A review and highlights from Zen Body-Being: An Enlightened Approach to Physical Skill, Grace, and Power by Peter Ralston with Laura Ralston (ISBN: 1583941592, 200 pages).

Most of the power of the body-being work is found in consciously and deliberately training the mind in areas so fundamental that they’re often overlooked.

This book has revolutionized my approach to martial arts (and mental/spiritual development) and is the most important book about body and mind that I have ever read. Its proposition is simple, though it requires years of study and experimentation to realize:

We can become much more effective (and incredibly so!) in any physical activity, if we become more aware - of our bodies, the space around, other objects, even the inner workings of our perception and mind.

I have practiced Aikido with teachers that had great insight and an ability to teach it. Yet I always understood better, more deeply, and more broadly - in relation to other principles - what they were demonstrating when I related it to this book. That is because it focuses on the fundamental principles of effective body (and mind) use and the means of realizing them - irrespective of the particular physical activity.

We are largely unaware of our bodies - and we are even likely unaware of this lack of awareness. Increased awareness offers huge benefits. The following example, from the beginning of the author’s journey of self-discovery, was very inspiring for me:

At first, I pictured what it would look like if I were training with a partner. I visualized myself repeating successful techniques, [..]. It was great until I got to the dojo and realized that such “training” was merely fantasizing and had little effect on my actual abilities. [..]. I soon noticed that my mental image of the throw was very different from my experience of an actual physical throw. It gradually became clear that, in order to truly train in this way, my imagination had to be the same as my body’s actual movements and effects. Instead of just imagining successful techniques, I started mentally doing the techniques. For that I had to remember the exact feeling of it. In time, I learned to mentally recreate the feeling of my body, then my partner’s weight, each of his feet, the feel of tugging his gi, the pressure on my legs, the arc of motion when I turned, even his sweat. [..]. Once I could reproduce the physical experience, I could analyze and correct my actions mentally. I could try things out, experiment with a new motion, and examine details that might escape me in the rush of actual confrontation. Then I would go back and check everything out at the school. Working back and forth between physical and mental training heightened my awareness of the techniques, my own body, and also my awareness of my partner. A new dimension opened up as my study of the techniques grew to include the subtleties of relationship. One night, after a few hours of going over tai otoshi (a flipping throw over the leg), I did it perfectly in my mind. The motion, balance, positioning, off-balance of my partner, timing, the arc of his body-mass through space, the direction of his fall … everything was just right. [..] I could hardly wait to get to the dojo the next day. I was probably grinning from ear to ear when I stepped onto the mat and executed my first perfect tai otoshi. It worked exactly as it had in my mind the night before. [..] I went from a white belt (yonkyu) to a black belt (shodan) in fifteen months. No one else at the dojo accomplished this in under five years. [333, p.14; Note: this is a quote from location 333 / page 14 ]

This is not a book that you can just read. To benefit from it, you must use it as a guide for your own explorations of your body-being and mind. To help the reader, the author suggests a number of varied exercises and encourages her to make up her own ones. (And you can also sign up for the e-Course “The Principles of an Effortlessly Effective Body-Being”, which I find very valuable (and challenging).)

An amazing thing is that Ralston doesn’t ask you to just accept his authority and believe in what he says. He challenges the reader to explore and find for herself. Which is actually the only way to really “get it.” He only asks you to have an open mind and to question everything deeply (in the best tradition of Zen contemplation).

Throughout the book, you will be challenged to “zoom in” on your body and mind to discover details and distinctions in feelings and mental processes that have previously escaped you.

The core

three major aspects of body awareness: feeling, alignment, and relationship. [..] alignment, both with the principles that provide an effortless effectiveness, and with the body’s proper structural mechanics. [..] The third thing to clarify is relationship. Whether we’re dealing with people, objects, or circumstances, skillful interaction is always a matter of relationship. [495, p.23]

The main ability to achieve, underlying and enabling everything else, is increased “feeling-awareness” of the body.

From that follow the 5 principles of effective body-being: feeling the whole body, relaxing, moving from the center, being grounded (and well-aligned with the force of gravity), calm mind. (Each of them deserving a chapter of their own.)

There is an important mental “trick”: to align with the principles, to apply them in your body, you need to activate the “feeling-states” associated with them. What does that mean? You can’t make your body truly aligned with a principle, it is too complex, too subtle, to control with one’s intellect. But if you adopt an appropriate feeling-state, the body will follow and align with the principle on its own. For example you may “feel” the force of gravity pulling every atom of your body downwards to become more grounded. Perhaps you have tried, when relaxing, to imagine that the body is getting heavier and warm - and eventually even felt it - which actually helped it to relax. That is a similar effect. The body and mind are inseparably connected. Similarly, the book proposes quite a few exercises that leverage various “feeling-images” - where you imagine something happening so well that you can also feel it - to explore and experience the principles.

When you have experienced the principles, you can start applying them to improve the “structural alignment” of the body when stationary and in movement. There are many points to pay special attention to, but I won’t go into them just yet.

Once you start mastering your body, you can also start to explore “effortless power.” I am sure it is too simplified and not exactly correct, but I understand it as an optimal use of the body, leveraging its structure and gravity, and using the internal power and spring-like capability of the body instead of raw muscle power.

Relation to the world around

I will touch on these advanced subjects only briefly.

We need not only to use our bodies well, but also to relate effectively to what is happening. A key part of that is our perception and how it turns into action. There is a lot of emotional and other baggage in our minds that distorts our perception and slows our reaction. We can examine how this works, discover those “filters,” and eventually overcome or bypass them. (Which will certainly make us more effective not just in a physical activity but also in social interactions.) Again, Ralston suggests some experiments to get started.

The body operates on feelings. To lift your arm, you “feel it” moving up. (There is an exercise to explore this.) Thus, if we can turn our perceptions into feelings - if we can leverage our experience of watching and then catching a ball to “feel” it as it comes - its weight, speed,… - then we can turn them directly into a reaction, without the slow and distorting diversion through the upper mind.

Briefly about Peter Ralston

Peter Ralston has practiced martial arts since an early age. Later, he got deep into Zen contemplation and learned to question and go way beyond the obvious. Through his practice and insights, he attained a deep understanding of the body, mind, and martial arts. He obtained black belts in multiple martial arts and won the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament in China. To share and further explore what he has learned, he founded Cheng Hsin, “which unifies the studies of consciousness with studies of mixed ‘internal’ martial arts, effective interaction, skill and mastery.”.

My highlights

Top quotes

The skill level we developed while growing up is not the end of what’s possible. It is simply where we stopped. [304, p.10]

For instance, rather than remaining stuck with how I thought a technique was supposed to work, I freely investigated and experimented with how it could work, whether it seemed “logical” or not. In this way I could find what was truly effective, beyond the limits of my beliefs and perceptions. [392, p.17]

Contemplation proved to be just what I needed to take my martial studies to a new level. It provided a means to explore the very mechanisms by which I perceive reality. [431, p.19]

The more you feel your body, the more life, vitality, circulation, sensitivity, and sheer enjoyment will be generated. [618, p.30]

How we think and what we believe are more important to our abilities and perceptions, and even our relationship with our bodies, than we might appreciate. [800, p.42]

If we isolate the basic principles that let our bodies move and act most effortlessly and effectively, we can improve our actions by adhering more and more closely to these principles. [1205, p.67]

For example, once you have had an insight regarding the “principle” of throwing someone to the ground, you will know how all throws are accomplished. [1243, p.69]

You are the best person to guide yourself through to greater awareness. Make up any exercise you can to assist you in training your body. You should be able to come up with many throughout the day. Simply remembering to relax or to feel your whole body will go a long way to being an exercise in doing so. [1373, p.77]

Remember, the principles and structural points of Cheng Hsin are not moral or ethical points; they are not “rules” to be believed and dogmatically followed simply because someone says so. They are practical and effective. They are the product of careful observation of the physics and dynamics to which the human body must adhere, or of principles and states that are conducive to being effortlessly effective. [1418, p.] The Cheng Hsin five principles of body-being have proven to be complete and incredibly effective, pointing us toward the most effortless and effective use of the body in any endeavor. [1495, p.84]

How was it possible that the faster the kangaroo hopped, the less energy it used? After much research, they learned that the kangaroo uses intrinsic strength—except they didn’t call it that. Apparently kangaroos do not use their legs to jump up as one might think, but instead use the intrinsic springiness in the legs and whole body to compress into the ground and launch themselves forward. [1998, p.116]

Remember, the key to exercises involving imagery is that you must convince your mind that they are real, and for that you need to take them seriously. If you are imagining standing on pilings, or that there is a flow of energy rushing out your arms, the image won’t have any substantial influence on your structure and nervous system unless you can feel these things as if they are actually happening. Although you’re just making up these feeling-images, the changes that result from adhering to the principles are real and lasting. [2399, p.142]

Anyone interested in adopting a principle or structural point is capable of inventing an appropriate feeling-image to aid this effort. You simply need to make up an image that evokes qualities that are aligned to that particular principle. For example, if you want to work on grounding, you could imagine a very large lead ball, say a thousand pounds, hanging under the floor and attached to your center with a chain. What qualities does this image evoke? Obviously heaviness, which pulls your attention downward. Since the ball is so big, you will become more aware of the force of gravity—your body structure must align to this pull or risk being broken like a twig. The image also helps draw your feeling-attention under the ground, and so your mind shifts to a reality that is quite different from the norm and becomes far more invested in a new way of relating to the ground. [..] The most effective body structure for supporting the weight of the ball is to keep your pelvis aligned between your feet. The massive weight would also press you into your feet, encouraging you to keep your knees pointing with your toes, and to press your weight into your heels to avoid the extreme strain that would be put on your knee joints if you failed to do so. Being pulled downward from its base, the spine is likely to straighten. You’re also encouraged to more consciously shift your weight in relation to the ground, paying more attention to the pressure on your feet. All of these changes in body-being are likely to come about simply through practicing this one exercise of imagination. [2406, p.142]

we begin to adjust and align the body-being to a physics and engineering far too subtle and complex for the intellect to grasp or direct. [2421, p.143]

a central principle for effective interaction. Continually work to understand this principle, for it should resonate on many levels. You can use it as a guideline for training more clarity, presence, and skill in all your interactions. The principle for effective interaction can be distilled down into this statement: The success of our actions depends entirely on our ability to relate appropriately to what is actually occurring in this moment. [2553, p.151]

Remember that feeling-awareness should not end with feeling your own body but should also be expanded to include the space around you, the ground, and every perceived object, including other beings. [2754, p.164]

MIYAMOTO MUSASHI: The purpose of today’s training is to undo what we learned yesterday. [2820, p.168]

Selected highlights

Ch.1 Being a Body

In any situation that you encounter, you can either respond to what is occurring, or you can respond to your ideas and emotions about what is occurring. [254, p.7]

We all create physical ability from three basic ingredients: perception, neural response, and body mechanics. [259, p.8]

Ch.2 Origins and Influences

As a result [of increased awareness], I became aware of fine distinctions in feeling and movement that were simply not discernible in my usual practice. [365, p.15]

[..] working on the throws in my mind, in a flash I simply “got” judo. I got what it was, the essence of it. I understood what the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, had in mind. Judo was supposed to be easy! And after that, it was easy. Suddenly I didn’t have to learn technique after technique searching for “judo”—I could create techniques from my new understanding. It seemed unbelievable, even after my success with mind training, [..] [379, p.16]

there is a method in the madness. A Zen master understands the human desire for certainty, for “knowing.” He uses this desire to engage the student’s mind in a futile struggle for resolution. Pushed to a certain point, the mind must finally let go. At this moment, it becomes possible for the student to have a breakthrough in understanding. [..] Our minds continually strive to interpret the meaning of our experiences, to freeze the moment into concepts that are intelligible. [..] all geared toward frustrating our habits of interpreting and “knowing,” so that we may experience the moment more directly. [411, p.18]

Body alignment includes much more than our posture. Alignment concerns the way we arrange our bodies and minds in relation to anything—body parts relating to other body parts or to the whole, or our body-mind relating to objects, the Earth’s gravity, or space. [496, p.23]

At other times, we do not relate well to what occurs, instead remaining stuck in an idea, a technique, or our reactions. [..] With no attachment to ideas or techniques, but instead understanding the principles of engagement, we can change as circumstances change. [510, p.24]

Ch.3 Feeling-Awareness

intent or desire to move occurs first, and is separate from the feeling. The feeling follows the intent so closely as to be virtually indistinguishable. This is the “feeling” of lifting the hand—what we normally just cognize as “lifting the hand,” [578, p.28]

Developing new skills requires new feelings. [597, p.] [..] What you need to do is learn and become familiar with the series of feeling messages required for those specific movements. [598, p.29]

You’ll need to discover the ignored, constricted, or traumatized areas of your body. You’ll have to discern patterns and habits in your movement, balance, and structure. You’ll certainly want to address the attitudes you have and to clarify ideas and beliefs that you harbor about your own body, and about bodies in general. [622, p.31]

“Zen mindset” most useful for questioning, which is necessary for the study of effective body-being:

five steps that together form a useful guide to acquiring the kind of openness that can help us move beyond our habits of thinking. The first step is to question what you now hold as true—that is, look into what you take for granted as “the way things are.” This leads to the second step, which is to uncover the assumptions, beliefs, fantasies, and other programming that lie “hidden” from you in plain view. Uncovering these does not necessarily mean they will disappear, lessen, or change in any way, so the third step is to free yourself from your concepts, recognizing that they are merely one perspective among many possibilities. As you set aside your habits of thinking, you may find yourself in the sometimes disconcerting state of not-knowing. Simply holding this non-position—in other words, not filling in the blanks—is the fourth step. By doing so, you create an opening for discovery. When approached honestly, these four simple steps can help you see beyond the beliefs that continually shape your perceptions. And from this state of not-knowing you can become conscious of something new, which then becomes the fifth step. [667, p.33] Even if you feel that you already understand something, questioning in this way will help clarify and ground your experience, [888, p.48] apply questioning to both conceptual activities and to physical exercises. [900, p.48] The strength of the questioning is often more important than finding an answer. [999, p.54]

we are so dominated by our beliefs and assumptions—most of which we are only vaguely aware of—that we neglect our actual experience. [678, p.34]

Our continuing task is to free the body-being from the overwhelming number of adaptations that we have taken on [683, p.34]

Don’t wait for an exercise to begin putting your feeling-attention on each part of your body and your whole body all at once. Take the time here and there to do just that. [697, p.35]

In order to clarify your experience of feeling your feet, you had to set aside imagining that you were feeling your feet, and then actively notice, and even create, sensations in your feet. [707, p.36]

A completely healthy body has no pain, even when undergoing deep massage [737, p.37]

Simply feeling, as a concentrated practice, begins to heal and balance [trauma, rigidity], but this usually has to be done repeatedly and for significant amounts of time. [757, p.38]

we must continue an open investigation, a search beyond beliefs or assumptions about what is true or correct, and with no expectations about what we will find. [772, p.39] We each must confront a lifelong set of beliefs that we don’t even recognize as beliefs. [833, p.44]

This increase in conscious awareness of ourselves and our bodies, including the workings of mind and perception, is the key to becoming whole and free. [802, p.42]

martial arts were taught much as they are today: as a ritualistic set of techniques, dogma, and beliefs. [810, p.43]

About Zen:

A clear-minded disposition of openness regarding one’s actual experience is a cornerstone of Zen discipline. This emphasis on personal discovery is unusual in any tradition, and it separates Zen from most every other practice. [891, p.48] Zen is about questioning. You’re not told to believe anything but are instead directed to experience for yourself. [894, p.48]

In this work, the best course is to get past all the judgments you have about your body, about your abilities, and about the “kind of person” you are. [984, p.53]

Ch.4: Learning, Being, and Creating

Two domains of feeling

Sensations and emotions sometimes blur together and sometimes seem very distinctly either physical or emotional, but both are known as feelings. [1005, p.54]

The best performers are often the people who have learned to separate their feelings and ideas from what is actually occurring. [1019, p.55] [and thus relate more accurately to what is actually there]

Creating feeling

A feeling-state will affect body condition, perception, movement, skill, health, power, and ability. It provides an overall orientation for the entire nervous system, [..] Mastering feeling-states empowers our ability to coordinate the many diverse nerve-related functions—reflexes, muscle contraction, relaxation, sensation, perception, and so forth—into a finely tuned and coherent synthesis of mental and physical activities. Since most of these activities take place beneath our conscious attention, feeling-states offer the best access. [1037, p.56]

we can actually use our minds to create a feeling that exists solely as the result of a mental act [1044, p.57]

When such a sensation, sense, or feeling-state is generated, we don’t receive it like a perception, we conceive it—which is closer to the way emotions are created, except we do it consciously rather than reactively. Once we conceive it, however, we then perceive it. [1047, p.57]

a ball player who is familiar with catching balls will not only see a ball coming at him, but he will also “feel” it coming. Inherent in this feeling is a sense of the speed it is traveling, the weight of the ball, its continuously changing distance, the arc of its travel, and so on. [1072, p.58]

When I speak of creating feeling, however, the main thing I’m referring to is the domain of conceptually created feeling-states that are felt as a “sense,” a sensation, an awareness, or a disposition. For example, we might create a strong feeling of three-dimensional awareness, a sense of grounding, or a melting feeling within the whole body. [1082, p.59]

Whatever you can imagine and make seem real can be the subject for this domain of created feelings. You might be able to imagine something, but unless you can produce a sensation or feeling-sense that makes it seem real, the imagining won’t help make changes in your body and mind. [1101, p.60]

Amazingly enough, merely focusing on a created feeling-state will align all of these in a way that is far too subtle and complex for the intellect to grasp. [1110, p.61]

Without enhanced feeling-awareness, and opening up to the idea that we can create feeling-states, there can be little real progress made in adopting the principles outlined in the next chapter [1127, p.62]

Ch.5 The Principles of Effective Body-Being

When we address “consciousness” in the body-being work, we’re not referring to some kind of philosophical study, but to an awareness and understanding that leads to effective physical as well as mental skills. [1155, p.64]

We have to grasp relaxation as a principle and an experience rather than merely as a concept. [1162, p.64]

simply focusing our attention on the actual center of the body definitely proved worthwhile in helping us achieve greater balance and power. [1179, p.65]

[..] In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. LAO TZU [1191, p.66]

What is a principle?

But how do we align to the body’s design so that it works most effectively? First, it is useful to grasp the physical and biological principles upon which the body has been built to stand and move and produce results. [1199, p.66]

the principle of gravity demands that a foot should be designed to support a body’s weight, [1202, p.67]

Once we learn to make use of a principle through some ritual or method, we must endeavor to remain open to the experience of the principle itself. [1226, p.68]

Unless we take the principle into action or train the feeling-states that help us align to the principle, it will remain an interesting but useless abstraction. [1233, p.68]


insight into a principle is not merely a concept but an experience of reality. It’s not “Hmm, that might work …”—it’s “Eureka!“ [1254, p.70]

the most effective body-being condition is for the body to be relaxed and the mind to be calm. This free, open, and neutral state allows for the most potential and clarity [1283, p.71]

Five principles for an effortlessly effective body

Each principle is activated by adopting a specific feeling-state that is consistent with that principle. [1288, p.72]

Benefits of relaxation:

We need for the body to be free to move, open to change, quick in reflex, and effortless in action. This is accomplished through keeping the muscles and nerves relaxed. [1295, p.72]

Throughout the day, every emotion, reaction, or mental stress that is received by the brain finds its way into the tissues, creating tension, knots, and deadness. [1299, p.72]

There are three basic stages to relaxation. The first happens immediately. A feeling-impulse or command to relax is sent, and whatever tension you are immediately aware of lets go. [..] The longer the “letting go” signal is sent, the more deeply the tissues will relax. [..] The third stage of relaxation results from maintaining this feeling-impulse for long periods of time, perhaps continually. Once muscles have relaxed and then relaxed more deeply, they will still respond to the impulse to let go (the feeling of relaxation) by slowly changing their condition over time and obtaining an even greater degree of suppleness. [..] Muscles will relax to their core, and they will be less prone to unconscious tension. The nervous system will smooth out and quicken. The mind will ease and relax also [..] [1314, p.73]

relaxing my mind is the same thing as feeling and relaxing my whole body. They can’t be separated. [1334, p.74]

directing your body’s actions from the center is more effective and powerful than one might think. [1401, p.78]

“centering” isn’t something mystical, as some like to hold it. It is simply locating the place in the body that is middle to the mass. Physically sensing the area of the lower abdomen should do it. [1403, p.79]

Benefits of grounding and feeling the pull of gravity:

You can align your body structure to this pull by stacking the body from the ground up. This will reduce the constant stress created in any area of the body that is out of alignment, and also enhances balance and efficiency in movement. [1410, p.79]

Trying to remain calm or in control by ignoring what’s occurring is the wrong way to go. Instead, embrace what’s there, but let it be. Don’t react to it. In this way, your awareness encompasses the disturbance rather than being trapped in it. [1472, p.83]

Body Basics

Creating and training specific feeling-image exercises, which we will touch on again in upcoming chapters, is almost essential for making real shifts within your body-mind to align with the principles. [1479, p.83]

Ch.6 Structural Alignment

To adopt a principle, we must completely align our body-state, mind, and actions with it. This is what activates the principle and makes it real. [1513, p.86]

we would need a very sophisticated alignment, involving many details of principle, structure, and mind. Aligning every aspect of body and mind to this task would be hopelessly complex but for the fact that what we’re after is just one feeling-state. In fact, our sensitivity to all these details is what constitutes that feeling-state. It is the feeling-state that brings the principle to life. [1516, p.86]

In order to change some habit of structure or movement that is not aligned with sound mechanical principles, we must develop a feeling of this way of using the body [i.e. what is it I do now?] as well as a feeling [and, I’d say, first an experience] of how to use it correctly. [1528, p.86]

Fourteen points on structural alignment

Standing 1. Feel your whole body. 2. Stand on your own two feet. 3. Step evenly onto your whole foot. 4. Keep the knees pointing with the toes, and pressing into the foot. 5. Keep the pelvis between the feet, and the spine balanced above the pelvis. 6. Remain spatially aware. 7. Breathe into the belly. When moving faster, breathe faster. Moving 8. Be mindful when shifting your weight from one foot to the other. 9. Allow every joint to operate freely and without inhibition. 10. Coordinate the body and all its parts to act as one whole, directed from the center. Functioning 11. When reaching up or out, sink down. 12. Don’t let a single joint become the focal point of strain. 13. For power, find the ground and use the whole body. 14. Align the body structure so that all pressure is channeled down to the feet or other ground-contact. [1579, p.90]

Being aware of structural alignment

People often carry their weight too high up in the body and don’t allow it to drop down toward the ground. It is pinched off, so to speak, at some point in the structure, frequently at the pelvis or in the legs. This makes the body top-heavy and, as such, clumsy and unstable. [1641, p.94]

Being balanced on the feet and allowing the body mass to fall straight down into them is what I call “standing on your own two feet.” [1654, p.94]

You will need to study what it takes to remain truly balanced when you are active. [1658, p.96]

Most common knee problems can be relieved by adhering to two rules. First, while sitting, standing, bending, turning, or otherwise moving, make sure that your kneecaps are always pointing with your toes. [..] Second, the knee should be pressed down in the direction of the foot—generally the heel—and should not be pushed out past the foot. [1705, p.98]

during a weight shift people often unconsciously push the body upward, away from the ground. This tends to sever the body’s connection with the ground and cost more energy than is needed. Instead, as you shift, have the idea and feeling of falling downward, a little or a lot. [1779, p.102]

Feel and loosen every joint in the body. Practice moving without any resistance anywhere in your whole body. [1791, p.102]

When you lift your hand (foot, elbow, knee, head, or whatever), allow the “energy” of this motion, and certainly the tension and strength, to drain away from the hand all the way down to the feet. At Cheng Hsin, we call this “Hand up, you down,” and although creating this draining sensation may seem counter-intuitive for finding strength, we use it because it affords a great deal of power while allowing us to remain balanced and relaxed. [1836, p.105]

Be mindful of your joints while undergoing any exertion. If there is a “break” or “leak” in the unity or coordination of the whole body, that place will bear the brunt of the force. This is very often the cause of injuries to joints [1861, p.107]

In many instances, the most effective form of power is achieved by using the whole body while maintaining a firmly planted connection to the ground. This is usually done by bending your legs and pressing down on the feet in concert with the application of force. [..] for even greater power, he uses his connection to the ground. There are two ways to do this. The most common way is to use his legs pushing against the ground so that his punch comes from the earth. But another, more sophisticated method, and the one I use, has him compress his whole body into the ground rather than stand up away from it. In this way, he uses the intrinsic nature of the body, and the power comes not from the strength in his arm but from his body’s compression into the ground. [1871, p.107]

Ch.7 Seeking an Effortless Power

What is not readily observable, however, and is rarely imagined are the benefits that can be gained from reversing the direction of applied force. Instead of pushing from the ground to the car, what would happen if we moved our whole body in the direction of the car, but allowed the car’s weight to squeeze the tissues of the body down to the feet as we did so? We would develop what I call compression in the body, and this could apply a force capable of moving the car with far less effort than we use when exerting our muscular strength. This compression involves the use of the body’s intrinsic strength. [1980, p.115]

Intrinsic strength is simply the force that holds the tissues of the body together—its inherent binding force. [..] We all have intrinsic strength, but learning to use it requires something like re-wiring the nervous system. [1986, p.116]

relaxing: If you’re serious about obtaining an effortless power, you must learn to take the principle of relaxing to what your brain will consider a ridiculous degree. No matter how relaxed you are, you can always relax more. [2058, p.120]

with every task and activity, try to produce the results without using any strength whatsoever. [..] you will need to “listen” to what your body is telling you and make various adjustments in alignment—changing the angle of an arm or the degree you turn your hips, changing the distance of your stance or the shape of your posture. [2064, p.120]

Ch.8 Mind and Perception

The two activities that routinely interfere with direct perception-action response are intellectual deliberation and emotional reaction. [2193, p.129]

The brain has many habits, the mind has lots of baggage, and our emotional selves are chock full of reactivity, which all add up to an enormous potential for distorting our perceptions. [..] If we can learn not to engage in these reactions, we can let them go. [2263, p.133]

Relaxing and feeling the whole body, and calming and opening the mind, will always provide the best platform from which to take action. [2275, p.134]

“Controlling” the mind is not done as we might suppose. Often it isn’t so much a matter of control as it is a matter of “not doing”—such as not having a particular thought or reaction. [2281, p.] [..] The place where thoughts seem to originate is a subtle domain of mind. It might take a little practice to locate and work within this area, but this is one case where it is actually easier done than said. Once you become sensitive enough to discern a thought before it can take hold, instead of continuing with that thought, try generating a different thought, or having none at all. [2289, p.135]

turning our every perception into a feeling allows the body and even the mind to relate to these perceptions far more directly and immediately. [2299, p.] [..] We need to translate the “sight information” into “body movement information” so we can interact effectively. [..] If, on the other hand, the information of the incoming ball could somehow be received as a feeling that contained all of this “sight data,” then no translation would be necessary prior to our physical response. [..] This “felt” perception could be relayed directly to the body, since it would come in the same form as the body’s movements: feeling. In addition to seeing the ball coming, we would have to be able to “feel” it coming. [2312, p.136]

[..] and that it takes longer for the slow punch to reach you than it does the fast one. All of these objective distinctions and more have been filed away in your brain, and usually they can be readily accessed. If you have had little experience applying this information, it will take some attention and practice to make it available and useful. With some training, however, you can fine-tune your experience of these distinctions, becoming quite capable of translating a sight into a feeling. [2328, p.137]

When the sight of an incoming ball is transformed into a sense of feeling, the factors relevant to catching the ball are quickly processed by the brain, providing an immediate recognition of what it would feel like to touch the shape of the ball, feel its weight, sense the speed of its travel, and so on. Try it. When you see the ball (or Frisbee or whatever) coming, instead of focusing only on the visual aspects, shift your focus to what this object would feel like if you were “touching” it all the way in its flight. [2332, p.138]

If I have to go through a mental process in order to recognize, decide, and “command” my body to take advantage of these observations, the situation will have already passed. [..] If my “experience” of you is felt, however—if every perception I have is received in the form of a feeling-sensation—then my body can respond immediately, and in some cases even prior to your action. Since actions arise from a feeling-impulse, my feeling-impulses are able to relate immediately [2343, p.138]

I wanted to make you aware of the mind and contemplative work, which for me is inextricably bound with training the body and has had a great influence on all the work of Cheng Hsin. [2388, p.141]

If you train in this way for a few years, at some point you will be able to find the principle in the same powerful way without any imagery at all. One of the great things about training such feeling-images is that you can do it almost anywhere and at any time. This convenience is helpful since you must practice diligently for some time before the changes become real and lasting. [2418, p.143]

If we can improve our perception or interpretation of what is happening in every moment, we will improve our ability to interact. [2538, p.150]

Our awareness of an interaction must not only be accurate, it must be inclusive. This means it must include everything with which we are interacting. As we’ve already seen, too often we are distracted by what we think is important, or drawn into our emotional reactions, or focused on some mere segment of what’s there. [2591, p.153]

“What does fighting have to do with consciousness?” and I set out to answer it in a book called The Principles of Effortless Power. [..] I took up consciousness work to further my martial studies. [..] that in a very short time, my focus shifted so that I was using martial work to study consciousness. What I’d learned was that consciousness has everything to do with fighting, and with any other activity [2606, p.154]

Consciousness is not the same as intellect, although most people confuse the two. And consciousness is not the same as the ability to perceive. Consciousness creates intellect—in other words, intellect is a subset of consciousness. In the same way, consciousness creates the possibility of perception, and also provides the awareness of what is perceived. [..] the source of mind. It is the source of attention and feeling, interpretation and relationship, instinct and impulse. Consciousness produces every aspect of our perceived reality. [2624, p.155]

Consciousness is still functioning even in areas that we don’t discern. It is simply operating in a form that our intellect isn’t grasping—isn’t capable of grasping because it is outside what intellect can grasp, or isn’t grasping because of ignorance, laziness, assumption, habit, confusion, and/or lack of inquiry, or is purposefully not grasping so as to hide or ignore some aspect of ourselves or reality. These so-called “subconscious” or “unconscious” aspects of mind exist within our experience, but they appear in a form that we don’t recognize intellectually. [2637, p.156]

What’s important for us to recognize here is that there is consciousness operating beyond what we’re aware of right now. This includes more than what we commonly hold as the “subconscious.” It’s possible to increase our consciousness to include realms that are unimaginable from our present state. There are many ways to do this, one of which is to create new distinctions where none existed before. [2642, p.156]

Perhaps the most common obstacle to effective interaction is resisting what is occurring, not just physically, but mentally or emotionally resisting something about the situation. [2687, p.159]

Review the principles often. Each time you do so, they are likely to yield more. [2779, p.166]

it’s best to train some aspect of body improvement at least once every day. [2788, p.166]

Work on one of the imagery exercises which will direct you toward a principle, or practice a few movements attempting to work out a structural point or two. Just noticing your body structure and working to increase feeling sensitivity, if done regularly, will begin to have an effect. [2791, p.167]

The best training is to practice the principles and structural points whenever you can remember to do so. Do this all day long and in every activity and you will progress much more quickly. [2801, p.167]

Any genuine t’ai chi practice needs to include all of the principles and points discussed in this book, which makes it a great training for serious students. [2995, p.179]

As you begin to train the points and principles, it is useful to isolate one at a time for training. Focus completely on that one activity and take the time to cultivate your ability to access it at will. Revisit your reading on the subject and note the shifts in understanding that arise from your experiences in training. This kind of immersion will assist you in creating finer distinctions within that particular consideration, and also help you make the principle or point a natural part of your life. Still, now and again you should also try to incorporate every principle, point, and aspect of the whole body-being all at once throughout a training period. This helps remind you of the ultimate goal and presses your mind in the right direction. [3023, p.180]