Taiji Day 246: Be On Your Toes

During Eight Pieces of Silk, the first movement (I have no idea what it’s called, actually) involves flapping one’s arms so that they briefly touch directly over one’s head, and then flapping them down gently to about waist height.  One breathes in on the way up, and out on the way down; when one’s hands touch over one’s head, one pushes the heels of the feet off the floor, and stretches for the sky.

During this movement today, discovery: the heels don’t actually have to come all the way back to earth on the downward movement.  The heels can float just above the surface of the ground, putting most of the weight and pressure on the balls of the feet and on the toes.  The result is a nice stretch that lengthens the calf muscles and powers up the lower body.  And the result, at least on this first try, was sweat.

Consider: the body is normally at rest on the earth in six places: the toes, the balls of the feet, and the heels.  William C.C. Chen called them the three nails.  When the heels are lifted off the floor, and only lightly touch the earth, or do not touch at all, the body’s weigh is now distributed to earth through four places: toes and balls of the feet, one such on each foot.

It is hard to find a new way of doing an exercise months into the work.  Today such an opportunity presented itself, and it involved learning to let go of gravity. The physical strength developed from learning to trust gravity — to press all of one’s weight to earth through the feet, and allowing the calf and thigh muscles to develop over a long period of time — was the only thing that made this experiment in balance possible. And the way that the body naturally shifted into what would have been thought an unnatural stance a few months ago, argues that the body can acquire deep powers without the nominal owner of that body, the brain, being fully aware that such actions are truly possible.  Startling.

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