Kenneth Kushner, a psychotherapist, studied Japanese archery. The training gave him an insight into how best to move people...
“Four of us were clearing rocks off the hill to make a path. Some of these rocks were large and difficult to move. My approach to the work was simple and direct. I decided where I wanted to move a rock, then pushed it in that direction. Unfortunately, I made very little headway and quickly exhausted myself.
Tanouye Roshi watched me with considerable amusement. Finally he interceded. He explained I was trying to impose my will on the rocks; I was trying to make them go where I wanted them to go. “You have to learn how to push the rock where it wants to go,” he told me. He explained further that, if I could do that, I could coax the rocks to where I wanted them to go. He then showed me that, because rocks are unevenly shaped, there is usually one direction in which, if pushed, the rock is easier to unbalance and flip over. He told me I must learn how to utilize the direction in which the rock “wanted” to go in order to move it where I wanted it to go. This would result in considerably less expenditure of effort on my part, he assured me.”
“I went back to my work of moving rocks. I carefully studied each rock, pushed it in numerous places and tried to find the way the rock “wanted” to move. Sometimes I was successful and the rock moved quite easily. At other times, I was unable to find the favoured direction of the stone. Sometimes this was because the rock was too heavy for me to try tipping it. At such times, I tried to reason which was the best direction in which to push it. Typically, however, I failed.
When I later discussed these difficulties with Tanouye Roshi, he explained that my approach to the task was too intellectual; that I was relying too much on my ego – that is, on my conscious mind – to figure out which way the stone “wanted” to move. While tipping the rock was often helpful, it is only a technique and therefore not applicable to all situations. To understand how to move a rock, I had to “throw away” my ego and “become one” with the rock. The proper direction would then be readily apparent, I a burst of intuition. To experience this, I had to be in the right frame of mind”.
“The Roshi chided me: if we had truly understood the basic principles of our professions, we would have known how to move the rock with the least effort. “Ken,” he said “approach the rock as if you’re doing psychotherapy with it.”
He said there should be no difference between moving rocks and psychotherapy. Both involve movement, the facilitation of change. One does not want to push directly against resistance. Rather, one tries to push in the direction of least resistance. Trying to force change on a patient is like pushing a rock where it does not “want” to go.
…By learning how to move rocks... I would improve my skills as a psychotherapist."
Or as a teacher of Alexander Technique. Or as a tango dancer. Or as many other things, I suspect.
Mind you, it does have its limits...
(Extracts from Kenneth Kushner's 'One arrow, one life' 1988)