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Your Guru The Body – Part Eight
Being able to move, and being alive are tightly bound together. All the life processes in us express as movement of one sort or another. To breathe, to laugh, to make love, to feel anger or joy, is to move. When any important life-movements such as those taking place in the intestines, the heart, the genitals are inhibited, then we are less alive, less healthy. Every emotion we feel has its corresponding movement in action, in a body posture or in subtle changes in our muscles. When powerful emotions such as love or anger are not expressed they become ‘held-back-movement’. We usually call this tension. As such tension deepens it becomes psychosomatic illness – pain without apparent physical malfunction. In its worse form it becomes actual illness. Some of the most common ‘movements’ we hold back are those connected with love, sex, anger, fear, crying, emotional pain and sometimes even laughter and joy. In our dreams we often attempt to express movements that are suppressed during our waking life. Unfortunately our habits of tension are so deep we may not manage to find release even while asleep. (From Dreams and Dreaming by Tony Crisp)
In the previous seven steps, the fundamental secrets of how to follow the thread of your subtle life processes have been given. Life is movement. In its movement Life laughs and cries, it sings. Life also dances, and it explores the wonders of its own sentience through imagination, imagery, the rousing of memories and creative fantasy.
So if you have followed the seven steps you may have begun to experience this dance of life, this song. Perhaps you have even experienced some leap of imagination or flight of consciousness into its huge ocean of possibilities. But of course there is more, much more, to experience. And to find this you need to come again and again to the listening, to the growth of the seed or the dance of your body in its movements or struggles.
Therefore, rather than give another approach to use, time will be taken to explain a little bit about what you are doing, and what you are opening to within yourself.
During 1968, while teaching relaxation techniques to people at the Tyringham Naturopathic Clinic in Buckinghamshire, UK, I found the first clues to an exciting possibility in human beings. I had been teaching the usual form of relaxation in which one consciously tenses the muscles, then relaxes them. As an aid to people experiencing the pleasure of dropping tension as fully as possible, I often went to each person in the class and gently lifted an arm or leg. The aim was to give them the experience of someone else moving their body, so they could give up their own effort or tension. I found that many people’s limbs were very difficult to move because they were rigid with tension. Surprisingly when I asked the person how they felt, they would usually say they felt relaxed and comfortable. Meeting this in person after person, no matter their age or sex, led me to realise how ineffective ‘normal’ forms of relaxation and stress release were. Also, more important, it showed that many of us are living with quite enormous unconscious tensions operating in us. Unconscious because the people I tested were unaware of their tenseness, and ‘felt’ relaxed. Yet to maintain the sort of muscular effort that makes an arm or leg difficult to move uses a great deal of energy. If you lived with such tensions, because of the energy wasted in maintaining them, you would have less energy to use in the other departments of your life.
The next step of discovery came when I found that if a person was helped to allow the tension in an arm or leg to remain, and if the person could allow their body and feelings freedom, the limb would start to shake as the tension released, then to move spontaneously. Fortunately I had read reports of such movement from throughout recorded history, so I had some idea of what to expect. Nevertheless it took some years to begin to be able to explain in modern concepts. I mean by this that older reports explained the experience in terms of religious belief or in ancient approaches such as acupuncture or the chakra system of yoga.
In observing people allowing spontaneous movements, and in trying to understand the wide range of experience they met, I found a particular image helpful. For instance, consider how you might see yourself if a film were made of you like those showing speeded-up plant growth. On such films you see the plant moving and growing with incredible vigour. Its leaves and flowers open with powerful movement. If the film showed you from conception onwards, you would see amazing change and expansion. An extraordinary process would be seen causing your body and mind to unfold. You would observe incredible amounts of movement, many of them spontaneous. The movements in the womb, in babyhood and even in your adult sleep, you would see as inner-directed, and powerful. You would notice that as you gradually matured, conscious control of movement became more prevalent. But still your sleep movements, breathing, yawning, stretching, laughter and tears kept you in touch with the incredibly wise process which directed your overall growth and survival. It is this often forgotten, but very real process underlying your original growth and continued existence that you allow into a new level of expression when you relax fully.
However, to do nothing and wait, to be patient with ones own internal creative process is not a quality highly developed in many of us in today’s world. Yet this is vital if you wish to work with this miraculous process of growth and integration within yourself.
The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, called this process the ‘transcendent function’. He named it this because he witnessed it enabling people to grow beyond problems that crippled them, problems that had appeared insoluble. Writing about this he says, ‘Here and there it happened in my practice that a patient grew beyond the dark possibilities within himself, and the observation of the fact was an experience of the foremost importance to me. …. I therefore asked myself whether this possibility of outgrowing, or further psychic development, was not normal, while to remain caught in a conflict was something pathological. Everyone must posses that higher level [of possible growth], at least in embryonic form, and in favourable circumstances, must be able to develop the possibility.
Jung goes on to say, ‘What then did these people do in order to achieve the progress which freed them? As far as I could see they did nothing but let things happen… The art of letting things happen, action in non action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Master Eckhart, became a key for me… The key is this: we must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us, this becomes a real art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be a simple enough thing to do if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things.’ (Quoted from Secret of the Golden Flower by Wilhelm and Jung)
Yes, simplicity and letting things happen is difficult. We do keep interfering. We rationalise what is happening and explain it away. We erect goals because of something we have read or heard, and strive in a direction other than our own internal process moves toward. We think we know best and so ignore the incredible overall viewpoint our internal awareness has.
Another viewpoint of the process is stated by J. A. Hadfield, a psychiatrist who specialised in working with dreams. He says, ‘There is in the psyche an automatic movement toward readjustment, towards an equilibrium, toward a restoration of the balance of our personality. This automatic adaptation of the organism is one of the main functions of the dream as indeed it is of bodily functions and of the personality as a whole. This idea need not cause us much concern for this automatic self-regulating process is a well-known phenomenon in Physics and Physiology. The function of compensation which Jung has emphasised appears to be one of the means by which this automatic adaptation takes place, for the expression of repressed tendencies has the effect of getting rid of conflict in the personality. For the time being, it is true, the release may make the conflict more acute as the repressed emotions emerge, and we have violent dreams from which we wake with a start. But by this means, the balance of our personality is restored.’ (Quoted from Dreams and Nightmares by J. A. Hadfield) See The Secret Power for more information about self-regulation.
Eastern practitioners describe the practice in a different way. In the book The Secret of the Golden Flower, from which the quote from Jung is taken, the Chinese method of transcendent meditation is described. The book uses deeply symbolic language, but basically it is saying that to reach transcendence, you must allow your internal energies to circulate according to their own nature. This is achieved by action in non-action – by allowing things to happen while holding the conscious self quiet.
Some approaches to this, Such as Subud in Indonesia, and Shaktipat in India are very active in the way they express this action in no-action. For instance, in his article Between Coma and Convulsion, in the magazine Energy and Character, David Boadella quotes the report of a westerner studying the self-regulatory practices in India. Although this is a recent account, the yoga practice it describes has been used for many centuries in India:
I have been in India for about four months now and I thought the readers of Energy and Character might be interested in the similarities between Reichian work and Shaktipat or Kriya Yoga. The Sanscrit word ‘shakti’ means energy, bio-energy, or more correctly, bio-cosmic energy. Shaktipat is a practice that is described as the loosening of this energy by a guru from the way it may be blocked in us. When this shakti energy is loosened and no longer tightly bound by the control of the conscious mind it begins to circulate in the body. It is then said to open up energy channels or pathways, and usually begins to manifest in what are known as ‘kriya’. Kriyas are spontaneous movements of the body and of the respiratory system.
The explanation for this is that the shakti is opening or purifying obstructions in the energy pathways, that the individual is working out the results of past actions and experience, and that an evolutionary process is allowed to unfold which eventually will result in an expansion of awareness.
In this kind of meditation the individual sits still, but not rigidly; he doesn’t concentrate in any way, but simply relaxes as much as possible and permits the energy to do its thing. The energy is of course thought of as ultimately cosmic or divine. Hence the path of enlightenment lies in relinquishing ego control and identifications and allowing this bio-cosmic energy to express itself and lead us. The final results of this process are the opening of the highest brain centres in a new type of consciousness in which the individual merges with the universal consciousness. The total process takes a very long time but this should not dissuade us as each stage has its own rewards.
Remember that working alone is fine, but using these approaches with sympathetic companions often deepens the experience, and give support.