This is just a little essay on the Alexander Technique, Posture (Poise), and the Shambhala Teachings or perhaps one could say a Nalanda approach to understanding Chogyam Trungpa’s teaching. Perhaps one could say, what was Chogyam Trungpa saying in the last two years of his life which was a culmination of his whole life when he was not saying anything? I think all of the dharma is a way to convince us to practice mindfulness-awareness. It is obvious what the benefits are when we are on the cushion but why are we not able to carry that same situation over to the post meditation period? We are so bound by habitual patterns. They are in our body as well as the mind and they are most subtle. Knowing the key is not the same as opening the lock. Trungpa, Rinpoche says the key is good head and shoulders. How does one achieve this virtue of the higher realms known as good head and shoulders? How did he achieve it? He really paid attention to how he moved. He slowed things down and refused to be in any kind of a hurry. To him it was all about good head and shoulders. Alexander is trying to teach us the same skill. He is trying to get us to slow down and see what is going on. The technique teaches us that for all beings with a head and a spine, the spine will follow what the head leads. The head leads and the body follows. Whatever you do with your head will have profound effects on the whole body. It seems too obvious to us (but do we really get it on this level?) that thinking is controlling everything. It is saying the same thing, really. So it becomes clear that a warrior must make a real study of how he uses himself and how, in particular, he uses his head and shoulders. The result of such a study leads directly to the higher realms. One is convinced to plunge into such a study because of the tremendous sense of well being that one experiences. One feels unblocked. One feels one’s winds and channels are straightened. One feels a tremendous feeling of ease and lightness. Absence of struggle. Drala. Lungta. One feels that one has overcome aggression. One feels that one has found a golden key. Maybe it is only a silver key but it is a key and a catalyst. It makes us want to change. And for the better. It is a skillful means for following the way of our teacher. It is a contemplative art, in the formal Shambhalian sense. It leads us to relaxation in mindfulness and to awareness. The study of the Alexander Technique in alliance with the Shambhala Teachings are a great boon to a struggling humanity.
Shambhala Integration, an exploration of the essential questions for the Warrior of Shambhala.
What is the synchronization of body and mind? What is good head and shoulders? What is joining heaven and earth? What is lungta? What is the joyful practice of mindfulness?
I had been practicing for a number of years when I returned to see my first professor of Buddhism and he asked me, “Can you integrate?”
I was dumbfounded and I foolishly told him yes. What he was asking is surely the central question of Buddhism and even more so Shambhala Buddhism.
Can you continue your mindfulness and awareness in your daily life?
If you can contact the real quality of learning everything is a resource.
This is a excerpt from the chapter on “Resiliance” in Will Johnson’s “The Posture of meditation”
“When we sit down in meditation, we are instructed to sit very still like an unmoving mountain or a carved statue of Buddha, to let go of extraneous motions, gestures or nervous movement habits. Stillness , however, is antithetical to life. The common denominator to all life forms is the presence of motion. Everything is moving. Everything is pulsing. This is as true of individual cells as it is of large vertebrate animals. True stillness and immobility only enter into our bodies when we die. The posture of meditation is able to reconcile this apparent contradiction between stillness and motion through adding the element of resilience to the preliminary conditions of alignment and relaxation. It is important to realize that, when applied as a value to the process of meditation, stillness refers to the gradual softening and quieting of the body and mind. It does not imply rigidity or immobility. The stillness of meditation, rightly understood and experienced, promotes the quality of quiescence. Paradoxically, the quiescent state is a function of softly resilient motion. We can only hold our bodies still through constant muscular tension and contraction. By constantly tensing and contracting the musculature, however, we effectively forfeit the condition of relaxation. We inhibit the natural flow of breath and the passage of energy through the body. By holding the body still, we transform the gelatinous nature of the body’s tissues into a kind of armoring that is able to block out our awareness of the body’s tactile sensations. The result of this physical holding and hardening is a mind filled with involuntary thoughts of attack and judgement, fear, desires, and fantasies. Clearly this is not the quiescent state of mind that we hope to create through the practice of meditation.”
Many people think the Alexander Technique holds a skillful means for understanding some of these essential questions for the practitioner.
If I could see my professor today I could say to him, “I am a Shambhala Warrior and integration is my thing. It’s what we do.”