Posts Tagged ‘behavior patterns’


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.


Do you feel that work and the responsibilities of life are tearing you apart?  Are you exhausted, more due to aggravation and worry than physical work?  Tai-chi and Zookinesis explains why this is so and what you can do to avoid getting torn apart.

One day I went to a lake at a nearby park, armed with a bag of healthy, whole wheat bread for the ducks and geese.  I got there early and was apparently the first person to feed them.  At least 75 ducks, geese and swans surrounded me, demanding bread and I soon had nothing left.  They kept coming at me, biting my hands, hoping to at least get a crumb.  I had to leave in a hurry to get more bread.  At one point I thought my life might end by getting pecked while surrounded by white feathers. 

When I returned to work, there were calls from customers, calls to suppliers, computer work to do, video editing, packing orders etc., etc.  I felt that I was still being pecked to death but this time by my work (video production and distribution).  But I had one advantage.

My training in Tai-chi and Zookinesis helped me to stay centered and calm and just do what I could.  I didn’t rush or get aggravated.  I thought, “What about people who do not have this training?  They must feel like they’re really getting pecked to death!”  I understood why, in these frantic times, Tai-chi and Zookinesis training is especially important.  If you can devote fifteen minutes a day to a Tai-chi form or a series of Zookinesis exercises, you can remain centered throughout the hectic day.

In most ancient cultures, the purpose of the culture was to help people enjoy and understand life.  Children went through initiation rituals to help ease them into each new stage of life.  Ceremonies, timed to the changes of the seasons, became the binding force of life of the community, helping people to live in harmony with nature.

In our culture the purpose is to work hard in order to buy things.  As we enter into this season of ceremonies (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Yule, Kwanza and the rest) we have time to reflect on some of the important things in our lives that we often neglect – family and community.

On a smaller scale, our Tai-chi and Zookinesis practice is a daily custom that reminds us that our health, mental and physical, and our connection to nature is so important, that if we neglect these things, we will be miserable. 

Remember that people and circumstances around us are always ready to take from us – whether our money or energy.  Most people are frantic and unbalanced because of the effects of our hectic culture.  Without a means of protection and renewal of our inner strength, they will surely tear us apart.

These practices connect your mind and body so you are aware of how each situation affects you on all levels.  By remaining centered and relaxed you not only prevent your own deterioration but become more effective in your work.  Much of what goes on in the workplace is politics, rather than actual useful work.  These politics are the result of a lack of self awareness, self esteem and the lack of a path in life.  Most people just frantically try to grab for as much as they can get before they die.

By practicing your exercises each day, you remind yourself of the principles behind the exercises – self awareness, living in harmony with your surroundings, staying calm and healthy.  You realize that the behavior of another person is their behavior and not yours.  You don’t have to play into their patterns. 

You cannot gain this awareness just through the mind.  While each of us may know these ideas are true, putting them into practice is another matter.  The exercise of Push Hands, for example, teaches you to deal with another person’s aggression without tensing up but just letting the force flow by.  Yet it may take a couple of years of practice to be willing not to tense up when pushed.  Tensing is such an automatic reaction that it is hard to break.  You know that tensing is exactly what you should NOT do, but you just can’t help yourself.

The teacher explains, in excruciating detail, how each part of your body has reacted and how your mind and your attention have reacted to the push.  He explains exactly why you are reacting in this way – what concepts in your thinking, drive your body to react ineptly.  He explains the proper way to react in order to neutralize the force.  Yet you seem to have no control over your own body.

It is the same way in everyday life.  You say to yourself, “Why did I just do that?”  It is as if you have no control over some aspects of your life.

Zookinesis teaches students that the reason we have no control is that we don’t have training of the attention as part of children’s education.  We teach children to memorize and to calculate.  We do not teach them to be intricately aware of each part of their bodies and how they work.  We do not learn to pay attention to many things at once, as you do in Push Hands, so your attention can be more efficient.  We certainly do not teach them to remain centered and relaxed as threatening situations surround them.  And they don’t learn the importance of proper breathing.

When you are properly trained you can really see “inside” the other person.  You are aware of the dynamics of their attention and what is driving them to their behavior.  This allows you to see their behavior in proper perspective. 

The strange thing is that when you react to another person’s frantic behavior, with your own centeredness and relaxation, they can feel how you are in control of yourself.  They come to think of you as someone who cannot be fazed and who can be trusted to take care of situations.  They feel safe around you and trust you.  It improves your relationships.

Luckily you can just learn a simple series of movements (such as the Zookinesis “Laughing Dragon Exercises”, the Tai-chi Yang Short Form as in the “Tai-chi for Beginners” program, or the “Spirit Breathing Workouts”) and practice these a few minutes a day.  With these simple exercises your life can be turned around.  Imagine if you were no longer “torn apart”, if you no longer got aggravated but just dealt with each situation as best as you could.  Imagine if you didn’t even come down hard on yourself for not being a superman in every situation. 

You could actually enjoy your life! 

The winter is a great time for asking yourself, “What am I doing with my life?”  Set aside a portion of your life to learn a centering exercise and to practice it every day.  You can have fun by learning different exercises.  One of my favorites is “Chair Exercises for Seniors” (even though I don’t consider myself a senior) because it is easy to do while sitting at work.  I can do a single exercise for two minutes here and there and stay flexible.  Even if I do that only four times a day, by the end of the day I don’t feel drained. 

What could be worse than, once you finally get some time off, being too tired to enjoy it?  We all deserve to enjoy our lives.  Devote a few minutes a day to yourself!


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?