A couple weeks ago, I posted a blog called "When in Doubt, Go Outside." For years, I've also often said, "When in doubt, practice Sheng Zhen." If we're Skype contacts, then you've seen that message there under my name.
And as I sit here to write this now, I'm thinking about how it's not just about doing the actual moving and non-moving practices of Sheng Zhen that helps in times of doubt. It's also just simply Sheng Zhen, which is defined as sacred truth, or unconditional love.
In times of doubt, yes, Sheng Zhen's meditations in motion and in stillness help by opening the heart and relaxing the body and mind, taking you into the Sheng Zhen state, bringing more peace, joy, and clarity. But even if you don't know the Sheng Zhen forms yet, summoning within yourself a feeling of unconditional love can help. Asking your inner wisdom or a higher power what's truly True can help.
I have more to say about this, but my newborn niece is sleeping nearby, and I gotta wrap this up soon. I just wanted to keep a recent promise I made to myself: post a new blog entry at least once a week. So here it is! ;)
Perhaps I'll expand more on this another time. But for now, just remember that Sheng Zhen helps in times of doubt. And if you don't already know any of the Sheng Zhen practices, consider learning them. In the meantime, remember love. Love without conditions. The pure, generative, creative energy of love. And ask yourself or a higher power for guidance; ask for Truth. And then be receptive and courageous enough to listen, to hear what's coming through. And then follow through.
Some days are harder than others.
Some are a piece of cake.
Some days I'm tired of the struggle.
Some days there's no struggle at all.
Some days it's hard to smile.
And other days the smiles just won't stop.
Some days I'm crystal clear on why I feel I how I feel.
Some days I'm not.
And when I'm not so sure, I've learned to ask.
"Is this mine?"
Some days I feel pain that isn't even mine.
I'm so sensitive.
Some days I try to avoid or numb my own...
Some days I face it head on, and with open arms.
Some days I dive fully in to feeling it all,
remembering that the only way out is through.
Today was a day that started off with sadness,
so I softened into it and asked if it was mine and then asked what I needed.
What I needed was to move, to sweat, to work out to work it out, to move the sadness, that energy, to move it, to transform it.
I asked what I needed after that, and what I needed was to take action, to move in the direction of my dreams by working on a meaningful project. And so I did, and with that, I found peace.
Some days, there's a feeling of sadness and restlessness that comes from not doing the things I know I need to do, the things that are most important to my wellbeing and my life's purpose. Today was one of those days, but I shifted it. And so can you.
Every moment we have the freedom of choice, the freedom to choose.
What will I do?
What will you do?
Does this get me closer or farther away from what I want, from how I want to feel?
What choice(s) will you make today to find more contentment, more peace, more satisfaction, more fulfillment? What will you choose to get where you want to go, to feel how you want to feel?
Today, this is one of the choices I've made-- to write this and share it here with you.
Now it's up to you to decide, to choose, how these words affect you. What's the gift you can take from them today? Or do you not need this today but want to stash it away for another day?
Some days we need messages like this.
Some days we don't.
Some days, reading something like this would feel boring or annoying, maybe even cause your eyes to glaze over--maybe not even getting this far.
But some days this is just what we need, to help us remember the truth of who we are--of our power to choose and create what we want--and to accept the ups and downs of the path that we're on.
When in doubt, go outside. Go outside and breathe. Go for a walk and let your blood flow. Or lie down in the grass and let the earth hold you. Let yourself go. Let the fresh air cleanse and invigorate your soul. Feel your body relax, relaxing your mind. Feel that expansion relieving the pressure, the pressure of figuring it out, of struggling with doubt.
Get some perspective and relief by just letting yourself be. And in that freedom, you’ll naturally let go. Clarity will come, even if it’s just the clarity of no longer caring, no longer trying so hard to know before you’re ready to know…
When in doubt, go outside. Go outside of your own mind, of your thinking about your doubts, about yourself, about you. Stop focusing on the questions. Just let the questions be. Let them breathe. Allow clarity to come effortlessly....
When I’m struggling with doubt, as soon as I step outside, perspective comes in the space of that spaciousness. Either an answer comes to relieve the doubt, or I simply stop caring. I step into living the question, accepting the not knowing, and that relieves the pressure of doubt, the pressure of trying to figure it all out.
This morning, I felt overwhelmed with creative ideas and frustrated by the paralysis rather than productivity that tends to follow these downloads of ideas. One of my ideas was to start a new blog or revive my old one (this one here). But with that idea came other ideas--and doubts. Questions. Things to figure out.
So, on my walk, as I breathed in the fresh air and let the questions go, I realized it didn't need to be so complicated. I don't need to figure it all out right now. I could just write this. And just write it here.
Just write here, at least for now.
That’s the answer. For now.
Because the important thing for me right now is to write, and to share it, to not keep it bottled up. And so here it is. Perfectly imperfect. Freeing up my mind and my energy--and perhaps contributing to you, you who are reading this. Perhaps guiding you to go outside next time you're in doubt.
Try it some time.
And then tell me how it goes. Contact me or comment below.
This morning I went to Ecstatic Dance. It had been awhile, and so I was determined to go today no matter what. No other plans. No excuses. Just go.
But when I woke up and got out of bed, I limped. My ankle very occasionally has this mysterious, out-of-the-blue pain. And this morning it showed up. But since I was determined to go to dance, I knew I'd still go.
I knew that even if all I did was sit on the edge of the dance floor, watching others dance, I'd still be happy I went. Plus, there was also a chance the pain would resolve before it was time for dance.
And it did. My ankle felt better. The pain was gone! But then it came back. So I danced a little. I sat a little. And when I danced, I took it easy. I resisted jumping.
Yes, I'm a jumper. I love bouncing around the dance floor. But not this morning. This morning, I just had to work with what I got.
And it reminded me of the kind of thing I say to my qigong and meditation students when we're doing the movements, or even just during a little warm up:
"Work with what you've got. If you're in pain or feeling restricted, find a way to do this that feels good to you. Forget about what you can't do; enjoy what you can do."
And as I type that, I smile as I think of how it applies to more than just physical movement.
How often have you felt brought down by limitations and restrictions? Sometimes limitations and restrictions are meant to be challenged. And feeling sad or angry about it can be like fuel for making changes.
But sometimes we need to accept restrictions and limitations and learn to focus on the bright side and be solution-oriented rather than fixated on the problem. Sometimes we gotta get creative to work with what we got. And sometimes it takes a little bit of effort to shift the negative perspective to a positive one.
Sure, I have a right to feel pissed off or bummed out when my ankle hurts and prevents me from dancing how I really want to dance. And you have a right to feel bummed out or angry about whatever seems to be holding you back.
But I love being able to acknowledge that and then let it go. Acknowledge it and then move on to finding the better feeling thoughts.
Try it for yourself. Next time you're feeling stifled, limited, restricted, and getting upset over it, see what happens when you take a step back. Take a deep breath. And let it go.
This isn't about denial or spiritual bypassing. It's important to acknowledge that part of you that feels bothered. You can even say to yourself, "I know, I know. I hear you. This sucks. So, what would feel good right now? What would help? What can we do?" And see if that helps you shift, feel a bit lighter or more hopeful. See if you can find the gratitude and joy in working with what you got.
And on a side note, when I was thinking of the title for this blog post, I stumbled upon this song on YouTube! Enjoy: :)
I'll be honest with you, the answer is yes. But then once I get started, that changes.
A few weeks ago, after my weekly meditation and qigong class on Mercer Island, a student approached me and asked something like, "Do you ever feel like not teaching?"
I laughed, and then I answered something like, "Sure, there are times that I'm on my way to class feeling anxious or stressed out, or maybe there's something going on in my life that's distracting me or bringing me down, or I'm just feeling tired, and so I don't feel like teaching. But it doesn't take long for that to shift once I get started. And that's one of the great things about Sheng Zhen, right? This is part of the practice--showing up and doing it and allowing it to work its magic."
That's not exactly what I said, but it's a combo of what I remember from that day and what I'm thinking now.
The point is that I am human. I don't feel like a radiant bubble of joy 24/7. So, as much as I love Sheng Zhen and love teaching, of course there are times when it feels challenging to show up for a class!
But that's part of the practice--showing up and doing it no matter what. And this practice of relaxing the body, quieting the heart and mind, and cultivating qi and the pure energy of love--it's powerful. It's transformational. It's alchemical. It's the healing power of an open heart.
When I show up to teach, my primary purpose is to teach, not to do my own practice. But part of being a good teacher is being able to enter into the Sheng Zhen state and guide others into it as well--both with instruction and through demonstration! And usually I am able to do this no matter what is happening in my life or on that day, because that is part of the power of Sheng Zhen.
In the Sheng Zhen state, worries disappear. Even if they bubble back up from time to time, they're easily brushed away and replaced with thoughts and feelings of love and enjoyment.
In the Sheng Zhen state, there's a sense of peacefulness and joy. It feels like being on a fun vacation. It feels like play.
It feels open, expansive, energizing, inspiring...
And it's impressive how quickly and easily Sheng Zhen practices can take you into this more peaceful and more joyful state of being.
And this is why I show up, time after time, to teach. This is why I look for more and more places to teach so that I can share this practice with others.
It's such a gift seeing my students enter into this Sheng Zhen state. It's such a gift hearing from them how it's making a difference in their daily lives.
Some days I may not feel like showing up to teach, but deep down it's the number one thing I want to do. And so I do. And I'm grateful to all the students who show up too.
Together we truly do make the world a better place. Maybe it's through not feeling reactionary after class, and therefore experiencing less conflict and more peace in all types of relationships.
Or maybe it's by walking out of class with a smile, and sharing that smile with a passerby who had been feeling a lack of joy or connection until that moment of seeing you smile at them.
Maybe it's through having more clarity about our decisions and making choices that are in our greatest good and the greatest good of the planet.
Maybe it's through pain relief or getting better sleep, which affects our quality of life, our daily actions, and how we interact with others...
There are so many possibilities, so many ways Sheng Zhen can touch your life and also ripple out into the world.
So, now I have a question or two for you:
How do you want to make your own world--and the world at large--a better place? Do you see how having a meditation or mindfulness practice can help you achieve this?
Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear from you whether through commenting below or privately via email.
I'm sitting on the couch in the rec room of my parents' house on Mercer Island. This was my childhood home from the age of 8 on up. And 23 years ago, when I was 16, on a Monday, on President's Day, the first day of mid-winter break, I remember being in this room.
In the earlier part of the day I was watching Pulp Fiction with two friends. And then, after taking them home, I found myself back in this room, back on the couch, in front of the TV, watching Melrose Place.
And then I went to bed. It must have been 9 or 10pm, which was pretty early to go to bed during a vacation, but I was sleepy, so I went to sleep.
But not for long.
Around midnight, I received a phone call on my parents' landline. I had a phone in my room, but the ringer was off. My mom knocked on my door, though. She said someone was calling from work.
I worked at Tony Maroni's pizza. I knew it wasn't really a call from there. But I crawled to the foot of my bed and answered the phone. And soon I was getting into someone's car to go watch The Usual Suspects. But we didn't make it to our movie-watching destination...
There's more to this story, a lot more, and it's in a manuscript I mostly finished back in 2012. And some day I'll finish it, when I know what the point is of sharing it and how the story ends.
But for now I'll just say, for those of you who don't already know, that night I was in a nearly fatal, highly traumatic car accident.
You can read an old blog post about it here--a blog post that inspired me to convert that whole manuscript into the style of "epic poetry." No joke. I worked on that conversion in my friend's attic, where I was temporarily living, when I first moved down to Austin to work with Master Li on his books.
It's tempting to share some more of it here. But for now I feel it's best to just redirect you to my old blog.
And speaking of now, what more do I have to say about this day?
Anniversaries are stored in the cells, which can feel like a gift or like a curse. Or like both.
I've done a ton of healing--physically, emotionally, energetically, you name it--and the driver and I are on good terms. But every year, as February 19 and 20 approach, I feel it. I feel a combination of things, and it's shifted over the years to be mostly positive. I have more of a survival story than a victim story now. I feel grateful for the blessings in disguise and the gifts that have come from this experience. I see how the accident and its aftermath have shaped my life in mostly good ways.
But I'd be lying if I said it was all good. I even just recently found out about an impact of the accident I hadn't anticipated. And some day I probably will share more about that. But not today.
Today I just sit with it all and don't feel like saying much more. I sit with the blessings and gifts, as well as the harmful impact. I sit with the perfection of it all, even the parts that have been hard. I know it's all part of my path. And I'm grateful to have survived. I'm grateful for this life.
In my blog post the other day, I shared a concern that if we say "everyone has something to heal" or "everyone is always healing," then it's like implying there's "something wrong with them." Something broken. Something needing to be fixed.
I asked you to share some thoughts on this before I share more of mine.
And now, here are mine:
I feel that it's important to remember the Truth of who we are: We are are Perfect. We are all Whole. Nothing to fix.
And yet it's also true that we have things to heal.
Sometimes we have things going on physically, emotionally, mentally, or energetically that appear as problems--or as something that needs healing. Perhaps the important thing here is to recognize that just because we are healing, that does not mean we are broken or that there's something "wrong" with us.
What's so wrong about feeling like there's something wrong? I can hear some people thinking that! Even a part of me is wondering that!
And my answer is: It depends.
Does the thought--do those words--empower or disempower you? Does the thought of needing to heal imply that something is wrong with you? And does the thought having something to heal or feeling like something is "wrong" make you feel smaller or help you feel more expansive and motivated towards taking some action? Does acknowledging that something is/feels "wrong" make you feel bad, or is it just useful information to guide you towards making a change for the better?
Some of this is about semantics--whether it's the word "healing" or the word "wrong." Some is about perception and belief systems.
I don't think there's a right or wrong answer here. I feel very curious to hear from others about this. All I know is that as a teacher, or in any leadership role, it feels important to me to be mindful and considerate regarding word choice and the power of words.
So, personally, I don't feel comfortable saying that we are all in the process of healing, and yet I recognize that maybe--depending on how you look at it--maybe we are.
Even as I write that though, part of me sighs, ugh, but that just feels like so much work. I just want to be free and not always feeling like there's something to heal!
So when I share a concern about how others will take "we are all healing something," maybe I'm projecting. Because sometimes that implies to me a need for ongoing work. A constant need for improvement or something. And not in a fun, expansive, and evolutionary way.
Then again, sometimes I do see healing as an adventure, as constant growth and expansion! And that feels good.
So, again, the bottom line is that it depends. It depends on who you are. It depends on the day. It depends on the context.
Today the thought of everyone always being in need of healing doesn't feel good to me. Maybe it would ring true another day. I don't know.
Again, I find myself wondering, what do you think?
What does healing mean to you?
Comment or send me a message. I'd love to hear from you.
A couple weeks ago, one of my Sheng Zhen students asked me, "Why is this form called Healing? Is there an assumption that we're all healing from something?"
What a question! I felt both excited to answer, and a bit surprised to be asked this. We had just finished Sheng Zhen Healing, Stage 1. We may have done Stage 2 that day as well. I don't remember now. But I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday.
I remember asking if anyone had any comments or questions, as I often do. And this one student asks about the form we just practiced and why the title is "Sheng Zhen Healing."
"Why is this form called Healing? Is their an assumption that we're all healing from something?" she asked.
At first I felt unsure of how to answer. I absolutely love questions like this, but in over 10 years of teaching, nobody had every asked me this.
So, I thought about it for a moment and responded, "I don't think that's what was meant to be implied. But perhaps we are all healing from separation and disconnection, at the very least? I don't know... However, I don't think Master Li meant to imply anything like that. My understanding is that the "Sheng Zhen Healing" forms (stages 1, 2, and 3) were a result of being asked for a form to help those with Cancer and AIDS. That being said, the Sheng Zhen Healing forms are often practiced by people who are physically well and aren't necessarily trying to heal physically, emotionally, or spiritually."
And then another student said something like, "but aren't we all healing from something?"
I may have laughed--I just chuckled now thinking back to it. But I also remember feeling sensitive to the idea of saying that everyone is healing whether they would see it that way or not.
And so, I responded something like, "Well, yeah, I suppose you could say that, and I hear what you're saying. But for some people, that could imply there's something 'wrong with them' or that there's something they always need to be working on. Some people wouldn't like to think that, even if it's true! So I wouldn't impose that wording or concept onto anyone even though I hear what you're saying."
And then I posed the question: Do we all have things to heal, whether we're aware of it or not?
What do you think??
Really, I want to know. I'd love to see a discussion about this in the comments to this blog. Or email me. Do you think everyone has something to heal?
I have more to say, and I even already wrote it. But I want to stop here for today. I'll share the rest tomorrow or Saturday. In the meantime, please share your thoughts... :-)
Last night I was asked to take a look at which things in my life are "pretending to be urgent" and therefore getting in the way of what's really most important. And so I was also asked to look at what truly is most important to me!
This came up in Laura Lavigne's online Happiness School, which I highly recommend!
First of all, this concept of recognizing that so much of what we feel is urgent really isn't urgent--well, that's a game changer. I'm already pretty good at saying no and having boundaries, like turning off my phone ringer when out with friends or when focused on a project. But I still find myself tending to prioritize some things that aren't actually as important as what's most important. I still find myself not doing some of the things that I really yearn to do and that I know would be good for me to do more often.
So, what is most important? What are my real priorities?
I believe this can be looked at on a macro level as well as a micro level. It can be looked at in a big picture way, but also in a day-to-day-what's-on-your-to-do-list type of way.
And in last night's class, as well as today while writing this, I am thinking more about the day-to-day, how to manage my priorities and time during the work week. And I have a feeling that the choices I make here will also somehow reflect my bigger priorities and values.
At the end of class, there was a prompt to list three things that are truly important to us.
Want to know what I wrote?
1. Sheng Zhen
The truth is, at first I had "connect with friends" as number 3! But then I realized that although that's very important to me, it comes after these other things. I feel more present and can enjoy social interactions more if I've already done these other three things. And as I type that, I recognize a self-care element to this.
So, this is my foundation. At least for now. Maybe it will change over time. Maybe once I get back into a better habit of including yoga in my day, I can take that off the list and replace it with something else, like connecting with friends, but we shall see...
For now I'm just making a conscious choice to say, "Hey, these three things come first. Even if it's just 5 minutes of yoga, it happens before I start checking email." I need that kind of message for getting back into a yoga practice! Can you relate?
And even though Sheng Zhen is my passion, again, if I start checking emails and going into work mode before I've done some moving or non-moving Sheng Zhen, then I don't always end up doing the practice later in the day--other than the "I am a big body of Love" mantra! Yes, even just taking a moment to feel like a big body of love is a good Sheng Zhen practice. But I want more. I want to hear the contemplations as I practice along with a video or audio track! And for me, personally, it's important to do this in the morning.
And then there's writing! And here is a big part of where the magic of the Happiness School comes into play. I wrote down "writing" as one of the things that's most important for me to do on a regular basis. And voila! For the first time in--how long? certainly over a year--I'm writing a blog post.
Although I've done plenty of editing and also social media post writing, and some newsletters, I haven't done any "real" writing, like blogs or articles or working on books for a very long time.
After I published my book, I think I went through some sort of postpartum depression. I also let other things take on a greater sense of urgency. But now it's time to get back on the saddle! I've been thinking "it's time" on and off for a while now, but I still wasn't taking action. I wasn't prioritizing it.
Until now. And all it took was the combo of calling out false urgency as false and this prompt, this assignment, to list three things that are important to me. :) How cool is that?! Here I am, already making a change that makes me happier, within less that 24 hours of class.
Maybe you want to join this school, too, and experience this kind of magic for yourself? Classes are recorded, so you can see last night's class via video. :) You can click here to learn more.
But I digress. The main point of this blog was not to send you to the school (although I do think you should check it out! ;)). The main point was to get started with prioritizing writing!
I didn't know that I was going to write about this. I thought I was going to write about a conversation I had with some Sheng Zhen students! But this is what came out. So, stay tuned for something about that conversation with my students!
This blog entry marks the beginning of my commitment to write on a regular basis. I may not write every day; I start with aiming for 4 to 6 days a week. And it will not always be a blog post or something I share publicly. But I'll be writing. And spending more time on the yoga mat. And practicing Sheng Zhen every morning. Everything else can wait.
When was the last time you stopped to watch the squirrels? Or some other little critter out in nature? Most likely you've heard the saying "stop and smell the roses." But what about "stop and watch the squirrels"? You probably haven't heard that one, because I just made it up. Not that it's outside the realm of possibility that other people could have had that thought or said those words. ;-) But that's a whole other topic. So I'll get back to the squirrels.
A couple days ago, I took my dog Buddy (yes, that's his name, the name that he came with) to walk around Green Lake here in Seattle. Usually I let him stop to sniff around and look at squirrels for a little while, but then try to keep him moving so that we make it around the lake in a "reasonable" amount of time. But on Monday, I didn't care about going all the way around the lake, even though it feels sort of strange not to. Monday was a beautiful, sunny day. And in October, you never know when it will be our last for a while. So I really just wanted to be outside. No agenda.
So when Buddy would stop to look at a squirrel, instead of trying to get him to keep walking, or instead of taking that moment to check my phone, I just stood there with Buddy. Watching him. Watching the squirrel. Watching him watch the squirrel. Looking deeply into the squirrel's eyes. And it felt so good!
Now, I'm someone who loves animals. I always loved watching the birds and squirrels play in my yard. But since getting Buddy back in March, I guess I wasn't really giving squirrels much of my attention, at least not in the same way. Now Buddy was my cute animal to watch and squirrels were just something that made Buddy yank on the leash or not want to keep walking.
Like most dogs, Buddy is very interested in squirrels, but he rarely runs after them. Usually, he just stares. Stares and stares. Stares into their eyes, if they're close enough and willing. And at Green Lake, most of them were! So I got to watch a few staring contests. I also saw a squirrel drink from the lake. I don't think I've ever seen that before. And to be honest, I don't know for sure if the squirrel was drinking from the lake or washing something off or what, because the squirrel's big bushy tail and rear end were blocking the view a bit, but it was probably one of, if not both of those, actions. And it made me smile.
I felt really happy feeling so patient and present and available to seeing more of what was happening around me. Imagining what it's like for Buddy. His mind isn't filled with a bunch of thoughts. He doesn't care about walking around the lake in a certain amount of time. He's just taking in all the smells and sights as fully as he can. Totally in the present moment.
And through that state of presence comes the opportunity for communion. One of my favorite feelings. Communing with nature. With other living things. With the elements. With other people.
Speaking of other people, as I stood there, in these various spots whenever Buddy would stop, feeling patient, relaxed, in awe and amused by what I was witnessing, other people started to stop. They'd stop and look. Curious what Buddy was looking at. Maybe even curious why I was standing there smiling and laughing.
Several conversations with strangers took place that day. One woman who stopped to talk to us (ha! yes, me and Buddy), was a woman who had sat down with us on a bench at Green Lake about a month ago. It was the day I found out my grandmother died, or perhaps the next day. And this elderly woman and I had a lovely conversation back in September and now again in October. Connection. Connection is so easy to find if we're just willing to see it all around us. Be open to it.
So if you're feeling a lack of connection, take the time to stop and watch the squirrels. Go out into the world and keep your head up. Make eye contact with others--squirrels and humans too! Smile. Say hello. Treat the people you encounter in your day as if you've known them for years. Why not? It's fun. Or at least it can be if you decide it will be regardless of how others respond.
Some people will be delighted to interact with you. Some won't even realize you're trying to interact with them because they're so not used to it! So, don't worry if your "hello" or smile goes totally ignored or even makes someone look concerned. Just continue on, and I promise you you'll get more smiles and hellos in response to your own the more you do this and the more you feel at ease with it. :)
That's all for now! Now go out there and watch some squirrels. And while you're at it, smell some roses too.
Rebecca Clio Gould is a Certified Sheng Zhen Teacher and Holistic Wellness Coach. Her specialties include self-love, embodied joy, women's sexuality, spirituality, surgery preparation, and trauma recovery. She is also a Supreme Science Qigong Instructor, Essence vs Form Coach, and Award-winning Author of "The Multi-Orgasmic Diet: Embrace Your Sexual Energy and Awaken Your Senses for a Healthier, Happier, Sexier You."