– Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
Thousands of thoughts run through our minds every day. Many of them are regurgitated. We are also bombarded with hundreds of advertisements and external stimuli. No wonder it is so difficult to calm the mind. How we react to these thoughts can create all sorts of problems. We may feel overwhelmed, angry, jealous, happy, sad, etc. It seems our thoughts can take us anywhere we let them.
Meditation masters realised that our mind can be our ally or our enemy. In meditation, by observing our thoughts without judgement, we become aware of the rising of these thoughts which are often disordered and incoherent. Gradually, we realise that it is not necessary to take these thoughts so seriously, as if each demands our urgent attention.
In the Shaolin Temple, many tools are used to train the mind. There are static and moving forms of concentration. Monks train their minds under all conditions. By learning to endure hardships and practising challenging methods of training, monks develop the ability to remain calm under pressure or pain.
This skill is first trained through focusing the mind and eventually reaching a state of deep calm. This occurs when the thoughts have slowed down and we begin to perceive a space between thoughts. Eventually, a huge gap opens up and we become totally absorbed in a state of spaciousness. This natural state frees the mind of its limitations which are born out of unchallenged conditioning and beliefs. When the mind stops trying to control events, we get a glimpse of our illuminating spirit hidden behind all our thoughts.
In Tai Chi, you are first introduced to relaxation. As you progress, you are taught how to concentrate. Following this stage, you then experience the meditative state of absorption. The training is designed to quiet the mind and eventually improve its ability to perform.
In our Wu Dao Gong martial arts training, Santi (a standing meditation with most weight mainly in one leg) is used to change the body and sharpen the mind. It teaches you to relax under physical pressure and eventually leads to a state of meditative absorption. Santi is also practised by some of our advanced Tai Chi students.
Whether it be through the Tai Chi form or through the more physically demanding Wu Dao Gong martial art, we cultivate our minds so that we may abide in the state of meditative absorption. In this state, the body, mind and spirit are fully engaged in the practice, that is, in the present moment. This ability to go deep beyond just appearing to perform well is a feature of the Chinese internal arts.
Masters of a high level of concentration are able to see the tiniest changes in an opponent’s body. This allows them to know exactly when he is about to breathe in, making him vulnerable to a strike. Some practise using a bamboo rod to tap a snake on the mouth every time it is about to attack.
Improving the power of concentration allows us to see things more clearly and calmly. Ultimately, it will improve everything we do, enhancing the quality of our lives.