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Liberating The Body
THE PEAKS OF EXPERIENCE
Knowing the viewpoint of other people in other times educates our own understanding, a summary of some of the other approaches to inner-directed movement will be given in more detail than in the earlier chapters.
Seitai - The Open Approach
Seitai is one of the most open of the approaches mentioned here. It is non religious, and is based on the simple observation of its founder, Haruchika Noguchi that we have in us the power to stay healthy, or be healed if ill. This power of keeping balance amidst the changing forces around us such as heat and cold, trouble and calm, is the power of life that has formed our body. This power, which Noguchi saw as the self-regulating action of the body, can be influenced by the way one thinks and feels, by ones beliefs.
Noguchi has pointed out that if one feels confident about maintaining ones health, even though those around you are sick with colds or flu, then your body will remain healthy. This confidence in ones own power over sickness is seen as one of the rewards of using the movements. The confidence arises, Seitai practitioners say, because through the spontaneous movements you become aware of how the Ki – the energy of the living being – is released from its blocks in you, and can be directed more consciously.
As Seitai has developed from the Japanese system of thought, a mixture of Buddhism and Shintoism, it does not speak of any source of life outside oneself. But Ki is here the equivalent of the Christian Holy Spirit, or the Hindu Shakti – the force that shapes you and supports your continued existence. Seitai describes this as inherent in the person, but often mismanaged through negative mental attitudes and beliefs.
The Seitai practitioners I met were more unpretentious about their method than individuals in other approaches I had been with. I was allowed to walk in or out of their practice as easily as one would visit a public swimming baths, and they had the same easy enjoyment of it. With tighter belief systems or where it is based on religious beliefs, there is less freedom of behaviour and dress.
Unlike some of the other approaches mentioned below, Seitai is unfortunately not yet a world-wide organisation. But considering its accessibility and open viewpoint, this may change. It is such a safe and easy approach though, that is easy to practice alone, or start your own group. Its belief system and theory are so minimal it is difficult to go wrong in ones use of it.
The practice was always made available to me freely in Japan, though when attending a group led by a practitioner there are small costs connected with hiring a hall. This is not a practice that has a profit making motive though.
The headquarters of the organisation are: Seitai Kyokai, 9-7 Seta 1 Chome, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
The Work of Dr. Wilhelm Reich
Reich was not only qualified in biology, as a medical doctor he also studied psycho-analysis under Freud. In the 1920’s however, he began to break from the Freudian school as he felt there was a more direct way to work with people through their body. He observed that the people who came to him always exhibited muscular tension in various parts of their body. Working with these he found that when the person was able to release these tensions spontaneous movements arose. These movements, so like Mesmer’s early findings, were seen to be part of the psychosomatic healing process working automatically.
Reich observed that during this release there were often feelings of great streaming or energy in the person, sometimes linked with emotion and insight. Perhaps more than any other clinical therapist or doctor of his time, he recognised that a spontaneous, self-regulating activity or energy was at work in all living organisms. This, he observed, lay behind all life’s most important drives, such as breathing, sexual feelings, care and love. If this energy, which he felt was universal, was blocked in the individual, instead of flowing freely in their life as pleasure, sensitivity and a natural care and morality, it led to aggressive and unfeeling activity. He saw this as behind the political and religious activities of his time, in which individuals were of little account.
Gradually Reich developed very definite techniques, working with respiration, muscular tension and character attitudes. He particularly explored the place of sexuality in individual, social and political structures. He helped people release their own self-regulatory process and work with it toward health and wholeness. As people learnt this they experienced spontaneous movement, trembling, changed feeling states and emotional and sexual release.
Reich’s influence has been enormous, but not on the established medical or psychological schools. Mostly his work has been taken up and extended by practitioners working under the umbrella of Humanistic Psychology or the Human Potential movement. Although spontaneous movement is still a strong feature in the work of people using his approach – now called Bioenergetics – there is a lot of psychotherapeutic theory and techniques used. So there would not be a group practice such as described in Seitai or Subud.
Easily found in most European or North American areas.
Varies. This is usually a led activity and so the group leader requires a fee. When used individually, as with a therapist, the costs are highest, often being between £15 to £30 per hour.
As there are so many groups and approaches to Reichian work, I am giving contacts that will lead to particular groups or practitioners. Humanistic Psychology Practitioners, Ian Lee, 14 Mornington Grove, London, E3 4NS. Tel: 081 983 1492. Self And Society Magazine - Editor David Jones, 39 Blenkarne Road, London, SW11 6HZ. Tel: 071 228 1107. Human Potential Magazine, 5 Layton Rd., London, N1 0PX. Tel: 071 354 5792. These last two magazines feature articles and advertisements that give contact points.
The Subud Brotherhood
The practice of inner-directed movement within Subud is called Latihan. The practice was founded by a man named Mohammed Subuh, an Indonesian. As Indonesia is largely Muslim, the latihan has a slightly different theoretical base than the Charismatic Movement and Shaktipat. It is though, still seen as an action of the “One great life” upon the physical and mental nature of men and women.
A lot of the Indonesian viewpoint is built into the way the groups operate. For instance it is suggested that one must not watch someone else, particularly of the opposite sex, practise their latihan as this can cause problems.
Outside of Indonesia there is a three month waiting period for new members, to ascertain their sincerity. Also the men and women are segregated during the latihan. Practitioners meet twice a week for about half an hour of latihan. There are no teachings with the latihan, as it is purely experiential. Once again though, the monotheistic concept of Islam is strongly a part of how the latihan is approached. But support and sociability is a large part of the group experience, and most members do not push the Islamic aspect at all.
The long term effects are said to cleanse human nature of forces that deplete free will. The major change is a growing sense of unity with the force behind all nature. Being Muslim, Pak Subuh calls this an alignment with the will of God.
Pak Subuh is called a helper rather than a guru, and there is no need to offer him respect or adulation. In forming the structure of the organisation Pak Subuh has made an obvious effort to make the latihan available to people of other cultures. Perhaps his great breakthrough was to offer it outside of a particular religious affiliation – although as has been noted, his innate cultural beliefs are still very evident. Pak Subuh also made very clear the cause of a lot of human misery. Namely the dependence upon exterior objects such as car, television, for happiness. He taught that our personality is often a prisoner of material, animal and vegetable forces active in us. He likens this to being kept a prisoner or slave in our own house by thieves who break in and overpower us.
The format of the practice in which a group directly gives itself to spontaneous movement, makes it very much less obstructed by belief systems and the ritual that is involved in some approaches. Only Seitai manages to have an even more open door, standing as it does outside of any affiliation or direct connection with a teacher or group.
Subud, like Seitai, has a very direct practice of inner-directed movement. If you can deal with the limitations arising from Pak Subuh’s belief structure – such as limiting the latihan to half an hour, men and women segregated, and the aim of the group being almost entirely a spiritual one, then this is an excellent way to use inner-directed movement.
Nearly every large town has a group.
This is not a profit making organisation in the sense of being run like a business. Therefore only about £2 a week is asked to cover cost of hiring hall, etc.
The official address of Subud for general enquiries is:- Subud Centre, Watton Villa, Brecon, Powys, Wales. Tel: 0874 623310. For local groups there is usually a member’s telephone number in most area phone books under ‘Subud’.
Mesmer – Founder of Modern Self-Help
Franz Anton Mesmer was one of the first people to observe inner-directed movement and explain it outside of religious beliefs. In about the year 1775 Mesmer, a qualified doctor three times over, began to experiment with magnets. He saw that patients who had previously been incurable with the medical knowledge of the time, were healed when these were placed on their bodies. He found that while a person relaxed with the magnets on their body, spontaneous or involuntary movements would occur. If these were allowed to express strongly, the person would often experience healing of psychosomatic illness that had afflicted them.
For a year he had a mania for experimenting with magnets in quite extraordinary ways. But within that period he realised the same healing results could be obtained without using the magnets. He found that simply by stroking or touching the patient along the line of the nerves, the muscles would begin to twitch. This twitching, he said, should not cause alarm, even if it led, as it usually did, to an intensification of the patients symptoms or even powerful movements. Throughout these releases, noisy and explosive though they were, he saw how patients could experience a healing of the distressing symptoms.
Mesmer is a transforming link with our own times because his approach to this phenomena was an experimental and evaluative one. Nevertheless he was still bound to the past by his belief that another human being’s presence was necessary to act as a channel for a cosmic energy to reach the sick person. Thus he still remained, in this aspect, in connection with the guru as agent of change tradition.
Stefan Zweig, in his book Mental Healers, describes Mesmer’s way of working as follows: “With a serious and dignified mien, calmly, slowly, radiating tranquillity he would draw near to the patients. At his proximity a gentle fit of trembling would spread through the assembly. He wore a lilac robe, thus calling up the image of a Zoroastrian or Indian magician.”
Three hundred years ago, despite his exotic dress and manner, Mesmer ran what was obviously individual and group therapy of a successful nature. Although he thought of himself as a channel for a cosmic energy, he nevertheless recognised an agent other than personal technical skill at work. Mesmer gradually moved into greater and greater complication however – people dancing around trees for instance – instead of simplification and clarity. Out of it came Mesmerism which took the form of positive suggestion, completely leaving behind the aspect of allowing the person to experience their own spontaneous process – unfortunately this rejection of the spontaneous, and replacing it with ritualistic or controlled activity, or a setting in which an authority figure can take charge, is a recurring theme. In Mesmerism – which became hypnotism – the spontaneous forces of self healing were usually ignored – even suppressed. The vainglorious power or forceful skill of the mesmerist or therapist took its place.
Nevertheless, a great deal of research has been done through hypnotism that relates to inner-directed movement. Great historical figures like Andrew Jackson Davies and Edgar Cayce, both of whom exhibited extraordinary ability to extended awareness, show the amazing possibilities of the human mind. Both Davies and Cayce could give information about people’s physical condition without examining them, or even seeing them. (See There Is A River, by Thomas Sugrue. Dell. Also, Edgar Cayce – Seer Out Of Season, by Harmon Bro. Published by Aquarian, 1990.) Although hypnosis is extremely unreliable in the sense of being functional with most people, with the right subject ‘peak experiences‘ can often be achieved. These are mentioned because it was Mesmer who in the West began researching the phenomena of deep relaxation.
Mesmer’s work has only been carried forward as hypnotherapy. Therefore no data is given about availability, etc.
The Wisdom of Carl Jung
In Psychological Commentary On The Tibetan Book of The Great Liberation, Jung says: “If we snatch these things – experience of the world of the psyche – directly from the East, we have merely indulged our Western acquisitiveness, confirming yet again that `everything good is outside’ whence it has to be fetched and pumped into our barren souls. It seems to me we have really learned something from the East when we understand that the psyche contains riches enough without having to be primed from outside, and when we feel capable of evolving out of ourselves with or without divine grace… We must get at the Eastern values from within and not from without, seeking them in ourselves, in the unconscious. Because of these resistances we doubt the very thing that seems so obvious to the East, namely, the SELF LIBERATING POWER OF THE INTROVERTED MIND. This aspect of the mind is practically unknown to the West, though it forms the most important component of the unconscious.
In Jung we find something of the reverence for what is met within a human being – a reverence for life itself – our personal power to find wholeness, and transcend our own limitations. One of his many great contributions is to see the ‘self liberating power of the introverted mind’ as being a natural process in us. It is not splitting hairs to say that this view of the transforming influence belonging to oneself, rather than being a gift from God or the work of magic forces, is in itself liberating. It is unifying. It heals the splits or conflicts created by seeing human and spiritual life as separate – one as insignificant and the other great. In fact Jung points out in the same commentary quoted above, that one of the ills of the Western mind, is its infliction with the idea that “Grace comes from elsewhere; at all events from outside” – from above? He goes on to say, “Hence it is quite understandable why the human psyche is suffering from undervaluation. … For him – the western individual – man is small inside.”
Although it is not widely recognised, Jung did directly encourage his clients to explore spontaneous physical movement as a means to knowing themselves more fully. He explains his method in his commentary to The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese book about meditation. He suggests that the person allow their hands to fantasy and play. In this way the unconscious can express itself despite the common blocks the conscious logical mind may set up.
The Enlightenment Intensive
During the explosion of new or improved self-help techniques that emerged in the 1960’s, Charles Berner started teaching a modification of an age old form of Eastern meditation. The approach was very well known, and Kipling describes it in his book Kim. It was also the method recommended by the sage Ramana Maharshi. It is simply to ask oneself the question – Who am I? This was usually done alone, and took possibly years to carry the meditation through the surface layers of self to a direct experience of ones fundamental nature. Berner discovered that by working with a partner the results of this technique were speeded up to an unbelievable degree. The results were that one uncovered and experienced who one really was, beyond surface doubts and uncertainties. Berner called this technique Enlightenment Intensive.
Although Enlightenment Intensives do not start from the point of free flowing movement, I see them as connected to inner-directed movement because they directly allow the same process to work. They encourage an open allowing state of mind that allows whatever you truly are in yourself to emerge and be known. When that emerges in the process it does become strong feeling and movement.
The format is very simple. A group of people work together. You sit opposite a partner who asks a question you have previously chosen to work with. The question can be ‘Tell me who you are’, or ‘Tell me what you are’. After making an intention to have a direct experience of who or what you are, you take note of what you experience each moment, and report it to your partner.
It is stressed that you keep an open allowing state of mind. When I experienced this way of working I was reminded of a vacuum cleaner. The open state of mind resembles a vacuum that sucks up any debris lying around and so cleanses one of attitudes and concepts that have been lying around for ages.
This is the total practice, but its simplicity hides a great deal of value. Although it may sound very cerebral – that one sits and responds to a question – in fact the thinking mind is transcended. At times the body is powerfully affected, along with the emotions. This is why I list it here as an available resource for people using inner-directed movement.
Practised as a intensive process over several days. This means it is an occasional event rather than an ongoing practice. Therefore availability depends upon whether you are near to Intensives being run. These are not frequent but are reasonably accessible.
Fairly expensive because it needs the use of a premises and helpers over several days. I paid £140 for three days, inclusive of food and lodging. The unwaged can get a lower price.
In the U.K.
Jake and Eva Chapman,
The Old Manor House,
The Green, Hanslope,
Bucks. MK19 7LS.
Tel: 0908 510548
Cornwall, TR19 6BN.
Tel: 0736 810530.
Kington, HR5 3QA
Tel: 04973 439
In the USA.
20 Swan City,
The Charismatic or Pentecostal Movements
One of the best known traditional approaches to inner-directed movement in our own culture is that which lies at the roots of Christianity. In reading Acts of The Apostles in the New Testament, in which the experience of Pentecost is described, a definite impression of a group practising inner-directed movement is given. The group had an open allowing state of mind by surrendering to what to them was a holy influence – the Spirit. They also openly expressed themselves vocally in what is called tongues. This is not a rational singing of a hymn or song with known words. It is the expression of irrational sounds freely flowing, sometimes beautiful, sometimes harsh. Movement was also a part of the experience, so much so they are said to have been thought of as drunk while they were allowing the spirit to move them.
Because of the sense of wonder and awareness of harmony between oneself and the rest of nature that occurs during some phases of inner-directed movement, it is not surprising, given that past cultures tended to explain natural phenomena in religious terms, that their explanation of what happened was God centred.
Of great interest however is that the experience was seen as a healing and cleansing one. It was one that led the participants to feel great joy. They felt it so important they wanted to communicate it to others.
As time went by, the freedom and spontaneity went out of the practice and became ritualised ceremony and stated dogma. Today the Pentecostal experience is being once again revived under the name of the Charismatic Movement. Because it is still strictly within a Christian belief structure, it may only have something to offer to Christians who want a freer and more joyous way of expressing their faith. My experience of it is that, like other approaches with strict rules of behaviour, there is a self limiting factor to it that sometimes causes people to miss discovering some of the important dimensions of themselves possible through inner-directed movement.
Most towns have a church given to the Pentecostal approach.
Usually based on donations. Whatever you feel you want to contribute.
Assemblies of God Headquarters, 106/114 Talbot Street, Nottingham, NG1 5GH. Tel: 0602 474 525. Elim Pentecostal Church Headquarters, P.O. Box 38, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 3HN. Tel: 0242 519904.
Shaktipat – The Indian Approach
The word Shakti is Sanskrit. It refers to movement and energy, as the English word ‘shake’.
The practice is described as a letting-go of one’s conscious ego enough to let an internal energy flow freely through one’s body and mind. In the Indian tradition the original release is seen as arising through contact with a guru, although this is not an absolute rule. As the energy begins to flow the practitioner begins to move spontaneously, doing postures they had perhaps never done before, and singing in ways they had not practised or known previously.
These movements and sounds are known as kriyas. They might occur while the person is practising alone, but group practice is also used.
I do not have a great deal of experience with this approach. From what I have observed there is a very strong Hindu religious and yoga belief system surrounding shaktipat. The guru is of great importance. Before the kriyas begin, a great deal of chanting is used, so it is not so directly movement-centred as some of the other approaches described here. But I have seen a photograph of a large group of people, perhaps a hundred or more, using shaktipat in the open air. It appeared to be directly movement-based.
There are centres in most Western countries, and of course in India.
Although the attendance at a centre is not costly – I stayed at the Ashram in Ganeshpuri for £2 per night inclusive of two meals – the attendance of courses can be very expensive.
Siddha Yoga Centre,
Conford Park House,
Hants, GU30 7QP.
Telephone 0428 725130.
New York, 12779,
Summary Of The Approaches To Inner-Directed Movement
In summarising what has been said about the various approaches to inner-directed movement, I am brought back to the very first paragraph in the Introduction to this book. Inner-directed movement is about RELAXATION. By letting-go of physical tensions and rigid attitudes or anxieties, we free ourselves to express more fully, more confidently. We allow what Jung calls the self liberating power. This process is already working in each of us as the self-regulating activity behind our own growth and present survival, behind our dreams. By opening more fully to its activity however, we allow aspects of it to express that were only potentials beforehand.
My own belief is that behind all the phenomena spoken of that arise from inner-directed movement, there lies a simple natural process. Just as self-regulation is the most likely force behind the movements and spontaneous experience, I see the potency of individuation behind the varied phenomena. By individuation I mean the action that moves us toward growing up physically and mentally. It is especially noticeable during our childhood and teenage, but we see it at work throughout our life in our maturing. ()
I am not, however, saying there is nothing extraordinary or magical about these forces in us. Of course they are natural and a vital part of everyone’s life, but the natural is not bounded by materialistic views. Our individual life is inextricably interwoven with our local environment, the world and the cosmos.
I do not believe this interior intuition or vision of nature’s secrets is a supernatural process. A very large part is due to the mind’s ability to scan huge amounts of small bits of information and experience and see them as a whole, as patterns or structures. Therefore, the very ordinary experiences and memories we have of walking down a street, of seeing our family and friends in their everyday experience of life, of witnessing the seasons, of being involved in change, are all crammed with information. When all the tiny pieces are put together we see certain cycles, certain processes working at all levels of existence. In this way we glimpse the powers of nature, of Life, touching the world and our personal existence.
While the older or God centred approaches to inner-directed movement deal mostly with the personal relationship of oneself with the whole and with society, the more modern approaches explain more about ones relationship with oneself. So Mesmer, Jung and Reich have a great deal to say about psychological processes that act as barriers to the person finding peace and satisfaction. They believe that by working with the natural in the person – the self-regulatory process – by stopping personal conscious effort and, as Jung put it, ‘letting things happen’ without interference, one can grow beyond previously insoluble problems.
Our awareness of being a separate individual rests upon an immense and ancient structure. Our being stretches right the way back from the conscious sense of self through the unconscious organ functions of our body, beyond the cells and molecules, into the atomic and sub-atomic to the mystery of what we have yet to find out about the foundations of life. Even if we never know all, there is certainly the possibility of meeting with that wonderful essence of life that is in every aspect of ourself. The essence that is totally ourself because it is in all, just as heat pervades all objects in a room no matter what their material shape or size.
The Simplicity of Letting-Go Needs Working At
Profound subtleties lie behind the simplicity of letting-go and letting things happen. Many of the tensions or character attitudes that hold us back from liberation of body and mind are unconscious. A simple test on seven or eight people will demonstrate this. To see this for yourself have a friend sit in a chair with their hands relaxed on their lap, and tell them you are going to move their hands and arms. Tell them you are going to do the work, so there is no need for them to make any effort. Then gently take one of their hands and support the arm at the elbow with your other hand. Slowly move their hand and arm, noticing how much resistance there is in their arm, how much they unconsciously try to help you. You will find in some subjects an uncontrollable urge to do the movements themselves, creating resistances. In many people the tension in their arms will be sufficient, if you move the arm slowly, to take your hands away at some point, and their arm or arms will remain suspended in the air through unconscious tension.
The person whose arms you moved will feel quite relaxed, they will certainly not be aware that they had tensions sufficient to suspend an arm for quite a long period. These powerful tensions are throughout the body, and especially noticeable in the arms, legs, neck and jaw. Being unconscious they are not under the voluntary control of the person. They do not know they have them, so they do not know how to let go of them. If you have someone do the same test on yourself you will be helped to recognise the state of your own tensions. The same manner of working can be used on the legs and the neck. If the person has learnt inner-directed movement, and can allow spontaneous movement or response of feelings while the tension is in place, or being massaged, a melting of the tension can take place.
Having worked with people who have massive unconscious tensions in their muscles, I have found it is not simply a matter of pointing them out and the person relaxing them. This causes confusion because they are not available to conscious control. What Reich found was that such tensions only melted when the emotional or attitudinal energy involved in them is discharged through movement and expressed emotions. It may take years to melt such tension one by one from yourself through inner-directed movement. As each one is unlocked, so the energy used to hold the tension in place for years, and the energy it restrained from expression, is now available for your everyday use and enjoyment.
What Is Attainable?
To say what is realistically attainable is difficult because each person is unique. Some people never learn to swim, others swim the English Channel easily. The range of the possible is enormous.
However, a fuller maturity is attainable. In the Collins dictionary the word maturity is defined as ‘full development’. It means you can more fully develop those qualities and abilities that are innately yours, but may not have previously emerged.
Part of this maturity or full development is also self responsibility. People who are used to blaming God, their parents, the government, their spouse, for their misery or situation, gradually find their own power to change their life and their character. This is not always an easy transformation, because after all it is convenient to blame someone else.
Maturity may mean being capable of love or giving oneself to someone else. It may mean being easy and at peace with sex, or coming to terms with the world and people as they are instead of how our fear or prejudice might wish them. It can mean feeling okay with technology and religion, yet also wanting to produce positive change in the world.
In the end it is simply about being able to live your life as fully as you can.
 This growth expresses not only as powerful physiological processes but also as dynamic psychological forces. As such it links with the process behind dreaming and fantasy that is an intimate and important part of psychological growth and change. I believe this is why the apparently fantastic – deeply moving subjective experience and myth building – is so frequently a part of this process of maturing.