Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

A Recipe for Lasting Change

by Satya (Tricia) Hurley, M.Ed.
Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Do you struggle to make and hold onto lasting change?  Do life’s circumstances seem to hold you back?  

A little history:  My parents separated when I was 4 years old.  My brother and I grew up splitting our time between two households. While our parents loved us and always did the best they could with the tools they had at the time, life was tricky.

As a teenager, I made a pact with myself—my adult life and my family’s life would NOT look anything like the one I grew up in.  I did not know what that meant at the time, nor did I have a clear picture what that entailed. However, to this day, I can easily recall an ultra-clear knowing from the depths of my Soul, a contract to transform my world.

It took many, many years before the spiritual part of that pact began to unfold and the journey still continues.  When I look back on my life and on other’s journeys, a clear pattern emerges. There are 6 KEY ingredients for creating lasting change. We’ll look at each in more detail.

6 KEY INGREDIENTS TO LASTING CHANGE:

  1. Take an Active Role
  2. Introspection
  3. Feel What You’re Feeling
  4. Letting Go
  5. Stick-To-Itiveness
  6. Trust

TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE:

This is the first and most important step.  I’ll use myself as an example to illustrate the point.  For many years, my path of personal change was a passive one.  Until well into my 30’s I looked for the answers outside of myself placing lots of blame on my parents and other circumstances outside of my control for what was “wrong” with me and the world.  I spent many years trying to force everything to look different.

I avoided.  I numbed.  I worked 60-90 hours a week so I didn’t have time to feel.  I moved 3,000 miles from home.  I climbed the corporate ladder and had “a big important job”.  On the outside, things had changed.  My life certainly didn’t look anything like that of my childhood—I had a wonderful husband, a fantastic salary, and a townhouse in Southern California less than a mile from the beach.

Yet, the inside hadn’t changed.  On the inside, I was miserable. The shroud over my core Self was thick.  Then, something happened—I got fed up.  By some act of Grace, I started to see that there had to be a better way to be.  I quit my job. I did yoga and meditated a lot.  I took action.  For the first time ever, I began to take responsibility for changing the way I felt and how I viewed and responded to the world.  And, that was just the beginning.  The true purpose of my teenage pact began to reveal itself.  I am thankful to say that the wonderful husband still remains in my world, but the rest has been nothing short of a miraculous journey.

INTROSPECTION:

Introspection is a courageous act.  It is the willingness to look INSIDE and an essential part of taking an active role.  In introspection, you look deeply within yourself and are honest with what’s really there.  For many, this is a terrifying proposition. The inner voices might sound something like,  “What will I find?”  “What if all I find out is that a horrible, worthless person is in there?”  “If I were truly honest with myself, I’d have to start taking responsibility and I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.”   “If I stop being angry at ‘them’, ‘they’ would win.”  Introspection is a crucial step to STOP shifting the blame on everyone and everything else.

This was a HUGE shift for me.  Instead of automatically getting mad at what was on the outside, I began to first ask things like, “What is this situation pushing on?”, “Why is this here for me?”, or “Even though this is uncomfortable, what spiritual lesson can I learn here?”  While there were and still are outer circumstances to navigate, the act of feeling and taking my power back, playing that active role in my process has made all the difference.

FEEL WHAT YOU’RE FEELING:

If I am being truly honest, this was the hardest part for me and it took the longest to embrace.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve met over the years that struggle with this too.  We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that if we somehow stop, ignore, or pretend our feelings not there that they’ll magically go disappear. Yet, often we justify continuing in this way out of fear—“If I let myself feel it, I might end up out of control and ruin my life or others’ lives.

Yet, there is nothing that could be further from the truth.  It takes a TREMENDOUS amount of energy to “keep everything in check.”  Every time we block our feelings, we block our creative energies and we cover over our True Self.  To this I ask—what is it costing you to hold onto that old fear, that old story? What is it costing you every time you deny your feelings and yourself?  It’s probably costing more than you’re willing to admit.

Give yourself permission to feel your feelings—all of them.  Let them all wash through your awareness. The good, the bad, and the ugly feelings are all fair game. Because, when you stop denying yourself, and you stop pushing things down, things will begin to shift. Energy will begin to flow.

LETTING GO:

When I finally gave myself permission to feel and process what I was feeling, old issues that previously seemed impossible to release, no matter how much other spiritual work I did, began to resolve.  The newfound inner peace and freedom have been nothing short of life-altering in a positive way.

Be willing to really look inside. Take a good look at your core beliefs, the things you tell yourself, your habits, your patterns, your tendencies, your gut reactions.  Be willing to let go of the parts of these things that do not serve you and call into your being all the tools you need to create new habits, to form new beliefs, to love and believe in yourself to make the effort worth it.

STICK-TO-ITIVENESS:

We’ve become accustomed to an “instant-fix” for everything.  Self-healing and self-reclamation in the most spiritual sense are far from an easy path. It takes an active, continuous, and concerted effort to let go of all of the things that hold you back, all of the excuses, all of the blame, shame, guilt and anger that keeps responsibility for change away.

Be willing to stay the course, even when it seems impossible. Be willing to trust that all the resources you need to align yourself with the Divine purpose for your life are already in place and they will show up on time.  Be patient with apparent setbacks. They might not be setbacks at all.  Instead, they just might be the very fuel you need to fulfill your purpose and path.

TRUST:

Above all, TRUST. Trust that within the core of your being is everything you need to heal and grow. There is no one being, nor anything that you need outside of yourself that you don’t already have. You are already your own perfect Divine being. You just don’t realize it at this moment because the shroud over your core has you caught in a false illusion that says otherwise.

IN SUMMARY:

  • Take an active role.
  • Look inside and be honest with yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to feel and heal.
  • Let go.
  • Make a continuous concerted effort.
  • Trust. Trust. Trust.

When I stay focused and dedicated to this, all that I need for my continued healing and continued path of dedication to being in complete and total alignment with my Souls’ purpose unfolds. All the people, places, and circumstances I need fall easily into place in my life and I continue to grow and heal. How might you incorporate these ingredients into your world?

Make a Choice in How You Start Your Day

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Do you struggle with staying on track with your day and keeping motivated? Do you sometimes get stuck or simply feel lazy all day long?  It’s true we have many stressors in our lives today between work and family, holidays, relationships, political climate, social media, television, etc.  It’s also true that concerning ourselves with these issues is unhealthy if done too intensely.  Deep down inside, we all know this.  However, the day tends to get away from us as these individual items add up.  Before we know it, we are overwhelmed and are not really sure how it happened.

So, in this month’s article, we’ll explore one of my most relied upon practices to move out of a funk and back into the flow of life. The most effective way I know is to begin your day is with a daily routine or practice.  I define a daily practice as an activity or group of activities that can help you set the tone for your day.  These are things you do for yourself to establish your physical and emotional well-being.  This is important to do before anyone else in the world has any influence over youYou choose your mindset independent of distractions or worries going on around you.

Many who read this will immediately say, “But, I don’t have time to add anything more to my day!”  Here’s the thing about time—when you really want to do something, the time always shows up.  Every day, Americans find lots of time to check emails, Facebook, and Twitter to find out what bad things are happening in the world.  We find time to fantasize about arguing with the person who cut us off in the parking lot or the center of town.  We find time to feel sorry for ourselves about our health, jobs, or relationships.  This isn’t five or ten minutes out of the day that I am talking about.

The average American spends hours per day wasting their thoughts and energy on these activities without even being aware of it.  This lack of awareness is a trap of the mind.  If we stay numb to our habits, then we don’t have to change. The mind is perfectly happy to keep you occupied all day long and stagnant in your ways.  Our mind makes us believe that other people’s opinions are more important than how we feel about ourselves or the beautiful lives that we actually live.

By doing a set of activities when you wake up, you set yourself up with a win for the day instead of getting caught up in negativity.  You can literally begin to retrain your brain and your thinking with this one simple practice. Now, I am not talking about spending hours meditating, doing CrossFit, or anything like that.  Those are great activities but the commitment to them can be stressful and is usually why we think we don’t have any time.  The mind is great at setting us up for self-sabotage, so instead, I am advocating to KEEP IT SIMPLE and BE CONSISTENT.

My favorite daily practice looks something like this:

  1. When your alarm first goes off in the morning, PRESS SNOOZE.
  2. Spend the next several minutes reviewing how you feel in that moment.
  3. Acknowledge 2 or 3 things that you are grateful for in that moment.
  4. Proceed with your day in a more positive and uplifted mood!

For example, after hitting the snooze button, let’s say you notice that your neck is aching.  You can start by simply being grateful for the fact that you actually woke up another day.  You can be grateful that you have feeling in your neck.  No matter what it is, make a conscious effort to notice something about your surroundings and be grateful for it.  Say it to yourself.  “I am grateful for this nice warm blanket.  I am grateful for my nice soft pillow.  I am grateful for …”

If you find yourself thinking you have nothing to be grateful for, and some people do at first, fake it.  Just say it anyway.  You may be discouraged with some life challenge, but instead of letting the mind derail the moment, “fake it till you make it.”  In the process, you will be teaching your mind to naturally seek out the good even if you do not fully believe it as you say it.

It’s even okay to be cynical at first, if that’s what it takes to get you started.  You might initially find yourself saying things like, “I am grateful for my partner who never takes out the trash or feeds the animals.”  After a couple of days of getting that out of your system, your mind will start omitting the negative part (which is simply your own ego).  Your mind will then it turn this into something like, “I am grateful for my partner.”

Genuine gratitude feels great. After a few days of doing this, your mind will start adding on by saying something like, “I am grateful for my partner who earns money for us to pay the rent or mortgage.”  Or, “I am grateful for my partner who is an incredible caretaker for my children.”  With consistent practice, your thoughts and the depth of your gratitude will deepen and grow.  In fact, as you practice, you may find that your gratitude can go on forever which is another great reason for hitting snooze as opposed to turning the alarm off.

I cannot emphasize enough, the key is consistency.  That is why I say to start smallSet yourself up with small wins every day.  Once you have those, you will want to do more, but do more ONLY if you really feel you want to.  If you do something because you feel you need to, your motivation will fizzle and cause more stress.

After you are successful at adding a gratefulness practice, try meditating by just concentrating on your breath.  Again, start with 5 minutes and add-on because you want to.  After that, maybe add some movement.  This can be a short walk outside, a short asana (yoga) practice, or a short calisthenics workout.  For those of you that head out for the gym in the morning or feel that you already have a great physical morning routine, just try adding the gratefulness practice when you first wake up.  You will be amazed at how your morning workouts will be transformed.

So, if I am asking you to do something, what am I doing, right?  Below is a typical everyday practice for me.  Take note, I had to work up to this. If this is new to you, take it in stages and add things in gradually.

  1. My alarm goes off at 5 and I hit snooze:). I could just get right out of bed but that initial gratefulness practice is really beneficial to do when you are just out of your dream state.  Also, sometimes I fall back to sleep, so hitting snooze ensures that I don’t oversleep.  I do my 5 or 10 minutes of just discovering all the things that I am grateful for right off the top of my head.
  2. From there, I start my morning coffee and while that is brewing, I do a 10 or 15-minute calisthenics workout.
  3. Then, I get my coffee ready. Before I drink any or even check my phone (It is important to add that I have not exposed myself to the outside world yet), I meditate for 15 minutes (which as of late has been more gratefulness awareness because it just feels so good).
  4. Then I am ready to start my day.

It is not necessary to do all of this to make a positive impact on your day.  I just wanted to give an example of what I am currently doing so you could see how easy this could be.  Remember, I have been building up to this slowly for quite some time now.  Truthfully, I used to complain that I did not have time to do these things.  By adding on slowly I was able to gradually increase what I do.  The more mindfully I added things, the more my commitment grew to maintain these simple yet profoundly beneficial practices for my health and wellness.

So, please give the 5-minute morning gratefulness practice a try for a couple of weeks and let me know how it goes.  Remember, keep it simple and be consistentAlso, if you ever catch me in a bad or stressed mood, ask me if I am still doing mine.  More than likely, I have gotten lazy about one or more of my daily practices and I will appreciate the reminder:).

Hara Release – Unblock Energy From Your Core

By Michael Hurley, L.Ac., Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Energy Gets Stuck in Your Core
Hara Release MassageAs humans living in a competitive society, we tend to have a lot of anxiety and we do not express our emotions as much as we should. In fact, we tend to push our feelings down either to avoid confrontation or just because it is not convenient or “appropriate” to show them in all situations. We are taught at a young age that we should be tough and push through pain. We should not show people that we are scared. We need to “beat” Cancer or “kick that bug.” The fact is that all of these are normal processes of life and should not be hidden.

Our emotions are what make us human and not expressing our emotions causes a breakdown in the machine that we call our body. When we do not express our emotions, we push them into our center or our abdomen where they become stagnant. We think we can control them there because they are surrounded. This is why we “get a sick pit in our stomach” or we feel “butterflies” when we need to give a presentation or performance.

The stagnation that occurs as a result of pushing down our emotions results in dis-ease. When we are in dis-ease, our immune system is compromised and no longer able to perform its function of defense. When this happens, we are more susceptible to catching seasonal illnesses, illnesses due to toxins in our environment, skin infections, and physical injuries. This stagnant energy in our abdomen can cause many musculoskeletal disorders as well.

Many of the muscles in our hips and legs are attached to our lumbar and sacral spine. Stagnant energy in the lower abdomen can affect the states that those muscles are in and cause tight muscles, nerve impingements, vascular problems in the hips and legs, and fertility disorders. Stagnant energy in the middle abdomen can cause digestive disorders because the organs of digestion cannot perform their functions properly. Stagnant energy in the upper abdomen can lead to problems with the heart and lungs. It can also cause headaches, nasal congestion, neck tension, and even toothaches. Many of the main meridians as explained in Traditional Chinese Medicine travel through the abdomen. This explains why when energy is stagnant in this area, so many areas of the body can be affected.

Hara Release Technique – An Eastern Technique for Releasing Stagnation
Now that I have talked about many of the things that can go wrong in the body due to stuck energy in the abdomen, let me tell you a little about something that you can do about it as well as some of the specific medical conditions that this modality can relieve. The technique is called Hara Release. It is a modality commonly used in Eastern cultures, and in some Western cultures, as a means to balance the body and emotions.

A partial list of benefits to Hara Release include treatments of medical conditions such as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, sluggish hepatic and biliary function, gastritis, poor assimilation, gastroptosis, constipation, inflammatory bowel disorders, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic prostatitis, interstitial cystitis, mild to moderate incontinence, vulva pain, menstrual pain, infertility, retroflexed uterus, blocked fallopian tubes, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, pelvic pain, release of adhesions, as well as other physical health problems. Many emotional health problems can be relieved by Hara Release as well. These include but are not limited to stress and anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorders, and depression.

What Happens in Hara Release Treatment?
I think it is always helpful to educate a client as to what they will be receiving. Hara Release is performed with the recipient in a supine (face-up) position. Ideally, the recipient will have eaten a small meal an hour or so prior to receiving their treatment and will have emptied their bladder. Doing this will reduce any discomfort.

The practitioner will then prepare the abdomen with soft, rhythmic, circular motions with his or her hands. At this time, he or she will also instruct the recipient of what to communicate during the session and will synchronize the breath. After the abdomen has been “softened”, the practitioner will begin a series of slow, deep, loving presses choreographed with the recipient’s breath until a desired depth is reached. Each press will be held for a period of time to ensure a proper release of that area. This series of presses could go on for 30 minutes to an hour depending on what each individual recipient needs.

The recipient can experience a wide range of feelings and emotions during a Hara Release session. In the physical realm, feelings like pressure, movement, warmth moving to various areas of the body, and sometimes various levels of discomfort. It is important to convey this information to the practitioner especially if there is ever a sharp pain felt. A dull and achy feeling is acceptable and most times beneficial but sharp is not.

Emotionally, the recipient can experience a variety of things. Some people feel nothing. Some feel a sense of relief even though, they are normally overwhelmed. Sometimes old memories or emotions get accessed and the recipient experiences a much needed emotional release. The important thing to remember is that all of these experiences are right and will be supported by the practitioner. I personally use Reiki and my natural compassion to support my clients through this process.

Just like any massage or medical treatment, the frequency of sessions needed to address the individual condition will depend on the severity of the disorder as well as how long the recipient has been suffering. If the issue has only been around for a few days, one session may be all that is needed. If the issue has been endured for several years or even decades, a long-term treatment plan will most likely need to be discussed.

Mindful Relationships

-by Tricia “Satya” Hurley, M.Ed., Co-founder and Reiki Master Teacher, Cup of Life Healing Center

Michael and I have been together for over 26 years and married for nearly 20 of those years. We are often asked, “What makes your relationship work? How do you sustain the difficulties that arise in relationships?”

We get it!  Relationships are work!  26+ years together has brought its fair share of ups and downs.  There are many personal practices and habits we have come to rely on to keep our relationship alive and strong. Hands down, mindfulness has been one of the most impactful practices in our relationship. We know mindfulness can help whether you’re single or in a relationship.

As you read on, remember, mindfulness is not a religion. Like yoga, it is a practice that can be incorporated into your life no matter what religious or spiritual practice you may already have. We have found including it strengthens all aspects of our lives.

The Four Noble Truths

At the heart of our practice are the teachings of mindfulness master, Thich Nhat Hahn. Today I’d like share with you one aspect of those teachings that have made an incredibly profound impact on us, The Four Noble Truths.

Here’s the bottom line—we all suffer and have times of difficulty. What makes it challenging is that often when we suffer, we don’t know what to do with it. So we stuff it down, ignore it, or get angry at it.  In effect, we continue to perpetuate and continue to generate our own suffering. Yet, if we learn to mindfully breathe into, feel it, and look at it, we will find that we can learn from it and our suffering and discomfort subsides. Mindfulness helps us take actions that ease our suffering. With continued mindfulness, we return to a more peaceful state of mind.

Deep Looking and Listening

Yet, many of us shy away from this kind of looking out of fear that whatever our pain is will take over. So, let’s clarify what we mean by deep looking. This is NOT the same as ruminating on the same negative thought over and over. Ruminating creates more suffering. Looking instead with eyes of self-compassion and loving-kindness, we can begin to see our habits and what is truly causing our discomfort.

It’s easy to get caught up in blaming our loved one. We tend to avoid personal responsibility for our part in the problem and gravitate toward blaming others or blaming circumstances outside of ourselves. We think, “if so and so would just…, then I would feel better.”

Yet, in every moment, there is an aspect of personal responsibility we must take. We must look at what are we doing to cause our suffering. 99.99% of the time, our anger or frustration toward another is connected to our own unmet inner needs, to something we must address inside ourselves. This takes effort. And, it can be deeply uncomfortable to do.

The more we can look for and create inherent wholeness within ourselves, the easier it becomes to be a present, loving and supportive partner. Then, when our partner is having a difficult time, instead of blaming, criticizing, or trying to fix whatever their issue is, we can simply be there for them. This creates a deep, lasting spiritual connection.

As a couple, you begin to trust that no matter what your own personal struggle, your partner will do their best to hold you compassionately. This is an ongoing process of personal and spiritual growth. It is not something one can master overnight.  Yet, with consistent effort, it makes all the difference in the depth and quality of the relationship.

The old cliche is true, work first, on yourself and then you will find it easier to truly be there for another. Mindfulness helps us develop a loving, and compassionate relationship with ourselves.

Regardless of your current relationship status, developing and cultivating the practice of deep listening makes an incredibly positive impact. We can learn to listen to ourselves deeply and compassionately. This, in turn, will also help us to be present and listen to others compassionately as well. Being able to listen deeply and communicate from the heart makes all the difference in the world both in our inner dialogue and in our interactions with others.

Stillness and Breath

By taking time each day to sit in stillness and focus on our breath, we can create a sense of inner ease and lightness within our own being. This does not have to be a complicated process nor does it require that you magically “rid your mind of all thoughts.”

Instead, simply practice focusing on the breath or the sensations of the breath. If thoughts arise, allow them to do so without judgment. Then, gently invite the thought to float away, like. I like to picture a warm sunny day, mostly clear skies and a gentle warm breeze carrying them off into the distance. Each time a cloud of thought arises, release it and come back to the breath.

One of the simplest and easiest mindfulness mantras to follow for this practice is, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.”  This can be simplified to just. “In, Out”. The mantra can help us focus inwardly and bring about healing and inner peace.

When we practice breathing mindfully, we increase our capacity to listen to ourselves deeply and compassionately. The more we cultivate this within ourselves, the more easily we are able to listen to others. When we listen to others, we can then do so with all of our loving presence.

Mantras in Relationship

One of our favorite mindfulness practices is the advice of cultivating these inner mantras when we are together as outlined in Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, Silence. We also use them on ourselves when we are working through personal discomfort and suffering.

  • “Darling, I am here for you.” This mantra invites us to give another our true presence.
  • “Darling, I know you are here, and I am very happy.” This mantra is to acknowledge the presence of the person you love.
  • “Darling, I know you suffer; that’s why I am here for you.” This mantra helps cultivate awareness and presence when another is struggling.
  • “Darling, I suffer; please help.” This is an especially powerful way of asking for support when we need it. It is meant to be said from a place of mindfulness as opposed to a moment of anger.

As you can see, this is something to make a deep study and daily practice of. Difficulties arise even in the best of relationships. A good relationship does not mean the absence of challenges or suffering. Healthy relationships are healthy because both parties have strong tools for working through challenges and disagreements. A regular mindfulness practice can make all the difference.

Reclaim Your Power in 2018

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

Do you ever find yourself biting your tongue when you know something is not right? Or yield to another person’s wishes because you feel obligated to make them happy? Or settle for less than what you know is possible?

The above examples are just a few ways so many of us give our POWER away every day and have for most of our lives.  When I say give our power away, I mean we settle.  We settle for things that we could have, we settle for how people treat us, we settle for emotions that are holding us back from what we want, we settle for a life that is less than what we could have.

We do this for many reasons, some of which seem, in our minds, very appropriate.  Maybe we hold ourselves back so that someone else does not feel bad, or we hold ourselves back to avoid a confrontation, or maybe we hold ourselves back because of something that we learned when we were young.  When we settle, when we don’t honor our needs or what is true for us, we give our power away.

This is where things get tricky.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re giving our power away. Our unconscious mind is what drives most of our lives.  It is how we connect with the Universe and all of her expressions.  Our unconscious mind is also where we hold onto thought patterns that either help us or hurt us.  We learn these at an early age where we are taught a way of behavior that gets reinforced over several years of “training” or programming.  This can cause poor or great relationships, poor or great health, poor or great financial status, etc.

Yet, our habits and our power are both simply energy patterns.  The great thing is that we, as humans, can not only identify these patterns but we can turn them around so that we are in more alignment of what we want out of lifeWe can move that energy the way we want.  Another way of putting this is we can take charge of our energy and reclaim our POWER.

What I would like to suggest is that all of us get back our Power in 2018.  I am not much of a New Year’s Resolution type of a guy but this year, I am committing to aligning myself to what I want out of life not what I think others want from me.

So, that is great, right?  Good job Mike.  More power to you.  Well, one, thanks for the support and two, let’s move on to how I and we all can do this if we choose.

Two Important Tools for Reclaiming Your Power:

Breathing.  That is the first thing we can do.  The location of our power center is about 2 inches below the navelChinese medicine calls this the dan tien which can be referred to as the “Sea of Qi”.  This is your center of gravity.  In martial arts, all of one’s power comes from this spot.  In Qi Gong and Tai Chi, we gather Qi and store it there.  If you have ever done yoga, you will be familiar with “belly breathing”.  This is when you breathe into your lower abdomen as opposed to your chest.

My point in telling you this is that breathing into your dan tien is essential for keeping perspective in life and staying grounded, which in turn helps you maintain your own power.  If we can have perspective, we can see that life is actually working for us instead of against us.  We can stay out of our own drama as well as other people’s drama which will conserve our energy so that it can be used for things that benefit us and those around us.

Fake it till you make it.  Yes, fake it. I really love this practice.  The theory is that we manifest our thoughts. Our brain can change our outer circumstances to a good circumstance, a bad circumstance, or anything in between regardless of the reality of the circumstance.  It just takes consistent thought.  If we keep telling ourselves that our life is good and actually begin to believe it, we decrease anxiety and become more outgoing.  This has side effects like people wanting to help us and becoming aware of new opportunities.

Tuning in with your breath and shifting our thoughts can make all the difference. These two things and more attract other people and make them more willing to help in various ways.  Instantly, our lives are better.  Then, if we keep practicing breath awareness and actively choosing positive thoughts, it becomes a habit and over time our lives become infinitely better.

It is a good idea to have a daily reminder, especially at first.  The most important part to remember—we are trying to undo a habit of negative thought as well as set up a habit of positive thought.  This can be reading books about mindfulness, setting up a daily calendar reminder, or even adding a sticky note to your work laptop or monitor.

So, remember to breathe and think positively, even if you need to fake it for a while.  These two seemingly insignificant things can make a world of difference in your next year.

Here’s to your 2018!  Happy New Year!

Improve Your Life with Qi Gong

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Are you looking for a gentle, efficient practice to improve your health, clear your mind, improve your mood, and give you lasting energy throughout your day?  If so, I invite you to learn about Qi Gong.  Developed in China thousands of years ago, the people of China have practiced Qi Gong for its health benefits ranging from general relaxation to improving their martial arts practice.

Qi Gong is an integral part of my daily practice.  It helps me stay both calm and energetic in my personal and professional life.  In this article, we explore the benefits and practice of this ancient Chinese art.

Qi (“chee” ) is our life-force or vital energy.  It is the energy that flows through all things in the universe.  Gong (“gung”) means accomplishment or skill through practice.  If we put them together, we get Qi Gong or the cultivation of life-force through practice.  This may seem esoteric but it is actually very practical.  If we want to get better at something, we practice it.  The same goes for being relaxed, breathing, and keeping ourselves in balance all of which can be easy to forget in our busy lives.

Qi Gong is used to unite the body, breath, and mind.  Knowing that we can almost envision how a Qi Gong practice is done.  It is a series of movements done in conjunction with our breath.  The mind piece comes in when we talk about focus.  We clear our minds and remain in the present moment.  During the practice, we only think about the movements and the breath.

Qi Gong can be used for various purposes by adapting the speed and intention.  For relaxation and general health, we may practice slowly and softly like in Tai Chi.  If we are practicing Qi Gong for martial arts training, we may practice in a faster and harder manner like in Kung Fu.  Both Tai Chi and Kung Fu are forms of Qi Gong.

Everyone can benefit from a Qi Gong practice regardless of age, spiritual belief, or physical differences.  Children can increase focus in school.  Office workers can reduce stress to avoid burnout.  Seniors can promote balance and improve their quality of life.  People with physical handicaps can increase strength and improve circulation regardless of limitations of movement.  Medical professionals and caregivers can improve their ability to heal their patients.

When I was in school studying Chinese Medicine, two of the required courses were Qi Gong and Tai Chi.  I took these during the first couple of trimesters and fell in Love.  I was working 40-60 hours a week as a software engineer and maintaining a family while going to school most nights at a full-time status. These practices kept me strong, healthy, and peaceful (mostly) throughout the entire process, which lasted 5 years.  I would like to emphasize that it is not required to keep a schedule like that in order to have Qi Gong be useful.  In fact, I would highly recommend not doing that and simply making Qi Gong part of your everyday life.

It is very easy to start practicing Qi Gong. Many of us have access to the internet and can search for Qi Gong instructional videos.  The local bookstores and libraries have books and DVDs about Qi Gong.  You can search for local Qi Gong instructors or meet-up groups.  Looking into these is a good way to start.  Cup of Life Healing Center does not currently have an offering but we plan to begin a regular class or a series of classes sometime in 2018.  Please inquire if you would be interested.

If you decide that Qi Gong is something that you want to continue, get more training.  The best way to choose your instructor is to trust your intuition.  Some criteria to keep in mind when choosing a qualified instructor would be:  what is their background and experience; are they of good character; do they treat people fairly and with respect; do they live what they teach; do they refrain from making unsubstantiated claims; do they encourage and bring out a student’s highest potential?

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH.

Keep It Simple

by Tricia “Satya” Hurley

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

christmastree2When the New Year arrives, I feel a familiar tug of sadness. “It’s time to take down the tree,” a little voice inside me prods. Each year I resist the voice, putting off the task just a bit longer. This year in particular, I’m especially glad I did.

I love sitting in the quiet of the morning. A cup of joe warms my hands while my eyes transfix on the soft, glowing lights. This morning’s gaze brought an unexpected gift of wisdom: All I need to know and do in the coming year is right here on the tree.

Our first Christmas tree as a couple was adorned with hand-me-down decorations and a handful of ornaments I picked up at the local Kmart. Only a few ornaments remain from that first tree over 20 years ago. In their place, a story of our family’s journey and the lessons of wisdom unfold.

At the very top our tree, a hand-made star our daughter created in 3rd grade. There’s also preschool art: a 2-year old hand-print turned into Santa’s beard, and of course the Lenox Winnie the Pooh’s – one for each year of our daughter’s life, school pictures dangling in frames and a plethora of other creations.

There’s truly nothing like a growing child to remind us of what’s important. The first lesson: Slow down. Be present. Enjoy every moment. Open your eyes and celebrate your blessings every day, no matter how big or small.

Other ornaments speak to the second lesson, the gifts of connection, kindness, and friendship: a hand-painted pine cone from an old friend’s wedding, 12-days of Christmas ornaments from Michael’s grandmother who passed on last fall, and many others from family, neighbors, and friends. You see, when we heed the first lesson – to slow down and be present, it seems there is so much more time to nurture and cultivate deep and lasting connections.

Last, but not least, the white lights. They are especially beautiful as they shimmer through one of my favorite ornaments, a crystal clear ballerina doing a pirouette. They remind me to keep it simple. All too often we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, which can seem to get, oh, so complicated and confusing. Which brings us full circle back to the first lesson: Slow down. Be Present. Celebrate your blessings every day.

Being Present, Find Your Joy and Your Own “Avery Time”

It is so very easy to get caught up in our day to day lives, to become focused on the dramas and on what’s not working or on what you want to be but it isn’t here yet or perhaps obsessing over what’s not right about current circumstances and wanting things fixed before the lessons have had time to present themselves and run their course

In my own personal impatience, I am clearly reminded to go back to my spiritual and yogic roots, back to the foundations of yoga philosophy, to go back to the 5000 year old wisdom that guided me to make incredible transformations in my life.  By simply studying and doing our best to apply the teachings of these ancient philosophies to current day situations can make all the difference in our daily lives!  We all have the innate ability to transform our lives, we just have to make a conscious choice to show up differently than yesterday.

Today, as I move through impatience and fear, I am reminded of one of my favorite niyamas (yogic ways of living) from the Yoga Sutras, santosha.  Santosha, simply put, is to have contentment and to find equanimity in all things.

What takes us out of contentment is our own fears, our worries and projections on the past and on the future. Anything that takes us out of the present moment and identifies us with the daily dramas and issues of our lives takes us out of the state of our Divine being and we lose contact with the “I AM”, the Divine presence within each one of us.

Santosha reminds us to be patient and to TRUST.  It reminds me of a quote from Wayne Dyer. “The right circumstances and the right people are already here and will show up on time.”  That’s right, santosha asks us to TRUST that all is well and that we are exactly where we need to be at any given moment in time.

As I look at my own life I draw inspiration to live this not only from the teachings for the great Yogic texts and spiritual masters, but I also look right in my own household, to my beautiful 7-year old daughter, Avery.  She arrived on this earth in large part to wake me up to the spiritual path and she teaches us every single day.

One of her “gifts” that she brings is what we have coined in our house as “Avery Time”.  This involves Avery taking her own sweet time in completing just about everything – yes, it really can take 2 hours to get dressed or complete a simple page of math problems!  Perhaps in those moments a fabulous book or the tea party she’s having with her American Girl dolls has much greater priority to her than our own agenda of getting out of the house on time so we adults can hurry up and get our day started.  Sometimes it’s so easy to get frustrated with this, especially when I have “somewhere important” to be soon.

But what we lose when forget to give ourselves our own “Avery Time” is the simple the joy of the present moment, being fully engaged in whatever you are doing without a care in the world for anyone else’s agenda or schedules being imposed on the joy of the NOW.

Santosha, contentment asks us to be in JOY, NOW.  While easier said than done, why not make it a daily practice to slow down and be in gratitude for whatever IS?

So, slowdown, trust… everything is gonna be all right. That’s it, just trust that all is in Divine order! Simple and easy, right? Maybe not but a great reminder for us all to let go and offer everything up for the highest and greatest good.

Authentic Empowerment

I often find myself sharing in yoga class a theme or deeper understanding of the energy body. In the past week few weeks, we explored the both the Throat and Brow chakras. The throat chakra represents truth as well clear, authentic communication within and without. The brow chakra is also known as the 3rd eye center, the point between the eyebrows where we are often instructed to gaze in meditation. This energy center is the one that brings forward wisdom, discernment and intuitive insight.

Inevitably, each time I prepare for sharing, something directly related appears in my life to deepen my understanding in a way that can only happen when one has applied a concept to practical experience.

In recent weeks I was faced with a personal challenge – I had been biting my tongue for quite some time with a friend. I needed to speak up about something that was bothering me and had been for a long time. Yet, I kept avoiding speaking up because I was afraid either they wouldn’t understand or, even worse, they may not fully hear me or, perhaps, they may even try to turn it around to somehow “make it my fault”.

As with any event in our lives, I am reminded again and again, there is always a deeper meaning, a deeper truth to what is happening. What shows is self on the surface is a reflection of healing that must come from within.

So, the question becomes for each of us as we face daily challenges: “How do I handle this challenge, this experience, consciously?”

One of my favorite authors, Caroline Myss, says in her book, Anatomy of the Spirit: “The goal of becoming a conscious person is not to outwit death, nor even to become immune to disease. The goal is to be able to handle any and all changes in our lives – and in our bodies- without fear, looking only to absorb the message of truth contained in the change.”

She also suggests: “Learn to recognize when you are being influenced by a fear pattern. Immediately detach from that fear by observing its influence on your mind and emotions; then make choices that weaken the influence of those fears.”

As I found within myself the courage to make my voice heard, I allowed it to come from a place of love and compassion, yet, at the same time, not holding back out of “fear of hurting the other person’s feelings.” There is a difference between finding a way to be in your truth in kindness and simply saying nothing at all out of concern or protection of the other(s) involved.

Ultimately we each must find a way to be kind and true and also realize that is also not our responsibility (nor are we truly capable of) to ensure that the other part perceives the information in a way that they will choose to change or correct the problem.

The truth is, we are not responsible for how we “make” others feel. We are the only ones who can assign meaning to our interactions with others. We always have a choice in how we perceive and react to life’s situations.

That does not mean being intentionally mean, but it does mean not holding back in ways that our own needs or feelings are ignored or pushed down or unacknowledged for the sole sake of protecting the other person or out of fear for what reaction speaking the truth might bring forth.

When we hold our voice, we also give away our power. When we shy away from situations or avoid confrontation out of fear, we give away our power. The way to reclaim it is not simply by turning the tables and overpowering them right back.

Instead, the empowerment comes from a place within, a place that lets go of all the times in the past that similar, yet, different scenario has played out in our lives and embracing the lesson that is being presented in the very moment. Empowerment comes from allowing your authentic self to shine through, without fear and without attachment to the outcome of the issue at hand.

The healing comes when we begin to realize the deeper meaning, and deeper lesson for whatever circumstances are in front of us. This empowerment begins with a noticing, a noticing of what patterns are present in our choices and a discernment of whether or not we are acting out of fear or out of trust in a higher source. The healing comes when, little by little, we catch ourselves in our negative patterns and habits, pause and begin to make a different choice.

Ultimately as we step forward into our own empowerment, facing whatever may be in front of us, we are called to do so from a place of trusting our intuition and acting upon it. Also, as we move into that place of empowerment, we must detach from what our idea of what the outcome should be and begin to trust, fully and completely that if we are acting from a motivation of the highest and greatest good, that the outcome will present itself in its own timing.

Spring Cleaning – A Spiritual Lesson

Spring is nearly upon us, new life, new growth, budding trees and plants, everything fresh and new!  Spring for many also may herald a time of spring cleaning, cleaning out of closets, attics and garages.  Doing seemly simple household tasks such as preparing for a garage sale or giving away items to charity can give us interesting spiritual insight into our own willingness to let go, to stop holding on to things that are no longer needed or no longer serve us.

The first lines of the Reiki Ideals ask us to let go of anger and worries and to count our many blessings.  In parallel, the yogic concept of Aparigraha (non-hoarding) beckons us to let go as well, to not grasp or hold onto things so tightly and to trust in the abundance of the Universe.  At least for me, there’s nothing like spring cleaning that makes me realize how much I still have to learn in applying these concepts.

Our family recently had a garage sale and, boy oh boy did we have lots of stuff to sell!  In the preparation and even in the selling process, I began to realize how emotionally attached I was feeling to things that we no longer needed or used.

Much of what we sold was outgrown child’s items and toys that have accumulated as our daughter has grown.  Really, my 7 year-old will never again wear 6-9 month clothing or newborn booties!  Yet somehow, releasing even the obvious at first pulled heavily on my heart.

Ultimately, I was able to pause and see the beautiful opportunity to once again apply spiritual practice to a common everyday situation, to even send love and Reiki blessings with each item we sold, but at first, the answer was not so obvious.

And how does a simple exercise like giving away our physical stuff translate to personal and spiritual growth?  Well what about our willingness to release our emotional “stuff”, our habits, patterns and tendencies that no longer serve us, the ones that keep us from seeing our beauty, our inner light, our Divine self?  Are you willing to let those go?  Or in some way how much are you still clinging to the obvious?  Can you find your own mental pause button?  Can you catch yourself in your own pattern and turn it around by applying these principles?  What will you let go of today?