SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
NOVEMBER 2012 PART 2
What is the purpose of spiritual cultivation?
— Jason, Malaysia
It may come as a surprise that many people talk about spiritual cultivation without really knowing what they are talking about.
Some martial artists, for example, claim their arts are spiritual though their training is just physical, and their typical conduct spiritually damaging. Some of them take pride in punishing their opponents in combat.
Some people talk about spiritual cultivation but do not believe in souls. They believe that the present physical life is all that is. Some have spent a lot of time on spiritual cultivation, yet they have become very depressed.
If they know what spiritual cultivation is, they would not have made these serios mistakes.
Spiritual cultivation is self-explanatory. It is cultivating the spirit, making the spirit healthier, more peaceful, stronger and happier.
Hence, to engage in any spiritual cultivation, one must first of all believe in the soul, which is another name for the spirit. He must cultivate his spirit, not just his physical body, and his spirit should improve as a result of his cultivation, not being depressed.
It is worthy of note that spiritual cultivation is not the same as moral cultivation. A highly moral person, who is kind and righteous, may not believe in the spirit. On the other hand, a person steep in spiritual training, like a black magician, may not have high morals.
Having high morals is a pre-requisite for successful spiritual cultivation. In other words, before any person ventures into spiritual cultivation, he must ensure that he abides by a set of high morals. Even if we leave out altruism, it is to the person's interest and safety that he must have high morals before he embarks on spiritual cultivation, otherwise he will inevitably harm himself.
There are three main purposes of spiritual cultivation according to three levels of attainment
At the basic level, the purpose is to nourish the spirit. If the spirit is sick, like suffering from depression or fear, the cultivation must first overcome his spiritual illness. Practicing the Eighteen Lohan Hands is an excellent method. It will not ony overcome his spiritual disorders but restores him to spiritual health.
At the intermediate level, the purpose is to strengthen the spirit. In the Shaolin paradigm, "spirit" is represented as "heart", which includes the emotional, the mental and the spiritual. Hence, he becomes emotionally balanced, mentally fresh, and spiritually strong. This enables him to do better no matter what he does. If he eats an ice-cream, for example, he can enjoy its taste better. If he plans a marketing project, he will bring more benefits to himself, his company and his clients. The Eighteen-Lohan Art is excellent for this purpose.
- At the highest level, he expands his spirit. He feels free and powerful, and everyday is a joy. He may overcome the fear of death, as he knows experientially that his spirit never dies. He is compassionate and has cosmic wisdom. Sinew Metamorphosis is excellent for this purpose.
These three levels of attainment, though independent on their own, are progressive. Many people think only of its highest level when they talk about spiritual cultivation. This is a main reason why not only they do not have good results, but may also derive adverse effects.
For example, when a cultivator is emotionally distressed or physically sick and attempts sitting meditation to expand his spirit, he is likely to aggravate his emotional or physical ailments. When a person neglects his family to cultivate, he adds spiritual suffering not only to himself but also to his family.
Editorial Note : Jason's other questions are posted in the November 2012 Part 1 issue.
What is your advice for those who are quick to feel numbness on legs when sitting on single lotus position to overcome this problem?
When numbness occurs when sitting in a lotus position, he should come out of the lotus position, but not necessarily come out of meditation, and go into a chi flow still in meditation. If he does not know chi flow, he can practice Walking Meditation.
Before he goes into a lotus position to start his meditation, he can practice some chi kung exercises that specially bring energy flow to his legs, like Three Levels to Ground and Old Monks Take off Shoes.
While he is in meditation in the lotus position when numbness has not occurred, he can activate his Small Universe or Cosmic Shower, if he knows these arts.
At other times when he is not in sitting mediation, he should practice chi flow often so that energy can flow freely to his legs.
On horse-riding stance, when two fists are held at waist level, will chi travel across from fist to waist and vice versa, and will it cause too much chi focus on the spot where fist and waist touch?
Yes, it does. And no, it would not cause too much chi at the spot. If there is too much chi, it will spontaneously flow elsewhere.
But you should not worry unnecessarily over all these issues. Just enjoy your practice.
Chi can flow from fist to waist and vice versa, and flow all over the body and beyond. How and when the chi flows depend on various factors like your developmental stage, your conscious and unconscious thoughts, and the needs of your body.
You need not worry about all these. Practice "wu-wei", after you have practiced "you-wei" -- i.e. don't think of anything and everything will be done for you.
When I first started horse-riding stance, 3 minutes is very demanding and after the session I feel charged with internal force. However, after I can progress to more than 10 minutes, if now I want to do a 3-minute session, after this 3-minute session I don't feel quite charged with internal force.
This makes me to stand longer just to get back the "feeling". I wonder when one progresses in stance training, is he actually spending much time just to get the same amount of benefit during beginner stage?
No, when one progresses in stance training, or in any art, he spends less time to get the same benefit he used to get when he was a beginner.
For example, if he got 10 units of internal force after 3 minutes of Horse-Riding Stance when he first started, now that he is more skilful, he can get 10 units of internal force after just 1 minute.
After 10 minutes he would have developed 100 units of internal force. Because his development is gradual, he may not feel his increase of force noticeably. Although his force has increased by 100 units, he still feels natural.
This explains why at the 3-minute point he did not feel anything special though there was an increase of 30 units of internal force, because he is now used to 100 units of internal force. But when he first started, when he had no internal force, an increase of 10 units at the 3-minute point was something special.
Now if he continues beyond the 10 minutes to 13 minutes, he may feel an increase of internal force because the addition of 30 units to his original 100 units may be noticeable. But if he continues to only 11 minutes, he may not feel an increase, because the addition of 10 units may not be noticeable.
Let us use an analogy. Suppose you had no money to start with. You worked for three days, and you earned 10 dollars. That was great. You would take your girlfriend for supper to celebrate.
Now you are more efficient. You earn 100 dollars a day, 3000 dollars a month. If someone pays 10 dollars or even 100 dollars into your account, you probably would not notice it. Taking your girlfriend for dinners or suppers is no longer a celebration. It has become a norm -- though both of you still enjoy as much.
Yours is an excellent question to remind our senior members that they actually derive more benefits from their practice now than when they first started, though the benefits may not be so obvious now as the benefits have become commonplace to them.
When they first started they were sick and in pain. The first time they experienced wellness and pain free was something very special. Now it is nothing special. To be healthy and happy is the norm.
I felt tired yesterday after the session, and my whole body was aching. But this morning when I woke up, all the pains had disappeared and I felt very well. Can you please explain what happened?
— Datin Mariam, Malaysia
Yesterday we did some powerful exercises. You developed a lot of energy, more energy than what your physical body was used to. Hence, you might also feel tired besides your whole body was aching.
We understand that if you lack energy you would feel tired. But why did you feel tired when you had a lot of energy?
The yin-yang concept is excellent in explaining the situation. Here yin represents your body, and yang represents energy. Now your yin and yang are not in balance because your yang is excessive. Nature therefore asked you to rest, so that your body could adjust to the large amount of energy so as to restore yin-yang harmony.
What about the aching. It was part of the restoring yin-yang process. Energy was pushing through your blockages. In the transition, you felt a lot of arching. But when the blockages were clear, you felt very well. Some of the energy consolidated to form new cells to replaced the bad cells that were pushed out, restoring yin-yang harmony.
Having learnt the Three-Circle Stance and the Horse-Riding Stance, if I want to develop internal force, do I just practice the stances and I don't have to practice the other exercises?
As in many questions in chi kung, the answer is "yes" and "mo", depending on various variables.
If your purpose is just to develop internal force and nothing else, and there are no other considerations, you can just practice the Three-Circle Stance and the Horse-Riding Stance, or any one of them, and you don't have to practice any other exercises.
As stance training is the single most important category of exercises to develop internal force, and as the Three-Circle Stance and the Horse-Riding Stance are the most important stances, practicing them is the best option to develop internal force.
However, there may be other purposes and other considerations. You may not need a lot of internal force, but you may want some energy flow. In this case practicing Lifting the Sky and Nourishing Kidneys would be a better choice. Or you may want some flexibility and agility besides some, but not a lot of, internal force, then Carrying the Moon and Swallow Flying through Clouds can serve your purpose better.
On the other hand, Three-Circle Stance and Horse-Riding Stance are demanding exercises, though they produce a lot of internal force. If just some internal force is sufficient for your purpose, you may prefer more relaxing exercises like Grasping Sparrow's Tail and Dancing Crane.
We have a lot of techniques in our school. With our understanding of philosophy and having the necessary skills, we can choose the most suitable exercise for our purposes, enabling us to achieve in just a few days what other people may need a few months. Even if we do not make the best choice, we still have a lot of benefits, much more than most other people. Hence, we can afford not to worry (even when we sometimes make mistakes), not to intellectualize, and to enjoy our practice.
For example, if all other things were equal, given the same time for training, the Horse-Riding Stance will produce about 10 times more internal force than Three Levels to Ground.
But other things are not equal. You have a good understanding of the philosophy involved and also have the required skills, whereas other students do not. You will develop more internal force in three days using Three Levels to Ground than other students in three months using the Horse-Riding Stance.
What are the benefits of chi kung?
— Guillem, Spain
The numerous benefits of chi kung may be classified into five categories:
- Good health
- Mental freshness
- Spiritual joys
The first three categories constitute the basic benefits of chi kung, and the latter two constitute advanced benefits.
Good health includes overcoming pain and illness. Overcoming pain and illness is a stepping stone. The aim of practicing chi kung is not just to overcome pain and illness, but to have good health, and there is a big difference between them.
Those who are used to being told that they have to live with their pain and illness for life will surely be inspired to know that according to the chi kung paradigm, not only all pain and illness can be overcome, but also good health is natural.
Just being healthy is insufficient. We should also have vitality to enjoy life wholesomely. Acquiring vitality to enjoy life as well as for peak performance is an important category of benefits as a result of practicing genuine chi kung.
Practicing chi kung regularly will enable us to live to our potential life span. Thus another important category of benefits is longevity. We not only enjoy old age but are also healthy and full of vitality in our mellow years.
At advanced levels, practicing genuine chi kung gives us mental focus and freshness. This will enable us to do better no matter what we do!
Practicing genuine chi kung gives us spiritual joys. At the basic level it enables us to be peaceful and happy. At advanced levels we experience the presence of God or whatever term we call the Supreme.
How does practicing chi kung give us these benefits?
All these benefits are directly related to energy and spirit. Chi kung is not just a cultivation of the physical body, but also a cultivation of energy and spirit. Hence, practicing chi kung gives us these benefits.
According to the traditional Chinese medical paradigm, all pain and illness are due to energy blockage. By practicing chi kung, we generate an energy flow which can break through energy blockage. When the blockage is clear, pain and illness disappear! When energy flows harmoniously, which is a concise Chinese medical jargon meaning that when all our body systems function harmoniously, good health is maintained.
As we continue to practice genuine chi kung, the energy flow is not only smooth, it becomes vigorous. Vigorous energy flow gives us vitality. In other words, we have a lot of energy to carry out life's activities.
Having attain good health and vitality, as we continue to practice genuine chi kung we develop more energy than we need for our daily use. The excess energy is stored in our dan tians and wondrous meridians, which are energy fields and elongated energy reservoirs. This enables our energy to flow for a long time, which means we have longevity.
Whenever we practice chi kung, we have to keep our mind clear of all thoughts. If our mind is choked with thoughts, which means we are not in a chi kung state of mind, we would not be able to practice chi kung even when we may perform the external forms correctly. In this way we develop mental clarity. The energy flow from our chi kung training also nourishes our mind, making our mind strong.
Practicing genuine chi kung nourishes our spirit and open our heart. This gives us peace and joy. At advanced levels, with tremendous internal force we expand our spirit. Our spirit may expand beyond our physical body into the Cosmos attaining satori or spiritual awakening.
In Western terminology, we sometimes differentiate between the mind and the spirit. But in chi kung terms, both the mind and the spirit are referred to as "shen", which literally means "spirit", and sometimes as "xin", which literally means "heart", both of which include the emotional aspect.
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