We use the term ‘relax’ often in everyday conversation and see it referred to in print just as often but do you really understand what it means to relax? I mean really r-e-l-a-x! Well, I thought I did for many years until I was introduced to a state of real relaxation. I was a teenager just beginning my training in Kenpo. I was called to the mat by my Sensei and told to Kumite’ with another student. I thought I knew how to throw powerful punches and kicks because, after all, I was a seasoned street fighter and had just finished training with a Green Beret. The fight had barely begun when my Sensei said, ‘Mr. Langley, relax!!’. I did feel a little tension in my shoulders so I shook it out and dropped them. When the kumite’ class was over, my Sensei pulled me over and explained to me why being really relaxed was extremely important if I was to ever understand the essence of Power. This started me on my journey toward the state of true relaxation. I remember before class he had us lie flat on our backs with the lights turned way down while he led us through a guided meditation that put us in such a state of relaxation that our bodies “disappeared”. I was only Mind – a calm and relaxed Mind. It was amazing! I had never been so relaxed in my entire life. I felt I was well on my way to understanding the power of relaxation and then I got hurt – extreme trauma that forever changed my life.
I will not relive that event again here but if you missed my post that briefly explained it, then you should read ‘A Most Unlikely Blessing‘. In fact, if you have not read it, then I suggest you do. This is definitely linked to that Wisdom and the two together should give you a broader understanding of a very important key to our True Nature. The injury to my cervical spine literally cut my spinal cord about half way through on the right side and left me permanently disabled with an extremely rare form of quadriplegia called, ‘Brown-Sequard Syndrome‘. I explain this condition in the other post. Anyway, that injury effectively turned all of my muscles on at the same time with no ‘off switch’ and made relaxing next to impossible. This presented me with an incredible challenge which continues to test me every moment to this day. With my communication lines from my brain to the rest of my body all malfunctioning, I had to find a way to get the messages to the right places. After much trial and error, I finally realized that I had to re-conquer my mind first. I had to relearn to calm my mind as I had in my Kenpo training before I could ever get my body to settle down. Throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s I sometimes consciously, other times subconsciously, just ‘did it’ but it was never easy. I was never really sure how I got it to happen either – it just happened. Having lost my calm Center, there were so many times that I was overcome with frustration and just had to regroup and try again….and again… During this time, I was completely unaware that a kind of training was going on subconsciously so I just went on doing my best with this strange new life. This training remained hidden until recently. In fact, it came to me in a moment of calmness and clarity in the Present as all epiphanies do. I also explain this in my earlier post, ‘A Most Unlikely Blessing‘ so I will not cover that again here. In 1990, I saw an ad for an evening continuing education class in Tai Chi that would begin soon up at Southwest Texas State University (Now Texas State) and I spent the next eight months learning a simplified 24-Step Yang Style Tai Chi form. I actually took the class twice but that is just me – the perfectionist! I practiced and practiced twice a day for a long time until the moves became second nature. This is when the true study begins and the Power of an integrated “Body-Being” becomes known. I had already been working for years to calm my mind so everything critical for Body Integrity started coming together – posture or alignment, mindfulness, grounding, centering, visualization, and of course, relaxation.
I started reading everything I could find about Tai Chi or, actually, Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung (Chinese Chi exercises), Aikido (a relatively new Japanese internal art), Ki’ (Japanese for Chi), and others like Cheng Hsin. There was one central theme throughout all of the books and emphasized in the strongest way – Relax! I do not mean the kind I had known in Kenpo but a much, much deeper state of being. I read the same part about relaxing the shoulders but now I needed to find my Center again, my tan-tien*. In Tai Chi they are referring to the lower tan-tien which is located about three fingers width below the navel. This is the actual center of your body and your center of gravity when standing properly erect. So now you relax and calm the mind which relaxes the body and then you sink your mind down into your tan-tien. This is not easy and can take a lifetime to master, but hey, it is the journey that is important, not the ‘destination’. Over time, as with everything you practice, you will find yourself there in this moment or that moment until you understand what you are doing. This is when the real fun begins!
To gain more insight into this relaxed state of being, I turned to one of today’s truly great martial artists, Peter Ralston*. Beginning at the age on nine while living in China and after many years of training in several martial arts*, he opened The Cheng Hsin* School of Internal Martial Arts and Center for Ontological Research in Oakland, CA in 1977. Then in 1978, he became the first and only non-Asian martial artist to ever win the World Championship Full-Contact Tournament in the Republic of China. He actually did this to get the public’s attention to his mastery of mind and body so he would be taken seriously when teaching a Way of Being that is far beyond anything else taught today. It was during my studies of his martial art, Cheng Hsin, that I read about “Water-drop Energy”. He was recounting his training with one of the great masters* of Tai Chi Chuan when he described this incredibly powerful state of Being that took relaxation to a level few can comprehend. Use your mind to imagine this because I can not draw you a picture here. Standing in a Tai Chi stance with knees slightly bent, your pelvic area thrust forward, and your head situated so that your entire spine is aligned with your tan-tien, relax your mind and body. Now, feel your mind settle into your tan-tien and your energy sink into the ground. Next, visualize being inside of a field of energy shaped like a water-drop with the rounded bottom continued around to form a perfect circle with the top of it going through the tan-tien. The upper part of the drop tapers inward from the top sides of the circle until the tip forms at the top of the head. Now, visualize a horizontal line through the center of the circle. This is the ground! The bottom half of the circle is below the ground and filled with your energy*. Anyone who can achieve this incredible level of relaxation and body-integrity, is literally immovable!! This Tai Chi master said that his punches felt like they came straight out of his tan-tien! With grounding being the main source of our Power and with the upper body relaxed to the point of weightlessness, the Power this master directed from his tan-tien to his punches, strikes, or whatever is beyond comprehension! The feeling had to be one of total energy and ecstasy!!
The Art of Relaxation, and this level of relaxing is truly an art, a mastery of one’s Being, is a fascination of mine to this day and is a core element of my self-work as I travel my Path with Heart. This journey of learning how to relax deeper and deeper is in itself a path to great wisdom – the very wisdom of Self, Source, and True Nature that all Awakened individuals seek to gain. I can not overemphasize the importance of learning how to relax and sink your mind, your energy, into your tan-tien. We are supposed to be this relaxed, centered, aligned, and grounded for this is our natural state of Being. We are born this way but quickly lose sight of this natural way of Being, our True Nature. It is our task, our duty, to regain this natural state of Power and to rediscover this feeling of ecstasy again as we travel our respective Paths with Heart back home to our Source. Jesus said that we must become as children again. This is what he meant and is a large part of following “TheWay”. R-E-L-A-X!
*The tan-tien is situated in the intersection of the vertical lines from the crown to the perineum and horizontal from the navel to the ´´ming-men´´ (life door, also understood as the door of life and death and that the other important point is situated at the lumbar zone where it is most curved. It is in the tan-tien where the pre-heaven ´´chi´´ is stored.
* Note: I highly recommend that you click on the embedded link, “Peter Ralston”, and read about this man’s journey to martial arts mastery and beyond. It is a truly amazing story!
* Note: His main teacher,
grandmaster Wong Jack Man
, was probably one of the greatest masters of modern times. Only after seeing how far Peter Ralston had progressed in developing his Art of Effortless Power, did he teach him Ch’uan Li ((intelligent fist). I have found very little about this art and it is doubtful that anyone in the West has any knowledge either besides Peter Ralston. What a gift!!
* This particular master may be Wong Jack Man also but Peter Ralston later studied and trained with grandmaster William Chen Chi Chen – possibly a member of the Chen family who developed the Chen Style of Tai Chi Chuan.
* Cheng Hsin
* It is said in Taoist teachings that the Ancient Ones breathed through the soles of their feet.