Sunday, 31 October 2010

The 7'th best way to exercise your brain.
" Stay intellectually active. This should be (if you will pardon the pun a
no-brainer)). Intellectual and cognitive stimulation strengthen the neural connections through out your frontal lobe, and this in turn improves your ability to communicate , solve problems, and make rational decisions concerning your behavior. A highly functional frontal lobe also makes it easier to diet , exercise, and avoid tempting activities that have health risks.
Memory and mnemonic exercises strategy based games like chess and other forms of visual /spatial games (tai chi) can significantly improve cognitive functioning. Furthermore intellectual, stimulation, in nearly any form, lowers your propensity to react with anger or fear. Imagination even improves motor coordination of your body, and if you rehearse a dance step or a golf swing (even a tai chi posture) in your mind, you'll actually perform the task better. The same is true for attaining personal goals. The more often you imagine what you want, the more likely you are to achieve it "

Saturday, 30 October 2010

I have been reading " How God changes your brain " by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman. It is an interesting and informative review of the latest findings in neuroscience (one of my big interests). Their research suggests that these are the Eight ways to enhance your physical mental and spiritual health.
No.8 Smile
"Smile even if you don't feel like it, the mere act of smiling repetitively helps to interrupt mood disorders and strengthen the brains neural ability to maintain a positive outlook on life. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we do "smiling meditation"
whenever we have a spare moment during the day. Smile when you're going up in the elevator or waiting in line at the supermarket, and you will notice the people around you calm down. You'll feel better, and exude empathy, and people will respond with kindness. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote "If we are not able to smile , then the world will not have peace. " Smiles, by the way,are neurologically contagious in every culture, and women are more susceptible than men. "
I'll write about no. 7 tomorrow.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Untitled from Heartworker on Vimeo.


Next lesson, thanks to Michael

Friday, 22 October 2010

Here is my 4'th year class looking great practicing their tai chi this afternoon.


il;ui;oi video

Thursday, 21 October 2010


In this world there is nothing softer
or thinner than water.
But to compel the the hard and unyielding,
it has no equal.
That the weak overcomes the strong,
that the hard gives way to the gentle -
This everyone knows,
yet no one acts accordingly.
Lao-Tzu

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Introductory Form Brush Knee and Push from Heartworker on Vimeo.


Many thanks to Michael for lesson 3

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

" It has long been observed that emotions can play a dramatic role in the perception of pain. one of the often-cited examples took place during World War 2 and was described by Dr. Henry Beecher, a medical officer admitting casualties to an army hospital ( and later an expert in pain at Harvard ). Beecher made a remarkable observation about the soldiers wounded on the battlefield at Anzio, where serious injuries were numerous. When admitted to the field hospital , these soldiers were asked if they were in pain and if they needed pain medication (morphine). A remarkable 70 percent said that they weren't in pain and didn't need morphine.
When he returned to the States, Beecher conducted a test with civilians who had similar injuries. He asked each person the same two questions he had asked the soldiers wounded at Anzio : are you in pain, and do you want morphine ? This time, 70 percent said yes to both questions. He hypothesized that the difference in the perception of pain was caused by the fact the wounds meant very different things to the two groups. The soldiers he treated were largely relieved, almost ecstatic: they had survived the battle and the wound meant they were getting away from the battlefield, away from war and possibly being sent home. The injured civilians, however, faced major disruption to their lives as a result of their wounds, such as serious difficulties functioning and the loss of income. Beecher's observations about how these two groups perceived the pain from similar injuries differently, was a first step toward a new model of pain that looked beyond the severity of the wound to the emotional state of the injured person."
This is from Dr Fehmi's new book "Dissolving Pain". His work confirms what I have experienced in tai chi and open focus training, that is, when we change 'how' we are paying attention through working on postures or attention exercises, our stress levels drop, our emotions become more stable and so we tend to experience all of life in a calmer and more content way.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Nothing can I offer you,
But a sweet smelling lotus
Blooming with all its heart
Only to welcome you.
Ryokan

Monday, 11 October 2010



Full attention is LOVE

Friday, 8 October 2010

Introductory Form from Heartworker on Vimeo.


Lesson 2 and application Thanks to Michael.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Learning tai chi is one way to become more aware in all aspects of your life (at least thats how it has been for me for me). It is especially useful in the way it teaches us how our bodies and minds are interconnected. When we work on the body the mind changes and vica versa. A few weeks ago I posted some blogs on how our brain 'maps 'work. I'm re posting them here as I think they might be interesting and helpful for our new tai chi trainees. I'm hoping you all will find the journey into your bodies as exciting and wonderful as it seems to me.

You can tell parts of your body from one another because each is faithfully mapped in the neural tissue in your brain. Your brain maintains a complete map of your body with patches devoted to each finger,hand, toe,etc. Your brain also maps the space around your body when you enter it using tools. For example when you take hold of a long stick and tap it against the ground as far as your brain is concerned your hand now extends to the tip of that stick. Blind people use this ability to feel their way down the street.Your brain uses these maps to construct your body schema (this is the felt experience of your body).This schema is updated constantly by the flow of sensation from your skin ,joints, muscles, and viscera. The sense of inhabiting a body embedded within a larger world stems in large part from this mental construct. Anything which participates in the conscious movement of our bodies is added to to the model of ourselves and becomes part of the schemata. Any object used regularly can become part of your schema.Thia explains why people get so upset when someone hits their car, it is as if they themselves have been hit.
When we practice tai chi we are working on body schema awareness. We purposefully attend to many core elements of our own schema and also explore how our schema can enter our partner and (with practice) give us much information about their body too.

More about maps. Neuroscientists tell us that the maps in our minds tend to operate via prediction. That means perception is not a process of passive absorption but of active construction. Incoming information is always fragmentary and ambiguous. Our understanding of reality is constructed in large part according to ones expectations and beliefs, which are based on past experience and are held in the brain cortex as predictive memory.
Many years ago I read of a biofeedback experiment that involved a large group of people. They were all wired to equipment which recorded internal subconscious reactions to a clicking noise that occured at regular intervals while they listened to a musical recording.. It was found that while most people responded to the click initially,but their bodies quickly 'learned' to ignore it.This was not so for the Zen adepts in the group. Their bodies responded to each click as if it were the first. Their brains were not operating in the usual predictive mode. This experiment has inspired many years dedicated practice to tai chi as a means of awakening this ability to live each day fresh and new.
I was due to give a workshop in Mestre today and spent many hours over the summer developing Italian 'maps'in my brain, ways to express tai chi and open focus exercises in that language. The workshop had to be cancelled at the last moment much to my disappointment and that of Professor Giovanni Marchioro who had invited us. At times like this I am very grateful for my practice which has taught me that no training is ever wasted and that life always knows what is best (even when our mind protests).
This practice has taught me to welcome all feelings up into awareness,not to use the practice to avoid pain, repress or indulge in it, but to let it teach me what I need to learn.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.
Albert Camus

Friday, 1 October 2010

Welcome to all beginners in Cork and Mallow, and a Big Thanks to Michael for the video.


Introductory Taichi Form from Heartworker on Vimeo.