Freedom in restraint

Toyohari is a Japanese acupuncture method with a very strict form, especially at the beginning of training and in Toyohari, you are a beginner for at least the first ten years. I actually find this very liberating. Once you accept you will be a beginner for ten years, then you can give up trying to be any good and focus on the task at hand. This is an essential mind trick for perfectionists. Paralysis of action because you can’t tolerate anything less than your perceived idea of perfection is kind of pointless. Just because you are a beginner does not mean you can’t facilitate meaningful change in your patient’s condition. That is the beauty of a well defined system. By trusting in those who have spent decades researching what works, we can save ourself a lot of time and bother and follow the road map set out for us to reach our destination.

I sometimes wonder whether the wonderful gifts of the independent western mind to imagine new ideas and liberate ourselves from historical assumptions actually denies us some of the very freedoms we are so besotted with. One has only to witness the groups fighting for the right not wear masks or shelter at home during the COVID-19 pandemic to see the limits of that thinking. This is not to say that blind acquiescence is the only alternative and that the individual is not important. At one end we have hierarchical obedience and at the other libertarianism with a spectrum of responses in between that embrace the individual as part of a bigger community.

By training in Toyohari I have come to appreciate a delightful freedom to be found in trusting a form that has empirical evidence of achieving the desired outcome and willingly abandoning myself to it. Then I can take all the energy I have at hand to apply it in a coherent direction without scattering it amongst wondering this or that. My late teacher, Michael Hook said that Toyohari is not for those who can already feel ki*, it is a pathway for developing a relationship with, and understanding of ki. One does not need to be born with the ability to perceive the invisible, only be willing to train in the steps that will provide the right environment for that to arise.

If you are feeling like you are uncomfortably restricted in your life right now either with a physical illness, limited mobility, lack of finance or fulfilling work or no friends to share experiences with, then I suggest taking time to develop a very clear structure for your days. This may sound counterintuitive to place more restrictions on an already restricted schedule but really it is turning the locus of control inward rather than placing it on external circumstances. This method is most certainly not for violent or harmful situations where your mental, emotional, financial or physical self is threatened by severe illness, poverty or another person. Those situations require that you get assistance and I have listed below a few Australian organisations that can help. This method is for when our basic health and safety needs are met and we want to take the opportunity that restraint gives us to develop our inner self.

So, ask yourself the following questions – “What are you training in right now?”, “What is the one thing you want to develop over the next period of time?”, “What structure have you set up to allow that aspect to blossom?” Maybe it’s upper body strength, maybe it’s patience, maybe its more nutritious cooking, maybe it’s a meditation practice, maybe it’s letting go of all expectation to achieve anything. Consider reading my post on The Heart to get in touch with what is important to you and allow that to guide your contemplation. Once you have decided on a focus, give pride of place in your day to that which is most important. Allow all other activities to support that priority. Then perhaps, like great heat and pressure creates a diamond, you can direct the forces of restraint to create something of value and beauty in your life.

* ‘Ki’ is the Japanese word for qi or chi. Ki can be understood as the phenomenon of activating force that generates, animates and supports all of existence.

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