Our self-imposed limitations are responsible for most of our suffering
Qigong, Taoist cultivation, and even martial arts should never be regarded as simple exercise. The meditative component provides the potential of transcendence. Something transmitted, not merely taught and learned. Therefore, the benefits of Meditative-Exercise are inestimable and only limited by the individuals involved. Meditative-Exercise always starts with the mind. The question should always be “what is the proper mindset here?”.
This is a meditation practice that can be used whenever we want to stabilize ourselves as the world swirls around and within us. The problem solved is that in which we find ourselves constrained by perceived limitations whether within our physical bodies or, relating to the mind. Our physical and energetic bodies have borders, i.e., limitations. Do our minds possess similar boundaries? Self-imposed limitations in our thinking are associated with pain, physical dysfunction of many kinds, depression, anxiety, and many aberrant behaviors.
Consider space as a coordinate system composed of the four cardinal directions. Add to this, above and below. This adds up to six directions along three possible axes. Our mind (attention) can travel along any of the axes both within and beyond our physical body.
Within our body we explore the power of aligning our body in the wuji standing practice. Finding our exact center of gravity for the entire body (within the lower abdomen) produces a balloon-like expansion that neutralizes our perception of gravity. We find our center of gravity by drawing horizontal and vertical lines using acupuncture points as landmarks (see the Wuji Qigong paper). Through practice and with proper instruction we learn we can produce this effect in others through touch or even through verbal cues.
If we allow our attention to expand beyond the limits of our physical body, an enhanced sense of awareness and relaxation is the result. The effect is especially pronounced as we ensure that our attention is unbounded in each of the six directions. This alert, hyperaware state is characterized by intense clarity, and an increase in the gap between thoughts.
The ancient Chinese discovered that each of the four cardinal directions is associated with our internal organs as defined by their 5-Element model. The “center direction” relates to the Earth Element whose direction is downward toward the center of the earth. As earth is the direction for below, heaven is represented by the upward direction toward the sky. This one occurs naturally as obstructions to the other five directions are relieved. Like the culmination of an osteopathic treatment, we become taller, more erect, even more human. What comes to us from the early Buddhists in China is usually transliterated as “empty mind”. According to Hinton, “sky mind” is more accurate. The highest acupuncture point, at the vertex of the head is known as Ba Hui. It is sometimes loosely translated as “crown-wisdom chakra”. Though not an organ it can be inserted here as the entity most responsible for inner light or lightness entering the body.
The test of success for relieving the mental straitjacket we find ourselves in is freedom of movement created by the muscles and joints controlled by the acupuncture channels. The channels are in turn associated with the organs and directions. The Movement as Medicine™ curriculum was created to “exercise” the mind and energetic channels. Conditioning the muscles, adjusting joints and circulatory imbalance are secondary benefits. The freedom is achieved in the mind. Relieving bodily restriction and organ dysfunction is secondary. The beauty of our moving meditation speaks for itself. Grace and power. Dignity evident at any age.
In practice, let us consider the kidney in a yang-excess state. This is often seen as an overactive adrenal gland due to chronic stress, or a habitually stressed mindset. The kidney is elevated and must descend, theoretically relieving irritation on the adrenal gland by decompression. (The adrenal gland sits upon the kidneys thus, adrenal.) To see that the kidneys are high, one may notice through direct perception. A possibility only for highly trained osteopaths or qigong adepts. However, each of us can be made aware of a feeling of pressure on our bodies arising from the north. North is the direction of the Water Element to which the kidney and bladder belong. Kidney and bladder issues are associated with this impingement upon our balance from the northerly direction. Relieving the gross imbalance affecting posture is a way to relax the kidney and adrenal irritation. It may be a mental challenge for the chronically stressed. The physical “exercise” component consists of verifying the problem by placing the hands palm-down in front of the abdomen at the eighth thoracic vertebral level (under the breasts) and noting the inability to easily move the hands forward from the body. It means this level of the spine can move/extend. Do you have this problem? In your mind, travel along the north-south axis. Find the central point of balance. You should feel nothing. If this problem exists you feel stuck physically, if standing your balance is impaired. Mentally you note a point in space- a point of balance. Is it outside of your body? South relates to the heart. The upper end of the channel Shao Yin (Lesser Yin) is heart, found on the arm. The lower end is kidney originating on the foot. Kidney and heart comprise the acupuncture channel Shao Yin. There is an imbalance between kidney and heart. What acupuncturists refer to as ‘kidney-heart disharmony’. Correction is signified by the ability to easily move the hands forward and around to the kidney areas in the back. You may insist you can do this, but I can demonstrate weakness and loss of balance with your hands palms down, under your breasts. Mantras, mental imagery, postures, and movements are methods to adjust the organs, meridians, and related tissues of the body but also the mind. The result is lowered diastolic blood pressure (the lower number), relief from fatigue, headache, back or leg pain, and other possibilities.
Changes accrued by unburdening our minds in this way produce further profound effects. As we accept that something of ourselves exists beyond the limitations of our skin, we can include more of our world and the people within. What the mind perceives as within our individual consciousness can be expanded. I call this ‘inclusive mind’. Discriminating mind is what we use in to navigate our world. We must know sharp from dull, and gradations in between. I must know tight from loose in my work as an osteopathic physician, to a very fine degree. However, when we apply discriminative mind to race relations it is a disaster for our society. When we overemphasize or misapply it to gender issues women suffer. If we fail to apply inclusive mind to environmental issues, we can look forward to resource wars and climate catastrophes. Inclusive mind should be how nations are governed and neighbors relate to one another. Inclusive mind means including others concerns within our own perspective. It is the maturity so sorely lacking in our public discourse.
Understanding how the human mind relates to space is essential to preventative medicine, comfort, and happiness. It also contributes to our sanity and clarity, allowing for the maturity we need to survive our current social and technological challenges.
If space can be represented as a coordinate system of four cardinal planes plus the vertical axis, time can be represented as past, present and future
Time is an illusion created by the human mind. We can measure the movements of the stars and planets. This deceives the mind from the only reality- the eternal now. What I mean is, “show me the past”, or show me “future”. We cannot because it only exists in our minds. However, the day-to-day navigation of our environment requires both discriminative mind and the illusion of time. We all must ascribe to the illusion of past and future, not only for practical concerns but also to understand the cause-and-effect relationship of past events to our present circumstance (karma), and to address the need to alter our destiny.
Our problems originated in what we call the past. We are locked in various ways by the actions, decisions and circumstances from this past that doesn’t exist. It is in our memory. Most of what we know of our problems exists as memory. We cannot predict with any certainty how our physical maladies with behave on a day-to-day basis. What if we could travel through “time”, to a period before we had a particular problem?
Treat your personal timeline as if it were a linear coordinate system, like the east-west axis. You may travel freely along this axis as far back as you like. Use awareness as well as imagination. Don’t judge what comes to you in the form of associative memories, bodily sensations, or pain. Treat them as data to be analyzed later. Surprise and new bodily sensations are indications you are on the right track. You may discover a time or version of yourself before the problem. Perhaps even something of yourself before any identifying features. Then you are perhaps finding your “original face” of Zen Buddhism or the embryonic breathing of Taoism. Carry this with you into the present moment as your exercise. You should experience movement without pain, and a previously unknown freedom compared to your usual experience.
Proceed to Meditative-Exercise with your mind free to extend consciousness to the horizon in all directions and denuded of prior experience, tabula rasa. Breathe as if a newborn experiencing their first breaths. Awaken to the world with fresh eyes. Lacking in judgement, yet perceptive of everything within and around you. Begin again, again, and again.