The Master Gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind
no resistances in his body.
He doesn't think about his actions;
They flow from the core of this being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day's work.
~Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching translated: Stephen Mitchell
A side perk of working as a yogi/magician/tai-chi man is fluidity even in the midst of constant change. This means, minimal stress when everything around you changes or catches fire or falls into the ocean. To accomplish this uncomfortable, some would say masochistic, or mortifying practices are performed. Only a lucky few every aeon are born with such a fluidity.
Many reading will say, “I can already do that! I am strong, etc.” Everything is easier from a distance. Imagining your best friend with cancer and dying painfully, and coming to terms with it that way will in almost no way prepare you for the actual event, outside of your brain. Classic case of mistaking the map for the territory.
Conditioning this fluidity requires constant work at concentration and supra-concentration in a variety of difficult, uncomfortable and painful circumstances. Through consistent practice, concentration and supra-concentration can be maintained even when extrinsic factors cause difficulty discomfort and pain, in fact concentration and supra-concentration may be ‘turned on’ when the external environment causes discomfort by way of simple Pavlovian conditioning.
How are these practices accomplished? They are normally lumped together into one term, “meditation” which has a variety of definitions. For the purposes of this writing ‘meditation’ will extend to any practice that either concentrates and accretes awareness to as few points as possible, or any further practice that allows transcendence of these points of concentration. Moving exercises, seated exercises, anything that gets you into gnosis.
Note that in the yogic tradition the definition is slightly different: Dhyana refers to a state in which the object of extreme concentration no longer distracts, I was taught this as a definition for meditation. Dharana refers to a state of pure concentration on an object (sound, image, etc.), the hair splitter in me would like to call one ‘true’ meditation and the other a stage previous to it. I remain suspect and suspicious whenever I encounter the word true.
Practice is long, painful, sometimes boring, sometimes terrifying. You must go straight through the darkness, all the way to the bottom, past every possible horror you can imagine and vividly intuit, you must then go straight through the bottom. It requires dignity and power in the tradition of Vajrapani, fearlessness in the face of not only your own horrors, but the horrors of all, and even some strictly inhuman and alien. The only way to progress is through this terror, otherwise you fool yourself and feed the ego. Fuck the ego.
This path will better you, but it won’t be comfortable and all roses and sunshine. What does it mean to better yourself?
Practices on the path of illumination seem to constrain themselves to the transcendental paradigm. That there is something inherently ‘evil’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘non-divine’ or ‘imperfect’ in matter and consensus physical reality and it must be transcended for the ‘spirit’ to achieve something like freedom. Seems like a decent reason to sit in a dark room staring at the wall for hours a day? No it does not.
There lies underneath the trappings of a confused mass of spiritual symbolism, (get in touch with your inner self! TOUCH YOUR SPIRIT! SPIN YOUR CHAKRAS!) something much simpler and much more powerful. Why do these things? Why move slowly, practice breathing, stare at an object, try not to think? To condition yourself.
Non-dualism makes the ideas of classical transcendentalism difficult, but it also tends to simplify things greatly. What soothes the mind, soothes the body and vice versa because the mind and the body are one thing, just as you and I are one thing just as the rock on the ground and the tree and my fingertip are the same thing. When you cut up chicken and carrots and onions, etc and boil them all in water for a few hours you get chicken soup, the individual pieces no longer exist independently of each other, they become the whole. Can your interactions with the whole achieve more and have greater effect? They always can. Welcome to the path of internal light.
"If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. If you Tire, you die." ~Saulo Ribiero
The purpose of all of these long term practices (10-15 years to feel remotely accomplished re: meditation, yoga, tai-chi, qi-gong, kung-fu) has its root in the cessation of thought, or at the least, the cessation of attention to thought. That if somehow we can stop thinking our reactions and actions will be natural and perfect.
We have arrived at a sticky situation. Without thinking about your actions are they not governed by emotion, chemistry, happenstance? It appears on the surface as a license for misbehavior just as crowley’s “do what thou wilt” (which is essentially the same thing). What lies underneath this misunderstanding?
A reaction implies knee-jerk response, immediate, messy, ruled by chemistry. A response, on the other hand implies some premeditation. How does this square with not thinking? Another definition presents itself here:
When a stimulus presents itself, a series of reactions occur within the mind/body, once these have been processed and settled the response to the stimulus presents itself. For example, a light changes red, the eye sees it, sends information to the brain which processes it through visual recognition and memory, finally sending a signal to the foot which responds by pressing down the brake pedal following a specific pre-determined motor program.
A reaction can initiate a response. The not-thinking master still responds rather than reacting because he pre-keys and preconditions his reactions through extensive hard practice. For this reason his reactions exist in the realm of response. In any situation he can respond appropriately rather than allowing an unthinking, chaotic reaction that is ruled purely by brain and body chemistry. After many years of hard practice at this type of preconditioning, reactions are alchemically transformed into responses and these responses eventually become reflexive. This is the goal of discipline and the goal of illumination. Keep it simple