Friday, January 25, 2013

I think, but I practice

It is ironic to see all the information you need to perform a serious practice, and the large number of Taoist texts on the accumulation of knowledge.
In fact, for the student of a Way that incites to live fully the human condition, it is often difficult to manage the wealth of knowledge that piles up during his learning.

At the same time, the main obstacle to his development is often a kind of ignorance.

It must be the Taoist paradox...

In fact, in my tradition, we talk about two kinds of intellectual knowledge: the one which is changing the Way through the understanding of practical details, and the one which spreads like jam, which clutters the mind and inflates the ego.

But we'll see here, that it is possible to detail a little more.

In fact there are two classifications of knowledge, two levels of knowledge:

  • horizontal and vertical
  • intellectual and practical

Today, with the internet and the media, the globalization and the "Harper's Bazaar", the advice of our grandmother and the countertop discussions, everyone knows everything about anything.

This knowledge is horizontal knowledge.

It is combining the three nonsenses we heard on television to a theoretical knowledge applicable in life. This knowledge can sometimes help during a game of Trivial Pursuit, but rarely to change one's body or mind.

The main problem with this kind of knowledge is that it resides on top of a more subtle level of ignorance, which gives the impression to understand, but which is in fact just "knowing nothing about everything."

Vertical knowledge is useful knowledge, on a familiar topic, which allows you to live and apply the intellectual in reality. It is an alchemical work that turns yin the yang, that materializes the unmanifested.

This knowledge is useful to develop one's vision of the world , to better understand what is the "action", a stronger link between body and mind.

By the accumulation of details on a topic we study in depth, a vertical knowledge can lead an universal knowledge.

Indeed, if we focus far enough on  the vertical knowledge, in different subjects, we surprinsingly often fall back on big common underlying concepts.

The horizontal accumulation of facts, concepts and anecdotes only leads to a need for "more". It does not allow research or practical application, it does not change you, and proves to be distinguished way of wasting time.

However, it is good to know how to entertain oneself unimportant facts, just to be able to chat and relax one's mind with trivial pursuits.

The knowledge that is pointed at in the Daodejing is this intellectual knowledge, which is unimportant, this ability to remember, which is mistaken for an important phenomenon.

The knowledge that can improve the understanding of self and mind, the correct usage of one's body or the search of one's favorite subjects, for an evolution, is actually a part of the Way.

The way of the mind is the meditation, the shengong, but also the gymnastics of knowledge,  a vertical knowledge as you'll have understood.

There is nothing more precious than information that can transform us: objects become worn, get lost or are forgotten; assets change during the life without impacting our deepest self... Vertical knowledge can not be lost.

The information will digest itself and become ours. It will allow us to move towards a more refined version of ourselves ... As a distillation toward an intact, original self.

This is the alchemical process.

"Information is power"

Friday, January 18, 2013

The frequencies of practice

Sometimes, in discussions, we happen to talk about the frequencies of one's practice.

Regarding the Chinese internal arts, of Taoist inspiration or not, if the practice is not a daily one, then there is no practice. This may seem an exaggeration, but it is a reality.

It is not possible to practice "a little" from time to time, it cannot be an internal practice that leads somewhere.

I repeat here an image that is dear to me: the water must be boiling: the alternation of a fierce fire and then a time without fire will not allow the water to start boiling. There must be a continuity in the fire to sufficiently heat the liquid, which thus reaches the critical temperature change.

Practice is a reflection of this example. This transformation, this alchemy can only be done with a sustained and relaxed effort, otherwise either we burn the pot is burning or we do not heat the water enough... But that's another topic.

Participating in Tai Chi Chuan "sessions" two or three times a week or taking chi kung lessons is not practicing... There should be no confusion!Exercises learned during the lessons, the theory and the forms, serve only to discover the personal practice, which is the only source of change.

This new way of life, based on a constant awareness of one's actions, in accordance with the concepts of one's practice, has nothing to do with this entertaining session of "sport".It is not enough to make slow movements while breathing through the nose, or to dress up like a  Chinese, with the music that goes with it, to pretend to be in the Internal Arts. No, one must follow a very precise training protocol, on a significant duration.

It would be easy and unfair to throw things like that and then stop saying "You should not do that, it is not good ... Good bye now!". Since I have the opportunity, I would rather let you enjoy the vision of my tradition, so as to share.

This is not "the" truth (or it's a fluke ...), but it is close to "my" truth.

Daily work must follow a specific direction that requires a real continuity and an exclusivity in the consistency of the effort.

Deep understanding of each part enables us to free ourselves of  "what to do" and to go to a natural and personal way.

The fact of "changing" the training before getting to the bottom of it does not enable us to be on a solid foundation. Staying "stuck" in one's little concepts of "truth" is even sadder, it is a sign of lack of freedom.

Practice is clear and strict, but it must be "freed", sooner or later,  to unite to what we are. It should not get stuck on what is taught, but must grow and return to the natural.

The steps are often the same in Chinese internal arts:

- Relax the body
- Form the body
- Anchor the body
- Strengthen the body
- Coordinate breathing
- Unite breath and movement,
- Calm the mind and strengthen the intention,
- Unite and feel the energy

These steps are obviously a quick summary, but they give an idea of the work that is required.It is obvious that if, in the period when we relax the body, you practice the hard chi kung of the White Crane (for example), the contrary informations may not be absorbed by the neuromuscular system. Yes, you move and circulate the blood, but you do not learn, you do not build.

Similarly, if you practice American boxing exercises to relax, it will not be possible either. It will at most be a good external practice,  relaxed and fluid, but it will never be an internal practice.

It does not work with Thai boxing and sumo either...

The profound changes, that have a purpose other than simply being able to perform major stinging slaps, require a continuity and a presence to the work (no, we can not do the tree watching the news or a Jet Li movie! it is better than nothing, but the real work is not there, and anyway, "we will have to dig where we left the earth").

"Uniting" implies not dispersing.

One must, for an internal practice according to the traditions that I know, respect several steps that dictate the guidelines of work:

- Understand the work you have to do (thus requiring the details and supervision of a "qualified" teacher), not working in a vacuum, for nothing, or doing stupid things that ruin everything.
- Bring a comfort in the practice, both physical and mental. A practice that is too far from our availability, which goes against our culture, that we do not understand, which is too painful... It is not possible, you should arrange it to find that comfort, otherwise it leads to nothing. I did not say it would be easy ...
- Integrate your practice in your life ... or in fact, your life in your practice.
- Do not go "against" the changes that the practice brings ( whether professional, emotional, physical ...), it is a good example of "non action."
- Repeat the exercises tirelessly and without much questioning (well, knowing that it is impossible for the Westerners that we are not to ask questions...)
- The attention must be total but relaxed ... I know this is science fiction, but I share my teachings. Well, if you are present to what you do, it's not bad for starters.

Too often, concentration is an attention "stuck" on a topic, an image, a goal.

The intention may be "attentive" or "concentrated".The "yi" is a conceptualization that tends to want to realize itself through the "zhi", the strength of the kidneys. Basically, the "yi" says: "I will give him a good slap through the understanding of my body mechanics" but the "zhi" must do, or flee ("fight or flight" syndrome).

The mistake that is often made by practitioners who love martial arts intellectually, is to think much "how" and "why", through the "yi", but forget to feed the beast, strengthen the body, the primal force of the kidneys, the "zhi".

A body that feels weak, who does not trust itself, will have a "zhi" who will not go to actual combat.

If it is "concentrated" according to the terms defined here, we are less efficient than if we are "attentive", a bit like the muscle, which should be soft, not tight.

Again, daily practice, with its inevitable "tests" enables us to understand this better than worthless words.

- And, big secret if there is one, you must discover a "hidden treasure"; you must "enter" the Internal Arts through the discovery of enthusiasm, the pleasure of practice. It is the enthusiasm that will prevent us from having harmful distractions to our practice, because we will better understand the value of what we have.

This way of working has to be the same for the different aspects of the practice, which are not progressive, but mingled with each other.

There is no "half practice." If the internal practice is not "merged" with one's life, then you are on the doorstep, but you have not entered yet.

For those who pretend to want, but evoke false excuses such as logistical concerns for example, I would say that if the mental availability is real and clear, the physical availability will tend to establish herself.

Without enthusiasm, it is only possible to pretend or wish to want and try, but never do. Our entire practice is in action.

Discovering enthusiasm can not be learned, as the Tao can not be described, but we have the means to "feel" it through the practice.

Several styles of ancient Chinese internal boxes are called "men" and not "chuan" (fist) or "fa" (method) or "zang" (palm)... "Men" means door, entrance, portal, an entrance to the internal arts.

We speak of "practicing" Chinese boxing, but of "entering" in the internal arts, and we do so through a door: "men". It is obvious that many internal styles are not called "men"... This is an example.

I think if you practice 12 minutes per day, every day, without effort or questioning, then we can "enter". The constancy of the return to the body and to the  "shen", of this connection, this slow but durable fire, can gently lead to this subtle boiling... I think the problem is that we will surely have to return to this story of questioning, enthusiasm and effort.

However, to use the power of the internal arts in a physical confrontations, it will take more than 12 minutes per day, that's for sure!

For a good right to be closer to a "bong chuan" than a good right of a cowboy, we will have to work (me being the first...)!

An internal strike is penetrating, this requires a relaxed body and mind. The "united" body worked a split second, and everything breaks loose ... For that kind of result, I think we need to organize our lives around our practice so that it really works, but it is a difficult choice.

This is a vision of the practice in my tradition, the Taoist arts that I know follow this path and I give them to you as I received them.

Friday, January 11, 2013

One the Way, dragging one's feet

It is rare to dare to enter a Way, but it is even more rare to be able to stay on it.

The awareness that comes from the beginning of a practice can not be forgotten. Anyone who starts a search can not forget it. We can try to hide it, but it is still there.After assimilating an information, it stays in our knowledge... We can not forget it. We're talking about realization, not the details of daily life.

In the eyes of one's life,  body and mind, meeting a richer reality requires more intense introspection. We are all sufficiently attached to ourselves and our image to put this information into what is important.

Sometimes life takes us away from this practice, but the case remains open and the issues, pending.Despite this, and for various reasons, many beginning practitioners walk out of their Way, out of the education they receive. This return to the mundane, without practice, is often an abandonment, an escape. In addition, there are also those who will practice a thousand teachings at a time without really doing anything, reminding us of  the story of the little mouse ...

The issue of time is also often raised, but did not have an hour to spend in the day?Obviously, this requires to establish clear priorities.

There are two facets of the practitioner.In those who practice, there is the "good practitioner" and there's the other one.

The good practitioner is this self image, the "spiritual one", who is on a Way. Then their is the one who knows all, our ego, and everything that we hide from everybody else.

In this dark side, there is all the "dirty" and "nasty", everything that we try not to show in our personality, our public persona.It is difficult not to give in to the one who is right, who knows everything ... because it is the one that shows that  we are right, that we are superior, important.

As long as our practice doesn't enable us to give up these two facets of ourselves, as long as we hide behind our persona, as long as we believe we are important and intelligent, as long as we feel upset or defensive, then we are only in our illusion.In this ill being, the research will move from pleasure to pains, without stability, without root, without peace.In reality, we are not neither the good practitioner nor our compulsive thoughts, we are what is deep down, what we do not know is there.

This silent witness, this presence, this true spirit is our research.The Way allows us to go toward this meeting with ourselves, deeply and without compromise.Is the solution in the constant practice?

Yes, but it is in a practice that is fused to life and not in an  artificial practice that covers it.It is possible to practice to escape life, the mundane. It is not advisable to do this,we have to walking reality to go toward "who we really are".

A practice that escapes life is the source of "spiritual ego", a new facet of self, a spiritual persona. An Intelligent teaching leads to a practice that is designed to go in life, without ritual, without artifice.

With an understanding of the Way, we erase the limits of the practical and of life, we fuse the two, and only remains a life in the presence of a Way and a Way fused to life.We need a clear practice, aimless, but whose form is determined.

We need to work on areas that give rise to the "one we really are", whom is too often struggling  against our worldly character. It is therefore necessary to work on the body for relaxation, energy flow for health and our mind to stop taking ourselves seriously as soon as possible.

There is no question of calling it to "later" when "we will have time," when "I'm ready" ... We must begin now, while we can.

From that moment, it is possible to put one's attention on what we are doing, on the gaze we have on our actions, but also to ensure that we will practice our chi kung tonight ... The practice  exists now.

It is possible to go into a practice knowing the importance of it, but "dragging one's feet".

It is because we listen to our false importance, to our precious personality, to our desire to be right ... we just have to turn our attention to it.

Looking at ourselves, contorting ourselves in an often falsely complex daily life, in moments of painful illusions and useless brooding, we can observe and mock ourselves.

This healthy look on our ordinary madness opens a route towards our Way, a glimpse of reality.

In this simple Awakening, without fanfare or fireworks, we can stay in life and keep practicing every moment.

This relaxed but constant attention, enables us to put order in our lives every day.In case we think ourselves as being really relaxed and quiet, reaching the goal,  victorious of our ego... The teacher will be there.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Consciously Happy

Here are some simple concepts to go towards a pursuit of happiness. These concepts take into account both modern research and ancient writings.

Getting enough sleep regulates the mood


A sleep study of 7 years (Watson 2000-2007) shows that whatever our misfortunes, restful sleep "resets" us in the morning.

Basically, if we live a balanced and conscious life, negative moods and concerns are digested during the night and we have a new and neutral field of action after a good night's sleep.

It is relatively rare in industrialized societies to meet people who get enough sleep. This comes from the fact that sleep is of poor quality.

It takes several criteria for a good sleep:
  • you must go to bed relaxed and not go to bed to relax
  • you must have finished digesting
  • you must have a bed that requires no effort to relax
  • you must get enough sleep according to your needs

Exchange, share and have fun

True self-knowledge requires to work on interpersonal abilities and our relationship with others. It is therefore important to look at the way we act with each other.

Light sharing and openness to others allows honest self-understanding through action.

Being surrounded by the right people, sharing with selected friends is important.

All human groups that live the oldest and best know this need. Groups that share and trade within shared values have more stable emotions and stronger health.

We have already talked about this in the text about "Taoist Immortality."

Moving one's ass stabilises the mind

Numerous studies over 60 years show us the relationship between physical activity and depression, generalized anxiety and other forms of imbalanced mood.

The more the physical practice is conscious, the more it is beneficial.

In addition, it should not be violent or too tiring. If the heart goes too high or if the body is pushed too far, the mind is overwhelmed by endorphins and adrenaline that will develop an addiction that is contrary to happiness...

Daily practice must be conscious and soft.

That is to say, Wai Gong, Nei Gong, Qi gong...

Chapter 3 tells us: "Strengthening the bones", referring to the four qualities of the sage (a human that is happy and in his right place between heaven and earth).

"Strengthening the bones" is a term for the practice of "qigong" that forms the body from the outside to the inside.

The balance of the work of the body and the mind regulates the  yin / yang relationship: the force of the yin (body) roots the a more stable spirit (yang).

Feeding the body to kindle the yang

In the case the Yang, the lighthness, is missing from the system, everything is heavier.

We talk in Taoism and Chinese medicine of the "dampness" that douses the yang. The body is heavy and the mind foggy, we complain, we are lazy and emotions are out of control.

The food must be regulated when we are in this case, or when you are in an excess of dampness that will eventually douse the yang.

It is difficult here to go in detail what to eat or not, this is an important topic.

Sugar, wheat flour, fat are examples of dampness.

In our tradition, we have a system that strengthens the yang. This diet allows to reset one's body.

Money does not buy happiness ... but the lack thereof brings worries ...

In the Daodejing, it is repeatedly stressed that possessing too much, chasing goods too much, only brings worries.

Chapter 12 tells us to prefer that comes from the "gut" rather than from the "eyes" and what is "rare" makes creates envy in thieves ... But one's possessions can also be the source of resentment and jealousy .

Chapter 53 is even clearer: having too much 'outside' is of no use. It is a chapter that tells us about the too much, about the displacement of values that need to be more internal than external. Possessing needs are rooted in an internal imbalance that can not be relieved by external acquisition.

Serious studies (National Opinion Research Center 2005) gives us a current answer on the ratio money/happiness: from 1957 to 2005, regardless of resources and assets, the percentage of happy people remains almost the same.

More surveys from 2000 to 2007 gives a relationship between income and happiness (D. And 0, NYC) which shows the same percentage of happy people in all social classes (not taking into account people in survival situations).

Wealth is comparable to health in that its absence is a source of unhappiness, but its presence is often imperceptible to the individual.

A daily awareness of what we have in relation to our real needs, can enable us to realize that there is no need to whine...

Master one's schedule, control the pace of life

Chapter 37: "In the Tao, the non action (non resistance) enables us to regulate everything"

The realization of what must be done requires us to go more in the movement of the world than to bustle constantly. In a fluidity that comes from an understanding of the changes, it is possible to do 10,000 times more than in an endless struggle.

As we do not see clearly, the actions we undertake are closer to that of Sisyphus than Lazzi.

The feeling of mastery of one's time is a source of joy or tension (or even depression) in all. Daily struggle to do too much or the disappointment of not being able to do more is a real source of tension. This tension can not be resolved, it is a manifestation of an unbalanced perception of oneself in action. It is only possible to rebalance the work/rest ratio. In this equilibrium, we can understand without being agitated and finally live.

Misunderstanding of the passing of time, in a future projection and a past melancholy, only creates disappointment.

A shengong practice gives us a perception of the moment. This presence is the possible entry into a successful and balanced activity.

Assuming the form to accept the substance

It is now known that if we position ourselves as sad and unfortunate, the production of chemicals in the brain go in this direction. Anger, for example, produces very specific molecules that are produced when you feel really angry or if we are pretend to, in a constant whining...

The good thing is that it works in both directions: production due to joy and happiness also occur (in smaller doses, but still) when we smile, even if it is slightly "forced".

The most important is not the benefit of the smile, but that during that smile I can't whine and I can not get carried away in my emotional nonsense.

Chapter 54 tells us "when it is cultivated and practiced, the manifestation will be pure and true".

Accepting to be happy enables us to be.

Living the spiritual concretely

Rising above the archaic, magical and mythical stages, humans can live a spiritual relationship that is simple.

Research alone is not sufficient, but it can be a source of initiative towards a personal practice .

The shengong, initially a practice of the understanding of the workings of the mind, introduces us to the infinite possibilities, to the spiritual through direct experience.

Looking at the broadness of the mind and through accepting his death, the practitioner develops the spiritual in everyday life.

Introspection and consciousness of the moment enables us to feel like a part of something that floats smoothly in accordance with the changing world.

It is the practice in life, accepting the mundane in the search for infinity.

Happiness is internal, it may be found only through a practice on knowing oneself and the world.

These tips are one way to achieve an accurate perception of one's self, which allows a direct experience of Joy by the actuation of education.