Archive for the Daoism Category

Self-help: peons, paradise and panache…

Posted in Daoism, Happiness, health, love, Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, self-help, tai chi, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2009 by wizardsmoke

There are a lot of self-help guides and ideas floating around out there. Ways to become powerful, to become successful, confident, how to seize the day, etc. They’re mostly gibberish because they pitch no real skill. To address real problems of confidence takes practice in an area relating to the problem. How do you cease social anxiety? How do you take down violent criminals or fight off bullies? How do you talk to attractive men or women? How do you stand up to your boss? How do you find a soul-mate, a great teacher, or a great skill? How do you make a lot of money on the stock-market? How do you attain non-craving or non-attachment and ultimate supreme enlightenment?

The same way you do anything: you practice the necessary skill until it becomes normal. You do it until it is no longer an unusual thing, it becomes routine. So much crap in life, so much unnecessary mental suffering is really just people whining — people trying to avoid doing the grunt work. The grunt work is all there is! Civilization is built upon shitty jobs! When you fuck up — do it again! Do it again! Again! Again!!!!!

In fact, in life we should never expect any kind of perfection or success. Life is constant struggle, constant change — diamonds are mined from hard work, and nothing else. Any successful person, who did not have to do any hard work or hard practice to get to their position of influence or affluence, is worthless. They do not know what they are doing. They are the spoiled prince, the media heiress, the run-of-the-mill actor, the corrupt politician, the failed business tycoon; they are the true meaning of charlatan, poseur, parasite and liar. The depth of their ugliness is endless.

And so it is with everything. If you want the bigger returns, you need to put in more effort than other people.
This is why having competition amongst fellow students, friends and family can be a good thing. We are forced to practice and improve ourselves with our free time. Life’s rewards are the personal results of hard work. Too many people just sit on their asses watching mediocre television shows every night, while looking for love in the gutter (bars and clubs) on the weekends.

And not that anyone is ever satisfied by romantic love no matter how much they yearn for it. Every other person I meet who finds out I’m deep into Taiji or music, they immediately fire off some nonsense about how they really want to start learning that stuff. But almost none of them will ever start. Why? What do they want, free lessons? My approval? All a person needs to make life reasonably fulfilling is a couple of things rewarding practices to pass the time, things that you would hate yourself for not doing.

The worst thing I can imagine doing is taking some salaried job in a corporation, so that I can buy a house in a developed community and raise kids in a world I never fully comprehended in the first place. And yet, the irony is that this is the grunt work, the shitty job, of civilization. A lot of people try to fill their existential hole with sex, drugs, money, kids, status, power, religion, and a million other things. And they’re unsatisfied. They have nothing. Because there is nothing, but they only know that intellectually, not experientially. And so it goes on.

Learning multiple skills is essential to understanding the essence of metaphor. Metaphorical understanding and realization is valuable stuff, as Aristotle put it:

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor… it is also the sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.

Logic-master

Posted in Daoism, Feng Shui, Magick, New Age Baloney, Qi, Technology, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Some people I know seem to think feng shui is bunk. They have a nice, vain, insecure little chortle to themselves about how obvious it is that feng shui (originally ancient Chinese burial practice) is complete bunk; something for dopey LARPers who don’t understand the brilliance of science and the difference between correlation and causation.

W. Smoke, Esq.’s flawless argument for how feng shui works is as follows:

(1) Everyone agrees that music can be an emotional catalyst — a conduit to emotional and psychological states of mind. Even people who don’t care much about music will agree — music makes movies, advertisements, plays, etc. much more manipulative and affecting. Music is a medium of illusion, but an obvious one, which can make it more potent, ironically. So, we can be affected by music.

(2) If music does this, so do all forms of art — especially visual art. Paintings by sorcerors and illusionists have distinct effects upon the mind and environmental perceptions (stare at Van Gogh for too long and you feel spaced or forgetful) ; macabre or horribly melancholy paintings do likewise. There are also uplifting paintings: great masterpieces of sculpture, Daoist and Buddhist calligraphy, pinnacle achievements of technical craftsmanship in oil painting or ukiyo-e prints. All art and legit creative expression colors our mind.

(3) Paintings and music are intrinsic portions of a man-made environment. Sinister paintings create a sinister environment. And sinister art is simply a certain arrangement of lines, melody/harmony, aesthetics, etc. So, one could simply create an environment with completely decrepit and queasy arrangement, and the environment would be totally draining on a level related to natural energy. All environments naturally betray creative color or energy.

Ah! But that’s the missing link here: energy, or specifically qi. Most people don’t believe in it, because it’s not some concrete stuff they can put into a cup. The irony is that people don’t give a shit about the things that they can see and touch. Most of us, anyway. Actually, this is the entire point of prayer in religion (particularly Judaism/Xtianity/Islam): to elevate one’s gracious awareness of the delicate importance of all things we take for granted, like food and water, friends and family, the internet, our precious blog audience, etc.

So, for people to be aware of qi, they have to be aware of really basic things in the first place. Even if people could “prove” the existence of qi and these kinds of things, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. What good are people who refuse to cultivate qi because some scientist didn’t prove it to them first? Does anyone prove a sex drive to other people before they feel sexual impulses?

My science is too tight!

Go Straight!

Posted in Buddhism, Daoism, Exercise, Fighting, health, martial arts, meditation, Monasticism, tai chi, taijiquan with tags , , , , on March 7, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Lately, in my Taijiquan practice, I’ve been thinking a lot about the principle of verticality. One of the five fundamental principles of Zheng Manqing-style Taijiquan (and numerous other branches) is to maintain verticality in all movement. This means, keep the back straight — and very importantly — keep the eyes looking ahead on eye-level. This last part about the eyes is often neglected unless folks practice wholeheartedly and on a daily basis.

Verticality is important if you do Buddhist or Taoist meditation practices too (and probably other branches, i.e. Hindu stuff, but I really don’t know and can’t say). Of course, in seated meditation, when it is done with the eyes open the eyes are not straight ahead, but must fall a few feet in front of where you are sitting. The exact spot will vary from person to person, depending on their height, torso size, etc. and must be determined by the individual through consistently practicing and discovering which position allows for good posture with minimal tension.

But the point in either case, is that the eyes are directly related to posture, even though we commonly associate the idea of verticality only with the spine. When the eyes drop below the normal eyeline of the head/body, the body slumps and begins to lean forward. In a combative situation, one will lean on or into the opponent, or overextend the limbs and let them become handles by which to manipulate the body. This can also be related to — or an exaggeration of — sloth, torpor or laziness. It is usually an extension of bodily tension and chronic poor posture, further cyclically exacerbated by this eye scenario.

The other possibility, that the eyes extend too far above the relaxed, default position, reflects tension and excitability or irritability. It’s less common that people have this problem, rather than the previous one of slumping. If people are overly upright in posture, they typically are carrying a lot of tension in the shoulders because they’re using too much muscle mass and are disconnecting from their dantien or hara — their bodily center below the navel.

It seems pretty obvious, but the eyes are a subtle part of our posture. Most people walking down the street are looking at the ground, only glancing up at noises or approaching people. By looking at the ground, their posture is already beginning to suffer — and they’re revealing themselves to be a more viable target for predators seeking people lost in their own thought-worlds. In fact, the drooping of the eyes and the slumping of one’s neck and back is directly tied to thoughts — the more lost in our thoughts we are, the more our posture will suffer.

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.

Flow’s Way

Posted in Buddhism, Daoism, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Religion, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Somewhere along the way, internal martial artists and “soft” Aikido-type people got the impression that being gentle was the path to power. But really, the point is that experts on power no longer have to use much effort to exert themselves. It becomes subtle, natural, easy. I think when the Dao De Jing says things about soft overcoming the hard, it really means that the strong or unyielding are destroyed by the flow or tide of the world, mostly because they don’t take the time to recognize the changing direction of life.

Hatsumi’s philosophy interested me for the way it turned me on to one major concept: that one resists illusion and the destruction of powerful people by failing to stand out. Normally this sounds like some mass-religious peasant nonsense, but I am willing to accept that his message tells us to live internally aloof from the way of the world.

But if one has no interest/investment in the world at large, they will become a martyr or a loner. And one with strong interests in the world (“the world” being material wealth, power and prestige, sexual desire and conquest — basically violence, anger, greed and lust) will often become blind to their own presence and actions.

One must go with the flow in life because the flow is life. Even the most powerful people are destroyed if they resist the flow of life and society. However, on the other hand, it seems a person becomes self-aware by resisting the flow of the world, purportedly pointed out by the Buddha upon achieving awakening (religious figures! yay!). I really would like to believe that some people are so totally beyond the competitive world that they just aren’t moved to act in its vicious ways. But resistance is not enacted by some mystical nonsense, it’s all done by people like you and me. It’s not hard at all to do, it just takes persistent effort. The effort that happens right now is easy, it’s just hard to keep doing something consistently. And I think that’s what I forgot to mention in that slightly delusional post about martial arts enlightenment the other day: martial enlightenment is possibly the ability to keep going regardless of one’s circumstances.

I just wonder where all this interpretation that internal martial arts are magically soft and relaxed, and therefore stronger than “normal fighting” (a debate continuously ruminated over on the Formosa Neijia blog). Every martial art is fundamentally the same (in their original theories, not how they are dogmatically taught) because there is only so much efficiency to moving the body. I happen to think some arts like Taijiquan and Baguaquan merely have a much better teaching method of transmitting the body’s subtle movements and personal health and combat applications. This does not make them internal or mystical, it just makes them more complete “boxing” strategies. I feel like older dudes don’t need to spar (and probably shouldn’t) because their perception of space and intent is so developed from their rougher, younger days. 85 year old dudes may not still be able to drop kick you in the face so easily, but some of them sure as hell can still toss you around in push-hands.

But everyone who practices something long enough will figure out how to make it work. That’s why all success is only hard work. Even if you suck or are magnificent, your hard work will be the final word. And individuality, internal individuality compared to the flow of the world — that takes a lot of work.

No Prayer for the Dying

Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, Cults, Daoism, death, Mysticism, Religion, society, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , on July 22, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Funerals are so weird. Despite the fact that they focus on one person’s life, that person really does not have much of a hand in the process. How strange that funerals are so personal, yet at the same time very impersonal in relation to the deceased. What better argument that funerals and prayer are often for the living?

Not that this is always the case. The actual ceremony is for the living. But it’s hard to really give a good ceremony in which people have a good time. That’s what I would want for my funeral. A good fun time to be had by all! A real fun, hilarious, bitter-sweet bash! Because you only remember the good times. The bad times slip away into the shadows of the mind, only reappearing to haunt us.

I guess there are three reasons to pray for the deceased, all of which are similar in their needs: (1) rebirth, reincarnation, salvation or whatever your choice in transmigration, (2) assuaged feelings in the family, friends and community of the deceased, and similarly (3) maintenance of ceremony, ritual, and needs of a congregation or tradition.

The idea of praying as a group or having a specialist (as in Tibetan Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) pray for the newly deceased seems logical enough to me. In particular, if the deceased has been careless or unprepared for their death, their mindstream or “dedicated energy stream” might not be very focused. The kind of energy a person carries around is not purely retained in some empirical physical body. People have a kind of omnidimensional presence which can get divided, whisked away, or maybe even shred up without proper guidance or practice. Yeah, at least that’s what I’ve surmised without any concrete evidence.

People who have developed their shen (spirit) are probably less in need of someone to actually pray for their rebirth. It’s still a good thing to do, if only for the sake of ceremony, but there is a point where one’s spirit has gone beyond the prayers of laypeople. Some people do not need prayers as much as others, or sometimes it is not the deceased person but their community and ancestors who require them. This is why we mourn when a truly wonderful or virtuous person dies. We need to pray for ourself, for our own future in the shadow of their lives.

Hee hee, it’s kinda like in SIT: Zen Teachings of Taisen Deshimaru when a student asks why they’re doing a kito (commemorative prayer service) for the Pope. And then whether they should ever do one for Deshimaru himself. But he’s like, “I am beyond a kito, but if it makes you feel better…” Haha, Deshimaru had the most annoying, hilarious, charming way of talking to people. I guess a lot of recent generation Zen masters from Japan are like that, yeah? So off-the-wall goofy and arrogant it becomes funny.

Man… I better cool off with the Deshimaru, though. What am I, some kind of cult member? Pshh!!!

Improv

Posted in Daoism, Mysticism, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Uncategorized with tags , on June 30, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A lot of Asian art emphasizes improvisation. Classical Indian, Balinese, Chinese and Japanese music all have enormous improvisational elements, as do many traditions of painting and martial arts. In the west we have Jazz and maybe comedy, but not much in the way of traditional improvisational arts.

But improvising within a medium, once you’re technically amazing, how is that a special feat? Yeah, I know, some people still can’t do it. What improvising really means though, is learning to see how things flow together. Or if you hate the term “flow”, it’s how things naturally connect, change and evolve. Improvisation is like, you have a basic idea and even mistakes lead to more ideas. Everything moves naturally and falls into place. Not death, because death is stagnation, the inability to change or adapt.

So what I want to know is, what is ultimate improvisation? Wouldn’t that be like, moving naturally without having any prior skill in the area one is improvising? Isn’t that the ability to change and flow naturally in every single brand new situation, without any understanding of it? That’s what I want. Ultimate improv ability.

It seems like there are exponential levels of improvisation. My level of choice is like… the total infiltration of the way of things. Or adaptation to the way of things. Merging with the Dao. That’s the ultimate religious goal, I think. And why is that even a goal? How are we not already naturally a part of nature’s fluxuating improvisation? I think we are. Duh.

Anyway, I’m not surprised that there are few improv traditions in the west. European traditions are all about precise measurements, control, distinction, reputation! Which is funny because I think of Asian traditions in that way too, but from a different angle… like everything is more group-oriented there. Of course, that’s not entirely true because people have a tendency to be greedy, arrogant schmucks no matter where they live.

Sometimes I really think humanity is composed of a bunch of “spiritual teenagers”. We think we know everything, but we know nothing, and we’re obsessed with sexual feelings and get all emotionally complicated because of them. We’re just a bunch of fleshy bits who temporarily open our eyes, see that we have a physical form which makes us laugh and cry, and then go back to sleep. How nuts is that?

Sometimes, right after I wake up in the morning when I’m still really tired, I’ll suddenly think about how incredible it is that every single one of us has this same experience of life (albeit each with a different flavor) that is so lonely, painful, scary and ambiguous in meaning.