Monday, May 25, 2015

The logic of third eye opening and naval gazing

Third eye opening is sometimes the raison d'etre of people venturing into the art of deep meditation. Metaphors surround it filled pages and built up interesting stories and myths. Some meditators find kindred souls in that they see arcane images from cultures (notably Indian) they have no prior experience or knowledge. A rich playing field for avid imagination, fantasies and ontological speculations. Like "world peace", "world spirit" and "reincarnation". I agree with Jung that it is out of human limit of knowing to speculate further than empirical psychological facts, not that such enquiries are meaningless as scientism would have said, but they rightfully should be in the realm of faith.

As a practitioner, my expertise lays in the area of training and operational guidelines. And along this route I shall direct my writing below.

Everybody is familiar with image of hypnotist using a slowly swinging pendulum with the eyes falling the swinging ball. With the mind conditioned to follow the instructions of the hypnotist and the eyes "faithfully" following the swinging ball, a person can get hypnotized. The scientific fact is, slow movement of the eye muscles can induce one towards a sleepy state. This is the only relevant fact on hypnosis for our explanatory purpose here.

Eye muscles are important route to the inner world. One major limitation of the eye-muscles is that they are weak muscles, and as such, cannot induce a massive amount of chi (which is essential for deep meditation). Deep meditation necessarily involves our strong breathing muscles. For deep meditation, such energy has to be guided to our brain through our third eye. To open the third eye (or using the point called third eye [making a triangle with our physical eyes] as focused point) has a prior pre-requisite: the ability to control the muscles of our physical eyes.

In classical Taoist meditation (Neidan), there is a training method called "incense gazing". It is simple, gazing continually at a burning incense. Tears will flow, eyes will be blurred. This method is also mentioned in the Classic text Taoist Yoga translated into English by Zen master Charles Luk.  A contemporary method is gazing a far-away trees. Master Wang Xianzahi also used tree gazing in healing impaired eye-sights for his students (per reference from his student Madam Zhuang JingKe)..."until the tree tops become blurred", as reported said by Master Wang.

Now this is the first step. With some sound prior practice in chi-related disciplines or meditation, the following steps will be easy. Step one: visualize connecting your eyes with broad area of your abdomen with rubber bands, which means your eye movements will trigger synchronically reactions in your abdomen.  The eye movements can be left/right, up/down, doing circles etc. With good training in this direction, you are ready to move on. Final step: visualize connecting your third eyes to your Dantian (i.e. doing navel gazing). The eye muscles will act as balancing of chi-power while the movement of the third eye will become almost stationary or nano in nature.

You are onto the road to deep meditation.

Navel gazing

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A nice chronicle for the family - a book review for "Kandide and the secret of the mists"

I did book reviews in, not so many lately because of my various other commitments. Once in a while,  a guy/publisher will send me a copy and ask me for a review. I did so when I have time. This review is about the first book of a series by a writer introduced to me a couple of years ago in Hong Kong. Author Diana is a gorgeous lady having an impressive career as a professional magician, performing artist, illusion creator (she created some of David Copperfield's illusions), a business consultant for multi-national corporations and above all a writer of fictions.

The time I met her was when she published her first book, she presented me a signed copy without asking me for a review. She also told me that a series would come when she had time to tackle the whole project. Then she was doing some exciting management consulting projects that presumably consumed all her time. As a business person myself, I understand perfectly how one's business commitments can have on what one is passionate about, like writing a book, like I have been talking about writing a book on 24 styles tai chi nei gung for more than two years!

Anyway, I found Diana's book very interesting and perfect read for the whole family, in particular for parents who would like to give good guidance to their kids with something as interesting as a nicely written fairy book. Recently I was told that Diana finally gathered her acts together and finished her book two of the chronicle. I immediately downloaded book two to my Kindle, and before reading it, I did the following short review for her first book "Kandide and the secret of the mists":

If you are looking for a captivating fiction for the family, Diana's "Kandide and the secret of the mists" is a perfect choice. A story of a winged fairy kingdom and a journey of a princess turning young queen. It is about tolerance, love and growth. The plot is captivating and the story educational. The prose is a good example of what parents want their kids to emulate in the English language. I am happy to learn that Kandide's story will continue..

Highly recommended reading.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The importance of immovable hands in power training

Power training in tai chi and other internal martial art like Yi-Chuen looks seemingly simple and "lacking in power". Weights are not used. Movement is slow. How can workout be achieved under such training method? Indeed many practitioners of the arts fail to train for power, because lacking in proper instruction and do not understand the concept behind.

In the internal arts, the internal feeling of a practitioner acts as the ultimate yardstick for power training. Simply put, a feeling of strong sluggishness or resistance is a clear sign of power training in action. In other words, if your movement (for example when doing standard tai chi form) does not encounter an internal sensation of powerful resistance, you are doing proper training in power. Having said that there are other training objectives other than power training and to achieve such "other objectives", different internal sensation will be required. That will go outside the scope of this little training note.

To the beginning student, however, a more operational instruction will be needed to facilitate him to cultivate a stronger sense of resistance. The method is simple: keeping your stretched hands stationery when doing defined (and simple) movement exercise.

The most simple exercise is doing push and pull using combat stance. Keeping your stretched hands fixed resulting (visibly) your body moving forward and backward (while keeping the leg-part of combat stance almost fixed too, i.e. do not transfer your major weight to your front feet at end of pushing). In addition your focused mind should be at the center point of your arms - body forward on triceps and body backward on biceps. After some experience, a student can transfer such learning effect to other movement forms, by himself or with the help of an experienced teacher.

In the advanced movement form like Tortoise Surfacing Water (神龜出水), fixed or immovable hands together with no weight transfer, is of vital importance to proper training.

So much for today!
combat stance

Friday, May 15, 2015

An enigmatic koan: Nanquan kills the cat


池州南泉普願禪師 師因東西兩堂各爭貓兒,乃白眾曰:「道得即救取貓兒,道不得,即斬卻也!」眾無對,師便斬之。趙州自外歸,師舉前語示之,趙州乃脫履安頭上而出,師曰:「汝適來若在,即救得貓兒也!」

Master Nanquan found monks of the eastern and western halls quarreling about which hall should keep a (lovely) strayed cat. The master was not happy. He held up the cat and said, “If any one of you can convince me that he is enlightened, he can save the life of this cat. If not, I shall cut off its head.” Nobody could, so Nanquan cut the cat's head off. That evening, Zhaozhou returned from outside and Nanquan told him what happened. Zhaozhou removed a sandal from his foot, put it on his head, and walked out. (Paul's translation)

An enigmatic koan. The following is a messaging conversation between me and two of my friends after I raised up this famous koan...

Lady friend: The cat did not deserve to die.
Paul: Cat died, yet cat still there. Cat is lovely, dead but man (or woman) can't put it down. Cat's sad ending is related to its being loved. If the cat be treated like under man's sandal, it can safely walk away....the story said so.
Gentleman friend: Against religious discipline of animal killing?!
Paul: Understand the message rather than commenting the logic...
Lady friend: It has nothing to do with the cat being lovely! The issue is that the cat died under the hands of man who thought he is smart!
Paul: Don't be upset. Zhaozhou would probably ask you to seek the answer from the cat.
Gentleman friend: What is the difference between cat and man? The smart EU is using military operation to solve refugee problem. If Zhaozhou were life, men's lives perhaps could be saved.
Lady friend: The cat didn't choose to take part in this game. Man should ask himself - Why!
Paul's final comment: Koans are oftentimes enigmatic, the more you analyzed them, the more confused you got. "Nanquan kills the cat" is also being considered as a classic koan in Japanese culture. Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫) mentioned it in his novel Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺, he dared not putting on commentary. Koan is something to be felt internally. Being enigmatic, it can't be put to rest, has to be "kept at bay" in heart. One day, suddenly something is revealed, and one can feel the greatness of the koan. Buddhist master Hsing Yun 星雲大師 once said Nanquan just made the gesture of killing. He never killed the cat, how could a Buddhist master killed a cat! The internal tension of the koan , however, was lost. Some Buddhists condemned master Hsing Yun's interpretation as a twist of the fact in the wrong way. The master commented no more on the koan thereafter.

What more can I say....

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why chasing after "classic" kundalini awakening is not recommended

Kundalini awakening is an attractive concept. Many contemporary meditators, in particular in the west, are mesmerized by it, attracted by it, tempted by it, or actually started their meditative practice because of it! Kundalini awakening as described in some modern classics is quite explosive, frightening and unexpected. These writers are usually self-learners. And when some of these self learners later become great teachers themselves, they recounted such experience in their books. Of course those poor guys who, as a result, suffered some traumatic side-effects will not be there to tell their stories.

Nevertheless most of such mentions said that if their awakenings could be better managed, the result would not be so shocking. And with the benefit of experience, their students can avoid such drastic encounters. It is interesting to note that there are cases of Taoist meditation practitioners, and self-learners too, who said they experienced such experiential shock. The Japanese Taoist master and popular writer 高藤 聡一郎 is an example. In Taoist practice, a mild energy surge is called arousing chi foundation (動氣基).  Explosive ones are labeled as chi deviation, in a negative sense.

What was mentioned in those experience is a form of sudden explosion of chi energy. It is just like a dam suddenly broke open. Why is it so? And why a more controlled training can avoid this?

When chi gradually builds up during training in a more controlled training, the student will be trained to open his blockages step by step at the same time. In this way, when the chi become massive, almost all blockages have been cleared. And this is safe. However, with an eager practitioner who is unfortunately without the proper guidance of a good teacher, he may be building up his chi without realizing that his internal blockage is being pushed into a thick wall, disallowing his chi to pass through. Failing to see progress, he became more eager, and engage himself into more vigorous training. Eventually his thick blockage exploded open! His pent-up chi rushes upwards to his head. The experience will be shocking, and painful, and with possible long term negative effects.

There is however in some cases there will be a positive side benefit. This shock can result in a near-death experience. And with (most of the time unintended) prior mental or spiritual training, this can result in an Enlightenment with a capital E. The second Patriarch of Zen Buddhism was reported to have an Enlightenment experience immediately after he cut off his own arm!

For most modern students of kundalini meditation and Taoist meditation, the highest level of Enlightenment is not a training objective. A gradual method is the best method for their training objectives. And therefore it is absolutely no need to try the shock-therapy route. For those who are truly religious or spiritual, they should find a proper teacher rather than dangerously experimenting with shocking kundalini awakening through explosive massive pent-up energy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fa Jing for health and fitness

Fa Jing is externalization of power using full body. In tai chi demonstrations, it is usually done as pushing a compliant partner far away. In combat situation, what is the meaning of pushing people away and they can come back and fight with you again? In some martial art circle it is believed that Fa Jing can inflict inner damage, and in some legend it was said a master could be able to control whether or not internal damage being inflicted! Belief and legends are interesting. In combat, what is effective boils down to either a powerful punch (kick etc) or an effective throw. In modern combat sports (for example San Da), punching power is usually developed ultimately using a punching bag, like other combat sports. Fa Jing's uniqueness is now more associated with health and fitness training, and with a special edge that I shall explain.

Fa Jing is a general terms that include a number of ways to externalize one's power. Sometimes limited to a local tool (like fixing the elbow or the shoulder) for training of specific parts of the body, in the understanding, training specific parts can be added together to form a more complete training of the whole. There are whole body training methods too, like the regular (Fa Jing) push (actually called Dan Jing 彈勁) in which most people can see in demonstration. Dan Jing is not the best training tool for the whole body conditioning for health and fitness. But before I select one that I consider the best, let me tackle the question: How is the training objective being achieved?

Training objective is achieved by the bouncing back effect of arm-movements acting on the body. Each action is repeated a large number of time (20-100). As a result, chi power will be accumulated easily and effective (without losing chi energy). When an obstacle is not there, the bounce back power should be made to push back too the body which should (therefore) be maintained in a relaxed state. The general guideline is that such training is for students with stronger physique which means before seventy and being in good health. So it is more or less applicable to most students.

Since the bouncing back effect is so important, the best training method is the "Shaking Jing 抖勁". For simplicity, it can be done is a standard combat stance pose. You simply shake your arms front-and-back when in stance. The most important point is to manage the chi generation and accumulation process. If you have a good foundation in chi training, you should no problem in generating such chi sensation in one lesson. And you can appreciate the effectiveness of the cumulating training after just a few sessions. If you cannot, probably you need some time to build up your foundation. And you can do it properly, you will sweat in no time, and your body really feels good!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why you need a good acupuncturist and a good chi kung teacher

Acupuncture works with meridian system (經絡). It is a network of channels through which chi flows. Basically there are twelve standard meridians and eight extraordinary meridians. And there are lists of acupunctural points readily available in books and over the internet. In Hong Kong, practice in acupuncture is regulated, according to the Ordinance practitioners have to study for a first degree level course on the subject (with practical training course) and will then need to pass a Licensing Examination conducted by the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong. Unlike western medical practices, a defined period of supervised clinical experience is not needed. If you have the locations of the acupunctural points, the skills of how to work with the needles and a "cook book" for various ailments, what more is needed?

It missed one important aspect: the average body structure of an average person is not perfect. And, one important consequence, therefore locations of the acupunctural points will not be exactly the same for each person or patient! And in order to find, and therefore, to needle on the exact locations requires the good experience of a good acupuncturist. And such understanding cannot come upon with one or two years of supervised practice!

Good chi king masters know it all the time. In chi kung, the focused points are oftentimes similar to the acupunctural points (in concept if not in delivering the same healing result). In chi kung, getting the right focused points will be the joint effort of a good teacher (sifu) and his or her student. The reason is that ultimately it is the student who is able to feel and mentally-cum-physically act on the points.

In conclusion, self-learning is chi kung is possible, but in most cases it will be better with the personal coaching of good teacher (corollary:  mediocre teacher and large group training without the benefit of individual coaching will be insufficient). On the other hand, if you are seeking the service of an acupuncturist, make sure you find a good one!

Acupunctural points

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