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THE PASSIVE OBSERVER

This practice is essential for progress in Tai-chi and Zookinesis. Each of us feels “we” are located somewhere in space. This location may be the head, the entire body, just the thoughts within our head, just our emotions or some combination of these things.

I would say that most people feel they are in their heads. This makes the rest of the body feel somewhat foreign. As I have written before, if I ask someone to pay attention to their feet, their attention will go from their head to their feet.

The passive observer training is very difficult to understand, but I will try to describe it simply. In Zookinesis it is called “living in the dragon’s cave”. The dragon’s cave is empty space. Yet within that cave lies the dragon which represents inner power and creativity. The dragon’s cave (or the “center of the world” as it is known in other cultures) is not located in space. It is the world beyond ordinary human experience. Your feeling of where you are located must be in the dragon’s cave.

To explain this better, realize that when you see the whole space around you, you are actually “seeing” two spots of light, one on each retina of the eye. The area of visual acuity is 1/8 of an inch in diameter. From these two tiny spots of light, you envision an entire scene. You compare the tiny bit of light with your memory of walking through such a “space”, you compare the light on one retina with that of the other for stereoscopic vision and do other calculations to come up with the scene.

Much (if not most) of the scene is your way of creating something out of very little information. Yet out of this tiny amount of data we get the immense world before us. In Zookinesis we have access to other perceptions – the sense of internal energy and the sense of the dynamics of attention. We can use the same inner gymnastics to put together a “scene” using these senses. This scene can give access to what is going on within our bodies.

The passive observer does not get caught up in these inner gymnastics. It watches the gymnastics to understand how we are constantly building our worlds out of our senses, our memories and our imaginations. It observes the mechanics behind the world that most of us see. The passive observer is powerful in its non-involvement with the gymnastics. Since it does not get caught up in “the action”, it can appreciate “the action”.

You, as the student, can be aware of the perspective of the passive observer and of the poor little student caught up in all the emotions and mental activities and body awkwardness. (You are both of these.) You can observe the constituent parts of your awkwardness (mental, emotional even spiritual as well as the tensions and improper use of the body).

You do not feel bad about your awkwardness because feeling bad is simply one of the constituent parts. The passive observer does not feel bad. It just observes the dynamics of feeling bad without comment. Some people feel that this practice may turn you into a cold, unfeeling person. Rather, it frees you from the prison of patterns of emotions and thinking and allows the emotions and thinking to flow from your creativity.

When you live in the dragon’s cave, this frees the dragon to emerge from its cave and live in the world. (Remember that the dragon is creativity). The greatest power of the dragon is that it can smack with its tail. When you feel bad (let’s say about not doing the Tai-chi form well), the dragon just laughs at your emotional gymnastics because they are so silly. Laughter is the dragon’s tail smacking you to wake up!

There is an extensive mythology based on animal behavior in the Zookinesis training such as the dragon described above. To put it simply, you can laugh at yourself when you can see yourself from another perspective. Comedians do this all the time. They take a situation we take for granted and describe it from another point of view that reveals the absurdity of the situation. The passive observer is that other point of view where we don’t just take things for granted. Developing the passive observer is built into every aspect of Zookinesis training and proper Tai-chi training.