What T'ai Chi Offers the Modern World
by Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
WORD COUNT: 1,780
"The highest science will appear as art."
How can modern man/woman learn to connect with the wisdom of the unseen? This may no longer be a philosophical question to bandy about at parties or intellectual gatherings. It may be a veritable necessity for the future of humankind. The modern world is becoming increasingly complex. Many believe that it is beyond man/woman's ability to adapt to this complexity. However, many centuries ago Chinese explorers may have found the answer to our modern problem, as they charted the unknown territories of "inner-space," the internal awareness of the mind and the body. What they found was that human beings can have an extraordinary impact on how they are affected by the world around them, and conversely how they affect the world. In the West we have considered these insights "spiritual," however the cutting edge of Western scientific discovery may show us that these ancient explorers of the mind/body connection were discovering a high science that may change everything about the way we live our lives, and indeed the future of humanity.
These ancient tools were designed to "loosen" or "open" human consciousness to a state of pure creativity. The Chinese called this underlying matrix to reality the "web that has no weavers." When Carl Jung, the great psychologist, wrote of the "Collective Unconscious" he may have been describing this underlying matrix of reality. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, referred to this field as the "field of pure creativity," while great Western scientific visionaries like Albert Einstein, Nikolai Tesla, and Thomas Edison, also spoke of this pool of limitless consciousness. Einstein claimed that his insights into the deepest nature of reality came when he was in a state of what he termed "wakeful rest." Modern neurological researchers would call this the "alpha state," when the human brain is saturated with alpha waves. The alpha state is a deeply creative state of mind that allows "fresh" un-dogmatic thoughts to pour up through our relaxed and open consciousness. The Chinese would say this is when the “Qi” or “universal life energy” are flowing most freely through our mind and body.
T'ai Chi is a form of Qigong. Qigong directly translated means "breath work," or "life energy work." Qigong exercises are designed to promote the flow of life energy through the mind and body. This life energy is the un-manifest power source of all thought and action. Every insight we have, or project we launch, in our lives is powered from within by an unseen force called "Qi," or "life energy." Qigong doesn't "make" Qi flow through the practitioner, but encourages the practitioners to "let go" of all the old stagnant thoughts and beliefs that block Qi flow, which then opens a doorway to a newness of thought and action. This state of ever evolving newness is encouraged by Qigong’s demand of "releasing" every muscle, thought, and desire, with every breath. This trains the body to move through the effortless motions of a very sophisticated Qigong form known as T'ai Chi.
T'ai Chi is meant to be done in a state of absolute effortlessness. In order to do this the mind and heart must release beliefs or feelings they have unconsciously gripped from past hurts, current worries, or fears of the future, so that one may flow smoothly, effortlessly, into the unfolding movements of the exercise. In this way the T'ai Chi movement series is a microcosm for our unfolding lives. Each T'ai Chi movement unfolds constantly into the next one at ever more subtle levels of self-awareness. If we live fearful angst ridden lives, our T'ai Chi motions will be stiff and jerky as the body holds those old stagnant traumas. However, as we teach the mind and body to "let go" of the old to breathe out the stagnant and dogmatic, we are enabled to flow into a limitless and effortless future. Qigong's "breath work" is integral. There is nothing more effortless than the release of a breath, through Qigong imagery exhales can trigger deep, physical/chemical, emotional/mental releases in the practitioner.
These ancient concepts of T'ai Chi were poignantly described in Taoist poetry and philosophy which merged with T'ai Chi philosophy not long after T'ai Chi's creation. Taoist concepts like "the best of men is like water . . . it does not contend . . . and thereby nurtures all things," goes to the heart of the idea of "letting go" or as the Taoists said "not contending." A famous Zen story, which grew from Taoist philosophy told of a great and important scholar who went to slum with a Zen master in order to add a "Zen degree" to his worldly accomplishments. When the scholar arrived the Zen master politely poured him a cup of tea but kept pouring the tea until it overflowed the scholar's cup until the scholar exclaimed, "Stop pouring, the cup is full already!"
The Zen master responded, "Yes, just as your mind is already full of knowledge. There is no room for me to give you anything new. And here is where our modern dilemma comes in. Our world is saturated and exploding with old information, the information age has given the world of knowledge to EVERYONE. Ironically that over saturation of information is causing a modern stress plague that causes most health problems, but more importantly is constipating our ability to expand outward into the wholly new ways of seeing the world that our modern times demand. The average computer user is overwhelmed with stress that is blocking their ability to "loosen" and "open" to new ways of seeing the world. The information age can be a profound and powerful tool IF it can be healthfully used by the limitless potential we all contain as conscious human beings. Our task is to weave the limitless potential of our consciousness, or the collective consciousness, with the physical tools of the information age.
If you look at the teachings of Christ, he offered extraordinarily clear and uncomplicated self help tools for doing this. He had two core messages. One, being that no matter what we have been or done, we are absolutely forgiven. This enables us to stop defending how we’ve things in the past, and be continually open to “new ways” of proceeding in our lives. The second, which is clearly related to the first, is that we can be born into a totally brand new being every single moment of our lives. This is the message that the mind/body technology of T'ai Chi and Qigong were created to enable in people. Moving in the mindful, effortless, loosening, cleansing motions of these exercises requires that the practitioner "let go" of EVERYTHING. In order to practice a high level of T'ai Chi one must absolutely let go of everything they have held onto. This can bring the mind into the "alpha state," or Einstein's "wakeful rest" state. Here is where ALL of the answers to all of our modern problems exist within the seemingly limitless collective unconsciousness that Jung spoke of. This was the place Jesus often visited when he "walked in the wilderness" of thought. The answers to environmental problems, social issues, prison, drug abuse, and political challenges hang like ripe, unformed, apples waiting to be plucked. But, they are invisible to a culture that is up against the wall with the stress of always scrambling to keep up with the tidal wave of change slamming us forward.
Bill Joy, Chief Scientist for Sun Microsystems, a company that is literally the back bone of the information age, explains that today's rate of change is doubling exponentially every eighteen months, not just doubling, but doubling exponentially. J.W. Forrester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology expresses concern that evolution has not prepared humanity for this bone-jarring rate of change. Change is stressful according to psychological research, whether its good change or bad change. T'ai Chi & Qigong were designed to minimize the damage of stress due to change, by teaching the practitioner how to continually release the past which is held locked in the cellular structure of the body and the energy matrix of the mind. This is the key to our future survival as a species. The new answers of adaptability cannot find their way through rigid bodies and stagnant dogmatic minds, and in fact the need for adaptability and the inability to let go of old consciousness in our bodies results in life threatening stress damage.
Several ancient techiques are proven through modern research to promote this quality of physical, emotional, mental adaptability. TM or Transcendental Meditation, Yogic meditations, T'ai Chi and Qigong, biofeedback, and others. However, T'ai Chi is pioneering wholly new ways to integrate the benefits of mind/body fitness into society at all levels because it is physically beneficial, can be practiced by anyone at any fitness level, and does not require exertion or special equipment. Therefore corporations, schools, hospitals, and even prisons are integrating T'ai Chi into the structure of their training or therapy programs. Employees, clients, or even inmates, who use the tools are more creative, less confrontational, and much healthier. But, the creativity enhancing quality is what offers the most hope for humanity’s future. As hundreds of millions worldwide begin practicing these tools they begin to redefine their lives in fundamental ways, being more able to adapt faster and more easily to the tidal wave of new information at their fingertips. This fluidity of individuals enables society, cultures, and countries to become more adaptive, facilitating the development and use of new "greener" economic and industrial development to protect the ecology, while creating more "people friendly" economies that reduce stress on the six billion struggling to survive into an extraordinarily changing future.
There is an unseen force beneath all existence, which has been given many names. The "web that has no weaver" may be an attempt to describe the latent consciousness that permeates all existence through the "quantum field" physicists describe. In modern Chaos mathematical theory it has been discovered that the seemingly chaotic world we live in may actually have an extraordinary complex integration just beneath our ability to perceive. Reality may have the answers to our complex modern problems . . . if we can "open to them," by relaxing into a “deeper order” of consciousness. Ancient tools like T'ai Chi and Qigong were once the domain of priests and monks, people who'd placed themselves at points of intense personal transformation. These tools helped them find pattern in the chaos of life . . . and as they spread through the world at large may be doing so for the whole of humanity.
Bill Douglas is the Tai Chi Expert at DrWeil.com, Founder of World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day (held in 60 nations each year), and has authored and co-authored several books including a #1 best selling Tai Chi book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong. Bill’s been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. Bill is the author of the ebook, How to be a Successful Tai Chi Teacher (Namasta University Publishing). You can learn more about Tai Chi & Qigong, search a worldwide teachers directory, and also contact Bill Douglas at http://www.worldtaichiday.org