The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.
– Koun Yamada
Ch’an or Zen in Japanese is a process of taming the mind gently so that it is calm, especially during conflict. This is very desirable for the martial artist and is why at The Gompa we train our advanced martial and health focused students in both seated meditation and standing meditation from the methods of our Li Family Internal Arts. This should not be confused with the Li family art taught to beginners known as Jingzuo 靜坐 (Quiet Sitting) a method designed to explore the minds influence over the body for healing and martial skills.
The method I am describing here is part of what the Chinese call Zuochan 坐禪 (to sit in meditation). A method of allowing the mind to settle and produce clarity of thought, stillness and peace. Zouchan as taught by Daoist and Buddhist teachers has many interpretations and methods all directed at the same goal of attaining a state of inner peace through allowing the mind to become still.
Once we have become accustomed to sitting or standing still physically, we can perform many exercises that help us use our Yi 意 (intention), one of the qualities of our mind to direct actions or effects towards finding stillness. Our mind, when sitting or standing in Wuji 無極 (void or neutral) posture can, with proper practice, become like a still, silent body of water so we can begin to achieve a state of ultimate possibilities.
Only when distractions have been eliminated can we learn to experience the profound silence within us. From this silence, a place where there are no distractions, we can learn to direct the Xin 心 (heart/imagination) and the Yi (intention) to cause our bodies to find stillness and to achieve our goal to experience the inner silence. Also, we achieve the ability to move naturally, easily, and appropriately in harmony with the actions of others in social and martial situations.
To explain why this is a desirable state, let me give you a simplistic example of the Yi (mind) state during sitting and standing meditation contrasted with normal activity. Imagine a large basin or tub painted black on the inside surface and filled with water. Look into it, you will see a clear un-distorted reflection of your face in the black, still, mirrored surface of the water.
If someone begins to tap on the side of the tub the water begins to ripple and your image is disturbed. You will now see a distorted image of reality. Increase the number of people tapping on the sides and the water becomes choppy. You will only see the waves and a distorted image.
This is the state of the human mind before proper meditation training; it is filled with thoughts, and feelings tapping on the water mirror of life. We find it hard to see the reality of our world because our desires and uncontrolled emotions set up vibrations, which obscure the true image being reflected our brains. Our energies are scattered and such a state of mind does not allow us to interact well with our environment or with others.
When our minds are creating interference waves, we are constantly bombarded by internal and external static. We have what some call “wild horse mind”. It is constantly running from place to place, this mind is undisciplined and cannot remain still. It colors all it sees and hears with its own distorted perceptions of reality. In human relationships or in combat this can be fatal.
We must be able to perceive clearly the violent actions, energies, and intentions of another. If our thoughts, fears, or ego interfere, setting up distorted wave patterns, how can we clearly understand what to do or how to react appropriately and naturally? Finding this skill is one of the jobs of Li Family meditation practice and Wuji standing training. Subjects which we will cover in “how to articles” in future issues of IAM.