Dr. Ron's Blog

Find the Flow

When Does Spring Begin?


The vernal equinox, March 20, is the time when the sun was directly over the equator at noon. According to the standard western calendar this is when spring begins.  However, the ancient Celtic and Germanic people celebrated the first of spring around the beginning of February on the “cross quarter day” which is the midpoint between the last solstice and the next equinox. This then makes March 20 the middle of spring. Traditional Chinese culture celebrates the beginning of spring with its Spring Festival in early February; this too is based on the occurance of the cross quarter day on the lunisolar calendar.

It’s confusing when different people think spring begins at different times.


Seasons are determined by solar radiation. The sun is yang because it is fire; the earth is yin because it is mostly solid rock. As increasing hours of sunlight shine on the earth this rock warms; as sunlight decreases the rock cools. However, the earth and all its waters are yin, therefore they react slowly to the yang energy of the sun. That's why we can have cool stormy weather in spring, even though there is more solar radiation. And that's why, although the hours of daylight are decreasing, August and September can be quite warm. The interaction of yang and yin creates seasonal weather that is usually experienced as wind and temperature fluctuations.

The budding of new leaves on plants is the surest sign that spring is beginning. We usually think that the timing of this new growth is dictated by longer hours of daylight and/or warming temperatures. But is it?


I once had a lovely elm bonsai tree. It was about the size of a basketball and lived in an oval ceramic pot. Like all deciduous trees this elm needed a dormant period to rest but it couldn’t tolerate prolonged freezing. So I put it in a small, dark closet attached to the outside of the Elm in pot house where the temperature stayed around 40°F. Every February I looked forward to a miracle.

This little tree had spent the winter in total darkness at a constant temperature but it began to come alive with a multitude of new leaves in the first half of February. Sometimes it was a Valentine gift, sometimes it started earlier. When I peered into the dim light of the opened closet and saw little drops of green all over the bonsai tree I knew that spring had arrived. What caused this tree to bud out? As you have seen, it was not increasing periods of light or changing temperatures. What is it that empowered this plant to break out of its dormancy and burst forth with the green promise of new growth?

The answer is that the Yang Qi of nature is rising throughout the world at this time of year and it powers the burgeoning energy in all living things. At the same time, the Yin Qi that was dominate in winter is slowly waning. The bonsai tree, just like every living thing, is responsive to the Qi of nature. The fiery heat of the sun is obviously yang energy. But the primordial Qi energy that activates life on Earth is present before and beyond what we receive from sunshine.


Regardless of day to day changes in the weather, the predominant energy of spring is rising Yang Qi. It is the vital animating power that stimulates growth of all organic beings on earth and has a tremendous impact on our health and wellbeing.

Windy weather is a manifestation of yang qi and is often quite tempestuous in the spring. The same Yang Qi is moving through us. If it becomes restricted it causes problems that manifest as "wind" - in our mind it can be quick changes of mood and agitation; in our body it can cause sharp pain and muscle tension.

For us to be naturally healthy the movement of yang energy must happen without deficiency or stagnation. But it is often obstructed by a heavy, sluggish liver. This blood rich organ becomes congested during the winter, therefore we should relax and nourish the liver so the Qi and blood can flow through it. Yang Qi should be full and strong because it is the force behind the heart beat that powers the circulation of blood through body and mind.

The purpose of Spring Qigong practice is to relieve the obstructions to qi flow and increase our energy. Then, just like the bonsai tree in the closet, we can benefit from the vitality of Yang Qi regardless of the weather.

Words of wisdom from the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine:
“We will have better health if the Qi and
 the Blood are abundant
and freely circulating in body and mind.”




Power of Intentions

At the beginning of every new year we have a tradition of making resolutions, those often idealistic statements of intention: “I intend to eat less, get healthier, spend more time with my family, etc.” This is a good time to understand the power of intention. Let’s look at three different types of intention that influence our health and lifestyle.

First, the common meaning of intention is to make a mental plan of action based on thoughts, emotions and expectations. You form clear and specific thoughts about how to take action to reach the goal of your intention. That plan is usually based on desire and sentiment, even passion, for a certain outcome. This standard form of intention is the basis of new year’s resolutions, business plans, physical training routines, retirement goals, and innumerable aspects of daily living. A thoughtful intention of this type can be very helpful in orienting your lifestyle toward better health. I often set intentions like this, after morning meditation, for the day ahead.

Second, the body has intention that governs growth, function and repair.This physiological process does not involve active mental processing. The standard meaning of medical intention describes how a wound heals: bleeding is stopped, inflammation removes pathogens, new cells are formed, and the wound closes to restore function of the tissue. In this meaning of intention, there is no mental guidance to participate in the healing process. It’s all about the body having the intention to close a wound. A well done surgical incision will heal by “primary intention”. This process of somatic healing is the wisdom of the body in action. The body is designed to heal itself and in most cases it does a good job. I know this from all the injuries I've had over the years.

Mental intention is the third, and most amazing, type of intention; human consciousness has the power to heal. This is usually done by visualization. It's been shown that we can increase blood flow in the hands by visualizing the vessels becoming larger; promote faster healing of damaged tissue by imagining more energy to that area; increase the effectiveness of antibiotics by picturing mental targets for the drug. There are hundreds of studies showing that when we use mental imagery most healing therapeutics are more successful. (search “mental imagery in healing” at pubmed.gov). Three examples:

     Research at Ohio University on loss of strength after wearing a cast showed that “the mind is critical in maintaining muscle strength following a prolonged period of immobilization and that mental imagery may be key in reducing the associated muscle loss” (American Physiological Society, January 5, 2015).

     Matthew Nagle was paralyzed in all four limbs but used mental intention to transform his life. He had a silicone chip implanted in his brain (search BrainGate). After just four days of focused mental practice, he could use intentional thoughts to move a computer cursor on a screen, open email, play a computer game, and control a robotic arm! This was the study that launched the promising field of "brain-computer interface".

     A convincing collection of scientific research on the merits of mental intention and visualization is found in Healing Words by Larry Dossey. The author cites dozens of laboratory experiments showing that when a person or group of people project focused intention to a person in another room or at a distance it can have positive effects on high blood pressure, asthma, heart attacks, headaches, and anxiety. It may even alter enzyme activity, blood cell growth, and the germination of seeds. This collection of research studies shows that the power of prayer, intention, and meditation can have a beneficial effect on various life forms. This is the type of evidence that has motivated me to practice qigong for many years.

These three types of intention can help you have a rich and healthy lifestyle. Making a plan of action or a resolution involves contemplation, analysis and implementation; it's mostly an active sequence of mental and physical events. Somatic healing relies on the body's innate wisdom to repair or correct physiological processes that have gone awry; it's a passive process that we don't have to mentally control. Visualization is focused intention to create a desired outcome; it can be both passive and active. Intentional healing is when visualization is put into practice by mentally imagining a target and then directing energy to it with specific body movements. 

Qigong practice is the best way to use the power of intention.

Your hands are incredibly powerful tools for healing because they have innumerable nerve endings and acupuncture points with an abundant flow of energy. The healing power of “laying on of hands” is not a miracle, it is a normal ability of all human beings. The laogQigong hands ong point in the center of the palm is the major entry and exit point for qi healing. Just by placing this point over areas of the body there will be a transfer of energy. Add the power of intention and you have generated a strong current of energy flow. The movement of your hands generates even more energy than a static position. This is used extensively in exercises from the Winter Qigong practice like Bone Marrow Cleansing and Filling the Lower Dan Tian.

Most qigong exercises combine mental intention and hand movement with the third part of qigong: regulated breathing. When we use these three aspects of qigong practice we can direct pure healing energy with the creative intention of the mind, increase circulation of energy with body movement, and enhance energy flow with the breath.

intentionVisualization – the use of intentional imagery – can have wonderful benefits for improving the quality of your life because the cultivation of intention can increase the emotional virtues of compassion and happiness. It has been shown that if we engage in a meditation practice in which we mentally send out kindness and compassion to the world there is a change in our brains. The left prefrontal cortex, the part that is related to happiness, becomes more active as a result of visualizing compassion for others. This raises the base line for happiness in the brain and results in a pervasive and enduring sense of well being for us. It also literally increases the size of that region in the brain (see https://news.wisc.edu/study-shows-compassion-meditation-changes-the-brain/).

 This research makes me very optimistic about the potential
we all have for creating a higher level of wellbeing through the practice of qigong!


Poems for Winter

Poems for Winter

ThisRockhouse 1 selection of words in verse is an invitation to contemplate the nature of this season. My discussions are intended to suggest possibilities for interpretation.You make yours. Let the words pick you up and carry you away to the landscape of these seven poems. Find the flow of winter energy in these words. I hope they give you some pleasure and also
food for thought during this time of rest.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This well known poem is written in classic iambic tetrameter in A / A / B / A style, with the first line of each stanza rhyming with the third line of the one previous - e.g. “queer” and “here” - it’s a pleasing structure that flows easily through the stanzas. The words are simple and evocative of a peaceful feeling. And yet the first half of the poem has a sense of trespass into a frozen land of stillness and darkness. Next comes a gentle wind with floating snow that revels an alluring world beyond the harness of society. Then finally a sense of tension between responsible duty and the urge for mystery that ends in profound awareness of the promise of life and the sleep of death. In this beloved and beautiful poem, the man and his little companion have made an epic journey of insight, acceptance and finally a joy that is “lovely, dark and deep”.



by Emily Brontë

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

This 19th century poet uses repetition and alliteration to describe a situation that has most often been interpreted as hopeless, constrained and desperate. But is it? The first two stanzas paint a picture of increasing darkness and impending violence. The forces of nature are a tyrant that has complete control over the poem’s speaker. “The wild winds coldly blow” sends an entirely different message than Frost’s “easy wind and downy flake”. The first two thirds of Bronte’s poem tell us that nature is malevolent; it's something we should fear. Then suddenly, in the final stanza, the speaker has a lofty vision of the world. She now sees the limitless sky above the clouds and is soaring over the wastes of the world. She is enchanted with the power of nature and chooses to stay with the storm, to ride it out and to absorb this primordial energy of the world. This poem is about the tension between fate and free will.


Snow Day
by Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Collins is perhaps the most popular poet in America today and this delightful poem shows why. He was the 2001 - 2003 poet laureate of the US. He is famous for conversational, witty poems that are often humorous but also quirky and tender with profound observations of everyday life. The reader can’t help but cheer on the listing of the children’s school names (I love “Peas and Carrots Day School”). This poem also speaks of being contained by stormy weather but with a tone of acceptance, of being “a willing prisoner” who chooses to listen to the radio while drinking tea. The reader is charmed by his descriptions of the children in their nests and bright clothing and gamboling about the playground. And then the obvious gives way to the hidden; now the speaker is “listening hard in the grandiose silence of the snow”. There’s a mystery there. Suddenly the reader sees that the poet has been talking about conflict: “revolution”, “white flag”, “the world fallen”, ”plotting”, “riot”. The winter storm has transformed the normal world; we are shown what’s happening beyond the playfulness of a day off.  And while Collins maintains a sense of mirth he brings an appreciation of the mystery, "whispering by the fence", and even danger, that can happen on a winter’s day.


Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me                                                                                                  
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

The poem presents a scene of visual beauty, black etched against white, the movement of the scattered snow contrasted against the immobility of the evergreen tree. The action of the crow presents a bit of life and animation in a scene otherwise frozen and without signs of life. This agency, the scattering of the snow on the speaker, suggests the crow’s intelligence and will. The jocular tone of the poem tells us that even when we are in a state of regret or lament a fortuitous interaction with the natural world can lighten our mood. This small rhymic scene is about the healing power of nature. The poem has a lightness to it, like a dusting of snow.


The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun;

And not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener
Who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there
And the nothing that is.

This is one of my favorite poems. It says so much. Many readers for many years have contemplated what this revered poet is saying. He uses alliteration, enjambment, internal rhyme and other literary devices to create a vast world in a single long sentence. In the beginning, the poet tells us that the natural world is intelligent and to understand it we “must have a mind of winter”. Then he uses our primary sensory perceptions of sight and sound to describe a wintry scene. He encourages us to appreciate the pure wonder of nature with words like “regard” and “behold”. It’s a beautiful world of frost, shagged ice and glittering sunlight; it’s also cold which we tend to avoid. But the third stanza is a turning point. The poet tells us “not to think/of any misery”. We should not layer our own feelings and imagination onto the bare presence of the world if we are to truly appreciate it, to understand it. The wind does not itself carry any meaning; it’s only air moving across the world. If we can refrain from adding qualities of good or bad we can become an integral part of the landscape. The final stanza uses the word “nothing” three times. This has alarmed some readers who interpret it as nihilistic and meaningless. But when Stevens describes the snowman as “nothing himself” he means that the listener has dropped personal identity and is now able to perceive the pure essence of the world without filters. Nothing escapes his perception and he is aware that “a mind of winter” allows him to know the world beyond his sensory limitations, beyond cultural constraints, and before his subjective imagination gets in the way. This is a magnificent poem about pure awareness.


Winter solitude
by Bashō

Winter solitude—
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

Bashō, Japan's most famous haiku master, gives us an insightful short piece that paints a peaceful yet penetrating image of the season. It highlights two of our most crucial sensory perceptions: vision and hearing (as does The Snow Man). But here there is no color and we are beyond vision, experience has been honed to only hearing. The poem is an echo of “The Snow Man”. In true haiku fashion, it’s a restating of Steven’s theme with the barest of words. Now there is no need for imagination, no need for naming, no desire for anything more than the comfortable presence of solitude. Very beautiful.


Winter Qigong
by Ron Davis

Boundless clouds of light
penetrate bone marrow,

the depth of dark energy made bright
by body, breath and mind.

The practice of qigong can be a vehicle that carries us into a very deep awareness of what "winter" really is. Within the caverns of the body there are deep resorviors of energy. Winter is the season to access that primordial source of good health with body movement, conscious breathing and mental focus. It's a time of dark illumination when we look inward to see what really matters most to us, to listen to the wisdom of the wind; to really know that nature is the source of well-being, to feel it in the marrow of our bones.



The Verb of Being Kind

Be Your Basic Dignity

People recognize an inherent dignity in a man or woman who has shown a genuine sense of kindness to others. Kindness is the very essence of all things good about people. And the amazing thing is that almost everyone responds positively to being kind and to receiving kindness. This fundamental trait of humanity is acknowledged by all societies, religions and spiritual pathways. This is why the Dalai Lama said “My religion is kindness” and Jesus taught that we should “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving”. Kindness is basic human dignity.

The activity of kindness puts you in touch with that quality we share with all people: the powerful ability to express loving-kindness in body, speech and mind. It is truly a wonderful feeling to be able to recognize when we are about to say or do something that is unkind, and then transform that moment into the blessing of kindness. Unkind emotions are more prevalent in spring

Essence of kindness

Spring is a season of ups and downs for us because the weather is turbulent and we are always affected by weather. There is an uptick in rising energy - the qi - throughout the natural world. The longer warmer days inspire us to get things done, but then the next storm locks us inside and we get frustrated and a litte upset. We can become irritable and unkind.

Emotional turmoil will block the natural flow of qi which then becomes stagnant and causes problems. Chinese medicine assigns to each of the major organs a positive virture that promotes well-being. For the Liver this is ren or “human kindness”—the virtue that produces acts of benevolence toward oneself and others. Confucius said “Ren consists in loving others”. So everything that benefits the liver – meditation, qigong, diet – will support the expression of kindness and allow us to be more affable and pleasant.

Kindness is shown in speech and action. The next time you feel yourself going along the spectrum of event > frustration > anger, take a slow deep breath, and from your heart extend the feeling of kindness toward your self. If the source of the event is another person then send them thoughts or words of kindness. The active meditation of Inner Nourishing will help you be calm, kind and relaxed, this is part of the Spring Qigong practice.

It is possible to be in an elevated state of human dignity. This happens when a person goes beyond the thought of being kind. When there is no object like I am being kind, and no subject like to that person you drop the egotistical sense of being a nice individual. That self-centered separation of Me and You drops away. The late zen master Dainin Katagiri commented that when you go beyond that duality of separation, "What's left? Just the state of being completely kind: your life is just the pure activity of kindness itself". That is remarkable: to show the beautiful human dignity of being the activity of kindness. You are no longer a self-obsessed noun, you are now a verb of kindness. Everyone will benefit.


Internal Cleansing


The inside of your body has to be kept clean to be healthy. Debris, waste, and most importantly, virsuses and bacteria must be eliminated. Nature has designed the lymph system to be a super effective cleaning crew that works tirelessly to wash the organs and fluids of your internal world.

The primary function of the lymph system is to fight pathogens. It accomplishes this by several means, including removing viruses and other foreign cells from the body, creating anti-bodies, producing lymphocytes and gathering cleaning cells known as macrophages. It has other importnat actions too.

Our lymph system plays an important role in the immune response. Lymph is a whitish fluid that flows through all our tissues. It contains white blood cells that capture pathogens and other damaged cells then carries them to lymph nodes where they are processed to fight infections and remove waste. The lymph also carries beneficial factors that help with lipid metabolism and other aspects of immune function. The cleansed fluid then flows into the heart where it enters the bloodstream.

Lymphatic fluid flows throughout the body in vessels much like the cardiovascular system. But unlike the vascular system which is pumped by the action of the heart, the lymphatic system does not have a single organ to move the fluid. Instead, the circulation of lymph is dependent on breathing and body movement.

According to the medical author of Foldi’s Textbook of Lymphology for Physicians and Lymphedema Therapists – 2nd edition, p 551, the motion of lymphatic fluid within the large lymph vessels is not constant, it is “clearly dependent upon respiration

The largest structure in the lymphatic vessels is the Cisterna Chyli.
This dilated reservoir, aboutChylelymphentersblood the size of your thumb, is located in the thoracic duct which is a vessel that carries lymph upwards to the heart. It sits just below the diaphragm. Much of the fluid that has been cleansed though the system of 600 lymph nodes is collected in the Cisterna Chili. This lymphatic fluid is then pumped by the action of the diaphragm.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the cleansing of the lymph system by creating a vacuum effect which pulls the lymph through the bloodstream” ~ according to Dr. Jack W. Shields, M.D., (“Lymph, lymph glands, and homeostasis”. Lymphology, v25, n4, Dec. 1992, p. 147).

The aortic opening in the diaphragm allows the aorta and thoracic duct of the lymph system to pass through the diaphragm. When we inhale, the diaphragm is pulled downward expanding the aortic opening and sliding below the Cisterna Chyli. When we exhale, the diaphragm moves upward and literally squeezes the clean fluid out of the Cisterna Chyli and pushes it up to the heart.

Dr. Jack W. Shields, M.D., conducted a study at the 7th International Congress of Lymphology (Florence, Italy/1979) that settled the debate about the main propulsion of lymph flow: is it deep diaphragmatic breathing or exercise? He had the largest lymph vessel – the thoracic duct – photographed while a person was walking and jogging on a treadmill and also while taking a deep breath off the treadmill. The deep breathing by itself, off the treadmill, caused the thoracic duct toshoot like a geyser”; the lymphatic flow only slightly increased while the person was on the treadmill.

Taking a full breath deep in the belly is one of the best things you can do for your health.
We finish many qigong exercises by doing the “Cleansing Breath”: standing quietly with hands at sides, we inhale slowly through the nose down to the belly, then exhale audibly through the mouth with a slight contraction of the abdomen. This mindful action of deep diaphragmatic breathing will send the cleaned contents of the Cisterna Chyli up to the heart.

The cleansing breath is a natural physiological event. You may have noticed that every once in a while, especially when you are quietly relaxed, your body will spontaneously take a deep breath. This is like “a sigh of relief” when your body purposefully moves the fluid through the lymphatic system for cleansing and eventual return to the heart.

Gentle rhythmic movement is another way the keep the lymph flowing. This fluid is pumped when we do muscular contractions and massage. Those exercises that use leg and arm movements will target the large collection of lymph nodes in the pelvis and chest. Likewise, massaging your abdomen – what we do in the “Awakening The Qi” exercise – will stimulate another large concentration of lymph tissue around the intestines.

The qigong exercises I teach in Autumn Qigong have the effect of moving the lymph, blood, and qi throughout your body and mind. These smooth movements are combined with deep purposeful breathing and the mental intention to focus on the lungs. Also, the unique Humming Mediation uses diaphragmatic breathing and the cleansing breath to increase oxygen uptake in the lungs.

The lungs need special care at this time - the parched, smoky air will affect each one of us. This is a serious health hazard. We must do everything we can to protect our respiratory system. Qigong practice is a great way to nurture the health of your lungs. Do it.



Equanimity - the calm awakening of your spirit.

There are beneficial states of mind that lead to spiritual awakening. They're called the Four Divine Abodes – lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. As lofty as this idea of "spiritual awakening" may sound, it’s really as natural as taking a breath. Every breath has the potential for you to experience the calm awareness of equanimity.

The word “equanimity” has a pleasing rhythm to its sound. Say it. You can feel how the cadence is like a series of ripples with a definite end stop of the “t”; like a steady rhythm establishing its presence. The root word is the Latin aequanimitas: aequus meaning “even” and animus, meaning “soul, mind”. In Latin, soul and mind are one word, (much like HeartMind in qigong) combining physical and spiritual meanings. Aequanimitas refers to a state of the mind and soul, a balanced state of peace, clarity, health, wisdom and insight.

There’s a beautiful description of the four Divine Abodes, told by Kaira Jewell Lingo, that uses the sun as a metaphor (Buddhadharma, Summer 2021). Lovingkindness is like the sun when it’s high in the sky, shining on everyone without discrimination. Compassion is the setting sun that meets the darkness of suffering with warmth and tender care. The rising sun is like sympathetic joy eagerly greeting each new day with delight. Then the image of equanimity shifts to the nighttime sky with the coolness of the full moon reflecting the sun in a vast cloudless sky.

This contrast between the heat of the sun and the coolness of the moon points out the stabilizing power of equanimity. The first three Abodes may be overdone with unbridled emotions but the serenity of equanimity can keep all mind states in harmony. Kindness, compassion and joy are like stages of love in an ongoing relationship; they’re full of vigor and interactions that are exciting but sometimes excessive. The love of equanimity is like a very long term relationship in which we have weathered many storms and enjoyed the harmony of calm waters. With equanimity we can abide in peaceful acceptance of how things are.


Every experience we have with another person – whether it's an interpersonal exchange or solely within our mind – is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This is how we usually perceive the world: good, bad or neither. The state of equanimity can embrace each of these three perceptions with total acceptance but without emotional clinging and anxiously wishing for it to be different than what it is.

Equanimity is seeing the big picture. Like taking a long steady hike up a mountain to the top where you see the whole vista from a distance. You’ve come through sun and shade, valleys and ridges to reach this panoramic view. With a soft gaze you take in all the pleasant, Thich Nhat Nanh equanimityunpleasant and neutral aspects of your life. Thich Nhat Hanh, the venerable zen master, said a defining trait of equanimity is inclusiveness. You can see all sides in their totality but without taking a side. You stand firm in tranquility. Equanimity’s strength comes from wisely knowing that the interplay of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral never stops.


Indifference to the ups and downs of life is not equanimity. Being aloof and disengaged from the joys and sorrows of life is a lonely state of mind. Lack of concern and disinterest are imposters of equanimity. Equanimity is kind, compassionate and joyful but tempered with the wisdom of nonattachment.

True equanimity is a spacious stillness of mind that allows us to be with things as they simply are. We can be fully connected to others, but without our habitual reactions of careening toward what is pleasant and pulling away from what is unpleasant. The combination of compassion and equanimity is what allows us to care profoundly, and yet accept the limits of what we can do. This balance prevents us from becoming overwhelmed or unable to cope because of that caring.

Equanimity reminds us that we are not in control of others. Although we wish someone to be happy and we do whatever we can to try to help them find happiness, but in the end it's not in our hands.

We know better than to try to prevent the seasons from changing or the sun from rising. We know that following autumn, winter comes. We may not prefer it, but we accept it because we understand its rightful place in a larger cycle; a bigger picture. Can we apply the same wise balance to the cycles of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences in our lives?


Notice how many pleasant and unpleasant experiences you have each day. You are constantly hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, or thinking about the world around you. Tune into those sensations (yes, thoughts are a form of sensory perception). Take a few moments, several times a day, to become aware of how you categorize those sensations. See how there is a constant movement between those that are pleasant and those that are unpleasant. Does that create a definite feeling in your body? Then, take notice of those sensations to which you have a neutral impression, which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Is there a subtle but detectable calmness in the neutral mind state?

Equanimity comes from blending compassion and wisdom. We can take action to relieve compassion wisdom equanimitythe suffering of a friend, correct injustices in society, and care for mother earth without being overwhelmed by the situation. Compassion is the action, wisdom is the view, and equanimity is the result – a tranquil journey through the storms and calm waters on the vast ocean of your mind. Equanimity is the mind state of spiritual awakening.

What You Say Is Who You Are

What You Say Is Who You Are
“Kind speech can change the destiny of a nation”

In my last blog post I wrote about the dignity of kndness and how it is the ultimate declaration of a real human being. Now I want to take a closer look at how you express kindness.

There’s truth in the old saying, "talk is cheap because words are plentiful". Words are an unlimited resource for dialogue. Language is at the top of our brain’s evolutionary ladder and serves us well for communicating everything from the simplest to the most grand thoughts. The myriad effects of what we say run from comfort and illuminating to cutting and harmful, so what we say to, and about, others has enormous consequences.

Because we have a highly developed cultural society, and because we have big brains, we talk a lot. Much of it is useful, but much more of it is simply rambling and long-winded chatter. I remember Eva Wong, one of my dear qigong teachers, saying that discursive talking is an immense drain on our innate energy; it is one reason why silence is so highly regarded in all wisdom traditions. The most prevalent form of discursive talking is gossip.

Everyone loves to gossip. It seems so natural and effortless to talk about other people, especially when we are among friends. We feel supported by folks that we think will agree gossipwith our opinions so we talk freely without much restraint. Sometimes this gossip can be a positive expression of praise and admiration for someone; this gives us a good feeling about them and ourselves. But too often it is critical and injurious; then this negativity creates a dark cloud over our feelings about them and, too, about ourselves. When our speech is negative, we feel negative – we actually are negative. This pall may be subtle but it causes us to become narrow in mind and closed in heart.

The great zen master Dogen, when speaking about the value of a community, said “kind speech can change the destiny of a nation”. Suppose we took this seriously and slowed down our tendency toward negative gossip, gave more thought to what we are about to say. What would happen if we made a conscious effort to speak positively about others and to listen more closely to what others have to say? We would feel better about ourselves.

When we spread rumors and talk in derogatory tones it shows that we suffer from a bias of negativity; we don’t feel good about ourselves so we don’t feel good about other people. This is another global pandemic: the feeling that we are basically different from other people. We are under the misconception that we are over here and every one else is over there. We lose sight of our basic human traits: everyone wants to be healthy, everyone wants to feel safe, everyone wants to be loved.

We can lose the true dignity of our humanity because of what we think and what we say. The Dhammapada tells us, “Our life is the creation of our mind. If a person speaks with an impure mind, suffering will follow as surely as the wheels of a cart follow the tracks of the ox that pulls it.

We can rid our mind of impure thinking by making the purposeful effort to use kind speech. The expression of saying something positive, supportive and kind to another person actually changes our reality. We become genuinely kind. Even for a short time, that feeling of human diginity is hugely beneficial for your health..and their's. Every expression of kindness adds good health and happiness to your life.

There’s truth in the old axiom that if you can’t say something good about the other person don’t say anything at all. That’s where silence is golden. But you can take that further along kind speechthe path of enlightenment and actively cultivate a compassionate heart by expressing kind words. It’s actually a practice where you consciously use considerate, even affectionate, words to communicate what needs to be said without a negative bias.

This isn’t make-believe; this is really expressing what you truly are – a kind and compassionate person who is speaking from their full humanity. No matter what you need to say to someone – or about someone – it is possible to speak from a heartfelt sense of kindness. When we do this it is a monumental step toward mitigating the anger that is endemic in our modern society. It closes the gap of separation that causes suffering and allows us to relax and open up to the full potential of our precious human life.

The exercises and meditaions in Spring Qigong are designed to cultivate the field of loving kindness for better health and happiness in this season of Rising Yang Qi.




How To Make Fear Disappear

Fear is an emotion that has a wide range of manifestations - it could be vague uneasiness, a depressed attitude, a reoccurring avoidance of something threatening, or a sense of impending doom, an urgent need to run away, or striking out with body and speech. Ultimately, it can result in a full-blown paralysis of mind and body.

Fear is everywhere. You know this. The media thrives on it. Politicians stoke it for their own gain. Personal relationships may be defined by it. Fear comes in a variety of sizes and colors. We have a fundamental reaction of “fight, flight or freeze” to fearful situations. Everyone has experience Fear with fear. This evolutionary survival tactic should be a quick and transitory response to a threatening situation. But when the sense of fear is prolonged or inappropriate it becomes one of the biggest stressors in our modern life.

Chronic fear is deadly. It’s been shown to cause heart attacks, countless internal organ dysfunctions, and many debilitating mental conditions. Chinese medicine tells us that fear will exhaust the Yang Qi of the Kidneys. If prolonged, or reoccurs frequently, it will lead to burnout of the adrenal glands and a definite decline in our health. The medical texts say that “the Kidneys store our Essence (jing) and are the foundation of each organ’s yin and yang”.

Fear resides in a very primitive part of the brain. It is a survival system.  In positive terms, the feeling of fear prompts us to evaluate a situation and then act appropriately. In the worse cases it may lead to hysteria and harmful violence.

Our reaction to any situation - past, present, or future - begins in our mind. Many fears are based on past events or future predictions. Most fears are exaggerations that don’t come true. As Mark Twain said, “The worse things in my life never happened”.

People are always talking to themselves. Meditation can help us stop this internal babble and come to rest in a place of stillness where we can understand the true nature of things. Winter is the Water Phase, a time to focus on the health of the Kidney system by practicing how to make fear disappear. This meditation is a wonderful way to do that.


Meditation to Make Fear Disappear

Begin by sitting quietly, relaxing, and just gently breathing.

Slowly breathing and being aware of your breath coming in and going out.
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Now, imagine that you are observing a snowy field in nature. And there on the edge of the field you see a bank of drifted snow in the pale sunlight.

Look at the snow. Breathe from your lower belly.




Fear Labels
Now, name what you fear, at this time.
Name this fear with only a word or two that really summarizes what it is that's fearful.

Put that word in big bold letters.





Put Your Fear Here

Now, just look at the word.
On this white bank of snow you see - written in clear black letters – the words of what you fear. Be aware of how fear feels in your body.

Look closely. Breathe slowly. Where is fear in your body?

Now, use your mind to direct your out breath to this drift of fear. Let your exhalations blow across the words in the snow. Slowly, one breath, then another, and another.

As you sit and calmly breathe in and out, don’t have any thoughts about the fear - just see the words. Breathe slowly.


Feel your warm breath go out to the words on the snow bank. Feel your body relaxing.

Now, with each exhalation see how the fear melts away as you continue to mindfully breathe. The word of fear is slowly fading...


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...eventually there is nothing there to fear.