A week ago I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a seminar at Peaceful Wolf Tai Chi in East Haddam, CT, hosted by my good friend, Sifu David Shaver. David is an 81 year old testimonial to the power of the internal martial arts to keep you youthful and active. He has been an actor and a rodeo bull rider, among other professions, and now focuses on teaching taijiquan and other martial arts in his beautiful studio (built by David and his students and modeled after the Zhang San Feng Hall at the T’ai Chi Farm).
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the seminar was entitled “Song Kua: Awakening From the Trance.” Song kua is a Chinese expression that means “relax into the intrinsic support of your hip joints.” The “trance” in the title refers to a subconscious program that gets installed when we first learn to stand and walk. The essential idea we embrace at that time is, “Must not fall,” and we accomplish this by resisting the pull of gravity. We push away from the earth. This is such a successful strategy that it gets woven into all our movements and colors our relationship to the earth.
The downside of this is that by pushing away from the earth we greatly reduce our energetic connection to the earth and thus reduce our access to earth qi to a trickle. It becomes so insignificant that we are often oblivious to the vast untapped resource of energy that surrounds us each moment. Even those familiar with the concept of song kua and have tried for years to integrate it into their gongfu can have difficulty accessing it when needed. Why? The trance kicks in under even the mildest of stresses.
The solution is very simple, so simple that it can easily be overlooked. So we have to set it up by getting everyone into the proper state of mind: Wholeness.
So we started things off by getting everyone comfortable with accessing wholeness through energetic coherence. I have written extensively about this in both Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate and Finding You in a World of It, as well as in previous blogs.
Of course, there is no substitute for actually practicing energetic coherence under a variety of conditions, so we did that a bit. After trying it with a partner a bunch of times and getting that external feedback, everyone started to get comfortable operating from wholeness and the shift in consciousness that comes from it. It’s a little like finding out that you can fly…it takes a bit of practice to really accept that this is happening, but then you start to ask, “What else is possible?”
This group was a nice mix of martial artists and not. Martial artists sometimes appreciate this information a little more because they are used to testing things for practical use. But the practicality of wholeness/energetic coherence goes far far beyond martial applications. It opens doors to a wide array of possibilities. It is heuristic: enables you to learn new things for yourself.
In a state of wholeness you can better understand the power of song kua. The FEELING of connection to the earth is not just palpable, it is testable. That is, you instantly become rooted. Instantly. Dependably. Someone pushes you and you are nailed to the floor. I searched for years to find the golden fleece of rooting when I was competing in push hands tournaments. The methods I used were complex and undependable.
This is something ANYONE can apply instantly…provided they recognize the trance.
How do you do awaken from the trance? I wrote about it in an earlier post and won’t repeat that here: Song Kua: Clarification. I did discover something new I would like to share here, though.
The trance gets it’s power the way most trances do: getting you to do something you’ve already agreed to do…without thinking about it. It is unconscious or subconscious. So, when we make it conscious and do the action willfully, deliberately, it breaks the spell. In this case, we intentionally do the thing that we are already doing subconsciously: we push away from the earth. It doesn’t have to be a big push, just enough to notice that you are resisting gravity. Then, you reverse it and settle into the pull of gravity. You let go of extraneous muscular tension and settle into the support of your connective tissue system.
Then repeat: 1. Push away. 2. Settle in.
Notice how pushing away breaks the connection and settling in (song) reestablishes it. Feel the power of the earth qi when you are song kua: relaxed, supported, full, yin. It is like open a giant gate valve and allowing this torrent of qi to fill your body. The only limitation on your ability to tap into this virtually infinity energy source is your own comfort with that much energy. And with practice, you upgrade your wiring to handle ever more.
The deeper the roots, the bigger the branches. By feeling the powerful foundation of song kua, we develop the confidence to reach even higher.
Thanks to David and the whole gang at Peaceful Wolf for a delightful day sharing love, energy, and knowledge.