Monday, May 10, 2010

Simplicity in practice

Busy training: practice or distraction?

It too often happens that under disguise of daily training one is amusing oneself more than practising. Indeed, the exercises which suit us are often those which amuse us while those which disturb us are ignored. When one follows this tendency one runs into a mental complexity and confusion that is draining on the spirit.

But what is one really doing when one is training?

Avoiding issues and real questioning, one may even be feeling from reality…

What is the goal of practice?

What are we doing when practising?

Needless to say, a frank discussion with one’s teacher can help…

It is not important to know the goal of the exercises one is practising, in that this does not help one to progress more rapidly; rather practising becomes simpler if it retains something spontaneous and natural.

Learning and practising

It is not possible to practise without learning. Nor is it possible to practise properly without learning from one’s teacher. But it has to be understood that neither learning nor practising is in itself the goal of teaching.

What one is aiming for in learning, and then in practising, is a rediscovery of freedom, spontaneity, naturalness.

The fact of “learning” spontaneity and “naturalness” is a very Taoist paradox…

To be constantly learning new things has a meaning only if one is practising, otherwise it constitutes a distraction.

Practising without following right through on what one is being taught means limiting the depth of the teaching.

But learning and practising without going towards an embrace of a certain form of freedom is a waste of one’s time.

This liberation, this “formlessness”, is rooted in the precision of one’s practice.

Spontaneity and naturalness, if they depend on one’s confused perception of worldly things, are merely illusory. Perceptions reach consciousness only after passing through the filters offered by our egos and our unexplored psyches… One’s perception of reality is anything but a matter for cheering, as things are at present.

The three elements of training (learning, practice, and liberation) are the “three treasures”, and are in relation with the three inner treasures: Jing (essence), Qi (energy), and Shen (spirit).

Simplicity in practice: San Bao

You have a collection of one thousand and one exercises; for my part I have ten times that number; but the whole stack obeys a simple logic:

“The study of the Three Unities permits oneness and full consciousness with the goal of a perception of changes in reality”

To sum up: an understanding of the three parts will permit one to unite one’s body and one’s spirit.

What are the three parts which need to be worked (for those who are having trouble following)?

- The body
- Energy
- Sprit

The body: relaxed, strong, and grounded

Work on the body is above all work on one’s health. One can work only when in good health, especially as practice makes demands on one’s time. Good health is expressed in three ways:

- Relaxation: leading to a easy circulation of organic fluids. It can be tested and educated first and foremost by coordination
- Strength: leading to a body which is resistant to aggressions coming both from without and from within. It can be developed by the “wai gong”, external exercises
- Grounding: leading to a capacity to understand Reality. It can be developed in several ways…

The circulation of energies: fluid exchanges

A fluid circulation is the source of good health, physical and mental, and requires that one go somewhat further than mere relaxation of the body. There exist three important stages in the “nei gong”:

- Coming to consciousness of inner sensations
- Mobilisation through will power
- Natural and fully conscious exchanges

Consciousness of the spirit: present but unconcerned

Failure to know oneself is the source of a constant distress; yet it is the rare person who is what he thinks himself to be. Exercises in taking consciousness of the spirit exist so as to help one to identify and encounter the person one really is. There are, of course, three stages:

- Self-observation
- Observation of the world
- Global perception

It is futile to hope to comprehend everything immediately, but it is advisable to examine one’s practice to see if it contains these three parts.

Once again, an honest exchange with one’s teacher is the origin of clear-minded practice.

The natural state: learning, practice, and freedom

In any practice that is complete and enlightened, little by little the exercises will be understood in their precision, and from the mastery of them freedom will be allowed to emerge.

Freedom demands a certain structure, it demands a spontaneity nourished by properly educated relaxation, an intuition fed by knowledge… with the ensemble opening out onto naturalness.

Practice is not contained in a particular movement or way of breathing. Yet without learning this movement or this way of breathing, there can be no practice… Hence the paradox.

- Exercises in the arts of combat are not combat
- Exercises in coordination are not relaxation
- Exercises in inner alchemy are not alchemy
- Exercises in Qigong are not an exchange
- Exercises in meditation have nothing to do with the meditative state

There must be no confusion.

In conclusion, therefore, understand the following:

“The entire putting into practice of one’s teaching must go in the direction of relaxation of the body, of circulation of energy, and of settling of the spirit – and at times the three together. You cannot practise without an awareness of this. Having achieved this awareness you are already in the simplicity of the Way.”