positive daily work

Recent research has apparently demonstrated that creativity is enhanced by mundane activity – something the Zen meditators have long suggested.

Too little activity and the mind stagnates, too much and the task overrides the creative process.

So, unsurprisingly, I get many ideas while jogging – so long as I am not too focused on competing with myself.

It makes sense then that we practice our Tai Chi in such a way that it becomes mundane as this facilitates not only observation but also the creative thought process that enables us to learn for ourselves.

An interesting simile is the idea of water – sometimes it is entirely appropriate to rush toward a goal with much left unconsidered, at other times it is good to just be still but too much rush or two much stillness results in disconnection or stagnation. Just the right amount of energy enables the water to flow gently into all the crevices without losing contact with the main body of the stream. Too much – we get disassociated eddies. Too little then no new connections can be made. Just the right flow and we can be connected and energetic – promoting creativity.

Zen master

I found myself being very impatient today in a quite general sense, after a series of frustrating events and released it in a physical gesture (that someone probably thought was all about them), but in noticing this I realised that it was quite natural to be impatient.

Probably not a particularly useful social posture, but quite natural – so I can stop beating myself up for being impatient and ask – how does that fit with the notion of personal development?

So what is Zen – or any other sort of Personal Development all about?

Fulfilling our Humanity – intellectually and emotionally (spiritually) and physically (Achieving our Potential) – as individuals and as group beings.

And in there it may be that not being patient is entirely appropriate – also it does not necessarily mean that you have to be likeable.

Peter Atkins in his book “On Being” says “it is of some interest to me to know what will happen to my body, for it is an old friend, we have been together for many years, and I am still rather fond of it despite its various idiosyncrasies and mounting imperfections”. While Atkins goes on to state his understanding of “Dualism, the fantasy that Mind is distinct from its substrate Body as represented by Brain” This nonetheless demonstrates beautifully the western cultural linguistic sundering of self into “Me” and “my body” so often leading to an adversarial consideration of needs and desires.

Increasingly we are recognising that the “brain-me” actually arises from the “body-me” – there is not one without the other – no brain without body, no body without brain. Perhaps then no humanity without both brain and body – even if “I” am not aware of the linkage on a day to day basis.

However it does seem to be true that as “I” become aware of and come to trust the “mind/body” self then many aspects change in positive ways. Mind in this instance including both conscious and subconscious.

Perhaps the intellectual scientific approach does not yet go far enough in its consideration of just how embodied is the brain or indeed how embrained is the body. The link it seems is not just intimate it is absolute in its intermingling – separation is not possible or desirable – quite the reverse in fact, apparently the human organism performs optimally when most integrated. Notwithstanding the achievements of mind/brain intellect or indeed of pure physicality which may be regarded as extremes to which our humanity can go but lacking somewhat in balance. Rare indeed is it to find an intellect well aware and connected to its body or vice versa.

meditation There seem to be many types and many purposes for doing meditation. As with most things some types are promoted as wonderful but are actually low level – you should decide for yourself which is which and what suits you.

I first came across meditation in the spiritual/psychological areas, but as you have probably gathered it is also a major component in many martial arts, both as a means of achieving better physical performance and as a way of dealing with the emotional stress of violence.

So I think we can consider the technique in terms of what one wants to get out of it – but more usually perhaps when starting, people try many different things to find out what they get out of them – it is useful to try a variety in order to understand the subject.

Personally I have found 2 variants particularly useful and you may like to try them amongst others.

Zen meditation
The type I was taught is where one sits somewhere comfortable, often on a cushion in-front of a wall about 2 feet away. Settle your gaze on the wall in an un-focused way then observe the thoughts that arise. When a thought arises “let it go “so use the wall like a screen onto which the images of your thought are projected then wiped off. When the next image arises wipe it away – ” let it go ” – do not get involved in the thoughts/images, just let them go and wait until the next arises – do not go looking for these thoughts. After a while no further thoughts arise and there will be only a calm mind.

Adapted Zen
For me this is a way for the conscious to contact the sub-conscious as a powerful way of resolving my understanding of a particular situation or question.

Lie down somewhere comfortable and dark. Become aware of and relax your whole body. Use the Zen technique to clear your mind – then ask yourself the question you wish to resolve, e.g. what is going on here in this situation? What do I really feel about this situation?

Allow the question to just sit as an image – generally I find in a few minutes a thought arises which is a true answer and has a resonance with my situation and feels right in my body – there is an all-over feeling of relief and letting go – an ah! moment. (Satori in Japanese)

This is not magic but the creation of new connections and you should be careful to ask questions to which you can reasonably expect that you have the ability to find the answer, since my rational for this process is that it allows you to use the sub-conscious mind – so only information you already have can be used. However I expect you will find that you have a great deal more than you are consciously aware of.

There seems to be a close similarity in meditative processes to the ritualistic physical routines of dance and martial arts, where the conscious mind is calmed or taken out of the loop so that the sub-conscious can do whatever it needs/wants without the interruption of conscious thought.
Other related activities including religious rituals and mental exercises such as path-working or self-hypnosis, all calm the chattering mind by giving the conscious mind a powerful pattern to follow, thus seeking to direct the sub-conscious in a specific way.

All have their place and their value depends on the individual and what you are seeking to do.
A final diversion – my understanding is that the sub-conscious is the real-time person and a very powerful but general bio-computer, whereas the conscious is a modelling tool ( like a video/games card ) that doubles as a post event display of real world activities and as an off-line system for intellectual modelling as a problem solving tool.

This raises the question which is the real me? And the answer may well be that the real me is the sub-conscious – but that is like asking what is a car – the engine or the tyres?

I think a more useful question is really – how can I get my conscious and sub-conscious working harmoniously together without conflict? And meditation seems to help.

If you want to practice meditation with others or learn other techniques then there are many opportunities although it is my experience that most will have some religious or other spiritual agenda – if you want that, fine, if not you could still learn from them.

Meditation is also the approach I take in my Tai Chi – where I find the quiet internal preparation and mindful observation both internally and externally to be important to practice.

I recently read a piece by Osho – a Buddhist teacher ( posted by an old friend of mine – thank you Chris for the reminder ) about the way that meditation is simply “a device to make you aware of your real self” and realised that in our Tai Chi we are doing exactly the same thing, with our bodies and our minds – so explaining the close link with Buddhism.

We are seeking to release that movement which we could have if our body worked freely and naturally. This includes it’s free relationship with our mind and our emotions – where meditation is important in developing this relationship.

We then seek to optimise this free movement in a powerful and resilient way – by using Tai Chi exercises and practice to understand it’s capabilities and limitations.

Tai Chi Exercises and Meditation with Alexander Technique

21 October 2013

Judy Hammond and I had a brilliant time with 14 attendees on Sunday who all brought open minds and sparkling interest to our seminar at The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living – many had Tai Chi experience already but many did not – coming from a variety of backgrounds including Yoga teaching and Alexander teaching. […]

Read the full article →

Forthcoming Chen Style Tai Chi events

17 October 2013

Very soon now we have our own seminar – Tai Chi Exercises and Meditation with Alexander Technique – at the Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living this Sunday – we still have a few places left and Judy Hammond and I are really looking forward to working with everybody. Please contact the Centre to book your […]

Read the full article →

Tai Chi Exercises and Meditation Seminar with Ian Deavin and Judy Hammond

30 August 2013

We are pleased to announce a one-day seminar covering Tai Chi related exercises and meditation with the added benefit of Alexander Technique, hosted at The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living on 20th October 2013 from 10 – 4pm.  The mix of meditation and movement combines to create internal awareness and understanding of our body usage […]

Read the full article →

The differences between exercises and playing!

30 March 2012

It was my final golf lesson yesterday – out on the course and after feeling pleased with myself with the putting, chipping and driving in previous classes naturally it was all different playing the holes for real! Just like doing push hands with another person for the first time. Actually it is perfectly understandable – coming […]

Read the full article →

If you meet Buddha on the road – kill him!

11 May 2011

I threw this quite mainstream Zen saying to my Sunday class recently – and was rewarded with a brisk and humerous discussion on the evening and then later with a link to this interesting article – what goes around – comes around! Share the post “If you meet Buddha on the road – kill him!” […]

Read the full article →