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PUSH HANDS FOR CHRISTIANS

Lessons from a student’s cultural background can often be used to help teach the Push Hands exercise.  The story of Jesus provides a great opportunity to explain the principles of Push Hands.  Though I am not Christian I try to learn about my student’s backgrounds and experiences to explain the training in terms they will understand.

For those not familiar with Push Hands, this is a two person exercise in which the partners face each other with their front feet next to each other.  The goal is to push the other person over.  The natural tendency is to use physical force – muscle tension.  But the muscle tension makes the student even more vulnerable to a push.  If he were soft and yielding, he could let the partner’s force flow by.  When he is tense, he must take the full impact of his partner’s push.

Most students have tense backs.  There is a band of tension across their shoulders and another band of tension up and down their spines, including their necks.  When their partner pushes them, this band tightens up, they lean forward as if to resist the push and this, of course, makes them more vulnerable.

I suggest that they imagine they are carrying a cross on their backs, like Jesus carrying the cross to his crucifixion.  The cross is made of the horizontal tension across the shoulders and the vertical tension along the spine.  Consider my pushes to be like the Romans, hammering Jesus to the cross with nails.  As long as you carry the cross I will continue to “nail you”.  The only solution is to let go of your cross.  Allow the back to relax so that I have nothing to nail you to. 

In this way my force will simply move your body.  You may turn, shift back or rotate your shoulder joint, allowing my force to flow by.  While the students understand their situation, it is amazing how difficult it is to “let go of their cross”.  The cross of tension is the result of the attitude of meeting force with force.

In the days of Jesus, the Roman Empire occupied Israel, as it did most of the “known world”.  Rome made the roads safe, from China through India, Greece, Israel and Egypt.  There was great commerce at that time because the trade people were not afraid of being robbed along the roads.  They could travel from city to city safely.  With this trade came the trade of ideas.  Each culture shared its philosophy with the others and there was a flourishing of philosophies.

Many of the Jews believed that the Romans should be chased out of their country.  These Jews (the Zealots) not only killed Romans but also Jews who felt comfortable with the idea of Romans running the municipal activities.  There was civil war.

Jesus’ view was that you could not win meeting force with force.  Rome was a mighty empire.  Rather, by elevating the spiritual awareness of each individual Jew, this would change the very nature of the relationship between the Jews and the Romans.  Without this inner development, each power would conquer the other only to be re-conquered time and time again. 

But if an entire population is elevated to a higher state of consciousness, its relationships to other people would always be to its benefit.

Push Hands is based on a similar principle.  When the partner pushes you, receive the force and transform it.  You can dissipate it by letting it flow through your body into your “root” (into the ground).  You can circle it around back to the partner.  You can compress his force, add your own and bounce the combined force up, as if the partner were pushing against a trampoline.  In this way you are creative with the force.  You don’t just fight against it.  But to do so you need a great deal of awareness.  You need to let go of ingrained patterns of behavior based on conflict.  And you need to do all this in real time (within a fraction of a second).

In what ways do we carry a cross in everyday life and allow others to “nail” us?  Can you feel that cross on your back, wearing you out?

When I practice Push Hands I look for that cross on my partner’s back, the resistance ready to fight with me.  Although our eyes are closed during this exercise I can easily feel that pattern of tension.  My partner leans in towards me with his head hanging down.  If I were to step away he would fall down.  He conducts himself only in relationship to my force and thus depends on my force to hold him up.

Can you notice any times during the day when your head hangs down and you lean forward?  If you do, then let go of your cross.  Stop resisting the world around you.  This means that you stop interpreting life as a battle that you must tense up against.  When you drop the cross you also drop the feeling of battle. 

In the story of Jesus, he was resurrected (some say physically, some say spiritually).  He is heard from a few times by his disciples and then is never heard from again.  Why?  Once you are “resurrected” from the “dead” (when you stop living a story of battling your way through life) then the story is over.  You just go on with your life. 

At first, life may not seem as exciting if you are not fighting your way through it.  But soon you discover other forms of excitement such as the very joy of being alive.  You discover the fulfillment of joining with others rather than battling with them. 

Push Hands can be such a joy.  You can join the intricate world of consciousness within each part of your body with that of the partner’s body.  Your energies can unite.  You still play the game of trying to push each other over but it is a joyful game.  It is a game that teaches you how to unite with others by letting go of all the little “crosses” inside the body that resist connecting to others.

You learn that your real power is your awareness which allows you to transform the partner’s push into your play. When you bring the element of play and creativity into your life you can create the story of your own life.  Your life will be lived from that story rather than from the violence of the people and situations around you.