I missed a Q post awhile back. With this catch up post, I will be all up to date on the Pagan Blog Project. Yay! I’m doing better than I expected at this. Honestly, I usually spell it Chi rather than Qi, but I need that Q.
I was teaching my tai chi* class this morning, and I was telling them that people who are experienced with chi tend to say that they don’t really know what chi is. It’s the people who don’t know very much who will try to give you some kind of answer. (In common terms, chi translates to energy, life energy, “The Force,” prana, ki.) I’m about to prove that I don’t know very much about chi. I’ll probably prove that I don’t know much about the other two topics here either. But I’m having fun knocking these ideas around, and that’s all that matters, right? (There’s your disclaimer, get out the salt lick.)
I’ve seen the word “chi” applied in several different ways. One way seems something like the transmission of kinetic energy through the body. If I press on you, my kinetic force might be subtly redirected through your body and into the floor under your feet, or, if your muscles are tight, that force might stall out in your hip or your shoulder. That sounds somewhat abstract, but if I hit you hard enough, your injuries will predictably appear where the chi is blocked. Chi blockages are bad. The energy must flow, or else.
But that’s just chi 101, and I don’t think that “kinetic energy” is what is really meant by chi anyway. That’s just a handy example of one possible application. There’s a whole lot more to it than that. A chi blockage does not allow the kinetic force to flow smoothly, but how did it get blocked in the first place, and how do you unblock it?
Various meditations and chi gong exercises exist for the purpose of clearing up chi blockages. In fact, that’s one of the main ideas behind acupuncture. Illness, stress and emotional trauma are some of the things that are said to cause a chi block. We’ve moved from the realm of physics (kinetic energy) and into the realm of psychology and the mind (emotional trauma affecting the chi). From a physical perspective, your mental state can be expressed in a subtle tension in the muscles. Other causes, like nerve damage, can have an effect too. Acupuncture points do tend to coincide with pressure points in the body that correlate with nerves or with common locations for knotted muscle fibers. Massage and acupuncture can help, but if you haven’t got your mental state in order, those knots will come right back.
From this, we can guess that chi has something to do with the interface between the mind and the body. It is often said that the shen (mind, intent, spirit) leads the chi and the chi moves the body. Most of us skip that middle part. Most of us are pretty clumsy too.
I’ve also heard it said that the Egyptian ka is a life force that acts as an interface between the body and the spirit. I am playing a little fast and loose with the definitions, but you can see the similarities here. The ka is also sometimes referred to as the “double” while chi is intimately involved with the condition of your energy body. Chi and ka might not be exactly the same thing, but they do seem closely related. The ka is that which makes the difference between alive and dead. The Chinese also talk about a store of chi that you are born with, and once it is gone, you die. You can see why the cultivation of chi would be a big deal!
In tai chi and chi gong, there is a lot of effort involved in directing the chi in one way or another. You might send it to one part of the body or another. You might send it outside the body. You might visualize arcs, circles, or vectors. The chi moves along these paths and the body follows the chi. Does the chi knock the opponent over, or is the body doing that? I’ve heard it described as though the chi is necessary to get the body to move in those precisely accurate and subtle ways. You could not consciously tell individual muscles to get that work done, but the chi seems quite able to get the finer points across.
The proper usage of chi is almost like learning a whole new language. Chi might well be the medium for the transmission of that secret language. I have heard it said that chi can transmit information. Not only from your mind to your body, but from your mind to another’s body, or mind, as well. Your chi interacts with their chi to get the results you want. This is very valuable in martial arts. It is also used in healing arts.
So now we have a secret language transmitted by life force. Any Kemetics reading might know what that sounds like. Here comes the heka! Heka is usually translated as “magic,” but it is the activation of the ka. In common terms, Kemetics often take this to mean authoritative speech, magic words. What if we were talking about the language of the interface? With this “language” I can throw a person larger than myself off of their feet using only a tiny amount of physical force. (I’ve done it, but I need more practice to do it consistently.) How’s that for magic? I’ve also heard it said that heka originates in the belly, or gut, which is also the location of the Chinese lower tan tien, as in “sink the chi to the tan tien.”
I just thought of the idea of utilizing chi as if it’s a language this morning. There are no actual words as we know them here, but specific symbols, or metaphors are used to communicate a desired outcome. It takes a lot of training for both sides, the mind and the body, to effectively integrate this language. The mind has to learn which “words” to use. The body must be relaxed, fluid, and sensitive enough to execute the commands. It’s really freaking difficult, but it’s awesome. Real Jedi do exist.
* The “chi” in tai chi isn’t the same word. It’s more like “ji” as in taiji (supreme ultimate!). However, the “gong” in chi gong (cultivation of energy) is the same as the “kung” in kung fu (cultivation over time, usually referring to skill). Wobbly translation combining with phonetic drift FTW!