Sunday, June 26, 2011

You can't jump steps!

"You can't jump steps" is the classic way of teaching chi-related disciplines. And it is the correct way, I mean save from one caveat that I shall touch on at the end of this post.

Master Mi JingKe (祕靜克) in her books recalled her learning experience from grandmaster Wang Xiangzhai (王薌齋). Mi started learning zhan zhuang from Maser Wang when she got this "incurable" eye-disease. After months of practice she got significant improvement on her eye-sight and she began exploring moving forms by imitating them from some senior students. However, whenever she tried to do the moving forms, her teacher would scold her and ask her to stay with her proper zhan zhuang. She was not happy then, but she recalled finally understood the reason behind her teacher's good advice: You can't jump steps!

In the area of Neidan (Taoist yoga or meditation) practice, I can see more jumping steps! Neidan is a more internalized practice, one simply can't notice things happening inside others' bodies: everybody just sit and meditate! In the arena of "popular Neidan" (i.e. folks picking up a "profound" interest, use arcane terminology that few understands, proudly to be the "chosen few", and will argue with others fervently if others have different opinions). These "modern alchemists" (of or not-of Taoist orientation) are many in East and West. Some of these people actually joint "seminars" (well seminars are fine), and chances are that a modern academy will sell you more advanced "seminars" if you're willing to pay, after all unlike the time of Mi when courses were few, the modern world is inundated with gurus pitching all kinds of courses. A friendly warning of "you can't jump steps" will more likely to lose a student than change his mind-set. Who can blame our modern gurus? After all they have their families to take care and their rents to pay.

Recent years in Mainland China, more people started to take an interest in studying/learning Neidan (though they tend to avoid the mythical or spiritual part, understandable in view of the political influence). Prominent Neidan master Wang Mu (王沐) also warned practitioners not to jump steps when they learn from the classic texts.

Having said that, I am not saying that one can't learn the stuff using texts as major source of information. Actually Zen master Liu Huangyan (柳華陽)got his final learning breakthrough from reading texts written by Taoist Immortal Wu Chongxu (伍沖虛真人) and "learned" from him when meeting him (already dead by then) during his deep meditation! To cut the story short, what I can see is, many practitioners (I mean those who can read classical Chinese) try to decipher "hidden secret" out of classic texts (and wrongly believe that it is all about hidden materials plus logical understanding of which), and on those steps they don't understand, they simply skip!

One caveat: Since everything happens inside a practitioner, your teacher (assuming he/she is a good one) can't always gauze correctly your progress. As a result, sometimes you may need to push forward your practice a step and check whether you are prepared to do so. Of course, you should always prepare to move back when you encounter obstacles in the forward moving process.

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