We are on the same wavelength
There actually have been many scientific studies in recent years about qi, bioelectricity, electo-magnetism, geo-magnetism, and biophysics in relation to the human body. The stuff you were talking about resonated with a book I was reading last night: it’s called “Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis” by James L. Oschman. It’s rather pricy, but my library had it. Here’s a link to it at my favorite bookstore: http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=1-0443062617-1
I have the book at home, and after reading yesterday’s discussion on the “Sung” thread (Miscellaneous) I wanted to read up about muscles and qi, so that’s what I did last night. Anyway, Oschman is a cellular biologist and this book is a review of all the recent literature (as of publication in 2000) on bioelectricity (including piezoelectric currents and magnets for healing bone breaks that don’t knit), qi, energy medicine, geomagnetic influence, etc. etc. More citations on the subject than I ever dreamed were possible. I’ll try to summarize what he was saying, but I’m not a scientist, so if you see anything egregiously wrong, just chalk it up to poor recall/understanding on my part.
Oschman addresses the electrical conductivity of various body tissues, and suggests that the body has an alternate bioelectric system that has nothing to do with nerve impulses. Surrounding each nerve are para-nervous (?) tissues (I forget the name) that also conduct electricity, but operate on direct current—semi-conductors. Unlike conductors or resistors where the current is on or off, a semi-conductor can have a controlled and variable amount of current: I’ll bet this part of how qi can be increased or decreased with the mind.
The bioelectric current that we associate with qi flows through the semi-conducting portions of the body, which also can store electricity. The meridians correspond to the flow of bioelectrical energy through the body’s larger tensegrity matrix. A tensegrity matrix is composed of alternating elements of tension and compression—like a construction crane. I think he said something like this: the changing pressures on the system generate piezo-electric energy that flows through the para-nervous system, and through the gel that surrounds all of our cells. The pathways (meridians) don’t correspond to specific physical structures in the sense of being “wired” like the nervous system because the whole structure is the electrical system.
Each part of the body is jacked into the whole, with qi reaching each and every cell—but there are areas where the flow is stronger (meridians) and places where it gets stored (qi storing organs, the dan tiens). Because of the structural array, electrons are shared several atoms in the vicinity (or was it the whole thing?), allowing for extremely rapid transfer of information--faster than nerve impulses. I’ll bet this is the physiological/bioelectrical basis for the adage “strike second, arrive first.” We train to listen to the opponent’s chi, similar to bioelectricity, and can eventually “hear” the intention—possibly before the opponent’s nerve impulses that say “punch” or “push” ever reach his hands.
There was more stuff about kinds of electricity that the physicists don’t understand well yet, including scalar vectors, and something else—things that have an influence on particles in the absence of an electric field or a magnetic field. And that somehow, these scalar vectors may be the means of transmitting information non-locally, or by means we cannot measure with instruments made of metal and silica yet.
Maybe it was Oschman, or maybe it was elsewhere, but I read that we have to be careful about saying that qi is bioelectricity. Bioelectricity can be a correlate of qi (that is, present and proportional when qi is present), but there are other things that are also correlates of qi and have been measured scientifically: heat, light, sound. So we can’t say that qi is just bioelectricity, but I think we can say that bioelectricity is present when qi is present.
Bioelectricity is probably the strongest track we have right now for studying qi. The measured electromagnetic field emitted from the hands of internal martial artists or qi gung practitioners is 1,000 times stronger than the electromagnetic field of the heart, and 1,000,000 times stronger than brainwaves. The heart has the strongest electromagnetic field in our bodies and pulls our entire system, and often other people’s systems into entrainment. (Entrainment is when a stronger wave pulls other waves into the same frequency/harmonic oscillation, ie, being on the same wavelength.) I’m sure there’s a connection here to the Chinese idea of the heart-mind.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
Any material that is physically stressed (stretched or compressed) should produce the piezo-electric field similar to what I mentioned for bones. Although I have not seen any references to confirm this, I would expect that the relatively nonconductive fascia/tendons/ligaments would also exhibit this effect, and thus be able to provide pathways for bioelectricity/qi.
Also, when we talk about condensing qi into the bones or obtaining denser bone material, there is a physiological mechanism associated with the piezo-electric effect mentioned for bones that will do this. Increased piezo-electric charges on the bones means that osteoclasts are less active in clearing up old bone while osteoblasts continue laying down new bone, resulting in tougher/denser bones over time (when the charges are increased consistently over lengthy periods of time). Joint shapes can actually change by this process to conform to the stresses produced by an exercise routine. Consistent practice of Taijiquan could, therefore, physically alter the shape of our joints and produce tougher bones to conform to the way we use our bones during the practice of this art. If an increased bioelectrical/qi current is also produced by the practice of Taijiquan, this could likewise effect the process described for the stress produced piezo-electric changes. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Again, see Oschman for a more detailed discussion of piezo-electric fields through semi-conducting tissues. Of course there is piezo-electric-field—generating pressure put on the bones in the course of our weight-bearing tai chi exercise, and the physical stresses put on our bones in push hands practice apply too. But I’d like to suggest that perhaps this field can be generated on the basis of intent alone (yi). In Waysun Liao’s translation of the tai chi classics, he’s included some hand-drawn pictures of his understanding of qi and the various jins. When he talks of condensing qi into the bones, he’s drawn a picture that looks like pressure on the bone leading to a flow of chi (piezo-electric current?) along the length of the bone. This drawing/compressing chi into the bones is done with the mind, the intent (although I imagine this can be done without yi for those who are at the stage of “regulating without regulating”).
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> My experiences tend to indicate the bouncing of a partner/opponent comes from the dantian as in the [below] discussion and ball analogy, but I have not conferred with other practitioners to see if their experiences match mine. If Kal manages to read through this post to this point, perhaps we could hear how the dynamics of the bouncing out of a partner is perceived from Kal's perspective/experience. </font>
DP, I think my understanding is similar to yours. Audi and I have written a bit about the dan tien and a balloon analogy in the Mind Intention topic in the Theory and Principles forum (a little bit in 8-22-04, but more in 9-02, 11-18, and 11-24), but I think I can say more about it here. Over there my focus was, well, more mind intention, so here I’ll speculate about structure.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Now back to the basketball analogy. The center of the ball is also its center of mass, just like the center of mass in the average human body is within the dantian region. Since the ball is a sphere, all contraction and expansion would be from this center. Humans, not being spherical, and having bones that disrupt the body's ability to act as a single unit, would typically not contract and expand from this center of mass without training. But training (e.g. Taijiquan) would allow a person to learn to integrate their structure into a unified unit resulting in the responses coming from and being directed by their center of mass (i.e. the dantian). Also. While the ball does not have a mind, we could say that because of its spherical shape filled with air (qi, of course), it has the intent of maintaining that spherical shape. Then with the bounce effect analogy we could say that the intent leads and the effect produced by the air (qi) follows as a result. But perhaps that is stretching the analogy too far. </font>
I think your analogy is pretty close to my understanding of it. I’ve been thinking also about balls, and balloons, but I think it’s time we took a page from Oschman’s book and started thinking about the body as a tensegrity structure in addition to being like a ball. Here are some neat toys that are round AND tensegrity structures. http://0-0-0checkmate.com/DesignScienceToys/Geometry_Toys.html
Note: I have no financial connection with any commercial site I post links to. Just about everything I come up with is the result of a Google search mid-composition.
OK, back to the body as a tensegrity structure: the dantien is the _ ideal _ center of gravity, but in the course of a twisty push hands bout, that precise center is shifting all over the place and isn’t always in the dantien. I think the dantien operates on at least two levels, structurally: it IS the center of our tensegrity structure and we can train ourselves to be aware of it, maintain it, and direct expansions and contractions from it. Even if we are doubled over, or stretched out, we can be aware of the dantien as a structural center. But the dantien, as conceived as a single center point (there are other ways of thinking of it, I’m getting there), has no particular structure: there are no bones there, no major muscles, just soft viscera, right? The tensegrity structure of the body, composed of bones, muscles, ligaments—even down to tissue layers, cells, mitochondria—operates around this “empty” center (like the hollow space in the toys). The tensegritoys have a structural integrity that has more to do with their “struts and joints” than air pressure (like a ball or balloon).
The dantien is also thought of as the entire waist area, perhaps extending to the edge of the energy bodies—it is the cinnabar _ field _ after all. But I also think the dan tien operates like the air-filled center of a ball, only its qi we’re filled with. I feel qi as something physical. I’m not saying it is, but I experience the effects physically and have no other way to describe it. Qi is the “air” inside our “ball.” The tai chi literature cautions us not to be “collapsed” and I believe it’s pung energy, radiating from the dantien, centered in it, that assists us in maintaining our structure.
We are also advised to sink our chi to the dan tien. This has a distinct effect on our physical structure and the location of our center of gravity. When our chi is up, we are like Audi’s image of a balloon squeezed at the bottom—all the volume of air goes to the top. When our chi is up, we are top heavy and our structure isn’t balanced and round.
There are all sorts of things that affect our current state of “inflation” or “deflation:” our health, how tired we are, the physical traumas we hold in our bodies, our emotions, our duration of tai chi practice, to name a few.
The requirement that we “suspend the head-top” helps us maintain tension to counteract the compression that gravity exerts. For example, it’s perfectly possible to be aware of the dantien and be centered there and still have all the joints too compressed by failing to suspend the head-top. Suspending the head top gives us more space for all the joints to move freely and adds a springiness to the structure that can’t be had through sinking the chi, centering the weight, aligning the limbs, or rooting alone (or in combination).
Well, it’s a bit rambly and scattered, but I’m having some trouble focusing right now, so I’ll just call it a day, post this for the sake of keeping the conversation going, and maybe edit later.