Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mysticism and Imagination (continued)

After discussing my last blog post with my school brothers, I realized how many ideas of mine (and others) were in there, and how little personal experience it contained. In order to supplement my last post, I will elaborate here on how I came to some of those ideas, and the experiences which have led me to an appreciation of what might be called "mystical" experience.

Much of my upbringing was Catholic. When I was young, I went to church every Sunday. Surely, some good advice was shared in the sermons, but I never really had an "experience" of something more than myself (other than the community, and even that felt disconnected). I fell out of this practice, and began searching for a personal connection with "something more".

Meditation was the next step for me. From where I started, this practice narrowed my focus and tended to remove me from context. As such, I ended up delving deeply into subjectivity, and lost track of how I fit in, but gained some interesting insights into my personal responsibility for my thoughts and feelings, meaning that I could have some choice in this area.

So right now, I'm experiencing more of the "re-connective mysticism" I talked about in the previous article. What happens is, when I do my practices in the woods or in nature (I'm sure these experiences aren't contingent upon the setting... that's just where it happens for me now) sometimes I have a wonderful feeling of belonging, and my thoughts focus on my relations to everything around me. There is also often an accompanying sense of beauty and wonder. For example, noticing myself standing in relation to a tree, or trees, or blades of grass, and feeling like I have a place along side of, and in connection with, those things as part of the grand scheme of life. It feels like a connection with truth in some way, and an appreciation of "things as they are". I got this feeling walking down the street one day, and I saw a street sign and thought about all that went into it... the miners who harvested the metal, the refiners, the people at the sign factory, the installers... and I appreciated how that sign was not just an object, but the result of work and humanity and cooperation. Occasionally, I've even thought the silliness of calling anything that exists "unnatural". Even a car came about by processes of nature. Nature created people, people created cars, ipso facto - nature made cars.

Anyway, there may be more thoughts and experiences on the way about this, as it really is such a rich and important topic to me.

I also am really curious about other peoples' experiences of "something more", and I would love if you would share yours in the comments. Thanks so much!


  1. I enjoy hearing more about you... and your beliefs… nice my friend…
    Honestly it’s really hard for me personally to wrap my head around the “whole” idea of mysticism… after reading your two articles I did some more reading, exploring too… dualistic and nondualistic mysticism and many other flavors… WOW… “something” interesting in this dualistic bit… connecting with as you said “something bigger” and… I really do enjoy ambiguities as you know… and then the nondualistic… even more wild… stepping back and noticing the singularity… now there is something to think about… it like a Zen thing!
    I have to say I do really enjoy watching the discovery channel and programs on physics and quantum physics.... the singularity when everything connects… in a very small point… “something smaller” or even the very smallest… chunk size is wild when you think about this… connecting… in the smallest… wild right? Connecting with… “something smaller”
    Thinking about all this…. WOW… “something bigger” …connecting…. Something smaller …connecting… matter, light, whatever…. For example…. “The Gravity” of it all… falling in to a black hole… or what was here before… before everything… before the big bang… everything in a very very small point… a singularity… or if and when everything in the universe “pulls apart” very very big and returning to a singularity by being ripped apart… something bigger and something smaller… wild to think about all the possibilities… and then everything “in-between”…
    Infinity… anything can emerge from the singularity…. They say…. And yet “I Am” simply where I am and that is where I start. I personally like this method and is very practical for and works well for me… noticing where I am… clearing up the ambiguities… as I uncover them… Something bigger or something smaller… then noticing… 1,2,3,4 and 1,2,3,4… let’s say a method… and then I notice when “I am” or maybe where I’m not and taking the time to verify… in this way I personally I clear up a bit more of the ambiguities… into the function and functionally feeling… of being where I am and in the “practice” of Wujifa… fun stuff… ease isn’t always easy… I am where I am and one step at a time I learn functionally more about where I’ve projected, distorted, forced, and/or deleted connects where I am now…

  2. Here's a string of thoughts....

    I too was raised in the Catholic religion. (understand what I didn't say?)

    I once met a woman who identified herself as a "Recovering Catholic". Interesting concept. Wonder what the 12 step program for that is.... What do you think? Recovering from what?

    One of the seven deadly sins is pride. If you feel good about yourself for (or are proud of) "being spiritual", well, that could be a sign of missing the bullseye.

    Do you know WHY it's important for you to "connect" at a "spiritual"/"mystical" level?

    If the Tao is found in the dung pot, then nothing is more or less "spiritual" than connecting with the dung pot.

    Practice the ordinary... until you discover the extraordinary... practice the ordinary some more....

    I really like what Eckhart Tolle once said, and I paraphrase: People are looking for out-of-body experiences when they haven't even experienced what it means to be fully em-bodied.

    Maybe my level of ability to feel connectedness with 'the divine' is the same level of ability to feel connectedness within my body. Get it?

    Maybe I can connect with the "divine" in my body.

    What's your purpose?

    So maybe, just maybe, practicing em-bodiment, practicing the middle-way, finding the Tao or God in a tree, or in another human, or in my turd, maybe being as fully human as I can be, is the most "spiritual" practice I can engage in.

    And this then is where I "think" that functionality may intersect with spirituality; at the level of connecting where I am now.

    How does the turd become the apple? How does the apple become Mike? How does Mike become the turd?

    Maybe God as a process, not as a goal?

    Anyway, I'm just an aging guy who is more and more grateful every day just to wake up in the morning and to get home in the evening and who gets less certain with each passing day of much of what I used to be certain of, except that I really love a good nut-butter and jelly sandwich... and maybe God does too?...

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. In case you're wondering where I get my poop from... it's how one of those old Chuang-tzu stories has morphed around in my brain.

    There's a translation or interpretation on page 68 of the book "The Essential Crazy Wisdom" by Wes Nisker:

    "Master Tung-kuo once asked Chuang-tzu, "This thing called the Tao - where does it exist?" Chuang-tzu answered, "It is in the piss and dung." The unity of the Tao encompasses the piss and dung and the Taoists themselves.

    Master Chuang and Master Lao understood that most of our problems are caused when we create a separate identity and special importance for ourselves. If we set ourselves apart from the rest of creation, we will inevitably come into conflict with it. The illusion that we are separate is the root of our suffering.

  4. Nice Mr Mike,

    I found this when looking for the dao as you had talked about.


    Dong-guo Zi asked Zhuangzi, saying, 'Where is what you call the Dao to be found?' Zhuangzi replied, 'Everywhere.' The other said, 'Specify an instance of it. That will be more satisfactory.' ' It is here in this ant.' 'Give a lower instance.' 'It is in this panic grass.' 'Give me a still lower instance.' 'It is in this earthenware tile.' 'Surely that is the lowest instance?' 'It is in that excrement.' To this Dong-guo Zi gave no reply.

  5. Hey Mary,
    What a great find!

    Here's some more stuff...

    I read a couple books during college which helped me connect Taoist philosophy and quantum physics. (I too love learning about science. Stephen Hawking is sooo cool!)

    If you haven't read these, check 'em out:

    My fav, "Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics" by Gary Zukov. First pub 1979.

    I liked Wuli better than "The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism" by Fritjof Capra. First pub 1975.

    Oh, and check this out... There was a report on TV last night, 12/02/10:

    "The Science of Monkey Morality" reporting on the work of Biologist Frans de Waal.

    Noticing connections...

  6. There is a clip I'd like to share from a informative web site that "connects" to some of the comments made here. Personally those relating dung to the dao... Brilliant! Now, I'd suggest reading the whole page from the clip below and then maybe reading Zhuangzi and even Confucius and other works... I enjoy how ambiguities play off of presuppositions and the skews in what one presumed and presumes as the way... Functionally "we are where we are" and like a butcher he find the Dao in his daily functional practice of carving meat. 

    Here is the link and a clip below I enjoyed.

    We can only answer normative questions from within dao, not from the perspective of nature or any other authority. The point is that 'authority' is a normative concept within some dao so any appeal presupposes a dao of following it. Thus Zhuangzi's first step does not warrant treating all discourse dao as right or as wrong — or even as equal. We make normative or evaluative judgments only against the background of a presupposed way of justifying and interpreting them. The judgments depend on some discourse dao.

  7. Mike, please don't confuse my enjoyment of mysticism with pride (even though it is a little bit :-P). What I'm really going for here is not a "hey I'm so much better because I'm a Pharisee" kind of a thing, but rather a "Hey, I think this kind of experience is really cool!" kind of a thing.

    How awesome is it to feel like we belong? Like in the school of Cultivation and Practice. How much can I connect and share myself? Then I really feel like I have a place here with you guys, even though I will be leaving the state soon.

    And when I connect with my bit of sadness (as I do a bit of crying now) over leaving you all for a time, that feels good in a way too. More right, because I'm allowing myself to feel and connect where I'm at now, and that even allows me to connect with you guys more.

    I just think it's so awesome that there exists a matrix for this experience, and that I'm part of it. And the more I connect with who and where I am (as you suggested) the more I feel right in the world... like I belong...

    and I'm amazed... I feel a sense of wonder when I consider how I move my arm! Or how a tree grows! I am in awe and wonder over these things.

    A mystic is a person who experiences (x) directly. Feel free to put whatever you like in for (x).

    Anyway, there's just too much awe and wonder out there not to appreciate it, and even get a little curious!

    Deus Magnus Est
    Allahu Akbar
    Elohim Gadol
    Wakan Tanka
    Dao ke dao, fe chang dao.
    The great, amazing mystery.

    P.S.Your apple, Mike, Poop thing reminded me of this:

  8. I think you are looking for self-actualization, ultimately, which is different from simply "mysticism" which AS YOU ARE DESCRIBING IT sounds like it could easily just be something one imagines.

    Peak Experience:
    “Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstacy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.” – Abraham Maslow

    Maslow gave eight steps that consistently produce peak experiences:

    1. Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly. Throw yourself into the experiencing of something: concentrate on it fully, let it totally absorb you.

    2. Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth): Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.

    3. Let the self emerge. Try to shut out the external clues as to what you should think, feel, say, and so on, and let your experience enable you to say what you truly feel.

    4. When in doubt, be honest. If you look into yourself and are honest, you will also take responsibility. Taking responsibility is self-actualizing.

    5. Listen to your own tastes. Be prepared to be unpopular.

    6. Use your intelligence, work to do well the things you want to do, no matter how insignificant they seem to be.

    7. Make peak experiencing more likely: get rid of illusions and false notions. Learn what you are good at and what your potentialities are not.

    8. Find out who you are, what you are, what you like and don’t like, what is good and what is bad for you, where you are going, what your mission is. Opening yourself up to yourself in this way means identifying defenses–and then finding the courage to give them up.

    So far, what you're describing sounds like 1 and 3. To have more of these positive, integrative experiences which can really improve health and life, psychological well being, and drive one towards the best expression of humanity, you should incorporate the other six into your ideas. The nice thing about Maslow is that he takes out the "mysticism" in the sense of removing self-responsibility, and he embraces in every way all the beautiful possibilities inherent in the mystery of all we don't yet know.

    Good luck,


  9. Good to hear from you Jeanine. Nice contribution!

    Dan, I once walked the road you're on.

    A mantra we chanted at the fire walk was:
    "Release your mind. See what you find. Bring it on home to the people."

    What are you bringing home? Again, purpose and responsibility.

    Real shamans don't go on joy rides for the thrill. There is a purpose; a responsibility to the community.

    The mistake I made was in *thinking* that mysticism would somehow contribute to developing internal strength. It did not.

    The mistake I made was in *thinking* that mysticism was somehow related to tai chi and the "internal martial arts". It is not.

    I mean, if you want to be a mystic, well, OK, but then don't say you're doing Wujifa or internal martial arts. I think you recognize the difference, right?

  10. Well, we respect the idea of the mind-body connection, right Mike?

    One thing I do notice is that when my mind and psychology is more functional, my body lines up better (and vice versa). Like when I let go of something I've been holding onto, some tension or some thing.... in my mind, then my weight will sink better, my shoulders might drop. Often times I'll notice it in my face. The little muscle tense in my forehead between my eyes will let go, and I'll get a bit more of that "listening behind" width to my face.

    So, "releasing" something in my "mind" really CAN help.

    I like the idea of accepting that there is a lot of mystery in life, things we don't understand, can be an opening up. "Mystical" means something like, "mystery" after all. Even appreciating beauty in something like standing still can be very helpful. Didn't Rick describe it like a butterfly coming out of a cacoon.

    I would say, more specifically, when all those things I don't know are like, "I don't understand yet I'm open" then it's a very powerful poise indeed! I see no reason not to appreciate the beauty in all that.

    But that's not to say that imagining things is going to help anyone get better at martial arts. In fact, I can think of many different ways in which it won't. Example, more images in the head will interfere with perception of reality. Example, things imagined wouldn't be verifiable (unless they're specific paths from an A to a B). Example, one can also imagine RESULTS and trick themselves entirely.... etc, etc...

    Like everything else, it's got to be done correctly by one's intention or it's a waste of time, or worse.

    The worst possibility I can imagine is not knowing one's own intention. That's the surest way to get confused or to run in circles. Sadly, as humans we sometimes do this. But perhaps one of the greatest gifts of Wujifa, or Kung fu in general is more clarity of intention.

    I agree, overall, though. "Mysticism" in the sense that Reich talks about it, or the frame you're giving it, isn't "Wujifa" or "Martial Arts."

    I just want to help our school brother see that the aspect of "appreciating the mysteries one encounters" CAN be integrated in a very functional way. I believe that "peak experiences" are real and can be psychologically healthy and help the body and mind be more wholistically well. There are some objective ways to create those experiences, outlined in Maslow above. I think they're objective and grounded, too.... nothing really "woo woo" about any of it.

    However, I'm open to other people's responses here if I am missing the mark.


  11. I saw a great movie you should all watch..

    The star was "divine"

    Its focus was "poop"

    The plot was about "connecting"


  12. Guru,

    The egg lady said "a turd, a turd" jumping up and down in her crib. Divine talked about showing them who really are the filthiest people on earth really are... Guru 6040 have you ever given or recieve the greatest gift on can... O'well you can share your peak experience with us at a later date cutie (wink)

  13. Jeannine, thank you so much for your comment on Maslow. I think he did a lot to encourage people to live more fully and exist at the height of their potential. Even though his recommendations are scary at times, the more I live in line with some of those principles, the more satisfying life is (even when it's more uncomfortable, but that's the point, right? Comfort is not everything).

    Anyway, yes... I agree with you in terms of responsibility, and I am going to be working on a new post soon to explore more how responsibility fits into my ideas on mysticism... Look for that soon, within a couple days.

    Good hearing from you, friend, and I hope all is well!