific book called the Way of the Bee, which is about the Hellenic heritage of Shamanic practice in Europe and I did do various things, and I could have gone on to do their 3 year practitioner course, but I didn’t.

I then went in to acupuncture, because it is energy training essentially – working with the energy within somebody’s body, and from there into healing work – I say healing advisedly, really it is to become the hollow bone that I spoke of earlier, whereby the healing light can simply travel through the hands to help someone – not to heal myself – nobody does that, it is simply that you are a conduit. And there we are. That is where it has led to today.

Additional questions

Question: Do you remember the name of this priestess?

Answer: I don’t remember the name of this priestess and it was a long time ago but  she has remained in my mind ever since. She was in New Orleans. Central New Orleans

Question: Can you describe this electrical feeling you had?

Answer: It was extraordinary. Literally, we couldn’t have sustained the embrace. It was like a… (Caroline makes a kind of crackling sound), and it went right through you. Right to Earth. In you and then down. Lightening, literally lightening.

Question: And she had a regular life before she became a voodoo priestess?

Answer: As she said, if she had been asked years ago if she was going to work as a priestess, she would have laughed. And this is comforting actually, in that, any work like this is open to everyone if you want it… If you want it… This is a very human pastime.

Video of Interview

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Many thanks to Caroline Graham for sharing this story and giving me permission to write about it.

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Introduction: Book Narration of the Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

Introduction Narration Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

Together with fellow acupuncturist, healer and professional singer, Caroline Graham, we have been working on making a narration for my book – ‘The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan: Interviews with Senior Blind Acupuncturists and Teachers at a School for the Blind’.

It is a long piece of work, and I am pleased to publish the first part – the Introduction, on my YouTube Channel – The Genki Health Channel.

To learn more about this book, read this article. The book is available on Amazon, (print and eBook, and on all market places). If you are interested in listening and learning about the Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan, do watch the video below. Chapter One will follow soon.

Introduction: The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

 

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Geoff Pike’s Pa Tuan Tsin: The Eight Precious Sets of Exercise

Geoff Pike the Power of Chi Pa Tuan Tsin

This article shows a version of the Eight Precious Sets of Exercise, also known as the Eight Pieces of Brocade, from Qigong Master Geoff Pike. I have written a couple of articles about Geoff Pike here and here.

I am grateful to Paul H., a qigong, meditation and yoga teacher who shared with me pages of the out-of-print Geoff Pike qigong book called – The Power of Ch’i. This article gives a brief explanation of the exercises with some model pictures.

The Eight Precious Sets of Exercise are a simple form of eight different qigong exercises, which take around 10-15 minutes to carry out. If practiced daily, they will help develop a smoother flow of Ki/Qi (energy) in the body, gently strengthen your joints and muscles, and have a positive impact on your health.

Over the centuries, different variations  of the exercise have been developed and practiced, but fundamentally, the exercises are all very based on 8 specific movements.

Usually the exercises are carried out in a gentle manner with an awareness of energy flow in the body, making it ideal for people of all ages and states of health. But some versions can be carried out in a more physical way with emphasis on stretching the muscles and tendons. Here are the movements along with extracts from Geoff Pike’s Book – ‘The Power of Ch’i’:

Geoff Pike’s Eight Precious Sets of Exercise

001

Preparation

We are ready to begin Pa Tuan Tsin. You have chosen the spot in which you feel most natural and where the air is at its best. You are dressed in loose-fitting, comfortable clothing with ample leg room, your footwear is light and flat bottomed, the sash around your waist is soft and not tied too tightly. You are stripped of metal accessories, your bladder and bowels are empty, you have eaten nothing for at least two hours and taken no alcohol for at least six. There is a pitcher of cool to warm boiled water or hot green tea nearby in case you need it. You remember that all inhalation and exhalation must always be through the nose, never through the mouth (unless exhalation is so instructed). All breathing should be concentrated on the slow, silent and deep. The words patience, discipline, fortitude and faith are firmly in mind.

(Page 97, Geoff Pike’s The Power of Ch’i)

 


Exercise One: Scoop the Stream

Geoff Pike Chi gong Scoop the Stream
Exercise One: Scoop the Stream

The first exercise is one of the simplest and most pleasant to perform. Is is so named because the second movement gives the impression of scooping the water from a stream and drinking from the cupped hands.

The Benefit

It is excellent for expanding the lungs and stretching the ribcage. It also circulates the dormant Chi from the lower abdomen to the tip of the spinal column and to the forehead. It gives you a general lift and generates immediate alertness. A good way to wake up and get started

Page 98, Geoff Pike’s The Power of Ch’i?

Scoop the Stream: Instructions

Geoff Pike Qigong page 99
1. Scoop the Stream: Movement One

Geoff Pike Qigong page 100
1. Scoop the Steam: Movement Two

The Exercises

  1. Relax. Take up your position standing with feet together and hands loosely at sides, fix your eyes on a chosen object.
  2. Empty the lungs. Inhale as slowly as you can while raising the hands (palms down) until the fingertips touch above the head (palms now up). The time required for the movement should coincide with the length of your breath. Stretch the body upward to its fullest extent without raising the heels. Imagine that you are supporting a great weight with your two palms. Hold for the silent count of three. Exhale slowly and steadily while reversing the movement and lowering the hands in time with the exhalation until they are gently back at your sides and the lungs are drained of air. Pause for the silent count of three.
  3. Intertwine the fingers, forming a scoop, palms uppermost. Inhale slowly and deeply while raising ‘the scoop’ to the lips, bent arm in line with shoulders, elbows raised as high as possible.
  4. To the silent count of three, turn the scoop over (palms down) and exhale steadily while reversing the movement.
  5. Stretch the arm downward to their fullest extent as though pressing the palms down on a spring-loaded weight. Hold for the silent count of three. Return the relaxed hands to the sides and repeat both movements eight times.

Geoff Pike’s The Power of Ch’i, page 99 and 100

Demonstration

Here is a YouTube Video of Exercise One: ‘Scoop the Stream’, performed by Geoff Pike


Exercise Two: Press the Sky

 

Geoff Pike Press the Sky page 101
Exercise Two: Press the Sky

The second exercise is so-called because of its ultimate stretching power. The uppermost hand and flattened palm really seem to be supporting the sky.

The Benefit

A variation of Scoop the Stream, in which the active points are the liver and the shoulders. Chi is circulated from the liver to the shoulders alternatively, conditioning the liver, stimulating its function while relieving the shoulders of strain, and stretching the entire body to its fullest extent.

Geoff Pike, The Power of Ch’i, page 101

Press the Sky: Instructions

Geoff Pike Chi gong page 102
Press the Sky: Movements 1-4

Press the Sky Geoff Pike Chi gong
Press the Sky: Movements 5-6

The Execution

Relax. Remain in position with feet together.

  1. Reach behind with the left hand and firmly clasp the back of the thigh just below the left buttock.
  2. Drain the lungs of air. Form a ‘cup’ with the right hand hooked at the wrist.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply while raising the cup to the lips, elbow in line with shoulder.
  4. Without pause, turn the cup outward and over, rise on your toes and continue inhaling until the right arm is ‘pressing the sky’. From toes to upturned palm, your body is stretched to its absolute utmost and full of air. Hold for a count of three.
  5. 6. and 7. Exhale slowly and steadily and reverse the action exactly: lower the upturned palm to the lips while lowering the heels. Form the cup at the lips, lower to the groin, relax with both hands at the sides. Reach behind with the right hand to grasp the right back thigh below the buttock. Repeat the movements exactly with the left hand. Complete four times with each arm.

Geoff Pike – The Power of Ch’i, Page 103

Press the Sky: Video


Exercise Three: The Shaolin Archer

Geoff Pike The Shaolin Archer

The third and much revered exercise is perhaps the most ‘beautiful jewel in the crown of the Precious Eight’… at least that is how it was once described by a Shaolin priest. Its quite classical performance is reminiscent of a Chinese opera, where all sets, props and even weapons are imaginary. It is best described as the drawing of a longbow hewn from the oldest yew or blackwood or forged of the finest steel. It is a bow that takes the strength, artistry and skill of the true archer to bend.

The Benefit

This exercise can be used alone when time does not permit the full sequence, it being considered the most benefical of the set. Its primary purpose, because of its separate (left and right) stretching, is to exercise alternate lung power. At the same time its twisting motion under pressure relieves and strengthens the liver. Executed from the Half-horse (or full Horse, if you feel like it), it also brings into play the leg, hip and spinal exercise explained under Horse Stance, plus the stretching and strengthening of sinew and joint in the arm, developing unexpected power.

Geoff Pike, The Power of Ch’i, Page 104

3. The Shaolin Archer: Instructions

010

011

 

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The Execution

Relax. Drop into a Half-horse stance (high seated, knees half-bent. Settle comfortably, checking your stance for perfect balance; move your foot a centimetre or two to find it.

  1. Take a long, silent breath while raising the right arm and holding it at shoulder level. The left hand is on the left thigh. The right hand is relaxed from the wrist, the right arm firm but not tensed. Keep your eyes, half-closed, upon the outstretched hand. Think of nothing else but the hand. It is a beautiful thing. It is your hand. It has many times saved you as it moves to your will.
  2. Swing the hand in its gentle state slowly across your body just below eye-level, keeping the arm locked but relaxed. Watch its progress as though it were a bird in flight, until it is across your chest and pointing left. During this flight, you are gently exhaling, emptying your lungs quietly but completely.
  3. Before it has finished travelling, bring up the bow (left hand). Your lungs are now empty and ready to draw breath. Raise the forefinger of the left hand as though its tip were a target (or a gun sight).
  4. Inhale slowly, quietly, steadily, as you push out the bow to full arm’s length, keeping your eyes fixed on the raised finger tip. Straighten the left arm to its fullest extent, locking the elbow until the full breath has been drawn. At the same time, the ‘arrow hand’ has been slowly drawn back to its fullest extent. All motion should cease with the peak of your inhalation. In other words, your movements last as long as your slowest inhalation and exhalation. Hold the pose for the silent count of three. During that period of three seconds, with lungs fully extended, concentrate through willpower your entire bodily strength into your raised fingertip. Stretch that extended right arm to its absolute maximum and a little bit more. The elbow and wrist should tighten like a stretched rope, just the way a cat puts every ounce of power into the awakening stretch of its forelegs.
  5. On three, begin to gently exhale and repeat the exact procedure in reverse, lowering the right hand slowly to the thigh and relaxing the taut left hand at the wrist.
  6. 7. & 8. The left hand has now become the arrow hand and the right will raise the bow. Exhale as the left hand swings slowly into position and draw the bow to the right. This may sound complicated but you will find that it is not. Just imagine the fitting, drawing and releasing of an imaginary bow, drawn first to the right and then to the left. Repeat four time on either side.

Geoff Pike, The Power of Ch’i, pages 105-107

 

Shaolin Archer Video


Exercise Four: Search the Clouds

The power of chi geoff pike search the clouds

The fourth exercise is referred to in Wu Shu circles as ‘a very essential health dose’. This may be an added incentive to practice it correctly as it appears quite awkward to perform and calls for considerable physical application. It is called Search the Clouds because the movements command attention upwards.

The Benefit

Its benefit can be seen after internal injuries such as bruises or contusion caused from heavy sparring or actual combat. This indicates its internal effectiveness. It is also accepted as a pick-up for fatigue and over-exertion ‘especially after sexual intimacy. ‘Sexual exhaustion or tiredness can interfere with bodily functions, in particular the digestive system. Searching the clouds hardly seems a recuperative procedure for a bruised or weary body, but with careful and regular practice you will find it is.

Geoff Pike, The Power of Ch’i, pages 108

4. Search the Clouds Instructions

Geoff Pike Search the Clouds The Power of Ch'i

The Execution

Relax. Remain in the Half-horse Stance (or rest your legs for a moment if you must), then lower into the full Horse Stance.

  1. Place the hands on the thighs, fingers spread inwards
  2. Slowly inhale, while bending the upper body backwards and to the left as far as you can go. The lungs and body should be filled with air by the time you have reached the full extent of your backward bend.
  3. Hold for the silent count of three, pressing back to gain another centimetre. Exhale steadily as you bring the upper body to its central position, by which time the lungs and body are drained of air. Relax. Hold for the count of three.
  4. Repeat the movement to the right. Complete four times on each side. Close the Horse Stance and stand erect.

Geoff Pike, The Power of Ch’i, page 109

Search the Clouds Video


Exercise Five: Lift the Rock

Geoff Pike Lift the Rock

The fifth exercise is a combination of exercises one and two: scooping and pressing. The basic movement is that of taking the weight of a rock or nearby object in the hands, lifting it to the chin and raising it as high above the head as possible.

The Benefit

It offers all-round internal benefits while bringing about the utmost in upward stretching. We have all observed the animal stretching habits, particularly feline, upon waking or rising. No authority on physical energy control and bodily relaxation could deny that stretching has considerable restorative effects.

Lift the Rock Geoff Pike Qigong

5. Lift the Rock Instructions

The Execution

  1. Relax. Stand erect with feet together. Empty the lungs of air.
  2. Entwine the fingers, palms uppermost (to accept the rock).
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply while raising the joined hands level with the chin.
  4. Continue the upward press without breaking the finger grip, turning the palms outward and upward as you continue to press above the head. Follow the movement of your hands with your eyes until your flat, upturned palms have reached their utmost height. Strain to gain an extra fraction, to the silent count of three. Relax.
  5. Exhale steadily while reversing the movement exactly.
  6. Back to the beginning position. Press down for the silent count of three. Repear eight times.

Geoff Pike. The Power of Ch’i, page 110-111

Lift the Rock Video


Exercise Six: Touch the Sky Press the Earth

Geoff Pike Touch the Sky Press the Earth

The sixth exercise combines maximum upward stretching with maximum forward and downward stretching, hence the name.

The Benefit

Maximum stretching and bending combines arm and shoulder loosening, chest expansion, abdominal, back and leg exercise whilst greatly benefiting the kidneys and spleen.

Geoff Qigong Pike Touch the Sky Press the Earth

6. Touch the Sky Press the Earth Instructions

The Execution

  1. Relax. Stand erect with feet together, hands loose at sides. Empty the lungs of air.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply while raising the hands above the head and continuing a backward bend as far as possible. Hold for the silent count of three.
  3. Exhale steadily while reversing the movement forward and down until the fingertips are pressed on the ground as far ahead of your toes as possible. Pause for the silent count of five.
  4. Inhale slowly and deeply while straightening, drawing the hands up the legs to the thigh.
  5. Hold for the silent count of three.
  6. Repeat eight times.

Geoff Pike. The Power of Ch’i. Pages 112-113

Touch the Sky Press the Earth Video


Exercise Seven: Eye of the Tiger

Eye of the Tiger Geoff Pike

The seventh exercise is perhaps so named because of the tiger’s ability to look directly behind it while keeping its body poised for a frontal spring. We have all seen a cat stalking some unsuspecting prey, only to be disturbed by a sound of movement behind it. It will stop dead in its tracks, front paw raised, every muscle and sinew frozen in the direction of its chosen path, while turning its head to look directly back over its tail. Apparently tigers do this also.

The Benefits

Whatever the origin of its name, this seems as good an explanation as any, for it is just this action that the exercise calls for. It loosens neck sinews, develops neck muscles, exercises the vital organs of the throat and promotes excellent balance while working calves, ankles and feet.

Geoff Pike Chi gong Eye of the Tiger

7. Eye of the Tiger Instructions

The Execution

  1. Relax. Stand erect with feet together, hands loose at sides. Empty the lungs of air.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply while gradually rising on the toes and turning the head as far to the left as possible. Do not turn the shoulders or upper body. When the breath is complete, you should be fully raised on the toes, head twisted as far to the left as possible in an attempt to look behind you. Hold for the silent count of three.
  3. Exhale steadily while reversing the movement back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat movement to the right. Complete four times on either side.

Geoff Pike. The Power of Ch’i. Pages 114-115

7. Eye of the Tiger Video


Exercise Eight: Grip the Swallows egg

Grip the Swallows Egg Geoff Pike Qigong

The name of this eighth exercise is derived from the unique way of closing the fists. Each fist is fully formed yet leaves a hollow in its centre as though protecting a delicate object from being crushed. The fist, tensed to its full power when outstretched, must control the energy that surrounds the inner palm. This exercise develops a formidable hand grip, greatly strengthens the arm while demanding passive control. It is one of the classic restraining movements, which, when released with full speed and impact after long practice, can unleash unbelievable but easily controlled force.

The Benefit

To increase power in the arms, from shoulder to elbow, to wrist, to fingers, is the main purpose; at the same time exercising the legs and lower trunk. It is in fact the slow ‘motion’ performance of the ‘kung fu’ punch with strict control on pressure and the restraint of energy. It is a little difficult to master and should be practiced patiently and diligently from one stance at a time until ready to progress to the next. Pa Tuan Tsin only teaches the frontal punch, but I have included punching from the Right and Left Bow.

Grip the Swallows Egg1 Geoff Pike Qigong

Geoff Pike Chi Grip the Swallows Egg

Geoff Pik Power of Chi Grip the Swallows Egg

Grip the Swallows Egg Instructions

The Execution

  1. Relax. From the Horse Stance, empty the lungs of air.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply while extending the right fist in a frontal punch. The movement should begin from a relaxed shoulder, gradually increasing pressure as it turns and extends. When the fist is fully extended (imaginary swallow’s egg safely shielded inside), tensed as if in a strike, the arm is also locked at the elbow, exerting full pressure. Hold for the silent count of three.
  3. Exhale steadily as you reverse the movement, withdrawing the fist and slackening pressure as it returns to the waist and complete relaxation. Hold for the silent count of three.
  4. Repeat the movement with the left fist. Repeat eight times.
  5. & 6. Without rising from the Horse Stance, twist into the Left Bow position and repeat the exact movement, aiming the restraining punch at an imaginary target on your right. Four punches with each arm.

7. & 8. Twist into the Right Bow position and repeat two punches to the left. Close the Horse Stance, stand erect. Relax and lower the hands to the sides. Inhale. Exhale.

9. Bow to the light that is in you.

The final exercise of the Precious Eight may leave you a little wobbly at the knees, but otherwise feeling fine once you have closed the Horse Stance and straightened up. The temptation to sit down will also be great. Resist it. Ease tired leg muscles by walking about or, if you are practising in a room, just walking on the spot. Keep your legs moving for at least a five minute period.

Sip some water or tea, allow your breathing to settle and become completely normal.

Geoff Pike, The Power of Ch’i. Pages 116-119

Grip the Swallows Egg Video


Advice on Practicing Pa Tuan Tsin

In his book The Power of Ch’i, Geoff Pike gives some basic advice on ways to get the maximum benefit from your practice of the Eight Precious Sets of Exercise. I will summarise these points below:

  • As with learning from a book, and without the guidance of a teacher, there is the risk of dropping out. This can occur with losing faith and confidence in what you are practicing, especially in the early days. How do we avoid the temptation to drop out?
  • Firstly – patience, discipline and will power are the vital ingredients. Unlike many ‘get-fit’ systems, these breathing exercises do not carry a ‘money back guarantee’ or ‘a magnificent body in 7 days’ for five minutes a day of exercise. They do not promise easy effortless easy results with no disruption to your daily life. However, what they do offer is a ‘definite, self-evident improvement in general fitness, increased strength and a degree of immunity from immunity which might otherwise affect a less healthy body’.
  • The various benefits to be had from Pa Tuan Tsin and the time to achieve them is completely up to you, as is the ultimate goal of Ch’i development.
  • There is a yardstick to judge your progress on, and protect against losing your confidence and faith in your practice. The first four weeks are when you are at greatest risk of dropping out. During this time, you will find some of the exercises uncomfortable and awkward to carry out in the beginning. Or conversely, they may seem so easy, you cannot fathom any benefit coming from them. There will be days, when you don’t want to practice, especially in a pair of droopy pyjamas posed in front of a mirror or seen by your neighbours in your garden in bad weather. You may find the co-ordination of breath and the movement difficult. However, it is the first month that is the ‘testing ground’. It is the ‘proving period’ you must pass through no matter how slowly, before you realise that you have only just begun.
  • Be aware of these early stumbling blocks and learn how to deal with them. Firstly, do not hurry in your efforts to immediately follow the routine as laid out. You can leave the extra exercises until you are ready. You do not have to follow the exact sequence of exercises. Instead, you can work on individual exercises – practice the stances or get familiar with the different postures before attempting to coordinate them with your breathing. If a particular muscle or joint is uncomfortable with a specific movement, be patient with it, massage it, coax it and take your time. You will discover your own body’s capabilities and develop your own style.
  • If there is difficulty with co-ordinating breathing and movement, you can practice the breathing separately. Concentrate first on prolonging and controlling the length and depth of your inhalation and exhalation by deep breathing as often as you can. Remember breathing can be practiced at any time – in the car, walking the dog, by the office window, in bed or the bath.
  • You cannot always choose the quality of your air, so restrict deep breathing exercises to when the air is relatively clean. For example, it would be better to take shorter breaths when you are behind a diesel or petrol engine, or on a crowded train. But when you can take deep breaths in a relatively clean area, take the opportunity to do so.
  • Breathe through the nose. You will know when your breathing is improving, because the length and duration of your breaths will be longer and you will find it cooler at the back of your throat, like a cool breeze in the back of your throat, rather than a scarcely noticed rhythm in the nostrils. Also your diaphragm will rise and fall rather than your chest and ribcage.
  • Geoff Pike does recommend that if you have any doubts about your ability to cary out any of these exercises, then you should take this book to your doctor and ask his opinion. This is particularly the case if you have any chronic health complaints or any specific disease. (I would add that if you are elderly, have mobility issues, are at risk of falls, or suffer from any illness affecting your breathing, this advice would be recommended – my note).
  • Feel free to drop any exercises out of the sequence if they are not possible for you or just simply don’t feel right. Chi gong is a personal practice. The wonderful thing about Pa Tuan Tsin is that even if you were to practice just one of these exercises alone and nothing else, you would still reap benefits. For example, the Shaolin archer is a popular favourite. Also the Horse Stance can vary in how low or high you go.
  • Finally, Geoff does make a reference to frequency of practice as being – every day, or at least every other day. However, in the spirit of Geoff Pike’s other advice, I would add that the practice should suit you, your schedule and current state of health. For some people, this might mean that they could only manage once or twice a week. For others, every day. You have to find what suits you at your stage of life. However, it is important to maintain a regular practice and above all, to practice – patience, discipline and will power.

I hope you have found this article helpful. I have quoted heavily from Geoff Pike’s book The Power of Ch’i. Geoff Pike’s version of the Eight Precious Exercises does differ from other more common versions of the Eight Pieces of Brocade that are taught today. In fact, I started practiced this version while working on this article and I immediately noticed improvements to my posture and especially in regards to my forward neck and shoulder habit. I actually prefer this version of qigong.

Geoff’s book is a goldmine of information and I heavily recommend you grab a second hand copy, as it is out of print now (Amazon link here). Again thanks to Paul H. for the copies of the pages.

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References

The Power of Ch’i: The Secrets of Oriental Breathing for Health and Longevity. 1980. Geoff Pike. Bell Publishing Company

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