There Are No Secrets

Today, I re-discovered the essential principles of Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan). I happened to pick up one of the (my) most influential books on this ancient Art – “There are No Secrets”, written by a student of one of the most famous, unique master of Taiji, Professor Cheng Man-Ching.

I opened the book randomly and the 1st thing that I read was, “Relaxation is the cardinal principle of Tai Chi Chuan”. As I read, it was as though this was just what I needed, as I felt myself spontaneously drawn to it’s wisdom.

I feel compelled to share this with you:

Relaxation is the cardinal principle of Tai Chi Chuan. Next in importance are Professor Cheng’s Three Treasures. “Follow the Three Treasures”, he said and you don’t have to worry about your practice being true.

First is the point on the top of the head, corresponding to the soft spot on a baby’s skull. “You should imagine”, Professor said, “that you are suspended from heaven by a string connected to the point in the center of the skull”. Another image he used was to imagine “one’s head pressing upward toward the ceiling”.

He once said you could practice for 30 years but if you did not pay attention to the top of the head suspended from heaven, your practice would be wasted.

The importance of this first “treasure” has to do with the spine. If the head is completely upright, “suspended from heaven”, the spine will be completely erect, with no jamming of the vertebrae. In Taoist physiology, the spine is “ the Pillar of Heaven”, with nerves and internal organs connected to it. Misalignment and compression of the spine are responsible for countless ills.

“If the pillar of heaven collapses”, said Professor, “what hope can there be for a person’s health?”

It is the spine’s absolute straightness – a loose rather than rigid straightness – which allows the ch’i to flow up the spine to the top of the head. This movement of the ch’i is part of the final, transcendent stage of Tai Chi development, described as “enlightment”.

The second Treasure is the “Bubbling Well” of “Rushing Spring”, a point in the middle of the foot, slightly behind the ball. The Tai Chi practitioner should conceive of his weight dropping into the ground through the Bubbling Well, rather than any other point on the foot. It is called the Bubbling Well because after a period of diligent practice, a practitioner begins to experience the internal energy bubbling up from the ground through that point in the foot.

Understanding the Bubbling well leads to what Professor called “one’s unity with the ground”. The power in Tai Chi is an expression of the body’s entire energy unified with and flowing from the earth. Though the energy is soft – only softness can develop the unity – it has the power of mass intergration, like the individual droplets of water in a tidal wave.

The third and most important of all of Professor’s Three Treasures is that which directly bears on the development of the ch’i. Professor said that if one practiced the gung fu of this third treasure, one would not need to practice any of the rest of the discipline.

This most important point is the tan tien (dantian), “the field of the elixir”. It is a point approximately an inch below the navel, 3/7 of the way from back to front. It is where the ch’i is gathered and nutured, until it eventually overflows into the body and bones: the body filling with “spirit” ch’i, becoming relatively impervious to blows and many illnesses, the bones becoming “hard as steel” rather than the brittleness that comes with aging. Finally, the ch’i travels up the spine to the brain, where it comes down as “the golden rain”, enlightenment.

To nurture the third treasure one must, in Professor’s phrase, “Keep the ch’i and the heart/mind mutually guarding one another in the tan tien”.

“Relaxation” and the “Three Treasures of Cheng Man-Ching” form the guidposts of Tai Chi Chuan. Following them, a student’s practice will deepen.

Excerpt from : “There Are No Secrets”, by Wolf Lowenthal

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