The Do Re Me of Meditation

You need to do it for it to work, you need to know what to do for it to work, you need an idea of what it is to know where and how to start doing it….

So many reasons why people struggle with the idea of meditation…you actually have to do something, something that requires structure, discipline and a proactive approach to an activity that for many is intangible. Practice is full of contradiction and encourages us to take responsibility for our actions, it’s as much about life as it is the moment, the former enriched through the latter.

So every day, start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.

When you read you begin with A-B-C

When you sing you begin with do-re-mi

When you meditate you begin with me – me – me

me – me – me, me – me – me

The first three thoughts just have to be

me – me – me

Then sit – connect – and breathe

Lets see if I can make this simple so it’s easy to repeat.

Me, without me I cannot start, I am at the heart of this important part,

Sitting is something I can easily do, on the bed a chair or in the front room,

Connect with self, moon and sun, eight directions all become one,

Breath is life and life is breath, meditation implies no less,

Now people, me – sit – connect and so on

are only the ingredients we use to build our song,

Once you have these actions in your head,

you can sing a million different tunes by developing them,

the tools with which to best evolve are many and much devolved,

but I think you’ll find the simplest way is always easiest to obey,

life is busy with much to do, keeping it simple gives more space to you.

With your health intact you will in fact

find a life that sings, feeling no need to act,

songs of all kinds factual and fiction free from regret, delusion or  confusion,

life is for singing so don’t waste your breath,

Meditate as and when but remember… simple is always best.

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Mountain Qigong and Meditation (Da Shan Qigong) Sunday 3rd November 2013

Da Shan Meditation is a powerful, accessible meditation set that uses posture, breath and intent to calm the mind and strengthen the body to develop self awareness, discipline and inner calm.

Rest, relax and rejuvenate. This Meditation and gentle Qi Gong day will enable you to connect with your body, relax your mind and strengthen the flow of energy through your body.

Sunday’s seminar will look in more detail at the sitting and standing elements of the meditation. Exploring the physical structure and foundation of the body whilst further developing visualisation exercises to gain the most from the practice.

Running from 10am-1pm, in the beautiful Lakes, means we get to meditate at a key part of the day and allows you to go and explore a little as well.

Look forward to seeing you there. 

Positively Refreshing – Qi Gong Daily

A hook, an in, a catch

A connection, point of contact, a reminder

A rhythm for the day

A pace

A datum point

A means to positively and calmly commence the day, a gentle awakening for the body, breath and mind, a gradual call to action

A foundation on which to build

A base to which you can retreat

A place of positive beginnings…starting as you mean to go on calm, happy and centred.

Meditation and Qi Gong have daily practical and health benefits that are easily accessible, if you can spare three minutes sitting on the side of your bed each morning then you have the makings of a all of the above.

Daily practice of simplified Deer, Crane and Turtle exercises followed by a simplified traditional Longevity set such as Li Ching Yuen’s 6 exercises will get your day of to a refreshing start. 

Meditation, self acceptance, respect for others and a happier world.

Acceptance of self leads to acceptance in general, a softening of your personal barriers, judgements and prejudices. If we are open, we can connect with and accept ourselves for who we are, what we feel and how best to live our lives.

From a place of acceptance we access gateways to a happier place, where we appreciate ourselves and are accepting of others. Cutting through the nature nurture debates, the class distinctions, social conditioning, gender stereotyping, self loathing, obsessing, adoring, informed and uninformed judging of others, the need to put yourself; feelings, opinions and prejudices before all else.

With meditation we can develop discipline to aid our health and energy to establish a calm centre. Clarity can be gained not only in a spiritual sense but in a logical rational sense, an ability to listen and absorb without judgement. It is not to say we don’t  experience confusion but that extreme emotions do not dominate our person. Remaining open to but not being unbalanced by the ‘Many Minds’, asking questions of ourselves, challenging our options, decisions and life choices instead attacking or avoiding as a form of defence. We can only embrace ourselves by overcoming our fears, judgements and prejudices, learning to trust ourselves and accept what is.

Calmness provides a grounding that removes the need to judge, assume and critique.  Acceptance removes fear of self and others, lowering barriers and defence mechanisms. We are easily and often inspired by the words of others, they light a spark, a feeling deep inside but ‘their’ words maintain our fantasy ensuring action is theirs and not ours. It’s how most of us want all things, as dreams, academic discussions, material possessions, opinions or lifestyles of others for us to judge, resent or worship.

If we are open to accepting the person we are, we become a step closer to accepting others and as such a lot closer to achieving a happier world. 

Marital arts should be relevant to real life not ‘the street’.

More and more I see adverts for martial arts classes making reference to ‘the street’ and how this or that art is the best as a result. I appreciate real life plays out on not just one but many streets but it is the essence of the issue with which I I have a problem. A Martial Art should contribute to the development of a person to better help humanity, a vehicle for health, happiness, understanding and contentment.  

There is a key role of martial arts in history that should not be overlooked, but its’ physical relevance in todays society has evolved. A basic interpretation of an arts practicality ‘on the street’ is, I hope, one of self-defence. Interpreting, transferring and evolving a technique learnt from a form, or in a dojo, to be effective in a real life self-defence situation.

Many a martial artist seem obsessed with an Arts’ relevance on ‘the street’. What street? There are some extremely proficient martial artists who would be able to make most things work on most streets, however, the times I have heard a teacher pronounce ‘this is how it happens on ‘the street’ it has been clear they have never been on the street they are making reference to in anything other than a fantasy world they created in their head.

Everything in Martial Arts comes down to context and interpretation. The application of the physical self-defence element focuses on one small element of an art, which in many respects signifies the failure of all other aspects of a practitioners martial arts training.

Creating a relevant context for martial practice that facilitates intelligent thinking, feel, decision-making, contextual awareness and the application of relevant techniques poses a challenge. Life and times have changed, for some practitioners their lives still require and facilitate the application of martial physical skill but for most that is not the case. Teachers need a ‘hook’ to attract students. The biggest problem this creates is not weather or not a technique is relevant or ‘would work on the street’ but the creation of a fantasy world in which these martial arts practitioners reside and the resulting self doubt that dogs the few who question their Arts’ relevance.  

The idea of the ‘street’ and the way it is marketed is quite brutal. As a Martial Artist I went looking for the ‘street’, I found people of all backgrounds and outlooks, on the whole I didn’t find martial artists. Mostly, real proficiency on the street came from a type of person most would not like to associate with or be compared to. Fuelled by anger, drink, drugs, hate, a love of fighting and hurting others. These are not attributes of a martial artist.

The street can be organized, clumsy, inconsistent, unreliable, violent, friendly, cold, wet, hot busy, quiet, full of individuals or groups…

The safe navigation of which is all down to a healthy awareness, interpretation of context and knowledge of self. A full martial arts system can help you achieve this and become a better person. If you want to become proficient on the street you don’t need martial arts, the street is no different to any other arena; to be proficient takes time, experience and practice. As an individual you need to ask what you are looking for and as a teacher you have a responsibility to ask what it is you are imparting and advocating. 

Martial Arts are a powerful tool. Used for good or bad all falls within the realm of the Tao, but it is up to us to make a decision we believe to be in the interest of humanity. 

Practice: It’s not easy, if it was we’d all be doing it.

Our lives are busy and the constant gaze of society means it’s not even on the horizon of our thought process when we get up in the morning. For some an urge to do it makes a brief apparition before they snuggle in for another five minutes of warmth and rest, there are a select few obsessive compulsives who jump out of bed filled with a an overwhelming desire to practice. For most it’s buried so far behind the myriad of other things they need to do once they’ve had a coffee that it seems irrelevant.

For most of us we need structure and guidance to practice.

Despite much rhetoric, practice in meditation is neither easy or natural, but once it gets hold of us we want it in our lives. Like most forms of activity when we’re doing it we love it and appreciate how much we need it. It’s the doing it that’s hard.

I trained with a lot of people who, if their teacher was in residence, would fight to be the first out of bed to show how diligently they practiced. Their insecurity, form and application told the real story of their day to day, week to week training and development. The internal arts are so full of contradictions it is difficult for a student who has a goal of “improvement” to know what to do. The classics of Chinese Martial and Meditative Arts pave the way to more questions than answers.

You know you’ve cracked it when your art it is part of who you are, part of your essence, a feeling that moves with you, positively supportive. Different for everyone and evolving with time. Wanting but not needing, looking forward to but not feeling pressured, embracing and letting go of inner pressure. I’m guessing it’s nice, but it’s not easy. 

Reluctance

Reluctance in one part of your life will often reflect issues in other areas. It is the people who would benefit from meditation and Qi Gong that find themselves repulsing it.

There is a fine line between love and hate, yin and yang. Sometimes the effort it takes to repulse health and change is what pushes us over the edge to physical or psychological breakdown. For some it is breakdown that forces the change, but surely it makes more sense to embrace a positive change without flicking the self destruct button and causing the body immeasurable distress.

We all have things that ordinarily we would never consider doing but if the opportunity presents itself it seems a shame not to give it a go. A belief that something does not work, or will make you look silly may seem relevant but there is nothing lost in making your outlook a little more informed. We all realise pretty quickly that the considerations of others tend not to venture too far from themselves in such matters.

The beauty of a relaxed guided meditation is the creation of space and opportunity, the chance for you to connect with your body and open your mind on a deeper level or through different means. Positive change is not always initiated by something tangible, it is funny what can resonate with the body once given a chance.

Our reluctance to embark on something new often reflects our need to control our immediate context. That same need for control can harbour or be be the route of stress or other health conditions in your body and mind. When be become detached from our body it can be difficult for us to accept there is a problem. From the outside looking in it can be more apparent, but ultimately only you can make the decision.

It might not be the meditation that makes the difference but the fact you were open to change and took that step into the unknown, opening the mind and body to something new. 

If not now then when? All in good time :)

The root of most illness lies with us, we have the ability to address the underlying cause of our problems, to make decisions to empower ourselves if we so wish.

This is by no means easy, there are lots of reasons why addressing anything to do with ourselves is difficult. The main obstacle being ourselves and that strange feeling that overcomes us when we start to relax, think and give ourselves the freedom to connect with out innermost feelings. In the first instance the questions we ask ourselves often create more confusion than clarity, but with an open mind it can be an amazing process of self discovery. We just need to lose the fear of the unknown.

I am a believer in the ethos that what is meant to be will be, when I’m ready I will engage. Stimuli for such engagement lie in the strangest places but I happily accept that the way life is. For the most part, I like most, carry on with life content with a general plan and the day to day busyness that life throws at me until it overwhelms me to the point I need to take a bit of time to refresh. I’m a firm believer in engaging with the non-conscious, non logical part of our being, but appreciate that in the short term it can often seem easier to ignore it and to carry on.

Addressing any physical or psychological issue takes time and is not always a tangible process. Sometimes when injured physically I rest, sometimes not, I find it a lot easier to overcome a physical issue than when I feel close to being psychologically broken. When this feeling is present in my life I know I need to rest, my mind keeps my body and everything else together. My psychological and physical existence go hand in hand, you can only ‘dig in’ so many times, pushing that extra mile can be like going a bridge too far. Context, relevance and the bigger picture are all key in making any decision that is right for you.

Seminars are good because they enable you to take a time out, if for nothing more than yourself. You may rest, relax, rejuvenate, learn something new, meet new people or just have a new experience. Everybody takes something different from a seminar or teaching and sharing interaction of any kind.

All I do as a person and a teacher is look for ways for me to better connect with my body and mind thus enriching my health, sustainability and life decision making processes. The Chinese Health Arts have some really powerful tools to help achieve such a basic but complex goal, Qi Gong Tai Chi and meditation provide a wonderfully powerful tool for self engagement and development if given the chance.

I am a believer in doing things you enjoy a walk, bike ride, dance or song are all good ways of connecting with yourself on a deeper level. I love the balance that the physicality of Judo provides in my life but relish the chance to focus on the simple things from time to time; breathing, me and my surroundings.

Most of us have reflected that we’ll do x or y or make changes and never did. That’s life, all in good time, but it’s worth remembering that the power for change lies with you. I read this quote today and thought it apt for so many things.

“There are many wonderful things that will never be done if you do not do them.” – Charles D. Gill

From this point we should all move on. 

What’s with all the pretence?

I returned from to the UK from the US on Friday. I had spent 10 days competing and training in Judo at the Olympic Training Centre, in Colorado Springs. It was lovely, hard work in a training specific environment with everything from food, equipment and physio support dedicated to helping Olympic and Paralympic athletes from mixed sporting backgrounds achieve their goals. The athletes were obviously motivated and dedicated but most of all they were friendly and supportive.

On Saturday afternoon I headed to a local castle with my wife to give the kids a chance to fly their new lightening McQueen kites. Altitude in Colorado made walking up the stairs hard work, Jet lag made walking up the hill just as hard but I was reliably informed by my daughter that was the best place to fly the kite.

On reaching the top I saw what looked like a Yoga practitioner striking some very impressive posses whilst their partner took photos. Impressed at their obvious strength and flexibility and ensuring the kids did not get in the way of the shots I smiled and said hello. Their reaction was dismissive, cold and arguably ignorant. It’s a kind of arrogance or superiority you unfortunately see all too often in the health arts.

I could not help but think I how I had spent the last week with people from all over the world kicking the stuffing out of each other and they were all friendly and nice. There seems to be an inherent flaw in the many of the health arts. Such arrogance may be a result of insecurity, but whatever the reason the balance people love to talk about is all too often lacking.

When all is said and done we practice breathing and movement for health, nothing special or mysterious. The health benefits should positively affect the body and mind and if successful should be reflected in our day to day behaviour. At the bottom of the hill we met some extremely friendly dog walkers, likely no extreme flexibility or breathing techniques at their disposal but plenty of good, healthy, strong energy. There are lessons to be learnt in all walks of life and from all people. Pretence is a disguise like any other and there is no place for it in honest, healthy practice.

Why are Tai Chi and Qi Gong good for you?

As the adage goes we tend to appreciate things more once they are gone or they have been changed without our consent. Keeping it simple is an easy way to explore the complex more esoteric aspects of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Assessing the merits of practice against a clear tangible is always good.

Injury is a classic example. Having recently spent five hours in A & E waiting for an X Ray on a suspected broken foot I was afforded a little time for contemplation. Along with the pain, frustration and inability to do what you can ordinarily comes the realisation that the body is inextricably linked to the mind and that all parts have a role to play.

Damage to my foot was incurred 2 hours earlier, on a Judo mat during a squad training session, the result was significant swelling and comprehensive pain. Unable to apply any pressure to my foot my mind was turning to an important competition in the US just 4 weeks away, accompanied by the clear realisation I am a very poor wheel chair driver!

You can appreciate much more not only the role of the specific part of the body that is hurt but of those supporting joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. We realise all too suddenly that we are fallible. The good news was that it was tendon and ligament damage and not a break, a very friendly but vague doctor recommended rest, pain relief (lots of, all kindly provided but not used) then to get it moving again after a couple of days.

Happy in the knowledge there was no break I set about establishing my own programme for recovery and on-going training built around simple joint mobilisation, Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises. Two weeks after being pushed into hospital my foot is understandably not as strong as it was prior to injury but with the support of strapping and my knowledge of Tai Chi and Qi Gong I am back training and looking forward to 3 Competitions in 3 weeks culminating in the US Open on July 14th

There are clear tangible benefits to Tai Chi and Qi Gong as well as some less so. For me in this instance the gentle, flowing and some times challenging movements as well as the heightened awareness that Tai Chi and Qi Gong offer have served me well. It feels good to teach something you believe in.