One of the things I noticed during the lockdown was how often I have my head down looking at my phone. I eventually uninstalled Facebook, not only because I was looking at it far too much, but also because it made me feel bad for not totally redecorating the house or learning a new language.
Things are looking up
I did, however, start to walk more; mainly to simply get out of the house (and ignore the decorating that needed to be done), but it was also an opportunity to clear my head. One day I just happened to look up and noticed a building I had never seen before. I’ve lived in Southend all my life and have probably walked/run/cycled/driven past this building a thousand times over the last 50 years, so how could I have never seen this building before? And then it dawned on me that I never look up; or more accurately, I look but I don’t see. So I started to look up as I walked.
Behind the facade
If you have walked down Southend high street in the last 50 or 60 years, you would have noticed that architecturally it’s a 1960s modernistic nightmare. Whoever was in charge of town planning in the post-war years was seriously lacking in inspiration and designed simply for functionality (although he deserves a pat on the back for the old central library, which is a lovely piece of post-modern architecture). If you look closely, most of the original buildings in the high street are still there, just hidden behind facades.
Looking without Seeing
My point is, I suppose, is that it’s funny how we can look without seeing. Most things we do, I guess, are not done consciously. We just float through our lives never looking up and doing what we are told, either through conditioning or simply for a quiet life. For example, we all know how easy it is to decide whether we like someone the moment we lay eyes on them. It takes just 3 seconds from meeting someone and making a judgement as to whether you like that person or not. But this is so flawed. In my experience, the person I initially judge to be the biggest plonker usually turns out to be my best friend!
In his excellent book Bounce, Matthew Syed explains how the brain is too slow to react to a tennis ball approaching at 120mph, but instead, by practicing for thousands of thousands of hours, the muscle reaction must become instinctual to ensure the racket is in the right place in a millionth of a second. Kung fu experts have known this for thousands of years, training to a degree where the mind is no longer part of the reactive process. They practice to such an extent that their reactions are swift enough to block a punch, for instance, long before they have seen it and the brain has had time to react. Bruce Lee said he fears the person who has trained one kick a thousand times rather than the person who has practiced a thousand kicks only once!
So why do we rely on our sight so much, even when we know how inefficient it is?
The eyes are so important in our culture. We even rely on the eyes as a sort of lie detector. We say that the eyes are the windows to the soul and that you can’t hide the truth in the eyes. It takes a lot of training to control the eye movement when not telling the truth, which is a big thing in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Or so I thought…In fact new research now suggests that that “lying eyes” are actually a myth. It is verbal hesitations and excessive hand gestures that can give away a liar.
‘Seeing’ with touch
In Wing Chun kung fu, the martial art that I have studied for many years, we practice a sensitivity technique called chi sau, or ‘sticky hands’, in order to heighten our sensitivity. At a more advanced level we even do this blindfolded to rule out the influence our sight has on our reactions. One’s sight is replaced by the sensitivity of the hands.
The hands (or more accurately the Qi in one’s hands) are quicker to react to an attack than the eyes, and even the brain. And of course, the thousands of hours of practice help, as demonstrated in Mathew Syed’s book above. In Qigong the eyes are closed to keep qi in, especially if it is depleted. More normally though the eyes are kept open, or half open, to allow the qi to circulate freely.
The Liver channel opens at the eyes
In Chinese medicine the eyes and sight are most closely associated with the Liver, as the Liver channel opens at the eyes. And because of the Liver’s relationship with blood, it is also responsible for keeping the eyes moist. This is interesting when you consider the Liver’s role as the military leader when it comes to health, and its corresponding emotion of fear/courage. As I’ve mentioned in many of my blogs, the Liver represents the warrior within all of us, giving us the courage to not only move forward in life, but also to defend ourselves. To be an efficient warrior you need to keep your head up to be able to see. Not just with the eyes, but intuitively and instinctively. Fighting blindfolded is just as much about conquering fear as it is heightening the senses. We instinctively close our eyes and flinch away from what we fear, or we lock ourselves away.
Becoming blind to the problem
Try not to accept things without question, because what we see is not always true, as the COVID19 pandemic has highlighted; there is much going on around the world that we can’t afford to be blind to. Equally, there is much to be distracted by in this world, and there is much that some people and groups of people don’t want us to see. They want to carry on doing what they are doing – making a lot of money at any price, away from prying eyes, or in plain sight most of the time. It can be so obvious, we just don’t see it anymore.
The distractions employed by these nefarious groups are pretty simple too. We are encouraged to feed ourselves with junk food and numbing medications. We eat our dinners in front of the tv, distracting us from the food we are putting into our mouths; it could just as well be cardboard. We speed round the supermarket, subconsciously being told what to buy and eat. We walk around with our headphones on and our heads down looking at our phones. We need to open our eyes! Go to the market and see your food: feast with your eyes on the beautiful shapes and sizes of the fresh fruit and vegetables. Walk with your head held high without headphones on. Eat your food without watching TV every now and then. Open your eyes and see what is going on around you and what’s coming your way!
It is only with open eyes that we can defeat fear and move forward.