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Be the Light

“In dark times be the light.” I don’t know who I’m quoting, so many wise people have said this. As we pass through these dark times, let’s put the emphasis on the verb. Everything passes. We have choices in how we ride it out. My immigrant grandmother Anna was a great inspiration to me in my understanding that, at the risk of repeating myself, again, every moment is a choose-your-own-attitude opportunity. The events of this long winter have left many of us wanting to cover our heads and hide beneath the blankets. History has shown us where that leads.

My immigrant grandparents, Anna and Joseph

My immigrant grandparents, Anna and Joseph

Here are some suggestions to brighten your light:

If you need attitudinal inspiration, watch Groundhog Day again –– again. Spend time with friends and family in person, without a digital screen between you. (This suggestion courtesy of my friend Jana Zvibleman.) Besides being kind to yourself and others, besides supporting your community (however you define community), expand your vision. Visit other countries and talk to people there to learn their way of being.

I’m planning a long-postponed trip to Canada (no, not moving there, just visiting) to reacquaint myself with nearby cross-border neighbors who have a surprisingly different perspective of the world, and much to teach us. Pick your border, north or south, and explore.

Further away, Professor Huixiang Chen and Dr. Pingping Li are leading another enlightening qigong immersion China tour this April. A number of you visited my studio last year when Sandra Kunz shared her experiences on the 2016 trip. You’ll learn more about the opportunity, and qigong, at www.wisdomandpeace.com.

Let’s embrace excitement and action, not fear, in 2017. Let’s all be the light in whatever way we choose.

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Radical Action

“This doesn’t feel like my country anymore,” a friend told me over brunch in a Manhattan vegan restaurant, while a young man with a shiny lip ring and no eyebrows above his lettuce-green eyes sweetly served our black bean enchiladas with cashew cheese.

I understood what she meant. Heartbreak and dnovember-2016-2enial were my first responses to the presidential election results, too, but those reactions take you, or me, nowhere. I understand the urge to march in protest. I was among the many of my generation who filled Seattle streets protesting the Vietnam war, and I kept marching there and in Sydney for other causes for decades. I like to believe we made some difference. If you feel that demonstrating against bigotry, hate, and ignorance will make a difference now, I respect your choice. Sometimes that’s all that’s left, as appears to be the case in North Dakota.

My brunch companion takes a different course. Over coffee she explains. Now in her late eighties, she works with organizations in her town to provide shelter for women in need, to help elders stay in their own homes, to promote education for children, and to protect the natural environment. Her action is as radical as marching in the streets, and much harder to sustain.

Radical and sustained action is what will rescue our nation from violent division. Most radical is education, as it has always been. A populace educated  in gathering information, understanding history, and thinking globally and critically is equipped to solve problems creatively, rather than pretending they can wipe the board clean.

The many acts of generosity I witnessed and experienced the day after the election reaffirmed to me the importance of community. If you feel overwhelmed and helpless, start small, with one deliberate act of kindness, one appreciation of something good and beautiful, each day. Here in Central Oregon, donate time or resources to organizations like SMART or Younity, which build confidence, strength, empathy, and skill in children who will be making decisions for themselves and future generations. We’re all in this great adventure together.

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Reality of Impossible Things

Today I celebrate the Festival of Archangel Uriel who visited me, an angel skeptic who had never heard Uriel’s name, nearly two decades ago. I had no interest in, nor any familiarity with, archangels in any form then, much less the twenty-foot-tall winged being made of intense blue light who “spoke” to me clearly, without sound. Uriel has never appeared to me again, yet never left me, either. Uriel gives me courage to add my small voice today to the chorus demanding that we hold and nurture hope in these times of horror.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In such times we can choose to let in the light. When we’re told peace is impossible, we must hold on to the Reality of Impossible Things. When we suffer so many causes to mourn, we must allow moments of beauty and joy as never before.

Not one of the famous archangels, there’s nothing easy about Uriel. Uriel demands we accept the challenge to act toward one another as though we see the angelic light in each person we meet, and within ourselves, even when fear threatens to dim it.

With gratitude to the Archangel Uriel, and wishing you all angelic blessings,

Kristina

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Mourning and Morning

This winter after my mother died was long and bleak, though in “reality” no longer or bleaker than others. I’m returning from that darkness with my first note of 2016 and one last story about my mother.

She left me a gift I dreaded and saw at first as a curse: ninety years worth of newspaper clippings, magazines, letters, notes, photos, worn and never-worn clothes and shoes, tangled costume jewelry, flattened cereal boxes, diaries, half-empty perfume bottles, old red lipsticks, plastic bags and cloth scraps, on and on, waist-deep beneath dust so thick I had to wrap a scarf around my mouth and nose to breathe sorting it. I kept up a running commentary on my disgust, humiliation, and anger even as my mother’s secrets emerged from the layers like the excavation of an archeological dig. I was exhausted and filthy finishing with the worst of it, and hoarse from arguing with her for hours on end.

The gift came when at some point I saw her through her stash, beyond the mother who was never “motherly” enough for me, to the woman who was wholly herself, without apology, a woman of strength I could mourn with love and respect. She held me there despite myself until both of us were freed from my habitual sense of lack and resentment. I carry that lesson with me now, to see others around me with fresh eyes, less judgement. Thank you Mom.

Mom and me 1957

Mom and me 1957

This is where I’ve been for half a year, a healer healing, fragile, confused, blinking now in the welcome spring sun. I’ll post new announcements about my work soon, Qigong, easing the lightbody, and more.

Meanwhile, my radiant, powerful friend Teryl “T” Johansson has a new book out, Silver Talons, Sacred Prey: Stories To Rattle Your Ancient Shamanic Bones. Find illuminating adventures with T at www.sacredaerie.com.

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What Do Angels Look Like?

Those of you who filled my studio for Sandra Kunz’s November presentation about her Qigong trip to China may have noticed the recurring angel theme in my paintings on the walls. Or maybe not, given that Sandra kept us all fascinated with her stories. That’s how it is for angels in our lives. We’re surrounded by them and seldom notice. We are them and we discount our power to call in blessings and work small miracles that change the lives of others.

I was blessed to be surrounded by angels thinly disguised as human beings the day after Thanksgiving when my mother (whom I’ve written about in these pages October and November, 2013, and April 2015) made her transition from this life into the Great Mystery at nearly 91. My husband and I and my stepfather were beside her in the beautiful “Cottage In the Meadow” hospice house in Yakima. Our sadness was tempered by the deep respect and kindness of the hospice staff. My mother at her death was touched by beauty and free from fear. What could have been terrible for her and for us was profound.IMG_0641

I’ll be making holiday donations to both the Yakima,Washington and Bend, Oregon hospice houses in gratitude, and I encourage you to consider doing the same in your community. Also in gratitude, throughout 2016 I’ll be offering free Exploring Angelic Dimensions sessions. Please call with questions and to schedule. Meanwhile, if you want to see what angels look like, try looking in a mirror, or across the dinner table.

Wishing you blessings for the solstice, and all the season’s holidays.

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Simple Gifts

This spring my friend and Chinese Essence Qigong student, Sandra Kunz, accepted an invitation to visit China with the esteemed qigong master, Huixian Chen, the beautiful woman you see in this photo. Sandra brought me the photo as a gift when she returned, and I was immediately struck by the way Chen’s energy projects from it, a palpable tonifying of my own qi/life energy system and that of any viewer. Take a moment to look at the image, absorb the loving energy beaming from Chen’s smile. That’s a gift from her to all of us.Chen 2015

While practicing qigong can be a profound stimulus for spiritual development, qigong itself is not a religion and requires no “belief.” It takes no special skill, only the willingness to pay attention to directing your energy, your qi, with your mind, and to your movement and breathing. As you begin a regular daily practice, qigong teaches itself in a feedback loop of experience and sensation. In my fourteen years of practicing Chinese Essence Qigong it has rewarded me with peace of mind, good health, perspective, and flexibility.

Sandra and I invite those of you who are in Oregon to join us on Monday, November 16th, from 6:30 to 7:30 (or so) at my Westside Bend studio. You’ll hear about her experiences in China with Chen and other qigong masters, and see her photos from that trip. RSVP with a text to 541.390.9652 or email kristina@kristinabak.com, for directions. (Space is limited.)

Chen intends to lead another trip to China in 2016. After hearing Sandra’s qigong stories, you may be inspired to go along. You can find Chen’s autobiography, Life Is Always Smiling on Amazon.

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Wild Horses

Ideas shoot through my awareness like summer meteors in the Perseid shower. As I try to harness wild interests and choose my topic for September, I slip back to being 10 years old, trying to separate a reluctant saddle horse from our shifting herd. A gangly gray and white half-wild pinto, Paint was descended from the great 19th Century herds Yakima Chief Kamiakin ran on Ahtanum Ridge. Paint probably didn’t like me, for good reason. I rode him harder than I should have, galloping dusty reservation roads. I raced anger and grief at my parents bitter divorce, and later sadness and confusion when my powerful grandpa was felled by a stroke in the bull’s corral. No matter how fast Paint ran, neither he nor I could escape what I didn’t yet know to call Impermanence. Oh, but we tried. My adventures unreeled framed by Paint’s ears.

Still living in my dreams

Still living in my dreams

I don’t know what finally happened to Paint. When I returned from my first college semester, my grandparents were in a nursing home, the old ranch house stood empty, listing to one side as though only the life going on inside had kept it upright. Someone had done something with the animals; I didn’t have the heart to ask what. Paint may, like many unwanted horses, have become dog food.

I’d rather rewrite this tale, making it about devotion between a thoughtful, selfless girl and her beloved equine companion. Instead I’ll stick to what’s true, acknowledge my self-focus, necessary for a child to thrive in a difficult environment, but not pretty. Growing up and maturing is about building a Self, then learning to release it, while still engaging with life. I’m working on that, remembering it’s all impermanent. This body, like Paint’s, will end, though probably not as dog food, and I hope to leave something more useful behind than a sweat-stained saddle. You never know…

Meanwhile, life is sweet despite strange times, strange seasons. Qigong helps me meet each day with minimal anxiety and reactivity. I have space for two more participants in a Chinese Essence Qigong beginners’ workshop, two sessions, Tuesday September 22nd, and Friday September 25th, 2pm to 4:30 at my studio. When you call me at 541.390.9652 or email Kristina@kristinabak.com I’ll tell you more about this, as well as other times, tutorials, and events this fall.

Save the date: Monday evening, November 16th, gather at my studio to hear photographer and Qigong practitioner Sandra Kunz tell the story of her travels in China with Hui-Xian Chen, the venerable woman who introduced many of us to Chinese Essence Qigong. Hui-Xian Chen’s amazing autobiography Life Is Always Smiling is now available in paperback, as well as on kindle, at Amazon.

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When will you…?

How did you finish that sentence in your mind? Quickly now, without over-thinking it, what’s the dream lurking behind all you do, maybe right at the surface, maybe hidden in the depths? Big dream or small, makes no difference, if matters to you, it’s important.

Two of my thirty-something friends set off today for a long-postponed adventure in Alaska.

Green Lakes July 2015

Green Lakes July 2015

My daughter Anna found her own studio space in Brooklyn and spent weeks this summer completing a demanding art commission.

My friend Denise Fainberg is publicizing her new book documenting her 500 mile walk on the Camino de Santiago in 2003 (Walking Through Sunflowers: Through Deepest France on the Road to Compostela). 

I’m taking two novels I’ve written to the Willamette Writers Conference to try to sell to a publisher. We’re all investing the most precious resource we have, the fleeting hours of our lives, some in solitude, all with persistence, engaged in finding out “what happens if…” Of course, nothing happens if we don’t apply effort and optimism. What are you putting off?

What if you fail? Failure is impossible, success lies in the IMG_0228trying. You only fail if you don’t try.

It’s never too early or too late to take the first step, and you’ll find each step builds momentum. The sooner you start, the better chance you have of arriving. (Okay, ask yourself now, “When will I…?” and “What’s the first step?”) Hiking in the Cascades is a vivid demonstration of that truth. Take one step and then another and you end up someplace beautiful, like Green Lakes. Watch for Essence Qigong classes coming up at my studio this fall. Meanwhile, take a step in this splendid summer. I’ll see you on the trail.

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Memory, Atoms and Miracles

Memory is the story you tell yourself. It’s selecting one position in time and space, one arrangement of vibrating atoms to represent what “you” (that mysterious observing consciousness) identify as you, then clustering multiple selections together and endowing the pattern with meaning. Of course, one thing that means is that your history isn’t fixed–different selection, different vibrations, different story possibilities far richer than any of us can imagine.

Atoms are mostly empty space, we are made of atoms, we are mostly emptiness, only slightly more dense than water, or air, or intergalactic space. All the more miraculous that we can use that ever-changing arrangement of energy from the beginning of our universe, call it stardust, to feel and think and love even for our moment. We need no elaborate education, no grand experience of the world to perform these miracles.

My cousin Roseann died last week. Here is a story I told myself about her: Once upon a time there were two cousins whose Slovak grandparents bought identical red-and-white Easter dresses in 1955. Many things happened, and sixty years later, one of them died. Over those years we grew apart, and I forgot to appreciate how, in the rare times we met as adults, Roseann always welcomed me with a loving smile and kind words, as though I were someone important. She was much better at that sort of miracle than I am. I remember Roseann’s story now in a new way. I find I hold her memory more tenderly than I held her living presence. She reminds me to cherish the warm touch of those who are alive today.

Roseann (left) & Kristina 1955

To experience more miracles I recommend: Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements That Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe, by Curt Stager (2014).

And online: The Radioactive Orchestra, “strengthening the bond between science and art” with music of atoms’ energetic frequencies.

I’m dedicating much of this summer to writing a sequel to the novel I wrote last year to take to the 2015 Willamette Writers Conference in August, so no Soul Painting or Qigong groups are on the schedule until fall, but I’ll gladly talk with you about individual consultations and upcoming groups anytime.

Wishing you many miracles and good stories,

Kristina

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Celebration

My mother was astonished when I told her on her birthday she was 90 years old. “No! When did that happen?” I don’t think she believed me. The fact almost instantly disappeared from her awareness into that vast territory Things That Don’t Matter Anymore. Her life has left much accumulation, but little history, and what remains is like bird tracks in the snow. My amazing stepfather lured her home from death’s borders a year ago by the power of his devotion, but part of her stayed out there, and more vanishes every day. My story is diminished along with hers. Only one ancient uncle survives who remembers my father and mother when they were young and beautiful, and me as a child. I still had things I wanted to tell my mother. Was there anything she still wanted to confide to me, or to her granddaughter? All lost. Yet she laughs in celebration of the simplest things.

One cause for celebration, our sweet white cat Nanuq survived being (accidentally, I swear!) locked and tumbled in the hot clothes dryer. It was a near thing, but he doesn’t blame me for causing his misery, and purrs as always, seeing me as his rescuer one more time. Attitude is everything, just ask my mom or my cat.

Thanks to all the participants, new and reviewing, in my recent Chinese Essence Qigong intensive. If you wanted to attend but missed it, give me a call or email and we can plan another session. I’m always happy to answer your questions. Also, this week I had the pleasure of offering my version of energy healing as a gift to others at the Community Healing Night/Canned Food Drive organized by Eileen Lock. The next one is Thursday May 7th, 5pm-7pm at Bend’s Old Stone Church. A gift by the healer is a gift to the healer as well. Thank you to those who came to me, each of you a blessing.

May your joyful spirit find resurrection in this spring’s beauty. A day spent contemplating beauty is never wasted.

Nanuq forgives

Nanuq forgives

When they were young and beautiful

When they were young and beautiful

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