While the tangible has advantages, it is the intangible that makes it useful.
-Tao teh Ching #11
Matter is defined as anything that has mass and takes up space. In order for matter to take up space, there must be space to take up. Since all matter contains the potential for energy, then there must also be space for energy to exist. The traditional chemical definition of energy is that is it what matter is not – in other words, it has no mass and takes up no space. This makes matter tangible and energy intangible. While matter is tangible and contains the potential for energy, it is the energy itself that is useful. And, by it’s definition intangible.
This comes from my background as a scientist, of course. When Ruby talked about it in his class, he put it in much simpler terms. He talked about such things as lumps of clay and rooms. A lump of clay is not very useful, except maybe as a door stop or a paper weight. But once a space is made inside it, now you can put anything you want in that space – pencils, water, food, paperclips. It becomes so much more useful because of that empty space. The same with a room. A room is only useful because of the empty space inside, that can be occupied by people or things.
This is a further illustration of the importance of being very yin, or empty, in the practice of Tai Chi. This was carried forward in the movement for this class, which was Cloud Hands. The idea behind Cloud Hands is to be as empty as possible, to only use as much energy as it takes to make the shape, and no more. This remains my favorite movement of the entire form. The lack of tension, and the rhythmic quality to it, is very meditative for me. And it’s a very good lead in for the next series of movement in the form, which are considerably more difficult.