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Posts Tagged ‘habits’

DON’T FEEL AWKWARD

One of the greatest difficulties in learning Tai-chi is that very few people can control their muscles and joints on a fine level. Most people are awkward and are often worried about showing their awkwardness in front of other people. No worries. Everyone else is awkward too.

In order to regain a complete connection between your attention and every muscle and joint of the body, we begin with Chi-gung exercises. In the case of my school, we practice “Zookinesis” (animal exercises). There is no point in learning Tai-chi forms, let alone push hands, if you are not connected to your own body.

The result of this complete connection to your body is that you are able to feel the flow of momentum through your body and can make your movements smooth. You can feel the flow of internal energy (chi) through your body and let go of the ways you block that energy. This results in being able to feel life more intensely and being able to feel more joy.

Then when you practice forms or push hands, you can see how your habits of tension and fear freeze parts of your body so they can’t participate in the exercise. For example in push hands, the pelvis should be relaxed so that it feels like a piece of wood floating in the ocean, bobbing with the waves. The upper body should move with the action of your partner so you don’t resist his actions.

While the hips and upper body work together to neutralize your partner’s pushes, they cannot lock together. Each works in its own way and has its own qualities and yet they also work together. In fact each muscle and joint should be independent and work in its own way and yet all work together for a common goal (of neutralizing and pushing the partner).

If I can get your hips to lock together with the upper body and get your upper body to lock together with your fears and habits, then I can control your movements. So you see that the ultimate goal of push hands is to free you from your fears and habits so that your body and mind can work effortlessly and efficiently.

The result is that each part of your body becomes conscious and can experience joy and your life is much more fulfilling.

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.

GREAT WEALTH AND POWER

The many ancient cultures I have studied all seem to agree on the secret to obtaining great wealth and power.  They also agree as to how we have been robbed of our power as individuals.  Even nature, herself blatantly reveals this power to us.

When I used to travel through the jungles of Central America to study animals, my favorite animal was the red-eyed tree frog.  This crazy frog is about three inches long, bright green with white spots.  Its sides are banded yellow and blue.  The inside of its legs and arms are bright orange.  Its eyes are bright red with a bright gold lace pattern.  Normally it stays curled up on a branch, showing only the green and white, which is a camouflage. 

If an animal tries to grab it, the frog jumps, opens its arms and legs fully and leaps onto a nearby branch.  The predator, faced with a moving flash of color, throws its attention to where he expects the frog to land, several feet away.  Red-eye’s trick is that it sends the predator’s attention far away while it actually curls up on a close-by branch.  In this way it control’s the predator’s attention.

The secret to great wealth and power is the ability to control peoples’ attention.  The secret to your own happiness is to understand that process and not to be controlled.

We all know that packaging sells a product.  Many companies have spent most of their initial start up money on developing packaging.  Celestial Seasonings tea is an example. The manufacturers fight each other to have the stores place their product at eye level which makes it easier for you to grab the product and plop it right into your shopping cart. 

We are trained to pay attention to the packing. It is much easier to make pretty packaging than it is to make a good product.

The key to great power and wealth, though, is not in manipulating people to buy your product.  It is really in being able to discern the packaging from the product when it comes to who you are as a person. 

In any ancient system of training such as Tai-chi and Zookinesis, you find that you have many behavioral habits, in movement, posture, thinking and emotional patterns.  These patterns have been picked up throughout your life until you think of them as being part of yourself.  Eventually the patterns become your very identity.

We learn in the Push Hands exercise, for example, that the body is so finely designed that it takes very little effort and movement to toss your partner several feet into the air.  It is only the extraneous movements, such as tensing up your shoulders as you are about to push, that subvert your own efforts.  In an attempt to feel powerful (by tensing up), you are actually robbing yourself of power.

In the thinking process, we are used to thinking in words.  We may have an initial “jolt of thought” but can only understand the inspiration if they are translated into words.  A Zookinesis student would practice paying attention to the initial jolt of thought and refrain from translating it into thoughts. 

He does this because the words are only a label of the real thought, which is much more complex and complete.  By being aware of the actual experience of inspirational thinking and not merely the labels (packaging), he has access to the full power of the inspiration.

We learn in Tai-chi that the body is a conduit for the energy of nature.  A student will soon feel tremendous energy flowing through him which enlivens every cell of the body and heals the body.  He soon learns that we, as a society, have been taught to become disconnected from that energy and even to deaden ourselves so that we don’t experience it.  Once filled with energy, we no longer regard the body as just packaging for the mind, as a vehicle to carry the head around.  The vibrancy of the body, the balanced joy of the emotions and the inspirational thinking process all work together in a more powerful way.

Then you will be more effective in everything you do.  You will understand that wherever your attention goes, your life follows.  If it goes to its energetic connection to the vibrant energies of nature, to the experience of sharing your life with the human community, your life will be different than if your attention goes to the bright, flashy representations of value.

Yet, being in a more powerful, aware, integrated state, impervious to manipulation, you will be more successful in the material sense as well. 

The development of your attention has been recognized as the key to success throughout the ages.  My novel, The Doubting Snake, is an attempt to express this in an entertaining way.  The specific training of the attention is hidden in the story line.  Many ancient texts can be better understood as attempts to express this same idea.  As the hero of The Doubting Snake asks:

“And if both the sorcerers and the people who run our modern societies have such power to affect peoples’ minds then what hope does the ordinary citizen have?”