I have written about Non-Directed Body Movement before. As I have been teaching more classes lately online, and we’ve been doing it together, I’d like to give a bit more detail of how it helped me and still helps me to go deeper into my process. I hope it gives some of you permission to explore your experience in your own way.
When I started doing the NDBM or, “The Standing Around” work, it was mostly to feel my body and allow it to let go of old trauma. It was to get into my body. To naturally unravel stuff in my body which had not been able to process out of my system. It is as if our psycho-physical system is in the middle of working out several traumas at once, is overwhelmed, and so it cannot complete any of those tasks, like a computer trying to load too many sites at once.
The standing is a way to simplify how we are relating to our bodies. Through simply standing, we attempt to go as streamline with our input as possible, listening to the body, allowing it to work itself out, without a technique, and allow the body to just give us output. We’ve spent our lives giving it input. “Stand this way!’ “Stick out your chest.” “Drop your shoulders.” “Look good for this important meeting.” “Be happy.” “Have good ki!” etc.
So this practice is a way to let go of any ideas of good or bad, through the body, and just see what happens for an allotted time. Maybe a half hour, or better, an hour. Often the process will open up something that has been stuck in my body in a way I could never have conceived. So, if my neck is sore, unraveling that might begin in my ankle and spiral though the body.
This process has been incredibly healing and beautiful for me. And difficult. In the beginning I would have strong wild emotions come out during, and after, the practice. Again, please read my former post about it.
Then, something else began to happen. And in a recent Zoom class, I’m so thankful someone brought it up, as he was experiencing it, too. This post is about that other aspect, a deeper dimension, which was revealed through the standing. I hope it might switch on a light for some of you.
As I stood there in my twenties in Japan, with no idea of how it would go, a bald skinny exposed nerve in samugi, I would try to let my awareness be open, open, open. I began to see that as I did that, in order to let my body open, after some time, my awareness would begin to naturally extend beyond myself to the environment around me. In fact, I began to see that what I thought of as my body, and my self, was so much more fluid and inseparable from everything around me. The trees, the pond, the birds, the people walking by. It was surprisingly natural to not stop my awareness at my body, but to allow it to deepen into the source of consciousness and the entire event at hand. To the entire event of the experience.
I began to get a sense of the environment, its feel and texture and flavor, and I saw that if I allowed my perception to match the feeling of my body with the texture of the environment around me, my body would become transparent, disappear, and I could feel all things around me as me. And in that, there would be a unifying of my consciousness with the source of consciousness. A dissolving of inside and outside. A oneness.
Where I was stuck in my body would often open by linking up my awareness to the environment, as we are inexorably linked and enmeshed. It was as if the body had never been, nor could it ever be, separate from anything again. As if my very healing meant opening to the situation at hand. So what we think of healing and the body is so small compared to our possibilities.
I felt deeply connected. Not in an idea, but as a tactile sense. It felt like grace. Like being embraced by the universe. Where I had been at odds with my life, I saw how, in a cellular way, I was at one with all things. That the source from which everything manifests can be felt and sensed and observed. As if everything is cut from the same cloth, and this can be conscious.
So, if the crow cawed, I would feel the sound inside of my consciousness, feel it as no separation from myself. If felt like echoing from deep within me, within my body. Seeing the moon, I had no idea where I ended and where the moon began.
More and more, I began to, in a sensory way, dialogue with the environment. And the non-directed standing opened that up for me, precisely because there was no agenda, no plan to get in the way of me naturally melting into the garden. It was discovered by accident. My life shifted from trying and doing to melding and receiving. And I saw that this was the most natural, that this unity was trying to happen all along.
New dimensions manifested in my experience. Sensing what others needed, intuition about what was going to happen. Like meeting the trees around me, hearing the pots singing in the kitchen, I could also meet the intentions of others, could know in my body if something were true or false, as it was a sensory, physical experience rather than an idea.
This simple physical practice also brought me to feel equally akin to dancers, healers, and monks and nuns, as it was so wild and creative and free-form. My ideas of spirituality had to open as well, as this was owned by no denomination.
I could also see when I was totally off, feel my emotions more clearly, let them go if needed. Not so trapped by them. This is of course a long integrative process! I’ll be fumbling around, eating from this feast until I die.
Doing this creative, natural standing practice was a gateway for me to open up. I started out of desperation. It saved my life. It awoke my zazen. It gave me great faith in life being lived through me. I think we all can do this, it is not something special. Please have faith that even in simple practices we can discover universal truth. Let’s discover what is beyond technique. A deep clear samadhi is our birthright.
Here is a great Jakugo with a similar flavor which hit me like a lightning bolt when I first read it, a young monk swimming in the mysterious pitch black ocean of traditional koan training. From Hsueh Tou (Setchō Jūken)*:
“As I step slowly along to the sounds of running water
My wandering gaze catches the traces of flying birds.”
You can do it! Thanks for reading! Please share it with someone who it might help or interest.
*Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice, By Sogen Hori