Archive for flow

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.


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.

Victim of Changes

Posted in Daoism, Mysticism, Religion, society, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , on June 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What are people looking for in a religion? It’s probably true that, if you’re seeking a religion or tradition that you don’t naturally practice (not the same as being one that you were born into) you’re looking for something somewhere else — somewhere outside of yourself.

‘Course, Buddha or Jesus or Lao Tzu or David Blaine or whichever human MVP is your choice, does not speak of mystical stuff in an otherworldly sense. It seems all mysterious to hear a sage say where someone will go upon their demise or how their actions will bear fruit, but that’s just because (at the moment) we’re freaking samsaric stooges! With a clear perception, some of these things become straight-forward insights or observations.

The same realization can be said of great talents. So often you’ll talk to people and hear “buzz buzz, ballet is really hard! buzz buzz” or “blah blah, being an athlete takes so much hard work! blah blah”. Big surprise there! As if getting good at anything doesn’t take serious work. The point is, skills are very ordinary talents that come from hard work (and maybe possession by the daughters of Zeus, hahaha!). Coming into peak awareness of the universe arises from the same kind of dedication. We love those stories about people born to inherit the vessel of supreme realization, but they’re still people who come from prior causes.

In these cases of prior causes we often see the reason some people have natural gifts–people for whom hard work in certain realms of creativity or labor is natural or even necessary to their contentment. Such are the cases of great artists. Hard work is certainly difficult for anybody, but an inspired person finds their work flows naturally. I think this is what Hatsumi refers to as “riding the shinobi winds”. This is what we want to develop from religion/ritual and so on: an ability to flow.

Flow is a primordial skill that comes from practicing serious ritual. At Weakness With a Twist the other day, the point was made that:

Ritual is action taken with out consistent meaning. Ritual practice itself is not a defense against dogma; however, the practice of ritual has the capacity to reveal the way or mind seeks to lock on to a particular way of perceiving our world.

Ritual, particularly early on, can be very difficult to do consistently. But as this quote points out, to practice as such is making one aware of the distortion or discord in the environment or rhythm of one’s life, those things which pull one away from ritual. A ritual composed of weak desires or paths of no resistance does nothing to “enhance” or strengthen the spirit. It will merely contrast one’s weakest desires with everything else.

One more interesting thing from the same post is:

For heaven’s sake, ritual is not a discarding of reason. It is a good thing we use reason to manipulate our environments for pleasure and power. But reason is a form of aggression which itself can cloud our vision. Ritual has the capacity to re-pose the question: How important is reason?

This reminds me of how so many modern atheists or materialists or “naturalists” in modern society decry religious values as being some kind of primitive belief set or pure fantasy. However, religion is not identified as a “religion” or fantasy by those who originally practice it. Religious concerns very often come from past methods of reasoning used to determine meaning or ways of doing things productively and constructively to one’s community and self.

The way so many materialists talk about discoveries of science or the benefits people will receive from modern advancements away from religion, it’s like they miss the objective of doing hard work. Modern scientific advancements which make our lives more luxurious are nice, but they actually can work against us by catering to our basest pleasures and urges. Not a good devotion. It’s similar to the base idea that anyone who converts to Christianity, Islam or Buddhism will go to heaven or be reborn in a better place purely because they associate themselves with the religion (as opposed to doing the hard work of ritual and self-improvement). High-fallutin’ poppycock rubbish tomfoolery!