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.