Posts Tagged ‘senses’


One of the most important lessons I have learned from my training is that the condition of your mind and emotions greatly affect how you perceive your physical environment. Your senses don’t simply tell you what’s “out there”. The senses are in a fluid relationship with what is going on inside of you.

My wife Jean used to teach a class in the “foam roller”, a four foot long, eight inch thick piece of sturdy foam. At the beginning of the class you lie on the floor and notice how your back feels on the floor. Of course, the floor feels very hard.

After rolling on your back on the foam in various ways, you lie on the floor again and the floor feels as soft as a soft mattress. How you feel the floor depends to a large degree on the condition of your back – tense or relaxed.

After a push hands class, students feel very different than before. Push Hands requires you to relax and to be connected to your partner. Your attention must fill his body so that you know what is going on inside of him. In this way you will know if he is preparing to push you. Your attention must be “released” into the partner as well as into the ground, so that you are “grounded” or “rooted”. If you are rooted you are much harder to push over.

After class your state of connected attention is still with you. As you move in your surroundings, you seem much more connected to them, less isolated and more aware of what is going on around you. The world around you seems much more vivid. It seems to be part of your flesh and much more alive.

Now imaging feeling this way all the time. You would have to live in a “softer” (more natural) environment to be able to exist constantly in this state. Otherwise the “harsh” world would wear you down quickly.

And that is why we tense up and withdraw our energy from the environment. Our modern environment is not “biologically friendly”. It is friendly to machines. And so we must become like a machine and become dead to the relationship between our inner state and our perceptions. Our state becomes frozen so that we can feel comfortable in a frozen environment.


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.