A. Quiet Your Heart
xīn jìng 心静 = Make your heart quiet
Xīn jìng 心静 is the idea of calming yourself down.
Whatever style of Taiji you practice, the requirement to be “jing 静”, or quiet, is there. In qigong practice, whether you are doing the Buddhist style, the Daoist style or any other style, they all require that your heart has to be “jìng 静”.
When we talk about xīn 心, we are not referring to the physical heart but to the emotions. So xīn jìng 心静 means that your emotions need to be calm and not disturbed. Only when this is achieved, you can go to the next level, which is to regulate your breathing. If your heart is not quiet and your emotions are disturbed; if you are doing one thing while thinking of something else, it is difficult to practice Taiji.
So, xīn jìng 心静 is the first thing that we want to achieve.
B. Regulate Your Breathing
tiáo xī 调息 = Regulate your breath
The second thing we want to do is to regulate our breathing, tiáo xī 调息. In breathing, there are three different levels:
The first level is that you want to breathe so softly that the person standing next to you doesn’t hear you breathe. That is very easy to achieve by breathing deeply without tightening the the throat.
The second level of breathing is to breathe so softly that the person standing next to you doesn’t feel that you are breathing. That makes your Taiji practice very, very soft.
The last level is to breathe so softly that you don’t feel that you are breathing. That becomes extremely quiet, and requires almost no movement.
When we practice together, try to breathe so the people near you can’t hear you breathe. When you practice at home, try to do it so you can’t hear yourself breathe. Taiji is not a sitting meditation and we are moving, so the third level is more to visualize than to achieve.
Shallow or tight breaths make noise in the throat, so if you can breathe more deeply, you won’t hear it. That tells us that when we breathe, we need to let go of the tension, so our body can take in more as we inhale and let go more as we exhale. When we are able to do that, we can move our Qi.
The regulation of the breath is not something that we do once, like checking things off a list. It’s more like this: When you do #1 then #2 happens. When you do #2, you go back and it makes #1 deeper. It’s like climbing Huang Shan (黄 山), one of China’s holiest mountains. When you begin to climb the first 100 yards, you see things in one view. When you climb the next 100 yards, the mountain is still the same, but your feeling changes. Every 100 yards you go up, and the way you see things changes.
Breathing and calmness are heavily influenced by each other. If your emotion is not calm, it will affect your breathing. You can try your best to quiet down, but if your mind is disturbed, then your breathing will have little effect on calming your body. If your mind is calm and clear and undisturbed, then your breathing becomes more clear too. Then when your breathing becomes more clear, it makes the mind and the heart more calm. They keep influencing each other.
So, xīn jìng 心静 and tiáo xī 调息 are related to each other. When we are calm as we practice the form, then the mind is clear, like an undisturbed pond. Physically, it’s loosening the tension and emotionally it’s calming down and getting quiet. Heart (xīn 心) and mind (yì 意) are related to each other too. When they are combined, you have shén 神, which is spirit. Focus on calming your emotions and clearing your mind, then you can begin to regulate the breathing to let go of tension.