Meditation and Stress Management

Last time I talked about why you just might want to ‘manage’ your stress and unconvincing as that article may have been, my primary point was that shiatsu is only one piece of the puzzle. Regardless of what brings you to shiatsu, whether it is a family crisis that doesn’t allow you to sleep, a running injury or just the ‘need’ for deep relaxation, you will need a strategy that penetrates your life more completely than even the rare luxury of weekly visits to a body-worker could ever bring.

I would also indeed like a life that allows me both financially and logistically to have shiatsu at least once a week but until that time (and even after) what can I do to keep everything on point and humming smoothly? What are you going to do to augment the occasional deep tissue work, Rolfing or Tibetan point holding?

I mentioned that traditionally shiatsu or tuina is part of a continuum of natural approaches to fighting illness that begins with meditation, moves to nutrition, and continues with movement therapy, before arriving at bodywork. When bodywork is not adequate then herbs (oral medicines), acupuncture and surgery follow. Some argue that nutrition is more accessible than meditation and perhaps should be at the top of the list and there are merits to that argument but my response is that the mind is at the root, managing and controlling all approaches to nutrition as well as movement therapy (like dao yin or yoga) so its logical to start there.

Unfortunately when described as I have above, the whole process seems like a prioritized list, a kind of triage. “I shouldn’t look at my nutrition until I’ve exhausted the possibilities of meditation” for example but that’s not what I’m getting at. What I’m saying is that don’t forget the whole, even when a single theme or health issue is begging for your complete attention. It would seem to be simple common sense but it is not natural. What is more natural is for the mind is to give more emphasis to negative stimulus, for the impressions of negative experiences to have greater weight in our consciousness and for us to pay more attention to things that we perceive as a threat than to things that are positive or that bring “hapines.” A conscious and continued effort to balance these aspects of the mind (which incidentally have specific advantages for our survival) with meditation helps us to gain greater perspective and help us to manage our stress and oversee the complete spectrum of our health. ‘Am I getting enough sleep? Why not? How might that effect x, y, or z? Did I drink just a bit too much absinthe etc?’

So gaining meditative stability could be considered a first step in achieving optimum health, perhaps more for its downstream effects than directly, but in the worlds of qi gong, and internal martial arts, intimate familiarity with and control of the mind has direct, palpable effects on energy, health, power and ‘enlightenment.’ But that’s a fish that’s too big to fry in this blog. Happy New Year and stay on point. Peace.

Glorifying Ignorance

I speak about unknowing, not knowing and non-knowing quite abit here but I hope that I am not simply glorifying ignorance.  I am not  a philosopher so I don’t usually speak about universals. I usually focus on me and you right here and right now. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle of the nowhere land of practical handworker and street philosopher.  The kind of guy who might sometimes say something profound but he’s also not afraid of an ad hominem here and there.

I say to my friends and clients that its ok not to know–just go find out, and feel intimately your unknowing.  don’t be afraid of the dark.  That’s easy enough, naturally there’s a great deal not to know and unknowing is everywhere to be found, especially in the run up to an election year.  Mostly our main trouble is to be found in what we think we know.

Grasping at knowing holds us.  It doesn’t necessarily hold us back but it holds us, otherwise it would not be grasping.  When do you grasp?  Is it simply a response to losing your balance? Or is it a habit formed in the past, and deeply ingrained.  Do you actually remember when and why you became willing to spend so much money on your hair and nails? Is there a practical reason you’ve saved every scrap of paper from your childhood? Is this a just a fundamental grasping at self or are others involved?

We grasp at our plans and goals, our thoughts and actions, even those formed on a whim and we are willing to lose our way for them.  Perhaps we are just exploring the edges of the garden path?

So our ignorance and our grasping hold us.  We are bound. We are bound to express this solitary boat among the reeds reflecting the brilliant moon.  Our youth, our hopes, our dreams all are a testament that holds us yet there is no posssiblility of keeping and holding them.  Is this glorious ignorance or can our minds really lead us to increased strength, better concentration and a more supple body?

That depends I guess.  How aligned are your thoughts and actions? Only just a bit? How appropriate, useful, and efficient are your actions once your thoughts have sparked them? Do you have great ideas but are unable to stand up out of the victim chair? How in tune are the two controls to your core purposes?

A little shiatsu, a little meditation, good conversation with someone meaningful to us and our life can all help us overcome our glorious ignorance.  Not knowing requires patience and inner strength.  Don’t panic.  You can also overcome ¨think you know mind¨ as well and fully experience the light and shadow before being scattered among the flowers.

The Two Controls

So, thoughts and action are under our control. Our genes, environmental toxins and our social and political circumstances;  the trials and tribulations of everyday life, less so or rather. not at all. We just think we have influence but whether we do or not is questionable. Self shiatsu and our nutritional approach make up a set of thoughts and actions that we can adopt to help mitigate the power of the things largely out of our control. Self shiatsu helps us address our structure. Nutriton gives us influence over metabolic pathways and carefully done can help us to detoxify. With these two controls there is a lot we can accomplish before we have to call on allopathic medicine. This is our responsibility.

If regular bodywork is like a mirror, giving us a view we normally can’t have without a separate observer, than self shiatsu is like the mental image we have before gazing into the mirror. By using our thoughts and actions to gain a high level of understanding of our physical structure through self shiatsu; by managing our stress, increasing our range of motion, perfecting our balance and improving our blood circulation, controlling heart rate, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and so on, we can take up the great task of caring for this living body.

Thoughts are just concepts say many but they are the primary control leading to the actions that help us to shape and determine this one life. Our thoughts can be focused scattered,  pointed or perverse. But they can also be changed and guided.  Let evidence guide your thoughts and allow your experience to let them change.

Since thoughts are myriad and choices ever changing, what kind of evidence should we look to and where are we to find it? Just look to your left. Look in that bright mirror. Look at the time spent writing in the garden under light filtered by apple trees. Look at the swollen feet and darkened eyes, the constant headaches.  Look at the process and break through the habit energies that lead to such appearances. Low carb, high carb, long and slow, HIIT try it all and then some. Give it time to work and don’t be impatient.  What appears in the mirror of your own daily practice? Take hold of theTwo Controls and fashion your own healthy expression. Take heed, the Two Controls are not always easily applied.