"The Eastern mystics see the universe as an inseparable web, whose interconnections are dynamic and not static. The cosmic web is alive; it moves and grows and changes continually. Modern physics, too, has come to conceive of the universe as such a web of relations and, like Eastern mysticism, has recognised that this web is intrinsically dynamic."
- Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics
Tao is all-pervading,
And its use is inexhaustible!
Like the fountain head of all things.
- Lao Tzu, The Tao te Ching
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Dear World Tai Chi & Qigong Day Supporters,
So many of our newsletters are very practical, medical based, or practice based observations or tools provided to help tai chi and qigong enthusiasts spread awareness of these ancient arts.
This article below is different. Most of us who do Tai Chi and Qigong for many decades discover an endless unfolding depth and breadth to these ancient arts. What we think these arts are today, we find a year or two or ten from now, was only a slice of the ever expanding wonder these arts and sciences are to us in that future time.
This newsletter article is an adventure in wonder, and an example of how cutting edge science may be edging towards explanations of complex systems that can shine a light on just how deep and profound tai chi and qigong meditations can be. This is one of those "wow, isn't that cool" kind of articles. I hope you'll enjoy it as a very fun thing to contemplate.
So even though most of us come to Tai Chi or Qigong for fitness, health, emotional well-being, or even to augment our spiritual or self awareness journey, we find ourselves falling into an ever deeper expanding universe of discovery. Over the last decades western science has become ever more subtle and holistic in its view of reality, and these deeper insights into reality are becoming more and more synonomous with insights from the ancient masters and philosophers of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Taoist thought.
Tai Chi and Qigong may also be exploring the farthest reaches of modern quantum physics and mathematic's cutting-edge Chaos Theory. The opening quote from Fritjof Capra was from his book The Tao of Physics in which he compares the words of ancient mind-body masters with quotes from modern quantum physicists and finds that their views of reality are eerily close.
The "Tai Chi symbol," more commonly known as the Ying Yang symbol, is a clear indication that ancient Chinese Qigong and Tai Chi masters were actually pioneers in the field of mathematic's Chaos Theory. You might be wondering how the heck that is.
You may have heard of the "fibonacci sequence" in mathematics. It includes:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and 55. If you look at the sequence you discover that it is a continually growing series of addition equations:
1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8, 5+8=13, 8+13=21, 13+21=34, and 21+34=55.
These numbers create an amazing pattern that is replicated throughout the natural world, and when this math sequence is made visual by creating rectangles with a length and width of any two of the numbers of this sequence forms what is known as the "golden rectangle," or a "perfect rectangle," the complexity of nature, the seeming chaos of nature, begins to reveal a higher order.
This golden rectangle can in turn be broken down into smaller squares based on the fibonacci sequence numbers below those width/height numbers.
When an arc divides these squares you see a fractal pattern (see below), known as Fibonacci's Spiral. Chaos mathematicians have noted that these fractal images repeat themselves again and again throughout nature in a self-replicating image. Some Chaosticians have suggested that this formula, replicating nature's seeming chaos, through its fractal images represent a visual image of the Fingerprint of Nature.
Isn't is amazing that this arc or wave, which modern Chaosticians think may be the fingerprint of nature, has been represented in the Yin Yang, or Tai Chi symbol, for nearly 3,500 years, much older, obviously, than the science of Chaos Mathematics?
So, what is this all about? What is the purpose of Chaos Theory? Why such excitement about it?
Chaos Mathematics is an attempt to understand complex systems. Chaos theory was first explored by a man named Lorenz, who was a modern meteoroligist, interested in understanding weather. Complex systems are living natural systems, weather, or human behavior. Chaos theory picks up where predictable sciences stopped. Linear science measures models in closed experimental systems, whereas Chaos attempts to understand the complexity of living systems in real life.
For example fluid dynamics in a controlled system can be understood with normal mathematical equations because it is a closed, or controlled, or unnatural system. But, water flowing in a stream with so many variables, eddies and swirls, is an example of a living system or chaotic system.
Why Do Chaosticians Work to Understand Complex Living Systems?
Because, by understanding them, they may be able to impact those living systems in a beneficial way.
Western science has been striving to understand the human mind, heart, and body for centuries by looking at its parts, breaking it down into tissue, muscles, bones, blood vessels, then down a step to cells, DNA, and finally elements, atoms. etc. This is the equivelant of trying to understand human life the way an engineer understands fluid mechanics in a pipeline or controlled environment.
However, life is not a controlled environment. Human life is interweaving waves of chaotic interaction of the mind, the spirit or energy body, the emotional body and organs, etc. Tai Chi and Qigong teachers working in standard medical care, for example, sometimes find it difficult for physicians who've been trained to break down patient issues into different departments, psychology, neurology, cardiology, etc. to wrap their head around Tai Chi or Qigong's holistic approach that benefits the patient on so many levels all at the same time.
Chaos theory has two main componenets that illustrated how Tai Chi or Qigong works on the complex system of an indivdual or society's health. These concepts at the core of Chaos Theory, are those of Self-Similarity found in nature, and also the concept of the Strange Attractor. First, let's examine how tai chi and qigong can be seen as examples of Self-Similarity in the deeper reality of human existence, and how these ancient arts affect positive outcomes in practitioners.
Tai Chi and Qigong Seem to Be a High Fractal Chaos Science that Causes a Self-Replicating Benefit Throughout All Aspects of the Practitioner. These ancient arts seem to be a highly effective example of a deep understanding of Chaos and self-replication effects in human beings.
When we practice the arts of Tai Chi and Qigong, we move beyond the linear understanding of control. We don't mentally direct certain skelatal muscles to loosen and relax, but rather use visualization techniques of allowing the Qi to flow through us, which results in a host of self-replicating effects.
For example, when we "sink" into our forms, and experience the loosening sense of Qi flow, we unleash a very complex series of self-similar events through our mind, heart, and body.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, masters have a saying, "The Blood Feeds the Qi, and The Qi Feeds the Blood." When we exhale and sink into our forms there is a cascade of loosening that expand throughout our body, our ciriculatory system, our respiratory and cardio systems, our skeletal muscular systems, etc. etc.
That relaxing of the body by visualizing Qi relaxing expanse through your tissue, relaxes the physical cells and fields that make us up. Our DNA relaxes and realigns in a more healthful way. The microcirculation that promotes allows the physical cells to relax more, which allows the Qi or life energy to expand more deeply through us. Just the same way one can examine the leaf of a tree and see the image of the tree replicated in the viens of the leaf, and the shape of the leaf replicated in one part of the leaf and on and on is this finger-print of nature or self-replciation.
The Tai Chi concept of "sinking" into a "filled" leg, sets off a series of domino-effect-type responses that affect bones, connective tissue, muscles, blood vessels, bio-pharmocological responses, and even energetic-physics responses that unfold through our being. We don't figure all that out with our left-brain, or linear mind like an engineer would, but rather we "let it happen" as our "Qi" "sinks" and our body "flows," in a way that will one day be explained by Chaos Mathematicians of the future.
Tai Chi and Qigong seem to tap into a high science that goes with the flow of these deeper realities, for when we are using the image of Qi or flow to loosen our bodies to create more power in our movements, we are also changing our DNA in a positive way (see research mentioned in past WorldTaiChiDay.org newsletters), we are boosting the number of Helper T-Cells in our body by 50%, we are relaxing open the breathing passages in our bronchial tree, we are relaxing open our blood vessels to allow deep microcirculation, etc. etc.
We are touching into some deep understanding of the reality of our physical existence by using an emotional and mental visualization we call Qi, or life energy. When we relax open to Qi, an expanding web of self-replicating events seem to occur, all beneficial. We are tapping into the "fingerprint of nature" chaosticians refer to.
What is fascinating about the ancient Yin Yang symbol, is not only that its interweaving waves seem to replicate the Fibonacci Spiral, but also, if you look at a real Yin Yang image, you'll see that within the black and white dots, are a smaller Yin Yang symbol, and in those symbol's tiny dots are smaller Yin Yang symbols, and on and on into infinity.
These ancient philosophers had an insight into the self-replicating nature of existence, as well as the Fibinacci spiral, and those insights seem to have led to the creation of an amazingly profound mind-body science that we now call Tai Chi and Qigong.
Tai Chi and Qigong are part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that sees the body as an energy field, made of self-replicating images. For example, a Acupuncturist can treat any part of the human body by treating the ear. See the below Acupuncture image of how the entire human body is seen existing within the human ear.
You can also treat the entire body and all its organs through the human hand. You can also treat the entire body through points in the feet, or through the Bladder Meridian points in the back. Chaos Mathematics and the Fibonacci's Spiral's Fractal self-replication is embodied in the energy medicine that Tai Chi and Qigong are based upon.
A side note here. In my Tai Chi book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong I get into another amazing fact. There are 361 main acupuncture points on the human body. Did you know that modern acupuncturists often locate those points using electronic instruments similar to an Ohm Meter? This is possible because these points are the points of least electrical resistence on the human skin. How in the heck did researchers thousands of years ago know where the points of least electrical resistence on the skin were.
The Second Aspect of Chaos - The Strange Attractor
Chaos mathematicicians found that in the complexity of our dynamic lives we are in constant change, however when they look at massive data of events in visual graphics they find patterns in the chaos that they refer to as Strange Attractors.
An example of a Strange Attractor might be the reasons that corner grocery or restaruant on the corner keeps closing. You see the same place open again and again, only to see it boarded up and a lease or for sale sign once again on its lawn. There are population, traffic, economic factors at play that in all their complexity somehow always end up causing that store to close for lack of business.
If small business people could understand such complexity before purchasing that corner store it could save them alot of financial dissapointment. Chaos Mathematics and its Strange Attractor theory is attempting to make the complex understandable, complexity is found in all living systems, in our lives. Is this what Tai Chi can do as well?
In our lives, we experience many recurring patterns that cause problems, which may become more manegable when seen in the light of these complex patterns, or Strange Attractors
In 1980 the American Psychological Association ran an article from the Journal of Black Psychology advocating Tai Chi as a holistic paradigm for treating psychosomatic illness (illness caused by a combination of mental, emotional, and other factors), and later in 1991 the Association ran an article exploring how Tai Chi serves as a model for understanding the processes of change within psychotherapy, Tai Chi revealing the dynamic interplay and balance of opposite forces and the cyclilical nature of therapeutic change.
To put this aspect of Tai Chi in lay terms, think of it this way. In our lives we may go from one situation to the next, for example, job interviews. The address of the company is always different, the job descriptions we're applying for may vary, the clothes we wear and the people we talk to are different ... but what remains constant throughout is that we may squeeze our head tight out of nervousness, and our tension may make us seem edgy and irritable, or make it hard for us to remember facts we need to express.
So, in the gross way of seeing life, we could think we didn't get this job, or that job, for a singular detailed reason in each different scenario. However, Tai Chi or Qigong can begin to show us how we tend to "hold our breath" when challenged to learn new things, or stretch beyond our current comfort zone. We see this reaction in students all the time, trying to memorize a complex Tai Chi or Qigong move. So that pattern carries through not just the challenge of learning Tai Chi in class, but out into the workplace, our homelife, etc.
I've mentioned the golf movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, in which Will Smith's character tells the struggling golfer, "The Way you hold your club, is the way you hold your life."
Tai Chi and Qigong learning give us a chance to see through the complexity of life to the underlying patterns, so that we can loosen, breathe, and become more flowing and confident in challenging situations, thereby untangling the patterns of the Strange Attractors in our lives, not with one-at-a-time linear thought, but through a complexity found in these ancient arts' hundreds and thousands of years of evolving concepts like "sinking," "qi," "flow," etc.
Tai Chi and Qigong bring us to the center of ourselves, so that we can in essence observe how we interact with the whole world by seeing how we move, breathe, and interact with our own Tai Chi and Qigong forms, or with our Tai Chi and Qigong groups we play with. Their combination of biofeedback's inner awareness, slow self-observing motions, and consciousness of Qi and life energy flow expose the Self-Similarity and Strange Attractor swirling through the dynamic systems of our lives. Tai Chi and Qigong may be highly evolved examples of what Chaos Mathematics is trying to offer society as a whole on many levels. These new high sciences may lead society to realize that the ancient mind-body sciences of Tai Chi and Qigong were exploring the deepest concepts that modern Chaosticians today are trying to understand mathematically.
Is this not mind-blowing? Tai Chi and Qigong are a great exercise, a great meditation, and great healing tool, but they are also a universe of mind-boggling exploration you can spend your entire life investigating.
I first began to explore these concepts of Chaos Mathematics and how Tai Chi and Art may be examples of this self-replicating aspect of nature, in my science-fiction thriller about a young Mexican artist and an old Chinese Tai Chi master, entitled A Conspiracy of Spirits. You can learn more about it at:
Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong
fourth edition, Random House, New York, 2012
Please enjoy this short video of the Fibinacci Sequence, and the Fibinacci Spiral. Its really beautiful. When we are doing Tai Chi and Qigong and relaxing into the waves of consciousness and flowing Qi these techniques cultivate we are "sinking" into the fabric, the fingerprint of nature.
|Nature by Numbers|