Posts Tagged ‘animal consciousness’


The concept of a spirit world, common to almost all pre-industrialized cultures, lies at the heart of developing and learning to use internal energy (“chi”).  Zookinesis explains this concept very simply.  We humans have senses that we do not use anymore.  The way we have been trained to use our attention no longer allows those senses to function. 

If we were to fully develop our attention, all of our senses would work again.  We would then see the world very differently – more fully.  The world we would see once our senses were restored is called “the spirit world”. 

Two of those senses are the sense of internal energy (biological energy) and the sense of the dynamics of attention (how consciousness flows through the body).  The difference between an “internal” martial art and an “external” martial art is the ability to perceive and use these senses. 

Each part of the body becomes more functional, alive, active and yet relaxed.  You can move one small part of your body out of the way of a strike, for example, without moving the entire body.  When you are grappling you can absorb the force of the partner through your body either into the ground or around back into the partner.  Your body is able to absorb, use and transform energy instantaneously. 

In Taoist terms this would be called, “Taoist alchemy”.  To many people Taoist alchemy is known as training to increase longevity or to increase sexual energy.  But its benefits go far beyond these things.

Taoist alchemy restores our biological consciousness which every animal has, while allowing us to retain that special human consciousness we cherish so much.  Early humans developed a way of developing the thinking mind.  “The elements” were a way of categorizing the world they experienced into five distinct groups.  I have written about this in other “weekly lesson” articles.  Our civilization rests on this particular development of the human mind.  And so we divide our world into matter, space, energy, time and consciousness.  We divide our personal lives into our bodies, minds, personal drive or energy (“will”), emotions and again, consciousness.

But in modern times our educational system has concentrated so much on this categorization or thinking process that it has ignored developing other aspects of our human nature or what I would call our “animal nature”.  We pride ourselves in being superior to animals.

But I think we can all agree that something in our civilization is missing.  There is an inner awareness and a deep inner satisfaction with life that seems to have gotten lost.  In my many years of teaching I have found what I feel is the basis of this lost “animal awareness” or animal nature.  It is the fear that if we perceive fully, if we can see the spirit world and function within it, then our thinking abilities will weaken.  There is a deep-seated illusion that full awareness competes with full ability to think clearly.

The root of that illusion is our weak attention.  This is the root of all the problems.  Our attention is just not strong enough to think and to have our bodies function well at the same time.  If we do not maintain an animal awareness in which attention is distributed evenly throughout the body, then attention actually weakens.  When the attention is so concentrated on thinking as it is today, then the rest of you suffers. 

Attention (or consciousness) is experienced (by Tai-chi students) as an energy which flows through each living thing and therefore is connected to all other living things.  By concentrating it in the thinking process you cut attention off from the rest of your body and the rest of nature.  It becomes like a lake, usually fed by a stream that suddenly is cut off from the stream.  It then turns into a smelly swamp.

Attention that is not connected to the rest of nature decays.  Just see what happens when our political leaders think they know so much that they don’t listen to people who disagree with them.  They don’t consider all views and facts.  The result is poor leadership.

On a biological level all our cells and organs need attention flowing through them.  For most people the body is just a big thing below our brains that carries our brains around.  Tai-chi and Zookinesis teaches the harmonious relationship between the thinking process we have developed and the animal consciousness.  The two don’t have to be competing.  They can re-enforce each other.

In the internal martial arts, for example, you need to fill your opponent with your attention so that you feel every action and intention of each of his muscles and joints even before they emanate as a strike.  You flow with the opponent, allowing him to control the movements but you control the relationship between you.  That relationship is that you move away from his incoming force and into his open, unprotected areas.

Internal martial arts training requires that you can perceive the spirit world before you even start to learn the actual martial arts techniques.  If you can’t see inside your own body and that of your opponent, then you have no business even beginning to learn the fighting.

In modern martial arts schools the students want to fight right away and not have to go through any internal changes at all.  “Just show me the techniques”.  Modern martial arts schools (with some exceptions) are all about the techniques and not about the heart of the martial arts. 

Martial arts is a personal path, much like a religion or a philosophy.  The fact that you are learning to punch and kick people is just the method of teaching the path.  You are actually learning about your own desire to be violent, about its roots and about how to resolve those issues.  You are also learning how to see inside the opponent and understand him on an internal level.  While effectively defending yourself you can still remain calm and not have the violent emotions of the opponent duplicate themselves inside of you.  If the opponent has transferred his pattern of violence inside of you then you lose, even if you have won that particular fight.

And that’s how it is in everyday life.  There are many angry people walking around.  Many of my students are doctors.  One told me that many doctors nowadays are “practicing angry”.  This means that patients are angry at doctors and ready to sue them.  Medical insurance companies look for every excuse not to pay the doctor because perhaps, the patient’s name was misspelled on one of the papers.  This makes the doctors angry.

Our culture is a reflection of our nature as individuals.  We put all of our attention into our calculating minds and fear allowing that energy to connect with the rest of our body and the rest of nature.  Then our culture is composed of closed individuals who fear their connections to other people.  We fear being connected, letting our attention, our feelings merge.  Relationships are strained. 

I remember as a child watching situation comedies on television.  They seemed to all be based on the same premise.  The husband and wives conspire against each other to get what they want.  I wondered, “Is this what a relationship should really be about?” 

Have we become a culture of fearful people conspiring against each other to get what we want?  I guess it’s silly to even ask the question.  But is this what you want for yourself?

The martial arts seem to be so much about fearful people conspiring to hit each other to “win over” each other.  Yet, whether an internal or external martial art, this training is supposed to be about self awareness and the ability to live in harmony with other people.  It is really about spiritual development as defined by becoming a fully developed human being.  Your thinking mind must be involved in learning the martial arts but when you spar you use the animal attention. 

When animal attention combines harmoniously with the thinking mind you are in the spirit world and you are fully human.  You can then perceive the energies behind the physical manifestations.  As an example you can feel the dynamics of attention and internal energy that leads to a person’s behavior.  You feel less fearful because you can perceive the origins of a person’s behavior before they manifest physically and you can be ready.  You don’t get taken by surprise.

In Push Hands practice, you begin to neutralize the partner’s incoming force at the exact same time as the force begins to come in to you.  You saw the origins of that force in the preparation of the partner and know what to expect.  Push Hands then takes place in real time.  Yet as a beginner you didn’t realize the force was coming in until it was right on top of you and then it was too late to neutralize it. 

Imagine if you could see things coming at you much earlier and prepare for them.  Many people can do this economically.  They study the economic trends and know that a recession or that good times are around the corner.  They can then prepare for the future.  They use their thinking minds to see into the future.  We can do this with our animal attention as well.

Just for a moment, think of the trends of how the behaviors of people are changing.  Then look into the future.  Are you happy with what you see?  All we can do as individuals is to develop ourselves.  Our nature as individuals can then affect those around us.  Each interaction with another person is a chance to decide the future of our culture.

I always ask myself, “Am I in the spirit world right now?”  Have I let the angers and conflicts of the world around me program my own behavior or do I have some say over my behavior?  The concept of the spirit world helps me to maintain my direction in life.


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.