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: :)
Happy February! Or is it?
Here in Seattle, February may not feel so happy. This month, from my perspective, can be a bit challenging emotionally and energetically. It's grey and cold and wet and blah. Plus, sometimes by now the momentum of January-- the "it's a new year, and I'm gonna kick ass doing all the things I said I'd do this year"-- has reached a temporary pause or plateau. And this particular February, with Mercury retrograde in full effect, some of what we were giving our attention to in January is now up for reconsideration and revaluation. Am I right? Have you been feeling any of that?
Now if you're feelin' great and still chugging along just fine, congrats! But if you're feeling a bit down or discouraged, frustrated, or like things are sort of on hold or up in the air or not falling into place, not clear, here are a few tips:
1) First of all, feel your feelings. All of them. Do not get sucked down into the abyss, but don’t spiritual bypass here either. I used to be a big fan of spiritual bypassing, such as by "choosing joy" and trying to only focus on the silver linings. Now I know that it's essential to honor and feel the pain and the hurt as well. It’s essential to feel into the depths of your sadness, anger, frustration, fear, and shame, to cry your tears, to yell and scream (not at others, but in a private and safe space), and to let yourself simply feel like crap for a bit if that's how you feel. Allow, allow, allow, and feel. To heal. And trust in the process as it unfolds. Be present with the process, with the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows. Know everything is going to be ok, already is ok, and about to get even better, one way or the other. Feel your feelings, and keep on breathing.
2) Commit to starting your day off right. Did you know that spending 10 minutes, or even just a few minutes, in the morning to think about who and what you love, to envision your goals, to think about what's good, what you're grateful for, can set you up for an awesome day? Trust me. This works. When you first wake up, before getting out of bed, give yourself several minutes for focusing only on all the yummy, juicy, goodness in your life. And as long as you’re also allowing yourself to feel your feelings as they come and go throughout the day, this doesn’t qualify as spiritual bypassing. Since the human brain has a tendency to focus more on the negative, we must retrain it with techniques such as this, to redirect your attention and mindset to focus more on what’s good, to remember what’s good. So go ahead and try it!
3) Morning pages. First thing in the morning, WRITE. By hand. In a notebook. 3 pages. Non-stop. Write before you are awake enough to really think or censor yourself. Just let it flow. Write honestly about how you feel, what your stories are, what your fears are, what your truths are, what your questions are. Be open to the answers coming through. Ask for them to come through. Then listen as you continue to write. Not only will this be like a detox, getting it out of your system, but clarity and peace and healing can come through this process. You just might write yourself out of that rut or bad mood!
4) Move it or lose it. Exercise. Dance. Run. Hike. Whatever gets your heart rate up. I could write much more on this, on why cardio is so helpful for stress and especially for anxiety, so stay tuned for more. But for now, just get moving. Break up the stagnation. If you're feeling physically depressed, it might be hard to get started, but as soon as you do start moving and breathing and sweating, you're going to feel better. Even if only in the moment.
5) Be in the moment. Speaking of the moment, yes, be in it. Be in the present moment. Distract yourself from any nagging or tape loop thoughts about the past or the future by being fully present with what's happening in this moment, with what's right in front of you. I mean that; look at what's right in front of you. Look at an object in front of you. Focus on it, and if possible, pick it up. Look at it closely. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by it. Take in every detail. If you're touching it, feel how it feels. Be here now. And delight in the simplicity. Relax into the peace of presence.
Alright, folks. That's all for now. So give these a try, and comment below on how it goes. I'd also love to see if you have any other tips. What works for you? What doesn't? If you're willing to share, please comment below.
 Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.
 Morning pages is a practice from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
People often see me as a bubble of joy, and often times I am! But I wasn't always like this. As a child, before kindergarten, yes. But after that? No. So below is a letter I wrote a few years ago, my partial Sheng Zhen story; it's just the beginning....
I must tell you that this qigong and meditation, these Sheng Zhen practices, changed my life.
I know that is a strong statement to make, but it’s true. Before attending my first workshop with Master Li Junfeng in 2006, I had sort of a dark cloud hanging over me. Maybe because of my car accident as a teenager. Maybe because of a divorce. Or being picked on in grade school for being overweight and having speech impediments and frizzy hair. Most likely a combination of those and other factors contributed to those dark clouds, leaving me feeling down and low energy a lot of the time. I was also self-conscious. A bit shy. Not one of those bubbly, glowing, happy people.
And I didn’t know much about qigong, certainly nothing about Sheng Zhen. In fact, I thought I probably wouldn’t like it, that it would be too serious and uncomfortable. But at that first workshop, I was pleasantly surprised.
The movements were graceful and fluid, and accompanied by inspirational, poetic contemplations. It felt like a meditation in motion. And I loved that we were not only being encouraged to smile and even laugh, but also encouraged to play and have fun with the movements! I felt something shift in me, a letting go, and an opening. A Heart-opening.
I knew from that day on that I wanted to continue this practice and also share it with others. I started practicing regularly along with a DVD, and within just a few weeks, I was one of those happy, glowing, bubbly people. I couldn’t believe it! But it was true. I also noticed that I was more grounded and calm AND that I wanted to dance, be more social, really LIVE and share with others more. My relationships improved. I worried less, and I enjoyed life more. I had more confidence and felt better in my body than I had in years. All of this thanks to cultivating a compassionate and open Heart through Sheng Zhen.
So I got on the fast track to becoming teacher, and it’s been such a pleasure to share these practices with others and to hear their stories, whether of just simply enjoying it or having some big transformational experience with it. Sheng Zhen certainly has touched the lives of many. And through my own personal practice, teaching others, and working so closely with Master Li, Sheng Zhen continues to be a blessing and a joy in my life, as well as a touchstone.
That’s all for now.
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."