Energy Arts

This chapter begins with a word of warning

"The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name."

- Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Lao Tzu reminds us the models we build of our reality are only models.  The name that can be named in not the eternal name.  In other words, don't eat the menu.  Incidentally, this lesson applies squarely to software and system modelers; the model is not the system.  Be careful.

I opened my description of the Internal Arts with Lao Tzu's warning because I cannot avoid it.  I am delving into a territory where words can often be misconstrued or taste peculiar.  Many ancient texts are adorned with commentary; Lao Tzu's opening remarks are no exception:

"He who talks doesn't know,
he who knows doesn't talk":
that is what Lao-tzu told us,
in a book of five thousand words.
If he was the one who knew,
how could he have been such a blabbermouth?
- Po Chu-i

That's the problem with spiritual teachers.
They have to be blabbermouths. 
But their words are (in the traditional Buddhist metaphor)
fingers pointing at the moon;
if you watch the finger, you can't see the moon."

- Stephen Mitchell,
Tao Te Ching - A New English Version


Here we have commentary laid upon commentary, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with a poignant message.  The best I can hope for in my description of the Energy Arts is to get you to stop staring at my fingers, and instead gaze at the moon.  


Let's begin with the notion of intuition.  My Myers-Briggs preference is ENFP.  ENFP types literally burst with intuition; developing competence with intuition is another matter altogether.  Academia does not typically reward displays of intuition.  For myself, I had to gain competency elsewhere.  Tai Chi/Chi Kung was my primary path for understanding and cultivating competency in intuition.  Yoga and Aikido were secondary for me.

As I see it, intuition comes when the unconscious mind has completed some complex multiprocessing and offers the result to the conscious mind.  Since most of us strongly identify with the conscious mind, the moods, images, music, realizations and other offerings of the unconscious mind seem to arise from a mysterious unknowable source.  In fact, it is not mysterious at all, it is simply the other self.  Now think of one activity that bridges both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.  What is one thing each of us can do either with conscious intent or without any conscious attention whatsoever?  Breathing.  That is why every major spiritual discipline at some level has a science of breath.  Including the Catholic Church.  By linking conscious and unconscious function together in breath, we create a bridge.  In the beginning, the bridge is no more than a skinny warped plank.  With practice, it becomes a multi-lane suspension bridge of steel reinforced concrete.


Breathing opens the gate to intuition.  It is only the beginning.  There are many practices of Tai Chi and Chi Kung for the development and integration of intuition into daily life. 


Our biology requires energy.  Ultimately all energy originates from the Sun.  Perhaps we could argue Energy all originated from one source— the Big Bang.  In any case, each of use continuously transforms energy from one type to another; we transmutate electromagnetic energy, chemical energy, mechanical energy, solar energy, audio energy (pressure waves), potential energy, etc.  We are thermodynamically complex creatures.  Tai Chi and Chi Kung each have specific techniques for conserving, cultivating, circulating and projecting energy.  Anyone who knows me knows I am not a slug.  Abundant energy is one of the many rewards of practice.

The origin of Tai Chi is hazy.  The ancient documents were written in a language not generally read today.  On top of that, even if the language had survived, much of the writing is poetic and requires contextual information about the practices to be understood.  In other words the language is coded and intended for those who can distinguish between the fingers and the moon.  One last problem has to do with how ancient texts were distributed.  Prior to the printing press, tomes were scribed by hand.  Some scribes could not resist changing a word or two, or adding their own paragraphs.  Despite the uncertainty, there is evidence the originators of Tai Chi & Chi Kung were Chinese Medical Doctors.  Chinese medicine is functional rather than structural; it is based on an elaborate system of energy flow through the body.  Disease is related to energy imbalances caused by blockages.  Remove the blockages and health will flourish. 


In the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal MedicinePo Chu-i laments the poor habits & lifestyles of his countryman,  proving things haven't really changed much in 2000 years, at least in terms of health.  Ideal medicine calls for clean living, plenty of sleep, fresh air, proper eating and exercise.  Next in line was herbs and acupuncture.  Surgery was the lowest form of heath care, only to be considered in the most dire of circumstances.

Internal Strength

As we age our muscles tend to atrophy, yet if you ever "pushed" with an older Tai Chi master, you will experience an application of strength that seems to defy the laws of nature.  This "internal strength" passes through the joints and tendons rather than the muscles. Such an application of power is achieved through the practice of letting go:  letting go of tension, letting go of joint stiffness, and letting the energy circulate through the body like water flowing in a stream.  Certain exercises can help with the development of internal strength.  These exercises must not be confused with weight lifting and other hard exercises intended to build muscular strength.  Hard exercise has a tendency to strain the internal organs.  Exhaustion of the kidneys and liver is to be avoided, along with stress on the digestive system and the cardio-vascular system,  especially as we get older and our poor organs have already spent a lifetime coping with adulterated foods and impure air.  Tai Chi/Chi Kung exercise sets out to strengthen the internals, especially the internal organs.


Why bring up Energy Arts on a web site devoted mostly to Software and System development?  Let's tie this all together.  Intuition is a powerful gift for technology professionals.  Einstein had it.  Schrodinger had it.  Maxwell had it.  Feynman had it.  You have it.   Intuition is non-linear;  it brings insights and efficiencies to save time and energy.  We rely on pattern recognition every day.  Internal arts provide specific techniques to cultivate and fine tune intuition.

We all need energy to do our jobs.  And health.  The healthier you are, and the more energy you have, the more you can get done in a day.  Energetic people lift the spirits of their colleagues— the lights glow a little brighter when they step into a room.  It is clear to me that Virginia Satir understood and interacted with the life energy of her patients directly. 

Virginia writes, "Human beings are all unique manifestations of the same Universal Life Force" and "People are basically good. At their core, essential level of Life Energy, people are naturally positive  They need to find this internal treasure to connect with and validate their own self-worth".  This connection to the internal treasure has a tendency to clear out individuals, so they can connect with others.  The ability to connect with others congruently makes for better consultants and teams.  I have personally experienced this ability to connect energetically in at least two of Virginia's direct students: Jean Mclendon and Jerry Weinberg.  Connection seeds trust.  Trust saves time. 

Some efforts require great internal strength and stamina.  Internal strength helps us muster up the moxie we need to survive when things get tough.  The plaque on my office wall summarizes the sentiment perfectly, "Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm".  Internal strength brings such peace.

In a nutshell, Energy arts increases my sensitiviy, helps me feel better, listen attentively, connect firmly and become more fully human.