The simple but not so simple Dan-yu is a foundation to the art of Tai Chi. While rediscovering notes and practices of the Taoist Arts, I came across some very simple directions from Master Moy from two decades ago concerning the dan-yu and activating the bubbling springs. Wrapping my current experiences into the notes and memories of the correction, I had an idea on how to depict the experience albeit from the more intellectual side of things. I hope you find it useful in your own practices of playing around in the bubbling spring.
May you step into the bubbling spring with every movement.
Eight millimeters is a significant misalignment between the sacrum and lumbar vertebrae. How do I know this? It’s the underlying cause of not being able to practice tai chi for over seven months or unable to walk more than fifty feet on the most painful days even with the narcotic pain medication, nerve desensitizers and muscle relaxers. Life in the past year has been a struggle to say the least. When you can’t even walk a few hundred feet to go see your daughter sing in a choir in front of hundreds of people at a winter festival, it’s pretty obvious something needs to be done. The inability to enjoy and partake in family activities was the last straw. It was not long after that moment of laying down in the car waiting for my family to return from the winter festival that I went under the knife. I had my fifth lumbar and first sacral vertebrae fused. I was literally screwed and glued. It was an excellent decision. There has been practically no sciatic pain since the surgery. There’s occasional tingling in my foot or hip the doctor says could be the nerve recovering or my body figuring out how to move as my vertebrae fuses.
I used my practice of tai chi, understanding of physics and physiology to respect my limitations for months leading up to the surgery. The form gave me an opportunity to explore and understand the rhythm of nerve conduction from my back into the butt, down the leg, and across the foot to the big toe. Slight misalignments sparked the pain while the simplest adjustment relieved it. When I was unable to move within the form, I used my practice of mindfulness and intent from the Taoist arts to help me relax and maintain as much functionality as possible. The practice of mindfulness emerging from decades of tai chi enabled me to perform my regular activities at work and home as I got into the drug cycle. As my situation deteriorated, my understanding of the spiritual aspects of tai chi helped me take support when needed. I allowed family and friends to help me here and there. I didn’t feel bad, or at least too bad, when I had to take time to rest, sit down or nap in the midst of getting Thanksgiving dinner to a bunch of guests. I used the practical nature of the art form to build supporting devices like a stool with rollers to keep me cooking for the family. I used damn near every opportunity to learn just as we do when practicing the Taoist arts.
Tai chi is more than fifteen minutes of movement. It is a way of moving and relaxing with all movement and thoughts throughout the day. When the sciatic flared up, the tai chi form became something I was unable to perform. My tai chi practice became what it needed to. I learned from my condition and worked within my constraints to retain as much heath as possible. However, towards the end of the year, my movements became so restricted there were few options. Life is movement and thus my life was disappearing out from under me. I used the meditative aspects of tai chi to maintain my center and not get lost in the misery and suffering of pain or the side effects of the significant medications. Pain, disability and addiction are amazing teachers. And herein lies the art of tai chi. Opening ourselves what Master Moy told us, “to learn tai chi from anyone, even those who do not do tai chi.” Furthermore like the originator of tai chi did, Chang Seng-Feng, it is up to us to observe the nature of things, learn what we can, and most importantly apply it to our practice. Learning from our environment both internal and external and applying what we learn daily is the essence of tai chi.
Side note: I almost called this post “Suffering 8mm” but looking back any suffering along the way were stepping stones of discovery. Focusing on suffering is not the way or at least that’s not my experience of the Tao.
Mrs. Kwan, who worked with Mr. Moy and taught Tai Chi, Lok Hup, and Hsing-I, once commented about doing the “series of four” of Brush Knees, Monkeys, Cloud Hands and Parting Mane when a cold is coming on. It gets the circulation going well. So can a hundred Dan-yus. What if you combined them and added other repetitive moves?
Whether you practice Taoist Tai Chi, Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi, other internal or external arts the principle is the same. Interspersing a repetitive move with a foundation exercise is a power house to get things moving. Relative to Taoist Tai Chi, you can start with 18 Dan-yus. That’s not so bad. Then do a row of Strum the Pei Pa followed by 18 Dan-yus; Brush Knee & 18 Dan-yus; Repulse Monkey & Dan-yus; Cloud Hands & Dan-yus; and Parting Horse’s Mane & Dan-yus. Depending on how fast you perform the movements and how long the rows are, the circulation will be pumping in 10-30 minutes. In that time is 108 Dan-yus plus a lot of repetitive movements. It’s excellent to see how quickly people can fall into the stillness of the movements. If used as a warm up for the form or foundations, you can utilize the circulation to share details of the movements that normally get shared in workshop settings.
If you’re on your own keeping your practice going without the luxury of time to connect within a class setting, this idea is an excellent opportunity to explore old or newer corrections within different movements.