The recent uproar over The Da Vinci Code book, and now movie, has diverged into a tedious argument about historical factual details. However, one thing that is indisputable is that the book touched something in millions of readers across the planet. Perhaps the magic spark that excited readers to tell others about the book, eventually making it a global best seller, was not the facts or fiction of the book, but rather the metaphoric truth it exposed.
That truth was about the male and female aspects of consciousness, or what ancient Chinese philosophers would refer to as the yin and the yang. The male, or yang aspects of consciousness are the seen world, the linear and active, constructive and analytical world. The female or yin being the unseen and non-linear, the receptive, the contemplative, and the intuitive aspect of consciousness and reality.
Chinese philosophers millennia ago, began to realize the duality of reality, just as modern physics now understands that there are positive and negative polarities at the very root of all existence, and it is the dance of these polarities that enables creation to continually destruct and be reborn into endless possibilities of creation. This means that within each being's atoms there are both positive and negative polarities that harmonize in a dynamic balance of life, just as there are feminine and masculine aspects to the consciousness of each human being. Just as in nature, when we find harmony within our consciousness for both these polarities, that is when we are functioning and evolving at our highest levels.
The Da Vinci Code was a poem if you will, a metaphoric message bringing up the reality that beginning with the decision not to employ the gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the persistent rumors of her being diminished as a prostitute had a domino effect. Perhaps setting into motion a consciousness that later enabled the murder of tens of thousands of outspoken women branded as "witches" through the dark ages, and the current renunciation of women to the priesthood. These dominos of the basic renunciation of the feminine or yin power in society has had an effect on the consciousness of humanity over these many centuries. These facts and their result are undeniable.
What impact has this had on society? In a world of plenty billions often go hungry, while millions actually die of starvation and abject poverty annually. Estimates are that a mere $20 billion dollars a year could end starvation in the world. A mere pittance when compared to the world's nearly one trillion dollars in annual arms & military expenditures, as noted by the prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SPIRI), for 2003. Yang energy solves problems by striking out, aggressive efforts to control and bend reality to certain ends.
However, feminine or yin energy has a contemplative side that can offer us an opportunity to open to multiple views and myriad options, weighing not in a linear fashion how to most immediately control resources, but a more communal approach that may take more time, but rather can result in more sustainable long term solutions to family and global problems. The nesting aspects of women are an example of this. They yearn on some deep level to keep a household in order, not because they enjoy the tedious tasks required to do so, but because on some unseen level there is a knowing that that order will nurture those who inhabit that dwelling. Before suggesting this is a sexist observation, be honest and compare the households of young bachelors and those of young women. If you are honest, although there are always exceptions to the norms, you'll have to admit that the young men's bachelor pads are more often less appealing to live in, and to eat in.
Most would agree that global warming and other environmental challenges equate to the world's house being in an increasing state of "disorder." The world knows that it is unbalanced with male or yang energy at this time. Perhaps this was necessary for the world to develop and expand and connect. I'm not judging one energy to be better than another, all are necessary. However, the universe is designed for balance. And it appears now that the world is in dire need of becoming more conscious of its yin/feminine energy. Ideas like energy conservation are yin/feminine concepts, just as exploring and drilling more and more holes for oil are obvious yang/male concepts.
The popularity of The Da Vinci Code, may show an awareness of our need to value the feminine energy of us all at this critical time in human history. So, how do we do that? How do we emerge from centuries of dismissing and repressing feminine or yin energy, in a way and at a speed that can help us through the challenges of our modern times? Tai Chi may be a huge part of a global healing, by providing a vehicle to expand the power of the feminine, yin, energy throughout humanity.
Yet, within every endeavor in life the yang/masculine and yin/feminine energies are involved, and there is a struggle to find balance. And although Tai Chi may be part of the healing solutions, even Tai Chi is not above the fray in this struggle for balance and wholeness. The originators of Tai Chi seem to have been aware of creating something that profoundly balances humans on the deepest levels. We see the results of their awareness they wove into the technology of Tai Chi, in the emerging medical research reporting that Tai Chi can help balance hormonal levels in aging men and women (lowering men's high estrogen levels, while raising women's low estrogen levels), and lowering the blood sugar levels of people with Type II diabetes, for example. These results show us a physical shadow of the internal balancing Tai Chi has on people.
Yet, Tai Chi itself, as mentioned before also struggles with finding balance to become its most effective and profound self. Tai Chi is known worldwide as a "martial art," and indeed it is a highly developed form of self-defense that enables practitioners to defend themselves from attack both physically from attackers, and health wise from invading viruses and bacteria. These are examples of the yang or masculine aspect of Tai Chi.
However, there is also a powerful yin or feminine aspect that Tai Chi offers, perhaps more than any other known exercise. This is the unseen, the receptive, the intuitive nature of Tai Chi. When one is not doing Tai Chi as a martial arts Kata (series of fighting forms), consciously warding off enemies with each thought and muscle motion, or with a conscious intention to heal something, but rather losing oneself in the flow of motion, breath, and physical release . . . that is when the mind, heart, and body are immersed in the yin or feminine aspects of Tai Chi.
This is not a utilitarian aspect of Tai Chi. It is not being done to "defend," or "to strike," or even to "heal oneself" with the motions. For utilitarian usage of Tai Chi immediately puts the mind and body into a Yang or Masculine modality where form and outcome are utmost and control is needed to exact the "desired outcome." The yin or feminine energy seeks no result, but rather opens to the pleasure of what is, as it unfolds from within the opening petals of consciousness and experience coming together without any destination or intention, or judgment, or analysis of right and wrong, correct or incorrect, superior or inferior.
What good is such practice? Some might ask. Creativity and inspiration come from the unseen, the yin, the receptive, the intuitive. Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important that knowledge." Einstein didn't devalue the masculine or yang consciousness, for he also defined success as "10% inspiration and 90% perspiration." However, he did exalt the yin, feminine, intuitive consciousness as the MOST important. For without that all important "spark" of awareness or inspiration which can only come from quiet contemplative thought, the 90% perspiration would be as purposeful as a busy hamster running around its endless wheel that leads nowhere. Just as many of the world's actions today are resulting in environmental and political messes that could easily be avoided, if preceded by deep "contemplation" before action occurs. Too often our endless business (busy-ness) is not purposeful at all as far as solving our global problems, but to the unaware observer the decision makers look "very busy."
Qi, or life energy, is a subtle unseen power that emerges from the very fabric of the subatomic field that makes up all matter. In this field all things are connected, and insights from this pure consciousness can be powerfully complex solutions that seem simple and elegant and obvious, once they come to mind. Tai Chi may help cultivate such intuitive, receptive states of mind if taught to that end. Tai Chi can be incorporated with gentle deep breathing, and physical loosening, and mental images of constantly "letting go" of everything so that this unseen force of the universe can flow through us, emanating from every cell and atom of our being, and expanding effortlessly from each airy fold of the tissues of our mind. We can allow every atom of our being to glow with and be permeated by this energy of life as we move through the flowing motions of Tai Chi "without purpose," "without analysis," "without grades, or self judgments." But rather, only for the sheer pleasure of being, while experiencing the thousands of wonderful sensations tingling and percolating through the body. Tai Chi becomes an effortless self massage that flows through the yielding heart, mind, and body. This state is not directed by the mind, but allows the mind to let go and be massaged by the pleasant sensations flowing through it, holding on to nothing, not analyzing or even naming the sensations caressing and washing the mind as they flow through.
This pool of sensation Tai Chi can bathe us in again and again, day after day, enables the subtle possibilities and gentle power of the yin and feminine to permeate our being and consciousness, and through that, affect our actions in the world. It can change the way we function, so that rather than charging into personal, or social, or national decisions, we now instinctively contemplate and intuit all the possible outcomes of that action BEFORE taking that action. This could keep us out of costly wars, and reduce futile quests to find where on earth to dump thousands of tons of highly toxic nuclear waste that will be poisonous for tens of thousands of years. It may open us up to more subtle yielding approaches to international relations, that can get us the desired results through the subtle dance of negotiation which entails listening before acting, which is a very yin or feminine quality. It may draw us more to passive energy solutions like solar or wind that could easily solve all our energy needs, and we would never need to fight anyone anywhere over the sun or the wind, which is available to all equally.
This treatise is not meant to dispute that Tai Chi is a highly effective martial application, and a highly effective health tool. Those powerful aspects are embraced within Tai Chi's even larger possibilities. It is not an either or argument, there is no contention in this essay. However, a call is made to open to what may be a profound larger aspect of Tai Chi that can be made available to billions of people worldwide at a time when the world desperately needs to learn to find a balance in the deepest part of our being, a balance that extols the subtle and quiet power of the feminine or yin aspect of who we are individually and as communities and nations. Tai Chi is now taught in virtually every nation in the world, and can perhaps now contribute to solving humanity's hunger for balance between the male and female, between the yin and the yang. Generations may look back and see that Tai Chi teachers of today played a pivotal role in human history.
If so, this would make what we do as Tai Chi & Qigong teachers more interesting and exciting than any novel could be, as we write The Tai Chi Code with the actions, and non-actions, of our lives and our teaching. Tai Chi & Qigong have evolved over many centuries, and are continuing to evolve today through teachers worldwide. We may play a part in helping to bring balance to our world by evolving the way we teach Tai Chi & Qigong, so that it best fills the needs of people seeking it to improve their lives and world. Plus to open to the shear pleasure of the exercise and the teaching of it, simply feels good.
SIDEBAR TO ESSAY:
So How Do I, as a Tai Chi Teacher, Focus on the Yin of Tai Chi?
Isn't focusing on something yang?
Transcendental meditation techniques employ the use of a word, or mantra, preferably a word that has no literal meaning to the meditator using it. The mantra is meant to take the mind out of conscious linear thought by keeping it busy enough not to get tangled up in analysis, regret, etc. that the mind often gets drawn to when we close our eyes. The repetition of that word is not an analytical process, but a monotonous repetition that allows the mind to dis-engage from the empirical world, to drift in the unseen, or field of consciousness as TM's founder used to say.
Tai Chi offers an opportunity for practitioners to use the physical pleasure of gentle, effortless motions, breath, and visualization of relaxation to be a mantra that occupies the mind so that it doesn’t drift back into the entanglements of life. Each Qigong warm up, and Tai Chi movement can be used as a meditation by constantly bringing our minds back inside to the pleasure of sensation, allowing the mind to bath in pure sensation, pure thought, BEFORE they become named or analyzed. The preverbal state of pure consciousness enables Tai Chi practitioners to bathe in yin or feminine, receptive energy.
Rather than instructing students to do this as you go through warm ups or Tai Chi movements, it is better to talk yourself through this, reminding yourself to absolutely let go of every atom of your being as the 50 trillions cells that make you up begin to massage one another as the dan tien takes your body through effortless motions, absolutely letting go of every atom with each exhale of the body. As you talk yourself through this loosening pleasure mantra of feeling the body, your vocal cords relax, the vibration of your voice becomes more soothing to the students, they resonate with your internal loosening to relax deeper inside themselves. I talk myself through allowing the movements and breath to loosen me, reminding myself on each deep exhale to "let the shoulders drop" and allow the body to "relax onto the vertical axis." I'm saying these words out loud so the class can hear, but when I encourage them to breathe and to deeply let go, as if every atom of your being were exhaling and letting go, or reminding them to absolutely let go with each loosening breath, as the dan tien effortlessly moves and rotates the body, enjoying the sensation of 50 trillion cells massaging one another through this cleansing field of light and energy, I am actually making space for myself to feel those things. When I tell the class to breathe and let go, I then let myself breathe and let go, to feel what they are feeling. This is different than instructing my class. Because now I allow myself to immerse in the experience, and to be loosened and healed by it as my mouth talks me through it out loud.
I used to watch my students when they went through the Qigong warm ups at the beginning of class. Now, I have my eyes closed encouraging new students to look at me to get an idea of what I'm doing and then close their eyes to feel inside themselves as layer upon layer within continues to let go. As I relax into the experience, the entire room relaxes more into it.
I don't intellectually challenge my students to always do something new. I have students who've been with me for years still doing the same series of Qigong warm ups. Why don't they get bored with it? Because we explore new ground each time we do it, not intellectually with new yang information to fill the yang mind more, but deeper and wider in a sensory, receptive yin experience that is ever more expansive within. They don't intellectually learn more and more, but rather through the familiarity and internal awareness repetition allows, they sink deeper and deeper into the experience over the years.
This is a pleasant, effortless, and profoundly beneficial experience for me as the teacher, and for the students. This is not me making the class good, but us as a group immersing ourselves in an effortless, mutually beneficial experience. My class instruction has become more yielding, more feeling, more yin, more feminine . . . and many of my students keep coming back year after year.
Bill Douglas is the author of the ebook, How to be a Successful Tai Chi Teacher (Namasta University Publishing). He is also the Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and is a best selling Tai Chi author, whose internationally popular book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong (Penguin Putnam) is now in 3rd edition. Bill is the presenter in the DVD, Anthology of T'ai Chi & Qigong: The Prescription for the Future, and has been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Weekend, Parade Magazine, Reader's Digest, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Russia's Omsk Weekly News, and over 100 media worldwide. You can contact Bill, find his ebook on teaching, or learn more about World Tai Chi & Qigong Day at: www.worldtaichiday.org