Rise up! Elevate your consciousness! Soar to the heavens!
Spirituality usually is viewed as involving some sort of ascent. Earthly concerns supposedly hold us down, while divinity lies on a more ethereal plane of reality.
I used to believe this.
I've spent countless (almost) hours in meditation seeking to focus all of my attention at a point inside my forehead – the Third Eye, or eye center – after which, I was told, my soul consciousness would be transported into higher spiritual regions.
Writing a book about Plotinus, a Greek mystic philosopher, helped move me to a different viewpoint. Plotinus taught that the One, or God, is both everywhere and nowhere.
The One is all things and not a single one of them… It is because there is nothing in it that all things come from it: in order that being may exist, the One is not being, but the generator of being.
After my book was published, I engaged in some back and forth email discussion with a philosophy professor who had started to read it. This ended after he told me that I'd placed too much emphasis on ascending to the One, rather than finding the center.
At the time I disagreed with him. Now, I don't.
Four years of Tai Chi practice likely has a lot to do with my newfound appreciation for sinking down. My instructor frequently reminds us, as we're beginning a Tai Chi form, "Sink down from below, rise up from above."
Which leaves you centered. Movement in Tai Chi flows from the body's midsection, the waist and hips. Being rooted to the floor brings speed, power, flexibility, spontaneity (sounds paradoxical, but it isn't).
This morning I finished reading Peter Ralston's "Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power." Ralston is a martial artist with a philosophical bent. His focus is on allowing action to flow from being. As Plotinus said, being isn't the ultimate, but it's darn close.
Being always is, not surprisingly. So there's no need to strain to find it. Ralston says:
If I had to choose a single principle to follow, it would probably be the principle that manifests itself as the state of being relaxed. Taken as its broadest meaning, this principle permeates every aspect of what we do. The principle here seems to evoke being at rest, or the "unused state."
It is what is so about anything before self's activity uses the thing for a purpose other than simply being and performing its natural function. Therefore our alignment to this principle requires us to remain and/or to return constantly to the unused or open state, the position of rest or natural function, allowing things to "sit on the floor" rather than "holding them up."
Cheng Hsin (roughly translated as source of being) principles apply to all aspects of ourselves, both body and psyche. From my Tai Chi and dance experience, I can testify that relaxing and sinking is key to success in these activities.
And I'm learning the benefits of doing the same in meditation – plus life in general. Basically, what I do during my morning meditation period now is relax, sink, and say "hello."
This also is what's done in Tai Chi push hands and partner dancing (particularly Tango). You ground yourself, connect to the other person in a tension-free manner, and have a non-verbal conversation.
Tai Chi speaks of "listening skills." In dance, there's leading and following. Each requires sensitivity to what's really going on with the other person, and responding appropriately. That's what I mean by hello: reaching out and touching someone, communicating openly.
It is only a lack of conscious awareness, experience in and from the source of the moment, that cramps appropriate changeability; and changeability is the demand of life, not holding a position or structure.
Listening is an openness to feeling the condition of the world around and inside us… Even in the middle of activity involving what is actually occurring, we must continue to listen to that which is not yet manifest. This requires a real freedom and nonattachment, and a complete openness and willingness to change.
…In a sense, listening is letting things be exactly the way they are, and interpreting is noticing that they are that way.
When I begin to meditate, I like to say "hello." I don't know if any consciousness other than my own can hear me. It's sort of like picking up the phone before I've heard it ring. On the chance that someone might be on the other end of the line, I say "hello."
If there's no answer – and so far I haven't gotten one in my meditation – I have to assume that I'm talking to myself. But hey, I'm someone! So a conversation still is happening.
And silence, the voice of sunken stillness, may be the most eloquent speech of all.
What is the "form" of your mind? What shape is it? What color, size, or qualities does it have? Experience it. Become conscious of whatever may be the case. It may not exist at all!
Not-Knowing is the original or fundamental condition of Being.
…We must also refer to the priority given to those things unseen: Nothing (wu chi), or the source of Being, is given priority over anything appearing. Being takes precedence over the activity that is mind, so emptiness and openness are held requisite for any thought or feeling to occur.
I like. The Cheng Hsin system is too organized for my taste (but that's what organizations do, not surprisingly). The basic philosophy, though, appeals to my Taoist soul. Here's some good advice for both meditation and life:
Be open: to any possibility. Since you don't already have a direct experience of your subject, you cannot rule out anything.
In order to create such openness, and so true questioning, you must allow yourself to experience actually and deeply that you do not know.
Allow not-knowing in this moment to bring you to an authentic emptiness – free from pre-conceptions, programming, and assumptions – In relation to your subject of contemplation.