Over the last 30 years I’ve practiced various forms of static meditation and hatha yoga. On some occasions with quite in-depth practice for more than several hours a day. I am one of those people that once I got into it, had no trouble sitting in meditation for several hours a day, sometimes more.
But like many of the X Generation, I also had quite a hedonist lifestyle. In the 90’s and early 2000’s the “detox-retox” practice of intensive partying (and everything that goes with that) and intensive detoxing; including, meditation, yoga, Kung Fu, dietary changes and abstaining from “naughties” was the norm for me and my peers.
For many people this was okay, they were able to lead a reasonably balanced life and most settled down and got married. This was not the case for me. I was always a deep free thinker with an interest in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, but I would have a little more of a different extreme life than the ascetic monks I read about.
The hedonistic lifestyle works out okay for most if they keep the balance, but I would fluctuate between extremes. From hours and hours of daily meditation to months of weekend binging. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one of the worst at this, but I certainly wasn’t one of the best!
This is quite a generalisation: many who struggle to find the balance in life have either had an extremely disruptive upbringing or have highly addictive personalities (or innate issues) that crave the intense sensations of hedonism, whether they are natural or externally induced. Some have both and that was me. You could say that hedonism, addiction, and sensationalism is a selfish, egocentric lifestyle, well it can be, at least what the person does with the rest of their time and how they treat others can mitigate the sensationalism!
Whether someone does this purely out of ego-desire for pleasure or due to their pleasure receptors desiring (like Dopamine or Cannabinoid receptors) gratification because they have a lack of natural wholesome pleasure in their life is difficult to prove either way.
In the early 2000’s there was some research that contradicted the evidence that rats would just cocaine themselves to death given the opportunity. Two tests were carried out; rats in an empty cage with the choice of cocaine laced water or pure water. The other test was with rats in a cage with all sorts of entertainment for them. Hey presto, the rats in the better environment would only take the cocaine laced water occasionally.
From the age of 23 I had tried very hard to stop smoking and everything else. In fact, I remember telling a friend, that I had stopped all my debauchery by the age of 23. I was convinced at that time I would never indulge again, but within a year or so things gradually started to sneak back into my life. Admittedly some were interesting self-exploratory natural shamanic intoxicants and healers, but not all of them…
I was quite sensitive, so any amount of abuse would have a more significant effect on me, as well as healthy activities having extra positive effects too. For me it was mainly smoking. Although, many countries are now legalising marijuana, and its quite accepted that marijuana is okay, as well as alcohol. But its not okay if you do too much of it or are sensitive to the effects, both drugs can seriously effect judgement and motivation as most of us know, let alone the build-up of heavy toxins in the body that can take years to detox. And for some it is not that easy to stop…
There is a Buddhist saying that says: “Drinking alcohol can lead to breaking all the other lay precepts a Buddhist shouldn’t do…” How any times have we been very well behaved until the second or third drink? Alcohol seriously weakens the resolve, our direction and a pre-existing sense of wellbeing, contentment and balance in one’s life.
The static meditation, whether Buddhist, Hindu, modern western practice or hatha yoga just didn’t quite stop me permanently. Maybe it was a time of my life, maybe it was some near-death experiences that I had that left me weak and made my meditation even less effective.
Or maybe it was the life challenges I was having at that time that made meditation and a few sun salutations or a swim or walk in the park just not quite cut through the mustard for me.
My father was in intensive care unit in hospital for more than five months straight, and as he went to Brighton Hospital, where I was only a few minutes’ walk away, I was his main family carer for this time.
The meditation just opened me up more to the environment I was in without helping me to detox and didn’t give me the strength to manage the physical and mental challenges of caring for a seriously ill loved one while being not in good shape yourself.
Something had to give, and I’m not saying it is the just any practice of Taiji that can do it. You need a good lineage and a good teacher who has learnt from many years of both the theory and the practice.
One who has deconstructed all the myth, “spirituality” and sensationalism of Chi or Qi work and analysed ancient healing martial arts practice within a modern science capability.
I am sure there are some great Yoga teachers out there who can do this. Who understands the science, physical, mental and energetic process of detoxing using this methodology? I would say, in my humble opinion, after some 30 years trying all sorts of meditation, yoga, Kung Fu and other Taiji classes, that none have been as effective as the practice I do now.
Why does this methodology of Taiji work for me?
I believe it’s the combination of utilising ancient knowledge that has been tried and tested for thousands of years and applying modern scientific research to understand how it can work, and why it can work, rather than just believing in myth or what we are told.
The benefit of the Chinese system is that it has been written down extensively and remains a completely holistic system. Where in your regular yoga teacher do you see acu-massage, to release pressure, diet associated with organ symptoms and diagnosis from various key indicators? Let alone the martial application and increased sensitivity and control of Chi…
If your yoga practitioner includes yoga as a part of the “Life Science” of Ayurveda then I would be closer to agreeing that it is a more equal holistic system, but again, there are good Ayurvedic Doctors and less proficient Doctors, even less that practice yoga and meditation themselves and have an authentic lineage written for more than a 1,000 years! My point is its not just the methodology, or lineage, it’s also the quality of the teacher, whether its Yoga or Taiji.
Que the Shaolin Temple and Chen Family Village Lineage. The NHS website attests a lot of health benefit from practicing Taiji (albeit with the caveat that “more research is needed”). I also have extensive details of results from various forms of Taiji and Qi Gong experiments conducted by Chinese universities. Testaments to the efficacy of specific Taiji movements and Qi Gong. For example, by de-classified research documents on the CIA’s website.
For me, only the physical meditative practice of a Chinese martial art that combines utilising detoxing through acu-pressure massage, understanding the bodily and celestial cycles, diet according to organ therapy, breathwork, intention and creating a spiral of movement that replicates natural creative life force was able to transform my life. Maybe as a 30-year practitioner of meditation, it was just the straw that broke the camels’ back?
Now, as a 46 year old, I’m pretty confident I’ve broken the cycle of “detox-retox”, I do have the odd beer every now and then but I don’t often have any processed sugar, rarely tea or coffee, certainly no stronger intoxicants (though I’d never say never 😊). I am enjoying a sensory pleasure created by my own natural endorphins, simply by moving my body and concentrating my mind….
Your teacher and the lineage is essential to any good health and “spiritual” (probably an old word for vibrational or electro-magnetic but that’s another story) – practice…
My teacher is the Vice-Chairman of Internal Medicine (NeiDan) at BeJing University and also a Lay ShaoLin Warrior Monk Initiated in 2001 by the late Abbot Shi SuXie
For more information about my Taiji classes in Brighton and Croydon visit: www.daoyogi.co.uk