Global Resilience Solutions > Category:peak performance

Qigong the Personal Resilience Multitool: Lung Health

Many of you are familiar with our Rock Solid Health Qigong video series and the tremendous health and wellness benefits to be derived from practicing these foundational Qigong techniques.  In the spirit of our upcoming Resilient Life Code unit on Internal Exercise, we’d like to take a moment to consider Qigong in a different light, as a specialised toolkit that can help you to achieve particular goals, both health and fitness related and in other areas of your life. 

Qigong is a term that encompasses the Chinese arts of internal exercise and energy cultivation in all their diversity.  Qigong is a collective project, having been developed, practiced and refined by Taoists, Buddhists, martial artists, healers, monks, generals and all orders of Chinese society.  It stands between meditation on the one hand and the martial arts on the other and is not entirely separate from either.  The basis of Qigong is the absorption, circulation and refinement of natural energy through the coordinated use of mind, body and spirit for the cultivation of all aspects, faculties and powers of the human being.

Qigong is extremely specialised and diverse.  It treats the physical body almost like an onion, strengthening it one layer at a time.  Fascia, muscles and tendons and major organs all receive their due attention through specific techniques.  The human energy system is likewise cultivated step by step.  Qigong’s biggest flaw is that there is far too much for any one person to master.

Nevertheless, there is another level of specialisation in Qigong that can be very helpful for your health and personal development goals.  Qigong has branches designed not only to maintain good health, but to heal illnesses and chronic conditions in yourself and others, to improve physical performance, to absorb energy from the environment, and to apply qi energy to the development of the spirit (shen).  It is here that you can really match your qigong to your personal resilience goals.  Here’s a look at a specific set of techniques for dealing with one set of health challenges.

(Note: Please seek the advice of a qualified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine before using specific medical Qigong techniques.)

 

Medical Qigong: The Lungs

Much of the world’s population suffers from asthma and other chronic lung diseases.  Qigong approaches lung health from several directions.  First of all, the lungs are included in the Inner Smile meditation, a practice for bringing positive qi to the different major organs, a version of which is shown in the video.  There are also specific breathing exercises for strengthening the lungs, qi circulation exercises, and specific attention and massage exercises for asthma.  Here are some basic exercises:

  • First Breathing Exercise: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, hands folded over your dantien (lower abdomen).  Press gently as you exhale and draw your abdomen in, bending your upper body forward.  Straighten and breathe in naturally.  Repeat three times.
  • Second Breathing Exercise: From the same position, lean back as far as you comfortably can and extend your arms slightly back while inhaling, expanding your lungs and contracting your abdomen as much as possible.  Hold your breath as long as you safely can.  Then return to an upright position and exhale through the mouth.
  • Asthma Focus Exercise: Be still in a sitting, standing or prone position.  Focus your attention on your zhichuan (“benefit asthma”) acupuncture points, located on either side of your spine on the narrowest line between your shoulder blades.  Focus for 20-30 minutes.

 

There are many other related exercises and approaches to lung health in the Chinese tradition.

Qigong is a diverse and multifaceted tool for your personal resilience and personal development, waiting to be explored.

 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

~ Anthony S. Rodger, M.A.


Doped Up! How We Sabotage Our Resilience Even Without Alcohol, Nicotine, Narcotics or Pharmaceuticals

Authentic Ancient Traditions are fairly consistent in teaching that there is nothing wrong with taking pleasure in the everyday things of life, that such pleasure is good and healthy and natural.  Some would go so far as to say that the pleasures of life were created for our enjoyment.  Heck, C.S. Lewis’ character Screwtape goes so far as to accuse God of being a secret hedonist.

All this is true.  So what about the other side of the coin, the discipline, the self-denial that finds an equal place in those traditions?  There are many important aspects to this question (none of which have anything to do with self-mortification or penance as taught in Western Christianity of the last thousand years), but one that is particularly important for this culture to understand, is that many of our so-called pleasures are actually manifestations of pain.

Specifically, they are manifestations of the anxiety trap (also known as the adrenaline addiction cycle), and situations of personal constriction and dissatisfaction.  Through chronic pleasure-seeking (more accurately, stimulation-seeking), we are seeking validation from something outside of ourselves to make up for something that should be coming from within, but is not.  Unfortunately, the neural and biochemical results of these activities in turn reduce our ability to find what we are truly looking for.

 

 

Drugs of Choice

We can all recite the litany of addictive drugs, from alcohol through nicotine to cocaine and heroin.  And it is true that drug addiction often begins with unaddressed pain.

But the real drugs of choice for our society are things we don’t usually consider in that light.

 

Food

Food, particularly fast food and junk food, the high-sugar, high-sodium food substitutes that are so easy to come by, is one of the first drugs of choice.  Between sports drinks, soft drinks, chocolate bars and corner store candy, we have almost limitless opportunities for a sugar high.  High carb, high transfat diets, in fact the obesity epidemic itself, is symptomatic of an underlying dysfunction in society.  People who are happy with themselves and their lives simply do not make those choices – their bodies know better, and they listen.

 

Adrenaline and Other Stimulation Highs

We’ve written previously (http://globalresiliencesolutions.com/escaping-survival-mode) about the cycle of adrenaline addiction in our society.  Constant, low-level, unresolved stress sustains the fight-or-flight response, making us biochemically dependent on adrenaline, and above all, persuading us to see the universe in antagonistic and hostile terms.  This biochemical process is the cornerstone of the modern Newtonian Worldview.

As this kind of constant, low-level anxiety has taken hold, we’ve seen a distinct change in how we entertain ourselves.  While society experienced rebellion against established forms of music, for instance, as liberating, another, largely unnoticed theme went along with the change.  It is the same theme that has gone along with changes to film and television for at least the past twenty years.

You see, traditional forms of entertainment, whether musical, literary, theatrical or anything else, had a common element.  They were designed to relax us while engaging our intellectual and creative capacities.  Recreational reading in itself, as John Taylor Gatto among others has persuasively argued, required a high level of intellectual participation from the reader, and required both attention and relaxation, in a way that an increasing segment of the population is simply unfamiliar with today.  Classical music was mathematically complex and relaxing.  Folk music was relaxing and participatory.

Ever since this sensibility has changed – and it was quite a jarring change if you think about it- we have had a different expectation from entertainment.  We expect stimulation- laughter certainly, but also provocation, controversy, anger, noise, violence, titillation, and above all, adrenaline.  Where it was once customary to reduce anxiety by relaxing with, well, relaxing things, we now feed the adrenaline addiction directly.  The problem with violence on television isn’t (primarily) desensitization, but rather that most of the audience will never have the same opportunities to discharge the adrenaline they have built up as the fictional characters do.

Of course, every other kind of stimulation complements that adrenaline high, and so we have the ever-expanding world of designer energy drinks to keep us juiced twenty-four hours a day.  Titillation also goes well with adrenaline, as the advertising industry knows.

 

Social Media and Video Gaming

Social media addiction is about the feeling we get from belonging, acknowledgement by others, fitting in within a group.  Social media caters to our instincts as social animals on a scale that would once have been considered ludicrous.  The addiction component, however, is tied to the need to be heard, to feel something other than helplessness at the circumstances of your life.  In this sense, it is a band-aid at best.

Video game addiction, by contrast, is a release rather than a band-aid.  It is a surrogate for the natural consummation of the fight-or-flight response.  Unfortunately, there are very few video games with only one troll to kill, so the adrenaline addiction is heightened, not reduced.

 

Coming Down

The adrenaline addiction cycle is one reason that we surround ourselves with stimulus.  The other is constriction or dissatisfaction.  In the post about the emotional roots of chronic disease (http://globalresiliencesolutions.com/emotional-roots-of-chronic-disease), we mentioned the ways in which life patterns of either constriction of anger or enslavement to it can start.  Similar patterns appear in many different areas of our lives.  An unconscious belief or experience leads us to replicate the same dissatisfying relationships, career situations, family dynamics or personal habits again and again.  In the face of apparent helplessness, we turn to any of a dozen ways of distracting ourselves.

The catch is that by doping ourselves, we exaggerate whatever biochemical problems we already have.  We lead ourselves further and further away from a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle.  That above all is why a new attitude needs to come with a change to your external lifestyle choices. 

The flip side of that coin is that by making those external changes, you can begin to move yourself toward a better mindset. The question we should all be asking ourselves is, “How am I doping myself and why?”  An uncomfortable question, to say the least, but absolutely essential if we want to become truly RESILIENT and, therefore, HAPPY.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


The Awesome Power Hidden in Your Mind-Body Organism

The human organism and its real capabilities go far beyond what most people think of as the frontier of the normal.  While ancient traditions have always known about and sought to access this potential, scientific studies have begun to show us just how vast this universe of potential might be.

The intriguing thing is that, as far as brainwave patterns go, the way to hyper-consciousness lies through null consciousness.  Although meditation as practiced by most people slows down brainwaves (Alpha or Theta waves), this is only a preliminary stage.

In a study by Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, a group of Tibetan monks in meditation first slowed their brainwaves and then rapidly accelerated (into the Gamma spectrum, associated with heightened awareness, which is higher in frequency than most waking brainwaves).  In other words, meditation yields a brain operating at peak capacity.  This process has also been found to stimulate the portion of the brain associated with joy, giving us an insight into its effect on emotional health.  As well, it heightens communication between the two sides of the brain.  Meditation yields an intense state of attention on the present moment, and with it an intense awareness of one’s surroundings, as a number of studies using external stimuli have shown.

Sara Lazar’s fMRI studies of meditation have shown that meditation permanently alters both the function and structure of the brain.  The portions of the brain associated with attention and sensory processing increased in thickness according to the number of years spent practicing meditation, defying the usual age-related thinning of these areas.  There was also significant activation of the intuitive part of the brain, showing that both kinds of perception were being stimulated.

Nor is the physical impact of meditation confined to the brain.  Herbert Benson, a Harvard cardiologist, has studied Buddhist monks who are able to generate intense heat with their bodies while meditating in sub-zero temperatures.  He witnessed these monks being repeatedly draped in wet blankets which they dried with the heat from their bodies.  Benson documented temperature increases of up to 17 degrees Fahrenheit combined with lowered metabolism, by up to 60 percent.

 All of this represents what could be called the passive side of the equation, the changes that occur in the practitioner.  The active side is even more interesting. 

A series of academic studies have focussed on Direct Mental Interaction with Living Systems or DMILS.  It turns out that under a number of conditions, the electrical signals in two human brains can become synchronized, even at a distance.  An experiment at the National University of Mexico tested brain to brain transmission using flashes of light as the stimulus.  The receiver was isolated in an electrically-shielded room.  This study and others like it found that, providing there was an existing connection between the participants (in this case established by meditating together for twenty minutes), the EEG readings of the receiver spike identically and in tandem with the sender.

Distance healing has also been the focus of intense study.  One study at the California Pacific Medical Centre recruited a population of established healers and a group of AIDS patients.  The study’s objective was simply to demonstrate the effectiveness of healing, and so every patient in the test group received help from every healer.  The health of the patients in the test group measurably improved, while forty percent of the control group died.

In another study, energy healers of different schools were brought together to work on AIDS patients.  The patients who showed the most improvement were treated by healers who operated, as the great Lakota holy man Fools Crow put it, as “hollow bones”, which is to say that they did not regard themselves as the sources of healing.  The common steps in successful healing of this kind (there is a distinction to be made between intervention of this sort and methods designed to improve health on a long term basis) are that the healer unite mentally and emotionally with the person to be healed, and then, with belief, call upon a higher power and ask for the healing.  The healer needs to get him/herself out of the way and become a conduit.

The studies we’ve looked at here barely scratch the surface of the realms of human possibility.  Tune in next week for more!

~Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂


Get a “Thick Face” – Regain Your Personal Autonomy!

As promised, here’s the first installment of how you can understand and cultivate the profound philosophy of “Thick Face, Black Heart” in your own life. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you MUST read the previous post FIRST.

THICK FACE

You probably know that Asians tend to be VERY concerned with matters of face (as in the expression, “saving face”). In other words, reputation means everything to them and what others think really matters. To us in our individualistic culture, this seems a trifle overdone at times and it has a couple of major disadvantages – it means you cede control over your behavior to other people’s ideas and standards and it also makes you reactive and highly predictable.

Not surprisingly, “Thick Face” (hereafter “TF”) is quite the opposite. It’s more like our concept of “Thick Skin”. It means you stop caring what other people think or say about you. You stop trying to live by other people’s standards and start living by the principles you really believe in.

Yes, at its worst, this could mean you’re a sociopath who thinks he’s the center of the universe and the fount of all wisdom. Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao all had very thick faces. However, consider the following…

Back in the early 1920s, a very enthusiastic young spiritual seeker arrived on Mount Athos, the most important center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. Despite immense pressure to “settle down” and join one of the large monasteries, to become “one of the crowd”, he steadfastly refused. He knew exactly what kind of spiritual life model he wanted to follow and endured lots of abuse for it. And later on, when he was living the life he so ardently sought, he was verbally abused by other monks who condemned him as eccentric and unfriendly, all because he insisted on following a schedule and carefully managing his time and the time of those who had joined him (and that meant, “if you show up when we’re praying, we won’t stop to talk to you!”  Hence the reasons others felt slighted by him).

This young monk’s name was Joseph… later known as Joseph the Hesychast, one of the great spiritual masters of the 20th century. Joseph’s refusal to cave in to the pressures to conform or to surrender the integrity of his lifestyle to criticisms of others are the epitome of THICK FACE.

Politicians tend to have very thick faces. They have to. Of course, not a few of them are self-centered sociopaths who don’t care who gets hurt. On the other hand, consider Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King – they were all the object of violent criticism and they all survived and succeeded by having a TF.

TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGMENT

By now it may have dawned on you that you can’t have a TF without trusting your own judgment. That may sound arrogant, but it isn’t always. So let’s clear up a common misunderstanding – being humble does NOT mean you cave in to other people’s opinions. After all, Joseph the Hesychast’s whole life was about cultivating humility, and he never caved in. Humble people do not surrender their principles for any reason. Opportunists do… at the drop of a hat.

Think back through your life. Can you think of times where someone in authority was pressuring you to do something or agree with something you thought was inadvisable or wrong? Looking back on the incident, were you right? Should you have trusted your gut?

When have you been right all along? On the other hand, you need to admit the truth when your judgment has been wrong.

I’ve been viciously criticized and even plotted against because some people found the “controversial” things I wrote in The 5 Pillars of Life totally unacceptable. They would happily have banned the book and had me tossed out of the priesthood of the Orthodox Church.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s to trust my gut on matters of spiritual life and personal development. I’m so convinced I’m right about certain things to do with the history and development of Christianity, for instance, that all the opposition in the universe won’t even make a dent. Now, if someone comes to me with “new evidence” and can prove that I might be on the wrong track, I’ll happily listen. This isn’t an egotistical thing – it’s about what’s true and what’s not.  So far, no one has been able to present any evidence to the contrary.

And you can probably find a parallel in your own life.

The essence of TF is regaining your personal autonomy, no longer having your life controlled by the opinions of others, by what they think of you or say about you, by the standards of the prevailing culture – standards that always claim absolute truth is on their side, even though they differ from one culture to another and shift over time.

It is NOT POSSIBLE to do anything significant in life if you don’t have a TF, simply because anything worth doing WILL bring criticism. People WILL try to drag you down to their level. They WILL be jealous of your accomplishments and rain on your parade. Get used to it now and determine from this moment on to adopt a TF.

Fortunately, everyday life gives you lots of opportunities to practice. Think about it and make a list of what you’ll do this week to practice!  First, you need to know who you are and what you stand for.  What values are non-negotiable for you?  What activities and pursuits mean the most to you?  What makes you happy and fulfilled?  Then ask yourself what people or social pressures in your life are “asking” you (overtly or in a subtle way) to abandon what’s important to you?  Hint: they’ll be the ones telling you to “grow up”, “be responsible”, “be realistic”, “be a team player”, etc.

THICK FACE AS A WARRIOR PHILOSOPHY

Chin-Ning Chu was quite right to call TFBH a “warrior philosophy” in her subtitle. In fact, I’m convinced that the warrior traditions of the world’s “Authentic Ancient Traditions” (as I called them in The 5 Pillars of Life) already contain the essence of TFBH, simply because TFBH describes your natural state once you’re rid of all the cultural conditioning that’s holding you back.

In the next post, we’ll go on to discuss how TFBH can give you COMPLETE CLARITY about what you want to do, and very quickly!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


You Need a “Thick Face” and a “Black Heart”

Over the next two weeks I have something REALLY special for you on this blog and it will come in four installments. So, for your own sake, you’ll want to read all this VERY carefully and think it over deeply.  This is a series of unique posts I ran three years ago and they are so important that I’m updating them and posting them again because, well, I sure need to read them again and I know this subject matter can make a huge difference for anyone who takes it to heart!

You’ve no doubt read tons of stuff about self-help and personal development or you wouldn’t be reading this. So you’ve seen and heard lots of experts trying to answer questions like:

– Why do some people succeed and others fail to reach their goals?
– Why do some have total clarity about what they want, while most people don’t?
– Why do a very few find deep inner peace, while most remain tormented and conflicted?
– Why do 5% of the population make a difference while 95% don’t?

One of the most profound answers to questions like these came in a book first published just over 100 years ago. The book, called Thick Black Theory, was IMMEDIATELY BANNED by the government as far too dangerous for the population to read. Seriously!

That alone probably means it’s worth reading!

The catch is that reading the original might not help you much. First of all, the book was written in China, and is full of allusions to Chinese culture and literature that would make it next to incomprehensible, even in translation. After all, an expression like “how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” means nothing unless you’re familiar with “Alice in Wonderland”.

The author of “Thick Black Theory” was Lee Zhong Wu, a sociologist of sorts who was dispassionately cataloguing the behaviors of the successful. Fortunately, a Chinese-American business woman named Chin-Ning Chu turned Lee’s somewhat obscure content into a superb book in the early 90′s, under the title, “Thick Face, Black Heart: The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business and Life”.

The catch is that a “Thick Face” and a “Black Heart” (hereafter TFBH) can serve the saint and the sinner equally well. The theory really describes powers or energies of the human spirit that could be used for great good or great evil. And that tends to put off the “bliss-out” New Age types who can’t get past that fact long enough to understand the incredibly profound content.

Over the next few days, here’s what I’m going to do for you:

1. Unpack the concepts of “thick face” and “black heart”
2. Show you how they apply to YOUR life
3. Demonstrate how they accord totally with the teachings of the world’s “Authentic Ancient Traditions” of spiritual life and self-refinement, forming the core of Warriorship, and…
4. Give you the basic principles of how to begin cultivating TFBH for yourself

CAUTION: The principles you’re about to see in the following posts should not be shared with unscrupulous people. Moreover, some of them may shock you a little. If that happens, just take a deep breath and say, “I guess I haven’t understood this just yet.”

TF and BH are concepts indispensable for success in any endeavour. Without mastering and applying them, either consciously or unknowingly, you’re always going to wonder what’s missing and why you can’t seem to make progress.

Moreover, when you look at where you’ve had successes in your life already, you’ll start to notice traces of these practices.

Are you ready for the ride? Okay, look for the next installment in a couple of days!

And if you know any other people of good character who need this knowledge, bring them along too.

Oh yes… don’t forget to leave your comments below!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


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