“Attitude is everything.” So goes the old cliche. There’s just enough truth in that pillow quote to vex me. But how about we cut this hoary platitude some slack and do something with it?
Attitudes are inescapable. They are mental-emotional shortcuts we develop to deal with the ever-changing circumstances of life. Even if you try to cop a “no attitude,” it’s still an attitude. Aloof, perhaps? Or equanimity?
Some are useful, or were at one point. But life keeps changing, and sometimes you need an upgrade. Are you happy with your attitudes? Or would you prefer to be more serene? Or more enthusiastic? Or confident? Would you like to be less critical of others? More creative? More eager to exercise?
Sometimes change is just a thought away. You meet the right person, or read the right book, and you think of things in a way that touches your soul, and the world looks different. But some attitudes are rooted deep. We experience life a certain way and tell ourselves a story about that. More experience confirms that story and we conclude, “That’s the way it is.” It becomes an attitude.
Our experience shapes our attitudes. Our attitudes color our experience of the world. I am certain that my generally positive attitude has allowed me to heal much more rapidly than the norm. It generates more coherence which allows the body-mind to work more efficiently, including healing.
I have been an athlete my whole life, although not particularly big, strong, fast, or coordinated. Maybe a 6 on the 1-10 scale. Good enough to play, not good enough to win. That was my attitude. That is, until I competed in push hands tournaments in my 40s. Until then, I had never won anything as a solo competitor. I’ve been on winning teams, but never excelled individually. There was an expectation that I would lose. But push hands is something that I excelled at. I won. Often. I expected to win.
My experience changed. My attitude changed. For me, that “something different” was changing my energy through taijiquan. The thoughts and emotions followed that.
Attitude is commonly used in the sense of “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something.” In psychological terms it means an individual’s predisposed positive or negative evaluation of people, objects, events, activities, and ideas. Attitudes can be cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral. They can be conscious or preconscious, or both. Dr. Joe Dispenza says it succinctly: If you think the same way, feel the same way, and act the same way, you will probably get the same results. If you want to change the results, you have to do something differently.
The word “attitude” has its root in the Italian attitudine, meaning “fitness, posture.” There is an implication of the mutual influence of body and mind. The way I hold my body and its fitness affects my thinking and feeling, and vice versa. They feed each other.
The attitude of an airplane describes its relationship to the horizontal plane. That is, is the nose pointing up or down? Are the wings even or not? It explains something about the plane’s direction, stability, balance.
Does the nose of your personal airplane point up or down in relation to your life?
How I stand, move, sit all have a profound effect on my mental/emotional attitude. Psycho-emotional attitude affects the physical as well. The story you tell yourself can heal the sick or make you sick. Much of what I teach is about how to organize physical structures and functions in a way that supports whatever actions we choose to pursue. And that affects how we think and feel.
Your physical attitude is a great place to start. It changes your energy. Which changes your attitude. Which changes your energy…
Energy is eternal delight! William Blake
Changing your energy is a good place to start. And it can be fun. Even joyful!
All forms in this world are moving in the direction of entropy. They lose energy. Over time, they move from order to disorder. It’s a rigged wheel. The more that we identify with “stuff,” the more that entropy dominates. We wear down. Life, however, can temporarily beat the house through organizing its stuff coherently. “Coherence is inversely proportional to entropy.” Life is capable of slowing or reversing entropy (negentropy, syntropy). Life forms that are highly coherent temporarily plug the leaks in the dinghy. If we spend less time/effort bailing out the dinghy, we can paddle about with less vexation. (See Negentropy, Part 4.)
“Attitude,” in the sense of “posture, fitness,” either plugs the leaks or creates new ones. More energy. Circulate it well.
My friend Patrick recently wrote me to ask what things I did to return to a “base state” of body-mind-spirit integration:
“If from that state, many of the things that you value can then be experienced or nurtured or invited or played with etc., then describing a couple ways of getting into that state would be very satisfactory to me, and probably has already been said in our conversations. For example, not thinking…how do you normally do that?”
My response was to describe my “Three Pillars.” They not only establish negentropy by energizing the body-mind, but they also clear the mind and allow for inspection of existing attitudes, positive and negative.
Yes, I have been going on about the “Three Pillars” for years now. Some readers may filter it out, thinking that they already heard that story before. However, even though the words may be similar, the actual process is constantly evolving. It began with energetic coherence and took off from there. I am constantly looking for ways to make the descriptions simpler and the methods more accessible and effective. This recent blog expands the third pillar to include even more places where we leak energy: The Three Pillars, Revised.
The Three Pillars are essential to understanding my approach to all the internal arts, meditation, and living. They make everything more effective.
Each one of the Three Pillars is its own practice, but the three are also interdependent. Separating them out allows you to develop their unique qualities, which are valuable on their own. As you get familiar, they each become easier to implement and their effects go deeper. When you practice them together, they have a synergistic effect…they support and enhance each other. Hours spent practicing each one allows you to bring them together in less than a second.
This is a quick review, in the context of changing your energy to change your attitude.
FIRST PILLAR: Energetic coherence. Increase the coherence of the body/mind by pointing, reaching, and feeling the index fingers. Wait for the energetic shift as the system comes online. Like starting a car. Nothing works well until you turn that key. That hunk of metal and plastic sitting in your driveway transforms magically once it enters that highly coherent state.
Coherence is always a relative term, when applied to living creatures. All life is coherent to some degree. A bunch of living creatures (cells) get together and form a commune. How well they function together can be described as coherence. When things are operating smoothly, there is a feeling of well-being. When that is absent, or threatened, mental/emotional attitude reflects that.
Cranking up your coherence has an immediate effect on your gongfu, too. By enhancing wholeness/integration, qualities emerge in your body-mind that are not present in a more non-coherent state. I have been demonstrating this for decades. A quick keyword search of “coherence” on this website will yield numerous references to it.
This video demonstrates the power that is instantly generated by enhanced coherence, here expressed as peng jin (Wardoff energy). A weak muscular connection becomes strong immediately when the body-mind is coherent. (Of course, there are subtler expressions of the “soft power” accessible through coherence, but this one is fun.)
IT ALL STARTS WITH COHERENCE!
SECOND PILLAR: Central equilibrium (Zhong ding). This is where it gets woo woo. When your body is correctly aligned, you enter a “sweet spot” that plugs you into the “Big Qi”. You are no longer limited to your personal energy. Your body becomes a conduit for the “yin qi of the earth and the yang qi of the heavens,” a virtually infinite resource. You take in only as much as you can handle. With practice, you “upgrade your wiring” to handle more energy and learn to control direct it. I have written a lot about this, and how to get it. (See zhong-ding-central-equilibrium-its-not-just-about-balance) ;
Just about everyone I have met stands and moves in a way that blocks the Big Qi, and have done so since they learned to stand/walk. As a result, the body-mind usually rejects any correction that brings you closer to central equilibrium. It’s counter-intuitive. Even when they learn how to do it, there is a tendency to return to old familiar habits. The payoff is huge for those who persevere, however.
THIRD PILLAR: Unkink the Hose. Misalignment and muscular tension “kink the hose,” blocker inhibit the flow of qi.” There are three main points that are the most egregious. Unkinking the hose in those spots yields the most bang for the buck:
- Hip joint (kua). Most people think of the knee and the hip as weight-bearing joints (if they consider the question at all.) Consequently, muscular contraction is used to support these joints to bear weight. This contraction blocks the qi flow. I use the tensegrity of the connective tissue system as my primary support, however. So the energy flows through the joints with little impedance. See my three-part series on “Setting the Knee” for an introduction. (I blather on about this stuff in other places too.)
- Base of the skull (Jade Pillow Gate). Kinking the hose at the base of the skull restricts cerebralspinal fluid, compresses the medulla oblongata, and blocks the “spirit of vitality.” (jingshen) (Yet another “three part series”!: “Opening the Jade Pillow Gate”)
- Shoulder. Initiating movement from the shoulder is another pre-conscious program that is buried so deep that even when you know that it kinks the hose, it’s hard to override the impulse. But any time spent trying is gold. Elbow jin (zhou) is what I use to rewire the system. It’s immediate, transformative, and powerful. “Unlocking the Elbow Gate.” (Dude loves those three-parters!)
Some mindfulness of the attitudes you hold dear and project to others is essential. They are there whether you are aware of them or not. Once aware, you can decide if they still serve you. Ask yourself, “What could be better than this?” Asking that question is, of course, an attitude! It says, “Improvement is possible.” It is also an attitude of curiosity.
We can talk ourselves into anything…for a while. But for any change to stick, it must be embodied. Otherwise, it’s just more abstractions rattling around in your head. You have to feel it. Allow it to change you, if that is what serves you.
It will change your energy.
Change your energy, change your attitude.