Whether or not you can see signs of Spring yet in the area where you live, Nature has begun to move us forward into this next season.
Although many people associate Spring with light-hearted images of young love and butterflies, Spring is also a time of “emergenc-y,” where your life force — as well as any suppressed feelings or intentions — may come out in unexpected and potent ways. Signs of budding energy emerge in our bodies and spirits as Nature begins to show signs of birthing.
In my book, The Way of Joy, there is a concept, Circles Open into Spirals, which looks at how the Natural World, and we as humans, evolve through an unending cycle of life, death, and rebirth. For me, perhaps because I was born in the Spring, there is no time when these cycles are more evident than during this time of year. Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, on a purely physical plane our actual bodies are born, live, then die and return to the earth as compost, which is in itself the source for new life.
Given that this is a time to water the seeds of what you have planted, how will you nurture and tend to what is growing in you or may even be clamoring to Burst Forth?
I find it exciting that so many of the stress-reduction techniques for body-mind-spirit that have become popular include teachings about the importance of postural alignment for your health. When we work to align ourselves on every level, from physical to emotional to mental to spiritual, I believe we open an enormous well-spring of resources.
One of the very earliest practices to work with this concept is Qigong(also spelled many other ways, including Chi Kung). Based on Taoist principles to cultivate life force energy or qi (chi) and dating back, some say, up to 5000 years in China, qigong includes energy work, breath work, meditations, Taoist yoga, healing, and martial arts.
Both in my work and in my book, The Way of Joy, I explore some of the themes from these ancient Taoist practices, as I look at the lessons we can receive from that I call “The Three Realms of Consciousness”—Heaven, Human, and Earth.
These three realms (related to three energy centers called the triple tan tien in Traditional Chinese Medicine) are primary portals to our connection to the universe and our experience in life. How we access and use the energy in each of these realms constitutes the basis for much of Chi Kung. In short, the Heaven realm contains consciousness and inspiration, the Human realm contains intention and love, and the Earth realm incorporates empowerment and manifestation.
When you can feel your feet on the ground (Earth realm), your head in the sky (Heaven realm), and allow your chest and heart to relax (Human realm), I think you’ll be amazed how quickly you can pivot your energy to optimal capacity.
Are there times when you’ve felt the power of aligning your mind, heart and actions?
Do you ever wonder why one person might seem to have “good vibes” while someone else puts out “bad” ones? Do you sometimes feel, despite your best efforts, like you are just plain feeling negative? Ok maybe not you, but how about someone you know?
Explosion of positive energy. Photo by Łukasz Strachanowski
When our bodies, thoughts, feelings and behavior are aligned, our good energy becomes contagious. The practice of Qigong offers a powerful tool that restores and enhances that positive energy called wei qi.This is a kind of protective energy that is, in essence, open, expansive, and assertive, as though you are so surrounded by positive qi that the negative or draining becomes irrelevant.
What do you tend to do when you are around someone who brings you down? And how do you bring your energy back up when you feel like you are sinking into overwhelm, anxiety, depression or stress?
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential. Book: The Way of Joy: An Evolutionary Process to Awaken Inspiration, Focus Intention and Manifest Fulfillment, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.
I think of this season as “a sharpened pencil” time of year that carries a “getting ready” feeling in the air— whether in searching for the perfect back-to-school supplies, or in a growing awareness that, whether or not you like it, that the days are slowly but surely getting shorter.
Moving away from the heat of summer into the nip of Autumn reminds me that this is a time of letting go and releasing, composting what you no longer need. Like a tree losing its leaves, we too come back, on an energetic level, to our basic structure. In this way, Fall teaches us to consolidate our energy in preparation for the cold months ahead. This consolidation requires discernment, being able to make choices that are sustainable.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) Autumn is associated with Metal. Perhaps because I grew up in New York City, where buildings were always being torn down or constructed, I often picture the bare metal framework of high-rises before they are embellished with rooms. Just as metal constitutes the bare bones of the building, Autumn represents a time when you access the bare bones of who you are, the core essence of your body/spirit.
As you might imagine, the TCM (link) emotion associated with all of this release is grief. The primary organ associated with Autumn is the lungs. Just as the wind blows through tree branches, you might find yourself letting go when you take a moment to breathe deeply and allow the feelings that arise to just move through you
The associated organ for Autumn (or the Yang partner of the Yin lungs) is the large intestine, another organ of letting go. Your large intestine rids your body of all the leftover waste material from which you extracted your nourishment. Harriet Beinfeld and Efrem Korngold write in Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese medicine, “By dispelling stale air and excreting turbid matter, the Lung and Large Intestine separate out that which we no longer desire or need.”
Here are a few tips for natural healing to support you to release of pent-up anxiety or stress.
• When you notice that you are feeling “out of sorts” either physically or emotionally, take a deep breath, then breathe out a big loud sigh of release. Let the sensation and sound of that sigh vibrate you down to your very bones.
• As you sit reading your computer screen, give yourself a little shake. Or how about standing up for just 30 seconds and shaking out your arms and legs, or bouncing a little either in your chair or standing. Be sure to keep your knees and ankles soft and pliable.
• Good cooking herbs to support you in the cooling time of the upcoming months of Autumn include: dill, fennel, thyme, ginger root, horseradish, cinnamon, cayenne, basil, and rosemary.
• Dr Linda Berry suggests that you “get out in daylight every day. Even when its not sunny you still catch enough light to stimulate the secretion of the “happy hormone” serotonin.”
• You can increase the benefits of that sun/sky stimulation by opening up your arms as you look up to embrace the sky. Welcome the day with a loud expressive sigh of “WOW”. Or, as the heart-infused Taiji Master, Chungliang Al Huang suggests, give out a nice, big “Ah-Ha!”