Respecting the Energy of the Season

In myriad ways, I codify the energy of the season into my behavior. I am working quite a bit teaching skiing these days, but I observe that my relationship with the mountain in winter supports my energy. I am outside in the crisp cold air during the day. But as night falls I go home, eat dinner, do little of anything else. I go to sleep early.

With respect to my vocation, writing, I express the energy of the season by taking a sabbatical. My goal is to do no writing work of any sort during the two weeks around the solstice, the last two weeks of the calendar year, our culture's holiday period.

So while I am working, I am still resting. The mountain supports my energy while I'm teaching. At night, in the morning, the computer will often stay off. I'm not reading drafts, I'm not revising, I'm not writing anything new. The closest I get to writing is in reading the writing of others. Some nights I sit by the fire and exult in the pleasure of the written word without demanding anything of myself except, as best I am able, a return to the pleasure writing gave me when I was a young boy, so many years ago.

I'm as quiet as I can be during this period. Thus I respect the energy of the season by respecting the intention of my sabbatical. And when the new year awakens in a few days, I can meet it with renewed vigor.

Connecting to Universal Flow

In the weeks leading up to the winter solstice, the reoccurring theme among my clients was a lack of sleep. Night after night, they would get 3-4 hours and then suddenly be awake.

Now, I’m not talking about one or two people. About 75% of the people I see on any given day would report these same things. As I questioned them about activities and life circumstances, the majority reported enjoying the holiday season, which always included more shopping and parties than they were accustomed too, as well as, family gatherings and a myriad of other activities that fuel the collective energy and negatively affect their energy system.

What I didn’t hear was that they were taking time to sit and harmonize with the flow of the universal energy.
I found that the following exercise helped calm their energy systems and usually helped balance their sleeping patterns within just a couple of days.

Connecting to Universal Flow

Find a place to sit comfortably and take several centered breathes.

Now, take several minutes and ground yourself using the grounding breath that we developed and practiced a couple of weeks ago.

I recommend starting by using the grounding tubes. They create a solid foundation when learning new techniques.

As you sit grounded and centered, notice the feel of the energy around you.

On the surface, you’ll discover a buzz or heightened vibration to the collective energy around you. This buzzing, busy energy is what effects our sleep and our ability to feel centered and stable. Be careful to keep yourself separated from this energy as you’re noticing it. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of that energy.

Now, using the grounding breath - allow yourself to drop below the noise and the buzz of the collective energy field into the quiet and calm of the universal energy field.

At this time of year, just after the winter solstice, the universal energy has a very quiet and reflective feel.

Allow yourself to sit within the universal energy field for at least 5 minutes. Allow your energy to harmonize with the universal energy.

There is nothing to do here. As you quietly sit within the universal energy your system will automatically harmonize with the universal flow.

At this point, it is time to get up and continue with your day. You can let your grounding tubes dissolve but stay connected to the universal energy.

Initially, it will not take long for your energy system long to re-harmonize with the collective energy. Over time and with practice, you’ll develop the skill necessary to keep your personal energy field separate from the collective.

Finding balance between the energy of the moment (the collective energy), and the universal energy flow is critical for a balanced and healthy life. Next week, we’ll work on creating an energy shield that will help us maintain that balance.

Winter Solstice

The solstice has passed. It is winter.

Did you, as I recommended last week, put down your burdens, for even a moment? Did you allow yourself a little space to breathe, to step out of the freneticism that our culture demands this time of year, to give yourself some repose? Did you notice the quiet behind all our culture's noise?

In these days just on this side of the solstice, our energy should be at its quietest. One energetic year has just ended, the new one has just been born. Now is a time for quiet contemplation. We might look closely at ourselves: Who have I been? Who am I? We can even begin to ask, without demanding an answer, Who am I going to be?

Already now the days are getting longer. A small part of us looks ahead, already, to spring. Soon enough it will be time for planting. What, then, should our work look like in this time of quiet? How do we meet this moment?

Hold on to the quiet as long as you are able. Soon, it will be time to pick things up again. What tools are we going to need to sow and cultivate springtime's seeds? Take your tools. Replace the splintered handles. Sharpen the edges. Rest and prepare so that you are ready.

Winter Solstice

Today marks the winter solstice. Not only is it the shortest day of the year, but it denotes a major shift within the universal energy. With the sun being at its furthest point from the earth, tonight is the longest and darkest night of the year.

For many, it represents the “long dark night of the soul,” that point of spiritual crisis on the journey towards consciousness. This journey is often rife with the symbolic death of major aspects of our lives, ideals, and beliefs that must be shed for us to become conscious and whole again.

In his piece on Friday, Ben alludes to the idea that as individuals and a Nation, we have indeed entered the long dark night of the soul. And even though the sun will come up tomorrow, we have a long and trying journey ahead.

To borrow words from Dr. Jean Bolin, a Jungian analyst:

“While the night of the winter solstice is always over at dawn, we don’t know how long we will remain in a winter solstice phase, and many fear while in the midst of it that there will be no light at the end of their tunnel and that dawn will never come. When help is sought, that very act is an expression of helplessness and hopefulness; an admission that we can’t get through this on our own and hope that with help, we shall. Often this is the turning point.”

Often, it is at this point- this point of crisis--that I am called upon and invited into my clients' lives. For them, the hope of successful resolution is often fading and I am seen as a candle, a ray of light within the darkness. I personally, have walked that long dark road more times than I like to admit. And, In the course of my life, I have born witness for the journey of many clients and friends as they have walked that road.

As the sun rises tomorrow, know that Ben and I are here, willing to do what we can. Although it is dark and often scary, together we can be the light to help guide our families, friends and even our nation through this trying time.

Putting Things Down

Energetically, the time approaching the winter solstice is a time of consolidation. It is a time of letting things come to rest. Nature around us has substantially gone dormant. While we as a species obviously do not hibernate, we too are meant to respect the energy of the season.

In our culture, divorced as it is from the natural cycles that feed our energy, we make no differentiation between the short, dark days of winter and the long, hot ones of summer. Yet our bodies know the difference, and cry out for us to acknowledge that difference, to respect it.

As we separate more and more from the natural energy of which we are a part, we become less and less grounded. Ungrounded energy tends to float upwards, coalescing in our heads, strengthening our sense of the reality of our thoughts and taking us away from the here and now. Thus the danger of becoming too ungrounded: it becomes easier and easier to believe our own bullshit.

We are carrying so much at a time when the energy of the world is requesting that we put things down. It can feel fraught, dangerous, to acquiesce to that request. Won't we fall behind everything that is going on around us?

Honestly, there is a chance that we will. But I wish to pose to a question: at what point does the damage to your health become a cost too great to bear? Does that our culture all but demands of you to behave in an unhealthy way mean that you should do so? Or should you set up boundaries against it for your own well-being?

I urge you to choose the latter. What would it feel like to take just one of your burdens, set it down for a little while and breathe? (If necessary, you can always pick it up again.) This is the energy of the season. Even a few moments of repose, of connecting with the quiet flow of the season's energy, can provide us with an important respite.

Give yourself that respite. In myriad ways, these are very challenging times. To deal with them effectively, we're going to need to take care of ourselves. Who else will?

Creating Balance part 3 – Expanding on the grounding breath

Last week, I walked you through a technique for grounding your energy using a centered breath. This week I am going to expand upon it.

The Grounding Breath

I would once again recommend playing with these ideas while sitting. As your comfort levels grows feel free to play with the positions and modify the technique to better suit your personal needs.

Let’s start by finding a comfortable position and center.

Take several centered breathes and allow your body to begin to relax.

As your body relaxes, take a moment to feel your feet against the floor and your body in the chair.

Close your eyes and visualize dropping hollow tubes from your feet deep into the earth.

Take 3 centered breaths. On the third breath, exhale down through the tubes until the breath is deep in the earth, relax and let the inhale happen naturally.

Now, open your eyes and let the tubes dissolve. They are no longer necessary.

The tubes were simply a vehicle for moving the breath into the earth. Once we recognize that the breath will move freely through the earth the vehicle becomes unnecessary.

Once again, take a couple of centered breaths. Direct your exhales deep into the earth. At the end of your exhale, pause. Let your exhale be fully finished. Allow the inhale to happen automatically.

The ability to pause at the end of your exhale is essential. At this stage, there is nothing else required of you. Just sit there and be. The inhale will always happen fully and automatically.

Take several more breaths and feel the pause at the end of each exhale. Notice the space created by the pause. On your next exhale, sit within the space and allow yourself to separate from your breath.

This separation allows for many things. We can separate ourselves from the stress and confusion of the moment. We can use it to move pain and restrictions from the body. We can simply use it to find solace and comfort within mother earth.

Allow yourself to sit and breathe for several more minutes. With each breath, allow yourself to connect with the earth within the space created by your exhale.

Removing the tubes allows for this breath to be used anywhere. Try it walking, riding in a car, even flying. Once again, the more comfortable you are with the process, the more accessible it will be when you need it the most.

The Opportunity of Crisis

Jerry has said that in his practice he likes working with people who are injured, because they are willing to make changes. The injury is evidence that something they're doing isn't working.

Expanding that insight out into the greater world, you can see that a crisis of any sort is also an opportunity. A crisis is clear evidence that something isn't working, clear evidence that something needs to change.

I assert that our country is in crisis. Even if you supported Trump, you are surely aware that the level of dismay, even anguish, among those who didn't is profound. Every day, Trump nominates another hard-liner to his Cabinet. While doing so is certainly his prerogative, it's worth remembering that a majority of the electorate voted against him. A Cabinet far to the right of the mainstream promises only to exacerbate the conflict and ire that our country is rapidly succumbing to.

What we're doing isn't working. As Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insane. Sadly, no one in our political system seems to have the ability or wherewithal to respond intelligently and empathetically to what's happening. The system and the people within it are clearly incapable of making things better. That leaves the rest of us with an opportunity. If there's to be healing and better days ahead, we require new thinking, new ideas.

Creating Balance Part 2 – The Grounding Breath

In his piece on Friday, Ben talked about helping to control the effects our new world reality has on each of us mentally, emotionally, and energetically. Moving forward, the ability to ground, protect, and stabilize our personal energy fields will be the foundation for creating a balancing force within our communities, the country, and eventually the world.

Essentially, the techniques he shared are designed to help us ground and create stability. Today, I want to share a breathing technique that will help you remain grounded and can be accomplished anywhere and in only a couple of minutes.

The Grounding Breath

This exercise can be done sitting, standing, or even walking. Initially, I would recommend trying it while sitting in a regular chair. Not only will it be easier to read and follow the directions, but it will become easier to recreate in times of stress, and then you can play with it in other positions once you are comfortable with the technique.

To start, find a comfortable position and center.

Take a couple of centered breaths.

As your body begins to relax, feel your feet against the floor and your body in the chair.

This connects you to the here and now. This exercise is not designed as an escape. Being present is essential.

Close your eyes and visualize dropping hollow tubes from your feet deep into the earth.

The circumference of the tubes is a personal choice. Start with them somewhat narrow and gradually widen them as you become more comfortable. Also, some people find a third tube, dropped from the tail bone, adds some stability and helps balance the flow of breath.

Take 3 centered breaths. On the third breath, exhale down through the tubes until the breath is deep in the earth, relax and let the inhale happen naturally.

We focus the exhale into the earth to help cleanse the energy of the breath. The earth will filter and balance the energy of the breath and bring a sense of stability to the body.

Practice this exhalation through the tubes into the earth 10 times.

We focus on the exhales because in times of extreme stress and discomfort it can be extremely difficult to have an open flowing breath. Notice that your ability to inhale and create flow becomes easier with each exhale.

Re-center and feel your feet against the floor, the chair against your legs, and the increased sense of flow within your body.

Obviously, this breath can be done anywhere. I highly recommend that you practice it several times a day and in many different situations. It is essential to practice this BEFORE you are stressed and energetically compromised. Remember, this technique is simply a tool. For it to be useful you must be confident in the process.

Allowing Balance

I'm politically liberal, and I live in a particularly liberal part of America (Boulder, Colorado), so I acknowledge I live in something of a bubble. Now, I might be wrong about this, but I am guessing that unless you were an enthusiastic Trump supporter and are surrounded only by enthusiastic Trump supporters, you've been aware of and perhaps been challenged by the feelings that have come up after the election. The levels of acrimony, conflict and distrust in our country have soared to heretofore unseen levels, and I can see that it's affecting people, irrespective of where they're living or their particular political affiliations.

If you've found yourself struggling with surges of unpleasant feelings and emotions since the election--despair, hopelessness, anger, disdain for those who think differently from you--know that you're not alone. Even if the outcome of the election was to your satisfaction, we tend to resonate emotionally along with other people, and emotions, throughout our country, are running extremely high.

However, there are ways to moderate the effects that everything that's going on has on your sense of balance and center. Here are four techniques that I find helpful.

1. Limit or eliminate media, especially commercial news media and social media.

The major problem with most media in our culture, be it old media like newspapers, magazines, and television, or new media like Facebook and Twitter, is that it's commercial in nature--it derives its revenue from advertisements. On a fundamental level, you get the information you want--football game, sitcom, news, whatever--by trading some of your time and attention to someone who wants to sell you something.

All of these forms of media make more money the more eyeballs they can aggregate onto their content. And what grabs and holds our attention tends to be things that stimulate the emotions. Thus even the so-called "news" media, ostensibly reporting "facts," has an incentive to report things that excite the emotions (i.e. generally "bad" news) and to do it in such a way that it amplifies rather than depresses those effects. This is why so much news seems so sensationalistic: because it is.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of an advertisement is much higher when it reaches a psyche that's out of balance. A centered person will tend to be more shielded from the emotional manipulations that are part and parcel of how advertisements work. So commercial media has an incentive to keep you from center.

Please note that I'm not asserting some grand conspiracy. Rather, I'm pointing out something that simply emerges naturally from a for-profit model in a competitive environment. The media that aggregate the most eyeballs and deliver them most effectively to their advertisers will make the most money. And that will naturally tend to be the kind of things that incite high emotions. There's a reason media companies pay such enormous sums for the broadcast rights to sporting competitions.

Media in which the costs of participation are particularly low (in both dollar and effort terms) tend to be the most poisonous of all. Twitter and Facebook can be particularly destabilizing. It costs someone nothing to write a repulsive tweet or an agitating Facebook post, but the emotional effect on an audience can be profound.

I recognize that staying away from news media can be especially challenging for people. "But how will I stay informed?" people ask. I've asked this question a lot myself. I've found it really helpful to ask, of any story I'm considering reading in the news media, "In what way does this piece of information impact my life?" If you take that perspective, you'll quickly notice that the vast majority of what fills our newspapers, magazines, and television screens is nothing more than unsettling noise. It has no real bearing on our lives at all. But our limbic systems evolved in a world in which any information we were given from an outside source ("There's a pride of lions in the tall grass over there!") was apt to be immediately salient to our lives and, often, to our very survival.

2. Take a hot bath.

If you cut down a tree, it's no longer a tree; now it's just wood. If you kill a cow, it's no longer a cow. But water is ever and always water. On a profound level, water is substantially imperturbable. A placid pool of water has the ability to wash off the harsh vibrations of a frenetic world.

Submerging ourselves in water will tend to smooth out and slow down volatile emotions, and relaxing in heat is extra calming. (Hence saunas, hot tubs, and steam baths.) Also, there's never really anything much to do in a bath--you're pretty much forced to slow down and stay in one place for a while, which alone can help settle the system. (If you're inclined to read in the bath, bring along a book, not your phone or tablet.)

A bath is a really simple form of self-care. Don't be afraid to indulge yourself.

3. Go for a hike in nature, especially among mountains.

The natural world has its own vibrational patterns. The more unspoiled a natural space, the less human energy there, the easier it is to experience nature's energy. Thus a hike in a forest is more calming than a walk in a park, and both are better than jogging down a busy street.

The Earth is a giant sink for negative energy--there's a reason we call generally unflappable people "grounded"--but there's something especially powerful about mountains, places where the ground becomes figure, as it were. Maybe it's that mountains demand our conscious attention. Too often we lose sight of the Earth as we walk upon it, but you're not going to fail to notice the slope you're walking up.

It takes no special training to let the ground ground you. Just go somewhere where your attention can let go of the ephemeral comings-and-goings of humans and meet nature in all its stability and beauty.

4. Center and breathe.

Once you learn to do it, the ability to center is something that's with you literally everywhere you go. If you find yourself succumbing to deep levels of stress for whatever reason, give yourself permission to step out of the situation for just long enough to find your center and breathe for five to ten breaths. It takes little time, but the effects can be profound.

The techniques (if you can even call them that) that I offer here are all extremely simple to do, but the effects can be profound. If you find yourself struggling, try them. They can only help.

One final thing: during these trying times, do not intentionally scrimp on sleep.