Taiji Day 196: Rising Chi

At the end of Five Golden Coins today I was breathing hard, and my stomach was pumping — moving in and out like a bellows.  To me, these are external signs that something interesting is about to happen on the internal level, and I’m about to feel a rush through my body of the sensation of pins and needles, except not bad.  Maybe it’s more like a sense of persistent soap bubbles, really.  Or perhaps it’s like a rush of tiny feet, all commuting rapidly from one end of my body to the other. Or maybe it’s none of these things.

I hesitate to use words like “energy” in connection with this experience, or prana or even chi (although this is the feeling I associate with rising chi), because so few people in our culture know what chi is, or would know it the first few times that they felt it.  I don’t feel it all the time when I’m doing tai chi, though I wish I did. I associate it with a great workout.  I know it’s there even if I don’t feel it; I just know that if I feel it, I’ve opened up my senses correctly, and …

You see how hard it is to talk about this stuff.  How would you describe an internal feeling that’s not your heart pounding, that’s not the electrical whine of your nervous system, that’s not your muscles or tendons or cartilege popping, and that usually happens all over your body in a rush?  You’re left with a relatively narrow range of expressions to describe that feeling, and some of them are X-rated… and that’s NOT at all what I mean.  There is a sense-impression of energy flowing through the body along specific pathways and routes which is quite independent of flesh, blood and bone, and Modern English seems utterly inadequate to the need to describe it.

I tell my students all the time that if you only speak one language, your native tongue literally keeps you from thinking thoughts that your language does not know how to express.  That’s kind of how I feel here: what’s the internal energy-sense that isn’t taste, touch, sight, smell or feeling; that isn’t blood, bone, flesh or nervous system; and that isn’t sex, or fear, or “runner’s high” or pain or joy? You know… that one, the one I’m feeling right now…

See? utterly inadequate.  Those of you who read this, who’ve felt it before, will know exactly what I’m talking about; and those of you who haven’t felt it will either feel lost without this unknown thing; or more likely, think I’m stupid for believing in something that isn’t.

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