Monthly Archives: May 2018

Sequels to ‘I Wish I Knew What I Did’

Sequel A: How to begin—except to say that people have been kind, and I am very grateful for kind people who understand and don’t chastise me for being fearful and doubting and ungrateful as I lurch along whatever path I am on.

I told one friend about my altered-state experiences doing taiji and my worries about them, and she reminded me how once, when she was in one of my qigong classes, she felt time stand still. She kept wanting it to happen again, but it never did. She said she’d be very happy to be having the experiences I was worrying about.

And then there’s my wonderful acupuncturist—about whom more later—who said that she would never presume to say that her experiences were like mine, but that she understood what it meant for suddenly everything to become quiet, just quiet.

And my dear friend Karl, who—well, he did chastise me a bit for thinking of my experiences as possible portents of doom instead of as blessings, but we go back far enough that I can accept a bit of chastisement from him because he is always so concerned and sincere.

Plus there were two people who responded through my blog, including Strongmoth (Bella), with whom I connected through my blog more than a year ago and with whom I now correspond off-blog—a correspondence I view as a major benefit of having begun Qi Frontier.

What Bella wrote about the elusive nature of altered states was so beautiful that I want to repeat it here:

“It seems impossible to recreate by will any higher or “magical” experience, and I think it is the intention combined with a desire for a certain fixed outcome that gets in the way.

“On three different occasions I’ve seen seemingly broken-down people walk in the street with such heavy energies around them I was filled with an incredible love, tenderness and empathy, a profound want to ease their suffering. I gathered all my love, my peace of mind, my empathy with a feeling of incredible abundance in my heart and “sent” it from my heart to theirs as I watched them from a distance.

“And on two occasions the people tripped over their own feet, threw their heads back and laughed at the sky! It was so instant and so unbelievable that tears started streaming down my face as I watched them walk off with a new bounce in their steps. On the third occasion the person did not trip, only a wide smile came upon his face and he walked off seemingly with a new calm.

“I have at other times tried to impact tired depressed people the same way by will—who doesn’t want to give weathered people a boost? But I found it impossible, as when it does not come from authentic love and tenderness in the moment and rather springs forth from my ambition and desire for a certain outcome, nothing will happen.”

I know that she is right—although it sure is hard not to desire desirable outcomes.

Above all, however, I am heartened to know that she and other people I trust don’t consider my experiences to be weird or dangerous but instead think it’s great that they are happening.

And I am reminded that I was originally drawn to qigong precisely because my usual ways of thinking about such matters as the difference between objective and subjective reality quickly hit dead ends and tied my “regular” state of consciousness in knots.

So why pull back now? Why, indeed….

And so what if, instead of helping me attain a new level of knowing, all my altered states ever do is make me feel good?

I don’t mind feeling good.

Sequel B: This was going to be Sequel A, but it was overtaken by what actually ended up being Sequel A.
Specifically, I think a shout-out is due to acupuncture, and to my acupuncturist in particular.
I had forgotten, when I wrote the post of a few days ago, that the first of my experiences of being in an altered state when doing taiji occurred the morning after an acupuncture session when my acupuncturist had worked on my back for the second time.
The first time we did an entire session with me face down, I remember getting up off the table, assessing verticality, and thinking, “Oh, wow, I have a back!” My back felt so fluid and alive, and I felt more grounded. The second session was more of the same—and, as I wrote in the previous post, grounding, connecting to earth, seems to be necessary for my mind to let go—or connect to heaven, if I want it to sound more cosmic.

So I am grateful for acupuncture, too, and recommend working with a good acupuncturist to anyone wanting to get in touch with their body – and their soul….

Postscript: And now I am done writing for a time. At this moment, anyway, I am sick of words and trying to analyze my thoughts….

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I Wish I Knew What I Did….

A thing happened today, while I was leading my taiji class through the form—one of those things I don’t understand but would oh, so, like to.

When we do the form (Yang-style long form) during the second half of class, I talk. I describe what I am doing, sometimes name the move or point out that we’re in a section of repetition, or make suggestions regarding weight distribution or body alignment. Nothing is scripted. It’s whatever comes into my mind as something that might be helpful to say, depending on who has come to class.

Today, about two-thirds of the way into the form, I felt something shift. I knew I had entered an altered state of consciousness. I relaxed into lightness of body and mind. I felt a quiet within me and around me. I was still talking, but I said less. I felt very good, very complete. After class, I went up to my apartment and did a bit more taiji and then sat on the sofa for a time with my eyes closed. Gradually the state dissolved, and within an hour, I was at my computer going through emails.

I wish I knew how I had reached that state so that I could return to it at will, but I don’t.

I do think one factor may have been that, as I spoke our way through the form, I was emphasizing sinking, sitting down into the hips, relaxing the shoulders, pausing for a moment to really settle into a posture. I was doing this partly for myself, although I had not planned to, and partly for one of the students who had said at our last class, when I talked about relaxing the shoulders, that a therapist once told her she carried all her emotional problems in her shoulders.

I suspect that sinking, relaxing, grounding may have been key to this morning’s experience in part because a couple of weeks ago, about two thirds of the way into doing the form with my long-time Saturday morning taiji partner, I similarly entered a similar state. That time, because nothing had seemed to be going well, I had decided that maybe I should just focus on my feet, and the shifting of weight from one to the other.

Of course, I tried the same approach the following Saturday to absolutely no avail. I guess connecting with earth may be key, but not a guarantee.

One more experience comes to mind, one that happened more than a month ago during a 3-hour meditation session at the convent where I go for Zen-style sitting.

About two-thirds (hmmm… there’s that fraction again)—anyway, about two-thirds of the way into the first half of the session, I entered into a delicious space—soft, quiet, relaxed, accepting. It had the same quality of being separate from my normal awareness as did the two taiji experiences. As I was in it, I knew that it was wonderful and also that it would not last, but that that was OK.

Though I am grateful for all three experiences, in a small way they trouble me because they are akin to some of the more extreme experiences I had two and a half years ago—experiences that a neurologist labeled “spells” when he told me he didn’t think I had epilepsy even though I had had two “unusual” EEGs.

So what is it, what is it, what is it that I am experiencing?

Brain deviance or spiritual growth?

It seems possible that the sole meaning of experiences like the one I had today is that the 3 pound mass of tissue inside my skull has gotten a bit wonky in some of its particulars as a result of my various practices. My brain gets wonky; my perception of reality shifts; I feel good; end of story.

Of course, it is also possible—and, I hope, true—that there is some greater, objective reality that I may somehow be able to access as a result of my various practices.

It would be nice if there was more than just me, my brain and I….

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