Evolutionary biologist Professor Lieberman, at the end of his book, The Story of the Human Body, says, ‘Just as this is not the best of all possible worlds, your body is not the best of all possible bodies. But it’s the only one you’ll ever have, and it’s worth enjoying, nurturing, and protecting. The human body’s past was moulded by the survival of the fitter, but your body’s future depends on how you use it.’
Renowned psychologist, Dr. Brian Little, a fellow of the Well-being Institute at Cambridge University encapsulates all humankind when de states,
“Every person is, in certain respects,
like all other people,
like some other people,
and like no other person.”
When it comes to meditation and our experience of it, it is possible to mirror his words,
“Every person’s experience of meditation will be, in certain respects,
like everyone else’s (because we share the same evolved human body),
like some other meditators (we will share similar responses),
like no other meditators (because of how our own body evolved).
From my first experiences of sharing meditation practices back in the 1970’s to the classes I teach now I concur with both Professor Lieberman and Dr. Little. This is my only body so why would I create problems for it and not do my best to look after it? If for 2.5 million years part of everyday human life evolved to include regular periods of relaxation in order to keep the body healthy why would I not include them in my everyday life? Why would I want to evoke the consequences of not being healthy?
As a young Physical Education teacher, I loved physical exercise. I remember at the time hearing the words of the brilliant British athlete, Lillian Board. She explained that for her, daily physical training was as natural a part of everyday life as eating and drinking. For me they were not only influential words in relation to taking regular physical exercise but also formed the foundation to how I approached meditation. Meditating each day became as natural as eating or drinking and requires no effort. As we’re humans we give it a flash name, meditation, but we can see our fellow mammals, like our dogs, our cats, just get on and practice it daily.
Contemplating the information on this website is a little bit like finding a 5000-piece jigsaw with no picture showing what it is. Through adding piece by piece, we begin to get a better understanding of what the jigsaw is showing until eventually we end up with a mirror image of ourselves looking up at us. The problem with this particular jigsaw is that we will often lose pieces, even ones we have already placed. Hopefully though as we add piece after piece we create a picture of how our own systems operate and influence how we feel, think and behave and through that knowledge we become more self-empowered. We do need to be aware however that some of the pieces have yet to be made and we will only be able to add them to the picture at some point in the future.
As you wade through this remember these descriptions will never give justice to the feelings of calm, contentment, vitality, joy or bliss which can be attained during a meditation! I appreciate that there may be a little more here than you expected, so do take breaks, walk the dog, watch a film, eat chocolate!
Up until the last 40 years or so our understanding of meditation has come down through various traditions such as the Indian, Buddhic or Chinese systems (and there are many more), being passed down from one practitioner to another. Today though this body of information has been added to through the tremendous advancement of technology. Yes, the result is that our understanding of how the human body functions and responds to meditating has grown exponentially. There is so much information a person can refer to, this website is only just scratching the surface; for instance, in an article called “Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials”, (2003), the World Health Organisation cited 240 pieces of research into the effectiveness of acupuncture alone. In the intervening time what will that number have grown to now?
The foundation of Activated Chi Meditations lies in the same Chinese tradition which looks at the underlying energy systems of the body used in acupunture. The beginning of this foundation was established in what is often referred to as “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon” created nearly 5000 years ago; to put that in context it was at the time of the earliest constructions at Stonehenge. Since then they have been observing and recording in detail the effects of their practices, honing their accuracy.
(The words of Seneca~4BC to 65AD, Roman poet, dramatist, & statesman)
What I hope this website will help you achieve is a basic understanding of how your inner systems, such as your brain systems, work. Having some understanding of these systems gives us the chance to grasp why we feel, think, and behave the way we do and if we choose, what to do to help ourselves. Over the past 15 to 20 years there has been a significant shift in the number of people wanting to learn how to meditate due to increased levels of stress, higher rates of anxiety, feeling depressed or a combination of these. There can be many reasons and combinations of reasons as to why a person is experiencing such situations and there are a variety of ways in which a person can find help to alleviate them, of which meditation is just one.
Dr. Little’s and Professor Lieberman’s words is that even though each of us, because of evolution, have the same internal structures because they are complicated and diverse in their interaction our responses to events, situations will be distinctive.
What I hope these notes will show is that there is a growing understanding of how our internal systems effect the way we feel, think and behave. Understanding how these systems affect us, enable us to make decisions on what we can do to help ourselves in terms of our health and well-being rather than feeling we are unable to make changes for ourselves.
Up until the last 40 years or so our understanding of meditation has come down through various traditions such as the Indian, Buddhic or Chinese systems and there are many more. Today though this body of information has been added to through the tremendous advancement of technology resulting in our understanding of how the human body functions and responds to meditating growing exponentially. However, with the amount of research out there this is still only scratching the surface; for instance, in an article called “Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials”, (2003), the World Health Organisation cited 240 pieces of research into the effectiveness of acupuncture alone.
The foundation of Activated Chi Meditations lies in the same Chinese tradition which looks at the underlying energy systems of the body. The beginning of this foundation was established in what is often referred to as “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon” created nearly 5000 years ago; to put that in context it was at the time of the earliest constructions at Stonehenge. Since then they have been observing and recording in detail the effects of their practices, honing their accuracy.
We need to understand that the mode our brain systems are predominantly operating in determines how we are likely to react to the situations we find ourselves in. We will see that some neuroscience researchers even go as far as to say that we do not make conscious decisions because the subconscious is vast compared with our conscious self.
So, I cannot make the assertion that meditation will have brilliant results for you; I don’t know how your inner structures are operating. What I can do is show what recent research has identified and the ancient traditions such as the Chinese Tradition, have learned over countless years of practice; observing its results.
While, these words, taken from the classic Huai-nan-tzu, an ancient Chinese text written in the 2ndCentury BC, encapsulate much of our approach to meditation.
“When one masters the internal, the vital organs are in perfect harmony and the mind is calm. One gains clarity and insight, and develops a firmness and strength that do not falter. By mastering the internal we master the external.”
It sounds very positive but it needs to be understood that meditation is not a quick fix. If we look at the meditation traditions across the World we don’t find people described as gurus or masters saying, “Yes and I achieved all this in two weeks!”
As Professor Daniel Pick in discussion with Professor Stephen Frosh in the BBC Radio 4 programme entitled, Freud For Our Times, make clear, yes, some people may experience an improvement in the short term it doesn’t mean that the change will be permanent. Neuroscience research included within these notes will explain how once a neural pathway has been created it cannot be uncreated. This means that there is always the potential that we can reactivate feelings, thoughts, behaviours from the past, in the present moment. If these are positive joyous ones excellent but if they are not, then not so good! A person who has been experiencing disruptive feelings, such as anxiety, for many years maybe decades, will not be able to undo such feelings in just a few weeks. It’s simple common sense! So, we make no promises but will encourage and support.
Because of the way our systems evolved, you, me, we all have internal systems which know how to relax and find inner calm. However, because of the complicated and diverse interactions between these systems it can be quite a voyage of discovery to create such a state, but so self-empowering. If you have success it’s because you have made it happen. Meditation isn’t about avoiding feelings, thoughts which potentially may have negative effects upon our health and well-being; it’s much more about the enjoyment of creating for ourselves the positive effects; they are far more alluring!
One winter just on 20 years ago, I contracted pneumonia resulting in some scaring to my lungs and my medical practitioners advising me to let go of teaching in case of further infection. It was during my period of recovery that I began to explore the Chinese tradition to meditation to see if this could help me regain my health. After two years the specialist consultant I saw at the Queen Elisabeth Hospital, Birmingham, advised that whatever I was doing to help myself I should keep doing it as my recovery rate was 3 years ahead of what he expected. That was enough for me to decide to explore further the Chinese tradition, to learn from their experience.
One of the things I really like was their focus on an integrated wholistic approach, something I had learned about in the courses I had studied at Warwick Hospital in the late 1980’s. So, for Activated Qi Meditations it is important to work with every aspect. None is more important than another because they all affect each other. Focus on just one area and naturally the others will impede a person’s ability to progress. It’s a little like the psychology of mathematics as described by Shuard and Williams, if you don’t get all the foundation pieces right then later on development will begin to crumble. The thing about the four areas we work with is that they all form part of the foundation and they all form part of what that foundation grows into. They are;
- The Physical Element
- The Emotional Element
- The Energetic Element
- The Consciousness Element
We finish every class with a few moments honouring the others in the class for what they have achieved and then ourselves because to be successful when meditating will upset our internal status quo. Our subconscious doesn’t necessarily like change as it uses up extra energy, energy it perceives as being necessary for survival. Unless there is actually a bear in the room we have to persuade the subconscious that it really is okay to relax and change. That takes courage and determination. If our feelings, thoughts and behaviours have been a certain way for some time it takes patience and focus to allow ourselves to become something else, where our strong, kind, calm and peaceful self predominates.
If you are new to meditating and your family, friends or colleagues want to know what it is about. The following ancient tale handed down from generation to generation may help explain.
“We are all well thank you,” he answers, “and tell me how's your son? Is he still unemployed?"
"Yes, he is. But he is meditating now."
"Meditating? What's that?"
"I don't know. But it's better than sitting around doing nothing!"