Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

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The thing I love about training for an ultra is that it is all about volume and not speed. Walk, run, stop and take a photo... its all good.
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I did a quick 1 minute walk-through of Ward Off (taiji) this morning and did a 12 mile trail run starting about an hour later. During the run I could feel the ghost of the Ward Off movements as I ran. I am going to try a 20 minute Ward Off exercise next time I get the chance before a run and see what that is like.
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I thought I would store this here just in case. This is what I am working on these days, Lung-Gom-Pa or Tibetan super running and night running which could be classified as Force Running.

The Way of the White Cloud
by Lama Anakarika Govinda
Pg 127-131
CHAPTER 5
TRANCE WALKING
AND LUNG-GOM TRAINING

The first eyewitness account of a lung-gom-pa that reached the West is probably the graphic description which Alexandra David-Neel gave in her famous book With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet. One day; while crossing a wide table land, she noticed in the distance a moving black spot which aroused her curiosity, since she was travelling through uninhabited territory, and had not met any human being for almost two weeks. Her field-glasses revealed the moving object to be a man, who 'proceeded at an unu sual gait and especially with an extraordinary swiftness'. When he came nearer she 'could clearly see his perfectly calm
impassive face and wide-open eyes with thei r gaze fixed on some invisible far-distant object situated somewhere high up in space . The man did not run . He seemed to lift himself from the ground , proceeding by leaps . It looked as if he had been endowed with the elast icity of a ball and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum.'
When I read this account a few years after my above-related experience I immediately was reminded of what had happened to me on the shores of the Pangong Lake. Her description exactly coincided with my own experience. Beginners in the art of lung-gom are often advised to fix their mind not only on a mentally visualised object, namely the aim towards which they want to move, but to keep their eyes fixed on a particular star, which in some cases seems to produce a hypnotic effect. Even in this detail I had unwittingly conformed to the rules, and I clearly reached a condition in which the weight of the body is no more felt and in which the feet seem to be endowed with an instinct of their own, avoiding invisible obstacles and finding footholds, which only a clairvoyant consciousness could have detected in the speed of such a movement and in the darkness of the night.
Alexandra David-Neel thinks that a kind of anaesthesia deadens the sensations that would be produced by knocking against the stones or other obstacles on the way. But this seems not to be the case, otherwise the lung-gom-pa would find his feet bruised and swollen afterwards, which apparently is not so, as I have learned from my own experience. Neither can I subscribe to the view that it is due to a remainder of normal consciousness, which keeps one aware of the obstacles in one's way. Just on the contrary, it is the noninterference of normal consciousness which ensures the immunity of the trance walker and the instinctive sureness of his movements. There is no greater danger than the sudden awakening to normal consciousness. It is for this reason that the lunggom- pa must avoid speaking or looking about, because the slightest distraction would result in breaking his trance.
The deeper meaning of lung-gem is that matter can be mastered by the mind. This is illustrated by the fact that the preparatory exercises are mainly spiritual, i.e, consisting in strict seclusion and mental concentration upon certain elementary forces and their visualised symbols, accompanied by the recitation of mantras, through which certain psychic centres (Skt.: cakra) of the body, which are related to those forces by their natural functions , are awakened and activated.
Just as in the tum-mo practices, which result in the production 'psychic heat' (for reference see pp. 159 fE. in Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism), the adept has to concentrate upon the element 'fire' in its corresponding psychic centre and in all its phenomenal and essential qualities and psychic implications, so in the case of lung-gom the adept is required to concentrate on all the phenomena, aspects, and functions of the vital element air.
Gom (sgom) means meditation, contemplation, concentration of mind and soul upon a certain subject, as well as the gradual emptying of the mind of all subject-object relationship, until a complete identification of subject and object has taken place.
Lung (rlun) signifies both the elementary state of 'air' (Skt.: vayu ) as well as the subtle vital energy or psychic force (Skt. : ptiina}, Just as the Greek word 'pneuma ' can signify 'air' as well as 'spirit', so lung can be applied to the element 'air' and to those bodily functions which represent the material side of our vital principle, as exemplified by the process of breathing and the faculty of movement, as well as the currents of psychic energy resulting in various states of consciousness.
In combination with gom, the word lung can only be applied to the prdna of various meditational practices, connected with the control of vital functions of the human body through the finer forces of the mind. In other words , the lung-gom-pa is not a man who has the faculty to fly through the air (a belief that has its origin in the wrong interpretation of the word lung ), but one who has learned to control his ptiina through the yoga-practice of pranayama, which starts with the simple function of conscious breathing and makes it the basis of a profound spiritual experience, resulting in a transformation of the whole psycho-physical organism and of the very personality of the practitioner. Forces and faculties, which are present in every human individual, are re-channelled and concentrated in a new direction.
Thus lung-gom could be aptly rendered with 'concentration on the dynamic vital principle'. It reveals the dynamic nature of our physical organism and of all material states of aggregation-not in the sense of a self-sufficient dynamism, but as something that depends on the cooperation and interaction of various forces and ultimately on the fundamental (and universal) faculties of consciousness. Thus, a direct influence is possible upon the bodily functions and their respective organs , so that a psycho-physical co-operation is established: a parallelism of thought and movement, and a rhythm that gathers all available forces into its service .
If one has reached the point where the transformation of one force or state of materialisation into another one is possible one may produce various effects of an apparently miraculous nature, as, for instance, the transformation of psychic energy into bodily movement (a miracle that we perform on a smaller scale every moment, without being conscious of it) , or the transformation of matter into an active state of energy, resulting at the same time in a reduction of weight or the apparent elimination or reduction of the power of gravitation.
In the original system of Buddhist meditation the attainment of magic power is a mere by-product and is looked upon rather as a danger . than as a stimulus on the higher path, which aims at liberation and
abhors the exhibition of occult forces. The peculiar conditions of Tibet, however, have sometimes made it necessary to make use of these powers to a certain degree, especially when nature placed unsurmountable obstacles in the way of the adept or his desire to be of service to his fellow-beings.
Thus tum-me may at the same time serve as a protection against the excessive cold during the hard Tibetan winters, to which Yogis are exposed in their caves and hermitages high up in the bare mountains. :
where fuel is almost unobtainable. However, it should be noted that this is far from being the purpose of tum-mo. which is purely spiritual, namely the attainment of inner unification or integration, which brings about the state of enlightenment and the wholeness of being.
In a similar way lung-gam is only one of the many ways of liberation, though it may under certain circumstances help an individual to move speedily over vast distances, which, in a country where communications are beset with many difficulties, assumes a particular importance. It may happen that people take to this training, spurred by the ambition to obtain spectacular magic powers. But the sacrifice that is demanded of them is so great that anyone who is able to go through the full training must be a man of extraordinary character and spiritual qualities. And
such a man, the more seriously he pursues his exercises, will soon lose all his initial pride and ambition, because his whole training is based on the giving up and not on the strengthening of his ego, in which pride and ambition have their origin.
This has been illustrated by many of the popular stories of th e famous eighty-four medieval Siddhas (literally: 'Accomplished Ones'), many of whom set out with the idea to acquire supernatural powers for their own benefit, and who in the process of it, or by the time they had realized them, had lost interest in such mundane aims, because they had overcome that very sense of ego which was th e source of their desires . Here only one example, the story of Siddha Kadgapa: There was once a robber, who met a yogi and asked him how he could become invincible. The yogi answered: 'There is a stupa in such and such a place. Go there and circumambulate the sanctuary with the image of Avalokitesvara for three weeks, reciting the mantra and performing the sadhana which I will give you. If you do this with full devotion and unfailing concentration, without diverting your mind, then at the end of the third week a deadly black snake will emerge from the stUpa. Youmust immediately seize the snake behind the head, and if you have faithfully carried out your sadhana, the snake will not harm you, and you will obtain the power of invincibility.'
The robber thanked the yogi and did as he was told. He devoted himself heart and soul to the indicated exercise, and when the fearful snake finally emerged from the hollow niche of the stupa he seized it behind the head, and lo! he held in his hand the invincible Sword of Wisdom. He had no more use for miraculous powers and became a saint. Since then he has been known as Siddha Kadgapa, 'the Saint with the Sword'.

The Spiritual Athlete's Path to Enlightenment
Holly A. Schmid
Ultra Marathon Running 
December 11, 1996
Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei
Throughout this world, there are many mysterious and amazing feats that can be found. People are capable of doing most incredible things that we have never deemed possible. Only by truly believing in ourselves can we accomplish what were thought as impossible goals.
In Mount Hiei of Japan, there can be found a small group of monks who live in a monastery and can accomplish many remarkable challenges. This mountain had been a main attraction in Japan of Buddhism. "The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei" by John Stevens says that it "offers the seeker every type of religious experience--sacred scholarship, grand ritual, austere meditation, heartfelt repentance, heroic asceticism, mystical flight, miraculous cures, ceaseless devotion, divine joy, and nature worship-while promising enlightenment in this very body."
This mountain monastery began in 1787 and the monks feel that Hiei still flourishes today. It is a beautiful place populated with all types of animals. No hunting is allowed. There is lots of rain in Japan and many tall trees which block the sun so it can get very cold there; snow covers the ground far into April. At the base of Hiei, there is a cute little temple-town where most of the retired priests go to live.
The Tendai priests generally marry and raise families. Many of the trainees at Mount Hiei who hope to qualify for priesthood are their children. There are many who just appear from the general public though such as college drop-outs searching for the meaning of life, retired military men, reformed drunks, and a few women.
These fascinating marathon monks began their story in the year 831 with a boy named So-o. He came to Hiei at age 15. An abbot called Ennin noticed this boy and initiated him into the mysteries of Tendai. He named him So-o which meant "one who serves for others."
The legend is that the God, Fudo Myo-o, appeared before So-o by a waterfall. So-o was overwhelmed and jumped into the falls. He collided with a large log which he was able to drag out of the water. He then carved the image of Fudo Myo-o into the log . The temple was then built in this area for the God Fudo Myo-o and named Myo-o-in.
So-o was an amazing monk who traveled around using his prayers which could accomplish many things such an curing people from terminal illnesses, difficult child births, demon possessions and much more. He believed in a type of practice where every stone and blade of grass were venerable and all things were seen as a manifestation of Buddha. This meant he worshipped nature with one's entire mind and body.
He kept returning to Hiei where he would build another hall to house images of Fudo Myo-o. This became the home base of the Hiei "kaihogyo" monks. To become a monk here, it became a common practice to complete a term of 100, 700, and 1000 days of chanting, visiting stations of worship, and other special experiences where all you needed were your two feet.
A gyoja is what one is called when he/she is accomplishing these terms. A gyoja is a "spiritual athlete who practices gyo with a mind set of the Path of Buddha." This is a positive term meaning that one is "moving" along the path of awakening, for both oneself and others. There are many disciplines that are practiced in Hiei but the mountain marathon, called kaihogyo, is the greatest. To become an abbot at Hiei, you must go through a 100-day term of kaihogyo. Kaihogyo is the "practice of circling the mountains" and gives them an appreciation of the respective stations of worship. If you receive permission, then the gyoja is given a special handbook which describes everything they need to know for the marathon. This includes course maps, stations they must visit and pray at, proper prayers and chants, and other important information. The candidate then has one week of training before their term begins.
During this first week, the ground is cleared of glass, sharp rocks, sticks and other things that would hurt the feet of the gyoja. A pure white outfit is given to the gyoja to wear. A rope is tied around the waist which holds a knife within the cord of the rope. These two items remind the gyoja that they should take their life by hanging themselves or by using the knife if they can't complete the term.
For their feet, 80 pairs of straw sandals are woven together to be used for the 100-day term. In rainy weather, these sandals evaporate within hours so many spares have to be carried. During dry weather, they usually last a few days though. A special all-white hat is also given to the gyoja for the journey.
The basic rules of kaihogyo are very important and must be followed. They are:
During the run the robe and hat may not be removed.
No deviation from the appointed course.
No stopping for rest of refreshment.
All required services, prayers, and chants must be correctly performed.
No smoking of drinking.
Then the running begins. Each day, the gyoja begins at midnight. They are given a small meal and around 1:30, they start the running of 40 kilometers each day. There are many stations that they must stop by often. They are able to sit only once during the entire course.
They return to Hiei between about 7 and 9am where they attend a service, bathe, and eat a midday meal. During the afternoon, they attend more services, rest for an hour and attend to chores. They go to bed around 8 or 9pm and the day begins again at midnight. This is repeated 100 times to finish the first term.
Some time in this term, they must perform the kirimawari, which is a 54- kilometer run. A senior marathon monk accompanies the gyoja on this. To accomplish this, they usually lose a whole day of sleep but must just keep right on with their 100-day schedule.
These 100 days are very difficult. Their feet and legs begin to throb and often get cuts and infections. Being so cold in Japan, they often get frostbite and very sick during the first weeks of the run. They also experience many problems such an pains in their back and hips, diarrhea and hemorrhoids. By the 70th day, the gyoja has finally “acquired the marathon monk stride: eyes focused about 100 feet ahead while moving along is a steady rhythm, keeping the head level, the shoulders relaxed, the back straight, and the nose and navel aligned.
If the gyoja successfully completes the 100-day term, he can petition to try the 1000-day term. This term will take seven years to complete.
The first 300 days of this are basic training days where they continue to run for 40 kilometers per day. In the 4th and 5th year, the pace quickens where they run for 200 executive days. After accomplishing this, they are allowed to use a walking stick and where a special tabi hat.
After completing the 700th day, the gyoja faces their most difficult feat. They must survive nine days without food, water, sleep, or rest. This period of time is called the doiri. Several weeks before hand, they prepare for this event by limiting themselves to small amounts of food so they will be ready when the time comes. When the doiri period begins, they spend their days reciting chants that they repeat 100,000 times. By the fifth day, they are dehydrated and are allowed to rinse their mouths with water but must spit out every last drop that enters their mouth. They usually go outside and take in the fresh mountain air where they are able to absorb moisture from the rain and dew through their skin. Usually what the gyoja finds most difficult is not the lack of food and water, but keeping awake and keeping the proper posture at all times of the day.
The doiri is purposely made to let the gyoja face death. After this period of time, they have come so close to death that they develop a sensitivity to life. They "can hear ashes fall form incense sticks, smell and identify foods from miles away and see the sun and moonlight seep into the interior of the temple." Psychologists who examined the bodies at the end of the seven day period found that the gyojas had many symptoms of a dead person. The gyoja are now able to experience a feeling of transparency. Everything exits their bodies-good, bad, and neutral.
One relative of a gyoja remarked, "I always dismissed Buddhism as superstitious nonsense until I saw my brother step out of Myo-o-do after doiri. He was really a living Buddha."
It has been reported that the doiri used to last 10 days but almost all the monks died during this period of time. So, they shorted the doiri to seven days. The doiri is also too dangerous to be held during the summer because the bodies were found to rot internally due to all the heat and lack of water in the body.
The final year of the 1000-day term consists of two 100-day terms. These consist of daily 84-kilometer runs. They complete the run within 16 to 18 hours and repeat again each day. During this time of visiting stations of worship and running, they also must bless hundreds of people a day along the road. People flock to these gyojas because they are considered special and people feel that many of their abilities can be transferred into the people by being near them.
The final 100-day term is much like the first one they did long ago and is usually quickly and easily finished. They are now declared to be a Daigyoman Ajari which is a "Saintly Master of the Highest Practice."
The final initiation is a 100,000 prayer fast and fire ceremony which takes place two or three years after the finish of the 1000-day marathon.
Since 1885, there have been 46 of these marathon monks. It is amazing how they accomplish these 1000 days of strenuous activities. They must get by on a minimum of sleep through those years so they learn to be excellent cat-nappers, catching a little sleep while doing things like stopping at stop-lights or other slight moments. While running, they learn to rest sections of their bodies as they run such as their shoulders or arms, etc.
Lung-gom-pa Runners of Tibet
The Marathon monks of Japan are quite similar to the Lung-gom-pa runners of old Tibet. There have been many records kept of these amazing running monks who appear to fly when they run. Across grassy plains, they seem to float apparently in a trance. They are said to travel nonstop for forty-eight hours or more and can cover more than 200 miles a day. Many are said to be faster than horses and at times they were used to convey messages across a country.
In order to qualify as a lung-gom-pa runner, the trainee must first learn to master seated meditation. They had lots of emphasis on breath control and visualization techniques. They had to be able to imagine their own bodies as being light as a feather.
Other techniques they had to master required them to watch a single star in the sky intently for days, never allowing themselves to be distracted. When they have attained this ability of moving meditation, they are able to fly like the wind.
The term "lung-gom" is used for the kind of training that develops uncommon nimbleness and gives them the ability to make extraordinarily long tramps with amazing rapidity. They run at a rapid pace without ever having to stop for days. They do not run short, quick races but have the ability to go far distances in a quick amount of time.
"The Way of the White Clouds" by Lama Anagarika Govinda explains that the word Lung, pronounced rlun, signifies the state of air as well as vital energy or psychic force. Gom means meditation, contemplation, concentration of mind and soul upon a certain subject. It has to do with the emptying of one’s mind of all subject-object relationships. This means that a lung-gom-pa runner is not a man who has the ability to fly through air, but one who can control his energy, re-channel and concentrate it in a new direction. These lung-gom-pa runners follow the ancient practice of pranayama. They follow the idea of completely anonymity and therefore no one is allowed to talk to them or see any part of their bodies.
True lung-gom-pa runners are very rare for it is very difficult to really master their skills. In the book, "Magic and Mystery in Tibet" the author, Alexandra David_Neel, mentions how she encountered her first lung-gom-pa runner in Northern Tibet. This is a wild, grassy region where a few tribes live in tents. There are few people in this area, and when they spotted the lung-gom- pa runner, he was alone in a plain and was the first person they had spotted in more than ten days of traveling. Thinking the man to be lost and wandering on the plain, they were going to go retrieve him and take him with them. As they grew closer they realized he was traveling at a remarkably swift speed and was one of the so-called lung-gom-pa runners. David_Neel was told not to speak to the runner because they were not allowed to break their meditation while running. The God that lives within him would then escape and the runner would die. Just witnessing this was enough to amaze her though.
"By that time he had nearly reached us; I could clearly see his perfectly calm impassive face and wide-open eyes with their gaze fixed on some invisible far distant object situated somewhere high up in space. The man did not run. He seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. It look as if he had been endowed with the elasticity of a ball and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground."
The lung-gom-pa runner can also be called a Maheketang. The word "mahe" is from the fearless buffalo, which they had been know to ride. To aspire to be a part of Maheketang, there is a lot of training. This includes breathing exercises that are practiced during a seclusion period in complete darkness, which lasts three years and three months.
The student must sit cross-legged on a large cushion. He inhales and allows his body to fill with air. Then holding his breath, he jumps up with legs still crossed using no hands to support him. He repeats this always remaining in the same position. This method enables them to become extremely light, almost weightless. "The lung-gom method does not aim at training the disciple by strengthening his muscles, but by developing in him psychic states that make these extraordinary marches possible."
Only after years of drilling oneself with different types of breathing exercises are they permitted to attempt the actual racing performance itself. When he finally reaches this point in time, he must completely concentrate on the walk, the in and out breathing rhythm, always looking ahead, never speaking. He can not be distracted by anything and must keep his eyes fixed on a single object.
The best conditions for their runs are flat plains, desert spaces, and evening twilight. Even after walking for miles or days, when the evening has been reached, the tiredness of the run subsides and the lung-gom-pa runner and continue on for miles more. During their runs, they are continually told to keep their eyes fixed on a particular star. Some float through the air so much, that they wear heavy chains around their bodies so that he is not in danger of floating in the air.
After having performed all these feats, the lung-gom-pa usually finds a quiet place to retreat to where they spend the rest of their lives teaching, meditating, and pursuing various religious duties. Those who come to him, he will heal or bless and console those who are upset.
"The Zen of Running" is a book written by Fred Rohe which states, "Whatever you do with your running, you only cheat yourself by pushing, pressing, competing. There are no standards and no possible victories except the joy you are living while dancing your run." This statement is a perfect way to describe the lung- gom-pa runners of Tibet and the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei. They do not run to simply be quick or to win. They are in a way dancing when they run. They are to totally focus on running and let the running take them away. Their trance-like movements show that they are completely focusing and are at peace. Rohe goes on to say that "our spirit is not separate from our body anymore than the water is separate from the stream. The water is the stream." This has to do with the fact that running is dancing. Their spirit is with the runners when they are moving.
At the end of running, the marathon monk has "become one with the mountain, flying along a path that is free of obstruction. The joy of practice has been discovered and all things are made new each day. The stars and sky, the stones, the plants, and the trees, have become the monk's trusted companions; he can predict the week's weather by the shape of the clouds, the direction of the wind, and the smell of the air; he knows the exact times each species of bird and insect begin to sing; and he takes special delight in that magic moment of the day when the moon sets and the sun rises, poised in the center of creation." To experience this and have these feelings would be the most remarkable thing, unbeatable by anything. I would love to see as these monks are able to see and live. They worked so incredibly hard those 1000 days to get to this point. For them, the work is not even over yet. For them the "real practice soon begins."
These amazing runners have for years been impressing others with their skills. The fact that they can accomplish all this simply to receive enlightenment is such a nice thought. Ultra Marathon Runners are provided with drinks, foods and other things that help them to run and keep their energy up. The marathon monks have only a few small meals a day consisting of some rice, soup and other vegetarian foods.
They have proven that when we are running and think we can go no farther, this just is not quite true. Just to remember these runners should help us quicken our pace. They have gone to extraordinary limits in their runs and maybe someday the rest of the world will be able to come across the wonderful talents of these people. These "spiritual athletes" intrigue me and I look forward to finding out new, interesting information about their lives.



Nightwalking : Exploring the dark with Peripheral Vision
from Whole Earth Review 1991
by Nelson Zink and Stephen Parks courtesy of Keith Idell
posted on KeelyNet BBS on March 8th, 1992
It all began one afternoon a couple of years ago. We were talking about people who have the ability to see farther or more deeply or more clearly than the rest of us, those exceptional individuals who can easily master complexity and ambiguity and arrive at startling insights.
We began to speculate on the possibility that these people weren't just smarter or more creative than the average person but perhaps literally saw the world in a different manner. As we looked for direct connections between the literal and figurative meanings of words like sight and vision, it slowly became apparent that we were onto something.
We reviewed the physiology of sight and discovered that neural structures exist within the eye which facilitate a way of seeing that is radically dissimilar from the one we're accustomed to using. We confirmed that there is, indeed, a neurological basis for a distinct "second" type of sight, and that this way of seeing is available to all of us all the time. (Usually we are so absorbed with our focused vision that we're unaware of its power.)
Perpheral vision
Could peripheral vision possibly be related to Vision, to Insight, to all those capitalized powers of perception? Searching for references that might shed light on second sight, we found that while many individuals weren't particularly aware of how they accomplished their achievements, the reports contained eery similarities.
We found a succession of texts from the Taoists of early China through the books of Carlos Castaneda that spoke of a certain kind of all-seeing gaze. It was often difficult to determine whether the authors were speaking literally or metaphorically, but it was perfectly clear in the case of Miyamoto Muksashi, the legendary swordsman of fifteenth century Japan, who had the clearest and most insightful description of the powers of peripheral vision we found.
In The Book of Five Rings, Musashi refers to the two types of sight which he calls Ken and Kan.
Ken registers the movements of surface phenomena; it's the observation of superficial appearence.
Kan is the profound examination of the essence of things, seeing through or into. For Musashi, Ken is seeing with the eyes, Kan is seeing with the mind.
The difference is akin to that of style versus substance. Musashi gives instructions for developing Kan sight: "It is important to observe both sides without moving the eyes. It is no good trying to learn this kind of thing in great haste. Always be watchful in this manner and under no circumstances alter your point of concentration."
While Musashi certainly didn't understand the physiology of sight, he was acutely aware of the difference between cone and rod vision. We reviewed the science of vision and read that the retina of the human eye is composed of three distinct areas: the fovea, macula and peripheral region. Each area performs a distinctive visual function and contributes to the sense we call sight. Because these different functions operate simultaneously and blend into each other, they aren't normally differentiated.
The fovea is a small circular pit in the center of the retina packed with an unbelievable concentration (160,000 cells per square millimeter, an area about the size of the head of a pin) of color- sensitive receptor cells called cones, each with its own nerve fiber. The fovea enables the average person to see most sharply within a circle less than an eighth of an inch in diameter at a distance of twelve inches from the eye.
Surrounding the fovea is the macula, an oval body of color-sensitive cells. Macular vision is quite clear, but not as clear and sharp as foveal vision, because the cones aren't as closely packed as they are in the fovea. We use the macula for reading or watching television, among other things.
Moving away from the central portion of the retina, the character and quality of vision changes radically. The capacity to see color diminishes as the color-sensitive cones become more scattered. Fine vision associated with closely packed cones, each with its own neuron, shifts to a coarser vision in which two hundred or more of a different type of receptor cell - the rods - are each connected to a single neuron. The effect of the connections between rods is to amplify the perception of motion and light while reducing the capacity for distinguishing detail.
For our purposes, we began to think of the retina as divided into two areas: the fovea and macula, both with high concentrations of cones, and the periphery, where rods predominate - in short, cone and rod vision, responsible respectively for focused and peripheral vision.
A quick way of understanding the extent of these two regions of sight is to extend your fists directly in front, side by side. Your fists cover the approximate area normally seen by cones; the rest of your visual field is largely rod mediated. Thus it's apparent that only a small percentage of our total visual field is clearly focused. Attending only to this region results in what is commonly called tunnel vision - figuratively and literally, as we've come to believe.
It became evident to us that many of the special perceptions we sought came from the ability to observe the world and ourselves from a "different point of view," in a broader, unfettered context.
In time the obvious struck us, that the experience of insight, rapid learning, invention, creativity, intuition, and perhaps even personal change have a direct connection with second sight, a sight dependent almost completely on the brain's capacity for processing peripheral vision.
We decided to try to develop a technique which would effectively stimulate this special way of seeing. After some trial and error we originated an exercise and designed a simple piece of equipment which seemed to enhance our access to second sight.
On the bill of a baseball cap we mounted a metal rod welded to a binder clip, extending about a foot in front of our eyes. On the tip of this rod we glued a small bead of plastic resin about the size of a baby green pea. This created a fixed point on which to focus. We reasoned that with our focused vision on the bead, any physical activity would necessitate the use of peripheral vision.
We chose hiking
We drove out into the countryside near our homes in northern New Mexico, found a place where we wouldn't be interrupted, donned our caps and set out. In the beginning, disoriented and functionally blind, we made our way cautiously along an old jeep trail. Soon we noticed that our feet seemed to know what to do. We stepped over and around obstacles on the ground without consciously being able to see them. It became apparent that our non-conscious minds could see the ground directly in front of us perfectly well.
Within an hour our field of vision began to clear, and we both became engrossed with the phenomenon of seeing double. Walking behind, one could watch two identical people moving up ahead, walking side by side, each making identical movements. A sort of Zen paradox arose as to which was the real one. We later understood that the solution to this and other "reality" paradoxes was an important part of learning to use and trust second sight.
As we walked we began to notice that other senses such as hearing, balance and touch naturally expanded and became more acute, as if we'd gradually become conscious of the peripheral regions of these senses too. Concurrently, the perception of "weight" shifted lower in our bodies, to the hips and on down to our feet.
After a couple of hours of walking along the road we began to experience a deep sense of relaxation. We noticed our hands had warmed considerably, an indication that stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system was somehow related to the experience of second sight.
Each time we have walked (probably a hundred times by now), a sense of deep calm has been experienced. It took a while to understand what was going on, but our theory is this: Walking while relying only on second sight requires that the conscious mind trust the non- conscious, and this inter-mind trust is the essence of relaxation itself.
On the next few outings we picked steeper grades and rougher terrain. We found we could easily control fatigue and pain by using an application of will - focusing attention on the tired body part, for instance, and moving the discomfort off to the edges of awareness, virtually the same process as moving our attention about in the great field of peripheral vision without moving our eyes.
In our reading we had been reminded that in darkness, peripheral (rod) vision is far superior to focused (cone) vision. Night vision relies almost entirely on rods, which because of their neural connections and physical makeup are very sensitive to light. Rods need about thirty minutes of dark or dim red light to activate fully, and then, it is claimed, they have the capacity to detect a single photon - the equivalent, in clear air, of detecting the flame of a candle that is ten miles away.
In the dark, cones are for the most part visually useless, and so we figured that walking in the dark would force us to become even more dependent on peripheral vision. It was time to up the ante.
We modified the headgear by painting the beads with luminescent paint and increased our daily intake of Vitamin A (necessary for the formation of visual purple, a substance which enables the eyes to adjust from bright light to darkness) to 50,000 IU for a week to make sure we weren't deficient.
We picked an area where we hadn't walked before and started out around sunset. For the first hour of walking we noticed all the familiar inner shifts and sensations. And then something strange happened: we entered the night.
We really don't have better description. When it became apparent that we could see perfectly well, the night became alive.
Rabbits hopped by, nighthawks and bats flew past to check us out. Our steps got lighter, walking was approaching the status of flight. We felt like we'd fully entered the experience of second sight.
Other senses expanded even more than we'd experienced before. Balance became much more sensitive. Later we developed a very slow- waking kind of Tai Chi just to enjoy this exquisite sense of balance. Our skin started to feel peculiar, more "solid" perhaps, and we found we could walk comfortably in quite chilly air without any clothes.
Probably due to our increased ability to concentrate and the air qualities of night, hearing and smell were vastly improved. As we became proficient at seeing in the dark, we found that we could run down arroyos and climb steep banks in the dead of night, all the while focusing on the luminescent beads. With the calm of Nightwalking, we discovered that anxiety and fear of the dark, so common in our culture, are effectively eliminated.
Fear, anxiety and even physical pain are seemingly associated with focused vision, while peripheral processes engender relaxation and delight, a state we have half-seriously dubbed Sense-Surround.
A friend heard what we were doing and tipped us off to Alexandra David-Neel, who for some years studied and toured in Tibet.
In Magic and Mystery in Tibet, she describes her encounter with and investigation of Lung-gom-pas, Tibetan spiritual walkers of extraordinary ability. According to David-Neel, "The walker must neither speak, nor look from side to side. He must keep his eyes fixed on a single object and never allow this attention to be attracted by anything else.
When the trance state has been reached, though normal consciousness is for the greater part suppressed, it remains sufficiently alive to keep the walker aware of the obstacles in his way and mindful of his direction and goal." We felt in good company.
Nightwalking became one of the most consistently relaxing and exhilarating experiences either of us had ever had. The reports, ancient and modern, turned out to be true - employing second sight did facilitate a distinct change in perciption and sense of wellbeing.
Not only were we learning to travel freely in the dark; it was becoming apparent that this capability connected us more directly to the non-conscious. Far from being a storehouse of fear, we found it an incredible protector, dedicated to our safety and happiness.
Just to make sure we weren't doing something that might cause undue eye strain, we thought it might be wise to take an optometrist on a Nightwalk. We contacted a respected Santa Fe practitioner who initially sounded skeptical but agreed to join us.
Not only did he give us a clean bill of health, but by the end of his first walk he was speculating about the possible value of Nightwalking in treating myopia.
We began wondering whether Nightwalking would prove as exciting and useful for others as it did for us. So we planned a training which was divided into four sessions of about three hours each, covering various terrains and their attendant challenges.
The first group of a dozen trainees assembled shortly after sundown in the dry stream bed of the Rio de oa Truchas, on Bureau of Land Management land between Santa Fe and Taos. Hats and rods were passed out along with simple instructions: Watch the rod tip and keep it up near the horizon, walk slowly and start to notice the scenery to the sides as you pass by. With a sense of mystery and excitement this first group set out, walking single-file into the twilight.
Musashi had given instructions for a particular kind of stance to practice while using second sight. We had fiddled with it early on but found that the stance came naturally while engaging in second sight.
We wondered if people would automatically adopt this stance as they became more proficient at Nightwalking. They did, and we found we could tell if a particular person was using second sight just by watching their walk.
After the third session everyone could run over the rocks and gravel in dry stream beds in the dark using only second sight. By the fourth session members of the group could take the lead and find their way unerringly on the darkest of dark nights.
After twelve hours of practice, virtually every one in the group could enter second sight at will, which had taken us about a year to figure out and master.
After the training we queried participants about the lasting effects of the experience. Most of them reported shifts in their worldly perception and daily lives. Several commented on their increased ability to quiet "brain chatter." Virtually all walkers said their awareness of the world around them was broadened, and they were less "stuck" in their heads.
As someone in a later group aptly pointed put: "This is really about convergence. It's about taking a whole bunch of things that are semi-clear and converging them into a single crystalline vision."
TIPS ON NIGHTWALKING
For people living outdoors, peripheral vision is critical for staying alive. It may be time to rediscover it. Here are a few tips. Fix yourself a modified cap and adjust it so the rod tip is directly in line with your nose at eye level. Focus on the tip as you walk around your house. Then try walking around the yard.
Avoid places where there may be traffic or drop-offs. In the beginning your vision will seem blurred. Pay attention to the total field of vision, far to the sides and up and down. Slowly you'll be able to perceive a fairly clear field of vision with only the center (cone vision) blurred, doubled in fact. As your field of vision begins to clear take it as an indication that you're switching over to second sight.
Later you can begin to examine elements in your field of vision by simply moving your attention to them. Notice that we say attention, not eyes. Your eyes should remain constantly on the tip of the rod.
This is really what second sight is about, using just peripheral vision and the mind to gather and process visual information. The first part will take about three hours, the second about the same length of time.
By keeping your eyes focused on the rod tip while walking, you will eventually break two strong visual habits - relying only on cone vision and moving the eyes to new points of interest. Find a place to walk in the dark which is out of the range of artificial lights.
Pick a night with little or no moon; take a friend
Because of the rods' extreme sensitivity to light, you may see unusual light phenomena. Some of this is imaginary, caused by "overcharging" of unused optic nerves, the rest results from natural or bioluminescence.
Over time Nightwalking sensitizes the eye and brain, so some of what you see may surprise you. We've become aware of light-emitting bacteria in rotting logs and along the veins of certain plants. Fireflies seem like strobe lights. Glow worms are blinding. A quarter moon rising on a clear night can bring tears to your eyes with its brightness.
Enjoy, Keith Idell
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Kol Drake replied the topic: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

Similar to the ancient Incan runners -- the Chasqui. They were the 'messenger carriers' of the Empire. At high altitude and funky temperatures, Chasqui runners could run almost 242 km a day. Barefoot. Twice what was considered a 'good march' for Roman Legions which trotted a mere 100 miles a day. (Of course, they also carried a sizable load of armor and weapons but... )

There were also the Rarámuri or Tarahumara who are a Native American people of northwestern Mexico renowned for their long-distance running ability. First mentioned by the Spaniards in the 1500s... they were running fools. :P With widely dispersed settlements, these people developed a tradition of long-distance running up to 200 miles (320 km) in one session, over a period of two days through their homeland of rough canyon country, for intervillage communication and transportation as well as to hunt. Their running in sandals is described in the book, Born to Run. The Tarahumara also use the toe strike method of running, which is natural for barefoot running.

So, running around the globe and some major distances.... many times barefoot! Hard to believe when most folks are groaning after walking out to get their newspaper from the end of their driveway.
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Jax replied the topic: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

Can you please post these in the health and fitness section of the site?
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Taijibum replied the topic: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

I am down with a back injury so I finally worked up my personal commentary on my understanding of The Jedi Code.

Introduction
It must be stated that each of the precepts of the Jedi Code do not stand on their own. Each is interdependent on the others. In our lives as Jedi, one precept may take precedence and at another time in our life, another may be the focus of our studies.

There is no emotion, there is peace.
The force is neither light or dark. The force is clear and much like a blank slate. We color it with our emotions and give it form with our thoughts. This is why we strive to be at peace in all things. When we practice meditation and the force begins to grow strong in us, it will manifest with intention and form, from our conscious or unconscious motivations.

Early in my training I had what at first appeared to be demonic attacks. During meditation I felt I was being punched and grabbed by invisible entities. I let go of my fear and what I discovered was the punching fists and grasping hands that I felt assaulting me were just aberrant physical sensations much like the odd itch or crawling sensation you might feel on your arm but when you look there is nothing there. The difference was my fear was intensifying the sensations while my imagination, thoughts and preconceptions were giving them the form of "demonic attacks", since that is what I expected from my Catholic upbringing.

So when we begin our journey, as Jedi our first task is to quell our tumultuous emotions and face our inner demons. When we can face our own inner demons and see them for what they are, we will be able to maintain our peace no matter our outer circumstances.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
Every confusing situation we find ourselves in is a learning experience and every obstacle we encounter is training. Sometimes this is called "beginners mind." Observe how children at play are not just learning and overcoming, but also having fun. This is how our minds work. Sometimes however we let our expectations of what should happen disrupt the normal course of learning and we get confused. Everything is as it should be according to natural forces and the will of the Force. Confusion abates when we stop trying to control everything.

Do not enter a situation with the intent to change things according to your will. Enter the situation and let it flow around you and then you can guide the events to their natural conclusion according the will of the Force. Let the Force guide you and don't try to force things. The Force knows what it is doing.

There is no passion, there is serenity.
Often we strive towards things such as improving sword techniques or increasing our sensitivity to the Force with very good intentions, and we should indeed strive to improve. However when such striving combines with our emotions and it becomes a passion, it may become poisoned. Our passion to improve our sword technique becomes a game of beating your opponents at all costs or our desire to increase our sensitivity to the Force becomes an insatiable desire for more power.

Therefore, stay aware of your overarching goal of service to all life forms and not to your own personal desire to improve for its own sake. In other words, when practicing the how, don't forget the why.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.
An ant caught in a whirlpool might only see its immediate surroundings and see only chaos. When a person looks down from a higher physical perspective and a higher conscious state, we see the beauty of the swirling water and understand the physics behind it and also the ant.

The same may be perceived with us. In the immediacy of a crisis we may not see a solution or way out. With time and patience our perspective may grow and what at first seemed an unstoppable force for our destruction, becomes an unparallelled opportunity for our advancement.

There is no death, there is the force.
Every new breakthrough in Force sensitivity leads to a deeper understanding that there is no death. From our first out of body experience, to gaining a direct vision of the source of all life, we deepen our faith and that is what it is, faith, in the idea that after death, we do not end. In some way we will go on when our body is ended.

Conclusion
One thing I have noticed that others seem to have over looked is the similarity of the code's order and the process of self-actualization and the Hero's Journey. Meditation, study, skill development, teaching and then self-transcendence.
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Kol Drake replied the topic: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

Dude! WHAT did you DO to your back?

I thought you were all uber fit with all the stuff you have been doing for months and months...

well... I can 'see' it though. My ex was 'just' sitting on the edge of the bed and reached over to grab a blouse and the next thing I knew, she was on the floor with a major back issue... so, the body can 'respond' in a weird way at the oddest (and sometimes smallest) of 'incidental' movements.

DO hope your back can be put back into 'ship shape' in due course.
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Taijibum replied the topic: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

I was putting on my socks! I heard my back clunk and then I had a sharp pain. I had this happen once before a couple years ago before I started running so much. When it happened then I fell to the floor and couldn't move for hours. I thought I was paralyzed. That one took me a month to get over. This time I should be better in a couple more days. I can walk, but sitting and running hurt. Tai Chi even hurt for a couple days but this morning it was OK.
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Asta Sophi replied the topic: Re: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

...And I think of (
) this when I think of you running thinking about Yoda.

Great Weird Al song :cheer:
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Asta Sophi replied the topic: Re: Journal of a Jedi Wannabe- by Taijibum

Oh heck - I meant thinking about you running thinking about Degobah... heh.
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