The Thinking Behind ‘Embroidered Cancer Comic’ by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin

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Here I am looking at my book, still holding the packaging.

 

It’s April 2016 here on Gabriola Island, British Columbia. The flowers are blooming, and I am looking for the first time at my new book, Embroidered Cancer Comic

“How did I come to write a comic?” I’m glad you asked. As soon as my husband Bob Bossin was diagnosed in 2011 with prostate cancer, we started making cancer jokes. Every time we could laugh about the situation, one of us would say, “That goes in the comic”.  At this stage the comic was completely imaginary.  But eventually I picked up my needle and stitched and stitched until I had over sixty embroidered squares…

 

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The decision between surgery and radiation was a difficult one. Bob is a professional folk singer and I wanted to show that this decision permeated every aspect of our lives.

I’ve always wanted to write a graphic novel.  I’ve been an artist for forty-five years. For most of that period I worked in fabric. Since 2006 I have been illustrating children’s books for Tradewind Publishers.

An embroidered comic strip seemed a logical next step. I like the comic book medium because it gives some lightness to a pretty serious situation.  On the night of Bob’s diagnosis we made a decision to get married and one of our marriage vows was to never lose our sense of humour. I have created this comic as partial fulfillment of my wedding vows.

So I got down to work. Each strip started with rough sketches and dialogue possibilities. That part was easy, because I’d been making notes for a while, of some of the funnier moments between us. Sometimes the images flowed straight from my fingers, sometimes I had to consult photos. How does a hand really look holding a cup of coffee? Do I need to depict the strings on the guitar or are they implicit?  And does it matter if I get it exactly right?

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Me tracing an image on my very sophisticated light table, otherwise known as the patio door.

Once I had words and drawings I was satisfied with, I enlarged them on the photocopier so they sat nicely on an 18inch square of white cotton.  I taped the cotton to the glass patio door, and traced the image onto the piece of fabric.  Then I put on my reading glasses, threaded my needle with black embroidery floss, and with a simple back stitch, sewed over the inked lines resulting in a simple embroidered line drawing, reminiscent of the cartoons in New Yorker magazines I used to find in the bathroom of my parents’ house.

 

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Stitching text as our train zooms towards the Chunnel.

My final stitching task for the publishers was to create a little fabric applique image, and then, believe it or not, hand-embroidering my name and “Embroidered Cancer Comic” for the cover of the book.

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Hand-embroidered words for the book’s cover

The work took about three years and it was both exciting and sad for me when the embroideries were complete. I’m now sewing them into quilts and looking for places to put them on display. And of course I’m doing everything I can to promote the book – lining up events in libraries, book stores, cancer groups and conferences, including the Graphic Medicine conference held this year in Dundee, Scotland.

I want to encourage everyone to check out the Graphic Medicine Site and social media pages. Graphic Medicine refers to the role that comics can play in the study and delivery of healthcare.  It’s a fabulous site encouraging and promoting artists working on this theme.

And I love getting messages from my readers. So please do send a note telling me where you live and what you liked about Embroidered Cancer Comic.  You can reach me through my Facebook  page (and please do “like” it) or see other work I do at  www.stitchingforsocialchange.ca  or www.middleeastpeacequilt.ca .

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Here I am with Bob. If you look carefully you can see that we both have mismatched socks.


Learn more, purchase or read reviews of Embroidered Cancer Comic by clicking below.

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The Six Phases of Taoist Qigong Practice

#QigongFestival2016

by Camilo Sanchez, L. Ac, MOM

Traditionally, the practice of qigong comprises different phases of training based on the various stages of cultivating vital energy or qi. Schools of qigong variously mention four, five, six and even seven phases of practice. However, despite these differences, the general procedure of qigong practice remains all the same.

In the school of Taoist qigong we follow six main stages of practice. This article describes the main phases of training and the requirements for each stage of practice.     

  1. Unblocking Qi and Strengthening Postnatal Qi (nei yang gong)

During the first phase of qigong training the focus is on unblocking qi and conditioning the physical body by opening the joints, lengthening the tendons and connective tissues, increasing flexibility of the spine, and releasing restrictions to the flow of vital energy in order to strengthen and improve the circulation of the guardian qi (wei qi) on the surface of the body. At this stage of practice we pay attention to cultivating relaxation (song), achieving correct body posture and fulfilling the five essential requirements for aligning the body, learning the principles of proper body mechanics, improving breathing, and establishing the three external harmonies (wai san he), namely harmonizing the shoulders with the hips, the elbows with the knees, and the hands with the feet.

This phase of training involves clearing blockages of qi from the energy channels, regulating the body, and optimizing the absorption of postnatal qi derived from nutrients and breathing. It may include the practice of dynamic qigong (dong gong), breathing techniques (tu na), gymnastics (dao yin), internal martial arts, and the use of diet and medicinal herbs to strengthen the body, restore health and increase vitality. At the same time, we begin the practice of qigong stances (jing gong) and meditation so as to calm the mind, relax the nervous system and cultivate tranquility.

  1. Harnessing and Generating Qi (yang qi)

In the second stage of practice we aim at gaining control of the three energies acquired after birth (hou tian qi) including the qi derived from food and breathing (acquired qi), the reproductive essence (acquired jing), and our conscious mind (acquired shen), to help replenish the procreative essence of the body (yuan jing) as the foundation for the following phases of qigong practice. Our original essence (yuan jing) has been likened to the oil that feeds the wick of a lamp. It serves as the basic energy or fuel required for the processes of internal energy transformation. Without it the wick will burn quickly and the lamp will die out. Traditionally, this stage has been called “Laying the foundation” (zhu ji).

We focus on training the breath until it is long, deep, slow, even, smooth and fine, as well as coordinating the breathing with the stances and the external movements of the body. At this stage of practice the three external harmonies should be coordinated with the three internal harmonies (nei san he) of vital energy (qi), intention (yi), and heart-spirit (xin) where the qi leads the movements of the body, the intention leads the qi, and the spirit leads the intention.

At this stage the practitioner makes use of mind focus to guide breathing to the abdominal region thus bringing more blood and nutrients into the lower dan tian and the life gate region (ming men). This process helps to strengthen the procreative essence of the body and hormonal production (jing), in this way establishing a good root or foundation (zhu ji).

Harnessing qi requires improving the absorption of qi from nutrients and breathing, opening the qi field of the body to harness qi from nature, reducing the dissipation of vital energy through the cultivation of stillness and tranquility of the mind, and preserving our sexual energy or jing. The three dan tian centers are specific locations for gathering, generating and cultivating the three internal energies of procreative essence, vital energy, and spirit.

  1. Refining Essence to Vital Energy (lian jing hua qi)

After the procreative essence of the body has been restored and made complete again, it needs to be refined into original qi (yuan qi). This process of transformation is accomplished through circulating vital energy along the controlling vessel (du mai) and the function vessel (ren mai). The constant cycling of vital energy along the small heaven orbit refines essence into original qi, the same way that exciting the movement of water through the application of fire transforms liquid into steam and gas.

At this level of practice one achieves the coordination between the external movement of the body and the internal movement of qi. When practicing the various exercises the intention, the qi and the movements of the body are integrated into a unified action. At this point in the training one achieves proficiency in the practice of moving qigong (dong gong), experiences a strong current of qi, and is able to control the movement of qi inside the body.

This phase of training requires that one cultivates a clear, tranquil and natural state of mind so that the mind links with the qi and guides the flow of vital energy inside the body. This stage of qigong involves activating the small heaven orbit of qi (xiao zhou tian), circulating internal qi, and refining essence to vital energy.

  1. Emergence of the Inner Elixir (jie dan)

This is the stage in which the qi acquired after birth joins and combines with the prenatal qi. The process of inner contemplation and stability of the spirit refines original qi in a higher level energy or shen with its own special functions. At this stage the practitioner aims at taming the mind and minimizing desires. One reaches a state of stillness and clarity of the spirit thus recovering the original nature of the mind.

Refining vital energy to spiritual energy is marked by the activation of the large heaven orbit (da zhou tian), also known as “The intercourse between heaven (qian) and earth (kun)”. It comprises the circulation of refined qi through the central channels in the arms, legs and trunk (zhong mai). Furthermore, opening the grand heaven orbit has the broader meaning of opening the channels and qi field of the body to the field of nature and freely interchanging energy with the primordial qi of the cosmos. At this stage of qigong cultivation all the energy channels are open and clear and vital energy flows smoothly throughout. The maturation of the large heaven orbit marks the state of fetal breathing (tai xi). This is the phase of refining vital energy (qi) to spirit (shen).

Traditionally, it is said that this phase of practice takes about ten months to complete so it is referred to as the “Ten month pass” (shi yue guan). However, this time frame should not be taken literally as the time required to go through these transformations cannot be fixed and will vary according to the individual and other factors surrounding one’s practice.

At the completion state of this phase the practitioner realizes internal light and perceives the internal organs. Also, various potential extra-sensorial abilities may become manifest according to the methods of practice and nature of the individual. At the advanced state of fetal breathing, external breathing stops through the nose, and one enters a state of profound serenity where internal breathing through the dan tian and the pores of the skin becomes activated.

  1. Transition to External Elixir (wai dan)

The complete refinement of vital energy to spirit will lead to the return of spirit back to emptiness, or a virtual state. This stage marks a transition from the previous phases characterized by conscious effort (you wei) to a condition of non-interfering or non-doing (wu wei), which is a state of non-localized awareness and mindful emptiness.

When qigong practice reaches this stage, the flow of internal energy is not limited to specific channels and vital points, but it will be able to flow like running water filling the entire space of the arms, legs, and trunk, and reaching the center of the palms, bottom of the feet and crown of the head.

The practitioner is able to guide internal energy and establish a permanent line of qi between the two lao gong cavities on the palms. Over time, the sensation of external qi expands, increases, and becomes stronger. With further practice, the flow of qi to the hands and the exterior of the body will combine with the ball of qi inside the dan tian center thus uniting the internal qi with the external qi. At this stage of qigong the practitioner is able to direct and issue internal energy to the qi cavities at will for healing with qi, or self-defense usage. This stage of cultivation includes activating the large heaven orbit of qi (da zhou tian), refining vital energy (qi) to spiritual energy (shen), and issuing external qi.

This phase marks the completion of the immortal spirit or yang spirit (yang shen), which later will be released through the central channel of the body, also known as the fetal channel (chong ju), and out of the body from the opening at the crown of the head. The complete refinement of vital energy to spirit culminates in the formation of the great elixir (da dan). The great elixir manifests as a bundle of energy that settles in the lower dan tian and serves as the seed of the original spirit (yuan shen).

Traditionally, this stage is described by the terms “Nine years pass (jiunian guan)”, or “Nine years facing the wall” referring to the story of Bodhidharma, the first Zen (Chan) Buddhist Patriarch of China, who at this stage of cultivation sat facing the wall for nine years. In Taoist internal alchemy the number nine symbolizes a high level of completion. Thus, this state of practice indicates an advanced level of inner refinement and a return to the original state of body and spirit.

Consciousness is brought back to its pristine purity and clarity and the mind dwells on xing, or one’s original nature. The spirit abides in absolute emptiness and void. In this context emptiness doesn’t mean a state of complete void or nothingness. Rather, it is an experiential dimension devoid of any subjective impressions and dualistic concepts, also known as a virtual state because it contains the potentiality for manifesting any phenomena and it provides a gateway to transcendental reality.

  1. Returning to Original Nature (yuan xing)

When the practitioner reaches this stage the “Heavenly eye” will open-up and various potential abilities of the human body will become manifest. With the opening of internal vision the practitioner will develop the special functions of qigong cultivation. The development of these potential faculties will vary in each individual depending on the nature of the practitioner, state of health, method of training, previous karma and level of cultivation, among other factors surrounding one’s practice.

Breaking from all attachments, including the attachment to emptiness itself, and shedding any subjective feeling or trace of individuality will allow consciousness to attain a state of oneness. At this point, the individual realizes complete enlightenment (yuan jue) and merges with the great Tao.

This stage highlights uniting the three original energies of jing, qi, and shen into the yang spirit (yang shen) in the head, releasing the spiritual body (yang spirit) to merge or unite with the Tao, enlightening the mind, and realizing one’s nature. This is the stage of returning shen (consciousness) to original nature or Tao, and connecting with the primary qi of the universe (xian tian zhen yi zhi qi).  In this way, one can establish the root of the golden elixir (jin dan). It is from this foundation that we can cultivate Tao and approach our true nature.

The higher levels of qigong involve the cultivation of xiu lian or purification and refinement. Since there is a direct relation between the state of vital energy and the state of the mind, one can only reach up to a certain level of achievement in qigong practice without purification of the mind.  Xiu lian is the practice of transforming the quality of the mind, adjusting behavior, balancing lifestyle, and cultivating one’s spiritual nature. In short, it involves the cultivation of virtue (te), character and merit (gong). Without the cultivation of character one cannot harmonize the mind and without harmonizing the mind it is not possible to cultivate our vital energy or qi.

 


Camilo Sanchez is the author of Daoist Meridian Yoga. For more information, click below.

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Women’s Nei Gong for Health and Transformation of Spirit

#QigongFestival2016

by Roni Edlund

The energetic make up of male and female bodies varies, hence there are different elements in Nei Gong practice that women can use to ensure a steady progression in their internal cultivation process. There are also specific energy centres, areas and Qi circulations that women benefit from spending more time cultivating than men, as well as focusing on their connection to the moon. During the first couple of years of Nei Gong practice, you can add the female specific aspects; however, it is not essential to, because the first stages are the same for both men and women.

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When you first start, you need to begin to re-activate the energy system towards the healthy, free flowing state you were at as a child, via an energetic field called the lower Dan Tien. You begin to bring the right focus, gravity, and energy towards this point. After some time the energy begins to flow more strongly. The beauty of this process is that once the energetic engine has restarted, you do not have to actively focus on blockages that needs to be let go of. It will start to re-open and rebalance your body, energy and mind naturally by itself; pushing through blockages of the meridians, physical tensions, emotional hurts, mental hang-ups etc. They all start to shift and free up. It is a surprisingly strong process, which is good because you can be very sure that the re-awakening of the energy system is not happening in your imagination. After you have started to activate the lower Dan Tien you will notice that Qi gong exercises become much stronger and you will begin to be able to tune into your own energy. It is very fascinating coming into contact with this dimension! If you were to practice the Qi Gong exercises in our system without first activating the lower Dan Tien, the effect would not be as strong, as you would not have started the energetic engine prior to trying to drive it, though the slow relaxing movements would still move some energy and undoubtedly be beneficial for your health.

Later on in the Nei Gong practice, women need to use some different exercises to ensure that they move on as efficiently as they can in the process. There are several women-specific exercises that work with the various energetic cycles which are important for the female body and psyche. There is a bigger emphasis on rebalancing the middle Dan Tien and consolidating the Jing storage within this region and the breasts for better emotional health and stability, and a deeper spiritual connection. This is why later on in women’s practice, there is more of an emphasis on the reverse flow of the small waterwheel, which strengthens the natural extraction of essence from the uterus and the menses towards the breasts and the chest region. You do not want to move onto this stage too early, before you have gone through the first stages of the Nei Gong process and started to let go of emotional blockages and been able to start to open the heart. If you do this too early, you would just end up adding to the emotional imbalance and distortions and hinder the process. Men benefit more from spending more time on re-balancing the physical, energetic and mental aspects connected to the lower Dan Tien.

One major difference between female and male bodies is the storage of Jing. Jing is our essence of life; the substance that is responsible for all physiological processes and development, when it runs out you die. In men Jing is stored in the lower back region of the Kidneys. Women store Jing here too, but also in the chest and the breasts. This is why women’s practice often includes exercises that work on the breasts. Doing breast Qi Gong and massage firstly moves the Qi and the blood within the region, preventing pain, stagnation and lumps building up. Secondly it stimulates the Jing and consolidates it within this region. This makes the breasts firmer, stops them from sagging and ensures less Jing leaks out with the menses. Through consolidating the Jing around the middle Dan Tien, heart  and emotional center, less Qi and Jing will also be lost through emotions resulting in more Qi rising to nourish the Shen for spiritual work.

Another major aspect for women’s practice is to connect with the energy of the moon. The moon is the most Yin body in our solar system. Women vibrate at a frequency closer to Yin, compared to men who are more Yang. This means that women’s energy resonates more with the energy of the moon and therefore is more affected by it. The moon waxes and wanes on a monthly basis, just like the menstrual cycle. During the dark moon, it has reached its most Yin state; the energy in both the environment and in the central channel of our bodies descends. Another term for the central channel in Chinese medicine is the “sea of blood”. It has a strong influence on our menstrual blood and the uterus. If you are in sync with the energy of the moon, your menstruation should start when the descending of Qi reaches its strongest time. If it does not start during this period there are certain exercises you can do to influence the flow in the central channel, such as Dark Moon Qi Gong, shown in the video at the end of this article and explained in detail in the book, Daoist Nei Gong for Women: The Art of the Lotus and the Moon. Dark Moon Qi Gong should only be practiced around the dark moon. Once you manage to connect with the flow of the moon, menstruation will become regulated and the health of the uterus will increase. Its psychological aspects will also become more balanced such as a woman’s ability to express herself creatively.

For me, good and strong health is important because it means we will have a more solid base to build our spiritual work on. Health is not the end goal of women’s practices; it can go a lot further and have a deeper effect on the spirit and transform the mind. We should start to see health as a platform for spirituality rather than the end goal.

The healthier our physical body is, the easier the energy will flow in the meridians, and the more nourished the Shen becomes. This makes sure we get an easier entry point to work on the deeper aspects of Nei Gong. The deep internal work of internal alchemy (meditation) becomes much more efficient with a strong balanced mind. Doing the first stages of internal work through Nei Gong is a lot easier for most, than going directly from everyday life, where the mind is scattered on so many things, into trying to quieten the mind. It can be very tricky.

I love Nei Gong practice because you can get so much more out of life and yourself through it. Your body, mind and being begins to feel lighter and freer than you can ever remember experiencing before, you feel vibrations in your environment and inside your body, you feel your mind go through big transformational shifts, you come in contact with congenital consciousness instead of the acquired mind, you feel how things influence you and this gives you the internal tools to work with them to help balance and transform yourself. It is very interesting; there is always another subtle layer to find and experience. It adds another dimension to life and enables you to work with a lot more than just the physical world. It is fascinating!


Find out more about Daoist Nei Gong for Women by Roni Edlund and Damo Mitchell below.

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Qigong: Keep it Simple

#QigongFestival2016

By Noel Plaugher

As I get older I strive for more simplicity in all areas of my life. I think that it is natural to want to boil things down to their essence as we age. In keeping with this theme I have made it my personal quest to try and simplify what I feel is often made too complicated: Qigong. I am really excited that Qigong has become more popular, but I hope that the overall message of a quiet meditative exercise for the mind and body does not get lost in the intricacies of explanation.

Qigong was always taught to me very simply. Over the years I learned from many great teachers, but the one thing that struck me the most was from a teacher who was able to reduce all of the seemingly complex ideas of studying Qigong down to a few essential points. During a seminar I spoke to the teacher and asked about the specifics of a Qigong exercise. He answered my question, and then he added in broken English, “Just remember that as long as you are shifting your weight, breathing with your diaphragm and making circles with your arms, that is all you need to do.” I was really surprised. I thought he would emphasize some point of technique or something more specific to a form, but he didn’t. He was really focused on those three things. In that context I think most readers will recognize that all Qigong in one way or another includes these elements, and that when practicing, these areas should be of utmost concern over anything else.

I do not wish to imply that form doesn’t matter, it does, but not to the exclusion of the overall objective of practicing Qigong: improving body, mind and spirit. To this day when I teach, especially with beginners, I teach students diaphragmatic breathing, show them how to shift their weight while in specific stances, and I reinforce relaxed circular movement of their arms as it applies to the specific form they are learning. Almost all moving Qigong forms are helped by this concept. Beginners tend to be more relaxed and learn faster.

Only after an introduction of these concepts do I then talk about the specifics of the form they are working on. When students are freely and confidently moving it is easier to make corrections. And the corrections should always be small:  a little at a time. As people study, they get familiar with their bodies and with the material that they are studying and then it can be refined. Ultimately, Qigong is about how it makes the practitioner feel. I have never had anyone ask to learn Qigong, because they want to execute a perfect form. Most people tend to want to study because they have mobility issues, anxiety, stress, medical issues, or they feel that they are out of touch with their bodies.

Most students are usually fearful of “doing it wrong.” I have found that this prevents many students from even attempting learning or practicing what they have learned. Students have also expressed that “there is a lot they need to know” as they know a little about Qigong and perhaps have heard of some concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Students often think they need to know specifics to start. I like to tell them that there is a secret handshake, but I won’t show it to them until the end. I believe that when a person leaves a class they should feel better than when they started. Isn’t that why they are studying Qigong?

I have studied with some great teachers and the information was conveyed in a simple, effective and easy to understand manner. That is not to say it was easy to do. As I spoke about in my book there is a difference between simple and easy. The concept of climbing Everest is simple but the execution of it is far from easy. In fact, the information I was taught was profound. So profound that I am still practicing what I was taught so simply many years ago. It wasn’t a vast amount of information, but it was a wealth of knowledge that I count on and credit as keeping me healthy in many ways even now.

Qigong is a great way to enhance anyone’s life. It provides a meditative form of exercise that benefits the mind, body and spirit. Qigong can enhance martial power, and make you feel great by having vigorous health. There is so much information available about Qigong that I hope people are not frightened away by the idea that they need special clothes, a special place to practice, to learn strange names, etc. The most important thing is to just do it. Breathe, move, find the circle. Keep it simple.

The following is a free-form exercise that anyone can try.

  • Stand the same way you do at the checkout line of the grocery store. (feet parallel)
  • Inhale deeply, and let your arms float up as if they are lighter than air take a step forward with your right foot.
  • As you exhale, let your hands float down and make a circle slowly in front of your chest.
  • Inhale deeply, and let your arms float up as if they are lighter than air take a step forward with your left foot.
  • As you exhale, let your hands float down and make a circle slowly in front of your chest.
  • Repeat as far as space will allow, and then turn and go back to where you started.

 

 

 

 

Summer Qigong – Nurturing Fire in the Heart

#QigongFestival2016

by Ronald H. Davis

Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes and yearn to be in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. During this season of shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. As our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness, it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and earth.

According to the Five Phase (Element) paradigm of Chinese medicine, summer is the Fire Phase of annual changes      the season when our Heart Qi naturally comes into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious longing for divine contact. The exuberance of Fire, when carefully cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate human purpose of spiritual awakening. However, if not properly harnessed, summer’s blazing Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our hearts and minds. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the heart network without getting burned.

Heart Network

The major physical and mental correlations for the heart network include but are not limited to: the heart and small intestine, blood and vessels, tongue, perspiration, intuition and compassion. The functions of this group have some degree of warmth, movement or communication. A more specific and very crucial energetic function of the heart is to nurture the HeartMind in the ‘middle dan tian’. The dan tians are regions of the body where qi energy is stored, refined and transformed (please see Qigong Through The Seasons for detailed information on these essential components of the energetic body).

HeartMind

Our capacity for expressing positive human values comes from the xin, often translated as HeartMind, a compound word implying that the heart’s emotional knowledge combines with the mind’s rational thinking to give us a uniquely human perception of the world. When our actions are appropriate to the situation, considerate of others, and done with good intentions the HeartMind is vibrant and lovingly engaged with the world.

The HeartMind must be carefully nurtured if we want to follow the path of spiritual awakening. The HeartMind develops from the joining of liver blood and heart qi in the middle dan tian. We deliberately cultivated that energy field with Spring Qigong practice. Now in summer we should continue to elevate the vitalized blood and enriched qi to achieve higher realms of consciousness where we live beyond the restraints of egocentric thoughts and behavior, thus experiencing the full flowering of human fellowship and divine nourishment. When properly done, qigong and meditation practice will transform the HeartMind into Spirit, which then ascends to reside in the upper dan tian. With further dedicated practice the Spirit comes awake and we dwell in a world of serene selflessness.

Meditations
The Summer Qigong Practice includes two meditations for refreshing the five major internal organs and for nourishing the HeartMind. In the “Colors of Health” meditation you visualize infusing the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys with specific colors. This gentle placement of luminous energy into the organs is accompanied with feelings of kindness and gratitude for the essential work those organs do to keep you healthy.

The “Sunflower” meditation is focused on visualizing a sunflower brightly blooming in the middle dan tian while you smile inwardly (as you did in the Colors of Health meditation) to evoke the feeling of loving kindness for yourself and for all others. This powerfully simple meditation can instill a state of deep contentment, centeredness, and being at peace with the way things are.

Foods, Flavors, and Herbs

The bitter flavor is closely identified with the Fire Phase and the heart. Bitter foods and herbs will cool heat, clear blood stagnation and correct excessively damp conditions. Bitter will benefit those individuals who are too watery, lethargic, or overweight as well as those who are too hot, aggressive or scattered. Some common bitter foods: romaine lettuce, bok choy, radicchio, and celery. Many foods are a combination of bitter and other flavors: Bitter and Sweet: asparagus, most lettuce, papaya, quinoa. Bitter and Pungent: citrus peel, radish, scallion, turnip, white pepper. Bitter and Sour: vinegar. A healthy diet will include some degree of bitter foods based on personal taste and availability. Garlic and Hawthorn are two very beneficial herbs for the cardiovascular system. Usage of all herbs should be done with the guidance of a qualified herbalist.

Qigong

The aim of the first three exercises in Summer Qigong is ambitious: to gather yang energy from the universe and yin energy from the earth and bring that into the body’s energetic field. The goal is to refine qi so that our Spirit becomes totally connected to all aspects of heaven and earth. The fourth exercise is Heart Qigong which is the most essential practice for the Fire Phase. It opens the three dan tians, promotes qi flow through the taiji axis, and expands our capacities for universal love, selflessness, and communication. Heart Qigong is a beautifully rhythmic exercise; many people experience a free flowing energy after practicing only a short time. It seamlessly combines the three aspects of qigong: movement, breathing, intention. These four exercises are amply explained and nicely illustrated in the except that follows this article.

The first five chapters of Qigong Through The Seasons are important to understand the theories and research behind this seasonal practice, especially the sections on Chronobiology, the Five Phases, and Diet. Take your time absorbing the principles and practices presented in this book. The training and dietary suggestions have inherent variety and emphasis for each season, this keeps your fitness routine exciting, fresh, and naturally healthy.


To find out more about Qigong Through the Seasons by Ronald H. Davis, click below.

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Spring, the Wood Phase

The following article is adapted from the book Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis.

Spring pertains to the Wood Phase    a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal and movement. The momentum created by spring qi gives structure and impetus to the world. In humans, qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems. Continue reading

An Interactive Pilates Adventure: Why Connor the Conker?

Below, author of Connor the Conker and the Breezy Day, Rachel Lloyd, explains exactly why she created Connor the Conker and why he works with interactive pilates.

Connor

Over the years I have worked with many children in various settings from film sets, (Bridget Jones’s Baby, Harry Potter, The Theory of Everything) to fitness studios and dance and drama classes; and two things that have become abundantly clear to me from all this experience: Continue reading