Written By: Alan McAllister
On the ground humans pushing their way through deep snow work together as well. Each person in turn tramps the snow deeper, reducing resistance for the next. They also rotate the lead like cyclists in the tour de France. The advantages of co-operation; reduction of resistance, conservation of energy, and efficiency of action, are easy to see in extreme situations or special circumstances. These principles are equally applicable in most aspects of everyday life.
Basic principles of the natural world (such as those found in physics or biology) are pervasive. Efficiency is found everywhere one looks. Water runs down-hill, taking a course of least resistance, reducing its potential energy and powering mills and turbines along the way (“Potential Energy”). Runs become streams; creeks become rivers as water gathers together on its way to the sea, following the easiest paths year after year.
The goal in T’ai Chi is to relax, to move effortlessly. Holding postures, I feel into the body, listening to the force of gravity. It flows effortlessly through me when my body is in proper posture. It will pull and tug on me when I am tense and resisting it. Over time, gravity points out all the places I am holding on, resisting, fearful of falling or letting go. With practice I learn that I can relax, let go, and not fall down. Releasing effort down into the ground, I become solid and light, free and effortless. As in all human endeavors, there is a direct correlation between fear, resistance, and effort. Releasing internal resistance, the individual parts of the body/being become an efficient, collective: whole. By listening to gravity with your body, you can learn how to do anything in the most efficient way; you can conserve energy by allowing your body to be as graceful and effortless as possible.
The practice of yoga is likewise a space to learn, to listen to the body, to feel into gravity, find tensions, relax and release; to become whole. Breathing in and breathing out you can practice effortlessness and connect to your Self (McAllister “Clearing Stones”), cultivating inner harmony and coherence.
Entering a dark room, you flip a switch, a circuit is closed and electrons flowing along wires in the wall move forward to the light bulbs that bring light into the room (“Electric Light Bulb”). The copper atoms in the wires are aligned in regular crystal patterns, allowing the electrons to flow easily from one to the next. At room temperatures there are imperfections in the crystals as well as misalignments between crystals so that as the electrons move they bump and shove occasionally, encounter resistance like the lead goose pushing through un-parted air (“Electrical Resistance”). This is electrical resistance and it produces heat. In the light bulb a change in materials purposely uses resistance to produce light from the force, pushing the electrons from their source through the circuit. Heat is wasted energy in the wires, or, at extremes, even dangerous.
The problem of resistance and heat is ongoing in the engineering of modern electronics. As circuits become smaller and denser, how do you release the heat as electricity flows through processors, or vast arrays of memory chips (“Computer Cooling”)? The easiest way is to reduce its production to begin with; to use fewer and fewer electrons to accomplish the same tasks. Conservation and efficiency. Engineers can also reduce resistance by creating special conductor materials. Increasing efficiency, reducing resistance, conserving energy: the production of unwanted heat is minimized.
In your own body remember the feeling of fear. Fear is the essence of emotional resistance and manifests as tension, even heat. Fear consumes energy. When you can tune in, release the fear, relax the resistance, then life force flows more freely through you. In the classic movie Pat and Mike (1952), Katherine Hepburn’s character (an athlete) talks about how you should never focus on your opposition, but only on yourself. She comes into her own when she believes in herself and reclaims her power, taking it back from others whom she has allowed to keep her in fear. It is our own internal fear and the emotional resistance it generates that hinders us most in accomplishing the things we dream of.
Throughout the physical world, and in most living systems, reduced energy use, efficiency, is a foundational principle guiding form and design. One aspect of this is to reduce internal or external resistances, allowing actions to be maximally efficient (“Biomimicry”). This is found on all scales, from the molecular, to the personal, to the collective. Only modern humans allow resistances, fears, even resistances to fears, to define us, constrain us, and lead us to inefficient behavior that ultimately do us a great disservice.
You may be familiar with the personal journey out of the third chakra fear state of “not enough”. This state takes many different forms, but arises from our human individuality and the sense of limitation and separation that comes from not remembering that we are also human Spirits, connected and part of Divinity, and are “inherently enough”. It is extremely common in our modern culture, and common in many (but not all) cultures (Lawlor 37). We journey towards a state of connection. This is a fourth chakra experience, of love for ourselves, of being loved by the Self and the universe (McAllister “Silence”). In this state we remember we are sufficient, we are connected, nourished, and life flows effortlessly through us. Resistance is reduced. We still carry water and chop wood, but remembering the Spiritual nature of our being, we are in internal alignment with ourselves, emotional resistance and fear are transmuted, and we experience life in a very different way. Knowing we are enough and trusting Spirit and the flow of energy in the universe, we are resourced, sufficient in our Selves and come cleanly into connection/community with others. We are doing T’ai Chi, at peace with gravity. We are the geese flying, in collective harmony, both inside and out.