Visualizations, Videos and Learning the Sword

In traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts visualizations are used to help people develop qi and the ability to move it.  The key expression is:  "To make imaginary real, and to make real imaginary."  This is one of the things that annoys me about the whole movement to make martial arts less theatrical and more "real."  Folks, that's level one!  It's only half the job.  Once those fighting skills are perfected and all the applications have clear intent, power, etc, etc, then the task is to make them so natural that whatever the mind does, it is expressed instantly and effortlessly.  The art enters the realm of imagination.

I recently have learned a lot about my Northern Shaolin Sword form (Wuhudao) from playing with Maija.  She's great. What amazed and delighted me the most is that every single move in this old opera form from Kuo Lien-Ying is totally functional.  Even the things that I had thought were artistic flourish turned out to be really useful techniques!

And while we are at it I have a new favorite visualization.  The most common visualizations of qi are clouds, steam, silk, water, fire...etc....   all that old school stuff.  But my new favorite thing to visualize is dry-cleaning plastic!  It puffs up, it floats down slowly, it spins around, it has a mind of it's own.

Dry Cleaning Plastic Dress by Susan Lenz

3-D Feeling

The first chapter of the Daodejing (Laozi) begins;
The Dao that can be spoken is not the constant Dao,

The names that can be named are not the true name,

(Dao ke dao fei chang Dao, ming ke ming fei chang ming)

Generally, "names" is understood to mean four things: actual words, images, concepts, and metaphors.

This is not an outright rejection of these four types of "names."  The chapter deals with how "naming" functions in relationship to experience.  (See this previous post on the Quest for Power.)

In order for a human body to function it must have a mind.  Minds move bodies.  How do minds do this?  I'm not seeking a "scientific" explaination here.  I'm asking, how do we experience the process?

Can a human be still?  The answer is no, it is not possible to be still (even in death).  Only relative stillness is possible.  In relative stillness, the mind continues to move the body.  It is fair to say mind and body are inseparable, and for this reason Orthodox Daoism teaches that in stillness practices the mind should be given no more attention than a toe or a rib.  Every square millimeter of the body is a cherished blessing.

However, Daoism and Tantric Buddhism sometimes use "visualizations" within their stillness practices; and they certainly use "visualizations" when practicing ritual.  The beginning visualizations are often military, generals or characters known for extraordinary discipline.  The images then transition towards subtler, softer, and lighter images.

Infinite architectural design Infinite architectural design

But the terms "visualization," "images," or "picturing" are not adequate terms to describe this process of mind.  It might be better to think of them as 3 dimensional feelings.   For a human to function we need to feel.  We need to feel in 3 dimensions.  Any movement we do is organized by a 3 dimensional feeling.  It is as if this 3dFeeling holds us together and gives us order.

When we are walking down the street, we have a particular 3dFeeling.  We need this feeling to function, without it we wouldn't be able to stand, walk, or look around.  These 3dFeelings are infinite, even this particular 3dFeeling we use for walking is infinite. But it is the kind of infinite that happens within boundaries.  That particular 3dFeeling is very stable, it is changeable, but it doesn't change very much.  However, when we were children learning to walk, that particular 3dFeeling was very unstable.  Each time we tried to find it, it was a little different, we had to learn to replicate the same 3dFeeling day after day in order to walk like the adults around us.  As a teenager, I decided my walk wasn't cool enough and I actively changed this 3dFeeling, which in turn changed my walk to the degree that my new cooler walk became automatic and unconscious.

The affects of a particular 3dFeeling are sometimes noticed by other people.  We say, "That guy looks like he has a dark cloud over his head," or, "She looks like she is about ready to break out in song!"

These Daoist and Tantric Buddhist 3dFeeling-stillness-ritual-practices free us from the 3dFeeling habits we have developed through our lives.  They un-lock the absolutely normal everyday 3dFeelings which order our movements, giving us the ability to be at play with 3dFeelings.

This is what we call an adept.  This is what we call the earthly immortal "dancing with qi."  Internal martial arts  are simply not internal if they lack this type of freedom.  And it is freedom, not power.   It is potency, not a tool.  Yes, applied to fighting, it can unleash unstoppable power.  Yes, applied to healing, it seems to produce amazing results.  But to use it as a tool is to limit it.  The adept cherishes freedom, accepts fate, and leaves his/her potency unexpressed.  But even this freedom is not the Constant Dao, it is only a "name."