We currently live in an extremely over-marketed society and you could sum up marketing at one level as getting people excited about a given benefit followed by affirmations – accurate or not – that they have achieved the benefit. Suddenly, they have bragging rights along with an identity based upon the benefit.
However, this process is not what drives people who really want to achieve excellence in any field, subject or sport. Only a very small number of people will do things purely because they will get brownie points, the prestigious title or acknowledgement of some form.
When you consider anything that has to do with meditation, or self-cultivation at any level, the idea that you’re ever going to get something is blatantly false. And, you cannot reach a high level of excellence unless you are doing what you do because you like the journey. You actually have to like the roads on which you must travel.
Now, some people can just get in – they want to win a marathon so they push themselves to run 26 miles and constantly train. But what is rarely acknowledged is that few can really take running to its heights unless they actually like running – they get some degree of joy from it. This goes further when you talk about chi work. A lot of what is involved with chi work is going to take you through very long plateaus to where you are never going to have any idea about whether you’re progressing and this process could become mundane.
Let’s say you want to build a large, well-run economy. Most people who are working on building a road have no sense of where that road will go – all the transportation and movement that can occur because of it. However, the development of an entire region is possible once that road is complete; the nature of chi work is a bit like building a road.
Most of us have distinct growth spurts when we feel like good results are happening. We think: “Wow! I’m really getting it.” You’re inside and you feel as though you’re being opened up step by step. You have effectively arrived at a point where you’ve bulldozed enough to see a furrow as to where a road being laid down.
But, then, you find that you go through a very, very, very long period from when that furrow in the ground was visible until it’s actually black topped or cemented, and there’s a lot of work that occurs in between. The work is invisible; it’s not glamorous; it’s not glorious; and a lot of people say they get bored. Well, if you get bored it’s because you’re looking for the goal, you’re looking to have the road finished so you can beat your chest like Tarzan or sit with your knitting needle remarking, “Isn’t this a beautiful quilt?!” You want something for show. You see, the point from which that hole is visible in the ground to putting black top over it is a lot work.
When this moment in time arrives, you really have to love your game because you don’t know how long it’s going to last. It could happen that it takes very little time, but you just have no way of knowing. So it becomes very important that the act of delving deeper inside yourself and fixing and developing all the little things that don’t have the dramatic glory to them, but without which you never fill in that road, are given proper consideration and time.
The nature of going from a plateau to all of a sudden having a period of “Wow! Eureka! I got it!” is that you get excited because everything is happening. In the time that seemed to be boring you were building your internal infrastructure, upgrading your internal workings, fundamentally changing what was weak inside of you to becoming stronger. Essentially you were changing the way your chi was ambiguous to setting all the conditions so it could become clear. If you are meditating, eventually you could take the murkiness of your mind and go from that furrow in the ground and construct a paved road.
When the road is done, well, you can now start driving trucks over it – you start developing. And, here again, you go through another period of, “Wow! These amazing events are happening!” until effectively you arrive at the point where you need another road. You are back to working on the infrastructure.
All of the awe-inspiring moments are going to cease if you do not go through the plateau periods which are not glorious or glamorous. At this stage of the game, it is your infrastructure, the work that seems to be boring that is actually setting you up for future development. If you have the first floor of a building, it’s setting the stage for the second floor. Of course, each time a floor is complete it’s a great event because you’re reaching another level. So you push, become re-enthused, recharged because a whole new vista is in sight and your inner world opens up. Although before the second floor is actually built, you’re in the same position as if you had a hole in the ground – you’ve got to go through the hard work to actually construct the road.
Plateau points make the difference between whether you will break through to a low, middle or high level of accomplishment. During this phase, virtually nobody can just say, “Well, I have to keep practicing if I’m going to end up at the other end.” This is especially true in an over-marketed, stressed out, instant-gratification society. So, the question arises: What makes people capable of persevering? And, you’re not going through a plateau phase once with chi work – you’ll go through them many, many, many times, depending upon the level to which you aspire.
The answer is quite simple and it’s not about the hype and need for yet another identity. The fact is that you actually must enjoy the game. In this case, you actually love doing whatever chi practice you’re doing. You love getting into your energy – rooting and finding out that which is not working inside you, the places in your mind that are mucked up, the places in your energy that are blocked – an enjoyable or at least worthwhile process in itself.
Michael Jordan was originally cut from his high school basketball team. Now he clearly must have had within him the ability to be an insanely gifted natural athlete although he didn’t have what it took to be on his high school basketball team. His playing ability is one aspect, but more than that he didn’t have the ability to really go inside himself and dredge out what was in there. So he practiced basketball: throwing baskets, dribbling up and down the court and all the other fundamentals. Only a gross egomaniac could keep on doing that for six to eight hours a day, every day after school for a year just on the basis that he wanted to get back on the team. Michael Jordan knew he liked basketball – it’s doubtful that a kid in his position could foresee becoming a mega NBA player. He just liked basketball and he really wanted to play, so he got into what the game was: the dribbling, throwing balls one after another, fakes and the movements you have to do on the court. There was no guaranteed outcome – he simply got into the intrinsic nature of the activity he loved.
Stay tuned for Part Two.