I’ve been writing this blog for a decade and have only very occasionally missed publishing an entry once a month. However, this is my first article since early September. What happened? The short answer is I’ve fallen in love – with a holistic practice called kinesiology that has happily consumed my peripheral time that in the past I have used for writing. Nevertheless, I’ve have recently come across in my study of kinesiology an insight of great spiritual resonance and exciting applicability that I feel compelled to share.
Let me begin by explaining in the briefest of terms what kinesiology is. Most generally, kinesiology is the study of movement. Perhaps you have heard of kinesiology as a biomechanical approach that uses human anatomy and physiology to guide osteopaths and chiropractors in the re-alignment of bones, muscles, organs, and tissues. I regularly visit a chiropractor and kinesiologist in Hong Kong who has been using such an approach to repair old ankle injuries from high school sports.
However, what I have been studying since June is an approach called “energetic kinesiology,” which works directly with the body’s chi, as it manifests in Chinese meridian systems and acupuncture points. By mid-January, I will have completed seven mini-courses (Tier I and II) in this modality at a clinic here in Hong Kong called Kinesiology Asia.
While much more could be said about this utterly fascinating and complex topic, I would like to share in this entry one piece of gold from my kinesiology training that contributes to my ongoing quest to learn how to provide transformative educational opportunities for students. This entry, then, provides a concrete example of commonalities between Cynthia Bourgeault’s Welcoming Prayer and my study of kinesiology.
Connecting Emotions to the Higher Self in the Welcoming Prayer
If Cynthia’s most core meditation practice is Centering Prayer, then her most valued life practice is the Welcoming Prayer. The basic idea of this prayer is that when a strong emotion occurs, experience it and, yes, welcome it on the level of bodily sensation.
So, for example, when a particular student who has slept through half of my religion classes—a certain individual sadly springs to mind—explains in a faux apologetic email that he was absent because he had a dentist appointment conveniently scheduled during my period, I have a choice: I can either spend time mentally rehearsing a litany of past and present complaints, or I can counter-intuitively locate the sensation in my body. As I read the email, then, I can either go on mental autopilot reactivity, or turn the spotlight of my awareness to my body, observing a slight turn of the stomach or a narrowing of the eyes, and then welcome the accompanying emotion of frustration or mild anger. I can toggle back and forth between bodily sensation and mental opening, stating silently, “I welcome irritation.” By so doing, I am following Cynthia’s most succinct directive about triggered emotions: go down into sensation rather than up into story.
I taught the Welcoming Prayer as a lesson to my grade 12 Spiritual Explorations students just a few weeks ago. After leading the class in a meditation experience to soften them to what was to come, I asked my senior students who are currently going through the stress-inducing, high-stakes college admissions process to listen to five words/phrases that I read to them very deliberately. I paused for 15 seconds after each descriptor, and asked them to note any accompanying body sensations:
- Teacher Recommendation Letters
- College Acceptances
- Leaving Home
I know from teaching this lesson previously that students will experience a variety of sensations: tightening of the chest, stomach flip-flopping, sweaty palms, numbness, etc. Following this focused self-observation, I asked students to write down two of the five words on a slip of paper, the sensation, and the emotion they associated with the trigger and physical reaction.
Then we went back into meditation mode, and I asked them to call to mind the two events they wrote down, re-experience the sensation, and then to welcome that emotion.
The final step was to ask them to close their fists, symbolic of holding onto their emotional stories, and when they were ready to open them and let go of the entire trigger/sensation/emotion matrix. Then I brought the meditation to a close by asking them to stand up, mindfully rip up their slip of paper, and purposely “let it go” into the trash as I walked around the room.
Most students write in some detail about this practice. First, they experience first-hand the body-mind connection. They have no idea that their academic and personal stresses have taken up residence in their bodily organs and tissues! Second, students speak of the relief of welcoming rather than fighting their emotions. And finally, there is the visceral experience of release when they rip up the paper and throw it away.
Thus, the key skill to learn in harmonizing the inevitable emotional turmoil of everyday life with the higher mind is to welcome such disturbances on the level of bodily sensation in a spirit of prayerful receptivity.
Connecting Emotions to the Higher Self in Kinesiology
Such practices in my Spiritual Explorations classes are the pedagogical outcome of my deep dive into the profound teachings of the Wisdom tradition over the last decade. Now that I’m making a new foray into kinesiology, which is based primarily on the Taoism-inspired teachings of Chinese medicine, I’m looking for connections between the Wisdom tradition and this Chinese-based modality. I have recently made the enlightening discovery that kinesiology employs a brilliant balancing technique that uses the very same principles evident in the Welcoming Prayer. In order to make this point, however, I need to ask the reader to bear with some technical descriptions of kinesiology procedures, which I will pull together in the end to reveal the common approaches of these two very different practices. (Or the reader can choose to skip the next four paragraphs if the description proves too technical, moving instead to the larger point.)
During a kinesiology session, the practitioner muscles tests a client’s indicator muscle—usually the forearm (as in the picture above) —to identify some type of stress. When some physical or emotional issue (e.g., a sore thumb muscle, sleep disruption, stress at work) is focused upon, the indicator muscle responds in one of three ways: strong (no concern), weakened (issue detected) or locked (issue detected). In the latter two cases, a chi blockage needs to be removed.
In the case of an emotional stressor, the practitioner may be directed by the client’s forearm to use a Neural Emotional Pathways (NEPS) correction called MOPS (Mode of Processing Procedure) to address the subconscious disturbance. The MOPS method allows the practitioner to detect one of five primal emotions that the client is experiencing subconsciously: fear, rage, seeking (for food, love, etc), panic (or separation anxiety), and caring.
Identifying the particular emotion causing the body’s distress can be determined by muscle testing each emotion’s indicator (acupuncture) points, which are highlighted in pink in the diagram below: fear is located on the collarbone  (K27), rage in front of the ear (S.I. 19), panic on the nostrils (L.I. 20), seeking at the end of the eyebrows (T.H. 23), and caring (Ht9). A weakened indicator arm registers which of the five emotions is causing the underlying disturbance.
In order to bring balance to the body under this particular physical or emotional stress, the practitioner then identifies the particular higher mind of the client that needs to be linked to this emotion. Borrowing from the Indian tradition, the practitioner asks the client’s body if it is operating at the monadic level (desiring unity) located at the hair line, the atmic level (exercising power or will) between the eyebrows, or the buddhic level (intuition) at the tip of the nose. Like the five emotions, each of these levels can also be accessed by acupuncture points that serve to indicate the client’s spiritual mode at that moment: the monadic (GV20 x G24), the atmic (GV20 x G24.5), and the buddhic (GV20 x GV25).
By this point, then, the practitioner has identified a primal emotion (one of five) and a spiritual center (one of three), both of which lie beyond access of the rational mind! But certainly such “base” and “higher” aspects have a profound impact on the self, so the task then becomes to harmonize these subconscious inner energies.
The MOPS approach, then, treats in tandem the aforementioned emotion and spiritual mind points in one simple procedure, energetically syncing the lower primal emotions with the higher spiritual mind. In practice, then, if a client (as demonstrated to the right) at a monadic spiritual level is manifesting rage, the practitioner (perhaps with the client) holds the those points—in front of the ears—as well as the monadic points for 30 to 45 seconds. Then the practitioner returns to re-test the indicator arm that registered the initial emotional stress, noting now that the arm has been energetically restored. The unbalanced emotion and spiritual level have now been combined and harmonized.
Connecting Heaven and Earth
I hope that sharing this fairly complex explanation of a kinesiology technique has not obscured the fundamental point, which is that both the Welcoming Prayer and kinesiology have common assumptions and use similar approaches to deal with the emotional stresses of daily life. These can be summarized in this way:
- Triggered and uncontrollable primal emotions impact the body deeply at the level of sensation.
- In our pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, most of us instinctively distance ourselves from painful emotions that become imprinted energetically at a deep level on the body.
- Distancing often occurs through employing the mind to create a story to protect ourselves from experiencing raw emotional pain.
- These unresolved emotions fester subconsciously and agitate the self on many levels.
- At the same time, our higher spiritual selves are frequently forgotten when we are held in the grip of emotions or engage in mental distancing.
- The body uses physical pain and irritation to signal to the conscious self that healing is needed.
- The common solution underlying both practices is three-fold:
(1) identify the subconscious body sensation of a particular emotion and open to it;
(2) call upon the higher self to combine with the primal emotion; and |
(3) let go of and replace the thought-emotion pain complex with a new energetic equilibrium.
Now we come to the biggest aha moment for me! Chinese medicine employs a brilliant metaphor that can be seen to capture the common essence of both practices. The most basic concept in Chinese philosophy is the harmony of heaven and earth. As pictured to the right, with our feet on the ground and heads in the air, humans are uniquely suited to literally and figuratively connect these two polarities. It can be easily understood from the Chinese perspective, then, that these primal, subconscious emotions can be associated with earth and the higher self can be represented by heaven. In one succinct metaphor Chinese philosophy splendidly illustrates the profound process of dealing with our emotions in a spiritual context that is described by the Welcoming Prayer and the MOPS technique.
What prevents the harmony of heaven and earth from occurring? The metaphor suggests that it is our mental, egoic structures—going up into story, as Cynthia says—that maintain a gulf between the lower and higher. However, when we dampen our story-constructing mental habits—whether through the more yang spiritual practice of the Welcoming Prayer or the more yin energetic treatment of kinesiology—the earthly primal emotions and the heavenly higher states of inclusivity, forgiveness, and peace intertwine and begin the process of reconciling their polarizing energies. By mixing the lower and higher aspects of the self, a new equanimity emerges.
Inspired by many years of service work and meeting Cynthia in 2010, eight years ago I decided to write a philosophy of education, which I identified as combining the yang of social conscience with the yin of inner awakening. I discovered for myself what Chinese civilization has claimed for millennia – that a properly lived life is a harmonization of opposites: yin and yang, action and contemplation, the passion of emotion and the sublimity of love. I am thrilled to have found a profound healing modality called kinesiology that powerfully demonstrates these truths in new and palpable ways. Together these Wisdom traditions—employing an endless variety of images, practices and treatments—speak with one voice of the need to bring the “lower” emotions and “higher” self into one harmonious whole.
This fundamental Wisdom principle was memorably stated in the Gospel of Thomas (logion 22):
“Jesus said to them, ‘When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower…then you will enter the Kingdom of God.’“
Through this alchemical process of “mak[ing] the two into one,” practices such as the Welcoming Prayer and the MOPS technique fulfill our human purpose of transforming the lead of emotional heaviness into the gold of forgiveness, resilience, and harmony. Such heightened energies are our gifts back to the universe.
 K= kidney, S.I.=small intestine, L.I.= large intestine, T.H.= triple heater, Ht=heart.
 GV= governing vessel, an energy meridian that runs from the tailbone, up the back, around the head, and down the front of the head to the upper lip.