Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Exhale into Gratitude with QiGong this Thanksgiving Season By Karen Steinbrecher

With inspiration from the Rumi poem, “the Guest House”, I share my Thanksgiving story with you.  From Rumi, “This being human is a guest house.  Every morning a new arrival.”  In September, I experienced a surprise health challenge.  I fainted in my home and fell across a bookcase, hitting the floor on my forehead.  My husband found me immediately and did all the right things.  I broke my past record, having never been overnight in a hospital since birth.  Results from the many tests, X-Rays, CAT scans, etc., and bloodwork showed nothing broken and no concussion.  Low blood pressure and blood sugar may have caused this.  I was a scary sight with two black eyes and facial bruising.  With much gratitude and thankfulness I share this story.  Through all of this I practiced and danced Qigong, whether it was in my mind’s eye in the hospital bed, or physically standing and practicing the flowing movements after arriving home.  People are amazed at how well I have healed and how fortunate I am.  I agree.   Traumatic experiences and worry can cause more worry, problems, and block the energy flow.  Remembering what I tell people I practiced more Qigong.  It is so much more than the physical movements.  The slow and flowing movements send a signal to your brain, your body’s repair and maintenance center to rebuild.  Hold these thoughts, and when you are feeling “out of sorts” practice more Qigong.   A little “pre-Gong” suggestion to empower yourself with Qigong practice, is to turn off all distractions.  Say a big “thank you” to the Universe for the opportunity to be present of mind and body. This heart centered practice helps us connect to a deeper state, the stillness that holds everything together.  Qi dao Yi dao. Where the Qi goes, the mind flows.   Inhale to your heart.  Let go of the personal [worries].  Go inwards and allow your inner arms to support and enfold you with pure love.  Rest in balance in the here and now. Exhale gratitude.                                       
To quote Rumi from the “Guest House”:  Be grateful for whoever comes
                                                                   Because each has been sent
                                                                   as a guide from Beyond.

As Thanksgiving approaches I want to express and shout out my appreciation to the Universe and to all of you, my gratitude for reading my story.  Namaste.

Karen teaches QiGong on Thursdays at 2 P.M. and at 6:15 P.M. for a 1 hour class @  $10.00 per class. In addition to the WuJi QiGong movements, I am incorporating the healing TaiJi Hua Gong practice.
On Wednesday Nov. 19th Karen Steinbrecher and Dean Solon offer a Free Resiliency Center Workshop. Resiliency through Meditation and Qigong   7 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.   Come join us!

Tending to the Inner Landscape Seasonal Reflections by: John Muraco

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
-Albert Camus

One true fact: We all deal with the changing seasons differently.  As it stands true with life’s challenges and changes, ups and downs, and ebb and flow, people have very unique and important ways in which they meet the changing of the seasons.  As we leave summer behind and replace the warm weather with cooler and more ‘biting air’, I become fascinated with the approaches that each one of us has toward this change.  Perhaps merely reading this article creates some angst for you as we delve more deeply into fall and the beginning of winter.  At the same time, others may be ecstatic knowing that they get to pull the sweater out of the closet and enjoy warming drinks, rich and filling foods, and more time indoors.  I wonder though, how can this become a season of understanding ourselves more deeply?  What things can we integrate into out lives to make the darker and colder seasons more inviting?  By witnessing natural landscape changes outdoors we find many clues to the changing landscape within us.  Perhaps with some noticing and a little motivation for self-care, we can begin to harmonize with the cooler seasonal change, as we say goodbye to the golden light of summer, and go inward.

This is a great time of the year to harvest all that was accomplished in the past five months.  No matter what your experience has been, allow yourself a chance for a deep breath and gratitude for arriving to your life today.  And look back on the accomplishments made. Perhaps for you, summer was fraught with challenge, change, and some discomforts.  Now is a great time to allow yourself some time each day for quiet reflection.  Consider journaling, working with collage, drawing, or whatever you choose.  Proceed without judgment, like nobody’s watching- this is your time.  It could be that your experience during the summer was one with many positive changes, a lot of time outdoors, late nights, and high energy.  Again, reflecting on all that has taken shape in the ‘lively’ months of spring and summer, and reaping the benefits of what life has delivered, can go a long way.  Winter can be your wind down period that allows for restoration.

Just like the falling leaves, our energy too can be downward and inward-moving as we transition into fall and winter.  And as we near Halloween, a holiday ripe with ghosts, goblins, and skeletons, I ponder the possible connection to our inner life.  Let this be a time to honor the letting go or passing of choices that might no longer serve us, or take a closer look at relationships that feel non-sustainable.  Further, give yourself freedom to share gratitude for the ones who have had positive impacts on our lives. 

Perhaps you have heard the Yogi Bajan quote “When you don’t go within, you go without.”  This is a wonderful quote to exemplify the quiet inward drawing effects of the winter season, and the nourishing benefits of withdrawing our senses from the outer world to gaze within. Challenging though it may be, the colder and darker months reflect to us, that in order to be born anew we must go within.  Inner stillness and nonjudgmental self-observation empowers us to become available to new ways of being and maybe even open to the parts of ourselves that remain unseen in our shadow.  Be it in stillness, self-reflection, or support from others, we might find there some reverence and light. By that inner light, we may gaze at the things in life that have held us back, noticing what is working and what isn't, and integrating more of what makes our hearts sing into our lives. 

Here are a couple things you can begin to do right now!!

1. Allow yourself 5 minutes (go for more if you can!) of deep belly breathing.  By placing your hand on your belly, inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose.  This will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and allow the body to relax and restore.  If your mind is wandering (that is normal!) bring your attention back to your breath or the rising of your belly into your hand.

2. Self Expression – This is totally up to you!  Maybe the way you want to express yourself is by cooking a warming soup for yourself or the meaningful people in your life.  If journaling is your thing, (or something that you want to make your thing) allow yourself some free-write sessions where you can release whatever has been on your mind.   What expands you?  What contracts you?  Making art, moving your body, and enjoying your time can be very rewarding at this time of year.

3. Cleaning out closets, pantries, drawers, etc.  It may sound funny, but again, this is a great time of the year to ‘go within’ and the nook and cranny parts of our house can be symbolic of the aspects of ourselves that could use some tending to.  It is possible that by cleaning and clearing unwanted clutter might make some space within your inner world!

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to experience anything.  There is only your way.  Be gentle on yourself, listen to your needs, and move forward in the changing seasons in whatever way feels best to you.  Please stay tuned next month when we delve into some ways to use food as medicine, learn about helpful cold & flu winter remedies and ways to beat the winter blues! 

John Muraco is an art therapist and holistic health counselor at The Resiliency Center located in Flourtown.  For more information about John or to schedule a free consultation please go to or reach him by phone at 315-329-9838.