This week, I’ve been using Jason Miller’s teachings on the subtle body from his Strategic Sorcery Course to write about tai chi, as I’m part of a study group that’s working through the course materials again. So far I’ve written about the internal work, the channels, the internal pathways. Today I want to talk about projection of energy.
First, what I did today: Tai chi, qi gong (Eight Pieces of Silk), thirty push-ups, thirty squats. Yay.
It’s hard to talk about projection of energy without talking about how to call up energy first. In tai chi I frequently do this with breathwork, typically the three breaths which begin each iteration of the tai chi form. They’re officially part of the practice, but I don’t always remember them. This is not uncommon — thinking about the internal tradition, writing about it, is often hard enough without actually doing it. We live in a deeply materialist society, and it’s difficult to play or work outside of that framework, or to remember that it’s there without conscious effort.
All the same, once the three breaths are performed, and correctly, I usually feel a growing sense of movement or internal flow, quite separate from my own sense of the three channels of center, red and white. This flow appears to be partly generated from me, and partly me engaging with the world around me. It’s dynamic — I can pull more of it into myself, but upon doing so I must let more of it flow out of me. Letting it build up inside of me, holding it back and preventing its escape, is possible. But I usually have to have a static stance, like Wu Chi, to hold much more of it than usual.
Energy can be projected in a number of ways. First, it can be projected down the legs, and into the ground like a spike, which can be used to establish rootedness. This sort of projection is useful when a strong force of outward projection is desired, such as when hitting an opponent (either for real, or in an imaginary sense — I have found that a mild push of silent energy outward is sometimes enough to induce someone to leave a place, without me approaching them or communicating with them, much less physically engaging them in combat). This active rootedness — I engage with the earth — is a key part of the footwork in tai chi, even if I don’t talk about it when I write about tai chi usually. A passive rootedness is also a form of energy work — The earth engages with me — by which I mean, that simply standing in an active or passive pose results in the energy of the earth below me, flowing upward into my body. A strength that can be drawn upon, in correlation with my experience with using it.
The challenge for me, in tai chi, is that the outward projection of energy tends to lead the physical body along the same path. In the physical realm, every action has an equal and opposite reaction — if I push against you, my body is also pushing backwards in response. But in the realms of the subtle body, pushing against you tends to pull my body away from the earth and into you — every action results in a redoubling. Engaging with you in combat pulls me off balance, and leads to me over-toppling myself as my energy leads me forward and out of rootedness.
There’s more, but I’m running late. I’ll try to continue this tomorrow.