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TOPIC: Practice With the Body

The Mental, Emotional, and Bodily domains of Human Personality interact and
influence one another.  Practice with any one invariably interacts and influences the
others to one extent or another.  So depending on circumstances, Practice can begin
with any one domain and continue to the others.

Nevertheless, the first emphasis of Sufi Practice is often the physical Body.   The Body
is primary both in an evolutionary sense (for the species) and in a developmental sense
(for the Individual).  The patterns that develop in the Body typically influence the
development of the Emotions and the Mind before the latter two can subsequently
influence the Body in turn.

The patterns of the physical Body are of two kinds, with some overlap:  those that are
instinctual and those that are learned.

The instinctual patterns are the first and "default" patterns, by which it's understood that
a Human Being could live a kind of Life based on them alone.   They are the patterns most
necessary for a Human Being's physical survival.   They are the least variable from one
Individual to another and least capable of being modified by the Individual's Emotional
and Mental development.  These instinctual patterns of growth and development in the
physical Body are generally also the healthiest for the Individual's Life and require the
least modification.

The learned patterns of the physical Body, on the other hand, are more specific to the
Individual's environment and personal development.  They are variable and unique to the
Individual and can be substantially modified.

Sufi Practice puts these Bodily patterns -- both instinctual and learned -- into a "big picture"
context:  they are specific and unique realizations of the possibilities of Reality as a whole,
with the corresponding Meaning that entails.

In the Human "Arc of Descent" into Life, the physical Body is patterned first by instinctual
development and then by environmental experience.  Each individual developes a certain,
typically narrow and "survival" oriented, bodily personality.  A person's body typically has
a limited number of postures and movements through which it acts.  A construction worker,
for example, typically has a different bodily development and different neuro-muscular
skills (patterned by underlying Lataif) . . . than does a ballerina.   These patterns make an
individual versatile in certain situations in Life . . . while correspondingly less versatile in
others.

To the extent that a Person also takes part in the Human "Arc of Ascent" in Life -- through
Sufi Practice, for example -- the bodily patterns are first modified to be more flexible and
adaptable.   Certain patterns are undone . . . and new patterns developed.   Sufi practice
with the Body involves reducing patterns that over-emphasize certain Lataif and introducing
patterns for other Lataif that are under-emphasized.   The ideal is a more versatile physical
Body reflecting a greater variety of underlying Lataif and capable of reflecting a greater
variety of situations in Life.

Changing old patterns and developing new ones are inter-related processes.  Old patterns are
de-emphasized in order to make room for new . . . while at the same time, newly developed
patterns reduce dependence on the old.

The most general and effective Practice for de-emphasizing old Bodily patterns is:   physical
relaxation.   Chronic neuro-muscular tensions reflect distorted and habituated patterns of
physical ends-and-means functioning.  The following practices are among those used by Sufi
Practice to relax the rigidity of such patterns:

* progressive muscle relaxation
* sitting meditation with body sensing
* therapeutic bodywork (Swedish massage, Rolfing, Shiatsu, etc)
* Yoga (hatha, yin, etc.)
* Tai Chi (non martial art)
* stretching
* Pilates
* breath work

The Practices most effective for developing new Bodily patterns are simply those that use and
reinforce patterns not already present.   Depending on the Individual, they might include:

* strength training
* educational bodywork (Feldenkrais, Alexander, etc)
* skilled sports (tennis, golf, martial arts, etc)
* dance (ballroom, folk, belly, Five Rhythms, etc)
* tai chi
* agility (musical instruments, sleight of hand, crafts, etc)