This is the woo-woo part of #STEMofTaiChi. It is also the source of beauty, mystery, wisdom, and understanding. Knowledge comes from reframing the way we think about things. Consider consciousness and the energy systems in the body or the way you have always thought about Yin and Yang. The way we understand reality today is VASTLY different from how our great-great grandparents did. The ancestors were not wrong; we are just more aware of the larger picture now.
Eastern Attributes Versus Western Medical and Theoretical Science of Tai Chi
We all of us knew there was going to be something contradictory about the energy of life in this course, right. It’s in the name ‘Chi’.
In Eastern cultures chi is what George Lucas and Yoda would refer to as the “force that binds the universe together”. Joseph Campbell (One of my personal heroes) referred to it as “Sacrifice and Bliss” and that it is the agent through which Yin and Yang occupy the universe with thought. Even the Dalai Llama refers to ‘chi’ as the universe looking upon itself and knowing.
Whereas in western culture energy is quantified in language as passion, verve, determination and vigor. In science it is a sum for the Newtonian mechanical calculation (f=m*a) and small discrete amounts of power (Q=(i)^2*R*t). It is But no one in the west really understands what, why, or how energy – especially life energy like life or consciousness manifest.
The body as an antenna
In eastern cultures the body is divided into seven chakras. In western cultures the body is perceived as discrete structures that are all under the illusion of control by the brain. The western model divides the body into more than seven systems. But the seven most important systems align to the seven chakras. It is important that you reframe your body as both alive and transmitting your essence, energy, and emotions, but you are also receiving these. The eastern/western body dynamics inferred by chakras are parts of a communication antenna. We KNOW intuitively when a part of this system is misaligned. We experience this as dis-ease. I am not professing that we can manage illness or wellness with Tai Chi – just that we can perceive and address it.
Even in the eastern tradition, there are external treatments to manage and redirect the energy flow issues of the diseased body. So in western medicine we have external treatments as well. The main difference being that in western medicine, a great deal of emphasis is given to treating illness chemically and at the system or organ level. This is changing, but until they can meet we need to think of the body as a Yin Yang of eastern and western value systems.
The Chakras vs Neural Clusters
The eastern philosophy of chi arose in ancient cultures of China, India, and the Fertile Crescent independently. They were largely based on observations of the way the human form interacts and channels chi or energy. They noted the flow of energy in systems and the flow of energy as emotions all under the control of gravity, like water flows. Thus the seven chakra that correspond with the essential aspects of the body biologically, metabolically, and intellectually are stacked from top to bottom. The base of the tetrahedron (more on platonic solids in the mathematics section) of the lotus position is wider than the top point. Note that the chakras and western corollaries are in beautiful and cross functional balance. Each level takes on more and more responsibility for the life flowing through the body.
- The Crown/Prefrontal Cortex is where the mind spirit and emotions reside.
- The Third Eye/Brainstem is autonomic and instinct:
- The body metabolism is managed,
- The neural response and autonomic functions are managed and
- it is the oldest most universal brain type and the source of instinct.
- The Throat/Thyroid is a regulator:
- The body regulates food
- The body takes in breath and exhales
- The body’s endocrine and hormone regulation and production systems are managed
- The body’s lymphatic response to invasion is regulated and initiated
- The Heart/Cardio Pulmonary is:
- The vital engine of life
- The source of pressure within homeostasis
- The body’s drumbeat regulation system
- The transfer point to expel the CO2 produced within the body by both the body and it’s ‘second body’ inhabitants
- The Solar Plexus/Diaphragm is where:
- The act of breathing is powered
- It is the floor of the body’s respiration core
- It is the motion transfer mechanism for the body’s muscle core
- It is the roof of the thoracic cavity where vital organs are housed
- The Sacral/Umbilicus/Reproduction is the key chakra so much happens here:
- It is the center of gravity for the human form
- It is the seat of the connection between life
- It contains the mesentery nerve cluster which enervates and houses the ‘second body’ microfauna and flora
- It is the seat of digestion
- The Root/Perineum is at the base where:
- Wastes are expelled
- Energy is channelled
- The Sex Organs are accessed
- The Base of the mind body spirit
This structure is important because Tai Chi is essentially the mindful transfer of physical, mental, and emotional energy through the body.
Phases of learning Tai Chi
There will be phases to learning Tai Chi and they relate to the Chakras/Nerve clusters:
- At first you will be all in your head trying to remember the form and your crown and third eye will be completely engaged.
- This is the novice phase.
- It will be stressful.
- Practice is the only way through.
- The energy will come from your internal store almost exclusively.
- The energy is fear and nervous energy.
- Physiology, Language and Mathematics will help considerably.
- As you learn the form you will be using your sense of balance and marshaling your breath and the motion which will engage the complete chakra complex.
- This is the intermediate phase.
- It will be less stressful, but still very mechanical.
- Practice is the only way through.
- The energy will come partly from your muscles and partly from the ground.
- The energy is still tinged with fear but mostly doubt.
- Physics, Neurobiology and Mathematics will help considerably.
- As you grow more comfortable with the form, you will revert to your root, sacral, and third eye chakras.
- This is the competent phase.
- It will be less stressful.
- You will be actively controlling and transmitting energy.
- Practice is the only way to mastery.
- The energy will come from ground and your emotions.
- The energy will come from the world around you and hope.
- Physiology, Language, Physics, and Mathematics will help considerably.
- At this point your body will perform Tai Chi automatically and your thoughts will flow like a river down and through your chakra/nerve clusters and back up like a tide.
- This is the mastery phase.
- You will turn to Tai Chi seeking relief from struggle, fear, and oftentimes pain.
- You will either give or take energy depending on what is in need.
- Your energy will come from your environment.
- You will draw energy in like water becomes a cloud.
- You will broadcast energy back in this state.
- This is securely in the realm of metaphysics.
Meditation in Motion
Tai Chi is a way for your body and mind to meditate in unity. Tai Chi should never be choppy or transitional. No one wants a mind of rough seas. We all of us want peace and fluidity. You must learn to practice Tai Chi as you perceive time: Only nervous people count time. For the peaceful mind each second flows into the next. This is how Tai Chi should be experienced. This will require you to conquer your third eye and root chakras. You must integrate the lessons I have laid out here to attain the water form. As you progress from Novice to Mastery you will find that your body becomes more still and graceful and you can think on what you need to think about to find balance in your mind. Tai Chi eats fear, pain, and worry and it transforms them into peace and useful, actionable energy. What you do with that energy is up to you. But much as plants pull nitrogen from the ground and atmosphere to create life, Tai Chi will push and pull energy through, around and within you.
One Last Lesson on Yin and Yang
The universe is mysterious. We do not know why we experience everything as a duality. From the conscious to the dead, the quantum to the relativistic, light to dark, good evil we know there is always two, But two is an illusion.
Tai Chi is
It is the trinity. The Yin Yang is a trinity as well:
We think we see two elements in opposition here. But there are three. The Yin, The Yang, and the boundary set (AKA the observable universe). The mind that watches is the Chi of Tai Chi. We often forget that we – our consciousness – is integral for reality to even exist. Our body acts. Our minds perceive intent. But our chi is the source of impact.
Consider light and dark. Light or dark is irrelevant without context. Are you in a space that is devoid of light – all light – ever? Or the inverse; are you ever in a space where shadows do not exist? The arena is the key here. Try to remember that when you are practicing Tai Chi for mental, physical or emotional health. You are the antenna. You are creating a bubble in time – the boundary set of Yin and Yang – for yourself. This is such a profound reframing of the this and all the arguments that are made about reality. When you are in balance with chi you are the boundary and all the rest the Yin and Yang are dancing within you. Namaste and I love you.