How can you use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds of force?
That is the question at the heart of higher level taijiquan. It goes way beyond mechanics and leverage and takes us into something much deeper: how we relate to the world. There are non-objective states of consciousness that empower us far beyond our normal subject-object mode of being.
At TCA in Sedona this September, I demonstrated the power of “meeting bones.” Meeting bones relies on an idea I wrote about in an earlier post, Prince Wen’s Cook. In this fable from the Zhuangzi, a cook explains the power of cutting the through the empty spaces, following the path of least resistance. He meets the Dao in each move of his knife. You can’t find it in your normal rational mindset. You must learn to function well in trans-rational consciousness.
In this video, you can see the improbable effect of meeting bones. Very little force is needed to uproot and move through powerful resistance, even when crude muscular force won’t do the trick. When you meet the bones, you alternately engage the substantiality of the structure and the insubstantiality of the spaces. If you just try to push through a formidable resistance as if you were pushing a refrigerator, then you are limited by strength of your muscle and the craftiness of your technique.
Guru Mike Casto generously assists me in this demo, contrasting the efficacy of pushing with muscular force against the almost effortless power of jin. Trusting the jin is the hard part, since it seems so improbable. So, that takes practice under a variety of conditions. But here we’re doing a simple demo just to see what is possible.
The basic sequence follows the steps of The Edge exercise. (See post: Meeting Precedes the Event)
1. Receive. You have to be willing to accept the situation as it is, including the energies present.
2. Edge. Have some awareness of the parameters of what is going on.
3. Coherence. Point and reach with your index fingers to establish a heightened state of energetic coherence. This also helps to shift to trans-rational consciousness.
4. Presence. Establish your location in space and time.
5. Engagement. Meet your partner with your whole being, not as an object.
This last step is the focal point of this demo, although all the steps are really necessary to pull it off.
When I talk about “meeting bones,” we are taking the idea of meeting a step further. It means to specifically tune into your partner’s structure and feel where she is strong and rooted. You contact her substantiality. You can feel it by the resistance to your probe. Once you locate the resistance, you feel into it to find the space that holds it together. You feel through it seeking the path of least resistance. Just like Prince Wen’s cook!
Here’s an image that may make it sound a little less impossible:
Consider that the ratio of non-stuff to stuff in an atom is about a million to one. That’s right, forget those models you saw in your high school chem class. Total bullshit. An atom is almost exclusively composed of space. If you focus on your partner’s stuff, that’s what you will get. If you meet the many spaces in her body, then that is what you will be working with. Non-stuff.
Done correctly, “meeting bones” will produce a feeling of floating in your partner. She is feeling her space as well. Now we’re having fun.