Monday, July 30, 2012

How secretive is your practice?

Internal practice like chi-kung or meditation is psychological, in the sense that practice experience is internal, any verbalization is therefore a translation, any feeling is also a translation, a translation of something more physical, yet the dilemma is such physical happenings can only make sense through human verbalization and feeling.  For example, an x-ray of some heat energy moving inside a practitioner's body is just some heat energy moving inside a practitioner's body, if anything that can be concluded at all is that the practitioner is, mostly likely, not lying!

Therefore a better way of looking at it, as explained by Carl Jung, is that such verbalization or feeling should be interpreted as empirical data, to be treated as real and to be analyzed upon, assuming that the fellow is not lying (i.e he feels something really means he feels something).   Psychology has become a reputable subject of scientific analysis under this understanding, and likewise, should be the direction that internal practice heading.

Many teachers and practitioners of the stuff are now trying to move the subject towards this direction: carefully documenting their inner feeling and experience.  For example, the famous text Taoist Yoga (translated into English by Charles Luk) contained texts written by Taoist (and martial art) guru 赵壁尘 together with repeated Q&A between the master and his disciples (asking the same query in different ways with the teacher answering each question in different ways).  The publication of which was explicitly mentioned as revealing "secrets", with the clear understanding that such verbalization and Q&A oftentimes related to particular experience of particular practitioners, and constrained both by one's internal feeling as well as one's limited skills in clear and logical verbalization.  It is particularly interesting to note that Zhao wrote clearly that he hadn't reached the highest level of "at one with Tao", but he revealed the practice method (i.e a "secrete formula") of this last step, as passed down by his own teacher many years ago (Zhao didn't mention which level his master attained).

Another direction that some conscientious masters headed was that they try to demystify "secret practices" that purported to be "passed down along secretive linear line".  Contemporary master Nan HuaiJin (南怀瑾) wrote much about his youthful experience in revealing the shallowness (if not outright faulty) of many "secret practices."  In my previous post In Search of esoteric practice I introduced some of Nan's stories.  Interested readers can refer to the post for further information.

What I wrote above is not just academic.  Nowadays in Hong Kong (and for that matter over the internet that covers a wider audience worldwide) there are people who just love to believe that there are indeed "secret practices" that are most superior; and only if one can learn such practice (presumably with little or no effort), one can find the truth and become one inner discipline of the deepest highest secret.  I personally know a few of these guys!   They are never able to progress much in their practice.   More problem however may arise if they think that they are onto a secret practice and put all their "spiritual belief" towards their guru or organization.  Jack Cornfield, a writer and a teacher of meditation and spirituality, wrote about this issue, and I quoted some of his relevant warning is my previous post The Problem of dependency in spiritual communities.  Interested readers can refer to information contained therein.


  1. Today, of course, we no longer need to practice this martial art for the purpose of killing our enemy. However, some say that now we can use this practice to fight the enemy of fatigue, stress, overwork or lack of understanding of oneself and one's body. Daily practice of Tai Chi promotes mental clarity and a healthy body, assists with balance and helps the circulation of the blood.

    Ilchi Lee

  2. True enough, sound objective setting is very important for any student of the internal arts.


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