The Essence Of All

APMAN

Over the last few years I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach the wonders of the human body. Mostly, these classes have been for massage therapists or yoga teachers but I have always wondered why more isn't done to broaden the spectrum of learning to everyone (beyond high school health classes) as this information is key in understanding how we interact at a fundamental level with the reality around us.

As a way of addressing this, I have decided to post information here that I feel is pertinent and useful for everyone. I am starting by tackling a fundamental question at the core of the issue: is it really necessary to study anatomy at all and if so, is it something everyone should do, not just therapists and teachers?

On the surface the answer seems quite obvious.  As teachers or therapists (I'm speaking from the somatic viewpoint), we have to know about the body, how it moves, what we are doing to it when we practice and how to bring about a desired change when needed.  However, when we take a moment, step back, look a little deeper and approach our body not as just a vehicle by which we navigate this world but also as a doorway through which we glimpse the great mysteries of the universe, then it puts the question in a whole new light and opens the field of learning to all.

The Bridhadaranyaka Upanishad states that the "source of all actions is the body, for it is by the body that all actions are done. The body is behind all actions, even as Brahman is behind the body."

As some of you may know, the ultimate goal of yoga is to reawaken the awareness of our intrinsic union with Brahman or the source of all. According to the passage above, one of the simplest ways for us to begin to experience this connection is to first know our body. It is all too common for people to move through life on autopilot without the knowledge (jnana) or awareness (citi) of their body, how it feels or what messages are being relayed from their deeper consciousness. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness pervades our culture and society and leads to the disconnected life experience we see all around us.

One of the most effective ways to begin to know the body is to study it. This is where anatomy comes in. Through awareness and knowledge of the physical structures and metabolic functions of the body we begin to sense something greater, an intelligence and organization to things. We become aware of a deeper undercurrent or force animating that which we study. The deeper we explore, the more our awareness of universal principles existing within our body increases.

Through the lens of this awareness we begin to view the body in a sacred, reverent way. What was once the rote study of gross physical structures and mechanical functions becomes a spiritual journey, a quest where our own experience of physical existence is no longer mundane or on "autopilot" but takes on a mystical hue.

In his note at the beginning of Dr. David Frawley's book, Inner Tantric Yoga, professor Lokesh Chandra quotes the Amrita-ratnavali saying that "the essence of all things resides in our bodies". This is why the study of anatomy is so important. It is a keystone in the foundation of understanding our physical being and connecting to not only our inner dimensions but also our planet and the cosmos at large.

For me, this is the true study of anatomy and the perspective from which I hope to present future columns on this topic for your enjoyment.

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All Things Energy

Recently, in a class I was teaching, a student made a comment about preferring energy work over bodywork (massage, deep tissue, Adv. Somatic Therapy™). This comment brought to mind a common misconception that exists not only amongst bodyworkers but the general public as well.

EVERYTHING IS ENERGY
All interactions are energetic in nature. In the healing arts, everything we do is energy work. As Ida Rolf, the developer of Structural Integration or Rolfing said, "sight is touch at a distance." In physics, there is the "Observer Effect" in which the instrument used to observe a particle or object has an impact on the object being observed and, thus, cannot observe the object in its natural state. The energy or presence of the observer has a tangible effect on the object. This same phenomenon exists in life. How does it feel to be watched? Typically, our natural state of being when we are not being observed is marked different from when we are under scrutiny. Whether we attribute this to energy or not, when we know that everything is energetic in nature, is moot.

Whether we are doing energy work off the body (not touching) or Adv. Somatic Therapy&trade (deep structural work), we are working with the energy of the body. The only difference is our proximity to the body and our mental perspective as we do the work. If we think that the only time we are "doing energy work" is when we are not touching the body then we will not be open to the transformational effects that work has when we are interacting with the deeper structures of the body. In order to better understand how we are influencing the bio-energetic system, we need to understand the physical structures that interface with it.

ENERGETIC PHYSIOLOGY
The foundational component of all connective tissue (bone, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia etc.) in the body is collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals and makes up about 50% of the protein in the body. What is so impressive about collagen is its organizational characteristics. Collagen fibers are so highly organized that they are considered crystalline in nature. That is, they have the potential to hold an ambient piezoelectric charge. At its simplest level this infers that if mechanical stresses are placed on the structures made from collagen, an electrical potential will be generated. The greater the potential the more energy will be built up. This physiology opens up a vast vista of theory and exploration when we talk about the physical energetics of injury and muscle memory.

As a therapist works with the body, either directly or indirectly (directed stretching or prescribed yoga postures, etc.) they are accessing those deeper energetic structures and increasing the ambient bio-electrical charge that surrounds the body. When we couple this small bit of information with a knowledge of the nervous system and what stimulation of certain portions of that system can do, you are initiating a true potential for not only mental or energetic but also physical transformation on a profound level.

BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN
Back to my student's assertion that energy work is more enjoyable than bodywork; though it may be easier from the perspective of exertion or application of physical force, it has been my experience that by engaging the tissues while working within the energy of the body, you create a powerful environment for transformation and change, one that wouldn't necessarily be available if we ONLY did off-body energy work.

Posted in Heal Your World, Health & Wellness, Mind/Body/Spirit | 1 Comment

Pahrump Wellness Forum, Spiritual Cartography & Your Life Map

This weekend I was invited to exhibit and present at the Pahrump, NV Wellness Forum by Ancient Secrets Books.  The forum had an expo like feel with the added bonus of, like Durango, hearing from local and not-so-local experts about topics such as Tai Chi, The Secret, Navigating The Sacred (yours truly) and much more.

Thunder Mountain offered our products, the Transcendence CD, Fudoza Meditation Benches and mini bodywork sessions as well as a mini Spiritual Cartography Reading.  Interestingly, it seems that at these expos, on one day I will  have a full day of bodywork and on the next it will be a full day of readings.  Keeping with tradition, on Saturday I had a full day of readings which prompted me to post this blog.

THE CAVEATE
First I should state that even though I work in Sedona, I am not OF Sedona.  There is a predominance of what is referred to as "woo-woo" in and out of the Sedona area and I really attempt to separate myself from that perception and energy.  Since I have been doing this type and level of work for over 28 years, long before I ever came to Sedona (since I was 8 yrs old), my readings and my work have a pragmatic base while still maintaining the integrity of the energetic information.  So read on, if you dare :)

SPIRITUAL CARTOGRAPHY
The overwhelming energy / movement of the world today is one of change and transition.  Thus, I created the Spiritual Cartography session.  In a nutshell, the reading takes into account the predominant energetic signature that surrounds the person in that moment and then explores where their energy is moving.  This may be an emphasis that they are focusing on or some other expenditure of some sort.  At the same time, I become aware of the overwhelming influences that are shaping their current situation and, through dialogue, discuss how best the client can approach these issues.

Usually, there are elements or subconscious energies that we are feeding or moving towards that we are not aware of.  A typical example is when a client asks whether they should  do something, as if they haven't made up their mind about it and yet the unspoken, unrealized energetic information is that they have ALREADY made the decision.  Inevitably when I sense this and point it out, the client immediately receives clarity on it.

Once all the information is out on the table, we will address the client's goals (spoken or unspoken) and where the energy is moving to in the future.  At this point I usually ask the client if they have any questions or need clarification on any point.    Most questions are addressed during the session itself.

TRANSITION / TRANSFORMATION
True transition or transformation comes upon you like a thief in the night.  It is gradual and wraps itself around you like a gossamer thread.  Typically, unless one has started on a path with intention, this shift occurs imperceptibly, behind the scenes of typical mile-a-minute lives.  As our sense of time progresses so too does the shift grow and adapt to our circumstances, movements and habits, until one day we wake up and find that something glorious has occurred and we are now transformed.

The emphasis that I found in Pahrump, NV on my Spiritual Cartography readings is only a small ripple in the larger ocean of our desire to know what is to come, how we are to get there and what we do once we arrive.  A shift is occuring and just like the beating of the butterfly's wings, it started long ago and is just now being felt everywhere.  Pay attention to the almost imperceptible promptings in your life and listen with the innocence of a child and you too will know what is to come and be prepared for the unexpected.

Posted in Heal Your World, News & Information | 1 Comment

The World’s Problems: What Can We Do?

I took this heading from a forum posting on Gaia.com because I felt it was necessary to share with you all.

Looking over the messages on that forum I noticed that people are becoming overwhelmed by all the problems that are cropping up all over the world.  Whether its the environment, war, starvation, global pollution, etc. they all fall into the problems category.

From my own perspective, I have noticed interesting correlations between what my clients are experiencing within their bodies and what is happening on a global scale.  I will address this in a later blog.

One of the main issues that I have noticed is many pulling back from or ignoring the problems because they don't know what to do or how to do it. The thinking may be that by not participating, one can't be blamed or that nothing can be done on such a small scale.

In actuality, I think what Rev. James Parks Morton said in 1990 at the Second Global Forum in Moscow captured the truth of it perfectly:

"The problems we're dealing with really can't be isolated. If we're talking about the environment, by definition the environment doesn't respect boundaries. Boundaries are man made."

If we look at our society we isolate ourselves from our environment constantly whether by walls, clothing or attitudes.  It has been centuries since we have lived with the land instead of on it.  This can and has naturally caused a rift or separation between us and our environment and its this rift that we widen when we step back from what we see today.

Understandably, if we look at all the worlds problems as a whole they are overwhelming and unmanageable.  What can one person do, let alone someone who doesn't have political power or unlimited finances?  I believe the answer is contained in Rev. James Parks Morton's quote as well.

If the environment respects no boundaries and we are the ones constructing the walls between what is around us and how we interact with it, then it can be said that by modifying our perspective, actions, habits or some other part of our life's routine, we can drastically impact our environment.  We are not separate from it after all.  This shift doesn't have to be profound, in fact its probably going to be more effective if it is a simple, low impact change that is the catalyst from which all other transformation occurs.

For example, in my own life, I try to help the environment by recycling.  Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be enough based on current environmental statistics.  So, I started paying attention to the moments where I don't or can't recycle.  What I noticed was that every time I traveled, I would throw everything away unless the hotel or restaurant, etc. had a recycling program.  If they didn't it all went to the landfill.  That's when I started bringing home as much of the recyclables as I could in my luggage, carry on etc.  Mostly this consists of paper and cardboard ( metal doesn't travel well through security :) ).  It is a small movement towards a larger goal and that is how it starts.

By creating a habit within our lives, the effects ripple outward from us and begin to impact the environment around us.  Inaction because of frustration, laziness or exasperation only serves to increase the problems we see, not make them go away.  Do something small within your sphere of influence and I believe you will begin to see that action mirrored in a larger way all around you.

Posted in Heal Your World, Health & Wellness, Mind/Body/Spirit | 1 Comment

WholeExpo Durango, 2008

For those of you who have visited Thunder Mountain's main page, you might have noticed that I just returned from the WholeExpo held in Durango, CO.  The WholeExpo is an annual gathering that occurs in both Santa Fe, NM and Durango, CO.  The expo's focus is on health, wellness, spirituality, ecology and sustainable living; all things right up TMWC's alley.  In fact, we plan on attending from now on.

One of the key aspects of each expo is the list of nationally recognized speakers who teach classes all day, both days.  For only the price of admission, attendees can get amazing information from experts in their fields - what a bargain!.  I was fortunate to be asked to present this year on Somatic Consciousness: Exploring The Language of The Universe and felt very lucky, there was standing room only for my talk :)

Thunder Mountain's Director Presenting At Durango WholeExpo

The people at the conference were warm, wonderful and very helpful and seemed extremely eager and open.  We can't wait to go back.

The energy of the area was very nice and reminded me of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's where I grew up.  If you are ever in the Colorado area, make sure that you check out Durango.  And be on the lookout for next years WholeExpos in Santa Fe and Durango, we'll see you there!

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The Spirit Of Sportsmanship

Just the other day I was listening to the radio and the subject of Olympic events came up, specifically, which events were to be "retired" from the Olympics.  I cant remember which events met their demise but what caught my ear was the news that Yoga had petitioned to become an Olympic sport.

Well, the images that came to mind were hilarious to say the least.  Loinclothed yogis entering into the arena for pose offs akin to the break dance battles that were popular in the 80's, mantra matches, partner yoga that would make the most ardent Twister enthusiasts jealous...and the list goes on.

It’s interesting to me that yoga would even be considered.  The true path of yoga is one of union, to 'yoke' or join the mind, the body and the spirit.  In fact, at its highest manifestation yoga is a spiritual endeavor.  The primary function of the physical postures is to prepare the body as a whole for the increased energy that comes from such a spiritual practice.

In essence, yoga is the farthest you can get from a competitive sport.  The true nature of yoga is one of solitary unification with and understanding of your mind, body and spirit.  You cannot work on one component of this triune model without affecting the others (we are not as compartmentalized as Western society would have us think).

So, how then, does yoga fit into an Olympic scenario?  A competition consists of one or more competitors moving to the floor and performing a timed routine that consists of strength and balance poses.  The competitors are judged on several criteria and the score are compared.  The key term here is “compared.”  One competitor when interviewed by the Washington Post stated, "I guess what you can say is the competition gives you a way to see where you are in your practice compared to other people."  Again, true yoga is not about comparison or competition, these two dynamics breed ego, the natural antithesis to liberation brought on by a solid yoga practice.

I personally can't see yoga having a place in a competitive arena but by the same token I have to say that anything is possible and the strength of this practice is in its influence on our whole environment.  Perhaps, if yoga is allowed to become an Olympic sport, the soft, calming influence of its energy will bring about a profound shift and example of the true embodiment of “Spirit” of Sportsmanship.

For those who would like to listen to the full NPR report check out:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91975547

Also, the Washington Post Online had a similar article where they had a question and answer session with a competitive yogi.  For your review:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/24/AR2008012402134.html

Posted in Fitness, Mind/Body/Spirit, News & Information | Leave a comment

Passion & Business, Do They Mix?

This last weekend I spent time with some of the most brilliant agents, editors, authors and soon-to-be authors at the San Francisco Writing For Change conference.

It was an extremely illuminating experience.  We (the would be authors) were able to spend time in beautiful surroundings, get feedback on projects and meet with other authors.  Add great food, awesome workshops and a good time was had by all.

With all this, there is one experience that sticks out in my mind each time I think about the weekend.

At the end of the conference I was saying good-bye to a gentleman who had come to receive feedback on his book.  The majority of the agents and editors in attendance didn’t feel that the book was unique enough for the market place.  This in and of itself wasn’t that shocking since most of us had heard similar constructive and not so constructive criticisms of our works.  What was striking to me was how deflated he seemed to be by the news.

Don’t get me wrong I understand that we authors have to have a certain amount of thickness to our creative skins in order to survive.  What this episode did for me was put into perspective two diametrically opposed views of the same profession.

This conference showed me time and time again that editors and agents are hungry to put out a good product, find that new voice or discover the next great literary genius.  However, they are also very business oriented, so much so that some seemed to border on cynical.  Two comments I heard that capture this spirit were, “we (the agents) are just waiting for the writer to let us down” or “what I hate to see most is a good idea wasted on a bad writer.”

To be fair I also heard the same agents saying, “write your passion,” “write from your heart” and “tell us your story.”  So the question is, in the end do the passion and the business ends of this profession mix?

You could spend your entire life studying a subject that contains a great message, can impact the world in a positive way and will benefit many people but, according to those professionals in attendance at the conference, if you don’t have the right connections, enough publicity behind you or your book published so that you can submit to local news stations, your chances for success are limited.

To me, the lowly, self-proclaimed writer, this seems way too cut and dry.

INTENTION & ENERGY
In my business, one that I have been a part of my entire life, intention and energy are everything.  What’s amazing about intention and energy is you don’t have to believe for the concepts behind them to work.  So, to all the would-be authors, writers, agents and editors out there…keep the faith.

KEEP WRITING
Authors keep writing.  It’s all about feeding what it is that you love.  The more you research and absorb yourself in the project, the more energy you put toward that ultimate goal.  If publishing is a passion that you just can’t see yourself living without, then keep moving forward one step at a time, regardless of what ANYONE says to you.  Know that you are becoming the expert in that field.  Talk about your passion to everyone you meet.  Remember, passion is infectious.  Pass it around!

BELIEVE
Believe in yourself even when no one else does.  This is probably the most important aspect of success.  There will come a time when you have to walk the path towards success alone and unsure of yourself.  These moments (hopefully few) will define you and your work.  They will temper your resolve and show you a side of yourself you can’t easily see when others are always there for you.

REMEMBER THE JOURNEY
It can be helpful to keep in mind that this entire experience is part of the larger journey called Life.  The most successful individuals are the ones who remember that life is full of ups and downs and that ‘even this too shall pass’.

If you truly are passionate about anything then it will become you and you it.  When this happens those around you will notice and eventually, down the road, others will see and want to know more…that, my friends, is when the fun begins and the book deals roll in.

Be well.

Posted in Life In General, News & Information | 1 Comment

Welcome To Thunder Mountain Echoes

Hello and welcome to the Thunder Mountain Wellness Blog or Thunder Mountain Echoes.

After having a great time in San Francisco this past weekend I felt the need to put up a blog on the site.

This blog will cover many different subjects ranging from health and wellness to personal development to new and exciting discoveries in the mind/body/spirit arena to general information about Thunder Mountain Wellness.

Please feel free to register and leave comments, ask questions and visit our main site:

http://www.tmwc.org

I look forward to blogging you soon ;)

Be well,

Jeff Masters

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