Is it possible that Consciousness could reside in both our Brain and in our Body? As explored in the prior article, our Brain-dominated central nervous system is certainly too slow to perform the basic survival functions related to being a predator. Our Brain’s decision-making process is even too sluggish to direct certain everyday activities that we take for granted, such as driving a car or riding a bicycle. The top-down organization of our central nervous system simply takes too much time to make deliberate decisions and then execute them.
If the transmission speed of the central nervous system is too slow, how do musicians, athletes and martial artists respond almost immediately to the rapidly changing conditions of a dynamic environment? Is it possible that there is some form of Body Consciousness that could enable us to make more rapid decisions? Rather than ‘consulting’ the Brain, could choices be made at the source in a bottom-up fashion? Could it be that the musician turns mere notes into music via a bodily, perhaps hand-ear, connection rather than relying upon the Brain’s deliberate decision-making capabilities?
Is there another bodily network that transmits both energy and information more quickly than our central nervous system? Our connective tissue system permeates our entire body and transmits both energy and information up to 20X faster than the central nervous system. Is it possible that the only way relatively common acts can be performed efficiently is to tap into the highly integrated crystalline connective tissue system with its relatively instantaneous speed?
Is the connective tissue system on automatic? Or are we able to exert some conscious control over this body-wide system? If we have some control, how are we able to tap into these marvelous powers?
Miyamoto Musachi provides us with some insights. Musachi is arguably the most famous swordsman that ever lived. His response time had to be lightening quick in order to both avoid being slain and defeat his opponents. He wrote a book - The 5 Rings. The book’s main premise is that emptying the Mind is the final step towards mastering the sword. As a Samurai warrior that was never defeated, his written testimony attains great credibility.
What does it mean to empty the Mind? In Musachi’s sword context, we suggest that this means to still both our thoughts and emotions in order to tap into sensory awareness, i.e. Body Consciousness. Presumably in such a way, he was able to move more rapidly than and hence defeat his many opponents. A key point for Musachi is that we must entirely shut off our Mind’s idea-generating capacity in order to tune into our Body’s superior response time. No multitasking. One or the other, not both.
A prerequisite of an Empty Mind is that Consciousness is not located in our verbal, thinking Brain. The central nervous system must voluntarily relinquish control. For instance, after learning to ride a bike or drive a car, the Brain must fade into the background. After this emptying, Consciousness can guide the activity via the Body’s quicker networks rather than relying upon the Brain’s slower verbal directives.
But how do we empty the Mind? Meditation is one method. Attempting to still the Mind in the daily marketplace, where so much is going on, is a lesson in futility. The results will be limited at best. The daily practice of meditation where we still both Heart and Mind, i.e. emotions and ideas, enables us to carry this quietude into our day-to-day lives. In such a way, we develop the habit of meditating and the state of Empty Mind.
Could it be that emptying the Mind in such a manner allows Consciousness to naturally, spontaneously access the vibratory liquid crystalline structure of the connective tissues? Accessing this network is crucial, as the system’s response time can be an order of magnitude faster than the central nervous system – especially if it is highly integrated.
Is it possible that tapping into this system allows the frog to catch flies, the organist to play music, the soccer player to kick the ball into the goal, and the martial artist or swordsperson to defend him or herself from attack? The central nervous system is certainly too slow to direct any of these nearly spontaneous activities.
While emptying the Mind might allow us to better employ our innate crystalline structure, there is a significant problem with this strategy. Although the connective tissue system is completely integrated when we are born, the trials, tribulations, and habits of day-to-day life disrupt the crystalline organization of our connective tissues. Modern life is especially hard on our connective tissue system. Time spent sitting in cars, chairs, and in front of ubiquitous screens fragments the liquid crystal – turning the integrated system into mush. The spider web-like structure, which transmits information almost instantly via vibrations, is shattered. Entire sections of the network are disorganized and confused from disuse or misuse.
This internal disorganization compromises both our physical health and mental clarity, as the crucial connective aspect of our living system is not operating as efficiently. However simple understanding is not enough to remedy our Body’s fragmented state. In addition to emptying our Mind, we must re-integrate our Body’s network.
It behooves us to regularly clean and exercise the connective tissue channels. Similarly, house cleaning or walking our dog is not a one-time affair, but instead a daily activity.
Emptying the Mind is but one key to accessing the resonant liquid crystal of the connective tissue that literally encompasses the entire organism. Re-integrating the Body is the other. However, these processes are neither instantaneous nor based upon understanding, but instead require daily practice. Musachi became a great swordsman, not solely because of innate talents, but through concentrated daily repetitions that enhanced his natural abilities.
Which types of exercise best enable us to re-integrate our Body’s connective tissue system?
Any exercise that heats the body will assist the process of Body Reintegration. Rigorous exercise of any kind heats the body. The heating serves 2 functions. It breaks up the corrosion and allows the natural crystalline structure of the body to realign itself. Exercises that are only based in strengthening lead to brittleness. Both strength and flexibility are required for body integration. Integration is required if we are to tap into the energy and coherence of the connective tissue. Tai Chi is an ideal exercise, although not the only one, to achieve this end.
Tai Chi was designed in part to maximize chi flow. We suggest that the energy coursing through our connective tissue system is associated with chi.
What is chi?
For thousands of years, Chinese medicine and philosophy have developed the notion that the Body’s chi flow is essential for health and vitality. For instance, Chinese acupuncture and acupressure continue to specialize in ancient techniques that open up the Body’s channels to enable the chi to flow more effectively to fight disease and maximize health. Tai Chi and Chi Gung are Chinese exercises that were designed, at least in part, to encourage chi flow to maximize our vitality.
To understand chi flow, Chinese employ the canal metaphor. When canals are clogged or damaged, the river water can’t flow effectively. An obstructed canal system reduces the potentials of irrigation and river traffic, which further inhibits agricultural output and business. In extreme situations, improper canal maintenance led to mass starvation. For these reasons, it was and is of utmost importance for the government to continually maintain the canal channels so that they operate at maximum capacity.
Applying the canal metaphor to the human body, chi is the life-giving water of our biological system. The body channels or meridians correspond with the canals. According to Chinese philosophy, we must continually cultivate, maintain and repair our body’s canal system, i.e. the channels or meridians, to maximize personal vitality. When someone is ill, the assumption is that a channel is blocked and needs to be opened up. Chinese medicine and exercise serve this function.
Does chi have a biological equivalent? Or is it instead a type of mysterious spiritual force that has no material definition? Some associate chi with blood flow. Others associate chi with breath. Both of these associations are somewhat limited in that they don’t effectively encompass the Chinese meridian system employed by acupuncturists worldwide.
Some associate chi flow with our body’s electro-magnetic system. This makes more sense, as it is body-wide and relatively instantaneous. How is this electro-magnetic system generated? The liquid crystal of the connective tissue? Could it be that chi flow is linked to the Body’s connective tissue system?
If chi and the connective tissue are similar systems, if not the same, how do we tap into of this energy source? What techniques do the Chinese suggest for maximizing chi flow, or, in modern terms, tapping into the integration and speed of the connective tissue system?
Ancient self-cultivation texts associated with Internal Alchemy speak about the 4 alignments: 1) Emptying the Mind of thoughts, 2) Stilling the Emotions, 3) Regulating the Breath, and 4) Body alignment. According to the texts, these 4 alignments both maximize chi flow and enable us to take advantage of the power of the Tao.
As Fu Yuan Ni was my sole master, I will employ his method as our example. While some instructors focus upon martial content, it seems that Master Ni’s entire program was designed to open up the chi flow that we have associated with our connective tissue system. Some even refer to him as Master Chi.
Master Ni taught both Tai Chi and Taoist meditation. He considered them to be 2 sides of the same coin. Meditation was necessary to still the Mind, while Tai Chi was necessary to energize the Body. His method incorporated the 4 alignments of Inner Alchemy.
In his meditation classes, Master Ni regularly counseled us to ‘Empty the Brain’ of thoughts by directing our sight to our nose and our consciousness to our belly, i.e. the lower tan tien. His Meditation method consisted of ‘Breath Regulation’. We were instructed to minimize and lower our breathing in order to quench our desires, i.e. ‘Still the Emotions’. Further our meditation posture, i.e. spine upright with crotch and arms rounded, aimed at ‘Body Alignment’.
However, practicing meditation was not enough. Master Ni felt that Tai Chi’s dynamic movements were also required to balance the stationary sitting posture of meditation. His basic principles seemed designed to open up chi flow, i.e. reintegrate our body’s connective tissue system. Lightness, and relaxation while practicing Tai Chi enables our body’s networks to naturally realign themselves. Further, our continual movement in his hour and half long classes encouraged chi flow by heating up our connective tissue to allow for re-integration.
One of the aims of Tai Chi practice is differentiating yin and yang in the body. For example while moving, one leg is substantial, while the other is insubstantial. We will refer to this insubstantiality as an Empty Body. Having an Empty Body maximizes chi flow, i.e. the potentials of the connective tissue system.
What does it mean to empty the body?
In Tai Chi, the method of ‘emptying the body’ concerns consciously moving our physical energy to the perimeter. Some call this filling up the chi sphere - blowing up the balloon - turning the body into an empty shell - nothing in the center - especially not a protruding belly. Insubstantial inside and substantial outside to guard the centerline.
To support the stomach, the spinal column frequently becomes concave instead of straight or slightly convex. This imbalance leads to back problems due to misalignment. This misaligned structure also puts pressure on the feet and knees, which contributes to plantar's fasciitis and the necessity of knee surgery. Keeping the belly in takes core strength – well-developed muscles in the front and rear of the torso – not the big outer muscles of the limbs, but the small inner muscles of the abdomen and back.
The core muscles of the interior allow one to extend the chi bubble outward. Moving the chi to the perimeter naturally aligns back, shoulders and chin. This alignment alleviates stress on the joints. This is the method of ‘emptying’ the body.
This arduous quest is well worth the daily effort, especially as we age. With the accumulation of years, our natural integration tends to fragment. As our body ‘naturally’ sags (the chi bubble deflates), we become more substantial - less resilient - not as elastic. As our aging body becomes increasingly hard and rigid, we are more prone to injury. To counterbalance this natural process, we focus upon being light and flexible, the key to the ‘empty’ body.
Daily practice is required to keep the chi on the perimeter and prevent it from collapsing into the center. This regular ‘emptying’ of the body also maintains or realigns the networks of the connective tissue. The practice of creating an interconnected body-wide chi sphere, including legs, arms, hands, feet and torso, rejuvenates the entire network, not just individual parts. With chi energy flowing vigorously throughout the entire body, health and vitality are maximized.
There are many advantages to the ‘emptying’ process that allows us to tap into the connectivity and transmission speed of the connective tissue system.
Spontaneity and vitality, the key to music, art, and life, are one result of this integration method. Cleaning body channels of obstructions reduces the stiffness and rigidity that blocks smooth and effortless execution. Neutralizing the constant mind chatter that both drains valuable mental energy and splits our Attention enables us to focus more completely upon the task or experience. When Attention is split and mental energy diminished, our cognitive abilities are impaired. With cognitive abilities impaired, we are both unable fulfill our potentials or to fully experience Life’s many mental and sensual pleasures. For those with a still mind, communication is more direct; artistic expression is more immediate; and reality is experienced more completely.
More importantly, an Empty Mind opens us up for love, an essential ingredient for happiness. When substantial, protected, and guarded, we are blocked off. When insubstantial, open, and unobstructed, we are ready to love and be loved. If we are empty and open, rather than hard and closed, we can tune into these connective tissues – the root of love, i.e. our ability to be sensitive to and resonate with the greater world.
There is yet one more advantage to the ‘emptying’ process. The emptiness enables us to attune with the Tao – the natural universal rhythm. These Tao pulses can consist of physical, mental, social, psychological, or psychic energy. Hardness and/or fragmentation blocks out and/or interferes with these waves.
This imbalance throws off our ‘natural’ timing. Timing off, we are in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. Distracted by a sidetrack, we lose the essential Path. Unnecessary problems consume our precious vitality, perhaps even shortening our natural life span.
By emptying our mind and re-integrating our body, we are able to more effectively tap into our connective tissue system. In touch with our connective tissue, we more easily align with the Tao. Aligned with the Tao, we are able to fulfill personal potentials.
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