Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fundamental Grumble of the Middle Way

In 1999, after training as an Alexander teacher and a reflex inhibition therapist (but still having very little real understanding of what either Alexander work or reflex inhibition meant), I called my practice "The Middle Way Re-education Centre." Shortly after I posted up a web-page at (last year I scrapped this and set up a new one at But on the original webpage, the sub-title I used was something like this:

Beyond the traditional forms of Zen practice and non-form as it is practiced in the Alexander Technique, there is a middle way of reflex action.

Not for the first time in my life, my "too excellent" brain had leaped ahead and found the answer, leaving my poor old lumbering body struggling to work out how.

One could easily spend a lifetime researching the transmission through India, China, and Japan of just one traditional form: e.g., the kasaya, the Buddha's robe.

FM Alexander considered that, in the matter of practicing non-doing he had in his lifetime only "scratched the surface of the egg."

Peter Blythe of INPP Chester, having spent a lifetime approaching some understanding how the vestibular part of the ear can be retrained, told me that if he had another lifetime he would like to devote it to trying to understand how to retrain the auditory part of the ear.

In 1244 Master Dogen wrote:

"There is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body; there is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind; and there is sitting as body and mind dropping off, which is not the same as sitting as body and mind dropping off."

This statement is of a similar order of truth as Einstein's statement that e = mc2.

It didn't matter tuppence whether Einstein whispered gently, or shout and swore, that e = mc2. Nothing changes the fact that e = mc2. E = mc2.

But Einstein was only expressing a truth of the material world. Master Dogen was expressing truth of a higher order: the truth of the matter-and-mind-dropping-off world.

Has anybody heard any good jokes recently?

A good joke, for me, one that makes me chortle inside, has a punch-line which reveals to me that I was expecting something different.

The truth is never what we expect the truth to be, and never how we expect the truth to be. Doesn't the history of science show us that? They say that quantum physics, while passing every scientific test thus far, is so counter-intuitive that even Einstein couldn't accept it might be true.

And yet, without knowing it, we expect Gautama's truth to be like such and such, and we expect it to have a sound like golden bells being rung by a golden Buddha. We don't expect to hear it being yelled by a man of conspicuously low self-esteem -- the non-venerable one, the not chosen one, Mr Angry, red-faced and swearing. But our expectations and preconceptions are one thing. The truth is totally another.

In the absence of any good jokes, are there any questions?


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