Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ecstasy every day: Qigong energy work

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The previous post discussing the central concept of "raising the Djed" contained the assertion that this vital symbol -- which shows up in virtually all of the world's sacred traditions, based as they are upon Star Myths and incorporating as they do the symbology pointing to the Great Cross of the Year, which is allegorized in ancient Egypt as the "casting down" and then "raising up" of the Djed, but shows up in other mythologies in different guises -- most certainly relates to the overall cycle of our lives (and what happens before and after life in this body), but it also and with equal importance relates to an important part of this life, and a practice that we should find ways to incorporate on a regular basis, maybe even every single day.

That post said of this cycle of "casting down" and "raising up" the spiritual, invisible Djed-component that it 
describes a process that is meant to be part of our life here and now: the connection with the realm of spirit, the raising of the spiritual component inside ourselves and the spiritual-material world around us, and the entry into the state of ecstasy on a regular basis.
It also contained a video which concluded with the assertion that the concept of raising the Djed "can be incorporated into our lives every single day . . . and maybe, even, every single minute."

But how can we incorporate the concept of "raising the Djed" in our lives on a regular basis -- every single day or even more regularly than that?

Perhaps it would be helpful to spend a few posts discussing just a few specific possible answers to that question (out of many, many more possibilities). We'll title this little "mini-series" Ecstasy every day.

The good news is that, as has been explored in many previous posts, human beings appear to have almost unlimited options for practices which invoke the invisible world and enable it to shine through into this material world.

The simple (but incredibly challenging) cultivation of an attitude of blessing rather than cursing can become a perspective that changes nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and which involves us in the constant practice of "raising up" rather than "casting down."

But, the concept of ecstasy actually involves experiencing first-hand the power of the non-material, and of going beyond or breaking free from the normal bounds of our physical "static" nature. The word itself, ex stasis, means "out of" the "static or unchanging" -- and thus involves making contact with the realm which is not just "beyond the physical" but which is also "beyond the static" -- the realm of pure dynamism, of pure potential or pure "potentiality."

We can obtain glimpses of the state where everything is "non-static" in some stages of dreaming, especially when we are just falling asleep and reach a stage where our thoughts feel like they are painting images on their own but we can almost just barely change them or influence the shapes that they take on -- they are purely dynamic and have the potential really to change into anything or go in virtually any direction. Such "dynamism" seems to be incorporated in the word "ex-stasis."

Even though this material realm is not really "static" in the sense that static means "unchanging" (our physical bodies change as they age, of course, as does almost everything else around us over time), it is "static" in that in this realm things have already "manifested" -- they are no longer in the realm of "pure potentiality" (the famous foundational experiments of quantum physics come to mind here).

Pure potentiality and pure dynamism are clearly related to the concept of pure creativity: creative ideas which have never before been manifested in this world seem to come from some other place, some "other side" (and many artists and inventors and scientists and discoverers have attested to the fact that new ideas or new solutions or new songs have "come to them" while they were in a dream-state or other state of contact with the realm of pure potentiality, the realm of the non-static or ecstatic).

And, in some forms of ecstatic experience, our consciousness can actually travel beyond the body -- in "ecstatic transport" where our we enter into an actual state of trance or journeying into the spirit realm.

Some of the many ways that human beings in many different environments and cultures have used in order to achieve states of ecstasy are listed in the previous post entitled "How many ways are there to contact the hidden realm?" That post shows that while many cultures have used various substances including special plants and mushrooms to induce ecstatic states, these are by no means the only possibilities, and that in fact human beings appear to have a natural innate ability to access the spirit world -- which is exactly what we would expect if, as the ancient wisdom attests, we are beings who are composed of a "cross" between spirit and matter, and who actually enter into the material realm temporarily, with our spirit nature being our true nature.

Previous posts have also discussed the fact that shamanic drumming is one of the most widely-used and effective forms of regularly accessing the Invisible World, and that longtime shamanic drumming practitioners and teachers have attested to the fact that nearly everyone can enter a state of ecstatic transport on their first try after fifteen minutes using the right techniques (see here, here and here for example, as well as the link in the previous paragraph).

But the methods which men and women have used down through the centuries for raising the invisible and spiritual force inside themselves and calling it forth in the world around them do not stop there -- and it may be beneficial to visit a few others, which may have an incredibly positive impact for those who choose to incorporate them into their daily lives.

Some people may find that they are more drawn towards or more comfortable with one type of ecstatic discipline rather than another, or that one seems to "raise their spiritual force" more easily or more reliably than other methods they have tried.

And, it may well also be that some or all individuals would benefit from cultivating more than one such practice on a regular basis.

One method which can almost certainly be seen as calling forth and raising-up the invisible spirit present in each man and woman is the ancient Chinese discipline which today is known most widely by the name qigong or chi gung:

The first of these symbols means "breath" or "spirit" or "energy" and is pronounced "chi" or "chee" in Mandarin and "hei" in Cantonese, and the second and third symbols together are the symbol for "work" or "skill" or "acquired power" or "practice" and which are pronounced "gung" or "gong" (and which is the same word found in the first half of "gung fu" or "kung fu").

The name qigong or chi gung itself appears to be a fairly recent label, appearing in the 1940s or 1950s as part of a rather incredible phenomenon of sudden promotion and widespread adoption of qigong practice in China, which had previously been transmitted and practiced more secretively. That story is discussed in a book called Qigong Fever, by David A. Palmer.

However, it is also indisputable that what is now most widely known by this newer name has in fact been practiced for centuries and perhaps for millennia, and it is not only very real but also can have very real health benefits for those who take the time to learn and practice this ancient technique as part of their daily lives.

A brief definition for those who may be unfamiliar with this form of internal practice is that qigong involves the practice of physical motions  designed to increase consciousness and to foster the greater and greater recognition of the spiritual energy within each individual and indeed within the universe itself, and the ability to feel, and direct, and move that energy around -- in a way that is actually "tangible."

One teacher and long-time practitioner of qigong, who has spent decades studying with some of the amazing masters of different forms of this art, is Taoist Master Bruce Frantzis, whose description of qigong makes some very intriguing points which resonate with concepts we have encountered before in different contexts. In a page entitled "What is Qigong?" which is worth reading in its entirety, he writes:
According to Taoism, every human being contains "the three treasures" -- jing (sperm/ovary energy, or the essence of the physical body), chi (energy, including the thoughts and emotions), and shen (spirit or spiritual power). Wu (emptiness) gives birth to and integrates the three treasures. 
[. . .] 
Popular opinion has it that once you have reached a state of emptiness, you stay there, but this idea is false. You merely become increasingly familiar with this state and learn how to spend more and more time there. As longs you live in a physical body, physical needs continue to exert demands, and dwelling completely in emptiness is not possible. Taoism has developed advanced techniques to work with the energy of wu.
This description is extremely interesting on many levels and for many reasons -- one of which is the fact that this description appears to resonate very strongly with assertions made by philosopher and scholar Peter Kingsley, in his exploration of the lost wisdom of the pre-Socratic philosophers of the Greek islands and Mediterranean settlements, particularly those on the Italian peninsula and particularly that lineage of which Parmenides (or Parmeneides) was an important figure.

Dr. Kingsley's discoveries on this subject are published in his 1999 text In the Dark Places of Wisdom, and discussed in a previous blog post entitled "The peace of utter stillness . . . "

The similarities between the concept of "incubation" or the deliberate cultivation of "the peace of utter stillness" that the ancient philosophers of Parmeneides' day appear to have been practicing, and the concept of "wu" in the description of qigong given above, should be quite evident.

The same qigong definition page also asserts that there is a strong connection between qigong and meditation (another important technique that can be used to access the invisible realm and which can be incorporated into daily life), and Bruce Frantzis asserts that ultimately, although it has real and tangible health benefits, "qigong is only a preparatory practice for Taoist meditation techniques."

The ways in which qigong can be seen to be a way to help men and women to access the invisible aspect of their nature and the invisible side of the universe around (and within) us, and thus to be a form of "raising the Djed" column or of incorporating the "raising-up" imperative into daily life, should be fairly self-evident.

A powerful demonstration of the beneficial "raising-up" and ex-stasis nature of internal energy-work can be seen in this video from more than twenty years ago, in which Bruce Frantzis was invited to teach these techniques to prisoners, who testify in the video to the positive impact it has had on their lives.

Towards the end of the clip, Master Frantzis makes a very profound and illuminating statement based on his work at the prison:
A couple of things that I know are happening in here because I've gotten it from people: one is that they're getting a sense of family with the people they're working with, because they're doing something in common. Second of all, they're doing something that's really improving the insides of them -- they can't do anything about their external environment: they're told what to do from the morning, the minute they get up to the minute they sleep, but internally they can find a place where they're free inside. Now most people on the outside, most people in the world in general are not free: they don't have walls around them, they have a wall in their own mind, they have a wall in their own body. 
A better definition of ex-stasis can hardly be desired.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).