Chopping Your Food While Using Tai Chi Rooting, Alignment and Attentiveness
By Raven Cohan
Any mundane routine requires alignment. Those who study tai chi/taiji and chi kung/qigong and/or the more internal counterpart, called neigung, can discover many things along the path that is your Tao.
You begin to notice that you are not in your best learned alignment when doing your daily life performances of routine things. It becomes a blessing when you begin applying a better posture to everything you have previously done via an automatic pilot type of regimentation which may well be cluttered with stray and distracting thoughts and actions.
The eating of it will offer to you more health benefits by improving the food preparer’s attitude and posture. That will continue into the cooking. The food may not be genuinely alive in the sense that we think of when it is no longer rooted into Mother Earth. There remains a soul nature that the plant world maintains.
Some believe in it while others do not, (just as some believe that a part of a human continues after we die. Others do not.). This article is not intended to judge the right or wrong of one side of this opinion. However, some of those who study Tao speak of the part of the soul that “lives” in the Liver organ.
It is known as the ‘hun’ soul, while the part of the soul that does not “continue,” lives in the Lungs and is known as the ‘po’ soul. The author has experienced this understanding from a connection to spirit she has long been in touch with since childhood. Perhaps if you don’t resonate to that idea, you might still improve some techniques for cooking.
When one begins respecting life, whether it is human, animal, vegetable, and even mineral… one has an attitude of gratitude that can enhance your existence. When you are cooking attentively and thinking of the food in a grateful way, the author is of the opinion that the meal comes out tasting better and benefiting the body in a way that you become more sensitive toward and more easily notice.
The author herself has been a person (and can still revert to one) who curses when things go wrong. Chopping food requires a great deal of attention. That attention can be made more awakened and real to you if you are connected to the knife that chops as it slices and dices your food. (People who do sword forms might well relate.)
How are you holding the knife? Are you thinking of unrelated thoughts or listening to radio or TV, or are you on the phone? How can your food be given the attention it needs? If you curse when you cut yourself, or simply because the food slipped to the floor, this negative energy is around your rather sacred space that you might come to enjoy.
If you were to take on the task of cooking with a sense that you are making a better meal by being more alert and in a more joyful mood, consider the idea that your food might be enjoyed more by you and others who eat it. If a voice inside is objecting loudly, hold on for a bit to hear more points that will be made.
Your attention and attitude play a great part in how you are approaching your role as chief cook and possibly bottle washer, too. A better mood emerges simply by standing in bow and arrow stance, as done in most tai chi/taiji forms. It is a strong point to note that standing with your feet together too closely, (or even in a horse stance,) causes you extra tension. Your feet and legs are less likely to grab Mother Earth’s gravity with rooting power.
Let us review what you do in any ‘ward off’ motion in tai chi. (Newcomers can well get the picture by looking at the photo of the author supplied here.) Connecting with Mother Earth happens when you use martial art power most effectively transformed into healing power:
- Your back leg is behind you in a somewhat long stance with your own L. heel being lined up with your left eye if you are left handed. (the photo is showing the pose as required for lefties.) The knife would be held in the left hand. Right handed people, please reverse this and all further points.
- The toe of that back foot is rotated at a 45 degree angle between your side and front.
- Your belly, sternum, eye and your right hand is holding the food you are cutting up all lined up with your center.
- Your weight in your back Left leg is 30%. The front, Right leg has 70%. It connects down into the earth via your Kidney 1 point and brings up the plant world spirit. (This position is a variation of holding a small chi/qi ball, in my humble opinion. The way a ball in tai chi/taiji, is held comfortably is a facing of the back of the ‘ball’ with base of palm out and it’s fingers up. (L. hand) and front of the ball with your R. hand. It’s palm faces you with and its’ fingers to the L. (Please remember this must be reversed for ‘righties.’)
- To get the most relaxation and power into your knife, please, put the cutting board close to the edge of the counter. The first slice will be made, (certainly attentively,) while you feel the chi/qi power coming through your back leg from the foot up the inside and back of your leg and bring chi/qi to your L. front-of-hip-joint, as it shows in the photo.
- From there, the energy travels up your spine via the governor route, then it goes over your L. shoulder and down your upper L. arm and knife-holding hand. (The inside of the hand is quite empowered due to the laogong point being at palm center. It is projecting the Mother Earth qi/chi into your knife that is cutting straight into, let’s say… a cucumber.) Your cutting arm is round-in straight at a 135 degree angle or a bit smaller.
- The round-in-straight elbow points down to the floor. This is why you must stand enough of a distance away from the counter. If you have been previously tense when cutting food, this will change the tendency to tighten your chest when cutting or mixing food. Your shoulders and elbows of the front, food holding hand are also relaxed. Letting go of muscles is the key. It helps if you keep your all your shoulder and elbow joints down.
How many chops will you need? Maybe you might engage your mind in counting them. Counting them keeps you in rhythmic relationship with your food rather than jumping steps ahead in your cooking process.
Each slice you make projects the cut cucumber to fall nicely on the board. Successive cuts enable the chi to go into the food and enlist it to iterate the power of Mother Earth below. This will be especially true if you also engage Father Heaven, (Universal and/or Cosmic energy,) to co-join in a flirtation with your cucumber. Each slice can enjoy being attended to in this loving way. You may get a warm feeling in your belly, (lower tan tien,) as if you already ate the great meal you are making.
Like all chi kung/qigong practices, the more you do it, the smoother it gets. So please do not insist that the process should happen overnight. (Yet perhaps you were a cook in another life for a Taoist Monastery many years ago in Ancient China? Maybe it will feel totally natural to chop this way. In that case, you can write your own article through your own vantage point. We are all so unique.)
Apply this same process to mixing food on the counter or at the stove and in fact, every move you make in life. Your muscles won’t bully you and wind up aching anymore. Now your stomach will be hungrier, and the author would imagine you (and your dining companions) will have a meal which you will digest as easily as mother’s milk when you were just a baby.
The author reminds you that this pose shows a left push which is adapted as a cutting hand and right handed ward off hand which is now holding the food to be cut. Please use your imagination.
Raven Cohan is a Senior Instructor for Mantak Chia’s Universal Healing Tao system of internal practices and many medical and martial practices that consider the importance of Chinese Alchemy. She began in Chia’s first class given to Westerners in 1981 in N.Y.C. She resides and teaches in Hollywood Beach FL.,33019 between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Please look at her Web address: http://www.taoTLC.com