I forget the title and haven't been able to find the book, but years ago I read, in translation, a Buddhist sutra that listed all the different ways in which one can meditate in order to gain enlightenment. The list was enormous. Most people I meet don't understand this, and think that the only way to meditate is through some sort of formal sitting practice. Probably this is simply because formal sitting is the most practical way of engaging most people who express an interest in the subject. I also suspect that formal group sitting is the best way of coordinating a large group of nuns or monks in a monastic setting. Eventually, as a transmission declines and ossifies, people forget about the broader range of options and what started out as specialization becomes exclusivity.
Someone like myself, who has only for brief periods of time (and only marginally then) been a member of a community, has the luxury of experimentation and the stern discipline of having to be my own taskmaster. This means that I have spent a lot of time exploring other options beside formal sitting.
To cite a specific example, one of the practices my first meditation teacher taught me was to spend time thinking about my perception and re-ordering it according to specific principles. One example is to walk around and try to be aware of all the parallel lines that exist in the world around us. Certainly in the human-build world they are everywhere. In nature, not so much. Another practice I sometimes do is to look at water flowing over stones and try to be aware of all the complex wave patterns that manifest themselves as the water interacts with stones. Another thing I used to do was sit in a forest and without moving my head move "my hearing attention" around me like a search light. It is possible to do, but it requires a special type of sensitivity and concentration.
|The Neijing Tu (but not mine)|
(Interestingly enough, when I went into Google Images to find a copy, I noticed that most of the versions do not have this different between the two eyes.)
This was especially of interest to me for two reasons.
First of all, there is a very strong tradition in Western popular culture that there is such a thing as an "evil eye". I don't really take the popular understanding very seriously, but I have met the odd person who for some reason has scared the absolute bejesus out of me because of something in the way their eyes look.
Much more importantly, I was fascinated by scientific research that has been done using people who have had their brains surgically separated as a way of treating a very horrible form of epilepsy. In effect, it creates symptoms that look like there are two different people living in the same body.
|Wayne Gretzky: Neidan Master?|
|"Buzz Beurling", Neidan Master?|
Of course, this discussion is ultimately based on the idea of "kung fu", or, the application of hard work over a long period of time to develop an exceptional degree of ability. I am suggesting that "neidan" or "internal alchemy" is a type of kung fu. I am not suggesting that learning how to play hockey or shoot are forms of "neidan", but they are types of kung fu. Neidan is kung fu aimed towards a specific end. What that end can and should be, will be the subject of a future post.