Conscious Movement

Conscious Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:15 am

Greetings,

In a number of the early taiji classics known as the “Yang Forty Chapters,” there is a recurrent reference to “conscious movement” (zhijue yundong). From what I’ve been able to gather, zhijue yundong is a phrase that appears in the writings of some important Ming dynasty thinkers, who were deeply concerned with understanding the nature of consciousness, and endeavored to clarify consciousness through meditative practices. In other taijiquan texts there are other concepts that I think are closely related to “conscious movement,” including “zhuoshu” (experienced familiarity with techniques), “listening energy” (tingjin), “sensing energy” (jue jin), and the more modern terms used, for example, by Yang Zhenduo: “perception/sensation” (ganjue), and “energy sensation” (jingan).

One of the clearest statements of the “conscious movement” concept among the Yang Forty texts is text number 2, translated by Douglas Wile:

The Practice of the Eight Gates and Five Steps
The Eight trigrams and five phases are part of man’s natural endowment. We must first understand the meaning of the words conscious movement. After grasing conscious movement, we can begin to interpret energy, and finally, from interpreting energy, proceed to spiritual illumination. However, at the beginning of practice, we must gain an understanding of conscious movement, which although it is part of our natural endowment, is very difficult to grasp.
—Wile, Lost T’ai-chi Classics, pp. 66, 135.

The last line is particularly fascinating, as indeed, consciousness is a very hard thing to grasp, as it happens to be that which is doing the grasping. The “natural endowment” term, by the way, is “guyou” a term used as early as Zhuangzi for what someone or something inherently has. What also catches my eye here is that this document closely follows the progression found in the Taijiquan Treatise: “From careful investigation and experience (zhuoshu), one may gradually realize how to comprehend energy (dongjin). From comprehending energy, you will obtain by degrees spiritual illumination.” This basic progression (zhijue yundong—dongjin—shenming) is repeated in Yang Forty text number 20. Yang Chengfu, in turn, referenced this same progression in the Push Hands section of his Essence and Applications book: “Studying push hands, then, is learning how to sense energy (jue jin). Once one can sense energy, it will not be difficult to understand energy! He then quotes the treatise line, “From understanding energy, one then advances to spiritual illumination (shenming).” The term conscious movement, or some variant, appears in texts 2 through 7 and well as text 20.

I’m interested to hear what other taiji practitioners think about the meaning of conscious movment. How important is it to your practice? Is it something that you strive for, or do you not get what it’s referring to?

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby cheefatt taichi » Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:33 am

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I’m interested to hear what other taiji practitioners think about the meaning of conscious movment. How important is it to your practice? Is it something that you strive for, or do you not get what it’s referring to?[/B]</font>


Conscious movement is exactly what I want to and still trying to develop in form practice. Every inch of the movement I must be able to connect from hand to feet so that chi and jin is unbroken. In other word, in any time during movements my posture must be able to withstand and absorb external force and/or issue force (fajin). I can only do this if I am conscious of every inch of the movement. Conscious of my internal alignment, chi, jin, double weightedness, structural integrity and intent.

This will enable me to not to over extend or contract by an inch, hence my chi is full, jin is unbroken and balance rooted firmly.
cheefatt taichi
 
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 05, 2005 6:01 am

Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Fri Mar 24, 2006 2:04 pm

It's a very interesting topic. I read some good comments in books relating to it, but I liked the most Shen Shou's commentary to the line about dongjin in "Taiji-quan Treatise". His explanation is clear and logical. As I mentioned in another thread everything according to him starts from "apprehending the meaning of techniques" or "experienced familiarity with techniques" ('zhaoshu' - not sure about the spelling, but I met 'zhAo' for the word 'techniques'). These 'techniques' assumes both the form and push hands practice. Then he speaks about the progression to the 'marvelous stage' where one can 'forget the techniques' (in the case of facing an opponent) and respond naturally without focusing attention on any specific defense or attack. This is the stage where one can change like flowing water of a river according to a landscape. This ability to change and thus to gain the victorious advantage was called 'Shen' ('The marvelous') by Sunzi in his 'The art of military strategy'.


Here is the full commentary:

http://www.taijimgx.com/Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=482

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 03-25-2006).]
Yuri Snisarenko
 
Posts: 205
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Russia

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Mar 24, 2006 3:49 pm

Louis,
I don't know much about the subject, honestly, but after reading the posts here I can't help but think that the progression from "conscious movement" to "interpreting energy" to "spiritual illumination" is almost inevitable in the dedicated practice of any physical discipline, not just Tai Chi Chuan.
If you look at the natural learning progression of any type of physical discipline you would see the same path.
Let's go with, oh... Let's say walking. It's simple and most of us do it without any real conscious thought, now. We didn't start out that way though.
You would begin with "consciously" controlling your movements. You make the decision to try to walk, you consciously make the decision to take one step. Then you consciously make the decision to take another step.
Eventually you reach the point where just taking a step no longer requires so much conscious intent, you can then begin to interpret what you are doing, the energy required to take steps. After some time you get quite used to the energy of walking and no longer need to interpret that energy, you just do it.
This is the leap to spiritual illumination. You no longer need to think about it, or interpret it, you just walk. You can now walk naturally with no real thought or need to minutely interpret how it is done.
As in the example of reaching a stage where you flow naturally in Tai Chi Chuan with no more reason to think of how you do it, you now can walk with no real reason to think of how it is done on a step by step basis.
Same thing.
This same progression can be used for any type of learned physical activity.
While quite a nice, profound even, definition of the progression of learning a new skill, it is not, at least in my PHO, in any way unique to learning Tai Chi Chuan.

Is it important to my training? You bet.
It is how I will progress.
I'm still stuck in the middle of both phases one and two in my TCC practice. I'm still learning the yards on some forms, but I'm moving into inches on others, millimeters on still others.
I don't know that I will ever reach total "spiritual illumination" in this discipline, or even any at all, but I'm going to have a lot of fun trying.

Bob
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Anderzander » Fri Mar 24, 2006 8:37 pm

edit

[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 03-25-2006).]
Anderzander
 
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:01 am
Location: UK

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:15 pm

Anderzander,
I don't disagree with you. I just think we need to take a closer look at the terminology here.
What is "Conscious movement"? Are we perhaps overanalyzing this term? Does it mean something other than the meaning of conscious and movement? Is this a term that is specific to Tai Chi Chuan or does it mean just what says?
Me?
I think of conscious movement as being somewhat analogous to "intent". I want to move, so I put my conscious mind to work moving myself. My intent is to move, so I consciously move myself.
There are certainly other definitions.

The text quoted here is specific about us grasping, and I'm assuming the "p" just got left out since I don't know grasing as a word, the meaning of conscious movement but then does not in any way define the term for us.
Before we can really have a meaningful discussion on the subject, we might want to land on a definition we can all at least mostly agree on. Otherwise, we'll be talking about apples and oranges in no time.
Which can be fun, but rarely is it productive.

Bob
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Anderzander » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:39 pm

edit

[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 03-25-2006).]
Anderzander
 
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:01 am
Location: UK

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:49 pm

Hi Bob,

You wrote: “I want to move, so I put my conscious mind to work moving myself.”

Ay, but as Shakespeare said, there's the rub. Isn’t the “I” that is “putting my conscious mind to work” the conscious mind itself?

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Mar 25, 2006 6:58 am

Greetings Yuri,

Thank you for your contribution, and for providing the link to the Shen Shou commentary. That is a very interesting piece!

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:56 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>
You wrote: “I want to move, so I put my conscious mind to work moving myself.”

Ay, but as Shakespeare said, there's the rub. Isn’t the “I” that is “putting my conscious mind to work” the conscious mind itself?

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I would say:
When the body moves in accordance with the pattern* in consciousness, then it is a sort of ‘conscious movement’.

*8 gates & 5 steps, for example.

I liked Bob’s post much. Actually Shen Shou talks similarly that the idea of progression from “techniques stage” to “the marvelous stage” is somewhat common for various styles/arts.



[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 04-01-2006).]
Yuri Snisarenko
 
Posts: 205
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Russia

Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:57 am

Greetings Louis,

I hope you’ll share some information about the writings of Ming dynasty thinkers you found. Image
Yuri Snisarenko
 
Posts: 205
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Russia

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:39 pm

Greetings,

I like everyone’s remarks here, and hope to see this discussion develop. I agree that Bob’s remark is insightful: ‘that the progression from "conscious movement" to "interpreting energy" to "spiritual illumination" is almost inevitable in the dedicated practice of any physical discipline. . . .’ I think musical mastery is an example of this. I’ve observed, for example, that advanced musicians often reach stages of what might be called illumination, where one sheds the boundaries of subject and object and obtain a state of selflessness. But the basic progression is present in even the most pedestrian of skills.

I am struck, though, by the strong and repeated emphasis placed on the concept of “conscious movement” in the opening texts of the Yang Forty chapters. I think these are among the most profound taiji documents we have. As Chee Fatt states, development of taiji skill can only take place if one is “conscious of every inch of the movement.” So what, exactly, does that entail? According to the author of the Yang Forty text #3, it involves the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and that all of these are natural abilities. (One could extrapolate that conscious movement involves proprioception—one’s ability to sense one’s position in space and gravity, the relative movement and speed of torso and limbs, and the amount of force appropriate to perform a given task.) But, the author says, we have lost, and must regain these abilities, and it is a difficult task. What is the author getting at? As I’ve said, the phrase for conscious movement (zhijue yundong) can be found in philosophical texts having to do with the very issues of how to clarify consciousness. The Yang Forty texts are sprinkled with terms from Neo-Confucian thinkers like Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming, so I’m fascinated as to why the Yang Forty author(s) appropriated these specific terms.

Yuri, I will try to post some findings later regarding some early occurances of the phrase zhijue yundong.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby JerryKarin » Sun Mar 26, 2006 1:17 am

I think that 'spiritual illumination' is not a very good translation of shen ming. Shen here means spirit in the sense of uncanny, super-natural or appearing to be so, 'incredible'. Ming here refers to 'perceptive' or 'aware'. So you go through a progression where you can 'listen' to the strengths of others, then 'understand' the strengths of others, and lastly have an 'uncanny intuition' about how the other will respond.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Mar 26, 2006 3:03 am

Greeting Jerry,

I agree. The word spiritual carries a lot of baggage that does not apply here. Harold Roth, in another context, wrote, “The term ‘spiritual’ has a broader range of meanings in English, and its nominal form ‘spirit’ has many connotations for us (e.g., Holy Spirit, spirit-matter dichotomy) that are foreign to the Chinese concept of shen.” For “shenming” Roth suggests the translation “numinous clarity,” but I find numinous as suggestive of things supernatural as the word spiritual. It’s hard to find a down-to-earth rendering. The specific term shenming is often seen to denote a state of clarity of consciouness resulting from self-cultivation practices such as sitting meditation, so I think it has a similar connotation in the taiji context.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 03-25-2006).]
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Mar 26, 2006 6:33 pm

Greetings Jerry,

I think I’ve linked this page before, but Joseph Alder’s essay is pertinent to the term shenming. As a matter of fact, the Yang Forty Chapters are sprinkled with an array of Neo-Confucian terms and phrases such as shenming, xuling, xuling bumei, guantong, liangzhi-liangneng, etc. Alder does a good job of contextualizing and defining most of these terms.

http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Writings/Spirituality.htm

--Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 04-03-2006).]
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Next

Return to Tai Chi Theory and Principles

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 1 guest