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freeform

'Just do it' vs 'imagine'

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When given instructions in a qi gong class setting... do you prefer the sort of instruction that starts with 'imagine (a sphere below your belly button)' or do you prefer something more direct 'feel (a sphere below your belly button)'?

 

If you're a teacher do you find that people new to such practices tend to have objections to the more direct approach? 'But how do I feel a ball there?'... 'But I don't know how'... 'But aren't I just imagining this?' etc.

 

Is the 'imagine' approach ever the solution?

 

I recently I came across an interesting variation to this sort of instruction. It was in the form of a question 'can you feel a sphere below your belly button?' Subtle, but imo profound difference.

 

Generally I much prefer the direct approach - I think that placing imagination into practice can be problematic. However I find that newcomers often struggle with direct instructions 'move your awareness from the physical to the energetic' - that's such a tricky concept for someone new to this.

 

Could direction in the form of a question be the answer? (See what I did there? :)) or is imagination a good set of training wheels? Or is it best to stick to being direct and expect newbies to make the leap by themselves at some point?

Edited by freeform
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I prefer sensory visualization.

 

rub the area and stimulate it, then use your mind to recreate that stimulation and go with the feelings generated thus... until the actual thing gathers inertia and then the model is dropped in favor of the experience.

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One problem with just imagination to start first is that it often brings a huge pile of energy up into the head, which isn't good.

 

Haha I do agree - although beginners are rarely dealing with a huge pile of energy... and more often than not its already in their head as it is :)

 

I prefer sensory visualization.

 

rub the area and stimulate it, then use your mind to recreate that stimulation and go with the feelings generated thus... until the actual thing gathers inertia and then the model is dropped in favor of the experience.

 

Ok so you're suggesting create dummy sensory experience until real experience takes over. I remember many years ago taping little seeds to different points on my body to have somewhere to anchor my awareness as I move. Is this the sort of thing you're talking about?

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I was using the statement "Just do it." before Nike trademarked it.

 

But imagination is part of the planning process so imagination is just as important as the doing.

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I know lots of folks have problems with imagination but it´s always worked for me. Easy to discount in the beginning perhaps as "just imagination." But given enough practice I´ve found that imagination does indeed become reality.

 

Liminal

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Teachers say "imagine" a ball because it gets the hands in the right position. If I say, "imagine a big soap bubble resting on your hands, hold it on your palms, form your hands just as you would if the soap bubble were real, and your fingers slightly spread as though there were little bubbles between them, now lift them all to chest height, be gentle not to pop them ... ", it's because I want the movement to be just like that, the muscle tension to be as minimal as posssible, the attention to detail to be as great as possible. I don't really want people thinking about or imagining soap bubbles.

 

It's a mental tool with physical applications. Hence, a way of strengthening the connection of mind and body.

 

Likewise, "scooping water from the ocean floor". Or "painting rainbows on the sky". Or "looking through the wall, out over the horizon, beyond the mountains, past the edge of the planet, to the stars ... ".

 

The purpose is to create a physical situation that suits the exercise at hand.

 

I tell people very directly not to get lost in the imagery. Do not ever drift off into Lala land with all the pink unicorns and golden dragons. Keep your eyes open, your feet firmly on the ground. Or, ok, just one foot, depending on what we're practicing :)

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I was taught in a very direct way - just stand, just do the form, just breath... the rest will come.

It works well for the small percentage of students who are dedicated enough to stick with it and put in the time and blood, sweat, and tears.

 

I generally follow a somewhat similar approach. I try to start with the practice of simple awareness and build on that.

I try not to give students preconceptions or expectations but I do offer some guidance.

I don't want them to experience what I experience, but what they experience - we're all unique.

 

Not all students need the same thing and I try to read them and give them what helps the most, always being careful not to lead them to get too far into their head, their ideas, labels, and concepts - even the widely accepted ones.

For me, even the concept of Qi can be a big distraction and very misleading, especially to those who like to read a lot and are prone to get into their concepts.

 

On the other hand, there are some practices which are completely rooted in imagination and those can be very effective as well and have a role.

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I don't think it's an either-or approach. Depends on what you're working on. I prefer imagining nothing unless the instructions specifically ask me to, but it depends... I've been taught, generally, to "just do it," but there's techniques where you have to "just do it" in such a way that there's no way you can do it if you completely shut down your "stretching it" skills -- e.g. when the master asks you to pull your ears inward into your head, or to start with your room then your street then your city then your country, etc., and gradually paint the whole universe a particular color, then pull it (the freshly painted universe) into the crevice on the side of the fingernail of your little finger. Both are difficult to "just do," try it and see. :D

 

My taiji teacher, who is very precise in his explanations and corrections where things external are concerned, usually switches to interjections and gestures when describing things internal -- these "can't be told," but he tries to give you an image -- of the pattern, the motion, direction, dynamics, tempo, the music of it... :)

Edited by Taomeow
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Better to go direct to pure creation which has potential of unlimited than to use visualization, which will always be finite.

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Better to go direct to pure creation which has potential of unlimited than to use visualization, which will always be finite.

But that is one of the hardest things for most people to do.

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But that is one of the hardest things for most people to do.

Well....Yes and No.

I teach beginners from this viewpoint and the majority have no problem going direct. But yes, some of the folks who were taught to use visualization require a few....demonstrations.... to allow their minds to open to direct.

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I now find visualization (along with intellectualization) to be the greatest hindrance to manifestation.

 

(Thank you for your patience, Ya Mu.)

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But that is one of the hardest things for most people to do.

And?

 

Do you mean to imply that we shouldn't try to do something because it's difficult?

 

With proper guidance, I also find that people are able to connect to what is without needing to interject too much in the way of imagination and conceptualization. Edit - in fact, I think that is the whole purpose of these practices - to let go of the concepts and baggage and simply connect to, return to the source.

 

My belief is that these practices are much more effective without the thinking mind getting in the way.

Edited by steve
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And?

 

Do you mean to imply that we shouldn't try to do something because it's difficult?

No. I am suggesting that one must be prepared to put their all into it. Failure is not a nice feeling and most people can't handle it well.

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No. I am suggesting that one must be prepared to put their all into it. Failure is not a nice feeling and most people can't handle it well.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that usually.

In my experience, less than 10% of people want to put much of anything into it.

Most show up and try a bit, go home and forget about it.

They prefer to be guided or just feel good for the 45 minutes they are there... not really looking for personal transformation, just some relief.

 

A small percentage are highly motivated and really apply themselves.

The tricky thing is - which group to teach to?

In a group setting, it can be challenging to to address everyone's needs but not impossible.

You need to be able to teach on multiple levels to people of different aptitudes.

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Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that usually.

In my experience, less than 10% of people want to put much of anything into it.

Most show up and try a bit, go home and forget about it.

They prefer to be guided or just feel good for the 45 minutes they are there... not really looking for personal transformation, just some relief.

 

A small percentage are highly motivated and really apply themselves.

The tricky thing is - which group to teach to?

In a group setting, it can be challenging to to address everyone's needs but not impossible.

You need to be able to teach on multiple levels to people of different aptitudes.

That basically supported what I was pointing at.

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This comes from the nature of your sessions and people's motivations for taking part in them. If I were to do that, I'd find myself standing there alone, haha :-)

 

o geez, this is embarassing. I wanted to quote Spotless earlier but apparently hit the "edit" button on my phone instead of the "quote" button! Big apologies to Spotless! I'm leaving the edited post for now, will let Spotless decide what to do ...

 

They say power corrupts, but in my case, it seems to do something else. Make me stupid?

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You need to be able to teach on multiple levels to people of different aptitudes.

 

This is so true. I do in fact intuitively offer different approaches to the material, depending on the group. I might say something like, "for those who like images, imagine a balloon between your thighs, or that you're sitting on a skinny horse; and for the more physically-oriented, open the knees slightly, shift the weight to the balls edges of the feet ... etc.... "

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In agreeing with Ya Mu's point, I like the way a guy I push with puts it: "You want to be the driver, not sitting in the shotgun seat pretending to be the driver."

 

In the context of building on real experience, I often wonder about the role of imagination in creating a functional model. For instance, if you are blind and move into a new space, it takes a good amount of time to learn where everything is and how to operate the hardware one encounters there. Learning those things creates a model of a kind where pathways between different locations all become related to one another. The model sort of "visualizes" the learner as it becomes more complete.

 

Another element I think about is how images pop up as a result of intention. When doing zhong ding excercises, for instance, the focus is on the central axis. The goal is to keep the attention continuous. When the attention is continuous for a sustained period, it sort of attracts things; like fire in the night drawing in creatures lost in the forest.

 

Hmmm, the above is not the clear scientific exposition I was hoping for but it will have to do.

Edited by PLB
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In agreeing with Ya Mu's point, I like the way a guy I push with puts it: "You want to be the driver, not sitting in the shotgun seat pretending to be the driver."

I like that.

 

 

Hmmm, the above is not the clear scientific exposition I was hoping for but it will have to do.

Well, I understood it and I wasn't even paying attention.

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In agreeing with Ya Mu's point, I like the way a guy I push with puts it: "You want to be the driver, not sitting in the shotgun seat pretending to be the driver."

 

Even better for the opponent to think they are driving until they realize that you are... too late.

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I now find visualization (along with intellectualization) to be the greatest hindrance to manifestation.

 

 

Curious -- why do you say "visualization along with intellectualization" in the same context? What kind of visualization do you mean?

 

I was partially trained and partially self-trained in assorted visualization modalities, chiefly derived from raja yoga and/or other Hindu methods, before taoism, and later in taoist-proper complex visualization routines that are used in neidan. It is my impression that they are designed, among other things, specifically to break the habit of intellectualization, and are pretty good at that. The Hindu ones are often meant to unify the brain before you attempt unifying the body-mind-spirit, i.e. remove the unfortunate and nearly universal (conditioned and/or developmental) habit of being either a right-brainer or a left-brainer, or in the best of the worst case scenarios, switching from one mode to the other, without ever using the whole brain.

 

So, our typical spiritual seeker or adept will be meditating successfully while sitting meditating, but try to get him to balance his check book in this state, or resolve a dispute. The switch is immediate and, to me personally, often shocking.

 

So, a visualization (the good ones are, like, ten percent visual, ten percent auditory, and eighty percent kinesthetic/sensory) might involve a winter night in your left brain, with sounds, sights, smells, the temperature dropping, the snow melting on your mind's eye's eyelashes, the polar wolves howling at the cold moon -- while simultaneously you unfold a summer afternoon in your right hemisphere, the sun blazing, the flowers fragrant, the birds chirping, the sand under your mind's bare feet so hot you can barely stop yourself from skipping and hopping -- stuff like that.

 

You can't intellectualize this, you can either do it or find out things about your own mind and your own brain you didn't know, the limitations you didn't expect to discover. Personally I never think of anything as "wrong" if that's what it does, reveals more of the real state of you to you. As you practice though, you are beginning to find, after a while, that you are losing these limitations one by one. After a while you can choose your state of consciousness and your state of cognition more and more freely, successfully integrating and gliding through states that used to be resistant to being experienced simultaneously -- e.g. deep and genuine, not fake, peace of mind while you're under attack... no small accomplishment, this one, IMO.

 

And this extends to physical stuff -- e.g., you can be in pain but deliberately choose to know about it, not suppress it, and yet not be bothered by it, because you've deliberately and expertly placed your awareness on whatever else you've chosen to place it on. This is very different from the "skill" of numbing out and becoming unfeeling, flattened sensorily and emotionally. As different as a winter night in Siberia is from a summer day in California. Just switching states at the cost of sensitivity ain't the ticket. Integrating them consciously and by choice, integrating control and spontaneity (sic) -- that's the ticket. Hard to explain, don't know if I'm making sense...

Edited by Taomeow
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