Posts Tagged ‘imagery’


Breathe in and ignite the sun within your belly.
Breathe out to release its rays to join the sun in the sky and the earth below.
Center your breath and relax your body to the four directions.

Expect to receive energy from everything you see and feel.
Leave space inside of you for that energy to move.
Allow the energy to continue on in its journey.


The way the martial art of Tai-chi approaches grappling is very applicable to daily life.  The pressures we face on a psychological, emotional and spiritual level are the way life grapples with us.  When common sense is applied to grappling we can easily deal with the strongest opponent.  Rather than fight back against the pressures we examine the nature of those pressures and neutralize them. 

In one technique we can imagine the pressure as a line drawn through the body.  The line starts at the opponent’s hand or arm, where he is applying the pressure and then continues in the direction of the pressure.  Each of his hands or arms is exerting a pressure and each has a line.  You imagine where those two lines will meet within your body and then relax that point.  You only need to relax about one inch of muscle. 

When the point at which the pressures meet relaxes, the opponent’s force is neutralized.  The skill is to relax just that exact point and to not relax more than about an inch of muscular area.  Once the opponent is neutralized, you can do what you want with him.

The meeting point of the pressures shows you how you resist the force of the opponent with your own tension.  You are then more easily able to let go of the resistance.  The opponent depends on your resistance to control you. 

Yet the remaining muscles of the body maintain their firmness to keep the body’s structure intact.  You do not simply collapse your body but strategically relax only the meeting point of the lines.

In our everyday lives we are faced with many pressures – financial, emotional, etc. The meeting point of those pressures show how we fight against the pressure.  If we imagine ourselves as victims in a world battling against us we will wear ourselves out.  We can just as easily ask ourselves, “What is this pressure telling me?  Why am I battling against the pressure?” 

I have found that the reason most people feel pressured in life is that they are unwilling to change as they go through life.  Perhaps they feel they are entitled to a certain high standard of life and resent having to control their spending.  “The other guy can buy these things so why shouldn’t I be entitled to do the same?”

Perhaps you demand certain patterns of behavior from other people.  After all, you are entitled to be treated in the manner to which you would like to become accustomed.   You want the world to conform to your expectations and it usually doesn’t. 

The Tai-chi solution is to make changes from the inside out.  Gain control over your lifestyle before trying to gain control over the rest of the world.  If you can improve your health and your knowledge, your relationship to the world will change.  If you become more aware of your body and end the isolation of the mind and body characteristic of our culture, you will become more powerful.  If you understand how the advertising industry affects your emotions and how other institutions of our society try to control your behavior, you will be freed from their pressures. 

When you notice your frustration, your anger, your sadness, you can then more easily see how these pressures control how you feel about yourself.  Anyone basing their feeling of self worth on the pressures of others who want to control them, is “building their house on sand” which we actually do here on Long Island.  That’s why the wealthy homes on Dune Road get washed into the sea every few years.  When those homeowners expect the taxpayer to rebuild their homes for them or to re-build Dune Road, they are not following the principles of Tai-chi.

There was a time when cultures were based on the warmth, closeness and sharing of small communities.   The world most of us live in seems cold and isolated.  We do seem like victims thrown into a world foreign to our basic natures. 

We could turn cold and accept that the rest of our lives will be a miserable battle.  Or we could build a small community of people – friends and family – and create the kind of culture we would like to live in.  We can do this by starting with ourselves and imagining our own selves as a community.  There is the emotional part of us, the mind, the body and all its individual parts, the will, the internal energy, our memories, our habits and other parts.  Each of these is energized and actively participates in our every action. 

Ancient cultures provided a teaching called “The Elements” which helped people to develop a harmony among all these parts.  We don’t have this teaching in our modern world.  By participating in training such as Tai-chi, Zookinesis and Yoga, which are based on the teaching of the elements, we can create this harmony within ourselves.  That can serve as the basis of a more harmonious attitude and pattern of behavior in our circle of friends and family. 

Whenever you feel a “point of pressure”, use that as an opportunity to shift and adjust something in your life so as to make that pressure irrelevant. 

Before we are about to attempt anything, the attention assesses the body, mind, will – all the “elements” – to see if you are prepared to accomplish the mission.  If your attention feels that you are not ready, it will cause you to hesitate or stop trying.  By building your inner strength you feel more prepared and are more willing to try new things.  You no longer consider a new challenge with fear.  Your attention assesses your elements and finds them strong and ready.  This creates an entirely new attitude which leads to success.

Even though we may be dealing with a mental or emotional challenge, the attention assesses the body’s physical condition to determine if you are ready to deal with the challenge. Is each part of our body flexible and strong and is it filled with our awareness?  Our intellectual way of interacting with each other in modern society is a more modern form of behavior.  Our biology still works on a physical “flight or fight response” mode.  So in order to feel confident to tackle a modern type of interaction, we still instinctually assess our physical readiness. 

When we are grappling, we also need to assess the partner’s readiness.  We need to use our attention to assess his body. His grappling behaviors will come from his own sense of physical readiness.  We need to be more aware of his readiness than he is of his own.  This is the skill that push hands provides to us. 

We can also block the ability of his attention to assess the readiness of his body.  This can easily be done by constantly shifting the meeting point of your two lines of force on his body.  His attention may be able to assess if he is ready to deal with any particular pattern of pressure but if that pattern shifts slightly and regularly, his attention will be worn out quickly.  You don’t want to shift it enough to throw your own body off – the smaller the shifts the better.  As you practice this you will begin to vividly feel how his attention panics and his body tenses when you shift the pressure and how his attention tries to re-assess the situation.  The grappling game is then played on the basis of attacking his attention rather than his body.

Another important principle in grappling is “Let Yang be Yang and Yin be Yin”.  This is an expression from Zookinesis training.  It means that the Yang energy, which is expansive and energizing, should be allowed to fully express itself.  The Yin energy, which is grounding, should be allowed to fully express itself.  Imagine walking a dog on a leash.  The dog pulls you forward and you tug back on the leash to control the dog.  If you let the leash go, the dog would run as fast as he could and feel very free and happy.  You would be able to relax.  Letting go of the leash is “letting Yang be Yang”.  Relaxing is “letting Yin be Yin”. 

Don’t pit yin against yang as when you are holding the dog back.  If you do that throughout your life, one day your Yang energy will give out and your Yin energy will implode within you causing death.  Rather, allow each energy its full expression and in that, seek balance.

Grappling is different than the dog on the leash situation because the grappler’s force presses inward.  In this case, seek balance by your yang force filling the yin areas of the opponent’s body.  This balance evens out the opponent’s superior physical strength.

Allow your Yin force to be grounded by his physical force, bringing him into your foundation.  This is “letting Yin be Yin”.  Allow your response to originate in your foundation to destabilize his alignment. 

His Yang energy is now in your foundation so you can upset his whole body from there.  Let him feel the pressure of the volcano in your foundation as Yang energy builds, and the endless depth and power of the magma about to erupt.  His force will be burned with only scattered cinders remaining and you will be in control.  Then allow your Yang energy to be Yang.  It will erupt by itself.  You don’t need to force it.

The mistake many grapplers make is to turn Yang energy into tension.  In this case your Yang energy jumps within your own body, hardening it.  Rather, allow your Yang energy only to jump within the opponent’s body, leaving your body as relaxed as possible while still maintaining its structure.  You will need very little physical movement.

Remember also that expanding Yang requires an in-breath into the lower part of the lungs.  You should not breathe out or bring the breath upward when Yang leaps out. 

All of this requires a great deal of training of course.  But the result is that when you are faced with everyday life you respond the way you are trained.  You don’t get rattled.  You simply assess your own balance of energy, the other person’s balance and make the most advantageous response which is usually the simplest.  You let the other person fill their bodies, minds and emotions with Yang energy while you remain balanced.  And you don’t wear yourself out by pitting Yin against Yang.  This keeps you young and energized.


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.


When I worked on editing videos (back before the days of computer editing), there were four video monitors in front of me on a shelf. My eyes were glued to those monitors as I edited. Monitors have raster lines. These are the lines between the rows of pixels. After I would leave an editing session, those raster lines would be imprinted on my vision. I saw those lines for the rest of the day.
Our attention works by certain mechanical principles. A human being is capable of using the mind (attention) in many modes. Yet most people’s minds work in a very limited set of mechanics, usually only one set. The reason for this is that our culture, including upbringing, media etc. imprint a particular mechanic of attention on our minds. It is the only mode of using the mind that we know. This mode is like the raster lines of the monitors and affects how we perceive the world around us.
In this mode, we can only pay attention to one thing at a time. This is the thinking mode, in which one thought follows another. We have reduced our thinking mechanism to a digital system of “on and off”. This thinking mechanism then affects how our bodies work.
This is evident when we practice Push Hands. At first, the student can only pay attention to one small movement at a time. Then he has to learn to pay attention to the left and the right side at the same time. This forces him to be aware of the relationship between the right and left sides so that he uses one side to set up the other side. Once he is aware of this relationship, he can free himself from digital attention.
In Taoism the saying is that, “The one begets the two. The two begets the three. And the three begets the ten thousand things”. At first the attention is single pointed. Then you become aware of two things at the same time. Then you are aware of the relationship between the two. This relationship is the third thing. From then on you should be able to be aware of, and respond to, many things at the same time.
It is absurd that we use single pointed (one dimensional) attention to perceive a three dimensional world (or four dimensions including time). I call the three dimensional type of attention, “holographic attention”. It is like a field of attention, or a spider’s web, which can sense a whole area or volume at the same time.
The attention is not diffused by this. The student learns to strengthen each point on that web so that it is as strong as his whole attention was before beginning this training. The stronger and more inclusive your attention, the larger the world you can perceive.
This increase in what you perceive as you are paying attention to something, constitutes another dimension (if width, length, height and time are the first four dimensions). In ancient times, this dimension was called, “the spirit world”. One step in developing this awareness is to realize that our attention emanates mostly from the front of the head (because that is where our eyes are located). The student learns to allow attention to flow out all sides of him so that he is surrounded by a sphere of attention. This is really the natural state of a human being, but we have lost the full power of our attention. Furthermore, the attention does not emanate just from the head but from the whole body and information then flows back in to the body.
Attention, in this way, is like a drop of ink in a bowl of water. If you were to swirl the water, you could see the activity of the water by watching the movement of the colored ink Attention is released from the body and you can perceive how it is affected by the surroundings. Attention is used like a kite. You can feel the tug of the wind by holding the string of the kite.
Releasing yet maintaining a connection to the attention is a skill that takes many years. Developing fine resolution of the information coming back to you takes more years. That is why few people practice these skills. They constitute the basis of the Zookinesis practice. The goal of Zookinesis is to become completely connected to the natural environment and to be fully creative in your life with access to the full use of attention.
When the body becomes connected to nature in this way, it stays healthy and vigorous throughout your life. Each part of the body becomes aware and you feel completely alive. You also become aware of the dynamics of attention in other people and other living things. You develop the senses of the dynamics of attention and of chi (the biological energy connecting all living things). The world you perceive is fuller and makes more sense. This training is more fully explained in my books, “Movements of Magic”, “Movements of Power” and the adventure novel, “The Doubting Snake”.


This concept in its simplest form means sinking into your root. More specifically, it is the ability of each joint and muscle to drop individually towards the ground. Most people interpret sinking as dropping the knees. Sung means that each joint drops independently of the others.

You feel as if there were a string, attached to the center of each joint, with a small weight hanging from the bottom of the string. As you move, each joint is pulled downward by the weight and then bounces back up. This brings flexibility and awareness to the body.

The problem is that students sink the body as a whole and cannot allow each part of the body to respond in its own way to their movements. The body is essentially frozen, even though they may do a very smooth and slow Tai-chi form. There is no flow of momentum through the body.

There is no “intelligent” interaction of each part of the body with the ground. By releasing each joint and muscle to relax into the ground and then bounce back up, you bring intelligence into each part.

As you practice your form (or any other activity), your attention flows along with the momentum created by the movements of the body. As each body part sinks into the root, the attention must follow each part into the ground and back up. This means that your attention also must not be frozen.

Attention becomes like the tributaries of a river, flowing back into the ocean. The bounce up is like the evaporation of the ocean water coming back as rain to flow back to the tributaries. Your back must be very flexible and active. There is a tendency to maintain a solid back which is then used to move from. A stiff back becomes your floor; you keep it solid so your arms, for example, can move out from it.

This is a mistake. The only floor is the actual floor. The back must be as flexible as any other part of the body. We say “The back must be like the hand”. You are used to using your hand in a dexterous way. The back must be as dexterous as the hand. The same is true for the chest and especially the ribs. I see many people practicing a Tai-chi form with frozen ribs. The ribs must be like the hands.

To develop this flexibility, part of your attention must always be connected to the root. This creates a network of attention to the root so that the pathways to the root are always maintained. I use the analogy of taking a piece of wood and holding it on a slant. Then place a drop of water at the top. The friction will prevent the water from flowing down the wood unless the piece of wood is held very upright. Now wet your finger and trace a pathway, even a winding pathway, down the wood. Then place the drop of water at the top of the path. Now the water will flow down the path you traced. That is the path of least resistance.

In modern times our internal attention has become frozen so there are few such pathways. Sung requires that you maintain these pathways by developing an agility of attention within your body. If you were to learn chi-gung (developing chi flow within the body) without developing the flexibility of the body and attention first, it would be like a sudden downpour on parched earth. The earth would not absorb the downpour and there would be a damaging flood. But if there were a gentle rain one day, followed by the downpour the next day, the ground would have been softened the first day. When the downpour came, the earth would be ready to accept it.

Working with Sung readies the body to practice chi-gung. In Zookinesis training the softening process is incorporated into the chi development process so that both proceed together. At all times, attention and chi are connected to the earth. To get deeper into the concept of Sung, the earth really means the whole world around you (not just in the downward direction). It means being connected to nature.

In many chi-gung classes, you are taught to develop the “microcosmic” and “macrocosmic” orbit (particular circles of energy flow) as the first part of your training. I believe this is a mistake. You are taught to manipulate your energy flow, but in the “correct” way.

In Zookinesis training, we understand that we modern humans are already experts at manipulating our energy flow. What we need is training in not doing that, or what is called, “not doing”. Once we can stop the addiction to manipulating our energy flow, the body will function perfectly well on its own without sticking our noses into it. The emphasis on early Zookinesis training is to release the talons of the thinking mind on the body – to stop manipulating the chi flow. Then just be quiet and see what the body does. Let the body teach you. I use the expression “Be still and know that you are alive”, to borrow a phrase from the Bible.

Then, when the talons have loosened their grip, you work on the connection between the chi flow of the body and that of the rest of nature. This connection has been severed in modern times. I discuss this in detail in my novel, “The Doubting Snake”.

The chi flow of nature does not need instruction. By allowing your inner chi flow to align with the rest of nature, it will work just fine. The modern training of chi-gung de-emphasizes this connection to nature and I believe this is a huge mistake. Sung means connecting to all of nature. Nature is the root. We are, of course, aligning with gravity as gravity is a big part of nature. And so the feeling of Sung is to sink downward. But that should not confuse you that it really implies connecting with nature.

How is all of this done? It is done with the Zookinesis exercises, with Tai-chi forms, Push Hands and all the rest. Unfortunately, such practices often neglect this principle of Sung and so the practices may look pretty but don’t accomplish the goal of rejuvenating mind and body. Allow the aliveness of your body to express itself. You are a community of life – the body, the thinking mind, the memories, the will, creativity, emotions and much more. Each of these is a world in itself. Zookinesis and the training of Sung allows the spirit of each being within you to express itself fully.


This practice is essential for progress in Tai-chi and Zookinesis. Each of us feels “we” are located somewhere in space. This location may be the head, the entire body, just the thoughts within our head, just our emotions or some combination of these things.

I would say that most people feel they are in their heads. This makes the rest of the body feel somewhat foreign. As I have written before, if I ask someone to pay attention to their feet, their attention will go from their head to their feet.

The passive observer training is very difficult to understand, but I will try to describe it simply. In Zookinesis it is called “living in the dragon’s cave”. The dragon’s cave is empty space. Yet within that cave lies the dragon which represents inner power and creativity. The dragon’s cave (or the “center of the world” as it is known in other cultures) is not located in space. It is the world beyond ordinary human experience. Your feeling of where you are located must be in the dragon’s cave.

To explain this better, realize that when you see the whole space around you, you are actually “seeing” two spots of light, one on each retina of the eye. The area of visual acuity is 1/8 of an inch in diameter. From these two tiny spots of light, you envision an entire scene. You compare the tiny bit of light with your memory of walking through such a “space”, you compare the light on one retina with that of the other for stereoscopic vision and do other calculations to come up with the scene.

Much (if not most) of the scene is your way of creating something out of very little information. Yet out of this tiny amount of data we get the immense world before us. In Zookinesis we have access to other perceptions – the sense of internal energy and the sense of the dynamics of attention. We can use the same inner gymnastics to put together a “scene” using these senses. This scene can give access to what is going on within our bodies.

The passive observer does not get caught up in these inner gymnastics. It watches the gymnastics to understand how we are constantly building our worlds out of our senses, our memories and our imaginations. It observes the mechanics behind the world that most of us see. The passive observer is powerful in its non-involvement with the gymnastics. Since it does not get caught up in “the action”, it can appreciate “the action”.

You, as the student, can be aware of the perspective of the passive observer and of the poor little student caught up in all the emotions and mental activities and body awkwardness. (You are both of these.) You can observe the constituent parts of your awkwardness (mental, emotional even spiritual as well as the tensions and improper use of the body).

You do not feel bad about your awkwardness because feeling bad is simply one of the constituent parts. The passive observer does not feel bad. It just observes the dynamics of feeling bad without comment. Some people feel that this practice may turn you into a cold, unfeeling person. Rather, it frees you from the prison of patterns of emotions and thinking and allows the emotions and thinking to flow from your creativity.

When you live in the dragon’s cave, this frees the dragon to emerge from its cave and live in the world. (Remember that the dragon is creativity). The greatest power of the dragon is that it can smack with its tail. When you feel bad (let’s say about not doing the Tai-chi form well), the dragon just laughs at your emotional gymnastics because they are so silly. Laughter is the dragon’s tail smacking you to wake up!

There is an extensive mythology based on animal behavior in the Zookinesis training such as the dragon described above. To put it simply, you can laugh at yourself when you can see yourself from another perspective. Comedians do this all the time. They take a situation we take for granted and describe it from another point of view that reveals the absurdity of the situation. The passive observer is that other point of view where we don’t just take things for granted. Developing the passive observer is built into every aspect of Zookinesis training and proper Tai-chi training.


There is often a big difference between what you hear the teacher say and what he means. It’s not that the teacher doesn’t explain himself well; its that his teachings have to penetrate the body of assumptions you have accumulated all your life.
A student of mine said that he read in the classics that you should do the form equally from the north, east, south and west. He took that to mean that you should begin the form by facing the east sometimes, the west sometimes, etc., so that on average, you will begin the form facing each of the directions about the same number of times. It only dawned on him this week that it means that you should do the form equally from the north, east, south and west each time you do the form and at every moment of doing the form.
Elsewhere in Tai-chi writings it says that you should distinguish left from right and back from front. This means that you should be aware of each direction so that you can make sure your energy fills each direction at all times. The two sayings mean the same thing.
Another of my students this week said that when I even discuss the subject of “attention” her mind goes blank and she has trouble even paying attention to what I am saying. Often the teacher may say something that an inner part of you understands. This inner part (the Body-Mind) wakes up because it knows that the teacher is talking to it. This can disturb, distract or even overpower the thinking mind. The thinking mind then feels weak as the Body-Mind tries to come to the fore to listen to the teacher.
The teacher may tell you how to use a part of your back or your hips in the form or push hands. If you can’t even feel that part of your body you can’t really know what he means. The students often say that for the first time they feel that they have a back (or a hip or ribs etc.). They may know they have these parts (know with their minds) but they can’t feel the intricacies of movement and behavior of those parts. It is as if you read about a person and feel you know him. Then you actually spend time with him and really get to know him.
Books and teachers can give you all the information in the world about Tai-chi but until you FEEL, you really don’t know what it means. We say that each part of the body must be like the hands. This means that, just as you can manipulate the hands either to use tools or to be expressive, you should be able to use any part of the body that precisely. This includes the ribs, the back, the hips, etc.
If you are an actor, a simple gesture should give the viewer a world of information about what is going on inside of you. When we practice sparring, we need to “read” every movement, every posture, every glance of the sparring partner. Even his breathing pattern gives us information about his intentions. It is better to spar his intentions than his physical movements because the intentions come first. When you develop this awareness then the words of the teachers mean something.
One of the best training methods I know of is called, “The jolt of thought”. When an idea comes to you, it doesn’t come in words. The entire thought hits you in an instant. Then you translate it in your head into words. The words convey only a fraction of the content of the original thought. If you can only pay attention to words and not to the original “jolt of thought” then you only perceive a fraction of the creative thought that comes to you. Practice not translating the jolt of thought into words. You will find that it is “pregnant” with content. Don’t do this while driving or operating heavy machinery.
You may eventually be able to “think” completely with the jolts rather than with words. This is called, creativity. Then when you hear the teacher, his words will trigger many inner experiences inside you and you will be content to experience them rather than needing to snatch a few words of “understanding” from them. This inner “knowing” is far superior to intellectual knowing. (Not that there is anything wrong with intellectual knowing, as long as it doesn’t cut off the inner knowing).
A good teacher teaches to the Body-Mind. Your intellectual mind may not be able to latch on, yet you do feel a tug inside. Those students who feel that tug last. Those students who insist only on their intellectual knowing, never get far. They may study for 50 years and never get far. This is true for any training which combines mind and body.
Music is a great example. You may have a musician who is incredible technically but you wouldn’t want to listen to him. Yet you may have someone with limited technical skills but who has a whole lot of soul and you can’t stop listening. Obviously as a teacher, I am a proponent of both soul and technical skills. I believe one of my faults as a teacher is saying too much. Even in beginning classes, I discuss the inner processes a student goes through. Perhaps the student is not yet ready for that but at least he gets a sense of what Tai-chi and Zookinesis are all about. If he should quit after a few months of classes he doesn’t think that Tai-chi consists of learning a series of slow movements. He understands that the “forms” as they are called, are a method of teaching Tai-chi, but not the Tai-chi itself. He gains an appreciation for the depth of this training.
Yet I often see blank expressions on students faces when I discuss these things and I wonder if I went too far. I wondered this for a long time and then concluded that I can only teach the way I teach. Those students who like it will stay and those who don’t will move on. It is torture to contain myself when I would like to discuss an interesting subject. Perhaps a balance is necessary. When the expressions become blank then I know it is time to go back to teaching the movements.


There is a point in every practice where the benefit you receive exceeds the effort you put in. At the beginning there is a lot of effort as you learn the principles and condition the mind and body. But then the creative energy of the mind and body begins to take off on its own and lead you. At that point you need to yield to your own creativity.
You can feel this principle with the compression and expansion of the body. As you breathe out in your exercises, your body sinks and compresses into the legs and into the ground (the root). As you breathe in, the body expands and the energy is propelled into the environment. There is an in-between point where this expansive energy (Yang) surges and begins to “leap” out of you. At that point you allow each muscle and joint of the body, as well as the connective tissue, to be pulled by that expansion and stretch. Just when the Yang energy is released out of the body, you begin to breathe out and the muscles, joints and connective tissue begin to relax. This cycle brings flexibility to the body and serves as an “energy pump”.
Our everyday lives can wear us out and the last thing we feel we need is another activity that requires effort. But Zookinesis and Tai-chi can serve as energy pumps. At the beginning you certainly gain flexibility, relaxation, emotional calm and other aspects of physical and mental health. Yet you have to put a lot of practice into it. But soon the benefits you gain each week far outweigh the effort.
An important key principle of the energy pump is that the critical momentum, the point at which you yield to the expanding energy, takes place constantly in your life. It does not just happen at one moment in your life. There is positive energy all around you that can pull you out of lethargy. Some of that energy is natural and some is the creativity, the art of we humans.
If you can be on the lookout for that expanding Yang energy, you will find it everywhere. You will know how to yield to it because you have practiced this kind of yielding in your exercises. You will also recognize what is positive and what is negative energy because of how it feels when you yield to it. Does it lead to more relaxation, health and creativity or less? Does it make you more energized or just more crazy and frantic? You will gain skill at what to yield to and what to walk away from.
One of the great benefits of a practice such as Zookinesis and Tai-chi is that you can take an incident in life and analyze it in your practice. If your interaction with another person went bad, you have the sensitivity to know the dynamics of how it made you feel. You can then practice those dynamics in your exercises to develop greater skills and greater understanding of yourself. You have a framework that can be used to understand your life. You will understand how the positive, creative energy you developed through your practice, can be connected to similar energy in your environment.
This will pull your life in a positive direction, calling on the positive qualities within you. It will allow you to be more “open” because you are clear about when to be open and with whom. When the energy or the people around you are not good for you, you don’t need to close up and tense up. You are so familiar with the principles of connecting that you can avoid connecting with bad influences without completely closing up.
This brings more lightness to your life without making you vulnerable. You will learn that other people can “pull” on that energy and that is not a good thing. If they pull your Yang energy out of you, it depletes you. If your Yang energy emerges out of you of its own volition, that energizes you. Your practice teaches you to discern the difference between the two and to protect yourself from being depleted.
So a simple practice like compressing the body on the outbreath and expanding on the inbreath, can permeate your life, giving you new insights about how to live more powerfully.
My books, Movements of Magic and Movements of Power are mostly about how to take your practices and use them in your daily life. Tai-chi is not just about memorizing a series of movements; it is about creating a critical momentum of positive energy that can transform your life.


When a student first begins learning Tai-chi and Zookinesis, the first thing that impresses him is how much his body has degenerated. The student is asked to use the body correctly and he can barely feel his body let alone make connections to it.
You might hear the teacher give instructions but how do you translate that into action? Your attention must be fine and energized enough to affect one nerve to move a small part of one muscle while the adjacent nerve remains still. You must be able to breathe into one small part of the lung so that the lung presses against one vertebra while the rest of the lung remains still. While it seems like it would take a lifetime to achieve these feats, you learn that they are actually very simple. They are really at a beginner’s level of achievement.
So you, as a student, wonder, “If this is simple, what hope do I possibly have of getting very far in this practice”. Add to this that as you begin to feel your body internally, the first thing that you feel is how tense, misaligned and dead the body is. No one wants to feel this. We usually are very happy to be dead so we don’t have to feel how out of shape we are. Yet what choice is there? Will you remain dead until you die or will you begin to become alive?
Every lesson and every minute of practice brings you a little closer to becoming alive. Don’t concentrate on how far there is to go. A Zen student told me that he went to a Zen monastery and the teacher had him help build a stone wall. After two hours of this he told the teacher that he was very discouraged. He worked very hard yet made little progress. The teacher told him that he looked at the situation the wrong way. “What is the right way”, he asked. The teacher told him, “Pick up one rock and put it onto the wall. Then pick up the next rock and put it on the wall.” The teacher then left. The student couldn’t understand what the teacher meant.
If you worry about accomplishing a huge task, then each effort will seem small. If you concentrate on what you are actually doing, then each effort will fill your attention. Find the joy in each little inch of becoming alive. Your body, your mind and your spirit can come to life. The mind and spirit also have muscles and bones. They have a structure – an anatomy and a mechanics – a physiology. Like the body, they can be tense, fragile and basically, non-functioning.
Tai-chi and Zookinesis teaches this anatomy and physiology of the body, mind and spirit and gives you the skills of using these parts of you. Zookinesis was originally called, “Spirit Breathing” because of the importance of the use of the breath in training. As an example, when you move in an exercise or Tai-chi form, the parts of your body create momentum. This momentum pulls on each muscle, joint, tendon and ligament of the body, aligning each part in the direction of the momentum. So each part of the body is stretched by the momentum.
As you are expanding, you breathe in. You direct that breath into each joint at the same time that the joint is being pulled by the momentum. (If you don’t understand this at this time, don’t worry. It takes training to appreciate this dynamic. I’m just using this as an example of the use of breath.) As each joint expands in pace with the breath expansion, it is also being pulled in a particular direction by the momentum. The momentum continues to pull on the joint, yet, once the joint is “filled with breath”, the breath then passes through the joint. The result is that the joint is first stretched open by the breath as it is being pulled by the momentum and then, when the breath passes through, the momentum then continues to stretch the joint. The joint is stretched from within and from without.
This is obviously a more advanced training, requiring at least that you understand these ideas in the first place. The point I’m making is that even when a student is at this stage of development, he still is amazed at how dead is his body and attention (even though it is a great deal more alive than when he started). His expectations of what he can accomplish are now so great that the above exercise seems to him as simple as moving one finger at a time may seem to the average person.
You realize that the potential of our minds, bodies and spirits is so great that it really remains hidden and unknown to most people. You begin to feel that you are living in a different world than everyone else and so seek other practitioners to have a community of people you can relate to.
Do you remember ever walking on the earth with bare feet? How did it feel when you then walked on cement? When the students have a community to relate to, how do you think it feels when they then have to deal with the culture at large? No wonder the Taoist monks retreated to the mountains in monasteries! Yet the greater achievement is to be able to function in our culture and still retain your aliveness. How else can others know what aliveness is?


When we look at the scene around us, we are actually perceiving two spots of light, one on each retina. The area of visual acuity of each spot is an eighth of an inch in diameter. We perceive a large room (or whatever we are looking at) and can appreciate its volume and complexity. Yet the visual data is just two tiny dots of light.
We learn how to take that tiny bit of data and turn it into the large world we actually “see”. Yet we rarely study or appreciate the creative process of turning sensory data into a “world”. As long as we all do it in about the same way and agree on what we see, why bother understanding the creative process behind it?
As students of Tai-chi-Chuan and Zookinesis, we need to understand this creative process. This process, which is taught to us at an early age, underlies all we experience. If we do not examine it, then we hand over our creativity, our ability to understand the world around us, to others. Each culture “creates” their world in a slightly different way. This “way” is called the “world view” in anthropology. People in different cultures see the world differently.
In our modern times there is more uniformity in this world view because our modern culture is pervasive. Yet there are remnants of older world views in each area of the world. Taoism, the basis of Tai-chi-Chuan and Zookinesis, is one of those older cultures. In order to fully learn these system, it is necessary to “see” the world in a different way. This includes the idea that consciousness is pervasive; that it exists everywhere and in everything.
It includes the experience that the seat of our own individual consciousness is not really in the head (the brain) but is free to move, both within and outside the body. These are unusual concepts from the standpoint of our own world view but in order to fully learn these systems, you need to be able to perceive this and to function in this way. Otherwise Tai-chi-Chuan and Zookinesis are just a set of physical exercises. If you can perceive the world around you in more than just one way, then you will appreciate the role of creativity in your perceptions. You will be able to separate the original sensory data from the created picture of the world.
Students are surprised at how much of their perceived world is creativity and how little is the actual data. Your first reaction might be that we should eliminate as much of the creativity as possible and only retain the original data. But then we would have little left. More importantly, that creativity is, in fact, as much a part of our world as that sensory data. We should value it as much.
And even when another person’s creativity is different from our own (and they see the world differently), we should value those differences. Once we understand that creative differences in perception are O.K., then we can stop thinking that everyone in a different religion than ours will go to hell. If God is the creative force, then there should be no conflict among people with creative differences in their world views.
There is a saying in Zookinesis, “Those who can hold one world in each hand can see past their hands”. Our hands make things. The saying means that if we can actually perceive different worlds, we can appreciate that we have made each world, to a large extent. Then we can escape being trapped in only one world and appreciate that there are many.
It also means that we tend to grab onto what we have made. We grab on for dear life. We create one world view and then hold onto it, fearing change. How can we grow as human beings if we do this? We can look beyond what we hold onto in order to grow.
Tai-chi and Zookinesis don’t just teach you another world view; they teach you how you created your own world view. They teach you how the way you view the world controls how you live and how you react to the situations of life. The way you view the world controls the way your life unfolds. If you are creative in your world view, your life will be filled with creativity and with joy.