108 is considered the most valuable number in numerology, metaphysics and symbolism. But why is 108 so significant?
Among Eastern theologies, there is said to be 108 emotions, 36 of the present, 36 of the past and 36 of the future. In Hinduism there are 108 names for every god. In Buddhism there are considered to be 108 paths to god, and in contrast, 108 defilements or sins. Mantras are chanted 108 times, and 108 sun salutations are performed by Yogis on solstices and equinoxes. In Sanskrit there are 54 letters, each with a masculine and feminine form, making 108 characters. 108 represents the divine trinity of time: 1 symbolizes the singularity of the present, 0 the nothingness of the past, and 8 the infinity of the future. And as a meditative tool, 108 describes a simple pathway to a meditative state, as our awareness moves from 1 (the present), to 0 (nothingness) to 8 (the infinite whole).
Author – Ethan Indigo Smith
But these celebrations of 108 are just the tip of the theological iceberg.
The celestial orchestration of Earth, the Sun and our Moon is based on the divine proportional ratio of 108 — something that was appreciated by the ancients long before modern astronomers did the math. For instance, the diameter of the Earth at the equator is 7926 miles while the diameter of the Sun is about 108 times that: about 865,000. The average distance between the Earth and the Sun is 108 times the Sun’s diameter: 93,020,000 miles. The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 238,800 miles, about 108 times the Moon’s diameter: 2180 miles. Through this astronomical, divine and miraculous positioning, 108 is symbolic of celestial order and perfection.
Importantly, as a metaphysical symbol, 108 also represents the three main types of energy and movement in Yoga, meditative movement, Tai Chi and martial arts. In Chinese martial arts, acupressure, as well as Indian fighting techniques, there 108 main pressure points, and numerous forms of Tai Chi have 108 movements. In fact, one of the first yoga systems to be brought to the west, The Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation, contains 108 breath coordinated movements.
108 and the Flow of Moving Energy
108 symbolizes forms of movement, which is particularly applicable to meditative practices such as Tai Chi. 1 symbolizes linear movement, 0 symbolizes circular movement, and 8 symbolizes spiraling movement. There are circumstances in which one energy or another is more suitable, but in general the spiraling energy is the most powerful. Spiral movement is a combination of the masculine straight energy and the feminine circular energy. The combination of the two creates spiraling flow.
Most often, most people move in a linear fashion; we humans are very linear and upright beings. Imagine moving more relaxed and less extended and less linear, to integrate circular flow and remove the skips and stops that are sometimes present in linear movement. When we practice movement mindfully, in a slow manner, like in Tai Chi, we can relax and flow more easily without the stopping points that linear movement tends to result in. The smoothness of continuing circular movement has no stopping points, and thus allow our energy to flow through our movements. Circular movements are normally much more effective, and are certainly less likely to cause injuries when we get in our own way, and hurt ourselves by overextending.
The combination of straight and circular flow results in spiraling movements and energy. Spiraling energy is the highest form of energy in martial art because it tends to overwhelm opposition. Linear movements function in one direction. Circular movements can incorporate two planes of energy, or energy from two directions, or two planes. But a spiral is a combination of linear and circular energy and can act on three directional planes of the opposition, and is thus the most powerful and overwhelming to the sense of balance to the opposition. Spiraling energy integrates force that interacts with the plane we are facing as well as applying force to the vertical and horizon planes. The more circular and spiral potential we integrate into martial art, the more we are able to deal with force that would otherwise cause imbalance.
The three forms of energy — linear, circular and spiraling — are recognized in martial arts, but this understanding is certainly not limited to the application of force through martial arts. The idea that there is linear, circular, and spiraling movements is less theoretical and more vibrational. For instance, bacteria, which are subject to the same vibrations, form in the same manner as this aspect of 108. Bacteria can be found in three shapes; rod, (linear) cocci, (round) and spirillum (spiraling). The worst of the little nasties for we humans to deal with tends to be spirillum: the spiralling energy.
Along with linear, circular, and spiral movement and energy, there is also an unsaid fourth aspect; that of stillness. Tai Chi may be the practice of flow and moving dynamically, but one of the most potent practices of Tai Chi and Chi Gung is stillness. This is most frequently done in The Universal Pillar meditation position. Twenty minutes of stillness is as profoundly empowering as twenty minutes of dynamic movement.
To take advantage of this practice, apply the Tai Chi principles of relaxation, posturing and unlocked joints, mindfulness of knees being above the feet, standing still and relaxing as the tension is released. Hold your hands in front of you, palms facing you at about heart height in a relaxed position. Such dynamic stillness can be endlessly refined however in the beginning, we can note to relax shoulders, tuck the tailbone, and maintain knee alignment over the feet, not past the toes. Breathe in a relaxed manner and imagine smooth circulation of internal energy.
Twenty minutes of stillness is as profoundly empowering as twenty minutes of dynamic movement. And perhaps, in the same way that when we integrate a comprehension of stillness as well as the linear, circular and spiraling flow of energy into our physical movement, we can better deal with obvious oppositional forces — be it our opponents in martial arts or the imbalances that cause us injury in physical activity — we might also apply this concept to better deal with less obvious, near-invisible adversaries. If we integrate 108, stillness, and linear, circular and spiraling movement potentials into our daily lives, we can better deal not just with adversarial encounters but with whatever is thrown at us — be it intellectual, emotional, or metaphysical.
108 Steps to Be In The Zone
Want to learn more about the metaphysical relationship of 108, and how it can help you live “in the zone”? Check out Ethan Indigo Smith’s book 108 Steps to Be in The Zone.
In this work, Ethan provides a set of 108 meditative practices and steps toward self discovery and individual betterment, including techniques to develop balance, transmute sexual energy and better the self.
“Ethan’s work on meditation achieves a level of rarefied quality so necessary to metaphysical writing and teaching. The 108 Steps is simple and profound, and rich in details and analogies that bring the inner truths of diverse traditions into usefulness in the present time. Ethan’s writing… lays out a system that can be used beneficially to reveal one’s inner nature and the truths we all seek sooner or later.” ~ Laura Peppard, Founder and Director of the Reno Psychic Institute.
“108 Steps to Be in The Zone” is available here on Amazon.com.
About Ethan Indigo Smith:
Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Ethan’s work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humor.
You can connect with Ethan on Facebook, check out his author page on Amazon, or visit his websites, Geometry Of Energy and Meditation 108, where Ethan offers lessons on individuation, meditation, the conceptualization of energy, and the metaphysical significance of 108.