Energies of Nature and the Universe

by Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis

How can you flow with the changes every day brings and stay present within any maelstrom life chooses to send? This is the challenge of what you eventually progress towards when you practice tai chi and bagua as methods of Taoist moving meditation. Equally important is: Can you flow with change without having an agenda? Sometimes changes happen that you are powerless to affect. And yet even in such situations, you still know the general direction of the flow somewhere inside yourself—even considering the unpredictable currents you may encounter.

A surfer who catches a tall, 40-50 foot wave in Hawaii might know the way that he’d like the wave to break, but he damn well can’t make it happen. Like the surfer, you find the wave’s flow as best as you can. You do the best possible. Your focus must stay on riding the wave, so that no matter how the wave changes, you can stay on it.

More ideal still is to reach a point in your practice where there ceases to be a distinction between you and the wave—or you and the circle you’re walking or form you’re practicing. There’s neither the wave nor you, only an event that is in play. If you can relax and let the event unfold into the unknown, this is where the magic appears.

Photo by Jeff Rowley

The surfer is doing whatever is possible to stay on the wave. It also means the wave will do what the wave will do, and cares nothing about the surfer.

So, the questions are:

  • Can you open up enough and relax into the energies of the universe—where things manifest, come into existence and go out of existence?
  • Can you find the center of all that change where you can just be?
  • Can you find and anchor yourself in the unchanging empty center of the I Ching while allowing change to happen and simply being a part of it without resistance?

There is a place in the middle of the I Ching’s eight trigrams that is unwavering and constant. In Taoism, this is called the Tao, or emptiness. This place is utterly and totally free and leaves within it the potential for any kind of change to take place. The empty center permeates all change. It is melded to all change and yet itself is never affected by change. That is the fundamental principle behind the I Ching and the Taoist spiritual art of bagua.

Working with the Chi of the Environment

For millennia, Taoists have worked with the Five Elemental Energies: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. All are present in the external environment. These elemental energies are brought into the practitioner’s body and then in opposite manner projected outward to affect what is in the external environment outside of the practitioner’s physical body. Bagua and tai chi, especially in their more intact Taoist spiritual traditions, still practice this work.

At the level of internal energy work, bagua rather than tai chi practitioners have a much greater tendency to play with the energies of manifestation. They can develop a path for drawing energy from the environment into their bodies and minds, and then projecting that chi externally.

Most of the energetic work in tai chi is self-contained. However, you may move the energy out to the boundary of your etheric body, a distance of five to six feet or even 10 feet away from your body. In tai chi, your chi is confined in a more defined space. In bagua, there is a tendency for the mind to roam greater distances and play with the energies of the environment around you in a much larger and more fluid way. The exception is at the much more advanced spiritual levels of tai chi, where as meditation is one of its goals, is to directly link the practitioner’s body and mind with the energies of earth and heaven.

At higher levels, especially in Taoist meditation practices, bagua tends toward activity, which reflects its emphasis on yang. Tai chi tends to be much more passive or yin. Tai chi is passive in the sense that it follows the flow or pressure of the air surrounding you. The way the chi flows inside your body, influenced by the chi flowing in the air around you, then causes or at least significantly influences, your external movements. Bagua tends to be much more proactive in terms of initially creating chi flows inside your body to in turn create both external movements and chi flows in your etheric field. This further activates your internal chi flows and external movements.

Working with the Energies of Nature

Photo by Robert Neff – Fifth World Art

Exploring your internal world can lead to understanding how your internal energies interact with the energies of the external environment. This begins with your immediate environment, such as trees, grass and deep into the earth below you. It eventually spans huge distances—potentially including the planets and stars. This is yet another example of the sophisticated use of the I Ching map as applied to the practice of bagua and tai chi as Taoist moving meditation.

At a practical level, you let go and move into a space that has nothing to do with you, becoming concerned only with an “event” occurring at that moment in time. Beyond what’s happening within your own energy, there is equal concern for the energy of the surrounding environment. This includes the energy of the earth, stars, sky, trees and all the natural energetic forces surrounding you, and human manifestations like politics and economics. You allow your physical movements to harmonize with the matrix of environmental energies coming together. In time, you’ll find pure joy in blending with the forces of nature.

Resonating with the energy of the earth is of particular interest from a Taoist point of view, since we are inhabitants of this planet. Like many traditions of the ancient world, Taoists believe the earth is a living being. Contacting and melding with the energy of the earth will help you naturally acquire the wisdom it holds.

As you become more connected to the energies of nature, your natural human capacity to connect to the intelligence of the universe soon follows. You realize that you are part of it and it is a part of you—a microcosm within a much larger macrocosm.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Hartwell October 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Are any of the core qigong sets you teach specifically geared towards connecting to the earths energies, when compared with the others?

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richard shapiro Reply:

hi kevin
gods playing in the clouds is the set that is focused on the earth element.

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Kevin Hartwell Reply:

Thanks.

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SM Livingston Reply:

Hey Kevin,

Energy Gates is designed to connect you to the energy of the Earth and develop your capacity to root.

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Alex Dogson October 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Great little teaser. I’d really love to read some anecdotes about how this practice manifests in the mundane details of everyday life. So much has been written about esoteric taoism, philosophy, and so on, but it’s extremely rare / impossible to find just ordinary accounts of taoist masters and how their actual lives go. I’m hoping that one day the mystique will be dropped and I can read some frank accounts of ordinary life from a life-long cultivator of chi. A book like that would change the world. Even one little distinction from a book like that would change me forever.

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Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

Hi Alex, Thanks for your comments. The practical Taoism is the Tai Chi, Bagua, Healing, Qigong and Meditation practices. To this effect I recently started the Tao Te Ching: A Practitioners Guide. So rather than just think about Taoism, someone becomes the principles through meditation. I have to admit I am a bit tired of the popular books on ‘Tao of [Insert Name Here]‘, although I did write a book called The Tao of Letting Go, which is a central principle within Taoism. Good luck, Bruce

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Amy Dahan Reply:

Hi Alex,
I think Bruce’s words summarize it perfectly “You allow your physical movements to harmonize with the matrix of environmental energies coming together. In time, you’ll find pure joy in blending with the forces of nature.” The mundane details of life (chopping wood, carrying water, doing dishes, driving in traffic, answering emails) ARE THE PRACTICE. All the masters, all the cliches point in the same direction – it’s not the destination, it’s the journey – the experience of various energies. What is important today is that we are selective about the energies coming at us – we must exert great effort to harmonize more with nature, and to be sensitive to the qi energy in our food, water, and general environment. The amount of electrical and chemical energies we are exposed to are relatively new phenomenae in the human experience. We are natural conduits between heaven and earth, and our unique position has been assaulted by our own inventions! I “find joy in blending with the forces” every moment I can remain conscious of that choice. Highest regards, Amy

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Woodrow October 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Mr. Frantzis your explanations of these potentialities are as clear as a bell even to a novice like myself

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Phil Hollis October 11, 2012 at 5:06 am

In reference to the previous comment, I would like to put forward the idea that you should live your spirituality, and feel what is going on inside you especially in those mundane things in life. If you spend your time looking to extraordinary events and otherworldly things to teach you, then you’ll probably have a long wait and miss what the mundane is trying to teach you. Thanks Bruce, I always find your stuff to be interesting and inspiring.

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Bruce Hutchinson October 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

Bruce,
Could you enlighten us on how Hsing-I would work with energy in contrast to Tai Chi and Bagua?
When I first learned my Hsing-I form a little over 15 years ago, I found that it was very much not suited to my nature at the time an gavitated to Bagua as my secondary art (The Lineage I was studying at the time taught all three with Tai Chi Chuan as the Primary).
Now that I am older I find myself focusing and enjoying Hsing-I more for my own private practice.
I have some of my own assumptions on it, but I was hoping you could shed a little insight.

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Philip Hinton October 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Master Bruce, once again you have explained in simple terms what many have struggled with and few ever realize. True growth in internal arts only begins when we let go of our goal oriented outlook. I think we need to practice for the joy of the time we spend engaged in our art, without any expectations or desire to achieve. In my experience, the more we seek an outcome, the more we push it away. For most of us, the more time we spend being practitioners and the less time we spend being philosophers, the more we will grow. Dedicate yourself to your practice, and the Tao will take care of the rest.

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Tom Valovic October 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for this interesting blog Bruce. I’d like to bring up a topic that I had intended to mention last year during one of your workshops at Brookline Tai Chi but an opportunity didn’t seem to present itself. There are many spiritual practitioners and well-respected commentators who believe that the Earth energies themselves (as much as we fully understand them) are undergoing a radical shift at this time with significant ripple effects affecting all of us. This includes the Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy as well as Eckhart Tolle, who has a wide audience in the spiritual community and was listed by the Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world. Anecdotally an increase in the number of earthquakes and other natural disasters over the last several years would seem to bear this out. Do you agree with this line of thinking? If the observations are indeed accurate, it seems that Tai Chi practitioners should find ways to incorporate an understanding of the changes into their practice and I find myself wondering how this might be done.

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Anthony Forrest Reply:

Tom, if I may call you Tom? The Earth changes that are happening now have happened long ago as well, just on a different scale. The Earth like all things change, and though this change may be brought on by man, it is in no way unfamiliar. Having said that, the fact that you have shown an interest in the changes the Earth is experiencing, should have an impact your spiritual practice, as well as your life style, and your Tai Chi. This should come in the form of understanding, life style changes that would have a positive outcome on the Earth, as well as your own health. This all comes together with your Tai Chi practice to form a better planet, a better life, and a better mind. Of course this is my humble opinion.

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Edmundo October 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Master Bruce,

Your article brings a lot of interesting information to me. I am eager to know more about the nature of the five elements and how to identify them in my tai chi practice, as well as people’s emotions in my dayly life. If I am correct, recently you had an workshop in London about this. Is there a way you can help me with it? I dont know Bagua.

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Energy Arts Team Reply:

Greetings Edmundo,

In Bruce Frantzis’ upcoming book, Taoist Sexual Meditation: Connecting Love, Energy and Spirit, there is an entire chapter discussing the Five Elements in detail (see http://www.amazon.com/dp/1583944958). Also, please refer to Frantzis’ Tai Chi: Health For Life book, Appendix 2: The Five Elements for more (see http://www.energyarts.com/store/products/books/tai-chi-health-life-book).

Best,
Energy Arts Team

[Reply]

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