Harmony vs. Dualism
Being the people of the so-called Western world, we live in a world of dualisms that entail judgments and evaluations, followed by our reactions. Active - passive, strong - vulnerable, success - failure, generous - selfish, black - white. In every situation, if one thing represents good for us - then the other represents evil.
Eastern philosophy, especially Daoist philosophy, sees things differently. The universe around us is a perfect whole in which all opposites are not only inseparable, but actually necessary.
We cannot be truly active (professionally, socially, physically) without periods of proper rest. We will not understand true strength if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Many of the victories we have achieved would not have been possible without the failures that have shaped us along the way. We cannot be truly generous to others if we do not also take time for ourselves.
This belief in the necessity of opposites is represented by the well-known YinYang symbol. Yang symbolizes, among other things, activity, expansion, light and warmth, and is usually depicted in white, while it's perfect opposite, Yin, symbolizes stillness, contraction, darkness and cold, and is usually depicted in black. None of these qualities would exist or have any meaning without the existence of their opposites, and the symbol of YinYang as a whole represents the dynamic interdependence of the two extremes.
Tian Di Ren - Heaven Earth Human
The basic triad of Chinese philosophy is Heaven, Earth, and Human. Let's look at what these concepts mean as a whole and each individually, and how they relate to meditation and Qi cultivation.
Let's remember that each component has a material aspect and an energetic aspect.
Heaven (tiān, 天) in the manifested world is the wide sky above us, but in Chinese philosophy it refers to pure yang-the creative source, the pure motivating light. It is not some special place where believers go, but rather the primal impulse of all that manifests in the world. It is associated with spirit/consciousness.
Heavenly Qi consists of forces exerted by celestial bodies such as sunlight, moonlight, gravity, and star energy. Weather, climate and natural disasters are governed by Heavenly Qi. Every energy field strives for balance, so when Heavenly Qi loses balance, it restores it through wind, rain, and even tornadoes and hurricanes.
Earth (dì, 地) in the manifested world is the solid ground beneath our feet, but in Chinese philosophy it refers to pure yin - the earth/field space. The earth opens to and receives the motivating activity of Heaven, allowing it to manifest. Although the earth as such refers to materiality such as the ground we walk on, its meaning is more akin to the mother who receives seed from the father and brings it into life.
The Qi of Earth is controlled by the Qi of Heaven. Too much rain forces a river to flood or change its course, but without rain, vegetation dies. The Chinese believe that the Earth's Qi is made up of lines and patterns of energy, as well as the Earth's magnetic field and the heat hidden underground. These energies must also be in balance, otherwise disasters such as earthquakes occur. When the Earth's Qi is balanced and harmonized, plants grow and animals thrive.
Man, humanity (rén, 人)-or in a broader sense, "sentient beings"-is the fruit of the union of Heaven and Earth. In the manifested world Heaven is above and Earth is below, according to Chinese philosophy Heaven initiates first, then Earth nurtures, and then life emerges.
Each person has his or her own Qi field, which is always striving for balance. The loss of Qi balance causes a person to get sick, die and decay. All natural things, including man and his human Qi, are determined by the natural cycles of Heavenly Qi and Earthly Qi. Throughout the history of Qigong, the Qi operating in a human and its relationship to the energies of Heaven and Earth have been of greatest interest.
Together, Tian-Di-Ren can be said to represent the vertical energetic structure of the cosmos, or rather, the vertical process of how things come into being. For us humans, the way and the challenge is to stand with our feet firmly on the earth and at the same time to maintain an upright posture, with the top of our head reaching towards the sky. Then: to breathe deeply into the belly, where heaven and earth energy meet within a human’s energetic system. In this way, we are able to merge the energies of Heaven and Earth and manifest them within ourselves.
The point of our Qigong practice and Daoist meditation is to learn not to lose our connection with either energy, and to connect both of them in us. Through this we strive for yin/yang balance, centeredness, and the result is a peaceful mind, health, and further evolving.
In the Dao de Jing, line 25, it is written:
"Mankind depends on the laws of Earth,
Earth depends on the laws of Heaven,
Heaven depends on the laws of Dao,
But Dao depends on itself alone,
supremely free, self-so, it rests in its own nature.”
The Six Harmonies
The six harmonies refer to the coordination between the three external parts of the body and the coordination of the three internal processes that connect emotions and intentions. "Harmony" does not just mean "moving together," it also means integration and coordination of movements. It is about the coordination of the body with respect to the relationships and connections between hands and feet, knees and elbows, hips and shoulders, as well as the coordination of the mind with respect to desires, intentions, Qi and the force used, enabling the practitioner to engage and act wholeheartedly.
The three external harmonies are:
- The hands harmonized with the feet.
- The hips harmonized with the shoulders.
- The elbows harmonized with the knees.
The three inner harmonies are:
- Heart harmonized with intent (Yi).
- Intention (Yi) harmonized with Qi.
- Qi harmonized with movement/action.
Sun Lu Tang said:
„The mind is internal, yet its reasoning extends to all things. Things are external, yet their principles are all there in the mind.” The intention comes from the mind. Therefore when the mind’s intention is genuine within, effects will manifest externally, internal and external always operating in unison.
Your mind and energy should be stable. In observing the active, there is the passive. In observing the passive, there is the active. Passive and active are united with each other. Your upper body and lower body coordinate with each other. Inside and outside are one. These are called the “six unions”. Although they are called six unions, this is actually the internal and external united with each other. Although we say the internal and external are united, it is actually the passive and active aspects united with each other. With the union of the passive and active aspects, san ti (the three substances) are born.”
Yang and Yin, heaven and earth unite through man, in his axis. Daoists speak of the Central Channel as this axis and pathway of information flow of the forces of heaven and earth. Rolfists, Structural Integration therapists speak of a 'line' as Ida Rolf called it. This 'line' enables us to move through life from the center, in harmony and in a centered way. It helps to order ourselves, our fragmented being, in a gravitational field, between yang and yin forces, in the space between heaven and earth.
In my understanding, the heaven-earth-human and the six harmonies are interdependent. The harmonies help the heaven-earth-human axis to manifest, being in the heaven-earth-human axis helps to bring the harmonies together. And it is a path without end.
Are these six harmonies possible? Come to our retreats and start learning it! The path of learning will certainly be interesting, though perhaps not always easy, because it will also be a path of going beyond your own habits and limitations, judgements and evaluations.
Text: Alina Sarna