The chi energy powers your body, but mind power yinian is the steering wheel that gives the chi direction and purpose. Without it, chi is like a rudderless ship left to the mercy of wind and ocean currents.
Most beginning students think chi is the most important concept to be learned in tai chi qigong. True, chi is the essence that is integral to life, good physical and spiritual health, longevity, personal development and martial arts.
Nevertheless, yinian, the yi consciousness, roughly translated as intent or will, is what drives the chi. Think of your body as a car: the chi is the engine that powers it, but it is the yi mind power that steers it to where you want it to go.
The good instructor teaches the student how to generate the chi and develop it. But it takes an excellent master to teach the importance of mind over chi.
It is probably because there is no direct translation for yinian that so few instructors even bother to attempt teaching the concept to students. Or, just as likely, some self-proclaimed “masters,” inflated with their own greatness and titles, may not even grasp the concept themselves!
When communicating in English, my master will teach the concept to students by instructing them how to visualize and focus their mind so that they may access a certain level of consciousness. But he seldom takes the trouble of theorizing on the subject itself.
Rather than discuss, explain or attempt to describe it, he prefers to have the students physically experience it through step-by-step instruction and practice. This is because an abstract concept that has no parallel in Western culture is better understood in concrete experiential terms.
Here is a simple experiment that some martial arts schools will teach their students:
Place your elbow on a flat surface, your hand raised with thumb and index finger about three centimeters (1.5 inches) spaced apart. Have someone place a crisp new bill between your fingers, hanging straight down. The object is to catch the bill between your fingers as soon as the other person drops it.
NOTE: The bill must be dropped by a person other than the one who is catching it!
Give yourself three tries to catch it.
Looks easy doesn’t it? Chances are, the harder you try, the more impossible it becomes.
Someone with a physics background once told me that when dropped, the bill travels at a velocity of six miles per second squared. That is faster than the eye can see or the conscious mind can process the information.
Now try catching the bill this way:
- Close your eyes and focus your gaze inward in a light meditative trance.
- Imagine the bill slowly slipping through your fingers and your fingers immediately responding by catching it as soon as the other person releases the intent to let go of the bill. Imagine your reaction being instantaneous. This is your goal.
- Now that you have this vision in mind, you must detach your mind from it, and learn to let go. Go deep into meditation, relaxing mentally and physically so that both mind and body are both totally relaxed but alert.
- By focusing your gaze mentally inward, your meditation actually detaches you from the external world and lets you access your subconscious, the higher level of consciousness. This higher level of consciousness allows you to become aware even of external stimuli while remaining emotionally detached from it. At the same time, your reflexes become super-sensitive and lightening fast, responding immediately to the slightest change.
At this point, you no longer have to rely on your five senses, which are slower to react than that moving bill. Instead, your mind power yinian controls the speed of your reflexes, enabling you to catch the bill almost instantaneously!
Yi is, therefore, more than just will, intent and visualization. It is more than an attitude — it is a mind power that allows us to transcend the mere five senses and access what some call the sixth sense. It is an anticipatory mind that prepares us for the impossible. It is an expectation of what science claims is impossible, but which, in tai chi qigong, is a common — indeed, an expected — occurrence!
Thus, it is this powerful mind frame that channels the chi and gives it the needed direction and purpose.
While anyone can generate chi — even animals and other lower creatures — only the developed higher consciousness can access the mind power yi. This potent mental faculty is both very elusive and takes much patience to acquire. To cultivate it, one must sublimate the ego, and relinquish all ambition and material and emotional desires. Little wonder that self-proclaimed “masters” cannot grasp the concept, let alone access the higher consciousness.
Yinian can only exist with relaxed humility. The harder you strive, the more elusive it becomes. But when you relax and learn to become detached, letting go of all material and emotional attachments, this mind power will suddenly come of its own accord.
Let your motivation drive you to persevere and practice in achieving your goal. But let your patience allow you to become detached. When you relax and let go of all emotional attachments, thus, will you be able to nurture your mind power yinian and access your highest mental faculty — the so-called sixth sense.
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