• To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

    - Buddha
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How to Develop Power and Focus in Your Hara

Cultivating Energy in the Hara

Shiatsu and Reiki healers use this meditation technique. I first learned it while on retreat at the Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery. 

 

Sitting Posture: Legs Crossed in the Half-Lotus Position

Sitting Posture: Legs Crossed in the Half-Lotus Position

There are two basic sitting postures for harnessing powerful energy through your vital center. The two sitting postures are either performed crossed leg on the floor or sitting on the edge of a low stool or chair with your feet planted on the ground. 

Sitting in the crossed leg position is known as the ‘Lotus Posture’ and you can sit in either of two variations—half lotus or full lotus. In the sitting posture you will want to place a small cushion or folded towel under your bottom to lift your pelvis. This will slightly tuck the pelvis forward and prevent any strain in your lower back.

Once in the crossed leg position bring your attention to your head, neck and shoulders. Imaging a taut string attached to the center of the top of your head. Lengthen upward as if a puppeteer is pulling on the string. Neck straight, chin drawn slightly down and inward.  Relax your shoulders while inhaling deeply into your hara filling your entire body with fresh, revitalizing Ki.

Your shoulders should remain relaxed. Gently close your eyes halfway and gaze downward about ten feet in front of you. Take a moment to re-check the alignment of your spine. Is your nose aligned with your navel? Are your ears aligned over your shoulders?

 

The hands are particularly sensitive to Ki. How they are held during any practice has an influence on how Ki moves in, out and through the human system.

The hands are particularly sensitive to Ki. How they are held during any practice has an influence on how Ki moves in, out and through the human system.

Next follow this instruction from Shunryu Suzuki, in his classic Zen Mind, Beginner Mind“If you put your left hand on top of your right, middle joints of your middle fingers together, and touch your thumbs lightly together (as if you held a piece of paper between them), your hands will make a beautiful oval (photo above). You should keep this universal mudra with great care, as if you were holding something very precious in your hand. Your hands should be held against your body, with your thumbs at about the height of your navel. Hold your arms freely and easily, and slightly away from your body, as if you held an egg under each arm without breaking it.”

The hands are particularly sensitive to Ki. Hand positions, known asmudra in Sanskrit, are regarded as very important aspects of meditation practice. The position of the hands has an influence on the movement of the Ki energy.

Remain relaxed and release any muscle tension. Breathe naturally. Your breath will find its own pace and you may notice that it naturally slows and deepens. Inhale and exhale through your nose and allow the in-breath to sink deep into your abdomen.  Visualize your breath falling into a point just below your navel. This point is the tanden (or dantian in Chinese).

For thousands of years people in the East have developed methods to gather energy from the tanden, this is the source of primal wisdom and vital energy that resides within each of us.

Where Your Mind Goes Your Energy Follows

Allow your mind to settle on the rhythm of your breathing. Bring your attention fully to your hara. Each inhalation renews this source of energy while each exhalation draws from it. After ten minutes you may bring all of your attention to focus on the tanden. It may be helpful to imagine a point of gold light in the dark of your abdomen.

If your thoughts drift gently direct them back to the rhythm of your breath and onto the golden light at your center. Own that part of your body.

Allow the energy of the hara to move up your spine and throughout your body. This energized feeling is peace from being in balance.

It is while cultivating energy from the hara that the emptiness of non-doing brings you peace and brings you back to your source to your true nature.

Cultivating energy from this center point requires consistent practice. Stay humble and move through every moment of each day through your hara.

In the words of scholar, Christopher Markert, “When you engage the energy of your Dan-Tien (tanden), your daily tasks become artful activities in which you joyfully engage yourself.”

Being focused in your vital center is bliss, while any suffering is simply a communication from your Body and your Mind that you have lost touch with your true nature. In fact, one could even say that you are out of touch with Nature in general and the cosmic life force.

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Eros Heals

bigstockphoto_Chakra_Fire_441198It is easy to understand how physical and energetic blockages can occur anywhere in the body as a result of injury, infection, disease, abuse and unexpressed or overly expressed emotions.

Removing the blockage is the obvious first step in restoring balance to the human system. An open system with freely moving energy offers everyone the best chance for healing.

An important and often overlooked second-step comes from the world of spiritual healing:

 It is to revere the landscape of the physical body with eros.

This is not eros as sex but eros in its true origin, which is relatedness.

According to author Thomas Moore, the original Greek use of eros referred to the coherence that holds the entire universe together. It is in the thoughtful expression of eros that a highly spiritual form of Love has the potential to heal.

The key to encourage healing is to establish a connection that relates, not sympathetically, but through eros. For many this connection begins the unraveling of the original cause, or source of the block, and activates a greater facilitation of the bodies’ intuitions and impulses.

Plato once wrote that the aspect of eros, “is a coming to life in beauty in relation to both body and soul.” If a person truly loves him or herself then they will not feel ‘weakness’ during illness. This is to say that you do not lose your connection with source.

A revered body will intuitively listen to itself, understand its authentic needs and act accordingly.

If you revere your entire body, and not judge its passions and appetites, then you will be equipped in navigating your own healing.

_____________________

Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Suggested Reading: Thomas Moore’s The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love

 

Awakening The “Clay” Body

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.

Walt Whitman

Recently, I stumbled upon an argument on whether it is true that God made man out of clay. Are you serious? I thought to myself… And it dawned on me that perhaps not everyone can see the wisdom hidden inside the intentional imagery.

The allegory of a Creator making man from clay is found even in some myths from indigenous cultures. This post is on how the metaphor of being made from clay is relevant for our healing…

We all have an organic, carnal connection to Nature, to the earth.

 

Bliss is being in touch with our true nature, with Nature in general, and with the cosmic life force.

Bliss is being in touch with our true nature, with Nature in general, and with the cosmic life force.

This earthly essence is your physical body. Your body integrates feminine and masculine (yin and yang) attitudes in the pure movement of temporal phenomena.

Being aware of your ‘clay-ness’ awakens you to the importance of being grounded in everyday life.

In Eastern philosophy, suffering is considered a sign that we have lost our connection with Nature, with the earth and with the ground. 

Spiritual teachers impart a shared secret to all: to Love the worldly Creation. 

Your physical body is of tremendous importance for emotional and spiritual transformation because your body is tuned by the rhythms and cycles of Nature.

This is what it means to have been created from clay… we are dependent on the Earth for our vitality.

Although we may have high ideals or even, for some, transcendent aspirations we have to keep both feet on the ground and enjoy the blessings of Nature. 

In the realm of vibrational healing, the experience of Nature can be made more lucid by awakening the body.

Body Awake-ness is the original name of my healing practice. In vibrational healing I emphasize the energetic as organic structures in one’s physical body.

Everything with a material appearance is energy, not a transformation from energy into mass but energy creating mass and vice versa. These structures are palpable and easy to manipulate yet effect you at a subatomic, or, vibrational level.

This is one approach to clear restrictions or blocks held in the body. My belief is that the body-interactive process of the healing work that I’ve learned and continue to develop empowers and pumps up the volume of the Mind and Body dialogue so that the intellectual mind can embrace the body’s mysterious and intuitive expressions from Nature.

This is the tool that I teach to my clients, through firm and caring pressure, supported movement and meditation so that they may perceive a fuller present by employing their subconscious in making choices for their own healing and progress.

Physical and energetic blockages can occur anywhere in the body as a result of injury, infection, disease, abuse and unexpressed or overly expressed emotions.

Removing the blockage is only the first step in restoring balance to the system because, balance needs momentum, just like in Nature. An open system with freely moving energy offers us the best chance for healing.

“Un-Train” The Back Pain Cycle-Part 2

Healing Back Pain begins with a Two-Prong Approach that Targets the Pain both Mechanically and Mindfully.

Today’s blog post will cover the mechanical…

Healing back pain mechanically begins with eliminating the contributing physical problem and ineffective postural habit.

You and your family depend on a daily sequence of repetitive activities that you do all of the time.

Such as crossing the same leg when you sit, carrying your laptop over the same shoulder and even your daily commute to work which, if your drive, focuses movement mainly along your right leg and into your foot.

Eventually anything done the same way over a period of time will unbalance your postural muscles by throwing your body off center and leading to muscular compensation, physical tension and then to back pain.

You may not be able to determine which habits are having the most damaging effect. A postural assessment with a professional will help you see your blind spots.

A good place to start is with your sleeping position and the bags or cases that you carry daily. You can try sleeping on your other side, on your back or with a different pillow and begin carrying items on the opposite shoulder or with the other hand.

This allows you to exercise the weakened postural muscles while doing your normal activities, each time you do an activity in reverse you will be strengthening the weaker muscle group for the activity.

In as little as two weeks, this subtle change will create more balance within your body and you will feel less tension. You will also benefit by becoming more conscious, or mindful, of your postural habits. This will lead to greater self-awareness in all of your daily activities.

Pay attention to the little things. Like how you walk up or down the stairs and which foot you take your first step on. Do you lean your body forward feeling weight on the top of your legs? If so, then try using the back of your legs and buttocks with each step.

An imbalanced postural habit is often a muscular compensation that is relying on your strengths to protect your weaknesses. The problem is the weakness is not being challenged to get stronger and you feel ‘normal’ with the physical distortion caused by the muscular compensation.

A major area of concern for most people today is sitting at their desk in front of the computer and talking on the phone. You should be aware of:

  • putting the phone to the same ear with every conversation
  • hunching over in front of the computer and
  • using only the same muscles over and over.

Just by looking at the way someone is sitting and working at their desk you can predict the problems that will result from their imbalances.

Beginning to understand and work with your body from the perspective of the cause of your pain cycle is the first step to relieving pain and changing patterns of movement in your muscles, nervous system and meridian channels.  The second step is working with and changing your emotional habits that prevent you from fully recovering.

“Un-Train” The Back Pain Cycle-Part 1

Why does a successful treatment or postural exercise program work for some back pain sufferers but not everyone?

For most, it’s due to the partnership between the Mind and the Body. Your mindset and your individual emotional landscape shows through your physical structure. 

"Un-Train" The Back Pain Cycle!

"Un-Train" The Back Pain Cycle!

The cause of the pain may be unknown, or perhaps you’re sure that an injury has left you with recurring pain. Regardless, the only useful knowledge that will make you pain free and get you functioning at a healthy level of activity is How Your Mind and Your Body Work Together.

Our bodies works well when our minds works well and vice versa. The body’s meridian channels (energy pathways) are a direct path to creating balance in everyone’s body and mind.

I use a simple formula with most people: Healing pain is 50% physical and 50% mental. Healing can be encouraged by balancing the flow of energy in the body’s meridian channels during a Shiatsu session to help “un-train” the back pain cycle.

Pain, whether acute or chronic, may be frightening and, in my experience, is very personal. Standard medicine cannot measure it like an infection or broken wrist. No x-ray or exam can tell how much it hurts. Pain is an unique experience and everyone will experience and express their pain in their own way.

It has been medically proven that the exact injury experienced by a group of people will affect the individuals in different ways, depending on things such as:

  • The ‘circumstance’ in which your pain first occurred and returns
  • Your outlook on the pain, such as “this shall pass” vs. “this pain is a death sentence”
  • Your emotions associated with the pain. Does is make you feel depressed or anxious? Do you feel optimistic and know that it isn’t serious?
  • Your cultural influences determine whether you are stoic in your response to pain or tend to be more dramatic in showing pain to others

It is important to approach your pain with a two-prong approach that targets your pain mechanically and mindfully

The Five Elemental-Phases

A Shiatsu practioner must be versed in the functions of the five-elemental phases to thoroughly understand how to work with the body’s energy to encourage balance and harmony.

Each meridian is named after an internal organ. It is important to understand that the function of the specific meridian goes beyond the particular organ function.

Ki energy goes beyond organ function and is also associated with your emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

In an earlier post, I explained how the meridians are either yin or yang. From the perspective of the yin and yang theory it is easy to understand the Chinese view of the Universe. Harmony in Nature is found in the perpetual movement of phenomena.

In this view, yin and yang maintain a balance between one another. Another view of this perpetual movement comes in the balance of the Five-Element theory or Five-Phase theory.

The five-elements (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire) describe the manifestation of ki during a specific phase-like the type of weather during a specific season. Each elemental-phase stands for qualities and correspondences.

The Five-Elements are descriptions of certain qualities that pertain to particular phases of change. The Metal Element is associated with the qualities of Autumn and with the balance between rest and activity. This is reflected in breathing: whether air flows easily from the world into the body an out again.

The Metal Element is associated with the season of Autumn and with the balance between rest and activity. This is reflected in breathing: whether air flows easily from the world into the body and out again, or whether there is a permanent struggle between what is taken and what is given back.

Each elemental-phase can also be understood as an energetic quality of a particular function.

For example, one of the Metal Element’s defining functions is exchange with the environment.

Your physical lungs inhale oxygen, bringing healthy ki into the body and exhale carbon dioxide, expelling a state of ki that is beneficial to plant life.

The large intestine also participates in the elimination of waste from the body. These functions are supported by two meridians of the same name as the physical organs, the Lung meridian (yin) and the Large Intestine meridian (yang).

They are in effect the yin and yang aspects of the same function- like the two sides of the same coin.

Not letting go of emotional pain and issues with the bowels, such as constipation, are commonly seen in individuals with an upset in the Metal Element.

Essentially, the five-elements relate to differing states of ki energy. The elements correspond to certain functions and processes of the body, as well as to certain parts, emotions and physical phenomena.

Through in-depth knowledge of the elements and their corresponding organs, body parts, senses, emotions and symptoms, a healer–trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine–can feel an imbalance of ki in a particular meridian pair and work with the body’s energy to encourage balance and harmony.

Your Body’s Energy Pathways

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a person’s vitality depends on the subtle energy which flows through the body’s energy pathways. These pathways are called meridians. The meridians are classified in two groups:

  • First, the twelve regular meridians, which are associated with the functions of different internal organs. These channels flow to and from the hands and feet.
  • Second, the eight special meridians, which are not connected with any particular organ function.

Overtime, master healers learned that pressure on specific points on the body’s energy pathways would relieve certain symptoms. The next major discovery was that certain combinations of the acupressure points could also heal disorders that were caused by a malfunction in a certain organ.

By studying the relationship between the functions of the body and the acupressure points a system was formulated describing the energy pathways that flow through and connect the specific points.

Acupuncture ConceptIt is easy to understand the network of meridians and acupuncture points if you imagine your body as representing land. The meridians are your body’s main highways while the acupressure points are the gas stations. 

Just as people travel around the country by way of the highway and stop to refuel or get stuck in traffic or worse, run out of gas, your body can supply vital life energy to your internal organs and transform your emotional health by way of the meridians.

The body’s subtle energy, known as Ki in Japanese, concentrates within the meridians. The twelve regular meridians, mentioned earlier, run vertically along the body.

Each of the meridians are named after a physical organ, for example the Heart meridian, and is identified as either yin or yang.

Additionally, two of the eight special meridians are particularly important because they monitor the twelve regular meridians and have many important pressure points. In shiatsu, these two meridians are called: the Conception Vessel and the Governing Vessel and they run through the vertical midline in the front and back of the body.

The Six Pairs of Meridians and their Yin/Yang Associations are:

       YIN                            YANG                      
Lung (LU)                    Large Intestine (LI)
Spleen (SP)
                 Stomach (ST)
Heart (HT)
———–       Small Intestine (SI)
Kidney (KI)
———–     Urinary Bladder (UB)
Pericardium (PC)
—-   Triple Heater (TH)
Liver (LV)
————      Gall Bladder (GB)

It’s important to understand that the properties of the meridians are founded on the functions of the organs and not the organs themselves.

Besides the yin and yang divisions, qualities of appearance are further subdivided into five transformational phases. These phases flow into one another just like the changing of the seasons, they are known as the five-elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire.

As stated earlier, each meridian along the body is identified as being either yin or yang and is then associated with one of the five-elemental transformations.

The Meridians and Their Elements:

Lung and Large Intestine — Metal
Spleen and 
Stomach — Earth
Heart and
 Small Intestine —Fire
Kidney and 
Urinary Bladder — Water
Pericardium and 
Triple Heater — Fire
Liver and
 Gall Bladder — Wood

Despite the actual definition of the word meridian, which means longitudinal lines circling the planet, the original Chinese concept of the body’s energetic pathways means to have the quality of a flowing river or stream.

Shiatsu and Energetic Healing aim to balance the flow of Ki throughout the meridians and to relieve any blockages.