Archive for December, 2008

The Life of Qi

Posted in Buddhism, Daoism, Fighting, health, martial arts, Mysticism, Qi, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Full-body movement is very interesting. When using the entire body to move at once, as in Taijiquan or a variety of other martial arts, there is no place where the movement originates. Sure, it’s seemingly POWERED by the legs and the waist, and you keep your mind-intent in the dantien or hara, but the movement does not originate anywhere specifically on the body. Which connects the intent to the mind, rather than any telegraphed isolated point in the limbs or whatever.

As a result, the individual gains a subtler awareness of the body’s relationship to itself and its surroundings. Full body movement generally takes place as one eliminates unnecessary tension from the muscles — tension which is the result of excess stress from thoughts, worries and other typical mental baggage and metaphysical funk. Upon releasing tension from the muscles, one’s structure becomes naturally stable and strong (held up by the skeleton), and the qi begins to fill the dantien and then move throughout the structure of the body, strengthening the bones.

Strange things can be done with qi. Qi is, of course, difficult to define or pin down (preaching to the choir here!). And why don’t Buddhist masters talk about qi? Surely many of them knew about it, and Hindu religious practices emphasize prana. Tibetan Buddhism has it’s own set of definitions about bodily energy which are fascinating, but most Buddhism emphasizes all personal energy or ability, health and whatnot as coming from the mind alone.

Yes, Buddhism and even Hermetics focus upon the mind/breath as the object of meditative practice. I’ve heard people claim that meditating upon the qi is missing the point or somehow allows people to get lost in ideas of power or energy or trance. Yet in my experience, qi meditation is merely a means, and is never explicitly described to be an end. Qi meditations are not the only ones I use, but in certain cases, such as in the martial arts, it leads to an increased subtle awareness which makes one’s practice much deeper.

Anyway, everyone is sensitive to the qi meridians. Just run your finger along the sensitive, ticklish spots on the inside of your arm or the back of your legs and ankles. I found I could follow the qi meridians right away because the qi flows where a person is naturally sensitive/ticklish. For what it’s worth, although I had already read about the qi meridians in books before being “transmitted” the meditation process in person, I did not actually recognize or follow the qi until someone showed the process to me.

On that note, qi transmission is problematic because it is hard to make sure someone else is learning it properly. I know folks who have been practicing longer than me who still claim not to feel anything qi-related, and quite advanced meditators who claim to have no experience with qi. This lends to the skepticism of many empiricists who do not trust qi to be a valid experiential medium. But in my experience, qi is verily real. One teacher of mine had the strange ability to undo tension in other people by using his qi. Whether or not it’s actually qi, he did it by extending his energy into you through his hands, at the point on the upper palm, and the personal result is a hot stream of energy in your body where he sends his intent. Wild stuff. Sounds like reiki or shiatsu or whatever, but I’ve felt those things and this was something else.

Everything that exists has qi, but it differentiates from the concept of mind, in that qi is limited to the dynamics of being a life-force medium which is unknowable. The mind is itself perhaps unknowable as well, but the mind is the very intangible fabric in which all things are reflections. Qi does not have reflections, but is the subtly tangible, yet unknowable, essence behind all existences.

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Nothing

Posted in Beauty, Happiness, love, Reality Bites, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Each being has a fundamental impulse to have the world spinning beneath their feet, moving with their desires. But the world is spinning no matter what happens, for nobody in particular. The world spins because all it is doing, in a cosmic sense, is coming together and then coming apart — just like that. It’s really quite crazy that even the most phenomenal things are as simple as that. So no matter how slow we move, culture and the world hurdles forward, ever-changing. No time to think in this maelstrom! The more you think, the less you understand. And as you think less, as you go deeper into pure existence, experience, emotion, whatever it is that we all are going through — it starts to feel like your protective skin (both physically and mentally) has been ripped off. But then beneath that you find it’s so melancholy, warm, sad and beautiful.

I wonder if maybe this whole universe is a broad, shallow experience at the bottom, you know — because all phenomena are inherently empty of self, and furthermore, substance. But then, sometimes the most shallow or fleeting things are the most profoundly deep. To give a basic example: upon first glance, artists and creatively driven individuals seem to do a lot less for society than philanthropists or charitable organizations. But in truth, artists touch everyone on such a broad, sweeping, deep level, which further influences and inspires the way people live. In many similar cases, the more shallow something seems on the surface, the wider its grasp of influence.

And so it is with the universe, and all the fabrics of this existence. No matter how hard we try to absorb ourselves in our desires, in our passions, thirsts, needs, obsessions, loves and drives — they always go into overdrive, short-circuit, blow out, fail to satisfy. And so I have to ask, what happens if we short-circuit our samsaric experience? What if we wake up and realize nothing ever satisfies, ever? It seems like a major attachment to existence is the desire for satisfaction, or contentment. Which is an insanely selfish passion. What is existence like without passion, without individualism and human understanding? Whether or not it’s liberation, it seems to be beyond human understanding. Parinibbana, and so forth.

There are no cosmic guarantees to be handed down from above, but that is perhaps a good thing. Because it means that no one can give you orders, or the straight answer on how things are going to end up, or what you should do. You can’t just follow orders and be a disciple and expect to gain anything. You’ve gotta see it for yourself.

Local Energy Source

Posted in Feng Shui, Folklore, God(s), Mysticism, Paganism, Qi, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , on December 23, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Anytime I go to a new geographical spatial location, I feel tired. I don’t mean I get exhausted when I go to the grocery store or the movie theater (god forbid), but when I travel a decent distance — to another state, country, continent, environmental region or ecosystem, and sometimes merely a different city. But I don’t think it’s “jet-lag”; I don’t think it’s merely that my biological clock is out of sync with the changing sunrise. No, I think it’s mainly that I am not acclimated to the flavor or “energy” that the particular region gives off. It sounds insane, but this is what I believe (momentarily).

There seems to be an acclimation period which takes a week or so to really get settled into the vibes of the locale. Sounds like baloney, but I don’t think there’s another explanation. Every time I show up at a new location, I am dead tired. And the usual things don’t stave it off: sleep, food, whatever. The hidden funk of a geographical location, the causeways of energy or whatever which give it it’s particular feeling or character are too strong for the greenhorn to get used to right off the boat. So it takes some period of adjustment in which you’re exhausted.

And where is the strongest emanation of local energy to be found? From water bodies (duh!) — particularly rivers. If there’s one useful thing I learned from reading books on feng shui, it’s that rivers carry energy through locations like veins carry blood through the body. Actually, I think this is the specific feng-shui definition. So, if you go down to the river of any place, you’ll find the river feels more like the place than the rest of the location. I.e. the Hudson feels like New York, the Potomac like Maryland and Virginia, etc. The spirit(s) of any place can be found in its rivers. And visiting rivers, you’d think it would make a person less tired when they’re trying to acclimate to a location, but I don’t know if it does (probably because I’m a dumb cowardly blogger LOLOLOL!).

In thinking about the different flavors of locations, I figure “pagan ideals” worship such a specific flavor of a location and not the energetic feedback (if you can even separate the two) but I’m just generalizing. But I do think the flavor of a location is a manifestation of the gods of the location. And I wonder if, even though we’re getting energy wherever we are, we’re still filtering it through our locale, through the local “gods”. So, thinking with my “New World”, post-industrial agricultural brain, is there maybe some kind of pure energy which has nothing to do with local filters? Energy that I could access?

Someone should really make an energy purification device like this and then cut me in on the deal.

Party-line agenda

Posted in Confucianism, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, society, Wizard Quotes on December 18, 2008 by wizardsmoke

No real post here, but I’m still kickin’.

“Heaven’s decree is not the same for all… the gentleman understands this and does not try to force it [i.e., conformity to a specific norm or model]. In regard to perfecting their own talents, even the sages did not achieve complete success, and therefore they did not try to force it on others. Consequently, the idea that all men can achieve sagehood is false, and so is the idea that men’s natures can be changed.” –Ogyu Sorai; Gakusoku

And then…

“A person who can both understand and practice rites is a sage. Without rites, people would not know what to do with their hands and feet, or what they should look at or listen to…
…Rites do not distort feeling, nor do they simply embellish appearances; instead they promote natural regulation (shizen no setsu). Rites are thus the Way from which we cannot depart. The sagely Confucian teachings consist simply of rites and music.” –Yamaga Soko, Seiko Yoroku

Sounds exciting, but unless you’re a political despot, it’s not that helpful compared to the following:

“Whether sitting for long periods without lying down, or whether engaged in walking practices throughout the six divisions of the day, the vital breath (ki) must always be made to fill the cakra sphere (seirin), the lower field of cinnabar (tanden), between the navel and the loins. Even though one may be hemmed in by worldly cares or tied down by guests who require elaborate attention, the source of strength two inches below the navel must naturally be filled with the vital breath, and at no time may it be allowed to disperse. This area should be pendulous and well-rounded, somewhat like a new ball that has yet to be used. If a person is able to acquire this kind of breath concentration he can sit in meditation all day long without its ever tiring; he can recite the scriptures from morning to night without becoming worn out; he can write all day long without any trouble; he can talk all day without collapsing from fatigue. Even if he practices good works day after day, there will still be no indications of flagging; in fact, the capacity of his mind will gradually grow larger, and his vitality will always be strong. ”
–Hakuin, Orategama

Yet I wonder if Hakuin actually differs that much in belief and understanding from what the other dudes say. But then I always have to wonder whether religious people believe their own professed agendas or if they’re just saying it to soothe over people’s doubts, or maybe even for other malicious reasons.

And then you could ask the same of all political advisors, like the above guys, who probably had a lot of religious experience despite little positive attention to it in their writings, or Machiavelli — who didn’t actually try to rule people but gave ruthless tyrannical advice. Eventually you get around to thinking everyone has an ulterior motive and agenda and you become a conspiracy theorist.

Of course, by “you” I mean “me”.

Killer Apps

Posted in Exercise, Fighting, martial arts, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The idea of martial art forms and applications… forms are just a method of meditation and ingraining solid body mechanics and physical movement into the practitioner. Forms in karate, gongfu, whatever — they’re always wider, exaggerated movements than when the “moves” are actually being “used”. But the funny thing about forms is how they, like any position the body finds itself in, can have “martial applications”.

What MA nuts love about fighting gurus is the way they can make offensive/defensive use of every physical situation they get into. In other words, for an experienced fighter, every physical position that exists becomes one with martial applications. In that sense practicing the forms are just like practicing musical scales and exercises — they appear over and over everywhere, and thus are re-emphasized. They just appear more subtly in the gist of actual movement (melodies and harmonies).

This is why it’s so funny to watch super-tough bouncers show “applications” of Taiji/Tai Chi movements. Because experienced fighters could show you the application of any movement — opening the refrigerator, turning on a lamp (the titty-twister!), throwing a frisbee, clapping your hands, drinking a beer, and so on. Destruction is available from any angle at all times — it just takes the right intent and structural coordination. A deeply experienced fighter can pull it out of anywhere. A person who is an expert with one move can pull it out of almost anywhere if you aren’t paying attention.

So on this level, everything in existence is a form that can be utilized to one’s advantage. So I suppose in practicing MA, this is what one learns — not killer death moves or street fighting talent — but a nuanced, complete understanding of the patterns and ways our bodies move and connect to each other. In this regard, I like the adage at Weakness with a Twist — that we should cultivate weakness. The weaker we are, the more perfectly we move. Everything is an application in progress.