Friday, July 23, 2021

Confucius On Cultivation

The following is attributed to Confucius, as recorded by his grandson, from the Zhong Yong:




Truth is the way of Heaven.  

Developing Sincerity is the way of Humanity. 

If you can be effortlessly Sincere, without lust of result, and walk embracing the Middle Pillar, then you have become a Sage.

If you are practicing at becoming Sincere, you must find your Virtue and cleave to it. 

You must study it generally, investigate its particulars, contemplate it with care, perceive it with clarity, and practice it at all levels. 

When there is a gap in your understanding, or you haven't yet reached the point in your practice where it is really effective, don't just abandon it. 

When there is something you have investigated, but not yet fully understood, don't just abandon it. 

When there is something you have not yet been able to perceive, or can perceive but not with clarity, don't just abandon it.

When there is something you have not yet practiced, or not yet practiced to a certain level, don't just abandon it. 

If someone else can get it in a single try, I will try it a hundred times.  

If someone else gets it in ten tries, I will try a thousand times. 

If you can persist in following this Path, even if you are stupid, you will become Enlightened.  Even if you are weak, you will achieve Power. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

"Stale Qi" Part II

 The previous post on this blog, regarding the matter of "stale Qi", had a number of comments on social media from ordinary practitioners as well as serious Qi Gong practitioners or alleged teachers.

Among these comments, some were in agreement, others strongly disagreed and tried to argue that "stale qi" or other "varieties" of Qi are a real phenomenon.

However, the most interesting comments came from people who suggested that whether or not the phenomenon itself was real, my statement about it wasn't relevant because it doesn't really matter in terms of effects. In other words, even if "stale" Qi (or any of the many other types of descriptors of Qi, including things like "scattered qi", stolen qi, sinking qi, rising qi, boiling qi, small qi, long qi, weak qi, strong qi, still qi, hard qi, etc.) wasn't actually real and Qi is just Qi, the description of these things as 'types' of Qi can be helpful for a student to understand what they're working through and it can potentially help them to engage with Qi Gong practice.

Now, first of all, if you think about all those statements being attributed to Qi, you can see that they're not really talking about Qi itself at all, but rather about how YOU process Qi.


 (It's not the Qi that's scattered, it's you)


It is technically correct, that from a 'practical' point of view, it doesn't immediately matter whether it's the Qi that's "bad" or your body that is "bad" due to your failure of cultivation and/or lack of Virtue.

However, in the bigger picture, there is an important difference! 

If people believe it's the Qi that's bad, they can go looking for magic potions and quick fixes and fake Wu or plastic new-age "taoists" who will do "energy cleanses" that will "fix their Bad Qi".

On the other hand, if they realize Qi is Qi, and the problem is THEMSELVES, they might understand that the only way to fix the problems are by their own discipline and virtue.
So that's a HUGE difference.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Can Qi Really go "Stale"?


Qi is really just Qi. But at times it is useful in speaking about Qi, in the context of things like Qi Gong, cultivation practice, esoteric studies or traditional healing to describe particular interactions of Qi with our body or our consciousness through the use of metaphorical conditions. However, this has led over the  years to different systems or teachings in esoteric schools to end up using a variety of terms, like "positive qi", "negative qi", "Yin Qi" or "Yang Qi", "Natal Qi", "Active Qi" or "Stale Qi"; but all of these gradually came to be thought of as different "types" of Qi, which is inaccurate. 




As an example, let's consider the example of "stale Qi":

 There are two ways to understand Qi in any way that Qi could be said to be 'stale'. The term is a deceptive because it implies that it is the Qi that is bad or corrupted or in some sense different from normal Qi.

The first is in the sense of physical well-being, where if someone has failed to be natural for a long time, developing harmful physical habits that lead to physical tension, a failure to breathe naturally, tightness/restriction of the body in varied ways, then the circulation of Qi through the body is not open and fluid, and so Qi will tend to accumulate only in certain areas of the body and not others, leading to physical disharmony. Notice that it is not in fact a problem with Qi, or that Qi is any different, it is a problem with the body and its ability to be open and receptive and fluid in relation to Qi.

The second is in the sense of understanding Qi not only as life-force but as Will. Our will is directed to certain things. We put our will into certain things. This includes things that must be done in the immediate sense, like very ordinary things, and also things that we are trying to achieve in a bigger sense, but it also means anything we've intentionally or unintentionally invested ourselves in. This investment means that some of our will, our Qi, will be directed in certain ways, and normally this isn't a problem, it's perfectly normal.  But if we have invested our will into things that we cannot resolve, into things that are unreal, or things that are no longer real, our attention and our emotions (fear or desire) and our mind and our pain clinging to those things in spite of their unreality, then the Qi gets locked in to being invested in that. Part of our will is stuck there. 

That manifests also in the body, as tension (tension here meaning anything from physical rigidity to posture, to breathing, to other symptoms like sleeplessness or intestinal troubles, to serious disease). The Qi there is 'stale' because it is stuck clinging to something unresolved and that cannot ever be resolved in the usual way. Once again note that the problem is not with Qi, or that the Qi is different, but rather a problem that our mind is locking-in our Qi, limiting its fluidity because of our obsessions.

So the ways to resolve these sorts of problem are either by physical practice (Qi breathing) or by Virtue (through self-inquiry). The former uses the body to loosen the bonds of the mind, the latter uses awareness to loosen these bonds. Typically, a combination of both is best.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Psychedelics and Spiritual Cultivation


I have often been asked whether there is any utility or value in the use of psychedelic drugs while engaging in spiritual practices, and specifically cultivation practice like that found in Yi Fa Qi Gong and other authentic Qi Gong cultivation systems.

 My answer has always been that one has to be very cautious and prudent in how to approach the question of psychedelics. And in fact, people who are already engaging in or have previously used psychedelics will probably have very little benefit, and potentially drawbacks, from any attempt to use them in the context of cultivation practice.

Not because "drugs are bad" or anything like that, but because in the context of just WHAT they're useful for in terms of spiritual development.  Psychedelic drugs need to be used ideally only at very carefully selected moments and in very specially selected contexts. The ancient shamanic cultures throughout the world understood this, as did some of the hermetics and some of the eastern sects.

The central feature of the psychedelic experience is twofold: it temporarily breaks down the ego, and it opens the doors of perception (to paraphrase Huxley).

The latter means that suddenly you're having a sensory experience different to anything you experienced before.

This is what leads to the effect of breaking down the ego: the mind's ability to lock-in to personality is based largely on imprinted behaviors from memory... what you could call "conditioning". Basically, ways you've programmed yourself, some of which is essential for daily living but a lot of which is also highly limiting, including in the spiritual context.

When you use a psychedelic for the first time, it makes your brain unable to refer back to any past experience that was sufficiently similar to allow the ego to assert itself (in the sense of "I know what's happening here, I know what to do") and so you have the potential to have an experience that can break some barriers the Ego has created that could be very hard to break otherwise. It is the inability to put what you're experiencing into some comfortable box of context that makes the experience so potentially charged with the opportunity to make serious Change.

But by the second time you use a psychedelic, you already have a context by which the brain can compare it to in memory; namely, the first time you used it! So even just the second use of a psychedelic will be, spiritually speaking, enormously less useful than the first time.

I would say that generally speaking, the real spiritual utility of psychedelics for transformation (in cultivation practice) is limited to the first two or at most three times you use a drug. Any use after that will, at best, only be useful for attaining a kind of trance state (but that can be done in a lot of ways, including meditation). It's no longer useful as an ego-overwhelming tool. It is just re-creating a former experience.

That means that if you had wasted the first time you used a psychedelic (say, at a party or something), you would wasted a big potential tool that you could never use again.

So you want to think carefully about when you use psychedelics. If you do use them, it should be at a carefully planned moment and in a carefully prepared context so as to make the best use of the power of the ego-overwhelming experience.

Friday, January 22, 2021

I Ching Hexagram Commentary #16 - Certainty

 Here is the latest in the I Ching public video series. 

Members of the Yi Fa Society get access to private videos and written teachings that elaborate further on each hexagram covered in this series. If you are interested in applying to the Yi Fa Society please get in touch.