Last Month’s Archive

 

Activated Qi Meditation Notes


Week: Monday, 2nd to Friday, 6th October 2017

Hi and welcome to the Autumn!  I hope all is well in your world.

This Month’s Meditation Topic:  It is time to help prepare ourselves for the upcoming winter months by raising the vitality of our Wei Qi.

I expect you’ve noticed that the soaring heights of summer temperatures are on the wane, leaving us with autumn, colourful yes, but also the beginning of those chill winds!  From the Chinese perspective those winds can whip-away your energy in the time it takes to twirl an autumn leaf in your fingers!  So, as ever this is time to start your Wei Qi practices and keep your cockles safe and warm.

An explanation and background info about why we work with Wei Qi next week.  First though I want to revisit a piece of related research which we looked at a few years ago.    I’m not expecting you to replicate what they achieved by Christmas but it is food for thought especially when so many of you record the warmth that you generate during the meditation practices.     

It's funny what some scientists are drawn to look at and as a result sometimes miss a key point lying in open view.  I can see why this particular study was chosen, it’s quite dramatic.  For those of us who work with the Chinese tradition it would obviously be important for there to be a study into anything connected with qi; something that those of us who practice are all too aware of and yet it remains elusive to our current technology.

So, let’s look at this particular piece of research and seriously, please read the caveat at the end it is important, don’t just skim read it even if life is busy! 

In an article entitled, Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality a team of researchers showed, for the first time, that it is possible for core body temperature to be controlled by the brain. The scientists found that core body temperature increases can be achieved using certain meditation techniques (g-tummo) which could help in boosting immunity to fight infectious diseases or immunodeficiency.

Published in science journal PLOS ONE (quite readable, the detail is fascinating) in March 2013, the study, led by Associate Professor Maria Kozhevnikov from the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, documented reliable core body temperature increases for the first time in Tibetan nuns practising g-tummo meditation. Previous studies on g-tummo meditators showed only increases in peripheral body temperature in the fingers and toes. The g-tummo meditative practice controls "inner energy" and is considered by Tibetan practitioners as one of the most sacred spiritual practices in the region. Monasteries maintaining g-tummo traditions are very rare and are mostly located in the remote areas of eastern Tibet.

The researchers collected data during a unique ceremony in Tibet, where nuns were able to raise their core body temperature and dry up wet sheets wrapped around their bodies in the cold Himalayan weather (-25 degree Celsius) while meditating. Using electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and temperature measures, the team observed increases in core body temperature up to 38.3 degree Celsius.

A second study was conducted with Western participants who used a breathing technique of the g-tummo meditative practice and they were also able to increase their core body temperature, within limits.

The two aspects of g-tummo meditation that lead to temperature increases are "vase breath" and concentrative visualisation. "Vase breath" is a specific breathing technique which causes thermogenesis, which is a process of heat production. The other technique, concentrative visualisation, involves focusing on a mental imagery of flames along the spinal cord in order to prevent heat losses. Both techniques work in conjunction leading to elevated temperatures up to the moderate fever zone.

Associate Professor Kozhevnikov explained, "Practicing vase breathing alone is a safe technique to regulate core body temperature in a normal range. The participants whom I taught this technique to were able to elevate their body temperature, within limits, and reported feeling more energised and focused. With further research, non-Tibetan meditators could use vase breathing to improve their health and regulate cognitive performance."

Professor Kozhevnikov will continue to explore the effects of guided imagery on neurocognitive and physiological aspects. She is currently training a group of people to regulate their body temperature using vase breathing, which has potential applications in the field of medicine. Furthermore, the use of guided mental imagery in conjunction with vase breathing may lead to higher body temperature increases and better health. 

I’ve checked this and Professor Kozhevnikov is no longer carrying out these studies as she has taken up a post at Harvard.  It would have been interesting if there was a follow up study.

Source: 

Maria Kozhevnikov, James Elliott, Jennifer Shephard, Klaus Gramann. Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (3): e58244 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058244

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0058244

The following extracts from the original article is where I have concerns about what they are saying. 

To conclude, the findings indicate that there are two factors affecting temperature increase. The first is the somatic component which causes thermogenesis, while the second is the neurocognitive component (meditative visualization) that aids in sustaining temperature increases for longer periods. Without meditative visualization, both meditators and non-meditators were capable of using the Forceful Breath vase breathing only for a limited time, resulting in limited temperature increases in the range of normal body temperature. Overall, the results suggest that specific aspects of the g-tummo technique might help non-meditators learn how to regulate their body temperature, which has implications for improving health and regulating cognitive performance.

Applications of the research findings:

If future studies show that it is possible to self-regulate CBT, by mastering vase breathing in conjunction with guided mental imagery without extensive meditation experience, it will open a wide range of possible medical and behaviour interventions, such as adapting to and functioning in hostile (cold) environments, improving resistance to infections, boosting cognitive performance by speeding response time, and reducing performance problems associated with decreased body temperature as reported in human factor studies of shift work and continuous night operations.

Although it is good to see a piece of research making a serious attempt at trying to understand the underlying processes which have been long understood through experience in a number of traditions these extracts raise cause for concern. 

The research itself acknowledges the number of participants in both studies was very small (4 and 11).  It also stated that the participants in the second study did not have any experience in Tibetan meditation practices but all eleven did have experience in either a form of yoga or martial art.  They were not complete novices when it came to meditation and yet they proposed that without extensive meditation experience people could apply these techniques.   

In a controlled environment such as a research facility and even more so when you have grown up in a monastery with teachers who have vast experience and understanding this technique will be introduced safely.  However, implying that such practices could be introduced to people ‘without extensive meditation experience’ displays either a distinct lack of all-round understanding or I would liken it to an experienced mountaineer encouraging people to go into the mountains wearing flipflops or high heels.  Aware of the potential pitfalls a mountaineer would just never do that.  Likewise, through their experience, a meditation teacher should be aware of the potential pitfalls with a technique and also be aware of the capabilities of each of their students.  

Unfortunately, we have too many people in this country with mental health issues and unless a person is very good at certain other meditation techniques there could, potentially, be problems here.  As I have described in the mediation sessions, from experience I have witnessed the potential problems becoming a reality having been asked to travel to see if I could help a person who had been taught a technique they were not ready for and sadly this resulted in their being admitted to a mental health establishment for a number of months.  Listening to that person describe what they were experiencing was a salutary moment.  

Similarly, a colleague was asked to help two people, who had also been admitted to mental health establishments as the result of being poorly taught a technique called ‘Raising Kundalini Energy.’  Sadly, all to clearly they were not ready for such a technique. 

These sorts of techniques can have powerful effects and although it is rare they can cause difficult consequences for some people.  I’m sure the researchers involved with this study had only the best of intentions but their research has obviously drawn attention resulting in these techniques being described in detail on the internet.   As the examples I have just described show there are potentially harmful outcomes with such techniques so please do not be tempted to experiment with them.  If you are planning your meditative experiences in order to test yourself or push your boundaries it would be far better to take up an alternative practice.  

Two of the reasons why I moved to the Chinese tradition is their focus on gentleness and grounding one’s energy as being important keys to personal development. 

You only have to take part in a Tai Chi or Qi Gong practice or even just to watch, to understand that being gentle is a central notion.   There is a Taoist meditation which contains the line,

‘Be gentle and you will need no strength’.

When it comes to working with qi as soon as you try to force it you inhibit it from its potential.  Act with gentleness and the outcome is harmonious, quite, quite, different and it keeps us safe!

When a person becomes proficient at grounding their energy creating an inner sense of calm is a natural consequence.  We don’t have to ‘try’ so hard to be calm and peaceful.  Again, a harmonious result keeping the practitioner safe.  

Before This Week’s Meditations: Some of what people thought and experienced last week.

This section is important because it helps us to learn about meditation through the experiences of others.  Thank you for sharing and hopefully inspiring, and encouraging others!

“Found it very helpful to focus on breathing and releasing tension from the throat as well as the neck.”  S.H.

 I had a memory which was long forgotten during the guided meditation; which was a great way to recall a sense of joy!  J.F.

“More mind chatter this week to ignore but once I had focussed my mind onto the energy flowing through me my mind chatter dissipated.  I felt relaxed, happy and full of love.  B.V.

“An emotional meditation journey today, one of love and funny episodes.”  L.R.

“Very enjoyable, seemed like more than one hour.”  P.R.

“Lovely session.  Had strong warm sensations flowing from both hands today.”  D.T.

“Enjoyed the relaxation.  I was feeling tired, feel much more energised now.”  J.M.

 “Felt able to relax more tonight than I have been able to do for a while.  Felt peaceful, but found it difficult to feel joy, strangely flat emotions.”  J.S.

“I felt very strong in my posture tonight.  The meditation seemed to be flowing strength through my body.”  E.F.

“Lots of busy thoughts taking over but I did find the physical relaxation beneficial for reducing thoughts.”  C.T.

 Happy yet again.  Warm even-spaced energy.  Warm heart and chest.”  A.B.

This Week’s Meditation Practices:

Introduction Meditation:

Creating the right foundation for meditation is so important.  Remembering to focus on what you are developing not just for your health and well-being now but also what you are putting together for your future. 

Purpose: To create a space in which we feel safe and secure so that we can allow ourselves to relax and change.

Purpose: To develop a feeling of gratitude about the time you have given yourself to promote your present and future state of your health and well-being. 

Purpose: To strengthen our own inner meditative space.  This strengthens the neural pathways associated with your meditation practice.

Purpose: To centre, focus and ground our consciousness, making it easier to maintain an inner feeling of balance and be more harmonious in our lives.

Purpose:  To take the opportunity to self-observe and develop our self-awareness. As Professor Walsh explains to be successful we need to be consciously aware of what we are doing.

Physical Relaxation:

Focusing on relaxing the major sections of the body.  This week, as ever we will focus on the muscles associated with breathing, the neck and shoulders, followed by building the feeling of gentleness in the heart.

Purpose: Identify the physical tensions within the body and then tensing/relaxing to remove them in order to improve our ability to create and deepen your body’s relaxation response

Purpose: Enhance the flow of qi by reducing the physical tension held in the body.

Purpose: To remove emotional tension locked within the muscles especially the diaphragm and abdominal muscles by building the feeling gentleness.

Purpose:  To use the energy of gentleness to deepen the state of relaxation.

Guided Meditation: 

Working on raising the vitality our protective/defensive Wei Qi in preparation for the upcoming winter season.  Wei Qi is responsible for the protection of your body.  It is energy which radiates outwards from the “cou li” which is an energetic space where the muscles and skin join.

Purpose: To begin to develop and enhance an inner feeling of gentle love.

Purpose: To let the feeling of love interact with the cells of your body.

Purpose: To observe how you and your body responds when the feelings of love is added to the flow of qi.

Purpose: To deepen your ability to ground our energy with the Earth and thus ground any excess unbalancing energy.

Concluding Meditation:

Each week we will conclude with setting the scene for our week ahead, choosing whichever of the emotional energies seems the most appropriate for the forthcoming week.

Purpose: To make sure that as soon as we walk out the door we don’t just forget what we were doing and what it achieved for our health and well-being.

Finishing with Honouring the meditative space, each other and ourselves.

Purpose:  The honouring of ourselves is often the most difficult one to do.  It is important to actively remember the things we have got right; not, as neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson points out, just to focus on our brain systems natural tendency towards negative bias.  

If you have any questions about any of the above please do ask!  Also if you would like to share any of your experiences or ask me questions about them, please do email me.

Private meditation sessions are available; please contact me for more details.

©2017 Peter Keynton-Hook, Activated Qi Meditations

 

Week: Monday, 9th to Friday, 13th October 2017

I hope all is well in your world.  Friday 13th coming up, excellent!

This Month’s Meditation Topic:  It is time to help prepare ourselves for the upcoming winter months by raising the vitality of our Wei Qi.

Wei Qi is responsible for the protection of your body.  During October we will be practising meditations designed to raise the vitality of our protective Wei Qi.  Regular practice of such techniques, enable us to maintain a vibrant, effective Wei Qi.  The following description identifies the 3 areas in which our Wei Qi, when it is vibrant, protects us. 

The Wei Qi has three main purposes:

  • Wei Qi prevents the extremes of the weather from draining our energy. Feeling tired on a hot or cold day or after being out in the wind indicates that the vitality of your Wei Qi is low.  If the Wei Qi is not vibrant the energy of the dampness enters the body and has a debilitating effect upon the internal levels of qi, making our energy sluggish, weakening the immune system and dampening our mood.

 

  • Wei Qi keeps out the pathogens, bacteria and viruses, in the air. Suffering from colds or flu regularly is a symptom of a weakened Wei Qi.  If you think about it cold and flu viruses don’t hibernate in the summer waiting for the weather to turn wintery; they are always there yet we don’t suffer from colds and flu in the same way.  In the summer there is more of the Sun’s energy around to naturally bolster our Wei Qi so we don’t contract colds and flu as easily.

 

  • Wei Qi keeps out the excesses of other people’s emotions so that our own energy is not drained. Have you experienced those times of being around someone and after leaving their company you feel drained?  Again, a sign that the Wei Qi needs strengthening. 

 

If, as you read through these descriptions, you recognise that you are affected in any of the 3 areas described then these meditation practices will help you to strengthen your protective Wei Qi.  For instance, if there is someone in your life whose emotional shenanigans leave you feeling drained take note if that changes during the period of time that we will be doing the meditations to fortify your Wei Qi.

 

Another area where people have noted they have been helped since practising building up their Wei Qi is that they are aware that they are no longer experiencing the symptoms of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) during the winter months.  Having a vibrant Wei Qi strengthens your immune system.

Wei Qi is an energy which radiates outwards from the “cou li” an energetic space operating from where the muscles and skin join. 

The following describes the physiology of the Wei Qi.  I hope it provides you with enough information to be able to consciously work with the Wei Qi while you are meditating. 

The main source of the qi which makes up the Wei Qi is the yang qi of the Sun.  Female is more yin, while male is more yang.  So, it might be assumed that the male sexual organs would be the most yang part of a human body, but not so.  The Chinese tradition explains that the Wei Qi, whether in a male or female, is more yang than the male organs hence its ability to protect us.

Practice these meditations and by the winter your protective Wei Qi will help keep you warm, cold and flu free, while you remain calm and serene as we head towards Christmas and the New Year!

Source: 

Experience!

The Eight Extraordinary Meridians by Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée.  Published in 1997 by Monkey Press.  ISBN: 1 872 468 13 6

 

Before This Week’s Meditations:  Examples of what people thought and experienced last week.

This section is important because it helps us to learn about meditation through the experiences of others.  Thank you for sharing and hopefully inspiring, and encouraging others!

“I could really feel the ‘glow’ created by the group at the beginning of the session.  I concentrated on generating a feeling of calmness in my shoulders because they are always painful when I am stressed out.”  C.T.

 “Deep relaxation, felt warm!”  J.S.

“By the end I felt very calm yet energised.  Will practice 10 minutes every day.”  S.H.

“It has been a very difficult couple of weeks.  Meditation today helped to feel a sense of calm although my mind did wander.  I felt I needed this stillness and relaxation for my mind and body.”  L.R.

“Enjoyed both meditations, found them peaceful and calming.  Liked working the qi and the sun together.”  J.S.

“Again, enjoyed tonight’s session.  Loved the sunshine in the heart.”  J.M.

“Really enjoyed this tonight.  Lovely golden colours, calming with positive energies around.”  V.L.

Happy yet again.  Warm even-spaced energy.  Warm heart and chest.”  A.B.

This Week’s Meditation Practices:

 Remember it is important to read what the purposes are of each meditation so that you know what the benefit of the meditation practice is to your health and well-being.

Introduction Meditation:

Creating the right foundation for meditation is so important.  Remembering to focus on what you are developing not just for your health and well-being now but also what you are putting together for your future. 

Purpose: To create a space in which we feel safe and secure so that we can allow ourselves to relax and change.

Purpose: To develop a feeling of gratitude about the time you have given yourself to promote your present and future state of your health and well-being. 

Purpose: To strengthen our own inner meditative space.  This strengthens the neural pathways associated with your meditation practice.

Purpose: To centre, focus and ground our consciousness, making it easier to maintain an inner feeling of balance and be more harmonious in our lives.

Purpose:  To take the opportunity to self-observe and develop our self-awareness. As Professor Walsh explains to be successful we need to be consciously aware of what we are doing.

 

Physical Relaxation:

This week we will be tensing/relaxing the muscles once.  This will be followed by building the feeling of gentleness in the heart and guiding it into a part of your body which you feel will benefit.

Purpose: Identify the physical tensions within the body and then tensing/relaxing to remove them in order to improve our ability to create and deepen your body’s relaxation response

Purpose: Enhance the flow of qi by reducing the physical tension held in the body.

Purpose: To remove emotional tension locked within the muscles especially the diaphragm and abdominal muscles by building the feeling gentleness.

Purpose:  To use the energy of gentleness to deepen the state of relaxation.

 

Guided Meditation: 

Working on raising the vitality our protective/defensive Wei Qi in preparation for the upcoming winter season.  Remember it is energy which radiates outwards from the “cou li” the energetic space where the muscles and skin join.

Purpose: To begin to develop and enhance an inner feeling of gentle love.

Purpose: To let the feeling of love interact with the cells of your body.

Purpose: To observe how you and your body responds when the feelings of love is added to the flow of qi.

Purpose: To deepen your ability to ground our energy with the Earth and thus ground any excess unbalancing energy.

 

Concluding Meditation:

Each week we will conclude with setting the scene for our week ahead, choosing whichever of the emotional energies seems the most appropriate for the forthcoming week.

Purpose: To make sure that as soon as we walk out the door we don’t just forget what we were doing and what it achieved for our health and well-being.

Finishing with Honouring the meditative space, each other and ourselves.

Purpose:  The honouring of ourselves is often the most difficult one to do.  It is important to actively remember the things we have got right; not, as neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson points out, just to focus on our brain systems natural tendency towards negative bias.  

If you have any questions about any of the above please do ask!  Also, if you would like to share any of your experiences or ask me questions about them, please do email me.

Private meditation sessions are available; please contact me for more details.

©2017 Peter Keynton-Hook, Activated Qi Meditations

 

Activated Qi Meditation Notes

Week: Monday, 16th  to Friday, 20th October 2017

Over the years many of those who attend the meditation classes have mentioned how much they enjoy the sound of the Tibetan Singing Bowls.  So, although this month we are focusing upon strengthening our Wei Qi I thought you might be interested in a number of pieces of research which have involved Tibetan Singing Bowls.  This week we begin with,

A study conducted at Baycrest Health Sciences uncovered a crucial piece into why playing a musical instrument can help older adults,

  • Retain their listening skills and ward off age-related cognitive declines.
  • This could lead to the development of brain rehabilitation interventions through musical training.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience on May 24, 2017 found that learning to play a sound on a musical instrument alters the brain waves in a way that improves a person's listening and hearing skills over a short time frame. They showed how changes in brain activity demonstrated the brain's ability to rewire itself and compensate for injuries or diseases that may hamper a person's capacity to perform tasks.

Dr. Bernhard Ross, senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and senior author on the study, said, "Music has been known to have beneficial effects on the brain, but there has been limited understanding into what about music makes a difference.  This is the first study demonstrating that learning the fine movement needed to reproduce a sound on an instrument changes the brain's perception of sound in a way that is not seen when listening to music."

The finding supports Dr. Ross' research using musical training to help stroke survivors rehabilitate motor movement in their upper bodies. Baycrest scientists have a history of breakthroughs into how a person's musical background impacts the listening abilities and cognitive function as they age and they continue to explore how brain changes during aging impact hearing.

The study involved 32 young, healthy adults who had normal hearing and no history of neurological or psychiatric disorders.  19 young adults (7 female, 12 male) participated in 3 magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings while first passively listening to recorded sounds of a Tibetan Singing Bowl ringing, then actively playing the Tibetan Singing Bowl, and then again listening to recorded sounds.

The brain waves of the participants were recorded throughout.   The changes were significantly larger in this group compared with those observed in the control participants (eight female, five male), who triggered recorded sounds by a computer keypress only. The researchers proposed that both measures (P2 characterizes familiarity with sound objects, whereas beta-band oscillation signifies involvement of the action-perception cycle) objectively indicate functional neuroplasticity in auditory perceptual learning.

"It has been hypothesized that the act of playing music requires many brain systems to work together, such as the hearing, motor and perception systems," says Dr. Ross, who is also a medical biophysics professor at the University of Toronto. "This study was the first time we saw direct changes in the brain after one session, demonstrating that the action of creating music leads to a strong change in brain activity."

The study's next steps involved analysing recovery between stroke patients with musical training compared to physiotherapy and the impact of musical training on the brains of older adults.

With additional funding, the study could explore developing musical training rehabilitation programs for other conditions that impact motor function, such as traumatic brain injury.

Research for this study was conducted with support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which supported research staff and equipment.  Dr. Ross' work is setting the foundation to develop hearing aids of the future and cognitive training programs to maintain hearing health.

Sources:

Bernhard Ross, Masihullah Barat, Takako Fujioka. Sound-making actions lead to immediate plastic changes of neuromagnetic evoked responses and induced beta-band oscillations during perception. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2017; 3613-16 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3613-16.2017

 

http://research.baycrest.org/tfujioka

 

Book of the Month: ‘Being Mortal, Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End.’ 

First thank you to Fran Perry form the Kenilworth group for introducing me to this book.  As soon as I began reading its introduction I was drawn in, not necessarily by the subject matter, but by the way the author, Atul Gawande, writes about it.   In his words it is possible to see that he clearly cares about what are difficult concepts to face for many of us even though they involve each and every one and he takes the notion of well-being into every, absolute every, aspect of life.

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is also Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and Chairman of Lifebox, a non-profit organization making surgery safer globally.

In the epilogue he writes, ‘We have been wrong about what our job is in medicine.  We think our job is to ensure health and survival.  But really it is larger than that.  It is to enable well-being.  And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.  Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way.  Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same.  What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?  What are your fears and what are your hopes?  What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?  And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?

The field of palliative care emerged over recent decades to bring this kind of thinking to the care of dying patients.  And the speciality is advancing, bringing the same approach to other seriously ill patients, whether dying or not.  This is cause for encouragement.  But it is not cause for celebration.  That will be only warranted when all clinicians apply such thinking to every person they touch.  No separate speciality required.

If it be human to be limited, then the role of caring professions and institutions, from surgeons to nursing homes, ought to be aiding people in their struggle with those limits.  Sometimes we can offer a cure, sometimes only a salve, sometimes not even that.  But whatever we can offer, our interventions, and the risks and sacrifices they entail, are justified only if they serve the larger aims of a person’s life.  When we forget that, the suffering we inflict can be barbaric.  When we remember it the good we can do can be breathtaking.

I never expected that among the most meaningful experiences I’d have as a doctor, and really, as a human being, would come from helping others deal with what medicine cannot do as well as what it can.  But it’s proved true, whether with a patient like Jewel Douglass, a friend like Peg Bachelder, or someone I loved as much as my father.’

In the Chinese tradition they see the feelings of grief and courage as being closely connected.  I experienced this connection when teaching.  Witnessing a child coming to terms with the death of their mother, their father, one can understand the terrible confusion as well as the grief that results and how it takes courage for a person of whatever age to go through the grieving process and arrive at a state of well-being. 

For myself, Atul Gawande’s book certainly makes me re-access using the words, ‘health and well-being’ either on the front page of my website or within the meditation notes.  His book has encouraged me to take a deeper and broader look at what these words mean when we use them.

If you would like to know more about Atul Gawande’s work you please go to, The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice website, based at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford (which luckily, I was invited to become a partner of, near its inception).  The approach they take attracted me as soon as I was made aware of what they are trying to do.  Many of you know Jenette Sefton, who comes to the Monday evening class at Lifeways, she is part of the team that has developed the centre and is responsible for its website development.   On their page, http://valuesbasedpractice.org/podcast/reith-lectures-atul-gawande-the-idea-of-wellbeing/ you can find the Reith Lecture Atul Gawande did and also, https://soundcloud.com/hearing-the-voice/roz-austin-voice-hearing-and-the-spatiality-of-emotions which was part of the Durham University’s, Hearing The Voice project’s seminar series.

 

Or you could go to his TED Talk at,  https://www.ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_how_do_we_heal_medicine#t-31142 .

 

Before This Week’s Meditations: 

Examples of what people thought and experienced last week.  This section is important because it helps us to learn about meditation through the experiences of others.  Thank you for sharing and hopefully inspiring, and encouraging others!

“Beautiful music.  Didn’t want it to end.  Strong tingling in both arms.  I was definitely transported to the coast.”  D.T.

“Always enjoy working with the warm qi of the sunlight.”  F.P.

“Very enjoyable meditation.  I could feel the sun building up energy levels in my body.”  E.F.

“Even though I have felt awful all day with a bunged-up head, the session was good, settled my head and felt the energy.”  P.K.

“Despite difficulty breathing (a cold!) felt lovely and warm around the chest area.”  J.S.

“Enjoyed the session, felt warm and relaxed with this practice.”  J.M.

 

This Week’s Meditation Practices:

 Remember it is important to read what the purposes are of each meditation so that you know what the benefit of the meditation practice is to your health and well-being.

Back to Wei Qi, remember it has three main purposes:

  • Wei Qi keeps out the pathogens, bacteria and viruses, in the air.
  • Wei Qi prevents the extremes of the weather from draining our energy.
  • Wei Qi protects us from the emotional shenanigans of other people so that our own energy is not drained.

As has been said before, some very good reasons for doing those meditation practices which build and maintain the vitality of the Wei Qi.  

The main thing to remember is that the Qiao Mai, (one of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels) plays a major role in the circulation of the Wei Qi, as well as having a profound affect upon our sleep patterns.

The rhythm of the Wei Qi is mastered through the eyes and the Qiao Mai.  Both the Yin and Yang Qiao Mai begin at the centre of the heel which is the point we will be focusing upon this week.  This week we will work with both these aspects.  We will use the Qiao Mai to develop our ability to be well-grounded therefore developing our ability to strengthen our protective Wei Qi and we will use the eyes linked with our imagination to enhance this even further. 

 

Introduction Meditation:

Creating the right foundation for meditation is so important.  Remembering to focus on what you are developing not just for your health and well-being now but also what you are putting together for your future. 

Purpose: To create a space in which we feel safe and secure so that we can allow ourselves to relax and change.

Purpose: To develop a feeling of gratitude about the time you have given yourself to promote your present and future state of your health and well-being. 

Purpose: To strengthen our own inner meditative space.  This strengthens the neural pathways associated with your meditation practice.

Purpose: To centre, focus and ground our consciousness, making it easier to maintain an inner feeling of balance and be more harmonious in our lives.

Purpose:  To take the opportunity to self-observe and develop our self-awareness. As Professor Walsh explains to be successful we need to be consciously aware of what we are doing.

 

Physical Relaxation:

Focusing on relaxing the major sections of the body.  This week, we will focus on the different muscle sets within the body, followed by building the feeling of gentleness in the heart.

Purpose: Identify the physical tensions within the body and then tensing/relaxing to remove them in order to improve our ability to create and deepen your body’s relaxation response. 

Purpose: Enhance the flow of qi by reducing the physical tension held in the body.

Purpose: To remove emotional tension locked within the muscles especially the diaphragm and abdominal muscles by building the feeling gentleness.

Purpose:  To use the energy of gentleness to deepen the state of relaxation.

 

Guided Meditation:

Focusing upon strengthening the vitality of our protective Wei Qi through grounding and working with the qi of the Sun.

Purpose: Through regular practice become used to acquiring qi from the Sun.

Purpose: Through regular practice become used to moving qi into the cou li of the body.

Purpose: Promoting our ability to be grounded when building up our energy levels.  A grounded person can acquire and assimilate more qi than a person who isn’t well grounded.

Purpose:  Promoting our ability to use our imagination in order to help increase the role the areas around our eyes play in increasing energy levels.

 

Concluding Meditation:

Each week we will conclude with setting the scene for our week ahead, choosing whichever of the emotional energies seems the most appropriate for the forthcoming week.

Purpose: To make sure that as soon as we walk out the door we don’t just forget what we were doing and what it achieved for our health and well-being.

Finishing with Honouring the meditative space, each other and ourselves.

Purpose:  The honouring of ourselves is often the most difficult one to do.  It is important to actively remember the things we have got right; not, as neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson points out, just to focus on our brain systems natural tendency towards negative bias. 

 

If you have any questions about any of the above please do ask!  Also, if you would like to share any of your experiences or ask me questions about them, please do email me.

 

Private meditation sessions are available; please contact me for more details.

©2017 Peter Keynton-Hook, Activated Qi Meditations

 

Week: Monday, 23rd October to Friday, 27th October 2017

Before looking at the main body of the notes this week I want to look at what class members wrote about after they had experienced last week’s meditations.  After all, for many in Western cultures ‘qi’ let alone ‘wei qi’ is a strange concept.  I hope you will be able to see from what people have written they really are developing their self-observation and self-awareness.

Before This Week’s Meditations: 

Examples of what people thought and experienced last week.  This section is important because it helps us to learn about meditation through the experiences of others.  Thank you for sharing and hopefully inspiring, and encouraging others!

“Enjoyed!  Did get very warm during the meditation.  Will be useful when the weather gets really cold.”  J.M.

 “I could really feel the qi flow, as well as the energy of the sun flowing under my skin and warming my whole body.  Not always able to leave the outside world aside.”  C.T.

“Managed to stay focused most of the session.  I find the wei qi the easiest to feel.  It’s as if my skin and flesh of my arms and legs are more responsive to the energy than my heart.  C.T.

“Loved absorbing the Sun’s energy and visualising taking it with me.”  S.H.

“Physical relaxation was very effective.  I found it had just as strong effect as physically tensing the muscles.”  E.F.

“Warm and cosy feeling today.  Enjoyed no physical teaching.”  P.S.

“Came in feeling a bit jittery.  Felt more centred and solid by the end of the session.”  J.S.

 “Found the grounding exercise very helpful as often have excess energy and need to practice this more frequently.”  C.S.

“Felt in balance and centred but with a sense of stoking a fire at the front.”  L.B.

“My hands were tingling and a felt warmth throughout my body.”  H.O.

“Really helped me to de-stress tonight.  Applying gentleness to everything made everything a lot better!” F.P.

“The session went far too quickly.  Needed the Sun’s energy.”  A.W.

“Relaxing session; flew by very quickly.  Felt my breathing really slow down when concentrating on the muscles used for breathing.”  D.T.

 

This Week’s Meditation Notes:

Self-observation and Self-awareness:

One of the most important tools in our armoury against stress is self-observation and self-awareness.  This is one of the major reasons why I send out the notes.  The notes are all about helping to build up a knowledge and understanding of how we operate as human beings; whether the notes are referring to the latest scientific research or to the understanding developed by the ancient traditions (especially the Chinese) through thousands of years of observation, practice and recording the results.

So as you read through the notes below please remember they are there are an important part of helping you develop an understanding of how meditation practice can promote and strengthen your health and well-being. 

According to Professor Walsh of the Irvine School of Medicine, University of California, a major component for creating inner positive change is to develop the ability to self-observe, to develop self-awareness. He sets out the approaches we need to take in order to be successful at activities like meditation.  These are;

  • To be consciously aware of what we are doing (very hard especially when a person is not aware of how hormones such as dopamine can affect the way we feel, think and behave).
  • To be honest with ourselves (again hard, we all know it’s difficult to accept that we have foibles).
  • To be consistent in our practices to break any debilitating habits.
  • To be determined (it’s tough to break a habit).
  • To be aware of our resistant behaviours against changing.
  • To be patient.
  • To be self-forgiving when there are setbacks.

 

Loving-Kindness:

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in his book, Full Catastrophe Living states, “Healing energy can be directed toward others and toward your relationships as well as toward your own body.  This is a very effective way of healing yourself, because the process of generating strong feelings of empathy, compassion, and love toward others has its own purifying effect on the mind.  When such strong positive feelings are invoked in a mind that has become relatively calm and stable through intensive meditation practice, these feelings can then be effectively directed toward others.”

He continues, “I always thought this was a little strange and contrived until I saw the power it had.  When practiced regularly, loving kindness meditation has a softening effect on the heart. It can help you to be kinder to yourself and to others in your own mind, to see all beings as deserving of kindness and compassion, so that, even if disputes do arise, your mind can see clearly and your heart does not close down and become lost in self-serving yet ultimately self-destructive negative feeling states.”

 

The following article by Dr. Esch of Charité University Medicine Berlin, Institute for General Practice and Family Medicine, Berlin and Dr. Stefano of the Neuroscience Research Institute, State University of New York, takes a more in-depth look into the physiology and psychology of love.  In the article entitled, Love Promotes Health, they explain that love and compassion,

  • Have consequences for health and wellbeing. They state the better we understand the concrete neurobiology of love and its possible secondary implications, the greater is our respect for the significance and potency of love’s role in mental and physical health
  • Positive emotions, compassion and happiness help us to feel better, particularly in relation to stress, and furthermore they improve bodily functions. For example, love, compassion and joy make our immune system function better and help to battle diseases.  Furthermore, love and pleasure facilitate trust and belief in the body’s capability of restoring or maintaining health. Thereby, pleasure helps promote the desired state of dynamic balance. In humans, cognition and belief are vital for reward and pleasure experiences. Social contacts, in addition, provide pleasure, hence survival. 

Current research on these topics made the wellness concept evolve from an esoteric or non-scientific background to become a major focus of progressive medical science. Well-being is now acknowledged and recognized as a powerful behavioural tool for supporting motivation and decision making; that is, choosing activities that engage rather than numb our minds.

Findings indicate that there is a fine balance between different physiological states and activity patterns of the central nervous system (CNS) regions involved in love and attachment formation. This specific CNS activity pattern appears to exert protective effects, even on the brain itself.  Moreover, the anxiolytic effects (these are anti-anxiety effects) of pleasurable experiences may occur by promoting an inhibitory tone in specific areas of the brain.  Engaging in joyful activities such as love may activate areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation and memory (i.e., limbic structures), and it may further serve to control the autonomic nervous system, i.e., stress reduction.  

This dynamic balance has to be maintained in order to promote healthy social interactions and relationships.

To summarise:

Developing loving compassionate feelings benefits our health and well-being through,

  • strengthens the immune system.
  • helps balance the actions of the limbic system.
  • helps strengthen the role of the parasympathetic nervous system thus reducing the effects of stress.
  • having a protective effect upon the brain’s systems.
  • promotes anxiolytic effects (these are anti-anxiety effects) through pleasurable experiences.
  • promotes positive social interactions.

Sources:

Love Promotes Health by Dr. Tobias Esch and Dr. George B. Stefano. Neuroendocrinology Letters No.3 June Vol.26, 2005  Copyright © 2005 Neuroendocrinology Letters ISSN 0172–780X www.nel.edu

http://www.nel.edu/pdf_/26_3/260305A13_15990734_Esch--Stefano_.pdf

  1. Walsh (2011): Lifestyle and Mental Health. (2011, January 17: doi: 10.1037/a0021769).

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, published by Piatkus, 1990 reprinted 2007.  ISBN:0-7499-1585-4

 

This Week’s Meditation Practices:

 Remember it is important to read what the purposes are of each meditation so that you know what the benefit of the meditation practice is to your health and well-being.

Back to Wei Qi, remember it has three main purposes:

  • Wei Qi keeps out the pathogens, bacteria and viruses, in the air.
  • Wei Qi prevents the extremes of the weather from draining our energy.
  • Wei Qi protects us from the emotional shenanigans of other people so that our own energy is not drained.

As has been said before, some very good reasons for doing those meditation practices which build and maintain the vitality of the Wei Qi.  

The main thing to remember is that the Qiao Mai, (one of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels) plays a major role in the circulation of the Wei Qi, as well as having a profound affect upon our sleep patterns.

The rhythm of the Wei Qi is mastered through the eyes and the Qiao Mai.  Both the Yin and Yang Qiao Mai begin at the centre of the heel which is the point we will be focusing upon this week.  This week we will work with both these aspects.  We will use the Qiao Mai to develop our ability to be well-grounded therefore developing our ability to strengthen our protective Wei Qi and we will use the eyes linked with our imagination to enhance this even further. 

 

Introduction Meditation:

Creating the right foundation for meditation is so important.  Remembering to focus on what you are developing not just for your health and well-being now but also what you are putting together for your future. 

Purpose: To create a space in which we feel safe and secure so that we can allow ourselves to relax and change.

Purpose: To develop a feeling of gratitude about the time you have given yourself to promote your present and future state of your health and well-being. 

Purpose: To strengthen our own inner meditative space.  This strengthens the neural pathways associated with your meditation practice.

Purpose: To centre, focus and ground our consciousness, making it easier to maintain an inner feeling of balance and be more harmonious in our lives.

Purpose:  To take the opportunity to self-observe and develop our self-awareness. As Professor Walsh explains to be successful we need to be consciously aware of what we are doing.

 

Physical Relaxation:

This week we will be tensing/relaxing the muscles once and while holding the breath at the top of the in-breath also holding the tension.  This will be followed by building the feeling of gentleness in the heart and guiding it into the area of the spleen.

Purpose: Identify the physical tensions within the body and then tensing/relaxing to remove them in order to improve our ability to create and deepen your body’s relaxation response. 

Purpose: Enhance the flow of qi by reducing the physical tension held in the body.

Purpose: To remove emotional tension locked within the muscles especially the diaphragm and abdominal muscles by building the feeling gentleness.

Purpose:  To use the energy of gentleness to deepen the state of relaxation.

 

Guided Meditation:

Focusing upon strengthening the vitality of our protective Wei Qi through grounding and working with the qi of the Sun.

Purpose: Through regular practice become used to acquiring qi from the Sun.

Purpose: Through regular practice become used to moving qi into the cou li of the body.

Purpose: Promoting our ability to be grounded when building up our energy levels.  A grounded person can acquire and assimilate more qi than a person who isn’t well grounded.

Purpose:  Promoting our ability to use our imagination in order to help increase the role the areas around our eyes play in increasing energy levels.

Concluding Meditation:

Each week we will conclude with setting the scene for our week ahead, choosing whichever of the emotional energies seems the most appropriate for the forthcoming week.

Purpose: To make sure that as soon as we walk out the door we don’t just forget what we were doing and what it achieved for our health and well-being.

Finishing with Honouring the meditative space, each other and ourselves.

Purpose:  The honouring of ourselves is often the most difficult one to do.  It is important to actively remember the things we have got right; not, as neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson points out, just to focus on our brain systems natural tendency towards negative bias. 

 

If you have any questions about any of the above please do ask!  Also, if you would like to share any of your experiences or ask me questions about them, please do email me.

 

Private meditation sessions are available; please contact me for more details.

©2017 Peter Keynton-Hook, Activated Qi Meditations