Spirit Points to Transform Feelings

Have you ever felt a little down and lack motivation even when things are going well, and the sun is shining? I found myself in that state when I went out in my backyard to bounce on my mini trampoline.  I bounced and faced each direction trying to feel some connection to nature and realized that I felt lack luster. It was hard to engage in it wholeheartedly.

(Just a quick digression to tell you about the benefits of a mini trampoline or re-bounder. Bouncing is fun and is said to facilitate the movement of lymph and strengthen the bones).

As I continued to bounce, I decided to focus on my feelings and had to admit that I felt some sadness and nostalgia. With creative imagination, I invited that part of me to jump along with me on the mini-trampoline. I realized I felt nostalgic about my recent trip to Italy. I especially liked staying with friends and their family.

As I acknowledged that, memories of my Italian family here started to surface.The memories came with the awareness of how life keeps moving and changing, and how we change with it. I thought of my parents who are aging and that my time with them is limited. I gave myself permission to feel my sense of loss. I felt the sadness in my chest and I spontaneously crossed my arms in front of my chest to give myself a hug.

Then I used my fingertips to rub Lung 1 at the upper corners of my chest to see if I felt the sadness there. The emotion related to the Lung is grief. No, the sadness was not there.

I pressed the spirit points along the sides of my sternum with my palms, and sure enough I connected with the feelings that were lodged there, especially on the right. I held and rubbed the points and my chest gently and realized I felt both sadness and gratitude.  I felt grateful for the hospitality of my Italian friends and the love in my Italian family. The visceral feelings of closeness and appreciation started to come in naturally with the memories.

The spirit points are very interesting. They are on either side of the center-line of the chest in the spaces between the ribs and have names like Spirit Burial Ground and Spirit Storehouse. Pressing these points can help us feel more of who we are at heart. They can inspire joy for living and the will to carry on. They certainly helped to transform my feeling state this morning.  I felt connected to myself and to the great spirit of the universe that manifests in my life as people I love and experiences that hold and teach me about what’s important.

After that it was easy to relate to the directions. I took a walk in the morning sunlight, watered my plants, worked in the garden, and wrote this piece to you dear readers. It was a welcome change from where I started.

I invite you to try pressing the spirit points in this way yourself. Cross your hands in front of your chest and give yourself a hug. Bring your middle fingertips to the  Lung 1 point which is just below the corner of your collarbone and shoulder. The edges of your palms closest to the mid-line should be covering the spirit points. Press the spirit points with the palm edges of your hands. Relax and breath into the center of your chest. Accept all feelings that come your way. Let the points guide you to the deep heart space that never changes and always transforms.

 

 

Feel With Your Soul

 

They call Rome the eternal city and I can see why. Life is flourishing here and has been for centuries.  Streets are filled with cars, buses, taxis and mopeds. Skillful taxi drivers maneuver in and out of tight spaces like water flowing around rocks. Crowds of people are out at night walking through the streets, enjoying the evening, the sites, the wine bars and restaurants. Street artists and musicians entertain eyes and ears in the open piazzas. Groups of people gather at key public places with flags and signs listening to impassioned speakers trying to persuade them about politics. It’s colorful, noisy and chaotic to the everyday eye, but when I check inside myself I feel joyful and alive. There is a smile on my lips. I’m happy to be here although the noise on the street woke me.  It’s 4 am and this flow of creativity started coming through, begging me to get up and write it down to share with you.

I recently read some advice from Eckart Tolle. He said when you go to a place, feel it with your soul, your sense of inner presence. In my short time here, I’ve practiced doing that in the piazzas, in timeless churches with their ornate columns, sculptures, stained glass windows and amazing frescoes, and in my hotel room at night when my heart doesn’t want to sleep.

In a perfect metaphor for grace and longevity, there are old Roman buildings being used for very modern purposes. You can walk below the city street, through old underground tunnels and into the past of ancient Rome. At the Foro Traiano, through a masterful play of lights and images, the Rome of Julius Caesar’s time comes back to life. The ruins that have been unearthed by archaeologists are embellished by modern technology and creative imagination. For a moment the past comes alive again. You see and realize that although the facade has changed, many things are still the same and life goes on in endless layers and with endless faces.

This is where feeling with the soul comes in handy, because despite all the new and the old, it helped me feel one with life’s great play. We are part of the present, part of the past, and we influence the future all at the same time. We are in the flow of the universe, and we hand the baton to each other through generations. There is always an end and a beginning happening in the same eternal moment. This is one reason I love traveling. It connects me with soul and deepens my daily practice of knowing who I truly am.

 

Tennis Ball Therapy

I woke up the other night and my right arm had fallen asleep and was numb and burning. I tried to move around to get it to release but it was hanging in there. I realized that my whole neck shoulders and arms were tight. Can you relate? Do you feel creaky sometimes and wonder who you will ever feel flexible and graceful again?

I thought, I really need a good massage, and maybe even the chiropractor. Although these are great ideas, they weren’t going to help me alleviate the pain and get back to sleep now. So, I decided on tennis ball therapy. Actually, that night it was soft rubber ball therapy. I keep a little ball in my dresser right next to the bed for this very reason. The bed is a great place to do this therapy especially at night because you are already there. If you have a partner in bed with you, you may not have quite as much latitude to move around and sigh with relief, but it still works.

How to do it

Lay on your back and use the bed to give you just the right amount of resistance. You want the pressure to “hurt good,” so adjust accordingly. I start with my neck on the side that feels tighter and use a combination of moving the ball with my other hand back and forth across the neck muscles that run alongside the spine. This cross friction helps open the fibers up. Move from under your skull downwards. Stop at places that are particularly tight and breathe with them for a moment, inviting them to open. As with all these kinds of recommendations, DO NOT cause yourself “hurts bad” pain, and check with your health care practitioner if you have a special condition to consider.

If your arm has fallen asleep, move the ball down your forearm. Get into the tension that is just below your elbow. Get the area above your wrist on the back and under side of your forearm. As a side benefit, the area below your elbow also helps boost immunity according to Japanese acupuncture.

Then move down your upper back and between your shoulder blades. See if you can roll the ball over the top of your shoulders in the tension there. You must use your hands to help with that. In this therapy, creativity is the key. Any way that you can move, stop, breath and apply pressure will get you where you want to go. AVOID putting pressure directly on your spine. But you can go right next to it.

Now feel the difference between the side you worked on and the other side. You’ll probably notice it feels more smooth, alive, and even longer than the other side. Switch sides if you haven’t fallen back to sleep yet and enjoy. Heat can be nice after this if you are still awake. Use a heating pad or warm pack to your upper back and arm if that feels good. To help with sleep, take a few moments to enjoy the lovely sensations you’ve created. Let your mind feel calmer, safer, and smoother. Back to sweet dreams . . .

Live in a Connected Universe

Grace: an elegance, body movements that are flowing and flexible, a shower of blessing, a giving of blessing, appearing radiant. Longevity: living a long life, perseverance, in touch with the infinite. In my mind, grace and longevity are concepts that belong together. It seems to me that the more I know about grace, the happier and more flowing my life will be no matter how many physical years it lasts. Grace and the infinite are connected.

Grace is a beautiful word and one that runs in my family. Five generations of women are named Grace, my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother are Grace Marie. My sister is Mary Grace. My sister’s granddaughter is Scottie Grace.

When I first thought of the title for this blog, I didn’t consciously consider the familial implications. I was more focused on the benefits of practicing yoga, qigong and meditation. However, here it is. This first entry comes at the end of a visit with my mother Grace, who is 96 years old. I realized that an important lesson was just given to me about Grace and longevity. The title of the lesson is, “Live in a connected universe.” It starts with my reflections of my visit.

Mom looks at me with big moon eyes. Her left a bit cloudy and unfocused. They search my face to make a connection. Her smile is sweet and expectant. What can we talk about? Are you here with me, they seem to say. I feel tears well up as I write. She is so available to me, much more than she ever was before. But our roles are reversed, and her faculties are declining.

She starts the prayer she likes best in a singing voice. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you God for everything. Sometimes it goes, thank you for the birds that fly, thank you for the big blue sky, thank you for the food we eat, thank you God for everything. Sometimes I add a few lines like, thank you for the flowers that bloom, thank you for the trees so green. . . She likes them all. Then she continues, thank you Jesus for your blessings, even the ones we don’t know about.

She then moves seamlessly into the familiar nighttime prayer of my childhood: Angel of God, my guardian dear, for whom God’s love commits thee here. Ever this day be at my side to light to guard to rule and guide, amen. As I repeat this familiar nighttime prayer from my childhood my eyes being to water. Past and present merge. She is so focused on her personal connection with spirit. I close my eyes and feel into the moment. It seems I see and feel strong and beautiful beings of light, gracing us with spiritual presence.

My mother’s connection with God, as she envisions him/her, is an anchor that calms her and alleviates fear. She can accept what has seemed unacceptable just minutes before. Her face and demeanor soften, and she becomes more herself, even in her present diminished state.

In my youth I had a strong rebellious streak. I saw my mother’s devotional spirit as repressive and patriarchal. I felt superior in my choice of yoga and meditation, from both India and China (qigong) as a worldview that made more sense to me. It didn’t seem to have the baggage of a personal version of God yet taught me about the interconnection of all things.

Today, as I embrace a humbler mindset, I ask myself what I am being asked to learn. The answer seems to be about experiencing life as connection. Connection to self, to family, to community, to nature, to God and the universe in the way we experience him/her/it. The stronger the feeling of connection, the more grace, presence, and love seem to abound. So, our lesson for this entry on grace and longevity is experience life as connection.

Help from Qigong practice: Universe Breathing

 Qigong is a healing practice that originated in China in ancient times. It uses meditative movement coordinated with the breath, as well as visualization and meditation to relax tension in body and mind and balance the energy flows of the body. In these blogs I will share little qigong practices that give you easy ways to release stress and feel more connected and present.

 Breathing is so common for us that we hardly pay attention to it. However, breathing has connected us to life since birth, and will continuously do so until we die. We are like fish in air. When we breathe in and out we exchange life force with the universe. Breath and food sustain our energy.

Meditative breathing has been used to calm and focus the mind and relax the body since ancient times. We usually think of breathing in and out through the nose and with the lungs. In Chinese medicine the lungs are related to the skin. Skin is the biggest organ we have and is often called the third lung. The pores on the skin open and close to protect us and to maintain water and heat balance, as in sweating.

In this meditation we begin breathing in and out through the nose and proceed to imagine and feel that we breath in and out through every cell in our skin and indeed every cell in our bodies. Every cell is a portal for connection. As you inhale your entire being gently expands. As you exhale all of yourself can gently give back. Feel the touch of the air on your skin. After a while you can imagine that the universe is breathing you. Use this meditation when you feel disconnected, lonely or out of sorts, and see what happens. Your feedback is always welcome.