nei gung

Inhabiting the Resonant Quality of Tai Chi

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“Oh, sing! Oh, sing! Sing this short song of 144 Chinese characters:  Commit every single word of it to memory without exception.  Enquiries and researches that deviate from this approach only waste time and leave behind regrets and sighings.”  –A Mnemonic of Thirteen Tai Chi Chuan Movements

This photo of two Stradivari cellos was taken at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. We learned that these magnificent instruments are removed from their enclosures just once per year and played for about ten minutes. They are then carefully placed back in their cases where they will remain untouched for another year. I found this to be incredibly sad. These cellos were made by an exceptional artist; they were made to be played and enjoyed.

Did you know an instrument such as this needs to be played on a regular basis in order to both maintain and further develop the harmonious potential of its own unique voice?  How much more so a miraculous human being?

In the nei gung (internal work) of Tai Chi, we come to understand the ligaments and tendons in the body as comparable to the strings of a magnificent musical instrument—too tight, the sound will not be sweet; too loose, there won’t be any sound at all. The musician devotes time and care to tuning the strings of the instrument and when played, the resonance of this perfection sounds throughout the body of the instrument. There is not one wee particle of space within the instrument that does not carry the infinite beauty of this quality, and neither the strings, nor the instrument, nor the musician are ever strained or ‘overworking’ in the accomplishment, they simply are.

For the potentials of divine music to come forth, the conditions must first be right. Just as a musician adjusts and tunes her instrument prior to play, so too does each Tai Chi player adjust and tune their body, mind and spirit prior to play—quieting, stretching, bending, opening, closing, relaxing, breathing, smiling, letting go—gently creating the harmonic conditions for resonance, and for music.

A Mnemonic of Thirteen Tai Chi Chuan Movements reminds us: “Your way of bending or straightening, your closing-in or throwing-open should never be as you will them to be, but as Nature wills.”

Over time, and with guidance and practice, this resonant quality becomes easier to attain and inhabit; it becomes a part of our ongoing natural state, not separate, not different from the vibrant, magical music of life itself!

“Oh, sing! Oh, sing!  Sing this song. . .”

© 2012 Elizabeth Meloney.  All rights reserved.