Many of us have, at some point or another, been captivated by a good kung fu series on TV or read a manga that had characters able to perform superhuman feats with their minds as well as their bodies.
When I was little, my favourite was “Fist of the North Star”, written by Buronson and illustrated by Tetsuo Hara.
The average human only uses 10% of their brain’s potential and a fraction of their physical potential.
On the contrary, all the main characters in the story, villains and heroes alike, had spent their youths undergoing the most rigorous training, but at the end of many gruelling years, they had attained.
They had superior sensory ability and a sixth sense that allowed them to predict events and second guess ordinary people.
Just like the Jedi in Star Wars, their minds could perceive events happening far away as disturbances in the force.
They were emotionally strong, fearless, they were calm under pressure and spoke only the right amount, if not less.
They had superior speed, strength, precision and of course, they could singlehandedly defeat dozens of ordinary men at the same time.
Works of fiction aside, the human brain is a very powerful instrument, capable of great feats, when in the higher states of consciousness, its potential is phenomenal.
How can these states of consciousness and their hidden power arise?
The secret lies in the body, sharpened as an instrument able to grow and optimise the flow of energy within it.
The body’s energy signature
The energy spectrums of our bodies, our biological function, hide the inner voice that knows the truth about ourselves and about the here and now.
Imagine a world where people had long, flowing hair that had a life of its own and changed behaviour according to whether the person was grounded, happy, distracted, confused, stressed, anxious, angry, horny or something else.
Imagine seeing people in the streets, with their inner state revealed by their hair.
Hair flowing around left, right and centre and the average person can’t do anything about it, some have somewhat messy hair, others have hair writhing like a drunk snake.
Imagine also seeing some whose hair is actually under control. Flowing, taut, relaxed, weighty, unaffected as if they had superior awareness and control.
If you can imagine all this, you can imagine how our life force behaves, under the influence of external and internal stimuli, but instead of flowing from the scalp, it flows from the electrical network of our bodies.
The journey of empowering the psyche begins with the awareness of the life force, the cultivation of its flow and the resulting transformation of the mind and physical health.
When our life force is routinely in turmoil, parts of the body become energy hotspots and burn out. Others become stale energy pools and become sick.
The state of consciousness we are in, is a minute by minute product of the flow of our life energy, if the life force is tuned, taut and resonant, it will express an equanimous mind, otherwise it will express a dysfunction that it’s already expressing in the body in ways unseen.
The chemistry of consciousness
A state of consciousness is the cognitive side of a psychosomatic state resulting out of the chemistry that goes on in the body.
Neuroreceptors and hormones are responsible for high and low states of consciousness.
They stimulate or impede regions of the bodily centres of consciousness. Not only the brain but also the gut, the nervous system, the spine, etc.
The body changes and feels different in different states of consciousness.
In the higher states of consciousness, the physiology is flooded with energy and heat, so that one identifies more with his life energy, now more prevalent than matter in the body. In the brain, the frontal lobe is prevalent over the reptile brain. The latter enjoys a boost of serotonin, so it keeps nice and happy, while the frontal lobe, with plenty of fuel, energy and free from the frustration of the reptile brain, enjoys richer vision and understanding.
In the lower states of consciousness, energy is dim, the energy signature is poor and the individual feels weighed down, with matter now prevalent over energy, the reptile brain has the upper hand over the frontal lobe and as a result one’s vision is foggy.
The only point of real spiritual practice is to keep the energy signature healthy and free from distortions (though I prefer the term harmonics) and blockages, since when clean it can be used to see the truth about oneself and the here and now.
Energy blockages and distortions are Just like a fog that impedes the senses, and as a result, our judgement.
Just like fog, it stops us from seeing ahead, it also distorts the reality that is around us.
Imagine being someone who has lived in thick fog their whole life.
What perception of reality can you possibly have? What view of life and of the world?
Our energy spectrum acquires these harmonics through nature, nurture, the emotional level and the psychological one, but also from toxins in our bodies and in our food. These show up later on, on the other side: the emotional and psychological levels.
To get rid of these physical and emotional toxins, a set of practices is needed, that go from the physical disciplines, to nutrition and from life management to daily behaviour.
So the whole point of spiritual practice is to clear one’s energy signature from anything that can cause distortion and then interact with the inner reality that is now visible inside us.
In that sense, when the inner temple is clean, it’s fit to host the manifestation of the divinity within.
The key lies in getting one’s energetic signature into a clean and healthy signal throughout, so that one’s body, now energetically tuned, will do much of the work for us and we can face life as our very best selves.
All of this is to say that, the cultivation of higher states of consciousness is the result of making the body into a suitable environment for them to arise.
Such an environment is one that is well exercised, (mostly) free of toxins and free of micro tensions.
So in essence, personal evolution and happiness depend on making better choices and responding with intelligence, appreciation and strength to life’s situations.
That in turn depends on the higher states of consciousness, which in turn depend on tuning up the body as an instrument to give rise to them.
One key aspect of readying the body for higher states of consciousness is food.
We are what we eat, as the saying goes, because of the nutritional/chemical make up of our food, but also because its energy signature will transfer onto our own.
Food is also the key to a healthy microbiome.
The microbiome is the bacterial flora in our bodies, without which we would die.
Microbes, fungi and archaea actually make up 90% of the cells in our bodies(1). These microorganisms fight a great deal of our battles for health and have a key role in facilitating the hidden operations of our bodies.
Microbiome centred nutrition is all about replenishing the microorganisms we need (probiotics) and feeding them (prebiotics).
Our energy profiles are affected by what we eat and different diets serve different purposes.
If bliss is what you’re aiming for, it’ll be a fairly hungry affair I’m afraid.
The diet for bliss is moderate quantities of fruit, cereals and vegetables. Meals that give the digestive system too much work have to be avoided. You can’t float with a belly full of chips/fries.
Something funny comes to mind: Pythagoras (an ascetic with an ascetic diet) forbade his students from eating beans. An weird notion, I know, but Pythagoras is Pythagoras.
Moderation, as we all know, is also important for a generic, healthy-living diet.
If you always overeat, you will notice that your energy becomes high in density and low in vibration, at the same time your body becomes high in density and low in vibration: fat and sluggish.
Notice how Yogis are often skinny: evidence that their energy has a high vibration.
Other things contribute to a clean energy signature (in fact Gurdjieff called them food as well) such as air, water and surroundings.
Relocating somewhere pretty with pure air and water is bound to do miracles for your vitality and the quality of your spiritual practice.
There is also an argument for an energy rich diet, someone who wants to build their body needs heavier, energy rich food, so will have to compromise on the spirituality in exchange for more earthly objectives.
Nothing stops them from going on their 6 months meditation retreat after they’ve henched up and get the best of both worlds.
Provided that living consciously is made the 24/7 priority, a lifelong path of renunciation of pleasures and modest food, is not superior to a path of building muscle and strength, it’s a matter of choice.
The basic choice is between being closer to heaven or earth.
If you want to be closer to earth, you are opting for a higher body density and lower vibration.
If you want to be closer to heaven you are going for a lighter body and a higher vibration.
Again, nothing stops you from going between one and the other.
For periods at a time you may want to focus on silence, limit food, limit stimuli and breathing, other periods you may want to pursue earthly activities, cultivate the body and enjoying the pleasures of sports, food and sex, all in the context of a life lived in balance, consciously and deliberately.
The cultivation of life force in Eastern philosophy
The most important text I know of that puts the physical energy as the foundation for the growth of consciousness is the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali, from around 500 BCE.
Yoga is the mother of all existing systems of body mechanics, or transcendence through physicality.
All martial arts of the far east, credit Buddhist saint Bodhidarma as their founder, who was a Indian missionary, carrying with him Yoga and Indian martial arts, which in turn spread and evolved in China and the far east(2).
Yoga is not just about postures, in fact it has 8 central tenets, all equally important, but the physical aspect is central.
Yoga doesn’t give you the physique of a body builder, but its physical practice is totally concentrated on making the body into a system where the energy can flow abundant and free and strengthen the mind enough to deal with it.
Similarly, any valid spiritual practice, needs to have at its core a practice to keep the body well toned and exercised.
Patanjali says that the restlessness of the body is an obstacle to achieving clear consciousness. When it is conquered, mind restlessness is half conquered too.
He also says that harsh and irregular breathing and a life determined by harsh and irregular impulses are two sides of the same coin.
As taught by Patanjali, the tendency to allow the mind to brood on evil thoughts, is conquered with strong effort of will.
Patanjali also talks about disability. Physical illness is a significant obstacle to the realisation of consciousness, but one that can be overcome.
Nobody asks for tougher obstacles in life, but when we are faced with them, the reward is greater when we manage to overcome them and continue on our path.
His first step is cleansing the psychic nature from self indulgence.
Wing Chun Kung Fu
If you are a fan of the movie franchise “Ip Man” then you are already familiar with Wing Chun Kung Fu.
Ip Man was the most famous and influential practitioner of this art.
Wing Chun kung fu is much more than a fighting system. It is a refined treaty on body mechanics, a remarkable philosophy and a bridge between the wisdom of the mind, that of the spirit and that of the body.
To learn Wing Chun means refining one’s own movement, balance and physical awareness to the highest degree, acquiring a high definition picture of one’s own body from the inside and a degree of control over it otherwise unthinkable.
On the surface, the principles of Wing Chun appear to be strategies to destroy your opponent in a fight, but deep inside lies a mind blowing philosophy on how to face life with balance and wisdom.
The point of alignment of the spine and the joints coincides with the angle where you can concentrate your defences and your focus. That point is called the centreline.
In Wing Chun, you seek to gain an angle over the opponent’s centreline, in order to strike with all your concentrated power.
Similarly in life, face what comes with all your focus, even the greatest challenges can be overcome if you attack their weak points with your concentrated might.
Female and male energy
Even a mighty tree can be brought down by the superior force of a great storm.
A reed on the other hand, will bend and when the storm subsides, it will spring back up.
Wing Chun is not based on might against might. If your opponent is charging, there are female energy techniques to get the opponent to overstretch, hitting nothing but thin air and lose his balance.
At the same time there are male energy techniques for when the opponent loses his balance leaving his defences open. That gap is attacked with one’s concentrated might.
It is obvious how this principle is central to dealing with life itself, where there are times to be active and others to be passive.
As Sicilian mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse famously said: “Give me a lever and a leverage point and I will move the Earth”.
In Wing Chun, as in physics, as in life, it’s not how much power you have, but how you use it.
A small bit of it goes a long way. Mastering the art of energy efficiency is the true key to elegance, in both movement and thought as well as action.
There is no way you can control your opponents, if you cannot control yourself.
It will be impossible to make the right decisions if we let fear or stress cloud our minds.
If the clouds of the mind arrive, learn to blow them away and equip yourself with fog lights, they will soon disappear.
Winch Chun allows one to practice the art of facing one’s challenges with total awareness, relaxation and to make the techniques to gain a winning edge second nature.
Emotions can become as unshakeable as a mountain. The key to victory lies in exploiting the weaknesses of your opponent.
In conclusion, the challenges of life, both external and internal, can be both the key to our ultimate success or defeat.
The path to the realisation of our consciousness begins with the body.
We first learn to really get to know our bodies, then to manage the internal energies and to look after our diet.
We learn to keep our impulses in check and we cultivate higher states of consciousness so that our choices are in the hands of our cognitive function, rather than our lizard brain.
We achieve a clear vision of ourselves, the world we are part of and of our path.
We learn to be in control of our choices and actions and ultimately, of who we become.
(1) Rodney Dietert: The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life.
(2) Red Pine: The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma.
Featured Image: Scorpion Pose – Attribution People photo created by yanalya – www.freepik.com
Patanjali – Attribution Lleve, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Ip_Man – Attribution: Dever, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ip Man and Bruce Lee – Attribution: Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons