It’s all about the flow….
As a keen rugby fan I was watching the final game of the 6 nations as always and I witnessed something quite astonishing which got me thinking. For those who didn’t see it (or have no interest), basically what happened was that England were cruising at half time, leading by over 30 points and the game was seemingly over. However Scotland had other ideas and fought back to what was the greatest comeback in rugby history and the game ended in a draw. What has this got to do with Chinese medicine I hear you ask?
Well it occurred to me that sport, like life in general, is all about the ‘flow’. Now this may sound a bit ‘airy fairy’ (sorry fairies), as we in the West don’t really have the vocabulary to describe these things, but you can ask any keen sportsman and they will recognise a state of seemingly altered consciousness which they call ‘the zone’. This is a state where basically the mind and body are working in perfect unison and things can be achieved that were previously deemed impossible. From the temporary unbeatable table tennis player to the drunken pub pool game, many of us have experienced this ‘zone,’ where it feels like that we cannot loose. This is what was happening in the rugby game. In the first half England could do no wrong, in the second Scotland were in the zone. The commentators spoke at a great length about momentum and how it had shifted. But what is this momentum and how does is it shift?
Unfortunately there are no easy answers to these questions as the ‘zone’ is notoriously elusive. If I had the answers I would probably be a millionaire by now, however as always my mind comes back to Daoism, Chinese medical theory and Chi.
Chi is seen to flow through the body, out of the body and through the outside environment. It is a force of change and a conscious flow of information. Essentially when the Chi doesn’t flow we become sick. This is true internally, which can be treated with acupuncture as well as externally, which can be rectified through Feng Shui. The Daoists as always, took this further in that they also studied how things not only flow through space but also through time. Yin and Yang energy patterns fluctuate throughout the day, and across seasons and years. In fact there is a branch of Chinese medicine, known as Stems and Branches, that is primarily concerned with how the body is effected by its passage through time. However it was the Daoists attempts to change the experience of time that I find most relevant. Meditation techniques and practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong are partly to do with shutting down the ‘thinking’ part of the brain. The movements can be seen as a way of concentrating one part of your brain so another can shut off, giving rise to an altered experience of time.
This I feel is similar to the ‘zone’ that elite sports people can enter. A tennis player can be so focused on the ball that they no longer think about anything else and enter an altered state of awareness. Sport has been called ‘the Yoga of the West’ in that it is one of the most accessible way for the average person to experience a shift in consciousness. Team games, like rugby can take this idea further, in that there can arise a state of collective consciousness, where everyone gets in the zone together resulting in almost telepathic like abilities and experiences. I guess it does somehow all come down to flow in the end. Through our minds, through our meridian system, through the environment and between each other. So maybe the best thing to do is let go, go with the flow and see where it takes us.