Saturday, November 21, 2015

Remove Physical and Mental Stress with Breathing

On October 24, Kevin and I attended the Breathing Master Class with Vladimir Vasiliev at the Systema HQ in Toronto. Many of the exercises focus on removing fear from the body and psyche. I have never been in a fight, nor do I ever plan to. Physical struggles for me are wrestling laundry basket up and down the stairs or battling weeds my garden. Even though the exercises were put in the context of combat and physical confrontation, I found myself relating to the work from the perspective of day-to-day life.

Calm the Mind

The first exercise we practiced was “light breathing”. We started with a light inhale, feeling the sensation of air entering the nose. Then gradually we extended the focus to the whole body. The light breathing gathers the mind through physical sensation and action, rather than thinking or imagining. There are times I feel anxious and restless with thousands incomplete thoughts swarming in my head. I cannot think to myself “Focus!”, because that would be adding another thought to the bubbling cauldron of thoughts. But by feeling my own breath, I can center myself in my physical being and ground myself in the here and now.

Awareness & Recovery

Often we have unnecessary tension in the body because we didn't notice it. In one of the exercise we were instructed to sit or lay in awkward postures holding our breath, notice the discomfort that built up in the body, then use breathing to remove it. If the stress on the body is acknowledged and dealt with at the level of “discomfort”, it will not have the chance to accumulate and develop into something worse. At the workshop we learned to constantly and quickly evaluate the internal state of the body and recover fully and honestly before any stress accumulate.

Emotional Cleansing

Breath is the bridge between the physical and the psychological. State of mind effects the way we breath and vice versa. When emotions becomes more intense (e.g. from fear, anger, grief, etc.), breathing becomes compromised. When there's not enough oxygen, body becomes tense. When the body becomes tense, it's harder to breath. Then we tend to become more emotional. On top of that, physical discomforts (e.g. pain, fatigue, tension, etc.) often negatively effect the emotional state, feeding the vicious cycle. At the workshop, we practiced breathing under the effect of physical and emotional challenges. Instead of letting negative emotions surge and swell, we treat it the same way as physical stress and remove it with breathing.

Breath work is healing both for the body and the mind. We now practice these exercises and more at our weekly Breathing for Health classes. If you would like to see what breathing practices can do for you, please join us every Monday & Thursday at 4:30 pm.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chinese Medicinal Herbs in Your Garden

I started collecting plants used in Chinese herbal medicine. Some I planted at home, some around our office. Many of these plants are very ornamental and can be found at local garden centers.


Balloon flowers.


Lily turf.



Some plants are more specialized I have to order them on-line.

Goji berries.

Mountian yam.

And some planted themselves in my garden without permission.

Dandelion and plantain.

Do you have Chinese medicinal herbs in your garden?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Meaning Behind Peaceful Water

The meanings behind our name and logo came up in conversations a couple of times. I would like to offer some explanations.

When we first brainstormed for a business name, we thought that we would like the name to have something to do with water. The Buffalo area has a lot of connections with water, being situated on the Great Lakes, at close proximity to Niagara Falls, as well as historically developed around the construction of the Erie Canal. Finally we choose the name “Peaceful Water” in English and “止水” in Chinese. We then designed the logo around the Chinese characters.

"止水" can also be translated as “still water” or “calm water”, and is meant to evoke a commonly used phrase “心如止水” or “heart resembles peaceful water”. There are two slightly different meanings associated with the phrase.

First is that a heart at peace can reflect clearly and without distortion. This meaning came from the philosopher 莊周 Zhuag Zhou in 3rd Century BC:


People cannot see their reflections in running water, but they can see their reflections in still water. Only through stillness in yourself can you bring the multitudes to a point of stillness.

Second meaning is that a heart at peace can remain undisturbed in a face of turmoil and challenges. This meaning came from the poet 白居易 Bai Juyi's eulogy for his friend, written in the 9th Century AD:



On the grand path of this world, the right and the wrong ran on the same track; Conflicting like teeth grinding against each other, like waves crashing from all sides.

How could you alone, sir, have your heart remained still like peaceful water; When the wind and rain obscured the light, when the flock croaked incessantly?