Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Cut Above Bodywork

As a shy and sensitive teenager at an intellectually elitist English boys school, easily prone to blush in the vicinity of girls, I cultivated an alternative persona of hard-drinking, iron-pumping rugby player, which carried over into karate practice and eventually even into Zazen itself. Mike Cross, Zazen man of iron. I took the same well-cultivated attitude to the Shobogenzo translation itself: "Just fucking do it."

Nishijima Roshi's original co-operator on the Shobogenzo translation was his beloved disciple Jeff Bailey. It used to bug me, as it also seemed to bug other of Gudo's foreign disciples, that Gudo seemed to regard Jeff as his favourite son. Gudo denied it, but it seemed obvious. When Gudo and Jeff were together, it was like that old thing of sympathetic resonance between tuning forks. I felt jealouos that Jeff had it whereas I didn't. Still, the Shobogenzo translation was too heavy a burden for Jeff to carry. Too heavy for Jeff, but not for iron-pumping Mike Cross.

Thank God that beneath the macho posturing, the other strand, the more sensitive strand, was still pulsing faintly at some level, not entirely out-muscled, leading me to the subtle teaching of FM Alexander. Leading me in particular to the teaching of two Alexander teachers, two old ladies as it happens, to whose frequency I have resonated.

Shobogenzo Book One, published in 1994, begins like this: "When the buddha-tathagatas, each having received the one-to-one transmission of the splendid Dharma, experience the supreme state of bodhi, they possess a subtle method which is supreme and without intention."

If I expressed the same thing today, not as a literal translation but in my own words, it would go something like this: "When buddhas of the authentic one-to-one transmission are experiencing for themselves the Buddha's supreme enlightenment, there is present at that time in them a subtle skill which is of the highest order and yet natural and spontaneous: without artifice or pretense, free of doing."

People who have no experience of Alexander work, who have had lessons but failed to understand the subtlety of it, think that it is a kind of bodywork--something akin to Pilates, Qi Gong, Yoga or some manipulative therapy. But truly it is, in the words of one of the old Alexander teahers mentioned above, "a cut above" all those things. It is of a higher order. It is not about postural self-adjustment or muscular re-conditioining. It is about allowing.

It is all about allowing. Even after 12 years in the Alexander work, and 25 years of Zazen, I still have to remind myself of this constantly. Allowing is a subtle skill of the highest order. It is a cut above bodywork.

12 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

With "allowing", don't we also have to "let go"? If all "allowing" and no "letting go", doesn't this create the logjam of suffering?

I agree with "allowing". Please- your thoughts on the subsequent "letting go" which seems to me to be all the more difficult.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

" When Gudo and Jeff were together, it was like that old thing of sympathetic resonance between tuning forks. I felt jealouos that Jeff had it whereas I didn't."

At last, some genuine honesty from you. It is nice to see. Now I know a little from where your bitterness arises.

[This is now all Grandmother and egg Stuff, you know it intellectually only]

The world is not as you would wish it to be. Let go of your wishes. Only then can you see the world as it is.

The past is gone and is never as we believe it to be. Let go.

Most of the rest of your post is about you strongly held beliefs. Some of them may also be true (I do not know. It is irrelevent) Let them go.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Chris h,
Thank you for your question. For me the expressions "allowing" and "letting go" are two fingers pointing at the same moon. Allowing suggests allowing something to happen. Letting go suggests letting go of whatever it is we hold onto that prevents something from happening.

What does it mean truly to let go? That is the difficulty. We sit on the zafu, and then that is the starting point, to come back to that question. What does it mean to let go, with the whole body-mind? How can this whole body-mind be caused to manifest the Buddha's truth of letting go?

True letting go always turns out to be deeper within me than what I expected. I thought my intention was to let go, but didn't realize that I would be called upon to let go of even that--that which I didn't realize I was holding onto. I write of intending to let go but, truthfully, the bigger part of me doesn't want to let go at all. To see that is at least something. To be wise at least to that is something.

Letting go is the subtle skill. The criterion for it is the samadhi of accepting and using the self. So I see it that way round. The starting point is the intention to let go -- what floating weed calls "relinquishing ALL views." Except that what is required is not only an intellectual letting go; it is a real letting go, realized through the whole self. What is subsequent to that is the samadhi of accepting the self and using the self.

"The use of the self" is both a traditional Buddhist expression and also Alexander's phrase. The aim of Zazen is to enter into and experience the samadhi of accepting and using the self. That is the criterion. The subtle skill we have to learn, in order to meet that criterion, is the letting go.

I write not as a master of letting go, but as a searcher on the path of letting go.

Let me tell you something, chris h, from the heart: true Alexander work, under a teacher who knows the score, is really something. Alexander re-discovered the secret of Zen for our time. But don't take my word for it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Mike, good luck to you. I hope your faith in your intuition gets you to where you want to be. You might be there already. I make many decisions based on intuition also. Mine is telling me the opposite of yours. Life is funny that way.. It is hard to ignore that inner warning system even though in my own experience it is sometimes based on vaguely remembered incidents of our formative years which have no real substance or worth as harbingers. I won’t try and convince you of anything. You have a steely personality that I think might be unbreakable. That is a good quality in most realms. It should take you far. Again, good luck.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Virtual Ain't Reality said...

Mike, you've written: . . . when a stimulus reaches my consciousness, there is a possibility for me, as a human being, to make a decision NOT to react. The first step is to STOP. Stopping allows the possibility of a new response. Without stopping there is no possibility of anything other than my habitual response, no possibility of any meaningful change.

Gautama Buddha understood this clearly.


Unfortunately, Mike, you clearly do not.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Letting Go:

It's not deep. It's not profound. It's replacing one thought with another, or no thought at all.

Current Thought: "I believe....."

New Thought: "I choose not to believe...."

Eg: Gudo and Jeff:
New thought: "I recognised in me that Jeff had something that I did not. I am pleased that I could see the truth. Now I wish to acknoledge it. It was not Jeffs fault that he had that thing. I desired that thing. The desiring in my caused me to feel Jealous. I let go of the Jealousy and recognise the desire. Now I choose to let go of that desire. "

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

The spine letting go of the head and the head letting go of the spine is not an experience that can be conveyed by the written word.

But by looking at the words people write, one can suppose that they have never experienced it.

What "letting go" means to a person who has experienced it is not the same as what it means to a person who has not experienced it.

If floating weed reveres the viewpoint of jzd, then I can't help but doubt the viewpoint of floating weed.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Mike, sorry for all my stupid advice. I'm through posting to your blog. I should have quit with “good luck.”

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

mc: "What "letting go" means to a person who has experienced it is not the same as what it means to a person who has not experienced it.""

In my own case you presume incorrectly,it is just the wrong 'letting go'

The 'letting go' to which I refer is only the 'letting go' of an idea, a belief, a thought. In psychology this is called Reframing.

I can put it no more simply. There is no more I can say on this. It is the only thing holding you back.

Mike,
I feel there is no more I can say to you. You want to hold onto your beliefs really badly. You attack anyone who tries to help you. In the same way as a wounded animal that knows no better.

I think, like Oxeye this will be my last post on your blog.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  

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