Thanks very much for your detailed description of your stair-walking technique. I’m going to have to print out your description and try it. It’s funny how tai chi moves that can be copied relatively easily if you have someone to show you take so long to describe….
I went back and looked at your description of using mind intention for going up stairs. I’ve never had that specific experience, but I have had a couple of interesting mind over matter experiences. There’s no doubt in my mind that setting a useful mind intention can really boost physical capabilities by putting your body in a place where it can move naturally, effortlessly, fluidly, and with great power.
I think my most similar experience involved Kayaking in an inlet against the incoming tide. I had never kayaked before and was getting tired and starting to worry about being able to make it back to base camp before dark. I decided to see if my tai chi training could be extended to rowing. Most people thing of rowing as pulling the oar towards you (like in crew), but in kayaking, it’s most useful to push the oar up and away from you with the arm opposite to the end of the paddle in the water—like the raised fist in strike the tiger left and right. I quieted myself, practiced breathing from my dantien, let myself listen to the oar and its resistance to the water, and I fell into that wonderful trance state where everything is effortless. I could feel very clearly the distinction between left and right, and how the movements went in figure 8’s. I moved much faster, made it back in time, and wasn’t even sore the next day from using muscles I’d never used before for several hours.
As for your comment about feeling like you had a rope pulling you along, well, I’ve felt that once too. I tend to try these things only when I’m very tired because it just doesn’t really occur to me yet otherwise, unless I’m specifically thinking of training. So, I was tired. It was a long walk home and I was hungry. I made a mental connection between the earth and my home, and imagined that the earth was supporting me, pushing me along by sending energy up through my bubbling well points and out the center of my chest. It felt like there was an invisible rope connecting my chest to my home and that I was riding along it like something being ferried across a pulley. Again, walking was easy, I sped up, and felt refreshed when I arrived.
This leads me to the conclusion that there is energy available to us, so long as we are calm and still and thus able to process it. It’s just a matter of setting an intention in a very relaxed way, without trying to force anything. It sounds like your stair walking experience was much like this: you were already quiet, with your mind in your dantien, so when the unexpected happened, you were able to move from your center with great power. Later centering the intention directly in front of you (and up the stairs) let you move without a sideways loss of balance.
One other technique I’ve heard of that sounds similar is a Tibetan monk technique for covering long distances quickly without tiring. It looks a little funny if you try it, but works nicely, in part because the body is balanced forward, always on the brink of falling, so you transfer the potential energy at the height of a drop into kinetic energy. Here’s what you do: as you inhale, raise your arms up like Opening and move forward as though there were ropes tied to your wrists. As you exhale, drop your arms and push them slightly back behind you, palms facing back behind you as though you were pushing off from leaning against a wall, or as though catching some force that is pushing you from behind. It’s fun!
My last experience with something like this was during hiking down a long slope. My knees are full of rough cartilage on account of high impact sports in my youth, so they hurt. I imagined that there were cushions of chi, supporting, surrounding, and inside each knee. Stepping became painless as I got more relaxed and I suddenly found it was really easy to choose my footwork, that I wasn’t even conscious of choosing it, I just seemed to land and everything was stable. I was avoiding the loose rocks and roots…and before I knew it, I was bounding down the hillside like a goat…until common sense struggled its way in and made me slow down. But I really think that if I’d been able to maintain that sense of calm and connection that I could have traveled all the way down the hill at a full run and not have fallen at all.
OK, all for now. I don’t know if any of that was the response you had hoped to hear on the subject, but that’s what I’ve got.