When Master Chen was at my school in April he had us explore emptiness. Emptiness in the leg from the knee downward. Emptiness in the spine from thedown through to the coccyx. It was a challenging process.
He told us that, as human beings, we do all we can not to go there as we experience this as death. This emptiness is a space before muscles get involved.
To help my students move closer to this state as best as possible I spent one evening doing Mentastics. Mentastics means mental gymnastics. It was developed by Dr. Milton Trager, a former American professional acrobatic dancer, boxer, and physician. It is a companion method to the form of massage he also created and that bears his name. To find more about him just google his name. He had a beautiful book that is only available on e-Bay or Amazon as used copies, as far as I could find out. The title is: “Movement As a Way to Agelessness: A Guide to Trager Mentastics,” 1995, 176 pp., Station Hill Press, Barrytown, N.Y., ISBN 0-88268-167-2.
With Mentastics one wants to do as little as possible. Movement is minimal and pleasant. Each time one does a movement, the goal is to do 50% less the next time around, always asking the mind to answer a question that only it would answer in its own way without any need to bring the answer to consciousness.
It goes like this: How could this be free? How could this be freer? How could this be even freer? And even freer than this freer?
Mentastics is an approach. Not a goal. A way towards a state of freedom, wellness, happiness. Towards Oneness.
We explored breathing this way, walking this way, moving our arms this way, shifting from one leg to the other, and then front and back. (In our leg shifting we wanted to stop moving just before our small tight muscles in our spines would engage, relaxing them with the help from our sensors under the soles of our feet.)
We reached a state of “hook-up,” as Trager called it. We were in the zone as others would say. Or as the calligraphy that taiji master Al Chung-liang Huang designed for The Trager Institute says in Chinese, we were a “Dancing Cloud.”
So we danced for an evening. It helped moving closer to where we do not move anymore, yet are more alive than ever. More present than presence itself. Have overcome the fear of death that stops us from being before muscles move.
We have not reached that stage yet. We have just moved closer to not moving. We now have one more tool to help us along. It worked. It laid the ground for the next step that was taken on the first Monday in June. More about this in the next issue.