Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 11, 2016

9-11-16. This day, 15 years ago set us on a very difficult and painful path which continues, even after all this time. That morning, I was in a meeting with my boss's boss, Roger Staubach when the news broke. We all rushed into the main conference room, with the large projection screen TV, to see the horrors of that morning unfold. We stood together, silent. Roger sent us home to be with our families. The drive home was silent. I held my family tight and went out on the back patio to sit, in silence. It was then I was struck with the incredible silence all around me. No traffic on the roads, in the skies and even the neighborhood dogs seemed to know we all needed quiet to wrap our minds around the magnitude of what we had just witnessed, as a nation. In the days, weeks, months and years to follow, we would move through the many stages of grief and begin wars in far away places with a certainty that left us all, uncertain. I personally was laid off, and spent the next few years in contract jobs for a small movement education company, FEMA the FBI and others just trying to keep my family living above the poverty line.

In October of 2009, I began working with Active Duty Military in a regional behavioral treatment center designed to help them find their way past their particular traumas. I experience the painful reality of the struggles they came home to, through 5 years of weekly groups and thousands of painful stories. In October of 2012, we began working with Veterans, in weekly educational groups, through the VA Health Care System, and began to realize just how long these painful realities would stay with our men and women military members and their families, after their returns home. It became painfully clear to us that if we do not address these issues early with consistency, patience and love they would never fully go away, leading to a lifetime of struggles and personal suffering for our Veterans and their loved ones.

On Friday, 9-9-2016, we started a new chapter in the evolution of SimplyAware; The Medical Qigong Therapy Center. While the clinic is open to all who wish to work beyond the symptoms of their particular issues and identify the roots so they may fully heal, are welcome; we plan to specialize in trauma. The kind of trauma that hit us on 9-11-2001. The kinds of trauma that our military men and women come home with and struggle to talk about or come to terms with. The kind of traumas that stay with you and beg for your attention, day and night, until you finally listen. We are here and we will listen with you and provide tools and perspectives which will help you find your way through the traumas. While our clinic is a huge milestone for us. it is but another step on a lifelong commitment I personally have to helping those who have sacrificed so much to afford us the freedoms we often take for granted. These are my brothers and sisters in arms and I will never fail them. While the VA has seen fit to cut funding to our very successful programs, SimplyAware is working with our Veteran program graduates and community leaders to create a foundation which will continue this important work far into the future.

On 9-11-2001 we were silent, trying to understand the magnitude of what had happened. Today we continue to struggle with the aftermath of that day physically, mentally and emotionally as a nation but our silence has turned to action.

I pray for the families who suffered such tremendous loss on that September morning, and that the lessons we have learned from this painful experience make us better, as a people, for each other.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Its "Practice What You Preach Time" again...

While it has been quite some time since my last blog entry, life has continued, and my ability to hold the 8 Qigong Principles aligned is still challenged, daily.

Fayne and I have been blessed to have been working with Veterans within the North Texas VA Health Care System since October 2012. Fast forward 4 years and we have worked with over 800 hundred Veterans with thousands of issues from PTS(d) and chronic anxiety to chronic pain and depression. The transformations we have witnessed in quality of life, are nothing short of amazing. In all the measurements we take on physical, mental, emotional and social levels, through our detailed questionnaire, our Veterans are reporting no less than a 44% improvement, in every measurement taken. Additionally, we have had no complaints filed against us and no reported suicides of our students and many are reducing or eliminating their symptomatic medication loads for pain, elevated blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

Yet in light of this wall of evidence that our Training Mindfully with Qigong Principles extended group education program works very well, The VA has informed us that they will not be renewing our contract for 2017. We have been told that this is strictly a budget issue and that they now have people “trained in Qigong” that can “do it in house.” For them to tell us they can train internal staff in a few weeks to do what we have been training almost our whole lives for, is hard to take. For them to say that we are too expense is to grossly underestimate the skill we bring to the group training environment, the quality of the TMQP program, and the incredible success of our graduates. Plus the fact that our per Veteran served cost is less than $15.00 per class, including the many off classroom hours of administrative requirements involved in managing our formal VA Clinics, is hard to accept.

To say this is a blow to Fayne and myself is to understate the impact on our family. As of this week, we now have two young men in college (out of state) and this contract represented about 80% to 90% of our annual income. Yes, you could say that we put too many eggs in one basket and I would agree, however, the demands on our time to manage this government program, and the roller coaster ride working with the VA has been, in great part, created this vacuum. Extending our programs into Fort Worth two years ago year, then taking it away this year with a potential promise to return, plus the requested addition of a new Plano class and a seated Spinal Cord Injury Program for 2017, had us choosing not to backfill our teaching schedule as we planned to serve more Veterans weekly. This conversation from our Director carried forward into late June. Then, suddenly, we were told they were opting not to offer SimplyAware new contract.

We could be bitter and resentful but we are not. We are mostly sad, and hopeful. Sad because we have grown quite fond of working with these amazing people, from all walks of life, we call Veterans. We cherish the opportunity to meet them where they are, sharing perspective shifting insights and traditional Qigong training to help them find their physical, mental and emotional alignment. From this place of alignment, they are able to make choices that are firmly in line with their true, most beautiful nature. Fayne and I are hopeful, because if we practice what we preach and stand in our Qigong Principles, we know deep in our hearts that if this door is closing, the universe has something even more powerful in store for SimplyAware, and our family.

We know, our Training Mindfully with Qigong Principles program empowers people to step into their truth and maybe that is what was most uncomfortable for the VA. We witnessed many of our Veterans shedding years of pain and suffering, greatly reducing, and in many cases, eliminating their symptom relieving medication load while reconnecting with their friends and families with an authenticity which is beautiful to see. So if the 4 years we had within the VA’s medical, military and government bureaucracy did nothing else, it gave us a mound of evidence that this training works very well.

When we broke the news to our current classes, they were understandably very angry. In their experience, the VA has a history of taking away programs which prove beneficial. We encouraged them to use the tools they have been working so hard on these past few months. We told them to stand in their Qigong Principles, align themselves, speak their truth in a manner which honors them, and then, most importantly, TRUST that this transition will work out best for all involved.

We we first received this major, life changing news, Fayne and I checked in with each other and both said, I’m not scared. Is this scary? Yes. But we are not scared because over the past 14 years we have witnessed so many significant shifts in our world that turned out to be exactly what was needed, in that moment, that now we simply TRUST that everything will work out as it should. That does not mean we will just sit back and let the money come rolling in from...wherever. It means that it is again time to sit quietly, align ourselves within our Qigong Principles and listen for the next steps on this beautiful journey. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Flag Draped Box... Original Poem by Sifu Chris Bouguyon

A Flag Draped Box
Today we honor those carried home in a flag draped box,
with them a foot locker full of memories behind a simple lock;
The stories of their efforts are often left untold,
Leaving us to wonder what secrets they did hold;
Where did you go?
What did you do?
Why did this harm come down on you?
Families are lost, confused and unsure of what comes next,
The one whose never coming home has left an awful mess;
The ones they left behind to carry on for them, 
Are often much to young to truly understand
“When is Mommy coming home? She promised me a dress”
“When is Daddy coming home? I haven’t learned to catch”
These questions are the start of a new reality,
One where loved ones lost, are just a memory.
Let us never forget the pain that runs so deep,
it keeps their children up at night while we so soundly sleep.

For my Brothers and Sisters in Arms who are no longer here to read this, I offer my love, deepest respect and gratitude for your precious gift to me and my family.

LCB 5/26/2014

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Testing my Ability to Smile...

Smiling Energy is the last principle we teach in our Training Mindfully with Qigong Principles Program, for a very good reason. Over the years I have learned that in order to have a genuine heart felt smile, and a deep sense of gratitude, all 7 of the other principles must be applied first. They do not have to be perfect but they do have to be a genuine, work in progress.

On July 28th, I had what would later become one of the best training exercises for Smiling Energy I have ever endured.
Having just finished several days at the National Qigong Association Conference, I was ready to drive to the airport and fly home. A couple of friends asked if I could give them a ride which I was happy to do. While we had had some rain near the hotel, the closer we got to the airport, the heavier the rain became. Visibility was low and we made several wrong turns (thank you Siri) before finally getting my first friend to the terminal so she could head home. The rain was coming down in sheets and it felt like a tropical storm. Later we found out it was the second largest rainfall total for Philly; 6 inches in 2 hours.

After I dropped friend number one, I proceeded to drive my other friend to her hotel near the airport. The rain was making it difficult to see but now many of the roads were being flooded as well. This included the road at the entrance to her hotel. Left with few options, I plowed into the 8 inches of standing water to get into the hotel parking lot. Water came up over to hood, windshield and roof from the wake of my determination to get her there. Mission accomplished. Rental car, none the worse wear.

The next stage was to drop off the rental car where I saw a poor guy in a yellow rain suit, with his digital scanner and soggy rental receipts waiting for me. Once I was free of the rental car, I had about a 50 yard walk to the bus stop in the rain. The bus was so crowded I assumed it would stop at all terminals including mine. It did not. (That was on me.) Left with the choice of looping through all the other terminals, back to the rental area and back to the terminal again, I decided it was easier to walk back the 100 yards or more to the other terminal. As I began my walk, I was soaked to the bone and feeling pretty sorry for myself. Suddenly I remembered - I LOVE WALKING IN THE RAIN!

My whole attitude changed and I was splashing in puddles and laughing out loud. One gentleman, smoking under the cover of a ledge at the terminal entrance, saw the whole thing and probably wondered if I should be allowed to walk free on the streets. When I arrived at security, literally dripping on the tile floor, they looked at me inquisitively and asked - "What the hell happened to you?" I smiled and said in a playful voice "ITS RAINING!" They still let me pass. When I got to the scanner, my clothes were sticking to me and quite see-through so I proceeded to tell the TSA agent, "you don't have to scan me, you can see right through my clothes!" Smiling of course...No dice. However, it would appear that the airport scanners do not like trying to see through water either so I was offered a free massage right there, for all to see. When the TSA Agent started messing with my waist band I asked him if he was going to buy me dinner first. He barely looked up and said, "not this time." I smiled anyway.

By this time, my bags had gone through the scanner and aroused suspicion as well. I had a beautiful decorative rock in my carry on which I had purchased for Fayne's birthday, which was today. TSA directed me to another area where they could thoroughly search my bags. I smiled and showed them all my stuff. Once they were convinced the rock was actually a rock, they let me move on to my next adventure. Wet, cold and tired, I stopped by a Starbucks and got a coffee before heading to my gate. Once at the gate, with my phone at 8% charge, I found that electrical outlets were very hard to come by with people huddled around each one like moths to a flame. To my surprise there was one open near the gate agent's desk so I grabbed a chair, plugged in and began to breathe deep and relax. It was about then that the first notice came of our plane being delayed because of the storm. I smiled, sat back and prepared for a longer wait. When my phone had reached about 20% charge, I heard a loud boom and the terminal went dark. All power in the terminal went out. It was about this time that the fire alarm went off and we were being told to evacuate the terminal immediately, in 8 different languages. Once the gate agent had checked with the powers that be, we were told we could stay in place because the terminal had simply lost power and there was no immediate danger. I again sat back, breathed deeply and smiled.

I did wonder that if we were in no immediate danger, then why then, for the next hour, did the fire alarm remain so vigilant in it attempts to evacuate the terminal. I could feel that people were getting very frustrated. Pained by the loud noise of the alarm and flashing strobe lights in the dark terminal. There was nothing for me to do so I sat back and began to breathe deep and smile. I went into a deep meditation whereby I began to explorer the intricate sounds which made up the alarm tone. When you listen carefully there are actually several different tones and rhythms in an alarm signal. I thought about how the "alarm tone designers" might have decided what tones to use. I imagined them trying to figure out which ones, in which combination would get the most attention. I think they found a winner in Philly. At one point in all the chaos and frustration at gate 29, with me sitting in my corner breathing and smiling, I felt eyes on me so I opened mine to find the gate agent staring at me and smiling back. In that moment, when our eyes met, I realized that I had inadvertently helped her reframe the experience we were having. Her mood lightened up and she began to be more playful and light hearted with the hundred or so fellow passengers clamoring for her attention. This made me smile even deeper. The smile was spreading.

It was near this time that the passengers which had more access to technology than our gate agent, informed her our flight had been cancelled. When she confirmed it for us, I worked to booked a hotel room nearby on 7% power with a wordy hotel agent who insisted on going through her programmed spiel even though I had explained thatI might lose my phone power at any moment. I then left the terminal in search of a working outlet for my failing phone. Having found one in a main hallway, I was sitting where people were running by me frantically trying to find their way home. Still wet and cold, I worked to simultaneously charge my phone and get a return flight home. No dice. The best they could do was Tuesday afternoon. Then about an hour later, I was able to get a flight out on Monday but it was in New York. I would have to navigate my way by train and bus to catch that flight. With my phone mostly charged decided to get to the hotel, dry off and try again later.

Once in the room, and dry, I was trying to figure out how to get to New York by navigating the unfamiliar public transportation systems between Philly and New York. I smiled and looked at this as another adventure. Something I had never done before. It was about then that American Airlines called me back and we were able to get me on a US Airways flight back to Dallas out of Philly on Monday afternoon. I cancelled my Monday classes, notified Fayne of the changes, smiled and went to bed.

MOnday morning, fully rested and fed, I left for the airport early expecting there to be a significant crowd of stranded passengers from the previous days adventure. I was right. The line at the check in desk was very long and the agents were being taxed with frustrated, annoyed passengers. When it was my turn, I walked up to the desk smiling and sheepishly said, hello, I am an American Airlines Refugee...Can you help me get home. She giggled and said don't hold your breath, I have only had one other person with a confirmed reservation transferred from American all day. I smiled and hoped for the best. After a few minutes of checking, she informed me I was the second one today that had a confirmed MIDDLE seat. I smiled and asked, do you have a window or isle? She laughed and said I must be a comedian and should count my blessings that I was inside the plane. Then I proceeded to say sheepishly - "then a first class seat is out of the question?" To that, we both laughed out loud. I thanked her for her time and effort and began to head to the terminal. Smiling. When I looked back, I noticed that she now had a smile in her heart for the next customer in line. Again, the smile was spreading.

As I sat and had a nice lunch waiting for my flight, I thought back on the previous 24 hours events. I know that in the not so distant past, I would have handled all of it much differently. I could have easily been one of the irate, frustrated, "why does this always happen TO me" passengers. Instead, I chose to move past that mindset and realized all of this was happening FOR me. By TRUSTING that I would be fine no matter what was thrown my way, ALLOWING the events to unfold as they needed to (not trying to control thing I clearly could not control) and feeling GRATEFUL all the while, I truly felt a deep sense of personal practice unfold. With every turn of events, I smiled deeper. I thought of how I could relate this back to my students. I truly felt grateful for ever turn. I moved from victim, to survivor. Smiling Energy is indeed a powerful tool worth cultivating.