The Hollow Bone Practice

2014-05-15 16.55.36-2click here for practice video

One day I visited my friend Steve Old Coyote, a Native American elder, storyteller and wood carver. That particular day he was carving on a wooden staff when I asked him what he was up to.

His response was, “I am thinking about what it would be like to be a hollow bone, to let Spirit move through me to guide my words and action.”

That is how this practice got its name.

The word Aikido translates to: “Aiki” – harmony, “ki” Nature, spirit or energy, and “do”- a way or a path. In Aikido, when someone attacks, you learn to surround the interaction in a “ki” field, an empathic listening field. I like to imagine this at times as a field of kindness. Imagine being angry and wanting to attack some one and all at once feeling an immense kindness coming from the one you want to
attack. This can stop a fight before it begins. The first scrolls that document Aikido were written in a Japanese lettering called Kanji. When these scrolls were first translated, it was understood throughout the Aikido community that the training was to learn to “extend ki.” This phrase implies that extending “ki” or “empathy” is something you do and offer. A generation later, the scrolls were re-interpreted and this same phrase was translated more accurately as “let ki extend!” This implies more of a being and allowing and less of something you do and give. A goal of training is to get out of your own ways to allow empathy to happen.


As you go through the Hollow Bone exercise, keep this mind and the image of being a hollow bone through which ki/spirit/life moves freely through you.

Allow the energy of compassion to move through you with gratitude as the delivery system. When you have gratitude for something you connect with it. Look out your window at a tree or a flower and take a moment to be grateful for it and when you do, notice if you feel more connected.

The Hollow Bone practice replenishes your reservoir so you can enter from a place of fullness. It connects you to powerful resources that are always available. Practice helps you to remember that regardless of what you may think, you are always loved and that love is always available.

The Practice:

Begin by standing tall in your full length, not overextended or collapsed.

With your feet slightly apart, feel the bottom of your feet connect with the earth, and vertically align your belly with your heart and your head, a stance of dignity and grace, in line with gravity and the earth.

Take a deep breath in and, allow yourself to soften as you exhale. Soften your eyes and inhale. Let the back of the tongue soften as it rests on the bottom of your mouth. With your next breath, relax your tail bone’s sphincter muscle while you exhale.

Let any weight you might imagine carrying on your shoulders roll off for the moment.

Ask yourself, “How would it feel if I were a little more relaxed, if I let my eyes relax a little more?” Approach this thought as a question, as a request, not as a demand. Notice how your body responds in answer to your question- letting you know just how that would feel.

  1. Imagine opening the bottom of your feet to the earth


  1. Take a full and relaxing breath. Imagine you are using your breath to make more space in your body while you settle into your length, a posture of dignity and grace.


  1. Come up with and then bring into your awareness, a purposeful commitment; something you want to practice and/or devote your day/life to. It could also be a quality or virtue you wish to experience more of in your life.


Document44.  Bring your hands up to your chest level with your elbows having only a slight bend in them. With fingers pointed forward, vigorously rub your hands together.







Document45.  Then with your hands apart, extend your arms, hands and fingers as if you’re reaching out to catch a big ball. Notice the tingling of energy from the friction in your hands. Use your breath as a way to help draw and circulate that energy.



  1. Document4Next, bring the warmth and the tingling fingers to your heart. Touch your heart with appreciation.




7.  Slowly begin rubbing from your heart down to the belly. Now wake the belly up by patting it.

Document48.  Imagine sending down roots through your fingertips and through the bottom of your feet. Imagine these roots connecting to the organisms under the soil, to other plants, the rocks, to what’s above the soil, the animals, the insects, the birds, the air, the water, the ocean, etc. With gratitude, connect to the earth and the life of this planet. In your own way, give thanks for the nature that is all around you.



Document49.  Turn your palms to the space behind you. Open your palms and like were radar dishes, feel into and visualize the space behind you. Imagine that this space is like a large, soft cushion that is supporting your whole backside. Let it hold and support you, as if there are many hands holding your weight from behind. Now imagine this support coming from the ancestors you who were whole and healthy. Imagine this support coming from the teachers in your life who have supported you and brought you understanding and wisdom. Imagine the support coming from the great teachers in the world, the people who have inspired you, as well as the lessons that come through you through your own genetic history back to the beginning of time. Stand for as long as you feel inclined, sinking into this support with gratitude and appreciation.


Document410,  Now, with your palms facing your body, arms still extended and by your side, let your arms move about a foot to a foot and a half away from your body. Pay attention to staying in your vertical axis. Reach out as you connect to all who walk beside you–friends, peers, brothers and sisters who surround you–and in your own way, be grateful for all who walk by your side. As a daily practice, little by little, try offering gratitude to those who you may consider difficult to be around. They may also be the ones who help you to see parts of yourself that you would never see with others. I often think of these difficult individuals as my light bringers, my “Lucifers.” To elucidate, consider that “Lucifer” means light bringer.  Although they feel like the devil, they shine light on a place in you that no one else could. In Aikido, those who are the most difficult to train with are often the partners with whom we learn the most with. In your own way, give gratitude for those who walk beside you in your life.

11.  Now with your arms still by your side, face your palms forward and feel into the space in front of you. Think of all the younger ones who we support and who will lead us into the future. Think of those who bring fresh perspective, lightness and buoyancy to our lives; those who remind us to play, to view the world with wonder and awe. Here you can think of someone specific, or younger ones in general. In your own way, give gratitude for those young ones in your life.

12.Now take these resources that are under your feet, at your back, at your sides and in front of you. Bring your arms up as if you were shaping a large chalice. Document4Make the space between your arms big enough to hold the resources you have just gathered. Imagine that you are holding a giant cup or bowl that contains these resources. Imagine this cup to be filled to the brim with all your relationships, human and non human. With gratitude, drink until you are fully quenched.

13.  Now filled and resourced, bring your arms slightly to the front of you. Stand vertically with your head, above your heart, above your belly. With this bounty, notice how this is an open stance, through which you can offer and receive simultaneously. Reach out, and with your whole self offer what you have and receive what you are being given. Reach out to what is reaching towards you. Dedicate yourself and reach out to what it is that you want to put out into the world as you replenish and renew yourself. This is the Hollow Bone Practice.









Now, while holding these resources, bring your arms slightly to the front of you as if you were tipping the cup in that direction. Stand vertically with your head, above your heart, above your belly. Offer this bounty and notice that this is an open stance, through which you can also receive. You can offer and receive simultaneously. Reach out in a way that gently and bountifully offers what you have and receives what you are being handed. Reach out to what is reaching towards you. Reach with your whole self. Dedicate and reach out to what it is that you are wanting to put out into the world and what you want to receive and connect to- a state of openness and flow. This is how we replenish and renew ourselves. This is the hollow bone.














It takes only a few seconds to center yourself, to remember that you are never alone, that you always have access to resources and that you can bring them through you. You always have access to your needs and can draw them up from within. Remember, life is not about being centered all the time. It’s about recognizing when you are off center and being able to come back to center more quickly. With this exercise you can center any time, anywhere.

To feed the practice, here are a few questions to consider: How was it for you? How did you feel before? How did you feel after? What does it feel like to feel open? How is it to receive and offer at the same moment? When you make note of the feeling and bodily sensations, overtime they will become more familiar and you will be able to come back to that feeling more quickly.

You are not alone if you choose to connect to your support.

Hollow Bone Nano Practice

You can make this practice as long or as quick as you want, it can even be as short as a minute. Here is the shortened version:

Stand in your full length. Take a deep breath. Exhale loudly. Relax into your full length. Rub your hands together. Touch your heart. Pat your belly. Give thanks to the earth. Reach behind you and give thanks to all that supports you. Reach out to the side and give thanks to all who walk beside you. Reach to the front and give thanks to all who are in front of you. Hold your hands up, offer, and receive.


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