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Thread: 10 Questions on the Essence of Spiritual Cultivation

  1. #41
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
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    Feb 2003

    Essence of Spiritual Cultivation: Question-Answer 4


    Question 4

    May you kindly share with us some of the tests and difficulties that you have had in your own path towards Spiritual Cultivation and how where you able to detect and overcome them?



    I understood what spiritual cultivation meant after I had started answering questions form the public, probably in the 1990s. Before that I vaguely confused spiritual cultivation with moral education or with religious knowledge.

    In other words, I thought, wrongly, that a person was spiritually cultivated if he had high moral values, or if he was knowledgeable in religious matters. I later when I realized what spiritual cultivation was, I discovered that while this was often true, it might not necessarily be so.

    In other words, while a spiritually cultivated person often has high moral values, or often knows much about religious matter, it could also happen that a spiritually cultivated person may have low moral values and knows little about religion.

    The three terms are straight-forward, though they may cause confusion sometimes. Spiritual cultivation is cultivating the spirit, irrespective of whether the cultivator has high or low morals, is knowledgeable or ignorant in religion. Moral education is being educated in morals, irrespective of whether the person is spiritually cultivated or uncultivated, knowledgeable or ignorant in religion. Religious knowledge is knowing about religion, irrespective of whether he is spiritually cultivated or uncultivated, have high or low morals.

    A black magician, for example, is highly cultivated in spirit, but he has low morals and may or may not be knowledgeable in religion. A moralist is highly educated in morals but he may not believe in the spirit or in religion. A priest is knowledgeable in his religion but he may be timid which means he is not spiritually cultivated, and he is usually compassionate which means he has high morals.

    Even when I had a clear understanding of what spiritual cultivation was only in my 50s, my spiritual cultivation started early. As a child I was not afraid of ghosts, which meant my spirit was strong.

    When I first learned Shaolin Kungfu form Uncle Righteousness, my siheng, Iron Arm Chiew Shi Khern, taught me the Horse-Riding Stance and asked me to remain at the stance. Then he walked away, probably forgotten that I was at my stance. Stance training was painful, but I endured. After about 10 minutes my siheng came back and saw me still at the stance.

    “Oh, you’re still at your stance. Very good. Now stand up.”

    My legs were so stiff that I could not stand up. I just slumped onto he floor.

    My father’s earlier advice that I must respect my master and seniors, and do what they asked me to do, certainly contributed to my spiritual cultivation. Respecting the master and seniors, and having perseverance in practicing their teaching was moral education, but strengthening the spirit so as not giving up despite difficulty was spiritual cultivation.

    This was one of my earliest tests in my path towards spiritual cultivation, and I am glad I did well.

    Another early lesson and test on spiritual cultivation was in scouting. Scout Law number 8 is to smile at all times even under difficulties. I was on an endurance hike with my school-day best friend, Soon Hoe Choon. We walked along a railway track from Nibong Tebal to Bagan Serai, two small towns in Peninsula Malaysia, mistakenly thinking that was the shortest distance, not knowing that a trunk road, which was certainly more comfortable for waking, was running parallel nearby.

    I was very tired, despite my kungfu training, and each time I stopped to rest, a huge swamp of mosquitoes would gather around us for supper. Despite the difficulties I kept up a cheerful spirit.

    The first time I had an experience of my spirit going out of my physical body was before I even started my primary (or elementary) schooling. I was holidaying in Kuala Lumpur and was sitting a a wooden house in Loke Yew Village right in the middle of the city itself. A cake seller was passing bye and I could hear him calling out his ware. I had an interesting thought of putting myself in another persons’s body. I can’t remember now why I had that funny thought, and on hindsight it was incredible for a small boy of five or six to think this way. I believe my knowledge and skills must be due to my spiritual cultivation in past lives.

    Suddenly, without warning, I found myself out of my physical body. I knew nothing about spirit and body or anything about spiritual cultivation then, at least not in this live. I was afraid. And as suddenly my spirit was pulled back into my physical body.

    Another time I had an experience of my spirit outside my physical body was many years later. I read about developing night vision whereby a practitioner could see clearly even in dim light from a kungfu classic, and decided to try it. Dark in the night alone, I lighted a joss-stick and placed it in a jar in front of the God of the Earth in my house. I sat in a semi-lotus position a few feet away half closed my eyes and looked at the joss-stick in the dim light. After a few breadths where I was gently aware of my breathing, I found myself out of my physical body.

    Again I was frightened, as I had no prior knowledge about the spirit. I was just practicing night vision. The fright instantly brought my spirit back into my physical body.

    A severe test and difficulties I faced in my path towards spiritual cultivation occurred when a chi kung master and some of my own students whom I had nurtured to be masters themselves betrayed me. It was deeply hurting and painful. I remember asking myself many times, especially during long drives alone from Sungai Petani to Taiping to teach chi kung, what wrong had I done that I deserved such betrayals. I also asked Guan Yin Bodh Satt for guidance as well as to give me an answer.

    I received a clear answer. I had done no wrong. I lived an exemplary life, guided by the Ten Shaolin laws. Was sincere in teaching the Shaolin arts, in nourishing students and helping others. I concluded that the test and the difficulties were a necessary developmental stage in the making of a true master.

    This and later betrayals were invaluable lessons for me in my spiritual cultivation. It made me strong. Hence, in the recent betrayal concerning unproven sexual abuse allegedly committed by an instructor who had resigned, I considered it a blessing that those who lacked wisdom and compassion left our school.

    Sifu Mark Appleford

  2. #42
    Mark CH is offline Sifu Mark Hartnett - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Ireland
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    Mar 2005
    One of the most amazing threads to read

    Best wishes

  3. #43
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Alicante, Spain

    Thank you :-)

    Dear Sifu,

    Thank you so much for answering my question. It is always very inspiring and humbling to learn more about your life and the Shaolin Arts and even more inspiring to realise that "the test and the difficulties were a necessary developmental stage in the making of a true master".

    Thank your for your patience, wisdom and compassion in every thought, word and action that you share with all of us.

    I want to also thank Mark Siheng for starting another beautiful thread that will greatly enhance many people's lives. I want to also thank to the participants of this thread for making such meaningful questions.

    With love, care and Shaolin Salute,


  4. #44
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
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    Feb 2003

    Question 5 Q+A

    This answer by Sifu it me exceptional

    Question 5

    We use the terms Martial Art, Eighteen Lohan Art, the Art of Shaolin Kung Fu, the Art of Teaching, the Art of Chi Kung, and the Shaolin Arts. What do we mean by "Art" in this context and how is it similar to and different from "Art" in the sense of poetry, literature, painting, dance, theater, photography, etc.? Also, is Spiritual Cultivation "Art" in either of these senses? Is Zen "Art"?

    Sifu Mark Blohm


    The term “art’ suggests two concepts, namely “man made” and “aesthetic value”. In other words, any work of art is not born of nature, it is man made, and it is generally regarded as beautiful.

    A flower or a sunset is beautiful but it is not an art because it is natural, not man made. A table is made by man, but is not normally considered as an art because it has functional rather than aesthetic value.

    These two attributes, man made and aesthetic value, apply to all arts, including martial arts, Eighteen-Lohan Art, the art of Shaolin Kungfu, the art of teaching, the art of chi kung, the Shaolin arts, poetry, literature, painting, dance, theatre, and photography.

    Of course, the tem “man made” includes creation by women, like Wing Choon Kungfu invented by Yim Wing Choon. The term “aesthetic value” may be subjective. Karate and Taekwondo demonstrated by masters are beautiful to watch. When these martial movements are performed by students learning them, they may look clumsy. We may call them arts only when the students can perform them beautifully.

    Hence, martial arts, Eighteen-Lohan Art, the art of Shaolin Kungfu, the art of teaching, the art of chi kung and the Shaolin arts are arts in that they are man made and have aesthetic value. In this context of being man made and having aesthetic value, they are similar to poetry, literature, painting, dance, theatre and photography.

    But they are different in two aspects. One important aspect is that while martial arts, Eighteen-Lohan Art, the art of Shaolin Kungfu, the art of teaching, the art of chi kung, and the Shaolin arts have aesthetic value, it is their functional value that is more decisive in determining how good the arts are.

    In other words, how good a martial artist is, is not decided by how beautifully he performs his art but how well he applies his art for combat. How good a teacher is, is not decided by how aesthetic his teaching is, but how functional he enables his students to learn. How good the art of chi kung is, is not decided by how beautiful the chi kung forms are but how well these forms enable practitioners to be healthy.

    Another important aspect that differentiate between the two sets of arts is that while martial arts, Eighteen-Lohan Art, the art of Shaolin Kungfu, the art of teaching, the art of chi kung and the Shaolin arts are dynamic, poetry, literature, painting, dance, theatre and photography are static.

    In other words, while martial arts, Eighteen-Lohan Art, the art of Shaolin Kungfu, the art of teaching, the art of chi kung and the Shaolin arts are processes, poems, literary works, paintings, dances and plays are objects, though the act of reading a poem or performing a dance may be a process. In this context, we may classify the art of reciting poetry and the art of dancing, etc in the same category as the art of teaching and the art of chi kung, whereas poetry and dances belong to the other category.

    Following from the aspect of processes versus objects, it the aspect of practice versus admiration. In the first category, practice is necessary to acquire mastery of the art, whereas in the second category it is the large number of admirers that makes a poem, a piece of writing or a dance a work of art.

    In other words, if one wishes to be a master in any art of the first category, he has to practice and practice, not learn and learn, whereas in the second category if a lot of people admire a poem, a piece of writing or a dance, it becomes a work of art. This aspect is important for us. If we wish to become a master of any martial art, Eighteen-Lohan Art, the art of Shaolin Kungfu, the art of teaching, the art of chi kung or any of the Shaolin arts, we need to practice and practice, i.e. going over and over again material that we have already learnt, not learning more and more new material.

    A master of any art in the first category is one who can perform the art very well, not know much about the art in theory. Many people in the West seen to be confused over this aspect. They regard kungfu “masters” and chi kung “masters” as those who know much about the art in theory, even when these “masters” cannot apply their kungfu for combat or are unhealthy. Worse, due to the public’s lack of knowledge of these arts, these so-called “masters” sometimes give misleading or mistaken information about their arts.

    It is also worthwhile to note that even amongst genuine masters, there are different levels of mastery of the art. If one practices correctly and diligently a low-level art for a long time, he may become a master of a low-level art, in contrast to a master of a high-level of the same art even when the high-level master may have practiced for a shorter time.

    For example, a person may have correctly practiced some chi kung dynamic patterns, like Lifting the Sky and Carrying the Moon, for 20 years, and has derived the benefits of his practice like having good health and vitality. He is rightly called a master. But compared to another person who has correctly practiced for 5 years advanced chi kung exercises like Bone Marrow Cleansing and Sinew Metamorphosis, and has mastered them, as well as enjoys their benefits like internal force, mental clarity and spiritual joys besides having good health and vitality, the second master is of a higher level though he has practiced for a comparatively shorter time.

    Needless to say, it is better to be a high-level master than a low-level master. To be a high-level master, one must both learn and practice smartly -- smarter than the low-level master in both the choice of chi kung exercises to learn and the way to practice. The coming UK Summer Camp provides this opportunity.
    Sifu Mark Appleford

  5. #45
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
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    Feb 2003

    Essence of Spiritual Cultivation: Question-Answer 6, Part 1

    Question 6

    Please can you speak on how best to attain the balance between striving to reach one's maximum potential in this life (not necessarily ultimate potential; just making full use of the gift of this life) vs not deviating, overtraining or chasing experiences?

    Sifu Andy Cusick


    An excellent way to get the best results in what you practice, whether it is the art itself or just an exercise, is to follow the five guidelines below:

    1. Have a philosophical understanding of the art or exercise.
    2. Define your aims and objectives in practicing the art or exercise
    3. Learn from the best available teacher according to your resourcess
    4. Practice the art or exercie according to the way the teachers asks you to practice, and not according to what you think it should be practiced
    5. Periodically access your results according to your set aims and objectives.

    Surprising, or even shockingly, not having a philosocphical undertstanding of the art or an exercise is a main reason why more than 90% of martial artists or more than 80% of chi kung practitioners today do not get the benefits of the art or exercise it is supposed to give.

    A martial art, any martial art, is an art that a practitioner can use to defend himself, but more than 80% of martial artists cannot use their art to defend themselves! If they can, they would not take being punched and kicked at for granted in free sparring.

    Chi kung, by its defintition, is an art of energy, but more that 90% of chi kung practitioners today have no experience of energy despite having practiced the art for many years!

    By extension, the same explanation can be applied to any exercise a martial artist or a chi kung practititioner pracrtices in his martial art or in chi kung. But let us take an example each of an exercise in a martial art and in chi kung for better explanation.

    The philosophy behind practicing a kungfu set or a kata in Karate or Taekwondo is to be proficient in the patterns of the set or kata so as to apply them efficiently in sparring. But most kungfu practitioners (outside our school) and most Karate and Taekwondo practitioners not only bounce about and use Boxing and Kick-Boxing techniques when they spar, they do not know even theoretically the combat applications of the patterns.

    The philosophy behind a chi kung exercise is to generate an energy flow so as to clear enerrgy blockage to overcome pain and illness, and to promote good health. Not many people, of course, know this philosophy. Most chi kung practitioners perform a chi kung exercise because it is taught to them by their chi kung teachers. Due to their not knowing the philsoophy, usually they and their teachers perform the chi kung exercise as gentle physical exercise.

    We in Shaolin Wahnam are elite in knowing this philsoiphy. By being elite here means that we constitiute a minute minority of the total number of chi kung practitioners in the world.

    By setting aims and objectives, even informally, the training become purposeful. But most martial artists and chi kung practitioners do not do this. Hernce their training becomes purposeless and haphaharard. If they ever get any beneficial results, i,e, if they are able to use their martial art to defend themselves or able to overcome illness and become healthy, it is incidental and after a very long time.

    Less than one or two in a hundred may attain these benefits, and they will then be regarded as masters, especially when they may need 10 or more years to attain these results. Because set aims and objectives as well as follow the other guidelines mentioned above, we become very cost-effect. We attain similar or better results in far less time. Even our students have the results of masters, but our students are generally not regarded as masters, mainly because they have spent far less time to attain the results.

    Some people say that all martial arts and chi kung, and all treachers are the same. This, of course, is not true. Judo, for example, is very different from Karate, and a teacher who produces results is very different from a teacher of the same art who harms his students.
    Unless they are saints or fools, teacher who produce rrsuilts charge high fees. In fact, as a guideline, if a teacher teaches free or charges low fees, unless he is a saint or a fool, one can reasonably conclude that the art he teaches is of a low level or of no value. Reversely, if you want to get benefits from the art you wish to learn, go to a teacher who charges high fees.

    Compared to the fees mediocre or bad teachers charge, the fees charged by good teachers are high. But compared to the benefits students get from practicing the art, the high fees good teachers charge are actually low. It is far cheaper to pay 100 euros to a teacher who teaches you to develop internal force to enrich your life, than paying 10 euros to a teacher who teaches you free sparring to harm yourself and your sparring partners.

    How does a student know whether a teacher is good or bad? One effective way is to find out whether the teacher can help him attain his aims and objectives. He can learn from the teacher for a period of time to find out. But a smarter way is to access his students who have spent a similar time with him.

    If many of his students have attained similar aims and objectives you have set yourself in learning he is a good teacher. If his students not only do not attain similar aims and objectives (but these students may not have this knowledge and awareness) but also harm themselves in practicing the art, you should not learn from this teacher even when he pays you money instead. This advice is only logical. But it is shocking how many students are actually victims of this unfortunate situation.

    You should not only learn from a good teacher, you deserve to learn from the best teacher within your resources, two of the most inmediate are the time and the fees you are willing to pay.

    Having found a great teacher, or at least a good one, who can help you to attain your aims and objectives in practing the art or exercise, the next logical step, which generally takes the longest time, is to practice the art or exercise according to the way the teacher asks you to, and not according to the way you think the art or exercise should be practiced.

    Again, this is only logical, but again some students, despite their good intention, do not follow this advice. For example, the teacher, who has proven himself to be competnet in sparring, has asked students to practice a combat sequence well, and just apply this sequence on an opponent. But some students, trying to be smarter than the teacher though they never meant it, learn Boxing, Wrestling and Muay Thai techniques and spar like Boxing, Wrestling or Muay Thai exponents.

    The teacher, who is an example of good health and has helped many students to have good health, has asked students not to worry and not to intellectualize during practice, but some students still worry whether the art they practice will give them the benefits they want, and intellectualize on how they can get the best result from their practice, despite the fact that the teacher has told them that even if they get only 30% of the benefits they get during a course with the teacher, they will still fulfil their aims and objectives in practicing the art or exercie.

    The fifth step in the five guidelines to get the best result in one’s practice is to periodically access his results with reference to his set aims and objectives. An aim in kungfu training may be able to apply the techniques he learns in solo practice in sparring. An objective may be able to counter a certain kick. So he just test out his aim and objective with his classmates or with friends who practice other martial arts.

    In chi kung training, an aim may be to have more vitality, and an objective is to overcome a particular illness. Although testing his aim may be subjective, he can generally know whether he has more virtality. Overcoming his illness is objective. He can check with his doctor, or if the symptoms of his illness have disappeared and he feels fine, he may not even have to see a doctor to know that he has attained his objective.

    Failure to achieve one’s aims and objectives in practicing an art or exercise can be traced to one or more of the following three factors:

    1. The art or exercise itself.
    2. The teacher.
    3. The student hinself.

    In our school, our arts and exercises are genuine, and our teachers competent. Both have been time tested. More than 75% of our students derive the benefits the arts and exercixes are meant to give. If students do not derive benefits from their training, it is their own fault.

    And the students’ fault can be traced to one or both of the following two factors:

    1. The students do not practice sufficiently.
    2. The students do not pracrice according to the teacher’s instrutions.

    Related to or issuing from the second of the above factor is that students worry or intellctualize unnecessarily.
    The five guidelines to attain the best results are time-tested. They have anable many people to succeed in their training.

    Indeed, they are so effective that they lead to over-training. Over-training has become an important issue in our school. I believe it is unprecedented in kungfu and chi kung history.

    This does not mean that no one in the past over-trained. But no school has over-trained at a scope and depth as we do. This, I believe, is due to our cost-effectiveness. We are frighteningly cost-effective. Our typical students can attain in one month what even genuine master would need a year to attain. Many people, especially outside our school, may not believe it, but it is true.

    I can attest to its truth from my own personal experience. Those who attain my Intensive Chi Kung Course, even fresh beginners, can generate an energy flow on the very first day. It took me more than 20 years before I had an energy flow like what our typical students do. 20 years may not be a fair comparison because at the time when I learned the Horse-riding Stance, I did not know it was chi kung.

    But I knew “Lifting the Sky” was chi kung when I first learned it. I still took more than a year practicng “Lifting the Sky” to have an energy flow, but it was nothing like the energy flow our students now have. It took me a few more years before I could have a similar energy flow. And energy flow is the essence of chi kung.

    Internal force is the essence of good kungfu. Those who attend my intensive kungfu courses, or even regional kungfu courses, could develop internal force on the very first day! It took me more than 20 years since starting kungfu before I could develop internal force. Again, 20 years may not be a fair comparision because at the time I learned the Horse-Riding Stance I did not know that its primary purpose was to develop internal force. I only knew then that stance training laid the foundation for kungfu training.

    But it took me more than 3 years after practicng San Zhan before I could develop internal force, and I knew that the primary purpose of San Zhan was to develop internal force. (Now I would say “a primary purpose” instead of “the primary purpose” because now I know there are other purposes of practicing San Zhan which I did not know then.)

    Actually it was “One-Finger Shooting Zen” that enabled me to dvelop internal force, and I transferred the skills to San Zhan. I had to practice “One-Finger Shooting Zen” for about a year to feel noticable internal force.

    Based on my own performance and dedication as well as the fact that I had excellent teachers, when typical students in our school now take a month to attain what I took a year, it is reasonable to estimate that other people, including genuine masters, would also take a year. This is actually a conversative estimate, though other people outside our school may say we exaggerate our claim.

    Hence, it is no surprise that many of our students and some instructors over-train.

    What are the signs we can use to say that we over-train?

    Over-training is the result of getting more benefits than our physcial body can cope. The signs are unpleasantlness, nausiousness, tiredness, pain and over-cleansing.

    Over-cleansing, which is a result of over-training, is a process where we clear away rubbish faster than what our physical body can cope. Rubbish includes bad cells, pain, sickness, negative emotions and perverted views.

    The signs or over-cleansing are similar to those of over-training, thus the confusion, such as unpleasantness, nausiousness, tiredness and pain, and may also include rashes, pimples, heavy breadth and body ordour.

    The obvious action to overcome or prevnet over-training is to slow down the training. Slowing doen the trainingt can be achieved in time or intensity.

    If a student practices an hour a session, he can slow down by prcticing just 15 minutes a session. If he practices two sessions a day, he can now practice one session a day. If he practices everyday, now he can practice once in two days or three days. In this connection,

    it is helpful to remind himself that practicing kungfu or chi kung is to enrich his life and the lives of other people, and never to enslave himself to the art. By reducing the time of his training, he now has more time for other worthy activities, which previously he may mistakenly thiought he had no time for, like spending more time with his parents or friends, or just watching clouds passing by in the sky.
    (Part 2 follows later)
    Sifu Mark Appleford

  6. #46
    Andy's Avatar
    Andy is offline Sifu Andy Cusick - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
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    Jan 2006
    A wonderful, comprehensive and step-by-step answer;

    Thank you Sifu, and thank you Sihing for mediating this thread.

    Yours looking forward to Part II,
    Sifu Andy Cusick

    Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
    Shaolin Qigong

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    "a trained mind brings health and happiness"
    - ancient wisdom

  7. #47
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
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    Essence of Spiritual Cultivation: Question-Answer 6 -- Part

    As many of our students and instructors enjoy our training, and also our training time is much shorter than what most other practitioners spend in their training, a more suitable alternative is to reduce the intensity of training to overcome or prevent over-training.

    The very reason why our training is so powerful is because we operate at the mind level. The great majority of other people operate at the form level. Some may operate at the energy level.

    Some people mistakenly think that to operate at the mind level, a practitioner has to visualize. Visulization, while in an intutitive state of mind, is one way to operate at the mind level. We do this, for example, in Bone Marrow Cleansing. But visualization is not the only way. Another way, which is often more powerful, is to go deeply into a chi kung state of mind. Going into a chi kung state of mind, or entering Zen or entering Tao, is what we always do, and is the main reason why our training is so powerful.

    To make our training less powerful so that we do not over-train, we do not go too deeply into a chi kung state of mind. Instead of spending a minute, for example, to eneter into a chi kung state of mind, we just spend a few seconds.

    Or we can just go straight to our exercise without first spending time, even a short one, entering into a chi kung state of mind. Even when we do not purposely enter into a chi kung state of mind, we are still in a chi kung state of mind due to our habit, so we are still practicing genuine chi kung or good kungfu.

    I tried this method at a chi kung course in Madrid recently, and it worked very well. All students, including some fresh beginners, enjoyed an energy flow. It was not as powerful as other courses, but it was still powerful, and more importantly it best su9ted the needs of the students. The students were stil fresh and energetic at the end of the course, not tired and worn out as in some other courses.

    For some students and instrucrors in our school, even not purposely entering into a chi kung state of mind at the start of the exercise may still be too powerful. The next rep, in a descending order of steps described here, is to purposely perform the exerciuse at a physcial level.

    This is akin to but not the same as the step described previous to this one. At the previous step, we did not purposely enter into a chi kung state of mind, but might perform the exerise in a chi kung state of mind due to habit.

    At this step we purposely do not enter into a chi kung state of mind, and purposely perform our chi kung or kungfu exercise at a form level. This indeed is what most people who practice genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu do.

    But this is not what most people who say they practice chi kung and kungfu do. They perform genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu forms as gentle physcial exercise as as kungfu gymnastics. The contstitue more than 80% of chi kung and kungfu practitioners. Less than 20% perform genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu but at a form level. That was also what I did when I took more than a year to generate an energy flow or to develop intenral force.

    When you perform chi kung or kungfu exercise at a form level, you are still performing genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu, and therefore still in a chi kung state of mind -- at lease some of the ime and not too deeply. Our students and instructors would have no diffiuclty in understanding what I explain here. But many other people may not understand though they know the dictionary meaning of all the words I have used.

    Do you know shy? It is because they do not have the experience of what I explain, whereas our students and instructors have. Another way is to say that the problem is due to the limitation of words.

    If a practitioner still finds himself over-training even when he performs the art or exercise at the form level, is to take negative action. He prposely intellectualize or purposely tense his muscles – not all the time but some of the time. When he intellectualizes or tenses his muscles, he brings himself out of the chi kung state of mind. When he is not in the chi kung state of mind, he will not get the benefits of chi kung or internal force which causes over-cleansing in kungfu. At the end of his practice, he must have a short remedial exercise to relax his mind and muscles.

    Besides reducing the level of training so as not to over-train, which is described above in descending order, one can also spend his excess energy in wholesome activiites. He can performs kungfu sets or combat sequences at a form level. He can also spend his time enjoying with his friends, family or with himself, like hiking, swimming, partying, traveling, socializing, reading and writing. He can also spend his excess energy on his work, like moving goods around in a shop or planning a marketing progreamme for his company.

    Deviating is getting harmful effects instead of benefits from one’s training. In a mild form it is not getting the result practicing the art or exercise is meant to give, but not suffering from harmful effects.

    Indeed, getting harmful effects instead of benefits is the main issue of most matial artists today, and many of them may not realize it.

    Two main aims of practicing any martial art are to be able to defend themselves and to be healthy. Most marital artists cannot defend themselves, otherwise they would not be hit and kicked in free sparring.

    Many martial artists become more unhealty the more they train. Some advanced martial artists realize this problem, and they take to Taijiquan hoping to overcome their problem. But unfortuantely they practice Taiji dance instead of genuine Taijiquan.

    Chi kung practitioners also have deviated. They may not have serious harmful effects like matial artists have, but the chi kung practitioners fail to derive the benefits practicing chi kung is meant to give. Even many chi kung “masters’ are routinely sick.

    Both chi kung and kungfu have deviated to a ridiculous extend. Most chi kujg practitioner today have no experience of chi, though chi is what they should work on in their art. Most kungfu practitioner cannot apply their kungfu for combat, though kungfu is an excellent martial art.

    The five guidelines mentioned above will help them to avoid deviation. Even if they do not have a set of elaborate guidelines, they could ask themselves why they practice their art. Finding that they do not get the benefits they should get, they should realize they have deviated, or their art has deviated.

    Even if they do not ask this important question, they should know from direct experience that they have harmful effects or their practice is not bringing them the benefits it gives. If a person has practiced a martial art dedicately and is hospitalized for injuries sustained in his practice, or has practiced chi kung delicatedly and still has to take medication for an illness, it does not deminad much intelligence for him to realize that he or his art has deviated.

    It need courage as well as humblemness to make a change to remediate the deviation or at least stop it. Sadly many martial art and chi kung practitioners lack the courage and humbleness.

    Chasing experiences instead of getting real benefits from the art one practices is not uncommon. Some students asked me, fortunately not many in our school, why they didn’t see colorful lights in their head or feel electric current flowing down their arms. Many years ago a kungfu student asked me how long it took for him to train to be able to jump up a building.

    I told them that these were fanciful experiences, not real practical benefits that we want to obtain from practicing our arts. Real benefits are good health, vitality, longeivity, mental freshness and spiritual joys, and in the case of kungfu to be able to defend ourselves or our loved ones if needed.

    In the case fo the kungfu student, I told him that even if he could achieve the feat of jumping up a building, it was not worth the time and effort he had to put into his training. He could just use a life, or just run up the stairs.

    Apparently my anssers make sense to them. They continued to practice their arts and eventually obtained the practical benefits.

    Having a sound philosophical understanding of how to get the best result and ofdeviating, over-training and chasing experiences, it becomes simple to balance the two aspects.

    In practical terms, we use the five guidelines in our training. Knowing why we dedicate ourselves to practicing our arts will prevent deviation and chasing experiences. When we experience or suspect over-training, we apply the steps described above in desceinding order.

    We are indeed very fortunate that not only we have inherited some wonderful arts but also have sound philosophical undetrstanding to enable us to get the best results from our practice
    Sifu Mark Appleford

  8. #48
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
    Join Date
    Feb 2003

    A bonus Answer from Sifu for Q=A 6

    Supplimentary Answer for Question 6

    After sending to Mark my answer to Andy’s question, I realized that I did not anwer Andy’s question directly. Andy asks my advice on how best to attain the balance between striving to reach one’s maximum potential in this life vs not deviating, overtraining or chasing experiences. But my answer focuses on how to attain the best results in training an art or an exercise vs not deviating, overtraining or chasing experiences. The crucial difference is attaining maximum potential in life in Andy’s question, and attaining the best results in our training in my answer.

    Misreading a question is rare in my answers, and as I don’t think accidents really happen, I consider this incident as divine guidance where we can use this opportunity for improvement. I am sure many peoplw will benefit from reading the answer, so I did not notify Mark immediately. I believe it will also be beneficial to give a supp;imentary answer where I can address Andy’s question directly.

    The same 4 guidelines to obtain the best results in practicing any art can also be applied to obtaining maximum potential in life, but we need to make appropriate modifications.

    Firstly we need to have a sound phiulosophical understanding of what maximum potential in life means. We can realize this guideline by reading good books on life.

    Different writers will give different interpreations of what they consider as the maximum potentiao in life. In our school, our interpretation is to enrich our life and the lives of other people.

    To enrich our life we need to have good health and vitality, mental clarity, a lot of energy, and a good philosophy of life, like realizing that it is wonderful to be alive, and that we are grateful for being living a meaningful life. Our examples will indirectly enrich other people’s life. Directly we are generous to share our philosophy and skills of joyful living with those who are deserving.

    The second guideline is to set aims and objectives in life. The aims and objectives may change according to situations, like availability of opportunities and increase of knowledge or wisdom.

    But generally the many aim and objectives can be reduced to two main categories:

    1. Increase income
    2. Cultivate the spirit

    It is worthwhile to realize that our income is a means to lead the type of life we want to live, and not accumulate money for its own sake. There is abundant evident to show that the fabulously rich are not necessarily happy.

    Of the two aims or objectives, depending on whether we regard increasing income and cultivating the spirit as long-term processes or immediate endeavors, cultivating the spirit is more important. Indeed, increasing income is always influenced by or even directely guided by cultivating the spirit.

    The most basic stage of cultivating the spirit is to be peaceful and happy, and the most supreme stage is to merge with Cosmic Reality, called variously by people of different cultures as returning to God the Holy Spirit, merging witht Great Void, or attaining Enlightenment.

    We are not ready for this most supreme stage though we have the skills and techniques, especially those who have attended courses like Cosmic Breathing, Merging with the Cosmos, Intenisve Chi Kung Course, and the Small and Big Universe Course. So we have a glimpse of Cosmic Realtiy, called a satori or a spiritual awakening, which is life-changing.

    In between these two extremes there are countless stages, and we in Shaolin Wahnam have direct experiences of these stages, like feeling joyful everyday irrespective of rain or shine, having compassion for other people, and feeling happy when others succeed.

    The third guideline is to learn from the best available master according to the student’s resources. As far as I know, there are no schools that specifically teach students to maximize their potential. Our school comes very close, though we are basically a chi kung and kungfu school.

    Our aim, which our instructors are consciously aware of in their teaching, of enriching our lives and the lives of others and not just being good at kungfu and chi kung, set a sound direction for our students to maximize their potential in life. We also consciouusly transfere what we learn in our kungfu snd chi kung lessons to enrich our daily life. Our philosophy that life is wonderful contributes greatly to this purpose. Hence, those who learn in our school are really very lucky.

    The fourth gudeline is to practice what the teacher teaches, and not what the student thinks the practice should be done. By definition, not following this guideline is a deviation.

    Some students and even instructors, despite having the rare opportunity to learn in our school, deviated in this way. Those who have read my autobiography will have read about the many betrayals in the history of our school. I did not mention in the autobiography the follow-up situations of those who betrayed me. But their situations were not good, certainly not examples of maximizing their lives’ potential. The chi kung master who betrayed me died young. The president of Shaolin Wahnam Association suffered from paralysis for many years before he died.

    We wished them well despite their betrayals, but they could not escape their own karma. The Buddha himself said that he could not change bad karma into good one. Do good and goodness will result, do evil and evilness will result, is a universal truth, and this is a guiding principle in our spiritual cultivation. In our school we do good not because we crave for good result, but because we are righteous, we believe it is the right thing to do.

    The fifth guideline is to periodically access the results of our endeavour with reference ot our set aims and objectives. If a person does not attain his aim or objective, his failure can be traced to one, two or all of the folloing three factors:

    1. His philosophy of life.
    2. His (or her) teacher.
    3. He (or she) himself (or herself).

    In our school, as we have a good philosophy of life, and good teachers, the fault is usually the student. And the fault can be traced to one or both of the following:

    1. He did not carry on the required endevor sufficient.
    2. He did not follow the advice of his teacher.

    If he is an instructor and wants to teach a large class to increase his income, he may have advertised his class once a while, but not work on marketing from 9 to 5 everyday for six months. If he is a student and wants to be peaceful and happy, he may have practiced his chi kung exercises learned from our school, but keeps worrying and intellectualizing during his practice.

    Following the above 5 guidelines will enable students to avoid deviation and chasing experiences as well as overtraining in the sense of overdoing a particular activitiy to maximize his life potential to the extent of missing the benefits or even bring harm to himself.

    For example, instead of enjoying wholesome hobbies, a person starts drinking and womanizing, it is a deviation from maximizing his life potential. The fault can be traced to the first guideline. He did not have a sound philosopical understanding of life.

    He may be chasing experiences, like dreaming himself as a millionaire or spending a holiday on an idylic island, when he can hardly make ends meet, or work laborously in a factory. His fault can be traced to the second guideline; he did not set aims and objectives.

    He can set an aim to become a millionaire one day, or an objective of holidaying on an idylic island, like those who will attend the Advanced Shaolin Kungfu Course on the 36 Leg Techniques in Penang in Novemnber will experience. Th crucial difference is that in chasing after experiences a person merely day-dream, in setting aims and objectives, he works purposely towards the aims and objectives to maximize his life potential.

    Following the five guidelines will enable a person to maiximize his life potential. But he must guard against overdoing. For example, he may set an aim to become a millionaire. He may want to start his own business. So he reads up a lot of literature about the business he wishes to start as well as about how to start a business. He reads a lot of books and becomes very knowledgeable, but he never gets to start his business.

    He has overdone in his preparation. He has prepared more than necessary for his immediate need, but never gets on to the next stage of the process. He does not understand the flow method.

    Suppose he knows the flow method and succeeds in becoming a millionaire. He must realize that becoming a millionaire is a means to fulfil his spiritual cultivation. In this case it is providing himself and his family a comfortable life.

    If becoming a millionaire does not enable himself and his family a comfortable life, like he is so involved in making money that he has no time for himself and his fmaily, then he has to reassess his situation, especially his philosophy of life and his aims and objectives in life. The means must justify the end. There must be yin-yang harmony.

    There must also be yin-yang harmony between a philosophical understanding of maximizing one’s potential in life and the practical skills of mental clarity and a lot of energy in translating this philosophy into practical benefits. The coming UK Summer Camp will provide the opportunity to acqurie these skills.
    Sifu Mark Appleford

  9. #49
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    New York City
    This thread is an absolute treasure, of immeasurable value. Like many of the blessing offered by Sigung to the Shaolin Wahnam family, it is somehow both exactingly timely and gracefully eternal.

    With gratitude and respect,


  10. #50
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
    Join Date
    Feb 2003

    Essence of Spiritual Cultivation: Q+A 7

    Question 7

    Following Siheng Mark advice on asking only one question, the most important question that comes to mind is, what do you consider is the Essence of Spiritual Cultivation.

    Sifu Angel G. Pérez Oliveras


    The essence of spiritual cultivation is the spirit.

    If the spirit if cultivated, there is spiritual cultivation. If the spirit is not culitvated, there is no spiritual cultivation.

    Spiritual cultivation, therefore, is different from moral development, and also different from religious education.

    These three disciplines – spiritual cultivation, moral development and religious eductaion are often confused. Many people thank, mistakenly, that a morally upright person is spiritually cultivated, or that a spiritually cultvated person is well versed in religious education.

    A spiritually cultivated person is usually morally upright, but not necessarily so. A black magician, for example, has cultivated his spiriit to a high level, but he may not have high moral values. On the other hand, a morally upright person, like one who never lies and never steal, may or may not believe in the spirit.

    Being spiritual and being religious are different. Our arts, for example, are spiritual, but they are non religions. Hence, a spiritual cultivated personly may or may not be religious, and a religiously educated person may or may not be spiritually cultivated.

    As all religions deal witht the spirit, religious person therefore believe in the spirit. But whether they cultivate their spirit is another issue. Usually they are spiritually cultivated indirectly, like being devoted to God or divine beings, But if they are afaind of ghosts or are depressed, then they are not spiritually cultivated.

    Spiritual cultivation may be divided into the following three categories:

    1. To live a happy and peaceful life heae and now.
    2. To go to heaven in the afterlife.
    3. To merge with Cosmic Reality, called variously by people of different cultiures as returning to God the Holly Spirit, attaining Enlightenment, or merging with Tao.

    Spiritual cultivation may take many forms, like saying prayers, reciting sutras, devoting to the Divine, practicing chi kung and practicing hihg-level martial arts. But the principal method is meditation.

    The term “meditation”, however, is a misleading term. It may suggests “to meditate” or “to think”. Thinking or intellectualizing is exactly what practitioners of some meditation disciplines, like ours, do not do.

    The term originated from Christian meditation, which refers to reflecting on God’s words. This term was later applied to other spiritual cultvation systems that came from the East to the West, even when some of these systems, like Zen, discourage intellectualization
    Sifu Mark Appleford

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