“The students sat up straight, not moving at all, so the place was peaceful and quiet, without a sound. Now Master Wang Liping extended his palms. Lightly raised them once, then shook them once to the left and right. All of a sudden these three hundred students started swaying uncontrollably, as if they were sitting in coracles on a stormy sea. Then, as Master Wang made as if he were turning over two coins in his hands, the students shook even more intensely. Some swayed forward and backward, some tossed their hands out with rapid movements, some beat their chests, some made graceful dance gestures, some made rapid series of gestures with their hands, like experts at sign language. All of a sudden, some began to wail sorrowfully; while others began to laugh crazily. Both rooms were in an uproar.”
from Opening the Dragon Gate: the making of a modern Taoist wizard.
What is going on here? Taoists have long recognized the necessity of strengthening the body in preparation for going deeply into meditation. Thus, spiritual cultivation is preceded and supported by physical cultivation. The Taoist practices of Qigong and Tai Chi are intimately connected with the medical as well as the martial arts.
Which is not to say, it doesn’t get fairly strange (to me) at times. The above quote from Opening the Dragon Gates seems like a good description of some of the group meditations in my practice of Sum Faht. While we can meditate together very quietly, often the place sounds like a zoo. So, I repeat, “What is going on here?”
No one warned me of this possibility when I began the practice. So, I was very surprised the first time I felt myself morph into a lion. Sitting quietly in meditation, I it felt as if the muscles in my arms grew larger. My hands became paws, my neck thick and strong. I eased forward from my seated posture onto all fours and a hunting crouch. And then the growling started from deep down in my belly. Such strength, such power!
Over the next few months there was a procession of animals: lizard, monkey, frog, and bird. The bird impressed me with its large, hard snapping beak and arrogant demeanor. The frog left me sore from its bobbing hippity-hop, though I did enjoy the croaking, “ribbet!” But, that was nothing compared to lion’s roar.
Where had I gained such familiarity with those diaphragm movements that propelled that roar? Was it at the zoo, or on one of those TV nature shows? I had no idea. Still, that roar clearly served a purpose. It was forcing Light and Life back down into my atrophied left leg. The leg that had withered after a herniated disc now was filled with Life. The leg that seemed to harbor such black terror that I could not begin to approach it in previous “normal” meditations, now was filled with Light.
Clearly, the lion had a strength that P. Bralley did not know she had. That’s because ordinarily, I am cut off from my “lower higher-self.”
Sum Faht teaches that the lower higher self can emerge into ones awareness in the guise of different animals. These forms are said to emerge to facilitate our healing by providing the raw animal power of survival. While the animals surprised me, I was equally taken aback by the concept of a lower higher-self. I had never heard the term in all my TM days. Taoism usually simply speaks of the higher self. And besides, isn’t the evolution of consciousness supposed to take us beyond our violent animal heritage? From my TM experiences I viewed the Higher Self as transcendent Silence. Animals had not been mentioned. But, enlightenment did begin with witnessing.
(Warning, if you have not read the two previous blog entries from Thursday, July 6th, you may want to. Material there is preliminary to the discussion that follows.)