Friday, July 27, 2012

Jung-Joong Dong

"... meditation in Taekwon-do does not mean a total divorce from the world,like a dead body, but rather an active moment to reflect on our past mistakes in silence and in the privacy of our thoughts, and through penitence, to continue our self-improvement towards becoming better men and women. This active thought process in silence is called Jung-Joong-Dong." Excerpt from Jungshin Sooyang.

Jung-Joong-Dong means 'stillness in motion'. This idea of 'stillness in motion' is to keep the mind centered throughout motion, to keep the mind in the gap between thoughts, not to agitate the mind with thinking but to remain in the perpetual Now, purely in the present. Meditation in motion. It is one thing to 'still the mind' while being motionless, it is a whole new challenge to do so while moving, and even more difficult while in combat with another person. Martial Arts can require intense concentration, which can lead to mindfulness. The patterns, or tuls (or katas) are perfect examples of reaching for this state of mind through motion. 

One tenet of traditional Taekwon-do is Guk-gi, or Self-Control. 
I believe Solace is the fruit of Guk-gi.

I worry about the future. This has always been a problem I’ve struggled and battled with. I worry about my financial stability, about my family's health, my kid's schooling, my wife's business, my job, my friends, my relationships, my well-being. And when I allow that rogue beast Worry to roam free, it does nothing but further feed and breed Fear.

Too often I fall into the trap of living in the Past. Analyzing whether this or that choice or decision could have changed where I find myself today. When I open the memories and doorways to the past I run the risk of flooding myself with regret for what might-have-been.
When I spend my energy worrying about Tomorrow and regretful for Yesterday, I do nothing but destroy my Today.
The illusion is that our Today – our Now – is a tiny hairline separating Yesterday from Tomorrow.
The truth of the matter is that there is no future and there is no past, but only an eternally endless Now.
“Alan Watts likened the practice of living from our center to martial arts, where we are encouraged to “stay always in the center position, and stay always here”. He says, “If you expect something to come in a certain way, by the time you reposition your energy, it is too late. So stay in the center, and you will be ready to move in any direction”. When living from your center, in the now, he adds, “you stand a much better chance of being able to deal with the unforeseen than if you keep worrying about it”  Candance B. Pert, The Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (New York: Touchstone, 1997), pg. 27

I have found practicing the Tuls (patterns) in Taekwon-do extremely “centering” and a near form of Meditation. The concentration and focus clears the mind, forcing me to forget everything but the Now, returning the balance. I do not miss the point of every pattern begins in one position and returns to this same position. A centering. A balance point.

I believe General Choi (Taekwon-do's founder) deliberately encouraged this symbolism of centering; reigning in our runaway imaginations – not dwelling on the past and not worrying about the future, but always returning to this state of centeredness.
I believe the trick is to borrow this learned wisdom as we practice it in our patterns and apply it to our lives on a daily level. It can only make us better and stronger.

I do not believe it is only through Martial Arts that this Jung-Joong-Dong can be practiced. A common misconception is that meditation must be done sitting. Many meditations can be practiced while active. One simple activity is the act of walking. Since walking is something we do everyday, walking meditation gives us ample opportunities to practice.

Begin by quieting your mind and connecting with your body's sensations. Begin with a natural upright posture, with the arms hanging naturally at your sides. Allow your eyes to gaze at a point about five feet in front of you and ground level, while maintaining a straight spine with your head upright, as if suspended by a string. Don't just breathe in, but inhale your surroundings and environment.

Walk gently, at a regular pace. Feel your feet roll onto and off the ground and be aware of contact your feet make with it. I have a good amount of river stone in my backyard - an area we refer to as our "Zen Garden". I very much like walking in this part of the garden barefoot. Walking on 3/8" river stone isn't painful but neither is it comfortable. My wife won't walk barefoot on it and cannot understand why my daughter and I enjoy it. I enjoy it because it makes me consciously aware of the simplest act of walking. It should be similar to walking barefoot on the beach by the ocean. You need to feel the sand and water with your toes.

Your breathing should be synchronized with your steps. I find inhaling on one step and exhaling on the other far too quick. I find it much more comfortable inhaling through 2 steps and exhaling through the next two. Be aware of your steps, your breathing, the flow and shifting of your weight, the slight pause between the steps, the sway of the arms...

But what is the point of all this? What is the purpose of Jung-Joong-Dong? Why is it beneficial to practice "stillness in motion" rather than not practicing it at all?

Like Guk-gi (self-control), its fruition is solace. Inner peace. Peace of mind. Its truest test and its greatest need is not when we are calm and taking a pleasant stroll, but when we find ourselves at our worst. When the world around us has crumbled into chaos. Those moments when you are constantly chasing your problems. When you feel like crying into your hands. When the shit truly hits the fan. Those terrible times when we just want everything to stop and curl up in a fetal position under our bedsheets. This is the truest test and greatest need for Jung-Joong-Dong. We've all been there before, and we'll all find ourselves there again. I think we all know this. I believe we avoid thinking too much about it. Maybe even at times deny it. Out of sight, out of mind.

But the more familiar we are with Guk-gi and Jung-Joong-Dong, the less of a stranger we
are to ourselves and the more solace we will have discovered.

Once we tap into that reservoir within ourselves, the less catastrophic events around us might become.
That day we fear - when everything truly breaks down - may never come.

Jung-Joong-Dong; "stillness in motion" should not be a goal we aspire to attain, but an ongoing process that continually grows and enriches us. It will at times be shockingly successful and on other days a failure.

I am by no means a Master in this in any stretch of the imagination, but there is one thing I have learned;
That I am an infinitely boundless source of solace. It is only my fear that limits it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Atangana, Jihad, and Sexiness

I think many Buddhists may have got it right.
Peace of mind; solace for oneself first. True compassion for others can only follow after compassion for oneself. Legitimate compassion for others should not have any sort of self-serving or hedonistic motives behind it. (for example, Salvation).

I think this is where the Anglo-Catholics, the Evangelical, Fundamentalists, (Extreme) Calvinists, the Born-Agains, and a great many "right-of-moderate" Muslims have been led astray. (I suppose - ultimately - I am speaking of the belief in Total Depravity).

For those in Christianity who cling to a historical or a literal interpretation of Original Sin, true peace of mind and solace can be a near impossibility. For those who believe we are all born into sin and corruption and remain that way until proclaiming Christ as Lord and Saviour - but are still never-the-less unworthy - I cannot fathom how they could attain solace. (Yes, I know of some who "never-frown", but I believe this is little more than a mask of pretension and ritualized denial). I also firmly believe without solace, true compassion for others is difficult if not impossible.

I have long since come to the conclusion that a literal (or possibly historical) interpretation of Original Sin need to be completely abandoned.

I agree with Lao-Tzu and the author of Taekwon-Do's Jungshin Sooyang and Mencius that man is inherently good. That's not to say we are immune to greed, temptation, or corruption. I believe that is the greatest internal struggle we can combat. It is also why I very much like and have hope for one particular interpretation of Islam's doctrine of Jihad. That Jihad is not a Holy War against others, but a war battled and waged within oneself.

I think there is a simply profound wisdom in this.
"Wisdom (Ji). The ability to judge right from wrong, not especially in matters concerning the right and wrong of others but in matters concerning oneself." Excerpt from Jungshin Sooyang.
I think that many 'right-of-modeate' Muslims miss this wisdom as well. The recent incident of the Toronto street Cleric, Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana, and his belief that Canadian Law should inhibit women's choice of dress - as those who dress too sexily or provocatively are the cause of crime and rape. As insulting as this is to women it is more insulting to men, that we should be some kind of uncontrollable (but perfectly unaccountable and excusable) animal.

I think Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana would do well to abide by Jungshin Sooyang's definition of wisdom and take a long hard look at himself. Maybe his own religion's doctrine of the internal Jihad would serve him well.

I know when I see a sexy woman dressed provocatively, I'll admit, my mind might wander, but one of the last thoughts is one of rape. If this is a demon that Atangana struggles with then maybe he should confine himself away from society until he can come to peace with his internal conflict.

This concept of an internal Jihad (strongly) suggests that within us is a good nature and that the struggling conflict is one fuelled by wisdom (our ability to judge right and wrong within ourselves).
I find this hopeful. It is an idea I am willing to synthesize.

As hard as I may be on Christianity at times, I find this same wisdom present in it as well, and that gives me more hope.

I think Rob Bell put it best in Velvet Elvis.
"Is the greatest truth about Adam and Eve and the fruit that it happened, or that it happens? This story, one of the first in the Bible, is true for us because it is our story. We have all taken the fruit. We have all crossed boundaries. We have all made decisions to do things our way and then looked back and said to ourselves, What was I thinking? The fruit looked so great to Adam and Eve for those brief moments, but the consequences were with them for the rest of their lives. Their story is our story. We see ourselves in them. The story is true for us because it happened and because it happens. It is an accurate description of how life is. The reason the stories in the Bible have resonated with so many people over the years is that they have seen themselves in these stories." Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, pg. 58-59

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope

I have always believed people are inherently good, not corrupt; not fallen.
But when we see statistics that suggest number like 12% of all internet website are porn, or 25% of all searches are for porn, or 35% of all downloads are pornographic, it would seem to suggest otherwise. (However, these numbers are extremely difficult to accurately nail down. Not to mention that we are assuming that this desire or need for porn is a sign of not being inherently good or fallen, which it does not).

However, I have recently found othewise.
I have inadvertently done a sort of survey.
In December of 2011 I posted XXXmas: Porn for The Soul on this blog site.
I had thought that it would have been bombarded with hits, considering the term XXX and the word porn were in its title.

Overall, it has received slightly over 1 ½ % of my blogsite's traffic.

Incidentally, in May, I had posted Dharma-Ocean.
Since it has received over 28 % of my entire blog's traffic, most specifically with the word ocean.

Needless to say I was surprised, but happily so.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is Atheism another form of Fundamentalism?

The recent announcement from the CERN of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle - also known as the "God-particle" - has lead to some interesting conversations with friend and co-workers over the past few days. One particular comment that has stuck with me as being rather odd is, "Science wins! The Atheists were right!" The assumption being that Science and Atheism are one in the same thing. (And although I would very much like someone - oh, I don't know... Stephen Hawkings maybe? - to explain the deeper significance of this discovery in layman's terms, I am by no means convinced the discovery of the Higgs boson particle argues in either direction for or against the existence of a God. It is no difference than the possibility of a Multiverse. It just adds another level to the chicken-and-egg dilemma. Maybe finds an explanation for the Anthropic principle, but little more).

Atheism is a belief-system, a religion of sorts, based not on fact or empirical evidence but on choice of belief. As its core it is a faith-based system of belief, no different than many other religions and subject to the same dangers, risks, fundamentalism and closed mindedness.

Atheism is not Science and Science is not atheistic. Although they can be compatible, they are not mutually dependent.

(On a side note, please allow me to be up front and clear on an issue. I do not have an ulterior motive or agenda. It is not my desire or purpose to undermine Atheism. I have no problem with Atheists and no problem with the position of Atheism. My issue, my problem, deals with the dangers of Fundamentalism within any Belief-System or Religion. The most dangerous position is one that doesn't even acknowledge its possibility to include a fundamentalist aspect, but simply presumes itself to be right and superior. Arrogance and Ignorance go hand-in-hand.)

Science is an indifferent process of intellectual discovery, as useful to those with faith as those without it. Atheism is an interpretation of that science which declares Divinity, Universal design, and religion, to be nonsense.

Not all scientists are atheists, and not all atheists are scientists. Science itself can make no judgement about Divinity primarily because it is limited to that which it can verify by theory and experiment, and its tools are not subtle enough to detect consciousness apart from the biological organism manifesting it, making it impossible to verify any form of life other than visible and biological, and secondly, because it cannot detect about 95% of the Universe at all. Therefore atheism is only a construction of minds disposed to that conclusion, and is indeed a belief system.

Most knowledge is acquired through academic study (theology fits within this category, whether theists like it or not). It is learning from our predecessors and ancestors; hopefully acquiring their learned and experienced wisdom.

But there is another kind of knowledge; Spiritual Knowledge and the most amazing and revolutionary thing about spiritual knowledge is that we can acquire it through contemplation - not only attaining wisdom on our own, but outside of an institution of study and free of its biases, influences, authority structure and potential manipulations.

I think this is why those with spiritual knowledge - the spiritually powerful - are nearly by definition "loose canons". (Let's be careful here and not confused religious knowledge and the religiously powerful, or, on the same note, let's also not confuse this with what some Christians may refer to being "spiritually powerful" as being a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit. No, none of these).

Atheism is itself a Belief-System and as such Atheism is not immune to the plagues of religiosity and fundamentalism. But on that same note, Atheism is also not exempt from a spiritual aspect and the acquirement of spiritual knowledge. Although the terms and terminology used may vary greatly.

The spiritually powerful are those that, I should think, institutions cannot control. I would think those with spiritual wisdom hold and maintain a sort of balance between what they know and believe, and doubt. They know that Doubt is not something to be feared or extinguished, but something to be embraced and nurtured.

It should be well worth while exploring the nature of what "spirituality" looks like within Atheism. It also cannot be denied that Atheism contains wisdom we would all do well in learning.

We actually need intelligent doubt and skepticism. They protect us against mistaken views and propaganda. They protect us from the mindlessness of fundamentalism. A healthy dose of doubt and skepticism will lead us to authentic knowledge which turns out to be wisdom in the end.

Certainty should not be synonymous with Faith.
Faith is not the opposite of Doubt.
In fact, I would argue that Doubt is not the antithesis of Faith at all, but that Certainty is.

Historically the spiritually powerful challenge, threaten (directly or indirectly), and even at times, break institutions. They are the catalysts of change. (Think of Yeshua of Nazareth, the Buddha, Martin Luther). The same cannot be said for the religiously powerful with their academic knowledge. These tend to 'toe the line' and maintain the status quo.

To bastardize a quote from V is for Vendetta,
"People should not be afraid of their ideologies, or beliefs.
Their beliefs should be afraid of its people".

I think that is the basic difference between the religious and the spiritual. The religious are frightened of their beliefs because their beliefs cannot be questioned. The spiritual are not frightened to question their beliefs and therefore threaten it with change and potential growth.

To the fundamentalist, their truth, knowledge, and beliefs are fixed and static.
To the spiritual, their truth, knowledge, and beliefs are progressive.

...Maybe Atheism itself is a fundamentalist position. After all, the type of Atheism that I am speaking of, the sort of open mindedness (maybe even watered down) version of Atheism may be more than just a tolerant passive sort. It may very well be Agnosticism.

Can any belief-based system truly include Doubt?I've always liked saying that I would rather have a Faithful Doubt than a Doubtful Faith, but can this be practically true?