Cultivation and the Internal Arts of Ancient China.

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When you play the Internal Arts of ancient China you will hear the term Cultivator used. I remember it seeming a very odd to use a gardening term for Meditation, Chi Gung, Hsing I, Pa Kua, Li Ho Pa Fa, and Da Cheng as well as in Northern Shaolin Kung fu.   Over the years during the many hours of practicing these Arts it has become clearer.

I was speaking to a community gardener the other day and we were speaking of starting a garden, he was telling me that before you plant it is a good Idea to cultivate the soil for a year, loosening the soil filling it with composted dirt, removing the weeds,  all so that when you do finally plant the differing plants the soil will support growth and the plants will grow healthy and strong.

So what are Cultivators  in the internal arts Cultivating? They are cultivating the field of the body/mind so they can have chi flowing freely, unencumbered throughout the body/mind. Each art approaches this task differently and each art informs the other and accomplishes different aspects of what it takes for free flowing Chi.

In broad terms, Chi Gung is about broadly tuning the Body/Mind. The questions it asks are: Am I relaxed? Am I grounded? Can I put my mind into the planet? Can I gather myself at My Tan Tien, a place three and a half inches beneath my belly button and inward? Can I extend outside of myself? Can i feel the thickness of the environment around me? Do I feel a lightness generated at my crown? Can I bring Chi in from my surroundings? Can I send chi out in all directions? and Can I have the mental flexibility to focus on each, forget each one and keep them all in mind like a juggler spinning plates? In short, it is like tuning your body/mind as you would tune a guitar.

In broad terms, Tai Chi asks: Can I take all of those internal adjustments from the chi gung and communicate them outward in a broad way.

Hsing I is about taking all of those internal adjustments sending them outward in a much more refined and clear way. It is about refining communication.

Pa Kua is about listening to your body/mind in a profound way.

Li Ho Pa Fa is about listening, sending and receiving and then sending out again. a Good metaphor would be like playing jazz sending out a tune, listening for a response, then sending out a musical response. It is a creative conversation with chi moving within and without.

And finally, Da Cheng brings it all home again on a much deeper level within the body/mind. The player is changed intrinsically by the chi flow and the chi flow moves both outward and deeper within the Body/mind.

So, as a general paradigm for the cultivator, making a place for chi to flow in a body/mind this tells us a lot about the nature of chi and what things need to be cultivated for a free flow of chi through the body. If you haven’t been a Cultivator the amount of chi flowing through you is slight. A cultivator learns to move a tremendous amount of chi through the Body/Mind because they have spent the time to cultivate the fields of the body/mind so that it can support a free and even flow of chi. For the Taoist, a free flow of chi means life and creativity so all of the ancient Taoist arts are cultivating being in tune with and closer with the Tao.

Beau Gustafson

Food Photographer from Denver Colorado, now living and working in Birmingham , Alabama. Food so good you will want to lick the screen.

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