How can you flow with the changes every day brings and stay present within any maelstrom life chooses to send? This is the challenge of what you eventually progress towards when you practice tai chi and bagua as methods of Taoist moving meditation. Equally important is: Can you flow with change without having an agenda? Sometimes changes happen that you are powerless to affect. And yet even in such situations, you still know the general direction of the flow somewhere inside yourself—even considering the unpredictable currents you may encounter.
A surfer who catches a tall, 40-50 foot wave in Hawaii might know the way that he’d like the wave to break, but he damn well can’t make it happen. Like the surfer, you find the wave’s flow as best as you can. You do the best possible. Your focus must stay on riding the wave, so that no matter how the wave changes, you can stay on it.
More ideal still is to reach a point in your practice where there ceases to be a distinction between you and the wave—or you and the circle you’re walking or form you’re practicing. There’s neither the wave nor you, only an event that is in play. If you can relax and let the event unfold into the unknown, this is where the magic appears.
The surfer is doing whatever is possible to stay on the wave. It also means the wave will do what the wave will do, and cares nothing about the surfer.
So, the questions are:
- Can you open up enough and relax into the energies of the universe—where things manifest, come into existence and go out of existence?
- Can you find the center of all that change where you can just be?
- Can you find and anchor yourself in the unchanging empty center of the I Ching while allowing change to happen and simply being a part of it without resistance?
There is a place in the middle of the I Ching’s eight trigrams that is unwavering and constant. In Taoism, this is called the Tao, or emptiness. This place is utterly and totally free and leaves within it the potential for any kind of change to take place. The empty center permeates all change. It is melded to all change and yet itself is never affected by change. That is the fundamental principle behind the I Ching and the Taoist spiritual art of bagua.
Working with the Chi of the Environment
For millennia, Taoists have worked with the Five Elemental Energies: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. All are present in the external environment. These elemental energies are brought into the practitioner’s body and then in opposite manner projected outward to affect what is in the external environment outside of the practitioner’s physical body. Bagua and tai chi, especially in their more intact Taoist spiritual traditions, still practice this work.
At the level of internal energy work, bagua rather than tai chi practitioners have a much greater tendency to play with the energies of manifestation. They can develop a path for drawing energy from the environment into their bodies and minds, and then projecting that chi externally.
Most of the energetic work in tai chi is self-contained. However, you may move the energy out to the boundary of your etheric body, a distance of five to six feet or even 10 feet away from your body. In tai chi, your chi is confined in a more defined space. In bagua, there is a tendency for the mind to roam greater distances and play with the energies of the environment around you in a much larger and more fluid way. The exception is at the much more advanced spiritual levels of tai chi, where as meditation is one of its goals, is to directly link the practitioner’s body and mind with the energies of earth and heaven.
At higher levels, especially in Taoist meditation practices, bagua tends toward activity, which reflects its emphasis on yang. Tai chi tends to be much more passive or yin. Tai chi is passive in the sense that it follows the flow or pressure of the air surrounding you. The way the chi flows inside your body, influenced by the chi flowing in the air around you, then causes or at least significantly influences, your external movements. Bagua tends to be much more proactive in terms of initially creating chi flows inside your body to in turn create both external movements and chi flows in your etheric field. This further activates your internal chi flows and external movements.
Working with the Energies of Nature
Exploring your internal world can lead to understanding how your internal energies interact with the energies of the external environment. This begins with your immediate environment,
such as trees, grass and deep into the earth below you. It eventually spans huge distances—potentially including the planets and stars. This is yet another example of the sophisticated use of the I Ching map as applied to the practice of bagua and tai chi as Taoist moving meditation.
At a practical level, you let go and move into a space that has nothing to do with you, becoming concerned only with an “event” occurring at that moment in time. Beyond what’s happening within your own energy, there is equal concern for the energy of the surrounding environment. This includes the energy of the earth, stars, sky, trees and all the natural energetic forces surrounding you, and human manifestations like politics and economics. You allow your physical movements to harmonize with the matrix of environmental energies coming together. In time, you’ll find pure joy in blending with the forces of nature.
Resonating with the energy of the earth is of particular interest from a Taoist point of view, since we are inhabitants of this planet. Like many traditions of the ancient world, Taoists believe the earth is a living being. Contacting and melding with the energy of the earth will help you naturally acquire the wisdom it holds.
As you become more connected to the energies of nature, your natural human capacity to connect to the intelligence of the universe soon follows. You realize that you are part of it and it is a part of you—a microcosm within a much larger macrocosm.