Chinese martial arts are a form of classical education, an inquiry into the nature of existence through number and principle. A tradition of self cultivation, leading to harmony, balance, rhythm and peace. By learning to recognize these principles and aligning with them, they become embodied qualities and conditions of our experience.
By developing and strengthening the body we invite life force and vitality into our being. It is through our conscious embodiment that we create a home for ourselves, a point of stillness from which to observe the movement of the world. Body, mind and spirit are distinctions within the same event. They are differing, but interconnected aspects of the same truth. It is said that “the body reveals the mind and the mind reveals the spirit."
The harmonies within are understood and developed in time as real transformation occurs. It is a process that moves from gross to subtle, physical to spiritual. Harmony is revealed as the body releases long held tension, fixation and accumulated disharmony. Like a sculpture, the form emerges by removing the inessential and excess that obscures the harmony of the form hidden within.
This wholing/healing process is a skill, a capacity developed in learning to observe the self. It is the patterning activity (ego) seeking familiarity that leads us into disharmony. It is an unnecessary and superfluous energy rooted in the separate sense of self. It is perpetuated and driven by unconscious tension and unseen thought, the very hands that shape us. Our body is a repository of our experience and if we do not process and let go of the inevitable insults, injuries and misunderstandings incurred, they settle deep within shaping and holding us.
The path of internal arts is the hero's journey. A journey into the landscape of our own body and being. We must travel into the underworld of our subconscious to encounter our demons and delusions so as to slay and be free of our self imposed limitations. Limitations that exist within the intimacy of our own assumptions. Self transcendence is gong fu (merit, skill) of the highest order, it is the gateway to freedom, peace and lasting fulfillment.
It is an alchemical journey, transforming lead (tension) into gold (awareness). We soften the tissues and subdue the mind clearing out the dross and stuckness and making space for our spiritual inheritance and wisdom to arise. . When the background activity of subconscious tension both physical and mental is seen clearly it can be released. Although its truth can be seen in a moment and we may recognize and understand in an instant, the work of transformation occurs in time and the flowers along the path cannot be hastened to open before the conditions allow.
The grand purpose of martial arts, its spiritual fruit, is discernment, the ability to recognize the harmony that pervades all experience. This “peace that passeth all understanding” and the well being gained through the work are not sought, but earned. They are a byproduct of practice, an indication of the harmony emerging within. An individual integrated and transformed by the work becomes able to abide in this knowing, rooted in the stillness of the body, the mind becomes quiet and wisdom arises.
This activity of separate self and the very patterns of tension that structure and feed it are undone in the light of observation. In the absence of this habituated activity or way of being we are open, spacious, peaceful and harmonious, true to our very nature. No longer affected by the malware of a separate self, we abide in the infinite truth of our being, "all is in the one and the one is in the all".
Tension is an activity and self is a delusion. They are both doings, patterns playing out in the darkness of habit. We must become aware that we are doing something before we are free to stop doing it. This is the idea of "Wu Wei" non doing, allowing life to move us from a neutral and balanced position, rather than a habitually biased inclination. As long as we operate from a position of preference we cannot see what is actually before us, the attachment to our own perspective blinds and binds us to seek what we know and repeat what we have.
Free from momentum and the structuring tension of ego, we are free to roam and wander at home in the moment, whatever it may be, beyond fixation and the neediness of habit. This is the spaciousness of the "great way", the capacity to be present with what is, to receive, redirect and return.
Returning home is the recognition that we are the one who leaves. “ God is always here, I am the one who leaves.”