Of all the meditations, it seems the ones most fitting for busy, modern people are the moving meditations. It is easier to move joyously than it is to sit quietly and attempt to control the mind. The latter effort demands a quiet place and considerable motivation on the part of the meditator. T’ai Chi Chih, the moving meditation, can be done by anyone anywhere. It requires no space other than that in which one stands, no special clothing and no semi-dark sound-free location. It seems appropriate for any age at any time except directly after meals and just before going to bed. The effects are those of meditation, as well as of an energizing exercise. The mind is stilled, and a joyous physical glow spreads over the body. The Chi flows, one feels good and 100 chronic ailments seem to improve or disappear. This is a truly healing practice.
Before getting to the instruction part of this chapter, it might be useful to talk a bit about the origin and philosophy of the T’ai Chi disciplines. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is an ancient practice, usually a series of 108 connected movements, appearing almost like a slow dance of unusual beauty. It can take years to master this involved form, but the time spent is well worth the prolonged effort. However, older people have trouble with some of the movements, and some may find they cannot memorize the long, semi-abstract routine that can take 18 or 30 minutes to perform. Usually it is a matter of years before the practitioner notices the flow of the Chi to the extent that it is curative, seems to lengthen life and brings great serenity.
T’ai Chi Chih is a creation of the author’s, utilizing the same yin-yang principles as apply to T’ai Chi Ch’uan. From several ancient movements, which the author was fortunate enough to learn from an old and wise Chinese man, he has created 20 movements (four adapted from T’ai Chi Ch’uan) that can be performed in any order. One does not even have to master all 20; frequent practice of six or eight will cause the Chi to flow to a great extent, and this Chi is not only Prana (intrinsic energy), it is also Prajna (wisdom, the intuitive knowing, rather than accumulated knowledge). It is interesting that new students of T’ai Chi Chih (courses for beginners generally encompass only eight to 10 lessons) usually feel the flow of Chi almost immediately, first in the fingers, and then, if the concentration below the navel or in the soles of the feet is maintained, throughout the system. In one set of movements the six secret healing sounds of Taoism are utilized. Spectators watching a class perform the movements while chanting the Six Healing Sounds have remarked that the energy in the room seemed ready to explode!
It is impossible to learn the longer discipline, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, from a book. A good teacher is needed, plus patience (and means) to continue the study for some time. Therefore, we will just refer to it, with admiration. (The author has taught the yang form of T’ai Chi Ch’uan at two universities and performs it at least once every day.) On the other hand, it is not difficult to instruct a reader in a few of the T’ai Chi Chih movements, and we will do so in this chapter.
To discuss the philosophy behind the two T’ai Chi practices, we must refer to its Cosmic significance, and its effect in and on the body.
In Chinese acupuncture it is believed that there are many meridian channels in the body through which the Vital Force (Chi, Prana) flow. Eight principle meridians are referred to in Chinese medicine, closely following the findings of the Taoist sages in their spiritual practices. When the yin Chi and yang Chi (negative energy and positive energy) are out of balance, there is illness – and by illness is also meant the circumstances of man’s life. For those dualistically oriented, it is hard to understand the relationship of the macrocosmic (whole) with the microcosmic (individual).
However, holistic medicine is based on just such a relationship. When we note that the great yang is the sun (and in man’s body, the heart) and the great yin is the earth (corresponding to the kidneys in the body), we begin to get the idea. Of course, Chinese philosophy – and medicine – refer to the lead of the kidney region, thus bringing in the elements. Moreover, the time of day and season of the year play an important part, but such understanding is not necessary to our practice. Suffice to say, our goal is to freely circulate the Vital Force and bring it into balance with either T’ai Chi Ch’uan or T’ai Chi Chih. Once we know and practice one or the other, this goal is easily reached.
First a word about the Cosmology. T’ai Chi is usually translated as Supreme Ultimate, being synonymous with Tao. Chih means knowing or knowledge when the proper Chinese written character is used. Thus T’ai Chi Chih means “Knowing the Supreme Ultimate,” which is the deepest purpose of the practice. In his fine book, The Practice of Zen, Garma C.C. Chang has a chapter on meditative ways to Enlightenment, and he refers to T’ai Chi as a very definite path to attain Samadhi, the super-conscious state that is the final goal of Yoga. Although most people come to T’ai Chi practice for benefits in health and longevity, they often remain to receive the deeper Enlightenment boons. The author has seen those crippled by arthritis or rheumatism who, later, appeared straight and healed – but also definitely changed spiritually.
The Chinese say we first have the Undefined Reality (in the “beginning”), and we would delineate this as an empty circle. There is a stirring of two forces, and they come into manifestation (represented by the yin-yang symbol). The black is the yin (receptive, contracting, dark, cold, negative, female) and the white is the yang (creative, expanding, light, heat, positive, male). Note the little bit of male in the female, and vice-versa. This makes possible the shifting from too much yin to an over balance of yang, and also the opposite. It is said that, when one force becomes too strong, it changes into the other – extreme yin becomes yang, and so forth.
Note that the yin Chi and the yang Chi appear before there is even a universe, let alone man to inhabit it. The combination (always shifting, always bringing about change) of the two forces brings into existence Heaven (yang), Earth (yin) and Man, the result of the wedding of the two. This is expressed in a Japanese flower arrangement by the triangle.
Man combines the yang of Heaven and yin of Earth in various balances.
From heaven, earth and man come the “10,000 things,” the world of phenomena. If we work backward, by balancing the Chi, we bring the yin and yang back into equilibrium and, in such way, can lead up to the undifferentiated Reality, the Supreme Ultimate. So our circulating and balancing practice apparently bring health and longevity along the way and, ultimately, take us back to the wholeness of our being. In a sense, this is also Zen practice, realizing our True Nature (arriving at the Source).
Fig. 1 => Stand in a relaxed manner, knees soft and feet slightly apart. The arms are at the sides and the hands are turned so the palms face the front.
Fig. 2 => Now slowly rock forward with the hands lifting to the front. As you rock forward, rise up on the balls of your feet.
Fig. 3 => Turn your hands so the palms face down as you begin to lower the arms and you come down to a flat foot.
Fig. 4 => As you swing down, the arms extend to the back and you naturally rock back on your heels. Lift the toes but keep the balls of your feet on the ground.
Turn your palms to the front (Figure 1), and begin your upward swing again (Figure 2, 3, 4).
Fig. 5 => This shows the position of the feet in Figure 2, up on the balls of the feet.
Fig. 6 => This shows the position of the feet in Figure 4, when you are back on your heels.
Comment: The arms are completely relaxed in the swings, but the air is felt to be very heavy. Fingers are spread slightly apart. Three to five minutes of rocking should be sufficient.
BASIC LEG MOVEMENTS (left side)
Put the left foot forward and slightly to the side.
Fig. 1 => Bend the front knee and glide forward so the right heel lifts off the ground.
Fig. 2 => Bend the front knee and glide back so the left toe comes off the ground.
Note: It is suggested these two movements of the legs be practiced before the following T’ai Chi Chih movements are practiced. They will be the basic leg movements for about half of the succeeding moves you will learn.
BASIC LEG MOVEMENTS (right side)
The right foot is forward and slightly to the side.
Fig. 3 => Bend the front knee and shift the weight forward so the left heel lifts off the ground.
Fig. 4 => Bend the front knee and shift the weight back so the right toe comes off the ground.
Note: These foot movements, left and right, will be coordinated with hand movements in the pages to follow.
AROUND THE PLATTER
The left foot is placed forward in the basic leg movement position.
Fig. 1 => Elbows hang down close to sides, spread the fingers, soften the wrists and begin the movement at the chest.
Fig. 2 => Moving the arms in a circle, from left to right, around an imaginary round platter, we shift the weight forward. As the left knee bends, the weight shifts forward and the right heel comes off the ground.
Fig. 3 => Here the hands begin to circle back on the far side of the platter, and the weight begins to shift back. At Figure 4 the weight has shifted back to the right leg, knee bent, and the left toes come off the ground. The hands are now back at the chest, having circled the platter.
Fig. 4 => Now repeat this movement with right foot forward and left in rear, but with the hand movement moving in a circle forward from right to left.
Note: Hands are relaxed, no tension. The circular movement should be made slowly, and the bending of the knees and shifting of the weight – yinning and yanning – is all important.
We imagine there is a small bass drum strapped to our chest, and we are going to move the hands around it in a vertical circle moving first downward and then toward us.
Fig.1 => Here the weight is on the rear foot, and the toes of the left forward foot have lifted off the ground. Hands are almost one foot apart, palms facing each other.
Fig. 2 => Here the hands dip to go around the bottom of the drum and the weight shifts forward.
Fig 3. => Here the hands are rising at the far side of the circle (drum) and the weight is on the front foot (knee bent) with the back leg straight and right heel off the ground.
Fig. 4 => Here we have completed the circle, hands moving back toward body and weight shifting back to the position in Figure 1.
Now repeat this movement with right foot forward and left foot back, with the same hand movement.
Note: Hands should be constantly kept the same distance apart. In Taiwan a stick somewhat like a bone is held, so the two hands must remain equidistant apart.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
When one performs the movements, they should be done in a soft and relaxed manner – “softness and continuity” is the expression teachers continually use. Complete relaxation, to the point of limpness, is essential, as any tension will keep the Chi from flowing properly through the channels.
Once the movements are mastered – which should not take long – the practitioner should begin placing his concentration in the soles of the feet and keep it there all through practice (the spot two inches below the navel is also good, but it is more difficult to find mentally). Maintaining awareness down below, with no extraneous thoughts, will bring the heart-fire down, which is the basis of the healing and energizing we want. We should not allow the negative yin of the kidneys to rise. Our thought is concentration on the spot below the navel.
Since we are primarily dealing with the Chi (and mastery of the Chi, or Prana, is the great secret of healing), it seems appropriate to extract one paragraph from the voluminous writings of the modern-day Indian sage, Sri Aurobindo, as follows:
“There is one all-pervading life or dynamic energy (Chi, Prana), the material aspect being only its outermost movement. It creates all these forms of the physical universe. Even if the whole figure of the universe was abolished, it (Chi) would still go on existing and would be capable of creating a new universe in its place.”
In the body, we feel this Cosmic Force as the yin Chi and the yang Chi. What is the significance of this yin-yang relationship? Let us quote from the age-old writings of the Chinese sage, Huangdi:
“The principle of yin and yang is the basis of the entire universe. It is the principle of everything in creation. It brings about the transformation to parenthood; it is the root and source of life and death …
“Heaven was created by an accumulation of yang; Earth was created by an accumulation of yin.
“The ways of yin and yang are to the left and to the right. Water and Fire are the symbols of yin and yang and are the source of power of everything in creation.
“Yang ascends to Heaven; yin descends to Earth. Hence the universe (Heaven and Earth) represents motion and rest, controlled by the wisdom of nature. Nature grants the power to beget and to grow, to harvest and to store, to finish and begin anew.”
The above quotation harmonizes very well with the cryptic inscription the author’s Zen master wrote in Chinese Calligraphy: “Old bamboo grove, new shoots.” This seems to say it all.
Parenthetically, the author has often realized, through meditation, that “time” seems to be expansion and contraction (periodic or cyclical, not caused), so “time” becomes the interplay of yin and yang.
It is not truly necessary that the practitioner understand these practical theories, but knowing a little of the background may motivate him to do the simple practice and receive the many benefits. For one, he may note an increased flow of sexual energy, which he can use as he wishes. Often impotence seems to yield to the stimulus of the flow, with the resulting benefits. Many also note an increase of patience, a feeling of well-being that takes away all urgency. Indeed, many varieties of benefits have been described in letters to the author. Perhaps it might be relevant to share excerpts from a few of many letters so that the reader, seeking healing effects, can determine if his particular problems have been dealt with by others.
Here’s a letter from J.B. (a male who has since become a T’ai Chi Chih instructor):
“Epic weight loss was the first and most obvious physical change. I have lost 65 pounds and am still losing slowly, although I appear to be stabilizing at an optimum weight. Last Wednesday, after swimming a mile, my pulse was 105 and respiration only slightly elevated. Endurance on the tennis and handball courts has improved greatly. The amazing fact concerning my weight loss is that at no time have I attempted to control my diet. In fact, I now eat more than I did when I was 65 pounds heavier. It appears that my metabolism has changed completely.” (J.B.’s wife also reports a weight loss of almost 25 pounds.) He continues, “My blood pressure under stressful conditions has dropped from approximately 140/95 to 120/75 at present.” It should be noted that J.B., who had always had a weight problem, was 255 pounds when the author first met him.
And here’s a letter from B.H. (a rather heavy girl who apparently suffered from asthma, who has since lost weight and become an accredited T’ai Chi Chih instructor):
“Before I started T’ai Chi Chih, I was taking medication for asthma and averaging trouble with asthma on the minimum of every other week and having to be on watch every place I went. Now since I have been doing T’ai Chi Chih for two months, I have had minimal trouble and no longer have to take medication, or watch the places I go.”
A similar letter comes from Marian, a student who lives on the Monterey Peninsula in California. Apparently an incurable heart condition cleared, to the amazement of her doctor (who thought there was something wrong with his machine when he first noted the change). It would be possible to print many, many letters, but the idea is not to cast accolades at T’ai Chi Chih practice. Rather, the author hopes such isolated examples will encourage the reader to try the beneficial discipline for himself.
There is no way one can promise that a practitioner, regularly doing many or all of the 20 movements of T’ai Chi Chih, will derive similar benefits, but this is a book on healing through meditation, and these are the results reported from practice of one of the moving meditations.
Is it best to study with a T’ai Chi teacher? With T’ai Chi Ch’uan it is absolutely necessary; with T’ai Chi Chih it makes an easy task even easier. However, there are those who have learned the latter discipline from [an instructional DVD and a] photo textbook, T’ai Chi Chih, Joy Thru Movement, when they live in an area where there are not yet any teachers.
If the reader will do the very simple T’ai Chi Chih movements taught in this chapter, for perhaps 15 or 20 minutes of repetitive practice, he should note a tingling, filling feeling in his fingers and hands. The feeling will differ with each movement. This is the flow of the yin Chi and yang Chi, which separate when one is in motion. For this reason, as we end the repetition (of 9, 18, 36 or 72 times) of each form, we hold the hands parallel to the ground, fingers outstretched, so the yin and yang energy can flow back together again. Such integration is important; we do not wish to remain fragmented.
The author knows no more healing practice than this meditation, based on his own experience. He is grateful to know it, grateful that he was the channel through which it could originate (since of ourselves we create nothing), and hopes that great multitudes of people will practice the moving meditations to bring peace and radiant health to themselves.
This article is published in Meditation for Healing.