I want to thank Volter Joksch for his reply to my rather tongue in cheek, off the cuff reply to his comment about the difficulty of finding simplicity and in fact Volter’s reply enables me to put another perspective on the debate between simplicity and complexity. Apologies as this will be rather long.
To start the dictionary says complexity means complicated, not very useful. So the way we understand the difference between simplicity and complexity is in how we see the world. Whether we view something as complex or simple depends on how we stand in relation to that thing and on our attachments to it also! This does not mean that someone is good or bad depending on their view of the world; it just means they are coming at the same thing from a different angle.
In teaching Tai Chi, I have observed over the years people struggling to adapt themselves to the art and many after about 3 months give up. Is it because Tai Chi is too complex, my students would say, but in actual fact the art is simple, but our approach to it is complicated. The biggest barrier to being Tai Chi is that we think too much; “how do I move my arm, where do I put my leg, and what does she say, I move my leg without moving my leg, how can that be” and so the dialogue continues. I too struggled for many years because my mind knew better and it was only latterly I understood the whole concept of letting go, of empty balance, empty step and so on but to do this I had to jettison my mind, so I now feel what it means when we say ‘do nothing and nothing gets left undone’. I have seen so many people give up Tai Chi because they cannot bring their minds under control.
If we understand the principles of Tai Chi then we understand the principles of Shiatsu and in relation to this the origin of illness. This is the effectiveness of Shiatsu because the body registers everything that has happened to it from day one and all a practitioner has to do is look, listen, feel and smell and all is revealed. If we understand all of this then we understand what it means to be simple, no names, classification of body parts, complicated nomenclature, all gone, not necessary. No one said the practice would be easy but there are ways of harnessing this power to bring the simple into the complex.
The main problem is that we identify ourselves with our minds. Thoughts pass through rapidly, I believe our brain is capable of having 22,000 thoughts a day, just count the number of thoughts you have in a second, the brain can switch a thought one nano second to the next and wow we’ve changed the picture again. Attached to these thoughts are emotions, call them good or bad. Think of a good thought and see how your emotions respond, now do the same for a bad thought and literally in a flash your whole behaviour pattern has changed, incredible and …. exhausting.
We all live lives of complexity because we make them so. As life gets faster more demands are placed on our time so we don’t stop to listen to ourselves, we allow ourselves to become trapped in an ever decreasing circle of life’s happenings. However, why is this so? Most of the time, in fact 99.9% of the time, we are in our heads, leaving our bodies unoccupied. You see our minds love drama, they seek it out; gossip, the latest news on TV, it’s all there for us to chew over, another disaster, terror bombing, you name it and our minds lap it up. Does this sound harsh, OK next time you watch the news watch your reaction to the stories unfold. The last time I was in the UK I couldn’t believe the negativity; the papers only reported ‘bad’ stories. So in this respect our minds are the progenitors of complexity and history shows us this.
The problem is that we act unconsciously. If everything we did during the day became a conscious act then we would appreciate the simplicity of life and we would understand that everything unfolds for a reason. In Tai Chi, which is an art of self defence, we take the easy path, the path of non resistance to beat our opponent. Someone punches you and the first thing is you don’t react, you detach your emotions and you get out of the way, simple. This is bringing the unconscious into the conscious and everything we do and practice has a purpose and a meaning, not a reaction, complexity represents a reaction.
If we lived our lives fully in the present moment, the absolute nano second, there would be no complexity, it would cease to exist. Imagine, no past, what’s the point the past has gone and the future, it hasn’t arrived. Yes, yes I can hear the buts, however, the but from me is, and that is everything we do we do in the present moment in time.
To take Volter’s statistics, which I didn’t know, that there are 640 muscles in the body umm is this relevant to me giving a good Shiatsu in one nano second of time? Is this going to affect my performance in giving fully to another person, to improve their health and their lifestyle? I cannot carry that information around in my head and if I did what use would it be to know this? OK OK, I know what muscles do, how they work, and that different muscles work and operate in different ways and feel differently beneath my hands but I find in giving a Shiatsu when I ‘empty’, the information I need comes to me. Sometimes I start with a pre-meditated healing plan in my mind on consultation with the client, but 9 times out of 10 this is soon dropped as I go into my breathing and concentrate fully on the client and start listening to the body.
So we now know that our minds create complexity, lets go a tiny bit deeper into the reasons for this. Before language existed what was there, certainly there was life but was there complexity, there were skeletons, muscles and organs, but did they have names? When I trained as a Yoga teacher we spent ages learning about the muscles groups and how they work together in packs, great, useful information and needed, but for me the story ends there, I learnt what I needed to know and apply that knowledge in designing my lesson plans, the same goes in treating a Shiatsu client, my question is, is this complex or just the correct application of knowledge ably applied?
In the 18th Century, the so called age of reason, was when student doctors would exhume bodies in the dead of night to dissect them to further their knowledge, but of course knowledge of anatomy dates much further back than this. However, in the 18th Century modern medicine was in its infancy and was still based on the Greek belief that illness was caused through the bad ‘humors’, now considered archaic and this was the cause of many errors in medical science and which still continue today. So here we have different epochs and different levels of learning and all contributing to our knowledge and to a complexity of thought because of our thirst for knowledge, fame, fortune and whatever else the ego demands.
When we let go of the need to know, the need to be an expert, and the need to be right or that we are doing a good job, boy do we open up the possibilities in our life and we let go of the complexity that all of this ‘stuff’ creates. Here is an example, simple one: I love my garden and I will spend hours just watching the flowers, enjoying the colours and the bees, butterflies and little insects that visit my garden, this is a real pleasure for me and I lose myself. I have a friend, very intelligent and very analytical, a conversation with her leaves my head spinning. I cannot sit in the garden with her and say aren’t the flowers beautiful, no, I am quizzed on their names, their growth habits, or I am told their scientific nomenclature and the names of the insects that visit them. I should be enthralled by this, but no, in fact I am exhausted and disheartened; for me what was a simple pleasure has been destroyed by the need to involve myself in complexity and unnecessary analytical thought. I have another friend who has a sign in her office ‘over analysis leads to paralysis’ and how true.
The famous quote about all of this comes of course from Einstein, when asked how he discovered the Law of Relativity; his reply, I didn’t. How could it be that Mozart was writing complete symphonies at the age of 5, super intelligent or did he just remain in the quiet and allow the energy of the Universe to flow through him? Here is where Quantum Physics plays a role. It has often been said that it is pure arrogance for a human being to believe that he/she has the answers to everything by thinking. We realise that our brains are wonderful tools at solving puzzles and working out logical solutions to problems etc, but just reflect for one moment? How many times in your life have you felt an unseen presence gently guide you? We have something called intuition, if we calm the mind chatter long enough to listen to it. It is that old gut instinct, the feeling perhaps in our solar plexus that we ignore because our brains tell us it’s not logical and wont work and as a result we make our lives complicated and taking a longer route to get to where we eventually end up than if we had listened to our intuition in the first place. What are all these stories and lessons from observations and from history telling us, it is that simplicity is the key to our success in whatever we do, not trying to fill our brains with knowledge, which in the end gets in the way of us being effective, causes us stress and places us neatly in our minds.
To put it very simply, you have to ask yourself what existed before time, before we became cognisant of ourselves (and that’s another line of enquiry) the answer is, yes the same things existed as it does now (more or less) but we didn’t complicate things by thinking about what to call them, they just were. As soon as you react you create a wave and we enter the realms of cause and effect, or Karma, if we remain still we achieve much more, but wow what a concept to try and teach as most of us rest in our heads. We are all too Yang, as the testament of tense shoulders tells.
So back to reducing the complexity we experience as Shiatsu practitioners and the power of Kurétaké Shiatsu in helping us achieve this. Kurétaké is a beautiful art because it enables a greater synergy between practitioner and client, which gives both a better experience. If my body is energetically at peace with itself, when I give a Shaiatsu then I have literally merged with that person I am treating, we are not two separate bodies but in fact we become one. If we adopt a posture that is not comfortable and relaxed we give ourselves a bad experience and potentially our clients as well. If we arrive to a client with stiff shoulders then we potentially transfer this to our clients, Kurétaké puts us absolutely in the present moment.
I have covered some huge concepts here and in attempting to be brief some of the depth may have been lost because each idea is a subject in its own right, but I hope this goes someway to uncovering my views on simplicity and where complexity arises; it’s all in the mind.