Yield, Absorb, Redirect, Harmonize
Dear Readers, Welcome to SC Musings, Blog 4
Returning from Australia, gushing with experiences and learnings, I paused. ‘Yield-Absorb-Redirect and Harmonize’ - the Tai Chi Slogan often repeated by Dr. Lam (2015.p.187) sounded within. Initially these were just words and slowly their meaning sunk in, as do the Tai Chi principles. Now let’s dig into the deeper meanings of these words.
When attacked physically or psychologically we tend to get into a flight or fight mode- flight is avoidance and running away; confrontation by lashing out is fight. Reactions may also be delayed, where hurts and anger are stored and used later. Many a time, flight and fight blend as shown later in a case study.
In Tai Chi, an internal martial art, Yield, Absorb, Redirect and Harmonize, refers to dealing with an incoming force. That is, when encountering an attack, the recipient yields- receives the force, senses it - absorbing it in the body, redirects or channels the force back to the attacker and then harmonizes or makes peace. Though it sounds complicated, the process, when demonstrated in a Tai Chi form is subtle, strategic, and intense.
Aruna encountered and absorbed both physical and emotional abuse, from the family she was married into for decades; numb, she continued living like an automaton, till she had had enough. One day she walked out of the marriage, eager to free herself from the negativity and shackles which tied her down. Yielding to and absorbing negativity, Aruna did not have the approach, knowledge, or tools to redirect or harmonize. Realization of her plight released pent-up pain and anger, which compelled her to retaliate through avoidance and flight. This case study of Aruna’s depicts the vulnerability of individuals in social situations. Rarely does society prepare and equip us adequately with the grounding and tools essential to redirect and harmonize.
Let’s now explore force and lay the foundation for understanding the incoming force. Force has been described by Aristotle:
“as anything that causes an object to undergo “unnatural motion”. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the first scientists to study gravity and force. Any kind of force is just a push or a pull. It can be described as a push or pull on an object”. (Byjus, 2024).
We will now understand the incoming force using the NG Holistic Model of a Human Being- Figure 4.2. This model captures the 6 layers and dimensions a human being is composed off, namely the physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioural, social, and spiritual respectively. Physical layer is our body, emotions are in the psychological layer and cognitive layer refers to thoughts, ideas, knowledge etc.; behavioural integrates the previous three layers and manifests in our communication and relationships, which are contained in the social layer; the transparent, invisible layer is the spiritual layer, which exists independently as energy and powers the other layers. Five elements in nature are represented by each of the layers as shown in Figure 4.2; they are given a colour based on their quality. The physical layer like earth is brown, while red is used for psychological layer, representing fire; cognitive layer is blue like water and behavioral, is yellow because it is visible; social layer in green is dynamic due to exchanges which happen in relationships and the transparent spiritual layer is colourless like air and ether.
Each of the above-described layers and dimensions has its unique type of energy- like physical layer has mechanical energy, chemical energy is present in emotions, cognitive layer has electrical energy, and the behavioral and social layers have a combination of the afore mentioned energies.
Energy is also referred to as force and as human beings, we are energy systems, comprised of different types and intensities of energy. The mystical characteristic of energy is that it can be experienced but is not visible.
So, we may surmise that as energy systems we impact each other in various ways and degrees. Only physical force/energy is manifested through actions. A person’s body language and impact on the others and the environment give but an indication of the presence of other types of energies. However, they can only be experienced, and are ineffable.
We now come to the main question- What then is the incoming force? In Tai Chi language the incoming force is from a physical attack. In social psychology it may be perceived as an attack and also as the subtle energies which emerge in communication and relationships between individuals.
Yielding and absorbing the force can be demonstrated using a Tai Chi form. Subtler and intangible forces need to be dealt with strategically and intentfully, which we will explore in SC Musings 5.
I request you, dear reader, not to get muddled with the concept of force. I did many a cognitive twirl before articulating it- take it slowly, read a few times and it will sink in!
Lam, P., & Bawden-Davis, J. (2015). Born strong: From surviving the great famine to teaching tai chi to millions [E-book]. Narwee, Australia: Tai Chi Productions.
Force. (2024). https://byjus.com/physics/force/
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