Few things in life are so reliably and universally persistent as stress. The stress of pain or struggle or trauma of any kind–though perhaps more commonly referred to as suffering, though suffering is but a piece of a larger experience of discomfort within and perhaps uniquely of the human condition–this stress is perhaps the lynchpin upon which we hinge most of our life and work, collectively or individually. We seek generally and in most of our endeavors to somehow manage our stress, and sometimes we do this by electing to engage in stressful activity on our own terms.
It is this voluntary inducement of stress which we seek here to clarify. But to what end might we clarify this? most particularly when we do so as a sort of honing this most valuable of tools. And so again, valuable for what? What we will contend here, as we might contend of all valuations, is that we measure such against its capacity for stimulating growth and in its most broad and coherent sense.
In this contention must we take for granted that growth is something integral and worthy of what might be considered a desirable life–the work of demonstrating this being a wholly separate and even more arduous undertaking. At least here we might provide some rich soil in which to sow the seeds for such an undertaking, and we do so best and most specifically by grounding ourselves firmly in the corporeal1.
This project takes its name from the physical regimen practiced in the fictional universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune by the esoteric society of the Bene Gesserit. This regimen by the name of Prana Bindu is a sort of training by which the practitioner learns to exercise full control over the body for the endurance of pain, the accomplishment of physical feats, and prowess in combat among other more uncanny abilities.
The nature of this physical regimen is as broad and obscure as the name by which it is called, but perhaps we aim at the spirit of it in this corporeal articulation of the expeditionary mode. And perhaps it hints at the very purpose of this work when, at the outset, we cannot merely state our purpose and prescription before laying out the groundwork of reasoning upon which it might stand.
It is worth explaining from the outset the underlying logic we will employ in mapping out our strategy for growth within our chosen dimension of the corporeal is that of a trichotomy. While this may seem as though somewhat arbitrary, it might be said that insofar as we utilize a spatial understanding of ideas (such as when we say that ideas overlap), a trichotomy is at once the simplest and most sufficiently complex means of mapping ideas.
If we are to map out a concept so as to make it navigable, we would require what amounts to a plane to cover the entire scope of possibility under given set of constraints; or if we wish to determine the coordinates of an unknown, we might wish to do so by its relation to other points. In both cases, we need at least three axes by which to form a plane or triangulate a position.
And the concept is not merely one abstract and removed from experiential or physical reality. For a thing to stand without the aid of kinesis, it must retain three points of contact with the surface upon which it stands.
Suffice to say, we are making use of the logic of a trichotomy as a means of achieving coherent comprehensibility. We must, however, elaborate on a particular aspect common to trichotomies: Taking that of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, for instance, we can see quite clearly a cyclical rather than a linear relation between its parts–one wherein the third part follows the first two in their succession to reproduce the first part anew. The thesis is stated anew and accordingly stimulates the formation of its antithesis, also something wholly new; and so the synthesis does not occur at the midway point before the antithesis is even manifest, but as the resolution and final analysis of conflict between the two that a new and sturdier thesis may come about.
Thus do we here set out to establish three axioms by which to set in motion a positive feedback loop in which each clarifies the next in its turn, producing cumulative growth throughout.
As a guide for establishing our three axioms, we will use our initial assertion of the centrality of stress. Using this premise might we orient our axioms toward the means by which we wrangle with the matter of stress, or at least the means by which to do so competently. It should be noted that these axioms were first arrived at somewhat arbitrarily, but perhaps we can illustrate their selection and the value inferred therein as something more than merely arbitrary.
In order that stress be encountered in some survivable and not wholly destructive manner, one must meet and exceed the demands of such. Here we attempt to identify the three stages by which this might occur: the exertion of force perhaps being chief and most primal among these; the assertion of form would perhaps serve the necessary counterbalance (insuring that force is exerted in a way so as not to compromise structure); and the negotiation of function to assess the results and correct for errors in the next round.
Are we here describing something physiological? experiential? anything at all specific? or nothing in particular? Yes. Here we assert that this cycle or some semblance of it occurs at all resolutions at every level of its enactment–that it is a pattern apparent at all levels in a self-similar, perhaps fractal-like fashion. Better yet might we describe this arrayment as alike to orbital positions around a celestial body with those closest to the center being smaller and more rapid than the slower and larger ones to its outside.
And so while we might associate, say, a particular physical discipline with one portion of this cycle, as emphasizing a particular aspect of the trichotomy over another, deeper down and in increasingly more rapid fashion, the entirety of the cycle is running its course many times over and in a multitude of manners. Meaning that while we might pursue one discipline as but a stage in a more complete training cycle, at some level is the discipline already more or less a self-contained representation of what we might hope to gain by expanding the scope of our training to other disciplines which emphasize another aspect or stage of a more complete and comprehensive regimen.
To put it simply, there is much to be gained and little lost in focusing on one discipline at the expense of another, and furthermore will we discover that, in the novice stage of any discipline, it is preferable to dedicate one’s efforts and energies to only that discipline for so long as it takes supersede that level.
Beyond that will we discover that to some degree might those disciplines in which one is thoroughly at the level of intermediate benefit from the shift in focus or rounding out afforded in other disciplines. Or at the very least might we clarify the purpose or utility of one discipline by its benefit to the next, or possibly that one discipline above all others might serve to justify and analyze the manifest benefit of the others. Or more likely will we find all of these possibilities to be the case to different degrees at different times.
1. A corporeal grounding, though one hardly to the exclusion of the cerebral as in the erroneous sense of a mind/body dichotomy, except insofar as what is most squarely in the cerebral (perhaps that which is most appropriately linguistic or narrative or otherwise somehow extraneous to the self as an organism) would land here only on the periphery of our focus. ↩