TREATISE ON ZANDTAO
Energy work is something that western people don't always see as integral to the Path, I suspect that this is mainly because western science in general does not accept the existence of chi or the existence of energy centres. But I contend that all three, body, energy and mind, should be optimised for greatest happiness. One can easily associate the body with the individual, and although One Mind is True Nature, few associate energy as an individual aspect to be optimised, I hope to establish why throughout this book.
Energy work for me began in my mid 20s. Being of the generation that rejected much that had gone before it in the West, I was soon attracted to what was alternative there; and Tai Chi was alternative. Rather amusing to think this as many young people in China now reject Tai Chi as being establishment - or at least for the old. Anyway I started this alternative Tai Chi being taught by a short stocky Tai Chi master, I hope I correctly recall his name as Master Wu - but perhaps it isn't. I enjoyed the experience especially feeling the energy vibrate my stomach area when doing Chi Gung. From the outside people might say I was causing the shaking, and such criticisms, effectively calling me a liar, just washed off me. This is typical of scientific rationalisations. Through science experiments can be repeated with the same physical results - if genuinely carried out. Because these physical observations are similar by all who observe, this is considered a scientific fact. How can this chi or internal energy be observed when it is felt internally by the Tai Chi practitioner, and there are no machines to measure it? The observation by the practitioner that they can feel the energy can be considered self-interest by the supposedly neutral observer, and that the shaking is intentionally caused by the practitioner is hypothesis easily upheld by those observing as it fits with western society's norm of not recognising chi.
Few recognise that there are powerful forces at work when it comes to understanding western rejection of chi. I realised this when I came to give blood at the time when people were highly conscious of Aids. I was asked whether I had had acupuncture within the last 6 months, and when I said yes I was not allowed to give blood. Why? Because the needles might have been contaminated. Whilst this is a legitimate concern, the underlying message it gives out is that acupuncture is not healthy. Why should I consider this message part of powerful forces? Quite simply acupuncture can heal - I have used it often, and it is far cheaper than western medicine. It is also a natural approach to healing that has been established for centuries in China, and has been used throughout the world successfully to heal. Because it is cheaper it is a threat to the profits of the drug companies and other business ventures associated with medicine, the name some people give to both of these is Big Pharma. At the same time as blood was being refused from acupuncture patients, contaminated blood collected through established western practice was reported as the source for some people catching Aids. I have no desire to enter a game of statistical finger-pointing, but the transfusion service never asked whether I had had a transfusion within the last 6 months. My point - there was an underlying politic working against acupuncture.
Anyone who has consistently practised Chi Gung or Tai Chi will tell you of claims for improved health. Consider this testimony. If one were to examine these cases and hypothesise that the factor which led to the improved health was the Chi Gung practice, there is potential for establishing this contention by what is a now accepted scientific method - qualitative research. Social scientists have recognised that established quantitative methods elicit little useful scientific evidence, so they repeatedly use qualitative research through testimony and case study to "prove" contemporary social research. In the mid 90s I did an M Ed, and it was a requirement of the course that I write a dissertation based on case studies - qualitative research. Yet when it comes to the testimony of Tai Chi practitioners, their testimony is effectively called lies - not accepted as truth.
HHDL> contends that meditation follows a scientific method. His argument runs that meditation practitioners follow a path of development that can be demonstrated to be repeated amongst practitioners, and therefore meditation constitutes a form of scientific learning. His knowledge of these processes is far greater than mine, and I have no reason to disbelieve him. But the scientific world rather than accepting his qualitative description of meditation chooses to investigate whether meditation helps calm certain brain waves, such a small part of the benefits of meditation. Whilst monks and others agree to their experimentation, this is not a scientific approach that agrees to establish the empirical testimony of meditation practitioners. I contend that the vested interests behind research, business with its research grants, do not seek to establish the power of meditation for the benefit of mankind, people who follow the Path and people who meditate tend to be critical of the role of business in the world. If the scientific world were to give credence to both Chi practices and to meditation, this would be a threat to business.
To understand the power of business when it comes to discussing the Path is very important. Established religions are hampered by the feelings of many of their adherents, some of whom are business people. Such religions require a tacit government acceptance, and if postholders are to make overt political statements such as the ones I have made it brings the status of the religion into question. It is left to the individuals to take these criticisms as far as they can within the institution before the institution polices itself to maintain that socially-acceptable status. In the UK the church survives on donations, and thus needs to have acknowledged charitable status, if that status were withdrawn it would affect the level of their donations; turbulent priests are discouraged. As an individual I am under no such restriction, but of course this book might never be published beyond my website.
In presenting the power of these business pressures to you, I want you to understand that the two principles of Zandtao:-
Improving the mind - as meditation
Harmonising our energy
are not always presented within established religion. I wish to stress that this should not deter you as my reasons might be true - I believe they are. Improvements made to your health through Chi practices and meditation as well as the learning gained through both can only be judged by yourself. Try them both, see if controlling the energy and mind through Tai Chi and meditation makes you feel happier. That measure of happiness is the only one worth trusting, whether it is socially acceptable or not.
I began my Chi work in the mid 20s, as I said, but in truth I didn't attend the centre very long. But it did give me a feel for Tai Chi, and I did practise most days. It kind of fizzled out, and I can't remember much about it until I started again in my 30s. It was very important then because it happened on a Friday. I can remember Fridays being the most difficult time when I stopped drinking, so it was good to have the Tai Chi - although I can remember a temptation passing a particular pub. I was much more disciplined this time round but for some reason I never completed the form, I later went back to the same teacher but the sequence had gone. However I kept going with half a form for a long time, to stop only a few years before retirement. When the interest kicked in again after retirement I had forgotten the half-form so began Chi Gung using Chilel.
I am not sure I feel any different with the Chilel or the Tai Chi, but I do feel a big difference if I don't do either. The nearest word I can use to describe it is vitality. Now vitality is such an interesting word, where do we get our vitality from? There is no western answer. It is connected with food. If we do physical exercise we become vital generally, although after the exercise we are fatigued. A bracing walk is good, makes you feel vital. Sometimes a good relationship can vitalise you yet at other times it has the opposite affect making you listless and depressed. Don't these descriptions sound like energy?
I have no doubts for myself that Chilel or Tai Chi revitalise me. Let us consider what happens with physical exercise. I can remember playing squash regularly, when I was finished I was knackered; but once recovered from the fatigue overall I felt better. But when I do Chilel, or did the Tai Chi, the form actually revitalises me. Recently I have been walking in the woods, and half-way through I would stop to do Chilel, I was recharged. Now I go swimming, I swim one way to a quieter beach where I can do Chilel in peace. Then I am reinvigorated and can swim back. The Chilel does not take the place of the necessary physical exercise, but it does provide more energy to help keep your body healthy. They also told me that promoting this internal energy helped with heart circulation, I don't know enough about that, but I do know of people whose heart conditions improved with Chilel.
Now this Chilel work is very helpful but it is only the beginning when we start to consider energy work. There is much more to consider once you start to think about chakras, the energy centres, some of which are used in Chilel and Tai Chi.