All of the principles of Taoism that we examined in the last chapter, as well as some that we did not, apply to both TCM and T'ai Chi. Based on the yin-yang principle, TCM seeks to balance the body. Take, for example, a fever. Often, the methods of TCM will induce yet a higher fever, albeit temporarily, in order to lead it into a balanced state. This is explained by the principle of "lead an unbalanced condition into yet a more unbalanced state, and it will seek to gain equilibrium." In other words, start with a fever, make it even more feverish, and it will, by its own nature, want to return to a normal, healthy state. T'ai Chi seeks to portray and practice the same principle. When you are performing Set the Waves Rolling in the 18-Movement Qigong Form, you are trying to determine how far forward you can push before you lose your balance. In experimenting with this movement, you ultimately discover that you need to keep your body upright and your weight rooted into the ground, and allow your hands to push only as far forward as is comfortable, usually not beyond your front toes. If you push too far, your body bends forward and downward, and you lose your balance. You have just learned about equilibrium, and how going too far in one direction will lead to a movement in the opposite one.
Another way to illustrate the bond between TCM and T'ai Chi is to look at the five Elements of Chinese medicine. Water, Earth, Wood, Fire, and Metal make up what is seen as the five primary Elements of all material in the universe. In TCM, an entire school of diagnosis and treatment is devoted to the Five Element style, wherein a balance of the five Elements is sought to alleviate sickness. Too much Water? Add some Fire. Too Woody? Add Metal. There is a complete cycle of creating and extinguishing among the five Elements, and to treat your patient using this principle, you need to know and use that cycle. The actual theory is beyond the scope of this book; it's only important that you get an idea of what is involved.
With T'ai Chi, the five Elements get to show their stuff! When you are showing Earth, you are rooted down, heavy, with a stable base; just like Mother Earth. Certainly, you show Water throughout the movements by your fluid style and lack of resistance. You are precise in your movements, like Metal, and stand upright and tall, like Wood. Fire? Perhaps that's your spirit when you do the T'ai Chi form with a martial attitude. Or perhaps it's the Qi rising and flowing throughout your body.
As we saw in the Qigong exercises, each movement has a relationship to an organ, an organ system, or to general Qi flow in the body. When you perform Qigong or T'ai Chi, you are practicing Chinese medicine! You are moving your body in a way that influences your health through the meridians and channels, as well as your physical health through the gentle flexing and bending of the joints.
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