John Painter PhD ND discusses his personal thoughts on internal arts training for mind, body and spirit.
John Painter PhD ND discusses his personal thoughts on internal arts training for mind, body and spirit.
Our bodies are very susceptible to what our mind thinks or interprets. Illness, wellness, states of joy, pain, love, hate all are states of mind. How fast you age, the conditions of your internal organs, bones, muscles and blood are all influenced by your state of mind.
Your mind has influence over your body to make you well or sick, weak or strong, fast or slow, happy or sad it can provide you with sensory illusions like spiritual experiences or feeling energies that seem real but are in fact illusions of mind. The ancients for millennia have known what science is just discovering, that what we think and choose to believe affects every aspect of our being in fact every cell and atom in our body is influenced by our feelings, beliefs and attitudes.
Some think the mind resides only in your brain that 4 lbs of grey matter in your skull, however recent discoveries are pointing to perhaps another reality. Science has recently been mapping more about the ENS (Enteric nervous system) and its ability to regulate mood and emotions. The ENS is often called the second brain. Two major organs involved with this are the stomach and intestines.
We are becoming more aware of how the mind can produce physical illness and disease. There is much research being carried out on psychosomatic illness and also psychosomatic cures. Research is beginning to show that the mind can have a profound healing effect on illness or even injuries not of psychosomatic origin. The mind also influences our reality. That is to say what we believe we see or experience.
What is Reality?
As you came out of your period of sleep this morning, you found the world pretty much as you left it. You were still in your bed; your faced looked the same in the mirror as the night before. Your room was the same, the sun came up as usual, the past as you remember it was the same and the future was just speculation. In short you woke to your reality.
But what is reality really? The more science looks into the nature of reality that some of the definitions are questionable for example, “Reality: the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.” There is the reality of the natural world and then there is the reality of the way we interpret what we believe something to be. We may discover that there are two realities. So it may have more to do with our subjective and not objective experiences derived from our personal interpretations of life and world.
Tibetan Buddhist teachers use the words illusory existence to help us realize that what we believe, see or even perhaps feel as true or real experiences are in fact subjective concepts colored by our desires and belief structures. So it may be that what you think is real, what you have felt or experienced is not exactly what the experience is in an objective reality.
In my opinion, after years of medical, scientific and psychological research as well as having received direct transmission by two high level masters, one Chinese the other Tibetan that all natural healing and in the martial arts what is called internal power begins in the mind. Be assured that I am not saying one does not have at times to use medicine, herbs or the ministrations of a physician especially when a diagnosis is needed or that we can sit around and meditate until we can break a brick with our big toe. I am saying that only a very few individuals have really explored the minds role in creating our reality, healing our physical bodies or producing physical speed and strength.
So called internal abilities of this sort are often misunderstood and labeled as wishful thinking, magic or pseudo-science. In truth there are very real and powerful forces that stem from a mind trained to understand how to manipulate the body through thought and visual imagery. In my view this is the heart of what some today call Qigong, a word that translates as breathing skill but has in some circles come to mean some mysterious mystical power that is not part of the five know forces on nature. It is also at the heart of the development of what internal martial artists call internal power (Neineng).
These mental skills can be applied to healing illness, strength development, sports capabilities, injury repair and much, much more. It can be applied during sitting meditation, standing meditation, walking practice like Baguazhang circle walking or simply lying quietly on a bed or in a hammock. Everyone has this ability; it belongs to no nationality, group or clan. It is as natural as the sun and moon. What is required is the development of mental focus applied during profound states of relaxation during which mental images or kinesthetic sensations of the desired results are visualized and produced within the body by the mind.
Using the Imagination
Taijiquan master T.T. Liang once said, “Imagination creates reality,” I could not agree more. Your imagination is your best friend or worst enemy. Controlled it can heal, strengthen and cure; left unchecked it can sicken, injure and kill you. Take for example what is known as Qigong. In the early times it was called balancing the fire (Wuhuo) and meant no more than the process of using breathing and mental imagery to calm the mind for the production of a balanced state of mind and body.
Today the same term covers literally thousands of techniques that range from the practical to the ridiculous. There is no doubt that there are physical sensations that one experiences when practicing these methods called Qigong. We often think that what we experience is reality. But what is reality really? The more science looks into the nature of reality that some of the definitions are questionable for example, “Reality: the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.”There is the reality of the natural world and then there is the reality of the way we interpret what we believe something to be. We may discover that there are two realities. So it may have more to do with our subjective and not objective experiences derived from our personal interpretations of life and world. Because our mind is susceptible to suggestion and desire what we think is real, what we have felt or experienced may not be exactly what the experience is in an objective reality.
Our subjective experiences that seem so real are in fact colored by our own imagination and expectations. The feeling of circulation of Qi for example is created by an act of visualization and a firm belief in the process. Now for acupuncturist, qigong teachers and so on before you click off and stop reading right here thinking old John has lost it please bear with me a bit further.
I did not say that Qigong does not work; I did not say that acupuncture does not function. I did not say there is no such thing as Qi. What I said is that perhaps the way we think these things function, what they really are and the way we describe their function is based on antiquated and outdated information. After all the creators had no access to modern science, electron microscopes, knowledge of the human nervous system or the deep influence of the mind on every aspect of awareness physical and emotional.
What I am saying is that it is time for a new paradigm of understanding about such things. A new way that makes the old ways more understandable and less mystical, a new way that helps us use these ancient ideas in a more productive and effective way. This is what I am advocating, that we come to understand the reality of what Master Wei-Boyang said about what we call Qigong back in 142 AD. “The mind commands, the body responds and the Qi (energy) follows!” This in my view is the true secret of Qigong, the mind not some mysterious imaginary sixth power of the universe.
Yes, But I Really Felt the Qi Move
So you say you do standing meditation or practice some Qigong method like microcosmic orbit circulation and you are positive that you have felt the sensations of Qi moving in your body along the prescribed routes. Yes, you have felt something happening of that I am certain, but are these sensations what you think they are or are they a creation of your desire to obtain the desired results.
All such methods and their accompanying sensations involve knowledge of the technique or exercise to be learned first. The student is exposed to the material by teacher of literature. These ideas or images are put into our head as we study them. They become part of our unconscious knowledge base and as such our desire either conscious or unconscious to manifest the preferred result must influence the outcome.
After hundreds of hours of exhausting research and study on this subject what comes to light is an interesting fact. The fact is that those who have not been exposed to such ideas or teachings in any way through books, conversations, teachings, videos etc will never spontaneously produce such sensations even if sitting for years in meditation. While those who do learn about various Qigong concepts from some source will feel and experience the agreed upon sensations according to their belief. Your body definitely feels something and it feels real to you; however these sensations are a creation of the minds programming as it influences your nervous system and not the result of some invisible mystery force moving through the body.
This is not a theory it has been tested in studies more than once by reputable instructors and scientists. Again I say that is not to say such a practice or other Qigong methods are not beneficial only that what it is and how we believe it functions does not depend on a non existent mystical energy source or spiritual anatomy. Such abilities actually reside in the mind and its ability to use the imagination for our health and well being through the use of intention (Yi) and visualization.
Intention (Yi) Is The Real Key
To understand visualization we should begin by defining the word imagination. Imagination is whatever is occurring in your mind not directly caused by what you are experiencing from the outside world. If you look at a tree, what you see is not an “image” you are seeing a real tree. But when the tree is not there, and you picture it in your mind, then you are producing an image from your stored memory of the tree. Normally “imagination” refers to imaging things or events that don’t exist except in your “imagination” for example, dragons or micro-cosmic energy circuits.
The mind has the ability to see in three specific ways (1) observation of external real objects in real time, (2) A memory of visualized real objects as images in your head, and (3) visualized imaginary objects in your head. Each of these three ways of seeing involves imagery, because in all cases you are seeing something, and “seeing” is a mental event, happening in your mind.
When a person cannot tell whether he or she is seeing a real object or just imagining it this is a hallucination. Hallucinations can also be auditory or tactile. For example a woman who was bitten by ants when she was little will begin to feel very real sensations of “something” crawling on her if she sees and ant or calls up the unpleasant memory. The sensations are very real to her even though there are no ants present. This same ability of mind can be used for healing as well. We can use imagery to visualize an injury being bathed in healing blood, or light or energy whatever seems plausible to the individual. With repeated application this method can ramp up the bodies healing capabilities to speed recovery. One can use this for quelling virus infections, healing broken bones, cuts, bruises and even in some cases cancer. To me this is real Qigong.
It is easy to know and say, yes the mind can heal, cure and kill, it is a very different thing to explore our own mind and psyche to find out how to manipulate this power as needed. Creating lasting, powerful images that produce a profound affect on health and physical performance is not an easy task. It requires training and an understanding of how the process works I feel this ability is the real key to what many call life force skill (Qigong) and internal skill (Nei-gong). Most of us prefer a nice comfortable modern car to a horse and buggy to get to work, so why do so many of us fight tooth and nail against giving up our magical thinking and embracing methods that may be more effective and easier to enhance our health and martial practices.
In the following articles we show how these methods can work for healing as well as martial arts. I hope you will put aside any prejudice and join me to research these concepts for the betterment of all. We should never be afraid to question or change our belief systems when confronted with new evidence that old concepts are no longer valid.
I invite you to think about it!
Some Eye Opening Suggested Reading:
You are the Placebo, Making your Mind Matter: By Dr. Joe Dispenza
The Biology of Belief: By Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.
The Intention Experiment: By Lynne McTaggart
Psycho-Cybernetics: By Maxwell Waltz MD.
Your Mind is Your Teacher: By Khenpo Gawang