Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 388
The Thirteen Essential Energies
I received an e-mail from someone following the web lessons. He asked about the Thirteen Essential Energies. I told him I would cover them in the next lesson, so here is a brief discussion on the subject.
There are eight basic expressions of energy in Tai Chi practice. Peng (upward and outward, mostly Yang with some Yin), Lu (inward and yielding, mostly Yin with some Yang), Ghee (two energies moving in the same direction, very Yang), An (energy moving downward, very Yin), Tsai (combines the two Yin energies of Lu and An), Lieh (combines the two Yang energies of Peng and Ghee), basically two energies moving in opposite directions – (either two forces moving in opposite directions like tearing apart, or two forces moving towards each other, like squeezing), Jou (elbow stroke), and Kao (shoulder stroke). Each of these energies has a specific optimum time for usage. Peng and Lu are energies used at mostly far range. Ghee and An are mid-range, Jou and Kao are close range.
If you think about it, there are really only a few possibilities for expressing energy. Something can move outward in any direction – up, down, right, left, forward or backward. Or something can move inward from the same directions.
The eight essential energies are basic outward or inward with variation and combination. Combine this with the five directions (forward, backward, right, left, and central equilibrium) and you end up with the Thirteen Essential Energies of Tai Chi Chuan.
I have overly simplified this important discussion. The main reason being that others have written extensively about this. I would recommend B.K Frantzis’s excellent book The Power of Internal Arts as a good guide.
Past, Present, Future
It is interesting to see how new thoughts and ideas evolve. I was talking to John Considine, an instructor at the Studio, and he mentioned talking to an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), whose job it is to ride in the back of the ambulance to help the person being transported.
The fellow said that he always knows where he has been and is not very aware of how to get where he is going. You see, he always views the journey from place to place out the rear window (the only window in the rear), and this gives him only a view of where he has been, not where he is headed. Wow! It set my Tai Chi mind into high gear.
I don’t believe that people can see into the future. Some people may be very intuitive, and can sense the direction of future events, but I have never met or been convinced that one can really “see” into the future.
One of the benefits of Tai Chi practice, I have always preached, is to quiet the mind and come into the present moment. Sounds true to me. But the EMT conversation got me thinking that I have been wrong. Since talking to John, I haven’t spent very much time working out the details, but I wanted to put my idea to you now and get your feedback.
I now think that there is no way to perceive the present. It is all the past. Before reading on, please take a few moments to think this over.
When I perceive something – look at, touch, taste, hear – I am working with waves of energy. This energy, which we call chi makes up our universe and everything that is in it. We are composed of the same stuff, yet somehow we possess a self consciousness that gives us the ability to perceive ourselves and others as separate. Another mystery to be discussed at another time.
When I look at something, a tree for instance, I can think that I am seeing this tree in the present. But I’m not really. The tree is sending waves of energy towards me. My eyes, through learned experience, perceives this energy as a tree. These waves of energy are moving towards me at the speed of light, my eyes pick up these waves, and sends them to my brain, which then interprets the signals, and my brain decides what to do with this information.
All this takes time. It may be a very short amount of time, or a long amount, depending upon the distance from the object to my eyes. If I view a distant star, it might take years and years for its light (energy waves) to reach me. I am seeing this star as it was years in the past, not as it is “in the present”.
That is not to say that meditative practices don’t help. I think they weed out needless distractions from the task at hand, making the present closer. Our connections between inside and outside seem to be strengthened. Our reflexes get sharper. The time between perception and reaction shortened. Yet the brain is always involved which takes time.
The main point of this sharing of my thoughts is that we have to be open to an “Ah-Ha” moment anytime from anywhere.