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.