Wu-ji zhuang – the practice of change through stillness.

Standing Meditation – certification seminar with Shifu Niall O Floinn.

I’ve made those notes 5 years ago after experiencing completely new sensations during standing meditation practice. I’m not saying how or what one should do or feel in order to make this practice as close to traditional teachings, rather offer another perspective on different stages of development and changes to one’s perceptions. For me, standing meditation was characterised by “milestones” – sometimes dramatic changes in conscious understanding of practice and myself, other times changes in the body (accompanied by shifts in perception). As far as my knowledge of literature doesn’t mention as dramatic changes but rather natural, progressive unveiling along the way of the practice (which is still the case for myself, I believe), it’s worth remembering that they may happen. And whilst they do, maybe some of my blog entries will allow others to open up to those changes to happen, trusting that they’re part of the process rather than unwanted mistakes. 

In early January  the weather doesn’t favour outdoor activities despite that I went for a short drive towards Spiddal.  Upon my arrival to the harbour the wind has picked up greatly, waves battering the shore and stone made harbour. Walking on its walls has prove sometimes challenging as the gusts were powerful enough to put me out of balance, clinging close to the walls edge I came down from the wall and went on the nearby beach to embrace elements. As I walked I felt an urge to do little bit of Tai Chi; after all it is a perfect spot for that! I started with the warm up, making sure I’ll do it up the tempo to get myself warm while swinging the torso side to side with my arms loose I used wind as my partner. Carrying on I went to do Peng Lu and Peng Lu Ji An and that’s when I realize how the windy conditions offered a subtle resistance making simulation of practicing with invisible opponent (or rather partner). The words of Niall from few years back came to me as he explained how the movement of Tai Chi resembles movement in the water. Your limbs in water feel light yet moving them within it, requires some effort that when applied correctly makes movement smooth and efficient. My stance had to be low in order to keep my balance that has also offered me an extra heat. I’ve made many more repetitions as I felt that wind could quickly cool me down. There was enough flat space to perform Laojia so I got ready standing with my legs close together, initial warm up has made them heavy as I’ve lifted left leg to start the form,  that heaviness felt different than usual.  In that moment I’ve changed my mind and discontinued the form instead I went to do standing Zhan Zhuang.  I think that standing is one of most difficult part in Tai Chi practice as a beginner legs are getting wobbly just after few minutes, same for the arms and the shoulders, shortly after starting they feel tense and unpleasantly sore. In my practice I’ve avoided it as long as it was possible after all it is easier to move,  the body will find the way to avoid pain when practicing the Form, making the necessary adjustment without you even realizing it. Here in standing everything is exposed, every weakness, tension, muscle imbalance, postural compensations; you name it. Hence standing offers an easier opportunity to notice for yourself and feel those “imbalances” and act on them.  Just after starting my conscious mind wants to be in control of the posture so I’m checking everything what I’ve learned so far from Shifu Niall and Master Wang Haijun – feet shoulder width apart, knees over the feet, loose hips and so on. Few minutes in and I started felling the usual discomfort, mostly in the shoulders, some burning in the quads and few other little twinges. Again my mind tried to react and fine tune to those by slightly extending my arms further forward, bringing them closer again, shifting my weight from outside of the feet to the middle and all the way inside and so on. Nothing seemed to work so I just stud there with thought to do it for as long as I can. Wind was ferocious and waves were breaking down loudly on the rocks, my attention started to turn from inwards to outwards, breathing became slower and deeper as weight grounded itself into the soft sand underneath me. I allowed the natural flow to take over accepting the present moment to be as it is with all the sensations coming from outside and inside. Suddenly my body started to respond to this state of mind, I’ve noticed spontaneous changes happening naturally without my control, it was as the body itself knew  how to find the optimal position. My head sitting on top of the rib cage, arms comfortably extended in front of me started to generate intense heat, no more pain in the shoulder, vertebras in the spine felt like they opened up  and the space between them increased ever so slightly. Each breath felt like is filling up my entire self, expanding every tissue. Everything seemed connected; the dantian became warm and the qi energy flow become clear to me for a brief moment until unexpectedly something disturbed my practice.  I opened my eyes and saw two dogs playing joyfully around me, one already sniffing my leg so I decided to pet him on the head in case he’s taking me for a tree!  I’ve lost the tack of time but it was definitely the longest standing done by me.  It felt like all the work done so far has been rewarded with this new experience. Since then I started to do standing more often and noticed that it became easier not only for the body but also for the mind to relax.