Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I love to practice Dr Fehmi's attentional exercises. Here is an expert from one I particularly like.
As you continue to read this page allow yourself to be aware of the 3-dimensional physical space between your eyes and the words printed. Let the awareness occur gradually as you continue reading . Because we are conditioned to sense only objects and exclude space, it may take some time for you to become aware of this visual sensation of physical space. Once you do become ware of the space, pause for a few seconds as you gently maintain this awareness.
Now, without shifting your eyes from the screen gradually begin to sense the space that is to the right and the left of the screen. Let your peripheral field of vision widen spontaneously at its own pace to take in that awareness and once you develop that awareness , enjoy it for a few seconds.
Now allow your visual background to come forward, to become as important as your visual foreground; in other words, the whole article, the full screen, the table and the walls behind the screen can be made foreground, simultaneously with the words you are reading. This, too, should be carried out effortlessly and naturally . It may seem difficult at first , but it is well within our capacity to focus in this way. Sit for a few seconds as you gradually maintain this awareness and allow background and foreground to become equally important.
As you continue reading , also include the appearance of space that surrounds your entire body. Allow time for this perception to take place as your visual awareness opens and broadens into 3 dimensions. Now permit yourself to become aware of the space between the lines you are reading, even s you continue to read. Also bring in to your awareness, the space between the words themselves and then the space between the letters of the words your awareness of visual space can continue to expand effortlessly while your awareness of letters, words and concepts continues.
If you notice even small changes during the reading exercise you have begun to experience some of the benefits of open focus.
Last night,I became aware that I was reading in open focus,paying equal attention to the spaces and the words. My heart filled with gratitude at how a simple daily practice can become second nature. Often the simple changes that occur naturally as a result of our daily work become so much a part of us that we don't acknowledge that something significant has shifted. Events like last nights are to be noted and honoured as their memory encourages us in more sparse times.
So do pay attention to the gains from your work as it is all worth your effortless effort.
( Exerpt from Dr Fehmi's "Open Focus Brain" )

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

"God's Wings

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park , forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast...because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live..

'He will cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you will find refuge.'
(Psalm 91:4)
Thanks to Corinna for this story.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

"What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter."
William Shakesphere

Monday, 16 November 2009

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen. --Leonardo Da Vinci

Thursday, 12 November 2009

"Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the
world of sorrows, but we can choose to live with joy...Opportunities to
find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most
challenging". /- Joseph Campbell
Fabulous quote from Corinna

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


It seems that we humans are programmed to remember the negative. It is thought that this may be a survival mechanism from the time when had to be on alert for danger at all time.
Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences; it's like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Negative experiences do have benefits: Loss opens the heart, remorse provides a moral compass and anxiety alerts you to threats. But emotional pain with no benefit to yourself or others is pointless suffering and pain today breeds more pain tomorrow. For instance, according to research by psychiatrist Vladimir Maletic, even a single episode of major depression can reshape circuits of the brain to make future episodes more likely
One way to balance this is by cultivating gratitude.
Here is a gratitude exercise developed by Dr. Srikumar Rao which I particularly like and find very affective.
Recall yesterday. Begin when you woke up in the morning think of something you were genuinely grateful for (it could be the warm bed you were lying in, the fact that you had a bed, that you were alive for another day) whatever you truly feel grateful for. Now close your eyes and really experience that feeling , feel it all through your body if possible. Next move on to your time in the bathroom are you grateful for the warm water or maybe it is the toothpaste that leaves your mouth feeling fresh and wonderful.What about breakfast is there some good coffee to drink? Move through your day like this. Was there anything to be grateful for at your work? Now move to the evening. Did you enjoy your evening meal or maybe it was the drink before bed. Review it all and allow yourself to feel genuinely grateful.
I can guarantee that if you practice this exercise before going to bed you will sleep really well and if you're like me you will wake up in great form.
I have been practicing this exercise for a few weeks and can see how it has made me more conscious of all the good things in my life. Now the feeling of gratitude pops spontaneously into my mind more and more often.

Monday, 9 November 2009

I Am So Glad

Start seeing everything as God,
But keep it a secret.
Become like a man who is Awestruck
And nourished
Listening to a Golden Nitengale
Sing in a beautiful foreign language
While God invisibly nests
Upon his tongue.
Who can you tell in this world
That when a dog runs up to you
Wagging its ecstatic tail,
You lean down and whisper in its ear,
I am so glad You are happy to see me.
I am so glad,
So very glad You have come."

Saturday, 7 November 2009

On Positive Emptiness

Stories remain in our consciousness, often unnoticed, as points of reference for understanding elements of life.However weird or enigmatic they are, or perhaps because of those very qualities, Zen stories have touched the hearts of people for over a thousand years.
One of the most frequently quoted Zen stories in the West seems to be one about a person who went to see a Zen master with a load of questions and arguments. The master kept pouring tea into a cup for the guest until it started overflowing. To the panicked guest , the master said,"If your mind is already filled like this, how can there be room for you to learn?" This seemingly unrealistic story was introduced in Paul Reps's Zen Flesh Zen Bones. Presenting a certain truth about learning, this story illustrates a paradox - the power of what might be called "positive emptiness".
Kazuaki Tanahashi (in Essential Zen)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Under the trees, among the rocks, a thatched hut;
verses and sacred commentaries live there together.
I'll burn the books I carry in my bag,
but how can I forget the verses written in my gut?

Attention Preparation Beginning

Introduction, Preparation, Beginning from Yin&Yang on Vimeo.
D.T. Suzuki when I was studying with him, said the ego has the capacity to cut itself off from experience - whether it comes through the senses or through dreams - and it can also flow with the experience. It has that capacity.
In other words we can change our minds, so that rather than concentrating on our selves in self-consciousness, we can become attentive to environment-outside like today, or be, so to speak, zero in the contemplative setting.
I thought that instead of taking the conventional discipline of sitting cross-legged that I would take this other way. If I approach the world of relativity free of my likes and dislikes, so that when something happens that I don't like, instead of continuing to say I don't like, I ask myself why don't I like it? then here is a clear possibility of changing my mind.
I proceed from one composition to another in a similar way.And then you can take all kinds of things as guides. In other words, you can become an observer of your work and the effect of your work both on yourself and to a lesser extent on other people.
John Cage

Monday, 2 November 2009

Vision in Relaxation

Shaman, salespeople, hypnotists even tai chi practitioners know the fastest way to positively influence the mind is to start with the body. We start with the body because it requires less effort to make a physical change than to change your state of mind. For example most people can't change from tense to relaxed through mental effort alone.But you can easily produce a more relaxed state by making a physical change - such as going for a walk, practicing some tai chi, or by having someone massage your shoulders.
Here is one of my favourite "instant relax exercises " that can be done anywhere for an immediate calm.

Fix your gaze on something directly ahead of you without changing your focus in any way. Allow your peripheral vision to widen.
Without moving your eyes, gradually expand your vision so you can take in more and more of the space around you.
If it feels comfortable, you can take it further; just relax and allow your vision to widen...until you can sense not only the things beside you, but behind you as well.
Now you have a 'visual sense' of being centered and relaxed.

Vision in Learning

Often we pay so much attention to learning the physical postures and applications in T'ai Chi that we forget about how we learn. We learn best by using our whole bodies.

I find that when I am trying to figure things out, like a new posture, my focus can become narrow. This is what most of us were taught in school; paying close attention meant shutting down our awareness into a narrow, concentrated point. This is useful in some cases, like solving a maths problem, but counterproductive when learning T'ai Chi. When I catch myself in 'narrow focus' , I soften and widen my vision.

When our vision de-converges our plain of focus remains the same but our view widens. Even without moving our eyes we take in more visual information around us. This peripheral vision produces a much different type of understanding, one that is broad and holistic and very conducive to learning.

This is not to say that narrow, or converged, vision is not useful in T'ai Chi. When we want to analyse and perfect a posture or when we want to express energy in an application, narrow focused vision is best. For example , the energy delivered in an application can be greatly increased by using our eyes .

Beginners often look down as they yield and this dissipates their energy into the ground . By simply lifting their gaze, the application becomes 100% more effective.