Focus, meditation, concentration, imagination-all terms used frequently here at The Blue Dragon School of Martial Arts. How important is it to learn to control, and in essence-conquer-our mind? It is a well established fact that our brains use about 80% of the total energy we each consume on a daily basis.
With four arteries feeding the skull compared to two feeding both our much larger legs it is obvious how much more oxygen is needed to feed the cells of the brain (12x the amount!).
Food and air are the only two outside sources of energy. The quality of that food-and how well you breath (how much of your lungs are utilized with each breath) determines the amount of energy you have at your disposal.
When there is a shortage of energy needed from the food and air you then will use your essence or “Original Qi” (Jing) to a greater extent (and to your detriment). When you use your Original Qi you are breaking down your body at a faster than normal rate leading to greater degeneration and faster aging. The mind is the place to work if you are to learn to put some limit on the amount of energy expended daily.
Stress is a major factor in today’s world that is causing everyone to use more energy than necessary. Worry, fear, grief, anger, joy-are all emotions that cause you to spend more energy. The more emotional you are, the more energy you are spending. However, it is not healthy to control your emotions. It is much more effective to change your perspective. (see “The Many Ways to Deceive Yourself”).
Fight or Flight Response
Most people in this society are in what I call a continuous low-level fight-or-flight response. You’re probably familiar with the natural internal mechanism we have to “fight for our lives or run for our lives”. In a time when our ancestors lived among great predators like a saber-toothed tiger, this response allowed for a human to instantly respond to danger with all energy focused on immediate life preservation or become dinner!
Some of what happens when the fight-or-flight response is activated: increase in heart rate; coronary arteries dilate, higher blood pressure, increase in muscle tension, moisture on the skin, dilated pupils, dilation of the bronchial tubes, hydrochloric acid is secreted into the stomach, glucose is released from the liver, and the basal metabolic rate increases, white blood cells are lowered (which decreases the effectiveness of the immune system).
Now, imagine for a moment this whole scenario happening on a lower level continuously. Do you see the problem? (ulcers, high blood pressure, lowered immunity to disease, increased energy expended, accelerated aging, poor circulation due to tension, etc.). Sounds like a lot of people I know!
Dr. Herbert Benson, in his books, “The Relaxation Response” and “Beyond the Relation Response”, discusses this idea and calls this “relaxation response” the opposite of the fight-or-flight response. Dr. Benson researched meditative practices throughout the world and found some common threads that they all included: 1) a quiet environment; 2) a comfortable position; 3) a mental device; and 4) a passive attitude.
Then in his follow-up book, he added the concept of “Faith” or simply belief.
The mind is very powerful. A strong belief either way will effect results. For example, if you believe strongly enough that something will help you to heal (a prayer, meditation, mantra, God, etc.) then the belief itself can and does make it work.
The difference between prayer and meditation is really an example of who’s in control. With prayer, the church keeps control. With meditation on the other hand, you are in control. This is the very root of the 2 million witches that were murdered by the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago. They were very much “Qi Gong masters” and the Church feared them.
There are “mystics” in every religion. A mystic is one who practices to find the truth for him or herself. A mystic generally does not worship. He will acknowledge the powers of the universe and believes he is a part of an elaborate whole.
Tom Brown, Jr., a Naturalist trained by an Apache elder, speaks of the “Four Worlds of Grandfather” (his teacher, Stalking Wolf). Interestingly, the way Stalking Wolf described these Four Worlds corresponds very closely with the four different brain frequencies described in science and measured with an Electro Encephalograph (EEG): Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta.
The Beta frequency is what Stalking Wolf called the “Land of the Living Dead.” Why such a dramatic name? Because in Beta, you are very busy thinking and preoccupied or “in your head.” It is the lowest level of learning ability, healing ability, creativity, or performance. Your awareness in this state is comparable to being in a paper bag-little to none.
The Alpha frequency is what Stalking Wolf called the “Land of the Spirit That Moves Through All Things.” This is the “Qi or Life Force level” (the “Force” in Star Wars), where you become more aware of the energy circulating in your body. You are relaxed and therefore the energy flows more freely. In this level your learning ability, healing ability, creativity, performance and awareness is all greatly enhanced.
In psychology, the following brain waves, Theta and Delta, are believed to be reached only when “unconscious and drooling,” as Tom Brown puts it. However, the ability to put meditation into action (any time, any place) is what makes it truly useful.
The Theta frequency was called the “Land of the Spirit” by Stalking Wolf. In this “World” you have even higher abilities of all discussed in Alpha. However, you begin to know things without reason. Your natural intuitive abilities become enhanced. Your awareness goes beyond your physical senses (sixth sense) and you can and do get early warnings of danger. Theta is the optimal level of true meditation.
Lastly is the Delta frequency. This “World” to Stalking Wolf was the “Land of the Shaman.” The shaman is the highest known level of human consciousness. This is “one who knows.” Here you know things you never learned. This is also known as “opening the Third Eye.” In this level you can literally read the mind of others. You can heal others without touch. Every moment is new, like the mind of a baby (what is actually meant by being “born again”). This can only be achieved with a completely pure mind. There can be no attachments. Unconditional love and appreciation for all things.
You see, this state is completely natural in the wilderness. Animals have this. How does the fish swim at night when there is no way to physically “see”? It has been discovered that they actually have a radar-like ability.
Humans too have this ability, or should I say had? When we lived in the wilderness, along with the rest of the animal world, these abilities were necessary for survival. However, once we became more “self-conscious,” we also began to want possessions, which led eventually to lying, cheating and stealing to get what we wanted. If the Third Eye is open, there can be none of this because all of you is exposed for others to see. Therefore, we learned to close it so we could hide what we didn’t want others to see. We have since moved further and further away from our true selves.
Ever drive to work and arrive without even remembering the trip? There was no conscious focus on the actual skill of driving. You drove with no effort.
So when the Taoist talks about “doing nothing yet everything gets done” this is what is meant. All things fall into place when you get out of your own way.
Originally Published November, 2002 under the title: Lecture Series: The Mind