Friday, May 6, 2011

Suspension of disbelief

Students of drama understand the requirement of "suspension of disbelief" in enjoying a theater production. The actor is no longer your neighbor Mr. Brown or Mr. White, but IS Hamlet. The reality of which, assuming the production itself is professional, transports the psyche of the audience to the reality of the play Hamlet, as performed on whatever stage. Once I watched an Amadeus production in London, sitting on the front row, when Mozart walked to the edge of the stage and orated excitedly, droplets of saliva flowing and descending towards me! And I looked at my fellow audience on left and right, almost everyone was distracted, and holding up a pamphlet for protection - except one or two, who truly were into "suspension of disbelief", and continued to enjoy the play - no matter what!

The relevancy to meditation is that in meditative practices, suspension of disbelief is actually required. If you visit some parks in the morning, especially in Northern China, you may notice some zhan zhuang (standing meditation) practitioners doing it in front of a tree (usually an old and huge one, if available). They would probably tell you that they are absorbing the chi-power of the tree! You may say, are they onto some kind of cult! A famous Taoist practitioner and writer in Japan (高藤聪一郎) who first learned his stuff in Taiwan wrote in one of his popular books that he once practiced for an hour facing an electric socket and drew good energy out of it! And in the book Fusion of the Five Elements written by the famous Taoist-in-the-west Mantak Chia, Chia talked about absorbing energy from the Cosmo, including the North Star and the Big Dipper!

From a psychological perspective (in particular Jungian), our psyche does speak a different language. In order to involve our inner psyche (for enjoying a play or doing mind-body exercise to tune up one's body and mind or spirituality), symbols must be used with their meanings believed in earnest. In watching a play, a good plot and good execution are essential to bring one's psyche into action. In doing meditative practice, a mind on the zone (voluntary putting one's mind into the stage between wake-up and asleep), plus a good coach and a good practice are essential to do the job. In all cases: the most essential requirement is for the participant to consciously act with "suspension of disbelief".

Needless to say the difference between a sound mind and cases of superstition or, worse, pathological in nature is that a sound mind will discard his "suspension of disbelief" after the event. A student of drama or a practitioner of meditation won't encourage anyone punching the "killer-actor" after the show, nor imitate someone asking the Big Dipper for marital or investment advice!

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