– – – by Takeharu Yoshi Renshi
- …being in Wu-Ji 1) stance – in shizentai – with completely relaxed upper body, such that you do indeed physically get that floaty feeling that the Tai-Ch’i Classics describe as being “centered on the ground “ 2) , and being like a fine-tuned, precision balance 3) . This is the Floating Bridge of Heaven. Maintaining visualizations of opening up to the universe, to everything around you… and a sense of being open to the universe, to everything around you… are helpful for achieving this complete relaxation…
As one discovers in training, all these metaphors of body, mind, physical sensation are absolutely a propos. They are always the best possible description – the best possible way you could say it – so that when your koshi starts to loosen up, perhaps, and you move a little, spontaneously, you realize, “oh – that’s ‘water’: the feeling of being on a moored row-boat, on gently moving water…” Or maybe you’re performing kawa-misogi, and you stay in the river for a while, and have the realization: “oh – t h a t ‘ s the feeling of being just part of everything around you – being part of the universe…”
Well, rocking back and forth to find the place in between back and forth, which is absolutely upright, is one thing. But to find that place and to be there with complete “tai ch’i” relaxation is another – right at that upright posture is effectively a zero-gravity point that feels like floating – not on water, but more gentle and with a little more up-and-down: like floating on air. The Tai Ch’i Classics talk of “floating, sinking, lightness, heaviness,” and more particularly, they say: you “stand like a balance scale so that the slightest change in lightness, heaviness, floating or sinking is instantly discernable.” 4)
And in ki-energy terms, ‘opening up to the universe’ means: make the inside like the outside. Make the outside like the inside.
Because when you set up your body correctly, it becomes an antenna. An antenna has all the properties of the things it picks up – and yet it doesn’t…
A Yagi antenna is a big long bar… it looks like a fish-skeleton. It was invented and patented by two Japanese professors in 1926, and it takes energies that are invisible and ephemeral and it amplifies them through the resonances of the spines – the “ribs” if you like – into a signal that the attached equipment can sense and work with. When you set your spine up correctly, it looks just like a Yagi. It is a vertical antenna, sitting in space.
And you know that if you take a wire, and you put it on a balloon, and you put it way up high, and you have a metal wire coming down: the flow of energy coming off it produces a huge static electrical charge. You can actually generate usable power from it.
So the physical structure of Ame-no-Ukihashi creates an antenna for ki. The body becomes an antenna for ki. And if you direct your mind to that, you can access all kinds of functionality.
And remember: you don’t reside in the body. If you think of your ki-tai, and beyond, you are a signal, a much larger field, that extends into all of space/time, and that signal – you too – is moving through the structure of your body.
Now, if you bend or kink an antenna you get a different signal than if you get it to unfold correctly. A lot of the exercises we do, are to open that antenna up. We unblock the spinal cord… I always felt that there’s something in the spinal fluid that is electro-physical in nature – you might even consider it a liquid antenna – and these days, now, we have liquid batteries. With memory.
And to complete the picture: the amount of neurons in your heart are vast – they are like your brain. And your gut, too, is another huge center of neurons. And this is the traditional Taoist picture of the three centers of the body. The brain, heart, gut – the three tan-t’ien – are communicating with each other through the spine, and the central channels… or not. If the flow of ki is broken in places – through tension, stiffness – then your body dysfunctions: and the ki cannot flow.
But with relaxation, and with practice, you can have this concept of Heaven and Earth – right here in the body. You have this antenna, and it connects the rarified Heaven energy, and the dense, Earth energy.
And at the center-point of the wave-form, right at the center of the arc, is your diaphragm. When you have correct posture, when you are in Wu-Ji, your diaphragm moves evenly between heaven and Earth. So your breath connects Heaven and Earth.
Now, O’Sensei tells us we should be standing on the ‘floating rainbow-bridge of Heaven’ (Ame-no-Uke-hashi) always… so this is about not simply standing in wu-ji, but maintaining a sense of wu-ji even as you move. Ba-gua has a word and an image for this: it is ‘you-shen’ – “swimming body”, like a dragon swimming through the clouds: or “swimming in ki”. So Ame-no-Ukehashi is wuji when you are motionless, and it is you-shen when you move.
And as always, the image is a practical metaphor: a visualization aid. The dispassionate, unassailable mind of the dragon is akin to O’Sensei’s “being at the center of the universe” – Ame-no-Mi-naka-nushi – and it can help to relax the occiput, the ming-men, and the spot between the shoulder-blades, that traditionally are regarded as the last, most stubborn blockages to ki-flow. And the movement of the dragon’s wings helps loosen up the area beneath the accupoints on either side of vertebra T12… and suddenly you can feel like you’re floating in the clouds – or swimming in the clouds…
…and our version of this is Ame-no-Tori-fune.