Six Harmony Tai Chi
An ancient principle in Tai Chi practice is the six harmonies. These comprise three external harmonies and three internal harmonies. Externally, our movements coordinate together as: shoulders with hips, elbows with knees and hands with feet. Internally, we coordinate and connect ourself as: spirit/consciousness with mind, mind with energy and energy with body. In Chinese this poetically summarises to: Yi -> Chi -> Li, which is the process of manifestation from mind through sensation into physical reality. It also describes and parallels the process of healing change or transformation which starts with intention, works through sensitivity and emotion and translates into physical well-being.
One way to look at the principle of Yi chi li, is in the setting of a therapeutic Tai Chi session, where there are three components of the session to harmonise: the participant, teacher and activity. The process of energy transformation starts with the participant making a conscious choice – a choice to participate. This is the process though which everything happens; it starts with consciousness or awareness. This is the very centre of ourself, the ‘experiencer’ of all the experiences – the ‘seer’ of the mind, the ‘feeler’ of the emotions and and ‘sensor’ of the body. From this ‘awakeness’ we create the intent, a definite thought – I want to do Tai Chi. The more clear this is – the more powerful the rest of the process becomes: ‘Harmonising spirit with mind is just conscious choice.’
In the next phase of the process, mind harmonises with energy, the participant’s intent is like a light-beam shining onto the teacher. The teacher ‘holds the space’ leading and communicating and is already ‘in the energy’ guiding the participants to move into this realm of feeling and sensing. The participant listens, watches, and follows the teacher moving. On a subtle level the embodiment of the teacher’s energy is clear and strong which makes it easier for the participant to move into energy awareness. This is like a strong magnet which re-magnetises a magnet that has lost its magnetism by sharing harmonious movement. The teacher and participant in synchronistic movement allows for the participant to experience the movement in the same way that the teacher does. This process of mind hamonising with energy forms a ‘group’ or collective synergy of working together.
The final part of the process drops easily out of the essential preliminary steps. The energy harmonises with the body. The teacher and the participants are working together as a group in a feeling and sensing space as the activity unfolds in gentle exercise with an emphasis on ‘loading’ the legs and lifting the spine. By working together on continuous integrated physical movement utilising the three external harmonies: hips/shoulders, elbows/knees and hands/feet, we generate a flow and sense of timelessness.
By using this process and having the experience of it working we come to know and understand our own power to transform our reality and move in the direction we want to go in, towards health and self mastery.
In my next article, I will share how to work with distraction that is common for most beginners in Tai Chi… The three internal harmonies are a continuous loop. And, at times we may get distracted or – ‘taken out’ by other processes we are working on – which quite often are mental and emotional processes relating to the past. We learn to simply restart the loop – ‘wake-up’ and notice we are distracted, become aware of what’s happening inside – remind ourselves that right now we are choosing to do Tai Chi – return our attention to the teacher and get back into harmony with the energy of the group; learning to ‘listen’ – we move into our body and the activity, and synergistic flow returns.