Achieving Sōng (Relax) in Taiji

The Chinese word sōng means relax and is fundamental to Tàijí. Whereas the ability to achieve a deep state of sōng is vitally important for spiritual development and physical and mental health, it is not a be-all or end-all but a necessary precursor to the recognition and cultivation of nèi jìn (internal strength of Tàijí not produced by muscular contraction). It is also a necessary condition for achieving dòng/dàng (meaning move/swing, which utilizes the optimal timing of shifting and turning relative to the circular motion of the arms for maximum transfer of movement), which in turn is required for achieving fā jìn (effortless internal-energy mobilization and release that is used for striking an opponent).

In order to achieve sōng it is first necessary to become aware of all parts of the body in which states of “frozen” contractive strength reside. This process is most efficiently attained with a teacher who can “see inside” your body and apprise you of such tension. It also requires attaining a semi-meditative state in which such discovery can occur. Lying on the floor and doing small, relaxed, mindful, quasi-static movement is, in my opinion, one of the most-efficient ways of cultivating sōng. Only when awareness of frozen tension is achieved is it possible to work on dissolving such tension. This process becomes a lifelong work.

Most people are completely unaware of many parts of their bodies as evidenced by their inability to isolate and move such parts individually. So until they can connect their awareness to and independently move each and every part of their bodies, most people are unable to achieve a deep state of sōng.

For most of us, the ability to shut the body out was programmed into us by our schooling, which was designed to enable us to work non-stop on an assembly line (even though now most such work is done by robots). For maximum efficiency, an assembly-line worker must shut out impulses and become oblivious to bodily needs. Whereas it is important to be able not to let every bodily need and impulse interfere with our getting things done, many of us have accepted being in an assembly-line-worker’s state perpetually—even when being so is unnecessary and even detrimental.

A rudimentary knowledge of anatomy and an understanding of the most-basic principles of physics are helpful aids to achieving sōng. But there is much more, namely, being able to “live” in a state of being in the moment and non-action. Our minds are constantly racing ahead, which induces mindless, habitual, inefficient ways of bodily usage. So as early-on as possible, you must practice Tàijí and Qigōng movement by “putting in your back pocket” images and teaching tools that were necessary for the “kindergarten” stage of learning and feel how the body moves naturally. To this end it is good to periodically permit the body to do whatever movement it likes (of course, reserve such activity to the privacy of your own home!).

In summary, attaining sōng is the start for including essential but mostly missing elements such as (a) nèi jìn and the timing of its yīn/yáng aspect, (b) dòng/dàng (meaning move/swing, which utilizes the optimal timing of shifting and turning relative to the circular motion of the arms for maximum transfer of movement), and (c) the optimal expanded shape of the arms for sustaining nèi jìn in all movements.

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