It’s About Shape and Mind

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To study anything requires a precise language and to continually develop an understanding of different terms and how they apply to that study. In one model of looking at the body/mind practitioners of Kung Fu and The Internal Arts  delineated 4 parts; Chi(qi) the flow of life that moves through us all, Hsing the shape of life and all of its parts , Shen, the spirit with a small (s) that moves through life , and Ching the mind that moves through life. Each of these concepts are studies in and of themselves and there are arts that use movement and imagery to highlight aspects of each. With this precise study, the practitioner gets to explore a large scope of themselves.

This morning, on the rooftop, I played Hsing-I. From some of our earliest moments as children, we started to know ourselves from our proprioceptive movement, or the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of our bodies and strength of effort employed in movement. Our shape and quality of movement affect how we learn, and how we know.  Hsing-I, is about Shape and Mind and takes place from a place of balanced stillness, into movement, then back into balanced stillness. It utilizes, shape and thought to affect that movement. For instance, let’s say that that you are going to stand still in a right foot forward stance, you then take a shuffle step forward and draw the number 1 with both hands, and then stop.  Some of the areas of exploration with this simple movement are: while drawing the number you see the number traveling down a long hallway, you can fill the shape with relaxation, you can change the quality of the motion by making fists, or drawing the shape with your elbows, you can before you move, see it in your imagination happening 100 times very quickly before you move, waiting for the moment to pull you into action, these are but a few of the qualities of the changes that can be made to drawing the number 1.  Each of them explores a moment of movement and how you engage that movement with your full body/mind. It is the study of mind and shape which ultimately clarifies your thinking, and affects you on a cellular level.

I was watching my son, play classical guitar this morning and seeing the similarities between what I had just been playing and how the shapes he made with his fingers and the quality of movement he employed to make sounds that traveled from his mind through his arms and  fingers, to the strings, which then moved outward into sound waves that hit my ears. I could see that each movement, though strung together, had to be precise, he had to exert the proper rhythm, strength, quality of movement and bring a quality of mind to that movement for it to become the beautiful sounds he was making. Sounds that not only were sounds, but sounds that were filled with emotion that affected me. It is pretty clear to me why Hsing-I was the internal art that helped teach creativity. It teaches attention to the details of movement and how the mind affects that movement, it teaches us about the shape and mind we create in this life.  A painting is a painting because of thousands of brush strokes, music is music because of many single notes strung together. Each movement has its physical representation of the mind moving through space. It is the same with the rest of our life. We tend to see things as a flow, though, in reality, each thing we do requires a single movement that has a quality of mind behind it. From that movement we get feedback, if we are speaking we hear sounds moving outward, if walking, we feel the shape of our bodies moving through space. We tend to forget, that in each moment, we are choosing how our shape and the way we think while making those shapes goes outward into the world around us. In a sense living our lives is playing an instrument, though what we make, is taking to the clerk at the store while checking out our groceries, while driving our cars, while talking to our loved ones, they way we shake hands, the way we read a book. To look at our lives we have to see the moments we interact with that we so quickly rush by. We look at the shapes we make with our bodies, and the quality of mind we employ. If you are breathing you are sending out a signal. Doesn’t it seem important to know what signals of shape and mind you are sending and why you are making those choices?

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