Improving Your “Game” with Practice

In this most recent installment of “Finding the Greatness Within You”, we will explore a whole other realm beyond the physical and into the ultimate goal of the practice of real martial arts — to discover who you really are; your True Self; your True Nature.

I realize this third part in the series is going to places that many will have a hard time even conceptualizing. Try to keep an open mind, hang in there, have some fun with it, and simply consider the possibilities.

Who’s doing the “wiring”?
In a recent article in The Record newspaper entitled, “Offbeat remedies may work after all” by Lindsey Tanner, it stated, “Imaging tests have shown changes in the brains of placebo users, suggesting that the effect is not just ‘in your mind,’ it’s also in the brain, said Dr. Stephen Straus, director of the NIH’s (National Institutes of Health) National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.”

“’Their wishful thinking that they’re going to get better is harnessing the body’s own mechanism for relieving pain,’ said Straus.”

It’s all energy
All things manifested in the physical world as we know it must first be created energetically, with thought. There is not one thing in this world that humans created that they didn’t first create in their heads. You cannot even get yourself to the rest room without first having the intention to get there.

To create anything, you must first see it in your mind’s eye. You must then physically work on it to make it come to be—you must take action upon your thought. But without the first idea there can be no creation.

What is real?
The mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined. Stories abound about the skill Master Park acquired after he spent two years—one year at a time—on the mountain alone (except for the nearby monks from who he got food). These stories demonstrate the importance of mental focus and visualization skills. Master Park spent hours daily in meditation and visualizations. He also physically practiced sparring—alone. When he returned he was virtually untouchable in sparring,  even dangerous to the point that his Shifu, Lu Shui Tian, no longer allowed him to spar with others. He realized his reflexes were very real and due to the intensity of his visualization sparring on the mountain, he could not necessarily control his reactions to other students’ attacks.

The point here is not about becoming a vicious fighter. It is about being able to use the practice to reach a level of mind / body / spirit connection so high that you’ll be able to get the same awesome results in anything you put your mind to. Nothing I know of can better prepare a person for life’s challenges like the practice of real martial arts.

The physical, and the non-physical
After reading the first two parts of this series, with all the talk about “wiring the brain” you might think it is the end-all-be-all. The scientist, who is rooted in physical reality or only what can be seen and / or measured with currently accepted methods, usually thinks this way. This kind of scientist would most likely examine all this brain research and data and come to the conclusion that it explains everything. Actually, it hardly skims the surface, exposing only the result, but not the cause.

The physical is merely a manifestation of the divine energy of the universe. Each of us is a spark of this divine energy. We are each like one cell of awareness, incomplete without the whole. Like one wave in the great oceans of the world, expressing itself only for so long, soon to be reunited with the rest. This is where we can find the real greatness within.

You are more than you know
Consider that “You” are above and beyond your body and your mind. That all the “wiring of the brain” previously discussed is how you refine this “thing” that you believe to be yourself but which you are actually just operating through. The brain is simply shaped by our consistent thoughts, actions and experiences—programmed if you will. It can all happen by default, or we can do the work to raise our conscious awareness so as to have a say in what we think and do.

By contrast,  we can have a great impact on our experience by learning to function more  from the True Self. This is only possible when the thinking ceases. Only then can you really listen. Only then can you work more from the energy level (with God, Universal Energy, Spirit, the Creator, or however you prefer to describe it) rather than trying to do everything at the physical level. Only then can your True Nature shine through and mold this body and brain—that you are merely using as a tool to experience this world—as you see fit so you can better play this game we call life.

The Latin root of the word “person” is persona and it means “mask”. A person is simply one who is wearing a mask or taking a part and playing a character.

Shakespeare knew this and he tried to communicate it through his plays such as in the famous quote from As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7, Line 139: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Mystic Rock
When I was a child growing up in the ‘70s my cousin turned me on to the music of Rush. Back then I found their music exhilarating, but I was especially attracted to the lyrics,  written by their drummer, Neil Peart, a modern day philosopher and mystic.

Rush music was not something you’d normally hear on the radio and I was the only one of my friends who listened to them, but at one point there were a few songs that did make it into the mainstream. One such song was called “Limelight”, released on their 1981 album Moving Pictures. The theme of this song is one of Stoicism, philosophically viewing the world as a play on a stage (Marcus Aurelius, the second century Roman emperor and the writer of the book, Meditations, was considered one of the great Stoics).

The following line is Neil Peart’s take on the famous Shakespearian quote above: “All the world’s indeed a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers; each another’s audience outside the gilded cage.”  Their added emphasis and elaboration helps to make the words of Shakespeare even more profound.

If you only knew
Thing is, if you really knew who you are, (your Authentic Self, your Buddha Nature, your Atman, your Christ Consciousness) then how could you not be having a ball with your experiences, both good and bad? How could you not be truly and deeply happy, knowing that you are actually above and beyond all this, a true spark of the divine energy, simply playing a part?

Does this mean that you’ll never be sad? No, of course not, but if you know who you truly are then you won’t be down for very long. You’ll know that all that counts happens in the moment at hand. Instead of living in the past or the future you’ll know to ask, “What can I do now?”

An appropriate addition here comes from the “Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

We cannot take anything too seriously. Whether an event is in our favor or seemingly against us, we cannot allow ourselves to get too high or too low. We need to learn how to view it all from the higher level of Self. Only then can we make progress and grow to become wiser in our future decisions. In time, we can realize the reasons for anything.

Meditation
Meditation is very much like a  “time-out”, not simply as a physical break from activity, or for relaxation, but as a break from the ego—the role we are playing—to get centered and reconnect with our higher Self, or our True Nature. In that light we can then come back to the “Game” and play it hard—going all out—acting and feeling with all we’ve got.

The Jesuit priest, paleontologist and philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it this way: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience… we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

“We are not human beings
having a spiritual experience…
we are spiritual beings having
a human experience.”
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 Energy Patterns, Freewill and Karma
The term, karma, simply means “what you are doing”. The energy patterns that emanate from each of us come from our consistent patterns of thoughts and actions. We choose these thoughts and actions moment by moment, be it consciously or unconsciously. These patterns are very strong and lead to a certain fate. There is freewill, but our choices are so predictable that it becomes very difficult if not nearly impossible to change our future, or our fate. However, that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. One’s future can be accurately predicted if one is aware of and can sense these patterns. The only way to break these patterns is to do something completely out of character, or in other words, virtually become someone else.

Here is an example from Dr. Joe Dispenza, in his video presentation, “Our Immortal Brain: Mastering the Art of Observation,” (also cited in part two of this series): Dr. Dispenza discusses a study he did personally where he interviewed people who were terminally ill and then miraculously had spontaneous remissions.

What he found through these interviews was that they all had four things in common: 1) They each accepted a diving intelligence that was greater than them, that has a will of its own,  and that it was in charge of the trillions of processes that make the body work. They believed that if they could connect with this intelligence, maybe it could do the healing for them; 2) They began to believe that their thinking contributed to their disease. They reasoned that if they changed their thoughts it might send a new signal to their cells. They decided that they had to think differently; 3) In order to think differently, they realized  that they had to reinvent themselves, or in other words, they had to literally become someone else.

They began to deeply examine themselves and wondered, “Who do I like? Who would I have to be like? What would I feel like if I was happy?” etc. 4) “When they reinvented themselves, they got so immersed into who they wanted to become that they lost track of time and space; what felt like a few minutes was actually a few hours.”

The Power of Non-Attachment
Most would say that it is human nature to feel and that we can’t help our reactions to things. The problem isn’t in the feeling. You should allow yourself to feel what you do. The problem comes from attaching to it. The problem comes from not letting it go—feeling guilty about something you did; lingering on a loss; stressing over what already has happened in the past, or what might happen in the future.

Everything will work its way out one way or another. The stress from worry, fear, and guilt doesn’t help anything. And it all stems from being overly attached to outcomes going the way we think we want them to. This attachment will just continue to lead to pain and suffering, until we are able to truly let things go and let them be.

Your life, and the world, is perfect just the way it is. I realize how difficult that is to understand considering all that is going on, but consider that it is as it is because we made it that way—and continue to do so—collectively.

We are each having an experience here, some good, some not so good, some very challenging, some not so challenging. We have no right to judge the experience of each other or any other part of the world. We get challenged and we learn. We learn what we like, and we learn what we don’t like. The greater the challenge the greater the growth.

The Principle of Change
Probably one of the most detrimental human traits is a need to always try to keep things constant, and to feel secure in this stability. The only constant in our universe is change.

The ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu said it this way:

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”

Also attributed to Lao Tzu:

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”

Learn how to blend with universal energy instead of working against it. Work hard to be able to clear the mind—discipline the mind so you can then consciously decide what you give energy to (what you are thinking about) rather than by default. Remember, the distracted mind has virtually no brain activity in the powerful frontal lobe. The brain is hardwired by what you think and do regularly. Choose to think and do what is optimal—the things that will take you in the direction you want to go—and you will re-program your brain optimally for that direction—making it easier to maintain.

Play the game of life with all your heart. Put everything you’ve got into your part, and then let go and just be… yourSelf.

Originally Published April, 2006

Author:

Shifu Ahles
Shifu Raymond Ahles, the owner and Chief Instructor of the Blue Dragon School, is a certified instructor of Ba Gua Zhang Kung Fu & Chi Kung and a 7th Generation Lineage Disciple in the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association. In addition to his 30 years plus teaching experience in the martial arts, Shifu Ahles also holds a B.S. degree in Exercise Physiology, he’s a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has an extensive background in the healing arts of Oriental Medicine including certifications in Advanced Amma Therapy, Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture. He is a licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist in NJ.