Find That Spiritual Feeling While Training
“…every situation, person and event that comes your way
in life is meaningful to your spiritual growth.”
Dr. Terry Chitwood
Internal art and yogic literature are full of references to training and meditation being the most beneficial when carried out in a forest, near a waterfall or right after a storm and almost always outside. There is some science to support this belief. It is a known fact that waterfalls, thunderstorms, trees, and even open flames give off what are called negative ions in the atmosphere.
Dr. Igho Hart Kornblueh, from the University of Pennsylvania, found that negative ions have a sedative, healing, pain-relieving effect when taken in with the process of breathing. Dr. Kornblueh also found that negative ions, at a level found in a natural setting, reduced the need for post-operative painkillers and enhanced the secretion of dopamine during exercise. Breathing negative ions produces a deep feeling of well-being.
Conversely, air that is dry or hot winds and even air moving over metal surfaces as in air conditioning and indoor heating or synthetic materials produced positively ionized particles. These positive ions result in headaches, nasal obstruction, and dryness of the throat, dizziness and a feeling of general malaise. Also, forests and plant-filled areas have a higher than average oxygen content.
Oxygen is the element that sustains us. It is what we use to digest food and to break down toxins in our bodies so that they can be removed. Training in an area filled with plants assures a high intake of oxygen in the air and this enhances the healing potential of our exercise. So train in a forest or near a waterfall or fill your practice area with some plants, a waterfall, and light some candles for a chance to enhance your Qi.
Clothing for Spiritual Training
An old saying goes, “clothes make the man”. We dress in a suit and tie for formal occasions, wear shorts and t-shirts to play casual sports, jogging suits to run. These are all costumes of a sort that put us in mind of our goals for each activity.
One can train Nei-jia (inner family) arts in any type of clothing; however why not for those “spiritual” times of training dress in some garment that is first comfortable and reminds you of the ancient roots of your system. For the greatest benefit, the garments should be of natural fiber and never synthetics like polyester or nylon as these generate positive ions as air moves across them. Many also believe that going barefoot or cloth sole shoes are much better than rubber soles especially when training on grass or outside.
One thing that will become apparent when you do this is that the traditional robe, for example, is that the garment will require a bit of adjustment in your movements to accommodate the long sleeves and skirt of the Daoist Changpao or the Buddhist kasava robes.
Find The Flow in Training
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago is renowned as the architect of what has come to be called “the flow state”. People enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction. He describes the flow state as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Csikszentmihalyi characterized nine component states of achieving flow including “challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, and concentration on the task at hand, the paradox of control, the transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and an autotelic experience.” To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer.
If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then boredom results. One state that Csikszentmihalyi researched was that of the autotelic personality. The autotelic personality is one in which a person performs acts because they are intrinsically rewarding, rather than extrinsically. Within the flow, there is no desire to achieve external goals. His book “Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,” should be in your library of internal arts studies.
Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, and other movement style exercises, whether consisting of fixed or freestyle form actions are certainly capable of producing this flow state. This I believe is exactly what Master Jou, Tsung-Hwa was experiencing in his Taijiquan play in the forest. And what my advanced students and I experience when immersing ourselves in the forms movements, feelings, and actions of our Baguazhang. When you are achieving the Flow State also known as being in The Zone you will experience the following states of awareness.
- You have very focused attention on your task
- You are working with a specific, clear, achievable goal in mind
- You have control over your actions
- You receive constant feedback
- The self does not feel threatened
- Time changes or seems to expand or contract
It does feel very spiritual indeed. Why don’t you give it a try?