- On Waking Up — Awake as compared to Asleep
- The Attack of the WhyBut Monster
- Owning Your Life — Self-responsibility as compared to Blaming
- Into the Flow — Flexible as compared to blocked
- Dropping the Ego — Self-actualized as compared to self-absorbed
- Having Integrity — Truthful as compared to devious
Into the Flow — Selecting flexibility over rigidity is difficult, as for many, it seems out of control. Well, it is! Learning to let go, to go into the flow of life, is like taking a zip line — one minute standing, the next, flying. And attached to the line the whole time!
In the process we use with those who choose to work with us, (Open Palm Solutions,) we use the terms flexible and blocked to talk about Bodywork states.
- Flexibility is a state of freedom of movement and the free flow of chi, or energy, within the body.
- Being blocked, on the other hand, is all about the conditions that lead to being or having stagnancy in the body, mind and spirit.
But we sure wouldn’t want to limit these terms to Bodywork — they apply as well to the living out of our days.
Flexibility is the ability to look life straight in the eye and to deal with it as it is. Flexibility is the understanding that I always have choices, both in how I think and in how I act.
Notice how fixated most people are on wanting other people to be flexible. They think that others should see their discomfort, hear their complaints, and simply stop doing (or start doing) whatever they demand.
The blocked person expects to be given a pass, simply because they think that change is “hard,” or “impossible.”
Blocked, stuck people believe that others are capable of change, (stuck people believe others are resisting change out of malice, though…) while they, ever the poor “victim,” have no choice, and are doomed to repeat the same behaviours.
Heaven betide the person that suggests that they might simply want to consider changing their own approach to a more flexible one. No, blocks are earned honestly, and most folk simply aren’t interested in making the effort.
They remain convinced that it is easier to change the people they relate with. Because, of course, a major aspect of being blocked is having fixed opinions.
Blockages develop “early on” and build from there, and are based solely in our beliefs about who we are, who others are, and how the world works.
I’m working with a young guy whose parenting included a domineering father and an overly compliant mother. The son is 19, and has had major problems with the police, in his relationships, and at work. He has fixed beliefs about the superiority of men (especially himself,), and the flaws of “all women,” whose role he sees as meeting his every need, “Because that’s what women are supposed to do.”
When I listen to him talk, I hear a lot of arrogance. He’s convinced that he has all the answers. His screw-ups are always the fault of others — others do not appreciate him, or understand how smart he is. His relationships follow a similar pattern — he assumes the role of “demanding parent,” as he endlessly corrects his partner, while blaming her for everything that goes wrong. And plenty goes wrong.
Whenever I say anything about anything, his first words are, “I know that. Stop telling me what I already know.” When I ask him how someone as wise as he is can be in as much trouble as he is in, he gets quiet for a moment, then blames his mother, his girlfriend, and his friends. The blockages and rigidities are in place, and no matter what goes wrong, he knows who to blame. He’s in therapy, he tells me, to make better choices — as in, pick people who will never fail him.
Bodywork and the move from rigid to flexible.
Many fear change — and stay stuck by not paying attention to their own voice. This imbalance is all about the comfort of the familiar — the stability and familiarity of the unstable.
I had an interesting week, with three participants in a row. Each is at a different place as regards what we call “letting go.” If you’ve read the Bodywork section of our site, you know that I combine eastern and western approaches to Bodywork. The deep pressure part helps the body to let go of tightness, and the “making connections” part is half Chinese meridian work, half Chakra work.
What I do, I tend to do instinctively. In other words, I don’t think about which points to hold (or their names) — I just follow my inner flexibility.
In each of this week’s examples, the person involved is seeking her path — and the path involves freeing up the “essence of life,” which we could call passion. Each wants more freedom, new directions, and more intimacy. Each has a different amount of resistance.
A normal session involves an hour or so of dialogue, and then an hour or so of Bodywork. I usually “start off western,” and apply deep pressure to stuck muscles. With sound and emotional expression, blockages let go.
Toward the end of a session, I’ll shift to the eastern approaches, and work on each of the Chakras — then hold acupressure points, and wait for the “pulse” to connect.
In each case, was holding a point a bit above the pubic bone with one hand, and behind the knee with the other. What I saw, as the points connected, was movement in the pelvis, and physical shaking. Each then expressed quite clearly how alive, “together,” and passionate they were.
As I was writing this, I thought it would be interesting to actually identify the points, and check them out in Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements. What I found was Bladder 39 (back of knee) and Kidney 11 (top of pubic bone, slightly to either side of the mid-line.)
The bladder and kidney meridians are a pair (The Water pair.) Here are some paraphrased details from the book: Water is about (duh) fluidity, flexibility, flow, and “[It’s] vital energy lubricates life.” The sense organ is the ears. The emotion associated with the pair is fear. The power generated by Water is the capacity to create trembling.
OK, so what?
Well, as I look at it now, each participant chose to “hear” a different story — our dialogue was about letting go of stuck behaviours. One siad, “I’d like to let go, provided I’m safe.” I replied, “Safety is another word for control. So, you’re saying, “I want to lose control, as long as I’m in control.” She laughed. In Bodywork, she and her body did decide to “let go,” and the result was movement, and trembling, and a really huge smile.
We could say, in each case, that the participant let go of her fear (a means of control if there ever was one) and then the energy of life began to flow. The blockage of control is rigidity of thought and action. The release is fluidity — and it is felt in the body as trembling, charge, passion, and creativity.
Flexibility is the willingness to discard what isn’t working. In the martial arts, it is the ability to adjust the response quickly and accurately to the actual attack. In business it is the ability to flow with the marketplace and with co-workers, without demanding to rigid adherence to what may or may not be the case.
In all situations, flexibility is about bending with the wind, without breaking.
I had an question a couple of weeks back from Marvin Pribble:
You mentioned in this article about suggesting topics. I listened to an interesting interview on NPR about alcoholism and AA. One person called in and was uncomfortable with AA’s basic idea that you needed to hand the responsibility for your life over to a higher power. It seems contrary to the idea of accepting responsibility for your own life. I know I don’t believe in a higher power and don’t think saying “Ok, you make me do what’s right’ and waiting to see what happens is going to give good results.
Let’s see where this goes:
The simple answer is that there are AA-like programs out there that remove the “higher power” languaging. (For example, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
Of course, there’s a broader question here. It’s the “god” question - higher power personified.
There are two things:
- If god doesn’t cut it for you, what takes the place of, especially, AA’s 3rd step: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
- the underlying theism / atheism debate.
So, where do I land on all of this? Firmly on the Pathless Path of Zen, of course!
In reverse order, I have absolutely no clue as to the existence of a higher power. No doubt, I once had firm opinions about this, and was a minister for 13 years, a Christian for 45. Now, I’m a simple Zen guy.
Not an atheist, though. I’m simply not interested in the debate.
The Buddha, when questioned about god, the afterlife, the meaning of death, etc., would refuse to answer. Or rather, said, to paraphrase,
“Why bother discussing things that we are not capable of resolving? What we can talk about is right here, right now. Here, we choose.”
I agree, and not just to suck up to Buddhism. The funny part about this debate is that both sides are stating a belief — a belief, by definition, is an unprovable position. Just as it is impossible to prove the existence of a higher power, it is impossible to prove the lack of one. Given the ever-present reality of our world, and the dramas there, intellectual debate about unprovables seems a tad wasteful of energy.
It’s why the Pathless Path doesn’t proselytize. We have nothing to convince you of. No philosophy, no belief to be swallowed whole. Again following a (paraphrased) comment by the Buddha, we simply urge you to,
“Try this out in your own body and experience and keep it if it checks out for you.”
If it works, do it. If it doesn’t drop it.
So, does this make me an agnostic? I’m agnostic on the question! 😉
I just don’t care. Irrelevant. I choose not to play the “higher power” game; I take personal responsibility for the “whole catastrophe” that is my life. I also have no desire to distract myself with nonsensical questions, like god’s existence / non-existence — which reminds me of the Midieval argument about “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” I also have no desire to “prove” there are no angels.
Which leads back to the first fork in the road. What takes the place of “higher power?”
Self-responsibility. Of course.
The only thing that’s relevant is what I choose. A person who stops drinking, stops drinking, and as AA rightfully points out, that decision is made over and over again. “One day at a time” is really, “One moment at a time.”
I, being me, really don’t care if someone stops drinking and gives “god” credit, or stops drinking and takes credit (self-responsibility.) If the object is to open the door, how one opens it is simply “the method.” The opened door is the result of action.
It seems the height of foolishness to try to disabuse someone of what they believe to be so — my approach to therapy is to slide past the “why” question — “why doesn’t this work?” — to own that whatever it is is not working, and then to develop a strategy for doing things differently.
I don’t have to destroy a belief — a waste of time and energy if there ever was one — I help the person shift a behaviour.
So, if a client was having trouble with god-talk in AA, I’d help them locate an alternative (that‘s what Google is for!) without getting into the diverting debate of higher powers.
Why is life the way it is?” is a silly, unanswerable question.
“Here is what I am going to do to engage with life!” Now there’s some meat for the pot!