Thoughts on the Firedance Workshop

So the aftermath of the first Firedance Tai Chi workshop is a lot of thinking.  For years, I taught various self-improvement skills in the “Lifewriting” workshop, but despite being very happy with the results, knew I wasn’t providing as much value as I could. Why?  Too much of it was information, and stayed in people’s heads.

My guru Sri Chinmoy said that you can evolve as a human being “from the heart out, or from the root up, but never, ever from the head down.”

An expression of this idea is “the instructions for getting out of the box are written on the outside of the box.”    This is the reason why some very smart people think that being smart is a disadvantage: they can talk themselves into knots. What they don’t grasp is that using your intelligence to solve problems that are anchored into our survival emotions can be like doing isometrics, pitting one hand against the other: strong people are strong enough to lock themselves tight.  And so are weak people. And average people.   That’s just the way it is.

The very worst people to try to help are therapists. Their defenses are fantastic, and they know all the tricks to stop themselves, and justify it to themselves.   Everything they say makes perfect sense…to them.

The key is to short-circuit their justifications and rationalizations. To look instead at their results.  And you have to look at all three arenas:

  1. their careers (are they joyous?  Successful?  Doing something they’d do as a hobby?)
  2. Their relationships (do they love themselves? Have a passionate, committed relationship with someone they adore who adores them?)
  3. Their bodies (are they attractive by their own standards? Have enough energy to work all week and party on the weekend?)

All three of these things are simply human versions of basic animal skills (hunting/gathering, efficient fight/flight, ability to find a mate). The ability to achieve them is problem solving.  While not everyone wants all three, frankly, I automatically assume that we all do, because the number of people who will lie about it is far higher than the number of people who actually don’t want money, a partner, and a healthy lean body.   And those who really don’t? They don’t react emotionally (with anger, or resentment, or fear) when you say they do, any more than you would react with fear if I said: “you’re a Martian!   I can see your antennae!  A Martian!”  You’d either laugh at me, or pity me. But fear?  Anger?  Nope.

Of these three arenas, the only one you can affect by yourself, the only one you can affect every moment, and has the advantage of objective reality, is your body.   

In the vast majority of cases, your body is the result of behaviors carried out on a daily level over years and decades.  Those behaviors are the result of beliefs and values and positive/negative emotions.   Your daily rituals of action result directly in results. The usage of your body affects your emotions in a beautiful feedback loop: negative emotions weigh your body down, but using your body properly leads to positive emotions.  Which means that an intersession on this level affects EVERYTHING.  Just as negative emotions (fear, grief, guilt, abuse, rejection, sadness, etc.) anchors itself in your body, proper use of your body begins to “process” this emotion.  

You were not born with the negatives.  In fact, EVERYONE was given love and protection in infancy, or you would not be alive.  Re-connecting with this, even if the rest of your life was ghastly, can be phenomenally healing, and the beginning of a new life.

So…how to begin?  Based upon fifty years of yoga, 45 years of martial arts, and 30 years of teaching, the conclusion I come to is that you want to simultaneously work the emotions and body.

  1. Learn to breathe properly.  Deep diaphragmatic belly breathing.  Go to a yoga, tai chi, martial arts, chi gung (or singing instructor!) and learn it.
  2. Every hour on the hour, breathe deep and slow for sixty seconds.  MINIMUM is once every three hours.  Set the timer on your smart phone!
  3. Every day that you eat, you should move. Your ancestors did!   Perfection would be one minute of motion per year of age.   This could be walking, dancing, yoga, any number of things–preferably most of it is something you find fun.    MINIMUM is five minutes of joint mobility work.
  4. “Listen” to your heartbeat for 10-20 minutes a day.  The cascade of positive effects could fill a library.
  5. Tai Chi teaches breathing, balance, focus, joint mobility.  It is also a beautiful cultural art, the “seed” of martial motion, and hella fun.

So I had a choice: start with teaching “self improvement” stuff and beg people to move their bodies…or start with those who already know they need to move their bodies, and build the emotional and intellectual factors atop that foundation.

I’m taking the latter route.

The 4 ½ hours I had to work with people on Saturday was a beginning.  I’ll be gathering notes and requests from them, seeing what worked and what needs to be changed, and the next workshop will be a full day, probably in the Northwest where I have two assistant instructors to help me be sure everyone is taken care of.  And as I understand more deeply, I hope to grow to the point where we can take over a hotel ball room, 200 people moving together with grace and joy and power, helping each other, supporting each other as we explore ourselves, loving ourselves enough to accept a healthful discipline…as you would demand it of your own most beloved child.

ANYONE who ever told you you were less worthy of love than a newborn child, or less worthy and important than a star, had an agenda. It is your job, as an adult, to decide if you agree.

And if you don’t..?

The door is open, friends. Walk through it.



(If you would like to join the Firedance Tai Chi mailing list, learn more, join in the conversation, and be informed when there is a workshop in your area–or help request and arrange one, please go to and sign up!)

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