The next quality that is central to the Mencian conception of heart is ch’i. (For those of you who are just joining this conversation, Mencius was a great Chinese Sage who lived and wrote 2300 years ago. Central to his philosophy was the notion of “heart.” See other posts.) Ch’i is the prime energy of the universe. This can be correlated to “the sacred fire” of the Upanishads. The Indians, too, located this energetic source in the heart.

“I know . . . that sacred fire which leads to heaven. Listen. That fire which is the means of attaining the infinite worlds, and is also their foundation, is hidden in the sacred place of the heart.”

Buddhists located their equivalent, prana, a concept they borrowed from the Sanskrit, in the heart, and also saw the unity of heart, energy, and the cosmic reality.  Ch’i has also been named tejas, mana, or by Jung, libido.  It is found in Norse mythology as the mead from the world tree of Ygdrasil.

The Chinese posited two kinds of ch’i, the gross and the subtle. The body was the home of the grosser ch’i and the heart was the home of the subtle ch’i. To cultivate the heart means to cultivate our subtle ch’i. This would not only bear on our moral health, but our physical well being as well.  Mencius unified his concepts in a moral vision, where right living, as determined by heart, resulted in maximum ch’i. Health, wellbeing and courage were related to living in harmony with the dictates of heart, which emerged from its connection to universal nature.

Mencius believed that this general energetic principle of the universe was something that “ran through” humans.  When we achieve an optimal alignment with the Heavenly Mandate, or universal law, we have the greatest access to this primal energy of the universe. We then possess what Mencius called flood-like ch’i, which is the ultimate energetic capacity.

Mencius himself admitted that explaining flood-like ch’i was difficult. A disciple asked, “May I ask what this flood-like ch’i is?”And he replied,

“It is difficult to explain. This is a ch’i which is, in the highest degree vast and unyielding. Nourish it with integrity and place no obstacle in its path and it will fill the space between Heaven and Earth. It is a ch’i which unites rightness and the Way. Deprive it of these and it will starve. It is born of accumulated rightness and cannot be appropriated by anyone through a sporadic show of rightness. Whenever one acts in a way that falls below the standard set in one’s heart, it will starve.”

This means that our energy, mood and motivation, is dependent on our integrity, of acting from our highest moral understanding, which is in our hearts. This places us in alignment with universal forces, which gives us courage. Depression and failure can be likened to a lack of moral attunement. This does not only mean not doing the right thing toward others, but also toward the self. The condition of shame, or treating ourselves from self-hatred instead of self-love, will lead to a diminishment of ch’i.

Through the manifestation of flood-like ch’i we develop the virtue of imperturbability. This means being true to oneself even without external validation.  As Mencius stated it, “Only a gentleman can have a constant heart in spite of a lack of constant means of support.”

When we have imperturbability, our motivation for action must be on rightness, and not dependent on outcome. (more…)

Advertisements

PinocchioMax BaucusIn a previous post, I was accused of partisanship because I suggested that people were angry at Obama because of emotional wounds they suffered in their lives. In order to dispel the notion that I believe that only conservative Republicans have been damaged by their negative experiences, I offer a psychological interpretation of some of the self-destructive behaviors of our Democratic leaders in Congress, and to a certain extent, President Obama.

My contention is that these politicians are like bad parents. What do I mean? In order for children to realize their inherent potentials, they need parents who will consistently meet their needs. Now meeting a child’s needs does not mean meeting their wants. A child may say, “I only want to eat ice cream! I don’t want the vegetables!” They may scream, “I don’t want to share my toys! He’s going to take everything I have and I won’t have anything!” They may protest, “I don’t want to play with my brother because he is bad!” They may shriek, “I don’t want to go in my room because there is a boogie-man under my bed!” In each of these cases, (now don’t get all metaphorical on me — I never suggested that these are thinly disguised reactions of people to the health care proposals) the parent would not be giving their children what they actually needed if they succumbed to their child’s demand. The child may want to indulge their immature appetites, selfishness, cruelty, or anxious ignorance, but the parent is doing no service to the child by meeting these desires. What the child needs is for the parent to use their maturity and wisdom to make better judgments and set appropriate limits. They must help the child internalize such wisdom, prudence and courage themselves. They must teach the child that though it might seem fun to eat only ice cream, doing the harder thing — like eating a balanced diet and postponing gratification — leads to a better outcome. They must teach that our purpose on this planet is to share because we have the best individual lives when things are best for all. We must teach our children to see others with understanding and compassion and to recognize that under the skin we are all brothers and sisters. We must teach our children to face their fears and see reality as clearly as possible.

Because the world has a lost heart, in many ways the body politic is like a three-year-old. And so we hope that our leaders, while showing love, regard and respect for the mass, can also show it the love required of the good parent for a toddler. Unfortunately, all too often, Democratic politicians fail in this task. Rather than setting limits, and giving us what we really need, they become frightened themselves, and indulge their constituent’s unrealistic demands. The electorate says like a petulant six-year-old, “If you don’t give me what I want, I’m not going to like you anymore!” Because we don’t want the kids to get mad, no one dare say there is a limit to what we have, and we must decide like grownups how we are going to pay for, and share, the finite pie. Democrats won’t just come out and say that the fair thing to do is take some money from the rich so that we can end the injustice of people living without basic health care. Democratic politicians all too often say, “Oh! Don’t get mad at me! We’ll do whatever you say whether it is good for the country or not.” When people cry that this country is going to turn into a Nazi, Communist, Socialist state if everyone has health care, instead of telling the children that they must eat their vegetables, share their toys and face the boogie-man, the Democrats start talking about removing the public option. This indulgence makes the kiddies happy for a while, but like Pinocchio teaches us, when we live in a land where every day is Saturday except for Sunday, we end up turning into asses. This is the kind of bad parenting that has prevented us from really tackling the kind of economic and political pickle we find ourselves in today. The only thing worse than the Democrats being bad parents is when the children actually run the show, like when the Republicans are in power –whoops I guess I got a little partisan there.

Now why would Democrats act this way, when clearly it is against everyone’s interest? Because we learn how to be parents through the parenting we receive. Parents who did not get what they needed growing up do not develop the skills required to give their own children what they need to realize their best selves. Many people enter a public arena, in part, because they didn’t get their basic needs for love and attention met when they were young. They are dependent on the adoration of the masses for some sense of inner fullness. Without it, they would face an empty void so terrible that they will do anything to avoid it. Alice Miller taught us that this often happens when parents unconsciously use children to get their own emotional needs met. This reverses the way of nature, where parents are supposed to be there for their children, not the other way around. When this happens the children rule the house. They know that they control the parents, because they recognize that their parents need them for emotional sustenance. Though the children may get what they want in these circumstances, they don’t get what they need to truly mature.

I can only assume that this was the case for all too many politicians. Many people who get used by their parents become highly accomplished, but at their core they are emotionally desperate for an authentic sense of self. This is one manifestation of what it means to have a lost heart. In an attempt to not be abandoned, these people will do anything to keep people loving them, even if it means lying to them, or capitulating to their destructive and unreasonable demands. Then, in a repetition of what happened to the politicians as children, the constituents become like spoiled children, knowing they can get whatever they want out of their leaders. But they end up sad, because they only get what they want in the moment, and not what they really need.

2300 years ago, the Sage Mencius spent his life trying to convince the leaders of China to cultivate themselves because he was certain that this was the key to the happiness of all the people in that country. He stated that if leaders had lost hearts, that is, if our political leaders were not psychologically and emotionally strong and healthy, then everyone would suffer. Our Democratic leaders could benefit from this advice.

Hopefully in the coming weeks our leaders will find it within themselves to stand up to their petulant children, the people of America, and do the right thing. Every parent knows that it may cause immediate protest, but in the long run, everyone is happier.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]