Sunday, February 10, 2013


Just leaving the mucus thickened woods.  Developed a reasonably severe viral bronchitis this week.  Coughing fits lasted all day and all night for the first couple of days, painful, forceful and completely unproductive.  What came out was the consistency of glue or thick spiderweb.  Eventually down to 2 fits lasting several hours a day, more and more productive. Afraid I might cough myself into pure exhaustion and give up the ghost.  As a child, when this would happen it would invariably develop into something worse and long lasting.  The anxious connection not lost on me.

Deep breathing when impaired.  I couldn't help but remember Bob, a student of mine from one of the retirement communities where I taught Qi-Gong in Maryland.  Bob was 88, had chronic bronchitis, not emphysema, COPD.  He was in the hospital for about 2 weeks during my tenure.  I missed him and worried.  I started every class with a slow and directed series of deep breaths, working their way up from the belly, through the ribs, then up to the chest and back out just as slow.  During this part of class, Bob would often cough into a stained handkerchief that would appear and disappear into a pocket in his shirt.  2 weeks later Bob comes back to class.

"Before we start Chris, I have to tell you something.  I used to think this breathing stuff we did was all bullshit.  I was getting really bad, went into a tailspin at the hospital, then I started breathing slowly and deeply like you teach us, [tears in his eyes now] and I think it's what pulled me out of it.  Thank you for this."

2 days into my illness I propped some pillows up and leaned back to open my chest and breathed as deeply and slowly as I could.  The next morning my cough started producing.  In my youth: Pneumonia.  In my adulthood: deep breathing. Thanks, Bob!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I recall, as a child, occassionally encountering a strange sensation, usually the same peculiar sensation.  Complicated, as if splitting in two directions at once, paralyzing in its choice.  Allowing me to do nothing on the threshold of one or several things.  This uncomfortable liminal space where the picture gets larger.  Clearly there was nothing to do.  All I could say was "I'm bored".

I hear it often at my job.  We have a time set aside during the course of the day where kids can engage in a free choice inside.  The structure of their school day melts away into our own fabrication into what do you want to do?  We provide legos, blocks, board games, cards, drawing supplies, scissors, glue, paper, you name it.  Sometimes one of us takes them next door and watches them run around a bit, to get that out.  Invariably, even in the midst of all this choice a child approaches with that same song on his/her lips, "I'm bored, there's nothing to do."

Their boredom contains, at least, an implicit bifurcation of potential action.  The emotions and feelings that generate as a result of this bifurcation can seem quite alien, strange and unusual even to an adult. Humans require novel stimulation to keep interested.  Ideally this stimulation has an internal locus of generation.  One path to this has its end in the realization that every moment has little to no connection to any other moment, keeping every individual moment novel in its experience.  In this way one can do anything and enjoy it permanently so long as one follows a steady plan for the maintenance of its practice.  Along the way this practice begins to cultivate detail seeking behaviors, making it ideal for those with artistic and prosean leanings, I have encountered few limits in details, they seem always to lead to something smaller and something smaller, or something softer and something softer.

Getting there requires tremendous effort.  Working through this feeling time and again begins to beat the wrinkle back.  But the practice requires lots of heat and determination.  I recall, during my early experiments with discipline, the last youthful tears of boredom leaving my eyes, the last kvetching "I don't wanna's" leaving my brain.  This happened, happens, repeatedly.  I still have far to go. The emotional body holds great power over all the other patterns we find ourself interacting with. Still: disciplining oneself to keep interested seems a noble preoccupation to me.  By allowing the flow of emotion a proper and concentrated outlet, over time, clarity develops.