Guidelines for Directing Your Mind (Yi) and Balancing Your Energy (Qi) in Taiji

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Because the physical body and the mind act as an interrelated "whole" any training of the physical body must include training of the mind. In Taijiquan training, equal importance is placed on both parts of the "whole". Physical exercise provides smooth paths for the mutual nourishment and mutual restraint of Qi throughout the body. The conscious directing of your mind provides guidance for the flow of Qi. During training, your mind is being trained to sense and lead the Qi to specific areas of the body. This will heighten your body awareness, help regulate your Qi, and helps to increase your concentration. When conscious regulation becomes automatic, the flow of Qi becomes smooth and "natural" - a state of regulating without regulating.

In Chinese, there are two different characters for the word mind, Yi and xin. These two terms refer to the inner workings of the mind. By directing your mind in sensing your Qi, you are training your thought process. Chinese medicine classifies the expression of the spirit into seven emotions. They are: joy, anger, worry, pensiveness, fear, and shock. When any of these emotions are excessive or last too long, the mind is unable to properly regulate them; destroYing the energy in the organs, which then results in dis-ease or illness.

In one of the earliest Chinese medical classic volumes, The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classics, itstates that excessive joy hurts the heart, excessive anger hurts the liver, being overly pensive hurts the spleen, excessive sorrow hurts the lungs, and excessive fear hurts the kidneys.[link to v2n2a1] To balance, regulate and prevent the build up of excessive emotional tension, you may use your mind to direct your attention to specific areas of the body, or focus on an idea and/or applications, to prevent your thoughts from scattering.

1. Mind Focuses at dantian (Yi Shou dantian)

dantian literally means the "field of elixir". There are three places that are referred to asdantian in the human body. They are located between the eyebrows - the Upper dantian, the solar plexus area - the Middle dantian, and in the cavity within the abdomen - the Lower dantian. It is the Lower dantian that is of primary concern in this discussion. When speaking of the Lower dantian as a specific point in the human body, it refers to the dantian point located a little below the belly button. When speaking of Lower dantian as a "field of elixir" it refers to the area within the abdomen, around the center of gravity, which is capable of storing and generating Qi.

The guideline, Yi Shou dantian, points your mind to a central location in your body- the Lower dantian. The literal meaning of the word "Shou" is to keep or to guard. It implies "guarding" your mind and Qi to maintain their "integrity and unity" in your dantian area. Thus preventing the scattering of your thoughts and Qi, in order to achieve harmony - Mind and Qi Connected (Yi Qi Xianglian).

Yi Shou dantian is also a guideline for building Qi in your dantian. By paYingattention to your dantian, you will also be more aware of your abdominal movements. With practice, you will not only increase the efficiency of your breathing (see Guidelines for Breathing) [add link] you will also be building Qi in your dantian. The expanding and contracting of your abdomen stimulates also the building of Qi in your dantian. The expanding and contracting of your abdomen stimulates your kidneys (residence of your Original Essence) which helps produce Qi to nourish your body.

2. Use Your Mind to Lead the Qi (Yi Yi Ling Qi)

Qi can only be lead, not pushed. It is like a piece of rope that can be used to pull (lead) but not used to push an object. The mechanics of pulling with a rope requires that there is a pulling force, ahead of the object bring pulled. Yi Yi Ling Qi implies that your mind is the activator (force), that leads (pulls) the energy away from the excessive parts and leads it to the deficient parts - achieving a balance. To start this training, the mind focuses on specific points in the body, leading your sensation of Qi towards that point. Another approach to this training is to place your mind on the martial applications of the Taijiquan sequence. Be being aware of the applications of the movements, your mind will be directing your Qi towards your arms and legs - providing redistribution and balancing of Qi. It's not crucial that you are aware of the martial applications, but the imagery elicited from the applications will also help direct the Qi. For example, in a push requires that you be firmly rooted (directing your mind downward) and placing your mind toward moving the car (directing your mind forward). This type of mental exercise leads the energy forward and back; dissipating excess tension and creating a balance.