For the Unheard- A New Poem

I love this poem!

The Sister Hawk Blog

water runs-3

This poem has been working it’s way through me for days now and finally it has arrived.

For the Unheard

by Beth Farrell

(Un)heard

Voice(less)

We become

We are photo-shopped

Sculpted

Painted

Sexualized

Bronzed

Anti-aged

(for your delight)

Quieted

(for generations)

in a man’s story

told to

stay quiet

told that

our power is (less)

told to say yes

and never no

 

Our voice

Heard

Rages in streams

In rivers

In oceans

In rain

In rivers

Our voices

Rage together

And Together

We

Soften stone

Inscribe wisdom onto riverbanks

Forge new waterways

For our daughters who will

Demand to be

heard.

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The Tai Chi of Skiing

On any given day at the mountain, I’ll be darned if I’m not having the most fun out there and if you saw me you’d likely agree, however most skiers don’t see me as I spend my days in the steeps, deeps, trees, and in the backcountry 🙂

While I may be ‘going big’ and often times doing ‘top to bottoms’, I work way less for it. Because my parts are in line and I know how to manage the terrain and equipment, it’s only a nudge or shift rather than a pushing or pulling, fighting myself and the mountain. And while I grew up skiing, am a (reasonably) gifted athlete, and workout (fairly) regularly giving me a big advantage out there, it wasn’t until I studied Tai chi [Tai what?] that I became so well versed in what it takes and able to quickly identify what’s off and how to put it back on. I’ve given lots of lessons to all levels of skier.

Good news: These lessons are much the same regardless of your ability. It’s how you may apply them that varies based on your experience and willingness.

More good news: there’s always room for improvement and improving feels good and makes skiing even more fun, as well as easier so you can enjoy more of it.

—–

So long as you’re willing, let’s now examine the art of skiing through the mind’s eye of a tai chi master.

When teaching tai chi, lesson #1 that must often be repeated is to BEND YOUR KNEES. The legs really do all the work and can only function properly with the knees engaged. Bending the knees allows for an up and down movement that presses and releases tension in the skis making them bend and arc. It’s that tension that helps us carve a turn at high speeds, as well as switch from edge to edge with ease.

I encourage students to focus on the up and down movements, and let the skis do the side to side (turns). The human body is designed for vertical (up and down) movements more so than lateral (side to side) or horizontal (forward and back).

Go ahead and try these movements while standing there… Where do you feel the most balance and power? Forward, back, and side to side all throw you off balance and weaken your stance. When moving up and down you should remain stable and powerful, able to jump and land without losing your balance. *Now try to do it with your knees locked and you will get nowhere fast!

When moving up and down, how much bend in your knees is optimal? I think you’ll find that bending beyond 90degrees is not ideal. You are likely most powerful and responsive between 10-60degrees or so.

If when bending down your butt starts sticking out, it’s a sign that your spine is not properly aligned and/or you’re going too low for your ability, losing power along the way. Try keeping your tail tucked and spine in vertical alignment. This will help you find your sweet spot, where you get optimal performance with minimal effort.

Envisioning the ideal skier you will note that the upper body moves very little and remains erect (no bending over at the waist) allowing this vertical or piston-like power throughout the turn.

When you’re in your skis try hopping up and down while stationary on the flats to get warmed and powered up. It’s this movement that will transform your skiing.

—–

From the 1st lesson, let’s jump ahead to the last. Once the student gains understanding and know-how in this regard, they are prepared to practice on their own to refine and apply the brilliance of tai chi for a lifetime and in all aspects of your physical/active life.

This last lesson shows us how to center our Qi (energy) in the “dantian” where we say ‘all movement should originate and return to’. The dantian is known as our energetic AND anatomical center located a couple inches below the belly button and a couple inches deep. This place acts as our center of gravity and by focusing on the positioning of the lower belly we can most optimally align our whole body. Once found we can adjust and move our whole body much more efficiently and fully.

To find your dantian, press into your belly just below the umbilicus with 1 or 2 fingers to find the soft or “empty” point. Find it? Now press out your lower abdomen and push your fingers out of the hole. You’ve just filled and engaged your dantian. When you did that an interesting thing likely happened, your whole lower torso filled up or expanded creating a even more full center of gravity, improving balance and power.

Try it again and this time place your other hand over your lower back. Feel it expanding? That expansion is energizing your “gate of fire” giving you extra stamina and courage that will no doubt serve you well on and off the mountain.

Since this post is about tai chi’ing your skiing, let’s return our focus to getting you down the mountain in the most effective way. In skiing we speak of the “fall line” as the direction going most downhill versus across or angled. The fall line helps give you a dynamic turn by maximizing the centrifugal force between ski and snow. Challenge is that this direction is constantly changing based on the terrain and your chosen path, therefore you can’t really intellectualize it and instead need to feel it. Here’s where the dantian comes in…

We want our center of gravity to be in the direction we are heading and may accomplish this by projecting a beam of light from our dantian toward our destination. Incredibly, the rest of the body will come into alignment almost automatically, especially for an advanced skier.

—–

Focusing on your lower belly gets you out of your head and into your body. The feeling of a full dantian with it’s centering and energizing effects is no small thing as countless masters of mind-body disciples will confirm. While the steps to get there are simple enough, there are usually many obstructions along the way. To keep things simple, I recommend focusing on posture and breath.

Posture first relates to the spine. We want it elongated rather than compressed. Compression leads to tightness in muscles and injury to joints. Elongation leads to great flexibility in the muscles and range of motion in the joints. In Tai Chi we imagine a string coming from the heavens lifting us from the top of our head and another dropping to the center of the earth, thus we are suspended between heaven and earth, both grounded and uplifted at the same time.

Breath speaks of a full inhale and exhale that is powered by the lower belly. Too many of us have lost this natural breath due to stressful lives filled with worry, anxiety, and fear. These emotions initiate the flight or fight response pulling resources away from the organs and into the muscles and leaving us very tight and under nourished. The breath oxygenates body tissues and removes toxins leading to all kinds of health benefits and sports enhancements. Let your belly lead both the inhale and exhale. Be sure to relax the muscles of the lower abdomen… Tension obstructs the flow of Qi, much like resistance limits the flow of electricity.

—–

Good turns (talking about carving turns versus sliding them out) are not about rolling the ski onto its edge, nor moving the hips side-to-side. A good turn is about pressurizing the ski in the right direction with the right intensity. Your challenge is how to stay centered over the skis while pressurizing them to do your bidding.

There’s a lot to learn about the physics of skiing (Weight x Mass x Velocity /Torque x Friction / Direction…) which I will leave for another post. [I did speak about the physics of tai chi here]

Skiing and Tai Chi are best learned by doing. The physics, terrain, and snow conditions are all interesting discussions, but real knowing is doing. By keeping lessons simple it is my hope is to free your mind from thinking and get it into feeling. Feeling requires all the senses. It’s hard to think/speak and feel/listen at the same time. Feeling is like an internal dialogue where you’re doing the listening; whereas thinking is like an internal dialogue where you’re doing all the talking.

Listen/feel your breath and posture, while skiing. Your body (and mind) naturally wants to be in a place of balance and power. Often gaining awareness is all one needs. I leave you with that, and hope to connect our turns soon!

around and around we go…

…where it stops, nobody knows!

In a recent discussion, I was asked about the ups and downs of life.  Here was my response:

We do want to cultivate equanimity, a feeling of acceptance with resolve and without resistance.  The resolve is that everything is perfect without attachment to a specific version of perfection.  The resistance is found in attaching to a particular outcome that leads to stress and unbalanced emotions when expectations are not met.  I believe meditation is the key to dwelling in equanimity, but some teachings are very helpful along the way…

I play a game with the kids called “fortunately, unfortunately” that arose from an old story of a farmer and a horse, sometimes titled, “Who knows?”  The game is best played with an odd number of people as one person starts a story with Fortunately… and then the next picks up with Unfortunately… and next to Fortunately… and around and around we go.  For example:  Fortunately I found a $20 bill on the ground; Unfortunately it was Mexican Pesos; Fortunately I was in Mexico;  Unfortunately…   The game has no end, but stops when our food arrives or whatever.

This game demonstrates that we don’t know the outcome of any given scenario.  The ecology of the situation is too complex.  What appears good can turn out bad (think lottery winner that dies of a heart attack from all the excitement) and often what appears bad turns out good (like relationship troubles that force players to learn and grow).  The only truth about the Universe that we can agree upon is that it’s expanding and I like to interpret that to mean that there’s always another opportunity ahead.  If I hold onto frustration, anxiety, anger, resentment I’ll likely miss some great opportunities.

Changing how we react to situations first requires awareness of how we are currently acting.  After analysis, if we see a better way, we begin practicing until it becomes 2nd nature.  Being well-nourished (sleep, food, love, laughter, purpose) will really help as our minds are definitely affected by our bodies.  But changing how we see the world requires an inner inquiry into our soft-squishy centers that can reveal some painful truths.  Accepting them with resolve and without resistance takes a willingness and vulnerability that is courageous to say the least.

To answer your question about how to greet certain feelings, I would start with validating them.  Call them out and then question them.  Why am I feeling resentment?   What’s so awe-inspiring about this?  How come that just seems normal?  And then practicing non-defensive responses that refuse to run and hide, nor become aggressive.  Luckily, our mind can change in an instant.  Our body may take a little longer…

Earlier I said the the body directly affects the mind, the opposite is also true.  When feeling angry, resentful, or even vulnerable it triggers a stress response that leads us to fight, flight, or freeze.  Once we become aware of the ‘negative’ feeling we can work to replace it with something more helpful.  I search for compassion when angry.  Forgiveness when feeling resent.  Courage when vulnerable.  Right then and there as I become aware of the emotion so it doesn’t linger and soak in.  I can find the more positive response by inquiring deeper into the offender’s motivations as well as my own nature.  Almost always it reveals that the offender is not so offensive, and that my nature could use some enhancements.  In the end, I’m left thanking what originally hurt me.  And around and around we go.

SYMPTOMS ARE THE WAY IN

I recently wrote this to a client:

These symptoms are merely an access point to your core imbalance.  At the core (or beginning) are two parts, 1. an emotional imprint usually from childhood that affects our relationship with the world and causes us stress, and 2. lifestyle including diet, exercise, and sleep…

Most of us just want our symptoms to go away.  Nobody likes pain or discomfort.  Why then do you think we feel pain or have discomfort?  These feelings are being generated by us, from our body’s intricate system of communication.  They are telling us that something is wrong.  When we listen closely, we can learn a lot about ourselves.  What foods irritate, what movements are limited, what parts aren’t receiving necessary nourishment, which are being overused, and what triggers my emotional imbalances and why.

One of the worst things we might do is to make the pain go away or the problem disappear without actually resolving the issue.  Medications and other procedures are too often used in this regard.  Treating symptoms without affecting their root.  In fact, many of our “cures” are leading to more serious conditions down the road.  Alcohol or drugs for emotional upset, coffee for morning lethargy and headaches, ibuprofen or stronger for muscle and joint pain, anti-acids for heartburn, stomach staples and diet pills for obesity, are all examples of symptomatic treatment that sweeps problems under the rug only to suppress our ability to find a true and lasting solution.

When one successfully finds and fixes the root, all branches may resolve.  Ask yourself, am I seeking symptomatic relief or a lasting cure?  Most External or Passive approaches (receiving treatment & taking medications) cannot provide the lasting cure, as the problem originates Internally and the solution will require an Active role like modifying lifestyle, correcting nutrition, and facing your demons.

Note that in the majority of cases it was not the x-ray or blood test that made you aware of the problem.  It is also true that the xray and blood test, while very revealing in many regards, may tell us nothing about the actual disorder.  The first thing we should trust is ourselves.  Not necessary our logical-intellectual self, but instead our emotional-feeling self.  The one that speaks to us not in words.  If we focus on the symptoms, we often silence the only voice we can really trust to know what’s going on.

I used to be amazed at how accurately clients could identify the problem if I asked, “what do you think is going on?”  I am not surprised anymore.  The answer lies within.  Your symptoms have made noise and captured your attention in order to alert you to a problem.  Listen closely and as you learn about the problem you will also uncover the solution.

Folks like me are trained to understand the language of pain and other symptoms.  Many allopathic healthcare providers consider pain bad and their ability to make it go away good.  I agree that a life without pain sounds good, but at what cost?  How are we to find the healer within without something to be healed?  How are we to know our own strength if we are not challenged?  How can we develop the empathy and compassion without knowing suffering first-hand?  How can we really know a life without pain, without first knowing what is pain?

I am on a spiritual journey eager to learn all the lessons I can.  Pain can be a great teacher.  Like all great teachers, they want you to learn the lessons and move on to the next challenge.  To overcome difficulty and develop resolve.  Pain is your friend on that journey.  The one that tells you the truth despite you not wanting to hear it.   The one that returns even after you’ve pushed them away.  Be a friend back.  Listen, learn, and be present.

What is your pain telling you?  How can you connect the symptoms to reveal the source?  It can take great courage to deal with pain.  The truth sometimes hurts.  But the truth can also set you free!

I recommend breathing in a quiet place for an extended period (meditation) and asking yourself these questions.  Sometimes the answer will come quickly, other times it requires patience and inquiry.

Office Workout!

Robin Luthi

Do you spend 8 hours or more sitting at a desk 5 days/week?

Do you experience eye strain and muscle soreness in your neck, shoulders, and back?

Are you fatigued, stressed, and need a break?

If you answered YES to one or more of  the above questions, this post is for YOU!

10 Quick and Simple Ways to Burn Calories at Your Desk

Quick Burst of Cardio:  Try jumping jacks or jumping rope for one minute each hour you are at work.

Use the Stairs:  Use the restroom or drinking fountain on a different floor and choose the stairs instead of the elevator.

Exercise Ball Chair:  Replace your desk chair with a Swiss stability ball and perform one minute of abdominal crunches each hour.

Office Yoga:  Interlace your fingers overhead, releasing your thumb and pointer finger.  Extend your arms straight with your bicep muscles by your…

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GAMES WE PLAY

GAMES WE PLAY

Musical-Chairs2

Here’s a good one, Musical Chairs.  Have you ever played?  Do you remember the feeling?  The feeling of being the winner?

Probably not, because there’s only one winner.  How many times, if ever, were you the winner?  If you did win, what did you have to do?  Out-maneuver your friend?  Push your rival?  Take advantage of the slow and weak?  Get lucky?

Like most of us, you lost most of the time.  Perhaps it taught us to be good losers and to appreciate the fact that you don’t have to be a winner to be in the majority.  For a young child the lessons of Musical Chairs may have hit much deeper.  It gave me an early glimpse into what it takes to succeed in a dog-eat-dog world.

I remember feeling like a total loser when I failed to secure a chair early in the game and would go to relatively excessive lengths (Musical Chairs can get pretty physical) to win.

Does anyone remember the music?  I can only remember the stress trying to anticipate when the music would stop and then the mad scramble for an empty seat.

Does it ever feel to you like you’re still playing that game?  Everywhere you look people are racing, pushing, and plotting to secure their seat at the table.

For you to get one, someone else must not.

Now I’m all for hustle, but for the right things.  A fumble in football, a job opportunity in NYC, a friend in need on the other side of the country.  I’m not for hustling each other or the planet.

Musical Chairs is a simple summation of the Zero-Sum Gain rules, a scarcity-based model of the world.  The rules of this game state that there is no gain without loss.  Under these rules, for you to win others must lose and if you’ve lost others must have won.  Winners and Losers.  This model does not allow for Win-Win, nor Lose-Lose scenarios.  Musical Chairs teaches nothing about the benefits, nor necessity, of collaboration in the real world.  I’m having trouble thinking of any childhood games that do.

A big part of our view of reality is formed in early childhood.

If we’ve grown to believe that to win others must lose, our actions diverge from what our hearts know to be true.  Successful people come to believe they are better than others.  Those that haven’t accomplished the same level of success feel like losers.  Of course someone always has more, so it is likely that even the very successful feel like losers most of the time.  Still, those with more have more to lose. Meanwhile unsuccessful people see other’s victories as their defeats blaming the rich, the powerful, the system, the past… very passionate but leading nowhere.

The truth is that there are only win-win or lose-lose scenarios.  We are in this together.

weareinthistogether

The current system doesn’t honor this truth.  It’s built on the wrong foundation.  It’s built on money, not love.  It thrives in the exploitation of resources.  It takes more than it gives.

There are some working within the existing system attempting to give more than they take.  Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was a good example.  He was all about treating employees fairly and stocking items “Made in America”.  After he gave up control and passed away, the profiteers took over and now Walmart is a shining example of exploitation in the name of profits.

Bill and Linda Gates have done amazing things with their fortune.  That said, they still have very large bank accounts and one could argue have taken more than they’ve given.  This is not an economics discussion and I appreciate the possibility of seeing their personal wealth accumulation as a by-product of vast sums of wealth made for others and lasting benefits to our economy, but the fact remains that he and other Microsoft executives are incredibly wealthy in the face of great poverty around the world.

Non-profits and other organizations have shown another way of doing business, but too often they are starved for cash and unable to make the impact desired.

Money is not the root of the problem.  It is simply a means to exchange goods and services.

The problem is the individual’s perception of money and priorities in the choices we make.  We cannot expect someone to make a choice against their beliefs.  We can expect to do a better job telling the whole story and letting people decide what to believe.

Musical Chairs is just one example of how we teach our children the rules of the game.  Look around and you’ll see endless examples of the scarcity-based model that our social and economic culture is built upon.

GOOD STUDENTS

studentI subscribe to the school of life and view all of life as my teacher.  I’ve found that the better I do that, the more I learn.  In my studies I’ve discovered an interesting fact… that rather than feel like I now know and have the answers, I instead have more questions.

Inquiry leads to findings that lead to further inquiry.

This reminds me of one of the tenants of Yin Yang Theory:  Yin and Yang are infinitely divisible.  Meaning that you can separate, analyze, break apart, and divide the whole without end.  There is no end.

We’ve found this theory to be true at some of the highest levels of modern science.  We’ve found that the Universe is expanding, and at the same time that all of it condenses to “nothing” in a Black Hole.  Under a microscope we keep finding smaller and smaller particles, and at the same time we find lots of “nothing” within even the densest materials.

Occasionally science hits a point where it appears to have the answer.  It may pause on this assumption for many years (take Newtonian Physics for example) before some new data suggests some expanded view of reality.  Like the Universe our view of reality continues to expand, infinitely.

More recently, in part due to our rapid news cycle, we make claim one day and disprove the next.  The benefits of coffee come to mind.  The truth remains in most cases that we do not know, and what we do know is only part of the whole story.  Our knowledge, like our scientific discoveries, is infinitely divisible.

Every time I learn something, I am also given a new inquiry.

Learning is also relative to our current understanding.  It builds upon our existing foundation of knowledge.  At times simply adding on top of or expanding the existing structure.  At other times totally destroying the prior system and building a new, more complex, and complete picture – yet still not the whole truth.

Therefore a good student, one engaged with studies, will be the one with more questions and may even be the one who challenges the existing belief system.  A good student doesn’t always fit in and do well in school, but they do come up with some really good questions.

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.
E.E. Cummings