Webster says, “Medical Definition of ergonomics. 1: an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely—called also human engineering, human factors engineering.”
I think we can do better than that. I think efficient and safe is not good enough. I think we need to make health and well being the most important thing. I think we have to go beyond ergonomics and use our bodies in a way that makes us stronger, healthier and happier.
Think about it. How much time do you spend in front of the computer? How much time do you spend pecking away on your mobile device? How much time do you spend driving or riding around in a plane, train or automobile?
If your like me, the answer is too much time.
While many seem to pine away about how far removed we have become from what we are designed to be, I don’t see the point as its not really going to change anytime soon.
While some like to pine away about what we have lost because of modern lifestyles taking us far away from what we evolved to be and we are designed to do, I don’t see the point. Modern life is not going anywhere. I think we have to put what’s missing back into our modern lifestyle rather than attempt to escape from it.
Fortunately, there is a Method.
In my lineage, the focal point of cultivating one’s biotesegrity is known as Jam Jong, which is often called pile standing or simply standing. As I have written before the practice can be done in any position or shape, including sitting and lying down and is really about activating and realizing your dormant potential. Jam Jong is a change of state, a different way to be.
Practicing Jam Jong does not require you to live in the woods, climb tall mountains or surf massive waves (although it does not stop you either). It simply requires that you get out of your mind and back inside your body. You want to feel what’s there, experiment and rediscover what modern life has made us ignorant of.
I ran across and interesting anecdote on Wang Xiang Zhai the other day in a Yi Chuan book one of my students gave me. It’s an observation of Master Wang in his later years while he was living with his student Bu En Fu, “Bu’s student, Tian, recalled that they always saw an old man standing there watching them practice but without giving any comment. He just walked around, relaxing, and did not practice anything.”
Did not practice anything! Silly Boy!
Master Wang walking around relaxing was practicing. Do you see the point? It’s a trans-formative process. That means you can and should do it anytime, anywhere. The computer, the mobile device, the plane, the train and the automobile are all fair game.
But there is a hitch in the giddy up, a fly in the ointment so to speak. Changing our habitual posture and movement patterns is hard work. We are fighting years of muscle memory, pathetic ‘physical educations’, old injuries and fading recollections. Before we can practice while relaxing in the park we have to do the work. “Discipline before freedom”, as my Teacher always says.
This article is the first in a series that will look at how we turn the sedentary aspects of modern life into opportunities for cultivation that can help us become stronger, healthier and happier.
Case in point, while writing this article at my standing desk I’ve been sinking, stretching and elongating my tissues. Preventing repetitive stress injuries and reducing my employer’s health care costs are not enough.
I’m going beyond ergonomics and you can too.