Building a Business: One Important Word of Advice

Persistence TwoWhen starting a new project, type of work, or building a complementary therapy business, it helps to have someone to talk to, especially if that person is going through the same thing.

I have a close friend and colleague called Miro who I see maybe once or twice a year and have discussions with, usually with beer and sometimes vodka, as he is from Eastern Europe.

Years ago, when I had returned from Japan, I found myself in the UK in the aftermath of the financial crash. I had chosen this crazy time to return to set up my acupuncture practice after being away for 3 years. Basically I had to start from scratch again, looking for a new place to practice, building connections, finding new clients and dealing with reverse culture shock. Imagine going from one of the safest and cleanest countries in the world to London, one of the grubbiest cities in the world. I had limited funds and found myself in a city that had undergone some significant changes in the years I had been away.

For example, things were way more expensive. Rents, transport and general living costs, but especially rents. The rent inflation was something crazy.

My family advised me against coming back at this time, but I felt I had been away long enough, and was ready to get going again with my practice. However, it was a bad time to start up a business, or even to move back.

I often spoke to my friend Miro at this time. Such conversations help when it comes to discussing things like how much you charge, or where you advertise – e.g. do you do Google advertising, Or buy Facebook ads? Or should you offer things like cosmetic acupuncture, or discount coupons etc?

But most useful is the motivational aspects of discussing with like-minded people. The most useful piece of advice he gave to me was one word.

When I told him of the challenges I had. The lack of money and resources, and the high costs of living and working, he would tell me the most important thing in setting up a practice is “persistence”.

Persistence

Persistence – the drive to keep going and to continue in your endeavour regardless of whether you seem to be succeeding or not.

Persistence – the drive to keep going despite all the difficulties or even when it seems like you are not making any progress at all.

Persistence – the determination to keep taking steps, even small steps, as you work toward a goal or object. Even though the final goal seems far, far, over the horizon. Perhaps unreachable.

It is often quoted, that the journey to the top of a mountain is begun with a single step. And followed by thousands of equally small steps. But each step is fuelled by persistence.

Mountain walking

I walked up some mountains in Japan. It is one of the most enjoyable things you can do there, that is also good for your health. But it can be hard at first if you are not conditioned for it.

Your legs are tired, you breathe more deeply and you sweat like a pig. At least I did. But with each step, you keep the goal in mind – to reach that glorious top (and buy a souvenir or some dango (sweet Japanese dumpling) from the shops at the peak). All the time ignoring those elderly Japanese men and women as they pass you with ease like they they are strolling through the park on a pleasant summer’s day.

It is persistence that gets me to the top.

Motivational Guru

At the time, this advice seemed like general motivational speak, but Miro was right. Persistence does pay off. The thing is – you only recognise it years later. Those steps, and that perseverance can brings fruits and results. But you have to take those small invisible steps first, to get those juicy fruits years later.

When I look back, I am glad I took those steps and persevered. This is not to say things will always be up and up. Life, just as with business is full of ups and downs and some plateaus. When you climb the top of the mountain, you still need energy for the descent.  And really ultimately, it is the experience of doing it that counts when you look back on your life.

So, this message has a motivational theme to it. Starting a new endeavour or business requires motivation and drive, just as much as money, planning and luck. But it also requires persistence.

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Jim McMillan: The First Western Student of John Chang and Mo Pai

Jim McMillan John Chang Mo Pai 2
Picture Source: Images of Jim McMillan and John Chang taken from http://www.jimmcmillan.org/home

This is a follow on article to my earlier post – John Chang: Encounters with Spontaneous Qi (6). Read that article first for a background into the Acupuncturist and Qi-Master John Chang.

Jim McMillan and Mo Pai

Jim McMillan was the first Western student of John Chang. He authored a book in 2011 called ‘Seeking the Master of Mo Pai: Adventures with John Chang.

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It is clear from reading this book, that Jim McMillan was a serious student of Mo Pai. He practiced diligently for many years and even achieved the third Level (Level 2b) in Mo Pai – a level that even most of John Chang’s Indonesian students were not able to attain despite having more frequent access to him.

In Jim McMillan’s book, he gives an honest account of his experience with John Chang. He also talks about the other Western students, who sought out John Chang, who by Jim’s account were not as serious about the training, and in some cases were more interested in self-promotion. However, this is purely Jim’s viewpoint.

He also talks about John Chang’s communication with demons. This aspect is particularly curious, because Jim is a Christian who was able to hold a dualistic acceptance of Christianity together with Mo Pai. But he did not shy away from this curious aspect of John Chang and in fact was highly critical of John’s communication with the spirit of his ancestors. Jim specifically referred to John Chang’s guiding spirit as a “demon”.

Finally, he gives some information of the training he did and sensations he experienced. He does not give too many details about the training of Mo Pai, but he gives enough to get a basic understanding.

In this article, I will quote passages from Jim’s book, because I think he gives a good account of the life of a Mo Pai student, as well as his thoughts on the Mo Pai association. His views on John Chang as a teacher and the other students is interesting.

Mo Pai is the name of this particular school of training. The system of energy work they practice is called ‘Naigong’. Jim McMillan also referred to his teacher, John Chang, as ‘Pak John’.

At the end of this article, I will link to some of Jim McMillan’s videos and interviews. These articles and videos are available elsewhere on the internet. I have provided sources/references to these sites, including direct links to these websites.

If you are interested in John Chang or Mo Pai, or simply in the development of your own qi powers, that I would highly recommend you obtain a print copy of Jim McMillan’s book as soon as possible, just in case it ever goes out of print in the future. Here is an Amazon link – Seeking the Master of Mo Pai.


A TV documentary that changes lives

Jim McMillan was a martial arts teacher, who one evening in the late 1980’s, switched on his TV and saw this man from Indonesia carrying out all sorts of incredible magical feats in a documentary called  ‘Ring of Fire’.

This documentary created by the brothers – Lorne and Lawrence Blair, showed an unknown Indonesian man, who they referred to as ‘Dynamo Jack’ performing acupuncture. But as he twisted the needles in his patients, they would feel intense electrical type shocks. In fact, he could simply touch a person, and they would feel an intense shock, which he demonstrated on the Blair brothers. John Chang also could move objects with his own chi. He moved a kriss (a ceremonial dagger) without touching it. And more incredibly, he set fire to a piece of paper on the ground by projecting chi into it.

Such things modern movie watchers might pass off as being easily fakable or trickery. But to most people who view this documentary, it looks like the real deal. And even 30 year later, it still looks like the real deal.

This was largely due to the pure unassuming nature of the documentary, whose main topic was the country of Indonesia. There was also the seeming earnestness of ‘Dynamo Jack’, who we later discover his real name is ‘John Chang’. At the time, John wanted to remain anonymous. He did not want any kind of fame from this video. There is also the clearly genuine surprised reactions by the Blair brothers as they were shocked when touched by John Chang.

This segment with John Chang was only a small part of the overall documentary series but it has probably had the most impact on thousands of people ever since. For here we see the stuff of magic, of Star Wars and the Force. We can see the potential of ‘chi’, a type of energy, which is also sometimes called ‘qi’ or ‘ki’ in Traditional Oriental Medicine. And all of this came in the unassuming form of an Indonesian acupuncturist.

And what is more, he stated that these powers can be developed by anyone. When John Chang was asked in the documentary how he developed these abilities? – He simply answered: “Meditation”.

After seeing this, Jim McMillan was awakened. He knew that he had to find this man to learn from him. And this was to begin his manic search to find this unknown man in Indonesia.

Desperately Seeking John Chang

Jim’s account of tracking down John Chang, aka Dynamo Jack was fascinating. He literally landed in Indonesia and asked anyone he met if they knew John Chang. He carried a small picture of John Chang taken from the documentary. He had lots of dead ends. However there were moments of luck, which led him closer and closer to John. Unfortunately, time was running out for Jim. He only had a few more left days to track him down before his return flight.

Finally, only hours away from his return flight, he finally met John Chang through a chance lead with another Westerner who knew of John Chang. This person had been receiving acupuncture from John Chang for an injury from a car accident. With this new information, Jim arranged a meeting and travelled to John’s house.

John Change asked him what he wanted. Jim Mcmillan simply asked to become John’s student. John Chang lifted his arms, felt his muscles and said OK, I will take you as a student. Jim was now John Chang’s first Western student of the Mo Pai system.

Level One of Mo Pai

It is said in Mo Pai, there are 72 levels of training. Immediately in chapter one, Jim describes the training for the first level, which he received in his first rushed meeting with John Chang.

With the remaining time I had left, my new teacher explained the first lesson to me. He had me sit on the floor next to him showing me the correct posture and the proper breathing techniques. Then he told me that I would be getting a certain feeling in about eighty hours, and to let him know about it as soon as it occurred. Then he stood up and acted as though he was finished. That’s it? I thought. This is all I have to do? It just didn’t seem enough; I thought there was more than this!

Then Jim asks John to demonstrate his electrical ability to him.

He (John) smiled willingly as he reached out touching me with only his finger. Just as he did, a powerful electrical current shot through me instantaneously. It made me jump away leaving me dumbfounded and thrilled at the same time. I was completely defenceless by the overwhelming power he demonstrated on me. My sudden reaction amused him. The others who were standing around watching chuckled knowingly.

Curiously, this effect could also be felt without intention from John, for example – when Jim touched John by accident:

A few moments later, I was going over a few things he said while we were sitting next to one another. My hand accidentally brushed against his leg and once again I received another jolt as his electrical current unintentionally shocked my hand. I reacted instantly by jerking it away. He as well as the others in the room all laughed a second time.

My comment: This makes me think of the minor qi sensations a person can get when he practices qigong and acupuncture. For example, there have been occasions when practicing in Japanese acupuncture seminars, when you are in a room full of people practicing energy work – and occasionally you touch the acupuncture point on a person, you are practicing with, and they feel a mini static charge of electricity when you touch them. In some instances, they ask you whether you have needled them? But no you haven’t, you have merely touched them with your finger. It has happened for a me a couple of times, without any intention on my part. It is a very minor feeling and not at the same level as John Chang, but it does imply that we all have some ability to generate electricity.

Mo Pai Training

Jim gives more information about the physical Mo Pai training than Kosta’s book – ‘The Magus of Java’. I think this is because Jim was an extremely serious student.

Breathing

It is worth adding here, that the breathing exercises that make up the first level training of Mo Pai/Naigong does involve some reverse breathing.

Apparently, this reverse breathing component was not taught to Jim McMillan at his first meeting with John Chang, perhaps as a mistake, due to the unusual circumstances and hurry of his visit. Instead, John Chang had showed him how to do regular breathing. However, at a later occasion, John Chang did teach him reverse breathing. One thing we learnt from this, is that there were no adverse effects from only using regular breathing and actually Jim progressed just fine without the reverse breathing component.

Lotus / Half lotus

Jim had been instructed to sit in full lotus position. However due to a lifetime of various injuries from his martial arts training, he found it difficult to do this. As a compromise, his teacher showed him how to sit in half lotus. This would be an acceptable alternative.

John Chang acupuncture
This is an image of John Chang sitting in half lotus position

80 hours

The first level of Mo Pai requires sitting meditation. Specifically, John Chang told Jim that it would take 80 hours to begin to feel the required initial sensations:

My teacher had told me on my first meeting with him that after 80 hours training I would experience a “special” feeling in my dan tian (lower stomach)… He said this would be vital that I develop the dantien before going on to the next level. He wouldn’t tell me what the special feeling was. If he had, he said he feared I might psychologically make up something that was not real and get the wrong results.

Dantian

After 80 hours, Jim did experience a sensation in his dantian:

Sure enough, around the end of my eighty hours of meditation I begin to feel what I thought Pak John was expecting. The sensation I had in my lower abdomen was strangely exhilarating and very exciting. This sensation felt like heat, and it was developing in my dan tien. It began as a very small feeling of warmth which I didn’t think too much of it at first, but was well aware of it nonetheless. Then it started to grow larger in size and intensity. It continued to the point that it became alarming because I wasn’t sure if it was going to stop increasing in size or temperature.

Jim tried to call John, to ask if this was the sensation he was expecting. Apparently it was not – it was a precurser to the sensation John was expecting:

It was only later that I learned this feeling was not what he was expecting. However, it is the prerequisite to what I am supposed to feel after this first sensation. There is actually a second sensation the first one turns into.

My note: People who practice qigong, particularly the standing forms, will be aware of this first sensation of heat in the dantien. The dantien is an energy centre in the lower abdomen, approximately two finger breaths below the belly button.

This sensation of heat is talked about  in texts on qigong and some qigong practitioners have experienced it for themselves. I have only experienced it once, which may be because my dantien is blocked and due to my sporadic practice. However, I am not aware of the second sensation, which Jim and John Chang refer to here. This may be unique to Mo Pai.

John Chang states that this:

This heat is from the chi coming together and building substance in the dan tien while at the same time moving very fast, and all this causes friction.”

Don’t mix energy systems

John also mentioned that this heat that is felt in the dantien of qigong practitioners is used for different purposes than Mo Pai/Naigong practitioners. In this way, the systems should not be mixed. Either you practice Mo Pai/Naigong or you practice Qigong. You should not do both together, because their use of energy alchemy is different.

500 hours

Early in the book, Jim does not explain what this second sensation was, and apparently, this is why you have to tell your teacher what you feel and then they will confirm it. In actuality it took Jim 500 hours of meditation to attain the sensation – not the 80 hours as initially stated by John Chang. Jim’s understanding and progress was further delayed, because it was at this time that John did his 3 years meditation self-exile in the jungle of Borneo. He was uncontactable during this period. Despite this, Jim continued to practice diligently despite not having contact with his teacher or any instruction:

As it turned out, this training would take as much or more than five hundred hours of meditation just to accumulate the 80 hours of what would be termed “focused meditation”. I hadn’t ever known this before, and from there I found there was a distinct difference betwen meditation and concentration.

The heat in the dantien returns

Later in Jim Macmillan’s’ book, he describes how the heat in the dantian sensation returned again, and how it grew so intensely it worried him. At the time, Jim’s teacher John Chang was away on his retreat in Borneo and could not be contacted for advice:

The sensation of heat in my dantien finally returned and continued to grow and intensify. In fact, it was intensifying so much that it started to alarm me.

Was this something I was supposed to feel? Was it supposed to get this hot? How much hotter will it get? Day by day, it seemed to be getting stronger. Different thoughts raged through my mind. Does this have anything to do with spontaneous combustion? The feeling was beyond anything I was familiar with, but more to the point, it was real and not something I was imagining, and it was consistently happening as I practiced.

Then the heat started moving around Jim’s body:

As if the heat feeling wasn’t enough for me to wonder about, it then all of a sudden jumped to my lower back! What in the heck is going on? I thought. The heat was now located at the base of my spine. I also found that I could flip the hot sensation back and forth at will. I had control of it.

The Microcosmic orbit

As John Chang was away, Jim looked for answers in books about Taoism. He doesn’t state the name of the book in this section. However, later on, Jim does state that he read a book called ‘Secrets of Chinese Meditation‘ by Lu K’uan Yü (Charles Luk). So I assume this is the book he was referring to.

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In this book, it discussed how qi energy moves within and around your body at will. it also discussed the sensation of heat and that heat first develops from the accumulation of chi. After the qi becomes organised and accumulated sufficiently, it then embarks on what is called the ‘microcosmic orbit’. Followed that it moves along the ‘macro cosmic orbit’.

There are other articles on the internet on what the micro cosmic and macro cosmic orbit are in the qigong and energy work. And it would be better to read those, to get more information.

In short, the micro cosmic orbit, is when the energy moves, or is moved in a circular movement in your body through the energy centres from the base of your spine, up your spine, over your head down the front of your body, through your dantian and back to the base. Or you can do it going the other direction. The macrocosmic orbit is a larger orbit in the body that involves the legs.

Jim Macmillan discusses the orbiting of the body:

The orbiting of your chi isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. There are seven chakras points it must pass through before moving onto each successive point thereafter; some are easy to do while others can be extremely difficult. when the qi reaches one of these points, it can sometimes come to an abrupt stop. This energy now has the task of breaking through each chakra point if it is blocked. The individuals physiology, health, mental state and some other unknown factors will determine how long it would take the chi to break through each point. On some points it takes a great deal of effort and a long time for it to open up to allow the chi to pass through. Conversely on some of the points the chi takes less time and effort and can pass through rather easily.

I personally have not experienced the micro cosmic orbit, which is a reflection of my sporadic practice and inexperience. However, My friend Miro Barici told me he had. I have written about Miro here.

As regards, the blockage of chakra points, this is something I have experienced. I wrote about my experience at a meditation class in north London, where they carried out an exercise at the end designed to raise the energy up the spine – a kind of mini-kundalini arising. On this occasion the energy stopped at two of my chakra points, indicating a blockage. When this occurred, I felt extremely hot and my heart was beating rapidly. I could hear it thumping in my chest and I was sweating profusely. I was in my late 20s at the time and I did not, and still don’t have, any heart conditions that may have explained that reaction.

Removing his blocks

Without his teacher to guide him, Jim decided to continue working on removing his blocks. However, it sounds like this was mistaken action on his part as Jim wrote:

In my case, I mistakenly thought this was what I was supposed to do in my training. So like everything else I do, I began very determined to bust through my blockages.

I do not know why Jim thinks this was a mistaken act on his part. However, he did make much progress in removing his blocks, as he wrote here:

So when the chi jumped to my lower back I continued to work on it to facilitate its orbit around my body. When the chi came to my first chakra point it didn’t take too long for it to break though. And then further up my spine my chi also hit another abrupt blockage. The energy didn’t stay there long either to pass. But when the chi reached the top of my head it became stuck for a long time!

Everyone is different and will not have the same results regarding how long it takes to accomplish the passing of one’s chi though each point through their body’s “orbits”.


Meridians Acupuncture Genki Health Japanese


Mo pai (Naigong) differs to Chi gong

As I mentioned earlier, Mo Pai is the name of this particular school. The system of energy work as practiced in Mo Pai was called ‘Naigong’. I understand that ‘Naigong is also sometimes spelt with an ‘e’, as in ‘Neigong’. Jim referred to it as Naigong, so that is the spelling I will use for this article.

Also there are differences between the training for energy practices like Chi gong (Qigong) and Mo Pai/Naigong. The approach and energy alchemy is different and Jim advises not to practice both systems because otherwise you may actually be reversing your effects.

Mo Pai/Naigong appears to work both Yin and Yang together, whereas according to Jim – Chi gong only uses yang. (My note: I don’t have enough knowledge of qigong or naigong to say whether this is true or not)

Jim also discusses how meditation is used in both Chi gong and also Mo Pai/Naigong. And in fact, without meditation you will not be able to acquire yin or yang. But also at the same time, there are other sensations you can experience through Chi gong, but will not experience if you only practice meditation. There are other differences between these different system particularly Chi gong and Mo Pai/Naigong – hence the reason, why you should not mix these systems. Either you practice one or the other.

There is more information about the technics of Mo Pai, Chi gong, meditation and training in Jim Macmillan’s book, and I would recommend reading that if you are interested in learning more.

Christianity and Mo Pai

Throughout the book, Jim discusses God and Christianity. He also has strong opinions on John Chang’s contact with otherworld spirits – particularly two of his dead masters.  Jim is particularly condemning of these spirits and believes John Chang’s current spirit master simply wanted to manipulate John to his own end. He believes it was this spirits that ordered John to stop teaching Mo Pai to Jim and stopped his sharing knowledge of Mo Pai to the rest of the World.

Whilst some readers may not like these sections due to the talk of God and Christianity, I think they are valuable. All through the book, Jim acts with a degree of respect to John Chang, Mo Pai and many people he comes across. He acts with straight-forwardness and integrity. I believe his Christianity guides him, but also grounds Jim, so he does not get too carried away. He still stays true to his own original roots whilst learning a completely alien system of energy work.

Jim discusses these apparitions that visit John Chang to give him instruction:

Strangely, in my teacher’s school, he (John Chang) is governed by a yearly, reappearing prevailing, oppressive spirit who decides over all matters, as well as who goes to what levels, and who is to be removed from the school. Plus to make matters worse my teacher is bound to him without question, as if he was totally controlled.

In the documentary ‘Ring of Fire’, there is an occasion, that John is berated by the spirit of his first long dead master for showing off his skills to foreigners. As a result he cuts himself off from the Blair brothers for several years.

In Jim’s book, there is more information about John Chang’s communication with these spirits. One of these spirits also orders John Chang to ban Jim from his school:

It was in 2003 that I was banned by this spiteful uncompromising spirit from the Mo Pai School, because of all things, I am a Westerner. However, I believe there is another extenuating issue that plays in this as well: I follow the word of God instead of this spirit. It is my opinion that spirits are demons and they hate God with a passion. This is why they have isolated the nai gong knowledge so that the world is unable to benefit from it by those that seek after God.

John Chang also fell foul of this spirit, who eventually ordered his removal as head of the Mo Pai School for disobeying the spirits strict rules about teaching to Westerners, especially to Jim:

As it turned out, this spirit “removed” my teacher as head of the school because he ignored the warnings that were made to him for over a decade.

In this way, if not for John Chang disobeying these rules, the world would never know of the possibility of Qi or of Mo Pai. Jim did wonder, why his teacher John Chang chose to disobey these spirit’s orders for so many year and taught Westerners. Jim does suggest, that this decision on John’s part may have given him some tension.

The Spirits

It is worth clarifying that there were two spirits that commanded over John. One was his first master (the one we hear about in the documentary, Ring of Fire). His name was Liao. Then at some point, Liao disappeared sometime around 1993. After that there was a silent period, until soon after a new spirit took his place. The new spirit was said to be Liao’s teacher’s teacher, and whose name was May Yung Chen. This new spirit seemed to be much more controlling than Liao and focused on banning Western students from Mo Pai.

The spirit of May Yung Chen also left more of a spooky impression whenever he appeared:

Whenever May returns to the center he always makes a grand entrance.  There is a great wind that accompanies him along with a loud thundering which frightens everyone.

I think that it is this later spirit that instructed John Chang to build an underground meditation centre in his compound.

My Note: To tell the truth, I always feel a bit uneasy whenever I hear about underground meditation centres or temple-like structures or tunnels. I have a feeling that this takes a person into the realm of more sinister spiritual forces and conjurings. However, this opinion of mine has no evidence behind it. It is just my own personal feeling.

Jim Macmillan was especially condemning of these spirit entities who claimed to be John Chang’s masters. He also alluded to the possibility that they may have been draining him or having a negative influence over him. Jim wrote about John’s appearance later on:

It is interesting to note that seeing him in recent years, he doesn’t appear as I once knew him. He has an empty, old hollow appearance. One that makes me think he is becoming lifeless and not necessarily older.

There were also occasions, during John Changs’s retreat into the jungle of Borneo, where he was visited by other spirits. John said that these were mischievous and untrustworthy spirits and “never” to be listened to as they were always trying to manipulate him.

Jim also had his own personal encounters with spirits during the course of his training. For example, during one of his meditation practices, a strange luminous face appeared right in front of Jim. I wrote about something similar I had encountered in this article about low-level entities.

It appears that when you undertake this kind of energy training, it can take you into the realm of the the spiritual world. John Chang advised Jim about spirits:

“You should never believe any spirit, no matter what they do or say.” He said, “They will always try and fool you to get something from you”

This is contradictory statement for John Chang to say, because of course, he was listening to and obeying two spirits – his dead Masters. However, the reason for this obedience, may be found in my previous article about John Chang.

John was suffering with financial problems and a serious lack of money. Despite this, he had been told by his dead master, Liao, that he was not allowed to make money from his acupuncture or healing ability. In frustration he said to the spirit of his master, ‘what is they point of this ability if I must struggle to pay my bills, struggle to feed my family and struggle with money?!’ At that point, his dead master spirit told him not to worry, his fortunes will turn around. Shortly after that, a business opportunity came up and John was able to become a wealthy man.

I believe that this kind of experience, would have cemented John’s obedience to the spirit of his dead master.

Jim talked more about spirit entities. He stated that spirits are attracted to Yin energy. And by this logic, whenever we practice energy work – specifically on the accumulating of yin or yang, we may attract spirits. Jim warns:

Having anything to do with spirits for any reason isn’t something one should take lightly or, for that matter, try doing… Spirits can be very crafty to the point that they can and will lead you to believe they are doing you a favour, but that’s their ruse. They will eventually change and your relationship with them will become one of horror.

Primarily they are after your yin. Yin is like an elixir to them, a vitamin B12 shot if you will. And they will do just about anything to obtain this from an unaware or weak person…

My teacher (John Chang) said that spirits (demons) are “never” to be trusted – no matter what! And he ought to know, he’s been dealing with them for decades!

Jim Macmillan talks more about spirits, including his personal experiences with mischievous spirits. As a preventative measure, he would say a prayer for prevention during his own practice, and maintained his Christian beliefs.

This does remind me of a story I was told by a qigong practitioner many years ago. He already had a high level of qi/yin and yang energy from a long standing qigong practice but he also started to practice meditation regularly. However, on at least one occasion, he started hearing voices during his meditation practice. As a result, he decided to stop practicing meditation and only ever practiced qigong from that point on. The voices stopped. This may have been an example of him attracting a spirit to him, particularly as he had a very high level of Yin energy.


 

Blind Acupuncture in Japan


Moving Objects

There are 72 levels in Mo Pai. To pass through each stage, a student must have carried out a certain level of practice and achieved a certain amount of power or ability. To graduate each state, I assume a test would be given for the student to pass, just like with other systems of martial arts.

Jim McMillan attained one of the highest level of John Chang’s students. He attained the third level (or Level 2b).

In the Mo Pai system, the earliest levels are hard to attain and the levelling system begins at Level 1, Level 2a, Level 2b and then Level 3.

It is at Level 3, that the practitioner’s Yin and Yang energies have fused and he is then able to do the kinds of actions that John Chang demonstrated in the documentary – Ring of Fire. Possibly things like setting fire to paper by projecting qi and setting off electrical charges in people.

Level 2 or 3 may not sound much when you consider there are 72 levels, but in actuality Mo Pai was a lifelong practice which requires thousands of hours of meditation practice just to be able to attain the first few levels.

For Jim McMillan to attain the third level (Level 2b) was incredibly impressive. Even John Chang did not reach Level 72, during the time he was known to Jim McMillan. We know that John Chang did reach at least Level 20, when he did his self-exile in the jungle of Borneo. After, then, he may have reached higher levels.

It is worth mentioning that Jim Macmillan was not just the first Western student of Mo Pai. He was possibly also one of the highest ranking of all of John Chang’s students – Indonesian or Western. Jim often made comments in his book about the apparent lack of seriousness and lack of practice the other students seemed to have.

On one occasion, Jim was tested over his ability to move objects. I understand this was a pre-requisite test to get to level 2b.

Mixing his own chi with the Yin energy of his teacher

From what I understand (and I could be wrong), moving objects requires the development of Jim’s own qi and ability to project it, but also required Jim to be able to draw on his teachers yin power to move the object. Apparently, John Chang’s yin energy was so powerful that it projects beyond his own body some distance, and it is this yin energy that Jim needed to draw on to move the boxes.

This is indicated because, Jim was unable to move the object (a box) when he was too far from it, but when he moved closer, he could. Also, when Jim was in a different room to John Chang, he could not move the object, but when he was in the same room, he could move an object, and this was whether his teacher was aware or not, of Jim trying to move the object.

Here is a video of Jim McMillan demonstating his ability to knock an object over by projecting qi.


Here is an extract:

Unexpectedly, once I found out something I hadn’t planned on. I was doing a demonstration once for Pak John when we were trying to see how much I had developed over a period of a year. After I had demonstrated knocking boxes over from a distance I needed to leave the room for a few minutes to go to the bathroom. While I was in the bathroom I tried to move an item on the counter and was unable to. But when I returned to continue the demonstration, I was able to do it again while he wasn’t paying attention while I was testing myself maybe ten to twelve feet away. So I came to understand that his yin emanates quite a few feet beyond his body.

Closing of Mo Pai to Foreigners.

Occasionally, I get messages from people wanting to contact John Chang. As I stated in my other articles, I have no connection or contact with John Chang, Jim Macmillan or Mo Pai. I do however, give links to other more current energy work practitioners at an advanced level. One example is a Dr Skakov in Russia.

As far as I understand, there is NO opportunity now for foreigners to see John Chang or learn Mo Pai. Also understand that if he is still alive, he will be elderly now and retired. There was a window of opportunity to learn Mo Pai for 15 years in the 1990s and early 2000s. That has closed firmly now. The best option would have been to contact Jim Macmillan. However, he passed away a few years ago.

John Chang retired as head of Mo Pai and the leadership was passed on to another student. In an interview on YouTube (link below), Jim did mention that John Chang still maintained a role in testing students for the levels, as he was the only one with a high enough ability to test.

Politics between the Mo Pai members

Jim does talk critically about the other Mo Pai students – especially the Western ones. I won’t go into any of that here. To learn more, read his book. Jim was unhappy with the lack of exposure he got in the second follow-up Lawrence Blair documentary featuring John Chang. He was also very understandably upset at being banned from Mo Pai, just for being a Westerner, especially after he had dedicated years of his life to Mo Pai.

I would agree that this is an unfair way to treat a diligent and serious student. On the other hand, I do understand that the fame and promotion of John Chang’s mystical powers does go against the Eastern philosophy of not showing off or benefiting from spiritual powers.

Jim does finish on a positive note by talking about his experience of demonstrating his abilities.

Jim McMillan Memorial

I have provided links to Jim McMillan’s Memorial page below and throughout this article. Jim McMillan died in 2013 due to complications from cancer. Fortunately before he died, he passed on his experiences through interviews and of course his incredible book – ‘Seeking the Master of Mo Pai. I have provided links to his interviews and YouTube clips below. I highly recommend buying his book while you can.

Below is a screenshot of Jim McMillan’s memorial, with a link to the original website:

Jim McMillan Memorial
Website Source: http://www.JimMcMillan.org/home

Links to Jim Macmillan Interviews

YouTube

Part 1 of Interview with Jim McMillan of Mo Pai and John Chang

Part 2 of Interview

Part 3 of Interview:

Part 4 of Interview:

Interview at http://www.MartialDevelopment.com

There is also a written interview called ‘Return of the Jedi: Five Questions with a Neigong Expert.

From that interview, I have highlighted a few of Jim’s answers.

Jim was asked about his Mo Pai and its effects on his health. Overall, Jim’s health did benefit from his Mo Pai training as he stated:

My health actually improved since I started in neigong. The deep breathing in our first level of training is actually very beneficial, as many of you already know. However, being that we all are very different, the effects/results will show differently in each of us.

I actually overcame a very severe back problem, and became so healthy that I went many years without missing a single day of work.

Source: Return of the Jedi, http://www.MartialDevelopment.com

However, Jim did make it clear that building your dantien does not necessarily guarantee good health, and for some people may even be harmful:

Building up the dantien isn’t what most people think. You are not guaranteed great health. In fact, a few Western student became ill from training incorrectly. Although I don’t have concrete evidence, my observation suggest that if one has greed, power or any other negative desire in his heart, they will have health problems.

Source: Return of the Jedi, http://www.MartialDevlopment.com

I would also add to this and say that likely special X-Men type powers are also not guaranteed for those interesting in Mo Pai and Naigong. Very few of John Chang’s student came close to these kind of powers.

Wouldn’t this training protect you from cancer?

I think it is a logical question to address, considering that shortly after Jim McMillan wrote his book and did these interviews, he died from cancer. The answer to the question – ‘Wouldn’t this training protect you from cancer?‘ is – ‘not necessarily; however in some cases it may increase your survival rate’.

Firstly, consider that the apparent purpose of Mo Pai appears to be ‘power’ and ‘special abilities’ involving chi, yin and yang energy. Health does not seem to be its primary focus, though we would assume that better health would be a side benefit to this training.

Secondly, I have already written other articles on this website about qigong practitioners who got cancer, even after practicing qigong (Geoff Pike and Sat Hon). Conversely I have written about a person who used qigong to help her recover from cancer (Chen Huixian). Here is my article on this topic called ‘An Integrated Approach: Conventional Medicine, Qigong and Cancer’.

Thirdly, consider Jim’s age. As people get older, cancer risks do increase. I don’t know how old he was, but he would not have been that young. There are also lots of factors that can lead to cancer – environmental, genetic, dietary, psychological or emotional. And also possibly spiritual.

As an acupuncturist, I have treated many patients with cancer. There are a lot of factors behind cancer and my experience tells me that it is not as straightforward as thinking that – ‘if you practice qigong or tai chi, you will never get sick with serious diseases‘. Things are more complicated than that. I think the same applies to people training in Naigong and Mo Pai.

Conclusion: The Fruits of his Labour

Jim McMillan finishes his book on a high note talking about his experiences of demonstrating his abilities to John Chang. His years of practice had paid off.

I thought I too would finish this article on a high note by including one extract of Jim demonstrating his abilities. There were several examples in the book to choose from, but I decided on including another example of Jim projecting chi in order to move an object:

My teacher pulled a tape measure from his pocket and motioned for me to come over to him so he could measure my arm.. I knew what I was about to do now. He used a calculator to figure out the exact distance I was to stand from my target, it was about eight feet. A chair was brought and the back part was placed in front of me at the precise end of the tape measured distance that Pak John calculated.

I now stood behind the chair about two feet with my right palm directly above the back of the chair… An empty drinking glass was placed on top of a long table. It had a heavy, one inch thick, glass top. He wanted me to “move” the drinking glass to see how much I had developed since the last time I did this…

I did all my necessary preparations, followed by a deep breath and pushed my chi down into my dantien and then quickly thrust my palm toward the glass. By doing it in this fashion, it literally “shoots” the chi out from your palm. You can also pull things towards you by changing your hand movement… The method of pulling objects towards you is to leave your arm in front of you with your palm directly facing your intended target, and then take a deep breath, and again push your energy down into your dantien. Then as you let out your breath, you simultaneuously twist your palm forcing your energy out your palm.

When I thrust my energy at the glass, it flew off to the side rather than directly backwards, indicating I was off centre. Checking the positon of my palm, I then performed a few practice movements. When I thought I was properly centered I let it go. This time I was a little low, but still knocked the glass backward crashing it against the wall, breaking it. Then it fell to the floor and broke into more pieces.

Pak John ran up to the table. He was not looking at the broken pieces of glass on the floor behind the counter. He was looking at the thick glass table top. What was all that about? I thought. Then he was motioning for me and the others to come take a look.

While I wasn’t aware exactly what else happened, evidently he saw something else occur. The power of the Chi hitting the drinking glass too low inadvertently broke the inch-thick glass table top! He had expected my chi only to move the glass a little, but never considered what might happen to the glass top. However, he was amazed and acted very excited, not to mention how good I felt, but at the same time embarrassed for breaking an obviously expensive glass top. Again the clamour ensured with the replay on the small video camera screens to relive the experience one more time. And Lawrence had taped the entire event as well!

A real life Jedi…

References

Pictures of Jim McMillan and John Chang taken from Jim McMillan Memorial Website

Jim McMillan YouTube Videos: Rammsteinregeln

Seeking the Master of Mo Pai: Adventures with John Chang. Jim McMillan. Sailing Leaf Publishing, Louiseville, KY. 2011. Available on Amazon

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Death of the Shaman: Has the UK become a Spiritual Wasteland?

consumerism shaman
Has the West become a dead place spiritually?

I have wondered this after living in the UK for almost 40 years.  I live in London but grew up in the Midlands in the countryside.

I have lived in and travelled to different parts of the UK and everything looks the same everywhere you go. The same shops, Costa coffee shops, supermarkets, same high-streets, same love of football or rugby, same conversations, same motivations and desires e.g. buying houses – it occurs everywhere.

This is a generalisation. There are of course many open-minded people and seekers. Many people on the spiritual path, seeking a life of meaning.

And if you seek these people out, you will find them. But if you don’t, it is normal never to encounter them and to fall into the usual path (treadmill) of life, work, school, money, sports, holiday and buying houses. Buying houses is a huge favourite. And sports. And the soap drama Eastenders.

It does not surprise me that in the last few decades so many people travelled to the East seeking out gurus, masters and mentors.

They seek out what we have lost here. In truth, there should be no need for them to go to the East if we had preserved our spiritually. But we haven’t. The West systematically attacked and destroyed it and replaced it with a huge shopping centre.

Spiritual Heritage

It seems strange to say that England is a spirit-less place. England is a country with Stonehenge and other stone circles around the land.

Spiritual Decline

The British isles clearly have an unusual past with myths of King Arthur and the wizard Merlin, ghosts, fairies and the ancient druids. However, over the centuries, this spirituality has been systematically wiped out. The religion of science is predominant now. Before it was Christianity, which replaced the ancient beliefs of the Celts before. Nowadays, education teaches little about nature, the earth, the plants around us and instead focuses on preparing us for the workplace and the cult of consumption.

Stonehenge is a ruin. There is nothing energetic there anymore, whatever its original function was.

Witch Hunts

The West and especially England, for hundreds of years hunted down and killed Witches. In the years 1644 to 1646, Witch-finder General Matthew Hopkins was attributed with the execution (murder) of 300 alleged witches.

A person could be alleged a witch simply for having things like a ‘devil’s mark’ e.g. extra nipple, mole or birthmark. Hopkins techniques were adopted in America, the New World, where witchhunting continued.

All in the name of the Christ, – which is supposed to be the religion of peace.

Witch-Test

Alleged Witches were tested by ridiculous methods – such as being tied to a chair and then thrown into water.  If they did not sink, they would be accused of witchcraft. If they floated or swam they would be executed as witches. Their choice was to either drown or be executed.

The Witch-hunters painted these ‘witches’ as servants of evil. Of these thousands of people who were executed, how many were really true servants of evil? There is different type of magic – white, black and grey. How many of these accused ‘witches’ did practice the dark arts?

Were these also our Shamans?

And how many were simple herbalists – people who knew how to speak to plants, knowing which plants contained the healing remedies for a person’s ailments? How many of these ‘witches’ practiced traditional healing methods or did things like meditation, prayer, or used  hallucinogenic mushrooms to create altered states of consciousness?

How many of these were our original Western Shamans?

By hunting and killing people who are in tune with nature, you kill the spirit of a land.

In short, we killed out shamans…

No more Shamans anymore

So this is why we have no indigenous shamans of our own anymore. Or perhaps, there are a few of the Celtic tradition around.

Certainly, there are a few who have adopted the shamanistic practices of other cultures – the Native ‘red’ Indians of the North American continent, or of other cultures.

Witch and wizard resurgence

Harry Potter and those Twilight movies probably resurrected a fantasy view of witches and wizards.

However, I assume that the true path of the witch, is very similar to that of the shaman or even the guru. It is a difficult path to pursue, full of letting go of everything that society considers important. It probably means withdrawing from society and communicating with beings in different dimensions, communicating with nature and with the spirits of plants.

But if that is too hardcore, apparently, there are some modern ‘Shamans’. Practicing in Chelsea, Kensington or Kent, who cater to high-income professionals and celebrities.

Whatever you are told, think the opposite

We think we are free. Actually, whatever you are ‘taught’ to believe, is usually the opposite.

Today, we live in a ‘rational’ world. People pride themselves on being rational, sceptical and disbelieving. Though it protects us, it also closes us off to spiritual things.

We are also all kept busy, busy, busy all the time, which stops us from being able to reflect or contemplate. Time is the most important factor that hinders spiritual growth. we have work to do or find, money to make, bills bills bills to pay, things to buy, holidays to take, parties to go to.

We reinforce the collective perceptions of this spiritual wasteland

When a person tells you they saw a ghost, naturally you disbelieve them. Deep down, you may be secretly curious – almost excited, because such tales excite something deep within. Maybe you even had your own experiences, which you don’t tell people.

Or when people talk of spiritual occurrences, you switch off. What has that got to do with work, career, status and MONEY? Nothing!

There are many dimensions in this world. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet speaks:

There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Not to worry, if you are met with blank stares when you initiate such topics, start to tell a person about your work, your holiday, the football, or a house you are buying, and all will be put to right.

We form the perceptions of children

Children are full of questions. They are learning and making sense of the world. They listen and accept everything we say as truth. It is a privileged position to be in, yet also carries with it great responsibilities.

What view of the world do we want them to form?

 – A world, where we must work to pay bills and build status. Where people’s success is defined by a bank balance, the number of zeros in it, your house and the amount of stuff you’ve paid for? A rational world, where there is no mystery, no wonderment? Where everything is explained to us by scientists and doctors and the media? And anything outside of that is to be ignored. Don’t go there. Never go there.

Where children must obey and believe everything that is fired at them through the TV, the media, school textbooks.

Who writes the textbooks? What is their agenda? Does it truly match your own? Or have you let them decide that for you also?

Spiritual death leads to ennui (a limited appreciation of the magic of life)

Ever wonder why anti-depressant use is so high. Things are so bad, they are even prescribing them to children. Depression is not the normal state of being. It reflects an abnormal situation.

The ennui is all around us. It is in those young men smoking pot on street corners, why – to fit in? To be cool? Or to escape?

To quote Withnail and I, as they are driving in London drunk. Withnail spots a sign on the road to warn drivers to slow down as it is an ‘accident blackspot’:

Accident Black Spots! These aren’t accidents. They’re throwing themselves into the road. Throwing themselves gladly to escape all this hideousness!

Or the ‘successful’ ones, that run headlong through the mill chasing success, status or money, who then in middle age, drink wine, just the same way those teenagers smoke pot.

It is all to escape, but also to try to re-capture something missing. But what?

Some people are fortunate to have a passion in their life choice, A person who speaks with enthusiasm and passion when they talk about their work or their direction in life. They are the alive ones, the lucky. They know their path.

Connecting with your spiritual self does not mean withdrawal from life or society. You are still in it, but not of it.  And importantly, it can help you find the path right for you.

Penguins are not all alike, though they may look like it.

Gut feeling

We all have a spiritual ability intact, albeit to a lesser degree. We call it the ‘gut feeling’. If a decision does not feel right too us initially and we have to persuade ourselves to go along with it by rationalising, it means that our spirit is communicating that it is not right for us.  But will we listen or continue to rationalise?

The greater difficulty is for those who are so out of balance, that this sense fires off all the time and they can no longer trust it.

The path to be a shaman

If you or I wanted to become a shaman, we would have to first break all the programming, we have been entrenched with since we were born.

If we wanted to live in a universe of oneness, we would probably have to go through an upheaval to our senses, perceptions and our understanding of how the world and society works. This can put many off. This is why, our culture is so devoid of natural shamans anymore.

Castles

Our modern-day spiritualists come over the TV screen and in self-help books. Our sanctioned spiritualists are those funded by the American money machine – The Californians and their mecca of new age and positivity.

They are behind the walls in the castle up high. They have created their own Tibet, closed to the outside and in their own bubble of “positivity”, turning a blind eye to suffering, contradiction or just plain evil because it is “negative”. Self congratulatory and speaking in buzzwords. Oprah is their God. The Secret is their Bible. The devil is Trump. What happened in Tibet by the Chinese can happen to any bubble. A bubble is no good.

The 100 monkey story

We are all in this together. I remember the 100 monkey principle from one of Deepak Chopra’s books. Though he’s one of those LA ‘gurus’.

Once a significant number of monkeys on one island learned how to wash the mud off the potatoes in a stream, to make them more edible, suddenly all the other monkeys on the other islands also absorbed the same knowledge, even though they had never met. As though there was a universal consciousness among all the animals.

It works either way. Right now, the majority of people live in the rational world. Hence this is our reality.

More Shamans, less bureaucrats please

To end this musing – we think nothing of being a catholic, or christian, jew, muslim, sikh, buddhist, atheist etc.

But we need more shamans and white witches too. More people who practice the primordial healing arts and who live it. Healing is not just about people and our souls. It is the earth too and our relationship with it.

And I don’t mean those who are practicing the dark side. There are those around.

Writing this in London, England in 2019, I know that I am far disconnected from oneness, god or even nature. And that this is the norm.

And perhaps, it is why I feel a deep sorrow within, that can not be satisfied with buying stuff or self-help books.

That is except for my book – ‘The Genki Self Health Guide’ – mine has all the answers you need. Yes buy that.

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The Myth of the English Gentleman, Football Hooligans and Why the UK needs Confucianism

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The Healing Benefits of Onsen – Hot Spring Baths

onsen health benefits genki

What is an Onsen?

If you ever ask a Japanese person what they did for their holiday, theres a good chance they will mention that they went to an onsen. It’s a popular pastime.

Onsen are hot springs baths. As Japan sits on several active and inactive volcanoes and tectonic plate fault lines, there are plenty of hot spring areas, most of which have been cultivated into public baths.

Throughout Japan, many ryokan (travel inns) provide onsen. There are also large public baths in towns and cities. The temperature of the water in onsen is usually maintained in the range between 37 – 40ºC so they are quite hot.

Benefits of Onsen

Onsen has several benefits. Apart from physically cleansing the body, the higher temperature increases the circulation of blood and lymph and relaxes the muscles. This speeds up metabolism and detoxes the body. The act of immersing yourself in warm comfortable water is like being reborn and creates a state of relaxation. You are in the moment.

Different onsens in areas of Japan also specialise in having baths that are good for specific conditions. For example, some onsen baths have water containing minerals that are good for conditions like arthritis. Others have baths that are good for purifying the skin.

Toru Abo, a Japanese research scientist who specialised in studying the immune system even goes as far to advise the use of onsen as a therapy in cases of cancer because he believes the elevated temperature of the water helps enhance the immune system.

Hot Bath Cure

In Toru Abo’s book – Your Immune Revolution and Healing your Healing Power, a chapter by Kazuko Tatsumura Hillyer, PhD states:

“A Japanese theory that has existed for thousands of years, states that in order to be healthy, our inner body heat must be kept high. We believe that when the inner body temperature is low, cells are deprived of heat, which is energy, and that this prevents the cells and organs from functioning well. Based on this theory, the Japanese have developed many methods for raising heat and body temperature in order to heat the body’s deeper areas.

It’s interesting to learn that Dr Abo recently explained this through his scientific discovery that “a person with low body temperature can’t activate the lymphocytes in his white blood cells; therefore, his immune system can’t function well, even if he has enough lymphocytes and white blood cells.” This is why people with a low body temperature get sick easily.”

In this book, factors that cause low body temperature are identified as being: a lack of exercise, poor diet and eating habits, stress, drugs, smoking, excess coffee consumption, drinking too much water and an irregular lifestyle.

Two methods of increasing the internal body temperature are moxibustion therapy and using an onsen. Tatsumura writes:

“In Japan, we have traditional onsen (hot mineral spring) cures, in which we go to hot spring areas and take multiple hot mineral spring baths for a number of days… This is one of the very best ways to balance the autonomic nervous system.

When you warm your body, you stimulate the elimination of body waste through the skin, stool, and urine; stimulate digestion; relax the muscles; and relieve physiological stress.”

Tatsumura does warn that hot baths (41.6ºC / 107ºF) are not suitable for people with high blood pressure or heart conditions. Although it can be beneficial for people with arthritis.

Reference: Toru Abo. Your Immune Revolution and Healing your Healing Power: Achieve Longevity by Controlling the Hypothermia and Hypoxia!

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Onsen, the Ancient Romans and modern-day Japanese

There is a Japanese movie about onsen called Thermae Romae.

Thermae Romae

In this movie, Abe Hiroshi, a very tall, handsome Japanese actor plays a Roman architect at the height of the Roman Empire who unfortunately is not very successful. His designs are not popular, he is out of work and he comes home to find his wife having an affair with his best friend.

thermae-romae-ii

Whilst consolidating himself in the Roman public bath, he is disturbed by all the wild and unruly Romans jumping and playing about in the water. He only wants to relax and to get over his unfaithful wife and work problems.

He sits underwater to escape the noise

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Suddenly, he finds himself magically transported to an onsen in modern day Japan. He is shocked at first, but as he looks around he is amazed at the quality and the design of the modern day onsen as well as its rules and etiquette.

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Soon after he gets magically transported back to his own time and he sets about using the ideas to design and build more successful public baths back in the Roman period.

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Thermae Romae Clip

It is a very funny movie and highly recommended to watch. Here is a YouTube clip, where Abe discovers the modern Japanese toilet for the first time. Japanese toilets are electric with various functions like automatically lifting the toilet seat and playing background music. (This clip is in Italian dub, but you can still understand what’s going on):

The Ancient Roman’s use of Onsen

From a historical perspective, it was of great importance to the Romans to have public baths. There are still remains of public hot water baths in Scotland such as Bearsden and along Hadrians Wall, where they made the water hot using an underground heating system. The English city of Bath has a natural source of hot spring water and still houses the intact remains of a Roman bath as well as a modern British version.

Ancient Roman soldier stress

Imagine, an army of young to middle-aged Roman soldiers, from warmer climes in Italy, the Middle East, and North Africa marching thousands of miles north to the Scottish hinterlands where the weather is miserably cold, wet and damp.

Their legs are sore from marching. Their shoulders and arms ache from carrying their back packs, food, shields and sword. They have to be alert to the possibility of attack. Their daily work is marching, setting up camp, preparing fires, gathering food and water, removing their camp and marching some more. It is all hard work.

Then at the end of all that they arrive at their camp on the Scottish border. It is wet, damp and cloudy and you are unwelcome by the locals.

If you imagine that this is your life for the next few months or years, then the desire for some comforts like a hot spring bath are very welcome.

For these soldiers, a visit to an onsen in a heated building, to be immersed in hot water, heated by an underground heating system, accompanied perhaps by some local girls and banter with their comrades, can help to dispel those thoughts of mutiny or desertion.

The Roman army recognised the importance of hot baths as a balance to their hard-working lives. There are sulphur hot springs all over Italy and so these may have been the origin of their habit.

If we fast forward to the modern age in Japan, the Japanese also have adopted hot baths into their culture. 

From Ancient Rome to Modern Japan – stress and onsen

In modern age Japan, there are no longer battles with enemies from neighbouring territories or foreign countries. There is no need to train or march thousands of miles or carry supplies. Instead, the nature of work and stress is different.

The Japanese typically work very long hours. Rush hour trains are particularly unpleasant with trains crammed to maximum and long commutes carried out with bodies crushed together armpit to head.

In the 1980s, things were so bad, the train stations had to employ designated ‘pushers’ to literally push excess bodies into the already overpacked trains. There are videos of this available on YouTube, which are worth a look.

With so many bodies crushed close together, sexual harassment has become a social problem in Japan. The phenomenon of ‘chikan densha’, which translates as ‘train pervert’ is very real.

A chikan densha is typically a middle-aged salaryman (company worker) who gropes young women, particularly high school girls in the midst of a packed train. As many Japanese are too embarrassed to kick up a fuss unlike Western women, who tend to be more vocal, they will tend to endure it.

For a woman, being groped on a train is quite common, and on the few occasions that I have asked a young Japanese lady, if she has ever experienced being groped, I was surprised at how often the answer was in the affirmative. Japanese trains have ‘women’s only’ carriages as a result of this problem.


On a side note, some government ministers tried to introduce the ‘woman’s only carriage’ into the UK tube system – no doubt trying to copy the Japanese, which just shows ‘how out of touch / off their heads’ they are.

Obviously, they never use public transport. Because if they did, they would understand that we don’t have the same ‘chikan densha’ problem in the UK. And it would be unworkable given the nature of our trains and platforms and types of people using them.


Japanese work stress

As I mentioned, rush-hour trains in Japan are over-packed and lacking in fresh air and so it is easy to feel sick. Once at the station, you are swallowed up in a sea of black suits all on their way to their workplaces, where they may spend the next 8-12 hours sitting at desks in uncomfortably quiet, open-plan, air-conditioned offices making calls, spreadsheets, replying to emails, getting shouted at by your superiors or shouting at your subordinates or gossiping about your co-workers. Such work and commuting conditions naturally create physical and mental tension.

Often after work, workers are obliged to go drinking with the boss and work colleagues which involves drinking lots of alcohol, eating barbecued meats and complaining some more about work and your co-workers.

Drinking and complaining creates more tension and negative energy which you carry with you. Evening rush hour trains are still busy, albeit not as busy as the morning, but it is still common to not be able to get a seat. After a long day like this, there is no energy for home life or your family and this strains family relationships.

This combination of physical and mental tension has a cumulative harmful effect on the body and creates a risk of depression, family and marital strife, alcoholism and even the dreaded ‘karoshi’ (death by overwork)a real phenomenon.

This is perhaps, one of the reasons why onsen is very popular in Japan. On day’s off or even after work, people can visit special onsens in the country or even pop into a local public bath to help relax and release the tension that they have accumulated from their work day. By this same token, the popularity of ‘karaoke’ – singing popular songs at special karaoke shops helps to de-stress by singing and releasing all that tension.

How to use an Onsen

There is a very specific etiquette to using an onsen. Firstly, some onsens wont allow people with tattoos to enter. This is partly to keep any yakuza (Japanese gangsters) or hoodlums out of them as gang members will often have full body tattoos. For most public onsens, this isn’t usually a problem, as like gangsters all over the world, they will have their own places they frequent.

However, it does pose a problem for Westerners as there is a culture of having tattoos and if you have a tattoo, even a very small one, you can be refused entry even though there are more and more young Japanese people adopting the habit. Depending on the extensity of the tattoos, you can either try to cover it up, if its not too big or you will have to show the receptionist and ask if they will let you in.

Once past the reception, you enter a changing room area and take a locker. You have to strip completely naked but you are allowed to take a very small white towel to cover your private bits. Then you enter a cleaning area. You must shower and shampoo yourself before you are allowed to enter the public baths so that your body is clean. This includes your hair.

This is quite an important part of the process and some people will spend 5 minutes or more cleansing themselves. It is a communal shower area and the showers are low down at little wash stations with little stools. Body wash and shampoo is provided.

Then when you are washed, you can enter the main bathing area, which is usually through a sliding door. Male and female areas are kept separate, although prior to the Meiji area, they would have been mixed.

It is possible to book various ryokan (inns) in the countryside where you may have your own private onsen if you want to share with a partner. A typical onsen may have different large communal bath areas containing different types of water and mineral composition which are supposed to have different benefits for the body.

For Westerners, it takes a little bit of getting used to especially if you are the only foreigner in the baths (and you likely will be). It is natural to feel a little self-aware but actually no one really cares as long as you are following the bathing etiquette. If you dont follow it, you will likely get complained about and maybe even a staff member will come and talk to you, which would be quite embarrassing. In Japan, people don’t like standing out.

Entering the baths

You simply pick a bath and enter it and relax as long as you want. If there are several baths, people will move to and fro between them. There will likely be one bath that contains cold water which you can enter to really get the circulation moving.

Some baths have different temperatures. This may be indicated on the wall. if not, you can test the temperature with your hands before entering. It is highly advisable not to plunge yourself into the hottest one. I attended with a Norwegian friend who immediately jumped into the hottest one too quickly. It was a shock to his system and it made him feel unwell. It is best to pick a bath with a lower temperature and take your time to acclimatise to the heat.

Also, it may not be advisable if you have heart problems or high blood pressure to use onsen. Or if you do, then take time to acclimatise to the temperature properly

Chilling out

Most onsens have relaxed and tranquil atmospheres with people sometimes being quiet and sometimes people talking.

What onsen is not, however, is a place where you can jump in, swim, splash people, make lots of noise and act rowdy like Brits at swimming pools in Spanish resorts. If you disturb others, you will be asked to leave. At the end, you can return to the shower area and many people will shower again to wash away any sweat. In the changing area, there are usually sinks and hairdryers available. Back outside in the reception area, those vending machines, which sell cold beers will suddenly become very attractive.

Onsen refreshes the soul, mind, and body

Onsen is a unique Japanese experience which reinvigorates, refreshes and relaxes the body. It also helps create social cohesion and can bind society together. By entering an area completely naked in the company of complete strangers requires trust and respect for others.

The Japanese identity is very strong probably much like the British used to be. We know this in the way many Japanese use the expression We Japanesewhen talking about their kinsfolk as though they think and all act the same way.  In many ways, they do.

Shared experiences such as onsen helps to build unity and trust between people. Immersing yourself in the hot water of onsen literally melts away tension and hardness from the muscles. In the West, hot spring baths are not so common.

The next best thing is hot baths at home and sometimes using epsom salts. If you are walking around with a hard shell of a body, carrying all of your life, family and work stresses in your musculature, it would be beneficial to take regular hot baths. If you visit Japan, you must also do the onsen experience

The Genki Self Health Guide

This article expands on themes from the book – The Genki Self Health Guide: Improve your Body and Mind with Traditional Oriental Medicine. Available on Amazon.

genki health japan woman onsen


Next Post

Clean your House, Cleanse your Ki Energy: Lessons from George Ohsawa

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Related Posts

References

Toru Abo. Your Immune Revolution and Healing your Healing Power: Achieve Longevity by Controlling the Hypothermia and Hypoxia! Babel Press 2013


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Screenshots from Thermae Romae

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Hans Selye and what the Pink Panther Movies can teach us about Stress and Disease

Hans selye GAS Stress
Our modern day society has too much Stress

According to the UK Office of National Statistics, a report by the Health and Safety Executive issued in 2013, stress, anxiety or depression was listed as a prevalent factor in 487,000 cases of work related illnesses. These figures have been steadily increasing each year. In daily life, more and more of us are being affected by stress.

Some stress can be good for us, but not too much

Stress is an important part of life and it can be positive. The human body is designed to deal with stress. It keeps the body alert and able to avoid danger. Unfortunately, modern day living can be stressful in a peculiarly negative way.

Hans Selye’s GAS – don’t pull his finger

The scientist Hans Selye showed the negative effects of stress with his model called the General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS).

In his work, Selye subjected laboratory rats to stress (by torturing them – nice guy).

Unsurprisingly, many of them became very sick, suffering intestinal ulcers, wasting away of the thymus and enlargement of the adrenal glands. Hans Selye concluded that stress causes sickness. He developed the GAS model to explain the process.

In his theory of the General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS), the body goes through three stages when dealing with stress: Alarm, Resistance and Recovery or Exhaustion. In the ‘alarm’ stage, a stress appears.

Applying the Hans’ Selyes GAS Theory to the Pink Panther Movies

If we apply the theory of GAS to the Pink Panther movies, we can give a basic explanation of how the General Adaptive Syndrome works.

In the Pink Panther, Peter Sellers played a bumbling French detective called Detective Clouseau.

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Clouseau relaxing in his hotel

In these movies Clouseau hired a Chinese martial art-practicing servant called Kato Fong to help keep his senses sharp and his reactions acute by carrying out random surprise attacks on him.

As Clouseau enters his hotel room, Kato would jump out from behind the curtain with a loud scream “Saaaaaaaaah” and attempt to karate-chop his skull.

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Suddenly Kato Fong appears

In this situation, Clouseau’s alarmstage would be activated, immediately triggering his ‘fight or flight’ response. In this, his body would prepare for action by releasing stress hormones – adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine into the blood stream which would put him into an ‘attack’ or ‘run away’ state.

These hormones have amazing effects; his breathing rate would increase, blood would move away from his digestive system into his muscles, his eyesight would sharpen and impulses become quicker as he prepared to deal with the stress. Physiologically, these changes require a lot of energy.

This response continued during the ‘resistance’ stageAClouseau contended with Cato by avoiding his chop and then engaging him in combat or avoiding his attacks for a prolonged period of time. All of his energy is focused on dealing with the danger. It is always better to deal with this danger quickly, as a prolonged conflict can be exhausting.

Film and Television
Fight or Flight – Hans Selye GAS

Finally, when Clouseau escaped from Cato or had thrown him out the window, he would enter the ‘recovery’ stage whereby his body would return to a state of calm. However, if his body was not allowed to recover and instead he experienced continual stress (also known as distress), the ‘exhaustion’ stage occurs. Too much distress can lead to burnout.

Pink Panther
Room Service… Can you send someone to clean the room.

As an attack from Kato could usually be resolved quickly, Clouseau was always able to recover from the effects of stress without harm and as intended, it would probably benefit him by exercising his strength and reactions to danger. Unfortunately, the same stress response occurs almost daily among modern humans in situations that are not life threatening.

Daily life stress is constant and low level

In our modern society, we are exposed to constant low-level stress. We get stress from school exams and keeping up with peers. We have work stress – always having to please our boss, our co-workers, our customers. We have stress simply travelling to work in traffic or on crowded trains.

We have stress with paying bills, and bills, and more bills, and running out of money before running out of month.

We have relationship stresses and we have the stress of keeping up with our peers. Even social media creates low-level stress by making us feel inadequate.

But worse is we don’t have time to stop and reflect and to question it all. We must be busy, busy, busy. Always acting. Never recuperating. Stress is continuous and draining.

In this way, we never fully recover. We are like those animals in Seyle’s experiments who are continually subjected to stress and then they get sick.

It is no wonder that illness and diseases are increasing as we become more modernised and advanced. It is a natural result of an unbalanced world.

Liver Ki Stagnation

In Traditional Oriental Medicine, emotions and moods relate to specific organs. The Liver organ, known as the ‘General’ of the body is usually implicated in stress. Excess stress in our life can overstimulate the Liver causing it to ‘overact’ and negatively affect other organs, or its energy can be weakened leading to a weakening of its other functions – storing the blood and ensuring a smooth flow of Ki in the body.

The Liver is also related to the eyes, and in this modern society it is worth considering the influence that overusing the eyes has on our body and the Liver energy. For example, we constantly overuse the eyes by staring at computer screens, smartphone screens, TV screens and not having enough ‘greenery’ in our daily viewpoint.

In the modern age, our Liver energy is over stimulated, excessive and unbalanced. Modern living, which includes the constant low-level stress we are exposed to on a regular basis is synonymous with Liver disharmony.

Denmei’s Liver stagnation

My friend Miro Baricic told me a story of how he attended a seminar with the Japanese acupuncture master Shudo Denmei in Europe some years ago. At one point during the seminar, Shudo took the pulse of everyone in the group and for person after person he came up with the same pulse diagnosis – “Liver”.

Stress and Tension has become the norm (but it really is not meant to be this way)

We may not be aware of it, but low level stress and tension has become a regular part of daily life and work.

This is the not the stress of bombs falling or where your next meal is coming from. It is the low level and constant stress of deadlines, constant bills to pay, being overworked and underpaid, online account after online account to make, passwords to remember, call centres to call, people to impress, authority, a hundred and one rules to be aware of, customers to placate, family and relationship issues to deal with, and a multitude of minor, seemingly unimportant stresses, that when all added together, make us feel like we are lab rats running in a wheel in a cage. Running and running frantically, and yet unable to see that we are running nowhere despite the truth of our situation being right in front of us.

The antidote – remove the stress

Fortunately, we can do something about this. First, it helps to realise that today we are exposed to unhealthy levels of continuous low-grade stress. More than our ancestors would have been.

And then we should learn ways to counteract these stresses. To do activities that burn off these excess stress hormones in our body. Simple things like walking, contemplation, qigong, changing our eating habits and questioning the meaning of your life.

Also to take steps to remove the stresses that get imprinted in our bodily musculature. This kind of body armour makes us stiff and hinders the flow of Ki energy in our body. We need a smooth flow of Ki-energy in our bodies to be healthy.

There are several suggestions to deal with stress in my book – The Genki Self Health Guide: Improve Your Body and Mind with the Principles of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Available on Amazon.

9692342 - shot of a futuristic young woman.

This article contained extracts from the book: The Genki Self Health Guide.

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7 Reasons Why Walking is Good for You

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References

UK Office of National Statistics. Health and Safety Report 2013/2014

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Images from http://www.123rf.com

Screen shots taken from The Pink Panther Movie

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Clean your House, Cleanse your Ki Energy: Lessons from George Ohsawa

George Ohsawa cleaning house
George Ohsawa

One of the most influential Japanese authors on healthcare philosophy, partly attributed his robust health to his love of cleaning.

George Ohsawa was the founder of Macrobiotics – a healthcare philosophy based on Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts such as Yin and Yang and Ki-energy

George Ohsawa travelled and lectured all around the World. He promoted the health benefits of the Macrobiotic Eating plan – Miso soup, vegetables, Japanese pickles and brown rice.

George Ohsawa Loved Cleaning

However, few people are aware that George Ohsawa also had a passion for cleaning. It was a passion that kept him lean, fit and strong. Here is an example from the book – Macrobiotics: Yesterday and Today (1985)

Ohsawa took particular delight in cleaning, dusting and mopping with a vigor that gave him a good daily workout. As a result of this activity and his generally spartan diet of rice and vegetable, Ohsawa was lean and strong.

Once he did a few sessions of judo at a dojo. The teacher, impressed with his leg and lower body strength, asked him how long he had been practicing the martial arts. “Only since I have been coming here” was the reply.

Macrobiotics: Yesterday and Today

Dirt and Clutter causes stagnation

Dirt and clutter stagnates, and can breed negative feelings in whoever lives in a dirty house. This is feng shui at its most basic – the art of spatially arranging objects, furniture, structures or buildings in a way to harmonize the flow of energy around you.

Judging a book by it’s cover

If you take a step into a person’s house or car, the condition it is in tells you far more about its inhabitants than words can do. For example, driving past someone’s house and seeing a broken-down washing machine or toilet in the front yard and an unkempt garden tells us a lot about the inhabitants without even having to knock on the door to meet them. Some people collect clutter over many years.

Hoarding reflects a stagnation of mind

At its most extreme level, some people become hoarders, who collect piles of newspapers and various other things over many years which fill every space inside and out. This creates an extreme stagnation of energy. It is the external manifestation of an internal stagnation.

I saw one of these houses in Japan and occasionally saw reports on TV programs about people who collect so much rubbish that it upsets the neighbours and local council because of the risk to public health. All that garbage attracted rats and cockroaches. Clearly these people have some mental health problems.

Not letting go

Yet, even for people with minimal tendencies towards hoarding – a desire to collect things, to store away, or even to buy the same thing over and over again can indicate that the person is struggling with letting something go – perhaps an emotional hurt.

These people may also suffer from constipation, a physical malady that matches the emotional malady of holding on and not being able to let go.

Reality TV shows about cleaning

These days, there are a lot of reality TV shows in the UK. Some of them are about people who suffer from obesity or with unemployment and life on benefits and in some of the homes of these people, they are often unclean and untidy.

They also suffer from the maladies of lack of motivation, low energy and boredom. I believe that if these people were to start with cleaning their home environment regularly, positive changes will gradually improve their bodies and even their fortunes.

The benefits of daily housework

Housework involves the exercising of your body in ways that mirror going to the gym. To tidy things away, clean windows, vacuum and mop the floor involves bending and straightening up, lifting objects and stretching. For some people, it can really improve the circulation and bring out a sweat. After you finish, it is mentally satisfying to sit and relax with a cup of tea in a clean home and a sense of satisfaction.

So if you don’t have time to go to the gym or you want to save your money – try cleaning instead, just like George Ohsawa enjoyed doing. You will cleanse your external and internal energy. And get a good workout whilst doing it.

The Genki Self-Health Guide

This article contains extracts from my book – The Genki Self Health Guide: Improve your Body and Mind with the Principles of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Available on Amazon


ying yang genki health book japanese 9

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A Good Sweat: Physical Exercise and a Long Life

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References

Macrobiotics: Yesterday and Today.  RE Kotzsch, Ph.D. Japan Publications, Inc. 1985, Tokyo and New York


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Chapter Nine and Conclusion: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Nine

Monetisation

Woman money Public Domain Pictures via Pixabay com
Time for that new dress

Making money from a blog

I’ve left this one to the end. Put aside any thoughts that you can make a lot of money from your blog. This is a popular selling point from blogging marketers to get you to buy their products.

The chances are you are not going to make any significant money from your blog, unless you have a huge amount of monthly traffic, at least in the tens of thousands. Nonetheless, you can still make a little money on the side.

If you are interested, here are some of the options for making money:

AdSense

If you sign up to the Adsense program,  Google will places ads in your text. If a person clicks on an add, you can get paid a few pennies If you have hundreds of thousands of clicks a month, this may add up to something.

However if you only have a little traffic, these few pennies may not be worth it because all those ads can make your website look a bit spammy. Also some ads really are not mobile friendly.

Pop-ups

You may have had the moment, when you’re looking at someone’s website and suddenly a pop-up ad comes on the screen. Then for some reason, you can’t find that ‘X’ to remove it because it is hidden behind the edge of the screen, so you cannot proceed. You then have no choice but to leave that website and never return again.

You don’t want that to happen to your website.

Use Pop-ups strategically and un-obtrusively

Pop-ups can be a useful tool for getting people to sign up to your mailing list. You can also place them on specific pages, e.g. places where you are reviewing a product and then set them so they only pop-up when you scroll down a certain distance – e.g. 70% of a page.

Definitely don’t use them when someone comes to your website for the very first time. It’s kind of like attending a party, and the guy who opens the doors to let you in, suddenly starts trying to sell you a timeshare in Malaga.

“But, I just got here…” you say.

Too many pop-ups and ads can obstruct your message.  If you are getting lots of traffic, it may be worth it for the extra income, but if you install it and can only make a few pennies from it, then you have to ask if it is really worth it. Could you earn more money by advertising your own products in the space instead?

Affiliate marketing

This method is where top bloggers mostly make money. By promoting or advertising a specific product, they will get a percentage of the sale (typically 10-20%). In some cases, the blogger will tell you it is an affiliate link. Other times not.

If you practice a certain type of therapy that requires the use of a specific product and you have a good amount of traffic, you can always contact the advertising section of the company that sells the product and offer to place an affiliate link or promote their product in your website for a percentage.

Some companies have this process already set up and can issue you with a unique affiliate code so they can track your referrals.

Basically a code can be a simple URL (website address), which contains a number that refers to you. You then place that URL on your website and if anyone clicks on it and then proceeds to buy the product within a certain time-period (weeks or months), you will get a payment for it. If you have hundreds of thousands of clicks a month, that can add up.

There are various affiliate programs that you can sign up for. It all depends who you are happy to promote. For example, if you have used WordPress.org to build your website, than you could consider promoting a hosting company like Bluehost, which pays out around $60-70 dollars if you give them a direct referral.

If you have used WordPress.com, than you could become an affiliate seller for Automattic, the company behind it. They pay out approximately 20% of a sale if someone signs up for their Premium or Business Plan within a certain time period of clicking on your affiliate link.

If you are looking at increasing the potential for your website to generate some money, then affiliate marketing is an area worth looking into.

Selling your own products

This is by far the best way to make profit from your website and effectively turn it into a second business. There are certain restrictions on what you can sell, such as various EU regulations on selling your own home-made creams and lotions. Also as Amazon has a large part of the selling community, it does stifle small businesses from selling your own products.

On the other hand, if you have designed your own intellectual property – eBooks, or DVD’s (e.g. tai chi lessons), then you can use your blog and website as a platform to advertise and sell it.

You can also use your blog to promote online courses, which may be focused on treating specific problems. Remember that a blog is designed to bring visitors deeper into your website and target them with a call to action.

So if your call to action is also to sell your own tai chi DVD, then you will want to promote this objective by linking to your product page or advertising it in your side-menu or widgets.

eBooks

Creating your own eBook is a worthy and highly satisfying endeavour. However, it does require a lot of work and the reward is probably not the best value in terms of monetary gain for time spent. However, the sense of accomplishment is well worth it.

The process of creating your own eBook is quite lengthy. You not only have to plan, structure and write your book. Then you must turn it into an eBook and then promote it.

I do have experience of this as you are reading an example of it and I am considering releasing an in-depth guide sometime in the future. so check out my website or sign up to my mailing list for updates on:

www.johndixonacupuncture.co.uk.

Traffic first, then monetise

When you are starting your blog, it is very tempting to try to monetise it immediately and put AdSense on it. Hold off on this.

The returns are not worth it, and it can make your site look spammy. Instead focus on building fresh, original and useful content. Focus on building relationships with your visitors and on building up traffic.

The exception to this is with selling your own products. Selling your own stuff is original and also helps to promote your business and your own personal brand.

And if in the future, you get a large amount of traffic, then do consider installing the ads and the affiliate marketing to see how they perform.

Bullet Points

To recap:

  • There are various methods to monetise your blog. For example, AdSense, Affiliate marketing and selling your own products or eBooks.
  • Be reasonable in your expectations. You shouldn’t expect huge amounts of money unless you have hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. At best, most people will earn a little pocket-money.
  • Be considerate in how you use pop-ups ads. They can be intrusive and annoying if used incorrectly.
  • Too many ads, especially early on before you have built up content or traffic, can make your website look spammy.
  • Consider building traffic up first, before monetising.
  • If you do monetise, then don’t hold back or go half-heartedly. Commit yourself fully to it.

Genki Health Japanese Woman receiving Acupuncture


Conclusion

endurance-exercise-female CC0 License via Pexels com
Not a member of the New Year’s Resolution Club

In this eBook, we have looked at several different ways to write and promote a blog for a Complementary Therapy Business. I have not gone too deeply into any of these points, but I hope it is informative enough for you to get some useful pointers and get started.

Ultimately, the blog is a personal expression of you and your brand. It should also be something you enjoy doing and sharing with people. If it becomes like work, then you can lose the enthusiasm of doing it and give up too soon.

Likewise, just like embarking on an exercise practice or new habit change, it does require a certain amount of motivation to do it regularly. Creating a plan early on will really help you make it a success.

If you go into the process of creating a blog with expectations that it will become quickly popular, you will be disappointed. It can take months, even years for a blog to gain a following.

Whilst there are some shortcuts, by using ads, if you want it to succeed, you have to continue to work away at it without expectation of reward. You need some faith.

Eventually, you will attract some traffic and connect with people around the world. This in itself should be reward enough, because for as long as your message can reach one single person and give them value, then you have helped changed someone’s life.

And if you can do it to one person, than you can do it to another, and another, and another. So forget about the traffic and the money and just keep going for your own satisfaction.

Ultimately, the blog, is a form of expression and it can help you to learn about yourself, your attitudes and your business. Creativity always helps us realise new things. When I was writing this eBook, it helped clarify lots of things for me, such as the weaknesses of my previous websites as well as my expectations for my new website and blog.

There is always going to be more to learn on any topic, but I hope that this guide is a good starting point for learning How to Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business.  I hope it helps you on your journey.

Final Note

 I hope you have enjoyed this book.

This book is a companion to my other eBook: ‘How to Set up a Complementary Therapy Business on a Budget’. This is available as a free PDF if you sign up to my website or can be purchased as a Kindle version through Amazon US, UK and other countries (free to Kindle-unlimited subscribers).

If you have found any of my writing to be useful, then by all means, sign up to my mailing list and I will keep you informed of any new publications and resources I post.

Just to add, this eBook is a work in progress and compliments my own personal experience of blogging. As I learn more things, I may decide to update this eBook in the future. If I make any changes, I will announce it through my blog.

Feel free to say hello

Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me through my website. I would really appreciate an Amazon review for this book, if you have a moment.

All the Best

John Dixon


complementary therapy business


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This content includes referral or affiliated links to products or services. Visit my disclosure page for more information.

Chapter Eight: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Eight

Promoting your blog articles

 

birds
Sorry guys, I’m leaving twitter for Instagram

Pressing ‘Publish’ is not the last step

You’ve written a great post and pressed publish. Now you can sit down and think of the next post you’re going to write. Well just hold on a second.

If you use any other kind of social media, this is a good time to promote your blog article. If you have a twitter account, then advertise your new post. Or use Pininterest or Instagram by designing a picture, with a quote or the title of the post in it and promote it there. Or of course there is Facebook.

Social Media

Pininterest and Instagram are search engines in their own right and will help push traffic to your website. So if you have skills with graphic design or photography, then this skill can be utilised to promote your blog. Twitter is a simple platform that may be able to bring potential traffic to your website. You may need to post 1 to 5 times a day to get anything out of it.

There are similarities between Instagram, Pininterest and Twitter in that you can pretty much repost the same content on these platforms. However, only choose one of these platforms. If you are very systematic, you could create a lot of material and then drip-release it every day.

You can also repost the same material after a few weeks or months as your original posts will have dropped down lower in the feed and not be so visible.

Facebook is a tool that has been used very successfully to promote website traffic. I personally disconnected from Facebook 10 years ago, so can’t give any information.

Choose one social media platform and go full-out on it. Don’t spread yourself among all three platforms.

Other possibilities

Quora is another growing website. It is basically a question and answer site – where you can choose to answer a question or pose a question to the community of Quorans (millions of people worldwide).

There is a vast number and variety of questions there, including many health-related ones. You can certainly open up an account there, fill out a profile with a link to your blog and set about answering questions. If you do choose this path, I’d advise not to get too carried away with it. Quora belongs to someone else. It is not your website. Though you may be able to bring some traffic to your own website, it may be limited. Some people spend hours writing on this website. But time is limited and I think it is far better spending the time working on your own website and building up content, which you own, then writing it for someone else’s website.

Email Lists

If you have an email list, you may want to create a newsletter and send it out periodically to draw people back to your website. Again mailchimp can help with this.

It can also be worth making a list of your new client’s emails and asking permission to send them information from time to time. In this way, you remain on their radar, even if they have finished with your treatments. There are a number of email listing providers that you can utilise on your website. Mailchimp, and Aweber are two common ones.

Word of Mouth

By all means, let family and friends know you are writing a blog, if you are comfortable with them reading it. In my case, I have no problem with complete strangers around the world reading my content, but I go all shy when I think about telling a friend that I have a blog. I suppose this is kind of strange.

Nonetheless, getting friends, family or colleagues to visit your blog or promote it on other social media platforms like Facebook, could really help you to get traffic early on.

Original content

This is important, because Google prefers original content. You can’t just copy information from elsewhere. Plagiarism is a big no no. You can quote someone else’s content, but you have to credit the source and provide a link to their website or wherever you got the quote from.

As mentioned before, the internet is saturated with content. Perhaps it doesn’t really need any more. Everywhere you go, you will find articles to lose fat, reduce wrinkles or make money.

A typical type of article is the ‘10 steps to achieve… X’. It’s been overdone because it is effective. People like to read simple articles and this format is pretty simple. If you do write this type of article, make it original by adding your own personal anecdotes, your experiences and your slant on it.

On a side note, you may perhaps have a really unique and powerful way to treat a specific problem. Well, don’t give it away too easily. It is your unique selling point and sets you above your competition. On the other hand you may want to promote it and let people know you have a special way of treating. You could even sell it as a course or consultation.

Guest Posting

This is a practiced method that new bloggers can utilise in order to build their traffic more quickly. You find a blogger who is already established and who writes in a similar field or has a similar vibe to you and your work. Then find out if they accept guest submissions and contact them to find out if you can do a guest post.

This can be done easily enough by reading through their blog. If they do accept guest posting, then read any criteria for posting they have and simply contact them by email outlining your post, or just submit an article.

If they agree to post it, what will happen if that their audience will read your post on their site, which should also contain a link to your website and maybe a short bio about you. If what you write resonates with their readers, they may well visit your blog and if they like the rest of your posts, they may even return or hopefully bookmark your site.

This should all be done for free. In some cases, a website may pay you a small amount. One website, actually pays using electronic currency. However, monetary gain is not the objective. You are doing this to potentially gain more traffic. Neither should you ever pay for posting or accepting a submission.

In this situation, you may have to adapt your writing to the audience of the blog you are posting on. So if it was a fitness blog, you may consider writing a post that relates to how to eat more healthier to optimise your performance or how your therapy can help recover from injuries quicker. For example, if you are a yoga or Tai Chi teacher who helped recover from a sports injury and avoided surgery by practicing your therapy.

Be aware that this kind of posting can be fickle. I have heard from one blogger that when he wrote a guest post that he thought was specifically targeted to the audience, only ten people ended up visiting his site from it.

The other alternative to posting on someone else’s blog, is to invite guest submissions to your own blog. In this case, it may be something you would consider once you have a relatively good amount of traffic – at least a few thousand a month and ideally tens of thousands.

The advantage of this is that it enables you to grow your blog with more articles and also increases your network of back-links and potential audience.

You can advertise on your posts that you are accepting guest submissions and write down your criteria. For example – the word range, the topics to write about and the topics not to write about. You may also want to specific the structure.

If you do receive some submissions, you may have to edit and proofread them. You will have to include a link to their website and a short bio, if you do publish the article

Interviews

In a similar way to guest posting, interviews are another way to furnish your blog with some interesting material, especially if it is an interview with someone who is well-known. This can then be turned into a podcast and the interview can be transcribed into a text for a blog article. This method is a lot of work, but can add some interesting variety to your website and blog.

Traffic

You’ve built a blog and published some posts. Perhaps, you’ve written some really insightful and helpful material. Then you check the stats of your visitor activity and only one visitor comes up. Well, that’s great, you think. At least, I’m reaching out to one person. Until you realise that the analytics is actually counting your visit as that one person.

This is common for any new website. There are millions of websites out there on the net so this is the reason why it helps to narrow your concept and focus on a niche area. If you want your traffic to increase, you will need to be a little pro-active and  focus on the above points in order to build an audience.

It may take 2 years or more to build up traffic

It can be disheartening to have no one visit your blog. And to be realistic, it can take years before you start to see lots of traffic. Also it is necessary to post consistently. So, the desire for traffic should not be your main motivation. You must write because you want to share or you want to express. Even if only one person reads your content.

From my research, two years of regular posting seems to be a common timeline for blogs  and new websites to pick up a regular following with unique visitors and page views in the double or treble figures.

As I said at the beginning. A blog is a marathon, not a sprint. If it helps, many bloggers had to go through this. It also requires a bit of faith, but just keep working away at it without too much expectation.

Jim Morrison’s Ghost

It is like in the movie Wayne’s World 2, when Wayne is trying to set up a rock concert, but he hasn’t sold any tickets and not one single band has signed up. In a moment of despair, Jim Morrison’s ghost turns up in his dream and tells Wayne:

“If you book them, they will come”

So when it comes to your website and blog, you must have faith and tell yourself:

‘If you keep working at it, they will come’.

Bullet Points

To recap:

  • Consider using other social media platforms to promote your website and bring traffic to your blog – e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PinInterest.
  • Only pick one of the above platforms and go-all-out-on-it.
  • Add a sign-up form and mailing list
  • Keep your posts original and useful for the readers. Do not plagiarise.
  • Do guest posting on other more successful blogs to promote your own. Or if your website is becoming popular, invite guest submissions from other writers.
  • Interview other people in your field and write up the interviews as posts. Or make a podcast.
  • Be patient, and work consistently. Organic (natural) traffic takes time to build up.

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Chapter Seven: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Seven

KeyWords

Girl-with-dictionary-Libellule789-via-Pixabay-com.jpg

‘Callipygian’… What a great keyword for my new blog title: ‘How to squat to get a callipygian butt’.

Keywords: Magic Words that Search Engines looks for

If you have a website, you will likely have heard of ‘keywords’ at some point. Keywords are at the heart of SEO (search engine optimisation).

What it means is that if someone enters a certain keyword into a search engine like yahoo or google – for example, “acupuncture”, then the search engine will bring out a long list of the most relevant websites that are related to that keyword.

For example the main sites that come up on page one of Google, will likely be Wikipedia, the NHS, and the British Acupuncture Council. These are large websites that have a lot of weight on Google.

Alternatively, on page one, there may also be websites that have paid-for-sponsored ad placements for a specific keyword. And there will be sites that have made a good use of keyword optimisation in their websites and are placed higher above the competition. This latter example, is what you will be hoping to achieve.

As the word “acupuncture” is a general word used by thousands of other websites, it is unlikely you will ever rank highly for it. In this case, you will want to add some more words that may be searched for, which relate to the location you practice in, your therapy or to particular problems you treat. This would be a keyword phrase.

Location based Keywords

For example, if you practice acupuncture in South London in Brixton, then you will definitely want to add the keyword phrases: “Acupuncture in Brixton” or “Brixton Acupuncture” along with other keyword phrases like “Acupuncture in South London, “Acupuncture in Lambeth”, “Lambeth Acupuncture”.

People living in Brixton or Lambeth looking for acupuncture close to where they live, will tend to use these words in search engines to narrow down their search for a practitioner. These will be your keyword phrases and you will want to use them several times in your homepage.

Condition based Keywords

You can also include problems you treat as keyword phrases. For example, “Acupuncture for back pain” or “back pain acupuncture”. You may want to include these keywords along with keywords related to your location.

Frequency of keywords

1-2% of your words in a text should be made up of keywords or keyword phrases. Use up to five keyword phrases and try to use them naturally in the text. If they are used in a spammy unnatural way, google can recognise that you are trying to manipulate keywords and may penalise your website.

How many Keywords for a blog article?

For your blog, decide on 1-3 different keyword or keyword phrases for each article.

Try to use at least one of the keyword phrases in your title, the first paragraph and as one of your subheadings. If you write a 1,000 word article, you want to aim to use that keyword approximately 10 times. You may have to avoid using the same keyword for every single blog post you write as otherwise your articles will be competing with each other.

Use a variety of different keywords or combinations of keyword phrases for different blog articles. You don’t have to do keywords for every single blog post you publish, but some of your main cornerstone articles should include them as they will be the biggest enticers-in of traffic.

If you specialise with treating a certain condition, then keywords or variations related to that problem should be the basis of the page or blog article you write about it. For example, the keyword phrases – “acupuncture for IVF” or “infertility acupuncture” would be useful keyword examples.

If you are unsure what keyword or keyword phrase to you, there are certain services you can use or WordPress plug-ins to help you choose and apply keywords. Either that, or just brainstorm. Think about what word you would type into a search engine if you were looking for a  specific type of therapist to help with a specific type of problem.

Bullet Points

So, to recap:

  • Brainstorm types of keywords to use, that relate to your blog posts
  • Include keywords or keyword-phrases in your blog articles.
  • Keywords should make up 1% – 2% of the number of words in your article.
  • Include your keyword in the blog title and in at least one sub-heading.
  • Make your keyword use sound natural. Also don’t over-use them.

Click here for next post: Chapter Eight (coming soon)

 


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Chapter Six: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Six

Structure

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A blog post requires a certain type of structure

Planning and Structuring your Blog:

Pick a good title

Deciding on a good blog title is kind of like adding the icing on the cake after writing an article. You may start off with a working title but by the time you have completed the article, you may decide to change it to something that fits better.

Put some thought into the title. Make it catchy and include at least one keyword in it. If a title is catchy, it is more likely to attract people if they come across it. For example, a title like ‘7 exercises to get a Kim Kardashian Butt’ sounds more catchy than ‘7 exercises to tone your leg muscles.

Try not to change your title once you have published it, unless you really have to. If you do so, you may have to set up a redirect to avoid any broken link 404 error messages from visitors linking to the old url address of your post.

Paragraphs

Don’t underestimate what a blog article is. Writing blog articles requires a special type of format, the same way that a university thesis or an academic essay requires a special type of structure, referencing and language. Blogs are no different. Many people  don’t realise this and don’t write in the best way that is suited to a blog.

For example, not using enough paragraphs seems a simple rule and harkens back to high school days when a teacher would tell you to break up your prose more. This rule doubly applies when it comes to blog articles.

You’ve got to bear in mind, that people may read your articles on their smartphones. With less space on the screen, a paragraph (even of 300 words) can seem a very long thing indeed. It can be a little tiring to be met with a long line of text and no breaks – kind of like a long waterfall of words flowing in front of your eyes. Therefore it helps to break up text with paragraphs.

Headings and subheadings

For the same reason as paragraphs, you need to break up your prose with subheadings. It makes a blog article more readable. I have read many articles by people, where there is one long flow of text.

In some cases, it may be well written, but the reading experience can be a little tiresome, especially on a smartphone.

By adding subheadings it’s like inserting friendly signposts every so often, just to give the reader a mini break and breather from reading the text. It also helps the reader to keep going, especially when it is a particularly long article.

The main point

Get to the main point of your article quickly – ideally in the first paragraph. If you are writing about an article for how to sleep better, then tell the reader early on that that is what the article is going to talk about. Don’t leave the reader with any doubt as to what they are reading. Once you get to the main point, then you can start to elaborate and discuss it more.

I should add, that I do not always follow this rule with my blog.

Anecdotes

Again, the point of the blog, is for a reader to build a connection with you. You do this by showing your personality, your knowledge and sharing life experiences. It may help to give an anecdote.

Perhaps you helped treat your mother-in-law’s snoring problem (sorry, I grew up with 1970s TV comedy – lots of mother-in-law jokes back then). You may also want to include your opinions, observations, lessons or anything thing else you have learned personally about this particular problem.

Bear in mind, confidentially is doubly important when writing about your patient experiences. You may have to change names or even specific details so that even if the person you were writing about was to read the article, they would not be able to tell, that it was about them.

Alternatively, if you have a good relationship with the patient, you could ask their permission to write about it, but again, leave out any identifying information. You have to be sensitive and not reveal anything potentially embarrassing about anyone. And that includes your mother-in-law, who snores like a pig. Only joking.

A narrow topic or niche

As mentioned before, it is better to focus on a narrow topic, rather than talk generally about lots of different areas. Also it can be beneficial to write different variations of articles based on the same topic.

For example, you may be writing about the Alexander Technique as being beneficial for posture. Well, the Alexander Technique has plenty of other benefits, but rather than write about all of them in one article, you could write a separate article about its usefulness for speech and elocution.

Another alternative, would be to discuss some new research, which talks about the benefits of Alexander Technique for back pain. Or perhaps you could discuss an article in a newspaper about a famous actor that has used the Alexander Technique to help them project their voice better whilst performing.

By writing many different articles on the same theme, you start to gain a level of authority and expertise in that particular area. And yet again, the niche should be relevant and something of genuine interest to the reader.

Grammar and Typos

The more you write, the more mistakes you are likely to make. Finding typos is a tiring and almost torturous process. Well that’s my experience of it.

For a reader, even small spelling mistakes can be a little irksome to read, and if you allow any comments on your website, there will usually be someone who points them out.

Make sure to read through everything you write to check if it makes sense and capture any typos. Don’t underestimate how easy it is to miss misspelled words. It is worth reading the post in different formats – e.g. on your laptop, your smartphone, as a PDF, or on paper in order to see them with different eyes. Another useful strategy is to take a break of a day or two from the draft and then re-read it with fresh eyes to capture the spelling mistakes. Also periodically re-visit your writing in the future. There is a good chance, you will find some more typos that escaped the first time.

You can pay people who do proofreading. They usually charge by the word. Or you can ask a family member and friend. Another tactic is to read the text backwards. Yes, it is pretty tortuous stuff. I apologise in advance, if you find any typos in this text. Feel free to email me to let me know if you feel inclined, and I will correct them.

Physician Heal Thyself first

I am very guilt of leaving lots of spelling mistakes in my posts. The reason is that I have written lots of content in a short period of time. In the first four months of 2018, I managed to write approximately 100,000 words in blog posts, articles and eBooks. Typos are inevitable.

I am aware that there are likely a few spelling mistakes on my blog posts that I still need to capture.

My free eBook ‘How to Set Up a Complementary Therapy Business on a Budget’ still had typos in it 4 years after I had written it, which doesn’t really give a good impression to readers. It helps if you have someone who can proofread through your work and highlight any spelling mistakes.

Other considerations

Keep sentences short. Don’t start a sentence with the same word too many times in a paragraph.

Keep language easy to understand. Not everyone is going to be reading or speaking English as a first language, so if you use too many complicated words, slang, or jargon, they may not understand your meaning. In London, many of your potential clients may be from other countries.

The same principle applies to any specialist language that is unique to your therapy. For example, in Traditional Oriental medicine, there is a whole subset of language.

For example, it talks of Qi/Ki energy, yin and yang, channels, pathogenic factors and organs. Most people don’t really understand it or will try to fit it in with their own understanding. Confusion can entail.

Avoid jargon if possible or if you do use it, then explain it in a simplified or ‘dummies’ way, so people can understand what you are talking about.

It’s the same way that medical doctors will use Latin to describe medical problems because they know that most people will not know what they are talking about. The problem with this is that it creates a barrier between practitioner and patient. It also adds an aura of self-importance to doctors who understand the code.

It is kind of like how the priests in the middle-ages, would be the only people to understand the Bible and so they could control the local people by setting themselves up as the only authority that could interpret God’s teachings.

Essentially it is another way of manifesting power and control over someone else. Or in other words – acting from the ego.

Pictures

For some reason, it is recommended to include some pictures for your blog articles. Apparently, Google likes pictures on blog articles, but it is not a fixed rule. Some of the most popular blogs I have come across have absolutely no pictures.

Nonetheless, these days it is recommended to include at least one picture in your article. There is a possibility that if you use too many pictures in one page, it can slow down the loading of the page on some computers and smartphones, so it may be advisable to limit the number of pictures on a page.

On a picture, it is worth adding an ‘alt’ description on it and include any keywords you may be focusing on for that article. If you use WordPress.com, you can enter this relatively easily. Pictures should be relevant to what your blog article is about, but it should also be eye-catching.

You also need to consider the copyright of an image. I strongly recommend you do not just take any image off the internet from a google image search. You do not have the rights to them and furthermore, these images will be used multiple times by other websites. They lack originality.

The best is if you use your own. Some people are very good photographers. Or perhaps you have a friend, who is happy to donate images for your use. Otherwise, it is possible to take really great shots with an iPhone these days.

Stock Photo Websites

If you are after a specific image, check out stock photos. These are various companies that sell images on the internet. Some like 123rf are relatively inexpensive.  Some sites are free such as Pixabay.com and Pexels.com. For this eBook, I used free stock photos from these websites.

Whenever you think of downloading or buying an image from a stock photo site, you need to check the usage rights of the picture.

Most stock photo companies will let you purchase and use images for websites and blogs, but if you want to use an image to place on a product to sell (e.g. A mug or t-shirt) you will need to purchase an extended license, which can be up to a hundred pounds for one image. In this case, it is better to get your own image taken. Don’t forget to accredit the source of the image, especially if you use one from a free stock photo website.

If you include an image on your blog, make sure the image itself has a hyper-link in it, to take the reader to the body of the article, when they hover over it and click on the image.

Decide if you need pictures or not

If you are planning to make an eBook like this one, I would advise against using any pictures as it can make the process a little more complicated with getting the layout on the page running smoothly, especially when you convert to a Kindle format. It is much easier to make a book with text only and probably looks more professional.

On the other hand, using a few images does afford the opportunity to break up the text and insert a little humour.

Bullet Points

So, to recap:

  • Use paragraphs to make text more readable on smartphones. Keep sentences short.
  • Use subheadings to break up long bits of text.
  • Get to the main point of the blog article quickly. Don’t leave the reader unsure what the post is about.
  • Include an anecdote or story from personal experience to create a connection with your reader.
  • Narrow down the topic of your post to a specific niche relevant to your reader.
  • Go through and capture grammar and spelling mistakes thoroughly.
  • Avoid too much jargon.
  • Include photos, but make sure you have copyright to any images you use and credit the source. Take your own photos or buy stock photos. Do not take from the internet.

Click here for next post: Chapter Seven (Coming Soon)

 


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Chapter Five: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Five

Strategies to Keep Readers

Linking to other articles

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 Make your website an interconnected whole

We’re on the Highway to Hale

Think of your website as a road network. You want each page and article to connect to another page. It is kind of like having lots of interconnecting roads to other pages and articles on your website and blog.

Why? Because when a person comes to your website, attracted by one blog article, you don’t want them to read it and then quickly disappear. You want… nay, need them to hang around a little longer and get to know you.

First impressions are not always accurate. People may come to your website looking for a therapist, browse through your home page and then quickly disappear to the next website and then they may decide to contact that person instead.

When a person comes to your website, you want them to hold on a little longer. You do this by creating links to other pages.

For example, you may write a blog article on 7 ways to heal migraine attacks. In it, you give lots of great examples of what to do, eat, and provide other general advice. The reader takes the information, thinks to himself that was really useful and then buggers off. In this case,  it means you haven’t maximised the full potential of your site.

Wait, Don’t Go

If instead at the end of that blog article or throughout it, you adding in-links to other pages, you may be able to keep them longer. Perhaps one of your 7 suggestions to relieve migraine attacks is done with the use of an essential oil. At that point, you may want to add a link to another page of your website where you talk about essential oils.

You may even specifically name an oil that could really help. In fact create a mini-sense of urgency around it and definitely create a link to a different page or even a sales page where you sell the product yourself.

Or perhaps you may want to discuss the role of stress in triggering migraines and so you want to have a page link to another article, where you have written about ways to relieve stress.

Perhaps at the end of the article, you may want to add a few sentences on how you treated this problem personally and if the reader wants to contact you, or ask a question, then you can direct them to visit your contact page and link to it.

All these links are the equivalent of creating lots of different roads and side roads to other parts of your website. By doing this, you may be able to prevent readers from departing from your site too early and at best may be able to convert a potential sale or a client booking from them.

You can certainly link externally to other websites, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to lose people going to other websites and getting lost there.

For example, you could link to an Amazon page where you recommend a specific product. If you enrol in the Amazon affiliate programme, you will receive a special code and if someone clicks on that link through your website and then buys the product, you can get a few pennies.

It’s not a lot, but it can get you easily started with learning about monetisation. I will discuss this a bit more later on.

Call to action

apple-cute-food-woman Public Domain pictures Pixabay

Stop and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of your website?
  • Secondly, how do you gauge if you’ve achieved the purpose of your website?

You really need to think about this.

Whether you have consciously thought about it or not, your website does have a purpose. It very easy to lose sight of your purpose or perhaps not even be aware of it.

Do you want to advertise your services? Do you want people to find you and contact you to book a session with you? Do you want to sell products?

Write down your objectives and refer to them often as you build your website. You need to remind yourself, because it is so easy to forget your initial purpose as you get sucked into all the other intricacies of website building and daily life.

Also how do you gauge if you are achieving your purpose? If you are explicitly advertising your services as a complementary therapy practitioner, then your gauge is whether people are actually booking you after finding you through your website.

You should routinely ask your clients how they found you. If this is not happening, then your website is not fulfilling its purpose and you should rethink changing it.

If the purpose of your website is to attract bookings – what this means, is that of all the traffic that comes to your website, you want at least a percentage of them to ring, text or email you for a booking or at least for further information.

The blog’s purpose

Ask yourself the same question in relation to your blog: What is the purpose of your blog? Is it to attract patient bookings? Is it to aim to sell your own products or attract general traffic so you can monetise with ads. Is it to build a community?

By constantly reminding yourself, it will encourage you to focus on creating content that is relevant to your target audience and will attract them.

For example, if your blog’s purpose is to promote your expertise in the field of gynaecology and to attract clients with problems like endometriosis or polycystic ovary disease, your blog should have articles on these topics.

In this instance, you may write a post like ‘5 ways to help endometriosis with aromatherapy’. In that article you may also include links to other related articles, such as on stress or on natural ways to relieve pain.

You may even include a ‘how to guide’ for making your own sniffy sticks so a person can make their own aromatherapy health-care kit. Even better is to make a YouTube video of this and post it on your website to accompany this article.

By doing this, you will be building up a mini-rapport with the reader, even without physically meeting or speaking to them. At the end of that article, you can then put a little bio about yourself – how you treat and create tailored solutions to the problem.

Then you can put a link to your contact form and encourage them to contact you if they want more information or to book with you.

And you don’t just need to think locally. Some people take clients worldwide by doing Skype consultations. Of course this depends on what kind of service you offer. Counselling or nutritional advice can be done this way. With massage and acupuncture, it is not so straightforward.

Perhaps you want to sell a product. Well it’s the same thing, You write a blog about how a particular product is really helpful for a specific condition. Then at the end of that article, you make a link or a free PDF.  For  example if you are a reflexologist specialising in fertility, you may want to write a series of articles in this area – including self-care tips, diet and other book recommendations. You might have your own downloadable diet sheets or self-acupressure help-guides.

Remind yourself of this question: What is the Purpose of your Website?

So whatever you do or write, this has to be in the back of your mind.

Now it may be that you can’t achieve your purpose immediately, when someone comes to your website. You may need to build their trust a little more.

Ideally you want at least 5-10% of the people coming to your website (i.e. your traffic) to result in a contact, booking or sale.  Realistically, expect about 1-2% of your traffic to result in a contact. If you are getting zero contacts, then re-evaluate your website. Most website platforms will give you an indication of how many clicks a month you are getting.

Or if you are able to install google analytics, you may get more detailed information about your traffic.

Alternatively, find an honest, yet sensitive friend who can look at your website and give their impressions of it. Does it attract them? Does it make them want to hang around? Does it make them want to contact you for a booking? It may be that you have to rethink your content or even your website provider if you feel your return is not good enough and you are not achieving your purpose.

Traffic objectives

You want your real visitors to hang around a little longer, perhaps even to bookmark your site. You will probably get lots of visitors from sales companies. These don’t count so much. You want real visitors.

Writing interesting blog content is one way to keep people coming back. So write blog articles and provide an incentive for readers to follow you or sign up to your mailing list. There are several ways to do this. A common method is by providing a free eBook or PDF help-sheet.

Mailing lists can be set up by using the free Mailchimp plug-in (if it is compatible with your website) or other providers like Aweber. Having a mailing list, means that you can potentially keep in contact with perspective clients and further build a relationship with them. However, I won’t go into this in this guide.

adult-business-computer-Public Domain Pictures Pixabay
Ah, go on then, here you go…

It’s not personal, its business

I know this sounds horribly manipulative. After all you are going into complementary therapies, because you want a break from all that marketing and selling and consume, consume, consume mentality.

But think of it this way: A complementary therapy business is another form of business like any other business. There is a lot of competition out there, so it helps to have some kind of strategy, particularly if you are starting out and trying to find your own niche in a world, where frankly it is harder to make a living.

For example, there are hundreds of acupuncturists in London. Many are better than me and more established. I have to also make a place for myself to practice among them in any way I can. One of the ways I can do this is by considering areas where they do not focus on. For example such as blogging and using a website.

Sure people can pay for a decent website to be made, but they cannot pay for a decent blog unless they want to hire some dodgy company in India to write them a load of articles.

So if you have a talent with writing or telling stories, then utilise it and work on a blog.

Bullet Points

To recap:

  • Think of your blog and website like a connecting road network.
  • Add links to other articles, pages and resources to keep viewers on your site.
  • Think of the purpose of your website and apply it.
  • Give away free content, like a free guide to encourage people to sign up to a mailing list so you can stay in contact and build an audience.
  • Every page must serve a purpose – whether that is to promote your service, sell a product, build a mailing list or simply to keep your readers on your site.

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Chapter Four: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Four

Personality and Disclosures

bear-paw.jpg
Can a bear get a little privacy?

 Don’t pull a Paris Hilton

Everyone knows Paris Hilton, the famous socialite and heir to the Hilton Hotel empire. She is an attractive, tall blonde lady, who pretty much has everything going for her.

However her fame and notoriety came from the release of sex tapes onto the internet by an ex-boyfriend. On the plus side, it has made her a kind of celebrity, which she seems to relish. On the other hand, it has given her a certain type of reputation.

As a complementary therapist, you would do well to avoid having any of your own sex tapes released onto the internet. It will likely harm your reputation and you might find yourself only able to attract a certain type of customer.

If you do want to create a connection with your readers. There are other less-extreme ways to do this as well as things to avoid.

Personality

One way to attract readers is by injecting your personality into your blog. If you write like Data in Star Trek or Mr Spock, a blog will encourage you to lighten up and show some life. Readers are attracted to bloggers who show some depth, warmth and personality in their writing. Positivity is also important.

There is a lot of pain and suffering in the outside world and people have all sorts of problems. People are searching online for two things. Either they are looking for relief and an answer to their suffering. Or they are looking for like-minded sufferers and websites so they can share their suffering together with other people. There is some satisfaction in talking about how bad things are with other like-minded people (even strangers on the internet).

As a complementary  therapist, you will want to focus on the first point. You want to project warmth, empathy and a peaceful place for the weary to come. In terms of providing value, your blog and website should offer possible solutions to people’s problems along with  other forms of value, support and encouragement.

Fundamentally, positivity and personality is a too oft’ unused trait in many complementary therapy blogs. A lot of blogs I have read, focus on treatment history or some practical advice, but it can be a little sterile at times. It is not enough to make people come back for more.

Show your personality, your humour, your opinions, even share silly little experiences or trips on holiday if necessary as filler articles. It will help the reader connect with you.

Disclosures

Whilst you don’t have to go as far as Paris Hilton in the earlier example, sharing a little bit of yourself can help to build a connection. The question is how much do you share. This is something for you to decide on.

Some people will disclose facts or personal stories about their own life. For example one very popular blogger shared on his blog the reasons for his divorce with his wife as well as other personal details. Some bloggers openly share personal history. On the other hand, some bloggers don’t.

As a complementary therapist, you have to put your business first. You have to think about boundary issues as well as whether disclosures may harm your business or even cause intrusion into your personal life. For those examples above, making disclosures about family problems probably helped them, but for a healthcare worker, it may be inadvisable as it breaks your professional boundaries.

To give a personal example, I may share stories of personal experiences with a specific illness if I feel it relates to my treatment approach or practice. That kind of disclosure may help a patient relate more closer to me and seek me out for support.

For example, on one occasion I saw a patient who suffered from the same disease that I did. On our second session, I mentioned that I also had suffered the same problem and she was really interested in hearing about my experiences and the natural approach I took. I believe it probably helped her to hear someone else’s perspective and experience with the disease

I have treated a lot of people with cancer as I worked for a few years in a hospice. If I was to discuss my personal experience of treating people with a particular illness like cancer, I would have to be very careful not to share any identifying facts about that person. Or I may alter some details for anonymity.

Diseases like cancer are becoming so common these days and standard medical treatments is not enough to support sufferers. So hearing about a complementary therapy perspective can be useful to patients and their families affected by this illness.

On the other hand, if I was going through a divorce, I would almost certainly not talk about that as it has no relevance and I think it breaches my own professional boundaries. It could cause unforeseen problems later on. The same applies to releasing sex tapes.

The Reality TV World

We live in a different age these days where sharing stories and opening up is part of the online world. You do not need to share personal things about yourself and you certainly must be very careful about sharing stories about clients.

For example, It may be very tempting to say that you treated a certain celebrity. It can give a practitioner instant credibility and fame. However that kind of disclosure will damage your business in the long term. Clients will feel that they cannot trust you to keep a secret and avoid you. If a celebrity client talks about you publicly, for example on twitter, that’s a different matter. But then again, you still have to be careful.

I know of one therapist who worked with a celebrity client. That client invited her to appear on a TV show with her. After that appearance, she was approached by TV companies to appear for small interviews or segments.

Some people would have jumped at this chance, but she refused as she did not want to take her career in this direction. She also did not want to draw on her association with her celebrity client to make her famous. Just because the opportunity is there, doesn’t mean you have to take it. You must do what feels comfortable for you.

As regards making disclosures about your own life, this has to be something for you to decide. If you don’t feel comfortable about it, then don’t ever feel obliged to do so. We all have some things we are not comfortable sharing. I do feel that people seem to disclose too much in the online world. A suppose it is a kind of catharsis, and perhaps in that person’s life, there isn’t someone they can open up to.

In my case, I have always been reluctant to share the reason I first went into acupuncture; I suffered from an inflammatory bowel condition in my early twenties which was not resolved with conventional Western medicine. For many years I have always kept this private. However, I felt that this lack of disclosing came from a position of the fear of being judged.

For example, years ago I went for a job interview, where the interviewee team was a group of three people. In the middle, was the company President, a lean, old, grizzly-grey looking man, in his late 60’s. who had a facial expression like he’d spent his whole life sucking on grapefruit and that it had made him morbidly constipated. On either side of him, were two young employees who still had a youthful idealistic look in their face, which I could sense was overshadowed by their boss’s grapefruit-face sucking energy.

At one point, I was asked why I studied my particular degree in Acupuncture and I honestly told the three interviewers that I’d had health problems, which pushed me into this path. As soon as I said this the grapefruit-sucking President’s face grimaced even more than it had been already, and I could see clearly that he didn’t like the idea of accepting someone who had been sick into his organisation.

I suppose getting sick is a sign of weakness for some people. I didn’t get the job then, and I decided not to be too open about it in future. However, now I feel I have to change this, as I feel I am not being honest to myself and so for this reason, I decided to open up about it more in some of my writings, especially my blog.

On the other hand, there are things I won’t disclose. I won’t talk about my family in any deep detail and I won’t post pictures of my family. Other people will though, especially through Facebook. Again it is your choice and what you are happy with.

The advantage of disclosure is that it does seem to resonate more with readers. If you talk openly about yourself, it sometimes invites other people to open up to you.

It may also help your business in some ways. For example, if your unique selling point is in treating conditions like endometriosis and you used to suffer from it for years, than that would be a helpful thing to disclose as a patient will feel you understand the condition better.

In some cases, it may also be ok to disclose a past situation where a family member had cancer, particularly if you are talking about strategies to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.

Where you might want to draw the line, is writing about a messy divorce you’re going through or that time you came home to find your husband sleeping with the au pair. No need to wash your dirty linen in public. And again, no sex tapes.

Self-censorship

There are some areas where you should tread carefully. The challenge with a blog is that it is a platform where your business side meets halfway with your personal side.

For some, there may be a temptation to express their political or personal beliefs, which may potentially upset your readers. It may even upset your current clients. This is where you must remind yourself of the original purpose of your blog.

For example, you may feel very strongly about the Trump presidency either being pro or anti Trump. You may have strong opinions on the refugee crisis in Europe or against certain religious and ethnic groups. You may be for or against abortion. You may be anti-Christian or anti-gay. And you may be a member of the Nazi party.

These may be your strong personal opinions and you can be sure if you express them, you will upset some people and attract others.

If you prioritise your freedom to express these opinions over your desire to carry out your work to help people, then your business will suffer and rightly so. You do of course have a right to your opinions and who you see.

One other factor to consider is that Google is in the process of eradicating websites off the internet that it feels contain offensive material – especially what it perceives to be of a racist nature. Who knows to what extent this will go in the future? And this trend is likely to continue.

My point is that you should primary stay focused on the business of running a complementary therapy business and your personal message. And keep politics out of it. Keep your opinions to your dinner table. Or just blog or comment about it anonymously on other sites and keep it separate from your business and identity.

Witches versus the Warlocks

There will be one area of conflict that may be an issue for you – the idea of natural and alternative medicine versus the conventional pharmaceutical-based model of health.

In some therapies, there is no meeting place or you may feel very strongly against it. You may be vehemently against chemotherapy or generally all pharmaceuticals.

I have met and heard about a couple of senior acupuncture teachers in Japan who were completely against all Western drugs, even advising patients to avoid them including drugs such as chemotherapy and vaccinations.

In the UK, it is becoming harder to hold this stance. In some cases, it may be inadvisable, particularly if you work (or want to work) in a NHS setting or for a healthcare charity. In these environments,  you may be working alongside other conventional medical professionals and will have to learn to communicate in an un-antagonistic way. It is your decision whether you include these views in your blog. There are some bloggers who do, whereas others like myself, choose a middle ground.

Bullet Points

 To recap:

  • Insert your personality into your writing so readers can better engage with you.
  • Disclosing stories about yourself can make your audience relate to you better.
  • On the other hand, don’t over-expose. This is not the Jeremy Kyle show.
  • If you disclose, consider your boundaries. How much are you prepared to share?
  • Keep politics out of it and avoid contentious issues.
  • And no sex tapes.

 

Click here for next post – Chapter Five

 


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Chapter Three: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Three

Deciding on Blog Topics: What to write about

 

16053314 - tired and stressed young asian woman
Ideas not coming… Coffee need more

Use your skills and knowledge to create intellectual value

For a complementary therapy practitioner, this is where we have the chance to produce something very unique, which is relevant and informative to our potential readers. We will have knowledge of our therapy, but more than that – the path which took us onto this therapy, will probably hold some useful nuggets for possible topics.

For example, a lot of people embark on learning a complementary therapy because it helped them deal with a specific health complaint. Well, straightaway, you have a topic – not just for one blog article but a whole series as well as a detailed guide you could write.

There is no better experience than personal familiarity with a disease. You will know just what a person is going through with a disease. You will know the feelings and the searches for a solution to the problem. You may even have fallen in some potholes on the way to finding a way to deal with your problem.

Whether that problem is acne, fertility, headaches, or stress, it is guaranteed that there will be other people with those same problems, who are also looking for a solution. And you may just be able to point them in the right direction.

Ideas for topics

This is where you can let your creative forces be unleashed. Some people struggle to think of ideas, especially every week. This is because creativity is in many ways, like a muscle. If you are stuck in an office typing spreadsheets for 8 hours a day, your creativity muscle will look like a squashed worm on the pavement on a wet day.

You must use your creativity muscle to keep it strong and supple. If you don’t, it loses it strength and function. Fortunately, there are ways to encourage it.

Firstly, journaling. Get in the habit of writing a little bit each day. If you have a PC, use Microsoft One-Note. This is a journaling software that is easy to use. Reflect and write whatever you feel like. This is your own space, which no one else will be reading, so go for it and write whatever comes. it may even reveal some interesting insights to you. All of this will exercise your creativity muscle.

The second idea comes from the blogger James Altucher. He recommends that you carry a small waiter’s pad with you at all time and get in the habit of writing down ten ideas every day. These ideas could be crazy. They could be ideas for inventions or ice cream flavours. It doesn’t matter. Just get in the habit of thinking and writing them down. You will find one or two gems in there.

Perhaps if ten a day is too much, then ten a week is doable especially if you use One-Note. At some point, look back and check what you have written. You will be able to see if there are any ideas for blog articles among these ideas.

I have tried this exercise, and my computer is full of blog article ideas that haven’t been written up yet. I know that if I want to write an article, but cannot think of an idea, then I need only look at this electronic notepad to get something.

Popular themes that people search for online:

People want to learn how to make money or how to get the job they want. We want to look good and find someone to love or to love us. People want to be more powerful than they are.

Some want to criticise the governing party and fix the world. Others want information or inside knowledge that sets us apart from the rest. Lastly, almost everyone will want to have better health. We will search out all sorts of different things on the internet.

These are some basic human desires. It is these desires that will drive people to search the internet. On a general level, people are driven by:

  • Sex
  • Money
  • Power
  • Health

Let’s elaborate on these sections…

Sex

Sex sells. This is a typical marketing term and it still holds true. By ‘sex’, I don’t mean the physical act – (not unless you are running an X-rated site). By sex, I’m talking about the idea of attractiveness and looking good – whether that is based on physical, material or social status.

People want to look good and to appear more attractive. The whole world of social media like Facebook and Instagram is about looking good and being admired to the world. This is driven by the sex instinct. Perhaps on a deeper level, it is also about seeking love and validation, but that is a different matter. This instinct also drives people to want to make more money and be more successful at work.

This is a great selling point. Adverts will use attractive people to sell products. Sex works as a theme also for complementary therapy practitioners. How so? You are selling health, you are selling wellbeing. Look at the Millennial generation and to a lesser extent, Generation X. These are generations fully immersed in social media and the idea of putting your life and your appearance on display.

Appearance is closely tied with health and wellbeing. You only need to see just how popular Yoga Instagramers and YouTubers are, to get an understanding of how valued outer appearance is. And one of the biggest aspects of this is sex. Sex sells.

People want to feel better, but more so, they want to look better. A complementary therapist can work in this area and blog on the topic accordingly.

For example, if you focus on facial acupuncture, some clients may come to you to remove wrinkles. You may also have your own skin care products or do facials. You can also focus on acne as one of your main treatments, which is tied in with appearance and beauty.

People are coming to you because they want to look better, which in turn makes them feel better because we all want to be more attractive. It is curious, but people are more prepared to spend money on looking good then on feeling good.

For example, some people will think nothing of spending £40 on a skin cream product, but may hesitate when it comes to paying the same for a massage or acupuncture session, even though they have knots the size of satsuma’s in their back.  Appearance seems to occupy a greater priority than internal health.

So focusing on beauty, appearance, skin care, attractiveness or even style and fashion can be a unique selling point for your business and your blog. It can help to attract a certain type of audience to you, especially if you can sell the idea that external beauty is closely tied to internal health and mind, which it is anyway.

I mentioned two other areas: Money and Power as driving forces for people to search the internet for answers. These two areas are not so relevant to a complementary therapy business and blog. Health is obviously far more relevant. Nonetheless, before I discuss Health, I’ll just briefly touch on Money and Power.

Money

Making money has always been an attractive topic for people. Money opens lots of opportunities for us. Websites, blogs and books about making money have always been very popular. Money means freedom to experience more in life and to be able to avoid certain stresses that comes with not having enough money.

As a complementary therapist, money is probably not going to be a topic you are going to blog about unless you decide to talk about the business aspect of it. On the other hand, there is no reason why you can’t blog about it anyway. I do.

Power

The big car, the career and the exotic holidays are all status signs of power. They allow us to portray an image of success and power to the world.

People chase power and success. It’s a huge motivating force. The problem is that a lot of people study and work hard and then land these high powered jobs, but sometimes, they have had to sacrifice their health and mental wellbeing in order to achieve it. There are plenty of stressed and tired city workers in London or any major city.

With this kind of work, a common consequence is stress, anxiety, depression, back pain and stiff shoulders. In a worst case scenario, some of these people are running themselves down too much and are at risk of a serious illness unless they change course. All of these people are potential clients if you can learn how to target and reach them and make it easy for them to find you.

Health

For a complementary therapy practitioner, your main arena is going to be heath. Obviously this is the main theme that you will focus on writing in your blog because we have the power to help relieve or alleviate someone’s health problem. The challenge is to get that message heard, so people know to come to you.

All of the above points  – sex, money and power are important in their own right, but let’s look it at this way. Having no money, power or sex is annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. You can survive.

But when you lack health and wellbeing in any area of your life, that lack will overshadow everything else. You may be the richest person on the planet, but if you are in great pain, you would happily sacrifice half of all that for the alleviation of your suffering.

The irony is that. Most people don’t think about health until they lose it. People mostly focus on sex, money and power. They may spend their whole life chasing the above, even at the cost of their health. Yet health is arguably the most important of all.

And it is your job to remind people that health is important. You living depends on it.

So blogging about topics of health – especially common issues that affect many people will help you draw potential clients. Some common health problems these days are depression, stress, and infertility problems.

And if you do some writing on a particular topic, don’t just write one article. Write a whole series. Make it a theme. People do not get tired of reading the same topic in a blog especially if it relates to them. In fact, they will see your blog as a place to go for that specific problem and will look for your unique insight.

Your target audience

Teenager in the shower obsessed with the smart phone
 – And I really thought the Passion of the Christ would have more naughtier bits in it –

What is the target demographic that resonates with you, and they with you?

You need to give some general thought to who you are writing for. Even better is to write a profile down. This may be decided based on a few different demographic factors:

  • Target location
  • Age bracket
  • Sex – male or female
  • Professional and socio-economic background
  • Your audience’s interests

I will elaborate a little on these factors:

Target demographic

In my previous eBook on ‘How to Set up a Complementary Therapy Business on a Budget, I discussed about target demographics and how to identify the make-up of specific areas. See that book for more information on this topic.

Target location

This depends on what the purpose of your site it. If you simply want to attract more clients from your local area, then you may consider writing some blog articles about health care events or other activities in your local area. A lot of articles will contain keywords for your locality.

For example, the blogger WalesOnCraic has built up a huge audience by creating a blog based on South Wales.

If you have an eBook on helping a specific health complaint like arthritis, than you don’t just need to think locally. You may want to target all English speaking countries.

On the other hand, if your business is focused on treating people directly, who suffer from arthritis, then it would be beneficial to focus on your local demographic.

Lateral thinking

In this example, be aware that people who suffer with arthritis tend to be more in the 60-80 age group. People over the age of 70 are less likely to use the internet or be able to find your blog. It may be better to focus on other methods of promotions such as classified ads.

Either you forgo the blog, or perhaps if several of your patients have elderly parents, you could let them be aware that you also treat conditions like arthritis. For example, you could blog primarily about gynaecological problems and then include a few articles about arthritis.

Male or female

Some therapies, will tend to attract woman more than men and vice versa. For example, men may be more driven to see an osteopath or chiropractor than to visit a therapist who practices Bach Flower Remedies.

You may feel more comfortable treating women, or perhaps you practice a therapy that tends to be more popular with female clients than male. In these cases, you may be better off focusing your blog on issues that affect women rather than men. For example, gynaecological problems, or things like shopping… only joking.

Or perhaps you have personally dealt with male issues in the past, such as prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction or baldness (hopefully, not all at the same time) and you want to share your knowledge with other men to help them as well as make a business out of it. In which case, your blog will be focused on men.

Age brackets

These are some standard age brackets used in advertising for targeting certain age groups:

  • 12-17
  • 18-24
  • 25-34
  • 35-44
  • 45-54
  • 55-64
  • 65+

These age brackets are subject to change. They range through the different generational groups, such as the Silent generation, Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and within these generational groups, they can be further broken down.

On this chart above, everyone over 65+ is lumped together and I assume from a marketing perspective, they are not seem as a target group, perhaps supposedly because of perceived lower disposable income. Yet, that would be a mistake, because this group can make up a significant percentage of a complementary therapist’s client list.

In Japan, I observed one acupuncturist, who had several clients in their 60’s and 70s’. They made-up a significant proportion of his clients during the early afternoon and morning hours, which are sometimes ‘dead hours’ for complementary therapists.

From a business perspective It is well worth considering the age brackets of your potential and preferred clients. For example:

  • What is the general age range of people in your local area?
  • What is the general age range of people you would prefer to target?
  • What is the age range you feel most comfortable with?
  • What is the age range that is more likely to contact you or can be helped by your specific treatment
  • What do you understand about the different needs and habits of these specific age ranges? For example, the health needs of a baby boomer approaching retirement will be different to a member of Generation X in middle age.

As a complementary therapy practitioner, you may be open to treating patients from all age ranges from baby to the elderly. Many acupuncturists operate this way.

For example, I visited the clinic of an established acupuncturist in Yokohama in Japan. I observed a mother bring a baby in for a baby acupuncture session. Then after that, an elderly lady came in for her weekly session.

In his case he was able to appeal quite broadly across a wide range. On the other hand, he worked in a small residential area and was unlikely to attract city workers or younger people from the Millennial generation.

You may feel that your therapy can benefit all age ranges. This may be true, but from a marketing point of view, it may be better to focus on a specific group rather than all groups.

Consider what is the age range of the clients that tends to come to you. Or if you are not practicing yet, or you are building up your practice – what is the age range of the kind of client that you would feel more comfortable seeing or you feel you can target?

In my case, I am open to treating all age ranges. However, I tend to attract the age range of 28-45 and predominantly female. With this kind of information, you can then start to narrow down your target group.

If I then started researching the kinds of issues that affect women in this age group, and then wrote a lot of articles about it in my blog, then I may be able to increase my target audience and attract more clients.

In my own case, I have chosen not to focus exclusively on this target group It would be better from a business perspective to do so, but I am more interested in developing a broader experience of treatment and exposure to different conditions at this point in my life.

Professional and socio-economic background

This can differ depending on your location. For example, if you were a sports massage therapist and you live close to a major city, you may target relatively well-paid city workers or professionals. These people usually have some kind of muscular pain problem from work stress and need relaxation. Your blog may be focused on articles about mindfulness and stress release.

Perhaps if you have escaped the ‘rat race’ and are looking at making a new holistic and healthy lifestyle, then that story could be really inspirational to an audience, who secretly wish they could quit their jobs and follow their dreams.

If you live in a small rural town, than you may be focused on the retired or elderly.  In which case you probably don’t really need a blog. A blog can be a major time-sap, and if you don’t think there is any benefit to be gained from it, than you probably don’t need one.

If you only wanted to pick up local clients then you would be better to advertise in local newspapers, health clinics or fitness centres. If however you wanted to sell products or courses for a condition that did affect the elderly, than by all means a blog would be useful.

The current generation of web savvy and net-surfing people may be looking for solutions to help their parents or grandparents. And at any rate, they will get old too and at some point be looking for answers online.

Your audience’s interests

This can be therapy specific. People may be finding you online to help them treat a certain problem. But how do they know that you have the solution? Say for example, you are a Bowen Technique therapist. You know full well the benefits of your therapy. But many people will not, especially compared to a therapist like a Chiropractor, who people will immediately associate with fixing back problems.

Looking at the Chiropractor example, if you have a website, people will search you out generally for back problems. However, it may be that you don’t just want to fix people’s subluxations.

In fact, a larger part of your treatment is incorporating major lifestyle changes like regular exercise and diet. However, people are more likely to come to you first for help with their back pain.

For a chiropractor writing a blog and trying to build up an audience, he may well have to consider writing a percentage of articles on healing back pain. And not just one article is enough – write lots of different articles on the same topic but perhaps with a different slant. In this way, your audience will find you.

But then at the same time, you can include those blog articles on lifestyle changes and diet. I have read one chiropractor’s blog where he goes even deeper, talking critically about pharmaceuticals and the standard medical approach to cancer as well as vaccinations. In this way, you satisfy your audience’s interest, but you also widen and draw your audience in deeper, as well as educating and improving their lives at the same time.

Think about what drew you to your therapy

So again, with the example of the Bowen Technique practitioner. Ask yourself what drew you into Bowen technique? What drew your colleagues into it? Is there a common factor?

That factor may be something like an article in a major magazine talking about the benefits of Bowen for a specific condition. Or it could be that you were all drawn to it based on the work of the person who founded the therapy. And if you were drawn to it in a particular way, then other people may be too. So you just need to figure out how to use that interest to bring clients to your blog.

Sometimes, articles in mainstream media magazines can be very helpful. Acupuncture is a good example of this. Acupuncture is actually useful for a lot of different conditions, but some journalists wrote about using it for fertility issues and then an association was created of acupuncture with helping fertility problems. Because of this, many people will search you out for infertility or IVF support.

Other examples of associations and interests are: hypnotherapy for stopping smoking, homeopathy for childhood illnesses or as an alternative to vaccination, Mindfulness for stress. Possibly cupping for sports injuries (e.g. Michael Phelps had pictures of his cupping marks on his back during the Olympics).

These are some associations that may draw traffic and potential clients to your website. You may be able to think of many more associations. If you can, write  some posts about these particular topics and make sure to include lots of relevant keywords in your text.

To conclude, these are some simple ways in how thinking about your target group could help you write relevant blog articles that will reach a particular audience.

Of course, there is a balance. You may prefer to write about things of interest to you rather than what can attract viewers. That may be writing about the more technical aspects of your therapy or about a seminar you attended. By all means do this, as it is a great way to show your knowledge and experience. But also, think about your demographic and put things out there that will be of value to them.

You also have to balance between narrowing down to a certain target group but also being broad enough to have something to offer to a wider range of people. These are just general concepts, because in reality people are far more varied and complex even though they may belong to the same demographic.

Bullet Points

 To recap:

  • Always keep brainstorming ideas for blog articles and write them on a notepad or your laptop. For example, try the 10 ideas a day/week exercise.
  • Consider what are motivating and driving forces for people?
  • Consider who is your intended target audience – look at age bracket, sex, location and socio-economic background
  • Consider what drew you to try out your particular therapy in the first place. The chances are other people will be following the same path and you can intercept them.
  • Narrow down to a niche that is in demand, and write articles on it to attract readership.

Next Chapter (Coming Soon)

 


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Chapter Two: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter Two

Types of Blog Articles and Posting Schedule

 Primary Blog Articles or MVC’s

There are several different types of blog articles, which have different purposes. For the sake of this eBook, I will only focus on two that I think are most relevant.

Of these two types of blog articles – one is a primary article. Otherwise known as ‘Massive Value Content’ (MVC) posts. This will be a killer content article – the kind of article where you give away very useful information for free. For example, you may write a very comprehensive post on how to reduce back pain, with explanations of what causes it, exercises, diagrams, or your own experience of treating it.

These articles can be your main pieces of work and if they directly relate to your business, should be considered as cornerstone content. This means you will want to pack them with key words as well as a call to action. (I’ll discuss these two later). This kind of article should be long – approximately 2000 to 3000 words long. You could even go up to 6000 words. It’s a lot of work but you don’t need to produce too many of these articles.

Filler Blog Articles

The other type of blog article are known as ‘filler’ articles. These can make up the main bulk of your blog and may contain useful information on specific problems, or your experiences. The optimal length for these types of articles should be around 750 – 1100 words long. In comparison to primary blog articles, these kind of articles can be written in an hour or two.

If you get carried away on an idea and it starts to creep into the 2000 to 3000 word range, you have a few options. You can either keep it long. There’s nothing wrong with long articles. Google likes it. Or you could break it down into two different articles. Or you could make it a MVC article.

And if you really get carried away with an article, moving into the 6,000-10,000 word range, and it is on a topic that you feel may be useful for people to learn about, well you can always consider turning it into a short eBook or a free PDF to encourage people to sign up to your mailing lists. However, these last two points, I won’t discuss in this eBook.

Publishing schedule

Retro reporter working late and smoking
The deadline is tomorrow…! Where’s the Scotch?

Steady & Consistent: Going to the Gym

If you really want to take your blog seriously, you need to publish regularly. Think of it like exercise. Going once a week is fine for a minimal level of maintenance. On the other hand going too often to the gym – like 7 days a week is far harder and can lead to burn out or a complete loss of motivation.

The best frequency is to go 2 to 3 time a week and a minimum of at least once a week. You will start to see optimal results by going to the gym at least 2 or 3 times a week, every week.

Steady & Consistent: Blogging

So it is the same with blogging. You want to produce an article at least once or twice a week. Set a certain day of the week when you release it. Some bloggers choose Sunday. It may be that you write the article on Wednesday, but for the sake of consistency, aim to release it on the same day each week.

You don’t want to leave it too long between posting articles. Google prefers fresh content. It also likes websites with lots of original content. Though it may take time to build up a site if you are publishing once a week, it doesn’t matter. Like I said before, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

Build up some posts in reserve

If you do feel motivated to write lots of articles, especially at the beginning, then do so, and then sit on them. Edit them and get them ready, but don’t publish them yet. You can save some of them for the future, for when you are busy and have no time, or perhaps, when you don’t have the motivation to work on your blog. This way, you can continue to publish consistently even when you don’t feel motivated to write.

In the beginning, I would recommend that you start off with the minimal amount of work in a blog. Publish a series of  short articles – 750 -1100 words long. Publish on any area you like and release them. It is more about getting into the swing of it and getting your toes wet. As you get used to the process, you can start to consider working on the bigger articles.

A lot of people don’t realise that writing is actually really hard work. It requires a lot of focus to design, structure edit and proofread an article or any piece of work, even a blog article.

It also takes some bravery to actually put it out there live on the internet, for people to read, scrutinise, criticise, compliment or simply ignore. And then to do it again the following week, takes a special type of mind.

Consistency

Writing consistently on a  specific topic is beneficial especially if it is on a topic of interest to people. It means that a reader knows what to expect from you and will return if they want to learn more from you on that subject. This fits in with the idea of finding your own niche.

If you tend to write on lots of different things, you may be able to grab a wider audience in the long term, but in the short term, it will take longer to build up an audience, which means your traffic will be low for longer.

Bullet Points

So to recap:

  • There are two types of blog post – primary posts (Massive Value Content) and filler posts.
  • You need a few primary posts (MVC’s). The majority of your posts can be filler.
  • Aim to write blog posts between 750 – 1100 words long
  • A few of your primary posts (MVC’s) can range from 750 to 3000 words or longer.
  • Write consistently – a minimum of 1-2 articles a week, every week.
  • Specialise – Try to keep to a narrow topic or niche.

 

Next Chapter (Coming Soon)

 


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Chapter One: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business

Chapter One

Picking your Blogging Platform

Making a blog

These days it is possible to create a website, which has a blog function combined together as part of it. It depends on which platform you use for your website.

For example, my second  website was built using Webhealer.net. This is a website company that specifically designs websites for complementary therapy practitioners. The only downside, was that it came with a limited number of pages and also a limited amount of space on each page. When I tried to turn one of the pages into a blog and uploaded several articles, I soon ran out of space.

When I contacted customer support, I was told that I would have to use an external blog provider if I wanted to add a blog and then provide a link on one of my pages externally to it. So although it was a good website company for my business, it was not suitable for me if I wanted to add a blog that I was serious about.

At the time, I chose to follow this advice and use an external blogging platform but my blog never really got off the ground. I used Blogger – a free blogging platform. However, this was never a satisfactory solution for me, as I wanted to have a single centre of operations – one big website that could combine my business, sell products, provide free PDFs and other downloads and also have a blog.

For my current blog and website, I use WordPress.com. At the time of writing this guide, I am still working on my current website and blog and building it up. FYI, this is an affiliate link, so if you click above and buy the Premium Plan, I can buy myself a Cappuccino. I’ll talk about affiliate links later in this eBook.

The Big Guns

I was told by a computer engineer that these days, if you’re serious about websites, it’s all about WordPress. And when it comes to search engines, it’s all about where you place on Google. It’s true that these companies do dominate a large share of the online market, but they are not the only providers and search engines around. In fact some people are moving away from Google seeing it as too powerful. Nonetheless, the chances are, most websites you come across these days will be made using a WordPress template and most online searches are carried out using Google.

WordPress and WordPress

For your information, there are two WordPress companies: Wordress.com and WordPress.org.

There is a whole debate on the internet about which one to use, with many people recommending the .org version because of the greater freedom it provides. However, it does carry greater responsibility particularly regarding security. This is an important issue, especially if you are not so tech minded, as you don’t want to lose your work due to a hacker or malware.

Suffice to say, both are very popular and have their advantages and disadvantages. I currently use WordPress.com for several reasons, which I have written about in this article on my website.

If all you want is a free blog, it is worth using WordPress.com (free plan). If you go with WordPress.org, you will have to pay a small fee for hosting it.

Whichever provider you choose, depends on where you want to take your blog in their future. With some blogging platforms, you do have the option to switch from one website host to another at any time. For example, if you wanted to switch your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, you would be able to make the switch relatively straightforwardly, as the two platforms are very similar in structure. There are also plenty of free guides available on the internet teaching you how to make the switch.

If you do use WordPress.com, you may want to consider upgrading at some point to the Premium plan to buy your own domain name. Otherwise your domain name will have ‘WordPress’ in it, for example – ‘www.JoeBlogsMassage.wordpress.com.

It is better to get your own domain name, so your domain will be ‘www.JoeBlogsMassage.com instead. When you own your own domain name, you can take it with you if you ever change website companies in the future.

You can either buy your domain name through WordPress or you can buy it from a separate company like GoDaddy and then you will have to go through a small procedure to ‘map’ it to your website.

The advantage of using WordPress (.com & .org) is that you have the option to create a website and a blog together. You can choose a home page and other pages as well as a blog and it all fits in consistently with each other. This works better for me, then utilizing a separate website with an external blog as I had to do before. But you may already have a good website set up and you just want to add a blog. In which case, using an external blogging platform and linking it to one of your pages can work just fine.

If you are fine with connecting an external blogging platform to your website, then http://www.Blogger.com is an excellent resource. I used this previously when I had to connect my blog to my Webhealer account, and it is relatively easier to learn than WordPress. A lot of popular bloggers today use this platform and it is straightforward to set up. Alternatively, use WordPress.com

There is a learning curve to go through when using any new blogging platform. You will have to take the time to figure out how it works and if you are not too used to computers, it can be a little frustrating at times. Fortunately, there are a lot of free guides on the internet especially through Google and YouTube.

Also, some of these platforms, for example WordPress.com (on the Premium Plan) have 24 hour online helpdesks to support you when you get stuck. Or alternatively, if you know anyone who is computer savvy, this may be a time to enlist them. Especially any Millennials that you may have around you.

Mobile optimised

woman-smartphone-shower.jpg
After 2 weeks of non-stop social media surfing, Cynthia turned into a fish.

Smartphone Addicts

More and more people are using their smartphones to surf the net, far more than laptops and tablets. One simple glance at people on a train or in any kind of waiting area will tell you that people are more or less glued to their smartphones these days. I am too.

Smartphones have become a replacement tool for any occasion when you have time to kill. Like when you are in any public place and want something to occupy you, or so you can look busy. And of course, they are handy for whenever you want to do a quick search for important information like ‘how many kittens can you fit into a red telephone box?’.

We are only moments away from a smartphone, whereas a tablet or laptop takes a little more effort to pull out and use.

Mobile-friendly

With this in mind, your blog and also your website must be mobile optimised. This is absolutely necessary. If your blog is not, then you have to convert it as soon as possible. Mobile optimised means that you can read the text, clearly and easily on those tiny screens.

Most website platforms are aware of this and will design their themes accordingly, but still a few don’t. And if you try to read text on those screens, you are constantly having to swipe left and right to read it all the way through. This is enough to put people off from reading your content. There are also rumours that Google’s algorithms are moving towards favouring websites that are mobile optimised in the future.

In a way, a blog and a smartphone are a perfect marriage. I can think of many occasions when I have read through pages of someone’s blog that I found interesting, in the same way someone might read through a novel. Being able to do it on a smartphone is really useful because it means I can read it anywhere I want, such as when waiting for the washing machine to finish its spin cycle, or whilst cooking a meal. Or like the picture above – whilst in the shower.

If you are busy or have many demands on your time, the convenience of pulling out a smartphone and reading interesting content is invaluable. In some ways, blogs are like the equivalent of novels, magazines, gossip columns and other types of publications – all in one easily accessible format.

Bullet Points

So, to recap:

  • Decide on a Blogging platform.
  • Popular options are WordPress and Blogger.
  • There are two types of WordPress – WordPress.com & WordPress.org.
  • com and Blogger have free blogging options.
  • You can always move your blog to another platform in the future.
  • Your blog must be smartphone/mobile optimised so it is easier to read on a phone.

Chapter Two – Click Here

 


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How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business (COMPLETE FREE eBOOK)

how to write a blog for a complementary therapy business

I have decided to publish the complete full ebook on this website –  ‘How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business‘ for FREE on this website.

If you would prefer to read this book on your Kindle device, it is available as a formatted eBook through Amazon: USUK, AUS, CA and on several other Amazon marketplaces. However, there will be a small charge as I am using Amazon’s services.

Scroll below for the eBook. Also a full chapter list is here.


‘How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business’

Introduction

If you’ve built a website for your complementary therapy business, you may well have considered whether you should add a blog to it. After all, blogging has become wildly popular and is a good way for a perspective client to get to know you better.

You may already have a website to promote your business, but it will likely be competing with many other websites. Having a blog with a regular flow of new articles, increases the size and visibility of your website on Google. It may also be able to draw traffic from people who find out about you from one of your blog posts.

More importantly, a blog enables you to build an online platform – a number of people online that you can connect with and possibly promote your services or products to. There are a lot of benefits to having a good blog.

Why have a blog?

You have to consider some of the psychology of a prospective client. Someone may come across your site looking for a therapy, but they may be hesitant to contact you. As Tony Robbins says, it is only when the pain of discomfort becomes greater than the problem, that a person will act. A person may come across your site, but still hesitate to contact you especially if they are new to therapy work. After all, what should someone expect from a treatment?  What do they know about you?

Obviously you will cover all this information in your ‘Home’, ‘About’ and ‘FAQ’ pages on your website as well as in some of the pictures you show. But still, it may need just a little bit more to tip the balance. It can help to show your beliefs,  your thoughts, experiences and your stories.

This is where a blog can help. It is a chance for you to share more information, experiences, perhaps some personal interests or healthcare tips. The blog gives your readers a chance to get to know you a little better and perhaps find some common ground in thought or belief.

Once they can see that you are a normal person, who has some experience in your field, they are more likely to put aside their reservations and contact you. In some cases, it may even create a sense of urgency in them, that you are the person to contact.

Other benefits to a blog

It’s fine to have a good website, but you need traffic. This is lots and lots of people clicking on your website, looking through your pages and eventually contacting you. There are various ways to build traffic, such as using the right amount of keywords in your homepage and writing relevant content. Another method is to gradually build up a blog with interesting articles and slowly build up regular traffic with followers or subscribers.

A blog is essentially like casting another net to increase your chance of catching more fish. Or like having another arm like a Hindu god, to your site in order to grab some more apples. If you create the right type of blog, it may even have the potential to attract traffic in its own right, which would be ideal because then your website would rank higher in Google. In this instance, you could draw more clients in from that traffic. You could also consider monetising your website to bring in some extra income.

Another arm to your website:

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Having a blog is much like having an extra arm for your website to grab more potential customers. Kind of like the Hindu god Shiva in this picture.

Some considerations

There some things to be aware of: Whilst there are some people that have made a full-time living from their blog, especially in the early days of the internet, these days, it is much harder to do so. The blogosphere is saturated. There are millions of blogs. Perhaps more than the stars in the sky.

For the same reason, it is also much harder to get traffic coming to your site and can take a long time of posting, seemingly without any reward, before you start to get people coming. But come they will– you must believe. And there are ways to speed up the process. I hope this guide will help you in doing so.

For example, one way to build and write a blog is to focus on a niche or a small subject area. Then you may be able to pick up viewers who come to your site for that express reason, who will then return, because they know you will have more information on that particular topic.

One example, could be someone who creates their own herbal products from their own plants. They may write about the plants, their qualities and how they make these products and what it is good for. Such a site is popular with people these days looking for an natural alternative to their health problems, than the usual pharmaceuticals which carry with it lots of side effects and quite often doesn’t fix the problem.

Other examples are people who only specialise in treating acne or arthritis. Their audience will most likely be acne sufferers or arthritis sufferers and as these can be difficult long-term conditions to treat, their visitors may well bookmark the site and return every week for information or support.

What kind of things can go into a blog

Basically anything and everything. However, as I mentioned before, it may be a good idea to stick to one niche area, which you can specialise in. Then you can start to build a reputation or small degree of authority in that area.

If you specialise in treating a specific problem like diabetes with acupuncture, (perhaps you suffered from it yourself), then focusing your blog on that would be an example of keeping to a niche. In this example, if you then used keywords like “acupuncture for diabetes” in your homepage, then you may be able to attract viewers who suffered from this disease and who were curious if acupuncture could help with it. This is just one basic example. I will discuss keywords later in this guide.

Keep it interesting for yourself

You don’t need to stick to one niche area. A blog should be interesting for you. Personally, I like to write on a broad range of topics in my blog. I can’t help myself. I write about spirituality, health, money, and general ponderings on life. As well as acupuncture.

You see, a blog is more than a few articles on a particular topic. It is an ongoing project. In fact, it is a reflection of your life and your beliefs.

You must write consistently. So for you to do this, it must be interesting for you. You may want to mix it up particularly and have a variety of different topics in your blog. Some successful bloggers do this. Others don’t. The blog also needs to fit you and how you like to work. If a blog is something you have to force yourself to do, then the chances are, you will give it up after a few postings.

Consistency

A person may get excited about writing a blog at first. They write one or two really big articles and then stop. They’ve used up that creativity in a quick burst and produced something great, but then what?

It takes a lot of energy to write. I know. I have written two books. One on Amazon (UK& US). The other, I plan to release by 2019. I have written thousands of words in my blogand on various articles. I have created a couple of short eBooks like this one. I am relatively new to blogging, but I have put a lot of study into creating one, which I decided to formulate into a guide to share with you.

By reading this book, you won’t have to trawl through lots of different websites or read lots of different eBooks about blogging. You won’t have to do what I did and go through a process of reverse engineering a few successful blogs from popular bloggers to understand the process they went through.

A blog requires a lot more work than most people think. It also requires planning, formatting, structuring, editing, proofreading and then just when that has sucked all your energy – you need to promote it to bring in the traffic.

And in return, if you’re lucky, you may get paid the cost of a Cappuccino in return from AdSense revenue or eBook sales. Is it really worth it?

Well, yes. There is something wonderful about bringing out what is within you and putting it into a format that other people can discover. It is a wonderful feeling to write something, in which a single person reads and then shows a little appreciation by giving you a positive comment, an ‘up-vote’, a ‘like’ or even a positive review on Amazon. It makes that Cappuccino taste all the more better.

Avoid the New Year’s Resolution Club

But you need to find a way to write consistently. Suffice to say, you have to avoid becoming a member of the ‘New Year’s Resolution Club’.

This is where on New Year’s day, after the festive period of shovelling roasted turkey, stuffing, pudding and all manner of foodstuffs and wine into your gut, suddenly in a moment of guilt and recrimination, you run like a madman into the back garden and with arms outstretched, you proclaim loudly to the heavens above: –

“Tomorrow I’m going to join the gym!”

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So you join the gym and go crazy on the treadmills then the weights, then the treadmill again.

You’re running like a thirsty man in the desert who sees the mirage of an LA swim-pool party off in the distance. Groups of beautiful swimsuit models holding Pina coladas, wave at you enthusiastically to come over.

‘This is great’ you think to yourself. I’m going to do this every day. Maybe in a few months, I can even look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But we know where this is going to end…

The next day, your body aches like it is going to fall to pieces. Despite that you still manage a couple more days in the gym. But it sure is hard work.

Perhaps you’re going too hard on yourself, you think. You’ve worked hard. You deserve a break, a treat.

And then one week later, you’re on your sofa gobbling ice cream and watching Netflix. Your partner asks you if you’re going to the gym and you reply ‘maybe tomorrow’.

But like it says in the Asterisk comics…

‘Tomorrow never comes!’

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A marathon, not a sprint

Sure, I’m exaggerating, but writing a blog is really more of a marathon than a sprint. At the beginning of those 26 miles, you can only go slow and steady and have faith that there is an end to this madness that you have signed up for.

You just have to take one step at a time and let go of the ego. But you also have to figure out strategies so that you keep going and don’t give up too soon. It has to be enjoyable for you, but also worthwhile.

One of the steps you take in running a marathon is in putting the preparation in beforehand. You have trained, you have changed your diet and you have studied running strategies. By the time you run that marathon, you are already mentally and physically prepared for it. Well I sure hope you are, otherwise, it’s going to be a short marathon.

That’s what this guide is. It will give you information that can be part of your ultimate blogging strategy. It will help put some things in perspective and hopefully give you clarity.

You may already have a personal blog. A lot of people do. A personal blog is a little different to a business blog. A personal blog can be a great opportunity for you to express yourself. A business blog has the same purpose, but there is a fixed objective. The business blog is designed to spread your message, increase your traffic and promote your business.

Writing for an audience

Finally, just to reiterate, a blog is a way for people to get to know you. But also think back to what draws you to read someone’s blog?

Whilst it is interesting to write about an aspect of healthcare, it is worth keeping that question in the back of your mind. When you write something, ask – is what I am writing going to be interesting for someone to read? Will someone come back to your site to keep up with what you are talking about?

For this reason, it is worth making several of your articles on a topic of interest. Something that will attract people to visit. You don’t have to consider this for all your articles, but do put some thought into your potential audience and the kind of information they are looking for.

Providing value

Ultimately you want to provide some kind of value to the reader. If you simply want a platform for you to express yourself and some life experiences, then that is fine, and in fact, these kinds of sites do attract a fair number of followers. It all depends on your motivation.

If you want a blog to be a part of your overall business, then you may want to put a different kind of work and structure into it. If it’s more of a hobby, then you don’t need to worry too much and a free blogging platform would be recommended for starting with.

A blog can take many different forms. It can be a way to express some musings. It could be a kind of journal or detailed diary. It may express your opinions or experiences on specific topics. A lot of work goes into one. And I believe the blog will become just as relevant as any other historical document for our descendants to peruse through years into the future.

Some blogs contain information that are on a par with mainstream newspapers and magazines, sometimes more so.

For a complementary therapy practitioner, a blog can also be a useful tool to build awareness of you and help promote your business further.

What I will cover in this eBook

In the rest of the short eBook, I will go into more detail on How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business. I will discuss the following areas:

  • Choosing a blogging platform
  • What is the best blog article length?
  • Coming up with ideas and how to choose a topic
  • Linking to other parts of your website
  • Call to action
  • Pictures and stock photos
  • Structure – paragraphs, sentences, editing and subheadings
  • Consistency of writing
  • Keywords
  • Reposting & promotion
  • Creating original content
  • Monetisation

Click here for next post: Chapter One (coming soon)

 


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Kindle Version on Amazon

If you are interested in reading the full Kindle version, it is available through Amazon. Here are some links: USUKAUS, CA or check on other Amazon marketplaces.

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Makko Ho (真向法): 4 simple Japanese exercises to regain a loose, flexible, childlike body again

Makko Ho

Makko Ho (真向法) are 4 simple exercises developed in Japan and said to be beneficial for the body. They take 5 minutes to carry out and should be done every day, twice a day.

The story behind Makko Ho (真向法)

These 4 simple exercises are taught in an old, out-of-print book, called ‘Makko Ho’, which was written by Haruka Nagai. Haruka was the son of the creator of the Makko Ho system – Mr Wataru Nagai (1889-1963). This book was originally published in 1972 and was popular in the West in the 1970s. Mr Nagai travelled in America teaching his system.

The Makko Ho exercises was created by Mr Wataru Nagai (長井津). At age 42, he suffered a stroke and half his body was paralysed. His doctors told him he would likely have to spend the rest of his life half paralysed, dependent on support, and probably unable to work. Mr Wataru Nagai did not want this so he resolved himself to find a solution to his health challenges.

Buddhist connections

Wataru Nagai’s father was a Buddhist monk. He developed his ideas for Makko Ho whilst looking at a textbook on Buddhism in his father’s home.  Wataru was interested in two of the sitting postures required to practice in order to attain enlightenment. One of these postures was bowing to show gratitude for his life.

He felt that in all his life, he had never showed gratitude. So he decided that it was time for him to start showing gratitude and he tried to bow. But as his body was so stiff and restricted, it was difficult for him to do it. Yet he persevered. He decided that he would bow and say thank you over and over again. After three years, he was cured. (Source: http://www.stgijodo.blogspot.com).

It was these sitting exercises that were to form the foundation for the Makko Ho series of exercises.

He found these sitting postures difficult, but as he had lots of time, he was able to practice them. Gradually his body got used to these exercises and over a three year period, he gradually restored vigour to his paralysed side of his body by incorporating other exercises. As Haruka Nagai wrote of his father:

His restored health was neither miraculous not coincidental: the process of metabolism had completely replaced the cells composing the blood vessels, nerves, and muscles of the afflicted part of his body and had thus brought about true rehabilitation.

In other words, Mr Wataru Nagai’s body had replaced its damaged parts. This is a principle that is discussed in his book – that our bodies are always in the process of replacing and repairing itself.

Mr Wataru Nagai continued to live a flexible and mobile life until he died in an automobile accident at the age of 78.

The name of Makko Ho (真向法)

The name for these exercises has changed several times. The name of Makko Ho is said to have come from a Buddhist poem, which means – ‘Just worship the spirit of Buddha with a pure heart’.

Makko Ho (真向法) means ‘to have an attitude of doing something, with all of ones’s full effort’.

Makko Ho (真向法) is made up of three kanji -真 (Ma/Shin) = truth,  向 (kou) = direction, and 法 (ho) – method/or way. It can roughly be translated as ‘the way of moving towards truth’. Or in the context of the exercises – ‘the way of moving towards the body’s truth’, or our ‘natural way’.

The purpose of Makko Ho (真向法)

In the West, Makko Ho has been repackaged and is taught according to principles of Traditional Chinese medicine. The exercises are said to open up specific Meridians (energy pathways).

This is not the original purpose of Makko Ho. The original purpose as explained by Nagai’s book is simply to regain the flexibility and looseness of children. It is not about stimulating specific energy pathways.

Sometimes, I think we like to make things more complicated or add a slant on things to sell it, but I believe simplicity is best. As Nagai writes:

The aim and ideal form of Makko-ho is the posture of healthy children.

I have noticed children are naturally flexible. My oldest son was able to stick his toes in his mouth when he was around 2 year old. My youngest son is able to do a full split just like Jean Claude Van Damn at the age of 7 months. This is the natural flexibility of children. It is possible that you or I could once have been able to do the same. One of the reasons is because children use their bodies regularly and often, and as a result their muscles are enlivened and loosened.

To understand just how flexible we once were as children, here is a picture of my 7 month old doing the third Makko Ho exercise:

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And here is my son a few months later, at age 14 months, doing the 2nd Makko Ho exercise – the forward bend:

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With an additional standing variation for good measure:

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The principle of Makko Ho – preventing atrophy

There is a simple English expression – ‘Use it or lose it’. The meaning being that we should continue to practice a skill or movement, because if we don’t, we will lose the ability. This is common in sports, when if a sportsperson stops training, their ability level, flexibility and strength can reduce.

In Makko Ho, there is this quote:

Lack of use leads to aging and functional failure.

Simply put, as people have created more and more labour saving devices, more transportation options and other conveniences, we have started to use our bodies less. As a consequence, our bodies don’t get worked out as much as our ancestors used them. As a result, they become weaker, tighter and less functional.

This is not a criticism of the modern life or a call that we should go back to primitive living. It is merely a reminder to be grateful for these conveniences and that in order to counteract the negative effects of a more convenient lifestyle, we should take steps to regain flexibility and to practice exercises like Makko Ho in order to improve our bodies.

Nagai states that:

Failure to use parts of the body adequately brings on the condition known as ‘atrophy’.

Actually, I touched on the same topic in my book – ‘The Genki Self Health Guide‘ where I discussed how – by not stretching or moving our bodies, a layer of restriction builds up in our fascia layer, which hinders the smooth flow of Ki energy.

Benefits of Makko Ho

Makko Ho helps regenerate the body, and prevent atrophy of the body through misuse or underuse. It also helps improve the circulation – the flow of blood through the limbs, enabling it to remove waste effectively and to keep our blood clean. It improves the nervous system and flow of hormones in the body. It can benefit joints, helping to prevent arthritis. Additionally, as all of these postures are based on opening up the hip joint, it will help with posture and spinal health.

Makko Ho objectives

When Mr Wataru Nagai demonstrates these exercises, he does so with perfect posture. In his pictures, Wataru is a middle aged Japanese man. He does not have a dancer’s or martial artist’s body. He looks more like a regular middle-aged company worker or business man. But when he performs these exercises his does so with perfect posture and great flexibility.

This makes it easy for anyone to relate to him. We are not all blessed with model-like physiques. These days, the media throws images of this ‘perfection’ down our throats.  But by seeing Mr Wataru Nagai perform these exercises with grace, teaches us that we all have the potential to achieve this level of childlike flexibility and looseness.

Nagai reminds us not to be led by the ego. Never to force these exercises, and that it can take up 3 to 5 years in order to gain this level of flexibility to carry out these exercises perfectly. This is how long it took Mr Wataru Nagai to achieve this level.

It is accumulative. As we practice every day, gradually we regan vigour and liveliness in the stiff parts of our body. Eventually, our bodies can become loose like a child again. We do not need to rush.

‘Bendy’ People

It reminds me of many times I have attended yoga classes. There are often very flexible, “bendy” people who can carry out all these exercises perfectly. Some of them used to be dancers (in other words – very flexible). But there are always many people who are not as flexible as them. I am such a person. I am extremely inflexible.

Of course, looking at these bendy people,  I feel a little envious and want to be bendy like them. Sometimes I have forced myself into specific yoga stretches to try and hurry up and get quick results. But this always has a negative effect. On a few occasions I have pulled back muscles by over-stretching or pushing myself too much. This is the ego.

I think Nagai’s advice is wise:

People whose muscles are seriously stiffened – no matter whether they are young or old might at first think that the positions of the Makko Ho exercises are impossible… proficency cannot be expected overnight. To restore a seriously atrophied muscular system to original good health takes from three to five years of diligent application.


Makko Ho (真向法) exercises

Without further ado, here are the 4 Makko Ho exercises:

Exercise 1 Makko Ho

IMG_0408
Image from Makko-Ho

Instructions

1st stage

  • First sit as in picture A. This is similar to the seated Buddhist meditation pose. However, the feet are not tucked under the knees, but instead the heels of the feet are brought together and the soles turn upwards as much as possible.
  • Aim to have the heels on a line with the knees. In perfect posture, the knees rest on the floor. This may be difficult at first.
  • Aim to keep the back straight and lower the knees to open up the groin area. You can lightly press the knees down, but NEVER strain or force it.

2nd stage

  • Once you are able to keep the lumber spine straight, lean the upper body forward as in diagram B.
  • The purpose in not to bring the head to the ground. The purpose is to expand and contract the joints in the hips and groin.
  • Repeat the forward bend from ten to twenty times.
  • NEVER force or strain the movement

Demonstration

Here is Mr Waturu Nagai. performing stage 1 of exercise 1 with perfect form:

1st stage

 

2nd stage

IMG_0429

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Model picture of 1st stage:

11261427 - chinese woman sitting on a yoga mat in the bound angle pose.

Here is my colleague Eitaro modelling the second position of Exercise 1:

Makko Ho


Exercise 2 Makko Ho

Makko Ho exercise 2 diagram

Instructions

1st stage

  • Sit with the buttocks flat on the floor and the back straight. Bring the legs together and stretch them in front of you.
  • Extend and contract the joints of the groin.
  • The ankle is to be held at an angle of 60%, to extend and contract the foot.
  • Sit with legs outstretched so that the torso forms a 90% angle (or ‘L’ shape) with the legs.
  • Aim to keep the lumber vertebrae straight and knees not bent.

2nd stage

  • When you can perform the L position, gently lean the torso forward, beginning at the waist and keeping the back in a straight posture.
  • Do not attempt to bring the head tot he knees (which “spoils” the position of the spinal vertebras and angles of the knees and heels.
  • Exhale quietly as you bend forward. Repeat ten to twenty times. in a session.
  • You may only be able to move 1/32 of an inch forward in a single day. That is fine. In 3-5 years it will add to your overall progress.
  • NEVER force or strain into the movement

Demonstration

Exercise 2 is a basic forward bend stretch. Here is Mr. .. demonstrating the exercises:

 

Here is Eitaro performing Exercise 2, stage 2, with great form and flexibility. Do note, that Eitaro is a black belt Aikido practitioner, who has been doing stretching exercises for many years:

Makko Ho exercise 2 demo


Exercise 3

Makko Ho exercise 3 diagram

Instructions

1st stage

  • As with the previous exercise – keep heels at 60%, knees unbent, and back straight.
  • Legs are spread. 80% or 90% is good enough. The optimum level is 160%, but 80% or 90% is fine.
  • Make sure the back remains straight as in Picture A.
  • Beginners often slump in this posture. This is because the muscles of the inner side of the legs are tight. These muscles are also related to the sex organs.

2nd stage

  • From position A, bend the torso forward. Again follow the principles as for the first two exercises. keep the back straight.
  • NEVER force or strain.
  • Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times. for a session. A movement of 1/32 of an inch is fine.
  • when you have mastered the exercise, your chest and knees will come in contact with the floor WITHOUT feeling pain.

Demonstration

Exercise 3 is a wide leg open forward bend pose. Here is Mr Wataru Nagai demonstrating:

 

Here is Eitaro demonstrating the pose: (note – feet are not quite at a 60% angle)

 


Exercise 4

1st stage

IMG_0430.jpg

2nd stage

IMG_0427

Instructions

1st stage

  • Stage 1 is similar to the traditional sitting seiza position used in Japan. But instead the buttocks do not sit on the feet. They sit on the floor between your feet.
  • The thighs and lower legs fold in two.  In position A, the buttocks reach the floor
  • If it is impossible to bring the buttocks to the floor or the back bends, then a cushion under the buttocks can be used. Over time, gradually reduce the size of the cushion, replacing it with a towel or a handkerchief folded thinner and thinner as you gain more flexibility.

Makko Ho cushion exercise 4

2nd stage

  • When position A can be sat in, without pain or discomfort, you can attempt stage 2.
  • Put your hands on the floor behind you and lean your torso backwards.
  • Aim to lean further backwards as much as you can. The edge of a bed or cushions can be used for support.
  • When practicing this exercise, a person may feel a stretching sensation in the muscles of the abdomen and chest.

Demonstration

This diagram only shows the first stage of Exercise 4. The bottom is sitting directly on the floor (not on the feet). The feet are by the side of the bottom. Here is a demonstration of stage 1 and 2 of Exercise 4:

 

Here is me performing exercise 4. It is the only Makko Ho exercise that I can carry out with reasonably  good form. For some reason, I am quite flexible in this position but for the first three exercises, I am extremely inflexible and find it difficult to carry them out… Go figure.

IMG_0440.jpg

Other stated benefits of exercise 4

On a side note, the Ki-Aikido practitioner, author and teacher Koichi Tohei states that this particular exercise can “cure” diseases of the digestive system in The Book of Ki.

These days, you have to be wary of making this kind of claim. But it may be that this particular pose can benefit the digestive organs and abdomen as it does stretch and open up this area enabling better circulation and stimulation of the organs in the abdominal region.

However, this exercise does put a bit of strain on the lower back, so I would recommend you follow the guidance in the Makko Ho book in order to carry out this pose safely.

Makko Ho Guidance notes

In Makko Ho, Nagai gives  some basic guide instruction on carrying out these exercises:

  • Perform once in the morning before breakfast and again in the evening for maximum effect.
  • Perform on the floor for best effect, but beginners can do them on a bed.
  • Repeat exercise 1 to 3 ten times for about thirty seconds. This takes 1 minute and 30 seconds. This is ‘one round’. Then carry out another round of the first three exercises. (3 minutes in total)
  • Then when performing exercise 4, lean back and stay in the pose fo 1 minute. (In total 4 minutes. There are some additional variations to make it 5 minutes, but they are not necessary for beginners.
  • If you are pressed for time, only do one round of the first three exercises and thirty seconds in the backward leaning exercise.
  • Perform with family members all together to enjoy the benefits
  • NEVER, NEVER, NEVER attempt to strain, or achieve perfection in any of the poses because you think you can achieve quick progress. This desire for quick results and speed is a reflection of the modern civilised person to pursue speed and efficiency. We should take time to reflect and enjoy the process.
  • Some mild pain and bruises can occur. In this circumstance, slow down and lighten the routine. If there is significant atrophy, this can occur but do not give up. obviously if there is significant pain, then stop, or leave out specific exercises.
  • Pregnant women should avoid exercise 1 and 2. (I would add, that maybe they should avoid exercise 4 at it strains the back a little).

Disclaimer

This article is not an official teaching of the Makko Ho exercises. I am simply introducing you to these exercises, which have fallen out of Western knowledge in the last 40 years. To learn them properly, I would recommend you read the original Makko Ho book, written by Haruka Nagai. (Be warned – the book is out of print and second-hand copies are expensive!)

In order to officially teach Makko Ho, it is necessary to undergo training in Japan and pick up a license. The Japanese are quite strict about this kind of thing, so if someone wants to teaches Makko Ho, it is likely, they will need official authorisation from the official Makko Ho association in Japan. And I understand that to receive the license, the training course is one year long.

There are various teachers around the world who teach an altered version of the Makko Ho exercises, tying it in with the Meridians (energy Channel pathways) of Oriental Medicine as part of shiatsu training. As far as I know this new version is not true to the original teachings.

The creator of the Makko Ho exercises did not teach according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine or shiatsu. He was not a Traditional Chinese doctor. The principle behind these four Makko Ho exercises was far more simple – It is only about regaining the natural flexibility that we would have had as children.

It is true that looking at these exercises, they are essentially basic stretching exercises used commonly in martial art warm ups or yoga. And as such, I don’t believe you can trademark these individual exercises. However, the ‘Makko Ho’ label and set of exercises as a whole, can be trademarked, and should be respected as such.

References

Makko-Ho: Five Minutes Physical Fitness, by Haruka Nagai (English Edition). Japan Publications, Tokyo and San Francisco 1972.

Makko Ho Official Site (In Japanese) – www.makkoho.or.jp

Article by Tomoko Horikawa Morganelli, www.stgidojo.blogspot.com – One of the few officially licensed teachers of Makko Ho in America

YouTube Video Makko Ho demonstration from Japan, from Taninaka T.s YouTube Channel:


It’s incredible to see these middle aged and elderly Japanese stretching with the bodies of children, and shows what is possible if we practice Makko Ho.

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Chizue Rudd gives a good demonstration of the original Makko Ho Exercises on her YouTube Channel:

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The Legs Power the Qi: Spontaneous Qi Practice (Days 17-19)

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Spontaneous Qigong Research in Norway: Encounters with Spontaneous Qi (11)

Biyun qigong Fan Xiulan Norway

This article discusses a research article from Norway in 2008, which refers to spontaneous qigong (zifagong).

I have written extensively about spontaneous qigong. To learn more, start with this article – Qigong and Encounters with Spontaneous Qi: Part One.

Learning and Experiencing Chinese Qigong in Norway

‘Learning and Experiencing Chinese Qigong in Norway’ is the name of an article published in the Journal of East Asian Science in 2008. A PDF link to the full article is at the end of this post.

The author is Gry Sagli and he discusses the use of qigong in Norway. Gry refers to a form of qigong called ‘Biyun Medical Qigong’, which seems to incorporate spontaneous qigong movements as one of its 5 training stages.

Gry does not use the terms “Spontaneous qigong” or “Zifa Gong”. Instead he uses terms like “movement of qi’, “free-form” or “spontaneous body movements”.

Biyun Medical Qigong

Gry states that Biyun Medical Qigong has five stages of ‘body-mind states’ that can be experienced by practitioners. These fives stages are:

  1. Body movements.
  2. Body movements with concentration.
  3. Body movements, concentration, and qi (life energy).
  4. Qi and body movements without concentration.
  5. Body in stillness and moving qi.

In this article, I want to focus specifically on the spontaneous qigong aspect of biyun, which is Stage 4. But before that, I will briefly summarise Biyun qigong.

What is Biyun Medical Qigong?

The Biyun Qigong system was created by a Chinese Medicine doctor and Qigong master called Fan Xiulan.

The creator Fan Xiulan (born 1947, female) is referred to as “Master” or Grand Master Fan” by the students and is the “unquestionable authority” regarding all Biyun activities. A link to her website is at the end of this article.

In Scandinavia, Biyun qigong originates back to the 1990s with Fan Xiulan traveling to Scandinavia and teaching about twice a year. This resulted in the formation of Biyun associations and teaching organisations. According to this article, more than 90,000 people have attended a Biyun course in Sweden, with more than 600 instructors educated.

Biyun courses were arranged in Norway from 1997 and held in 2001. The Biyun association in Norway was established in 2003. There are an estimated 6000-7000 persons who have attended courses in Norway.

Summary of the 5 stages of Biyun Qigong:

Stage 1 – Body Movements

The first or beginners stage utilises specific basic movements. For example – starting with the feet and rotating the feet, followed by specific exercises for the ankles, knees, hips and pelvis. Movements include moving, stretching, bending and strengthening body parts. Exercises are based on principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupuncture points, Channels (Meridians) and balancing yin and yang. For example, one exercise is this:

When the students are doing an exercise that involves the stretching of the upper back, for example, they are instructed to lift up their arms and place their middle finger between the second and the third ribs in line with the middle of the collar bone, and to keep the fingers at this place all the time while doing a forward bending of the neck and elbows. The purpose of placing the middle finger exactly at this point, we learn, is that this spot is an acupuncture point for the lungs.

Stage 2 – Body movements with concentration

Stage 2 involves carrying out qigong exercises and at the same time evoking certain mental images. Each exercise combines a specific image with the movements. The instructors state over and over again about various beneficial effects that are associated with the specific exercises.

The participants are instructed to concentrate on how each exercise can strengthen various parts of the body – whether that is the ankles, feet, joints, kidneys or lungs or any part. They are also instructed to use visualisation when performing movements such as imaging they are a ‘tree waving in the wind’.

One of the key components are that you are activating both conscious mind and body when performing exercises.

Stage 3 – body movements, concentration, and qi (life energy)

This stage deepens the practice by using a CD guide, to carry out the exercises and which includes a description of energy (qi) as part of the exercises. For example, one of the exercises guides a student to do the following:

Go out with your arms, palms facing upwards and in your concentration focus on gathering life energy from nature and from heaven.

Then turn your palm downwards, imagining how you are bringing in lots of life energy which you have gathered.

Imagine how you are bringing the energy of life through the top of your head, letting it flow down inside the middle of your body, down to the dantian.

For qigong or Chinese Medicine practitioners, the concept of qi or the dantian will generally be well-known. However, when teaching Biyun Qigong to new people, the concepts of qi will be less well understood. This is one of the reasons, why this aspect of teaching is at stage 3 and not stage 1. By practicing the first 2 stages, they could gradually develop a sensitivity to their qi.

Spontaneous Qigong: Stage 4 – Qi and body movements without concentration.

Stage 4 is where Biyun Qigong utilises spontaneous qigong. It is described as ‘qi and body movements without concentration’. The focus of this stage is to “let qi work on us without our mind interfering with the qi movements”.

The spontaneous qigong movements are activated in this way:

The exercises are, as usual, carried out with closed eyes and assisted with very quiet and soft Chinese music. The sequence of exercises starts with relaxation and inner awareness. Then, it continues with exercises aimed at gathering qi from the elements of nature; from the sun, moon, stars, mountains, waters, forests, or flowers.

Thereafter, while connecting with qi from nature and at the same time making slow, soft, wave-like movements with our arms, we should “let the concentration go” and allow ourselves to move with the qi that we are feeling within us. When, or if, our consciousness is activated, we should not hold on to these thoughts, but let them also go.

The use of music as an aid to relaxation and inner awareness is also used in the Japanese variation of Zifagong, called Katsugen. The steps of taking “slow, soft, wave-like movements with our arms” is a gentle way to slowly tune into the bodies own rhythm or ‘dance’ and is a way to gently activate the spontaneous qigong state.

Spontaneous qigong movements

Gry also describes the kind of movements can that occur with spontaneous qigong activation:

The instructors explain that the movements of qi can reveal themselves in a variety of ways: in spontaneous body movements; in a feeling of tiredness or stiffness; in an awareness of painful areas of the body; in the awakening of long-forgotten memories; or in an urge to cry, sing, laugh, or let out other forms of emotional or expressive feelings. “This is qi exercising you”.

Yuan Qi

Gry offers an insight into the mechanics of spontaneous qigong movement. He states that this movement is an activation of the ‘Original Qi’ (Yuan qi), the qi inherited from out parents and which is related to our naturalness and spontaneity in childhood:

The form of qi primarily activated in this exercise is referred to as the “original qi” (yuan qi) within us.

The students are told that this is the qi we have inherited from our parents and former generations. It is the deepest, truest, and most authentic dimension in us. This form of qi demonstrates itself most clearly in children’s naturalness and spontaneity. Qigong can help up to get in contact with our “inner child”; the naturalness and spontaneity in us, which we have learned to control and disregard in order to be respectable grownups.

Benefits of spontaneous body movements

Gry mentions the beneficial effects of these spontaneous qi type exercises that the qigong participants experience:

From interviews and conversations in class, I got the impression that, in addition to the feeling of gaining energy, increased creativity and a feeling of reaching awareness are also common experiences attributed to this stage.

Nils, for example, who practices almost every day the “free form”, as he calls it, explains that he feels that this form is helping him to be more flexible; it releases both muscle tensions of his physical body and other kinds of problems. “It gets the mess to the surface,” as he says, “and after some days the problems tend to dissolve. They don’t appear so difficult anymore.”

and…

Nina explains that she practices this form only when she feels she is in need of something extra, as she puts it, “when I need to see myself.” “The effect I get from doing this form of qigong is that I feel very creative. After practicing I write a lot. It goes very deep. In a way, it goes into your soul.” She explains that she has a lot of visions, almost like dreaming awake, and she sees small films from her life. “It feels like being a treasure hunter.”

Creativity opened up with Spontaneous Qigong

In this article, there is also a paragraph which talks about how this activation of spontaneous qigong, activates the creativity instincts in a person:

Wholeness, namely, the unity of qi and the body, is given a prominent place in the exercises constituting this stage. This unity learns to be influenced by qi in the meaning of qi as a source of self-insight and creativity, in addition to the beneficial effects the qi movements are felt to cause on the physical body.

The 5th Stage – Body in stillness and moving qi.

Compared to the first 4 stages, the 5th stage of Biyun qigong is static. These exercises are referred to as “jinggong” or “stillness qigong”. In this stage, the body is kept still in a sitting, standing or lying pose, and it is the qi that is moved around, guided by the mind internally.

Some exercises involve visualization exercises such as envisioning light from the sun or moon, or light in the internal organs. There are various jinggong exercises utilised at different levels – depending on whether you are at beginners level or advanced.

This stage is also associated with the developing of the heart, the inner self and the soul. The creator of Biyun, Master Fan discusses the importance of developing the power of the heart:

If one wishes to gather life force, one needs to develop the power of one’s heart, the inner self, the soul… Jinggon has the effect that it clears our hearts. The heart is the seat of the spirit. The heart is like a mirror. To reach a better understanding of ourselves, we need to polish the mirror.

How these 5 stages of Biyun work on the qi

Ultimately, the smooth flow of qi in the body is necessary for good health. Gry writes:

An abundance of vitalizing qi, and its free flow, is, according to Biyun, the prime source for healing, health, and longevity, and qi is perceived as an unquestionable reality by Master Fan and by other Biyun instructors.

The 5 stages of Biyun helps achieve this. For example, in the first stage, the students develop new understandings of the mind-body state and learn to become more sensitive to qi. They become more “affected by qi” and learn to feel qi as bodily sensations for example – “feelings of warmth, coldness, swollenness, and pricking, and as electrical and other sensory experiences”.

After the student is familiar with the sensations of qi in his or her body, we reach stage 4 (the spontaneous qigong stage),  where they start to experience other manifestations of qi through “emotional outbursts, thoughts, memories and creative activities”.

In the fifth stage, (the stillness stage), the qi is cultivated into other forms such as “self insights, ethical consciousness, and spiritual power”.

Disclaimer

I am not a member of Biyun or have I attended any classes. All my information is from the research article – ‘Learning and Experiencing Chinese Qigong’ , which was published in the East Asian Science Journal. So I presume it is all correct.

I do not know how commonly spontaneous qigong is practiced in this system of qigong. If any Biyun members would like to contact me regarding this post, please do get in touch.

References

Fan Xiulan/Biyun Academy Website

Biyun Norway Website

Picture Accreditation – Screenshots of Fan Xiulan and Biyan Website Logo.


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Encounters with Spontaneous Qi (10c): Raising the Energy

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This is the third account of how once you start on the path of energy work, you can  increase your sensitivity to energy and you may have certain energetic experiences.

A warning

Before, I continue, I should add a warning.

It can be risky to mix and match systems. Once you pick one energy system, you must stick to that. Though the ultimate goal may be similar, the techniques each system uses can be different.

It is kind of like trying to force a British electrical appliance into an European plug socket. There will be a mismatch of voltage. Accidents can occur. Some energetic systems can contradict or reverse each other.

Some people do search and seek out different masters and try out different classes and systems. In the early stages, this is fine. But once you find a system or teacher. Stick to them, and them alone.

This is the approach I took. In my 20s, I went through a process of seeking. I visited different classes and teachers to see what I may feel. In the end, I did not stick with any of them as it did not fit me.

In this article, I will discuss the strong energetic sensations I experienced when visiting a Sahaja Yoga Class.

3. My visit to the Sahaja yoga class

My third occasion occurred unexpectedly at a yoga meditation class in Swiss Cottage, North London. I had picked up a flyer for Sahaja yoga meditation classes held at the library. At the time, I was an acupuncture student, and was open to trying out  all things energy, for example – Buddhism classes, meditation, yoga, qigong and tai chi.

Sahaja Yoga

Sahaja yoga is a system of meditation created by the Indian guru, a woman called Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi (1923 – 2011)

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Sri Mataji maintains that there is an innate spiritual potential inside all of us and that it can be spontaneous awakened leading got self realisation. This yoga specifically works on raising the Kundalini energy.

Sri Mataji traveled and lectured around the world for 40 years. Also they do not accept payment. I do not recall if I ever paid for a class when I attended. I may have paid a donation, but I don’t recall.

Her organisation is huge with classes and branches in many different countries.

My first class

The class started out with a regular meditation session. I am not particularly keen on group meditation. I am also self-conscious about my stomach growling or gurgling or the need to swallow saliva. This quiet and perfectly natural bodily functions seem to become as loud as thunder when you are sitting among a group of people in silence. Even worse if you have gas.

I always wondered why yogis eat the types of food that are highly likely to cause gas – vegetables, lentils and pulses.

Sorry for my British toilet humour.

Pair work exercise

When the meditation came to an end, the leader introduced an exercise we were to carry out. It was not anything I had experienced before. We were to pair up and in turn, one person had to sit on a chair, whilst the other stood behind to do some kind of energy work.

The standing person had to position themselves behind them and carry out some kind of hand activity whereby they moved energy up the spine by, making a waving motion with the hand in an upwards direction along the spine.

At first, I did not really understand just what was the purpose of this activity. A middle-aged lady, with a warm glint in her eye, readily paired up with me. She beckoned to me to sit down. I was glad to be the first to sit in the chair.

This lady stood behind me. I closed my eyes, not really sure what to expect. I assumed it might be some kind of Reiki treatment. I’d had a few Reiki treatments previously, which I had found relaxing, but nothing more.

But this time was different – very different. I did not know what the lady behind me was doing, but I did feel something quite unusual and very noticeable.

A rising sensation

I had an unusual sensation of something rising up my spine. It was quite sudden. And then I could feel my heart beating crazily. I was having palpitations. At the time, I was in my 20’s and had no heart problems. So this sensation really took me by surprise.

I also felt very hot. ‘What the hell is going on!?’ –  I thought.

I opened my eyes and watched the other class members in front of me. They did not seem to be doing anything unusual. The person behind the sitting person was simply waving her hands in an upward fashion up the spine of the seated person.

Being British, I didn’t want to complain, so I kept these sensations to myself, but they were becoming quite intense, and I was getting a little worried. I spoke out:

“I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable”

That was an understatement. Actually I was feeling very uncomfortable – I was hot, sweating excessively, and my heart was beating wildly. I could actually hear my own heart thundering in my chest. I wondered if it might explode.

The lady brought the exercises to an end and faced me. I told her – “That was powerful and very strange, I could really feel something”.

The lady said to me, “I couldn’t get it to rise all the way”. What did she mean by ‘it’? I thought.

She told me – “You have some blockages in your throat as well as your abdomen.

I had read up on some concepts of Traditional Indian medicine, and in particular the chakra system. So I took her statement to mean that she was referring to my throat chakra and second chakra.

I thought it interesting how her findings fit in with my own understanding of my own unique energetic pathology and health condition.

Blockages – energetic and physical

For example, in my 20s, I suffered with a digestive disease called ulcerative colitis. This kind of condition affects the lower abdomen causing inflammation in my gut (the second chakra area).

In my late teens and 20s, I metaphorically swallowed up a lot of emotions – anger, frustration and self-esteem areas in my gut. My stomach muscles have always been tight since.

As regards the blockage in my throat chakra, this also fits.  Ever since I was a child, I have had difficulties in fully expressing myself. I was a very late talker and grew up in a broken family. It may have come from my upbringing. Communication is related to the throat chakra.

Even ten years later as I write this, I am aware I still have these blockages present. Guess I’m a bit lazy when it comes to spiritual work.

After-thoughts

Truthfully after this experience I was bewildered. I did not understand just what kind of exercise this was about. I didn’t get an opportunity to do the hand movements on my partner as our time ran out. On that occasion, I got the full-time for myself.

That day, I did not see anyone else react with any unusual sensations. I wondered if this was because the person I partnered up with had some special ability or was this exercise the same for everyone?

But then people probably feel different things. Maybe other people got a pleasant sensation from this exercise, which made them happy to keep returning

Return to the yoga class

I found the answer to that question, when I returned to the class once more. I did not want to wait a week, so I attended the next available class. This was at a different location in Hampstead. The people there were different.

The class format was the same, although there was one guy at the front who had removed his socks during the meditation. We were all packed into a small room, it was summer and he didn’t seem to care that everyone in the room had to smell his feet.

We moved on the pair exercise and I partnered up with an older pleasant-looking women. I took my seat eagerly waiting to see what would come.

But this time, there was nothing. After she had finished, I told the lady I had felt relaxed. But I was a little disappointed that I did not get a repeat of the first occurrence.

Then we switched places and I tried out doing the exercise on her. I had to ask the teacher for guidance on what I was meant to be doing. She did not feel anything from my efforts and neither did I.

In hindsight, I felt that the initial reaction must have been because the first women doing it to me, was sensitive to the energy and could feel exactly what she was doing. Whereas on the second occasion, the person doing the movements, did not have the same level of sensitivity and was still a student.

I was in two minds whether I should pursue this class and keep going. Was it right for me? A part of me felt a little fearful, as I did not know what I was getting into. These palpitations and chest sweating was quite an extreme sensation.

Perhaps I should have been brave – not a pussy, and gone and done it.

Asking for a Second opinion

I decided to ask my qigong teacher, Dorothea, at the time for her opinion. I still had some doubts and fears from what I had briefly experienced.

I considered that this yoga class was designed to manually activate and raise the kundalini energy. However, I had read accounts that there were risks when the kundalini energy rose. The biggest concern I had was whether this was safe for me. Dorothea shared some stories about her previous teacher and then she answered my question.

Dorothea was a student of the sufi master Irina Tweedy. For a short time, Dorothea was my qigong and tai chi teacher. And taught me other things.

Some stories

One of the stories Dorothea told me was of how one time she was walking to see her teacher at her home in North London. As she came close, she felt a strong presence. It was Ms Tweedy’s energy and she felt it all the way up to her house.

Another story she told me was that on one occasion, Ms Tweedy told Dorothea she would do something for her. And like a switch being turned on, Dorothea felt an incredible state of bliss. She felt incredibly good and at peace in the world. This bliss was to last a short period of time. Afterwards, Ms Tweedy asked her how she enjoyed the feeling?

I wish at the time, I had recorded her stories in better detail. It is now almost ten years later that I write this, and some of these stories are not as clear for me. This is my lost opportunity. I needed to be writing earlier.

Should I manually awaken the kundalini?

But anyway, as regards the Kundalini awakening. I asked Dorothea, is it right to have the kundalini energy manually awakened like this? Is it safe?

And Dorothea told me:

“When you are ready for it, it will awaken by itself. It is better this way then to try to raise it yourself.”

What does this mean? Well, instead of forcing something powerful like the kundalini to rise prematurely – it is better instead, to put the ground work in. Build the foundations. Spend years of your life practicing meditation, yoga, qigong, Taoism – clearing your blockages, strengthening your mind, removing your desires, cleansing your body. And this is better carried out under the guidance of a trusted teacher.

Then a time comes, when spiritually and physically your body is ready for it. Then it happens naturally. Or maybe it never comes – not in this lifetime. And that is because you are not ready for it.

That is how I interpreted Dorothea’s advice.

Energetic Sensations

There have been other occasions some years ago, when I have felt a mild wave in my lower spine during periods when I have regularly practiced meditation.  I wondered what would happen if I focused on those sensations. Yet, I chose not to. Mentally, I don’t feel ready for any kind of bizarre and strong energetic occurrence. And certainly not for a kundalini awakening, which i have read to be a turbulent experience.  So I don’t chase it.

I have read accounts from people whose kundalini had awoken spontaneously or through intense meditation practice. In some of these stories, it caused lots of disruptions to these people mentally and physically. There was one story I read where this woman’s life was completely torn upside down by the kundalini rising.

Granted, there are other stories of people where the kundalini rose and the person was able to deal with it experiencing all sorts of psychic phenomena and abilities. This is very tempting for people to chase. Especially young men.

Many men would like to have X-Men Powers. X-Ray vision is especially useful to adolescent boys.

I decided that in my case, I will let the Kundalini rise by itself and without participating in specific exercises designed to manually rise it. If that means it will never rise in my lifetime, then I am fine with that.

So I never went back to any of these Sarajah yoga classes.

Do we need to follow gurus?

Without intended to be too critical (though I suppose it will sound like it), I wanted to share some personal thoughts about Sri Mataji.

Whenever I saw a picture of this women, I did not find her particularly attractive. I know – she is an elderly women, but what I mean is, that I don’t get any positive vibes from seeing her image. She has passed away now.

Physically, she seemed a bit overweight and was not really what I consider as someone in good physical condition or health.

In comparison I would say my father is far healthier looking. He doesn’t meditate. He does simple (yet physically hard) gardening work, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and eats simple foods.

Also my qigong teacher, Dorothea was in really good physical condition due to her tai qi and qigong practice, even though she was in her 70s (or late 60s) at the time, I met her. I trusted her.

I understand that when you follow this system, you have to spend a lot of time meditating on her image, the same way Buddhists meditate on an image of Buddha.

But personally, I don’t want to meditate on her image.


Conclusion of these three energetic accounts

These three accounts I have shared are not meant to give the impression that I am a particularly spiritual or mystical person. Obviously, I am not. These accounts are certainly very mild compared to things that other people, spiritual students or mystics have described.

I’ve had no hallucinations or synchronicities, no books flying off shelves, no visions in the jungle after taking ayahuasca. Or downloads from higher spiritual entities passing on their knowledge to me. Heck not even any aliens shoving things up my butt.

Just a basic perceiving of the energy.

I include these simple accounts for several reasons. Firstly, to show that energetic encounters and experiences are not so unusual and can be common.

We can all experience such things if we practice energy exercises, do meditation, and keep an open mind. There are lots of people out there that work and live with energy or do spiritual work and such things are accepted as a part of reality.

Energetic Universe

We are energy. For acupuncturists or other healers, we must remind ourselves that we are first and foremost energy healers. What we find on the body – the symptoms are a disorder of the energy flow. Whether that is meridians, chakras, or the auric field.

Though we may use a system, we are still working essentially with energy. It is easy to forget that and become systematic with our treatments. But this is the same as with western medicine – attempting to treat everyone as though they are the same.

Our work is about energy. Therefore developing our sensitivity to energy can only be to our advantage.

It is no coincidence that qigong is related to Chinese medicine. There is a historic relation.

Is energy work necessary for an energy worker?

It is true that we do not need to practice energy work in order to be good at acupuncture or healing, especially in Japan, where there are many acupuncturist who don’t do any qigong.

I do think they develop their sensitivities in other ways. For example, by repeating the same needling movement (in Toyohari) and regularly practicing in study groups.

But it is the energy work that provides that deeper dimension to acupuncture and healing.

“Put on the sunglasses”

Once you open up your awareness of energy, it does risk reminding a person that the physical world we live in is broader than our 5 senses tell us.

It even risks bringing other annoying questions to the forefront of our overactive minds.

Is there more to life than what we think? To this physical reality?

Or even more dangerous: Is the purpose of our life –  to work 8 hours, sleep 8 hours, play 8 hours, the largest illusion thrust upon modern mindkind?

The path less trodden

To attempt to follow a set path laid out in front of us and feel miserable if we fail at it. To consume goods and to compete with each other. All the time turning a blind eye to the contradictions and the destructions heaped upon the world.

Also to take our cue from the media, and voices of authority surrounding us, which in the last year has become almost hypnotic. This is the normal path.

Or do we dare to venture off the path. Ah… but there be risks. Like getting lost in the forest and wild animals. But it does open us up to new adventures, encounters and a broadening of our horizons. Along with the ability to at least see – that there is writing on the wall.

This is surely the shamanic path.

I leave it to the reader to decide for themselves based on their own filters and awareness whether to choose to believe what I say or to think I am mistaken or any other explanation. I don’t care either way. I know what I have experienced.

Perhaps I will have more significant and deeper spiritual and energetic experiences in the future. If I do, I’ll write about them here.

If anyone else has any stories to share, do please comment. I am open to listen.

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