Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Grabs You?

"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."
Marcus Aurelius AD 121-180 - Meditations Book Ten

You stand erect and balanced with right foot forward right hand extended. Your partner is the teacher. She stands directly in front of you. Her left foot forward, she extends her left hand to take your wrist firmly in palm. She tightens her grip. You feel her hold emanate from her center of gravity, what the Japanese call hara. Looking you in the eye she asks a simple question, "What grabs you?"

Your first thought, and hence your response, "Your hand, of course."

"Yes," she replies. Then she adds, "That's true, but really, what grabs you?" You look at her intently yet somewhat dumbfounded because it's obvious she's squeezing your wrist. You blink, look at your hand turning a bit off color, and offer again with a kind of maybe-you-didn't-hear-me-or-is-this-some-kind-of-trick-question-thing, "Your hand!"

She smiles, blinks, shakes her head and repeats, "What grabs you?" It's then that you understand. It's a game that really isn't a game. You go beyond the obvious, the external and reply, "My daughter, especially when she's in a foul mood."

"Ah. OK. Thanks."

Then the roles reverse. You take her extended left wrist in your right hand and it's your turn to ask, "What grabs you?"

She offers, "Last month's bills, some still unpaid.”

Sure it's a workshop exercise. The two of you repeatedly reverse rolls. You've done things like this before, and so has she, but in that case there was no physical connection; it was simply a matter of ask-and-answer. What's different now is that the communication between you is enhanced by actually contact. And it's the physical contact with intent that anchors both question and response. Laurence Gonzalez (Deep Survival) might offer, for the future effectiveness or lack thereof.

The point of the experience is to acknowledge, reflect on and personalize the grabs of life. Textbook answers are not sought. Rather - sincerity, authenticity and honesty.

Your teacher points out that your grabs are those things to which you attach your attention (mental and emotional) and action. And with that, you also attach your memory and your power. If the grab is negative (a fight or the memory of a violation or a debt or a worrisome thought, etc.) your experience is negative and generally evokes tension and a push (fight) or a drop (flight) response. If the grab is positive (memory of a lover's kiss or beautiful music or a special place in nature) your experience is a positive, almost surrealistic physical response and generally evokes relaxed, expansive and joyful action.

Your teacher then tells you that she is going to demonstrate a simple martial arts move called tenkan, and asks for your participation and attention. You take hold of her left wrist, while her hand is flexibly extended. You feel her weight mysteriously drop, but her body gives no visual cues of moving down. She slowly and slightly rows her body forward from her abdomen, all the while keeping her body erect and her focus, unbroken, remains on you - in fact you could swear that she's actually looking through you to something behind your back. As she does, she begins to turn outward on her left foot all the while maintaining a relaxed and equal extension in both her hands and arms. Her right foot sweeps an arc across the floor, never lifting. A sense of weight and energy transfers from her through your arm and begins to move the area in your abdomen, and then transfers to your feet. Your body bends and you drop. As you look at her out of the corner of your eye, she remains standing tall, now reversed one hundred eighty degrees and looking in the same direction as you have been looking all along.

Tenkan. A turning movement that clearly sees and acknowledges an on-coming force, feels it before it arrives, blends with it, then reverses direction to look where that energy is focused. Tenkan; it neither fights nor runs from the force. Rather, when properly exercised, allows the one who performs it to remain fully present, ready to act in any direction, to effectively deal with the force. Dealing with the force from tenkan can mean any number of things - enjoy it, release it, walk away from it, walk with it, throw it on its way, turn it back on itself. Tenkan presents an almost countless number of other options as well, provided your understand and practice. Tenkan is not limited to physical action. But, through physical practice it enhances effectiveness in other realms and domains: emotional, familial, relational, financial, intellectual, political, sales, marketing, legal - and still more.

What grabs you these days? What grabs do you s eek? What are your habitual responses to the grabs that come your direction? Do they bother you? Do you fight them? Do you run? Do you hang on? Do you allow them to hang on to you? Could you attending to positive grabs more frequently than negative ones? Could you start seeking constructive grabs even in the midst of negative ones?

What practices have you established when it comes to being grabbed? Could you create some that are more effective and healthier than the ones you've been using? Do you surround yourself with people who assist a constructive practice with your grabs? Do you surround yourself with people who assist destructive practices with your grabs? Do you isolate and insulate hoping not to be grabbed?

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