We are robotic. We are of a disenchanted patterning. Fitness, therapy, wellness, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me is lack of aliveness, super-charged false-I patterns, humans walking around in a half-life, unable to escape the gravity of their mediocrity. Dis-embodiment, bureaucratization, homogenization.
Re-patterning Work is a framing metaphor for the use of my of physical cultivation, stretching and awareness exercises to evoke re-enchantment in humans. The guiding principles are explicitly not those of fitness, performance, health or wellness (though some or all of these may occur as beneficial collateral).
Training is to free oneself of unconscious and habitual patterns of motion, speech, behavior, gesture and posture – and to forge onward into the unknotting of breathing, mind and emotional patterning.
Physical Alchemy is bodywork for the cultural-body. Through the transmutation of individual bodies we can create a form-ripple that has much wider and emergent effects within nearby and yonder (eco)systems. For me, it matters not what patterned language is spoken to describe this phenomena: science, alchemy, incoherent New-Age ramblings; none of this is overly important – the doing of something in the correct and auspicious manner is what is what is necessary.
In Physical Alchemy the Re-patterning Work begins with the physical. Because it works well this way, because it is where I began my studies, because it is how many more ancient systems have structured themselves. Physical re-patterning work is also fun, direly needed, allows for human contact, connection and play; is immediately, and tangibly, useful and relatively simple to do.
Re-patterning is a useful ‘paradigm’ as it allows for seamless transition from physical to emotional and mental – all with the same truth at the heart of the training. That your True Nature is being veiled by disenchanted patterning and personal and collective sleep.
All four of my Teachers have been practitioners (whatever their practical methods may involve) from traditions of non-dualist metaphysics (Daoism, Zen [Ch’an] Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta). So within Physical Alchemy (people can and should make up their own minds about such things) the intent is that you are removing artificial buffers in body, emotions and mind that are blocking you from fully expressing your personal form in harmony with the Dao (or however you want to say it – best not to say it but to live it). I practice the methods of my Teachers and they interpenetrate into my own methods.
Undertaking the unwrapping of the many layers of conditioning around the spontaneous and nature functioning of the organism is (within Physical Alchemy, at least) primarily for collective reasons – for planetary ecology reasons. The individual benefits are certainly cultivated and celebrated but the direction of the undertaking is that of ‘Helping All Beings’ via personal transmutation.
My interest in Re-patterning Work actually started in childhood. I got early inspiration and spark from my Bruce Lee idolization (the title-name ‘Art of Expressing the Human Body’ even hints at the flavour of what I am talking about a bit).. something about his talks on aliveness resonated very strongly with me (and still do).
One of my keenest impressions of youth was of many of the adults around me obviously hating (or at best suffering through) their jobs (observed via body language, gesture and speech). More interestingly for young Dave, when questioned about this they rigorously denied it (often angrily) or told me ‘that’s just how it is’. Events like this muffled the spark, somewhat. At this stage of my life I lacked the internal resources to resolve this koan and the net result was an alternating depressive and fantasizing adolescence between resignation to this mediocre fate and wishing for something other.
Martial arts training whilst at university broke me out of this funk and raised the octave of my physical existence to a level so as that I had the energy to resist against the pull of collective habits of employment and move forth in my search for something to gainfully do for the world.
Later, somewhere towards the end of my time apprenticeship with Kit (Laughlin) I was contemplating the transformation I had undergone from studying and training in his work and my previous transformation via martial arts training.
(A distinguished, Shakespearean looking Sea-dog (Kit) featured here)
One of the many beneficial aspects of studying with Kit in a mentoring relationship was that I got to observe his mannerisms, gestures and listen to many of his sayings and aphorisms. One particular riff that [K] would have said, perhaps a hundred times, was something along the lines of: ‘we teach a world class system of stretching, strengthening and neural re-patterning.’
Re-patterning, you say..!
Re-patterning as a framework allows for seemingly unrelated methods to be viewed in a common light. It allows for both shallow and deep transformations to be mapped along the same spectrum. I removed the ‘neural’ in front of the ‘re-patterning’ – as I wanted a wider framework inclusive of non-neurological phenomena.
Re-patterning spans the whole of human life and its relationship with the many other ecosystems around and within it. In essence, it is simultaneously making the individual pattern more creative, more dynamic and in line with Nature – so as to make the raise in individual capacity benevolent to others.
[*] The Disenchantment.
There are plenty of books that offer detailed criticism upon different aspects of the Disenchantment. How our culture got to be in such an inauspicious mess; the historical context, and so on and so forth. This is essential reading. It has been done far better by others than I could (or care to) do [see Physical Alchemy ‘Library’]. What I propose to do is not tread over well-worn paths. I am primarily interested in how to re-enchant individuals. Criticism ofttimes goes hand-in-hand with cynicism and pessimism – both of which I have identified as prime hindrances to the personal re-enchantment.
Many horrifying realizations were had personally in my research into the disenchantment and re-enchantment of humans. These were and are necessary. In struggling to escape the gravity of the mediocrity one has to have a special type of craziness and relentlessness about one’s deliberation and vow to escape. Just think of how many intelligent and capable people you know who are stuck ‘working a job they hate to buy shit they don’t need’.
So once you have got the shape of the disenchantment focus upon the re-enchantment. Over-analyzing, action-deficiency often coagulates in a more inauspicious crystallization that slight naiveté – at least the naive still have hope. Intellectual capacity is no guarantee of re-enchantment; that requires the fusion of physical, mental and emotional intelligence basking in the glow of a practiced Awareness a number of octaves above default settings.
There is an epidemic lack of aliveness. And a lack of what the title of one of my childhood Bruce Lee books stated: of the Art of Expressing the Human Body. My own (and others) suspicion is that the subterranean root of many problems facing the industrialized world today – dis-embodiment, movement problems, ‘depression’, shame, half-life, breathing problems, anxiety, lack of energy, unsatisfactory-ness, complaining, bitterness, irritation, ‘outrage’ is disenchantment.
A major source of the problem is located in the cultural-body. The disembodied individual forms that make up much of the populace are read-outs of the script of the culture. Many of the cultural patterns of this civilization are sickness – the cultural-body is ill. If you observe young babies, mystics and some highly creative individuals – they are not (or no longer) stamped with the inauspicious pattern.
“Life, and human personality, are inherently crazy, multifaceted; neurosis is the inability to tolerate this fact. The traditional mode of the healthy soul demands that we impose an order or identity on all of these facets, but the alchemical tradition sees the result as an aborted metal that sulfur fixed too quickly. Solve et coagula, says the alchemist; abandon this prematurely congealed persona that forces you into predictable behaviour and a programmed life of institutionalized insanity. If you would have real control over your life, says the tradition, abandon your artificial control, your “identity,” the brittle ego that you desperately feel you must have for your survival. Real survival, the gold, consists in living according to the dictates of your own nature, and that cannot be achieved until the risk of psychic death is confronted directly.” Morris Berman, The Re-enchantment of the World. (p 90-91)
[*] Cultivating Aliveness with Physical Re-patterning Work
Physical Re-patterning Work (in my configuration) is using physical cultivation, awareness and motion exercises to increase the aliveness of the Human Being. I have realized that the primary quality I am trying to cultivate in my physical training and teaching is, indeed, aliveness (with all other capacities being subservient this goal).
Starting re-patterning work firstly with the physical body and movement provides many immediate, practical benefits and also provides a stable foundation for progression into more difficult work. A number of ancient systems of re-patterning work in precisely this manner. What does re-patterning of the physical body consist of? Re-modelling the tension patterning of the soft tissues of the body, un-locking new patterns of motion, learning new movements, filling in black and ‘grey’ areas of the brains sensory and visceral (interoceptive) maps, freeing pulsation and breathing. Learning to deeply relax. These types of things. Many of these aspects I and my peers (Craig and Simon) have written at length about before (among many others).
Physical re-patterning work can be combined with injury-proofing and capacity enhancement work , as well as martial arts and other movement arts (there is no conflict). It is more a way of using physical cultivation practices and movement exercises.
Kit’s creation of the Stretch Therapy method came out of seeking for answers and methods to overcome his own pain and tension. A wonderful art has been crafted from his search. I have had pain, and still have excessive muscular tension in many regions of my body. These things were never the impulse for my search: my search was always about cultivating aliveness as a remedy for my own low-energy, half-life.
Counter to common perception and accept belief, I perceive that there are different brackets (octaves) of aliveness available to a human being. Of course there is a reality to the binary of the living and the dead – and also there is a wide spectrum of aliveness available to the incarnate side of this equation.
Observing this, in real life, was a critical moment for me personally and for the Physical Alchemy method. One of the chiefest tasks I have set for Physical Alchemy is aiding humans’ physical forms to raised an energetic octave and enhance the creative response enough to escape the inertia and pull of the disenchantment.
[*] Metaphysical Suppleness
More important than physical suppleness is metaphysical suppleness. One of the major re-patterning events of my life was the painful decoupling of my minds’ use of scientific materialism as a surrogate religion. Nowadays I make free use of concepts, ideas and methods from art, science (the tool), alchemy, humour, spiritual traditions. Anything that aids my flavour of Re-patterning Work.
I especially recommend starting a co-current contemplative practice when beginning to practice physical re-patterning methods – this is essential in my opinion. Re-patterning is ‘patterning’ alseep areas of your being with Awareness. It is turning lead to gold. Awareness cultivation is part of the alchemical reaction involved with the creation of increased aliveness, but many other changes to everyday life start to happen with sincere practice.
To have Teachers expressing, by their Being and actions, the reality of re-enchantment (and beyond!) broke me out of what could have been a depressing and cynical spiral of over-researching and over-observing the problems of civilization. Hence why I recommend highly to all my students to find a keen eyed lion to teach them Awareness practices (I actually think it is essential for anyone teaching re-patterning work to have a Teacher of much higher degree of attainment).
“There are four difficult things in this life. The first is to receive a human body. The second is to encounter the Dharma. The Third is to meet a keen-eyed Zen Master. The fourth is to attain enlightenment. Number three is very important. A Zen Master may not be deeply enlightened; he may not be a good teacher. If you meet the wrong Zen Master, you will go the wrong way. It is like one blind man leading another blind man into a ditch. So I hope you will be able to tell the difference between a keen-eyed lion and a blind dog.“
Zen Master Seung Sahn, Dropping Ashes on The Buddha
Even if one does not aim at reaching ‘the other shore’ of Awakening, one can benefit from the increased aliveness and creativity that the humble combination of physical re-patterning work and Awareness practice brings.
One of the qualities that Re-patterning Work (of all modalities) is aimed at stimulating is creativity. As habitual patterns are found and burnt off, so one’s creative reserves can be more easily called forth (from wherever they live). The necessity for a creative and Aware response to situations increases with each passing solar orbit. I have written before about creativity being of ‘survival value’ in the 21st century, and the more I tinker and experiment with Physical Alchemy and look at others peers who are doing similar work are doing, the more I am convinced by this.
More recent post-bookishness developments of creativity exploration have been aided greatly by having a young, still-enchanted daughter and a Teacher (now Teachers) in various higher states of human re-enchantment, during this period. To have a little tiny “Zen-master” living around the house (besides being inherently beautiful) is a constant living lesson of the re-enchantment capable by a human being (even though the adult re-enchantment is a slightly different flavour).
[*] Re-patterning Work –> Re-Enchantment
It is tempting to promote the metaphor of the re-enchanted individual as a lymphocyte or some type of nano-machine within the cultural immune system (but not quite tempting enough). As we are talking about observations that happen in real life the best we can do is hint and especially joke at the flavour of the experience, then pray people have the subtlety to perceive the gist and bring it to life in their own lives.
From the last 5 or 6 years of my own work and study I have been able to deduce that there are a number of “levels” of Re-patterning work and various signs and changes that accompany them. This is most certainly in the experimental phase for me but it appears there are a number of ‘signs of increasing aliveness’ in re-patterning work. Tentatively I am putting together some of the observations and getting ‘very interesting’ results(!!). This line of work is one of the most exciting things I have ever been part of – the art of cultivating aliveness via re-patterning work.
This article is a draft of a chapter in a much large piece of work I am creating (with aid from some auspicious-suspicious characters I know). The large work will detail my observations about re-patterning work leading to what I call ‘re-enchantment’ and a number of the qualities that appear and patterns that transmute along the way.
Stay tuned to the Physical Alchemy FB group for more hints about this as it develops.
Auspicious, I say!
• Title image: M.C.Eschers ‘Liberation’ tessellation.
Opening paragraph is an homage to the Fight club quote: “We’re consumers. We are the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.” Tyler Durden, Fight Club
*’Origins’ of this line of thinking for myself. This stuff is ancient and has been going on for millenia.