Soul Compliance – Learning From the Body’s Lessons

To the ancient Greeks, every physical symptom was seen as a visitation from the gods. Whatever afflicted the body was divine, a holy messenger, a whispered secret from the guardian spirits alerting us that the soul was in need of a course correction. The ailments of the body were really cures for the soul. And whatever cured the soul was the fundamental and necessary medicine for the body. By addressing the symptoms — listening to them, Every second is a chance to turn your life aroundhonoring them, being with them, welcoming their divinity — the soul would find its way through the mists, and the grey clouds raining poison on the body would lift.

Let’s take a look at low energy, for example. What could it possibly be a cure for? What messages can lethargy and fatigue bring, and how would it be a blessing from the gods that could cure an ailment in the soul and thus complete the sacred circle and bring restoration back to the body? Well, interestingly enough, any disorder that brings us low energy is often the only way to slow us down. Speed is the disease. Low energy is the cure. It’s a remedy for when we aren’t attending to our deeper needs, when we’re lost in the business of doing and forgetting how to simply be and feel.

Like it or not, low energy brings us into compliance with the slower pace of the soul. It’s mandatory meditation, a forced vacation. It urges us to discover where our energy leakages are and where our life truly wants to go. Find the messages the gods are delivering through this ailment and you’ve found a cure for your life and for the body that was kind enough to slow you down and bring you home. Are you feeling low energy because there’s something wrong with your body, or because you need to be in touch with If you change nothing nothing will changethe reality that you work hard and require rest?

No matter what the cause, whatever we consider the disease is still the cure. Even if your fatigue is catalyzed by a food allergy, the wrong diet, a parasite, or poor sleep, you can only find the remedy to restore your body to health once you slow down, pay attention, care for yourself, look for help, and explore. It matters little to the soul what mechanism it employs to alert us to its calling.

And what would you imagine excess weight to be a cure for? For many, it’s a wake-up call for a life out of balance. It asks us to look at our relationship to the earth, to each other, and to ourselves. Obesity is not the highly personal issue it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it is personal, but there’s a more important layer of understanding available through this divine symptom. Excess weight is a companion to industrialized nations and to Third World people eating mass-produced food. It’s the harbinger of a collective experiment gone wrong. It’s the cure for ignorance that would have us believe we can move as a society at a blinding pace — a speed at which it’s difficult to see the results of our actions.

Depending on the study you consider, 96 percent to 99 percent of all people who lose weight on a weight-reducing diet gain it back within one to two years. Yet few researchers have paid attention to the small percentage that keeps it off. Amazingly, what most of them I choosehave to say is that they had a significant life change — a career move, a much-needed divorce, a new love, a spiritual experience, a breakthrough sexual relationship, and so on. In other words, their stories changed, their loads were lightened, and their metabolisms transformed via the chemistry of the soul.

By Marc David

Originally published in Skin Deep. Copyright 2005. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, & Weight Loss by Marc David, Copyright 2005, Inner Traditions/Bear & Company, 800/246-8648, www.innertraditions.com.

The Nocebo Effect: How Negative Thoughts Can Harm Your Health

Most of us have heard of “the placebo effect”—the heal-inducing effect patients in clinical trials experience when they believe they’re getting a fancy new drug or surgery but are actually getting fake treatment. The placebo effect is real. It works about eighteen to eighty percent of the time, and it’s not just in your head—it actually dilates bronchi, heals ulcers, makes warts disappear, drops your blood pressure, and even makes bald men who Placebo effectthink they’re getting Rogaine grow hair!

Unwanted Side Effects

But the placebo effect has a shadow side. The same mind-body power that can heal you can also harm you. When patients in double-blinded clinical trials are warned about the side effects they may experience if they’re given the real drug, approximately twenty-five percent experience sometimes severe side effects, even when they’re only taking sugar pills.

Those treated with nothing more than placebos often report fatigue, vomiting, muscle weakness, colds, ringing in the ears, taste disturbances, memory disturbances, and other symptoms that shouldn’t result from a sugar pill.

Interestingly, these “nocebo” complaints aren’t random; they tend to arise in response to the side effect warnings on the actual drug or treatment. The mere suggestion that a patient may experience negative symptoms in response to a medication (or a sugar pill) may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you tell a patient treated with a placebo he might experience nausea, he’s likely to feel nauseous. If you suggest that he might get a headache, he may. Patients given nothing but saline who thought it was chemotherapy actually threw up and lost their hair!

When You Think You’re Going to Die

In another study, patients about to undergo surgery who were “convinced” of their impending death were compared to another group of patients who were merely “unusually apprehensive” about death. While the apprehensive bunch fared pretty well, those who were convinced they were going to die usually did.

Similarly, women who believed they were prone to heart disease were four times more likely to die. It’s not because these women had poorer diets, higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, or stronger family histories than the women who didn’t get heart disease. The only difference between the two groups was their beliefs.

The nocebo effect is probably most obvious in “voodoo death”—when a person is cursed, told they will die, and then dies. The notion of voodoo death doesn’t just apply to witch doctors in tribal cultures. The literature shows that patients believed to be terminal who are mistakenly informed that they have only a few months to live have died within their given time frame, even when autopsy findings reveal no physiological explanation for the early death.

Dr. Steve’s Story

In response to what I said in my latest TEDx talk about the placebo effect’s evil twin, “the nocebo effect,” L. Chas sent me an email, telling me the story of her brother Steve, who was a physician diagnosed with the exact same illness that was his specialty. When he was diagnosed with malignant tumors in both lungs, his doctors told him that he had five years to live, and knowing what he knew about the disease, Steve believed this.

Exactly five years later, to the day, he was snorkeling in Maui when he was found unconscious on the shore. Steve was resuscitated, but he had been without oxygen to the brain for over four minutes and wound up in a coma until his family chose to withdraw life support.

L. Chas wrote, “More than anything else, I think my brother believed that, when diagnosed with his disease, a patient has ‘five good years left.’ Just as you’ve said in your videos: the nocebo effect. So sad it had to go this way.”

Medical Hexing

Every time your doctor tells you that you have an “incurable” illness or that you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life or that you have a five-percent five-year survival, they’re essentially cursing you with a form of “medical hexing.” They don’t mean to. They’re not trying to harm you. They know not what they do.

Doctors think they’re telling it to you straight, that you deserve to know, that you should be realistic and make arrangements, if necessary. But when they say such things, they instill in your conscious and subconscious mind a belief that you won’t get well, and as long as the mind holds this negative belief, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you’ll never recover, you won’t.

The Moral of This Story

After reading through the 3500+ case studies documented in the medical literature in the Spontaneous Remission Project, which was compiled by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, I now believe there’s no such thing as an incurable illness. If you or someone you love is suffering from a “chronic,” “incurable,” or “terminal” illness and you want to optimize the chance for spontaneous remission, you have to start by cleansing your mind of any negative beliefs that will sabotage your self-healing efforts. My upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself offers tips for how you can change your negative beliefs to positive ones in order to optimize your chances.

What Do You Believe?

Do you believe you’ll be on meds for the rest of your life? Are you resigned to the prognosis your doctor gave you? Or are you motivated to try to activate your body’s innate self-repair mechanisms by shifting your beliefs from negative ones to positive ones?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

With faith in your journey,

Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is the creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.

A POWERFUL concept; please click on the video link above to obtain more info on this amazing process. Reblogged with Gratitude from http://www.positivelypositive.com/2013/01/23/the-nocebo-effect-how-negative-thoughts-can-harm-your-health/

How to Build Self Confidence: 6 Essential and Timeless Tips

confidence cat lion pix “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.”
Helen Keller

“Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Brian Tracy

“Confidence is courage at ease.”
Daniel Maher

I believe that one of the most common wishes is simply to feel more confident in various situations in life.

But how?

Confident friends may say: “Well, just be confident, man!” However, to a person that doesn’t feel that confident this piece of advice may not be very helpful. At all.

There are however some time-tested and timeless advice. And in this article I’ll explore some of those tips. You can learn much more about becoming more sure of yourself and building your inner strength and assertiveness in my 12-week Self-Esteem Course.

Now, I hope you will find something useful in this article to help you improve and maintain your own levels of confidence.

1. Take action. Get it done.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.”
Thomas A. Bennett

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”
Thomas Carlyle

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Dale Carnegie

The most important step in building self confidence is simply to take action. Working on something and getting it done. Sitting at home and thinking about it will just make you feel worse. Simple. But not always easy to do. To make it a bit easier, here are a three of my favourite ways to make it easer to take action:

  • Be present. This will help you snap out of over thinking and just go and do whatever you want to get done. This is probably the best tip I have found so far for taking more action since it puts you in a state where you feel little emotional resistance to the work you’ll do. And it puts you in state where the right actions often just seem to flow out of you in a focused but relaxed way and without much effort. One of the simplest ways to connect with the present moment is just to keep your focus on your breathing for a minute or two.
  • Lighten up. One way to dissuade yourself from taking action is to take whatever you are about to do too seriously. That makes it feel too big, too difficult and too scary. If you on the other hand relax a bit and lighten up you often realize that those problems and negative feelings are just something you are creating in your own mind. With a lighter state of mind your tasks seems lighter and become easier to get started with. Have a look at Lighten Up! for more on this.
  • Really, really want it. Then taking action isn’t something you have to force. Taking action becomes a very natural thing. It’s something you can’t wait to do.

2. Face your fear.

“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear.”
William Jennings Bryan

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Look, I could tell you to do affirmations or other exercises for months in front of your mirror. It may have a positive effect. Just like preparing yourself it may help you to take I may not be there yet quoteaction with more confidence.

But to be frank, if you don’t listen to the quotes above and face your fears you won’t experience any better self confidence on a deeper and more fundamental level. Having experiences where you face your fear is what really builds self confidence. There is no way around it.

However, there are ways to face your fears that do not include that much shaking of the knees. There are ways to make it easier for yourself.

  • Be curious. When you are stuck in fear you are closed up. You tend to create division in your world and mind. You create barriers between you and other things/people. When you shift to being curious your perceptions go SWOOSH! and the world just opens up. Curiosity is filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. It opens you up. And when you are open and enthusiastic then you have more fun things to think about than focusing on your fear. How do you become more curious? One way is to remember how life has become more fun in the past thanks to your curiosity and to remember all the cool things it helped you to discover and experience.
  • Realize that fear is often based on unhelpful interpretation. As humans we like to look for patterns. The problem is just that we often find negative and not so helpful patterns in our lives based on just one or two experiences. Or by misjudging situations. Or through some silly miscommunication. When you get too identified with your thoughts you’ll believe anything they tell you. A more helpful practise may be to not take your thoughts too seriously. A lot of the time they and your memory are pretty inaccurate.

3. Understand in what order things happen.

One of my favourite snippets of movie-dialogue is this one from the 1999 film “Three Kings”.

In this scene Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) wants the small team to save a fellow soldier and steal Saddam’s gold just after the first Gulf War has ended.

The young soldier Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) has his doubts about the plan:

Archie Gates: You’re scared, right?
Conrad Vig: Maybe.
Archie Gates: The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it.
Conrad Vig: That’s a dumbass way to work. It should be the other way around.
Archie Gates: I know. That’s the way it works.

Great movie. Great little piece of dialogue. Even though it may not be what people want to hear.

The thing is, when you do things you don’t just build confidence in your ability to handle different situations. You also experience progressive desensitization. What that means is that situations – like for example public speaking or maybe just showing your latest blogpost to an audience out there – that made you feel all shaky become more and more normal in your life. It is not longer something you psyche yourself up to do. It just becomes normal. Like tying your shoes, hanging out with your friends or taking a shower.

It may seem scary now. But after having done whatever you fear a few to a dozen times or so you may think: “Is that it?” You almost feel disappointed of how anticlimactic it has become. You may even get a bit angry with yourself and wonder why you avoided doing it for so long.

4. Prepare.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self- confidence is preparation.”
Arthur Ashe

When you know nothing of what you are about to do it’s very easy to get lost in vague, foggy fear and start building big horror scenarios in your mind of what may happen if you give it a try.

Preparing yourself and educating yourself can be a big help here. By for example rehearsing and rewriting your speech over and over you can pretty much learn it by heart. By doing research you can find breathing techniques that can quickly make you calmer and present. Or simple visualization techniques that make you feel more confident and positive as you step out on the stage.

This is obviously more work than not doing anything about the speech at all before you start giving it. But it can make a huge difference in your confidence levels if you take the time to prepare yourself. And of course, the speech and the delivery of it will most likely be a lot better too.

So prepare and you will feel more comfortable and confident. Just don’t make the mistake of getting stuck in the preparation phase and using it as a way to avoid taking action and the possible pain that it may result in.

5. Realize that failure or being wrong will not kill you.

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”
Peter T. Mcintyre

“I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.”
Allen H. Neuharth

Again, you have to face your fear. Because it is only then that you discover the thing that billions of people throughout history have discovered before you. Failure won’t kill you. Nor will being wrong. The sky will not fall down. That’s just what people that haven’t faced their fear yet think.

The thing is to reframe failure from being something that makes your legs shake to something useful and important for the growth of your self confidence and your overall growth as a human being. Here are four ways that failure can help you out:

  • You learn. Instead of seeing failure as something horrible you can start to view it more as a learning experience. When standing in the middle of a failure, you can ask yourself questions like: What’s awesome about this situation? What can I learn from this situation?
  • You gain experiences you could not get any other way.  Ideally, you probably want to learn from other people’s mistakes and failures. That’s not always easy to do though. Sometimes you just have to fail on your own to learn a lesson and to gain an experience no one can relate to you in mere words.
  • You become stronger. Every time you fail you become more accustomed to it. You realize more and more that it’s not the end of the world. And, again, you get desensitized. You can handle things that would have been very hard to handle a few years back. Failing can also a have an exhilarating component because even though you failed you at least took a chance. You didn’t just sit on you hands doing nothing. And that took quite a bit of courage and determination.
  • Your chances of succeeding increases. Every time you fail you can learn and increase your inner strength. So every failure can make you more and more likely to succeed.

And remember, the world doesn’t revolve around you. You may like to think so. But it Keep Goingdoesn’t. People really don’t care that much about what you do. They have their own life, problems and worries that the world revolves around them to focus on. They don’t think that much about you or are constantly monitoring what you do wrong or when you fail.

Maybe a disappointing thought. But a liberating and relieving one too because now you can let go of that worry that everyone is watching you.

6. Get to know who you are and what you want out of life.

“The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.”
Napoleon Hill

“Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school; join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.”
Douglas Bader

To build and find more confidence in yourself you have to get to know yourself better. Go exploring. Face some of your fears. Fail over and over and understand that it isn’t really that big of a deal. Grow stronger through such experiences and also become more internally relaxed. Figure out what really excites you by simply trying a whole bunch of stuff out.

When you know more about who you are and what you want out of life – not other people say you want – you will have more confidence in yourself and what you can do.

What other people say or think will have less of an impact than it used to because you know who you are better than they do. And since you have had all these experiences, since you have taken time to really get to know yourself and stretch yourself you will trust your own opinion and ability more than anything outside of you. You become stable and centred in yourself.

This will of course take time. It may be something that never really ends. So you might as well get started now.

Post written by Henrik Edberg and reblogged with Gratitude from http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2009/02/20/how-to-build-self-confidence/

MASSAGE MEDICINE:™ Healing Mind, Body & Spirit

Moving Through Life

We’re busier than ever with longer workdays, less leisure time, shorter lunch hours, longer commutes, and more demands than ever before. We may even be in a job that doesn’t fulfill us, yet we spend most of our time there. When the day ends, we have almost no energy left to do what we enjoy. We live in a society that gives us ongoing mixed messages: Moving through life Transitions with Power & Purposeone message has us aggressively achieving success, another collapsing in front of a TV or computer screen for “relaxation,” and another working out to achieve a perfect body. We need to find a balance between hyperactivity and healthy activity.

Plenty has been written about the therapeutic benefits of exercise. So, why aren’t more people reaping those benefits and moving toward health and well-being? We need to reexamine our notion of what exercise and movement are and consider what we’re moving toward or away from. Then we can begin to ask ourselves other questions: Not just are we fit, but are we physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy? Are we happy? Do we enjoy how we’re moving through life? How can we integrate more healing movement into our days?

Exercise as “Medicine”
We sometimes see more barriers than options to exercise. But what if we reoriented our point of view to notice where the opportunities lie? We can begin by simply redefining exercise (with its sometimes negative connotation of obligation) to movement. Already opportunities arise: How do we want to move in our bodies and in our lives? How can we have fun doing that? How can we move more (or maybe less, if we need to slow down)? How does it feel to be still? How can we make time to move into pleasure, to move with pleasure? Already, the notion of movement takes on a more healing expression. Rather than simply being another item on our to do list, it becomes a way for us to examine our lives, to see where we can move toward health, and use physical activity as a way to support this.

“When most people think of medicine, they visualize something material like a pill to be popped, a liquid to be swallowed, or an injection to be endured,” writes Carol Krucoff, author of Healing Moves: How to Cure, Relieve, and Prevent Common Ailments with Exercise (Harmony Books, 2000). “Some might also consider surgery, tests, or procedures … [But] simple physical activity can have profound healing effects.”

Krucoff, who cowrote the book with her husband, Mitchell, a Duke University cardiologist, advocates movement as preventive medicine, saying it’s an ideal way to combat the increasing number of inactivity-related health conditions such as heart disease and obesity. This could actually be expanded to include stress-related conditions. In fact, it’s often this combination of inactivity and increased stress that wreaks havoc on our immune system, endocrine system, and circulatory system. Every system in our body, in fact, responds to stress and inactivity. But, if this is true, then the inverse is also true: every system in our bodies will also respond to movement and pleasure. To make movement pleasurable and to use it as a way to reconnect with our bodies is, in many ways, the perfect antidote to the cycle of inactivity/hyperactivity and stress. As we move more in this way, we gain energy and health, we feel rejuvenated and relaxed, and we become more physically and emotionally aware.

Emotional and Spiritual Fitness
We often focus on physical fitness, but any movement toward health must also include emotional and spiritual fitness. Psychologist Nancy Mramor, PhD, author of Spiritual Fitness (Llewellyn Publications, 2004), ties emotional fitness with our physical health and with our heart’s expression. “There is evidence that the largest number of heart attacks occurs on Monday morning between 8 and 9 a.m.,” she says. “This occurrence is related to the experience called joyless striving. It applies to feelings of having to force yourself to go to a job that you have no interest in, or even truly dislike. Clearly these feelings suggest a lack of emotional fitness in the match between the employee and the job.”

The heart of the person pumps much more than blood; it also pumps our passion. It lets us know what we love doing and who we love doing it with; it circulates our compassion and reminds us of our commitment to life. When we’re emotionally connected to the work we do in a healthy way, and to one another in a supportive way, we not only survive, but we can also thrive because we have more energy available to become who we’re meant to be. Physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness are all intimately related. In understanding this interrelationship, we can begin to move toward health.

Personal and Interpersonal Health
Interpersonal relationships, in fact, are one of the three major causes of life stress, along with environmental events/conditions and personal attitudes and beliefs. In his book, Love & Survival (Harper Collins, 1998), renowned physician Dean Ornish, who first proved that heart disease was reversible through lifestyle changes, says that in order to survive, we need not only care for our lives, but the lives of others. Individuals with supportive relationships get sick less, heal faster, and live longer.

Our health and well-being are not about being hyper-active or inactive. They’re about finding a balance, making our actions conscious, and learning to move in ways that are both healthy and appropriate in own lives, then moving this healing energy out toward others. So, rather than exhausting or limiting our energy, we learn to expand it. Then we can begin exercising in a whole new way–exercising our right to choose and to better understand our body, our life, and what we want to be doing with it.

Begin by checking in with yourself as you’re moving through your day: How does your body feel right now? How are you breathing? Where is this movement taking you? Do you feel good? Are you satisfied? Are you happy? If not, then change something. Change how you’re moving, where you’re moving toward, or look at what you’re moving away from.

“Become the change you seek in the world,” Mahatma Ghandi said. This isn’t about a temporary quick fix to end a bad habit, lose some weight, or fill our time. This is about long-term change–making more conscious use of our time and of our life. It’s about moving though life in healthy and healing ways, and expanding our idea of who we can be. Then our view of the world widens, our heart grows, our spirit soars, and our body moves toward true change. This is the healing power of movement.

By Sonia Osorio a certified massage therapist, yoga teacher, and healthcare writer who offers workshops in mindfulness practices and bodywork. Her work is a continual reminder of the body’s capacity to creatively move through life with pleasure and joy. She can be reached at sonia@zensations.ca

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2006. Copyright 2006. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

MASSAGE MEDICINE™ is a trademark of the Hands of Faith Holistic Healing Centers

A Comprehensive Resource Guide for your Holistic Health & Wellness Journey

The information provided below is the most comprehensive resource that I have found to date to help you on your journey towards Holistic Health & Wellness.  Namaste!

 12 Universal Skills You Need to Succeed at Anythingwheel of life

There are a lot of skills you don’t need.  You can be happy and successful without knowing how to rebuild a car’s engine, program a web application, or replace drywall.  Sure, these are useful skills to have, but they aren’t absolutely necessary.

There are other skills, however, that can’t be avoided – skills that tie into various aspects of everyday life that are not only useful, but totally indispensable.  For instance, you can’t get far in today’s world without being able to read or write.  And today the ability use a computer proficiently is simply assumed.

In this article we’re going to skip the super basic skills like reading, driving, and using a computer, and discuss twelve slightly more advanced skills that are woefully under-taught, and universally applicable.  Let’s take a look…

1.  Prioritizing and time management. – If success depends on effective action, effective action depends on the ability to focus your attention where it is needed most, when it is needed most.  This is the ability to separate the important from the unimportant, which is a much needed skill in all walks of life, especially where there are ever increasing opportunities and distractions.

2.  Keeping a clean, organized space. – Successful people have systems in place to help them find what they need when they need it – they can quickly locate the information required to support their activities.  When you’re disorganized, that extra time spent looking for a phone number, email address or a certain file forces you to drop your focus.  Once it’s gone, it takes a while to get it back – and that’s where the real time is wasted.  Keeping both your living and working spaces organized is crucial.

3.  Critical thinking and information analysis. – We are living in the information age where, on a daily basis, we are constantly exposed to an ever growing and rapidly changing pool of information.  Being able to evaluate this information, sort the valuable from the trivial, analyze its relevance and meaning, and relate it to other information is a priceless skill with universal applicability.

4.  Logical, informed decision making. – Decision making is simply knowing what to do based on the information available.  Being able to respond quickly and effectively with the information you have in your head is essential to accomplishing anything.

5.  Using Google proficiently for online research. – You don’t have to know everything, but you should be able to quickly and painlessly find out what you need to know.  Google is a gateway to nearly infinite knowledge; it has indexed websites containing information on just about everything and everyone.  If you’re having trouble finding something using Google, it’s time to learn a few new tricks.

6. Basic accounting and money management. – It’s a simple fact that our modern society is governed by the constant exchange of money.  Money allows you to maintain a roof over your head and put food on the table each night.  Knowing how to properly manage your money – tracking and recording your expenses and income, saving and investing – is not only an important skill for thriving, it’s an important skill that helps you survive.

7. Effective communication and negotiating. – Give the people in your life the information they need rather than expecting them to know the unknowable.  Don’t try to read other people’s minds, and don’t make other people try to read yours.  Most problems, big and small, within a family, friendship, or business relationship, start with bad communication.  Speak honestly, and then give others a voice and show them that their words matter.  And remember that compromise and effective negotiating are vital parts of effective communication.

8. Relaxation. – Stress leads to poor health, poor decision-making, poor thinking, and poor socialization.  So be attentive to your stress level and take short breaks when you need to.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Give yourself permission to pause, regroup and move forward with clarity and purpose.  When you’re at your busiest, a brief recess can Relaxation and Blissrejuvenate your mind and increase your productivity.  These short breaks will help you regain your sanity, and allow you to reflect on your recent actions so you can be sure they’re in line with your goals.

9.  Proficient writing and note-taking. – The written word isn’t going away; it is used in every walk of life.  Learning to write proficiently so that others can understand you is critical.  Also, using your writing skills to take useful notes is one of the most productive things you can do, regardless of the task at hand.  Writing things down – taking notes – helps us remember what we hear, see, or read when we’re learning something new, or trying to remember something specific.

10. Relationship networking. – In a world dominated by constant innovation and information exchange, relationship networking creates the channel through which ideas and information flow, and in which new ideas are shared, discussed and perfected.  A large relationship network, carefully cultivated, can be leveraged to meet the right people, find jobs, build businesses, learn about new trends, spread ideas, etc.

11. Positivity. – Research shows that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act.  A great attitude always leads to great experiences.  People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.  Be positive, smile, and make it count.  Pretend today is going to be great.  Do so, and it will be.

 12. Self-discipline. – Self-discipline is a skill.  It is the ability to focus and overcome distractions.  It involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment.  It often requires sacrificing the pleasure and thrill for what matters most in life.  Therefore it is self-discipline that drives you to succeed in the long-term.

Post written by Marc and reblogged with Gratitude from http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/04/30/12-universal-skills-you-need-to-succeed/

 

Begin this year with your best self . . .

As we enter the first full week of 2013, let us do so without dragging our worries, fears and baggage from last year along with us. Instead, let us declare affirmatively that it is finally time to overcome those dreadful habits. The following link will provide you with some find your calling #3excellent tips to get you started “The Draining Worry Habit and How to Overcome Ithttp://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2012/12/17/worry/

Additionally, one of my favorite quotes about worry is:

“Worry is simply a habit of focusing on what you do not want” – Anonymous

Instead, let us focus on those things that we do want . . .  those things that we want to materialize in our lives this year. But how do you begin focusing on what we want instead of what we don’t want? We can begin by writing down the things we want. In that way we “memorialize” them. I just love the sound of the term “memorialize” because it conjures up feelings of lasting memories, doesn’t it? We want to remember that which makes us feel good and be and do our best and forget that which makes us feel bad or drains our energy.

So let us begin by writing down those things that make us truly happy, or those things that truly motivate us to do and be our best?  Then break those “THINGS” down into weekly goals. Then one at a time, begin “doing” those things that you have memorialized.  At the What matters most is how you see yourself - Lionend of this week, I challenge you to be happy with your accomplishments.

Another quote I love is “inch by inch it’s a cinch”.  Before you know it, inch by inch and step by step, you will be living the life you have memorialized!

If you are wondering about your current state of happiness, please take the following Objective Happiness Quiz  http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/take-the-objective-happiness-quiz/

To Your Holistic Health! ™

Namaste!

10 Lessons from 10 Quotes that Changed My Life

Today I want to share ten life lessons with you.  I learned them when I was young by reading and re-reading some of my favorite books and quotes.  And over the years I have validated each of them gradually with firsthand experience.  Together these lessons have positively changed my way of thinking and my life.  I hope they do the same for you.When God pushes your off the edge

1.  Your thoughts create your reality.

You feel the way you feel right now because of the thoughts you are thinking, and you are where you are right now because of the thoughts you have thought over and over again.  If the thoughts running though your mind are pure, positive and empowering, you will create positive and empowering beliefs about yourself and about life; and your actions, habits, and daily routines will be a reflection of these thoughts and beliefs.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.  Watch your words, for they become actions.  Watch your actions, for they become habits.  Watch your habits, for they become character.  Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”  (Read Change Your Thoughts.)

2.  You will regret the chances you didn’t take.

The things you didn’t do when you had the chance.  That priceless relationship you neglected.  Those important words you left unspoken…  Every one of us has experienced feelings of regret.  But it’s not too late to set things straight.  You’re still here breathing.  Right now you have an opportunity to change your future.  Right now you can choose to erase regret from your later years.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”  –Mark Twain

3.  Change is the only constant thing in life.

What does this mean?  It means that no matter how hard you try to avoid change, doing so is simply impossible.  Period.

“Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure.  But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it.  Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.”  –Shunryu Suzuki

4.  What you resist persists.

The more you fight against life’s circumstances, events, people, ideas, etc., the more you will be contributing to their growth and persistence into your daily life.  Learn to shift your focus from that which you are against to that which you are for, and to that which you wish to attract into your daily life.  Over time you will watch your life transform.

“By letting it go it all gets done.  The world is won by those who let it go.  But when you try and try.  The world is beyond the winning.”  –Lao Tzu  (Read The Art of War.)

5.  You judge others for the deficiencies you haven’t yet accepted in yourself.

The traits you dislike in others are mostly just a reflection of the traits you dislike in yourself.  This concept can be difficult to grasp, and you might even be irritated by me mentioning it – especially when you are ‘certain’ that you are right and the other person is wrong, and that you are surely better off than they are.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.”  –Carl Gustav Jung

6.  You have far less control over the behavior of others than you think.

Isn’t it funny how the closer you are to a person the higher your expectations are, and the more rights you think you have to control their time and behavior?  Don’t let your bad judgment get the best of you; the only thing you can control is your attitude towards them and their behavior.  Nothing more, nothing less.

“Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others.”  –Wayne Dyer  (Read The Power of Intention.)

7.  You are what’s on the inside.

When you are happy and satisfied with yourself personally, you act in kind, happy and loving ways toward the people around you.  Because you are comfortable inside, no matter how negative people might act toward you at times, you stay calm and collected, responding out of love and confidence to their behavior – for that is who you are on the inside, and you give out that which is within.

“When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out – because that’s what’s inside.  When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside.”  –Wayne Dyer

8.  You can’t force love in relationships.

Love between two people comes because both people want to share their love, not because YOU want it from the other person.  Your family, friends, co-workers, lovers – they all love you because they choose to, not because you want them to.  Love is meant to be felt, enjoyed and lived, not to be forced on anyone.

“You can’t force love, I realized. It’s there or it isn’t.  If it’s not there, you’ve got to be able to admit it.  If it is there, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to protect the ones you love.”  –Richelle Mead

9.  Sometimes the only healthy option is to move on.

When the time comes to move beyond certain things, ideas, or people, don’t resist it.  Allow yourself to experience life.  Allow yourself to grow, learn, and evolve.  Allow yourself to move beyond the past on your path to happiness.

“There comes a time in your life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus solely on the good.  After all life is too short to be anything but happy.”  (Read The How of Happiness.)

10.  Life as you know it doesn’t last forever.

Nothing lasts forever, and this is exactly why you need to learn to detach from things, places and people in your life.  When the time comes to say goodbye, let them all go and to do it with dignity and grace.

“Nothing lasts forever; so live it up, drink it down, avoid the negativity, take chances and never regret because at one point it was what you wanted.”  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)

Post written by Angel and reblogged with our deepest Gratitude from http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/12/24/10-lessons-from-10-quotes-that-changed-my-life/

Balancing Act – Easing Between Doing and Being

Cover of "Living Your Unlived Life: Copin...

When I was swimming at the YMCA recently, I was approached by a teenaged lifeguard who knows I write books. She asked me for an inspirational quote to write on the blackboard for the people exercising there. This old proverb came to mind: “By standing still we overtake those who are running.” Dismayed, the teen walked to the blackboard and instead wrote, “Go, go, go!”

In our go, go, go society, it is increasingly difficult to find a moment of repose. Each of us has all kinds of daily activities–from paying our bills to calling a friend. Clearly these are doing activities. But there are other aspects of life requiring equal time in the realm of being, and this includes relationships, love, and sensing the sacred in our daily experience.

Energized Being
Most of us need a practice of some sort because doing and being become so painfully separated in modern life. Being is not daydreaming mindlessly, zoning out, or going into a stupor. It’s a state of energized being from which we realize the highest potentials in any situation.

You can invite being into your life. You can create space for it to occur. It is important to reestablish your zero point periodically. As you get physically still, you will notice the monkey chatter that goes on continually in your head. Although it is hard for us to slow down, the synthesis of life’s tensions and contradictions requires a quiet place.

Doing/Being Shuffle
I have developed an exercise called the Doing/Being shuffle to help bring focused awareness of being into daily activities. You can do it almost anywhere. First, bring awareness to the content of your experience at the moment–the words someone is saying and the thoughts in your head. Do this for about thirty seconds. Now shuffle your awareness to being. Let your mind go loose. Gently unravel the knot of sharp attention that keeps you anchored in content and forms. Sense the flow of life in and around you, starting with the changing sensations in your body. Are you relaxed or restless? What small movements are occurring involuntarily?

Go deeper. Notice the spaces between your thoughts. See if you can anticipate your next thought before it arises, then hang out in that in-between space for a bit. Observe any patterns trying to emerge. Notice your feelings and associations. Don’t judge them, don’t identify with them. You are not your thoughts, but the awareness that’s observing your thoughts. Odd little ideas and images will float up. The means by which you experience the world as solid and real–your mind–is itself constantly shifting and flowing, like a motion picture rather than snapshots. Do this for about thirty seconds.

Now, shuffle back to doing awareness. If you’ve become lost in being, a quick device to get back to doing mode is to ask yourself, where are my keys?

Try practicing the Doing/Being shuffle once or twice a day. It takes only a few minutes. Do it while standing in line somewhere instead of becoming impatient or frustrated. Try it before falling asleep at night.

* * *

Like a dance in which you sometimes lead and other times follow, you intentionally alter the quality of your attention between doing and being. Learn to shift the nature of your awareness. You may find the old proverb to be true after all.

By Jerry Ruhl, PhD, a Jungian psychologist, journalist, national speaker, and coauthor of Living Your Unlived Life: Coping with Unrealized Dreams and Fulfilling Your Purpose in the Second Half of Life (Tarcher/Penguin, 2007). He can be reached through www.jerryruhlrobertjohnson.com.

Originally published in ASCP’s Skin Deep, October/November 2007. Copyright 2007. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All rights reserved.

Letting Go – Pain is Natural; Suffering is Optional

“If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”1
Ajahn Chah

Many difficulties begin to fall away as we learn to loosen our grip on the perception of “how things are” — and how we want them to be. In learning to let go, our body provides a vast Meditation image - beautifullaboratory for exploration and discovery. Through paying attention to what is here now, we are able to move from the abstract realms of mind, through which we filter our experience, to an actual “lived” experience of life in process. Massage is a natural tool for such re-education of the body and mind, as is meditation.

The term “meditation,” as it has entered our vernacular, conjures up many ideas. For some, meditation is thought to be simply sitting still, doing nothing. Some think it is like a dream or a reverie. For others, it is seen as a contemplative form of thinking. Meditation, in the conventional Buddhist usage, is none of these. The Pali2 word for meditation is “bhavana,” or mind training. In meditation, the mind is engaged, focused and directed toward some object. Through concentration, the mind becomes calm. Through the stillness, the mind observes its own nature, not as discursive thinking but as experience and the illumination of insight.

The body is a fruitful object for meditation and a wise teacher. In Buddhist practice, meditation is turned to the breath, the body, feelings, perceptions and the mind itself. Through this sharpening of the mind, the letting go of fixed views, and the direct experience of physical and mental phenomena, we learn skillful ways of living with ease, rather than conflict and suffering. Meditation, as such, is not about beliefs. It is a tool to be used and a skill to be practiced and refined.

One thing all meditators and bodyworkers commonly deal with is pain. Shakyamuni Buddha taught on one subject — the understanding of “dukkha” and the ending of “dukkha.” “Dukkha” is often translated as “suffering” or “unsatisfactoriness.” Thanissaro Bhikkhu3, a Theravada monk and scholar, translates dukkha as “stress.” The Buddha saw clearly that birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, grief, weeping and despair is dukkha. Not getting what you want is dukkha. Getting what you want and losing it is dukkha. Getting what you don’t want is dukkha. Born into a body that is impermanent and subject to disease and death is dukkha.

The pangs of “unsatisfactoriness” must be understood clearly before they can be dispelled. However, there are two kinds of dukkha. Part and parcel of the world we live in, and over which we have little control, is the dukkha of mortality, disease, accident, poverty, prejudice, war, famine, homelessness, greed, hatred and ignorance. The second dukkha is the suffering we create ourselves through our reactions. In understanding the nature of dukkha, we come to understand that the experience of suffering is optional. Pain may be present, but the suffering component is something extra we add to it. Meditation helps us to see the onset of suffering, to stand outside of it, and, rather than fueling it, to let it subside and pass away.

Listening Within
“Most of us do not know how to listen to our bodies. Long ago we turned off the body’s voice. The body obediently went silent as we agreed not to notice our emotional life.”4

Jack Kornfield, a psychotherapist and Dhamma teacher, often mentions in his talks about meditation a line from James Joyce: “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” I’m certain every bodyworker has had a Mr. Duffy or two on his massage table or mat. Our society does not teach us skills for listening to or understanding our bodies. One of the most significant tasks of the bodyworker and the meditator is not to eradicate pain, but to learn and teach how to live skillfully and wakefully in the body.

There is a strong tendency to identify with what we feel and to be bound up with it. Someone complements you and a feeling of happiness arises. “I am happy,” you think to yourself. You may be feeling a happy emotion but “you,” whatever that is, is separate from that which is being experienced. In the case of happiness, the consequence of such a false identification is harmless enough, but serious trouble can ensue when we start to conflate our identification of self with feelings of agony, depression or rage. Meditation helps us to see that “I am suffering” really consists of three objects that our consciousness can observe — there is the mind, there is the body, there is the pain. The pain is not the body. The pain is not the mind that is aware of the body or of the feeling of pain. If we accept “I am suffering,” there is little to be done. “There is pain” is a more skillful view. If we see the nature of things as they are, we can watch pain arise, change and pass away.

Pain Without Suffering
Any painful feeling can be used as a means to gain understanding. Pain and discomfort are often why clients seek our help. When we experience pain, our immediate reaction is to want to get rid of it. This is also typical of how we live our lives — trying to avoid pain and clinging to pleasure. Experience teaches us that this cannot be done. When seeking pleasure and running from pain becomes our modus operandi, we set ourselves up for suffering. It is not uncommon for many massage therapists, particularly in the beginning, to develop an adversarial relationship to pain — it needs to be rubbed out. In my work, I am much more interested in helping bring awareness to the body, which often means being more aware of pain and discomfort in the body. If we are aware of it, we can learn from it. If we see its true nature, we need not suffer about it.

My first Dhamma teacher, Ayya Khema5, died in November 1997 from breast cancer. Her body was in pain, but she was not suffering. She died as she had lived, mindfully and compassionately. She did not despise pain, nor view it as an enemy. It was there, so she accepted it. It did not deter her from living fully and dying peacefully.

In accepting pain, I am not suggesting one should do nothing. Where pain exists in the body, it is sensible and wise to try to discern its cause and do what can be done to treat it. Yet, at the same time, the opportunity is presented to understand the phenomena of pain and to realize that suffering is what is added to pain by the mind. Suffering is not the experience of pain; it is something extra. Pain should be recognized. Once we’ve gotten the message, the point is to act skillfully and do what can be done, rather than kill the messenger.

Sitting Meditation
In sitting meditation, one sits, unmoving, for extended periods of time, focused on some meditation object — the breath, sensations, inner sounds, mental processes. Often, pain arises. Sometimes it may seem unbearable. When pain arises, we can use our awareness skillfully to make the pain our meditation object. Shifting our attention to the general area of uncomfortable sensation, we let the mind relax, accepting the feeling, letting it be, observing the physical sensations. The pain is still there, but our relationship to it has now changed. We can intensify our looking, noticing the various qualities of this sensation we label “pain.” The more the mind examines what actually is being felt, the more concentrated the mind becomes. Next, we can try to locate exactly where the pain is most intense. As the mind focuses there, often it will seem that somewhere else is more intense, so you move your mind to that place. Sometimes the pain will appear in a completely different part of the body. Sometimes it will simply disappear.

“You’ll find a sense of peace and calm by accepting the pain that you have and letting go of it; the relief comes not by rejecting the pain, but by allowing it to be the way it is.”6

Occasionally during meditation you’ll find that pain seems unbearable and you simply must move. Move. We are not sitting to create more suffering, but to find the end of suffering. Asked what to do when pain seems intolerable, Ajahn Amaro, a Theravadin monk, replied that he would shift his position to alleviate the unbearable feeling, but that he would do so out of kindness to the body, not out of aversion to the pain.

Applications in Bodywork
Working with clients, this same attitude of investigation can be beneficial. A focus on exploring pain in the body and creating an accepting spaciousness around it can help us to feel the body, especially where such awareness has previously shut down. Compared with pain during meditation, trying to pinpoint pain in a bodywork session is not so clear-cut. A painful point is found; as you stay on the point, the client is certain you have moved your finger, because that’s not the spot at all. Pain, like all things, has no permanent identity. It changes. It arises and passes.

Accumulated knots in the fabric of our body, previously undetected, begin to reveal themselves as we open. As we become conscious of the pain they have held, we may also notice feelings, memories or images connected specifically to each area of tension. As we gradually include in our awareness all that we have previously shut out and neglected, our body heals.7

We will all experience pain in our lives. It is wise, therefore, to face it directly and learn how to work with it. Pain exists in the world. Suffering is optional.

By Barry Kapke, the program director of Asian Bodyworks at San Francisco School of Massage and the founder of Insight Bodywork. He can be reached online at insight@bodhiwork.org.

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2000.
Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

References
1. Sumedho, Ajahn, The Mind and the Way: Buddhist Reflections on Life (Boston: Wisdom, 1995), xix.
2. Pali is believed to be the dialect spoken by the Buddha. In Theravada Buddhism, Pali, rather than Sanskrit, is still used in Buddhist teachings. Rather than trying to use English translations that do not convey precise meanings, I prefer to use the original Pali terms and introduce them as specialized terminology of the discipline.
3. Bhikkhu, Thanissaro, The Wings to Awakening: An Anthology from the Pali Canon (Barre: Dhamma Dana, 1996). See also: www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/modern/thanissaro/painhelp.html.
4. Friedman, Lenore and Moon, Susan, ed., “Hearing the Voice of the Body,” Being Bodies: Buddhist Women on the Paradox of Embodiment (Boston: Shambhala, 1997), 43.
5. Ayya Khema was author of I Give You My Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist Nun (Boston: Shambhala, 1998).
6. Sumedho, 128.
7. Kornfield, Jack, A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life (New York: Bantam, 1993),43.

Hara – Working From the Center

We recognize the importance of good beginnings and a solid ground. To ensure the best results, it is always worthwhile to establish a firm and developed foundation. Without deep, well-established roots, a plant is weak and growth will be stunted. In the human body, the hara is our home. Home is a reference point.Hara #2

Our abdominal center, which the Japanese call hara, is quite literally our physical and energetic core. Energetically, our first three chakras reside here, focusing on grounding, physical embodiment, basic needs and drives, and directed action. Physically, it is the locus of our power, gravity and bodily organs. Our legs extend the hara in connection with the earth, establishing rootedness as well as enabling mobility. Further, hara is understood as our life source and spiritual umbilicus, and through its cultivation comes mastery, strength, wisdom and tranquility.

Children quite naturally are connected with their haras. Their bellies are relaxed and their breath is deep. They glow with an abundance of vitality, spontaneity and playful curiosity. As we move toward adulthood, we learn to distrust and to distance ourselves from the lower body, and we are taught to privilege and develop the mind. Western culture equates a tight “six-pack” abdomen with vigor and health, and a soft belly with laziness. The adult belly must be disciplined and constrained. “Chest out, belly in.”

Culturally, we are taught to think of strength and power positioned well above the navel — in our arms and shoulders, and in our brains. In the Asian view, it is the opposite. Taoist yoga often represents the lower abdomen as a fiery cauldron which cooks up the energy needed to open and liberate the rest of the body. Kundalini, the coiled serpent at the base of the spine, is potential energy awaiting stimulation to rise up and energize the upwardly cascading power centers. The root chakra, at the perineum, functions much like a pilot light for the other chakras and when its energy is weak or blocked, the energy of all the other chakras is correspondingly weakened. Westerners tend to be rigid, tense and overactive in the upper body and empty in the lower body, resulting in a top-heaviness which throws them off balance.

The Hara Attitude
There is much benefit to reconnecting with the simplicity and directness of the hara. To begin to develop our center, it is essential to first find it. Asian bodyworks, such as Shiatsu, Thai massage and Insight Bodywork, are strongly oriented toward cultivation of this consolidated body center, as are internal development practices such as aikido, t’ai chi, qigong, yoga and various types of meditation. “Concentration from hara and relaxation of the whole body is natural,” according to Shizuto Masunaga, the originator of Zen Shiatsu. “All Japanese culture,” he says, “is based on this principle. If you tighten your shoulders or extremities, your movement becomes clumsy and awkward. Training in the arts is simply how to eliminate this distorted tension.”1

The composure of the Japanese way of sitting is “as if he were resting in himself rather than on the furniture,”2 writer Karlfried Drckheim observes. He goes on to say: “The bodily center of gravity is not drawn upward but held firmly in the middle, in the region of the navel. And that is the point. The belly is not pulled in but free — and yet slightly tensed. The shoulder region instead of being tense is relaxed but the trunk is firm. The upright bearing is not a pulling upwards but is the manifestation of an axis which stands firmly on a reliable base and which by its own strength maintains its uprightness.”3 Upright, firm and collected signify the presence of hara.

Sitting meditation is one way to drop down from the rooftop chatter of the mind to the embodied center of the belly. By bringing the focus of the mind to the breath and allowing the breath to descend deep into the lower abdomen, and feeling the weight of the body, the mind becomes calm and there is a relaxed (that is, not forced) concentration. In these moments we are unified; the split between body (hara), feeling (heart) and thinking (mind) dissolves. In these moments, there is no conflict; nothing is lacking. We are aware of breath and of feelings of weight, softness and alertness in our bodies, and there is an internal sense of focus, clarity and ease. Sometimes we quite naturally drop into this “attentional” state, such as when we give or receive a massage.

When we shift from the mind-centered experience to one where we start to feel our bodies and our wholeness, it is not at all uncommon to experience a deep joy and at the same time a profound sadness. It is the recognition of our split, the realization of how far away we have been from our bodies. In the Persian language, this ennui of recognition is called durie, or homesickness. In the hara, we come home to our unity.

Grounding (The Balance of Center)
From our hara, we find our center. To be centered is to be fully in the body, fully in the moment. “Center is a basic bodily presence,” writes bodyworker and psychotherapist Richard Strozzi Heckler, “and it is on this presence that the other bodily states are built. It is a bodily and energetic base camp.”4

The hara is a place of action where we manifest desire or thought, but it is also a place of stillness and depth, simply being with what is. It contains both these masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) aspects. From the belly, we move with confidence. Our body wisdom guides us. There is no need to think about what to do or to comprehend what is to be done. We just do it — awake, moment by moment. Action executes itself, with no doer to get in the way. “Doing” arises from the fertile ground of being and the emptiness of no thought. The power of the feminine aspect is to simply hold space, to be, to not do. Without the judgmental mind to intervene, the feminine aspect of hara accepts how things are, not wanting them to be different, not interfering to fix or change them. Aikido master Wendy Palmer points out that it “takes training, courage and concentration to stay right in the middle of the present unfolding moment. Instead, what frequently occurs is that we try to take back control of the situation and shift our attention into the future.”5 Cultivation of the hara develops the depth to include and integrate both the mastery of the masculine and the mystery of the feminine in the embodied “now.”

The founder of aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba, when asked if he ever lost his balance, responded, “Yes, all the time, but I regain it so fast that you do not see me lose it.”6

Working from Hara
“A strong hara confers not only physical stamina, but also the ability to sense and transmit ki,”7 says Shiatsu practitioner and author Carola Beresford-Cooke. She goes on to suggest one of the best ways to increase the energetic abilities of any part of the body is by simply bringing attention there, since awareness is a form of energy. Where thought goes, energy will follow. hara #1

Working from the hara, leaning rather than pushing, ensures maximum longevity and vitality for the practitioner, as minimal energy is being expended and there is no application of force. Rather, the practitioner will often find an enhanced sense of vitality and aliveness after working in this way. At the same time, recipients will experience the safety and security to surrender to your deeply penetrating, but non-invasive contact. Your own openness and clarity will invite their body to openness and clarity.

The hara-based principles listed below are intended for floor-based bodywork, such as Shiatsu, Thai massage or Insight Bodywork, but certainly are applicable to table work as well.

– Be Attentive to Feeling. Feeling is always in the present. Thoughts, memories, comparisons and judgments take you out of the body and out of the moment. Stay with what you feel. Register the breath, register the feeling of weight, notice sensations as they arise. Maintain deep, natural breathing. Grounded in your own experience, awareness can expand to include the client, or other stimuli, without losing your center.

– Relax — Be Comfortable. It is essential to be relaxed and comfortable. If you are tense, your energy is not flowing and you are not going to be of help to your client, or yourself. Take the time to find a comfortable posture. Tension and relaxation are both contagious.

– Use Your Whole Body. Tension and effort occurs as the body is fractionalized into parts. Moving from your hara will involve moving the whole body. Relax into the ‘shape’ you are holding and initiate movement from your belly.

– Don’t Force, Don’t Hold Back. Lean with relaxed weight. The amount of weight is less important than the quality of the contact. Allow your partner’s body to support you. Mutual support is a mutual benefit.

– Have a Solid Base. The lower body needs to be open, flexible and wider than the upper body. When kneeling, keep the knees apart and the groin open. Make full use of the ground for support. Always maintain at least two points of contact with the body of the recipient.

– Feel Connected to the Ground. Establish deep roots into the earth. Stand, or move, with confidence. If you lose a sense of groundedness, stop and breath into the hara; feel your weight.

– Direct Energy From the Hara. Maintain balance and control by directing the hara between the two hands, or toward the area on which you are working. Imagine the hara moving you, rather than you moving the hara. Feel hara moving through stable hands and thumbs, rather than focusing on hands and thumbs as points of pressure.

– Get Out of Your Way. Trust the instinctive wisdom of the body. Keep it simple. Be guided by intuition, which is limitless, as opposed to intellect, which is limited.

The Fruition of Hara
In Japanese culture, DÃrckheim points out, one who has cultivated hara is the measure of inner maturity and accomplishment. Hara no aru hito literally means a man with “center” or a man with belly. Such a person is always balanced, tranquil, magnanimous and warm-hearted. With calm, unprejudiced judgment, he knows what is important. He accepts things as they are and maintains a balanced sense of proportion. He is ready for whatever comes his way. When, through persistent discipline and practice, such a man reaches maturity, like a tree that bears ripe fruit effortlessly, he is said to be hara no dekita hito, the man who has finished his belly.

It is no coincidence that Buddha statues typically represent a soft, relaxed belly and solid foundation in the lower body. The imagery of the Buddha represents the total achievement of what is possible for everyone — to be awake. To awaken is to come home. Home is where we start from.

By Barry Kapke, A.C.S.T., C.I. the program director of Asian Bodyworks at San Francisco School of Massage and the founder of Insight Bodywork. He can be reached via e-mail at insight@bodhiwork.org.

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2001.
Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

References
1. Shizuto Masunaga with Wataru Ohashi. Zen Shiatsu: How to Harmonize Yin and Yang for Better Health. (Tokyo: Japan Publications, 1977), 50.
2. Karlfried Graf Dürckheim. Hara: The Vital Centre of Man. (London: Unwin Hyman Ltd, 1962), 23.
3. Ibid, 24.
4. Richard Strozzi Heckler. The Anatomy of Change: East/West Approaches to Body/Mind Therapy. (Boulder: Shambhala, 1984), 79.
5. Wendy Palmer. The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice. (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1994), 125.
6. Morehei Uyeshiba, cited in Heckler, 82.
7. Carola Beresford-Cooke. Shiatsu Theory and Practice. (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1996, 1998), 15.

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