Chipmunk chi(qi) gong

One time in Alaska young woman asked me, “If we have made such good use of animals, eating them, singing about them, drawing them, riding them, and dreaming about them, what do they get back from us?“ An excellent question, directly on the point of etiquette and propriety and from the animal side.  I told her “The anai say that the deer, salmon, and bear like our music and our fascinated by our languages. So we sing to the fish or the game, speaks words to them, say grace. We do ceremonies and rituals. Performance is currency in the deep worlds gift economy.“ I went on to say that I felt that non-human nature is basically well inclined toward humanity and only wishes modern people were more reciprocal,  not so bloody. The animals are drawn to us, they see us as good musicians, and they think we have cute ears.

Gary Snyder, Back on the Fire

This morning while I did qi gong a chipmunk came, sat, and looked at me for the longest time. I assumed they were watching me: “That is peculiar behavior for human,“ in chipmunk thought. It reminded me of the time I did tai chi at my in-laws farm. When I started the cows were scattered all over the field and at the end they were all standing nearby looking at me – – almost all of them. My family commented on it at the time.

This reminded me of the Gary Snyder statement above about how animals appreciate our music and our dances. We don’t often think about what wild animals are thinking about us. I think that is part of human solipsism – – our self-centered approach to the wild. That same attitude of separating our human identity from the natural also plays itself out in the way we deny or suppress our animal and biological nature in favor of the human identity, and more so, our thinking self, the ego.  One of the things that body therapy tries to do is to remedy that split, so we are one human being,  body, mind and soul. And as we heal the split between our civilized and wild side, we also heal the split between us and the world.

Of course, there have been other responses to me doing tai ji.  One time, I was doing tai ji during my lunch break while working at Mercy Hospital, a neighbor called the police and reported someone was in distress.  Of course, maybe that was what the chipmunk thought.

Where the wild things are

Be alert, you may be the prisoner of the fake you!    You may find that you live in a jail that is made from powerful and artificial components of human society.   

Master Waysun Liao, in   Chi

In the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, Max goes to the land of the wild things and he discovers (spoiler alert!) he is the wildest thing of all. 

This is like bioenergetic therapy. One of the exercises I do in my workshops and groups  is to work the jaw.  We all hold a lot of tension there, from holding back all the things we want to say to people, and don’t.  From wanting  to “bite people’s heads off,” when we don’t.  So we work the muscles and then I have them growl, first in general and then to each other.  Most people end up laughing because it is such a relief—all the times we have wanted to growl at people and we haven’t.  I saw a red squirrel the other day, chattering away, and his chattering vibrated his whole body.  Maybe we can learn to express ourselves with our whole body; maybe we can learn to voice our soul from the soles of our feet.

The wild self, the natural self, is often pushed down by our civilized self and we feel embarrassed when we let it out.  This has been called the “id,”  the “it”—talk about disowning a part of one’s self.  And the ego, our talking thinking self, has for uncountable time been trying to blame all the bad stuff on it—human violence, for example, when that often is the result of the ego and superego.  In “The Americanization of Emily,” Charlie, played by James Garner, blames war on the people trying to be good.  “It’s not greed or ambition that makes war: it’s goodness. Wars are always fought for the best of reasons: for liberation or manifest destiny.” Think of all the religious wars.

Reich, whose work led to bioenergetics, branched off from Freud before the latter started talking about, ego, id, and superego.  Reich’s work focused on developing the concept of libido which eventually became body energy, “bioenergy.”

So in the workshops what I want to help people discover, what I too want to discover is that untamed alive part of ourselves,  because that is closer to our core self than the everyday thinking self is, and it is the part of us that feels connected to the life and people around us.

In The Practice of the Wild, poet and deep ecologist Gary Snyder  talks about the body as the wild part of ourselves, our wilderness,  and that our conscious mind is trying to civilize our wilderness.  Some radical political theory goes even further and talks about how we “colonize” and exploit ourself. Fritz Perls in Gestalt simplified this into the top dog/under dog division he worked with so often in his therapy,

However, you frame it, the bottom line is there are parts of ourself that are working for goals we have drawn from our culture, our family and our thinking self, that don’t match what the rest of us, our body, our senses, imagination, and emotions want.  This incongruence can make us sick, unhappy, depressed, anxious.  In the protest rallies in the 60s and 70s, the speaker would yell, “What do you want?” “Freedom,” everyone  yelled. “When do you want it?” “Now.” So what do you want?