The Qi Spot
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
Okay, I coined this pun, the qi spot, in a previous post, and think it's so cute I want to use it again. But I have wanted to write about qi for some time, in any case. Only I honestly don't know much about it — so what's to say and who am I to say it?
Perhaps the best I can do, since I insist on discussing it, is to say: This is what qi means to me. Banal, but it'll have to do.
What I can say more generally about qi (chi) is that it is a major concept throughout the vast range of Chinese philosophy, that it has many meanings, and that it would take volumes for scholars to properly describe those meanings.
In the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi it is the wind blowing through the trees where it is translated into a great cacophony of different voices. It is the 'life force', the 'vital energy' by which things have life. And, in Chapter Four, it plays a central role in Zhuangzi's contemplative method, "the fasting of the mind". "But the vital force (qi) is an emptiness, a waiting for the presence of beings. The Course (Tao) alone is what gathers in this emptiness. And it is this emptiness which is the fasting of the mind." (Ziporyn)
Typically, qi is discussed in Chinese philosophy in metaphysical, primarily cosmological, terms. It is the stuff of the Universe. It gives us life. But for Zhuangzi it is "an emptiness", which is to say, he says nothing about it really. This is because it represents what cannot be spoken of. Yet we can access it by simply opening ourselves to it. To what? To emptiness. How? "Concentrate on the hollows of what is before you, and the empty chamber within you will generate its own brightness."
The qi spot is this empty chamber, which, of course, is no place at all. Look for the root of your being and you find only emptiness. Open yourself to this emptiness, be this receptive emptiness, and the radiance of unfixed wandering, of unmoored freedom, will ensue. Like Yan Hui, you will have discovered that "'myself' has never begun to exist."
Give it no name. Make it no substance. Do not render it ‘Truth’. Look for no purpose or meaning therein. "Just be empty, that's all." Just let it remain the emptiness that it is, and it will "generate its own brightness".
Pure experience, unexplained and unmediated, this, I think, is the way of Zhuangzi.
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.