I believe I have stumbled on what I have been searching on for a lifetime, the materials pointing the way to “enlightenment” through the Body Center. They are, of course, also the secrets to the highest “magical” development of martial arts, too, which I have never stopped looking for.

The Sufis advocate development of the three centers of the human being: head, heart, and body. The group I was initiated into, the Naqshbandis, is known for “sending” its dervishes to “outside” experts for various kinds of training.

In my case, for my head center, to the work of A. H. Almaas, a very subtle and deep investigation in the nature of reality. For my heart center, to meetings and initiations (darshans and shaktipat) with mostly Indian avatars and bhakti-type experts.

The body center issue was the biggest one, since I basically have ignored it.

I have been investigating a program of Taoist Qi Gong and Nei Gong techniques based on the work of B.K. Frantzis, who teaches the whole spectrum of Taoist body and mind work (and who is the teacher of my [former] acupuncturist). At the very least I hope to sensitize myself to my body’s feedback; to be a successful fat person, you have to learn to ignore the screams of your body, so I hope to undo this maladaption over time. Plus Frantzis claims that Qi Gong alone brings mental and physical health, so that’s an attraction for me.

I can only hope that my Sufi experiences and binaural-beat mind training support me in the Taoist work; I don’t have a lifetime to spend on it. Like the Sufis say, preparation is everything, so you have to be present when the opportunity opens. Fortunately, the Sufi path does this and sensitizes you to opportunity.

I see that Taoism shares, with Scientology and A.H. Almaas’s  Diamond Approach, a very important principle: working on what comes up, rather than following a conceptual road map laid down by tradition or expectation. It is very important because in the beginning of the Journey you can be deceived, and later you can fall in love with the Path itself and linger too long in places where you need to move on, or even if you need to switch to Mind or Heart Work.

In Scientology, the “File Clerk” is said to bring up the next thing to work on after some particular incident or incidents are “cleared”. In Sufism, divine grace, or Baraka, is said to lead you from area to area. In Taoism, the Tao itself shows up problem areas in the body (or bodies…) to work on; as one sensation diminishes another is revealed.

In the Diamond Approach, the Path is watching the content of one’s consciousness, discovering the Truth by seeing through successive layers of interpretation to the Reality underneath it. These more subtle layers represent more and more tightly integrated and therefore less visible layers of concepts and beliefs that need to be examined and ultimately disregarded in pursuit of more subtle Truths yet.

I can’t speak to the Heart Path, but the Body Path of the Tao is likewise an exploration of (at first) gross, and then more subtle, disturbances in the bodies: first, the physical body, then the chi body, then the emotional body, then the mental body.

There are four more bodies in the Taoist Path, but they represent the “upper division” of work in much the same way that the Sufi Path starts with the “Journey to Truth”, moves into the “Journey within Truth”, and then undertakes the “Journey from Truth”.  Likewise, the Zen Buddhists have the parable of Taming the Bull.

All these paths lead from ordinary existence, to realization (enlightenment), then to the unfoldment of the implications of enlightenment, then away from the Absolute back to the ordinary world of men, having integrated all of reality into one’s very being – and once again an apparently ordinary person, but containing an entire universe within. Magicians perform magic; sorcerers ARE magic.

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.

Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs? I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I visit the wineshop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.

My Master Shaykh Nazim says that on the Naqshbandi Path, instead of experiencing all the wonders of development as one goes up the path, our work digs away the dross “from behind”, so that after years of patient work the last barrier in front of you collapses and you see the whole Path all at once before you, completed without your knowledge of your progress.

But from my point of view, Taoism is set apart from Sufism and Zen by having specific techniques to deal with issues, rather than generalities. Some Sufi turuq have exercises, but for the most part dervishes are told to simply follow Koranic law. Why aren’t a billion Muslims enlightened then?  And the Diamond Approach has exercises of its own, some that I know are taken from Scientology, and others that are from Taoism. Unfortunately, it costs a fortune to join a Diamond Approach group, with its five-year commitment to weekly one-on-one meetings with a therapist, monthly weekend-long groups, and a two-week retreat in the Summer.

So Taoism, with instructions that a 10-year-old can follow, looks like a viable path.

Finally, I have several reasons to believe that I can use practice time more effectively than a novice might.

First of all, I have 20 years of under-the-conscious-radar training from the Naqshbandis, and I know that some of the work we do there is directly applicable to Taoism. Maybe more than some; I don’t know yet, and won’t until I get the practices down pat.

Secondly…I must ask you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and go off with me into Zelazny-land.

The first volume of B. K. Frantzis’s comprehensive set of books about Taoism explains that there are two Taoisms: the Water Method, and (surprise) the Fire Method. The Water Method is circular and releases stress; the Fire Method is linear and uses power and focus to push head-on against obstacles. Frantzis somewhat shamefacedly admits that he spent years in his youth working with the Dark Side…um, the Fire-Path, as he had no knowledge of the Water-Path. And he says that often practitioners will start with the Fire-Path and then switch to the Water-Path, which alone can rejuvenate and protect.

In actuality, the Fire Method is not Taoism at all; it consists of trying to arm-wrestle the Tao into submission. But the Diamond approach demands love of the Truth and adherence to it; Islam requires submission to the Will of Allah, through your love of the Face that He turns to you; and the Water Method succeeds by moving into greater and greater harmony with the Tao.

I was stunned to read, in Frantzis’s book, a rundown of the problems that Fire-Path Taoists encounter, and the danger of frying your nervous system without the safeguards of the Water-Path. Specifically, humans need to raise chi from the Earth and pull down chi from “heaven”, but the Fire Path only pumps it up from the Earth while the “heavenly” chi is necessary to fortify the nerve channels and to flush out stagnant chi.

His book does not talk about the aspects of my experience that deal directly with spiritual evolution; that is an “upper-division” topic in Taoism, but not for the Sufis. My experience with them has given me a working model of what that evolution is like, and I have experienced it since I was a baby. I remember where I came from, and I can still return to that place for short periods of time, by burning huge amounts of energy.

Taoists do not consider that reincarnation into human form is automatic. Instead, they believe that you need to achieve a minimal level of spiritual cohesion to return with memory and being intact.

My new model of myself is that I was a Fire-Path practitioner in an earlier life, who succeeded in achieving enough “development” to retain some “magic” into this incarnation, but whose karma was so bad that it brought paralysis and impotence in this lifetime. I know that this sounds crude and superstitious, but I want to test this any way that I can – for it explains too much that nothing else comes close to describing.


About Mike MacLeod

At large
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