[Photo Copyright by Moyan Brenn via Flickr under Creative Commons Licence]
When I started training in my very first Tai Chi class, the teacher told us that we should consider very carefully if we really want to continue on this path. He warned us that this training would change our whole personality and our whole life. Back in the day I laughed at this, but today, fifteen years later I have to strongly agree with him. It is really not about Tai Chi. Tai Chi is just one example for an internal martial arts style, which means that you will learn to look inside more than you are used to. It’s the same with every spiritual way. Once you start to look inside on a regular basis you will realize that the way you perceive the world around you will start to change.
This has consequences. If the way you perceive reality changes, reality changes also, since you are the one who creates the world you live in. A simple example for this is the energy of Tai Chi. Once you experience the energy flowing through your body yourself, while following the instructions of your teacher, all of the sudden there will be energy flowing through your whole universe. It is the same with meditation. Once you see that a peaceful mind is possible, you will start to experiment with a peaceful world. This process of discoveries will then continue to spread to more and higher functions of your consciousness, if you allow for the training to happen. It will move slowly through your physical world, but more importantly will involve more and more of your mind and therefore the minds around you. There lies a risk in this development which might only dawn on you many years down the line.
The risk is that while you are heavily involved in changing your reality, the rest of the world around you might not do so. After a while this might cause problems for you, especially if you start to put more and more weight on the spiritual side of your practice. The problems arise faster once you start to redefine your values, especially if your society defines these very same values in an entirely different way. Society, for example, loves cheap sensual pleasures in form of multimedia entertainment. Society encourages you to spend a lot of money to satisfy these sensual pleasures which in most cases do not even relate to reality any more. Society also needs you to work hard in jobs heavily disconnected from the same reality, so you can earn the money you need for spending more time in very transitory states of pleasure. Now add to this, that the self-definition of most people in the society around you is deeply rooted within the definition of these shallow values. Most people are deadly afraid to even question these established definitions, so if you plan to get anything back from society and the people living in it, you better learn to embrace these values society defines for you.
Any questioning of these values will distance you from the people around you. You will realize that life has many layers to it and that society is constructed mainly on the most superficial one. It creates what you might want to call >conventional reality<. The further you distance yourself from this reality, the stranger you will appear to the eyes of the people around you. They will have an increasingly hard time to follow you along the ideas you will establish in your mind and soon will feel threatened by the knowledge that is now common to you. The symptoms are very easy. You will not be fun at parties any more. You will be increasingly unwilling to explain yourself and soon people will consider you to be the victim of a brainwashing – which is entirely true. In bad cases you might wander away from the campsite of society far enough to lose your way back home again. This is when you are really in trouble.
This is what my teacher was talking about. You have started to wash your mind and free it from everything that stands in the way of you understanding reality for what it actually is. Part of this process are some harsh truths that people will not follow you on, like the truth that all sensual experience is disappointing by design. It has to be, simply because it is impermanent and uncontrollable. This path is dangerous but it promises that after you put your feet on it and start it with no official entrance or beginning, you might end up walking free through the universe.
Once you are free it should no longer be possible to imprison you anywhere or by anything.

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