How do you define Success?

How do you define success? Is it the big house at the end of the cul-de-sac? The corner office on the top floor? The large savings account?

I have always liked the one by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

So based on the many of my students who have approached me and told me that their health has improved, they can move better and some can even breathe easier; I have been a success!

How can you be successful today?

 

What is Qi (Ki)

When new people start learning Qigong they often ask what is Qi?

Qi is the universal life force that permeates all living things. In Japan they call it Ki and in India it is called Prana. If a person has no Qi, he is dead. A sick person will have less Qi than one who is healthy. Doing Qigong is to make sure that we have enough Qi to keep us healthy and to live a long life. It helps us to maintain a quality of life within the quantity of life. Chinese Qigong is a practice of movements with visualization, imagery and breathing. It trains the mind to help control the life processes, which results in longevity and wisdom.

The benefits of Qigong include: improved health, clear mind, better sleep, increased energy, a comfortable warmth, clear skin, a happy disposition, a more efficient metabolism, better physiological control, bright eyes, better creativity and may be accompanied by a spiritual experience.

But as Ken Cohen says in his book “The Way of Qigong” to understand Qigong, we should be familiar with seven major kinds of Qi:

Breath Qi-from respiration

Food Qi-from diet

Original Qi-from parents or the universe

Internal Qi-all qi inside the body

External Qi-qi emanating from the body

Nutritive Qi-flows inside the acupuncture meridians

Protective Qi-energetic barrier against external pathogens

These help us to stay healthy and protect us from becoming ill. In Qigong we learn to move the qi inside and through the meridians and we can also learn to project Qi to help heal others. It is called External Qi Healing and in the west in can be compared to Therapeutic Touch.

So how is your Qi today?

The Five Elements

What are the five elements or, Wu Xing (pronounced Wu-Shing) in Chinese. They are  also called the five phases of change or transformation as it represents a constant movement or change in each of the phases. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Ancient Chinese observed the changes in nature and were able to transfer this philosophy over into their daily lives.

The creation cycle expresses how one element creates the next one in the circle. Wood creates fire, fire creates earth, earth creates metal and metal creates water. For example, water creates wood by giving life to the tree. If you take a tree and use it for a fire you now have created fire. From the fire you get ash, which represents the earth and from the earth you have all the metals that are sitting within it. If you take the metal and you heat it, it becomes molten like water or if you leave metal outside condensation appears and you have water resting on the metal. It made sense to me.

The control cycle or as some schools of Chinese Medicine call it the destruction cycle. Wood controls earth, earth controls water, water controls fire and fire controls metal. He explained a little deeper, more than likely because of the confused look on my face.

If you think of a large tree – its roots go deep into the ground, controlling the earth around it. By using the earth you can control the flow of water in the form of a dam. Water can control fire since water can put out a fire. Fire controls metal because if you use a hot enough fire you can melt the metal. And finally metal controls wood since an ax is able to cut the wood.

Now what each element represents in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Wood is associated with the color green, spring time, birth, morning the direction east, the emotion of anger and the sour flavor. The organs associated with wood are the liver and gallbladder.

Fire is associated with the color red, summertime, expansion, the emotions of joy and laughter, the direction of south, and the bitter flavor. The organs associated with Fire are the heart and small intestine as well as the triple warmer and pericardium.

Earth is associated with the color yellow, the time of late summer or Indian summer, introspection, the direction of center, the emotion of sympathy, and the flavor of sweet. The organs associated with earth are the stomach and spleen.

Metal is associated with the color white, the time of fall, the time of harvesting, the afternoon, the direction of west, the emotion of grief. The organs associated with the metal element are the lungs and large intestine.

Water is associated with the color blue, wintertime, the direction north, the emotion of fear, and conserving resources. The organs associated with water are the kidneys and urinary bladder.

The cycles of creation and control must be balanced. If they are balanced the body is in harmony, which leads to health, vitality and longevity. He said it is best to work all of the organs to help maintain this balance. If one part becomes ill then the entire body can become ill.

There is much more to the five element theory as it relates to life, our bodies, our emotions, sounds, climates, and many other types of interactions.

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang

Yin and yang
In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describes how opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.
Yin and Yang need to be balanced. Balanced people respond better to stress.
Yin is cool, internal, soft, and flexible like stored energy.
Yang is external, hard and brittle, and is like moving energy.
One of my teachers explained it to me in this way: think of a candle as stored yin energy, the flame then becomes the moving or yang energy. If you had no candle you could not have a flame and if you had no flame you could not light the candle. They become interdependent on each other.
Yin people are quiet, pale looking not physically strong and overwhelmed by too much activity. They tend to get more chronic illnesses and the illness creeps up and lingers for a long time.
Yang people are loud, physically strong and likes a lot of activities. They don’t get sick very easily but when they do they get hit hard and recover very quickly. The illness comes on quick and goes away just as fast.
Which one are you?

Thanksgiving

I would like to give my Thanks on this day for the many things I have in my life. I give Thanks for my siblings and their families, although my parents have passed as well as two brothers there is still the love that many siblings share. We have not always seen things in the same light but we respect each others opinions and always find joy when we are together.

I give Thanks for my daughters who have taught me a great many things about life and about raising girls in this sometimes chaotic world. You both mean the world to me and I know I have made mistakes in the past but that is what helps us to learn. I Love you both from the bottom of my heart.

I am Thankful for my extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. Though we many not see each other for many years there is a bond that is reignited every time we do. I am glad that I have the opportunity to have been part of such a large family, I believe well over sixty cousins.

I am Thankful for my stepson and his wife. They have the knack for finding great eateries and for demonstrating the ideal laid back personalities. Always a pleasure to be in their company.

I am Thankful for the many co-workers I have and have had. Some of whom I miss very much and some not so much. In either case I have learned a great many things from them.

I am Thankful for the many teachers I have and have had. I have learned a great deal from them. I wonder where would I be if not for them. Elementary school, high school, college, the martial arts and many other areas. I have learned that there is much more to learn and that it is a never ending process.

I am very Thankful for my wife who has given me so much. Not a day goes by where we are not laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Life is too short to not have fun. I have learned a great many things from her and have experienced things I may never have had I not met her.

I am Thankful for my many students who have helped me to become a better teacher. They inspire me to continue to teach.

I am Thankful for my readers who have purchased my books and have written wonderful comments about them. I am glad that they are able to enjoy them and learn from them.

I am Thankful that we live in a world where there is Hope that all mankind can come together and find peace. Where we help one another rather than tear each other down. Where governments do what is right for all the people and not just the special interest groups. Where we can look at each other and smile and honestly say Thank You!

Book 4

I am working on the fourth and final book in the “Old Man From the Hill” series. The young boy journeys to Taiwan with his teacher to visit with his teacher’s family and to learn Qigong with some monks from a Daoist temple.

He gets to ride in a pedicab and a train and sees some of the sights of Taiwan. He learns new Qigong exercises that he can use to teach his friends when he returns to his home in Ohio. Perhaps there may even be a young girl interest that occupies some of his time.

The books have been fun for me to write and share some of the knowledge of Tai Chi and Qigong that I have acquired over the years. It is my hope that the books inspire young people to seek out teachers that they can learn from and gather all the benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi that I have. I hope to continue teaching and sharing what I learn with all the wonderful people I have met and I give a sincere bow to all of my teachers that have shared their knowledge with me.

I have also included an early copy of the cover and any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

book-5-cover-a1

 

Winter

We are passing through the fall season and preparing for winter. One must keep in mind that winter is the most Yin time of the year and we must practice our qigong accordingly.

The emphasis should be more on meditation and slower exercises to conserve our energy. It is a time for introspection. There are a great many styles and types of meditations that one can use. The Inner Smile meditation, Dantian mediation, Balancing the Yin and Yang Meditation and Standing Meditation to help build the energy in the body. You can find so many and there are many resources available to you.

Eat accordingly as well. Foods that are harmonious with winter are: black beans, black mushrooms, blackberries, black sesame seeds, black soybeans, blueberries, cabbages, celery, chard, cranberries, ginger, kale, kidney beans, kohlrabi, longon, miso, ocean pearch, parsley, pine nuts, prunes, raspberries, rutabaga, seaweed, shrimp, soy sauce, string beans, turnips, walnuts.

Congee is a good winter meal and easy to digest. It is basically a rice porridge and it is easy to digest and tonifies the blood and qi; it also harmonizes the digestive process. Here is a basic recipe that you can use:

1 cup of rice

5-10 cups of water (depending on how thick you want it)

Cook 4-6 hours on a low flame.

When finished you can season it with salt, miso or honey

(You can also add some fish, pork, chicken and some green onions)

Enjoy!

congee

 

The Places I Teach!

Many times people ask me where I teach and I just rattle off the names of those places. I have never given it much thought until now. Why do I teach at these places? Why don’t I have my own studio? Why some places and not others?

After deeply thinking about these questions I would have to answer, the people. It is the people at these places that keeps me teaching there. Not just the people who come for the classes but those who work there as well.

At 1-2-1 fitness on the campus of Case Western Reserve University the people who come for class are great. They love to learn and they continue to come each class. The managers, staff and personal trainers there are really, really great people. Friendly, helpful and always willing to say hi to you and ask how things are going with your class. The trainers recommend people to my class and I recommend people to the trainers. It is like a big family all looking out for each other.

It is no different at the Geauga County YMCA. The staff are always greeting me with a smile and asking how I am doing. The wonderful ladies in charge are always asking how my class is going? What can they do to generate more interest in Tai Chi and Qigong? If people have questions they send them to me and allow people to actually try out a class to see if they like it.

Balanced Solutions, a physical therapy office, where I just recently started teaching; thank you Laurie and Kelly, I find the same atmosphere. Kind, friendly people always greeting me with a smile and asking questions about what I teach and would it help their patients. Of course the answer is yes.

So if I had my own studio I would miss out on all the kind and friendly people I come in contact with each week. It is the kindness the feeling of belonging that I continue to teach at these places. Even when they may be having a bad day they still greet you with the same smile and kindness. And that is what makes all the difference.

So a big Thank You to all of these institutions for allowing me to teach there!

Thank You

Humility!

I have been in the martial arts for over 40 years as a student, teacher and enthusiast and one of the most important things that I have learned has been humility. When I competed in karate tournaments when I lost my opponent did not look down on me we shared where I may have done better or done something differently. When I won the same scenario took place.

What we learn in the martial arts are that we are no better or worse than the other person. We may be on different levels or have different skills neither better nor worse, neither superior nor inferior. We compete to learn and to challenge ourselves. The best part of my competing was the camaraderie. We could face the same person at different tournaments and still feel the bond that we originally made.

In my teaching of Tai Chi and Qigong I am humbled by how many people tell me their health has improved because of my teaching, because of my example and because of my caring. But I know it is not me but they who by their dedication and effort to learn is what has improved their health and lives. I see myself only as a guide to show them the way. A good teacher leads the student to the door but the student must go through!

I want to Thank all of my students and Teachers for all that they have shared with me over the years!

Recognizing your talents doesn’t mean believing they’re limitless. Accepting your strengths doesn’t lead to pride, but instead to humility; you’re less likely to resent what others have if you understand your own bounty. Gina Barreca

 

Passing of a Loved One!

It is funny how the passing of a loved one always gets us thinking about our own mortality until several weeks or months have gone by and we just forget about it until the next passing of a loved one.

I have just lost another brother, younger than me and so full of life even though he suffered from MS which had ravaged his body but not his mind. He still had a sense of humor and loved to laugh up until the very end.

Tomorrow we celebrate his passing with my sister-in-law who wants to have all of us write a note to him and then release it on balloons to carry them up to him. Although he is gone physically he is still with us everyday in our hearts and our minds.

We all have special prayers that we usually rely on when a loved one passes and mine comes from a book written by Brooke Medicine Eagle and is a Native American Prayer. Here it is:

Native American Prayer 

Don’t stand at my grave and weep

For I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond’s glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

 

When you awaken in morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there; I did not die.

Rest in Peace my brother!