Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 384

Dumb Waiter and Elevator

I was so fortunate to have been born and raised in San Francisco in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. San Francisco was the home to so many liberal and future looking ideas, not the least of which was Tai Chi.

I grew up in an upper middle class life. My father was a doctor – born in the Ukraine. He lived the first years of his life in a house with dirt floors. My mother loved spending money. She was born in San Francisco and came from a fairly wealthy family, who owned quite a bit of property in San Francisco, which leads me to the “Dumb Waiter” and Elevator.

When I was 7 years old, my parents bought one of the loveliest mansions in the city, right next to the Italian Consulate. It was quite large – four floors, with a view overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. The house had an interior elevator, which my two sisters and I loved to play in. It also had a dumb waiter from the kitchen to dining room, and most other rooms.

For those of you who might not be familiar with what a dumb waiter is, it is a sort of small elevator that moves food primarily, around the house. For instance up from the kitchen to the dining room, or down to the garbage area. So here is why I included this image, as it follow closely on the Bowl of Soup Meditation from last week.

For most people, Tai Chi is a meditative art designed to increase and balance the internal energy and move it around the body, especially to work with the three dantiens. The dumb waiter and/or the elevator image should help.

Both of these work quite similarly. You get in the elevator, or put something in the dumb waiter, press a button, and off it goes. We play Tai Chi in much the same way. You load up with an intention and an inhale. You go up to the next floor by exhaling. Repeat for the next level – inhale to get ready and exhale to move to the next level. Finally you inhale as you decide to go back down, and exhale as you ride to a lower floor or the ground floor. Quite simple.

The Tai Chi house has three floors – first (lower dantien), second (middle dantien) and third (upper dantien). There is also a sun porch on the roof (Bai Hui point to receive cosmic chi), and a basement (Hui Yin to connect to earth chi) to keep the house anchored to the Earth.

The dumb waiter and elevator image also help to move the blood around the body, bringing oxygen poor blood to the heart, then to the lungs to add oxygen, back to the heart, and then to the entire body. After giving up its oxygen and nutrients, it collects the waste, takes it back to the heart, and that which you don’t need is then tossed in the garbage.

In the Chinese system we have the microcosmic and macrocosmic orbits to circulate chi. Starting at the base of the spine, up the spine to the top of the head, over the top, and down the front, back to the base. And don’t forget – blood and chi move together. Working with one of these systems will affect both. Increase your blood flow and you’ll increase your chi flow and vice versa.

This is a very simplified overview. But it works for our meditation/concentration exercise. If it interests you, do some research. It amazes me how a random thought can help to make Tai Chi even more fun and interesting.

Note: After graduating from the University of Arizona, I worked in television for two years, then dropped out, became a hippie, ended up living in a welfare rooming house, panhandling on the street. I was at the bottom of my life. It was then I met Master Choy, got involved with Tai Chi, and my life went from the bottom to the top. Yin to yang.