Though it seems odd, I recognize that when my legs straighten and bend, when my weight goes forward and back and I move up and down, when my waist bends and my t'an tien tips and tilts forward and back as I rise and fall, my body reflects the actions of a bellows squeezing air toward burning coals in order to build the flames of a fire. This image has only recently come to me after my TCC retreat experience in the Twin Cities at the end of January. And, typically, I notice this bellows effect while I'm performing movements like Bird Flaps its Wings, Wrist Circle Taffy, Light at the Top of the Head/Light at the Temples ... some of the more stationary movements in the form.
Okay, I've thought to myself, maybe I'm a little crazy imagining TCC in this way. Today, however, I pulled Practical Taoism, translated by Thomas Cleary, off my shelves. I opened to a book marker on page 40, obviously a section that I'd read years ago and thought important. It stated:
The bellowsClearly this passage is something to think about as I open and close my wrists during the Lights. Without consciously realizing it, am I doing as this quote says by allowing the earth energy to rise as I open my palms and also allowing the energy of heaven to flow into me as my palms come back together? ... I shall observe and notice what I experience in coming practices.
The Tao Te Ching says, 'The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows, empty and uninhibited, producing more and more with movement.'
The Treatise on the Rise and Descent of Yin and Yang says, 'If people can emulate the rising and falling bellows action of heaven and earth, breath going out when opening, breath going in when closing [i.e., Light at the Top of the Head/Light at the Temples], the going out like the energy of earth rising, the going in like the energy of heaven descending, rising and descending alternately, then you can equal the perpetuity of heaven and earth.'
If you know how to pump a bellows but not how to tune true breathing.... How will you snatch the wholesome energy of heaven and earth to crystallize the elixir?
Tonight's practice in my office was wonderfully calming. The energy in my palms was alive throughout most of the form. Why, I wonder, do I feel the energy so clearly sometimes and not at other times?
Of course, I could also ask myself, Why do I feel my mind calm and relaxed sometimes and not at other times? Immediately a phrase pops into my head that I remember my mother repeating to me at various times throughout my childhood: "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die." Now that, my friends, reminds me of TCC practice: You don't need to think about it, just do it....