Warps, Change and Little Ideas

Dance of Shiva Warps are a way of practicing change. The change is in the form of the Warp Algorithm itself.
Instead of the same movements, each movement is different… to an extent. We use the same moves over and over again but from different positions. So it is a way of practicing to handle change on a small scale.

Handling Change

Driving a car or riding a motorbike, we learn a small set of skills or ideas, braking, accelerating, steering, changing gears.

On a road with traffic, we use those skills according to what is happening at the time. We sense changes in the road or on the road and we make changes so that we stay connected to the road. We notice intersections, cross roads, on roads, off ramps, rest areas and we act depending on how we feel now and where we are going to.

In the Dance of Shiva, we can think of the movements as the idea elements that we can use to practice responding to change.

The change comes in the form of the algorithm that we have memorized. Although the algorithm is memorized, it has to be repeated four times in order to return the hands to home (to where they are going) and in addition there are 16 different starting positions we can use so that if we are practicing them all one after the other, the feeling can be the same as trying to handle external change. Because there are 64 possible arm positions, at any point in the algorithm we have to know where we are within the algorithm as well as where our arms are and then based on where we are in the algorithm we decide where to go next.

With enough practice, all movements of the algorithm become familiar, they become a part of us in the way that the basic movements are a part of ourselves and so we move on to the next algorithm so that we can continue to grow.

Generally, with driving, riding, or any other activity that we do regularly, whether work, passion, hobby or past time, the more experience we have doing it and handling it in different circumstances, the better we get at it. And the better we get at doing it in any circumstance. The experience helps us to understand the essence of what we are trying to do as well as the options for doing it.

Part of our experience may be that we become familiar with the little tiny details of what we are doing and that familiarity with the details allows us to become more flexible in the ways that we can do what we are doing.
And so one way of making experience more efficient is to try various combinations and prior to that pick smaller and smaller elements so that we have greater and greater flexibility. Then working at understanding those elements in different circumstances.

Driving the same stretch of road over and over again, even if the patterns of traffic are different every day, we eventually gain enough experience that we can handle all possibilities on that road. We know the ins and outs. If our goal is to improve our driving, then we try out different roads or even tracks, different settings so that we constantly grow, constantly improve and get better.

If we get down to the basics, driving is a simple set of skills that can be used in a variety of circumstances. Driving in different settings is what enables us to practice those skills in all their possible combinations.

If we look at using the brakes, gear box, accelerator and handle bars from another perspective, we can say that we have speed control and steering. With steering we learn to handle right turns and left turns. There are various types of turns and various sequences. The better we become at speed control and turning the bike the better we become at riding in any circumstance.

Looked at from yet another perspective, both of these functions, speed control and direction control, are a result or our interface with the bike or car. The better we can control our body and use our senses the better we can ride the bike or drive the car and the better we can handle change while doing so.
Dance of shiva is a way of practicing working with elements in different circumstances. It is also a way of learning to break down or think in terms of systems/complexity and the small/simple ideas that make them up. In addition it is also a way of practicing sensing the body and controlling it.  As a result practicing the dance of shiva allows us to do anything else with more sensitivity, control and intelligence so that we gain experience and understand faster. It can aid in learning, doing and understanding.

Exercising Consciousness-The Dance of Shiva

Dance of shiva is a physical exercise that helps to unify body and mind improving coordination, concentration, awareness, range of motion. It also develops clear, creative and positive thinking.

The practice is made up of 8 basic positions for each arm so that when both arms are used together there are a total of 64 arm positions combinations. The goal is to develop and practice the ability to connect all positions to each other. This can be made easier by first learning the positions and movements one arm at a time.

These one arm movements then become the building blocks for movements with both arms at the same time. Because both the movements and the positions are easy to define and recognize, this practice is easily done independently of a teacher. It is easy to self check and also easy to detect mistakes. It is an excellent tool for becoming more conscious.

Unifying Mind and Body

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The Dance of Shiva is a physical exercise that works on unifying the mind as well as the body.
At the most basic level the Dance of Shiva involves moving the hands in continuous spirals. There are two basic spiral patterns. In one movement the palms are kept facing up at all times. This basic pattern is called a horizontal spiral. In the other movement the palms are kept facing outwards. This movement is called a Vertical Spiral.

For the horizontal movement you could imagine moving your hands while balancing oil candles on them. The goal would be to move the hands in such a way that you don’t spill any oil nor do you cause the candles to blow out.

In the second movement it is a bit more difficult to balance something on the hands and so you might imagine holding a sword or knife and moving it in such a way that the cross section of the blade always stays in the same plane (the vertical plane from front to back).

While we don’t actually hold anything in our hands in this version of the Dance of Shiva the intent of keeping the palms facing upwards or outwards is a part of what makes it so powerful. It gives our hands a purpose. Having a purpose for the hands we can sense our hands and correct them when necessary. In the process we practice sensing our body and controlling it.

As we practice doing the moves we get better at getting our body to do what we want it to do. We correct less and simply observe our body doing the movements we’ve asked it to do.

Key to observing is first having a clear idea of what we are trying to do. Moving our hands in spirals, whether horizontal or vertical, gives us that idea-a clear purpose to unify our ability to sense and control our body. Having a clearly defined idea we can practice being conscious of what we are doing.

Defining Clear Ideas

To make the dance more complex we can break down the basic movements into four segments each. We then get eight positions for each hand: four where the palms are facing up and four where the palms face out.

The goal of the Dance of Shiva becomes that of learning the necessary movements to connect each of these 8 positions to every other position. With this new intention the Dance of Shiva is then not only a physical exercise, but a mental one also.

Initially the mental work may come in memorizing movements so that we can move without thinking. We can learn the movements using one arm at a time and then once we are comfortable we can practice moving both arms at the same time.

With practice we won’t have to think about what each position is in order to move our arms there-we can do it without thinking. We know the positions and our mind and our body become unified in what we are trying to do.

We may get to the point where as soon as we think of the move our arms move to the position.
It is as if we are watching ourselves do the moves.

To get to this point we first have to memorize and learn the moves.

Basic Positions

If we consider only one hand, there are eight positions for one hand in the Dance of Shiva. We can call these positions 1, 2, 3, 4 and a, b, c and d.

  • 1, 2, 3 and 4 are names for positions in which the hand is held facing upwards.
  • a, b, c and d are names for positons in which the hand is held facing outwards.
  • We can call the positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 “Horizontal” positions because the hands face upwards. a, b, c and d are then called “Vertical” positions because the palms face vertically outwards.

    dance of shiva basic positions with one arm
    In Position 1 the hand is level with the top of the head, elbow bend ninety degrees, with the fingers pointing outwards. In Position 2 the hand is level with the belly button with the fingers pointing inwards. In Position 3 the hand is again level with the belly button (or there abouts) but the fingers point outwards. In Position 4 the hand is again level with the top of the head but with the fingers pointing inwards. In all of these positions the palm is held facing upwards.

    In Position a the arm points forwards with the forearm rolled inwards so that the elbow points outwards. IN Position b the elbow is bent and the fingers point towards the sternum. In Position c the arm points forwards but this time the forearm is rolled outwards so that the elbow points inwards. In Position d the arm reaches back behind the body. In all of these positions the palm faces vertically outwards.

    (Where possible. It may actually take some practice to get to this stage. That is one of the ways in which this practice can be used to help open and balance the body, by slowly working towards the “Ideal” positions.)

    Basic Movements

    Having defined these positions, we can then begin defining movements between these positions. The goal in doing so is to define enough moves that we can connect each position to every other position. We define a single movement as a movement that connects one position to another position. A single move connects only two positions.

    First of all we can consider movements that connect positions in the same plane. We can call these same plane movements.

    • The Forwards move connects 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and 4 to 1. It also connects a to b, b to c, c to d, and d to a.
    • The Backwards move does the exact opposite connecting 1 to 4, 4 to 3, 3 to 2, and 2 to 1 as well as a to d, d to c, c to b, and b to a.
    • The Transquarter move connects non-adjacent positions, (positions that are not right next to each other.) With the Transquarter we can go from 1 to 3, from 3 to 1. We can also use it to go from 2 to 4, and from 4 to 2. In the vertical plane we can use it to go from a to c, from c to a, from b to d, and from d to b.
    • For completeness we could also consider a “Zero” move that connects a position to itself. If we include the Zero move (and it is necessary) then we can say that we have Four “Same Plane” movements.

    Next we define the “Change Plane” movements. These allow us to connect positions not in the same plane.
    The assumption for these moves is that: a is equivalent to 1, b is equivalent to 2, c is equivalent to 3, and d is equivalent to 4 (and vice versa.)

    • The Change move connects a to 1, 1 to a, b to 2, 2 to b, c to 3, 3 to c, d to 4, and 4 to d. We can consider the remaining three movements to be combinations of the Change Movement and the Three “Same Plane” movements (Forwards, Backwards and Transquarter.)
    • The Change Forwards move connects 1 to b, b to 3, 3 to d, and d to 1. It also connects a to 2, 2 to c, c to 4 and 4 to a.
    • The Change Backwards move connects 1 to d, d to 3, 3 to b, and b to 1. It also connects a to 4, 4 to c, c to 2, and 2 to a.
    • The Change Transquarter move connects a to 3, 3 to a, b to 4, 4 to b, c to 1, 1 to c, d to 2, 2 to d.

    Practicing the Movements and Positions

    In the video below is a practice set for practicing all the movements and positions. We start with “cyclic moves”
    Forwards, Backwards, Change Forwards and Change Backwards doing the right arm and then the left.

    We then do Transquarters, Changes, and Change Transquarters.

    As well as being a good practice for learning the positions and movements, the exercises in this video are also a nice practice for warming up prior to doing more advanced practices.

    Self Correction

    The nice thing about the Dance of Shiva is that the movements and positions are clearly defined. As a result, once we understand these basic movements and positions, we can easily check that we are doing them right. We can start by practicing the positions so that we know them without having to think about them. We can then practice the movements between those positions, again to the point where we can do them without thinking about them. Once we know the positions and movements while doing them with one arm at a time, our job is then that much easier when we use both hands at the same time.

    Doing the Dance of Shiva Slow and Smooth

    Slow Warp Warm Ups (Horizontals)
    Slow Warp Warm Ups (Verticals)
    Warp Math
    Slow Warp 1 from 1-1
    Slow Warp 1 MCL from 1-1

    I’ve recently discovered that doing the Dance of Shiva slowly feels really good. It gives me time to feel what I am doing.

    My inspiration for doing it slowly comes from a number of sources, one of the main ones being Tai Ji.


    Tai Ji

    I’ve been doing Tai Ji for a number of years now and what I now find is, that having learned to feel the movements while doing them slowly, it is easy to carry that “Feeling” into doing those same movements fast. In either case, instead of thinking about what I have to do I feel it. And I adjust what I am doing when I need to so that what I am doing feels good.

    While learning to do a Gong Fu sword form which is supposed to be done fast, I’ve been practicing the movements slowly to get the feeling for them so that once I have the feeling I try to then carry that feeling into doing the movements gradually faster and faster. Any time I notice a movement where I don’t yet know the feeling, I simply practice that “segment” until I get the feeling and then I try to string the movements all together again.

    The overall feeling can be like riding a wave, allowing the energy of one movement to carry me into the next movement, and so on until the whole routine is done.

    This doesn’t come easy. I’ve had to practice. As an example, to learn the sword form, I first play the relavant section of the DVD, watching the same piece over and over again so that I understand what I am supposed to do and so that I can then try to mimic it when I go to the park to practice. Often times I’ll think I understand the movement but I’ve forgotten to look at some key element, perhaps the direction I should be facing in, which foot steps first and where, or even what I am doing with my sword hand and my free hand.
    However, I’m now getting better at knowing what to look for. Once I’ve got the choreography mapped out, then I can start to feel the moves, making adjustments according to the way the moves feel each time I do them.

    Eventually I get to a point where I can practice in such a way that it feels like my whole body is involved-in such a way that I can feel my whole body in each movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean every part of my body moves, but it does mean that each part of my body supports what I am doing whether that part is stationary or dynamic.


    Relaxed and Smooth

    Generally, in order to maximize my ability to feel my body I try to be as relaxed as possible given the position or movement that I am trying to do. If I deliberately engage any part of my body it is to provide support, positioning bones relative to each other and the forces acting on them, so that other parts can relax. Staying relaxed and smoothly connecting one movement to the next, I can then use the weight of my body or the weight of the sword, or momentum to carry me from one position to the next.

    Smoothness is another important aspect of body learning to flow and flow itself.

    Being relaxed is important, feeling the body is also important, but when we move, smoothness is how we transmit energy, how we allow the energy of what we are doing to carry us from one position to the next. Smooth is efficient, and it can also be beautiful. Smooth and Slow leads to Smooth and Fast.


    Feeling What we are Doing

    Applying this to the Dance of Shiva, if we practice doing it slowly and smoothly we can focus on feeling the movements and positions as we do them. As a result we become present. Doing something fast is another way of becoming present, especially if you have to focus on what comes next. However, if we learn slowly first, then we can carry the smoothness that we learn from doing slowly into doing it quickly. As a result we are less likely to suffer injury or be sore the next day.

    In the videos my friends and I are doing the movements slowly. For my friends, the movements are still relatively new. However, because we are doing the movements slowly they have time to feel the movements even though they are still beginners.

    As for myself, because I am focused on feeling what I am doing there is little or not sense of “when is this gonna be over with.” All I’m focused on is what movement is next so that I can do that movement smoothly.

    Doing the movements slowly, over time we gradually realize the best path for each movement, the path that takes the least energy while still maintaining the shape or intent of what we are doing. And this path may be different from day to day, depending on our body and the environment, but if we now the feeling that we are looking for then we can find the place of smooth movement anyway.

    Using slow practice to practice feeling our body, as we practice longer and longer sequences, we can keep the transitions between movements smooth. Better yet we can start to involve our head, neck, ribcage and spine into our movement. The better we can feel what we are doing with our arms the easier this is to do. The next step from there, apart from simply practicing doing it faster and faster, is to add the legs. But for now we can focus on feeling our arms, and in addition our breath.


    The Breath

    The breath is a movement that we can learn to feel. In the video’s my friends and I do a very simple breathing technique. While exhaling we allow our spines to bend forwards slightly and we allow our ribs to sink down. While inhaling we gradually straighten our spine, at the same time pulling our head and ribs up. Breathing slowly and smoothly in this fashion it is very easy to feel our ribs, head and even the parts of our spine.

    The feeling feels nice.

    Once this rhythm has stabilized we can then add arm movements, using both our inhales and our exhales to do one movement each.


    The Positions

    The four horizontal positions are shown below in the first row of pictures. They are the same for both hands. The are named 1, 2, 3 and 4. The four vertical positions are shown in the next picture and are called a, b, c and d. I’ve included them here so that you can recognize them in the videos, and so you can follow along if you wish.

    For more details on the positions click here.


    The Movements

    There are seven basic movements from each position. They are called: Forwards, Backwards, Transquarter, Change Forwards, Change Backwards, Change, Change Transquarter. We can use these movements to connect each position to every other position.

    In the videos the sequence is designed so that we we practice all of these moves from each position. So for example, from position 1, we do a Forwards move and then we return to 1 using a Backwards move so that we can then do another move. Then we do a Change Forwards followed by a Change Backwards.

    For more details on the movements in general click here.


    Sequence Tables

    The movement sequences for the first video are in the first row below while those for the second video are in the second row. The left hand column for each table is the movement while the right hand column in each table is the position the arms are in after each move. Notice how after every two moves the hand returns to the starting position.

    If doing these movements, I would suggest getting comfortable with the choreography first and then once you are comfortable, focus on feeling the position of your hand, elbow and shoulder while doing the moves. If that isn’t enough, focus on feeling your ribs and spine at the same time.

    Try to make the movements feel as connected as possible while also having a clear idea of each position as you move to and from it.


    Warps and Warp Tables

    Warp 1 from 1-1
    Warp 1 from 1-1 MCL

    Once we’ve learned the basic movements and positions with one hand we can learn to use both arms at the same time. Slow Warps are one way of practicing positions and movements that use both arms at the same time.

    A “Warp Sequence” consists of four movements that we repeat four times in order to return the arms to the position from which they started. In the two tables to the right, the left hand column of each table shows the warp sequence for Warp 1. Each of the other columns represents one repetition of the same warp sequence, going from left to right.

    Notice that the bottom table is the mirror image of the sequence in the top table. The actual Warp Sequence for Warp 1 is
    CF-T, CF-CF, CF-B, F-CF
    which is what we have in the Table 1. This is read from left to right and applied to the body from left to right. If we read or say the exact same movements (and their accompanying positions) but apply them to our body from right to left, then Table 2 is the result.

    The advantage of using the same sequence is that we only have to remember one set of movements, then all we do is mirror the movements, from left to right, for a balanced practice.

    In the first Slow Warp video my friends and I apply the formula from right to left. However, while watching and doing, you can mirror what we do so that you apply the coordinates from left to right. Then in the MCL (Mirror Cross Link) video, we do apply the coordinates from left to right. You then do the opposite, from right to left.


    Warp Math

    Now you may have noticed in third video my friends and I writing the tables out by hand. This is one way of practicing or understanding both a Warp and the movements that make it up. Plus we can then use our table as a cheat sheet.

    You’ll notice that I write from right to left. That is because I’m writing out the Mirror Cross Link Table while my friends took turns writing out the Warp Table.

    As a final note, in the video we are writing out the warp table for Warp 1 starting from position a-a. In the other videos, we are doing the warp and its Mirror Cross Link starting from position 1-1.


    Videos-Large Size

    Slow Warp Warm Ups (Horizontals)
    Slow Warp Warm Ups (Verticals)
    Warp Math
    Slow Warp 1 from 1-1
    Slow Warp 1 MCL from 1-1

    The Dance of Shiva-Basic Positions and Movements

    Practicing Movements from
    Horizontal Position Starts
    Practicing Movements from
    Vertical Position Starts
    Horizontal Positions (right)
    and Vertical Positions (left)


    Horizontal Positions

    Four horizontal positions of the Dance of Shiva are shown in the first column on the right.
    In each of these positions the palm is held facing horizontally upwards. In positions 1 and 3 the fingers point out to the sides while in positions 2 and 4 the fingers point inwards.


    Vertical Positions

    The four vertical positions are shown in the second column. These are called “a, b, c and d.”

    In all of these positions the palm faces outwards so that the surface of the palm is vertical. In positions a and c the fingers point forwards. In positions b and d the fingers point backwards. The elbow is straight for positions a, b and d and bent for position b.


    Same Plane Movements

    If we focus solely on positions in the horizontal plane we can use three movements to connect those positions to each other. The same movements can be used to connect positions in the horizontal plane to each other or positions in the vertical plane to each other.
    These three movements are called: Forwards, Backwards and Transquarter.

    They are summarized below.

    Forward
    1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and 4 to 1
    a to b, b to c, c to d, d to a

    Backwards
    1 to 4, 4 to 3, 3 to 2 and 2 to 1
    a to d, d to c, c to b, b to a

    Transquarter
    1 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 1 and 4 to 2.
    a to c, b to d, c to a, from d to b


    Change Plane Movements

    So that we can connect positions in one plane to positions in the other plane we need four more moves. These moves are as follows:

    Change Forwards:
    1-b, b-3, 3-d, d-1,
    a-2, 2-c, c-4, 4-a

    Change Backwards:
    1-d, d-3, 3-b, b-1,
    a-4, 4-c, c-2, 2-a

    Change:
    1-a, 2-b, 3-c, 4-d,
    a-1, b-2, c-3, d-4

    Change Transquarter:
    1-c, 2-d, 3-a, 4-b,
    a-3, b-4, c-1, d-2


    Movement Icons

    We can use the following icons to summarize all movements:


    Cyclic Moves and Jump Moves

    Looking at these icons we might be inclined to class the Forwards, Backwards, Change Forwards and Change Backwards movements as “Cyclic” and the Transquarter, Change and ChangeTransquarter movements as “Jump” moves.


    Videos Enlarged

    Practicing Movements from
    Horizontal Position Starts

    Doing the Dance of Shiva Slowly

    In any exercise that we do, we can focus on feeling our body.

    By practicing feeling our body, the parts and how they relate, we allow energy to flow because to feel our body we have to position it just right.

    In anything that we are learning to do we can focus on using our senses to “feel” what we are doing.

    Doing math we can use our eyes to see equations.

    Driving we can sense the traffic around us.

    While in a conversation we can listen to what our partner is telling us.

    In the process of feeling our body we position it in a way that feels good or we notice where we feel tight and ask ourselves what can be done about it.

    So when we feel our body we aren’t just feeling it, we are responding to what we sense.

    Sensation is the Flow of Energy

    Initially, we can use our mind to direct our senses, to help us notice what our senses are telling us.

    This is like learning to drive and finding out where the speedometer and rev counter are and what they are for. (One tells us how fast we are going relative to what is around us, the other tells us how fast the engine is turning relative to it not turning.)

    The feelings are the result of electrical signals that pass from our sense receptors to our brain.

    When we feel we are allowing energy to flow. When we finally tune our position so that we can use our senses we send signals from our brain to the appropriate muscle control centers. This too is energy and by fine tuning our positioning we again allow energy to flow.

    Better yet, by directing the way we use our senses and the way we control our body we direct where the energy flows to and from within our body.

    Elements we Can Sense and Control

    What is it that we can learn to feel and control?

    We can learn to feel the parts, ideas or elements and how they all relate.

    • We can learn to feel the weight of our bones and how our bones relate to each other.
    • We can learn to feel our muscles and whether they are active or relaxed on in the process of activating or relaxing.
    • We can learn to feel tension in our connective tissue generated by any combination of muscular activity or relaxation or caused by the weight of one bone or another hanging down.

    Smooth and Slowwww

    So that we can learn to feel the parts of our body, discrete and identifiable bones and muscles, we can practice moving slowly and smoothly and we can focus on feeling and controlling specific parts of our body at a time.

    We can focus on basic body elements or we can focus on sport/movement/activity specific movement elements that relate directly to what we are trying to do.

    We can also focus on doing clearly defined movements so that it is easy to guide what we are doing and to check what we have done. This is where the Dance of Shiva comes in.

    The Dance of Shiva aids in

    • clear thinking,
    • concentration,
    • improving body awareness,
    • equalizing/balancing left/right mobility and range of motion
    • develops or improves mind-body coordination
    • and a few other things besides.

    It’s a tool for thinking creatively, for seeing potential and realizing it.

    The Dance of Shiva

    My own practice of learning to feel and control my body has evolved from my study of yoga, tai ji and the Dance of Shiva.

    I’ll talk about the Dance of Shiva in this article because it is relatively simple to begin with and can be learned easily from a book or video.

    Plus, practicing it makes learning and doing things like Yoga and Tai Ji easier.

    Simple Elements


    The Dance of Shiva has 8 basic positions for each arm.

    These 8 basic positions can be combined by using both arms at the same time. As a result there are 64 different arm position combinations. (8×8….)

    The nice thing about these positions is that they are well defined and simple.

    In four of the positions the palms face upwards, as if balancing a small bowl or cup of lobster bisque. (1, 2, 3 and 4 in the picture at right.) In the other four positions the palms face outwards as if holding a spoon or sword but the palm and fingers are flat…. (kind of makes it hard to hold but we’ll forget that for now and move on!)

    (a, b, c and d.)

    Simple Ideas

    The simple idea of Dance of Shiva is to learn how to connect each of these positions to every other position.

    If we include connecting a position to itself then we have 64×64 movement combinations.

    That is quite a lot of movement combinations but… they are all based on 8 basic movements. I didn’t mention it, but there are 8 basic movements that can be used to connect any of the 8 basic positions to each other.

    One of those moves is a zero move.

    Why the zero move?

    In any situation we always have the choice of doing nothing and that is one way we can think of the zero move, the possibility of doing nothing. We can also think of the zero move as the move that contains the possibility of all other moves.

    So how many movement possibilities are there?

    64×64 because from any position there is always the possibility of doing nothing!

    Zero is potential, non-zero is realizing that potential.

    Plus, when using both hands together, if we want to connect two positions that are different by only one arm positon then we need to only move one arm. The zero move takes care of the arm that doesn’t move.

    The zero move also makes the math neater.

    With the Dance of Shiva we practice seeing potential, perhaps even creating it, and we also practice realizing potential.

    And rather than wasting time by thinking about what we can’t do we practice focusing on what we can do. And it all starts with 8 simple positions and 8 simple movements that join those positions.

    Sequences of Movement Combinations

    With 64 different movement combinations, we can create sequences of movements that repeat four times to bring us back to where we started. By practicing these sequences (called Warps) we can practice the movements of the dance of shiva in a logical and structured way.

    This trains us to think clearly about what we are trying to do. With a clear idea of what we are trying to do we can easily check if we are doing or have done it correctly. The sooner we spot any mistakes the sooner we can correct them.

    And because we can check each move as we do it we can practice the benefits of checking as we do as opposed to after we’ve done.

    Checking as we are doing or while we are doing, mistakes are a lot easier to find and correct before they become big problems. Not only that, we don’t have to look for the source of the problem.

    (And that is a large part of what problem solving is, finding the source of the problem.

    Only when we know what the problem is can we then go about fixing it.)

    Practice Feeling

    Learning Tai Ji or a Gong Fu routine (or even Chinese calligraphy) we can learn the basic structure of what we are doing. We can think of this as the choreography or even the script (to a play that we have a part in.) Once we’ve learned the script or choreography or sequence of moves we can practice feeling it.

    The nice thing about feeling is that we can vary it slightly depending on what is happening at the time.

    What we have learned begins to become alive within ourselves.

    By focusing on feeling, and on making micro adjustments based on what we feel we have the opportunity to maximize the flow of energy within ourselves.

    Once we’ve learned a movement patterns, a sequence of moves, we can use this movement pattern to practice feeling our body.

    As an example, all positions have the palm facing either upwards or outwards.

    To begin with we can practice feeling our hands and making sure that they are facing upwards or outwards.

    From our hands we can expand our awareness to our elbows and shoulders.

    We can feel these parts and position them so that it is as easy as possible to put our hands in the required position.

    As we get more comfortable with both the sequences of moves and with feeling our body, we can expand our awareness to include our head and ribcage.

    We can practice positioning our ribcage (and thoracic spine) so that it is easy to use our arms and we can position our arms so it is easy to use our hands.

    Finally we can expand our awareness to include our waist, pelvis, legs and feet.

    What we have then is a way of practicing using the whole body to do what we are trying to do.

    This whole body awareness can then be used in any other activity that we are doing. And if the awareness we learned from the dance of shiva is lacking with respect to some other activity that we want to do, then at the very least we have a framework for filling in the pieces that are missing.

    Once we can feel one part, or many parts, those parts become references for feeling anything that they are connected to.

    Training the Mind

    By the way, the Dance of Shiva can be done standing or sitting. It can be done while sitting in a chair. It can also be done in the head or on a piece of paper.

    As well as helping us to learn to feel our body the Dance of Shiva is an excellent way of training the mind.

    Because we define the movements and the positions, there is no ambiguity as to what we are trying to do. Instead we can focus on doing it and feeling it.

    We can learn to connect each position to every other position without ever worrying about what is possible or not possible. Instead, it is all possible and all we have to do is choose.

    The Point of Feeling is Flowing

    So what is the point of feeling our body in anything that we do? So that we can flow. For myself, by focusing on doing the sword form that I am learning slowly, I can feel my body as it moves.

    The better I feel it then the easier it is to move quickly and accurately. Rather than trying to remember the moves I am feeling them. And because I am feeling them my movements have a liquid essence. They flow. And it feels really good.

    I used to be focused on memorizing Dance of Shiva and then on doing it quickly.

    This does have some benefit but I think true benefits, true inner skill or gong fu comes from feeling the movements.

    Carrying this sensitivity into the world outside of our practice, we can then become more sensitive to both ourselves and what is around us.

    We become present. Life becomes more joyful as a result.

    Practicing slowly we can feel our body and then carry that feeling into doing movements at any speed including fast.

    Then we are doing gong fu-practicing with inner skill.

    Shiva and Chaos

    Shiva and Chaos

    One of the notions in Chaos theory (and I’m still reading up on it so take what follows with a pinch of salt) is that simple patterns can be repeated over and over again to create complex systems. My reference is James Gleick’s

    Chaos-The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable.

    In it he talks about the reason that our DNA, or DNA in general can store so much information is that information for creating the parts of our body is encoded in patterns that can be used over and over again at different scales.

    This “scaling effect” is apparently apparent in organs like our liver and in the structure of our veins and arteries.

    In plant life, one researcher showed how smaller pictures of a fern could be layed in to produce a picture of a bigger fern.

    (I may need some proper references or at least web links here.)

    Anyway, reading all of this I became quite excited because it occured to me that Dance of Shiva can display this scaling effect. It offers an infinite amount of possibility just from a few simple moves.

    Warp 1

    Allow me to use the Warp 1 sequence to illustrate. In this sequence, there are four movements, (where the movement to the left of the dash is that of the left arm and the movement to the right that of the right arm):

    • Change Forwards-Transquarter
    • Change Forwards-Change Forwards
    • Change Forwards-Backwards
    • Forwards-Change Backwards

    We repeat this sequence of movements 4 times to return the arms to the position from which they started.

    In the table, each column represents one repetion of this sequence. The movements are highlighted in blue in the column on the left. We start at position 1-1 (top left red square,) and move to b-3, 3-d, d-c and finish at a-4. The next column or repetition starts at a-4 (the second red square from the left.)

    The red squares represent the position the we finish at after each repetition. If we look closely we may notice a pattern, a relationship between one stopping point or check sum and the next.

    From 1-1 to a-4 the left arm does the equivalent of a change, from 1 to a. From a-4 to 1-3, it does a Change again. Then from 1-3 to a-2 it Changes back to a. Then from a-4 the arms return to 1-1. The right hand undergoes a similar repeated transition. It moves from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 and back to 1 again (1-1, a-4, 1-3, a-2, 1-1.) It does the equivalent of a Backwards move.

    We can thus think of this sequence of movements as equivalent to a C-B move.

    (I actually selected each Warp so that their equivalents where all different.)

    If we were so inclined we could create any number of warps using any of the pairs of movements to create C-B equivalents. We could also use sequences of other than 4 moves.

    Now, suppose we did any four movements at random. What could happen? We could figure out the equivalent single move for those four random movements. More to the point, for any number of moves we could figure out the equivalent single move and it would always be one of 64 possible movements (They are all shown in the table above.)

    Why 64? Because there are 64 possible positions and so to join any position to any other position including itself we need 64 possible movements. The movement that connects a position to itself is a zero move.

    So what does this mean? If we have the freedom to do any number of moves, then we can always find different ways to do the equivalent of any of the 64 movements. There is infinite potential, all based on a few simple moves.

    Dance of Shiva Level 0: Basic Spirals (from 1)

    For those of you who took my class today at Myoga, here are videos for the four basic movements we did today.
    Remember that for positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 the palm is held upright (facing up)
    For positions a, b, c and d the palm faces outwards.

    Forwards from
    1 to 2, to 3, to 4 and back to 1
    Backwards from
    1 to 4 to 3 to 2 and back to 1 again
    Change Forwards from
    1 to b to 3 to d to 1
    Change Backwards from
    1 to d to 3 to b to 1

    Horizons

    Practicing the Dance of Shiva we learn to know both where we are and where we want to go. We do this by knowing what position our arms are in and also knowing what position we are moving them to. We also know the movement we are going to use to get there. By knowing where we are and where we are going to we can practice being present.
    Knowing where we are heading in the next moment in time we can go there.
    Riding a motorcycle I learned how to be present by “Looking to the Horizon”. The horizon isn’t so much the horizon of the earth but the horizon of the “Now”.
    On a bike, especially when I am going fast, the horizon is the furthest point of the road ahead that I can see.
    As more of the road ahead becomes apparent, my Horizon changes, sometimes a little closer, sometimes further away, but always ahead of me, leading me on.
    Riding I find that there is a point just above that part of the road that seems to work well as my horizon. And I don’t just look to the horizon, I sense all of the road between myself and it. This is my now.
    For the longest time I used to be scared when riding a bike fast, especially while going around corners. I then found that if I positioned myself so that I cold see around the corner as far as possible and look at that point just above the surface of the road, as far ahead as I can see, then I feel comfortable going faster. I position myself for the best view of the way ahead. I give myself the biggest now possible. I can go smoothly from one corner to the next.
    If I am riding in traffic, I can look for the gaps to flow through and I can give “unconscious drivers” the space they need so that I can keep myself and them safe from harm.
    And rather than letting myself get tangled up in thoughts of who is a good driver or more particularly who is less than good, I can focus on the path that I am trying to follow.
    A similiar thing happens when I practice asian calligraphy. When I’ve learned the brush strokes of the character I am painting, I can flow from one to the next meanwhile staying aware of both what I have painted and the room I have left to paint within so that the piece I am painting as a whole has a beautiful flow.
    The better I know a whole series of characters that I am painting the easier it is to flow from one to the next. And when i get really good I’ll be able to simply compose on the fly, deciding what characters to paint as I paint them, their meaning guiding me from one brush stroke to the next from one character to the next.
    Alas, to get to that point I have to practice. I have to learn the brush strokes.
    But if apply the same mindset to learning brush strokes as I do to painting characters I can learn to flow while learning and the feeling can be just as pleasant, just as present as while actually composing on the fly.
    The key is to focus on learning small bits at a time, focusing on “sensible ideas,” smaller units that have meaning in and off themselves. Learning characters, those sensible units can be brush strokes or they can be smaller component characters that together in combination make up the bigger characters.
    Riding a bike on a set course it might be practicing one corner over and over again. Doing yoga it can be doing the same pose over and over again.
    Learning or practicing a small idea, a sensible idea, if we do our practice with rhythm, doing and then resting and then doing again the rhythm of doing and resting, of simple repetition can be soothing, and although it is the same idea we are doing over and over again, if we practice sensing that idea, looking ahead towards it, we can learn to flow that much faster. Then when we add that small idea to the other small ideas we’ve learned we can learn to flow from one to the other with much greater ease. Doing becomes like learning and learning like doing. In both cases we flow.
    How does this apply to the dance of shiva, (or anything else for that matter when we are doing a preset sequence of moves?) By learning the moves so that they are a part of ourselves we don’t have to think about what comes next, instead we just know. As a result instead of thinking about the movement we are doing now we can let ourselves do it (because we know it) meanwhile we can “think” ahead to the move that is coming up next. It’s as if the horizon that we are looking towards is within ourselves.