A Psycho-Physical View of Tai Chi
By Terry Edwards
I have been meaning to write a full article for some time on the subject of chi but here is a condensed summary of what I wanted to say. I thought it better to get something down in writing rather than wait for time to write a fuller version. These are my personal views and are offered in the hope that they will help somebody. I do not wish to create controversy or seem to be "laying down the law".
In my view, there are many aspects to the concept of chi; all of them have a basis of validity but I believe it would be a mistake to say that any one is true above all the others. For me, the total concept encompasses far more than any single viewpoint. I suggest that on one level, chi may be thought of as a very small particle which behaves en masse like a fluid when in its free form. If we think of the meridians as being like pipes (conduits?), then the principles of fluid flow apply. The process that best describes the flow of chi along the meridians is diffusion. This diffusion works most efficiently when the channels are opened and as straight as possible. When the fluid meets an obstacle, the flow is diverted and when it encounters a bend, it moves best when the angle is greater than ninety degrees. I also understand that the meridians display superconducting properties on a very minute scale; I imagine this has something to do with containment of the flow. The health of the body's bioelectric field would improve the movement and passage of chi.
Another property of chi is that it responds to the direction of the mind; I believe this is because it is the "stuff" from which consciousness constructs everything that exists (by consciousness I imply something much greater and more diverse than just the human mind). In its "non free" state I believe chi is the constituent of matter and radiation. Chi in matter is a pattern of particles or points that are arrayed in space in a geometric distribution according to mathematical probability patterns called "wave functions". Chi can be moved at will but not by the "brain" but by the higher conscious mind that is part of the space time continuum and originates in the infinite.
I regard the chi "particle" as being one of the manifestations of the Tao; the representation of the process by which chi is created from the infinite domain. This is why I believe it would be difficult to detect by normal scientific methods; it is much smaller than the atom (see end note). The lesson from this is that the application of the mind in directing the movement of chi is a very important factor in tai chi. This is why chi gung and meditation form an important part of the discipline.
The human organism is constructed from chi in its many guises through a series of wave function distribution patterns that cascade down from the most simple (the distribution of the seven major chakras), to intermediate distributions like the acupuncture points, to the most detailed (cells and molecules). I suggest the consciousness behind living creatures forms the body shape from the dynamics of its motion. In other words the intention of how it will move and eat and function suggests the arrangement of its skeletal and internal structure. The body fulfils a larger design pattern which has implicit within it an optimum and natural way of "moving"; some sort of mathematical waveform. The pattern of consciousness behind the "generic" creature would define the motion in broad brush strokes and conceive a design to fulfil this by extracting archetypal information from the "planes of consciousness" (what the mathematician would call "fractal forms"). By moving in the flow of this trajectory of natural motion I suggest the living body would be generated as a pattern in space in the moment of time more closely to its ideal state by exercising the intention of this design. (I am suggesting here that on a certain level deep in the unconscious, we as individual members of the species construct our own bodies moment by moment from the genetic information available.) The mere act of moving in a natural way would therefore be healing - as demonstrated by tai chi and yoga.
The information which describes this pattern is located in high level distributions (wave functions again) and these are centred on regions of geometry. These geometric domains seem to be circular or spherical in form and centred on points called chakras. The limit of influence of one of these patterns is described by boundary regions called "gates" in tai chi. I have on occasions felt these gates in my body as circular patterns - like a lump in the throat, a ball in the abdomen, another in the diaphragm and two more in the base region. It seems important to develop the ability to "sit" on an imaginary ball that pushes up the front of the spine from the base (the coccyx) into the hip joints. Your torso should then sit on this ball and feel as relaxed as possible. The weight of the body seems to be located in this seat with the support coming from the muscles and tendons of the legs rather than from the hip joints or leg bones. (My lack of expertise in performing tai chi might make this assumption incorrect - I can only report what I feel.)
I have already referred to the importance of moving in a way that is optimum with the body's design - this I suggest is why perfection of execution of your tai chi form is so important. It provides the part of your consciousness that generates your form improved data on which to base your body and its systems. Those who regard chi as being perfection of form (kung fu?) rather than an energy are also correct - but not exclusively so. The tradition of Western thought that seeks to classify and break down concepts is partly to blame for this failure of understanding. The Western view of the East also gets in the way by encouraging an attitude that the East has something mysterious and superior that we do not. The Tao is simply another way of describing the wave-particle duality of nature. When we become citizens of planet earth and put the two cultures into balance, synthesising the wisdom of both, we shall make hopefully great strides in understanding.
What seems to have happened in the case of human beings is that the posture has become erect and as a result we have lost the ability to hold our bodies with the spine straight and relaxed. We have allowed our internal organs to sag and pull the spine out of shape. We take up tai chi and spend a years trying to recapture what we lost in the first three years of life as a result of learning to walk. Tai chi is a way of recapturing the original spirit of our form through moving in the body's most natural way - because this encapsulates the basis on which it was designed by universal consciousness in the first place. The "spirit" is the concept behind the form - the blueprint in the infinite domain of existence. By moving the "stuff" from which we are made with the mind in a higher conscious state, and by becoming at one ("at-onement" = atonement) with the pattern of motion that underlies our physical design we can reunite with the spirit (infinite concept) that underlies our existence and achieve health and harmony and, ultimately, the next step in the evolution of our species - enlightenment.
One last observation seems appropriate because it touches upon my personal failure to get anywhere with tai chi in the past (I have yet to apply what I have stated here but I would like to believe that I am capable of doing it eventually). I wondered why I see so much poor quality tai chi around in comparison with the masters'. My conclusion is that the cult of the tai chi master may be partly to blame. We are encouraged by the characteristics of our own hero-centred culture to view tai chi masters as superior beings who have attained a level of accomplishment that is beyond us. We should treat them with respect for their achievement and undoubted qualities but I do not think we should put them on a pedestal. Once you do that you are saying that you cannot equal their ability and thereby impose a subconscious limitation on yourself. Mastery of anything is in the grasp of all of us. The knack is to find the pathway that leads to success; once you find it then by definition (and with hard work) success is assured. You do not need to follow that path as far as actually achieving success - you can move off to another pathway and master something else if you wish or any number of things. It is another self imposed limitation to seek to master one thing alone.
The danger of mastering something is that you feed your own ego; it is better to see it as no big deal really. Tai chi is a battle with the ego; mastery is no great thing, therefore it is attainable. Success is no big thing either and should not make you big headed. If a master desires to be revered or does not discourage it, then I would expect his/her school to flounder. My impression is that tai chi masters do not set out deliberately to create this divide and it may not affect everybody (though it certainly affected me) but often because of language and cultural differences I wonder if they fully understand the effect it has. I used to see mastery of tai chi as being something that made you special and let you enter an exclusive domain of mystery and power; the very attitude that kept sending my progress off at a tangent to nowhere. The simplicity of it was staring me in the face and yet I could not see it.
The goal seems to be to create in the mind and body a free flowing form of chi (or "light") that can be held in consciousness under the action of the will. If this "body of light" can be maintained in higher or continuum consciousness even beyond death then the infinite form (or spirit) can achieve immortality of existence all the way down the higher dimensions to the physical level. All that exists is made up of points held in array by consciousness but once we go beyond the illusion of void or space we have an option to hold a pattern of free light together with the will without needing the mould of physical form (trapped light) to help us; this can only be achieved when the Tao-like particles remain in this form voluntarily. From this we can deduce that the two most important factors in personal advancement are love and the exercise of free will. The key point for the individual is in the heart chakra - the centre from which your pattern is drawn and the one which defines your relationship to the universe. This important fact escapes our attention because we are most conscious of the point inside the head from which our sense of intellectual self originates. We need to learn to function from the heart because this more truly reflects our place in the universe. Move from the dan tien but live from the heart. In this model, the meridians can also be seen as the sketch lines that "join the dots", that is flesh out the pattern dictated by the chakra and acupuncture points.
In the metaphor, "light" (the particle state) is the part of cosmic duality that experiences existence and the void or "shadow" (the wave state) is the aspect that shapes experience. Once formed, this light being would be rather like a child. This is why tai chi and all life should be seen as child's play to improve the chances of success - find the child within. Breathing plays a key role in this because you need to learn to be responsible for controlling your own inspiration of both chi as well as oxygen. The word spirit relates directly to the concept of breath. We have within us the potential to become what the heart desires; the key seems to be to give up the struggle and to allow it to happen in a state of trust. Your higher consciousness has its roots in the infinite. Go with the flow and stop struggling against your own destiny and you will be fulfilled.
For the scientifically minded, I believe the diameter of the chi particle is extremely small - I propose it is defined by something called the Planck length which is only "10 to the minus 35" metres in diameter. It may also be termed the quantum of space. This implies that there is a corresponding quantum of time - a universal pulse that generates time in fragments of "10 to the minus 43" seconds. It is the pulse of time that is responsible for relativity phenomena. The cycle of the pulse is represented in the Tao model by its two phases; one where the light is a point in the shadow of space (the finite state) when the wave function collapses, the other where the shadow is a point in the light (the infinite state). In the pulse of time we cycle between these two states but we are only conscious of being finite. The ultimate goal of consciousness is to be balanced in both. It might well be that free chi makes up the so called "missing" matter in the universe. When these particles form a structured relationship they tie together the "spaces" in which they exist in chains or strings of dimensions (string theory). Their probability functions are generated by fractal processes as described by chaos theory. This implies that the arrow of time is not reversible.
This page hosted by Get your own Free Home Page