Moments

If you sit by a freshwater stream and listen carefully, you will hear a sacred sound. This is the sound of the eternal present. If you observe the flow, you will notice some branches and rocks causing obstructions. The stream will slow down, sometimes swell, then build up strength and move on. Our life is like the stream. It is rife with all kinds of obstacles. What is the best approach to handle these conflicts and obstructions? Do we burst through them? Do we run away? Do we take a deep breath, gather our reserves, and then when the time is right move gracefully ahead?  The latter approach is always the best.

The Water Trigram is structurally composed of a broken, yin line on top, a solid, yang line in the middle, and a broken, yin line on the bottom. The two outer yin lines temper the strong, yang line in the center. Take some time and meditate on the image. The Chinese name for this Trigram is Kan.

When you think of water many images appear… rivers, streams, lakes, oceans, etc.. Water is soft but when in motion it can be very strong. It can chip away rocks and like a tidal wave, it can destroy.  It is flexible on the outside but strong and firm on the inside. Like the ocean, water can be deep, mysterious and in some ways dangerous. This is why the traditional interpretation of this Trigram is danger, abyss, caution, and pay attention. With all that is going on in the world today, I cannot think of a more timely Trigram to explore.

Let’s look back on the Trigrams we studied. The Heaven Trigram expresses taking the initiative and moving forward with strength. The Earth Trigram expresses receptivity, softness, and flexibility. The Fire Trigram expresses clarity and wisdom gathered from life’s bumps in the road.  Structurally with it’s strong, center, yang line bordered by two yin lines, the Water Trigram represents a stream of consciousness flowing from a more subtle source which reaches out to build a cohesive channel of communication. An example of this cohesiveness is the Acupuncture meridian system. When these lines of communication are strong, we are more aware of ourselves as well as the environment around us. Our attention and focus is keen. When it is weak, we become easily distracted and get overly involved in useless self centered endeavors.

Water sustains life and is part of a integrated cycle of transformation and renewal. Water vapors evaporate to the clouds forming rain which then nourishes streams, rivers, lakes and oceans which all lead back to the clouds for a new cycle.  Nothing is in isolation. The Water trigram not only represents the inner connection to our own energy field, but our interconnection to everything in the universe. Traditionally when you consult the I Ching and the Water Trigram appears, you might be frightened because it is indicating that there is danger ahead. On a much deeper level, the Water Trigram is warning us that the real danger is severing our universal interconnection leading to separateness rather than oneness. John Lennon reminded us of this danger in his beautiful song “Imagine.”

A central premise of the I Ching is that nothing in the universe is at random. The past, present, and future are playing out at once. When we study the I Ching, we tap into the universal mind which is beyond time and space. Currently there are many lectures on the value of being present. It is true that we dwell too much in the past and future. For thousands of years the I Ching has been teaching us via the Water Trigram the benefits of being in the here and now. Being in the moment slows us down to an even pace. We see the essence of life. Our senses become acute, and we pay attention and feel the beauty around us. You truly appreciate and cherish the people in your life, all beings on the planet, and the environment.

So, when the Water Trigram appears in your mind’s eye, be like water, stay soft with a strong inner core. Be receptive to your inner stream of consciousness and what your intuitive mind is directing.  Flow gracefully and evenly through life. Truly seize the moment. Hug your loved ones. Don’t put up walls and barriers but feel the oneness. Get in gear and cut down on useless distractions. Pay the utmost attention to political issues, policies and elections.

“Sunlight and the city is barely awake
As all the seconds in our lifetime drift away
So live every moment and hold me so tight
A second changes day to night”

(Ray Davies, In a Moment, Working Man’s Cafe, 2007)

 

 

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Rainbow Bridge

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As I look around my hometown, New York City, I am reminded how everything is in a state of flux and change. A favorite store goes out of business, a new bland designer one takes its place. Condos going up everywhere, at the expense of older, distinguished buildings being demolished. The ancient Chinese observed and explained life’s transformations in the classic book of change, The I Ching. Let’s continue to examine the I Ching’s inner core, the eight Trigrams. All of the trigrams represent processes of nature. We began with the initiating, persevering Heaven Trigram, as well as the receptive Earth Trigram. We now move on to the Fire Trigram. This Trigram is composed of a yang, solid line on top, a broken, yin line in the middle, and a solid, yang line at the bottom. The yin, inner line tempers the strong yang of the top and bottom. The Chinese name for this Trigram is Li which is translated to light or “bright.” When we think of being bright, it often represents a academic student with strong intelligence. The brightness of Fire Trigram truly represents intelligence, but not limited to a strong concrete mind, (left brain) but equally as important, a strong creative mind (right brain). The bridging of these two hemispheres leads to Li, transparency and clarity. In relation to the Fire Trigram, the consciousness of transparency means letting the inner light shine through. The intelligence then becomes active, leading to ideas and revelations, which in turn leads to an awakening within ourselves to move forward and make changes in a clear, wise, manner.

The analytical left brain generates a keen mindfulness. There is no confusion but only clear and precise thinking. The left brain urges us to ask questions and get to the bottom of a problem. It is the brain that makes us curious, so we seek the facts. We look from the outside in order to determine what is real and unreal. We achieve this through precise definition with clear boundaries. Like a muscle, the left brain needs exercise. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Unfortunately, due to life’s pressures, it is often the brain that we cannot turn off. It becomes the monkey brain, filled with worry, anxiety, etc. leading to insomnia and other psychological imbalances. It needs to be tempered by the intuitive, creative right brain.

The intuitive, right brain lights up when we get involved with creative endeavors. This can be by participating or observing. Art, dance, music, writing theater, writing, reading, builds our aesthetic perception, and imagination. We look at the divine picture and have a urge to create from the inside out. Our mind becomes fertile with ideas. The intellect is illuminated with a direct intuitive perception leading to pure truth without the interference from the reasoning mind. The intuitive brain needs tempering from the analytical, grounded left brain. Otherwise we become to dreamy or spacey.

Through all of our self development exercises the two brains begin to bridge. We no longer categorize everything in black and white. Our thinking is in the abstract. We realize that there isn’t anything in the universe that is totally identical, so we discern the unique essence behind the appearances. We observe the patterns and look at the big picture. Our mind is wide open. Experiences in life that we take to heart become more important than just gathering information. The abstract mind draws upon life’s lessons, the what and why of everyday conflicts in order to gain true knowledge and wisdom. This is the radiance, the”Li” of the Fire Trigram.

“Just along as I am in this world, I am the Light of this world.”

(Jorma Kaukonen, Quah, 1974)

 

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Till the Soil

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The next trigram of the I Ching we will examine is the Earth Trigram. It is composed of three broken lines. A solid line is yang and a broken line is yin, so this Trigram is pure yin. In order to express itself, the one solid yang line splits in two, and the duality of yin and yang is born. All of our self development is based around this simple concept. Just as the Heaven Trigram is persevering, initiating, and motivating, the Earth Trigram is soft, intuitive, and receptive. You might think that Yin is a weaker force, but yin is deceiving and often the soft will overcome the hard.

In order to take the initiative in life, we must first have a plan. A wise person does not have a knee jerk approach. We need to quiet down and listen to what our inner guide is advising. When you sit in silence you open the door to a deeper wisdom. This is the virtue of the Earth Trigram. It represents mental transparency, openness, and keen receptivity. We turn inward before we move outward. We are open and sensitive to impression from subtle energy within our own energy field as well as the universe.

We are in a information age and we are bombarded by data constantly. Unfortunately this can lead to overload and nervous system problems. We need centering and grounding. The Earth is our center, our home. It is hard to accomplish anything in life if you don’t have a home base. We move forward rooted from our center.

Before cable TV, in the sitcom “Married With Children,” the Bundy family attempts to get reception on their TV, and the running joke was Fox had the weakest broadcast signal. The Bundys would play with their rabbit ear antennas in a crazy, desperate manner and even add aluminum foil to boost the signal. When we think of reception, we think of radio and TV, but reception doesn’t just come from an antenna on top of the Empire State building. When we go to sleep at night, our acupuncture points open their rabbit ear antennas and take in heavenly energy (stars, planets etc.,) as well as energy from the earth. This is how we heal and recharge. Acupuncture and Acupressure sharpen receptivity and open the points to absorb these finer healing forces.

Like working with clay our self development exercises help shape our mind and body into a beautiful piece of art. The lesson of the Earth Trigram is to stay soft,malleable and flexible in mind and body. Otherwise we become rigid and hard……no fun.

So when the Earth trigram appears in your minds-eye, take a deep breath, quiet down, center, and be receptive to impressions from within and without. Till the soil so your seed thoughts have a proper environment to grow into a revelation and plan.  Be open and remember that knowledge is not fixed, but knowing is perpetually in motion and change.

“The Solar Angel collects himself, scatters not his force, but in meditation deep, communicates with his reflection.”

 

 

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Pennies from Heaven

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As we enter into the Winter season and the New Year, the time is right to move forward with our exploration of the classic book of change, “The I Ching.” We will first explore the inner core, the eight Trigrams. These eight processes of nature represent the relationship we have with the environment and cosmos. As the population explosion causes an environmental rift, and the over development of land disconnects us from earth, we lose the vital physical, mental ,and spiritual nourishment that the planet provides. It almost seems like we are trying to conquer nature and by doing so we cause profound health problems. By studying the eight Trigrams, we invoke a deeper understanding and appreciation of mother nature leading to a more gentile, humble attitude on life. This builds character and integrity.

The Heaven Trigram is composed of three solid lines. A solid line is yang. so this trigram is complete yang. Yang is the creative initiating energy. It gives us perseverance and enforces the will power. Three yang lines represents the creative energy of spirit – soul – matter.

When we think of Heaven, we imagine a place above us. A place we hopefully go if we’ve been good. The truth is, heaven is on earth and earth is in heaven. Heaven represents the subtle essence or spirit behind every universal manifestation. When we eat good quality food we absorb heaven from the food. We we breathe good quality air, we not only breathe in oxygen, but the subtle radiations from the planets and stars. The physical, body has a healthy response to this essence in the form of increased endurance and mental clarity. The kidneys are in charge of transforming essence to keep the physical structure strong. So when you eat a meal, eat slow and absorb the essence.

When the Heaven Trigram appears in your thoughts, it is letting you know that you need to take initiative. It gives us the power to say “yes” to new uncharted territory. We do this with a strong sense of purpose and one-pointed focus. We tap into the dynamic power of the creative will and set all things in motion. This will step down physically as strong perseverance.

Heaven, being pure spirit, teaches us truthfulness arising from absolute fearlessness.  Since heaven is pure spirit, we have no fear. Fear arises when we feel disconnected to spirit. We take the straight-fast path… acting truthfully. There is no time for games. Since truth is the quickest way to freedom (“the truth will set you free”), individuals attuned to Heaven speak the truth fearlessly.

In summary, when a conflict arises, or a decision needs to be made, and the Heaven Trigram appear in your mind’s-eye, then follow your inner guide by taking the initiative, be true to yourself and others, and put the gentile essence of your being behind your every move.

” So when you hear it thunder, don’t run under a tree, there will be pennies from heaven for you and me.”

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Acting Wisely

scotts-herb-watercolor-drawing

Life is about change. Nothing stays the same. Everything in life runs in cycles. It is important to recognize when a cycle is ending and one is beginning. Often we resist change and cling to the old cycle. The ancient Chinese scholars observed the universal changes in nature and were keen to see the correlation in everyday living. They compiled this wisdom into the classic book of change, “the I Ching.”

The I Ching is one of the oldest books written. It was first handed down orally and the compiled into written text between the 10th – 4th Century B.C..The inner structure (trigrams) was compiled by the legendary emperor, Fu Hsi (2852-2837BC.). The trigrams are based on the theory that the pure energy of spirit needed to express itself by dividing into what we now call yin and yang. These two energies needed to express itself further, so the interaction of spirit (yin) and matter (yang) gave birth to a third, middle, sentient factor.  These ancient scholars used symbolism to reflect these three energies.  A solid line represents yang ——– and a broken line represents yin —- —-. Mathematically you can have four combinations of yin and yang and by adding a third line you have – the eight trigrams. The I Ching was later refined by the legendary emperor, King Wen (1150 BC.).  King Wen understood that in order to fully represent change, and to add a new dimension, two trigrams should be combined. This lead to a dynamic six line hexagram.  Mathematically, this generates sixty four unique energy patterns.  After deeper thought, he brilliantly developed the hexagram’s sequence of flow. The classic commentary on each individual hexagram was contributed by many scholars and most importantly by the legendary, Confucius (551-479 B.C.). His commentary is known as the Ten Wings because after studying it, you will be able to fly. His son, the Duke of Chou, further refined the text by developing the commentary on each individual line. The I Ching is a lifelong study and never ceases to amaze. It is not the easiest to understand, so in future posts ,we will first look at the trigrams and then move on to interpret the essence of each hexagram.

We grow by being proactive in life. Simply, we need to LET GO and move forward with our goals and ideals. In order to do this we need a coach. The I Ching is the supreme coach to help us understand life’s mysteries, conflicts. doubts, challenges, and decisions. With the bombardment of data causing a narrowing mental space, as well as the narcissism tendency of social media, the I Ching couldn’t be more timely.

The word consciousness is derived from the Latin root “scio,”- “to know” and “con,”- “together.” The I Ching’s Taoist roots are based upon the concept that man is in between Heaven and Earth. Heaven is our spirit (subject-yang) which is all knowing but it needs a object to perceive, (earth- yin-object.)  Yin and Yang cannot live without each other. The feeling principle between yin and yang is our true consciousness (to know – together.)  It is our soul. Knowledge buried in our consciousness is not easy to perceive. The I Ching is a tool to unlock the inner doors of our mind, which in turn connects to the inner doors of the universe. How is this so? The language of the I Ching is symbols. Each of the 64 hexagrams represents a unique note, color and sound. By studying the I Ching, we begin to resonate with the essence of these mathematically balanced, universal symbols. As a result, the intuition is sharpened and many levels of truth gradually unfold.

Historically the I Ching is used for divination. Although this was probably the correct way in older times, in my opinion it is not the way to go today. It is better to have a firm understanding of the hexagrams so when life’s challenges confronts us, one of the 64 hexagrams will immediately come to mind, and we act with wisdom, character, and integrity. We then flow with life’s changing tide rather than against it.

 

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Inner Expression

Artwork by Juan Li

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Just as there are no two identical fingerprints, we are all unique in a very special way. Our goal is to discover, refine and express our hidden potential and natural gift.

According to the Ageless wisdom teaching, we are composed of layers or what is known as subtle bodies. These layers are primal energy on different levels of vibration. The subtle bodies express themselves through the seven major energy centers known in the east as chakras. These seven major chakras are formed when the energy counterpart of our nervous system (nadis) crisscross many times.The chakras are influenced by our thought forms and purpose in life. Since the chakras vibrate on a very high level, they need to step down and express themselves through the seven major glands (pineal, pituitary, thyroid, thymus, pancreas, adrenal, ovary-prostate.) The glands are considered the most spiritual part of the human body. They influence us on a mental, emotional, and physical level. This stepping down process continues further with the glands expressing themselves through the major organs (lung, heart, spleen, kidneys, liver) and the organs expressing themselves through the acupuncture meridian system. When the organs are in harmony, the corresponding acupuncture channel will be strong and free of blockages. If there is a disharmony, we will experience pain and tension along the corresponding channel. Since there is a feedback mechanism between the points and organs, acupuncture – acupressure treatment will heal on a very deep level.

Ageless wisdom philosophy teaches that the universe is composed of a primal energy known as the Monad or spirit. In order to express itself, spirit divides into it’s polar opposite – matter. Matter is spirit on a lower level of vibration. The interaction of spirit-matter gives birth to a third element known as consciousness or soul. What is the definition of soul?  It is said that the soul resides in the layer of the higher intuitive mind.  My definition is that the soul is the “essence” of who we are. It is our unique spiritual identity.

As we journey through life, we are swayed by three types of energy – physical, emotional and a little from the soul.  Internal exercises like meditation, as well as any form of creativity will unleash energy from soul levels. Meditation results in the greatest flow of soul energy. Meditation is a broad concept and does not have to be sitting. For example, an early morning run, bike, or walk can be a meditation as long we lose our self to our higher mind.  During meditation the soul imposes it’s vibration on the lower self and then in place of the restless, self centered emotional nature, there is imposed the steady harmonious, virtuous nature of the higher self.  This new rhythm gives birth to ideas and revelations so we can make changes and be more creative and centered in our life. Soul infusion helps us express our virtues and have a greater understanding of our emotional nature leading to subordination of the negative and strengthening of the positive.

As our self development and cultivation of the virtues matures, there will be two meditations occurring at the same time. As the mediation of the soul and the meditation of the lower self approximate each other, a conscious relation is established between the soul and its “shadow” (man on the physical plane.) As the lower self vibrates in unison with the soul, we build character and widen our mental space.

This inner expression is not something glamorous that we do, but by contacting the soul and radiating its love and light, we forget the lower self and manifest soul principles and qualities in our relationship with others. We then serve and express a heartfelt attitude conveying love of life and under all conditions recognize its beauty and purpose.

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Be Who You Are

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarth Element – Spleen, Stomach, muscles, Color -Yellow

The Earth Element represents our center or home base. Instinctively we are always trying to find our way home. Our home is where we center, gather energy, and rejuvenate. A strong Earth element allows us to unfold our life from within outward.

The Earth element is in charge of nourishment. The organs corresponding to Earth are the Spleen and Stomach. They are the nucleus of all the internal organs and their function is essential to health. The Spleen-Stomach act as a pivot in the digestion process. When we eat and drink, the Spleen transforms the food and water to Qi-vital energy. If this function is faulty, instead of pure Qi, the food and water will be retained as dampness-mucus. Since the next step in the process is to send the pure Qi to the lung, instead of Qi, mucus is transported. The lung will then retain the mucus, and or dump it to the sinus. If the Spleen is strong, food and water are converted properly, pure Qi is produced, and we will have abundant energy. If weak, we will have physical and mental fatigue.

How do we physically strengthen our Earth element?  The Spleen is strengthened by moderately eating good quality foods with a sweet taste.  The best form of sweets are whole grains like brown rice, and yellow-orange vegetables like butternut squash. Since they are grown deep within the earth, root vegetables are also excellent. The worst sweets are white sugar, artificial sugar, and corn syrup. Acupuncture is the best direct therapy for the Spleen-Stomach.

Since the Earth element represents the center, it has a strong stabilizing, grounding effect on the mind-body.  In the fast pace world in which we live, it is very easy for our mind to run rapid and out of control. Worry and obsessive thoughts are an example of a mind that has no root. How do we root the mind? Nature walks ground the mind-body. Tai Chi is the best exercise for strengthening and connecting to the earth energy.  The entire exercise is based on physical and mental rooting and structural alignment with the earth.

The main virtue of the Earth element is humbleness. The earth is humble and we often hear the term “down to earth.” It is not easy to be humble. Humble is not glamorous or sexy. Living in big cities where inflated ego is the norm, being humble is often viewed as a sign of weakness. Actually the opposite is true. It takes courage to lower the ego. As we get older and wiser, we understand that by being real, you will attract the right personal and professional people in your life.There is no reason to put on a big front. Since the  Earth element has a receptive energy, abundance in the form of love and respect will radiate to you once you just Be Who You Are.

 

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Willow Tree in the Breeze

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Wood Element : Liver, Gallbladder,  eyes, tendons, nerves, green, Spring.

The Liver Qi represents freedom. Like a willow tree in the breeze, the Liver keeps us cool, calm, collected, flexible, and free. We move gracefully through life. This unrestricted, free flow of Qi makes us feel kind, happy and content.

The liver governs the eyes and vision. Not just the physical vision, but the vision of where your life is going. When the liver Qi is strong we are able to plan and have goals. Why is this so?  The liver Qi governs growth. Like a tree, the liver Qi has an upward and outward movement, and at the same time sends roots deep into the earth. Our vision and plans follow a similar process. We plant the seed (idea), and then send roots down to build a foundation for our plan, and then soar up and out with enthusiasm and pure will to implement and ultimately fulfill the plan. When this growth process is blocked, we feel lost and move aimlessly through life.

Like an army general, the Liver directs the free flow of Qi  throughout the entire body. Since the blood follows the Qi, this will increase blood circulation, nourish the tendons, joints, muscles, and nervous system. This nourishment not only helps us stay physically flexible, but increases flexibility and openness of the mind.

How do we strengthen and get in touch with our Wood Element?

Like a tree – keep your upper body soft, flexible and yielding, while your legs and feet are rooted firmly to the earth.
Eat greens and sour tasting foods, cut down on the overuse of the eyes, and most importantly, have a Plan.

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Iron Shirt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMetal Element –  Lungs, Large Intestine, Skin, Sinus, Autumn, color-white.

During the Autumn season, the energy within nature and the body begins the downward movement leading into Winter when the energy is at its deepest. Like a metal shield, the energy will contract, condense, and have great strength.   The Autumn season is governed by the lungs. This is a good time of year to strengthen the breathing capacity with internal exercises like meditation, Chi Kung, Yoga, and Tai Chi, as well as external exercises like running, biking and swimming. The lungs are paired with the large intestine, so it is also a good time to clear mental and physical clutter and let go of unnecessary stuff.

Like an iron shirt, the lung Qi forms a tight superficial energy network throughout the entire physical structure. It communicates with the skin and governs the opening and closing of the pores. In Chinese medicine this mechanism is called Wei Qi,  When the Wei Qi is strong, the body is able to eliminate viruses very efficiently by the pores opening so we sweat.  When the Wei Qi is deficient, the virus will go deeper into the lungs and cause problems like cough. This tight matrix will also make us less susceptible to air borne allergens like dust, mold, and pollen.

The virtues of the lungs are physical, moral courage and fortitude.  As we quiet down and breathe rhythmically, we tap into the primordial universal breath, and this identification gives us courage and fortitude. When we breath shallow, we feel anxious, deflated and weak.

In daily life, we tend to take our lungs for granted. Even though government regulation helps air pollution, particles in the air still cause a weakening of the lung Qi as well as the Wei Qi. This will lead to more allergies and catching colds. It is important to take a hard look at the environment where you live and evaluate the air quality, Smoking is another serious problem. Our lungs have enough of an ordeal with pollution, so adding smoke to the mix is not very wise.

The kaleidoscope of color bursting during Fall foliage gives us insight to the power of the Metal element. The strong yang colors of yellow, orange, and red make us want to get outdoors, rejoice, and play.  At the same time, we consolidate our thoughts and action, and move forward courageously with our goals and plans.

 

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Turn up the quiet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWater Element – blue, deep, yielding but very powerful.

Serene, still, gentile, like a mountain lake, this is the Yin virtue of the kidney Qi. From the deep stillness of the kidney yin, yang arises, producing the yang virtues of perseverance, will-power, motivation, and strong sense of purpose.

The season that corresponds to the Water Element – kidneys is winter. During the winter season there is a deep sense of quiet, and the energy in nature as well as the physical body runs deep. The energy of the Kidney is very deep and if you compared the body to a tree, the kidneys are the root. When the root is strong the physical structure is robust. The root also has a universal aspect.  It means the connection we have to the earth, humanity, family etc. When we lose this connection, the negative emotion of fear takes hold.

The kidney Qi nourishes the ears and the sense of hearing. The sounds of nature -birds singing, running streams, the ocean etc,  nourish and strengthens the kidney Qi.  The constant bombardment of loud noise disturbs the kidney Qi.

It is essential to find the time to turn the senses inward, center and feel the inner stillness. This will nourish your root.  The yin practices of reading, meditation, contemplating, and relaxing in nature, are the best ways of not only increasing the energy level in the body, but general peace of mind. This is the perfect balance for the yang activities like working out, dancing, running, etc. With the fast pace of modern living, mind- body exercises like Tai Chi, Yoga, and Pilates are very popular because they have a yin-mind contemplative aspect, while at the same time strengthen powerfully on the yang physical level.

Get in touch with your inner mountain lake.

Turn up the quiet, your soul wants to dance.

 

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