What is a Body Metaphor?

Our life practices take on meanings and sensations all their own in helping us process life.  Over time, our body-mind learns to communicate and empower itself within these practices.

Routine practices create a workbench for thought and change. We can draw from them or infuse into them things we want as well as use them to hold information and idea and skills.

I once knew a guy who made big decisions while detailing his car. He noticed how he felt while working on his car told him a lot about how “right” one decision was over another.

One woman I knew used to say, “Hmmm. I need to knit on this.” Another man I knew of a person who always made decisions and did his best thinking over his ritual of a nightly pint of Guinness.

We all do this naturally and often.

How powerful is our body at believing our imagination? Try this old parlor trick: Imagine biting into a lemon deeply and sucking as hard as you can.

Yup, your imagination just got you to salivate.

Now imagine your hand betting warmer. Surprise, your hand may actually feel warmer.

Your reaction to this this example is directly related to how suggestible human beings are and the key to understanding how to build practices that create an experience of spirituality.

I call these sensations and reactions created by our body through our imaginations “body metaphors.” They are the fruits of our imagination mixing with the dynamics of our body to create experiences that we really feel.

It’s my term I completely made up because I didn’t know of another one.

Here is an example of a body metaphor.

In martial arts, I view the force of “ki” as a body metaphor and not an actual energy force as many claim. Over time many martial artists “feel” an energy in their bodies when their technique is right. It’s called “ki,” “chi” or “prana” depending on the tradition or mind/body practice. Yet, when you try to measure it, it doesn’t register. But many masters and others claim to “feel” something or project something.

What gives?

I believe that our bodies have given us a wonderful gift in that we can CREATE our body experiences. We feel “ki” when a martial art or body/mind technique is optimal. It’s our body’s way of letting us know we are getting it right. It’s rewarding us. It’s not a “real” measurable force, but it’s a metaphor that shouts our intent and creates personal meaning merely by being felt.

It is a core belief of mine that a body metaphor is not to be discounted as “fake” but enjoyed and deepened!

But what about times that “magical” things happen?

One time in my life, my brother was at the point of death. I went outside and did basic open hand kata. I was dedicating my practice to my brother and I felt a “charge” grow in me. I didn’t question it. I didn’t push it. But at the point in the form where maximum exertion was expected, I released it with the wish my brother would recover. Amazingly enough, he turned the corner that night.

Magic? Nope. Not one bit.

I refuse to taint such an experience with with something as trite as “magical ability.” It was a gift from my mind-body that happened to line up in a meaningful way.

I’m sure that if I tried to be a “Professional Kata Healer” and projected the same intention into 100 cancer patients that I would not do any better than a standard deviation in helping them recover.

Meanwhile, back to the point.  How we can actually use body metaphors? I propose that we can use this effect any way we want to.

Traditionally, kata is a tool for learning how to do martial arts techniques. The student inserts imaginary opponents and uses the movements of the kata to unlock powerful fighting techniques.

But there are many levels beyond butt kicking prowess.

We can train ideas and reactions and bind them to practices. The ability for us to make mind-body associations to things we do and see, allows us to use these practices as a workbench to create skills for better living.

EXAMPLE: Bob is a walking monologue waiting to happen. Get him talking and he goes and goes! He decides to practice the intention of replacing his monologues with dialogs. How? By swinging a stick over his head for three weeks for a count of ten thousand times.

Yeah. I didn’t stutter. Here’s how it works:

He pictures himself being aware of him monologuing and switching to dialogue. Then he does the motion from the kata with the bo. He repeats the thought and then physically does the motion with the bo. HE DOES THIS FOR THREE WEEKS. Soon, he is more aware of himself during conversations and the swinging movement with the bo staff is forever bound to his new skill “Monologue Awareness.”

Now he is ready for the next step in the form. He chooses to bind the next movement to the the idea of “dialogue phrases.” He practices phrases like, “Please say more about that.” and “I wish I knew more about that. Please tell me more.” “How interesting.”

And he does it with a physical object over and over.

“How interesting” …(swish) … “I wish I knew more!” … (swish) …  “Please say more about that” … (swish).

Ten thousand times.

Over and over while his shirt gets damp from sweat. HE WORKS ON THE NEXT SEGMENT FOR THREE WEEKS. Eventually, he learns the entire form and it is his forever and always a part of his body and not some dusty book on the shelf.

And every time he does the kata in full, he touches every topic he bound to a movement and reconnects with the skills and deepens them.

In Neuro-linguistic programming speak, this is called “anchoring.”

That’s it. That’s the secret of kata – practice, practice, practice.

Body metaphors develop and deepen over time. This is the reason why martial artists never get bored of the same forms over and over. The repetitive practice is anything but boring when you infuse the practice with intention and imagination. The more you do a physical practice mixed with your imagination, the more your body translates that action into its own tool for improvement and meaning.

And the more wonders it produces to enjoy.

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