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HH the Dalai Lama once said that you should never get married until you had “gotten over” your parents. What did he mean by “ gotten over”? He meant that you cannot claim to be free of the continual rain of influence that your childhood had over you until and unless you can sit down to dinner with your parents as an adult and not have some “buttons pushed”. What does that mean precisely? If asked, most people would say it means that something your parents say-usually criticism-engenders a hair-trigger response of anger aimed at your parents most likely stemming from guilt or a feeling of inadequacy which then seethes inside as you feel you will never come up to your parents’ expectations. This is a rough definition of “baggage”, because you carry it with you everywhere.

It goes without saying that losing this luggage is something to be desired at all costs, and the “talk therapy” culture actively promotes this goal. However, Woody Allen’s life and works demonstrate conclusively that merely talking about one’s issues is never going to dissolve them. His neurosis is probably the font of all his creativity.

No doubt there are people who have benefited from talk therapy but Freud’s top disciples always felt his theories were inadequate, and that being a passive listener to a patient’s ramblings is going to get nowhere.

What is needed is a definition of “baggage” that also includes such inter-related terms as “trauma”, “PTSD” and “Shock”. Any event which has engendered such conditions inevitably creates a shock wave that permeates the physicality. Otherwise, we would be fine after a bomb explosion, or murder attempt. All soldiers would settle back into society with no problem. But they don’t, and they are killing themselves more and more from their “demons”. But where do the demons reside? ( New evidence is emerging of the actual shock wave of IEDs and bombs having serious effects on the brain) Are “demons” the same as “baggage”? What is it? What is needed is a theory of body that is able to competently explain how emotions can inhere and cohere to the deepest recesses of a human being, and how certain triggers can cause the original event to be “re-lived”, creating the “PTSD”. What actually happens when they “have an event”? In essence, they go asleep from the current reality, and they enter an internal world of projection, where the event is replayed, and the body believes it is happening again, firing a cascade of stress responses of the HPA ( Hypothalmic Pituitary Adrenal axis)

The best theory I have heard is the Initial Traumatic Event lodges energetically in the connective tissue, like a sonic signature, and assumes a “shape” that can be accessed by a certain “pitch”; in other words, a sentence, word or even the physical presence of somebody can trigger the “shape” to “play its tune” which provokes (Jericho-like) a seismic emotional quake in the mind’s “eye”, replaying the initial traumatic event which the person then perceives as “real” ( they must perforce lose presence during this event)  and they have a response commensurate with the initial incident. To make things worse, many people replay the trauma daily by creating relationships with people who are similar to their abuser/parent: Individuals may also suffer from repetition compulsions, which are unconscious, habitual reenactments of elements of a past traumatic experience (if not repetitions of the precise trauma itself). Repetition compulsions are frequently seen in the area of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. For example, a survivor of childhood abuse may unwittingly select an abusive partner in adult life, and adults who grew up witnessing domestic violence may demonstrate the same abusive behaviors toward others that were modeled to them in the past”

Any therapist will tell you that they have had clients who have cried on the plinth after a massage or a deep tissue session. What is happening here? The deep manipulations cause the connective tissue to be vibrated and the embedded signature tune is “woken up” and plays itself reflexively, and the client has an event, except that in this case it is to be hoped that after “playing itself” the original traumatic episode is allowed to release itself into the ether through pathways opened by the therapist via the physical therapy because the internal alignments are restored to something approaching “normality” ( whatever that is depending on culture); I have no proof of this that can be shown on the page except for thousands of “anecdotal” personal accounts, because of the inherent limitation of western science to the idea of “Energy” despite the fact that they blithely assign the term “dark matter” to much of the known mass of the universe and that Descartes still rules in many academic throne rooms.

Is there a point to my prelude, my preamble, my amuse-bouche?

Of course, you can guess. Tai Chi and Qi Gong do the same thing. The deeply deep twists of tai chi and qi gong go right into the very recesses of the core of your body, and when you spiral those fibres down to the marrow, you inevitably release stuff, mostly unconsciously. It often hit me as fatigue, or a crushing desire to sleep.

When I started out in tai chi, I was very strong, but also very tight, tighter than a bow string, and equally highly strung emotionally, always easy to blow off the handle or cry, but mostly prone to depressive lows, thanks to a less than Von Trapp family upbringing. Now, at 47, I believe I am much more relaxed physically, emotionally, psychologically and mentally, despite constant provocations from the same and new sources. While some of this is due to my meditative practice, meditation alone without regard to the body could not have achieved it. However, certain questions remain. Is it possible to be mentally clear, “enlightened” according to the traditions, and be physically tense, and can that physical tension hold “baggage”? My own meditation teacher, Namkhai Norbu, is very clear on physical relaxation being a necessary precondition for mental calmness. He calls it “cutting” (chod) as in cutting the rope that binds a bunch of sticks. The natural falling to the floor is the kind of relaxation required. The Chinese term “Song 松”has a similar meaning of “untying”.

The slings and arrows of the modern world are different from the spears and thorns of Paleolithic Man, who faced mostly physical danger. We are assaulted by ecological destruction, connectedness with Nature severed; emotional manipulation, abuse and abandonment on industrial levels; nutritional calamity leading to havoc in physical and mental disease levels; media saturation of fear and impossible standards; promotion of money, youth and fame as the ultimate happiness. Our society is deeply disturbed and ill. These “ thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” are creating deeply wounded humans. It is my hope that the sane thread of recovery that skeins through the warp and weft of the shuttled movements in Tai Chi and Qi Gong, if practised and taught correctly, can contribute to the urgent healing of the society of Man, before it leads to even greater catastrophe.


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