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Archive for August, 2018

A PLEA TO TAI-CHI TEACHERS

Chi-gung (Qigong) by the stream.

Chi-gung (Qigong) by the stream.

When a baby is born it is all consciousness – all Tao. Sights, sounds, thoughts, emotions and other experiences are equally part of its identity. We teach it to differentiate the world it experiences into parts and assign values to each part. In this way we control its behavior, its experience of the world and thereby the course of its life.

Unless that programming is challenged the course of that person’s life is set. Many things can challenge the programming – traumatic experiences, emersion in a new culture, etc. A Tai-chi teacher’s primary job is to reveal to the student how his programming controls his life and even his perceptions.

It starts with revealing how a student tenses unnecessarily and how their thoughts and emotions interfere with the smoothness of their movements. The student learns how his tensions and emotional state limit his breathing to only a small part of the volume of his lungs.

As much as the student learns, he is limited in his progress by the very structures of consciousness he is using to learn. The original natural consciousness (Tao) was re-shaped to fit into the structure of the culture. Its function was narrowed and limited. This was especially true after the industrial revolution, when their bosses viewed workers as parts of the machinery of the factory.

Creative, alive people would have a hard time working in a factory. Now in our computer age, we are entering another narrowing and limiting of the full function of consciousness, even while we have more access to information. Many people know the world only through their cell phones.

The cell phone acts as a border checkpoint between the individual’s consciousness and the biological world. Every year the border wall is built higher. Is it any wonder that many Americans long for border walls to keep out the “undesirables” from the south, when their cell phones keep out their connection to the real world?

To many people, their own body is a foreigner. They live in their heads and try to keep out the “undesirable” physicality “down south”. Changes in the state of consciousness have real-life effects. The battle to keep the body consciousness subdued is projected onto national politics.

So the Tai-chi teacher is a subversive, fighting to bring students back to an experience of Tao – the original, undifferentiated consciousness. In this way the student can see which aspects of his programming are useful and which should be tossed away. If he can let go of tension in his shoulder, he may be able to let go of the rigidity of the mind. It is really the rigidity of the mind that caused the tense shoulder. Mind (thinking mind) is just the divided, programmed Tao.

At a deeper level the artificial structures of the mind causes deeper physical problems. At the cellular level, trillions of interactions take place every second and for the most part, everything works well according to the biological blueprint inherent in our make-up. This activity, and the ability of each cell to organize its activity in relation to all the others, is all thanks to a biological communications system. Part of that system is the nervous and endocrine systems. But the substrate of that communications system is “chi” – the energy that connects, sustains and progresses a person through his stages of development. It is that living blueprint of our biological and spiritual nature.

A programmed mind can impose its structure on the body, impeding the body’s natural functioning even down to the cellular level. It jams up the system of chi. When the meridians of chi are opened such as with acupuncture and acupressure, that frees the body and frees Tao.

The experience of chi (connection) is what dissolves the illusion of separateness, the illusion that one’s soul is a product on a shelf within your head. Just as chi is distributed throughout your body, you come to remember that consciousness is distributed throughout the body. That happens when the consciousness of each part of the body is so strong (through Tai-chi training), that the thinking mind is no longer able to subdue it. Just as chi is distributed throughout the living world, you remember that your consciousness is part of the entire living world. You remember that at the time when the war of the thinking mind against the body consciousness comes to an end.

Returning to this awareness is the most powerful political tool and the teachers of this awareness can play a powerful role to return our society to sanity. It saddens me that much of Tai-chi training has become just memorizing forms or memorizing philosophical clichés. Push hands has become what ten year olds do in a shoving match. The programming of the mind has turned the cure for the programming into just another program.

Before writing, Tai-chi was handed down teacher to student. There were no books. The first book in China was the Emperor’s treatise on medicine, written 4500 years ago. Until then a form or a qigong series was a book. Each movement was a chapter. The content of the chapter was the principles that led you to Tao. The same is true of push hands and sparring. Just learning the movements without the deeper principles is like just reading the chapter heading and not the chapter itself.

The great thing about Tai-chi training is that you don’t need to tell the students all of this. You are just teaching them to relax or to be more aligned, or to defend themselves. But there has always been the secret agenda of leading the student to the experience of his original identity.

The problem is that few such students complete their training and they then go on to teach without an understanding of the purpose of the teaching. This is especially true when the Chinese government is opposed to any such underlying, traditional goal of the training and they are the de-facto authority on Tai-chi.

There are even organizations now that will give you a Tai-chi teaching certification after two days of training. The same is true of Pilates and Yoga, and perhaps soon, brain surgery.

At this time in our history we need traditional Tai-chi more than ever. Fewer teachers now hold the key to the training and it is becoming no more than the packaging – another product on the shelf. When a student says, “Why should I pay you this much for classes when the next guy charges only half as much”, what can you say besides, “That sounds like a bargain. Go there”.

It makes you want to sell packaging, which seems to be far more lucrative. But this is a plea to Tai-chi teachers to provide the content, not just the packaging; to provide the chapter, not just the chapter heading.

These teachings have been handed down to us to use in times of need, and this is a time of great need.