The Internal Arts
Tai chi, Bagua, and Xing Yi, are the three Chinese internal martial arts.
What makes an art internal?
People usually think all sorts of exoteric reasons, but for me it is this very simple reason:
your awareness is directed inwardly.
On this basis, meditation is also an internal art.
I heard the best definition of meditation from author Bert Hellinger.
Medi-t-ation = action towards the centre.
The centre of what? Your being.
What makes it so different from our usual way of experiencing the world?
It is that normally we only pay attention to what we conventionally think of the “exterior”.
Perceptions and sensations comes from the “outside”, thoughts and emotions are triggered or attributed to outside events. We also set up intentions and goals and and we work towards them.
Nothing wrong with all that. If we were not just loosing ourselves there all the time.
To reestablish the balance, in the internal arts, attention is also directed inwardly.
The emphasis shifts from the “what” to the “how”. The way becomes the goal, as the Masters say.
It doesn’t matter what you do. It is how you do it that matters.
When you take care of the how, the goal takes care of itself.
This is how you do not lose yourself in the target, and forget everything else to accomplish the task at end. This is where the psychological state of flow falls short, as discussed in the last blog.
So how do you “do things” in the internal arts? You have to first find “your” centre.
In order to do this you have to direct the attention inward.
In tai chi you bring presence into your body. From there you can access the centre of your being, which is “empty”.
This empty centre is the same for everybody. Emptiness is emptiness. Space is space. There is no “my” and “your” space. This is the canvass on which every experience is “written”, and here all distinctions fall apart.
This is the true source of “love”.
This space is always there. It is permanent. Why?
Because every time you check is there. At the base of every experience.
You can check for yourself, NOW.
Not as a belief and not because once you reach it, you will be permanently enlightened.
This is the pitfall of all spiritual searchers, falling for a trick of the thinking mind, that thinks “in time”.
One day i will be enlightened.
Obviously anything “projected” in the future is only a thought in your mind. That takes you away from the only moment you can access that space. The here and now.
This space, this Emptiness, or Shunyata, as called by the Buddhist, is what remains when everything else falls away.
It is the canvas on which every experience is “written”. It is the permeant and deeper “sense of self.”
It is what remains when all your ideas, included the idea of yourself, fall apart.
Some people called it the Buddha Nature, some the Great Tao, some God.
But why are we so oblivious of it? Because to get there, we must first go through layers of resistance, usually in the form of thoughts, or emotional or physical resistance.
Simple instructions: direct the attention inward, pay attention to every form you encounter, embrace it, then go through. Simple to understand, not easy to do.
Why? Because we usually get sidetracked by the forms.
It is just our habits. This is where the ego takes shape. The inability to let go of which manifests on the canvas. We are attached to the picture, bored by the screen.
Our mind finds forms much more interesting than the emptiness without which nothing would appear.
So we need to bring more energy to this process and see through the fog of resistance.
We can get a help from the inner body, that according to author Echkart Tolle, is a layer of energy that is the link between the unmanifested one-energy, from which everything arises, and the world of form, which is the manifested word. That which you can perceive.
This layer of energy is called chi in the taoist tradition. The Holy Grail of internal martial arts.
It is a subtle energy field that pervades your body.
If you do tai chi, without awareness of this field, you are just doing an empty art.
Might as well go for a walk.
But when your awareness rests on it, you plug into the source. You get the sensation that the body is more alive. Not as an idea, but as a physical sensation of heat, tingling, magnetic force, etc.
When the body is pervaded by this awareness, it gets energised.
It is like a battery that accumulates energy.
People think that you can get energy from a coffee or an energy drink, nothing more wrong.
These can only excite the frequency of your own energy.
They bring excitement, not energy. They works for a little, but then you have the classic crash.
The only way to bring energy into the body is through deep sleep or the internal arts.
This energy, chi, can then be used in chi kung for healing, in tai chi for martial purposes, or in meditation towards increasing the energy of the awareness itself.
This way, observing the mind and liberating it from afflictive and compulsive thoughts becomes easier.
It can also be used as motivational energy to accomplish more mundane tasks in every day life.
Lack of chi, equals to depression.
So do you have to stop thinking?
No, you don't.
This is the main difference from the state of flow.
You consciously go through the thoughts, embracing what is happening “inside and outside”,
while also being conscious of the emptiness that embraces the whole experience.
This is the only way you can free yourself from habitual patterns.
And you act, not react.
This is how the tai chi master behaves.
Rooted in the centre, he observes the interplay of Yin and Yang, and, without interfering, lets nature take its course.
Without adding intention, will, or resistance to what “already is”, when a force approaches, he lets his body harmonise with it, in a natural way.
From a centred and rooted position, in an empty state of receptiveness, he lets Yin and Yang be received by their natural opposite, in agreement with the law of nature.
Having gone through the discursive mind and residing in the empty centre, the master doesn’t resist, because he does not have an ego to defend.
He is not freighted, therefore he acts proportionally to the intentions and the energy of the opponent, respecting him.
He doesn't loose the goal, that is not to harm or humiliate the opponent,
but to accept and transform his energy,
like nature does.
The world is sacred. It can't be improved. If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it. If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them. She lets them go their own way, and resides at the centre of the circle.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 29