Symbolism is the most suitable and viable method for man to pass on his teachings and knowledge. It is the most natural way to do so. This is not surprising since language itself is, after all, symbolism. Any human expression is a symbol of a thought being translated outwards. The only difference is that language is analytical and discursive, whereas symbolism is essentially intuitive.
The precise movements of Tai Chi Chuan, which is widely known as a martial art and as a proven healing practice, express a symbolic body language with other layers of meaning. The latter reveal a connection between Oriental culture and the most recent findings in Western science and psychology. Let us take a closer look into this connection.
When unmanifested, still energy – Wuji – begins to unfold, it gives rise to the first Yin (feminine) – Yang (masculine) polarization which originates Chi, or energy. Like all existing things in the universe, Chi is the expression of the cyclical movement of Tao (1) – the Way – whose symbol has become widely known.
These are the principles underlying the Tai Chi Chuan discipline. The whole universe, both visible and invisible, results from the interaction between Yin and Yang.
The ancient Chinese psychophysical discipline of Tai Chi Chuan is historically rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which prescribed breathing exercises, body massage, hand and foot exercises as early as before 1000 bC.
The Taoists introduced Chi Kung, a series of psychophysical and breathing exercises for maintaining health, preventing disease and treating ailments.
These energetic gymnastics were constantly studied, extended and integrated with ancient Kung-fu styles, giving rise to Tai Chi Chuan.
However, Tai Chi goes well beyond this. In fact, a body in balance is the natural outcome of a harmonious flow of energy; as the son of Heaven and Earth, Man can only be healthy when he can keep harmony between the ascending Breath of Earth (Yin) and the descending Breath of Heaven (Yang).
Movement as the foundation of life
In Scienza, Tao e Arte del Combattere, a book by Master Flavio Daniele, Professor Carlo Ventura writes that: ‘There is no relevant biological phenomena that is not caused by movement … It has been found that no change in gene activity occurs without DNA movements, deformations and vibrations of both the nucleus and that network of microfilaments and microtubules which is called cytoskeleton. These movements anticipate the same changes in function at various cellular levels … Applying a sound vibration to a cell or to signal molecules within a cell can cause these structures to vibrate and to give rise to morphological and functional changes. Sounds and movements can therefore be termed a <> within cells and tissues’.
The Law of Three in movement
The union of shapelessness – the hereditary energies of male sperm and female egg – and acquired energies, i.e., the product of innate energies after fertilization, results in the energy configuration of a new being. It is the fruit, the union of masculine and feminine, of passive and active – the number Three – the number that balances opposites.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, according to the traditional Chinese view of human physiology, ‘Dantians’ are the three centres of the body where Chi is stored and accumulated. From there, Chi radiates along the meridians in the body. These notions are found in Taoist Inner Alchemy, in meditation techniques and also in Tai Chi, which divide the body in three areas, each with a focal point called Cinnabar Field, where the essence of the primordial Oneness resides (2).
The same notions have been implemented in Western psychology. Eric Berne’s transactional analysis, for example, theorizes that the psychic structure, or ‘Ego’, comprises three structures which are graphically represented as a consistent model of personality. They are the three Ego states, each with its own specific functions. Each Ego state can include both positive and negative features, depending on whether it favours or hinders an individual’s independence.
The Parent Ego-state includes experiences and examples.
The Child Ego-state includes spontaneous feelings and emotions.
The Adult Ego-state is the domain where information is processed.
How can these different domains be made to communicate?
Transactional analysis proposes that individuals can be ‘cured’ by strengthening the Adult Ego-state’s ‘problem solving’ skills through emotions. Rather than being seen as a hindrance to the client’s ability to thrive as was previously the case, emotions are used as a tool with a view to fulfilling and solving his/her needs.
The way of the Heart, the way of emotions, the way of Chi, turns out to be – as mystics have always claimed – the frontier between the instinctual centre and the mental/spiritual centre, the ‘way to evolution’ for man throughout the ages. Indeed, the electrochemical processes which translate into what we call ’emotions’ occur deep in the cerebral areas of the limbic system and the hypothalamus. From there, through the mediation of specific substances called neurotransmitters, messages are transported throughout the body/mind.
‘It is becoming increasingly apparent’, says Professor Ventura, ‘that the nervous and cardiovascular systems develop through coordinated action by common factors which drive the differentiation and migration of future neuronal and cardiovascular cells. The latest research shows a remarkable parallelism in the development of both systems …’.
In other words, movement is the catalyst of emotions, which stimulate a different interaction of the three brains.
This is where the power of Tai Chi movement comes into play.
Starting with conscious work on the body, aka the neocortex, with time a change occurs in the patterns which drive the functioning of the nervous system and the three brains. The three Dantians, as they are called in the Oriental language, are the focus of an alchemical process, which stimulates the re-patterning of ingrained psycho-physical borders, with the aim to restore psychological, physical and spiritual balance and to re-establish Oneness.
- Tao: All matter in the Universe, both living and non living, is pervaded with this eternal, essential and fundamental force. The symbol of Tao represents the universe. From the initial undifferentiated stage, two opposite yet complementary poles formed, which are the fundamental principles of the universe: Yin, the negative principle, is passive and is represented by the colour black while Yang, the positive principle – is active and is represented by the colour white.
- Primeval: That which was generated first.
Excerpt from: Scienza e Conoscenza
Scienza, Tao e Arte del Combattere – Flavio Daniele – Luni Editrice;
Frammenti di un insegnamento sconosciuto – In Search of the Miraculous – Fragments of an Unknown Teaching . P.D. Ouspensky – Ed. Astrolabio;
Medicina cinese –The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine Ted J.Kaptchuk – Ed. Red;
Huangdi Neijing – Jaca Book;
Candance Pert – Molecole di emozioni – Molecules of Emotion – Ed. Tea.