As a child, repeatedly under the dog-pile of fights, I had no interest in “defeating” them. I merely wanted the violence to end. My teachers, in unknowing concert, taught me a method for ending violence without counter-violence. Some, still in the same process, may, as I did, lose faith that it’s possible, so I feel an obligation to share what they elegantly orchestrated through my life.
My love of physics could not help me apply sufficient force against superior numbers and size, though my physics teacher insisted that simple machines could multiply effort to overcome larger forces. If I used these levers and screws, wheels and axles, pulleys and planes, I ought to be able to neutralize the forces against me, I thought. Use the right machine, and these attacks would be reduced to zero, impotent of doing me (or anyone) more harm. So, I’d psyche myself up, and as soon as they began shoving me into the walls for money, I’d lunge after them… and be crushed under their mass of blows; over and over, again and again. Each time I sought to overcome my attackers, I felt more heavily beaten down.
Shouldn’t simple physics reduce their attacks to zero effect?
My first martial art instructor, through a variant of baguazhang, watched me charging after my sparring partners, and stopping me admonished, “Let your mind flow like water, reflect like a mirror, and respond like an echo.” Years later, my aikido instructor observing this repeated intention advised, “Calm your spirit and return to the source. When centered, you can move freely.” My systema teacher, due to our language barrier, would draw engineering diagrams, pointing to the moment where I could absorb and dissipate his attacks more efficiently.
I had been trying to use advantage “against” my attackers. My force would always be inferior to numbers and size. But when I centered, I regained the greatest freedom of (mental, emotional and physical) movement, and could flow like water, reflect their forces like a mirror, and defuse them as an outwardly rippling echo. If I had the calm awareness to act during this decisive moment and revolve around it, I could guide a more optimal resolution to the conflict.
Over many years of facing resistant partners in competition, applied into business, relationships and travel, I began to feel these spirals of force, so I stopped trying to attack, withstand or retreat, but instead revolved around, married to, and redirected their forces… to zero. The “zero point” is the exact moment when all of the various forces acting against you suddenly cancel out each other. My teachers had shown me and my practice realized that I didn’t need to defeat my opponents, but only needed to flow with the blows, and guiding the forces into each other until the spirals reached zero.
For over a decade my yoga teacher has been helping me own a new level of this understanding: that I COULD apply my own intention into these blending forces, ONCE I had reduced the aggressive forces to zero. After neutralizing the downward spiral of negative forces, bringing them to zero, I could add powerful intention of positivity and “uplift” them. I could transform situations with positivity. Our compassion evolves everyone we touch, even where there once was only apathy, rage and ignorance; and we evolve ourselves each time we try. Despite when we “fail” we still grow from the compassionate intention.
But she cautioned I should not become romanced by this and dreamily doe-eyed into ignoring my responsibilities. If forces threaten to bring harm to innocent lives, and we have the skills and awareness to neutralize those forces, we have a duty to act to protect them from harm, even if it offends our spiritual aspirations to non-violence. First, find the zero point, then add your own intention to uplift the energy of the situation:
First prevent harm, then add help.
We can expedite the zero point in a confrontation with practice; sometimes find and hold the center, and add positive force to resolve the situation. But only if we practice compassion. Only when we get out of our own way. Only if we remove the ego from intervening, opposing and exploiting…
If you’ll allow me to adapt Hemingway’s words,
Before you act, feel.
Before you react, blend.
Before you apply, absorb.
Before you oppose, redirect.
Before you neutralize, forgive.
Before you conclude, build.