I’ve been thinking about Enlightenment!
Of course, that’s actually the problem – thinking!
As a Qigong teacher and practitioner, I’m sick of the scholarly book translators who clearly haven’t actually bothered to do the work themselves.
I’ve written before about The Golden Flower meditation, where Wilhelm and Jung spent years analysing the text, but it was clear that neither of the had actually employed the technique in their lives!
I suspect the same might be levelled at Thomas Cleary. His translations are peerless, but does he actually follow the lifestyle I wonder?
This then is my problem, and it’s actually my addiction too – reading or studying.
It seems an anathema to a Western mind, the idea that reading might actually be addictive.
Defining addiction, we see terms such as “compulsive need” and “an urge to do something that’s hard to control” – that all fits perfectly with my reading and learning habits.
As a teacher I like to feel that I’m the most knowledgeable in the class. Clearly, this is just an ego construct to make me feel more secure in my role.
If we are talking Maths here, then I actually DO have to know the theory, or I’ll be a rubbish Maths teacher.
With Qigong, it’s required to know the body movements, and the theory behind the mind activity, but at some stage it’s actually more beneficially to let GO of the theory, rather than keep on piling in on! You can suddenly find yourself in the academic setting, when all personal deep understanding has disappeared.
This is where I find myself repeatedly with the Enlightenment question.
It’s actually much easier to read about other people’s journeys than it is to put the work in oneself!
I’ve been a bit of an arm-chair Enlightenment enthusiast over the years!
It comes from the fact that as a computer nerd, I had a seriously “Monkey Mind” which took a lot of taming. Being a Rugby guy, I also had a body that refused to fold in any of the recognised methods.
I have had a constant flow of new sitting meditation cushions over the years. (I remember with amusement one of our retreats, where a new-comer took about 6 meditation cushions and piled them into a vertical stack, until they were the same height as a normal chair would have been! That was so familiar to me!) It’s been a constant battle to get my legs and feet into a position where I could actually relax.
The issue with meditation is bound up with Qigong practice to a certain extent also. You need to have enough internal Qi to support decent meditation. If your Qi levels are depleted , you need Qigong to boost them to steady your meditation. If you are somebody who habitually falls asleep during meditation, then this is the diagnosis for you!
So firstly we need to be comfortable, there’s nothing that stop meditation like discomfort! Then we need energy to maintain the practice. If all these stars align. Then we have a hope of getting into the zone.
Do we actually want it? We heard about the age of enlightenment historically, as being the time we emerged from the Dark ages, into a new scientific world (how’s that going for you people!!?)
It generally sounds like a good idea, the sort of thing a nice person would want for themselves, doesn’t it? But surely that’s the kind of thing only Saints aspire too?
If you’ve read the books by Jed McKenna, he basically says “Don’t come here, unless you absolutely HAVE TO!” – for him the dissolution of the Ego was the “death by a thousand cuts” a shockingly painful journey.
I guess for us all, it’s going to be different, as we all have different handicaps to deal with.
For me, Qigong has been my thirty plus year journey.
Perhaps it’s actually been a “death of a thousand exercises” for me. There has been mountain after mountain to climb. Somehow, in my twenties, I decided that this was the path for me, and I seem to have stayed it, with all it’s twists and turns.
I’m fairly self-critical, and would judge myself to be a real qigong part timer, who shirks off at every possible chance. I suppose the truth is that the past 25 years or more, I have been teaching a minimum of five classes a week, sometimes up to seven or eight, and often running course or retreats at weekends. I also have a daily practice, which can last from five minutes to an hour, occasionally two. Maybe the stories I tell myself about my active participation and the reality are different!
The important thing is a Qigong state of mind.
My colleague John was asked how many hours a day should his student practice? John, always cheekily replies to this with the question “why do you stop?”
Clearly, we don’t have the resources to be waving our arms about, and bending forwards and backwards ALL DAY! It’s about the ability to hold yourself in a Qigong state whilst you interact with daily life. What does that look like?
I encourage my students to “Listen inside” at every possible juncture.
In Physical exercise It’s seriously important to constantly be monitoring what your body is telling you, and to be processing the feedback appropriately. There’s really no point in coming to my online classes, waving your arms about, whilst thinking about “shopping” and then ending up with a pulled muscle. You end up thinking “this Qigong is too hard, or too dangerous for me…” and don’t come to class again.
In this case it really is “You, not me!” – If you hurt yourself, you haven’t been listening or concentrating inside. ANYBODY in the whole world can do Zhineng Qigong. There’s not a single person who would not benefit from it. We have physical exercises, but we also have exercises that you can do in your head too! (without lifting a finger!)
There’s a famous Zhineng story that does the rounds of a guy made paraplegic in an industrial accident in China, who studied and practice the form in his head, day after day, until feeling returned to his finger-tips! He then redoubled his efforts, and eventually brought himself back to full health and mobility. He became a Zhineng teacher after that, and taught for many years! I know many people who actually met him!
The power of your mind is awesome when directed powerfully, and with the right tools.
It’s the old story of a one hundred watt light bulb, it lights your room perfectly. If that power was focused into a laser, it would cut through steel plate! Your mind can be trainer to be that laser!
So the question and implication here is that your mind can be trained to be in a better state through your daily practice. It’s all about balance and stability in Chinese medicine and culture.
When your child crayons on the wall, when somebody bumps the back of your car, when your queue in the supermarket stops moving and the others zoom onwards, when your partner says something stupid – can you hold your equilibrium?
Can you listen inside?
It’s just the same as in exercise class, listening to your body, but this time it’s listening to your emotions.
As we practice Qigong, we start to become aware of what makes us tick.
We start to notice our reactions and learn ways to balance them accordingly.
This then is a Qigong state of mind.
This then is the daily practice that never stops.
Once you become a Qi person, then everything flows better!
You then discover that you never really stop practicing, you just are not always waving your arms about!
What actually happens when you spend ages in practice? Well eventually you find that the Qigong epithet “Moving Meditation” is actually very apposite.You wouldn’t necessarily think that doing something might eventually lead you to doing nothing! But it does!
I think we can all associate with hours of colouring in a picture, gardening, walking in nature, where the brain has just spontaneously “gone quiet” – this is “The Zone” that sportsmen talk of. Time stops. You are just very present.
It’s a common phenomena in Qigong, your movement leads you to stillness.
Where does the Stillness lead you then?
Finally we are starting to zone into this idea of Enlightenment – please don’t forget that I said I was rubbish at it, and an arm-chair enthusiast!
Over the years, I have experience this “Zone” more and more.
It’s getting so I can “summon it up” without too much effort.
In this quiet state I have had some “experiences” of what many authors in this “area” call complete “awareness”
I remember a spectacular event on retreat up in Scotland with my school, Three Monkeys School of Qigong. We were all gathered at Samye Ling – a Buddhist Retreat centre we sometimes use, in the wilds of the Scottish Borders.
We were practicing an evening standing meditation.
It followed its usual course, my monkey mind chattering, my body shifting with discomfort, a short phase where these feelings faded into the background – when I might expect to hit the “quiet zone”
This evening something else happened.
The floor of the practice hall, peeled away, as if the doors to an observatory had just rolled back.
Suddenly I was standing in/on the Universe.
What made this even odder was that I was totally aware of the people around me! The hall was still there, my students round me, but now the floor had become my own private window to the whole Universe!
Accompanying this visual experience was also an auditory experience, where I heard rushing of air! (Almost like this reality was punctured and leaking out into the Universe) – I was able to feel the air brushing over my skin! I surveyed the glory of the Universe for a while, and understood the unity of me and it.
There was no division, only oneness.
It has to be said, it wasn’t like being in a Planetarium, with identifiable stars or galaxies, more just the understanding that this was the ONENESS I was “seeing”
After a while, a feeling of fear started to build, I had the “logical” thought “I’m standing on nothing, I’m going to fall out of this reality, into outer space!”
As soon as my logical mind managed to barge i’s way into the scene, everything stopped with a jolt!
I nearly collapsed with the surprise of it all! It was SO real/unreal.
Since that time, I’ve been able to experience this state again from time to time.
I think that this might be the tiniest of glimpses into what unity consciousness (and enlightenment) may well be like. I think that one’s continued practice starts to join the instances together, and to make the experience easier to access.
Certainly, some of the people I’ve read on Enlightenment talk about this unity consciousness, and how with work, it becomes a permanent state.
That when one finally stops the stream of conscious thoughts that the ego is and provides, that this “state” becomes permanent.
My understanding is that one can dwell in this space, and view this reality we live in, and see it for what it truly is – an illusion.
For a while, I wondered why anybody would want to break this glorious game, and see beyond the fabric?
My feeling is that this is the true experience of “god” – I don’t think that it breaks what we have, it just brings an astonish new perspective to this life. From this new stand point I don’t think there’s anything left except love, Love and love, as you realise that everybody and everything ultimately IS you, and you ARE it.
I hear there’s a new documentary out that talks lots about “Matrix” theory or “Sims” theory, that has us as little digital figures in a computer programme.
Yes, it’s that and so much more fantastic than that.
A generation of writers and thinkers who have all been brought up on “Gaming” must assume this is a game.
That’s only a fraction of the beauty and wonder of it all.
Digital is so BINARY!
We are talking total Truth – Total UNITY! As always, I’ll let you know when I get there!