Root and center are the keys to our physical stability. In Taijiquan we train to strengthen our root and refine our center. Root is our connection to the earth. Center is the area of the body that when a strong force is applied might cause us to lose our balance and thereby destroy our root. Untrained people have a very large and unrefined center. If you push untrained persons on the shoulder, it is likely you will uproot them.
Taijiquan training enables us to refine our center to make it firm and less vulnerable to outside forces. With practice, we can refine our center to a point in the lower abdomen. Push such trained persons anywhere else and you will not find their center and not be able to uproot them. Some are able to hide their center even when pushed directly on the lower abdomen. Training on bricks enables even more refinement of the center.
The upper and lower Dan Tians are the keys to our energetic center. When you train to keep your mind focused there, you will be able to conserve and increase your Qi. If you want to learn more about this process, see Dr. Yang’s book on Embryonic Breathing.
Preserving and nurturing our spirit requires that we strengthen our spiritual root and refine our spiritual center. Let’s say that our spiritual center is our sense of self: who we are and how we behave; recognition and awareness of our self-worth; recognition and acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses; and setting and pursuing our goals for self-development to build on our strength and reduce our weaknesses. For example, a person with an unrefined center, when called a “moron”—let’s say it’s the verbal equivalent of a push on the shoulder–might become unbalanced and lose his center and root. He might feel hurt and cry. He might feel anger and lash out.
A person with a refined center will not be unbalanced and uprooted by such a remark. A person with a refined sense of self-worth and strengths, might react with an internal voice that says “nonsense, I’m no moron!” He won’t feel the need to verbally counter-punch or even reply with a dismissive gesture. Alternatively, the internal voice may say, “true, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I am aware of my weaknesses and have learned to accept them.” It is even possible that the internal voice might say, “yes, I am no moron, but I just did something that could be called moronic and I should make amends.” In that case, the person with a refined center will make amends and feel no loss of center by so doing.
Next strengthening the spiritual root.