Thursday, November 30, 2006

Push Hands (unedited)

Watching Chris do "push hands" with one of his older students last night around 9:30 PM in Barnsdall Park, with fog rolling in over Silverlake - Chris was like a flag flapping in the wind.

Push hands is listening. Push hands is listening to something that isn't words or speech; it isn't emotional but it is personal, as tightness and blockages and habits inevitably are.

Koans are push hands. These are the questions with which a teacher hits you, that have no logical answer. What was your face before you were born? They create an impasse. You cannot speak and you must. What can you do? We tense up our minds to come up with an answer that will get us approval; or we go flabby and disengage from the relationship; another possibility is that, from a relaxed yet strong lower abdomen and the deepest center of our being, a clear answer appears and with a word or a gesture that koan is completed.

Koans can be an astonishing, non-invasive awakening practice. They can also be a rehearsal of dry cognitive understanding. A ritual. The bodies are uninvolved and clever Zen minds applaud one another while we drag our carcasses around, one moment draped in robes and in another moment decorated with blazers or swimsuits, out of touch with our physical selves, our wants and needs, our confusion or pain. The vow to attain the Buddha way and save all beings from distress may as well be the nutritional information on a box of cereal.

After years of practicing kongans, I still vanish when someone pushes me.

Scene work is push hands. The acting you never forget is when two beings who are completely present in themselves act on one another, playing their scene as if they were trying to find their scene partner's blind spot and knock them off balance to get what they want. Without this presence in the moment, a scene that has been rehearsed for several weeks very often feels like a scene that has been rehearsed for several weeks. If the actors are immediate, the scene has chi. It has been rehearsed, yet this moment has never happened before. This changes everything. The spectator's attention is brought to a different kind of attention. It's a moment that can transform you.

There is more, but I'm out of time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant.