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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Unmistakable Force of Qi

Chronicles of Tao
by Deng Ming-Dao

It was hot in August. Even the dark summer mornings seemed warm on his skin. He stood in the black shadow cast by the pavilion's upper level and made himself absolutely still. he thought of his dan tian, a spot of concentration in his lower abdomen. According to the classics of Taiji, this was the moment analogous to the void that preceded the universe. It was wu wei, Nothingness. He held no thoughts.

The first moment of the universe, when time and energy and matter were all set into motion, was believed to have been trigged by thought. In the same way, he decided to begin. This was volition. There could be no movement without it. He inhaled, and the breath stirred the respiratory of energy in his dan tian, just as the first ray of though that flashed through the void had generated breath.

His arms rose. The energy rushed up his back and out to his hands with a tingling sensation. His fingers filled with blood. breath and blood and consciousness all flowed from his center out, as the universe had first expanded from a single point of infinity. He lowered his arms, bent his knees, and the energy sank back to his dan tian, descended to the bottom of his feet. He established upper and lower, rising and falling, expansion and return. In the movement of two arms, he distinguished yin from yang. All this occurred in the first movement of Tai Chi Chuan. It did not need discourse or philosophical speculation; it taught by doing. It taught on a level that the conscious mind did not acknowledge. 

He began to move his arms and take a variety of stances. Outwardly, the postures seemed similar to other styles of martial arts. After all, the science of footwork and strikes was already well established before Tai Chi had ever been created. It was a relatively young martial art, which had reached the zenith of its form only within the last one hundred years; it was natural that it should resemble other styles. But inwardly, it was much different. 

Other styles had features that were outwardly apparent. This was part of the reason that a fighter like Saihung could observe the patterns of a style and adapt even during the heat of battle. Taiji, however, could only be appreciated by the person doing it. 

So much of its qualities lay within the mysterious arrangement of its movements, the slowness that encouraged healthy circulation, the deep breathing that became automatic when the postures were done correctly. What was hidden in Taiji was the secret that only the practitioners knew: Energy could be circulated in a special easy if one took the trouble to keep certain alignments of the body. 

These alignments were a straight back, rounded shoulders, pelvis tilted upward, head straight, feet firmly planted, and body relaxed. This simple set of concordances set the gates of the body open; and if one had not clogged the pathways of the body by poor diet or indiscreet living, the energy would spontaneously move on its own. The first thought in the first posture set it into motion. Throughout the rest of the movements, it would flow on its own. No ordinary person could see this on the outside, but inside, the practitioner could feel the movement and enjoy the sensation of life force itself. By relaxing and letting go, he gained everything. He love feeling the movement deep beneath his skin.

Here in the process of Taiji was the sensation of life itself. It was no just blood flow. It was not just the simple tingling of nerves. It was the unmistakable feeling that a force was flowing like at tide throughout the body. Not only did this force leave one feeling fresh, alert, and renewed, but it also responded to consciousness. 

The quality that made him a living human being was not simple energy like electricity from a socket. It was something more subtle, more complex. It would respond to his thoughts, and it could be disrupted by his thoughts. That was why there was meditation. The more focused one's thinking was, the more one could direct and learn from the forces within.

When the energy flowed, the channels were purified, the organs were regulated, and the subtle channels of the nervous system were cleansed. Consciousness had set the universe in motion. The motion in Taiji did the opposite. It could affect the consciousness of the individual. Both sides of the body were moving, the eyes were following the hands, the spine was continuously being rotated and stimulated, and it was inevitable that both sides of the brain would be opened at the same time. All of this happened through the gentle movements of a set of more than on hundred postures.