Turning Fear into Faith has become a steady practice for me since I became pregnant with my son last January. I don’t mean a religious kind of faith, but rather a faith in myself….and the universe. Fear is a very powerful energy, but like any kind of energy, it can be harnessed, manipulated and transformed. If fed, fear festers and turns into anxiety.
I know that when the classic, “What if….” questions arise it is a sure sign that I am feeding fear and laying the groundwork for anxiety. Reframing these What ifs into positive questions is a powerful practice that, if pursued diligently, can have a significant impact in reducing anxiety. The fact is, the positive question/statement is usually more likely to be true than the negative!
What if I get into a car accident? vs What if I arrive safely at my destination?
What if….. I am safe, loved, seen, powerful, loving and heard?
Fear is powerful and, when necessary, can cause us to react in ways that are life-saving; like jumping out of the way of a moving car, but faith, faith is life changing. Faith and trust in oneself create a solid base from which we can dwell with joy and insight.
Cultivating these qualities is a practice that is supported by understanding where our needs and fears originate. Separating the real from the unreal, moving from dark to light can be achieved by exploring our internal storage system, better known as the subtle body, specifically, the Chakras.
Understanding the Chakras
I view the Chakras as psycho-spiritual processing centres that assimilate and store information. They hold the personal and emotional memories of our lifetimes. The root Chakra is called Muladhara, which translates to the ‘dwelling place of support’, and when unsettled switches on the fear response which alerts the nervous system that there is a danger. Whether this danger is actual or only perceived to be real, the breath quickens, there is a surge of blood flow to the muscles and the body prepares to fight, take flight or freeze.
Understanding the subtle body, as well as the physical body combined with summoning conscious thoughts that are based on faith and trust interrupts the fear feedback loop and resets the whole body-mind system.
Acknowledging what makes me feel safe gives me the tools that I need to stabilize myself when I feel unsafe. Understanding why these things make me feel unsafe helps me understand and compassionately witness my history and how I came to be the powerfully imperfect person that I am today. For example, thru my research and studies as a holistic psychotherapist, I have explored the parallels between western psychology and eastern philosophy over the last 10 years.
The stages of development
I have found that the human psyche’s stages of development overlap the development of the chakras quite profoundly. Our first stage of development takes place from birth to age six- seven. It is during this time in our lives that the Muladhara chakra is being formulated. The core needs that must be met at this time in our lives revolve around food, safety, security, nurturing. These are our basic needs and when one of them is unmet our foundation is disrupted and fear is the response that is engaged. I know that when I am hungry or overtired I can be pretty cranky and definitely not at my kindest, toward myself and others. I observed my reaction as we bought and moved into our home 4 years ago, even though we had a lovely home to move into it was still a very unsettling process. But being pregnant was the big one.
Fear for the baby’s health, fear for the potential stress on my marriage, fear about the changes to my livelihood… I could go on! I absolutely could not afford to let these waves of fear ruin my experience! So I worked hard to stay present, breathe, trust, I prayed, walked, sat by the ocean, communicated with my husband, nourished myself… And it worked, for the most part!
We experience these Muladhara earthquakes throughout our lifetime and the way that we respond to them will be influenced by how this chakra was developed. How safe, loved, secure, nourished and nurtured did we feel like a child? What strategies did we learn to get these needs met? Are we still using them today? Are there more appropriate and meaningful strategies that we could employ?
While the deep work that helps prevent the paralyzing effects of the fear cycle is found in the root chakra, each chakra represents specific needs and there are emotional and behavioural reactions when these needs are unmet. Most of the time these reactions limit our ability to live to our fullest potential and experience deep and lasting joy.
Start this work by paying attention, observing, witnessing, but not judging your reactions to Muladhara imbalances. Journal, discuss or meditate on your childhood experiences. Visualize moments when your needs are fully being met and the feeling that you experience. Manifest a safe, secure, nurturing and loving reality!
Join me at the Art of Living Retreat Center this April for The Psychology of the Chakras, where we will examine each of the chakras and their correlating stages and age of development, as well as the common behavioural characteristics and imbalances for each one. We will use dialogue, journaling prompts well as pranayama, meditation and mantra to rewrite our stories and dissolve the limiting beliefs that prevent us from living our lives to the fullest.
Coral Brown is a teacher of teachers, drawing on two decades of experience in yoga, philosophy, and holistic counselling to provide nurturing and open space for the processes of healing and transformation. She has trained in the Iyengar and Jivamukti methods and is a senior teacher of Prana Vinyasa Flow. Coral leads teacher training, retreats and workshops around the world and regularly contributes to Yoga Journal. You can learn more about her work at coralbrown.net.
The modern world is a lonely place. Even when we’re surrounded by people, and even when we keep ourselves busy, loneliness has this tendency to creep in and make itself at home.
Whenever you’re feeling disconnected, isolated, or driftless, you can cultivate a feeling of being at home in your family, your community, and the universe at large by practising a simple qigong exercise called “Awaken Awareness.”
The more you sharpen your awareness, the more you enjoy this moment—and the more you feel connected to the people around you and the entire universe. When you do this practice regularly, it becomes easier to integrate into your daily activities, until eventually, it becomes as natural as walking or breathing. Here are the instructions from my book, The Master Key:
Part One: Awareness
1. Sit upright comfortably in a chair with your hands resting on your lap. Open your eyes and become aware of the outer world. This is the world that flows into awareness through the physical senses. Concentrate on the sights, sounds, smells, and the sense of space around you. Continue doing this for a few seconds.
2. Now close your eyes and become aware of your inner world. This is the world that flows into awareness through the inner senses. Concentrate on the feelings and images floating through your mind, and even on the sense of time flowing by. Continue doing this for a few seconds.
Part Two: Focus
3. Now with your eyes still closed, focus your attention outward once again to the qualities of the outer world. This state of consciousness feels like being in a dark forest on a dark night while your senses extend like antennas. Continue doing this for a few seconds.
4. Next, open your eyes and focus your attention on the qualities of your inner world. This state of consciousness feels like being in a daydream in which your eyes are open but your senses are introverted. Continue doing this for a few seconds.
Part Three: Integration
5. With your eyes still open, now become aware simultaneously of both your inner world and the outer world. Become aware of both objective and subjective experiences arising in awareness. Concentrate on the spacious quality of awareness for a few seconds.
6. Then close your eyes while maintaining an awareness of both your inner world and the outer world. Realize that all experiences arise in the light of awareness. Concentrate on the formless quality of awareness for a few seconds.
7. Now let go of all experience. Allow your inner world and the outer world to dissolve into nothingness. Become “aware” of awareness itself. Awaken your awareness. Realize that “Awakened Awareness” is your true nature.
Rediscover the universe inside of you and your place in the universe. Robert Peng hosts Qigong Empowerments for Wisdom and Vitality at the Art of Living Retreat Center from March 17th-22nd, 2019.
At the Nine Clouds Mountain Qigong Sanatorium near the Six Harmonies Pagoda in Hangzhou, Zhu Hui, a medical doctor and master teacher of Qigong from Tian Tai Mountain, told this Three Treasures story one morning during a tea break. Master Zhu had been practising Chinese medicine for nearly 50 years, and his teaching was always a rich mix of medical, Daoist and Buddhist influences.
The road to unity
A young monk felt he was prepared to deepen his cultivation practice and his master gave the assignment to cultivate inner quiet and discover the secret of the source of life and its application to the preservation of health and vitality. He gave the suggestion to focus on the Earth Elixir Field (Di Dan Tian). After some months of practice, the young monk reported to the master that he felt sure that the most practical answer regarding the secret was nourishment, rest and the conservation of Qi and inner resources. The master encouraged the young monk, “You have found the secret to preserve the Jing and sustain the body, but you have not found the source of life.” The master teacher asked the young monk if he was still interested in pursuing the deeper secret. The monk nodded and the elder gave him the suggestion to focus on the Heart-Mind Elixir Field (Xin Dan Tian).
This time it was considerably longer before the monk visited the elder. When he returned, now older, he responded that the secret of the source of life and its preservation were associated with accepting what naturally arises and bringing love and compassion into the world. The master agreed and encouraged the monk to continue his good work of compassionate service. The monk said to the master, “I know that I have penetrated to the secret of highly refined interactions of the Qi and the opening of the Heart-Mind. It has inspired me to be of service to my fellow humans. It is clear that this sustains life, my own and others. But I have not determined the secret of the source of life.” The master suggested, “Focus on the Celestial Elixir Field (Ling Dan Tian), the entry place of Heaven in the living human being.”
Some years passed. When the younger monk returned he was older. The elder monk said, “Tell me in one word”. The younger monk said, “Unity”. They both smiled quietly, knowing there was nothing more to say. They parted, both knowing that even though they would not meet again, they were always together at the Source.
The power of Qi
When people turn to Qi cultivation, as the young monk, the focus is usually on health and the preservation of the body. When people discover the magnitude of the power of the Qi (after all it is the energy that runs the entire universe), body health and longevity frequently become secondary benefits of attaining peace of mind and heart.
In the tradition of Qigong, it is believed that once you taste or experience one of the treasures that you are destined to pursue the cultivation of that treasure. As you begin to deeply understand and experience your Body Essence (Jing), your Heart-Mind (Xin) or your Spirit (Shen), you will likely be inspired to cultivate them because the promise is so great. When we cultivate Body Essence it leads to vitality and physical healing. When we purposefully access the Heart-Mind and cultivate the treasure of Heart-Mind Elixir it nourishes peace of mind and emotional healing. It is a rare person who does not become attracted to having peace of mind once they have begun to experience it.
What if you were already whole?
The Spirit does not require healing; Shen is inherently and supremely well. Shen resides within the Heart-Mind longing to be revealed, expressed, and radiated. When the Heart-Mind is cleared of its typical restraints including fear, judgement and all sorts of trauma, Shen expresses as radiance. The cultivation of the treasure of Spirit can trigger the release of miracles.
The Heart-Mind is the secret gate through which thoughts, feelings, emotions and attitudes are cleansed and purified. The sincere deepening of Qi cultivation practice requires that intention and will become major focus areas in practice and in life. In ancient traditions, retiring to a cave in the mountains or going to the desert, to disassociate from the material world were primary ways to pass through this secret gate. That is why it is often called the “Mysterious Pass”. It was also called the “dark feminine” in many translations because the Heart-Mind gate operates more on surrender communication and collaboration than on conquest or control. The legendary Bodhidarmha, who many revere for having brought Buddhism to China and who was legendary founder of the Shaolin Temple, faced the wall of a cave in deep meditation for nine years. The intensity of his Heart-Mind purification burned his image into the cave wall.
Clearing the Heart-Mind
In modern times, however, most people find it difficult to clear the Heart-Mind, even with years of meditation practice. The intensity of the busy and confused world constantly challenges and activates the nervous system, the heart and the mind. If distraction, busy-ness, constant list making or worry and judgment (of self and others) challenge your Qi cultivation, consider integrating holistic mind/body medicine and group support or counselling along with Qigong and Tai Chi, as complementary tools for helping to clear the Heart-Mind.
In other words, the fire of intent that is required to change Heart-Mind integrity (behaviour) is so dynamic that it radiates a profound heat. This suggests that changing the habits of the personality (Heart-Mind) will require rigour and discipline – Heart-Mind fire.
Purifying the Heart-Mind Qi
Intentful mind leads the Qi. You can combine Qigong practice with meditation, purposeful declaration, and visualization into powerful imagery and focus that can be used in either stillness or movement. In the relaxed state, mind (intent) with directed visualization or inner affirmation combined with the body movement and purposeful breath practice purify the Heart-Mind Qi.
When you make the choice to “let go” of a grudge or forgive someone who has been unfair, you are removing a factor that may have been depleting or stagnating your Qi — inner resources. The grudge or withheld forgiveness is not hurting the begrudged or the unforgiven one. Instead, the damage is done to the one who holds the grudge or withholds forgiveness. Holding these kinds of feelings constrains the Heart-Mind, exhausts the Qi and overshadows the incredible but buried splendour of the radiant Shen spirit.
A chant to purify Qi
Declarations and blessings in chants or prayers may be integrated into Qigong practice to sustain the benefits throughout the day – starting upon waking and including the moments before and even continuing into sleep. Zhu Hui, was from the Tain Tai mountain – a melting pot of Daoist and Buddhist influences. He often said it is the mind (Heart-Mind) focus that makes what appears to be a simple exercise into a powerful Qigong practice. He often used the following chant in conjunction with his teaching of one of his favourite Buddhist forms, Lotus Flower Qigong.
Extra Qi is pulled out into nature,
Disturbed Qi is pulled down into the earth.
In this, my heart is purified.
Who seeks Dao,
Will achieve Dao.
We could as easily say, more contemporarily:
Spent emotional and physical energy is naturally pulled out into nature,
Disturbed and distressed emotional energy is pulled down into the earth.
In this my heart and mind are purified.
Who seeks awareness of Oneness and Unity,
Will achieve Oneness and Unity.
This declaration, and any declarations like it, stated with sincerity and intent helps the practitioner to sustain the focus on purifying the Qi in the practice. Everything from physical sickness to mental/emotional disharmony is being dispelled – Qi channels and pathways are cleared with the power of intent. “Who seeks Dao, achieves Dao” is a promise of Qigong, Tai Chi and all forms of Qi cultivation. It acknowledges that cultivation in a purposeful state will connect the practitioner with his or her true state of radiant wellbeing and eternal spiritual life.
Learn to make medicine with your own body: Join Dr. Roger Jahnke for Entering the Qigong and Tai Chi Way at the Art of Living Retreat Center from April 28th-May 3rd, 2019. Ready to share the healing power of Qigong with others? Dr. Jahnke also teaches the Healer Within Qigong Certification at the Art of Living Retreat Center from April 26th-28th, 2019.
Dr. Roger Jahnke, OMD, has dedicated his life to sharing the powerful holistic healing traditions of China. Author of The Healer Within and Director of the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi (IIQTC), Dr. Jahnke has been a practitioner of these techniques for over four decades and is renowned for the clarity, compassion, humour and depth of his teaching style. Along with colleagues at the IIQTC Dr. Jahnke has contributed to the research evidence base supporting the practice of Qigong and Tai Chi and has trained over two thousand teachers around the world.