Allie Middleton, JD LCSW E-RYT C-IAYT on Moving From Me to We

In an old and favorite verse from thousands of years ago, the author of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, considers this:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

And yet, as we all wonder about the future now, shall we ask each other this next question, “What is OUR collective desire and what shall OUR collective deeds create now?

In my experience over decades as a systems change catalyst and leadership coach, I’ve had the privilege of helping many individuals and teams develop new strategies for high level impact. Whether in business, healthcare or communities, one of my initial questions is, “Who are we really, and what is our work?

Today, this creative inquiry is alive in many contexts as we need to spark healthy ways to co-initiate collective sustainable changes for the sake of global health and wellbeing. How do we compassionately harmonize our minds, hearts and wills for the sake of the planet and others? Or “What is this moving from ME to WE dance all about, and how does sharing our stories help us now?

As the lives of the global yoga innovators reveal in my new book, Yoga Radicals: A Curated Set of Inspiring Stories from Pioneers in the Field, this awareness for the need for change is happening for people around the world on many levels simultaneously: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Their perspectives reflect an opening toward something new, a creative offer that has social impact and provides community healing.

How might we inspire others with creative heart-felt ways to experience and understand this epochal move from ME consciousness, (focus on myself), to WE consciousness, (focus on my community, country and planet)?

Telling our stories is the starting place, as we learn to listen more deeply into the universal (and eternal) creative life force that emerges and encourages well-being for all. Accessing our collective awareness and moving together consciously to create sustainable changes at all levels of organization is essential now.

Like other practitioners in these changing times, I am learning to adapt to the complex personal and planetary issues with curiosity, compassion and courage. At the 2018 International Association of Yoga Therapists Conference I was privileged to co-initiate the inaugural community interest session on Social Activism & Community Healing. At the invitation of Matthew J. Taylor, we convened our session using a Presencing Approach, an interview process combining Joseph Campbell’s hero(ines) journey and an awareness-based prototyping model from the Presencing Institute at MIT. This birthed the interest for a deeper and more expansive exploration.

And now, as I type this, I remember myself in the winter of 2020, commissioned by Singing Dragon Press, to write a book to bring this idea forth! The intention of the book, Yoga Radicals, is to offer a portal of potential for the emerging embodiment community by highlighting some stories and projects that emerged from yoga innovators who have traveled the path of moving from ME to WE. Alas, there are so many more stories to hear we have yet to hear. So little time……

What I learned from each of their stories is that after deep commitment to years of personal practice, something else demanded a listening into the emerging future, a finding of new ways to invoke shifts in their (and now our) deepest hearts’ desires.

We were all in full lockdown mode as I conducted the 36 interviews with these special yoga innovators. The stories of these amazing individuals vibrate at the heart of the Yoga Radicals book. I am so grateful to have had such a deep engagement with each person at such an important time; each working in unique ways to establish the yoga therapy professional space, each offering more embodiment in their personal lives and professional communities. I hope you and many others will enjoy and be inspired by their stories too.

Ancient wisdom traditions from all over the planet remind us that we are all connected, that these practices and an Embodied Presence, or being grounded and at home in our bodies, might enlighten us. Embodiment practices are particularly urgent now as our mother planet earth demands that we learn the dance steps of Reciprocity and Love. The stories from the Yoga Radicals in the book do just that, sharing how each yoga innovator moved from a ‘me’ consciousness to a ‘we’ consciousness. These amazing brave souls share how they created a community healing or social impact project as a result of their long-term yoga and other embodied practices as leaders. I hope the interview process and journey we took together will support others to access to their deepest heart’s intelligence, a true connection between awareness, creativity and action.

An example of this Presencing Approach is to ask now, “It seems we have been initiated into a new future and a new life in these last 18 months, I wonder how you feel a deeper sense of being related to others across time and space? Without physical travel, we’ve had to rely on our other human capacities to stay tuned to our hearts’ desires; even as we navigate this new time together. We have landed in communities of kindreds, in places and spaces where our best dreams of a shared future can emerge. We’re being called forward into a new story. How can we make it a creative one, supporting as many others as we are able in our endeavors to stay healthy and well and safe? How do we embody emergence?

I sometimes simply call this making peace time”, especially when I’m embodying a practice while working with a client, teaching or facilitating a group. I’m finding myself immersed in love now for decades, blessed with a serious leadership coaching practice and capacity to heal in relationship with others. My next book will tell the tale of how my listening at deeper levels has always been the main inspiration for these practices.  For now, I invite you to enjoy these diverse and creative tales that emerged in the hour-long interviews and are now condensed into essential narratives that express how each Yoga Radical followed their own path from ME to WE. May it inspire you to do the same.

In Yoga Radicals, the questions that I’ve asked these amazing pioneers are questions that I live throughout my life, constantly speaking into the future and asking for guidance. When did you learn to trust your creativity and imagination enough to help you through a tough spot? When did you find a special friend who gave you solace in the middle of a storm, as you were on your path of life?

The stories in the book surprise me still and more importantly, now the memory of the deep embodied connections felt in each interview make my heart sing. I hope that readers find their amazing songs inspiring and a way to listen and play with the unending force of creativity and love, which we desperately need on the planet now. Embodying creativity and initiating positive emergence is what we all need now.

Allie Middletons latest book Yoga Radicals: A Curated Set of Inspirational Stories of Transformational Yoga by Pioneers in the Field, was published by Singing Dragon on August 19th featuring inspirational pioneers of yoga, from those with ancient lineage in traditional yoga to innovators in western yoga practice. Click here to purchase a copy.

Master your technology or it will master you

Noel Plaugher shares insight into the martial arts exercise featured in his new book, Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts – Zhan Zhuang, and encourages readers to be more present in the moment.

“My book is about a still form of exercise that incorporates mind and body, and I hope that aside from the physical, readers will take heart and embrace the idea of being in the present. It sounds cliché but it seems all of us are involved in everything but the world in front of us.

In our hectic and busy lives we forget that there must be moments where we stop for a time and look around us, or simply close our eyes and be in the present. I am not talking about having a full blown meditation on a commuter train, although what the heck, you may want to try it. I try often to do this, to have these small moments (not full blown meditation on a commuter train) as I work extraordinary hours and small breaks are nirvana to me. Even for a minute or two I have found it beneficial to walk outside look at the sun and sky, take a deep breath, and think about what is happening at this moment in time. It seems like the enemy for these moments are those devices which were sold to help us save time and make things easier. I haven’t really seen that materialize. Have you?

I am disappointed that all of the science fiction movies and TV I watched as a kid that painted such a rosy picture of the future, didn’t happen the way they described. I don’t mean the flying cars, which I guess, will never happen, I mean the promise of the ease of daily activities. The one thing I noticed in science fiction was that no one was ever in a hurry. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dr. Floyd is briefing the others on the space station, they were completely relaxed. They were talking about other life in the universe and they could have been discussing color swatches for interior décor. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal,” And this is when Bowman is facing death in the vacuum of space! Sure, Star Wars has some excitement, but they are shooting lasers at each other. I don’t see that I have more leisure time because of technology, and that machines are doing things for me, so I can relax on the couch. Like most people I have ended up serving the machine! Now we work everywhere. Is that an advantage? Only to the work, I think.

We are all tethered to devices that are merciless task masters. ‘Ding!’ There is a text! ‘Swoosh!’ That is the email asking about the text. ‘Swoosh!’ There is that Facebook post from the kid who sat in back of me in high school. He found me on Facebook and now I look at his posts of his family vacation and ‘like’ pictures out of some kind of bizarre obligation. ‘Ding’ a text reminding me about something that I didn’t forget, but the text requires that I respond so that the other person doesn’t get offended. Now I insert the proper emoticon and…’Swoosh’ email arrives notifying me about a picture of a plate of food that someone thinks is incredibly important. With the internet, you can read just about everything ever written by Joseph Conrad, but we use it to send pictures of plates of food. For some reason we do all of this while life is streaming by and we give it barely a notice. What the heck!

These devices are so insidious they have wrapped their tentacles around our children as well. (or did we do the wrapping?) We are often found staring stoop shouldered at our palm size czars while our children are enthralled by a screen encompassing their entire field of vision, and we all MUST HAVE IT! What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Look at this device! Look at all the things it does! Perhaps we need to be asking if we need it to do all of these things.

I have stood talking to people looking at a phone, with earphones in their ears, and they have told me: ‘Don’t worry, I’m paying attention to you.’ Really? I beg to differ. Two of their senses are occupied and tasting me is out of the question.

Usually, we think of the phone or other device as our connection to the world, when in fact it is the exact opposite: It is our disconnection from the world. The world is happening in front of us and all around us. Do we even notice? Often I am criticized for not taking pictures of events. But I refuse to do it. I don’t want to document my life for myself or anyone else. I want to experience and live it. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think my life is all that interesting to anyone but me. A few events, may be worthy of note, but a daily dose of minutiae?

So are we disconnected? How disconnected can we be? Laws have had to be passed so that we don’t type one fingered messages to others while driving a one ton death machine on a public road! Now THAT is disconnected.

So what do we do? I don’t suggest turning your back on technology. That is unreasonable. I only think we need to be prudent in its use. Give attention to what is important, and realize that what you give your attention to, whether we realize it or not, is what is most important to you at that moment. Once when I was pushing my son on a swing and checking my email on my phone, I realized that what I was looking at was the most important thing to me at that moment. That really struck me, so I put it away and when I am interacting with my son I make sure I give him the same attention I demand of him.

What about emergencies? Let’s face it if we ever only used our devices for emergencies they would be dusty and full of cobwebs. If we put them away for a moment nothing will happen. Sadly, we all must realize that we are not as important as we think we are, and we are really only important to those close to us. How often do we give our time and attention to others at the expense of the ones that care about us?

So what do we do? There are small things we can do, and I have provided some suggestions below. However, having an overall awareness of the fact that we are making choices is important. We are not helpless, unless we choose to be.

These are some things that I have found useful.

  • When you are by yourself, periodically, at least once a day, turn off your phone, or at least the volume, and be alone with your thoughts. If you have to ask what you should think about, do this more often than you were originally planning.
  • Require full attention of those that interact with you. No checking texts while speaking with you. No glancing to see if anything came in. I have instituted a “walk away” policy for myself. If when speaking with someone they choose to do other things, so do I.
  • Do the same as above for others. (How often did I catch myself doing this stuff? Too often.)
  • Look in the night sky and try to find a constellation of any kind.
  • Look at the daytime sky and observe the clouds or anything that is there.
  • Stop and think about how you are right now. What do you feel?
  • If you don’t like your child spending so much time on a device, then make it stop.
  • Breathe deeply by inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 5.
  • Choose to use technology to make your life easier and realize that nothing is an emergency but an emergency.

When I was writing my book I tried to talk about being present, as standing qigong is definitely something that helps cultivate this practice, but I wouldn’t want someone to think that they can’t simply start being present immediately. I hope you read my book and the others that are coming. Now, turn off your ringer and try the suggestion where you take in a breath for a count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 5. Do it now. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Great! Now, without holding your breath, breathe out for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There, that is it. Look around you. Look up, look down. This is where you are. Doesn’t that feel good? This is where you are.”

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