Importance of Regulating the Emotional Mind 調心之要

According to traditional Chinese concepts, we have two minds, one is called “Xīn” (心) (i.e., heart or emotional mind) and the other is called “Yi” (意) (i.e., logical, rational, and wise thinking). Regulating the mind means using the Yì to regulate emotional disturbances (i.e., Xīn). When the Xīn is regulated, you can be calm and the Yì can be strong. Conversely, if the Xīn is disturbed and confused, the Yì will also be unsteady. In this case, the Yì will not be able to lead the Qì effectively.

Niàn (念) is a thought that lingers in your mind and that you cannot dismiss. For example, when you have an idea, it is a thought. However, if this idea continues to disturb your emotion, then it is a Niàn. “Niàntou” (念頭) means the initiation of the Niàn, that is the beginning of a new thought.

In order to stop the initiation of a new thought, first you must be calm both physically and mentally. When this happens, a peaceful mind will be generated. Only if you have a peaceful mind can the Yì be clear, concentrated, and strong. Naturally, with this clear Yì, you will not be confused.

In order to increase the concentration of the Yì, you must first regulate the Xīn. After the Xīn is regulated, you learn how to concentrate your Yì to a higher level. After you have reached a stage of using your Yì to lead the Qì without any effort, then you should practice raising up the spirit. In Tàijíquán, in order to lead the Qì strongly to support the physical manifestation, the spirit of fighting must be high. That means the sense of enemy is high and you are in a highly alert and aware state.

Thesis of Monkey Xīn and Horse Yì 心猿意馬論

In order to use a calm and concentrated mind to lead the Qì, you must first learn how to regulate your emotional mind. However, this is not an easy task. In Qìgōng practice, the emotional mind remains the main obstacle to progress. When you practice, you must be patient and proceed step by step to deal with the problem. That is why the first stage of meditation is called “self-recognition” (Zìshí, 自識). In this stage of meditation, the mask on your face drops off and you must face your true self. When this happens, the emotional mind becomes very active.

The second stage of regulating is called “self-awareness” (Zìjué, 自覺). In this stage, you begin to understand the problem of emotional bondage. The third stage is “self-awakening” (Zìxǐng, Zìwù, 自醒.自悟). In this stage, your rational mind has clearly derived an understanding of the emotional problem and is looking for a way of setting you free from the emotional bondage. The last stage is “freedom from emotional bondage” (Zìtuō, 自脫). These are the four stages of spiritual enlightenment in human life. Progressing through these stages will take a long time. 

During meditation, if the emotional mind continues to bother you, then you should pay attention to your breathing. Breathing is the banana. It is a treat for the body, and its way to calm down the emotional monkey mind.

The above is an abridged excerpt from Taijiquan Theory of Dr Yang 2nd ed: The Root of Taijiquan by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, publication date June 2023, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 9781594399022.