One reason I've been feeling so good is because of establishing a sense of continuity and normalcy in my routine--as much as possible. And the biggest example of that in my life is that as soon as I found out my in-person classes were cancelled, I moved forward with setting up online classes for Sheng Zhen meditation and qigong.
There are many things we cannot change or control. But this was something I could do to create a sense of continuity and normalcy both for myself and for my regular students. And I knew that would be just as good for our physical and mental health as the practices themselves.
So, after getting the email about class cancellations on a Thursday night, 12 hours after having just taught a class, I emailed some of my students to say stay tuned. And the next day I set up the online classes. I didn't wait for permission. I didn't wait for where I usually teach to come up with an online plan. I knew that on Tuesday I would still be teaching. And I'd teach every Tuesday and Thursday no matter what.
I felt proactive. Of service. And crystal clear.
In addition to it being my joy, I knew, without a doubt, that my regular students would want this. And I knew others would benefit from it too, so I put the word out to the general public.
And it's been amazing. The place I usually teach at on Tuesdays and Thursdays even got their own online plan together and so now even more people are showing up via Zoom!
And students are sharing about how it makes them smile, brings calm, and just how helpful it is now. For my regular students, I'm sure part of the benefit is that sense of continuity, and even "normalcy" even though we're online rather than in person.
So back to that idea of continuity and normalcy in times of big changes and uncertainty....
Like I said above, it's helpful for our health. Especially our mental health. We can't control everything, but there are some things we can control. There are still ways in which we can exercise choice in a way that serves us best.
The truth is, for me, life isn't all that much different because, in addition to being a homebody, I mostly work from home anyway. But the other day while walking my dog, I was thinking that if I were somebody who commuted each day, not just twice a week, this whole "stay at home" thing would probably feel hard and strange.
So, here are some ideas if you're struggling with staying home, especially if you used to work away from home:
1) If you normally commute, consider taking a drive if you have a car, even just a short one during at least one of the times that you're usually on the road. Or go for a walk or bike ride at that time. Or go out into your yard if you have one.
2) As much as possible, maintain the same kind of schedule you had before. If your kids are home, too, maybe this is not fully possible, but hopefully at least somewhat possible. Or maybe you adapt your schedule so that you can fit in some of your "normal" activities before the kids get up or after they go to sleep?
3) If you're not already participating in online group activities (ie meetings, dances, my classes, etc.), consider participating in some group online activities--especially at the times that you used to, before things changed. For example, if you used to attend yoga classes, find a yoga class online, or just practice on your own at that time. Or if you always went out for dinner or a movie or a walk with a certain friend or group of friends, set up some sort of virtual hang out. And if you don't like the group idea? Video call a friend or family member. Reach out. Find ways to connect and interact with others.
I'm going to just leave you with that. I might have some other ideas, but I also am considering rewriting and expanding this to submit to an online journal, in which case it's best not to write it all here first! ;-)
Just get creative. This is a great time to learn how to adapt and think outside the box. It's also a great time to slow down and do some self-reflecting. And it's also a great time to feel your feelings. It's okay if you're feeling sad, scared, anxious, bored, lonely, frustrated, etcetera. I just don't want you to get stuck in those emotions.
And I'm here if you need some support.
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.
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.
My eyes are heavy and starting to close. Perhaps I'll let them, as I continue to type. Perhaps that's the best way to get this written. This is my third attempt today....
This is my third attempt to share more about yesterday's quadruple dose of meditation. This is my attempt to tell you how the day progressed. How I progressed. How I was struck with divine inspiration. Filled with an easy air of devotion that fueled me, propelled me into an 11pm yin yoga practice followed by my 2nd round of an SRF guided meditation on Peace, before drifting off to sleep. And the insights that came to me throughout the night and in the morning....
But sometimes it's hard to put into words. Or the moment passes. The moments pass. They're gone. Does it even matter any more? Does sharing it here, or elsewhere, do any good? Does it help anyone? Does it help me? Does it drive it in? Make it more real?
Yes. No. Maybe so.
Maybe I'll just have to break it down like this, provide a little structure for what feels so formless:
1. I woke up, rolled out of bed, opened up my iPad, clicked "play" on the SRF Peace meditation. I'd done this the previous morning too. What was different this time? It was easier to focus my gaze upward to my third eye, but couldn't consistently hold it there. And I kept seeing an image of Yogananda, a black and white image, and I don't remember seeing it in a book, in a movie, or online. He was sitting on some steps outside, his hair about shoulder length or maybe a little longer. Seeing him helped me focus, helped me relax.
2. I taught a Union of Three Hearts meditation class a couple hours later. And when I asked the students if they had any intentions for this meditation, they all said Peace. I smiled and then weaved the theme of peace in and out throughout the Sheng Zhen meditation, inspired and guided by my earlier morning practice.
And then? Then I spent the next several hours not feeling at peace. I spent the next several hours in some sort of time warp in which nothing was accomplished. And that's not even true. I did do some things other than stare into space. But the feeling I had was that it wasn't enough, that I should be doing more, that if I'm not going to do something "productive" such as working on my book or my business, then the least I can do is meditate, practice Sheng Zhen, or take it to the yoga mat. What is this resistance to doing? What is this attachment to doing? Is it my ego getting upset with me over this non-doing? Or is it my soul?
3. A bath and a long talk with a good friend helped me release these and other annoying thoughts in my head, including thoughts about isolation and loneliness on this path that I'm on, as well as questions about if I am spreading myself too thin with the various practices and studies calling to me now.... And then a few students showed up for a 7pm Union of Three Hearts meditation at my house.
The previous week, there had been a request for the room to be darker, so we tried that. And I don't know if it was the darkness, or the state I was already in, but I dropped deeper into my own meditation than normal while teaching. Usually when I teach, I enter into the Sheng Zhen state, a meditative state, but rarely this deeply. I kept my eyes closed for more of the time than usual, only opening them to check the time a few times instead of also to periodically scan the room and see what's happening for my students; this time I just felt into the field. I could see without looking. And truth is, I could always see without looking, but I didn't always trust it, and so I would look too... But now I know. Now I trust....
As for my own meditation experience while teaching, I felt the qi building up strong in my dantian. I felt the qi traveling up and down in the zhong mai between the dantian and niwuan. And then when the qi remained in the niwuan, this is where I went in the deepest.
I saw the cosmos within my head, within my consciousness. It didn't feel like the qi had expanded out and beyond and like I'd traveled out or merged with some cosmos "out there." No. This was inside of me. This felt contained and yet vast. And instead of pulling myself out of there, as I sometimes do when teaching, I simply relaxed into it, opened my mouth, and said, Allow yourself to get lost... in the blackness,... in this pure consciousness, or something like that.
It was awesome. I felt at peace again. I felt grounded. I felt relaxed but also energized.
4. But not too long after my students left, I went back to contemplating whether or not I have "too many" practices (and from different schools of thought). I read something online that made this less of an issue, something that helped me get out of my head and back into my deep knowing. Rather than quote it here, this is my own translation and elaboration:
If you are in alignment with the practices to which you've committed, if you know they bring you closer to God (Source, Spirit, whatever you want to call it) and in doing so bring you Peace and Joy, then you will gladly wake up earlier to do them; you will easily, and with pleasure, find the time for them in your day rather than feeling overwhelmed, over-committed, or too lazy or tired for practices and related studies.
And instead of just being words of some sort of abstract concept or "should," this time it was like a wake up call. Literally. I'd been fighting off sleepiness most of the evening. And although I felt awake right after Union of Three Hearts, I had come back down and was contemplating sleep instead of a late night yoga practice and another round of meditation.
But suddenly I had a burst of energy and a feeling of needing to sit and meditate again. Not "needing" in a way of "shoulding" on myself, but needing to because I felt a strong love for this practice and a deep knowing that meditating right before bed would be good for me. So I started cleaning my room to prepare the temple, so to speak. And as I cleaned my room, I noticed my body crying out, yearning for me to spend some time on the mat. I'd skipped yoga the previous day. And the day before that, I had cut my practice ridiculously short. So although it was nearly 11pm, and I am NOT a night owl, I found myself back out in my living room for a Yin Yoga practice.
I felt truly and joyfully devoted. I felt fueled by this pure love and devotion. And it felt amazing. So easy to drop into the poses and rest into it so late at night. And knowing that next I would get to sit and meditate? Yes, please.
5. So back to the SRF Peace meditation....
This time, this third time, was even easier. And several times when I brought my attention back to my 3rd eye if my attention had wandered, especially if not picturing it as a blue circle with a star in it (the image described on SRF's site), but instead just seeing more of an actual eye there, I felt little jolts of energy pass through my spine.
I also saw that same image of Yogananda from the morning, but this time in sepia instead of black and white. An image of an old Chinese sage came in a few times too. And then I was surrounded; in my room I felt the presence of deities and avatars from all these various traditions. I was not alone. This was especially significant in that earlier in the day, I'd been noticing a lot of feelings and thoughts regarding loneliness, and specifically the words I'd heard from others so many times regarding spiritual path: "It's a lonely path."
Part of me wants to say Bullshit. You are never alone. And the more you meditate and feel this sense of connection to the divine and a sense of Oneness with all, the less lonely you will feel. But.... There's a "but" here that is too much of a tangent to get into right now. So perhaps I'll return to this topic another time....
For now, I just want to wrap up this longer-than-usual blog post by saying that I woke up a couple of times in the night with some deep insights that weren't just thought in my head, but felt in my body. Deeper understandings about being part of the cosmos and about "not being your body." This statement "you are not your body" has actually often bothered me a lot over the years, but last night it didn't. Last night I got it on a different level. And getting that resulted in some insights about desire. Attachment. Suffering. Peace. All that good stuff.
I want to write more about this "not your body" thing and what followed from there. But I make no promises. We'll just wait and see if inspiration comes for a follow-up post....
In the meantime, I encourage you to check out those SRF guided meditations. There are also some great meditations specifically for sleep over on the Nestmaven site. And if you want a personalized guided meditation, I'm here for you.
© 2015 Rebecca Clio Gould. All rights reserved.
This morning, and yesterday morning, I started my day with seated meditation. But not my usual Sheng Zhen meditation, not Union of Three Hearts..... No, this was something else.....
I've been reading, or more like devouring, Autobiography of a Yogi over the past couple of weeks. I grew up seeing this book in my house, in my dad's study, the cover rather than the spine facing out, displaying Yogananda's beautiful, androgynous face and kind, penetrative gaze. I was always drawn to it, and thought he looked familiar, like family. Was I related to him?
Despite this feeling of connection and all of my spiritual studies over the years, I never felt compelled to read this book. Until now. Thanks to a friend who came more fully into my life after several weeks of a voice inside whispering, Yoga. That's what you need.
And that's what I got. First with a recommendation of The Ultimate Yogi to get back on the mat, and then to read Autobiography of a Yogi. I'm only on page 175 or so of 550, but so far, all of the gems contained within feel familiar to me. And it feels peacefully exciting, like coming home, and like, Yes, I get it. And of course I'm reading this now; I need these reminders, and in this form....
So yesterday I watched the videos about meditation on the Self-Realization Fellowship website, and then experienced my first SRF meditation by following along to a 15-minute guided meditation on Peace. This morning I also chose Peace. And it was already easier the 2nd time around.
One of the main differences in this style of meditation and the meditation with which I'm familiar is focusing your gaze upward to the third eye. I do have some experience with this, but it is not part of Union of Three Hearts, which has been my primary seated meditation form for years. So yesterday morning, I found this challenging. I wasn't straining, but it felt strange. I also had to be more mindful of sitting totally still, rather than allowing some gentle movements in to help my body relax-- this was made easier though thanks to a relaxation technique shared in the beginning of the guided recording. And I realize now, as I write that that I don't want to get into the details here of how this meditation differs-- I'm too new to it anyway to accurately describe.... Best to go straight to the source.
So this post is just a little background, as reference, along with the links to check this out on your own, in case you're curious as I share more about my experiences with SRF guided meditations over time....
And in the meantime, if you want some guidance on how to create a space for meditation, check out this cool guide. It's also perfectly fine to not create a special space for meditation. You can really meditate anywhere! Even in your car--when not driving, of course! ;) But for an ideal type of set up, this guide over at The Breck Life definitely has some info that may be helpful to consider.
© 2015 Rebecca Clio Gould. All rights reserved.
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."