The Yin and Yang + Heaviness Exercise

The final chapter I have to share with you here from the book Journey To Mastery: Feng Shui for Life, by Dr. Kathryn Mickle, Ph. D., is the chapter on the central symbol of the bagua; the Yin and Yang symbol.

The chapter begins; “The center of the bagua is the T’ai Chi, represented by the familiar symbol of Yin and Yang, each containing a seed of the other. T’ai Chi means supreme ultimate, or perfect balance of Yin and Yang… The T’ai Chi symbol is in the center of the bagua (and your house) representing the harmony achieved when all areas of your life are in order. It relates to health- not just absence of sickness- but living free and unburdened… In this area we look at my experience with the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, the lessons that I learned from it, and living in harmony with the natural elements.”

Here are the 10 principles that the author has learned from her practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan; she states “What interests me is how these principles apply, not only to the movement, but to our lives in general. All of them are lessons also apparent in the Feng Shui bagua.” So here we find another perspective on the importance of the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan (which I have discussed in previous posts based on the book T’ai Chi Ch’uan For Health and Self-Defense: Philosophy and Practice by Master T. T. Liang).

“Principle 1: Release the blocks

…Qi, life force energy, is flowing through everything and keeping you alive. In the body, Qi flows through meridian channels and, when flowing freely, helps eliminate illness. The Chinese believe that blocks in these channels are related to disease. Similar to how an acupuncturist puts needles into your body to stimulate the free flow of energy, Feng Shui makes changes in your environment to enhance the flow of energy. The movement of Qigong and T’ai Chi Ch’uan is like natural acupuncture, circulating the energy in the body through movement and intention…

Principle 2: Action is not always necessary

The movements of T’ai Chi are like a metaphor of how to live life. The Wu Chi stance, the T’ai Chi form’s opening and closing positions of emptiness, is the place where the potential movement has not begun yet or has ended. It is that very necessary state between non-action and action. In our worldly actions, it is when we stand still for a minute, reassess and choose our next action. As we stand in this position in full awareness, we get in touch with the blockages in our body. We become aware of pain in certain places and we know that these are emotional blocks that have solidified in our body over time. In our life, this time of non-action helps us get in touch with intuition, guidance or inspiration to know what is the next step on our path. If we stay still and get in touch with inner strength, we will know how to circumvent obstacles.

Principle 3: We cannot judge a situation

We learn to empty our mind of all thoughts which intrude upon us. By concentrating on the slow movement and on our breath, we find that disturbing thoughts, which might have been there at one time, have disappeared from our mind. Over time, in these practices, we learn not to judge our emotions. We will feel the intensity of them but not for long and will be able to see, as in the T’ai Chi symbol, that there is always the seed of opportunity in all situations that we perceive as a problem.

Principle 4: Life is a circle

To achieve harmony is the main aim of Taoist practices. Realizing that there is this dual quality of all things mreans recognizing that in all perceived harmful situations, there is the seed of the opposite quality. If you look at the Yin/Yang symbol, you will see that each part flows into the other, each is half of the same whole and each contains a seed of the other. In fact, the whole image represents a circle or a sphere which represents teh harmonious movement of life. As you watch T’ai Chi Ch’uan as a form, you will observe the circular motion of all the movements and how many of them, if watched closely, look like the T’ai Chi symbol…

An old version of the Yin-Yang symbol. Image via

Principle 5: Cultivate a quiet mind

…The tensions we feel in our body have been built up for years by our reaction to the stresses around us. This movement helps us release these old blockages. When our mind is quiet, we can hear the messages that our body is giving us. We can get impressions from our senses, emotions and gut feelings. We become mindful of everything around us and know its place in our life. From the perspective of a quiet mind, we can access guidance and move forward on our path, circumventing obstacles.

Principle 6: Stay in full awareness

Each movement in T’ai Chi is done in full awareness. As we move slowly, effortlessly, gracefully, we are aware only of the movement, nothing else. It is a good example of living life in the present moment, concentrating only on what is happening in each instant.

Principle 7: Know when to go forward and when to retreat

…One of the major ideas in T’ai Chi Ch’uan is the movement between Yin and Yang. In the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, we alternate between these two positions. At times, we have one part of our body in a Yang position and another is in a Yin position. What this demonstrates in life is the flow between these two positions… In life, we have to know when to move forward and when to retreat. We must become aware that the retreat can come right after an agressive stance… As we live in full awareness, we know that the opposite effect is just behind…

Principle 8: Remain detached

What we seek is balance and not being attached to either state. As we adopt this philosophy, we search for this place of balance where we can easily move from one state to the other and not feel stuck in either. We feel harmony in all things and, when harmony deserts us for a while, we don’t get upset because we know that it will return… Sometimes we have to be more active, but often, yielding is the best response. As we flow between these two positions, we stay in the knowledge that there is always another perspective, that things are not as they seem and there is a more spiritual way to view any event. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a Taoist martial art which teaches us to go with the flow and not oppose the opponent’s force. We deflect the energy and return it.

Principle 9: Live in the Present

In T’ai Chi Ch’uan, we lose our focus if we anticipate the next position before we move into it. In life, we often live in the future instead of the present so we are never fully in the moment. To concentrate fully on each movement, even though it is a flow of motion, teaches us to stay with our concentration fixed in the present, if only for a second. It gets us in the practice of being fully in the moment and the more we do it, the more often we can stay in the present for a longer period of time.

Principle 10: Cultivate the Mind/ Body/ Spirit

… While Westerners would say that the purpose of Qigong is to improve health, the Chinese would say it is to cultivate the three treasures- the energy found in the three centers, the upper center (shen), the heart center (qi) or the lower center (jing) or, as we would think of it, the body, mind and spirit… One major goal of Qigong is greater harmony inside and outside. To create more harmony, we need to live within the principles of the Tao. One of those principles is to balance the polarities, the Yin and Yang.”

Another principle that is related in this chapter is the idea that “What we resist persists… The contradiction about trying to get away from something is that when we resist it, it sticks to us even harder.” Instead of dwelling on a situation or person that may bother us, “We need to adopt a stance of oppenness and yielding… In order to get there, we have to be in a position of balance ourselves… From my Eastern practices, I know that the way to resolve any situation is to stand firm and centered and allow it to take care of itself. It is like the model of a tree with its roots firmly in the ground, bending to the storms of change but not becoming uprooted.”

One way to slow down and put things in to perspective is to spend time in nature. After all, “Feng Shui emerged from the desire to live in harmony with nature.” I have found it to be true that spending time, even a short amount of time in nature can give me a new perspective on life and things which may be bothering me. One amazing thing that is found in nature is the tree. As written in this chapter, “We watch trees firmly rooted in the ground. When a storm comes, they may toss and sway but they do not lose their roots. When man does not interfere with it, each part of nature has its place and it operates in complete harmony. When birds get up in the morning, they do not worry about how they are going to live through the day…”

“The Rooting Exercise

There is a practice in T’ai Chi and Qigong, in fact in most martial arts, called rooting.”

This version as printed in the text is attributed to Michael Andron, a T’ai Chi master.

-Still your mind by taking some slow, deep breaths.

-Imagine a seed of light vibrating in your head. Visualize it moving slowly from your head down to your lower center (Tan Tien).

-Feel this center radiating out energy, attuning the whole body to its vibration.

-Imagine two laser beams of light going from your center down each leg, connecting you to the earth’s center. Feel yourself linked to the energy of the earth.

-With these roots in place, when you exhale, send your worries, burdens and destructive emotions into the ground to be recycled. When you inhale, draw up healing energy from the earth.

This process can be used any time you feel yourself tossed off balance by events and people.”

This and similar processes of “rooting” can be very powerful. I am reminded here of two things. The first is a guided meditation which includes a rooting process that comes from the Tracker school philosophy, which is used as a form of protection. The second thing I am reminded of is an activity that Master Pearson shared during his recent class at the Cincinnati school where he taught the use of the Korean staff (see posts from Week #36 for more information). This one is fun and if you can find one or two other people to try it with, I highly recommend it:

The Heaviness Exercise

Stand straight with your arms down and your sides, in fists. First, tense all your muscles, expecially in your arms, and have your friend try to pick you straight up by pushing up on your fist (if you have two other people have one on each side.) Note how much they can lift you (even if it is just a little) off the ground. When I tried this, two people were able to lift me all the way off the ground. Now the second time, relax your muscles- visualize yourself leaning on two tables, your weight is just leaning down, you are not tense but you are holding your arms straight as you were before. When you feel heavy and strong let the person/ people try to lift you up again. They will not be able to lift you as they did before. In my experience, the two people could no longer lift me off the ground. The feeling of this exercise is indescribable, and applicable to many martial art techniques. Give it a try-

And to close out this final chapter, Affirmations for the T’ai Chi/ Yin and Yang symbol:

“I am calm, centered and stable.

I send my burdens into the ground to be recycled.

I am a channel between heaven and earth.

I access healing energy from the earth.”

Feng Shui suggestions for the center of your house/ room/ environment:

“Healthy plants and flowers, the Yin + Yang  symbol, earth tones, fresh or artificial fruit, a skylight or open area.”

Enjoy the longest nights of the year- soon the days will be getting longer.

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