I’ve talked about how I felt like I was on a plateau for a long time, and I’ve got no sense of when I would cross over to a new level. Turns out, breathing has a lot to do with it. Yesterday I did a long, slow tai chi process; and today I did the same thing. And as a result, I felt the rising internal sense of chi that I associate with ‘reaching the next level.‘ Is it really reaching the next level of practice, or is it what Jason Miller calls the difference between state and stage?
That is, when I experience a sense of rising energy within me, is that energy part of a sense of moving up to a new level of awareness and capacity? Or am I simply becoming aware of a higher level, but not actually reaching yet?
It may be helpful to describe the sense of rising energy or chi I’m speaking about. It is a sense of warmth and tingling in the limbs, particularly in the extremities. It tends to appear mostly in the upper body rather than in the lower body, and is often accompanied by a sensation of a ring of energy around the head, above the ears. I don’t feel this sensation every time I do tai chi, but in fact whenever I am progressing to new potential, I tend to experience this sensation for a few sessions in a row, and then it gradually fades as I adjust to the new capacity. Then, it fades away completely, and I don’t experience it at all — although other people who are chi-sensitive can feel it in me, I have a hard time noticing it. A while later, as long as several months later, I feel it return, it last several days, and then departs.
Part of the reason the chi-sense may have re-appeared today may have something to do with what I did last night. My friend HR asked me and my lady to participate in the Farmington Witch Project, an evening commemorating the last victims of the witchcraft panics in Connecticut 350 years ago. With some other friends, we performed a short ritual at the start of the evening. We weren’t all of us witches by any means, but our ritual worked with four elements plus Spirit; and, as we called up the four powers, Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and finally Spirit, I felt myself become a column of energy, fully integrated from earth to sky. Filled with chi, made of chi. Boom.
Of course, the sensation didn’t last. It never does. Reaching a spiritual state, but not arriving at a particular stage. A sense of being a channel or a pipe of energy to fill the cauldron of a moment in time, and then the cauldron tips, and the energy washes out and away, passing through the assembled people at the gathering.
And of course, the sensation itself is a kind of ego-trip. It’s not the thing itself, but rather a sign of the stage to come. It’s only when the sense of chi passes away, in a sense, that a particular state becomes normalized, that it becomes part of ordinary, everyday reality. Others who are chi-sensitive may sense the power inherent within you, and respond to that, but you yourself cannot feel it — because it’s become normalized so much that it’s invisible to you yourself.
So, in a sense, the ego trip is the awareness of a new spiritual state within you. The stage is the sense that this is the new normal, and that the ‘old’ normal has passed away.