News articles have been springing up about phantom vibrations that cell phone users feel. It seems that our brains are so accustomed to anticipating a vibrating cell phone when it's being worn on our belts or in our pockets, that even when the phone isn't there, we can suddenly feel it vibrate.
Our brains learn to anticipate the vibration, and something will trigger the impulses in the brain that make you feel as if your phone is vibrating even when it's back home on the table.
When I saw this story on NBC News this weekend, I saw a parallel to the sensations that so many people say is "proof" that chi is real. They'll do chi kung exercises and they'll swear that they feel tingling or heat or all types of sensations.
I've felt the sensations, too. In fact, there's one chi kung exercise I do and I can feel a ball of energy going from my dan t'ien through my right arm, jumping across from my right hand to my left hand, then coursing through my left arm and back to my dan t'ien.
Your brain can feel a lot of things that aren't real. Anyone who makes the leap of logic that "feelings" are proof of reality are actually guilty of false logic.
Have you ever had a hard time going to sleep at night? I have, and I'll sometimes lie there and imagine myself floating on an inflatable raft on an ocean. After a moment, I can actually feel myself bobbing up and down on the raft, in the water.
If I -- at that moment -- actually believed I was on a raft floating in the ocean, I would need to be taken in for psychiatric treament.
So why do people believe that chi is real just because they have programmed their minds to feel something?
Well, I'll tell you why. Because critical thinking skills are hard to come by, and aren't taught in school. I'm sure you can come up with many instances where people believe in some pretty strange things with every fiber of their being, things that seem pretty impossible, but that doesn't stop them from believing, and getting steamed at you if you don't believe.
I've said for a long time that people who spend too much time and mental energy trying to "cultivate chi" are missing the point of the internal arts. And from what I've seen, and from the people I've met, the ones who spend the most time doing this have no idea how to use the internal arts the way they were intended -- for self-defense and combat.
Now forgive me, I have to go. I think my cell phone is vibrating.