November 23, 2014

Chan Quan - Part 3

The third part is the physical and spiritual training. This is where the practitioner learns how to humble himself before his practice and to perform his movements in a meditative manner. He also learns a sitting meditation practice. Where there is a clear, relaxed, healthy and strong body there is also a mind of similar state.

This section of practice involves the learning of proper bowing and prostrations; but none of these gestures of respect is done towards the teacher. The teacher is like a storyteller who relates the ways of the art. The listener is the practitioner who absorbs the gently taught lesson and develops a healthy physical, mental and spiritual life. This is Chan Quan.

It is necessary to remember Chan Quan is a system, a philosophy that was taught at Shaolin Temple back in the early days of martial arts. This philosophy is closely related to the philosophy of Chan Buddhism.

In each movement there is a breath, in each breath there is a visualization of mist or steam. This mist or steam is chi, but before this can be done properly the practitioner has to become fully mindful of each and every major muscle, limb, joint and posture. He needs to feel what a proper breath is like; what it’s like to stand correctly in the postures; and then to perform the correct visualizations.

One exercise which helps a student to learn the spiritual and physical applications is the recitation: “As I move I breath, as I breath I move. When I look I visualize my breath, and the chi that surrounds me I take into my body through proper breathing. As I breathe, chi enters my nose and lungs then spreads across my body, like a cool wave that almost creates a shivering sensation. My body moves automatically, without thoughts, and all the motions I make are actions that are appropriate to the given situation.

When we sit around and think and analyze. We tend to add and embellish as we engrave things into our memory. We confuse ourselves by adding extra tension to our lives. In our meditation practice we work to focus on what is now, not on what was or on what might be. This refined focus is part of martial training. We don’t stand there and say, “Well if this happens, I’ll do this. Or if that happens, I’ll do that.” It Is easier to swim with the river's current then to go against it.

“He who has understood does not know a thing, but feels a completion of sorts,” said the ancients. And so it is with spiritual practice. Though in the one reality things seem to be separate, in actually that are one and the same.