Archive

Posts Tagged ‘movement’

MEDITATION

The process of meditation returns us to our natural state.  Our culture and our own minds have weaved many tales of who we are, where we came from and how we must conduct our lives.  Yet within us, there is a direct experience of our biological nature.  There is also an experience of our connection to the rest of nature.  These direct experiences are overshadowed, in modern times, by the stories we have been told about who we are. 

The direct, natural experiences are like a small child who constantly tugs at his parent’s clothes to get attention.  The adults keep talking to each other and ignore the child. 

Meditation is the act of yielding to the tug of your biological nature.  It is like water sinking into the earth.  As it sinks, the water enlivens the earth, allowing life to flourish.  As your attention sinks back into your body, and then into your connection to the rest of nature, the body, mind, emotions and all the other parts of a human being, become enlivened.  You realize that you are not just your thinking process.  You are not just your opinions.  You are not just your job title.  You are the experience of life itself.  This experience is often lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday living. 

Imagine you are walking through a carnival.  The carnival barkers (the people running the games) call out to you to put a dollar down to throw a ball to knock down some bottles or to throw a dart to puncture balloons.  As you walk, each barker shouts at you loudly to get your dollar. 

Life is like this.  The story our culture tells you is that your choice in life is to decide which game to play – which barker to yield to.  You may yield to the barker of buying the latest fashions or the newest cars.  The barker’s job is to convince you that you can only be a good person, you can only be satisfied, if you yield to him.  That barker may also be selling a religion or a political party. 

When you experience your biological nature, the barkers no longer have any hold on you.  They are merely people yelling at you. 

So people ask me, “How should I meditate?”

While sitting meditation is popular, I have found the best form of meditation for me is natural movement.  This may be Tai-chi, Zookinesis or any other form of activity based on the movement of animals.  Even watching animals in nature is a wonderful form of meditation.  When you imitate an animal’s movement you participate in its flow of energy (chi) and that heals you.  Dance serves a similar purpose. 

As the body moves, the mind (attention) moves along with the body.  Body and Mind flow together and become united.  The connection of body and mind heals a basic rift in the fabric of your spirit.  By experiencing the interpenetration of body and mind, you become more sensitive to the possibility of being part of a larger “body” and a larger “mind” – that of nature.  You become aware of movements of energy, movements of consciousness that flow through you.  You no longer feel isolated. 

Rather than your body and mind battling each other, you experience integration.  This affects your relationship with other people resulting in a less combative feeling.  In this way the practice of meditation can lessen the conflicts between members of a society resulting in less animosity and a more enjoyable way of life.  At the same time, each person is more of an individual.  Rather than tying your identity to the stories of the society you identify with the experience of your own individual nature.  The stories are then seen as creative expressions of deeper truths rather than as shallow facts.

I was inspired to write about meditation this week because of the Christmas holiday and the many television shows about Jesus and the history of Christianity.  It always seemed odd to me that all of the focus of these programs were on what happened rather than on what he taught.  The same could be said of other ancient religious figures.  Nowadays Jesus’ teachings are laid out in beautiful detail in the Gnostic Gospels.  They are amazing in their clarity and beauty.  Yet it seems that all people want to discover from these documents is whether Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. 

I think that our culture has become shallow in many ways.  We seem interested only in the gossip, the soap operas.  In the martial arts we are only interested in techniques rather than principles.  We think of Tai-chi as a six lesson course to memorize a series of movements rather than as a life long dedication to health and awareness.  And I have never been able to figure out why in heaven’s name, is a perfectly good pair of pants or shoes suddenly out of style. 

This past summer my daughter told me she finally had it with my lack of style.  She bought me a new bathing suit.  When I looked around on the beach it was true that no one was wearing the style I had been wearing all these years.  There was a new style that looked like a pair of baggy walking shorts.  My daughter told me that this new style had been around for a few years and I never noticed the change before.

Apparently your biological nature does not warn you about style changes.  It tells you about how to stay healthy and happy.  It tells you about your connection to all people and all life.  It shows you how being violent to others (physically, emotionally or intellectually) is really being violent to yourself.

Meditation really serves to remind you who you really are.  We need to be reminded from time to time.

HOW TO MAKE THE BRAIN POWERFUL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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