We come together on our kibbutz for weekly mindfulness sessions. This we do, even under the threat of rocket attack.
Yesterday, Monday, February 24th, 2020 saw a renewal of red alerts in Eshkol and in the northern part of the Gaza Envelope. But, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d show up to facilitate morning mindfulness with our group of over-70s and then a late afternoon mindfulness with a smaller group of women.
I appeared in the “Gan haCahol” (the Blue Kindergarten), the space for golden agers, and was greeted with smiles. H was describing a trip she’d just experienced down in South Africa. We heard about the stark differences between the rich and the poor. How the poor enclaves included raw sewage running through the streets. We heard about the still lingering signs of apartheid and how only now a middle class of mixed races was beginning to emerge, demanding rights. We heard about giraffes and a tiger sighting.
Then we sat to begin our mindfulness session. I wanted to work on body and breath awareness as an anchor for focus, as a release from thoughts. We broke up the body scan with a listening session, our awareness of breath offering a safe distance from the outer sounds. In wartime, the sound of a boom, the pervasive sounds of planes can trigger fear, anxiety. The use of mindfulness offers a way to separate between the self and that which is outside and out of our scope of control.
We returned to the body, scanning all parts, directing the breath and allowing it to clean and renew as it energized us.
In fact, the session was enriching and I was delighted to see that although we’d been in meditation for longer than usual, there had been no shifting of bodies or signs of discomfort. We continued with energizing our hands, creating a ball of power and doing “la qi” to focus movement, mind and breath as we breathed in, separating the hands, and breathing out, allowing the hands to come towards each other.
After a forty-five minute session of replenishing our minds, and energy, there was only one comment about the noise of the airplanes, but since we were all calmer, we acknowledged it and continued, undisturbed. Thanking one another, we got up to continue our lives, with the uncertainty of what the day might bring.
Later on, I welcomed the women to the Open Center, where we sit on mats and cushions. We checked our current body status – our thoughts, sensations, feelings and then offered ourselves wishes for whatever we required such as, relaxation, safety, happiness. Those words we carried along with the breath to renew our bodies after a day’s endurance of rocket fall on various communities. We soothed and energized our body systematically via the breath.
We took short breaks to simply listen to the sounds in the room and outside. This allowed us to rest before continuing. The scan was divided into 3 parts – the head, the upper torso and the legs. When we approached the torso, I introduced the idea of the breath as artist, with the ability to decorate the arms with colour and energy, like a tattoo of light. We highlighted our back in colour and allowed the body to enjoy the effects.
We shook out the body before continuing to scan, breathing into the legs and ultimately creating shoes of colour, shape and energy: shoes which would allow us to travel wherever we wished, magic shoes to protect us.
Meditation as a doorway to body awareness, with enhancements, why not, I thought!
Afterwards, we shook out our bodies, stretching and engaging in our Dry Shower, patting our body, paying attention to areas with tension. On completion, we referenced our wishes for ourselves, if they were relaxation, safety, happiness or any other wishes that applied to us.
Thanking one another, we left the session. This time, the session had been accompanied by booms, from the beginning at 5 p.m and throughout. Still we held our concentration. Later on I read that rockets had fallen on the neighbouring kibbutzim.
I feel gratitude for mindfulness as a tool in the resilience kit, and fortunate for the ability to offer sessions on the kibbutz and to pupils, via whatsapp or phone. This is an open invitation for anyone who needs a few minutes to disengage from surroundings to focus on the body, mind, breath. Just contact me, Judih, via a comment here.
Before the group of practitioners show up for our Friday morning sessions, I arrive early to arrange the space, the temperature of the room, the amount of sunlight that seeps in and I arrange myself.
Sitting or standing, I begin my morning contemplation, listening to my body, thoughts and sensations and following through whether by deliberate breathing meditation to focus my mind or by engaging in qigong or movement or as in this past Friday, using movement, breath and tone to synchronize myself – to come to a holistic unit.
Doing so, I eventually heard the voices of the arriving and soon the sliding door allowed in the cooler air of the main room and the warmer beings of the participants.
I began with a direct request for questions. Not asking, “Are there any questions?” but rather, I’d like to hear some questions.
About the weather?, asked H.
About your practice, about things you’ve noticed or experienced or wondered about. About things you might have questioned this past week, but forget about as soon as you walked into this room where we feel supported.
After I was silent, the first voice was heard:
I don’t have a question but I want to say that I practice mindfulness meditation every day and then throughout the day, I feel that it supports me to be focused. I often pause, take a few breaths and then proceed. It really helps me and has become a part of my life.
Another voice said, Yes, I practice every morning or almost every morning, sometimes life’s events interrupt me. Also, if I feel that I’m getting angry, I tell myself, “No, just a minute, take a breath.” And that helps me.
Another woman concurred saying that she feels it helps her stay calm.
One woman asked: I want to know how often I should be practicing. Is once a week enough? Should I be doing it more?
Finally, I thought, a real question! And I answered with confidence, thanks to the input I’ve been receiving over the years: Practice needs to be done daily. Even if it’s for one minute: to sit down and be aware of your body and then bring awareness to your breath. Stretch out and resume your life. Every day, and it’s helpful to build up a habit and do it at the same time every day, whether it’s before a shower, after a shower, after coffee. Every day to do it and then whether it takes 3 weeks to build the habit or 2 years, you will find it easy to sit down for a formal period of time.
That’s not enough, however. It’s also important to practice mindfulness throughout your day. For example, I left my house and suddenly I’m at the Open Center, and I don’t remember anything on the way. Where was my attention? That’s the moment to pause, accept the realization, not to bother with self-rebuke, but rather to notice my feet on the ground and take 3 attentive breaths. That’s mindfulness.
This is how we learn to accept what we notice. I might hear a voice in my head, ‘No, no, no!’ and see a finger wagging at me. I notice the voice, whether it’s my mother’s or anyone else’s, I notice that it’s not me, but a thought. I witness it as a thought, and I continue bringing my attention to my breath.
The Day of the Unexpected Bike Ride Home
Sometimes it takes a great deal to force me to be mindful. Two weeks ago, I was riding my bicycle home from school and had to maneuvre through a place where the dirt road is being shifted and rebuilt. The neighbouring kibbutz was in the process of fencing off the new road, which would close it off to all traffic – tractor, bike or jogger. I had to navigate an incline of dirt and so, got off my bike and gently climbed the mound. Then, just as the sun hit my eyes, my left leg landed in a newly excavated hole for a future fence post. (By new I mean that it hadn’t been there two hours prior when I’d travelled the same route on the way to school).
Suddenly, I found myself knee deep in a hole, my body landing on the ground and my bike falling as if in slow motion on top of me. When all the pieces landed, I wondered what I’d find. I literally fell into this space of conscious awareness. Was I afraid? Only slightly, as I scanned my body – sensing functioning of the toes of my left foot, and my leg with no discernible pain. My right leg was fine. I looked around to see if there was someone within shouting distance if I needed help. No, no one. A tractor was blocking my line of vision and the noise of the engine was making it impossible for me to be heard, if I had to yell. No problem. I gently shifted myself out from that hole. Delicately, I arose onto my feet, tested my weight and to my delight, found nothing amiss. Now, I’ve heard stories like this before. Just the other week, I met my friend P H, who had fallen when she’d miscalculated where she’d planted her foot. She’d been fine, too, until she wasn’t and found herself with a swollen ankle.
Remembering her, bless you P H, I lifted up my bike and carefully, examining every step to make sure that I was on actual land, I walked my bike towards home. Arriving at the tractor location, I asked if it was a viable choice to keep going ahead in order to reach my road towards home. Yes, ma’am, they said. There’s an opening in the fence if you keep going.
I did. I found it. Mindful of the present moment – ever so mindful. Mindful of the what-ifs thoughts in my mind and of my physical condition – my knees, my ankles. Happy to be in one piece, joyful really, but preparing myself to apply ice or hot compresses when I finally arrived home.
Do we wait till we fall into a hole in the ground before we pay attention? Sometimes we do. But let’s incorporate the awareness that sudden holes can happen at any time. How often do we need to practice mindfulness? There’s no reason not to aim to practice mindfulness as often as we remember!
I got home, I applied ice to my left knee and later noticed some swelling on my right ankle. I wore over-ankle height boots for support and within a few days, my body was fine, or at least 90% fine.
Incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives. Feeling gratitude for a chance to learn a lesson, I can only hope that self-acceptance will open my inner window.
And so, a Friday morning session of Mindfulness began. Placing our practice in context to create more personal meaning. We proceeded with some mindful stretches to awaken the body and mind and then we did a short breathing awareness meditation. We did further stretches and then another breathing meditation. It’s far better to be kind to ourselves, allowing ourselves to feel a higher attention for a shorter time, than to aim for a longer session in which we find body discomfort or rampant thoughts impacting our experience.
These factors are part of life, and acceptance is important, but while in the process of building a habit of daily practice, a shorter practice is fine!
If I were to chart my jet-lag, I imagine it would look like this:
I’m getting a little more normal. I woke up at 1a.m. to check the news. I went back to sleep and concocted some very weird dreams that I couldn’t quite recall when I woke up at five-fifteen. This is a good technique, for when school begins: to let out the weirdness at night and to carry on during the day.
So, the war situation. I was thankful that I didn’t have to tear into my safe room last night, but this morning people on facebook are not pleased about the 24 hour extension of the Ceasefire and the so-called agreement. One woman even went so far as to agree with ‘Jo-Jo‘ (1.1), a popular right-wing radio host, by calling the agreement disgusting and a crappy piece of paper that could have been signed before those 64 soldiers were killed.
From the Israeli point of view, I guess that might’ve been an option, but we know that Hamas wasn’t terribly interested in signing anything. And is it now? And if so, why? What’s in it for them?
Most of us in the south want no half-ass agreement. From a military point of view it would be prudent to tear into the Hamas infrastructure and wipe out their leaders, now, while we have set the stage and while our soldiers are prepared. I don’t have much of an army-mind but in a chessgame sort of strategy, I see the strength in such a decision.
But holy shit, I hate the killing and fear of being bombed. I’ve been told, killing and fear is inevitable as the Hamas increases its strength and resolves to wipe out the infidels, of which Israel and Jews represent only a small fraction.
Nothing is black and white, is it? All those slurred boundaries and see-sawing opinions. Pacifism seems so out of style.
Gershon Baskin has become a household name. Among other endeavours, he worked behind the scenes to deliver Gilad Shalit from captivity. He is co-founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) and his contacts include moderates from within Hamas. He has been working for rational negotiations as well as humane treatment of those Gazans who’ve been bombed out of their homes. He’s collected household goods from Israelis for delivery and he’s raised money for emergency food. He’s crusading to bring the other side of the story to the attention of those of us who live on this side of the border. But what is the other side? How many other sides are there? Some people claim that his very earnestness to listen to those across the border has made him too cynical about the Israeli side.
Who am I to guess? How is anyone to know what the objective situation ‘is’.
In world situations, everything links to everything else. One bit of evidence leads to the certainty that something else preceded it.
When people share their political vision, I listen for awhile and then off I go, daydreaming about ‘what if’ and what beach or scene would I rather be surrounded with.
Poetry seems trite. Art seems logical. How would I paint what I want to express? Closing my eyes, I see a kind of huge textured coloured landscape. It’s filled with ranges of low rising mountains and raggedy paths. The mountain has no summit – it’s rather endless like the Great Wall of China, only earth-made. I see a low craggy mountainscape in rusty red with bits of rock in no certain shape.
This imaginary large canvas contains a very clear way, somewhere within. A poor trekker prepared with dates, water and a hammock, makes camp, knowing that one day, the hammock will find a place to be hung and on that day, the trekker will rest.
She deals with therapeutic NLP rather than commercial NLP for business. Later on, I completed further training for business, but I tend to deal more in the realm of therapy.
J: Which techniques do you like? Are there those that you find yourself returning to, that you find especially effective?
E: No, it really depends on each individual. It’s very personal. Not everyone can relate to guided imagery, and, at the beginning, first steps are needed to expose them to what it is and how it works. The moment the mind is prepared and the client learns how to use it, it is a very powerful tool, a unique technique that gives relatively fast results.
J: Do you work with people of all ages?
E: Yes. I choose the techniques that especially suit the person, together with their full cooperation, of course.
J: I see.
What kinds of conditions do you treat?
E: I work with fear, sometimes. Whether it be generalized fear held by people, or fear towards a specific situation that might have resulted in a trauma. They come to me wishing to address that situation and repair it. In such a case, we’d work with the technique called Time Line, if you’ve heard of it.
E: Or other examples: there are those who’d like to improve their quality of life, to get to a state of quiet, of inner relaxation. They want to learn to focus on the important things, rather than the superfluous.
There are so many instances, really. NLP can be used to address many situations, and we look for a specific starting point. We work on one particular subject, usually, rather than several at one time. And usually, through that one subject, we get to other sorts of things.
Throughout this process, we periodically check to see that everything is okay, that we are fully addressing the required issues, before proceeding.
It’s highly personal, and so the treatment must perfectly suit the person and their needs at that moment in order to allow them to fully connect to the technique. Even if there might be a technique more suitable to a certain situation, if the person doesn’t relate to it, it won’t be of service.
J: Einav, are you pleased that you studied NLP?
J: Do you feel that it’s given you, yourself, something
E: Yes, on a personal level, it’s given me a lot, as well as the possibility to help others.
J: Do you use techniques on yourself?
J: Could you offer an example of one such technique?
E: Yes, I did a Time Line on myself. I had a dream one night that was connected to my mother, and within the process of using the timeline technique, I was able to repair a situation, and it was truly amazing.
J: oh wow
E: Yes, it was very powerful.
NLP also helps me a lot with the other types of work that I do,whether it be in my choice of speech, in my way of relating to others or in my way of thinking. It has really helped me in my work with others.
Our Tuesday T’ai Chi evening under the stars. Doron Lavie, arriving early is ready to begin the session.
After our warm-up, Chi Cong session, T’ai chi 88 form and Sword Cutta 32 form, we had a break! I spoke to Eliahu Levy, a longtime participant in the Eshkol T’ai Chi group held on Kibbutz Nir-Oz.
Judih: Can you introduce yourself, please.
Eliahu: I’m Eliahu Levy from Kibbutz Nir Itzhak, 78 years old. In the past, I’ve been involved with Physical Education and all kinds of sports. About 12 years ago I got involved with t’ai chi.
J: How did you get involved?
E: I was doing karate and it was very intensive and then the sessions stopped. My friends told me that they were coming to Nir Oz to do t’ai chi. So I decided to try. From the very first day, I knew that I’d never stop.
J: What grabbed you, exactly?
E: It was a time when I was going through a serious personal breakdown. I had just become a widower. And I stopped working at my job and I found myself in the middle of all these life changes. I was really in a bad state. It was then that I got into t’ai chi and discovered a new world. Afterwards, I began to study Chinese medicine and everything came together for me. I became a new man. And t’ai chi was a vital part of this restructuring.
I have continued to study and advance in this practice and not only did I become a new man, but everything changed for me: my behavior, my conception of life, and my perception of the world around me. I am now a practitioner in Chinese medicine. And t’ai chi provides the physical base for it all.
Judih: Do you practise everyday?
E: I do chi cong everyday. Sometimes t’ai chi, but chi cong everyday. In this way I prepare my body for the day, for fairly intensive work, since I work a lot using massage. And in addition this grounds me for my usual daily activities. This is the essence of t’ai chi: connecting me to the earth, to the sky and me in the middle, feeling very good!
J: Do you work with music? How do you practice?
E: No, without music
J: Do you use a mirror?
E: No I go outside, listen to the birds, look at the green around me. I feel the morning dew on my bare feet. And this gives me so much. It fills my batteries for the day.
J: So you practise early in the morning?
E: Yes, I wake up usually before 6 and then I go out to do t’ai chi. Also, when I go to the pool for a swim I feel the water, and again feel myself between the sky and the earth. When I get back on solid ground, I do t’ai chi or chi cong and re-connect with myself.
J: So you’d recommend t’ai chi to everyone?
E: Yes to everyone. I can tell you. I have no physical pain, not in my knees, back or head. I take no medications. You see, when I first found t’ai chi I left all my medications behind and I’m living very well! If at any time, there are any physical problems, I can deal with them.
J: Have you changed your diet, how you eat? Or is this all because of the physical activity you engage in?
E: It’s all my conception of life. I eat according to the prefects of Chinese medicine – mostly healthy food– no fats or carbonated drinks, although I do drink some wine that I like. And that’s it. It’s a new way of living.
J: Thank you. Is there anything you’d like to add?
E: Yes, I recommend t’ai chi to everyone. I recommend doing it and practising regularly, because it acts to regulate body processes that serve to heal the body. Healing comes from within utilizing oxygen. T’ai chi works to facilitate the connection.
Meditation for kids- Doron Lavie offers simple guidance
I asked Doron Lavie, T’ai Chi trainer and practitioner and teacher of Zen meditation, how he would introduce meditation to school children in the seventh grade. Without hesitation he outlined a simple meditation that can be done in 10 minutes, accessible to all. Here’s what he said.
Judih: Doron, How would you suggest teaching meditation to pupils in the seventh grade? Each session is to be about 10 minutes.
Doron: Work very systematically and very simply.
Harmony of the body
Harmony of the breath
Harmony of the mind
We work to harmonize each one separately and at the end they harmonize together as a whole
And when we’re in that place it’s hard to explain the experience to someone else but from within, we see the difference
We start with the physical
First, we work on the body
We begin with where we are. We feel ourselves sitting on the chair and gradually travel down the body with our imagination. We relax our face, muscles, shoulders. Working very orderly, harmonize your body. When it is all ordered and relaxed, we move on
Harmonize the breath. In a way that is very systematic. We blow out the air in the body – do a sustained “Phew” . We use the sound in a long exhalation, until it’s impossible – there’s no air left. Then we let go. And air enters by itself. We do this a few times and we enter a rhythm. When we understand the idea, we don’t push it, but just continue easy. Harmonize your breathing
Body is ordered. Breath is ordered
The next thing: We go to harmonize your mind. We cannot stop thinking. It’s very hard for us. Our mind is always actively taking us away to many things. But we can focus on one thing – that’s the closest we’ll get to ‘zero’. So the best thing to do is to count our breaths. To stay only with the breaths
The exhale is ‘ehhh‘ and the inhale is ‘one‘. (Exhaling, I think ‘ehhh‘ and inhaling, I count: one, and repeat, two, three) We will naturally lose the count, we’ll think of something we need at the store, or of a teacher, remembering something, it doesn’t matter, simply start again
This simple procedure: Harmonize body, breath and mind is very immediate, very accessible for the person to work with himself: body, breath and mind
An image to share is to think of the head as a balloon, the breath as the cord and the mind as the hand that holds onto the cord. This image helps them remember the sensations of the experience
Judih: Could I stop the meditation with a gong?
Doron: Yes, it’s possible.
Judih: I’d like to offer a suggestion that the meditation can be repeated during the day and everyday
Doron: When you do it several times, and see how simple it is, it’s very possible to do it in every situation, whenever. You got angry, frustrated, hurt. This is the time to harmonize your body, harmonize your breathing. It’s always useful
When you practice it, it immediately takes you to a better place and also offers a better place from which to act, in a more productive way
During T’ai Chi practice, questions arise during the break. Sometimes a question leads to many stories ranging from Masters all over the world to specific anecdotes regarding health. Ruthy, one of those who regularly comes to practice T’ai Chi posed 3 health questions to Doron.
Doron Lavie answers questions (transl from original Hebrew by judih)
Does T’ai Chi affect one’s posture and balance
Doron: Absolutely. Studies that have been conducted on practicing adults in various locations in the world over a 3-month period (note: adults with no previous history of having done T’ai Chi), compared with groups of adults who engaged in alternate forms of movement strategies. The T’ai Chi group showed 15-17% fewer falls or diagnosed physical damage in conducting their daily lives.
2. Are there standards of physiology that can be measured after practicing T’ai Chi?
D: There are many studies available of research, observations and experiments on the effects of T’ai chi on health, agility and motor skills. The most studied are: the Cardiovascular system (heart and circulatory), the Nervous system (mostly brain and memory). One of the pioneers in the field and a real ‘Nut’ in in the field of Stress Management and the spirit, is a teacher of T’ai Chi, Lawrence Galante. In his book “T’ai Chi the Supreme Ultimate” he’s devoted an entire chapter to this, bringing inspirational examples of those who have been affected by T’ai Chi. It’s possible to find a wide network of detailed information, if anyone is interested in examining the data.
3. Is it accurate to say that practicing T’ai Chi can lower high blood pressure?
A: Yes, that’s correct and in fact the practice of T’ai Chi has a positive and significant effect on your heart’s health and maintaining the balance of blood flow.
Doron Lavie, teacher of T’ai Chi, Chi Cong, Zen meditation, kung fu and practitioner of holistic healing has won championships in Tokyo in T’ai Chi, and has worked with many populations bringing the benefits of his knowledge and experience to a wide variety of populations. I, myself, have been studying with him since 1993 when he first began classes on Kibbutz Nir-Oz. I was fortunate that Doron agreed to be interviewed and am happy to share his answers to my questions.
J: What is T’ai Chi, Doron?
Doron: A Chinese Martial Art, definitely martial arts combined with awareness. It works on our quality of life: how to use the body, the mind and how to use them well.
J: What are its origins?
D. In early Chinese history, there evolved the idea that the world and its processes work according to the principle of yin and yang. The I Ching developed at the same time, according to the same principles. Everything is balanced. This balance of power controls everything in the world.
These two principles are not opposite as some may think, but rather they complement each other. It is our task to find the balance between them and in all areas of life, we need to maintain that balance. Along with that, we endeavour to learn more about our bodies in accordance with the same principles and rules. The Chinese, who originated this point of view, realized that the cosmos and the body work in the same way: the body being a microcosmos of the same guiding principles.
This philosophy led to the development of different branches. Some were religious, as happens in all cultures, some were mental processes, such as meditation, without a religious element, some were physical exercises or sports, and eventually developed therapeutic branches such as chi cong, acupuncture, etc.
T’ai chi fits combines physical movement with awareness.
J: Who can benefit from t’ai chi?
D: Everybody! Everybody who truly cares for him/herself, who values their quality of life can benefit.
J: How often does one have to practice it?
D: There are many people who practice once or twice a week, but the more the better, in accordance with one’s schedule, time and how long one can invest. As in most things, people who are attracted to t’ai chi and see results from their practice, tend to practise and develop a regular routine.
Favourite Childhood memory: There are many to choose from. When I was growing up, I was surrounded by nature. That is what I remember, that and my family life – which was very strong, very enjoyable. I loved our family trips into nature.
J:When did you first become interested in T’ai Chi?
It’s hard to say directly. Not specifically T’ai Chi, but, at a young age, I was interested in seeking something “more”. As an adolescent, it didn’t seem right that there was just daily life and nothing beyond it. I always looked for something more. At first, I tried looking for it in religion and I went in that direction. Up till today, I’m connected to it. I’m not orthodox, nor do I keep Shabbat in the religious sense, but I feel religious. I say the Kiddush (Kaddish) and I live my daily life in a ‘God-awareness’; that there’s no such thing as randomness, but rather there exists some kind of larger order. While on this search, I found many things. Yoga was good for me, and I discovered meditation which I continued while in the army and afterwards. Then a friend invited me to observe t’ai chi and I’d never seen anything like that before. I was enchanted and I went again and again and continued. And that was that. That was my connection. I connected to my teacher, who was very special. He combined mental/spiritual/meditation work with exercise. He taught the total concept of doing holistic work.
J:Who were your first teachers?
First teacher? Tzvi Weisberg, an American, who wanted to immigrate to Israel. He was the first to make tofu in Israel; he would sit and prepare it as it is done in a monastery. He was also one of the first to bring the practice of zazen to Israel.
J: When did you first go out east?
We went at the end of 1985- We (Irit and I) got married and went. I had thought it wouldn’t be for a long time, but Tzvi had always told me to leave this place and not to hang around him. I wanted to be with him, I was sure that it would take a lifetime to learn all that he had to teach, but he urged me to go out into the world and look at other things. My wife also strongly encouraged me to go look at other things. And that’s what we did.
J: What would you say were the most important elements that you found while you were in Japan and China?
I learned about processes. It’s hard to speak of specific elements. The first thing was how to learn. What it is to seriously learn. It influenced me deeply in how I saw things. I learned I could see things differently, I could do things that I’d thought were impossible. I learned that it is possible, there is a way, the mind has a lot of strength if used properly. This would be the most important thing.
I also got acquainted with chi – I felt the sensation of chi. Before that, I hadn’t really known what it was. But in the east, it was very clear – I knew when Chi emerged. It was more than a feeling of the flow. I knew chi, beyond all doubt, very clearly. Especially in a group exercise, when others had the same experience and we all felt it. It was obvious that we were not imagining or fantasizing, but that it was real.
J: What do you try to impart to your students?
First of all, I would be very happy if I could awaken within them an inner curiousity. And with that, a broader look at the world around them. If a connection can be made in those two realms, a person is taken to a better place where every day is a little better than the day before. There is an underlying feeling that everything is okay.
J: Can anyone do t’ai chi? Everybody can do it
J: What about Chi Cong. Can you explain what it is?
It is similar to T’ai Chi, but it emphasizes the energetic side, teaching us to learn to recognize it and to control it. Someone who is strong in Chi Cong can truly help others.
J: There are different forms of Chi Cong that you teach. Could you briefly mention a few and explain them?
There are many series of Chi Cong. Most of them work on improving posture, balance, to remedy disease or unbalanced emotions. They all work to increase chi and its balance. That’s the most important aim.
There are some very static forms and others dynamic, some very dynamic like shaolin. One form, for example, used in almost all schools is The Five Elements, or Five Postures (as called by the Chinese).
These are static positions which are held, then changed, from position to position, relating to the Chinese five elements and addressing the five pairs of organs in the body. This is a little different to what we know in the West.
The elements relate to the natural cycle of energy that flows between these five pairs of bodily organs.
The Five Elements balances the mental, emotional, hormonal energies within the organs, themselves, and in their relationship with one another.
Another series is called the Eight Pieces of Brocade. It is also one of the ancient series, getting its name from the lace from which the Caesars’ robes were made, a very expensive cloth. The Eight Pieces do major work on all aspects of health; one on cartilage, another on the skeleton and others on the seven emotions (joy-anger, happiness-sadness, etc).
One works on the nervous system, another on the immune system. It does thorough work.
Another series of Chi Cong is the Wild Goose, which develops the body and awareness through movement. It is one of the few Chi Cong cutta –(a dynamic series of movements). Most are static.
Because it’s not too technical and fairly easy to do, it improves coordination, orientation, and body awareness in general. There are a few forms of the Wild Goose. They all open up energetic channels, providing a good base for other movement or awareness work, no matter what it might be.
It works specifically on the immune system.
Doing almost any form of Chi Cong will relax the body, relieve tiredness, awaken the body. It can dissolve negative emotions including anger. People feel good afterwards and don’t think of negativity.
J: Would you say that t’ai chi has changed you?
In many ways.
First, when I was young, I would get angry quickly, and I was easily frustrated. At times, I even got violent. My attitudes about life were set and inflexible. All these things changed. I was suddenly able to relax, through my own control, something I never could have done before. I could deal with my frustration in a kind of dialogue. I learned (perhaps by myself) that the world was nicer than I had thought. Of course, there’s no shortage of things to fix and I wish that things were different but it’s not as bad as we think. There are many issues in the world, whether individual or on a universal scale that I once assumed were lost causes, beyond anything I could do. Now I think I can influence things, by every positive action that I take.
J: Do you see T’ai chi making a change in your students?
I have many students, thank god, everyone different, in personality, in their reasons for coming. I can see where it doesn’t work. Not everyone is ready or open to doing t’ai chi. But definitely, as they become more aware of their movements and improve, I can see how it also influences their approach to themselves and to the world. I have seen self-deprecating people who suddenly recognize their own abilities to do things. And for some, it’s a true discovery, allowing them to explore totally new things in their lives. Tai chi is a vehicle to self-awareness.
J: You have a very gentle way of teaching. You target one particular point for a student to work on and help them focus on observation and correction. Is this a method that other teachers use, or is it your own particular technique?
Yes. This is one of the things I learned with Tzvi, and in Japan or China, but mostly in Japan, during a very intensive period. When I arrived there to do T’ai Chi, I searched for something similar to what I had been doing with Tzvi. But, I couldn’t find the same style. There were many styles, of course, but due to my own state, I was unable to adapt. Nothing seemed to suit me. Also I had no criteria with which to judge what was good or not. Then a friend of mine who was studying acupuncture invited me to a monastery to watch a T’ai Chi class. I went there and suddenly, it didn’t matter about the style: I saw the teacher, a woman, and how she moved, her very being, her aura and I wanted her to help me get to her level. Wherever she was, I wanted to be there.
The teaching was very gentle, very harmonious. People were never reprimanded. Sometimes, I missed that, sometimes I felt as if I needed to be hit on the head. In China, they would do things like that to awaken awareness. When required, I sometimes use that technique, but afterwards I feel badly for doing it.
In Japan, however, they were very gentle, focusing on one thing. When I was an assistant-teacher, I used to show a person everything that needed adjustment. But it’s impossible to remember so many corrections, and I learned to look for the most central thing. People are able to work on one thing, and if central enough, other things will be corrected as well. And that will open up the possibility of working on something else. The issue for the teacher is to locate the center of the problem. When I look at a person, I look for what is being done right, and I emphasize the positive. That way I can see more clearly where the interference might be coming from. In getting to that central thing, you solve more than one area.
J: You give several T’ai Chi classes in the Negev area, including kibbutzim and the University. Do you find any noticeable difference in the classroom atmosphere?
Yes, every community has a separate personality, making it special. I work in different sorts of communities and the atmosphere is very different in each.
For example, I work with the elderly and I work with a younger group of pensioners. With one group, I am not expecting them to be t’ai chi masters, not at all, but we work with the here and now, what is possible in the lesson and what will remain with each person after they leave the class. What is unique in working with that group is that there is a very harmonious feeling in the room. With the slightly younger pensioners, on the other hand, there can erupt some rather angry dialogues, in the middle of the lesson. It’s very interesting that the lesson sets the stage for such discussions. I am not a part of the particular stories, but since it happens in my lesson, I have to deal with it. I can either ignore it or relate to it. The fact that I can dissolve any negativity that might develop is very satisfying. Sometimes, I can deal with it in a joking manner and that can transform the entire situation. So although such things are not directly connected to t’ai chi, they can constitute a major part of the lesson.
J: Are there any other questions you wish I had asked, or any comments you’d like to add?
Yes, I have a question: I often find myself wanting to give more than students apparently want. When I first came back to Israel, society in general tended to be more attracted to holistic practices but, in recent years, that has lessened. The fact is that I don’t understand why people don’t gravitate more to t’ai chi. Or to yoga or meditation. Why aren’t more people doing these things?
We are at a period in society where most people are good people, clever people trying to live well. But they focus on the external. They devote attention to their car’s colour, its radio, its GPS, but not to the engine or the gear. This is why they work extra hours, make one more deal. Even nurses will take care of one more patient, instead of going home, instead of paying attention to the time or to themselves. They themselves could be sick, but they don’t offer themselves the attention they give so freely to others. Why must an actual illness force people to finally pay attention, when it can so easily be prevented.
It takes awareness to maintain the body. More people need to make a connection to themselves.
This brings back the point I made earlier. The essential thing is to arouse a true curiousity in the self and when that happens, a person will be able to see what is required, aware of what’s important in life.
Is it really necessary to have a better looking car, a larger TV, or is it more important to feel healthier, better nourished inside?
If one’s priorities are in order, one feels inner contentment and nothing external can change that feeling.
If you are happy, you are happyl Receiving a gift is always nice, but it all starts on the inside. That’s the place to start.
Thank you, Doron.
Doron Lavie : T’ai Chi and Chi Cong classes are given from Sunday to Friday. For inquiries about classes in t’ai chi, chi cong, zen meditation and kung fu, contact Doron. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 08-651-2636
Doron has been teaching Chi Cong and T’ai Chi on Kibbutz Nir-Oz since 1993, on Tuesday nights from 20:30 – 22:00. For information about classes given on Kibbutz Nir-Oz, e-mail: email@example.com
Doron offers clarification
Watch a short clip of Doron illustrating a point in ‘Wave Hands Like Clouds’ (Hebrew spoken, but useful to watch)
More Toddlers, Young Children Given Antipsychotics – BusinessWeek.
– These findings are more than worrisome. Take a look at the article –
More Toddlers, Young Children Given Antipsychotics
Researchers question the ‘worrisome’ trend
By Jennifer Thomas HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) — The rate of children aged 2 to 5 who are given antipsychotic medications has doubled in recent years, a new study has found.
Yet little is known about either the effectiveness or the safety of these powerful psychiatric medications in children this age, said researchers from Columbia University and Rutgers University, who looked at data on more than 1 million children with private health insurance.
“It is a worrisome trend, partly because very little is known about the short-term, let alone the long-term, safety of these drugs in this age group,” said study author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.
Prescribing antipsychotics to children in the upper range of that age span — ages 4 and 5 — is justifiable only in rare, intractable situations in which all other treatments, including family and psychological therapy, have been tried and are not working, Olfson said.
And it’s questionable whether 2- and 3-year-olds should ever be prescribed antipsychotics, Olfson said.
The study is published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry…..
Click onto the link to read the rest of the article.
I don’t know what you’re seeing in your school or immediate area, but I’m seeing many children with miniscule attention spans popping up to look for junkfood, cola, candy. Nutrition could be a big part of what we’re seeing, but if one zeroes in on purely neurological conditions, are we indeed seeing such a growth in the number of little children who need medication?
Especially since we don’t know what long-term effects will be invoked by such early medication. Or, is it possible that early medication could successfully prevent further exacerbation of a condition?