November 27, 2013

The Tao of Chi.


Tao Temple overlooking the majestic Wudangshan Mountains, Hubei, China. Photo: David Arenson

The Tao that can be told

is not the eternal Tao;

The name that can be named

is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin

of all particular things.”

~ Lao Tzu

An epic personal year of transformation and discovery concludes for me as I ascend to new heights and overcome personal limitation to reach for the “impossible” and keep dreaming of a better world, a world filled with hope.

I write these thoughts perched on top of Mount Wudang-World Cultural Heritage Site, Chinese National Heritage Spot and Taoist Sanctuary. After nearly 10 weeks in China, I’m ready to descend the tall mountain, and return to the “Western world”.

My last few days at the foot of Mount Wudang, China, Photo: David G Arenson

I had dreamed of China long before I set eyes on its shores. There’s something unknown and perhaps unknowable about China—and I resolved to find this hidden essence in Tai Chi, the ancient Chinese internal martial art, as much moving meditation as self-defence.

The concept of fate is intrinsic to Taoism, and I believe that I have a special relationship to its teachings. Somehow I felt compelled to discover China, to learn more about its history and to explore its mysteries.

At Mount Wudang, China

China greeted me with a nonchalant radiance from the ultra-modern interior of Guangzhou Airport. From modest rustic beginnings, the massive Chinese power is being unleashed—awaken the sleeping Giant. Who wouldn’t want to find out more about this behemoth, and explore its depths, discover its closely guarded secrets?


Some of my amazing experiences in China, Wudangshan.

After an experience of Chinese trains of nearly 24 hours across China, I finally landed at my destination, Wudang Shan. The trains are long, and divided into three classes. Apparently trains are the most popular form of transport within China. I spent an uncomfortable night navigating my way through sleeplessness with Chinese workers, mainly bustling peasants. Incessant smoking, drinking, card-games, loud honking train-stops, fluorescent-lights, and noisy eating was just the beginning. The train can seem like a market-place at times, with passing-by salesmen loudly announcing their trade, from fruit, to toothbrushes, to napkins.

China is a country not afraid to face itself in the mirror. Rich meets poor on the street’s edge, and there is little finesse or refinement. It cannot afford to be subtle. Babies are seen all over with naked bottoms unashamedly sticking out, even on public transport. There is no need to cover up their bodily functions. In fact, it’s more common they will use the pavement or city square to relieve themselves. I am one for walking around barefoot – yet I was warned (perhaps wisely) that there are all sorts of alien parasites abounding.

The purpose of my travels was deeper—a mission to discover the soul of the culture, the inner alchemy of Tai Chi.

Throughout China, you will find people of all ages performing exercises, stretches, movements, even standing still. All roads lead to Chi Kung.

Chi Kung denotes internal energy exercise—energy work that usually involves inner mastery, movement and breath. Yet Chi Kung can mean virtually anything involving Chi. “Kung fu” was so-named by Bruce Lee to demarcate excellence. It does not specifically refer to any particular pursuit of excellence, yet in common Western parlance, has come to represent martial arts.

Tai Chi always involves a circle to promote the flow of Chi. Chi involves increasing electromagnetic energy in the body, hence increasing oxygenated blood flow to the cells. The cells grow strong due to increased circulation of oxygen. When the cells grow strong, the organs grow strong, and health improves. Chi is translated loosely as “vital energy” based on “life” – oxygen is life.

Chi Kung exercises often involve breathing to the Dan Tien (naval) to raise internal energy. When you expand and stretch your lung capacity via deep breathing, the less you have to breathe, and the more relaxed you will be. One could view Chi as the electrical current that connects different channels within the body.

Jing is the vital essence of the body. Shen is the highest energy in the body. The ultimate is to unify Shen (life force spirit) and Dao (tao). Tao is the matrix of all creations. A Chi Kung practice involves collecting Chi from outside and bringing it into the body.

These are just some of the mysteries of China I was blessed to discover. The wonders of Chi, Shen and Tao are endless and would take lifetimes to fully comprehend and Master. I am just a beginner on my journey.

Thank you to China for your Tao.

Thank you China for the Tao of Chi…

Master Lujien, my teacher, at China Wudang Kungfu Academy, Hubei, China

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Editor: Bryonie Wise



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