Your Guru The Body – Part Three

With all our technology and scientific understanding we cannot create anything near the complexity and wonder of a living creature or a simple life form. Despite this, few modern human beings have much veneration for the process of life as it shows itself in their own body. There is certainly a growing attempt to work with the natural, but nearly always with readily formed techniques. As individuals we also frequently kill out what is natural or instinctive in us, perhaps even with our ideals of spirituality or environmental harmony. It is rare to find someone who will drop aside ready-made approaches, and listen to what their own being has to say without interfering. Even such apparently gentle practices as meditation, often have a very defined consciously decided goal. Listening to the body’s own needs and learning from it is real respect. It is an admittance that the process of life sustaining us, in its experience of millions of years, in its creative struggle, its countless lives and deaths, has something of great value to show us. It is also an expression of trust that the unconscious secrets of Life’s experience are communicable to our listening consciousness.

In the last step, the aim was to gain experience of allowing what was probably an unexpected movement. If you experienced your arm or arms lifting as if floating upwards, it probably felt quite strange. Practising it enables you to feel at ease with your body making movements without you consciously willing them.

Of course, your body is making lots of such movements. They occur all the time when you breathe, when your heart beats, perhaps even when you go to the toilet, sneeze, or vomit. But most of these you are used to. You have grown up with them, so to speak. If you had never had a bowel movement before, or never sneezed or seen others do it, and suddenly in your twenties you went to the toilet or sneezed, you might find it very disturbing. I know of people who have experienced a spontaneous movement such as you are learning to allow, and were so worried about it they went to their doctor to get a tranquiliser.

It is natural for your body to move spontaneously. The only reason it doesn’t do so more often is that we restrain it. In most social settings we usually restrain everything except what may be acceptable to others, expedient in the situation, or judged as correct. This means that you may not be giving yourself the freedom to allow your own creative imagination, or for your body to discharge tension through movement, experience your intuitive process, or experience your full range of feeling responses. In this way you gradually diminish yourself, blocking out much that is not of immediate use in everyday affairs.

The thread you are learning to grasp is the delicate balance of remaining conscious and critically aware, yet maintaining a keyboard condition in which your unconscious body-mind wisdom can express. This influence arises from what Jung and the Eastern masters called the Self. It is your fundamental level of awareness, your core self. Learning to allow the spontaneous movements is one of the ancient ways of listening to the voice of the Self – or as it is called in ancient literature, the Voice of the Silence.

At the moment, if you have used the two previous steps, you will have grasped the beginning of this thread. But what has happened so far is not very refined. So now we must learn to follow that thread as it leads into finer and wider experience, the following will explain why

The processes of life itself are about constant change. If our body could not go through radical internal changes to meet different temperatures we would die very quickly. It is a force of change that never stops. It is the power that has constantly moved you through babyhood, childhood, adolescence into adulthood, and will continue to push you through old age and death into life again.

I have never heard anyone say they were taught this at school. Yet these little secrets are life sustaining, and enable us to survive awful knocks and immense changes.

In 1885 the Belgian physiologist Leon Fredericq described it this way, “The living being is an agency of such sort that each disturbing influence induces by itself the calling forth of compensatory activity to neutralise or repair the disturbance. The higher in the scale of living beings, the more numerous, the more perfect and the more complicated do these regulatory activities become. They tend to free the organism completely from the unfavourable influences and changes occurring in the environment.”

That last sentence is an incredible statement. It says that innate in all of us is a process that automatically deals with the challenges our environment, our life, confronts us with.

A little later, in 1900, Charles Richet a French physiologist went further by saying, “The living being is stable. It must be so in order not to be destroyed, dissolved or disintegrated by the colossal forces, often adverse, which surround it. Everything in our universe strives to reach a state of Homeostasis or equilibrium. This principle applies to single individual entities to massive complex systems either metabolically, physically, socially or psychologically, even spiritually. By an apparent contradiction it maintains its stability only if it is excitable and capable of modifying itself according to external stimuli and adjusting its responses to the stimulation. In a sense it is stable because it is modifiable – the slight instability is the necessary condition for the true stability of the organism.”

It took me a long time of searching to find, in my own way of life, the wisdom in those two statements. It took me even longer to learn how to apply that in my life. When I did an extraordinary process revealed itself. I have written elsewhere about suffering depression and terrible exhaustion in my twenties and how I found my way out of it. And it was through dreams and life’s little secrets stated above that it was done.

In searching for relief from misery I tried many different things, relaxation, yoga, meditation , fasting, and diet among them. They promised to be helpful but something was missing that I only began to uncover when I started teaching relaxation/surrender. Some of those classes I taught were huge back in the sixties and seventies. To help people I would wander around the class and lift an arm or leg of some of those lying quietly relaxed. I lifted the limb to let the person have an enhanced awareness of their relaxed condition. What amazed me was that often the arm or leg was so rigid with tension it was hard to move. If I let go the limb would remain suspended. On asking the person how they felt they would say, ‘Fine. Really relaxed.’ They didn’t know they were carrying enormous tensions.

Are you relaxing or suppressing?  

It took me a while to realise what that indicated. You could relax surface muscles and feelings, but a mass of tensions were unconscious. Later I learned that such tensions had often arisen from difficult or traumatic past experiences, still locked in the body and emotions. By using relaxation techniques such as dropping the tension of the voluntary muscles or meditating on positive things, those inner tensions were being pushed back into the unconscious – undealt with. When left at that point, relaxation and meditation were a method of suppression and control, not of healing.

With shock I realised this was true of many things that were supposed to be helpful, such as meditation and positive thinking. What they often did was to calm surface feelings by controlling thoughts and body. They did not deal with the real difficulties that had been pushed into the unconscious. Their purpose was to quieten the conscious mind and the voluntary movements of the body, not release unconscious tensions.

I went on an almost fanatical search for what could be done to change that – to release the unconscious problems. The clue was, as Richet says, that ‘the slight instability is the necessary condition for the true stability of the organism.’ I gradually realised that to really adjust to the many knocks and changes we meet in life, our body and mind need to be capable of a type of ‘instability’. It needs to be able to move, to express freely, and to respond automatically or spontaneously. Yet all our cultural training and habits are about control and suppression. Governments also sometimes give huge threats to the people if they do not conform. All in all, we have in many ways been trained to be sick – as I was myself. And, amazingly, my doctor, to deal with depression and physical but undiagnosble pains, was telling me to take a drug, a tranquiliser, to maintain the status quo.

To deal with it is something we need to experience, not something we are taught. The simplest way of describing it is to say it is a process of allowing parts of ourselves to express that in everyday life may never have had opportunity to declare themselves. It is about surrendering our personal egoistic control, and trusting that our Life Process knows how to bring us to wholeness once we yield to It.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T.S. Eliot

“Do nothing, but let things happen.” Carl Jung

In most social settings we usually restrain everything except what may be acceptable to others, expedient in the situation, or judged as correct. This means that we may not give ourselves the freedom elsewhere to allow our own creative imagination – our body, our real self  to discharge tension through movement – experience our intuitive process – and our full range of feeling responses. In this way we gradually diminish ourselves, blocking out much of ourselves that is not of immediate use in everyday affairs. We may in fact diminish our relationship with Life itself.

Later, I found in the writings of Carl Jung and J. A. Hadfield information about how this self-regulatory action also works in the psyche. Jung stated that the psyche is self regulatory. He said that if internal tensions can be allowed to be conscious, then something will happen internally to resolve the conflict. Jung’s student Marie von Franz says that we ‘must get rid of purposive and wishful aims. The ego must be able to listen.’ Jung also encouraged his clients to allow spontaneous movement. These exercises must be continued until the cramp in the conscious is released, or, in other words, until one can let things happen; which was the immediate goal of the exercise.” See Letting things Happen

What help was using T. S. Elliot’s advice to, “… be still and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing;” So for ages I sat and waited without hope, love or anything, and in doing so we tried to listen to see what our body wanted to do; what posture or movement our own internal feelings led us to. Then sitting with my friends one day in our experimental group I started to shake. I thought I must be cold so restrained the shaking. But at our next meeting it started again, and this time I was wearing a warm jersey, and in no way felt nervous, so pulled slightly apart from my friends and let myself really shake.

What happened was incredible. My body and my emotions discharged the whole experience of having my tonsils out as a six year old. My head pulled back, my mouth clamped open and my arms were in the position of being strapped to my side. Perhaps I had not been fully anaesthetised – I don’t know. What I do know is that I had carried that enormous tension and shock inside me from six until I was thirty five. Up until that day I had experienced a powerful neck tension that I had tried again and again to ‘relax’ away. My being didn’t need to relax, it needed to discharge in powerful tension, physical struggles and emotion. After this ’shaking’ experience there was never again a tension in my neck, a tension that had been caused by trying to pull away from the surgeon cutting my throat. However, it was not simply a physical tension it released. Powerful emotions were also discharged, ones that had created difficult responses to everyday life.

That is the guru of your body moving you, it leads to:

“Tony explained to us about letting whatever came, come. I did not understand too well, but lay down with the others and he came to each of us briefly and moved our arms, and left us lying. Perhaps two minutes passed when I felt a distinct twitching around my brow, which was repeated, and then it spread down my face, a downward pressing movement. My face was involved then in a big muscular movement, pressing down, seeming to flatten the face, and then spread down the body towards the feet. Gradually my whole body became involved in big waves of pressing movement which flowed down, lifting and tossing my legs, so that my heels were banging on the floor. Wave succeeded wave. I did as he said, and let it happen, using the skills to relax which I had learnt. I wasn’t afraid, although I couldn’t imagine what was happening to me. Instead I felt happy and elated, warmed through. I knew I had found something of great significance, but it was many months before I could put words to it. It remained an intriguing mystery, like a dropping away of chains, or a touching of promise, while I passed through the pain of divorce. I feel that my experience that day released considerable energy. It did not break my marriage – that would have happened anyway. But I received strength which I used for my needs at that time. Months later it came to me with the force of revelation, that I had been born that day.”

The next step is called Moving Sea.

You will need up to an hour to complete this step. The aim of ‘moving sea’ is to continue the development of body awareness and how you allow spontaneous movement. Once you have used this approach as suggested below, there is no need to go through the preparatory stages in future uses. For instance do not do the yawning and arm lifting. Go straight into exploring the water movements. This can be used over and over with enjoyment and gain.

  1. To start step two, stand in your space for a while and be aware of the movements of your chest as you breathe. As you observe this, every so often hold your breath out for a while and notice what it feels like as your body wants to make the movement to breathe in. Unless you hold your breath for a long time, the urge is quite subtle. As you become aware of it have the same keyboard feeling in your body as you had with the previous steps. Do this for about five minutes, or until you are satisfied.
  1. Remind yourself of the feeling of spontaneous movement by using the ‘arm against the wall’ exercise.
  2. Extend your awareness of how your body and feelings move spontaneously by simulating yawns and allowing them to develop into stretches or movements.
  3. Then stand in the middle of your space and close your eyes. Lift your arms from your sides and take your hands high above your head. Do this a few times noticing the difference in feeling between having the hands high or low. Do this before reading on.

4. Now relax with hands by your sides. Hold the idea of taking the hands up high again, but do not consciously attempt the movement. Take your time. Be aware of how your hands and arms want to make the movement. Or perhaps there is no urge at all to move your arms. The point is to avoid making a mechanical movement, and be aware of your feelings and motivations. This means watching to see if the sort of feelings that entered into your yawning and arm rising sideways exercises are in operation here. If this includes the rest of your body, or your arms go in another direction than above your head, or do not move at all, that’s fine. Explore this before reading the next paragraph.

5. If you need to, have some music playing that does not grab your attention. Stand in your space with eyes closed. Drop unnecessary tensions as you listen to the music. Hold in mind for a moment the idea that you are giving your body space to explore expressing the quality of water. There is no need to think about what to do. Let your body explore. Trust it to find its own way to expressive movements. It is important to be patient, to wait for something to arise by itself. Allow yourself about 15 minutes for this. Remember how gentle the urge to breath was, so allow any such gentle urges to move you. Remember too how your arms felt if they made their own movements above your head. If these urges fall away, stop and wait. It is okay if nothing in particular happens.

6. Take time to observe and allow the delicate motivations – magnetic pulls – directing your body to watery movement.

7. You may find you have resources of imagination you did not suspect. Aspects of water you hadn’t consciously set out to explore will be expressed in your movements. If you are expressing deep still waters, you will actually feel a deep quietness and power. Or if it is the power of rushing rivers, then a feeling of power will surge through your body as you touch your resources of strength and healing. The flowing feelings that arise are actually healing.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved