As we further discuss the art of massage, at the forefront will be our quest for these three attributes: equanimity, forbearance and steadiness. Lumped together they form a stew that can be called presence of mind, which is one of the essential ingredients for success in life, according to old-time success writer James Allen (1864-1912). With these tools, life can now throw excruciating circumstances at us, in the process
revealing our true inner character, as Allen points out.

The ancient Taoists also sought to cultivate this space of inner calmness (as
practitioners of martial arts are aware, it's the point that when reached no one else can disturb). The Taoists called it
wu wei, a "sensible emptiness," a space of
non-assertion and equilibrium.

The greatest of the ancient Greek thinkers

The ancient Greeks also sought to cultivate this state through their disciplines that went under the names of dietetics and regimen. Their aim was not to create monster warriors but sensible citizens who could think on their feet and react with some degree of
readiness to life's unforeseen events. Regimen did not impart a set of rules to the individual, it was merely the coach. It helped set up a structure, a
kata, for the individual to find their own rules and
answers. As Plato says in the
Timaeus, this is the method by which man both governs and is governed by himself.

Plato

Finally, just as we set the tone of character as a backdrop for achieving results, we're going to set an additional tone, or spin, for this enhanced presence of mind (which is basically our operating system as opposed to the software). To do so we'll borrow a quote from psychologist Erich Fromm: "The faculty to think objectively is reason; the emotional attitude behind reason is that of humility." (We'll take humility to mean a lack of arrogance, self-pride and pretense, or at least the willingness to keep these
demons in check.)

Anger
It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to figure out that a major enemy of equanimity and calmness is red hot anger. And it seems to me that simply put, anger focuses too much of our energy on one single negative issue to the point where we can't see the forest for the trees.

If too much anger clutters up our life, said
America's greatest clairvoyant Edgar Cayce, "We have not begun to think straight."

Moe seemed perpetually angry

Says Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence: Anxiety (a cousin of anger) undermines the intellect, while stress (which lives in the same house as anxiety) can negatively impact our memory. How many true leaders do we know who are angry most of the time?

In 1974's classic
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig points out that if we're angry (tense) or
unmotivated (low intention / flaccid), we won't succeed in
tuning a machine or finding the solution to a problem. We have no physical equilibrium and thus no emotional
equanimity. Note that anger corresponds with muscular
tightness, while low intention corresponds to its opposite state, muscular flaccidity (wet noodles) as mentioned by
Csikszentmihalyi. As an aside, it was Wilhelm Reich who said that character armor (an emotional and mental
death-spiral) is functionally identical with muscular
hypertension (and thus anger). They cannot be separated.
They are one and the same.

'Only amateurs stay mad.'
- Jackie Kennedy
A must-read in the 1970s

'If you get angry you will quickly get old.'
-Balinese proverb

I'm not sure how effective it is to release anger by willpower alone, but this statement from Psycho-Cybernetics holds water for me: Scientific experiments have shown that it is absolutely impossible to feel fear, anger, anxiety, or negative emotions of any kind while the muscles of the body are kept perfectly relaxed. Anger blocks creative energies, while physical relaxation, what Maltz calls a "disinhibitor," does the
opposite. If it is possible to release anger by pure mental decision, perhaps it comes down to a choice:
Do we want to be angry, or do we want to be happy?

Once we do let go of anger, our choice expresses itself as a softer, more
approachable face. The hard edges of our character melt away. We become more
cooperative and develop an emotional strength and presence that emanates from the entire body, not just the head. People will trust us more.

Letting go can be a little disorienting, as if hanging onto anger is a form of attachment to an old friend who doesn't support us anymore. When tension (anger) accumulates at a point on the body, it produces heat (as in the expression "
red hot with anger"?). This heat and tension can release with high-intentioned, focused touch. As this heat and energy that's been bound up inside a congested point is released and then
circulates through the body, the short-time result can be some dizziness and
lightheadedness. Now think of the physical and mental energy it took to keep this
anger-spot all fired up in the first place.

Next page