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Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Waist is the First Master

Qi Magazine - Issue 5 (1992)
By Amy Thanawalla

Ken is the 52nd hexagram in the I Ching, and has many lessons to teach us, students of Taijiquan and Qigong. This hexagram is symbolised by the mountain, the immovable and unshakable centre, surrounded by valleys, rivers, fields and forests. On the human level, Ken refers to the power of stability that resides in our gravity centre. When our movements do not originate from our centres they will become weak and ineffectual. Taiji classics say: "The waist is the first master." If our movements start at our shoulders or limbs we will appear nervous, ungrounded and easily overcome, both physically and mentally. Also, we cannot generate or store Qi unless we remain focused, calm and centered deep down.

Mountains standing close together: 
The image of keeping still
Thus the superior man does not permit 
his thoughts to go beyond the situation.

In its application to us, this image represents the spine which is the central axis of the body and which, during our Taiji and Qigong practice, we must keep still, upright and balanced. Since all the limbs hinge on the spine, the head balances on top of all the nerves, extended out from the spine. By keeping the spine still we can calm the whole nervous system, develop our centres and become less tense, anxious and ego centered. In the context of our Taiji and Qigong practice: "not permitting (our) thoughts to go beyond (our) situation) refers to two things.

Firstly it refers to not going away from our centers by not allowing our limbs or intellects to lead the movements. Our movements must be "felt" in our centers. Secondly, it refers to moving at a steady pace through our practice and not rushing ahead to learn to much to soon which we can neither remember or practice correcty.

The male principal of the hexagram (----) is on top, since by nature it moves upwards. The female principal (-- --) is on the bottom, by nature moving downwards. These concepts describe the feelings we should have in our spines through the practice. The top of the head should feel light as though extending upwards, an the Coccyx should move downwards, thus promoting ease and facilitating smooth energy flow throughout the body.

Keeping still
Keeping his back still so that he no longer feels his body. 
He goes into the courtyard and does not see his people. 
No blame.

All the nerve fibres that mediate movement are located in the back, so if the back is perfectly still all restlessness and ego disappears ("no blame"). When perfect stillness is attained, all external distractions disappear, this is what it means by "he goes into his courtyard and does not see his people." When the external is still then the internal, in this case, our internal Qi, can develop very powerfully.

Some people have the experience of 'feeling transparent' when doing standing Qigong exercise. This is because momentary perfect stillness is attained and we do not experience a separation of our Qi from the Qi around us. 

It is very useful to remember this hexagram as a guide 
to one of the fundamentals of Taiji and Qigong training.

More from Qi Magazine:
Qi Magazine - Issue 1 (1991): Qigong Now and Then
Qi Magazine (1997): Er Mei Sudden Enlightenment School