Tai Chi And The Five Integrities
by Kenneth van Sickle
Centering has to do with one’s place in space, being there securely and at ease with the body, knowing where the center is and where the edges are. Being aware of the essential you, and therefore of what surrounds you.
Alignment is simply about good architecture, to be built or rebuilt correctly. All animals including man are born with the same probability of physical perfection and most animals achieve it.
When we are children we get frustrated, ignored, threatened and physically punished….these acts make us tense up, either temporarily or permanently.
Tensions wear us down, harden our bones and decrease our vitality.
“Lao Tsu” said that we “stiffen and harden” where as in youth we are “tender and pliable”. Tai Chi is a way to replace that hardness with pliability.
The perfect balance of animals is only achieved by man when it is studied, as in athletes or circus performers. Consider what any seal, cat, goat or dog can do without thinking.
When we tense up, from fear or whatever the cause, it puts pressure on the bone, not the normal off and on pressure of exercise or work but a constant unrelenting pressure. This kind of pressure fatigues and hardens the bones and muscles, making them stiff and unpliable, weak and insensitive.
In the process of learning Tai Chi, these tensions are relaxed.
In a relaxed state, the blood flows fully and appropriately through the veins and arteries nourishing the body and pulsing oxygen into the brain.
The breathing is slow and even and in the stomach. When we exert ourselves we begin to breathe in the chest area (also when we panic).
The muscles are alive and relaxed and only tense when they are doing something. The nervous system is quietly sending messages that are appropriate to the reality of the external stimuli. And all is well.
When we become tense all these processes speed up and change their character and load ( they have evolved to be able to do that without any damage to the system).
As we know, adrenaline is issued to help the body handle trouble. It makes us breathe harder to get the oxygen around. It prepares the blood to clot quicker, it even makes our hairs stand up as a skin protection, even though we don’t have enough hair left to make a difference anymore.
Studies with Baboons have shown that another substance is issued under stress. These “Stress Hormones”, act with the adrenaline to prepare for danger, the whole body is readied for a physical confrontation.
In order to do that, many other body functions are put on 2nd priority. As soon as the danger is over, the systems switch back to normal. But, what happens if the Baboon/person considers itself in danger all the time? All the body’s systems are functioning at an inappropriate rate, we are prepared for a danger that doesn’t exist. In this state, normal life becomes difficult to handle.
In addition, it seems that the Stress hormones inhibit the Immune System. The Baboons that are low in the hierarchy are invariably sick animals.
As far as I know, these studies do not take into consideration the lack of positive input. The Baboon that is constantly being chased or intimidated, doesn’t get many hugs or loving glances.
People that actually are under stress all the time, don’t have time for love and good feelings, and people who consider themselves to be under stress, and are therefore always tense, are less lovable, more difficult to be comfortable with.
“MORAL”: Since Baboons can’t afford Tai Chi lessons, you will have to take them!