A New Look
A key issue we often overlook is our own attitude. Someone once said to me: “Everything is fine as it is. Your view of it may or may not be.” In his book, Travels, Michael Crichton pointed out that the most valuable thing we can possess is a perspective, a new way of looking at things. “The purpose of education is to provide perspectives… Any new perspective alters consciousness.”
What I have discovered is that not only does a different view of things change the outcome but so does a different form. I used to make bread every day and I always used the same recipe (whole wheat flour, dry yeast, salt, water) but I didn’t necessarily make a round loaf each time. Sometimes I made a long loaf and sometimes I made rolls. When I took the bread out of the oven, the texture and the taste were different depending on the shape and size. This never failed to surprise me. Early in the 1970s I shared a brownstone with some friends. Since we all enjoyed fresh bread, we would take it in turns to do the baking each day, and we signed up for however much we needed: half a loaf, two loaves, whatever. We were all using the same ingredients and the same recipe, but the bread always turned out differently, depending on who made it. In fact, you could tell who had baked bread that day by looking at it and picking it up. The taste and appearance of the bread usually reflected the character of the baker. Some people baked high, fluffy loaves with lots of holes in them but little taste. Others produced indigestible, stone-like offerings. What did I bake? Very compact, tasty loaves, of course. I could never make my loaves rise the way I wanted them to, but they always tasted delicious.
I encountered a couple of tai chi chuan teachers recently who focus on this principle. They have understood that if you free the body from mechanical movements, you also free the mind from mechanical thoughts. As one put it, “The moment you change your physical position, it changes the way you think.”
The opposite is also true: If you change the flow of energy, you change the structure. When a moment of clarity comes, we move naturally from a contorted position and vice versa. Straighten your back and become balanced, and your head will also clear.