Fatigue notwithstanding, I think you’re on to something.
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So the luopan is an instrument for gauging correspondences and alignments—how to make one’s disposition (shi) most efficacious with regard to the overall configuration (also shi, or xing, “shape”). Jerry wrote: “I think that the poem is talking about coordination between upper and lower, waist and crown, leg and shoulder...cloud and dragon. Zhong tu bu li wei refers to not allowing the center of gravity to extend too far forward or backward.” So, perhaps this reference to a geomantic compass in the Taiji Circle poem has to do with cultivating an internal sense of how to position oneself, how to get your bearings, and how to navigate the terrain. Everything proceeds from this.
When you started talking about geomantic compasses it was an “Ah-ha!” moment for me. When I practice the form in a small garden at work, I’m usually facing the building across the way, but not perfectly square with it. I could turn my body to face parallel with the building but this doesn’t feel right. This bothered me (being rather obsessive about geometric relationships—I have to restrain myself from straightening others’ catty-wampus picture frames) until I figured out that I was lining up with Magnetic North and the building was aligned with True North. And sure enough, as the seasons change, my alignment in “Prepare” changes very slightly.
So I think you’re right—it’s possible to develop a personal internal geomantic compass. I didn’t used to be able to do this. But as my listening skills have developed during tai chi training, this has too. I also pay attention to which parts of the garden feel right to practice in according to mood, season, and feng shui guidelines (which I read about after I was already feeling my way along). This makes sense to me: if the whole world is made of interpenetrating fields of energy, then listening energy can help one tune in to how to (best) interact with the (external) world.
Moreover, it works internally too. During standing meditation I can sometimes “see” Up, Down, Left, Right, Forward, Backward as lines or planes and Central Equilibrium as the intersection and I can tell when I’m “off” and try to adjust accordingly. And every once in a long while, I’ll feel “how” to position myself for long stretches of the form, as though I am going along with a current, instead of tuning in intermittently. I can naturally feel the most comfortable, easy, right way, almost as though I’m being guided through a form sequence that’s different from my usual flawed form.
On a different note, this business about waterwheels reminds me of spinning around faster and faster while holding my book-bag as a kid. It’s easy to “retreat out of the circle” by letting go of the heavy bag of books, and much harder to “advance into the circle” by pulling the books in close (which in turn makes you spin faster). In push hands (if you are the bag of books), it’s so much easier to let go and be pushed out of the circle than it is to maintain the exact circle--much less gain the inside.
What are others’ experiences with this? If you are on the outside, do you have to “speed up” to regain the inside? The outside edge of a water wheel is moving faster than the inside (near the axle), correct? But you never want to speed up suddenly and tip off your opponent that you’re making a try for the center. On the other hand, there’s never a sensation of speed when the timing is right when switching from outside the circle to the inside and the opponent’s center—surprise maybe, in retrospect. Is this because one is moving slower on the inside of the circle? Or is it that one enters into stillness and loses the sensation of speed? I often can’t remember what I’ve done when I do something that works. Does anyone else have this (frustrating) experience?
Signing off yet another tangent,