Body Being

Posture is a tool for understanding function.

Function is a tool for understanding itself.

~Peter Ralston
The Principles of Effortless Power

One of the principal areas of focus in Cheng Hsin is the body, or more precisely the body-being.

In the early days of teaching, I created the term “body-being” because there was no such inclusive word in our language. Using an unfamiliar term also helps a student’s mind remain open to possibilities that are not immediately apparent.

Consider that within the basic nature of any living body, awareness is inherent and an entity is implied. We cannot successfully address a body’s condition, healing, or transformation without becoming conscious of the role that the mind — perception, thought, emotion, memory, association — has in every bodily activity.

The term “body-being” helps remind us that we’re not dealing exclusively with a physical component, but also and always with the beingness that is both body and consciousness. Whether we name it or not, body-being is where our training actually takes place.

You may have noticed that I speak a great deal about feeling-awareness, feeling-intelligence, feeling-perception, and feeling-attention. Why do I create a hyphenated word, always attaching some mind function to feeling? Because what I’m talking about isn’t just feeling, and we have no words for finer distinctions in this realm.

In each case, there is another ingredient to the feeling-state or perceptive ability that sets it apart from being a mere “feeling” in the usual sense of the word, which basically means either sensation or emotion. At the heart of all these hyphenated feeling-words is consciousness, and where sensation and consciousness intersect is our main area of study — hence, the hyphens.

The approach that Cheng Hsin offers is not to follow a dogmatic set of beliefs about how one should use their body, or a system of rules as to what to do and how to be. Instead, we study what makes up an effortlessly effective body.

Over decades of investigation and training, insight and breakthrough, trial and error, Peter Ralston has developed an extraordinary mastery of martial skill and relationship.

From this perspective of mastery he shares his understanding cleary and directly. He clearly articulates and demonstrates the principles at work in making the user of the body not only effective, but effortlessly so.

“Working with Peter changed the way I move my body. I exercise, dance, and live differently. It’s not only a powerful way to live in a body but a powerful way to live. His knowledge and application of body mechanics is more relevant than anything I learned in seven years of medical education.”

~Katie McQueen, MD   Clinical Assistant Professor,
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UTHSC

Like all of the Cheng Hsin work, it is rooted in actual experience-it-for-yourself learning. Ralston offers many unique and effective exercises to make the experience real for you, whether you are a workshop student or a reader of his books.

Five fundamental principles stand out as a foundation to a natural and powerful body.

The Principles of an Effortlessly Effective Body-Being

  • Centering:
    locating and being able to focus mind and feeling-attention, as well as move the whole body from, the bodies center.
  • Grounding:
    developing a stronger connection and feeling-association with the ground – drawing power from the ground.
  • Being Whole and Unified:
    being capable of feeling every cubic inch of the entire body and learning to unify this whole in awareness and action.
  • Relaxing:
    being able to let go of the mind and muscles and allow the body to attain a natural, open, and unused state.
  • Being Calm:
    learning to allow the mind and attention to be undisturbed by circumstance, and to refrain from creating negative or inappropriate thoughts and reactions.

Each principle opens up an entire field of study in itself. Together they open for us a extraordinary pathway to a more authentic, powerful and effective way of using the body and being alive.

The principles of body-being are an integral part of all Cheng Hsin Arts. During the second week of the Cheng Hsin Retreat we put special attention on this facet. Participants receive a complete course on the Body-Being work. You will train in the mechanics and energies of the Cheng Hsin Body-Being. You will learn all of the principles, structural mechanics, dynamics, and mental states of an effortlessly effective body-being.

You can get a look at some of the body principles in An Introduction to the Arts of Cheng Hsin dvd, as well as the Fight-Play-Demo dvd.

Zen Body-Being

The book Zen Body-Being is a comprehensive guide to applying these principles to every area of your life. The following description provides a glimpse into the content and spirit of this book.

In this inspirational guide, Peter Ralston presents a program of “psycho-physical education” for anyone interested in body improvement. Using simple, clear language to demystify the Zen mindset, he draws on more than three decades of experience teaching students and apprentices worldwide who have applied his body-being approach.

Zen Body-Being explains how to create a state of mental control, enhanced feeling-awareness, correct structural alignment, increased spatial acuity, and a greater interactive presence. Exercises are simple, often involving feeling-imagery and meditative awareness, which have a profound and sometimes instantaneous effect. Where similar guides teach readers what to do, this book teaches readers how to be.

While one of Peter Ralston’s previous books (The Principles of Effortless Power) is already a martial arts classic, in Zen Body-Being, he shifts his scope to create a sort of “physical education” for anyone interested in body improvement. This new work draws from Peter’s experience with more than three decades of students and apprentices worldwide, who have applied his body-being work to everything from playing pro sports to playing a horn. By demystifying the Eastern philosophy behind “internal power,” Peter has created what amounts to a handbook for body-mind learning, whether the goal is simply efficient movement with structural integrity, or the total mastery of an art.

Most instructional books give us something to do — Peter teaches us how to be. Instead of handing us a set of techniques to memorize, Peter cuts to the chase with basic universal principles, the very qualities that make up physical skill. Since the principles and qualities behind all effectiveness — mental control, feeling-awareness, structural alignment, spatial acuity, interactive presence — remain consistent no matter what the activity, a variety of teaching methods can lead to skill. Most teachers, however, tend to overlook foundation principles in favor of specific training that may or may not help cultivate the qualities needed for skill. By contrast, Zen Body-Being addresses the principles of effectiveness directly.

Peter teaches us to learn on an experiential level, offering simple, but potentially very powerful tools. We learn to use a Zen “mindset” to increase and clarify the perception of our experience, whether that’s feeling our feet or managing the complexities of interaction. Again and again, Peter draws our attention to something we take for granted, shows it to us in a clear light, and gives us a new way of seeing that changes how we use our bodies or think about “self” from then on.

Body-Being eCourse

There is a year-long eCourse The Principles of Effortlessly Effective Body-Being in which you are invited to study and train this body transformative practice as you live your daily life and in whatever activities and discipline you take on.