I’m excited to invite you to a one-hour experiential class I’ll be teaching next week:
February 9, 11:00AM PST. (You’ll have access to the replay for 48 hours, so no worries if you can’t make it live.)
We’ll play with gentle flowing movements, connect our awareness, intention, and breath to release tension and support each organ system.
• The fundamentals of qi gong as a self-healing and embodied mediation practice
• How to use your breath to release stress and cultivate energy
• Simple self-massage techniques
• Basic energy anatomy from Chinese Medicine
I’ll guide you through a simple qi gong routine that’s a moving meditation and gentle exercise all in one. Plus you’ll have a chance to ask questions.
It’s a chance to reconnect to yourself, to soothe your nervous system, and to build your energetic capacity.
The investment is just $15.
If you’ve ever wanted to study with me, this is a great opportunity, as I very rarely teach live these days.
I think you deserve an hour for yourself next week, don’t you? Hope to see you next week!
Last weekend, I was catching up with a girlfriend when she said something kind of shocking. “I know this is controversial,” she confided in a hushed tone, “but I love January.”
She doesn’t ski or snowshoe or get anything special out of the season.
She loves January for the same reason most people – including me—tend to hate it: it’s super yin.
It’s dark. It’s cold.
Nature is quiet and seemingly dormant. And because we are a part of nature (though it’s easy to forget when we live inside and online) it can be harder to get motivated to do things.
In January, she argued, “it feels OK to do things like sleep late, stay inside all day, not talk to anyone, and take a nap. If this was my day in July, I’d judge myself.”
Uh, yeah. In our yang-addicted society that glorifies productivity, speed, efficiency, doing, and hustling, it can be easy to judge ourselves for “giving in” to the desire to rest, to nap, to just chill. It can even feel morally wrong.
But in January, doing less than you’re humanly capable of is seasonally appropriate. Once upon a time, your life may have even depended on it: if we didn’t conserve scarce resources like fuel and food, (literally the opposite of burning the candle at both ends) we would likely die in winter, as nature is not exactly supplying these in abundance.
Slowing down, doing less, and giving ourselves permission to rest – especially when we’re managing a lot – is essential. This is the heart of true self-care.
We need good deep rich, juicy yin (sleep, rest, inward, quiet, cool) to have good strong, vibrant yang (creative, warm, expansive, transformative) energy. But apart being a necessary counterpoint to the always-moving, relentless drumbeat of productivity that culture prizes and making a living often demands, we need some Big Yin January Energy for its own sake.
When we give ourselves permission to slow down, it’s easier to be better stewards of our bodies – and each other. We’re able to do things like:
- Relax, get into parasympathetic mode, and heal. These things don’t happen very well when we’re stressed.
- Be able to sense the sublte: like feel tension in our lower backs and be able to stretch it in just the right way to allow it to open up again: true self-healing qi gong, or
- Stop eating when we’re 80% full, for optimal digestion and thus gut health, immune health, and overall energy
- Sense reactivity in ourselves, thus being able to manage that reactivity, not blow up at people we love, gain deeper understanding of what’s triggering us so we can tone that down and keep our equanimity
- Sense changes in other people’s voices or body language, allowing us to inquire about and better understand and empathize with their experience, thus enhancing our connections
- Increase our ability to be present with and appreciate the present moment, thus waking up to our lives.
Since hearing of the passing of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist spiritual teacher, international ambassador of mindfulness and peace, I’ve been re-reading and listening to his teachings, among them that “true presence is the first act of love.”
We access true presence when we meet the present moment with as much mindful awareness as possible.
Whether we are sitting in meditation, moving in meditation like qi gong or yoga, washing the dishes, or eating a meal, we have the opportunity to practice giving that moment our full attention. And presence is the greatest gift we can give each other — and ourselves — especially when we are struggling.
So welcoming in the Big Yin January Energy is important.
But what if you still want to get things done?
As I’ve been suggesting, low motivation this time of year might not be a problem in that we’re part of nature and subject to its cycles.
It might also be a sign that that
- you’re fighting something off (your immune system is busy),
- that you haven’t been digesting well (converting food into energy isn’t going well – simplify! Make soup!),
- that that we’re almost three years into an exhausting, isolating global pandemic (long-term stress depletes your reserves)
- the existential resignation over the state of the world and the collapse of American democracy, (the consciousness leads the energy),
- or that you’re dealing with depression (mind-body-spirit connection is real) –all real, serious worthy of our utmost compassion towards ourselves, and attention.
Acupuncture, herbal medicine, qi gong, nourishing food, good sleep hygiene may all be important; I’m here to help if you need me – just hit reply and let me know what’s up.
I am all about giving you – and myself– permission to do less. But I also feel most alive and vital when I’m learning and growing in some way. I’ve had a bunch of continuing education classes I’ve enrolled in but haven’t completed for almost a year that I’ve been putting off. It’s felt kind of daunting to spend a weekend in class, even when it’s cold and rainy outside.
So I pretended I was one of my coaching clients and did 3 things:
1) I broke down the big, daunting thing into small digestible pieces. Rather than summoning the will to dedicate a whole weekend day to knocking it out, I decided I was going to take these classes in twenty- to sixty-minute chunks.
2) I put these class time chunks on my calendar.
3) I reduced friction: instead of having to log into the website, find a document to take notes in, O I have both the class tab and a word document open on my computer, so it’s just as easy to jump into class as it is to surf over to Facebook or play Wordle.
Not only am I over my resistance to doing these classes, I look forward to spending that time. Plus, I’m back in touch with the excitement and desire to help people that I felt when I first signed up.
Maybe there’s something you’ve been meaning to get off your plate but have been putting off. How could you make the big thing smaller? How could you reduce friction? Then commit: get it on your calendar and honor your commitment to yourself just as you would a meeting with a work colleague or your doctor.
May you receive and appreciate all the yin yumminess the season has to offer, while moving effortlessly in the direction of your goals.
Good news if you’re among the millions who suffer from anxiety: acupuncture can help. A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials showed that acupuncture can significantly decrease anxiety — no surprise, since it’s profoundly relaxing for the central nervous system. If you know someone who’s struggling, please encourage them to seek help.
Almost everyone I work with gets a breathing exercise (or several) because breathing is the fastest way to affect the nervous system. When someone is panicking and hyperventilating, the old breathing-into-a-paper-bag trick helps because the person is re-breathing the carbon dioxide-rich air that they’ve just exhaled.
Try this: inhale, and then breathe out all your air and hold your breath on empty. You’ll likely start to feel a little anxious, because the body knows it needs oxygen to breathe. But if we can get used to having higher levels of carbon dioxide circulating in our bodies, it’s easier to stay calm.
To increase your carbon dioxide tolerance –and thus your capacity for calm– try this practice: Inhale through the nose, filling up your low belly and chest. Breathe all the way out through your nose and hold empty as long as you can, up to 30 seconds. Repeat 8 times, once or twice a day.
Have you seen this chart that’s been making the rounds?
When I first saw it, I thought “Yes. We always have a choice in how we respond.”
Yes, AND, it’s extremely problematic.
If we could simply make up our minds, we’d all choose to abide 24-7 in the light blue sweetness of the Growth Zone, safely insulated from fear and anger and grief and all the other messy emotions. (See how tidy it is? And how self-satisfied we’d get to feel?)
But that’s not how it works.
At the risk of stating the patently obvious, we’re all collectively living through a major traumatic event.
And the chart can be a little shamey of those who perhaps have very good reasons to be in the Fear Zone: losing our income, health insurance, health itself, and people we know, as well as pretty much life as we know it, for an indefinite period of time, is some scary shit.
So I’d like to invoke another meme to remind you — especially if you’ve been “shoulding” on yourself, that:
It’s 100% OK to not be in any kind of “go mode” right now.
To move at the speed of your body.
It’s OK to just stop and feel whatever feeling.
Want to move to the Growth band?
We can’t get there without tending to ourselves with care. This starts with giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we’re feeling.
This is not what I was doing last week as I threw myself into learning which herb protocols that were used in China and South Korea to help people with Covid-19, establishing new systems to convert my practice to telemedicine, crafting new coaching offers, pushing myself to be of maximal service, all of this while battling a wicked kidney infection.
It finally hit me at 11:00 PM, 30 minutes after I had supposedly gone to bed, when I found myself urgently putting avocados and oranges in the refrigerator so they wouldn’t ripen too quickly, that I realized I was in the midst of a trauma response.
Some of us go hyperfunctional. Some of us get paralyzed. Neither is better than the other. Both indicate that there’s some emotional tending that needs to happen.
The next day I slowed down. I cried. I let myself feel the fear, the rage at how this is all being handled, the powerlessness, the heartbreak, and let myself be a person.
Paradoxically, the way to get to the Growth zone is to be willing to spend time in the Fear Zone (or the “feeling zone.”)
What’s required is allowing whatever’s coming up to move through you — a task that’s made infinitely harder when we’re judging ourselves (perhaps from the smug comfort of the light blue zone).
To make the chart more accurate, I suggest tearing it up, throwing the pieces up in the air, and allowing them to flit down snow-globe style.
Because being in the Growth Zone requires regular and frequent trips back into feelings, and it doesn’t mean you’re regressing: it means you’re being responsible.
Creating a space to feel can be as simple as pausing when the feelings arise, and allowing. Journaling, meditating, taking media-free walks in nature (if you have access to that) can all help create that container to feel what there is to feel.
Some questions to consider* in those settings, which transcend all the zones:
1) What am I feeling? (emotionally and physically)
2) What am I needing?
4) What can I do to take care of myself?
5) What am I learning?
5) How can I help someone else?
6) What am I ready to leave behind after this is over?
Our ability to access empathy and love depends on our ability to be real with and respond to ourselves, with care. Now more than ever, we’re in this together.
Please take exquisitely good care of yourself. I’m here for you.
P.S. I just learned that I’m allowed to provide telemedicine for anyone residing in Oregon (not just existing patients). I’ve already supported a handful of people through Covid or Covid-esque presentations.
P.P.S. Looking for a way to boost your “protective qi?” Check out this 3-minute video of a simple breathing exercise that can help.
*shout-out to Rachael Weber for suggesting a few of these on a recent course member call
Grab my free ebook: 5 Biohacks to Reduce Stress.