What Makes Practice Intentional?

Neuroscience clearly shows that intentional learning results in the greatest benefits. 'Intentional' means the student knows why something is done in a certain way as well as how. In any contemplative context it is critical to understand the relationship between philosophy, concepts and principles. This process clarifies expectations and results in better outcomes.

Lets begin with definitions.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with realityexistenceknowledge,valuesreasonmind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3] In more casual speech, by extension, "philosophy" can refer to "the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group".[4]

Concept: In metaphysics, and especially ontology, a concept is a fundamental category of existence. In contemporary philosophy, there are at least three prevailing ways to understand what a concept is:[1]

  • Concepts as mental representations, where concepts are entities that exist in the brain.
  • Concepts as abilities, where concepts are abilities peculiar to cognitive agents.
  • Concepts as abstract objects, where objects are the constituents of propositions that mediate between thought, language, and referents.

Principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored.[1]

Examples of principles:

  • a descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption,
  • a normative rule or code of conduct,
  • a law or fact of nature underlying the working of an artificial device.

From Wikipedia entries Philosophy Concepts Principles

Zhong Xin Dao (ILC) Training System

Zhong Xin Dao (ILC) recognizes a fundamental issue or problem through Buddhist (Chan) and Taoist (Tai Chi) philosophical inquiry. This inquiry is mediated by concepts, which give rise to specific principles.

The two essential ZXD philosophical concerns are:

  1. Nature is complete - Nothing is left out and nothing can be added. Our philosophical inquiry is how to accept things as they are and accept that we are 'Already There'. There is 'Nothing to learn or accumulate, only to enage in the training process to recognize and realize' this essential nature.
  2. Nature is change - This change is harmonious and as such continuously cycles through yin and yang phases or aspects. Our challenge is how to 'Change with the change'.

Every legitimate Chinese internal martial art or qigong health practice holds to some version of this philosophy. Understanding any system, we must understand how the concepts relate back to the philosophy in order for us to better interpret and follow the principles.

We will begin with two main ZXD concepts as abstract mental objects to help us in this exploration.

  1. Every movement and posture is to relax with the cycle of yin and yang.
  2. ZXD is based on feel.

Why do the philosophy and concepts, which all legitimate internal arts share, lead to such wildly different observable results? It's our understanding of the philosophy and concepts that give rise to our principles. Please refer to the aspect of the Wikipedia definition that a principle  '... is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed.'

As an example of how important a clear understanding of the relationships between philosophy, concepts and principles can be shown using the Tai Chi principle of 'Flow - no advancing and no backing off'.

This is a rule that clearly fits under concept number one 'to relax with the cycle of yin and yang' and must have concept number two 'feel'. If you leave out the 'feel' how can you know that your practice and understanding follow the philosophy? How can we be sure that our practice is effective?

First your instructor 'feeds you the feel' through physical contact. In partner training you can test it to see that it works and is better than other movements that lack the same quality of feel.

How do we decide what 'better' movement is? What is the quality of movement that is useful? How do we optimize performance? The principles simply tell what to do and not to do and the concepts only tell us what we're doing, not how to see how a movement is 'better or worse'. We have to look to the philosophy to verify that our training experience is valid.

Number two aspect of our philosophy is 'Change with the change'. If you can move to flow with another person in time and space then you can say you are, 'Neither advancing nor backing off'. If you can't flow, you aren't following the philosophy. We can test the principle against the concepts and against the philosophy to be clear that we are training correctly and to reduce room for errors in our practice and to be successful.

So what tools do we have to look deeper into Flow - 'no advancing and no backing off'.

The process of bringing the physical and mental together is called the '6-3-1', (Six physical points->three mental factors->one suchness feel). The 6-3-1 refers to a set of principles guided by the concept of 'feel'. Either the 6 physical points are there or they are not. Either the three mental factors are there or they are not. The recognition of the suchness feel is limited by the students refinement of physical movement and mental understanding. These are specific principles that apply to 'seeing things as they are'. The mind-body feeling of Tao.

To review, we use testing processes to help us know that we are training under the philosophy and concepts to get the best results.

  1. Tao - Already there -> Mental (6-3-1) -> Flow
  2. Tao - Change with the change -> Physical (Feeling Yin-yang cycle) -> Flow

The ‘10-10’ tells us how to go through this same process of inquiry for every part of the system. It answers the question of 'How does what I'm doing at this moment fit with the philosophy and concepts?' This brings the training process and the qualities of the training process together.

I hope this helps to clarify the elegance and effectiveness of the Zhong Xin Dao (ILC) martial training system.


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