It’s uncanny. You start working with a person doing some simple activity, like eating an apple. You slow it all down. You give someone a chance to sense how they’re doing what they’re doing as they’re doing it. “Well, what do you notice,” you ask. They say, “I’m biting off more than I can chew.” The bell goes off. There’s nothing you have to say. There it is, his whole life in one action. He gets it.
A person walks to the door, opens it, and leaves the room. Simple enough. I invite her to return. “Well, what did you notice,” I say. She says, I don’t know. I saw the door handle, felt the door open, felt myself leaving. My eyes were cast down. Something sad about the whole thing.”
“Very good”, I say. “You’re waking up.” This time see the whole room you’re in before you leave, and everything and everyone in it. Say to yourself, thank you and mean it. Walk to the door, open it, and as you are crossing the threshold, linger there between two worlds. Sense how leaving is entering. Let your eyes take in the space you’re about to enter. Just this time, don’t look down and see what happens.”
As I make this suggestion to my student, the bell goes off, for me. Yes, every lesson is for me. Every life is my life. Everyone in everyone. The whole world in every dewdrop.
Sometimes movement is just movement, and sometimes movement is metaphor. Sometimes movement means something, something important. Something about our lives and how we live them.
This passage from Where This Path Begins is one example of how I have attempted to convey Lao Tzu’s insights through the workings of the body. The goal? Always, always to get to the heart, to the heart of the matter.
You’re Too Much
Arms are limbs for your hands.
Arms fold and unfold. They raise and lower.
They don’t like to be stiffened or over-straightened.
If something is beyond your reach, get closer, or do without it.
Clutching, grabbing, gripping, grasping.
Why hold on to things so tightly?
Legs are limbs for your feet.
Over-stride and your heels will strike against the ground.
Your back will tire. Your feet will ache.
Why get ahead of yourself?
Puff up your chest, and your lower back will tighten.
Your shoulder blades will narrow.
Your nose will stick up in the air.
Look down on others, and they will not look up to you.
Talk too much and you will lose your voice.
Why over explain?
Too much is too much.