Anger and Sadness, Emotion Resolving Into Virtue

Anger and Sadness, Emotion Resolving Into Virtue

Anger and Sadness, Emotion Resolving Into Virtue

In our current saddened state, violence has erupted again. (Did it ever stop?) The fatal misuse of force by a white police officer toward a black man, has enflamed the country. All in the midst of the pandemic that has people scrambling in fear, stir-crazy with home confinement, job loss, social distancing, the closing of schools, churches, restaurants, sports and entertainment and the shutting down of gatherings of all kinds. Is it any wonder that society has reached a boiling point?

Anger and Sadness have long been recognized in Chinese medicine as the emotional expression of the Wood and Metal elements. Students of the Five Elements will be quite familiar with these. As these emotions appear in our lives, we recognize them as clues to unlocking the pattern of dis-ease we are experiencing.

Wood governs Liver. Metal governs Lungs. Western medicine is beginning to recognize that anger damages the liver, and sadness damages the lungs. The deep correlation between emotions and organ functions is irrefutable.

The body/mind connection is more and more recognized in the practice of true medicine. The strictly mechanical model that separates the physical from the emotional and spiritual may be expedient and stoic, but sadly it misses the majority of signs and symptoms, and ultimately the path to the remedy for the troubles that beset us.

Fear enters our story regularly, the emotion associated with Kidneys, the Water Element. This connects us to our very deepest feelings about life and death, the vital essence of life itself. We all face these basic issues of access to resource, and the management of that resource for the good of all.

This is not superficial bullshit going on. This cuts right to the core of humanity and the crux in which we find ourselves.

Wood, Metal and Water are three of the Five Elements represented in our story so far. Their examples provide a touch stone for launching off into the discovery of what is going on here. Yet our personal, social, and ultimately our cultural response to the fiery moment in which our civilization finds itself calls upon us to access and express all the elemental qualities.

Fire Element joins the discourse, the element of the Heart, the very core of our sovereign nature, the seat of compassionate insight, the spark of awareness in each and every heart. When adulated, the Heart suffers anxiety that can further fuel the flames.

In my last article I wrote about tears. I spoke of the key part they have to play in making our way through this difficult passage. I bemoaned the stoic culture that eschews tears. The instructions and conditioning to which we have all been subject at one point or another, to “suck it up.” Truth be told, sorrow is messy. Tears are messy. Anger is messy. Grief is messy. Anxiety is messy.

Tears have many faces, one of which is angry rising up to attempt to correct the injustice of untimely loss.

These are not light subjects my friends. The deep medicine of emotions and virtues does not shy away from any of it.

The question is whether our culture is mature enough, strong enough, wise enough to create a container that is strong enough to hold all of it? To welcome all of the honest emotional expression of the people. That is the truly courageous act called for in these times.

To allow emotions to be expressed, so that they develop into sweet virtues, that is the promise of a full expression. It represents a mature response, a powerful invitation to growth, beauty and love.

When we freeze our grief, freeze our tears, we limit the expression of that which needs must be expressed. When we restrain our voices, when we hold back our anger, we test the bottle in which we are trying to contain it. When we ultimately create containers in which we can allow for the true expression of all of our honest emotions, without explosive destruction and into beauty and love, we will be able to transcend this bottling up, and ultimately save humanity’s place on this precious Earth.

The Earth Element, the last of the Five to be mentioned here, is the ground upon which we all stand, the very atmosphere in which we all live and breathe. The fertile ground of all life. With meat shortages threatened, supply chains shut down, farm workers sickening, we worry. We worry about where our next meal may be coming from. We grocery shop wearing masks, the store shelves still being stocked by “essential” workers.

It’s quite a chapter in the long story of human life being written this day. How will our culture creatively move through this time into a resolution of all the terrors and challenges that face us? It’s an initiatory time. ALL of humanity, is going through an intense rite of passage. As with all rites of passage what is old is being burned away, a new beginning emerging.

What will that new beginning hold? Will we be more mature? Will the passage lead us to a brighter day? That remains to be seen on many, many levels. Each of us in our individual situations will experience a variety of outcomes as each of us evolves through these times.

Yet there is hope in the emergence of virtue. Let’s return to the emotions that are heralds of the pattern, and take a look at the energy of promise contained within each one. In Five Element study we learn the correspondences and correlations of the functions of body, mind and spirit. Indeed, we learn that the emotions do not exist in a vacuum, but actually are a part of a continuum, and an intricate interrelation with all of the other emotions.

Take Anger and the Liver for instance. There are many levels of the expression of anger. From frustration, to indignation, to anger, to rage. These are all expressions that take place when boundaries (Metal) are violated, and needs (Earth) not met. Anger is a righteous response to unacceptable conditions. Indeed, it is reasonable and right to expect that when boundaries are violated, honest anger is sure to follow.

The question is whether the expression of that anger is allowed for and contained so that it doesn’t boil over into violence. Sadly, it seems in many instances that only violence speaks loudly enough for this important emotion to be acknowledged and responded to.

Yet, I beg to suggest that there is another way. Those who have been initiated through to that other way have the responsibility to shepherd in the possibility. You see, the virtue associated with the wood element is Benevolence, or Kindness. Rather than malevolence, malice and violent rage, we have the chance to evolve into Kindness. Let me give a mild example.

Once in my mid-life I happened to be invited to attend Zazen meditation services at a Zen monastery deep in the forest of California. I was a teacher at a “nearby” healing arts institution, about a 45-minute drive from the little monastic enclave.  I thought it would be instructive and exciting for my healing arts students to enjoy a taste of Zazen practice in this very beautiful and real setting. So, I organized a field trip! Seven or eight of my students piled into two cars to make the trip to the monastery. The service began at 9am. We got into our cars by about 8:10.

We arrived at the monastery about 9am on the dot. We quickly got out of the cars and made our way to the Zazen hall for services. The monks and others had already entered the hall. The Roshi, greeted us (silently, for this was a Zen meditation hall). He busily organized us all without words and got us all into the meditation hall and on our cushions in efficient fashion. We enjoyed a fine service and deep meditation. I must say that I was quite pleased that I could bring my students to this profound experience.

After the meditation service, we retired to the tea room to share a hot green tea and receive teachings. After all were settled into place the Roshi called out my name.

“Matthew,” he said. “It would be unkind of me not to admonish you! You arrived late for service, with 8 new people unaware of the ways of our service. This caused great disruption at the last minute!”

I blinked, calmly took a sip of hot tea, swallowed, and acknowledged my transgression. I was indeed at fault. Had he not admonished me, I would not have been aware of this. Without that awareness, I would never have the chance to correct it. Indeed, the Roshi’s admonishment was a kindness to me. He also acknowledged that I “handled the admonishment well.” Which helped me to understand the “right and elegant use” of anger in this case. I bowed in silent gratitude. I was never late for a service ever again!

You see from this rather “mild” story of what can be considered a “minor” transgression, that the expression anger is indeed a kindness. Indeed, when we are not made aware of our transgressions, we go blindly forward, trippingly oblivious to that fact that we have stepped out of line.

To this I suggest that here is the root and hopefully the promise of the fiery demonstrations taking place all over the country in reaction to the use of fatal force by police officers. The killing of innocent men is indeed a transgression that must be brought to light. Will the admonishments given by the crowd be heard by those who are guilty of these transgressions? That remains to be seen. So far, this cycle of violence has not yet restored a lasting peace.

Yet, if we can as a culture, creatively allow for this natural expression of rage, then perhaps we will begin to wake up to the necessity for change, and a more elegant and effective, culture-wide creative response.

Revenge and violence expressed in demonstrations across the country is simple, not at all elegant. It’s easy to access the energy of anger and revenge. The harder part is doing the work to reform the culture and convert our collective pain into lasting positive benefit. It is doubtful that these demonstrations will be seen as a kindness. It is more likely that they will be seen as “senseless” and be met with even greater tightening of response, and a continuation of the violent cycles that are all too familiar in human history.

For “Wood Element” alone cannot solve these intense “Wood Element” conditions. Other energies must be brought to bear. The root of the matter must be plumbed.

It is not within the scope of this article to explore and exhaust all options. Indeed, Water could be used to douse the flames that have risen from the addition of Fuel to the Fire. The Ashes of destruction left in the wake of the unrest may be built into Monuments, a solemn reminder of the monumental struggle undertaken here. Ultimately, Ashes can be scattered in loving, honorable mourning for the loss of life, limb and sanity.

Sadness lies at the root of this whole sorry affair. Losses long felt and left too often unacknowledged and expressed in isolation. Tears choked back. Grief frozen into monolithic towers within bodies, minds and hearts of the people. Frozen grief, long unexpressed, foments into violent retaliations. Unless containers can be built for the honest full expression of our pain, without fear of being carted away to the asylum or incarceration, I’m afraid the cycles of violence will only continue.

The great ocean, great salty body of tears laps upon all of our shores. It refuses no rivers. The wetlands and the estuaries are teaming with life. The mountains covered with snow spawn rivers all over the planet, and deep underground rivers continue to flow. Our tears too must be allowed to flow, our righteous anger to find expression, our world be awakened to kindness and compassion.

I offer the following verse. I beg you read it slowly and take it in.

Allow your Anger to resolve to Kindness,

so that you will not be overwhelmed by Sorrow.

Allow your Sorrow to resolve to Acceptance,

so that you will not be overwhelmed by Anxiety.

Allow your Anxiety to resolve to Love,

so that you will not be overwhelmed by Fear.

Allow your Fear to resolve to Wisdom,

so that you will not be overwhelmed by Worry.

Allow your Worry to resolve to Faith,

so that you will not be overwhelmed by Anger.

This is the fullest expression of true medicine to heal the wounds and woes of this world. Emotions, honored as signs, can be taken for what they are, the impulse for creative expression and transformation. This can ultimately transform ashes into virtues. Virtues arising in cleansing tears. Kindness, acceptance, love, wisdom, and faith all the virtuous expressions of power and beauty for a weary world.

Pandemic! What can I do?

Pandemic! What can I do?

It’s not the first time humans have faced a viral pandemic. And it probably won’t be the last, at least I don’t think so. For those who survive this time, there will be an attempt to learn from the experience. What worked, what didn’t? What helped, and what made it worse?

Many episodes through history have taught us things about how viral pandemics work. We see how they spread, how contagion and transmission happen, and what ultimately mitigates and arrests them. Each pandemic is different and each time there is a learning curve to find the best path forward.

The spread of Small Pox among Native Americans is a particularly rich example from history. From it, we can learn many profound lessons of what it means and how best to deal with a pandemic. If you have an interest, I highly recommend you check out this informative article:

Of course, we have yet to see all that the COVID-19 virus will teach us. The full story has not yet been written. In the meantime, we put into place the best practices we know. Mitigation techniques are implemented: quarantine, hygiene, social distancing to create minimal or reduced exposure to limit the transmission, and ultimately stop the spread. That’s worked before. Short of a “cure” it’s the best tool we’ve got so far.

So, here we are in quarantine. We’re looking ourselves in the mirror and asking what can I do? How can I help? Besides just staying cooped up and avoiding contact with other people, commerce and the world around me. That’s a big question.

This challenge asks us to dig deep and really evaluate our life choices. For each of us, it is shows a different face. For parents, you’re now learning to homeschool your kids. For working folks in “non-essential services” you’re having to learn to work from home. For folks like myself, a self-employed bodywork therapist, it means taking on a whole new approach to providing healing arts services.

Essential sector folks still go to work. Only now they risk exposure and are clamoring for protective gear and protective measures, and ways to take care of themselves during this time. Not everyone can be a Father Damien ( ). We’re all working to apply, as fast as we can, “best practices” for containing and not facilitating the further spread of the contagion.

The face of this pandemic is new. COVID-19 knows no race, nationality, country or group of people that are particularly vulnerable. It is effecting everyone. It’s truly “color blind.” And here we are, the entire human family facing a contagion that is stealthy, wily, everywhere and deadly for many!

The much coveted YouTube status of “going viral” takes on a whole new meaning. Indeed, going viral in our deeply interconnected world, in multiple languages, is now possible! This is true for both the dark and the light! An inspiring music video or global meditation can wrap around the world. So can a life threatening contagion.

So, here we are under quarantine. An antiquated but time-tested reaction to contagion. Quarantine, from the Italian, Quaranta, referring to the 40 days of isolation practiced as a mitigation measure during the bubonic plague! Only now, in epic proportions. Not just one ship in the harbor, but almost all of human commerce nearly ground to a halt. Almost the entire world under “stay-at-home orders,” as we hope to halt the spread of the virus.

So, I return to the central question, what can we do? How can we be more a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem?

Years ago in ceremony an elder teacher gave teachings about the coming Earth Change Prophecies: “One region will be too hot, one will be too cold. One too wet, and one too dry. Contagion will sweep the earth, species will die out, and mother earth will begin to withhold her increase.”  ( ) The teacher spoke of the Earth as a living being, and compared humans to the fleas on a dog’s back. During the time when the fleas get too populace the dog scratches and scratches and shakes and shakes, and then some medicine comes along to eradicate the fleas!

Without dropping fully down into a pit of despair, the truth is that many will rise with “medicine” to face these challenging times.  We will do our best to mitigate this impending viral spread. If past experiences are any guide, there will be a triumph over this adversity in the end. In this epic “battle with ominous forces of change,” the elder went on to say that “some will do great and grandiose things, but most of us will just do the little things, and help each other out, day-by-day.”

When I heard that, the words “just do shiatsu!” rang out loud and clear in my head. I found my path forward as a healing artist using skilled human touch. I’m grateful to say that I have been helping people out, day-by-day, ever since. Though shiatsu is not a cure all, and has not been the remedy for everyone for everything, many have found it to provide profound benefit.

Yet, sadly for this modern Western world, Shiatsu does not rise to the level of “essential work.” Indeed, human touch itself is being vilified as a facilitator for the spread of the contagion.  So, in my world, I am put on notice to discover and develop new ways to deliver inspiring, day-by-day support services. I am deeply grateful for the pathways that have been given to me. I look to the wisdom traditions that have been central to my life path for decades.

These profound traditions have taught me much, and endowed me with a set of unique skills and insights. As a bodywork therapist I have been blessed to be a grief consoler, pain reliever, introspective-internal researcher, shame and addiction counselor, mind, body, spirit teacher, singer, coach, guide, foodie nutritionist, student of philosophy, meditator, and Qigong movement meditation guide. I am deeply grateful to have so many tools in my tool kit for facing the unknown, and staying healthy in a natural and holistic way, in the face of whatever challenges life throws at us.

Now the COVID-19 challenge together with strict quarantine measures, faces us all. As we live through this time of quarantine, I’m here to serve with stay-at-home practices drawn from the rich traditions of indigenous wisdom. I am developing learning programs to bring to you and ask you to stay tuned as I bring these into production.  Many insights and time honored practices can be transmitted through the internet for you to learn, follow and benefit.

These deep wisdom ways have been my life work and I’m excited to bring them to you through the power of technology. I encourage you to soak up as much as you can. I’m now offering Meridian Gesture Qigong practice online, three times a week. In these classes I bring this rich wisdom of the meridian channels of life energy directly to you. Please join me!

Because, besides avoiding contact, we must build our immune system to be strong in the face of the winds that blow ever more strongly around us each day. Meridian Gesture Qigong provides us with a natural, powerful, self-nurturing practice to do just that!

Indeed during these changing times, there will likely be a pharmaceutical researcher who develops the coveted COVID-19 vaccine. I also just saw in the news that the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner corporation invented a new medical ventilator that can be mass produced in record time and will save lives! Yes, indeed there will be those who do “BIG” things during this time!

For most of us though, we will simply find a way to get by, day-by-day under challenging, changing conditions. I’m grateful to be a part of the solution from my home hide away! I look forward to the day when we all come out to gather together once more in joyous celebration.


The Judgment of Paris and the Path of Personal Sovereignty

The Judgment of Paris and the Path of Personal Sovereignty

The Judgment of Paris, and the Path of Personal Sovereignty

In our lives there are moments of truth, when we must choose that which we find most precious. For different people this happens at different times, and multiple times to those who live a long life. There simply come points in life where you must drop the illusion of “having it all” and choose one, most precious, important thing and devote your life, your energy, and your will to its realization.

In ancient Greek mythology, the goddess Discord threw a golden apple with the inscription, “To the Fairest,” into a wedding feast of gods and high personages. Three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite squabbled over which of them was the fairest, and worthy of receiving the golden apple. Zeus wanted no part in the choosing, and so he left it to Paris, Prince of Troy, to decide. Who Paris chose is a point of ancient historical allegory that started the great Trojan War.

Confronting Paris in his task of judgment are no less than the formidable forms of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. These goddesses represent all that stands before a person in their path to identifying their deepest wishes. Power, wisdom, and beauty, each in their own domain. Paris, of own free will must choose. In so doing he knows he will get one, but alienate the other two. Yet still, his choice puts one goddess on his side, and in return for his choosing, she grants him what he most wishes.

Even though his choice led to ten years of terrible war and siege, and ultimately his own death and the downfall of his city, I imagine that Paris did not regret his choice. For when we choose that which we truly love and find most precious, and dedicate our lives to it, we are connecting to our own deepest inner truth. We let the chips fall where they may.

Of course, on this human path, there is no Zeus to lay the task at our feet, but there it is. Choose we must. And the question arises, how do we do that best?

The search for one true path and direction faces each of us, and many voices of many “gods and goddesses” cry out to us through people, places and things. We look for signs, we ask for direction, we pray for guidance. To find and land on solid support can be elusive and quixotic.

One day we believe we are fighting the good fight against true demons and monsters. the next day we awaken to find we have been tilting at windmills!

In these complicated multi-cultural times, the search for true, wise allies and a reliable, mature mentor is fraught with difficulty. To find and select a solid direction for your life can be elusive.

For common folk of earlier times, the art of looking for wisdom and guidance was a simple matter of following the orders spoken by those in possession of the accumulated wisdom of the world. Gods and demi-gods, deities, and those born into divine lineages reign over all choices. A commoner had but to admit their ignorance and defer to the golden ones who hold the orb and the scepter.

The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Norse peoples all had their gods. Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths all look to the God of Abraham. The East Indians have their Ramayana and Upanishads with a vast array of deities. Native Americans, Polynesians, and Indigenous peoples the world over have their guides, their above and below Beings. All peoples have had versions of Priests, Ministers, Shaman, Chiefs, Kings, Queens, Emperors, Pharoahs, Popes and Professors.

Slowly, over millennia the mortality of these “god-men” became exposed. Poison god-men appeared, corrupted by powers vested in them. Fragile, mortal, fallible men, attempting to deflect all power back to some divine source, became transparent.

“Look, he bleeds!” the people cried. A spear lanced the side of the god-man.

So, what is the divine force? Who are the immortal beings? How can common person have access to this divine realm? Over and over dynasties and regimes have claimed exclusive access to divine right. Time after time they have crumbled in the face of their own mortal vanity, power hunger and ultimate ignorance.

“Ignore the man behind the curtain” is no longer possible.

Smoke before the mirror is blown away by the breeze of insightful perception. Sham leaders, would-be god-men, so-called infallible leaders have been brought down at every turn.

Enter the modern scientific method. Our blue planet orbiting the sun. We activate our personal, human powers of observation. We make hypotheses and test them. We accept both “success” and “failure” of our experiments as the ultimate arbiter of truth.

Even here we find the “observer bias.” Facts become murky. True only in so far as the eye of the observer sees what it wants to see. A world of alternative facts emerges, all fades into shades of gray.

White light shines through a prism, breaks into all the colors of the rainbow!

Where is the true font of wisdom? Where in the ever changing flux of matter and energy does one find a solid truth upon which to stand, to hold true? Where, who and what can one turn to when searching for enduring truth and ultimate reality?

For each human being, this is a journey. It involves a deep dive of discovery of ultimate personal sovereignty. On this personal journey, five freedoms have been articulated.

Awaken your Five Freedoms! Perceive, think, feel, choose and imagine!

Personal sovereignty calls for personal accountability. If you do not have the right to your own perceptions, thoughts, feelings, if you defer to the god-men, or goddess-women to tell you what to see, think and feel, then your own desires and choices are of no account. It does not matter what your point of view might be. From there you cannot be held accountable.

How grand and easy that seems to be! And yet how fraught with peril. How many times must a woman hear the words, “Don’t worry your pretty little head!”? How long must we suffer with ignorant men pulling levers and playing god, and telling us “Father knows best!”? How intricate and treacherous this path to discovering personal sovereignty when in community or family. How thick the weaving of interdependency, how thin the line of co-dependency.

When the cloak of personal sovereignty is thread bare, ripped, torn and poorly fitted, we are in trouble.

So where do we turn to affirm our perceptions, refine our thoughts, discern our actual feelings? When emotions rise and fall like tides, how can we root down into that place from which one can honestly discover true desires and guide oneself to wise choices?

We may still turn to holy scriptures, stories handed down through generations. Poets, prophets and visionaries in their meditations and creative expressions bring piercing insight to life. Be careful now that you not find oneself again in the grip of some ancient dogma, some “laying down of truth,” a so-called “truth for all time.” The apotheosis of man to god has been repeated over and over in the history of peoples all over the world.

Decide rather to simply develop yourself through the guidance of old tales. Rather than follow a dogmatic bonding allegiance to another’s truth, begin to use discipline to help you find your own path to authentic, personal sovereignty.

It has been said that, “Personal vision is the highest authority. In the absence of personal vision, follow tradition.”

Wise tradition can guide us in a daily regimen, an embodied practice, an education that gives us tools, builds our skills to discover our true self. What is required is a method to clarify perceptions. To sort through myriad thoughts that flash through consciousness. A reliable path of introspection and slowing down into truly feeling, and developing emotional intelligence. And accompanying this pursuit, the necessity of that solemn vow to personal responsibility.

Gather wise allies around you. True allies don’t do your thinking for you, or tell you what you “should” feel. Rather they support you in your authentic personal inquiry, and ownership of your point of view. And they watch as you hold yourself to it.

True allies show themselves through supporting your personal expression, authentic desire and empowered choice.

We find ourselves at play in the fields of life. Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Space surround us. These are the ultimate arbiters of the conditions of our life walk. We breathe the air, drink the water, warm ourselves by the fire, nourish ourselves by the good earth, and take inspiration from the rotation of the heavenly spheres. Light and shadow dance before us, day in, day out, season by season, breath by breath and step by step.

These are the Gods, goddesses, deities, devas, kings and queens, lofty ideas handed down in stories, through priests and prophets, poets, songwriters and great Nature. They guide us to awaken wisdom within. Our greatest allies are not those who seek to rule over our consciousness, but rather those who recognize and support our unique and beautiful personal expression.

Find your allies in this way, and you will be forever satisfied with the abundance of life that supports your every breath, in body, mind and spirit. With every step you take, every move you make, your creative expression is your greatest gift to the ever unfolding story of the world.

Play your part! Add your voice and vision to the great tapestry of life!

Find for yourself the allies that do not insist that you to see it their way, but guide you to see it your way! Wise allies help you honor yourself and bring forth that which lies within you. Good mentors, help you refine the genius that is your contribution.

Like Paris, I ask you here, what do you choose? Hera, Athena or Aphrodite, or some other high virtue? What do you hold most precious?  What qualities within you will you water and grow into the genius of your contribution to the world?





Applying the Three Pillars of Practice

Applying the Three Pillars of Practice

The Three Pillars of Practice

In mastery, there are three stages: Practice, Experience and Insight.

In the practice stage you repeat your forms over and over as you reach toward mastering the craft. With this repetition you gain experience. Over and over and over accumulated experience grows in your body and mind. From this experience, you will gain insight. And the insights illuminate the skills that are building in you, feeding a sense of profound accomplishment.

What’s important is that you do not stand still in your insight! Keep growing. Turn those insights back into your practice. Gain more experience, and stay open to ever new insights. These three pillars will accompany you on the path toward mastery in any field. They have certainly been ever present for me over thirty years of Shiatsu practice.
Shiatsu is a Japanese bodywork discipline, it follows the many arts of Japan such as tea ceremony, flower arranging, archery and Tsumo wrestling. The method of learning to move and respond from your Hara, the center of your being, your feeling center, is at the core of all Japanese arts. And this is supremely evident in the floor-based bodywork practice of Shiatsu.
Of course, you don’t have to have a desire to crawl around on the floor and move people’s bodies about in this way, awakening and activating life energy of body mind and spirit through acu-points and meridians, to appreciate the three pillars of practice. You can apply this understanding to any and every endeavor in your life.
The areas of life experience where I’ve applied these principles have included the arts of HeartMind Shiatsu and Qigong, Singing, Writing,Tai Chi, Relationships, Co-parenting, Shamanic Ceremonial Ritual, Grief, Pain and Trauma Healing, and Men’s Work.

In a series of essays, I offer you an in depth article each week. The articles will cover a wide range of topics rooted in these areas, from my decades of personal and professional experience.

In applying the three pillars to the craft of writing, I’m following the maxim that “a good article isn’t just written, it is re-written!” I’m growing and gaining insight into each of my topics, as I write from my own personal experience and gather insight from the current conversations of various masters in each field. My sincere endeavor is to share the insights that I have gained to help you develop your own mastery of living.
I have three articles in process. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, enjoy applying the three pillars of practice to whatever endeavor you are engaged in today!

Practice regularly. Build experience. Gain insight. And Don’t stand still in your insight! Apply it back into your practice.

Over time, your mastery of your craft will help the entire world be a better place.

Wishing you a fine Sunday!
Matthew Sweigart, AOBTA® – Certified Instructor
Applying the Three Pillars of Practice

Why Chinese Medicine?

Why Chinese Medicine?

So, I’m not into political posturing. I don’t think that Chinese medicine actually has that much to do with the Chinese. Well, it has something to do with the Chinese. I mean only in so far as they had the original perceptions of life energy flow that were articulated in this way. Beyond that, it has little to do with the Chinese, and much more to do with the perception of life energy flow for all human beings.

The ancient sages articulated a comprehensive mapping of the surface of the body correlated to all the various life functions that need to be performed on a daily basis. That is the brilliance of Chinese medicine. In ancient, early history, sages and masters sitting in contemplation of how things worked put together a complete system of evaluation of the ebb and flow of all things in nature.

What strikes me about this system is that the Chinese weren’t the only ones to see things in these ways. Acute observation of the nature of life and all things in the living ecosphere has been a part of every culture in history. Some use microscopes and telescopes to focus the vision on a very narrow and precise range of activities. Others broaden the lens, step back and take in a wide range of phenomenon and look for the correlations.

I would put Chinese medicine in the latter category to start, and then discover how it narrows down the field, step by step, to put together a complete picture of the workings of life on this planet within the greater context of the movement of our planet through the heavens. Seeing the patterns at the core of all activity, the interconnections and interactions of all things, is the core of Chinese medicine.

For myself, as a bodywork therapist, working with issues of body, mind and spirit through healing touch, movement and inquiry, the Chinese medicine map has been my key tool for deriving insight, seeing patterns and making artful and creative interventions to bring about greater harmony where dissonance has settled in.

Like a concert musician tuning their instrument, Chinese medicine identifies the strings and the keys of the body mind spirit, and supports the tuning up of the vibrations of each string, so that when the tones emerge they reveal a beautiful melody with intricate harmonies.

Examples of this ancient perceptual approach to harmony arises in every session I give. I was recently working with a client who reacted with great sensitivity to a point that I contacted just below her knee. When I pressed upon the point between the superior heads of the tibia and fibula, just below the knee joint, she almost jumped to the ceiling. And I was not pressing that hard either!

She went on to tell me that she has had this particular pain for many years. No chiropractor, orthopedic physician or physical therapist could explain it, or find anything “wrong” with the tissue in this area. Well, for those of us versed in the meridian map of Chinese medicine, we know very well that this point on the body is called “Leg Three Miles,” point number 36 on the Stomach meridian. It has to do with promoting stamina and endurance.

Without laboring my client with the theory, I simply asked/stated that this point is about endurance. Enduring this, enduring that, handling whatever arises, day after day. And as I acknowledge her for her long journey and deep need for stamina and endurance (she’s a single mom of two teenage daughters!) it was like a thousand light bulbs went off in her consciousness. She actually began to cry for all that she has had to endure.

Chinese medicine, in its brilliance, had given me an interpretation of the use of this particular point. And to my client, she thought that I was psychic, and she had an instant breakthrough regarding this long standing pain in her upper shin.

Interestingly enough, I was also drawn to work the area below her inner ankle. Again, this was a tender point and the site of long standing trauma. My client had been a gymnast in her youth. You could just see her tumbling down the mats, and over the apparatus, flying through the air in somersaults and sticking her landings, repeatedly giving insult and injury to her ankles, not to mention her knees, hips and entire body.

But all that external physical repetitive stress aside, while working with the energies at her inner ankle, I was drawn to make a statement describing her personal stance toward life. “This is me. Take it or leave it,” I suggested. And immediately she once more exclaimed, “Oh my God! How did you know? That’s my mantra!” Indeed, how did I know?

Once again, perhaps I’m somewhat psychic. We all are, to a certain extent. And I’ve had thousands and thousands of hours interacting with clients in the treatment room over three decades. But all that aside, simply put it is the beauty and power of the Chinese medicine model. In their brilliance the ancients saw that the inner ankle is reflective of the deepest, inner truths that one holds about oneself. The inquiry goes like this. “Who am I today?” And this inner inquiry can lead to a stance toward life based on who you know yourself to be.

So you see, I don’t need to be psychic to make such inquiry. I simply need to know the point, and what the ancients have described as the function of that point. Knowing that function, I can help my clients craft empowered and creative responses to their life challenges, equipped with valuable personal insight from the patterns of their bodily pains and sensations.

With another client, I was honored to meet the complex concerns of aligning action with inner truth. Here I was grateful for the Chinese medicine technology of understanding the relationship between the Liver and the Heart. You see the Liver is the channel that relates to visionary action. And the Heart is the organ wherein one’s deepest truths are held. It stands to reason that in order for one’s visionary action to be satisfying, it is best to align it with one’s deepest truths. Yet, this was not easy for this particular client. There was a disconnect.

As I explored with him the nature of his condition we found many jagged memories of difficult interpersonal interactions. His biography was littered with confrontations with loved ones, some violent, some simply neglectful. These memories were painful and many. And Chinese medicine teaches us that memories are held in the Blood.

Extend that to the Liver and the Heart functions, and we can see the problem. The Liver detoxifies, and nourishes the Blood. The Heart circulates the Blood. If the Blood is filled with toxic memories and experiences, then the Liver will be overworked, and the Heart will not be all too interested in circulating that toxic soup around the body.

It’s essential for the Liver to be supported to clarify and nourish the Blood, so the Heart has an ample supply of healthy fluid to circulate around the body to support all life. Utilizing the sensitive points of Liver and Heart on the body, the big toe, ankle, calf and inner thigh, and the sensitive area on the arm under the bicep and along the ulna to the pinky finger, and giving the client exercises to move these channels, I helped him learn to support the purification of his memory-filled Blood, and gently pump his Heart. The challenges that this client faces were given an airing and a path to healing.

Again, Chinese medicine taught me, “To nourish the Blood you must move the Blood. And to move the Blood you need to nourish the Blood.” In this case, helping the client to come to terms with the insults and injuries of his life, and to lift out of victimhood and into empowered co-creator of his life, with point work, meridian stretching, breath-work and right mindfulness, we discovered a path to move and nourish his Blood. And we brought greater personal truth and clarity to the creation of his taking satisfying visionary action in his world.

These are just three examples from thousands in which my work has been supported and informed by this brilliant system of awareness and understanding. Beginning with my introduction to Yin and Yang as a model for understanding how the energy of life moves, to the intricacies of the meridian map of the body, I have been inspired and supported time and time again with the wisdom and sophistication of this vast system of life.

So again, I ask, why Chinese medicine? Because this brilliant system masterfully traces the intricate harmony and balance of all life functions, in nature and in the three tiered awareness of body, mind and spirit in human life. There is simply no other system in the world like it. It maps the intricate correlations of mind and spirit into full embodiment through acu-points and meridian channels of life energy circulating throughout the living body.

The best part is, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a master physicist to put these principles of life to work for you. In my career life, I have created several study guides that share this vast system in a highly accessible manner. And right now, my entire collection of educational materials is on sale as a set. If you want to add the power of this masterful system of awareness and understanding to your healthy lifestyle choices, I urge you to consider adding my highly accessible materials to your health and healing library today!

This inspiring work has provided with me with profound and insightful support in my clinical practice for more than 30 years, and it is my deep honor to bring it to life in clinic and classroom, books and charts and video lessons. I encourage you to take the step today to get started in deepening your skill with these incredible tools, to help you create your own best, most-realized life, for yourself, your family, your clients and the world!

Thank you so much for subscribing to our email notifications. We hope you’ll stay in touch, and we look forward to serving you for years to come. Some of our future articles include “Calling in Wise Allies,” “Stages of Awakening Healing Energy” “Nourishing the Starving Inner Being,” and “Gods of Plenty, Gods of Destruction, the Path to Balance.” Keep your eyes open for these and many more articles on healing and growth in the days and months to come. I hope to see you in person or online in class or clinic in the near future!

Much love,
Matthew Sweigart, AOBTA®-CI
HeartMind Healing Arts

The current complete Sweigart HeartMind Shiatsu Collection of publications is now available as a set at a special price! With your order, you will receive Pathways of Qi, Touching Ki, HeartMind Shiatsu Meridian Chart (large), the HeartMind Bodywork Harmonizing Heaven and Earth DVD with Companion manual, and Elemental Meditations. The total retail value for this collection is $221. For a limited time, you can purchase the entire collection for just $157!

Simply click on the following link and you’ll be taken directly to the page where you can order you complete collection of works on Shiatsu, Five Elements, Meridians and Meridian Qigong by Matthew Sweigart! A great addition to any professional library.

P.S. In my next live class, I’ll be leading a one day workshop Touching Qi from Surface to Source, with the Eastern Medical Therapies Education Center in Boston, MA, March, 15th! For those on the East Coast, I’d be happy to see you! Check out more information on the program here!

Beware the Rampaging Hun, by Steven Alpern, L.Ac.

Beware the Rampaging Hun, by Steven Alpern, L.Ac.


Beware the Rampaging Hun

by Steven Alpern, L. Ac.

Human beings engage an amazing adventure in life. An individual Shen (Spirit) resides within the jing (essence), which has been consolidated by mixing the jing of both parents. A person is born, who experiences the interactions of life, acts to sustain his or her individuality, and records everything that happens. Individuals have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of themselves and the universe through their presence and cultivation until the final crowning of life, when they return to the Dao.

Everybody cultivates something; a few even do it with conscious intention. Our lives are a qigong practice, because we breathe life into every moment. Many modern people cultivate some form of food stagnation through intemperate eating habits, which follow common compulsions. Far more than satisfying needs for sustenance, these people use food and drink to address desires, including the desire to be distracted away from unresolved emotional or spiritual struggle. This particular means of coping with emotional distress also provides “excess” humors (blood, fluids) into which the embodied spirit can embed its unfinished business.

Habituated lifestyle choices support and nourish each individual’s particular mix of qi and blood stagnations. Many modern people nourish and support “adrenal exhaustion,” which we might label yuan (source) qi depletion, by overtaxing themselves and accumulating stagnations. That process is further sustained when “exhausted” individuals develop dependence on stimulants to activate their qi in the morning. A healthy person arises and is awake, because wei qi – the post- natal expression of yang (activation) – moves to the exterior with the opening of one’s eyes. When wei qi is entangled in various stagnations, the individual often needs to stimulate it to come out, so he or she can engage the activities of the day.

The habituated interpretations and reactions that an individual cultivates become the context through which all of his or her interactions flow. Attachment to entanglements begets struggle. When individuals experience their interactions through entangled interpretations they form conflicted emotional relationships with their lives. Generating smooth flow of qi and blood from that experience requires either suppression/repression of unresolved struggle, or substantial conscious attention to releasing blockages and stagnations. The former may appear functional in the short-term by displacing entanglements and stagnations into dormancy, but that capacity is limited.

The Neijing (Inner Classic) articulated profound theories for differentiating the struggles of individual human life. Individuals typically project habituated interpretations, which are contained in the distinct channels, onto current circumstances and events processed through the primary channels. The unresolved byproducts of everyday life colored by those unconsciously projected interpretations accumulate in either the luo vessels or divergent channels. They may be embedded in various humors at myriad locations, depending on specifics of the individual’s process for suppressing or repressing them.

Individually embodied spirits engage and accumulate experience through the combined agency of the five aspects of Shen (Spirit) – the five shen. Each of these shen is associated with the primal movement of one of the five phases (wuxing), is contained within its zang (vital organ), and expresses interactions through its paired fu (storehouse). Together the five shen provide both the motive force of the individual’s life, and his or her capacity to learn and grow.

shen (Fire) – the light of awareness which allows sensory input
yi (Earth) – the ability to contain consciousness and embody
po (Metal) – the ability to identify with the body’s immediate needs
zhi (Water) – the willingness to polarize toward the world as an individual
hun (Wood) – the capacity to accumulate individual experience

Each individual’s life relies on his or her ability to use and contain the light of awareness to fulfill the embodied spirit’s immediate needs. Doing so exercises the individual’s willingness to maintain his or her separate life, which then records all experience. Individuals grow and evolve through life by integrating into both their spirits and bodies the processed results of their experiences and actions.

Among the primary channels in the familiar “time-clock” sequence, the liver is last. It accumulates and stores the emotional residue of all experience, which has been processed by the other channels. In somatic theory the liver “stores blood.” Since blood is the mother of qi, stagnations of accumulated blood support qi stagnations, so the liver and gall bladder are also responsible for enforcing the smooth flow of qi. This is done through both:

  • generating forceful and assertive impulse to penetrate through any blockages or accumulations
  • displacing unresolved struggles or conflicts away from the primary channels into dormancy. It’s no wonder that Chinese medical thinkers chose so many gall bladder points in representing the daimai, since it provides the constitutional capacity to suspend unresolved issues.

The classical Chinese worldview identified three hun, which is the aspect of spirit that resides in the liver. These represent three modes of being, through which individuals accumulate experience:

The hun of Nothingness — dis-identifies from any meaning or significance that may be projected onto circumstances and events (a particular ideal of Buddhism and Daoism)

The hun of Oneness – dis-identifies from the perception of separateness (a particular ideal of Christianity and many other religions)

The hun of Duality (or Causation) – identifies with the meaning and significance the individual’s point of view projects onto circumstances, events, people and things.

The uncultivated consciousness of virtually all individuals exhibits the Hun of Duality. While accumulating the emotional residue of experience, that hun places the individual either above (superior to) the embodied spirit’s experience or inferior to it. The Hun of Duality arises from the individual compulsively grasping at the veracity of his or her projected point of view. When an

individual’s hun runs rampant, his or her self-talk maintains a superior (or inferior) position relative to all experience. That orientation impedes new inputs from entering, or distorts them to match the individual’s impacted interpretations about life.

Though each person’s “rampaging hun” exhibits a primary orientation – either above or below, each also projects a complementary one to preserve the sense of balance that each soul requires. A few sample pairs include:

  • Anger/pride and sadness
  • Rage and shame
  • Arrogance and depression

These are functional pairs, as they arise directly out of each other. For instance, a person dominated by rage always feels extremely superior – to the point of not recognizing the legitimacy of another’s needs and feelings. In their rage they do something terrible and hurtful. In a calmer moment, they recognize the nature of their act, and become ashamed. The shame of their violent acts haunts them, and they feel worthless, as shame moves the embodied spirit to the lowest of lows.

Eventually, the individual’s attachment to survival recognizes that IT must get the personality extracted from the pit of its self-imposed hell. The force that raises the embodied spirit out of shame is the very same that becomes rage when it gets stuck on some event or circumstance that challenges the individual’s sense of value. This cycle continues until the person recognizes his or her folly.

Likewise, anger or unbridled pride naturally pushes other people away, and then the embodied spirit can experience the sadness of isolation and alienation. Sadness naturally descends, so it brings the angry individual under better control. It may also mire him or her in depression or insecurity. Overtaken by this gloom, the individual rebels against his or her perceived victimization, and asserts his or her being and value.

The more wildly one oscillates between the poles of these functional pairs, the more completely the rampaging hun dominates the individual’s personality and experience. Such people are often emotionally volatile and unpredictable, because the internal component of every experience can shift so wildly. This situation expresses somatically as internal wind, which the embodied spirit often tries to control by weighing it down with either dampness or phlegm. Those factors and stagnant blood, which is the somatic version of stagnant emotions, accumulate to block vital function.

The flux of experience generally comes fast and furious, especially because of the individual’s projected entanglements. Each “new experience” combines the events and circumstances that occur (externally), and the individual’s (internal) disposition toward them. That disposition is unconsciously projected onto everything that occurs. There is one enduring question that almost every rampaging hun can benefit from considering:

Would you rather be right or be happy?

True happiness is far more than feeling well entertained by life. It entails letting go to allow Liver blood to nourish Heart qi. Rather than being entangled in stagnation, such an individual cultivates release and liberation. Are the emotional conflicts sustained by the rampaging hun worth devoting one’s life and vitality toward maintaining?

In addition to miring individuals in their own dramas, the rampaging hun is blind to the subtle workings of Dao. The hun of Duality separates the individual’s awareness from the complex fabric of influences that support us all, and enrolls in the delusions of its own point of view. The Dao, including its expression within the microcosm of an embodied spirit’s physiology, can only be know by seekers who are willing to notice and release the “monkey mind” to be present in the moment. We are most dangerous when we think we understand. Beware the rampaging hun!

Mr. Alpern teaches seminars on the divergent/distinct channels. For more information about his seminars, contact Golden Flower Chinese Herbs.

Illustration conceived by Matthew Sweigart, drawn by Laila Rodriguez.

30for30!!! Celebrating 30 years in the Healing Arts!

30for30!!! Celebrating 30 years in the Healing Arts!

meridian chart 11-17Join with me in Celebrating thirty years in the Healing arts! Take 30% Off for all my books, chart, DVD, and Mp4 Digital trainings, with the coupon code: 30for30!!! Now through my birthday, August 22, 2017!

It was on just such a summer day, July 1987 that my full-time professional Shiatsu career began. The SweatLodge leader (my first lodge of many!) was making prayers about how we would each serve in the coming Earth Changes. When he said, “Some people will be movers and shakers, but most of us will just help people out, day by day!”  I heard my calling loud and clear. “Just do Shiatsu! You can do this!”

In my Leonine personality type, I’d always made up this story that I was supposed to do great things. And yet, that was such a daunting prospect it actually stopped me from moving forward. An example of this was my feelings about my singing. I always wanted to sing like Pavarotti. But since I was in no way capable of singing like Pavarotti, then I didn’t pursue my singing as a career at all. (May be a good thing that i spared the world… but not really…) Being myself is the actual key that was difficult for me to unlock.

Then in that SweatLodge, my two years of Shiatsu study at the Ohashi Institute finally came together in something that I was very capable of. A baby step forward, just “helping people out day by day.” And from that beautiful moment my full time practice has unfolded, now over three decades! I am humbled and grateful for the many gifts, and the many beautiful healings, with many amazing and wonderful people, on this powerful and meaningful life journey!

To celebrate with me, you can now order any or all of my titles for 30% off!  On the checkout page, simply enter the coupon code: 30for30!!! in the coupon field, and WahLah, your price will melt down 30%!  Offer good from now until my birthday, August 22nd, 2017. For those of you planning to enroll in my HeartMind Shiatsu Professional training, this is a great time to purchase all your books and charts for the training!

Let’s all help the human race to a brighter future, simply helping out our brothers and sisters… day by day!!!


Matwork Mastery! August 10-12, 2018!

Matwork Mastery! August 10-12, 2018!

Matwork Mastery!
Essential Skills Bodywork Therapists need
to build their practice to the next level with sensitivity and ease! 

This exciting, experiential workshop provides Bodywork Therapists with outstanding continuing education. With a focus on hands-on applications, this class provides inspiration and tools to help you take your practice to the next level.

• A step-by-step guide to developing the best body mechanics in bodywork therapy.

• Give deep, and connected bodywork that truly satisfies your clients’ needs, without burning your body out!

• Beyond just helping your clients feel better, take them through a profound healing experience, that will keep them coming back for more!

• The number one secret is making a deep connection with your client’s life energy, and knowing how to clear the blocks and stresses that have accumulated in their body.

• You’ve known there’s something more for a long time. Now is the time to dive in deeper and discover the true depth of what’s possible in your practice!

• Release unnecessary effort in your practice! Learn the art and skill of leveraged bodywork, and focused consciousness in Matwork Mastery! 

August 10-12, 2018. Friday 6-9pm, Saturday/Sunday 10-5.

Clik here to Read all about it!  

Beware the Rampaging Hun, by Steven Alpern, L.Ac.

The Five Freedoms, and the Five Elements

In my recent Pathways of Qi, Exploring the Meridian Medicine Wheel workshop in Chicago, I introduced the idea of the five freedoms. These are essential to exercise in the presence of unconditional love for a true, full and deep sense of wholeness and self-acceptance. They offer a sure way to escape the struggle of toxic shame and self-deprecation, and to claim and exercise them is a significant piece of ongoing personal cultivation.

The five freedoms simply stated are: 1) to perceive, 2) to think, 3) to feel, 4) to want and 5) to choose. In order to live fully from our authentic and realized self, we practice affirming our five freedoms.

  1. We affirm our own unique perceptions of the world around us. We have the ability to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the truth of our experience. No one else can tell us what to perceive, though conversations with others regarding their perceptions may shape our perceptual experience. What is essential here is to know that ultimately it is our right and responsibility to trust and grow our own perceptions.
  2. We affirm our right and responsibility to think for ourselves. No one can do our thinking for us, though perhaps many have through the art of persuasion tried to influence our thinking. Even education in a system can be a subtle form of external conditions shaping our thoughts. Again, what is essential here is to realize that we are ultimately responsible for our thoughts, and knowing when and how to express them in a good way. Sinclair Lewis’s character Babbit was a perfect example of someone who struggled to find his own original thoughts. Of course, this is a caricature of a human being, but it can be hauntingly real if you tend to be overly influenced by the strongly expressed opinions of those whom you invest with authority.
  3. Affirming your rights and responsibilities to your feelings is an essential skill to develop in order to live a highly functional life with a minimum of victim thinking. To me, this area is the one that ultimately is completely our own. No one can tell you what to feel. No one can make you feel anything. Your feelings are your own. No more can you say “you make me mad.” Rather say,” I find that I am mad when I reflect upon your behavior and your words.” And that is where your work begins. To own your feelings is to have the ability to be strong in your authentic self-expression. To know what you are feeling in any giving moment or setting is to have in your consciousness the power you need to be fully alive. To learn to navigate your own inner emotional landscape and to fully own the rights and responsibilities that go with your emotional being is perhaps the single most important task you can undertake.
  4. To affirm your right to what you want, and what you desire is another essential step on the path of personal freedom. And it is founded on the previous three freedoms. If you are free to perceive, think and feel for yourself, you will be clear about what you want and desire in your life in any given moment. And here the art of being in relationship is most sorely tested. The fact that there are so many choices, and so many things, places, experiences, available to us to chose from, and that everyone has their own unique set of tastes and needs, the art of doing things together that everyone in the party agrees they also want is a high art indeed. of course if we were completely alone, we might always in every moment find that what we want is never in conflict with what others want. Yet this is not the case. We live in social settings, and in order to maintain social harmony, there are often compromises, or delays and a need for a great deal of flexibility. But the clearer you are about your own desires, you can use them to point the way to your best outcomes. And like the Rolling Stones song tells us, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, I think you’ll find, you get what you need!”
  5. Finally the right to chose is the last essential step on the path of freedom. Based on all the previous freedoms, your own personal choice is before you. No one can ultimately make any choice for you. You must make it inside yourself, and then work to actualize it in the world. Make a commitment to the world you wish to live in, the choices you make to devote your time, attention, energy and love to, and watch your world come into focus and begin to yield fulfillment and satisfaction. yet at the same time, see that this freedom demands stepping up to your rights and responsibilities. If you have chosen for  yourself, then you have no one else to blame. This is not easy! For many, the idea of having another person chose for them can lead to a sense of relief. Gosh, I admit, sometimes it’s just hard to know exactly what the right choice is. And giving that over to a trusted friend or advisor can really help guide the way. But that is the key… a trusted friend or advisor must also always know that ultimately your reaction to the choice and alignment with the choice is essential. For myself, I like to use a “non-human source” as a guide. Some sort of divine or spirit being to help guide me. There’s a lot to be said for the line in the Lord’s prayer “Thy will be done!” To align yourself with the divine purpose for you is a profound key to fulfilling this final freedom.

So now that we are familiar with the five freedoms, how do these relate to the Five Elements. For this, I draw the link to the daily cycle of energy flow.

Perceptions I see as related to the Metal Element and the Wei Qi field. Our contact with the world around us is the first edge of experience.

Thoughts relate to the Earth Element, our nourishment and rumination energies. We take things into us, and we roll them around in our mind’s eye. The spirit level here is known as the Yi. The Yi is the rational intellect and it falls in the purview of the Spleen Channel energies.

Feelings / Emotions I give to the Fire Element, the element of the Heart and Small Intestine, Triple Warmer, and Pericardium. These energies are deeply related to our inner world of truth, interpretation and essential self-awareness and realization. There is a strong argument to be made for the emotions to be rooted in the Water element as well, but here is where I see Water being most closely related to realm of wants and desires.

Water governs the deep, driving forces that shape our motivations into life. Our Zhi, our will forces are here in the Kidneys, and they arise from within us, even from our unconscious. One can even say that Heart is the awareness that we are conscious of, and Kidney the awareness that is revealing itself as we go along. There are few places in life where this is more clearly revealed than in our wants and desires. An old German song speaks of Hans, who has everything he wants. But what he wants he doesn’t have, and what he has, he doesn’t want! And yet, he has everything he wants! We can all relate to this in one way or another as we seek that elusive feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction along the journey of life.

And finally, to chose, simply put, this is the realm of the Wood Element. Our Gall Bladder and Liver are charged with the task of making the strategic choices at each step of the way. To weight the two sides (or many sides) of any given situation and to take the ultimate responsibility of making the choice. And then once the choice is made, to learn and grow, striving ever onward in life toward the goals and rewards that await a “job well done.” 

So these are the correlations. And in the task of fully embodying your five freedoms I encourage you to look and see where you may be weak or strong, need attention, or can rest confidently in your sense of achievement. If you struggle with your emotions, practice Fire Element cultivation. If you are not sure about what you perceive, check your Wei Qi field and develop your Lung and Large Intestine Qi. Apply this to each of the five freedoms, and use the Five Elements and their corresponding meridians to access the energy you need to more and more fully realize those freedoms in all areas of your life. And any place where you see your freedoms being compromised, slow down, pause, take a break and honestly assess where you are at. Then affirm once more your right and responsibility to be fully in your perceptions, thoughts, feelings, desires and choices.

I encourage you to take this into your life and put these five freedoms into action. In so doing, you will eradicate the monster of self-deprecation and banish the demon of toxic shame from running your life forever. And further, make a commitment to surround yourself with others who affirm your right to your five freedoms, and also claim the right to their own. It can be a lot of fun to be in a dedicated group of beings on the path of freedom. Let freedom ring!

And… See you in class!





Basic Training 2016: Enrollment opens Oct. 12th

We will begin accepting applications for our 2016 Basic Training in Boulder, CO next Mon., Oct. 12th.

We are incredibly excited to run the program again next year, having evolved and refined our presentation, incorporating student feedback from this year’s program.  Newly graduated Certified HeartMind Instructors Becky Whitmer, Dave Goetz, and Jessica Van Antwerp will teach the first three levels of next year’s Basic Training, and our lead instructor Matthew Sweigart will fly in from California to teach the final level.

Prepare for a deep dive into Traditional Chinese Medicine and all of its mystery.  Learn how the Five Elements express themselves within Nature and within human beings to gain a better understanding of people in your life.  Learn techniques to balance your own energy so that you may be healthier and livelier in your own life.  And learn how to balance the energy in other people’s bodies so that they may be relieved of common aches and pains and feel their own vitality radiating out of every pore.

Stay tuned for application details…


Five Element Flow – HeartMind Shiatsu 102

Building upon the content of 101 students now learn the Theory of the Five Elements and how they manifest through the organ networks to enliven body/mind/spirit. The traditional correspondences of the Elements are the cornerstone of the course, grounding students in the basic attributes of each of the Five Elements and how they express themselves in Nature and in Humanity. Students begin to discern the signs and symptoms of each of the Elements, and in this way, begin to practice the art of creating treatment plans tailor made to the specific needs of each client. Yoga-inspired Meridian Stretch Exercises are practiced as both a tool of treatment and assessment, and traditional  shu point assessment methods will be introduced.

103: Balancing Yin & Yang

In this level students learn the art of pattern recognition through a study of kyo/jitsu deficiency excess model of Master Masuanga’s Zen Shiatsu system and the use of the Four tools of Assessment: Looking, Asking, Listening/Smelling and Touching. All previously learned material is integrated into flowing sessions led by movement, awareness and pattern recognition with multiple points of contact using thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows and knees. Additional elegant positions and movement combinations are introduced.  Much like vinyasa flows in yoga, various sequences of movement and acu-point stimulation are practiced to give students a full range of technical approaches for clinical application.  Masunaga’s Front and Back Assessment Areas are studied, and effective assessment palpation practiced. A semi-private tutorial with the Instructor is required between 103 and 104.