An aspect of the Ancient Chinese Health Arts that is great fun is learning to think differently.
We all get in ruts and as humans we have been doing so for millenias. Learning to cultivate the ability to pretend and play in different ways opens up your Body/Mind to an amazing array of reference points and understandings to use to navigate your world. Not to mention laughing and having fun!
Thinking differently affects the ways you move, the ways you sense , the ways in which you gather information, and ways in which you express yourself in the world. It helps a person to Survive and Thrive. It is good ole bio-survival in action. Kids do this so much better than us. It is how they adapt to the new set of circumstances in the world. We can learn from them.
Take for instance 5 Animal Frolics. The 5 animals are Monkey, Crane, Deer , Bear, and Tiger. 5 Animal Frolics or Wu Chin Shi was an art put together by a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, a guy named Hua Do. He did this so that people could learn to take care of themselves and keep healthy. He didn’t give a flip about beating people up, he wanted an Art that would move Chi around specifically through the body so that people who played the Art were healthier, more intuitive, more connected to nature, and themselves.
One of the visualizations that help to support the Art is to imagine yourself walking through a waterfall and on the other side you embody one of the 5 animals. You wash yourself clean of yourself and stepping through the waterfall you have space to embody a different animal. Within this play, you do specific movements designed to move chi in specific ways, and part of that recipe is how you hold your mind while you do the activity. Let’s say you are being a big bird or crane, You move like a crane and feel your large wings, feel yourself move with the lightness of feathered down, feel your feet search the water for the right place to step, searching beneath you in the water around you for the movement of a fish. By playing this game and playing it as completely as you can, you start to have senses come alive that you are not normally aware of. Then you walk through the waterfall again, and become let’s say a tiger, the movements change, and the mindset as well, you move with strength, tenacity, close to the ground, and the essence of the tiger come through your movements. The movements support the image and the image supports the movement, and both support a specific movement of chi throughout the body/mind.
The point, I am making, using just this one example of cultivating different ways of thinking, isn’t that you should go to work and move around like a monkey, crane, deer, bear or Tiger. No, they might refer you to the nearest psychiatric hospital. The act of playing (in the privacy and safety of your own home) like you are a bird or a tiger you exercise a different part of You. By walking around and playfully pretending you are moving like a stream of water, or a monkey, or a crane, a deer or a bear or a tiger, though this might seem ridiculous to us at the time, is one of the ways our species has survived so well through the ages. Inside of the activity, Inside of the “Play” you learn to switch perspectives and in the switching you learn about yourself from yourself. This is revealed knowledge and when you combine the play with the specific movements of the art it is even more healthy. Truthfully though the play is where to start. To become a big winged bird a crane in the privacy of your own house means that at some point you need to watch how a big bird moves. Then the playing and watching and learning starts begin to unfold and change the ways we habitually think.
How to start:
- Pick and animal you would like to pretend to move like.
- Imagine walking through a waterfall and transform yourself into the animal. Pretend to move and experience the world as that animal. Use all of the tools of your imagination. Step differently, think differently, move your whole body differently.
- When it stops walk through a waterfall and try something else
- Before you stop the execise slow down and stay very still and absorb what you learned from thinking and moving differently. Then become you again and go about your day.
Yes 5 animal frolics is much more specific art but if you get the “Play” down the rest becomes easier!
The real exercise here is cultivating a sense of play, that can be done in many ways. When the imagination and movement are cultivated you get to access a part of yourself forgotten, even if you played this way the day before. It is always different.