By Brian Kane 4/12/2011,
“Analyzed that thought ‘til I thought it made sense. Seems that I forgot, just how easy life is. Quixote, would appreciate, this mess I’ve made: The proof is in my armor plate. Imagination leads me to my grave…”
I wrote those words when I was 22 years old, but they still often apply to me today. Imagination: It can be our best friend or our worst enemy it seems. I have a huge imagination, as many of us do, and some would even say that I live and/or find solace in my imagination. This is not necessarily a bad thing as Einstein said,” “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
However, having a vivid imagination is different than being delusional and not being able to cope with or decipher reality from unreality. This affliction could be part of a mental malady—a psychological sickness–but perhaps more often it is the result of an individual trying to avoid the pain that reality can bring. Ironically, the imagination that brings us joy and freedom can also evoke scenes of darkness and despair. It could be that imagination is important when applied to knowledge and creativity, but detrimental when it is used as an escape or substitute for the realities of some of life’s most basic needs: including forming friendships and finding love; having a vocation and living place.
The key to me is to know when to step out of one’s imagination and address the realities that organize our lives so that both our internal and external realities are tended to. One way to find the strength to do this is by studying YiRen Qigong. But first let’s explore my ideas of imagination and how it applies to dreams, demons, QiGong and self-consciousness, and the effects of music on mediation and in turn the quality of our lives.
When I first started studying YiRen QiGong, instructor Brendan Thorson said to pay attention to my dreams. After about one month of practicing QiGong, my quality of sleep had improved vastly. I would no longer wake up a grump—which I was notorious for—but feel vibrant and refreshed. About two months into the practice, I was definitely having vivid dreams, the content of which was at times humorous, at times troubling, and even informative. Thorson told me that not every YiRen QiGong practitioner will experience vivid dreams (he said he often forgets his) but that if you do dream of something you deem significant, don’t disregard it as merely a trick of the mind. Although some of your dreams might be of things that could only exist and manifest themselves in your imagination, they could also be giving you important information that could improve your life.
So then it is time to take the ideas from your dreams out of your imagination and put them to the test. This is where your strength is tested. It is a universal understanding that following your dreams is not easy. The more you desire something, the more pain and disappointment you could face in reaching your goal/s. However, in order to find balance in life, I believe you have to give your best effort at obtaining that which you want most, whether it be a particular vocation, a romantic interest, spiritual awareness, financial security or just having peace of mind. It is often inevitable that you will have fears and apprehension on your journey.
I am experiencing a bit of ambivalence and fear myself with regards to some life decisions I must make. During warm-up for the Tai Chi class on April 12th, the Level II Stomach and Pancreas exercise really helped me find strength and clarity. One thing I was unaware of and that Brendan brought to my attention is that what hand mudra that you use can affect your experience with this exercise. If you have a lot of emotional gunk to get rid of, your thumb should be between your index and middle finger with a closed fist. If not, it should be between your middle and ring finger.
I certainly had some garbage to dispose of and so I opted for the index and middle finger mudra. During the mediation with this exercise, I was able to generate the strength to feel positively about my life. I then realized a very important thing: When your imagination generates positivity and happiness, embrace that feeling as much as you can. However, when your imagination produces negative and despairing thoughts, it is time to meditate and bring tranquility to your mind.
However, meditation will not always be a pleasant experience. I mentioned in my earlier writings that meditating is like a glass of water with sediment or sand on the bottom. That sediment is all the emotional trash that a person has gathered over the years. When you meditate, you shake the vessel or stir its contents and the sand begins to rise to the top. Many Toaists call these demons. When these thoughts arrive, it is quite natural to want to stop meditating and repress those thoughts again. However in order to dissolve those pesky pests, you have to work through them and send them back down to the bottom of the glass, eventually dissolving them.
YiRen Qigong Instructor Brendan Thorson once told me that some students have come to him and said that they have an emotional blockage or hang up that they just cannot seem to get past. They have even gone to counseling or taken psychiatric drugs to try to cure their condition. However, he has seen students gain better clarity and emotional relief by practicing QiGong. You might say that instead of dealing with the problem down river or as it manifest itself, many students, myself included, have solved problems and improved their moods by dealing with the problem at its source.
Recently, I have gained some very interesting insight into some of my blockages. I am aware of my problems now and am at peace with these issues. The next step is being vigilant in destroying your demons. Like training your muscles, you might not get results right away, but before you know it, your efforts will be very rewarding. One benefit that I have had with taking classes with Brendan, is that whenever I have a personal problem I am dealing with, he is usually available to discuss it with me and offer advice not only in what action I might want to take but even more importantly, what YiRen QiGong exercises I should practice in order to help my mind see things more clearly.
Two exercises that really help me when I am having problems with negative visions are the Wisdom Gate meditating exercise (the Wisdom Gate is between the Life Gate and Solar Plexeus), and the Brain Gate exercise. Also my new favorite Level II exercise, the pancreas/stomach exercise works for me as well. Interestingly, according to Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun the stomach is a Yang organ associated with the virtues of logic and reasoning. At the Conscious level, the stomach is associated with imaginations and delusions and the pancreas with self-blame.
This week was also a QiGong breakthrough for me in that I have finally shed any doubt that QiGong is helping improve my life and that I don’t care what others think about my involvement with the practice. YiRen QiGong has become as much of part of my life as music, writing, working out and you might say shaving every morning. It is now just part of my routine. However, I do not push QiGong onto others I think might benefit from it. I live by the Woody Allen idea that life is tough, and for the most part, to find happiness, just do whatever works. I would like to add that whatever works as long as it is ultimately not detrimental to your overall being or the being of others. I would definitely not suggest taking drugs, consuming alcohol in excess or anything else that is harmful to your body. But I have friends that are perfectly healthy that do not practice QiGong. They could definitely benefit from the practice, but maybe Yoga works best for them, or studying the Bible or the Quran.
From my experience with YiRen QiGong, you do not lose yourself through the practice, but actually gain a better understanding about who you are. It is important to me to keep my individuality and not try to be just like my teacher/s. Brendan Thorson is on his own path as we are all on ours. What he can divulge are recommendations to better your life, but you do not need to feel obligated to follow his suggestions. I have disagreed with him on what is best for me and been wrong, and I have also been right. The important thing is to do the exercises, seek advice from your teacher and then come to your own conclusions. This is how I see it anyway.
Moreover, I have learned to not become frustrated with detractors of the practice of YiRen Qigong—the skeptics. The bottom line is, unless a person has practiced QiGong, it is virtually impossible to have a constructive conversation with that person about the practice. Not everybody is going to like QiGong or believe it is helping them. It is their right to think this way and it in no way indicates who they are as people: again, whatever works.
“Women they will come and they will go. When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know.” These are lyrics from the song “Dreams” by one of my favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac. In fact this week I have been listening to that song repeatedly. Stevie Nicks’ voice is very hypnotizing and the lyrics, although about lovers going their separate ways, are very encouraging to me and just downright beautiful. When I mediate I will often listen to soothing music like this. Although in deep meditative states I often lose contact with the words and melodies, these tunes help me relax.
This is not to say that one should only listen to positive music. Music is art and art should depict all aspects of life, from love to hate, despair to discovery. Music can definitely spur our imaginations about things and create visions in our minds.
When I was a kid, my father, heeding the advice of our church pastor, discarded many of his Rock N’ Roll albums at the local dump. The pastor thought that Rock was the Devil’s music. I remember when I was about 10 we used to play “Stairway to Heaven” backwards and try to hear the Satanic message. Interestingly, the only time I could decipher any sort of message from below was when a person would tell me what I should be hearing. To me, “Stairway to Heaven” was a beautiful song. A song of hope as Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, would often introduce the song as. However, there are actual transcriptions online of the entire song backwards, and the message is much darker: almost the antithesis of the song forward. One thing to note is that live recordings of the song have the same message so it is possible that the band did not record any hidden messages. I honestly do not know if Led Zeppelin purposefully created song lyrics that would have a different message when played backwards. I think the important thing is to remember that our imaginations can falsify reality and that we are being influenced by many outward forces, most of which we might not be aware of.
Although my imagination has caused me a great deal of discomfort in the past, I will never cease living a large portion of my life in the spiritual realm of my dreams and imagination. Ultimately I believe this will lead me to a happier life. The darkness of life and my imagination will always exist however, now I have my personal weapon of choice, YiRen QiGong, to battle those intrusive thoughts. Now I have a greater hope that instead of it leading me to an untimely death, as long as I follow my dreams the correct way, my imagination will liberate me to a long and fulfilling life.