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Archive for June, 2011

MELTING THE FROZEN MIND AND BODY

The nature of the mind and body is to be fluid.  Yet I see people becoming more and more rigid with each passing year as stress takes its toll.  When the mind and body are frozen, they begin to die quickly.  You lose the feeling in your body and even in your emotions and life become less fulfilling.  I have to find metaphors to teach people how to “melt” their minds and bodies to return them to their natural state.  The metaphors below come from the martial arts and, surprisingly, from a comic book.

As a student transitions from an “external” (tension-oriented) martial art to an “internal” martial art, the most difficult habit to break is freezing the body and mind.  Most martial arts students are used to tightening the body and mind at the end of a strike.  This is supposed to give you added power. 

In the internal martial arts you remain fluid, mentally and physically, at all times.  At the end of a strike, it immediately bounces back, and the bounce-back becomes the beginning of the next movement. All strikes emanate from the center of your body (the “tan-tien”) and the bounce-back returns to the center.  Your body rotates around the center so that turning to a new direction is very quick and easy. 

Freezing at the end of a strike makes it awkward to turn to a new direction.  It also prevents your full energy from leaving your body and moving into the opponent.  A lot of your energy is used in freezing rather than in striking.  At the moment you freeze, your attention is caught up in freezing rather than in what is going on around you.  This gives your opponent a chance to come in. 

The more you freeze, the less you perceive.  The more you freeze, the more time you spend away from being centered.  The more you freeze, the more you cut off the flow of energy through your body, which connects you to your surroundings.

It’s difficult enough to teach a martial arts student to stop freezing.  At least he feels the effects of his freezing when he gets hit by a student of an internal martial art, such as Tai-chi-Chuan.  The effect of freezing on the average person depletes your power just as much, but it is much harder to understand this in everyday life.   

I have taught Tai-chi and Zookinesis to thousands of people, and each discipline requires fluidity in mind and body.  I am constantly amazed at how frozen people are, and how little they realize they are frozen.  Compare the state you are in when you are surfing the web to when you are watching a sunset. 

In both cases your attention moves out.  It moves out to the computer screen or to the sunset.  But in the latter case the movement comes about because of relaxation.  In the former case it moves out because of the tightening of your attention, and usually, the tightening of the body.  The computer surfing type of attention is called, “Yang attention”.  The sunset type of attention is called, “Yin attention”. 

Our society is becoming more Yang, more tight, more wound up.  I think no one would disagree with that!  I describe this as becoming “more frozen”.  In this state, the mind separates from the body and you live more and more in your mind.  It is even hard to imagine your attention living equally in the body as in the mind. 

As described in the previous blog post, we tend to associate consciousness itself with thinking.  It is my job as a teacher of Tai-chi and Zookinesis to allow students to experience a different state of consciousness, in which your attention is evenly distributed throughout your body and not just in your head.  In this state you realize that consciousness is an inherent force in all things and not just the end result of your brain nerves at work. 

I remember a story from childhood which explains all of this very well.  It was in a “Weird Tales” comic book and struck me, even then, as a very clear and spiritual story.  It goes something like this:

A man heard that a guru in the Himalayan mountains was the wisest man in the world and lived to eight hundred years old.  The man sold all his possessions and spent weeks travelling to Tibet to visit the guru.  When he finally reached the town where the old man lived, the people were impressed that he had given up everything to meet the guru and they brought him to the cave where he lived. 

The guru, sitting on a large stone in the cave, was equally impressed and agreed to give the visitor his secrets.  Standing up, he bade the visitor to sit down on the stone.  He explained that he had been sitting on that stone for eight hundred years and that, as long as he didn’t get up, he would live forever.  But if he were to get up off that stone, he would instantly die, unless he could find someone to take his place. 

Now the man who had travelled up to this high mountain to seek wisdom had saved the guru from an eternity of misery.  The guru laughed and left.  The visitor was left to contemplate his fate.  Would he really die if he left the stone?  Had he given up everything to be trapped in this cave forever?  And that’s how the story ends. 

I would ask you, which part of the body does the stone represent?  Do you think you will die if your consciousness leaves it and rejoins the rest of the world?  What have you given up to spend the rest of your life in that cave? 

The man in the story is frozen by his fear of death.   And all he wanted was just to find out the meaning of the universe from someone who he thought had all the answers.

I hope that in this story, you will discover how you are frozen and what you need to do to melt the mind and body, so they can regain their natural fluidity.  In the fluid state your consciousness is connected to your body and to all of nature.  You feel the vibrancy of nature as her energies flow through you. 

While you may not live to be eight hundred years old, your life is fulfilling at every moment, even at times of stress.  You feel that you are part of the natural world and supported by it.  You feel nature’s consciousness and realize that your sense of that consciousness dies as long as you are trapped in that cave. 

You have truly given up everything because you have given up the connection of your consciousness to nature and your body has become just a machine.  That sense allows you to see your own spirit, the spirit of others and how we are all connected.  When you are frozen, it feels as though we are all disconnected.  It is the job of a teacher of Tai-chi and Zookinesis to return that sense to you so you can feel the world and your life passionately.

THE DYNAMICS OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND HEALING

The dynamics of how the mind can heal the body is a vital part of all ancient healing systems.  But just what are those dynamics?  I have spent most of my life studying this subject, apprenticing with traditional healers of several cultures and reading ancient manuscripts of others.  As a writer, my job is to distill that information and to express it in a way that is appropriate and understandable to modern readers. 

Firstly, I need to explain the concept of “attention”.  It is important to understand that attention does not mean thinking.  Pure attention (called, “True Yin” in Taoist Alchemy) is the state of awareness when thinking stops.  You are perfectly capable of functioning, but your intentions come from a deeper part of you than thoughts. 

The best way of explaining this very important principle, comes from Christian history.  During the first three hundred years after Jesus’ death, there was a split in Christianity.  This was at a time when Emperor Constantine chose Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire.  In both versions of Christianity, the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) was used to express the basic principles of the religion.  In each version, the Father represented consciousness, the Son reason or thinking, and the Holy Ghost represented creativity (a piece of God within you). 

The “Gnostic” Christians believed that thinking was a process used by consciousness to communicate and to plan your activities, etc.  It must always be balanced with creativity so that the thinking process does not become rigid. 

This was expressed as “The Bridal Chamber”, in which the bride (creativity) and groom (thinking) were united and balanced within the larger space of the room (pure consciousness).  And so they explained that the Father “begets” the “Son” and is not the same as the “Son”. 

The “Apostolic” Christians believed that thinking is the same as consciousness – that there is no other state of consciousness than thinking.  Creativity is also thinking.  Everything is thinking.  They expressed this as the Son IS the Father or “Jesus is God”. 

Emperor Constantine called for a conference in the city of Nicaea in 323 AD to settle these differences.  The emperor set himself up as the moderator.  Now, using our thinking minds to good advantage, which version would an empire, needing to keep control over vast numbers of people of many different cultures, choose as the “correct” version of Christianity?  If thinking was the only version of consciousness considered legitimate, and the Roman Empire and the Apostolics provided a list of approved thoughts, then that inconvenient factor of creativity could be eliminated.

It is easier to control people whose minds all conform. To this day it is hard to convince people that there is another state of consciousness other than thinking.  The state of consciousness which is controlled by the thinking process is one dimensional.  Each thought follows the other, one by one. 

And yet, even while thinking, you must also at the same time, use the state of pure consciousness, even though you might not recognize it.  It is this larger state that keeps track of where the thoughts are going to wind up somewhere useful.  It is like the map that gives you the overall picture, while the thinking process is like the little dot on the map that shows you where you are at the moment.  If the “map” part of the mind weakens and you are left only with the dot (thinking), then you are lost.  And that is the state of many people today. 

And now the real secret of healing.  In modern times, we “think” of consciousness as the by-product of nerve activity in the brain.  When you get involved in any traditional healing system, you soon realize that every part of the body is conscious. 

In Tai-chi we say that the feet are the “gateway to consciousness”.  This means that how your feet are placed on the ground with each step, determines how the rest of your body has to adjust itself to the irregularities of the terrain.  Those irregularities are part of the geology and biology of that area.  In this way, each part of you becomes part of the geological and biological history of that area. 

Of course, in modern times, we pave over those nasty irregularities so that our feet don’t need to be conscious.  In many ways we create a culture which allows the consciousness of the body to die so that all of our energy can be focused on the thinking process.  And so the body is deprived of conscious energy and begins to decay and age. 

Many types of massage such as “Tai-chi Massage” are specifically used to “wake up” the consciousness of the body.  The Tai-chi “Forms”, “Chi-gung” and “Push Hands” are used for the same purpose.  When each part of the body is conscious, the body “knows” how to heal itself.  It knows without thinking. 

And so one important principle of Tai-chi (as well as other healing systems) is that “attention” should be evenly distributed throughout the body, so that you feel you are as much your feet as you are your head.  Many people feel they are just a big head, and the body’s function is just to carry the head around.  Small children in our society usually draw people as big heads with tiny arms and legs sticking out of the heads.  I wonder if they are just seeing the distribution of attention in a person, and drawing their pictures accurately from that perspective. 

In “internal” martial arts training, your attention needs to fill up the entire area around you so that you can feel your sparring partner with your attention.  The action is going by too fast to see everything.  One of the great benefits of martial arts training is that you learn to connect your attention to your surroundings, including to your sparring partner.  Gradually your attention can connect to all of your natural surroundings in a very spiritual way. 

And that “way” is as follows:  Consciousness is experienced as a natural force, permeating all things in nature.  The consciousness of each living thing is connected to all others.  In this way, the earth is a conscious being and the state of health of one part of it is vital to the state of health of all other parts.  An attack on one part of the earth is an attack on the whole.  The natural flow of consciousness through all living things is vital for the health of any one of them. 

We now live in a culture which fosters blocking ourselves off from that flow of consciousness and so, it fosters the deadening of the body.  We watch football rather than play football.  We text our friends rather than talk to our friends.  If anyone is interested in making a lot of money, I have a great idea.  Imagine a cell phone that you can talk into and it creates text, so that you don’t have to press on the letter keys.  That would be convenient, wouldn’t it?  Now imagine a cell phone that receives that text and translates it into voice, so you don’t have to look down at the phone (for example, when you’re driving).  That would be convenient, wouldn’t it?  But I think that technology may have already been invented.  It is called, “Calling someone on the phone”. 

Why do people prefer texting?  I think it is because they don’t have to actually talk to anyone.  Texting provides a separation between people, just as an addiction to thinking provides a separation from your own body. 

But thinking that emanates from the combined consciousness of the whole body and its connection to the entire world of life, is truly creative.  It is the balance of thinking and creativity that allows the body to constantly heal itself.  To heal is to be creative and to experience the creativity of others.  Art, in whatever form, is healing.  Comedy is healing.  Allow your attention to expand, relax and play, and you will stay younger and more vibrant.  Spend more time in nature and feel how you are connected to it.  This will help you to become more connected to yourself. 

Play ball and talk to people face to face, like in “the old days”.  Feel how watching the rising or setting sun can heal the body.  As the Tai-chi saying goes, “Relax (to allow attention to expand), smile (be playful) and breathe (feel your connection to nature)”.

NEW STUDY – TAI-CHI BEST EXERCISE FOR FIBROMYALGIA SUFFERERS

A new study shows that Tai-chi is the best exercise to ease the pain and uplift the attitude of fibromyalgia patients.  This Tufts Medical Center study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that Tai-chi was better than stretching or wellness education for long term relief.  Improvements were also seen in sleep, walking and mental health.  One third of the participants were able to stop taking medication.  The lessening of pain and improvement in attitude allowed the participants to engage in more activities and in some cases, lose weight.

Tai-chi emphasizes freeing the joints, increasing mobility, relaxing muscles and learning to use the body more efficiently.  It is a mind/body practice, meaning that you become aware of the activities of each part of the body.  In this way, the sense of feeling becomes stronger so that the simple, everyday experiences of life become more satisfying.  You also can feel how stressful situations cause tension in your body and you learn how to let go of tension and how to condition the body so stress no longer causes tension.  Some of the Tai-chi exercises (such as Wushu forms and the Zookinesis exercises) even tone the body and help you to lose weight. 

No one is sure what causes fibromyalgia.  But it makes sense that Tai-chi, with its emphasis on relaxation, strengthening the joints, increasing the sense of feeling in the body and learning how to eliminate stress, would help fibromyalgia sufferers.

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

In many cultures the circle is a symbol of power.  The circle can represent seniors giving their lifetime of knowledge, wisdom and skills, back to the next generation.  In our culture, the emphasis is on constant change, and the knowledge and skills of the past are not as valued as they used to be. 

The circle also represents the constant renewal of the life-giving properties of nature.  The ceremonies of many cultures welcomed each new season and celebrated the cooperation of human and nature.  Imagine spending time welcoming each new day and each new season, rather than plunging headlong towards each year’s vacation or towards retirement.  Celebration of the cycles of nature becomes an important part of the culture, as important as inventing faster computers and new cell phones is in our society. 

I think we have all noticed that in one generation, people have become faster, louder, more frantic and less fulfilled.  While we are told that fulfillment depends mainly on improving the economy and inventing even faster and more powerful equipment, we can also examine how repairing the cycles in our lives plays a part in our psychological and physical health. 

One of the purposes of the Tai-chi forms is to allow the body to move in smooth, unbroken circles.  This heals the “rush, rush, rush” modern attitude, and allows us to feel comfortable and relaxed in our bodies.  I have noticed, in my years of teaching Tai-chi, that most people do not feel comfortable in their bodies.  When you do not feel comfortable in your body, you do not feel comfortable among other people.  You feel unsettled and not centered. 

The smooth, flowing Tai-chi form also heals the attitude that life consists of always rushing to finish the next project.  We have to run faster and faster, to get more and more done, so we can be happy at some unknown time in the future.  The form gives us a few minutes each day to just be relaxed, happy and content in the beautiful feelings of the body, mind and emotions flowing with the cycles of nature.

In a society dedicated not to the cycles of nature, but to constant rushing, the form, or the Zookinesis exercises (or whatever similar practice you are involved in) becomes the daily ceremony reminding you that everything is alright because you are always part of nature.  It reminds you that the ancient wisdom of our connection to nature is still relevant and in fact, is vital to our physical and psychological survival.  By keeping you healthy in many ways, these exercises keep the circle unbroken.  They remind us that it is often the simplest things in life that are the most fulfilling.

FEELING TIRED WITH CHANGES IN THE SEASONS

As we move into Spring you might expect to become more energetic.  Yet many people feel tired at the change of each season.  The Spring brings pollen and even if you are not allergic, your body fights against pollen’s foreign protein and this requires a lot of energy. 

This points to one of the most basic principles in Chinese medicine.  The body is like an ecological community, with each of its types of tissues like the many different species of plants and animals in an ecological community.  As the Spring changes the face of the landscape, so it changes the face of our internal landscape. 

In modern times we try to maintain a constant environment in our houses to overcome the changes in temperature, humidity, etc. outside.  Yet, no matter how much we control our environment, our bodies and even our minds and emotions are at the mercy of environmental and seasonal changes.

This is why many cultures have festivals for each season, welcoming these changes and preparing us emotionally for the fact that we are entering a new phase of the year.  We can do the same, for example, by spending a day in a park for no other reason than welcoming the Spring, or spending a day planting seeds.

We may like to think that our bodies are machines that we own, but the Tai-chi perspective (and that of most ancient cultures) is that the body, mind, emotions and spirit are all interweaving living energies.  The impression of ourselves as a single identity is a reflection of the relationship among all those “elements”.  When that relationship becomes rigid (because we cling to a rigid identity), we cannot adapt to the changes in the seasons of the earth or the changes in the seasons of our lives.

Rigidity leads to battling against the changes in the environment rather than adapting.  There is an old story about a Zen teacher walking with his student in the woods.  They saw an old man fall into a rushing river and the student was about to run to save him.  His teacher stopped him.  The student asked, “Why are you stopping me from saving that man’s life?”  Soon they saw the old man emerge downriver unharmed.  His teacher said, “That man is a Zen master.  Where the river flows in, he flows in with it.  Where it flows out, he comes out”. 

The quality of the Spring is to “lift” up the sluggish parts of yourself which were lying dormant in the Winter.  Your sleeping spirit has been wakened but is still groggy.  As the flowers blossom, your spirit will be affected in the same way.  The inside of your body is affected in the same way as the flowers.  It will take time for the stem to push its way through the earth but soon the plant becomes vibrant and beautiful.  Give yourself time to flow with the energies of the Spring.  Allow your “elements” to adapt and participate in those changes so that your internal environment becomes vibrant and alive.

REVIEWS FOR “THE DOUBTING SNAKE”

“In the tradition quickened by the Celestine Prophecy, Bob Klein takes us to places at once far away, intimate, strange and familiar. The beauty is in the lush regions, cultures and cosmologies it describes, and in the invisible realms it remarkably and simply illustrates. The warrior within each of us in invited to: Wake up; deeply see and listen; remember what reality is really made of; and honor, cultivate and harness our connectedness, consciousness, power, and history in order to reinvent our culture in a Golden Age.”

Michou Landon, Shasta Magazine

“The Doubting Snake depicts a colorful world full of wild animals that take an active part in guiding Steve to his truth.  Filled with mystery, laughter, and insight, this book is a pleasure to read as we accompany Steve on his incredible journey to self awareness.”

Karen Porter, Indicator Magazine

Note: See information on “The Doubting Snake” by clicking onto our “Online Store”.  You will see this book listed on the left side of the page.  It is also available as an Amazon Kindle download.

BECOMING ALIVE AND CONSCIOUS

One of the greatest benefits of practicing Tai-chi and Zookinesis is that you experience life more intensely.  Your body seems much more alive.  Your senses and your mind are sharper.  You can feel the living energy of your surroundings.  Students often say, “I never realized I had hips before,” or they can finally feel their backs and how flexible they can be.  They feel part of the world of life around them because they are more aware of the life inside of them.

There is a Zen expression, “The inside and outside are made of the same flesh.”   When you change inside, the world around you seems to change as well.  And so I am going to suggest an internal change of perspective that may help to change the way you look at the world around you.

Within the body are trillions of minute processes within each organ, cell and even within the parts of the cells.  Most of them take place at speeds and with precision unimaginable to us. It all takes place without our great intelligence or leadership.  Yet we don’t usually think of the body itself as conscious. 

With all this intricate precision the body is capable of, when I ask a student to just move an arm or the hips in a simple movement, the student feels very awkward.  It may take months until he can move that part of his body with even basic competence.  And yet he feels more intelligent than his heart or liver, or than a single cell. 

We are amazed by the complex interactions of many species and habitats.  If we look out at the cosmos we see great precision and complexity in the interaction of planets, stars and galaxies. And yet, as individuals, struggling to get through life, understand its complexities and even move with a minimum of grace, we feel as though we are the only intelligent globs of matter in the universe.

Many ancient cultures, though, believed that consciousness was a natural force, part of every animal, plant, rock and habitat.  We now call them “animists”.  They felt that the force of intelligence was the unseen mover in all the activity of the universe.  It was not a “God” based perspective but simply included the force of consciousness along with what we now would call the four forces of the universe (gravity, electro-magnetic and strong and weak nuclear forces). 

They searched for the forces of intelligence and creativity in their surroundings and so felt a bond with every animal, plant and rock.  They searched for the forces of creativity and intelligence within their bodies to keep these forces strong so they would remain healthy.  To them, consciousness was as much part of their world as was matter.  Matter did not create consciousness. 

Now, what does this have to do with health – the main subject of this blog?  If the inside and the outside are made of the same “flesh” (as in the Zen saying) and you look at the world outside of you as if it was dead, then you tend to become dead inside as well.  When the science of physics looks at the world as dead objects moving about, then the science of medicine looks at the body as unconscious organs and cells, functioning automatically.  By removing the possibility of consciousness from everything in the world but our brains, the world and our bodies become dead to us. 

This is not a religious perspective.  What would be the point of praying to something?  You are conscious and everything else is conscious.  What is praying to what?  It is simply a way of bringing life back to our world, including to ourselves. 

As we now move into the Spring season, try to feel the energy of life intensifying.  Feel not only the warmth of the sun, the sound of the birds and the smell of the flowers, but the “feeling of the intelligence of the world.”  Let the warm intelligence of Spring penetrate your body, your feelings and your mind.  Realize that you are not separate from the rest of life, either as a glob of matter, or as a center of consciousness

LIVE IN YOUR BODY

The universe takes place all by itself.  Our body functions all by itself.  Between the two we sit, and wonder how to interfere with these processes.  We want both the world around us and the world of the body inside of us to give us what we want – more money, more power, more respect, etc.  The inside and the outside are like our two parents, who we try to manipulate to give us more of everything and to let us stay up past our bedtimes.  And yet the world seems so hard to manipulate.  Our bodies seem, at times, even harder to control. 

This is the basic “attitude of battle” we set up with our inner and outer worlds.  Tai-chi and Zookinesis training reminds us that we ARE our bodies.  It reminds us that we evolved as part of the world around us.  The world’s weather, climate, environment, fauna and flora, geology etc. affect us on very fine levels, down to our very cells.  And so it is really hard to say where “we” end and the “environment” begins.  The very realization that we are our bodies and we really are our environment, helps to eliminate the “attitude of battle”. 

From the realization that we ARE our bodies, we can begin to live in our bodies.  Tai-chi and Zookinesis training helps you to really feel every part of yourself, restoring awareness and health to every cell.  You no longer fight your body or neglect it, you live in it; you ARE it.  You no longer fight the world but feel part of it and flow with its cycles.

Your consciousness extends within to the finest levels and also extends around you.  Just as all the cells of your body “feel” they are part of you (because they work cooperatively together), you feel part of the biology of the world.

And sitting between those two levels of awareness is the feeling of yourself as an individual – your social identity, your thoughts and opinions.  This level is like a gatekeeper who doesn’t chase away people who want to walk through the gate.  He is amiable and allows the free flow of people to and fro.  He is aware of each person going through his gate and greets them in a friendly way.

Similarly, you can become aware of the influence of the cycles of nature on your body.  You can become aware of how your own behavior affects those around you and the world as a whole. 

When your life is no longer a battle, you calm down and can more easily let go of patterns of tension, anger and resistance.  These will be replaced by a more acute awareness and the ability to adapt to each situation to be more efficient.  Stress will be reduced without reducing your effectiveness in life.  You will be healthier and happier.

When your gatekeeper is friendly, the “towns” on both sides are more cooperative.

Yet it takes a lot of training just to become aware of the “attitude of battle” and learn how to let it go.  The question is, “Do you want to be in a state of battle for the rest of your life or do you want to start doing something about it?”

THE DESTRUCTIVE FORCE OF HABITS

The healing principles of Tai-chi identify habits as one of the most destructive forces leading to the deterioration of the body.  These principles explain the underlying cause of those habits and how to resolve them.  We all know that drug habits and eating disorders are destructive but there are more fundamental levels of behavior that we are only dimly aware of.

One of my students recently realized that an old behavior as a child permanently shaped how he uses his attention.  He has a “lazy eye” and had to concentrate in a certain way in order to make the images in his eyes, while reading, merge into one image. This extreme focusing of attention became permanent and required a great deal of energy.  As an adult he forgot about what he had done because it just became part of who he is.  The behavior threw the mechanics of his body way off.

When beginning Tai-chi students practice “Push Hands” they tighten up their bodies and raise their centers of gravity, the exact opposite of what is required.  In this exercise each partner tries to push the other one over.  Push Hands requires a loose body and low center of gravity so that you can’t be pushed and so that your own push emanates from the ground and shoots out like a whip.

The students soon realize that they bring their energy and attention up because their eyes are at the top of their bodies.  They feel their force needs to emanate out of where they’re looking from.  This habit is subconscious until the practice of Push Hands reveals it. 

We have many ridiculous habits formed during childhood, which make no mechanical sense.  Or, the habits make sense only for limited uses but become permanent and are used all the time. 

As a teacher, I am amazed by the habits my students discover as they practice Tai-chi.  By cleaning out those habits we release tremendous amounts of trapped energy and can feel much more relaxed and happy.  We also can avoid the subconscious habits building into even more destructive habits such as drug abuse. 

The difficulty in letting go of habits is that, to a large extent, we identify ourselves as our habits.  These can be habits of movement, of thinking and of emotion.  The habits become an image of us, rather than our true, free, creative selves.  We tend to solidify our habits and defend them because we feel we are defending ourselves.  Even the groups we belong to such as political parties may be a reflection of our ingrained habits. 

This jams up our creativity, our thinking ability, tightens the body and sanctifies patterns of behavior which were created during childhood, when we really didn’t understand much.  The result can be a whole society based on patterns of behavior created during childhood and institutionally maintained. 

The greatest political power any individual can have is, as the Beatles said, “Free your mind instead”.  Examine the fundamental habits of your life and allow your creative spirit to heal you.  Tai-chi and Zookinesis practice was specifically designed for this purpose.

AUTISM AND TAI-CHI

Several of my students over the years have worked with autistic children and have had great success in applying Tai-chi and Zookinesis principles.  Our discussions of their experiences have led me to an understanding of autism that I believe can benefit everybody.  I view autism and the so called “normal” state as two extremes of human consciousness. 

To understand this it is important to understand the dynamics of our attention (our consciousness) according to Tai-chi principles.  There are two types of attention – yin and yang.  And there is a biological energy called “chi” that energizes all living things.  You can think of chi as a glass of water.  You can swirl the water with a spoon but you cannot really see the water move.  Think of yang attention as a small jar of ink.  The jar restricts the ink to a certain shape.  If you hold the jar in the water you still cannot see the movement of the water. 

Yin attention is attention that is released.  If you pour the little jar of ink into the swirling water you will see the ink swirled about by the swirling water.  By inference you can see how the water moves.  When you allow beautiful music to “move you”, your attention is yin.  When you are reading a book you concentrate your attention from word to word.  That is yang (controlled and directed) attention.

Most of us are in the yang attention mode almost all the time.  We can move our attention around and manipulate it.  We can be clever with concepts.  But we don’t really feel as much as we could because our attention doesn’t seep into the world around us and make the energy (chi) in our world visible to us.

I believe the autistic child’s attention is almost all yin.  His behavior is controlled by his connection to the world around him and to the experiences of his body but he has trouble focusing his attention to a specific goal.  When you focus your attention you cut off its yin quality because you are containing and manipulating it rather than letting it go to flow as it pleases.  This flowing yin quality is very fulfilling but doesn’t allow you to be goal oriented. 

The predominate approach to dealing with autistic children who are at one extreme of the quality of attention is to force them into the opposite extreme which we are most comfortable with.  My students take a different approach.  They have spent many years learning how to blend yin and yang attention in balance so they can feel and be aware and yet can direct their activities.  So they are not at the extremes of the qualities of attention anymore but are somewhere in the middle.  They “meet” the child from this centered, balanced quality of attention and in a non-verbal way, ask the child to meet them there.  By understanding the situation of the child’s attention, they can participate in that quality to begin with and then gradually move him towards the center.

The students tell me that sometimes parents of an autistic child have gone through three or four counselors over several years but with no success.  The Tai-chi trained counselor can meet the child and have a great deal of success even the first day.  When the parents ask how the counselor how he could effect such a change in such a short time, my students cannot really explain themselves because the parents don’t understand Tai-chi principles.  The students themselves understand the process very well but their methodology is not the “accepted” methodology so they have to just say nothing.

By understanding the extremes of the qualities of attention it is easier to understand the middle.  Both yin and yang attention are important and need to be blended in the right proportions.  Tai-chi and Zookinesis training is based on that principle.