This is going to be a good one! Pushing Hands For Lovers at the New York Open Center February 15th.

Push Hands is a two-person taijiquan exercise that can be done competitively between skilled martial artists. It can also be performed as an elegant, cooperative energy dance to enhance awareness and sensitivity to subtle changes in movement and consciousness.
Perhaps best of all, pushing hands can be a joyous opportunity to choose love over fear.

In each moment of our lives we are presented with the opportunity to choose between Love and Fear.

Love embraces what is.

Fear rejects it.

The human animal is wired to respond to challenging situations in much the same way as other animals: fight, flight, or freeze. The challenge is seen as a threat and our responses are fear-based (not just fear, but anger, hostility, contemptuousness, resentment, etc.). The human spirit, on the other hand, is inspired to transcend and include the challenging energies through understanding and compassion—Love.

Many martial arts draw their strength and effectiveness by emphasizing fear as motivation. Students are instructed to develop armor to resist incoming energy and powerful weapons to pierce opponents’ armor. The world is seen as a harsh and hostile place, and training rewards fear-based behavior.

Paradoxically, we are actually empowered by love and compassion, even in the face of threatening behavior. We are physically stronger and have clearer perceptions and better reactions when calm, centered, and expansive. Some martial arts use this to their advantage.

The challenge is to allay the fears of our animal nature while learning to handle unpredictable behaviors with confidence and understanding. Those who can do this are rewarded with expanded consciousness, a heightened sense of well-being, and a trove of unexpected abilities.

There are certainly times when a feral response to a desperate situation is entirely appropriate, particularly when we are unequipped to handle it otherwise. “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six,” goes the old saw. However, the complexities of modern life render those vicious outbursts risky at best. We are more often challenged by an odious boss, an unwanted sexual advance, or an overbearing relative pushing an ideological agenda with the ruthlessness of a medieval Jesuit, and it’s usually better to handle people with a minimum of bloodletting (if only to avoid the paperwork).

Yet we are often triggered by unwanted and unexpected energies and intentions as if attacked by a wild animal—fight, flight, or freeze. It’s a program that is imbedded in our DNA and is often immune to logic. “I know I shouldn’t be frightened by my (boss, ex-boyfriend, teacher, etc.), but I can’t help it.” That “reptile brain” response is a default setting for many of us and remains so until we practice shifting to more sophisticated parts of the brain. Response patterns are encoded in our neurochemistry by repetition, enslaving us to our fears. The “choice” of Love vs. Fear seems a cynical illusion when all we know is fear.

How to break the cycle? What if we try lots of underhand pitches before we start throwing fastballs? What if we re-train the nervous system to handle challenges more calmly as we gradually raise the bar?  What if we employ some of the taiji tricks of the trade to confidently receive energy and act with effortless power?

Pushing Hands for Lovers is for anyone who wants to re-program those subconscious fear-based response patterns and encounter others with an open heart, even in challenging situations. You don’t need to know anything about taijiquan, the learning curve is gentle. But even if you’ve done taijiquan for thirty years, you may be surprised by the transformative effects of this approach. You don’t need a partner, but if you have a friend or lover, bring ’em. Three hours of Pushing Hands for Lovers is better than a year of couple’s therapy. More fun too.

Pre-register by February 10 and it’s just $40. $50 at the door.