Articles, Uncategorized

The Dark Side Of Pain

steve pray

 

Pain eats your soul.
You want to move but you can’t.
Life is out there waiting,
Calling you to come out and play,
People to see, places to be,
Exciting, active and fun…
The spirit is willing, but the body is tired,
Every move jars the soul,
Pain screams around the joints,
They give way and are unstable,
Medication has a price that is just as bad.

Everybody assumes you will fully repair,
That is the confidence of youth.
You end up joining the pretence,
Because it’s easier than trying to explain.
In the end life can only get worse,
It comes sooner to some than others,
But why tell them that?

Bed becomes your torture chamber,
No position has rest,
No sleep, no respite.
The dark quiet hours make you think,
You feel the reaper in the shadows.
Death is a warm painless blanket,
Where sleep finally awaits.

No seat is comfortable,
No shoes or clothes fit without discomfort,
Everything comes with a problem,
Can’t stand, walk, sit or lay without pain,
Every bit of furniture has to be examined,
So you don’t get stuck and embarrassed.

Your painful gait gets in everyone’s way,
Too slow, with that painful limp.
No disabled parking means going home,
Having to fully open your car door,
Means traffic slows with impatient horns.

Paralympians put you to shame,
But they’re disabled not sick.
Others can’t tell the difference,
And if your sickness isn’t visible enough,
People think you’re lazy.

Many are worse off than you.
Their struggle makes your problems seem small.
It’s all a matter of perspective,
But you can only speak from your own.
Why bother to write?
Because that old man/lady hobbling in your way,
Created the world you now inhabit,
And could probably save you from many mistakes.

By Steve Rowe

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Poems, Uncategorized

I See You

steve pray

I see you….
Because I meditate and practice neigong,
I see you,
I see the savage beast when the mask slips,
Maybe only for a second,
But I see you.

I also see the angel,
When you have pure altruistic compassion,
When you really care;
When your caring is free from fear or pity,
When there is no desire for an end result,
That’s when your angel is looking through your eyes.

My unfettered mind see’s how you wear your body;
The tension borne from fear,
The bowed head, the lazy slouch,
The jutting chin and darting eyes;
The deepest muscles ‘holding’ your darkest fears;
I see you in there.

I also see when your body is free;
When your natural beauty shines through,
When you are tall and straight,
Tension free and shining,
When you float as you move like your angel,
I see you you in there.

You cannot hide from an open mind;
My eyes are not camera’s,
I’m looking from my deepest soul,
It ‘perceives’ until you and I are one,
I become you and then I really ‘see’ what and whom you really are.

I see you….

 

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Articles, Uncategorized

Compassion And The Martial Arts

eyes quanyin

In my youth I was arrogant and violent before I discovered the Martial Arts – and as a result of that discovery I also went on to study Buddhism, Zen and Taoism.  It was through these studies that I found compassion.  In hindsight I think that my excitability, arrogance and violence was a result of being ’empathic’ and not knowing how to deal with it.  As an empathic child in a non empathic family and culture where ‘give him a slap’ was the answer to everything in a relationship and as I attended the roughest school in South London where it was important to appear tough, compassion was a concept I never encountered.

Ironically, covering up this empathy with toughness led me into the world of security and the Martial Arts where I encountered management skills, emotional intelligence and asian philosophy.  I learned that you didn’t have to like someone to extend patience, kindness, tolerance and compassion towards them and this taught me how to work as a team member and create a positive environment both at work and home.  In the world of security your ‘soft skills’ are important and eventually, as a manager I recruited people by how many fights they hadn’t had as opposed to a head count of people they’d battered.

As I became an instructor in the Martial Arts, this philosophy transformed my club from a South London ‘tough guys’ club  where a bunch of young men beat each other up every night into a more positive environment, attracting people from all walks of life to include all cultures, genders, abilities and needs.

As a result I became much tougher, developing the courage, resolve and determination to take me where the philosophy was leading and that was balanced by the patience, kindness, tolerance and….. compassion.

Firstly I had to understand what compassion was – and my empathy really helped, I could feel what other people and animals felt, I had to become vegetarian as I felt the pain of the annual 19 billion animals needlessly slaughtered for food, and I automatically ‘tuned in’ to any human suffering, pushing me towards reiki, spiritual and ‘hand healing’ with the power of an empathic touch. I learned that it is easy to confuse compassion with fear, where you see someone suffering and you’re scared for yourself – and often secretly glad that it’s not you.  It’s not pity, as that is looking down on someone because they are suffering and you’re making them somehow ‘lesser’ as a result. It’s not predicated on an outcome, it just is.

Compassion is pure and untainted, it’s developed through meditation, empathy, patient kindness and exists of itself.  If you can develop the right mental perspective, emotional intelligence and utilise those skills you can tap into the most healing energy the universe has to offer. It’s represented in the Christian religion by the Virgin Mary, in Buddhism by Quanyin in China, Kannon in Japan and Avalokiteśvara in India, the all seeing eyes of the Goddess that harkens to the cries of suffering in the World.  Most Chinese Kung Fu shrines are dedicated to her.

Compassion needs both yin and yang to function, thus the phrase ‘you need a strong back and a soft front’ to have true compassion, this is the result of good kung fu training and study – skill resulting from time and effort. If a martial arts expert lacks compassion, they surely have followed the wrong path.

 

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Articles

Hand Healing In The Martial Arts

hand

Hand Healing In The Martial Arts

The kwoon was unusually quiet.  When I entered Sifu was standing with his hands on Jane’s head, she was seated with her eyes closed.  Everyone else was getting on with the business of training, warming up or in a conversation of hushed whispers.  The aura of the healing that was taking place gave the usually lively character of the room the feeling of a church.

Its strange how Sifu was just standing and Jane sitting, to a casual observer nothing was happening and yet the energy transfer that was taking place was obvious enough to change the atmosphere in the room and affect everyone in it.

Jane was experienced enough to ‘assist’ Sifu in his work and had opened her mind and energy to allow him to do his work.  She had her tongue pressed to the top palette and was pulling the lower abdomen in and up.  She was sitting erect with both feet flat on the floor and one hand in the palm of the other with the tips of the thumbs lightly touching and the arms framed in front of the body.  This allowed the energy to circulate freely in the ‘heavenly’ circuit between the governor and conception vessels feeding energy to other meridians of the body.

With the healer and ‘healee’ working in harmony, their energy melding together and then being directed by Sifu and sometimes guided by Jane they were able to clear blockages caused by both mental and physical tension, and ease the pain of injury and illness.  The body always strives towards good health but sometimes needs to be reminded of how to feel that well.

Sifu stood erect, his tongue to the top palette, his lower abdomen pulled in and upward, his chest sunk and shoulder blades pulled down and apart, it seemed as if his entire body slightly ‘pulsed’ with each elongated breath.

A few minutes before the class started they ceased with Sifu making a few arcane signs over Jane’s head and then a symbol that was like a lightening bolt to ‘earth’ the energy he then clapped his hands and stood for a few moments collecting himself before starting the class.

At the end of the class it was ‘feedback’ time….  And I guess the student’s curiosity had to get the better of them.

“Sifu – was that healing that you were doing with Jane before lesson time?” asked Sarah.

“It certainly was” responded Sifu.

“Was it Reiki?”

“Reiki is the name of a system of healing started by by Dr Usui”, answered Sifu “but as Jane is a tai chi student, we were healing from our own system.”

“Was yer healing her with yer Chi then Sifu?”  Sarah asked in her own inimitable, cockney way.

Sifu laughed.  “It depends on your point of view.  Martial artists are healers and peacekeepers.  We develop the power and sensitivity to change disharmony and violence, whether it is in one person or a group of people; to peace and harmony.  Healing can often be a kind word, sometimes a sharp reminder, sometimes just a hug.

When you hurt yourself, the first thing you do is put your hand to the wounded place and press or rub – it’s natural.  When hurt, a child runs to its mother for a hug and for her to ‘rub it better’.  When a child hurts themselves in class, we often just put a ‘Rupert Bear’ plaster on the wound, even if it doesn’t need it to make it better… the attentions and care of another is important to all of us.

Humans are tribal in nature and therefore touch plays an important part in healing – this is why we enjoy massage and reiki type treatments.  What are normally subliminal energies to most people can be crafted through tai chi for self healing and for healing others.  If both healer and healee practice the art it can be even more powerful as we both know how to harmonise and direct the energy.”

“So that’s a yes then?” remarked Sarah.

“My point is that it could be described as ‘chi’ – and that’s probably the easiest way to describe it as that’s our method of learning these skills, but the healing work goes very deep into our nature and culture often working intensely at subliminal levels and is the most natural method of healing and pain relief in the world.”

“Were you working wiv her chakras Sifu?”  Sarah asked.

“To a certain extent – yes.

“Each chakra has a meaning doesn’t it?”  Sarah wasn’t going to let go until she got a full answer.

“Different areas of the body are affected by different areas of your life, therefore you can get a ‘reading’ of a person by feeling the energy flow there.”

“Can you explain that?”  She was like a dog with a bone and didn’t intend to let go.

“Okay…. ‘Chakra’ means spinning wheel of energy, so they are the areas of your body where energy tends to affect you most.  We have seven major chakras.

The ‘root’ chakra is where you experience sexual and mortality feelings, if a life and death situation occurs your mortal fear can make energy exit your body there.  It is often said that ‘adrenaline is brown’.  In both forms, this is a very powerful energy.

The ‘sacral’ chakra is your dantien and the centre of your body in relation to the gravitational pull of the earth.  This is where your instincts reside – you say “I have a ‘gut’ feeling that this is right or wrong etc…  and your instincts usually turn out to be far more reliable than your thinking mind!

The solar plexus chakra is your ‘worry spot’ this is where normal anger and fear reside.  This is where you get ‘worry ulcers’ and a pain or discomfort every time you worry or get nervous.  A release of energy at this point can make someone laugh or cry…

The heart chakra is where you feel love, compassion, patience and tolerance…

The throat chakra is communication, you often ‘choke’ on words or ‘choke’ them back, sometimes you don’t have the skill or bravery to express yourself properly and suffer as a result.

The Third Eye chakra between your eyebrows is the chakra of inspiration and visions.

The Crown chakra on the crown of your head is the spiritual chakra, this is where great spiritual leaders like Jesus Christ and the Buddha are depicted as having a golden aura or halo to show that their spiritual alchemy is complete.”

“Alchemy?” queried Sarah.

“Yes – any good training system will progress your life through all the chakras for you to turn your spiritual lead into gold.. Thus you overcome mortality and discipline your sexuality (root chakra) get in touch with your instinctual self (sacral chakra) overcome fear and anger (solar plexus chakra) and this enables you to develop love, patience, tolerance and compassion (heart chakra) – this leads on to inspiration (third eye chakra) and enlightenment (crown chakra).”

“And that is what you were doing to Jane?” Sarah looked astonished.

“No – she had a headache.”

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Articles

Healing In The Martial Arts

Quanyin head

If you study Martial Arts for Self Defence…..  What is most likely to kill you?  The answer is of course, bad health – and therefore that should be your first line of defence!  You have to care for your physical, mental and emotional health to be able to deal with any external threat effectively

An important day in your life as a Martial Artist is the day you take responsibility for your own well being and training regime.

The art of healing is an essential part of your Martial Arts training.  The Japanese say satsu/katsu that it is essentially thatlife taking’ and ‘life giving’ should be in balance and the study of taking care of your own and others wellbeing should be a natural part of your study.

Prevention of illness is obviously better than cure so your training should include deep breathing to get more oxygen into the bloodstream and therefore to the brain, encouraging a more sensitive and aware mind – and then meditation to focus that mind and help you to become more calm and wise.

With good postural training, this calm, focussed, aware and sensitive mind then permeates a well structured and aligned body, getting rid of excess tension and ‘stringing the 9 pearls’ of internal connection to give good health and powerful movement.

The daily exercises should then take the body through it’s natural range of movement and be both diagnostic in the sense of being able to find stiffness and injury before it becomes chronic – and therapeutic in that the exercise can ‘ease’ the body back into a healthy state, using the mind and breath to soften and encourage healing in the tissue and methods such as MET (muscle energy technique) to release locked tissue.

With an aware, sensitive and focussed mind, a relaxed body ‘at ease’, the knowledge of how to animate your mind and body (make sure you’ve read my last two articles) and how this energy is reflected through the chakras to promote the alchemy of your life as a Martial Artist you are able to utilise this ‘harmony’ of mind, body and breath to work energetically with yourself and others.

We all know how therapeutic touch can be, a hug from the right person when you’re feeling down, when a Mother ‘rubs’ a child’s wound better, the way we automatically put our own hand to a wound when we hurt ourselves – it’s the most natural method of healing in the world.  The value of this form of healing is highly underestimated in the modern world of not taking responsibility for our own health and the reliance on pills and potions of the modern day sorcerers.

The great thing with touch energy healing is that it is completely natural and non intrusive and can be complimentary to any other form healing.  Empathic people have this energy naturally but it can always be cultivated and used more skilfully; others have to go through the personal alchemy described in the ‘chakras’ article developing and cultivating their empathic and healing energies.

This energetic healing touch is so natural that it’s rolled (or should be) into nearly all the more natural complimentary and alternative healing arts such as Massage, Shiatsu, Reiki, Acupressure, Osteopathy and is used in spiritual and magical healing.

In Taiji it is said that ‘where the yi (intention) goes, the chi (animation) follows.  When you put that aware, sensitive, empathic, focussed mind into your hands the energy flows freely and if you place them on (or even near) a person, they can feel it.  The magic in this is that it encourages the person being healed to feel well and their body to heal itself.

If you put your hands palm up in front of you at waist level and put your mind into your hands, they will start to ‘mottle’ as the blood flow changes and tingle.  If you put your palms so that they face each other around 3 inches apart you will feel the energy between them.  If you place your palms 3 inches away from someone else’s palms, you will both feel the ‘energy transfer’ between you.

You do not need to pay anyone to do this (unless you’re hard up for friends) or have your ‘chakra’s aligned’ or be ‘attuned’ by anyone.  It’s only ‘magical’ in the sense that it is the most natural thing in the world.  If you place your tingling palms on someone where they hurt, their body will start to feel better – and remembering what it feels like to be healthy, will start to try and heal itself.

The more you cultivate your mind, body and breath on a daily basis, the more powerful this natural skill will become and have greater benefit for yourself and the health of those around you.

If you place your hands over their chakra’s you will intuitively feel what areas in their life they have problems because of the energy flow in the relative areas of their body.  By affecting the energy flow in those areas of their body, you will be able to help a little in the way they deal with those areas of their life.

People ask – “Is this Reiki?”  “Is this Katsu?” And/or various other names, but they are simply business, style or political labels, they ask if I’m guided by angels, dead people, gods or their representatives, but the truth is that I’m an atheist and see this as just natural energy or animation that can be trained and cultivated.

It’s important to take some responsibility for our own health and training, we have natural ability that can be trained and it’s not the be all and end all of healing, we do sometimes need medical, drug and other types of intervention, hand healing and the training that cultivates it can go a long way to promoting our own health and of those around us.  It also adds to the healing aspects of our own Martial Arts.

Natural healing should be a part of every family regime, the posture, breathing, mental awareness, sensitivity, and focus and ability to touch, massage and heal will help to keep family members bonded and always willing to help each other.  It should also be a fundamental part of any Dojo, Kwoon, or Martial Arts Centre, energy cultivation keeps people training together and empathic towards each other.

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Poems

Internal Or External?

Quanyin head

Internal and external has many translations in the Martial Arts,

You cannot be one or the other,

Because we all have an inside and an outside,

If you are more one than the other, you are unbalanced.

If you’re taught externally,

Your instructor will correct you by how you look on the outside:

If you’re taught internally,

Your instructor will correct you by how you feel inside.

Ideally, you need both.

If you train externally,

You will utilise the power of emotion,

If you train internally,

Your mind will be calm and focused.

If you train externally,

You will use the outer muscles in small combinations,

If you train internally,

You will use the deep muscles and spine,

All connected and moving in harmony.

The deep muscles and spine hold emotion.

They also support the internal organs.

Softening and correcting them,

Will increase health and vitality.

Many martial arts go from more external to internal.

Some from more internal to external.

It’s always good to train both in balance.

Because you can’t have just an inside or outside.

When you move one you always move the other.

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Simple Neigong – Insomnia Buster!

Insomnia

In our seated Tai Chi programme we teach a lovely seated Nei Gong exercise.  It is an exercise that reinforces correct posture and breathing and also serves a method for calming the body and mind.  It can also be incorporated into a pre-sleep ritual for those who suffer from insomnia – it help’s prepare the body for a peaceful night’s sleep.  It can also be used at your desk and in your car.

Simple Seated Nei Gong

1 – Firstly you will need to be seated – either sitting on a chair or on the edge of the bed.  Ideally you should sit at a height were your thighs are horizontal with your feet sitting flat on the floor shoulder width apart.

2 – Now you need to hold your head “as if suspended from above”.  Imagine that you have a book balanced on your head and then gently float the crown of the upward – ensuring that crown stays level and your book doesn’t fall off!  This should cause you to sit up straight and feel the spine open.

3 – Keeping your feet on the floor and your head suspended gently pull your tailbone towards your belly button.  This will create an opening in the lower back.

4 – Once you have your body in the right position we can now start to co-ordinate your breath and body.  You need to take a gentle breath in and as you exhale gently sigh the breath out and relax the body.  We do this in a number of stages that takes the mind and breath all the way through the body:

(a) First take your mind to the muscles of the neck, breath in and then gentle sigh the breath out and soften them.

(b) Take your mind to your lungs, breath in, exhale and soften.

(c)  Take your mind to the heart and diaphragm, breath in, exhale and soften.

(d) Take your mind to the psoas muscle (or the belly and lower back if this is easier to visualise) breath in, exhale and soften.

(e) Take the mind to the pelvic floor, breath in, exhale and soften.

(f)  Take your mind to the backs of the knees, breath in, exhale and soften.

(g) Take your mind to the arches of the feet, breath in, exhale and soften.

(h) Finally take a slow deep gentle breath in, exhale and soften all the way through the body starting at the neck and finishing at the arches of the feet.

TIP
Sometimes you will come to a part of the body that just doesn’t want to soften and release.  Don’t worry about this as it will create more tension.  Simply and dispassionately take another breath in and repeat as many times this body part needs to soften.  Also sometimes gently holding the breath and letting it ‘percolate’ in that body part before gently sighing out can also work wonders.

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