THE LISTENING SEED
Last night I told myself I would begin. I put on my magic red shoes. I changed into my kung fu clothes. I stood in my practice space.
Then I walked away. Maybe I’d go see what my man was doing in the other room. A movie! Do I want to watch it with him? “No,” I said, “I’m practicing kung fu.”
I stood there watching the screen from over his shoulder. A few minutes passed and I was suddenly sitting next to him. An hour later I was sprawled out and cozy, engrossed in the film.
When the movie ended I stood up and realized I still had my kung fu outfit on. I looked at my red shoes and they seemed to say, “Come on. We're already on your feet. Just practice one form and then you can stop. Just so you can say you did it.”
I thought that sounded much better than committing to a full practice session, so I took their advice. I did the one form… And was invigorated. I did it again. And again. I went through a different form. Then another. A half hour later I was sweating, my heart was beating thunderously in my chest, and I was breathing heavy and strong.
I felt ALIVE.
This morning I woke up and practiced my sword form for an hour outside. An hour!
My intention for the day went a little something like this:
I will enjoy the power of my discipline.
It felt like a great secret I had stumbled upon: creating discipline for oneself cultivates a potent form of personal power.
Starting a new discipline feels like a secret weapon for summoning movement and inspiration like a powerful current coursing throughout one’s entire life experience.
Every year around this time my personal practice shifts. It’s nearly June, the daylight hours are long, and the garden gets bigger by the day. I feel my skin absorbing the sun’s energy and it gives me power. My body has more energy and wants to move.
All that yang qi makes me crave kung fu. All winter long, and into spring, my home practice is tai chi and qi gong, and lots of meditation. For a couple weeks now I have been intending to begin practicing my kung fu again. It usually takes a while before I can get myself to take that first step in creating the new routine.
So when I realized I was putting it off simply by not remembering to do it, I called upon my trusty reminder methods.
Reminder Method no.1: WRITE IT DOWN
Find a slip of paper, write down your resolve, tape it to the mirror, or fridge, or door, or all of the above.
Reminder Method no.2: PUT IT IN THE DAILY PLANNER
Pick a time, set a date, get it down. If you’re using your smart phone’s calendar, set a reminder alarm for an hour before + at the time of event, and let your device notify you when it’s time to get down to it.
Reminder Method no.3: USE THE HABIT LIST APP
If you’re like me, you like to choose the apps you add to your devices with intention. I recently learned about the Habit List app and it’s right up my compulsive list-maker’s alley. Check it out here. It makes it easy to create good habits, and it’s working for me. (There’s not a whole lot more satisfying to me than crossing something off my list.)
The first step to create a new discipline is to remember to do it. Step two is to act like you’re about to do it.
Now, you may be wondering, “Why act? Shouldn’t you just do it?”
I don’t know the answer to that, my friend. Why don’t we all just do that thing we have such a hard time doing when we haven’t been in the habit of doing it yet? Personally, I can’t really relate to the slogan, “Just Do It.” I like to give myself a prelude to the doing. My slogan would be more like, “Act Like You’re Just About To Do It.”
Hm. Not the same punch. Hear me out, anyway.
Notice in my story how I put my red shoes on. I changed into my kung fu clothes. I went into the practice space. Now, I know, it was just as easy for me to leave that space and take that movie bait, but the point is this: the only reason I eventually began practicing post-movie was because I had my magic red shoes on.
Yes, I call them that. Because when I put them on, even if I don’t feel like practicing with every inch of my snack-craving, duck-watching, book-reading procrastinating self, I have the red shoes on, which means I can’t go outside (they’re my inside-only practice shoes,) and I can’t forget that I am supposed to be practicing.
So if you’re putting off writing something, go sit at your desk, set a timer for 20 minutes and GO--just write whatever comes to mind.
If you want to start a new class, don’t just say, “Yeah, I should give that a try.” Put it on your calendar, invite a friend to go with you and be your accountability partner, and then GET IN THE CAR when it’s time to go.
If you’ve intended to start a new meditation routine, but you haven’t had the motivation to actually sit down and get into it, don’t just wait until you feel like it (because chances are you won’t.) Tell yourself all you have to do is go sit down for a couple minutes. Grab a cushion, sit in a peaceful spot, light a candle—or whatever! Do whatever you can to make it look like you’re about to meditate.
Pretending to Meditate, Photograph by Brea Fisher
No pressure on whether you actually do it at this point. This part of the discipline-setting is simply preliminary.
Now here’s where you take my magic red shoes’ advice.
When it comes to your first few attempts at your new discipline, go into it giving yourself an easy-to-swallow portion, without any set amounts in place. Make it nice and easy. Do it only as long and as much as you need to to be able to say, “Yeah, I did it!”
Here’s what I originally had for a couple of the habits on my Habit List:
Work on Biz Stuff (2 hrs)
Practice Kung Fu (1 hr)
After last night I quickly realized that the time commitment was too much pressure. It made me not want to do it at all. So I took the timeframes out and told myself that as long as I did it even for a few minutes I could cross it off my list.
“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it.” –Earl Nightingale
Don’t underestimate the power of lowering the bar during the initial phases of beginning a new discipline.
Doing something for five minutes a day for a week is way more effective at creating a new habit than doing it once for an hour, and then never doing it again.
What have you been putting off?
Do you want to start a new practice? A new class? A meditation routine?
My challenge for you is to choose one new healthy habit you want to create.
Once you have it in your mind, take these steps:
The great thing about this is that once you start doing that thing you’re trying to create a new discipline out of, you’re highly likely to continue doing it for more than just a few minutes. And the more consecutive sessions (Habit List calls them “streaks”) you get under your belt, the more likely you are to continue doing them for even longer amounts of time.
You know what I did with the rest of my day? I completed all eleven items on my Habit List using the steps outlined above. And even though I went into my kung fu practice thinking I only had to do it a few minutes, I finished an hour and a half later. I even took a nap in the middle of my day, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I felt more productive today than I have in a long while, and that feeling is pure empowerment.
Make discipline a friend in your life. Create a new habit today, and let yourself really enjoy the power it generates within you
Need some ideas about a new discipline to set in place for yourself? I just happen to be offering some new classes at the Ribera Community Cultural Center. If you’re in the valley, or know someone else who would like my classes, share this newsletter with them and they can try their first class with me for free. My gift to you for bringing in a friend is two half-priced classes and a bunch of gratitude
I’m just going to come right out with it.
This was the hardest article I’ve written yet.
I sat at my screen doing the old sit-&-stare for about ten minutes.
I checked my bank account.
I designed a flyer for a new class.
I got up and made some salsa.
I sat back down.
Still no ideas. Still no movement.
I cleared my inbox of old emails.
I went outside and planted tomato, sorrel, arugula, cosmos, and hollyhock seeds.
Night came. I had one more day before my writing window closed. I started feeling a little stressy.
stressy /stress-ee/ adj 1 Having feelings of stress without identifying oneself with the highly-charged term, Stressed. 2 State in which one is the boss of one’s stress-feelings.
I was not going to let those stress-feelings be the boss of me, and I knew there was something I could do to help me create movement in my writer’s block.
Sometimes the best action-step toward your goal is to set your intention.
I declared what I wanted, clearly, and on paper:
I intend to come up with a great idea for a newsletter article that *|FNAME|* will be inspired and uplifted by.
I imagined myself waking up the next morning feeling refreshed and creative. I saw the words pouring out of my fingertips like a copy fountain and I joyously bathed in the feeling of being productive.
I went to bed and awoke with my intentions by my bedside, reminding me to feel creative. And I did.
I meditated a luxurious Sunday-amount of time, I made banana bread, and I did every animal care chore I could think of. It was creative and productive and I enjoyed myself without guilt about not writing my article.
Then I went to a luncheon and let myself have four hours of pleasantness with friends. (This was, by far, the sweetest way to procrastinate out of all the ways on my list.)
Did I think about my newsletter during the lunch? A couple times, I’ll admit it. Did I let it pull me out of the moment for more than a few seconds? No way.
I was there to connect with some really inspiring women, and I was fully there for it. I trusted I would go home and write an article that would fill your heart up with light.
So when I got home I was ready to go. I felt at peace, I felt inspired, I felt creative.
I sat at the computer. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Staring at the big white void, rubbing my temples, brushing my hair with my fingers, trying to coax a cat to come sit on my lap.
My stressy started to come back.
I had already set my intention. I couldn’t just wish myself into writing a wonderful newsletter. I had to take action.
Sometimes the best action to take is to set your intention. Sometimes.
Sometimes the best action to take is a true act of physical movement toward that which you want to achieve.
I set a timer for 25 minutes. Ok Brea, GO. Write anything, without fixing errors, without re-reading what you type, without stopping. Just write. Even though your pants are too tight because you had a big meal plus dessert. Even though your animals want their dinner. Even though your brain wants you to be writing about something specific that is your newsletter article topic and all you’re writing about is how hard it is to write this thing.
Oh, yes. Yes, that is how this all came about, see. I took that action-step to just GO and all that sloppy wording led me right into this newsletter from the back woods path!
When you feel stuck about doing something new, starting a project, beginning a class, choosing a subject to write about--creating anything you have resistance around—there is a two-step process you can do to help you flow through the blocked energy.
1. Shift your Focus
[Set your intention + Go do something you enjoy = Feel better before you try again]
2. Shift your Weight
[Push off from where you are in order to get to where you want to be]
Photograph by Brea Fisher
I believe in the power of visualization to make your dreams manifest in your life. I do. I use it, and it works for me. I also believe that all the beautiful images in my fairie-forest of magical life-happenings do not just occur without my active participation.
We have to take action in order to give our innermost dreams a place to exist outwardly.
So how do we relate this to Tai Chi?
Think of your body movements as symbolism for the movements you make in your life.
Take shifting your weight, for example. You push off the earth to shift your weight. You don’t pull your body forward with your knee.
You press your foot into the ground beneath you in order to propel your body forward.
Your Qi Challenge includes a mini lesson-film. Follow along as I lead you through shifting your weight, tai chi style.
You can do this exercise anywhere and you don’t need to know tai chi to do it.
Happen to be reading this on your phone? Maybe you’re standing in line at the bank? Perfect. Put your earbuds in and follow along—no one will even notice you’re doing anything profound.
Let this idea sink in over time: Shifting your weight by pressing into the earth. Shifting your life by pressing into the present moment.
See where it pops up in your daily life. Maybe you become aware of pressing into the step as you climb a stairway. Maybe you feel yourself push into the earth as you get up from a doggy-petting squat. Or maybe the next time you feel stressy, you find yourself shifting your focus toward something that feels lighter.
The point is to notice where your focus is as you take steps, in your physical reality, and your spiritual one.
Creating what you want to experience in your life is partly about the vision and partly about the steps you take to get there.
Instead of relying solely on the end result pulling you to it, dreaming and wishing and visualizing and visionboarding, you can focus on what you can actually do, right now, from where you are right now, with what you have right now.
Press into where you are in order to get to where you want to go.
You’re halfway through your backed-up emails when the power goes out.
You’ve got three more Must-Do actions to check off your list for the day when the phone rings and your friend needs you to comfort her through a breakup.
You finally have the time to plant those wildflower seeds you got two weeks ago when a winter storm warning goes into effect.
Nothing makes taking a break richer than unexpected circumstances that stop you dead in your tracks.
According to the Chinese seasonal calendar, the Start of Summer officially begins on Wednesday, May 4 at 7:41pm MDT.
And what do we get? Snow.
And if you happen to be in a part of the northern hemisphere where it didn’t just dump a bunch of snow on you, I’m willing to bet there are other factors arising in your life that are causing you to go back to the inward focus we most associate with the winter season.
This winter-in-summer energy actually makes perfect sense if you use astrology to navigate the world in much the same way we use our weather forecasts.
Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Pluto, and Mercury are all in retrograde, which means that due to the perspective we have from our planet, they all seem to be moving backward. That’s five planets! Usually it’s just Mercury, and even that sends people into a state of beware-edness. Mercury retrograde has a reputation for causing things to break down, miscommunications, and travel mishaps. Numerologist Kari Samuels was recently interviewed on the Mind Your Business Podcast, during which she artfully described ways to use retrogrades as a catalyst for potent internal growth. Samuels says,
“Retrogrades are a wonderful time to “refresh, review, rejuvenate, recreate, repair, and re-evaluate.”
So if the time of year is that of fertility and attraction, outward energy and full, bright, yang qi, (i.e. summer,) but the astrological forecast is that of inward focus and reflection, and then the weather forecast makes you want to stay in all day, what do you do?
You read a book instead of tackling your overdue emails.
You sit down and take the evening off to comfort your friend.
And you save the wildflower seeds for later and take a bath instead.
Film by Brea Fisher
When the cosmos gives you retrogrades and the planet gives you snow, get quiet, go inside, and reflect.
In my teachings I am constantly reminding everyone to go inside, to listen to the body, and to observe. This is the ultimate retrograde practice.
By getting still and moving your mind into your body, your attention draws all your energy back inside yourself.
“Where the mind goes, energy flows.” – Ernest Holmes
Your work during this next two weeks is to begin a new routine of reflection.
Look inside and see yourself as you are in the moment:
Witness what it feels like to be in your body.
Determine what you feel like emotionally.
Don’t get fancy with it. You don’t need a special meditation cushion. You don’t need to lock yourself in a silent room.
You don’t need more than a few minutes of your day to do this.
Pick a time you feel you can do this and build in a reminder system. Maybe first thing upon waking you go to the sink and see your little note posted on the mirror.
Stand with your eyes closed, or with a light focus on the floor if you need visual support for your balance. Sit down if you prefer. Heck, you can even do this before even getting out of bed.
Now listen with all your senses. Do you have any tension in your body? Is your breathing rough or steady? Can you identify what emotion you feel right now? (Try.)
And now for the most important part of this exercise:
Drop your judgments. Halt your opinions as soon as you notice them. You are collecting the data. You are a witness to the current state of your being. Your job is not to label it good or bad; your task is simply to notice it.
If you try to push through the obstacles life places strategically before you, the energy you spend swimming upstream will exhaust you. And all that hard work won’t get you anywhere further than had you simply let the current carry you down river in the first place.
Let go to get in the flow.
You can’t force the sun to shine. You can’t make the internet work when you’re offline. And you can try to plant your garden in a snowstorm, but it’ll probably mean a pretty thin array of flowers come June.
The truth is, when you are attuned to the qi around and within you, you automatically put yourself into the flow of life.
Use this ripe for reflection time and let go of the habit of feeling like you should be doing more. The sun will shine again. Summer will begin to feel consistently like summer.
Give yourself permission to sit, to relax, and to look inside, and you will find yourself rejuvenated and ready to go once the energy shifts, as it always does.
I'm so curious– have you ever had the experience where you tried to push through and keep plugging away at something when all the signs were telling you to stop? How did that turn out for you? What about when you listened to all that "take a break" energy? Were you able to make more progress with it after walking away for a while? Leave a comment! I'd love to hear your feedback on this one.