Sunday, 31 July 2011

Deep down do you feel at ease ? If like me you are working on feeling more at ease in your body and mind you may enjoy and learn from these articles by Rick Hanson. The first one is called ' Pet the Lizard '.

Your brain evolved in three stages (to simplify a complex process):
· Reptile - Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
· Mammal - Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
· Primate - Cortex, focused on attaching to "us"

Of course, the brain is highly integrated, so these three key functions – avoiding, approaching, and attaching – are accomplished by all parts of the brain working together. Nonetheless, each function is particularly served by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it. This fact has significant implications.

For example, in terms of avoiding harm, the brainstem and the structures just on top of it are fast and relatively rigid. Neuroplasticity – the capacity of the brain to learn from experience by changing its structure – increases as you move up both the evolutionary ladder and the layered structures of the brain.

Consequently, if you want to help yourself feel less concerned, uneasy, nervous, anxious, or traumatized – feelings and reactions that are highly affected by “reptilian,” brainstem-related processes – then you need many, many repetitions of feeling safe, protected, and at ease to leave lasting traces in the brainstem and limbic system structures that produce the first emotion, the most primal one of all: fear.

Or to put it a little differently, your inner iguana needs a LOT of petting!


To begin with, I’ve found it helps me to appreciate how scared that little lizard inside each one us is. Lizards – and early mammals, emerging about 200 million years ago – that were not continually uneasy and vigilant would fail the first test of life in the wild: eat lunch – don’t be lunch – today.

So be aware of the ongoing background trickle of anxiety in your mind, the subtle guarding and bracing with people and events as you move through your day. Then, again and again, try to relax some, remind yourself that you are actually alright right now, and send soothing and calming down into the most ancient layers of your mind.

Also soothe your own body. Most of the signals coming into the brain originate inside the body, not from out there in the world. Therefore, as your body settles down, that sends feedback up into your brain that all is well – or at least not too bad. Take a deep breath and feel each part of it, noticing that you are basically OK, and letting go of tension and anxiety as you exhale; repeat as you like. Shift your posture – even right now as you read this – to a more comfortable position. As you do activities such as eating, walking, using the bathroom, or going to bed, keep bringing awareness to the fact that you are safe, that necessary things are getting done just fine, that you are alive and well.

Throughout, keep taking in the good of these many moments of petting your inner lizard. Register the experience in your body of a softening, calming, and opening; savor it; stay with it for 10-20-30 seconds in a row so that it can transfer to implicit memory. Learn to defeat the innate negativity bias of the brain – whose unfortunate default setting is to be Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.

Some have likened the mind/brain to a kind of committee. Frankly, I think it’s more like a jungle! We can’t get rid of the critters in there – they’re hardwired into the brain – but we can tame and guide them. Then, as the bumper sticker says, they wag more and bark less.

Or relax, like a lizard at ease in the sun.
Tomorrow advise from Rick again on how to sooth the mammalian brain

Saturday, 30 July 2011

             Patience is the companion of wisdom.

- St. Augustine

Friday, 29 July 2011

A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

by John O'Donohue

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

One of my most painful childhood memories is of a deep feeling of shame and isolation. I can remember vividly the little bedroom, my burning bottom (from the poker ), but by far the worst part was the feeling of being cut off from the love and warmth 'down stairs '. Miss Forde '(the local shopkeeper) had told my Mum about how I was buying lots of sweets for myself and my friends and so the truth came out . I had been stealing money from my Mum's purse (funnily enough I don't remember being ashamed of the stealing ! ) just the the shame of my adored father slapping and detaining me in my room.

Over the last few days I have worked this memory using yesterdays meditation.

Feeling myself back in that room, bringing the love and warmth of the meditation with me, I became strongly aware of Daddy's presence , of his deep love for me, I knew from the inside out that each slap was from a deep place of love and concern. Those slaps , the burning sensation, the separation ,were all a sign of his love and concern. What had been a deeply painful experience was transformed into one of love. I suppose this memory was so vivid for me because punishment and slapping happened so rarely in my house . And yet until doing this meditation I had always felt hard done by and a victim. It amazes me how limited my view had been.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Meditation Exercise

Sit comfortably, allow your body to relax. Take a nice deep breath in and exhale slowly allowing yourself to let go and relax even more. Become aware of the chair supporting you, relax.take your time. . . . .

Now call to mind anything that gives you a good feeling. Maybe something in your immediate environment , a picture, a pet, some memory, anything that gives you a positive experience. It doesn't need to be a big deal and it can come and go in awareness , simply the intention to have a positive experience present will activate unconscious circuitry and even if they are activated unconsciously those neurons are firing together and so they are wiring together to form new beneficial structures in your brain.

Next, now that you have a positive experience, take a moment to expand it in time and space. In other words savor it, explore its nuances, the different nice qualities of this positive experience, and also see if you can extend it in space in the sense of it filling your body. Maybe sensing that you are breathing it in and out.

Now for the third step , in your own way intend and sense that this positive experience is soaking into your brain and body, registering deeply in your emotional memory stores. Maybe feel like it is sinking into your back and chest. Perhaps sifting deeply into your mind.

Now for the fourth step. If you can get a sense of something mildly to moderately difficult or painful in your life. Perhaps an experience you had as a child.Get a sense of it even maybe where it is located in your body, and then with every breath just feel or imagine or have the idea of this new powerful positive experience sinking into, kind of soothing those inflamed and raw painful spaces in your heart. Perhaps with a sense of the new positive experience today giving that little child deep down inside you, deep down inside every person what that little child should have received, when you were young, but didn't or couldn't for whatever reasons. Giving that child today whet he or she really needed and every child deserves when you were young.

And last see if you can get a sense that you will carry forward the benefits of this new positive experience sinking into you, benefiting yourself and in various ways other people.

I know that it is really lovely to listen to this meditation and hope it works for you by reading the steps slowly and working that way, or maybe record it and play it for yourself. Enjoy, YOU deserve to feel good and happy so give YOURSELF some time.

Monday, 25 July 2011

I have been listening to Meditations to Change Your Brain, with Rick Hanson
and Richard Mendies. I am finding it really interesting as an overview to much of what I have read lately on neuroscience, psychology, mindfulness and the brain. I particularly liked one of the meditations on enhancing positive feelings through working on 'implicit' memory. Implicit memory according to the authors is what shapes how we feel it really creates the 'atmosphere' in our mind, and thus affects the felt sense in our bodies. We can shape this atmosphere by paying better attention to the positive events in our lives and turning them into positive experiences. This is important because most of us as we tend to resist dwelling on these events. Our brains are wired to pay more attention to possible threats ie. negative events, so we tend to overlook the good.

There are 4 steps to helping positive events become positive experiences.

1 We remember best when the event is made as vivid as possible and then given heightened attention over an extended period (5-20 seconds)That is how to register positive experiences in your brain.Decide to pay attention to positive events (this may sound self evident but as I said earlier we tend to overlook the good).

2. Once you have got the positive experience you want to extend the experience in time and space, keep your attention on it so it lingers don't just jump onto something else. Notice any discomfort with staying with feeling good. Let the experience fill your body with positive sensations and emotions.

3. Sense that the positive feeling is registering deeply in emotional memory. Sense it soaking into your brain and body eg imagine that the experience is sinking into chest and back.
By taking in the good , you gradually build up resources inside. A sense of other people inside or parts of other people inside that are nurturing encouraging and forgiving.

4.Now sense these positive feelings going down deep into old wounds and hurt places inside you and soothing them, replacing them over time with new positive feelings and views ( current feelings of worth replacing old feelings of inadequacy, or current feelings of being loved replacing old feelings of rejection or abandonment ). You will not forget events that happened you are not trying to falsify or make up history but those old events will gradually lose their charge,their painful emotional associations and their hold on you.

By practicing these 4 steps every day you will gradually change your experience to one of being strong and valuable and loved.

Enough for today, tomorrow I will post the meditation instructions for 'Taking in the good'.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
by Wu Men

We often feel happy when we achieve a goal or a desire , and attribute our happiness to our success, according to Lester Levinson, the happiness we feel is not due to achieving our goal or desire but to to fact that our mind has temporarily become quiet.

Wu Men who lived in the thirteenth century and Lester both have the same insight as have we all when we practice and become quiet.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What we need even more than foresight or hindsight is insight.
- Unknown -

A firefighter named Wagner Dodge who survived an out-of-control fire in the Mann Gulch in Montana in 1949. Thirteen other smoke jumpers died in the fire, but Dodge was saved by a brilliant insight. Fleeing for his life, he suddenly stopped running and ignited the ground around him. He then lay down on the smoldering embers and inhaled the thin layer of oxygen clinging to the ground. The fire passed over him and, after several terrifying minutes, Dodge emerged from the ashes, virtually unscathed.

What sort of a crazy person stops running from a fire and starts another one? Well, if you know certain things about fire and oxygen—knowledge that may have taken years to acquire—it's not as nutty as it sounds. Dodge had been a firefighter for many years and knew that fire needs three things to exist: fuel, air, and heat. By getting rid of the grass (i.e. fuel) around him, he took his chances with the fast moving fire and was able to save himself.

At first glance, insights like this one may seem to come out of nowhere. But in hindsight they make perfect, logical sense. Albert Einstein put it succinctly when he said insight "comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way ".

I found this amazing story in an article by Luke Williams professor of innovation at NYU's Stern School of Business.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

What you are is what you have been. What you'll be is what you do now.
Two Ways of Learning Relaxation
by Shinzen Young

There are two ways of learning relaxation, because there are two distinct levels at which a person can relax. I speak of top-to-bottom relaxation versus bottom-to-top relaxation. "Top" refers to the surface conscious mind, "bottom" the deep unconscious. Top-to-bottom relaxation is what most people think of when they think of relaxation. It's voluntary relaxation, like a progressive relaxation where you make an effort to relax. When a person sits to meditate I think it is good to do whatever possible to relax the overall body. I usually try to get an overall sense of the body relaxing. I call it a "settled-in" sense. For example, I notice that during sitting sometimes my shoulders will come up, so I'll relax them as an act of conscious intention.

This form of relaxation, although it's valid and useful, is also limited, because there are certain things that you can't relax intentionally, like the kind of intense sensations that come up when you stub your toe. You can't go through a progressive relaxation, and just relax the sensations going on in your stubbed toe. And what about the sensations that go with a stubbed ego? For that type of phenomenon, it is desirable to learn about a second kind of relaxation which I call bottom-to-top.

Bottom-to-top relaxation deals with the source of tension which is deep within the unconscious mind and way out of the range of conscious control. How can you relax tensions that are not within conscious control? By observing them with skill. "Skill" means heightened awareness, a sense of accepting the tension as is. Bottom-to-top relaxation is an attitude. You watch the tension very, very carefully. You get very specific in terms of location, shape, flavor, rates of change, etc. You just keep pouring awareness and equanimity, awareness and equanimity on the tension pattern.

That tension pattern is a conduit into the unconscious mind. By flooding the tension area with the "super-adult" qualities of "witness awareness" you are helping the unconscious infant/animal levels of the mind to untie their own "knots". The tension pattern will start to break up on its own. Paradoxically, the quickest way to have it break up is to stop wanting it to break up. The attitude of wanting it to break up adds subtle new knots. For the really deep relaxation, a person has to be willing to watch tension in a skillful way, without desiring relaxation.

I love this article Shinzen Young explains beautifully the way to go deeper.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Investigating White Crane Spreads Wings (left side).

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Even though there were children climbing allover him as he spoke, he remained calm, serene and joyful. He had spent many years in prison, much of the time in solitary confinement. He explained that when he remembered the past and his family he would become unbearably upset with worry and loneliness. Thoughts of the future, more torture and not knowing if he would ever be free again, would terrify him and send him into despair. So he trained himself to stay focused in the present and became the serene peaceful man he is now.
I heard this story many years ago on a recording of one of Catherine Ingram's Satsang sessions and it still inspires my intention to practice presence.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.
- Ben Okri -

In ancient Egypt, libraries were known as psyches iatreion, "sanatoriums of the soul." During the Renaissance, the poetry of the Psalms was thought to "banish vexations of body and soul. Now, science is starting to prove what readers and writers have long known: Words can help us repair and revitalize our bodies as well as our minds. And as a result, bibliotherapy -- reading specific texts in response to particular situations or conditions -- is becoming more and more popular among psychologists, physicians, librarians and teachers.

Brain imaging studies provide a glimpse of what happens when we get lost in a book. Using scanning technology, a team of scientists led by Nicole K. Speer at the Dynamic Cognition Laboratory at the University of Washington in St. Louis, Missouri, found that some of the brain regions active during reading a story “mirror those involved when people perform, imagine or observe similar real-world activities.” When reading, our brains simulate what happens in the story, using the same circuits we’d use if the same things happened to us. On a neurological level, we become part of the action.

The brain straddles fact and fiction when we read, which is why psychotherapists believe books are so powerful and why they can act like a key that opens the door to a person’s inner world. Simulating the feelings and experiences of literary figures can allows readers to perceive and express their own emotions. That’s why it’s crucial to pick the reading material that will connect us to our 'higher selves' and inspire us to be the best we can be.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Sticking in the park.

Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.
- St Augustine

Neurons that fire together wire together.
Hebb's Law

It seems to me that there is really nothing new about Hebb's Law sounds like St. Augustine understood how we operate every bit as well as modern neuroscientists.
I find it reassuring that they agree that habits (both good and bad )become part of us.It confirms my trust in practice.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

. . .despite our differences we're all alike. Beyond identities and desires, there is a common core of self- an essential humanity whose nature is peace and whose expression is thought and whose action is unconditional love. When we identify with that inner core, respecting and honoring it in others as well as ourselves, we experience healing in every aspect of our lives."
- Joan Borysenko, Minding the body, Mending the Mind.

The more I come to love and respect myself unconditionally the easier and more natural it is to love those around me. When I'm agitated and upset in and with myself the harder it is to see and feel the love and perfection in and from others. Yesterday as I allowed myself to BE, as I relaxed into my day not pushing myself (to get more done). I found myself loving and enjoying the company of my family , my dog,the peace in my garden, the people I met. So today I've decided to let go even more ,to live today as if everything is perfect, even when my mind tells me otherwise. I have noticed that the mind is never satisfied and always tells me that I'm not quite 'there' yet. So for today when thoughts arise that things should be other than they are , I plan to acknowledge that these are just thoughts and return to relaxing and letting go.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

One of John Kells wonderful figure 8 exercises connecting heaven and earth, from Sunday's tai chi in Fitzgerald's Park.
Nadine Stair of Louisville, Kentucky, was was 85-years-old when she wrote, "If I Had My Life to Live Over":

"I'd like to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones. . . . I've been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

It is a bit synchronous that I just read this quote , as I had promised myself a day of 'just being' without agendas, a day of allowing things to unfold naturally' a day to observe myself (or not) without judgement.

To let go and live spontaneously in the moment - Lets just try it for today.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sticking exercise - an introduction to partner work for beginners.

Tai chi warm up exercises.

Thanks to everyone who came along yesterday and joined our tai chi morning. A special thanks to Michael, Sara, and Brendan for encouraging me to organize it. We had a great time luckily the weather was just perfect, and judging form the feedback the new comers to tai chi enjoyed themselves and learned some tai chi also.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

all the little knots
of anxiety and tension
slowly unravelling
of affection and disaffection
slowly unravelling
the dried grasses trembling

if you move
events will start
up from your feet
Thomas A Clark

We are having an open , free , T'ai Chi morning in Fitzgerald's Park this Sunday (July 10th) from 11am to 1pm.

The session will include warm ups, form, some pushing hands ,
lots of fun and connecting.

Friday, 8 July 2011

"At one point the group which included more than half a dozen specialists and students , crowded into a small room where a middle-aged woman sat in a dentist's chair. She had suffered for many years from a problem with her jaw known as TMJ, making it almost impossible for her to open her mouth without pain. She had come to the Center after unsuccessful treatment elsewhere. After DR. Mehta explained the case to his colleagues and students, Bob asked if he might very briefly speak to the woman.

" You don't have to answer this question and I'd more than understand if you don't feel comfortable in this setting, he said to her. "But I'm curious. What is it that you cannot say ? What is the secret ?"

The woman looked at him , blinked , then broke into tears. Her mouth opened as she sobbed. Finally , she began to speak of her past, which included sexual abuse and her father's threats if she told anyone. She still had not told her husband, who was not unlike her father in some ways, and she feared he would leave her if he knew about the incest.

" Tell me about the pain now," Bob asked gently.
The woman furrowed her brows and moved her jaw, tentatively at first, then more.
"There's hardly any," she said finally.
The woman's body had tried to make sure that her father's command was carried out by making it painful to speak."
This story has stayed with me since I read it a few days ago in Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry's book.'Creating Optimism'.

I have always been fascinated with healing stories. How amazing that they met, that Bob asked the 'right 'question . That she was 'ripe' to answer. I love hearing ways in which people find and reintegrate bits that have been lost or suppressed. This story also reminds me how secrets harm us and keep us from living a full life.

Don't Forget Sunday.

We are having an open , free , T'ai Chi morning in Fitzgerald's Park this Sunday (July 10th) from 11am to 1pm.

The session will include warm ups, form, some pushing hands , lots of fun and connecting.

All welcome - feel free to let your friends know or bring someone along.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tia Chi in Fitzferalds Park this Sunday Morning

We are having an open , free , T'ai Chi morning in Fitzgerald's Park this Sunday (July 10th) from 11am to 1pm.

The session will include warm ups, form, some pushing hands , lots of fun and connecting.

All welcome - feel free to let your friends know or bring someone along.

Hope to see you there,

* We will be easy to find - near the lily pond. Call me on 087 6616800 if you have any queries

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Dynamic yielding with Damaris and Steven

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Daniel Kish has been sightless since he was a year old. Yet he can mountain bike, navigate the wilderness alone, and recognize a building as far away as 1,000 feet. How? The same way bats can see in the dark. Since his infancy, he has been adapting to his blindness in remarkable ways. He has learned to use what he calls "Flashsonar," or echolocation. He produces a brief, sharp click with his tongue, and the sound waves bounce off every object around him, returning to his ears vastly decreased in volume, but perceivable. Kish has trained himself to hear these slight echoes and to interpret their meaning. Standing on his front step, he can visualize, with an extraordinary degree of precision, the two pine trees on his front lawn and the curb at the edge of his street.

Kish was born with an aggressive form of cancer called retinoblastoma, which attacks the retinas. To save his life, both of his eyes were removed by the time he was 13 months old. Kish is now 44.

Kish and a handful of coworkers run a nonprofit organization called World Access for the Blind, ( headquartered in Kish’s home. He is not the first blind person to use echolocation, but he’s the only one to meticulously document it, to break it down into its component parts, and to figure out how to teach it. His dream is to help all sight-impaired people see the world as clearly as he does.

What an inspiration this man is, we all have so much potential, anything is possible when we have a dream and the courage to follow it. Live your dream today.
I invite you to give yourself a few minutes break to enjoy a felt sense of your body.

Wherever you are make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Feel the way your body makes contact with the surface that is supporting you.

Sense into your skin and notice the way your clothes feel.

Sense underneath your skin - what sensations are there ?

Now, gently remembering these sensations, how do you know that you feel comfortable ?What physical sensations contribute to the overall feeling of comfort ?

Does becoming aware of these sensations make you feel more or less comfortable ? Does this change over time ?

Sit for a moment and enjoy the felt sense of of feeling comfortable.

Monday, 4 July 2011

" My belief is in flesh and blood as being wiser than the intellect.
The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us.
It is how we know re are alive, alive to the depths of our souls
and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos."
Having a practice like tai chi teaches us the wisdom of the body. Working with it slowly but surely reigns in the thinking mind. We learn little by little that we are not our thoughts we are so much more. Practicing on 'good ' days and 'off' days a steadiness develops which is a balm when it feels like things are falling apart and also calms the heart when it is ready to explode with joy.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Connecting , sticking , listening , yielding , softening ,
what a profound practice this is.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Love is always Loving you.
Without this Love you cannot breathe,
as without air you cannot live.
Love is Meditation, Meditation is Love.
Heart has no frontiers;
Meditate on This.
You are this Love, You are That.
Simply be Quiet and stay as such.
The first line has become my mantra

Friday, 1 July 2011

fun lifting hands with Brendan