Monday, October 6, 2014

Essential visualization

Visualization is an important energy source of the internal arts. Meditators use all kinds of visualization (not meant to discourage my more rationally minded readers, sometimes it can be heading towards the direction of superstition, despite this unfavorable description, it can still work for some people who strongly believe!) Visualization is Yi (意 or 意念) in Chinese, referencing the various internal martial arts with the word Yi (意), like XingYi (形意), Yi (意) and XinYi (心意). In modern terminology, Yi means mind. And mind-body exercises are meant to synchronize our mind with our body for effective results.

What are the essential elements of visualization?  As with other aspects of the internal arts, actual usage is a far better explanation than theory alone. Let me take an example: Visualizing holding a big elastic ball in zhan zhuang: squeezes it and allows it to bounce back. Before I go into detail explanations, one more learning hurdle I want to overcome first.

I can't visualize! Everybody can visualize, even, or especially, small kids. A two dimensional small (TV) or big (movie) images enacting unrealistic human dramas can wet our eyes. And small kids are easy to get frightened, and for some still being frightened for a couple of days more, after seeing a horror movie, so much so, certain horror movies, in addition to porn, are barred from under-aged kids, for their psychological benefits. Music lovers are moved by Beethoven or the Beetles depending on individual taste. Shakespeare's dramas moved a smaller group while housewives choose to be move by soap dramas.

Visualization of the internal arts is a bit more tricky. No excitement! Primarily because the results to be sought after is a calm mind rather than an excited mind (with the exception of combat training in which visualization to be a fierce dragon makes some sense). Therefore visualization in the internal arts requires some mindful determination, and a system to getting a student's mind and body into a workable state or program for effective visualization.

What is effective visualization? Simply put it is generation of chi, growth of chi and management of chi.

The systems of visualization in the various internal arts vary a lot. Yet their essential theory stays the same. First the same definition of effectiveness. Second a system activating both the body and mind. Third there will be internal variation of the system for different training objectives and to be finely-adjusted for different students and/or stages of training, and finally, and most importantly, the "excited points" shall not be the instinctively aroused points, rather shall be the "un-aroused points". In Taoist terminology, it is called "the natural path breeds normal human being, the opposite path breeds immortality (順則成人,逆則成仙)". In modern terminology, it is called "sublimation of energy".

This post will not venture into explaining the full domain of the subject matter - which is impossible for a short article anyway. So I limit my exposition to one example. The task of filtering out the essentials from this example I leave to my readers. My example: visualize holding a big elastic ball in zhan zhuang, with squeezing it and allowing it to bounce back - minutely or nanoly. Effective visualization comes with the following techniques:

  1. A meditative mode of mind (to facilitate suspension of disbelief and for effective relaxation).
  2. Mind focusing on selected focusing points while the rest of the body to relax.
  3. Focusing points for the ball example: (a) necessary focusing points: stretched hands (b) additional focusing points: triceps close to shoulder joints (closer than indicated on photo below).
  4. Massage additional focusing points to induce localized chi between exercise.
  5. Use muscles at additional focusing points to squeeze and release the elastic ball. The direction of power application is left and right (i.e. along the x-axis).
  6. The squeeze and release will activate chi at the shoulder blades (test of effectiveness).
  7. Supplementary visualization to consolidate progress: holding a stationery ball with gradually increasing (and gradually reducing) weight - without squeezing the ball.
  8. Test of effectiveness: tiredness due to whole upper body exercise.
Intermediate students (with at least one to two years training) can learn effectively from the above instruction. More junior students should consult their seniors or teacher, otherwise you might not get the desired results.

Additional focusing points in visualization - the concept of sublimation

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