Let’s talk about energy for a bit. While food is necessary, and we do derive some vitality from it, the true energy is the result of the Chi (Prana). If it were only a matter of food, an overweight person, or one who ate great quantities, would be the most energetic. But, is this the case?
Overweight people are apt to be lethargic. Who wins the marathon race in the Olympic games, an overweight person? Hardly. It always seems to be a spare, underweight person.
It would be interesting to put some athletes on a program stimulating maximum Chi. The primary practice would be T’ai Chi Chih, and we would add the secret Nei Kung (practiced while lying on the back), as well as certain breathing and meditative techniques. It is my guess that a track runner would then find he or she could surpass the best previous time for distance running and would reach a new plateau of performance. In such sports as basketball, an older player might find themselves tired less readily and not as susceptible to the leg injuries that plague basketball players. A tennis player would, I believe, notice the difference in stamina in the fourth and fifth sets of long matches, and weight-lifters or shot-putters would find they could improve their best previous marks. I have never made these experiments, but am confident that an increase in the Chi, and better circulation of it, would readily accomplish these improvements. I have no doubts at all of the resulting improvement in physical fitness.
Many men find their sexual performance diminishing from the time of their mid-40s. Much of this, of course, is often psychological, but there is usually a definite physical slowdown in today’s sedentary man after he reaches his 40s. However, male T’ai Chi teachers in their 80s have been known to marry and have offspring.
The Chinese respect T’ai Chi for its great aid to longevity. Just as important is the necessity of keeping vigor as one grows older. Chinese doctors for several thousand years have known that, when the yin and yang elements are out of balance, there is illness, and they have developed techniques, such as acupuncture (including massage and moxery) to right the imbalance.
So, when we lack energy, are chronically tired and lackadaisical, there is a good chance the Intrinsic Energy is not circulating.
In an excellent pamphlet, reprinted from Chinese Culture of March, 1969, the eminent teacher, Professor Wen-Shan Huang, says:
“We seem to realize that, in the universe, there is an ever-active, ever-creative life, and an inexhaustible source of energy-life and energy, which are made available to mankind when a fitting stage of development is achieved. It is particularly significant that it has a great reverence for life.” So we discern a spiritual basis for this great Chi energy, which is not ours alone but belongs to the cosmos. (We manifest it individually when we do the necessary disciplines to develop and focus this great power.)
Professor Huang continues, “T’ai Chi (Supreme Ultimate) is originally circular in shape, and it is the combined entity of the yin and yang principles.”
This circularity is the reason why, in all T’ai Chi disciplines, we move in a circular manner in order to activate this energy. A windmill follows the same principle.
“There is, behind the phenomenon of change, the Changeless Absolute, or Grand Ultimate (T’ai Chi).” From this we come to realize that, in working with this great force, we are doing more than mere exercise—we are pursuing a way to truth, or Enlightenment. Few realize that Enlightenment is experienced in the body, though this is what the Buddha and his successors have always taught and experience seems to prove.
“T’ai Chi is generated from ‘Wu Chi,’ or Ultimate Nothingness. It is the moving power of the dynamic and static states, and the source of the yin and yang principles. When they are in motion, they separate, and when they remain static, they combine. We can understand that…all its movements are in the patterns of the circular T’ai Chi diagram image and they are expressed with curves emphasizing the principles of yang and yin, substantial and insubstantial motions, opening and closing mood, and dynamic and static state.”
In the above statements, Professor Huang has quoted Chinese authorities of antiquity, and the principles apply equally well to T’ai Chi Ch’uan or T’ai Chi Chih.
Professor Huang refers to Wu Chi (Sunyata in Sanskrit), or Ultimate Nothingness. Whether we call this Nothingness, Void, God, or Buddha Nature, we are dealing with the same Great Reality. Just as Yoga attempts to retrace its steps so as to get back to the seed, or cause, in T’ai Chi practice we reintegrate by using our movements to take us back to the source. It is good if, after a period of movement, we do a short meditation, such as the “Cosmic Consciousness Pose” or the “Great Circle Meditation,” in order to be quiet and centered while the great yin and yang forces, which we have separated and circulated with our movements, come together again. A very young and great Chinese philosopher, Wang Bi (3rd century A.D.) has postulated, “Motion cannot control motion. That which controls the motion of the world is absolutely one.”
The quiet meditation we enjoy immediately after T’ai Chi Chih practice, while our fingers, hands, and being are still vibrating, is a way to retrace our steps to this one that is the source. We do not have to be religious to do this. In this way we can make ourselves whole to go along with the great physical benefits we can derive from T’ai Chi Chih practice.
It is entirely possible to do the hand movements of T’ai Chi Chih while we are watching television or sitting in an upright chair—we simply place the appropriate leg in a slightly outstretched position to simulate the correct stance. A definite flow of Chi energy can be stimulated in this manner.
While walking down the street, I often find that, unconsciously, I am performing the T’ai Chi Chih movements with my hands—and with good results! Most frequently I seem to do the “Around the Platter Variation” movement.
Do not be startled by the flow of energy, even if it is felt as a heat current at night and wakes you up. Go with this flow—rest in it and enjoy it. Sages have said it is the “Real,” and they believed development of it led to long life. After continued practice, the reader should be able to evaluate such benefits for him or herself.