Archive

Posts Tagged ‘hermetic teachings’

QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDITATION

I’ve received a lot of questions about how to do meditation.  The other day a student brought up such a question and I realized why people have so much trouble with meditation.  They miss or misunderstand the basic principle.  It is the same problem students have with some types of chi-gung practice. 

My student’s question was, “Should I pay attention to breathing or not pay attention to breathing”?  The basic purpose of the meditation aspects of Tai-chi is to strengthen the consciousness (the attention) of the body.  We have all invested so much consciousness in the thinking mind, that the energy of consciousness has been drained from the body and we are only dimly aware of it.  This is a very unbalanced and unhealthy way to be. 

So I explained to my student that he has come to believe in a story that was told to him.  It is the story itself that is the problem.  The story is that there is this character called, “I” that either does things or doesn’t do things.  We think that this is the central character in our lives and that his doings or not-doings are what will help us progress in our meditation and Tai-chi practice. 

I explained that our practice is not about the doings or not-doings of “I”.  It is about re-building the strength of the consciousness of the body.  The Tai-chi forms, Zookinesis exercises, Push Hands and other such practices (as well as such practices as Yoga and Pilates) help to bring back the feeling-awareness of the body.  Our practice is also about allowing that consciousness to regain its connection to the consciousness of the rest of nature so that we no longer feel isolated. 

Those students who practice such chi-gung exercises as moving energy around the body in particular ways, generally wind up moving even more attention to their thinking minds.  This is because they have the attitude that this character, “I”, is pushing and shoving around energy in “correct” paths.  This approach is still a way of “I” ordering the body around. 

My teachers taught a gentle approach.  Strengthen what is weak and calm what is too intense – the basis of Oriental medicine.  In this approach you balance internal energy (“chi”) and consciousness so that it evenly fills the whole body and your surroundings. 

But, you may ask, “If there is no real ‘I’, then who is doing the balancing”?  As you do your practice, you will find that the body’s consciousness strengthens just as plants grow in the spring.  There is no one who goes around ordering the seeds to sprout.  There is an internal sense of balance which allows all your parts to work together efficiently. 

This natural sense is called, “The Elixir of Immortality”.  It is the elixir which cures the deadness of the body and even allows the thinking mind to become more connected to reality.  When you feel your body and are intimately aware of the world around you, your thoughts are more grounded.  You feel more comfortable in your body and therefore more sensuous.  

“Mixing” the elixir really means doing your practice.  Each time you do your exercise, the elixir (sense of energy balance) strengthens each muscle, nerve, bone, etc.  Gradually the awareness of the interconnectedness of all your parts and your connection to nature and to other people becomes the central character in your life, rather than “I” being the central character.   It is a more relaxed and vibrant way of life and certainly more fulfilling. 

While the student can legitimately ask about the techniques of his practice, it is important to point out that techniques should not be used to prop up the “I” feeling and order the body around.  Wisdom comes from Body-Mind (the consciousness of the body) and its connection to nature.  Allow that wisdom to bubble up to the thinking mind so that it can be expressed in words, but don’t forget the source of the wisdom. 

The thinking mind can toss ideas around like juggling balls, but only the Body-Mind, connected to the rest of nature, is creative.  Body-Mind is like the inventor who comes up with a new idea and the thinking mind is like the technician who designs the product.  Both are intelligent in a sense, but it is the inventor who creates the new idea. If you try to invent from the thinking mind, your source of inspiration will soon dry up.  Rather – live and experience to churn up the Body-Mind.  So either pay attention to your breath or don’t pay attention to your breath, but in any case – feel!

HOW MEMORY WORKS

If we could only understand how our memory works, we could access deep memories, even those before birth.  The study of Zookinesis and Tai-chi explains the mechanics of memory and teaches us how to access these deep memories.  Natural memory, or what is called, “sacred memory” is the biological way memories are stored.  It is the memory of feeling states, which includes how your body feels, skills you have acquired, and how your interaction with the world around you, changes your internal state. 

This type of memory is not related to time but to maintaining an optimal internal state of health, and an optimal connection to your natural environment.  You do not lay down memories in a time-line.  Rather, this type of memory is cyclic, sometimes moving away from optimal condition and sometimes returning to it. 

At a certain point in life, you learn about time and your life begins to revolve around time.  You are taught to lay down memories using time as a reference.  Time, rather than health, is the reference point of a memory.  You dissociate yourself from inner feeling and the feeling of health so that you can become part of the “time culture” we have invented.  Your behavior no longer binds you to health but to time. 

Furthermore the type of time we use as the basis of our culture is separated from the vagaries of nature.  Rather than judging time by the flowering of a certain type of plant or the appearance of a certain insect, we use clock time to eliminate any variations.  This allows the world around us to appear mechanistic and our lives to become mechanistic. 

Taoist teaching teaches us to experience every moment of our lives with our whole selves.  Even when a thought comes to us, we not only experience that thought as words, but as internal feelings.  Thoughts become complexes of feelings and associations with a short label of words.  The words are not the thoughts.  The feelings and experiences are the thoughts. 

In this way every aspect of life stirs the body, stirs the emotions, and stirs our connection to nature.  Life is more vivid, intense and beautiful.  It is much easier to access the earliest memories because those complexes of feelings are still present.

When we learn a Tai-chi form, for example, we are concentrating on the feeling of our body’s alignment at each moment.  The teacher adjusts our body so that we can feel proper alignment in that pose and feel how energy flows so much more freely when we are aligned. 

We concentrate on how each muscle must become alive and have an eagerness to move.  At first, the eagerness of the muscle is to remain tight.  We learn how to convince the muscle to relax.  When the muscle feels the joy of relaxation and its increased competence, it becomes eager to relax and move.  We remember the process of developing eagerness in that muscle and apply the same process to other muscles.  In this way, memory can be transferred from one muscle to the other. 

Each muscle “remembers” how it can interact with other muscles to create the proper flow of movement for the Tai-chi form or Zookinesis exercise.  The memories of each muscle interact with the memories of the others, as if they were people sitting around talking about “the old times”. 

Those memories of interaction then interact with your creativity so that the muscles can play with their relationships with each other.  Using the memory of how they learned to cooperate with each other as a basis, the muscles are also affected by your memory of an eagle flying, or perhaps, a tiger pouncing.  The muscles blend their memories of cooperation with the other muscles with the memory of the eagle flying and create a composite.  This is how animal forms are developed.  Each is based on proper body mechanics for a human yet influenced by the movements of an animal.

This is an example of how we re-ignite the internal dynamics of memory that were the norm before we learned about clock time.  We learn to operate with both modes of memory and not sacrifice “sacred memory” for “clock memory”.  Sacred memory allows you to live in eternity within each second of clock time.  You have access to the memory of your whole body and spirit, and their connection to all of nature.  Yet you can still show up to an appointment “on time”.

IMMORTALITY

Your body does not need to degenerate as you get older.  In fact, it can continue to get stronger, more flexible and more agile throughout life. The exercise systems of Tai-chi and Zookinesis explain how to keep the body young and avoid aging altogether.

According to Chinese medicine, all the cells and organs of the body communicate with each other through a system of biological energy called, “chi”.  They know how to regulate their activities according to the activities of the other cells and organs.  This system of chi is not isolated within the body alone, but is connected to this same energy that serves as the basis of life throughout the earth.  In this way each cell and organ is aware of the environmental conditions in the area and can adjust its activities according to changes in weather and time of year.  In this way the body can stay in the optimum internal condition for health. 

The loss of flexibility is another factor associated with aging.  Connective tissue (fascia) surrounds each organ, bone, muscle and the body cavities.  It provides an interconnected, flexible web that allows the body to act in a rubbery manner.  Its looseness, for example, allows the rib cage to expand when you breathe in.  If the connective tissue were to lose its elasticity your breathing would become shallow.  This would result in a poorer exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen and the cells would be oxygen deprived.

Tighter connective tissue interferes with joint mobility so that your movements become stiff.  The proper flow of blood and lymph requires movement of the body.  When the body can’t move properly, the blood and lymph cannot do as good a job at getting rid of body wastes such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide.  The body remains constantly filled with waste.

Aging is also the gradual dissociation of the mind and body.  As children we relish in movement and using energy.  As we get older we move less and think more.  Our thinking is not connected with movement (as described in previous articles) and so becomes a world within itself.  Gradually we “live” more and more in our thinking and not in our bodies. 

The thinking mind becomes the center of the flow of energy and the body is deprived of energy, creating an unbalanced situation.  According to Chinese medicine, both an excess and a depletion of energy is harmful.  Too much chi burns the mind out.  Too little chi allows the body to deteriorate. 

Yet if we live in our minds we have no sense of perspective about the balance of energy.  Most people cannot even feel chi let alone know how to balance this energy.  This is why Zookinesis explains that consciousness itself is another type of energy, which also has dynamics and qualities and which needs to be balanced as well.  Only by becoming aware of the dynamics of consciousness (or what I call the “dynamics of attention”) can we ever hope to affect the balance of chi.

Consciousness (attention) is what makes us aware.  The unique perspective of Zookinesis is that consciousness is not isolated within the body.  It is a universal energy, much like gravity that pervades all things.  As it flows through each of us, this energy takes on its unique flavor.  The physical stiffness of the body tends to distort the flow of attention and created the imbalance of attention.  The exercises reveal this relationship between the tightness of the body and the imbalance of attention so that it becomes obvious. 

We can then notice how, with each relaxation of the body, the attention becomes more balanced and more connected to the body.

The result is a complete integration, not only of your attention with your body, but of your attention with the greater flow of consciousness of the world around you.  You feel less isolated.  You also feel less vulnerable because you now can see this interconnection and can understand how to strengthen yourself and prevent the deterioration of your mind and body.

You can also understand how these factors of deterioration affect other people and cause their behavior patterns.  This allows you to be more empathetic to them.  A student recently asked me how I can stand to live in this world when I see the destructive behaviors of other people.  When you see things from a healer’s perspective, all the anomalies you see are an education.  They are not aggravating but are just interesting and educational. Yet, I do feel sad, knowing that healing is so easily available yet so many people will live their lives in misery.

In both Tai-chi and Zookinesis, it is essential to understand and to feel how the connection of your consciousness to the general flow of consciousness around you is essential to prevent aging.  It is so easy to see the bad things of the world and to withdraw, not wanting to be connected to this world.  You then feel as if it’s you against the world.

The clear flow of consciousness and chi through your body is essential to prevent aging and to keep healthy.  The exercise of Push Hands allows you to practice extending your energies into another person and to allow theirs in.  It is set up as a battle, each trying to push the other over, so that it duplicates what you perceive as your life situation.  You are battling against the world.  Yet you learn in Push Hands, to connect the flow of force of the opponent (or partner) into the flow of forces within you so as to end the feeling of battle.  If you stiffen up against him, he will easily push you over.  If you absorb his force, combine it with your own and flow back towards him, you become more effective.

You learn that by ending the feeling of battle you become effective.  Your strength lies in allowing yourself to connect with the rest of the world.  You can then enjoy life.

The world will still be the same crazy place it was but you can see the mechanisms behind the behavior of people and cultures and not get trapped in them.  Instead of identifying with a particular world culture you identify with the long line of people throughout history who were aware of these mechanisms.  They were able to free themselves from the destructive habit patterns of the people around them. 

Imagine yourself in a smelly, mucky swamp.  You curse having to walk through this mess and concentrate on the smell and the muck.  Soon you discover beautiful birds and insects.  You feel the warm breeze and smell some flowers.  Your attention is gradually drawn to the beauty of the swamp until even the smell and the muck seem an integral part of that beauty.  You then enjoy being part of this scene.

In the same way, the world we live in is, to a large extent, the result of what we pay attention to.  The news on television calls your attention mostly to the negative and horrifying part of our society.  Yet the Public Broadcasting programs call your attention to the beauty.  How do you feel after watching the news?  How do you feel after watching  nature programs?  What factors in our society direct your attention to its horror? 

The question of aging really is about your power to remain young and healthy.  Having control over what you pay attention to is vital to prevent aging.  This does not mean that you become oblivious to the problems of our world but that those problems don’t destroy you.  You must regain control over the dynamics of your attention and the balance of energy.  This is where you start in Tai-chi and Zookinesis.

I know that in modern times Tai-chi has become just memorizing a series of movements and Push Hands has just become a shoving contest.  This is true even in China itself.  But the movements and the pushing are just the surface level of a very deep and beautiful teaching.  The teaching of “immortality”, as it used to be called, is about how to stay young and healthy and thereby actually extend your lifespan. It teaches you how to become connected to the world around you so that your consciousness may remain connected to the world even after your body dies.

Don’t give in to the images of aging.  Don’t let those images implant themselves within you and direct your consciousness.  Instead look to the agility, strength and beauty of wild animals and of athletes and allow those images to direct your consciousness. 

I teach seated Zookinesis exercises to a local senior community.  When I began six years ago, they could barely move.  Now we are beginning to do seated acrobatic movements.  Each time I show them what exercise we are working towards, they laugh, feeling they could never do that.  Yet a month or two later, they easily do the exercise.  Most of them are over 90 years old.  I think Zookinesis has given them a new perspective of what they are capable of.  They are now headed in a positive direction – stronger, more flexible, more relaxed and more connected to their bodies.  When you live your life in this positive direction, you are already immortal.

DEATH

The issue of death can lead us to a more powerful way to live our lives.  We know what happens to our bodies at death.  What happens to our consciousness (or what I call, “attention”)?  We fear death as if it were not already part of us.  Yet the death of the awareness of our bodies, of the consciousness of each cell and organ, is death we carry with us.  The death of our direct awareness to our connection to nature already places us in our graves. 

We are like travelers towards the destination of death, carrying our death with us.  In this way we bring death to death.  Rather, bring life to life. 

Strengthen the consciousness of each cell, organ, muscle and bone.  Strengthen the connection of that consciousness to the consciousness of the earth herself.  Bring life to life and you will be powerful.  When you increase the body consciousness (“Body-Mind”), you travel towards life. 

We all know how to “thread consciousness” through the eyes of a baby.  We talk to the baby and make facial expressions.  The baby’s consciousness jumps towards you.  It is like threading a needle and pulling the thread through the eye of the needle.  We can do this within our own bodies as well.

When you hear beautiful music, the music threads your consciousness through your body into the world of sound.  When you fall in love you thread consciousness through each other.  We are weavers of consciousness.  When others think we die, we know that we have weaved the last of ourselves into the web of life and have become that web. 

The issue of life is not the length of life or our wealth but the beauty of the tapestry we weave ourselves into.

THE RELATIONSHIP OF ATTENTION, CREATIVITY AND THE PHYSICAL BODY

We understand that play is a natural behavior of many animals.  Puppies and kittens understand that they aren’t really trying to kill each other.  They understand make-believe.  They also understand reality as when a large animal runs after them, growling loudly.  Play is not to be taken literally but is good practice for reality.

Play teaches you to perceive clearly and for your body to react quickly.  It develops a lively connection of attention to the body.

Our civilization uses this understanding to trick us.  It uses play, not to develop a connection of attention to the actions of the body, but to words.  As we become more and more lethargic, ideas replace the body as the arena of action.  We live in the world of ideas.  This changes the role of the body, and by extension, the whole physical world in our creative process.  Lately the new close relationship between our play, or creativity, and words, our thinking process, has changed.  The role of the body and then words is being replaced by machinery.  When you watch children play video games, to what is their attention connected?  It is hardly connected to the body or even to ideas.  It is connected to computer screen images.

This slow progression heads in one direction – to disconnect attention from the body and the physical world and to connect it to factors than can be manipulated by other people. It is hard to manipulate someone’s body.  It is easier to manipulate their ideas.  But if their attention is connected to machinery, you can control the programming even more easily.

The advertiser’s job is to move people’s attention in the direction of more manipulation.  The teacher’s job is to move the attention back to ideas and to the physical world. 

When you manipulate symbols – a national flag for example – you are trying to control peoples’ behavior.  In most cases this manipulation is not for the benefit of that person.  It is for the benefit of the manipulator. 

There are many human histories.  There is the history of wars and politics.  There is the history of the condition of the average person.  There are labor and social movements.  Histories of religion, philosophy, arts and science fill university curriculums.  But really, they are all the history of the attempted manipulation of attention to control behavior. 

It is the history of storytelling – the story of who we are, where we came from and why we are here.  If we feel we belong to one group that is opposed to another group, we have conflict. People can be made to fight other people because of the story of who they are and where they came from. 

Zookinesis teaches us how our attention becomes controlled by the stories we are told.  It teaches us to understand the dynamics of attention itself so that we can notice when and how it is being controlled and regain that control.

In order to do this it is important to understand what attention is and its relationship to the body and the physical world in general.

Zookinesis considers that what makes each person an individual is the way our creativity “plays” with the energy of attention.  It is similar to the way we “play” with the energy of gravity in the way we move.  Attention is the consciousness behind the eyes and ears.  It is that which is aware of thoughts and emotions. 

There are two forces controlling attention.  One is the various distractions that we encounter every day.  They mold our attention into their shape.  The other force is creativity which is the playfulness that makes each of us unique and is part of our biological heritage.  Any individual may be more influenced by the distractions or more by creativity. 

People with OCD (obsessive, compulsive disorder) are almost completely controlled by their environment.  They are drawn to the strongest distraction at each moment.  People who are completely controlled by their creativity we may call “airheads”.  They are hardly connected to the world around them but only to their ideas and fantasies. 

The job of a parent or teacher is to balance these two forces in the child or student.  The point of balance between these two forces is called “the gate” in Zookinesis.  The goal of the training is to become “the gatekeeper”, that is, to be fully aware of and control the balance of environmental influences and playful creativity on the flow of attention.

The role of a teaching, such as Zookinesis or Tai-chi, is to provide the student with the skills to maintain that balance.  To what degree do you allow yourself to be molded by the influences around you and to what degree do you step outside of those influences and “create your own story”?

At the advanced level of any teaching, the student begins to perceive “who” it is that is learning, controlling this balance and creating the story.  Religious people would call this “union with God”, meaning that you perceive the source of your own creativity.  You understand your uniqueness and yet your complete connection to all other people and forms of life. 

You cannot do this by handing over your attention to any particular dogma, whether a philosophy, religion or any teaching.  You can use these vehicles to develop the balance of external influences and creative influences on your attention, but you do not allow them to fully mold your perspective.  There are many vehicles on the road but in the end you need to step out of the vehicle and get to your destination.

Ancient religions and other teaching were based on “the elements”.  This was an early form of psychology.  You became aware of the influences of your body, your thinking mind, your will and your emotions and the balance of these factors in each moment of your life.  Your goal was to keep the “elements” in balance. 

The result was that you became aware of the fifth element – “spirit”.  Spirit was the force that connected all life together, or what we would call “chi” in Taoist philosophy.  When you achieved the balance of the first four elements it would be as if you were standing in the middle of a spiral staircase and could look all the way up and down the stairs. Spirit is all the activity that you see going on.  Each level is a level of life or consciousness.  Your next goal in these teachings, was to explore all the floors.  The final step of training was to be aware of all the levels of consciousness at the same time so that you are a fully conscious being. 

This is the basis of Zookinesis training.  You first become aware of the dynamics of your physical body.  In order to do this you have to allow your attention to connect to all parts of your body.  This requires working on the flow of attention and letting go of any blockage to that attention.  You gradually become aware of that part of you that directs the flow of attention (creativity). 

Now when you practice the exercises, you are not just shoving your body parts around.  You are lightly manipulating the flow of attention in your body and that, in turn, affects the movements.  Your efforts and movements become lighter and lighter and yet more effective and powerful. 

Through physical exercises, Zookinesis achieves a “spiritual” end, that of true self awareness.  You can then examine the “play” of your life to determine in which ways that play is positive or negative.  You can create a different play or story for yourself, one which is more healing for you and for others.

It all starts with realizing that consciousness itself is a force that connects you to the rest of nature.  It flows through your physical body and animates it. Chi is the biological activity that results.  Creativity is the way we play and is a natural behavior of many species.  We humans “play” with our attention and create stories.  We then build our civilizations on the foundation of those stories.

The physical and mental structures we build seem so solid and everlasting that we forget the “play” behind them.  When play, or creativity is no longer a part of each “element” of our lives, then we become deadened and our physical, mental and emotional health suffer.  Our “will” gets out of balance and we get angry when we don’t get our way. 

That is why I like public broadcasting programs so much.  They explain how creative people and cultures changed their world and their ideas.  They show how our own present situation is the result of this flow of the history of creativity.  Then we can take our part in that history and ask ourselves how we can become more creative.  We realize that rather than being just a member of a race, religion or nationality, we are a member of the creative force of life.

THE ULTIMATE REALIZATION ABOUT THE POWER TO HEAL

All of this training culminates in a single, powerful, all revealing realization that brings power and vibrant health back to your life.  You understand the source of your power as a human being and how to channel that power in your life.  I will describe this realization and how to use it.  The basis is the relationship between consciousness and the physical body.  Imagine a glass of water sitting on bone dry earth.  Sitting on the earth is a little seed.  The glass of water has two eyes painted on its side as if it were looking at the seed.  This is the situation most of us are in.

In this situation it is obvious that if the seed ever were to grow into a plant, the water in the glass would have to be spilled so that the earth could absorb it.  The desiccated earth is our bodies.  The water is our attention (our consciousness).  The seed is the aliveness and power inside of us. 

We have objectified our attention.  We think of it as our eyes looking at something.  The whole approach of Zookinesis training (or any Taoist training) is to understand that attention is not the eyes.  It is an energy just as gravity or electromagnetism is energy.  Our bodies have evolved within the environment of many types of energies and are the result of these influences. 

Our bodies are even pressurized with about fifteen pounds per square inch of pressure, to counter the tremendous air pressure around us.  In every way, our bodies have evolved as a response to the energies around us. In the same way, our minds have evolved in this environment. 

Consciousness (attention) is an energy in which we have evolved.  Yet we think of it as our eyes looking at something.  We objectify attention as if it were in one place looking at another place or thing. 

We know that the water, in the example above, needs to be absorbed by the earth.  The water sitting in a glass does not help the seed.  The water must lend its very nature and substance to the earth to create life.  In the same way attention must be absorbed by the body so that every part of the body can become “moist”.  The attention “knows” how to be absorbed by the body.  The body “knows” how to absorb the attention.  To let the body absorb attention, you must let go of attention rather than holding it rigid.  The rigidity of attention makes the body rigid.  Rigidity separates attention from the body.

That is why we practice to relax the body and to relax the attention – so that the two can merge.

When attention and the flesh merge, tremendous power and awareness floods a person.  At first this may feel threatening.  “How could poor little me have such power?”  The tendency is to “objectify” the power, to call it God or the Devil or a spirit channeling wisdom through you.  We identify our own power as images we have learned just as we originally objectified attention itself by thinking of it as the eyes.

When attention is absorbed by the body you realize your connection to the source of attention.  You can perceive the energy of attention in the world around you.  While the world you perceive is the same old world, it seems very different, very alive.  Your body feels very alive and you feel yourself beginning to heal.  You feel each cell like a baby bird desperately calling out to its mother for food.  Each cell of the body wants to receive the energy of attention and calls loudly for it.  You begin to hear those calls or rather you feel the body trying to absorb attention. 

People whose bodies are especially disconnected from their attention will try to absorb the attention of other people and can be very draining to those people.  When you hear them talk, they sound like baby birds squawking. 

We naturally know how to pull attention from people.  This is important to strengthen the attention of babies.  In Zookinesis it is called “Threading Attention” as if through the eye of a needle.  Everybody tries to get the baby to look at him and respond to him.  This strengthens the baby’s attention.  The baby connects its attention to our own behavior patterns.  We innately know how to do this.  It feels good.

But if you are trying to absorb other peoples’ attention because you are internally disconnected, that doesn’t do you or the other person any good.

When people objectify their attention to an unusual degree and are unusually disconnected, their attention will be concentrated directly in front of their faces.  They will have a “crazed” look.  Some of those people make very good salesmen because the customer is accosted and overwhelmed by the salesman’s energy and they will buy anything to end the assault.  This is really a form of violence. 

I believe that violent people are very disconnected and their behavior results from a misdirected attempt to reconnect themselves.  But since they objectify their feelings they will attempt to connect to other people, often in very inappropriate ways.  They are desperate and don’t know how to heal their disconnection.  If someone displays a quality they know is missing inside of themselves, they will act almost as if the other person stole this quality from them or they resent that the other person has what they don’t have.  The violent person has become lost from himself and doesn’t know his way back.

Zookinesis training is the way back. The exercises are specifically designed to allow the absorption of your attention into your body.  (“Spirit Breathing Workouts” DVDs.  Catalog #’s HE-24D and HE-25D.  “Zookinesis: The Laughing Dragon Exercise” HE-28D).  The books, Movements of Magic and Movements of Power explain the whole process.

So the great realization mentioned at the beginning of this lesson is that attention is not located at a specific point such as the eyes.  It is an energy that needs to permeate the entire body.  When it does, this connects you to the same energy of attention which permeates the entire earth and all of its inhabitants. 

How do you use this connection to make your life more powerful?  To explain this, remember that when the attention is rigid, this makes the body rigid.  Patterns of the attention affect the body.  On the other hand, behavior patterns in the body, such as patterns of tension, affect the attention.  When they are separate from each other, they are like two sets of patterns fighting against each other.  Once they are connected, they are just moist earth – they are organic – and life can begin to grow. 

When you are connected to the larger energy of life, then your patterns affect that energy.  If your patterns are violent they will have a negative effect.  But if you are healed, then you can use the patterns of attention as a rudder, to steer your life in a positive direction.  As a simplified example, if you hold the image of what you want your life to be like, you will see your present situation in terms of how to achieve your goal.  Your choices will steer your life in the desired direction.             

On a deeper level, if you maintain a positive image of what you need in life, that image will resonate in other people and in general in the energy of attention around you.  The ability to affect the larger energy of attention to help your life depends on how connected your attention is to your body.  This is the great benefit of the Zookinesis exercises.  Without that connection, you just struggle.  You can’t beat the whole world into submission to accede to your demands.  But you can connect with the energy of consciousness (attention) that permeates the world.          

Each act of self healing will be magnified by that connection.  When you try to heal others, your efforts will likewise be magnified by your connection.  Life becomes easier and a lot more effective. 

Some people make the mistake of just trying to use what is called, “The Law of Attraction”, that is, to send out those images of what you want, but without first connecting their attention to their bodies.  This is utterly useless.  It is only when the attention and body merge, when you stop objectifying attention, when you become fully connected to the larger energy of attention, that you can have any effect. 

Some deserts only receive a few inches of water every ten years or so.  But as soon as it rains and the ground becomes moist, a thick carpet of colorful flowers appear within days and the desert comes to life.  It is like a miracle.  The Zookinesis training is like this.  Before this training, you are like a desert and then soon your life blooms with beautiful colors.

HOW TO MAKE THE BRAIN POWERFUL

Only a fraction of the human brain is used in modern times.  We have moved our focus of attention away from those parts that make us powerful and coordinated physically and which allow us to channel the biological forces of nature through our bodies.  This leads to lower vitality and premature old age. 

When we practice Tai-chi and Zookinesis, it is essential that we stimulate the entire brain, including what is called the “reptilian brain”, or “primitive brain”.  Rather than being primitive it is an essential part of the brain.  We gradually enliven all parts of the nervous system which, in turn, enlivens the entire body.  The result is that our very perception of the world around us is sharpened.  We can perceive deeper levels and finer details of our senses and bring back senses that have been allowed to become dormant.

The process of bringing power back to the brain is most vividly experienced in the Push Hands exercise (a two person exercise in which each person tries to throw the partner off balance.  (This has been described in detail in other “weekly lessons”).  But you can use the techniques of Push Hands in everyday life in ordinary situations. 

As we practice Push Hands we experiment with “seating” our attention in various parts of the brain.  As an example, we concentrate on the lower rear part of the brain which is the reptilian brain.  As you are about to push the partner you may notice that your attention jumps forward which causes your entire body to lunge forward.  This allows your partner to turn to the side and allow you to fall forward.

The dynamics of your attention can pull your own body off balance.  An important principle in Push Hands is to keep your attention centered.  You generate the force to push the partner through “internal” movements of your body.  This consists of moving individual joints and muscles in relationship to each other but not allowing the whole body to lunge back and forth.  The result is similar to break dancing moves in which the body undulates, sending waves of force through itself, but the body remains in a centered position. 

This can only be achieved when your attention is centered.  If your attention is concentrated in only certain parts of the brain, the frontal lobes for example, then it is already off center.  You are already off balance as far as your attention is concerned and then your body copies that pattern of poor balance.  The body reflects the pattern and quality of your attention.  If your attention jumps around a lot, then your body will exhibit excess movement. 

You can practice spreading your attention throughout your brain in the Push Hands exercise, your Tai-chi forms, Zookinesis exercises or any other activity.  This practice will enable you to keep your attention full and balanced in the brain in your everyday interactions with people.  I guarantee that you will amaze yourself with how calm and powerful you feel when you keep the reptilian part of your brain energized in interpersonal interactions.

Rather than paying attention to the reptilian brain from the frontal lobes, try having the reptilian brain as the seat of attention and looking out from it.  Make believe that right in front of the reptilian brain there is a window and you are looking out that window.  The window is in the middle of the brain (back to front) and at the bottom of the brain.  You may feel both your body and your breathing relaxing.  You will feel more connected to your surroundings and more secure. 

This exercise does not cut off your frontal lobes (the intellectual part of the brain) but includes them. Your attention will feel more centered within the entire nervous system.  The quality of your attention will be more relaxed, sharper and stronger.  Your body will be able to respond more accurately to the changing condition around you.  You can see that energizing the reptilian brain is essential for practicing Push Hands.  It is also essential for living a more powerful and effective life. 

You begin to look at the dynamics and qualities of attention in other people as if you were a healer diagnosing a patient.  Your understanding of these qualities in others gives you a deeper understanding of their resultant behavior which in turn, gives you more options of how to respond to them.  If they are off balance, then you own balanced state can help them to become balanced.  Their attention responds to the qualities of your attention as one tuning fork vibrates when another one next to it is sounded. 

On the other hand, you can avoid having your own attention thrown off balance by the unbalanced state of their attention.  You see the underlying mechanisms of the interaction and can avoid the pitfalls.

It’s amazing that simply by bring the focus of your attention to a different part of the brain and “looking out” from there, you can change the whole dynamic of your personal life.  It is so easy to try and the results are so obvious. 

This is the type of training you would receive in what is called a “mouth to ear” transmission of teaching, such as Zookinesis.  This means a tradition that is taught from teacher to student through long term, disciplined training, rather than from books or shallow training.  There is a whole world of such training methods.

Once you become comfortable with looking out from the reptilian brain, you then create other foci of attention.  Examples – a point on the palm between the third and fourth finger and one inch down, the point on the bottom of the foot at the rear of the ball of the foot and centered between the left and right side, the coccyx bone and the tan-tien (an area just below the navel in the center of the body).

You concentrate on these spots to either energize or relax them as you do Push Hands.  The patterns of energizing and relaxing in these areas create different alignments of the body and affect the flow of forces through the body.  This allows you to send force out into the partner while keeping the body still.  The result is that the partner is thrown back and it doesn’t seem as if you did anything.

If you could not access the reptilian brain then you simply could not create and coordinate these multiple foci of attention because your attention would not be centered.  This is part of what is known as “Taoist alchemy” which is the basis of Tai-chi and Zookinesis.  Taoist alchemy is the inner work to bring back your mind, body and spirit to full functioning.

From that inner point of view you can perceive sources of energy that are normally invisible to us.  You realize that our culture is not built on a foundation of “whole brain experience” or what I call “whole body attention”.  Anything outside of our modern cultural perspective is considered to not exist.  And so, while we may have perceptions and feelings of these sources of energy, we ignore them in order to feel emotionally secure.  We need to feel part of this culture.  It is like a child grabbing onto his parent’s leg, fearing to venture too many steps away.

The mouth to ear training allows you to take those steps and to understand the inner experiences which you have ignored up to now.  In this way a whole new world is revealed which allows your life to make much more sense.  Your culture, which previously caged your perceptions, now is seen in a wider context. 

You can begin this training by yourself simply by massaging the rear of your head several times a day to make it easier to pay attention to.  Remember that the goal is not to pay attention to the rear of the head from the front of the head.  The goal is to “seat” the attention in the rear of the head (as an exercise) and then to eventually fill the entire brain with attention so that the attention is balance. 

Paying attention to the rear of the head is only the first (but necessary) step.

I’m sure you will have many questions and comments about this type of training.  Feel free to use the “comments” section to the left of this article for your questions and comments.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Most of our lives are dedicated to just getting through the day.  Many ancient teachings point to a technique which can be used in daily life, to completely change the results of your efforts.  Zookinesis explains that the nature of your identity, your impression you have of who you are, not only determines the results of your efforts but also subconsciously is transmitted to others.  The people around you pick up the impression you have of yourself and react to you accordingly.

This means that if your impression of yourself should change, it will change not only in your own mind, but in the mind of those around you. 

If your identity is tied to your past experiences you can never change.  Your past experiences are the result of your past identity.  Your identity determines how you interact with others and with situations.  Those situations result from a pattern of your own behavior which is based on your identity.  You see how you can be trapped in behavior patterns which then trap you in repeated situations.

The key to this problem, in many ancient teaching systems, is NOT to find out who you are, but to CREATE who you are.  Determine who you would like to be.  Create a character, as if in a play, and little by little surround yourself with the scenery to enact that play.  The scenery may be the décor in your house or it may be a behavior, such as singing during the day as you are working.  You might take a few minutes out each day to go outside and just enjoy being alive.  It doesn’t take much.

Gradually experiment with what scenery (internal or external) makes you feel good or bad.  Realize that you can become whoever you want to be.  In fact, one of the goals of life is to play.  We often forget about play as we grow older.  Play is not only for children practicing to be adults.  It is the joy of life.  And by “play” I don’t mean competitive sports.  I’m talking about playing with what your life is all about. 

It’s easy to feel that because the bills keep coming in it’s important to be serious all the time.  We have arranged our culture to “feed the economic machine” rather than to maximize the enjoyment of life. 

Do you really need all the new gadgets?  Or would your money best be spent living simply but not having to worry about the bills?  What is it that leads to a more joyful life and what is it that takes joy away?

These are questions you ask if you want to be creative with your identity.  Create a beautiful myth about who you are and what you are doing with your life.  Gradually move in that direction, while of course, taking care of practical matters.  Don’t let a day go by without spending at least a few minutes remembering your myth and asking yourself, “How could I have become that myth a little bit more today?” 

When our identity is the result of our creativity rather than our past patterns of behavior, we then gain power in our lives.  We have to be willing to let go of elements of our old identity to gain new, brighter elements.  We have to be willing to release our rear foot from the ground in order to take a step forward.

There is a story I always tell of an old ship which sank in the Hudson River in New York. and was buried under mud.  Ships with cranes were hired to lift it but none succeeded.  Finally someone suggested that an empty barge be positioned above the boat at low tide.  Chains were connected from the buried ship to the barge.  When high tide came in the buoyancy of the barge lifted the buried ship.

Your myth is similar to the barge.  While your life may seem to be buried under bills and problems, the myth can just sit there.  As the tide of time washes in, that myth can lift you up into a new life.

You are not being “false” by living a myth.  A myth does not mean that your new identity is not true.  It means that your identity is now part of your creative nature.  It is alive and adds to your vitality.

When your identity is alive and vital you feel energized and ready for life.  Who would you really like to be?

A MORE POWERFUL LIFE

In an internal martial arts system, the smaller your movement, the more powerful it is.  The goal is to send your energy into the other person.  If you can do that without using up that force in your own movements or in tensing up your body, you can send almost all of your force out.  In external martial arts systems, the body tenses up to provide solidity.  There can be no small subtle movements within the body and so the body moves in a stick-like fashion resulting in large movements.

In an internal system such as Tai-chi-Chuan and Phantom Kung-fu each muscle is under your control and is kept relaxed.  You can move several muscles and joints just a tiny bit each to result in the strike so that the overall movement of the whole body is very little. 

Power comes out in a spiral pattern from the ground up through each joint.  This spiral pattern magnifies the force.  At the moment of impact the body tenses just enough to prevent the arm from collapsing and to allow the force to flow through the arm.  The internal martial artist is aware enough not to tense up even the slightest bit more than is necessary.

It is the degree of his or her awareness, to be able to make such subtle adjustments in just a fraction of a second that results in power.   If the martial arts student can make his concentration fine enough to make these tiny adjustments, he can be powerful.  And so there is a general saying that the smaller you can make your attention, the more powerful you are. 

As an example, if you think that a punch is the thrusting of the arm forward or turning the whole body to thrust the arm forward, then you are only aware of the arm as a whole or only the movement of the whole body.  If you think of a strike as a quarter turn of the spine and a slight upward quarter turn of the hip, your movement will be much faster, more connected to the body and to the ground and more powerful.  As far as your attention is concerned, you will be striking from the ground up and from the inside of the body out, which is the proper mechanics for sparring.  External stylists generally keep their attention on the outside of the body, keeping their bodies rigid.

When you can bring your attention to a point you become very powerful.  When you can work with many of these points at once then you can really start to learn.  Internal stylists also learn to bring their attention into the joints and muscles of the sparring partner so that he feels completely connected to the partner.  In this way he can feel what the partner is going to do before he actually does it.

The martial arts practices have their greatest benefit in everyday life.  If you can take this training into dealing with other people, with business strategies, with goals in life and with your health then your life can become powerful.  A few examples will explain.  It is very easy to get caught up in the emotional patterns of other people.  This is because most people cannot bring their attention into the subtle changes of feeling inside their bodies.  If your attention were everywhere inside of your body and at the same time was inside of the other person, you could tell how the other person’s emotional patterns were affecting you.  You could see the mechanism of how your own feelings and reactions change due to the other person.  You could then take control of that mechanism so that you do not copy their emotional patterns or even react blindly against those patterns.  You can remain centered and examine how you can be most effective.

In the martial arts, each partner tries to control the behavior of the other, confusing them or freezing their attention.  In everyday life, most peoples’ emotional and mental patterns are so chaotic that they constantly damage the people around them.  It is important to be so aware that you are immune to that damage. 

On the other hand, your own behavior patterns from the past, may have taken control of your present behavior.  When you react to a situation it may not be in the most effective way or even the least bit logical.  If your attention is so pinpointed that you can feel how your own patterns are affecting you, then you can get beyond them.  They only have control if you can’t see them, if you feel you ARE them. 

That is the most powerful effect of developing the fineness of attention.  We have come to believe that our identity is the patterns of behavior and reactions that have programmed us.  Most people have really lost the awareness of themselves.  When you reach your original creative, connected self there is great calm and joy.  But most people are trying to follow the “breadcrumbs” home, meandering through the thick forest in search of themselves. 

The finer your attention, the more you can see the mechanisms that control your behavior, the more you can see what is not you and the quicker you can discover the source of your creativity, of what makes you a unique individual. 

At that point you can see that while we are all unique individuals, we are also completely connected to each other and to nature.  At that point we can finally love fully and let go of anger and resentment that may have been seething inside us for many years – about issues long since gone.

I have also found that in business, you are able to get to the heart of any negotiation and better understand the issues that bother the other person.  Very often in business negotiations the other person is not saying exactly what they want.  They’re trying to be coy.  It is important to sort out the issues so that you immediately understand where the other person stands.  This makes for more effective negotiations for both sides.  If your attention is strong and can follow many lines of discussion at the same time, it is easier to sort out the underlying themes and get to the heart of the issue.

Training the attention in this way is not easy.  The Tai-chi forms and Push Hands exercises and the Zookinesis exercises teach the attention to seep into every crevice of the body, to follow many patterns of energy and movement at the same time and to constantly re-adjust the body and mind to changing external conditions.  It is said that it takes five years of Push Hands training to be able to consider yourself to be a beginner.  This is because the condition of our attention in modern times is so poor.  Our attention can be considered to be in critical condition – almost dead.  To bring it back to even normal health takes a lot of work.  But the result of that work is not only a more effective life but great health and joy. 

There are two reactions to practicing Push Hands among my students.  The first is laughter.  They laugh at how dead their attention is compared to how healthy they know it can become.  The second is shaking their heads and saying that they can’t believe how stupid their bodies are.  They know what they should be doing, but the attention is so rigid and so programmed with useless patterns that it is a great struggle to free the attention.  It is as if their attention is entangled in a net. 

And yet, as a teacher, I see that they are making great progress in every lesson.  It is just such a long journey back home!

You can go through the rest of your life knowing and being yourself and enjoying the thrill of living or trying to follow the breadcrumbs through the forest as if you are lost.

THE ART OF SOARING

The Zookinesis “art of soaring” is one of its most powerful teachings.  A student learns to merge his system of internal energy (chi) and even his consciousness with those of other animals.  The effect is to radically transform the student to be able to “enter” the body of a patient, if he is a healer, and examine that patient from the inside.  In this way he can effect a much finer healing.  I have worked with several of my students to be able to do this and they are always astounded by the improvements in their healing ability.

Perhaps even more importantly, the training of soaring allows you to perceive a part of this world we live in, that remains hidden to most people.  We usually don’t realize that our chi and our consciousness (which I call “attention”) is constantly being captured and affected by forces around us. 

The student of Zookinesis or other Taoist practices perceives a world filled with attention, flowing in dynamic activity.  His own consciousness is completely connected to all others and it is easy to move the focal point of his attention anywhere along the “continuum of consciousness”.

Zookinesis shares this awareness with many other ancient training systems around the world.  The goal of these systems is to allow the student to experience this level of perception.  In working with live animals, Zookinesis is similar to some South American Indian spiritual systems in which you “journey” with an animal.  This means that you place your consciousness inside an animal and let it take your consciousness with it as it travels.

While this may seem a bizarre and primitive mythological belief, it is everyday reality when you perceive on this level.  We modern people may look down on this way of experiencing the world around us and pride ourselves in our isolation from nature.  But that isolation has led to the deterioration of the body and mind and the lack of inner peace in our times. 

The idea that only one way of perceiving the world around us is “correct” is itself, I believe, a very primitive and shallow belief. It deprives us of the fullness of human experience and of the biological vitality which is our birthright as biological beings.  It also blinds us to the very real dynamics of attention and the dynamics of internal energy.  Our inability to perceive these dynamics makes it impossible to organize our lives to maintain the health of these energy systems.

Our consciousness and chi are pulled, twisted, depleted and damaged every day without our knowing and then we wonder why we are tired at the end of the day. 

Many teachers of the modern versions of ancient training are completely unaware of the original purpose of those trainings, that is, to teach students to become aware of this level of perception.  That level of perception has been lost for the most part and only the shell of the teachings remain. 

Some of those teachers have privately admitted to me that they don’t even understand what they are teaching but they do it to earn a living.  I’m afraid that genuine teaching, in all of these systems, is in danger of dying out.  The main reason for this is that these teachings have become a form of entertainment.  Teachers have to become showmen and emphasize the hype and glitter in order to gain students. 

Without advanced students to practice with, their own abilities, which originally may have been genuine, gradually fade away.  In each generation, the students put in less and less effort to learn until the teachers have no real abilities or awareness. 

The culture stops valuing this awareness, this connection to nature.  Yet within each of us beats the heart of our original biological awareness, our original vitality, witnessing its own gradual death.  The place this awareness lives within us is a place of despair.  At every moment, it calls out to us like a prayer to God. But we don’t answer because we don’t understand what is going on.  Our culture denies the existence of our true nature and values us only as pieces of the great machine of the economy. 

When we wonder if we have the time or the energy to get involved in a practice that brings us back to ourselves, our dying vitality ask, “Why do you even have to ask?” 

We live in a rich world of life, filled with conscious energy.  Yet when we look at the world the only things we notice are the speeding cars and the exciting television screen.  We have lost the ability to see conscious life itself. 

I saw a comedian on television who complained that his children wanted a “3D” television.  He told them, “Go outside.  Everything is in 3D.”

We humans are designed to soar, in our own way, as the eagles above us.  The choice we have as individuals and as a culture is, what does it mean to be human.  You can decide that for your own life.