Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moving Day!

This blog has gotten a face-lift. It will now be appearing on the front page of: taichialchemy.com

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Triple Warmer vs Spleen

These are hairy times. As we get more connected to each other through the internet and social media we feel the stresses of our friends experiencing upheavals in other countries. These get added to all the other stresses you are juggling and you may feel it as a constant disturbance in the Force. We feel this as an autonomic nervous system imbalance. If chronic, that is the source of many of our health issues.

We can also look at it as a disruption in the relationship of the Spleen and Triple Warmer functions. Here is a simplified version:

Spleen meridian governs spleen and pancreas. Oversees blood supply, metabolism, and homeostasis. Not just at physical level, but also how we "metabolize" life experience, where we set our homeostasis in times of stress. Spleen is t'ai chi-like in that it maintains effective defense of the organism by fostering good health and promoting balance.

Triple warmer takes over when danger is perceived (immune response) and is like martial law. It conscripts energy from the other meridians (except heart), starting with the spleen. This immediately weakens the body, pulling energy from metabolism, homeostasis, nourishment, and blood supply. Continued stress sets up a dysfunctional pattern which further adds stress to the system.

Calming the TW and tonifying the SP help to restore proper functioning.

Most humans alive in the 21st century have a messed up TW/SP relationship, even if it doesn't appear as obvious illness. The homeostasis is usually set at an unhealthy level and that affects every system in the body. It may manifest as poor digestion, trouble sleeping, irritability, trouble letting go of emotional upsets or other shocks to the system, obesity, etc. Suppressed spleen function may not be seen in the organ itself.

So, in addition to whatever else you are doing you want to calm the TW and tonify the SP.

Here's an exercise to sedate the TW. Very powerful. I learned it from Donna Eden, author of Energy Medicine.. (I'll write about tonifying spleen in another post.)

1. Begin with your fingertips pressing into the center of your forehead. Inhale through the nose. As you exhale through the mouth, drag your fingertips across your forehead to your temples.
2. Inhale through the nose and press into the temples. Exhale through the mouth and drag your fingers around the ears, down the neck to the shoulders.
3. Inhale and press into the shoulders. Exhale and drag fingertips down the chest to the heart.
4. Inhale with hands over the heart. Exhale.
5. Repeat.

Here's another helpful one. In this video Donna Eden demonstrates holding neurovascualar points to increase blood flow to the forebrain as a way to handle stress:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

"You don't diagnose. You don't treat."

Those words still ring in my head. They were repeated often by my Polarity Therapy teacher, John Beaulieu. I had the good fortune of studying with him for several years and wrote about his recent book release, Human Tuning, in May.

John's point was that our job as energy healers was not to treat the symptoms presented by our clients, but to empower people to heal themselves. This approach is very different from the model promoted by allopathic (conventional Western) medicine, which is heavily invested in biochemical interventions for even minor problems. You only need to hear the litany of adverse side-effects on any drug commercial to see that the overall health of the person is trumped by focus on symptomatic relief. And this approach has been largely embraced by our society as correct. One client complained to me of "restless leg syndrome". I explained that it was just one indicator of his overall condition. His insomnia digestive problems and low sex-drive all indicated an autonomic nervous system imbalance that could be handled with a few life-style adjustments. He didn't want to hear about that. "No," he said,"it's a real disease. They even have a drug for it."

Sometimes we need to address the symptoms immediately and sometimes it's expedient to go to the chemistry lab. If the symptom is a gushing artery, a shattered femur, or dose of the clap, you are a fool not to address it with all due haste. But once you've stopped the bleeding, set the leg, or handled the infection you might want to address the underlying energy patterns that got you into such a fix in the first place.

Healing is much more than freedom from symptoms. It is a return to wholeness, where energy is abundant and unobstructed within the body/mind and in resonance with its environment. Energy patterns that disrupt its wholeness can manifest as poor health--physically, emotionally, and mentally.

You can address these energy patterns directly through a variety of methods and sometimes it is appropriate to do so. However, I have found it more effective in the long run to help my clients raise their energy level and empower them to heal themselves. The body/mind is much smarter about restoring its internal homeostasis than any physician. All healing is self-healing. In even the most dysfunctional of us there is an innate urge toward wholeness. In my sessions, I help my clients experience a heightened state of coherence where their body/minds can untangle and release energy patterns that no longer serve them. Equally important, they learn how to exchange more energy with the world they occupy.

When we have more energy available and it is flowing correctly, we have better resources to handle the challenges of life. Many problems disappear. The rising tide lifts all boats.

For example, I have written about the importance of establishing central equilibrium. Not just in your taiji form, but everywhere. We establish energy patterns when we first learn to walk that serve us well as toddlers, but actually block our energy as we age. Numerous health problems can result, as well as diminished vitality. Those patterns are so old and so familiar that any change actually threatens our sense of homeostasis. It feels "wrong". My approach is to adjust a client's posture until they find that sweet spot and allow the body/mind to feel the potential advantages. Standing in central equilibrium for just a minute can dramatically increase the qi flow, something that most people we be able to sense from its physiological effects, even if they haven't yet developed their ability to sense energy. The increase can be so significant (and unfamiliar) that the body/mind can interpret that as a "threat". My job is to create a safe space to allow it to try out this new energy pattern and adopt it if deemed desirable.

When the client adopts this new pattern there is an increase in vitality, as well as reduction in some problems that may have plagued her for a while. Back, neck, and shoulder pain; sciatica; headaches...just a few. She is moving toward true healing, not just a reduction of symptoms.

The rising tide lifts all boats.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


When the body is calm and the mind uncluttered, only then can one observe the subtle.
Chang San-Feng

I lead off Chapter 13 ("Beyond Relaxation") of Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate with this quote from Chang San-Feng, Daoist sage and legendary founder of taijiquan. I was happy to come across that quote again. It is the key to moving meditation and to any study of the internal martial arts.

It all starts with song. As I discuss in Western Gate, song is often transliterated as "relaxation" but that misleads us into thinking of it as a gooey passivity. It is anything but that. Song is the foundation of soft power. It is where we let go of extraneous muscular tension and relax into the intrinsic support of our connective tissue system.

This is easier said than done, of course. It runs counter to just about every hard-won lesson our body/mind has ever logged. Our nervous systems learn by resisting what is. We feel the sting of falling down long before we ever learn the concept of gravity, and we spend a lot of energy and (largely unconscious) attention making sure that happens as little as possible. Many of us are engaged in an all-day struggle to stay erect that takes its toll in a myriad of ailments, like joint and back pain, sciatica, stiff neck and shoulders, or just a low level anxiety that surfaces in a thousand different ways. Any time you notice your mind chattering away you can assume that you are not song.

Song is not something you figure out and then assume you know. It must be discovered again and again, each time peeling off another layer. The foundation of xingyiquan practice is a standing meditation posture called santishou. It is said that you can miss a day of xingyi practice, but not santi. The body/mind must be allowed to return to the reassurance of structures that support and nurture us. This allows the body to be calm and the mind uncluttered.

The key to song is an acceptance of what is. We embrace the moment...exactly as it is. Not just conceptually, but physically. We stop resisting the tide of NOW and allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling. This both requires and permits the mind to be uncluttered. Not in a permanent way, but in a dynamic exchange with the universe. In those moments, fear dissolves; anxiety fades; we enter the space between thoughts.

It is only by embracing what is that we can bring about any meaningful change. From the platform of the known we can reach into the the infinite possibilities that surround us and discover or create something new.

In my experience, the best way to train song is to first find your central equilibrium in whatever you are doing. Then slowly adjust your body into a shape that allows the energy to flow THROUGH you with a minimum of interruption. Taijiquan, yiquan, xingyiquan, baguazhang...they each train shapes that cultivate distinct energies.

Which one is right?

The one you are doing now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Health and Longevity: Belly Fat

Excess fat around your belly can be hazardous to your health. It increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia. Visceral fat is the fat that wraps around your inner organs. If you have a large belly, you have visceral fat. It's pretty well established that good health is under attack with each additional inch we add to our girth.

But sometimes visceral fat is hidden by an athletic body.

When I was competing in tournaments in the late 90's I was a lithe middleweight. I felt pretty good. I ate whatever I wanted as much as I wanted and was usually a workout or two away from my playing weight. But after I retired from competition, things changed. I added 15-20 pounds after age 50 and my belly started to get rounder. I didn't worry much about it since it didn't seem to be "fat"--it was hard to the touch, not soft like the adipose tissue I saw on other people. I could even strike it with my knuckles and produce a loud thump as if I were hitting a basketball. I didn't like the look of it, but it seemed harmless. I had several friends with similar bodies and we'd laugh about our "ch'i bellies".

It wasn't until much later that I found that I was adding layers of fat around my internal organs. It was hidden by abdominal muscles. Something else changed--it was surprisingly resistant to my efforts to pare it down. My metabolism had changed with my age and my reduced workouts. Even when my overall weight went down, my belly stayed round--like an anaconda that swallowed a watermelon.

My round belly wasn't the real problem, merely a symptom of greater one: my limbic system wasn't detoxifying my body the way it had in my more active years. My liver was overworked and dumped fat in my belly. (Some reports indicate this is true for about half the population over fifty).

Then someone suggested "castor-cize"and referred me to the website of Dr. Majid Ali (http://www.majidali.com/castor-cise.htm), a pathologist in New Jersey. He had specialized in pathology and surgery for decades before turning his attention to preventive medicine. He is famous for his effective cancer therapies that integrate allopathic and complementary care.

Dr. Ali has a comprehensive workout that incorporates applying warmed castor oil to parts of the body and then exercising. (His workout also includes breathing exercises and a type of meditation.) Castor oil is a triglyceride of fatty acids. The molecule is very small and can easily be absorbed into the skin. Almost 90 percent of its fatty acid content consists of ricinoleic acid, which has been shown to be effective in preventing the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds. It enhances the functioning of your lymphatic system and your immune system, especially your thymus.

Castor oil speeds up the lymphatic flow, which assists in removing toxins from the cells. This improves organ functioning and lifts the spirits.

Sounded good to me. I didn't go through Dr. Ali's whole procedure. (I have my own methods of breathing and meditation.) I just warmed some castor oil in my hands and rubbed it into my abdominal area before exercise. The results were impressive. I dropped a few pounds, but more important I lost that round, hard belly. I felt more energetic.

After a while I got out of the habit of doing this and lost some of the ground I'd gained. So I'm doing it again, this time daily for two weeks to see it's effect.

Warning: Don't wear your favorite t-shirt when castor-cizing. It stains. I clean up afterward with peppermint oil soap.

Any belly fat lost is an indicator that my body is less toxic and therefore healthier. Sounds good to me...again.

Please let me know if you try this and your results.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Tai Chi Alchemy
returns to the beautiful Poco Diablo Resort in Sedona, Arizona September 16-18. We had a great time there this past September and I can't wait to do it again. The rooms are comfortable, the food is good, the staff are helpful, and the views are exquisite. (See my blog post "Tai Chi Alchemy XVI Report" October 21 for some notes on our last one.) The weekend is jammed full of mind-blowing epiphanies and open-hearted sharing, so plan an extra couple days to get a taste of everything else Sedona has to offer.