Monday, November 28, 2016

More About the Eight Core Skills Part 3 - Expand - Compress

More About the Eight Core Skills  
Part 3 - Expand - Compress
The third Core Skill - Expand and Compress means the ability to enlarge and shrink or condense one’s entire posture, including all the joints and cavities and most especially the spinal column. In order to perform this, we will have already had to ‘Hardwire’ the joints, cavities and spinal vertebra to the spherical expansion and compression of the low Dan Tien. In addition to all that, we will also include all the muscles of the body, stretching them outward from the low Dan Tien or Centerpoint - Expand, and then ‘stretching’ them inward, from the extremities into the low Dan Tien - Compress. 
This inward and outward ‘stretching’ manifests in two forms, generally depending on the family style of Taiji we are practicing as well as the level of experience we have attained. At the beginning, this method will be fairly apparent as each posture will appear to slightly grow as we open and shrink as we close. But later the process becomes far more internal such that the postures don’t appear to have changed in size at all. But this is actually an illusion because the expansion and compression or condensation is still fully happening. Although very difficult to see, the results are easy for an opponent to feel during applications of the various types of Jing.
The third Core Skill - Expand and Compress has its root in the Taiji Classics. “When one part moves, all parts move...” and “If the Yi wants to move upward, it must simultaneously have intent downward.”
This brings us to the 6 directions of Stretching and Compressing. They are, emanating from our center, Vertical (up and down) Horizontal (to the front and to the back) and Lateral (to the left side and to the right side.) When we can Stretch and Compress from, and to our Centerpoint, working all six directions simultaneously, we are essentially creating the beginnings of a Spherical expansion and condensation. However, true Spherical Expanding and Condensing not only includes the 6 directions, but also an almost infinite number of other angles which go into the making of a Sphere. 
In order for the novice to begin mastering this Core Skill, I advise using the technique known as ‘Snaking,’ that is, moving like a snake. This is where each of the segments of a snake’s body undulate, one after another in a linked, flowing sequence. This also means our whole body is acting in unison, either expanding or compressing. This is the first stage. 
Let’s take the posture An or Push as our example. Compression: Start from the tips of the fingers and stretching inward, condense the fingers into the knuckles of each hand. Next condense the back of the hands and the palms into the wrists. This will create a ‘Tile’ hand or hollow palm. (Like a Chinese roof tile.) From there, condense the wrist and stretch the muscles of the forearm back into the elbow. Now condense the elbow joint while stretching the muscles of the upper arms back into the shoulders. Next, close and compress the shoulders inward toward the shoulder blades using the Teres muscles. Finally, stretch the shoulder blades and the Rhomboid muscles further inward until you feel them linking to the spine. Please note, while working from the shoulder into the spine also feel the muscles of the chest condense and stretch upward and inward to the breast bone centerline. This is the basic procedure for connecting the fingers and hands to the spine and centerline of the chest.
Expansion: First release the chest and upper back muscles downward, then relax them outward, stretching the Rhomboids to move the shoulder blades apart, then using the Teres muscles in back and the Pectoralis Minor muscles in front, open and expand the shoulder joints. Next, stretch and lengthen the upper arm muscles down to the elbow. Open the elbow joint and stretch and lengthen the forearm muscles down and out to the wrists. Lastly, open the wrist joints while stretching the muscles of the hand back out to the fingertips. This is the basic procedure for connecting the spine to the fingers.
Next perform the same procedure for the lower body, going from the toes and feet to the ankles, up through the knees, hips, Kua and low Dantien and then back out again to the feet. Once these two procedures (upper and lower body) are mastered separately, they must then be performed simultaneously, remembering to extend the upper body condensation down through the lumbar and Ming Men regions in back and the upper and lower abdomen in front. Although this will not be easy at first, it is certainly worth the effort, the results yielding more powerful Jing for martial arts and greatly enhanced circulation for better health. So to sum this up, eventually whole body condensation begins from the extremities (feet & hands, Baihui & Huiyin) and goes into the low Dan Tien, while whole body expansion goes from the Low Dan Tien out to the extremities. 
Once we have mastered the Snaking or segmented way of compressing and expanding, its time for stage two, Now all the joints, cavities, sinews, muscles and bones compress and expand simultaneously, each to their unique proper proportion or frequency. When done correctly we will have embodied an important part of the Taiji Classics in our form. “When one part moves, all parts move...” 
Later, when stage two is fully mastered, we can then move through our form using stage three. In stage three we create the actual state of Tai Ji within our body,’ that is, half the body is Yin - condensing, while the other half is Yang - expanding. Of course in our Taiji form the Yin and Yang parts of the body will be constantly exchanging as we move through all the postures and transitions. This is actually the modus operandi of Taiji fighting - where the Yin condensing half of the body intercepts and neutralizes the opponent’s attack while the Yang expanding half simultaneously issues Jing, striking the opponent’s vital points. Once again it is important to note that this idea of half Yin and half Yang is already embedded in each of the Taiji movements.
Let’s take ‘Brush Knee and Twist Step’ as our example. We’ll use the first Brush Knee in the form where the left leg is forward and the right palm strikes. Imagine that your opponent attacks with a right body shot or front kick. As the strike extends, our left hand/forearm intercepts and guides the strike or kick beyond our left side. This must also include the left side condensing from the hand and foot into the low Dantien which causes the opponent’s weapon to ‘stick’ to our hand or forearm. While all this is happening on the left side of the body, our right side simultaneously expands from the low Dan Tien out to the right foot and palm, striking the opponent’s left chest just to the outside of his left nipple. This is Tianchi point (P-1) a powerful Tieh Hsueh point which can disturb the Heart’s rhythm and may induce a ‘martial heart attack.’
In the final segment we will examine the fourth Core Skill - Twist and Release, which combines all the previous skills plus the spiral or silk-reeling power so often seen in the Chen family style of Taijiquan.

Friday, November 11, 2016

More About the 8 Core Skills - Pt. 2 Open-Close

More About the Eight Core Skills 
Part 2 - Open - Close

Open and Close is one of the often misunderstood Core Skills. The idea of opening and closing the joints and cavities or Kai/He in Chinese, has to do with the ability to control changes in pressure. This changing of pressure is both a physical and energetic action.

Physically we learn to alter the pressure and eventually even the amount of Synovial fluid in the joints. Synovial fluid is what ‘pads’ the joints, giving them their springlike quality. It is important to note that Open and Close is often intimately linked with the third Core Skill - Expand and Compress or Condense, especially for the novice. 

In terms of the Cavities - Abdominal, Solar plexus and Chest - physically, pressure regulation largely involves the third Core Skill - Expand & Compress. But energetically it’s a different story. Once one has control of the low Dan Tien, that is, the ability to expand and condense it, thus regulating the concurrent volume of Qi, then, using spherical breathing, one is able to inflate and condense the cavities energetically as well as physically.

The actual manifestation of Opening and Closing is rather small and often difficult to see - although the experienced practitioner can feel a clear pressure differentiation. In addition to the center of each joint, Close and Open utilizes the attachments of the related muscles, tendons and ligaments to condense the joint (Closing) and then expand it. (Opening) By attachments I mean the places where the Sinews join or attach to the various related bones.

To get a feel for this, try squeezing (tightening) all the muscles around your elbow. This of course is a gross over-simplification, but it will give you the general idea. To get this to work, you must also contract the upper forearm muscles toward the elbow while simultaneously doing the same with the lower part of the upper arm muscles. This will give a basic feel of closing the joint. In order to Open, simply reverse the procedure and stretch (lengthen and expand) the same muscles away from the joint. For other training methods and a more detailed explanation, check out the book Inside Zhan Zhuang, Pg. 278-283.

What happens with new learners is that at first they must use the bellies of the muscles in addition to the attachments. In a sense this is actually a combination of Close-Open and Compress-Expand. Although this is many times how these skills are used in application, for experienced hands, Closing and Opening by itself is mostly an internal process of changing Qi pressures. For this advanced method to work, the dedicated practitioner must have fully ‘Hardwired’ all the joints and cavities to the spherical expansion and condensation of the low Dan Tien. 

In order to apply the second Core Skill to your Taiji movements, try this: choose the endpoint or finish of any posture. This will be your ‘Open’ position. Let’s take Double Hand Peng for example. Stand at the finish of the posture, then in order to ‘Close,’ while slowly exhaling, contract or condense each of the joints and cavities from the extremities into the low Dan Tien. This will cause the posture to very slightly ‘shrink,’ but with all the alignments still intact. From there, simply inhale from the low Dan Tien out to the extremities. This will cause the posture to ‘Open.’ This method is known as ‘Pulsing the Joints’ and is usually mastered by using many individual repetitions similar to a Qigong exercise. Of course you will need to train this with every posture as well as each transition. After enough experience one is able to Close and Open all the joints and cavities simultaneously, in concert with the condensation and expansion of the low Dan Tien. Also, it is important to remember that Open and Close as well as the other Core Skills, Expand and Compress and Twist and Release are actually already ‘embedded’ within each of the Taiji movements.

In the next installment we will examine the third Core Skill - Expand and Compress which, along with Open and Close will provide a concrete method of expressing powerful Jing as well as generating a vastly increased degree of circulation which tremendously benefits one’s health.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More About the Eight Core Skills 
Part 1 - Soften & Connect 

The 8 Core Skills basically consist of sets of opposite actions - Open/Close, Stretch/Compress, Twist/Release. The one exception is the first skill - ‘Soften & Connect’ in which the two actions function more like fusion rather than fission. These skills are actually part of the Nei Gung system found in genuine Taijiquan (as well as the other Internal Martial arts like Bagua, Liu He Ba Fa and Xing Yi.) Once mastered, these skills become the physical motivation/delivery system for the transmission of the various compound bio-electromagnetic energies, in other words, the different types or forms of Qi.

Of all the 4 sets of skills, the first one, Soften & Connect is by far the most important and here’s why. Without the ability to connect and unify the entire body as if it were one big piece, whole body movement movement simply isn’t possible. Also, and perhaps even more importantly, hidden within the first Core Skill is the royal highway which eventually leads to SUNG or SONG. 

Once a relative degree of Sung is achieved, then and only then does it become possible to competently execute the other Core Skills. This achievement (the acquisition of Sung) is the first threshold or gate through which each practitioner must pass in order to be able to apply the over 40 types of Jing available in Taijiquan applications.

So what is Soften & Connect really? Well, for one thing it is the primary modus operandi (method of operation) of Zhan Zhuang, Standing Meditation. Soften & Connect or more accurately RELAX, Soften & Connect is what begins to happen during a Zhan Zhuang session if we go about training correctly. In order to do this we start with the most exterior parts of the body and then gradually progress inward until we include the deepest structural muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, We are especially interested  in making contact with the sinews having to do with the spine and each of the spinal vertebra. These tissues hold the spine erect as well as allow it to extend and compress as well as to twist and fold.

Let’s take the upper back as an example. Please note that this procedure is actually rather complicated when viewed mentally. But if we hold to our center as is recommended during Zhan Zhuang meditation, the body itself will help facilitate many of these connections and unifications.

So we start with the most superficial muscles of the upper back. These will include the Trapezius, Infraspinatus, Teres Major and Minor and the Deltoid. After relaxing these muscles in order to ‘soften’ them, we then must proceed to the next deeper level. These muscles include the Levator Scapulae and the Rhomboids, Major and Minor. For a still deeper level we must finally add the Intercostal muscles. (The muscles connecting the ribs to each other and in part to the spinal vertebra.

Realistically, this procedure must then be applied throughout the entire body, from head to toe. And this is just the muscles. From there we must become acquainted and work with all the tendons and ligaments. Deeper still we encounter the bones themselves as well as the bone marrow housed in the center of each. At the same time we become aware of the bone marrow deep within the bones, we may also become aware of our Zhang Fu or the Internal Organs. This will also include the brain and the glands. Of course this accomplishment generally takes many years of dedicated and correct practice.

The idea of the ‘connect’ part of Relax, Soften & Connect is a little more difficult to explain. Of course physically the muscles do not actually alter their shape or anything, other than what happens when the muscles naturally relax their tension and ‘soften,’ but energetically something very different happens. We literally begin to feel that more and more of our muscles and muscle groups are somehow joined or fused to one another such that when we breath or move, all our muscles function simultaneously, in unison as though they are one complete unit - like a single-celled biologic or in Taiji like a big round ball moving. And of course this... is Sung!

In the next installment we’ll examine the other 3 pairs that make up the remainder of the 8 Core Skills and how they work and also how to train them both for inclusion in a Taiji form as well as for martial application.

The photo is an example of Ying Zhuang - Eagle Stance

Saturday, September 10, 2016

New Translation of Mr. Wang Xiang Zhai’s classic work, “The Correct Path of Yiquan”

Below is a link to a new translation of Mr. Wang Xiang Zhai’s classic work, “The Correct Path of Yiquan” (1929) by Mr. Paul Brennan. Although there have been other translations, most about 15 or so years old, IMHO Mr. Brennan’s is by far the most in depth and dare I say, accurate. 
I’ve compared the earlier versions with Brennan’s translation word for word, and it turns out the early versions use a fair amount of word and phrase substitution in order to “make more sense” in english. 
While these changes do convey important parts of the intended meaning, the precision of Brennan’s work has provided me new and deeper insights into both Zhan Zhuang and the Internal Martial Arts. 
Definitely worth the read!


Friday, September 2, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Interview: Zhan Zhuang, Qigong & Tai Chi for Stress Management

For anyone who uses Zhan Zhuang, Qigong or Tai Chi for Stress Management, here is an interview I did recently which may give you some new or additional methods to increase the effectiveness of 'decompressing' and rebalancing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

How to Generate Internal Power - The Myofascial Connection

HOW TO GENERATE INTERNAL POWER - The Myofascial Connection
In Zhan Zhuang and indeed in all the internal martial arts, one of the most important essentials is the awareness and control of our body’s Myofascial (muscle/fascia) core system. Why? Because this is where much of our internal power actually comes from. I’m speaking of the linkage of certain muscles from the head down through the feet. This Myofascial connection is a physical reality. Employing the first of the 8 Core Skills - Soften/Connect - we initially master awareness of this physical network and then its entire linkage. Following that, we learn to utilize the other 6 Core Skills to control this Myofascial core system in order to generate internal power, either for martial arts or healing. The 6 other Core Skills are: Open/Close - Stretch/ Compress - Twist/Release. The short video presentation below by Sifu Steve Rowe of the UK is an excellent Western explanation of the reality of our internal Myofascial connection and its inherent ability to generate internal power. Well worth watching! 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Zhan Zhuang for Tai Chi 2 - Single Whip - High Pat On Horse

This technique uses Dan Pien (Single Whip) to intercept an outside punch, or an inside punch or the start of double punch - instantly joined with the coiling, seizing and plucking of Gao Tan Ma (High Pat On Horse) while simultaneously delivering a devastating blow to the throat or side of neck with the other hand. This is actually a Tai Chi "battlefield' technique where the opponent is violently pulled into the strike for maximum damage.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Zhan Zhuang for Tai Chi Applications - Repulse Monkey

ZHAN ZHUANG for TAI CHI Applications - Repulse Monkey
By using modified Zhan Zhuang postures based upon Tai Chi movements, we can greatly improve the power and effectiveness of our martial applications.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Zhan Zhuang Cooling & Clearing Exercises Pt. 2

The second method of the Zhan Zhuang Cooling & Clearing exercises focuses less on the physical and more on the energetic elements. This method uses the palm to guide the Qi along various meridians away from the Central Channel and out the extremities. The palms can be used individually or in a continuous repetitive manner, one after the other, especially on the front of the body. (Chest and Abdomen) These motions have the effect of both smoothing out blockages and venting excess heat. The same lines as with the patting/tapping method are used, but with more specificity. 

First place your left elbow, forearm and palm roughly parallel to the ground with the shoulder completely relaxed. Then, starting from the top of the left shoulder, use the right palm to brush down the arm all the way to the finger tips and then an inch or two beyond. It is important to extend the motion slightly beyond the body so any tainted Qi or excess heat can be fully expelled. 

Also, there are three pressures that can be used; moderate contact throughout the route, light contact and near contact. The last method necessitates are certain degree of sensitivity to the Qi. The idea is to brush a millimeter or two above the skin throughout the route. When done correctly there’s a tingling sensation along the pathway. And when the Qi from the palm is particularly robust, the hair on the arm may stand on end, sort of like what people call ‘Goose Bumps’ or out here in Hawaii, ‘Chicken Skin.’ 

While it is possible to cover the entire arm with each pass, a far better result is achieved by dividing the arm into its composite meridians. Start with the Large intestine meridian, followed by the Triple Heater and Small Intestine meridians. Do each three times.

Next, turn the forearm over so the palm faces up and brush down the Heart, Pericardium and Lung meridians. Note: If you feel a lot of movement of Qi or heat  in any particular meridian you may want repeat until you feel an sense of evenness or cooling.

Brush down the same five lines as with the patting/tapping method. They are the centerline (Ren meridian) the left and right Stomach meridians and the left and right Spleen meridians. (See Part 1 for locations) With the Brushing/Guiding method the chest and abdomen are linked. Start from right below the clavicle and brush all the way down to the level of the pubic bone on each pass.

In addition to all the above, there are two other techniques which involve clearing blocked energy in the diaphragm and/or Hypochondrial region. Blockages in this area are often the result of stagnant Liver Qi.

Method 1 - Place both palms on the left side of the body near the low ribs. Brush toward the centerline following the bottom of the ribcage. Continue past the Solar Plexus and out to the right side of the body. Slightly accelerate and increase pressure as you finish each repetition. Repeat 6-12 times for the left side of the body then start again beginning on the right.

Method 2 - Place your palms on both sides of the body at about the level of the low ribs and then brush along the bottom of the ribcage toward the centerline and then down the left and right Stomach channels to the pubic bone. Repeat 9-12 times. Slightly accelerate and increase pressure on the descending part of the motion.

If there is headache or unusual pressure in the head, we can utilize some massage to mediate the issue. The main points for this include GB-20 Feng Chi (Wind Pool, Wind Gate) and GV-16 Feng Fu (Wind Mansion.) Notice that both names contain the word ‘Wind,’ which in Chinese Medicine is considered a primary cause of headache. Wind in the head is usually derived from excess heat or fire that generates Wind (as does an actual bonfire) which then rises (into the head.) For Feng Chi point use both thumbs, one for each side. For Feng Fu try the index and middle finger of one or both hands. Use a small circular motion that every so often firmly descends down the neck. Both points can be effective for draining excesses in the head. Note: Be sure to avoid pushing solely in an upward direction toward the skull and brain. 

Depending on the location of the problem, one can also use a firm pressing pattern starting at the inside of the eyebrows (Zan Zhu Bl-2) rubbing outward through Taiyang point (temples) over in front of the ears and then down through the lower jaw. An alternative route branches from in front of the ears and goes up and around the ear, then downward, following the bone to the neck. For these methods, the tips of the middle fingers are often used, either with a firm steady pressure or small clockwise circles. A firm type of pressure is indicated in order to disperse and break up the ‘excess’ condition of which this type of issue almost always is.


One blockage that can also occur in the neck area is known as ‘Plum Blossom Qi which manifests at the base of the throat as a feeling of something being stuck there or difficulty swallowing. The remedy for this is Tiantu point CV-22. Rest your index finger on the bone at the bottom of the throat notch so that you can feel your windpipe with your fingertip. Now carefully push down behind the bone but in front of the windpipe. Gradually keep pushing downward until your finger wants to stop. From there, inhale and exhale, then remove your finger. Be careful not to push down too deep or too hard or you’ll start to cough. Also, know that if you mistakenly push directly into the windpipe with any strength, you’ll almost certainly make yourself cough. So be careful and go easy ‘till you know how you handle it.  Stimulating Tiantu point in this manner often clears the feeling of something being caught in the throat quite quickly.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Zhan Zhuang Cooling & Clearing Exercises Pt. 1

After a long Zhan Zhuang session such as holding one posture for more than an hour or going through a particularly grueling set of individual postures, once in a while it happens that there can be some sense of discomfort, pressure or pain that manifests somewhere in the body. There are two basic causes for this. One is external, relating to muscle pain and the like. The other is internal, having to do with the movement of Qi and blood or the lack thereof. These sensations may occur either during or after a session.

Normally this sort of reaction tends to occur within the first few years of training, but it can occasionally happen even after many years of practice. For those experienced hands with 10, 20 or more years of Zhan Zhuang training under their belt, dispersing unwanted accumulation or rebellious Qi is usually a simple matter of changing point of focus. This can be as easy as moving one’s intention and focal point from the low Dan Tien to the palms and the soles of the feet for a few minutes at the end of a session.  This is possible because after extensive Zhan Zhuang training, the Qi can be guided solely with one’s intention. A basic Wuji posture with palms parallel to the ground is often used for this method.

However, for those with less experience who have not yet gained this achievement, additional physical methods will prove most helpful. The first of these is called the Pounding, Patting or Tapping Method. This technique involves using different parts of one’s fist to hit along certain meridians from the torso out to the extremities. This helps to ‘order’ and guide the Qi in a very concrete way. Before you start, rest both palms, one on top of the other - on the low Dan Tien/Navel area for a minute or two to transfer energy to your hands. After that, rub your palms together vigorously for a few moments and then begin.

For the neck, first press the tongue to the roof of the mouth and close the jaws firmly. This is to protect the brain. Now, using the flat part of your right fist, pat down the left side of the neck from just below the skull through the Sternocleidomastoid muscle to the top of the shoulder. Do this 3 times then switch sides and repeat. Use moderate to light hits only. When in doubt, better to err on the side of caution and keep things rather light ‘till you know how you’ll react. 

Pain or some other form of discomfort can often be experienced in these areas both during and/or after a Zhan Zhuang session. To help move out the lactic acid that can accumulate in the muscles and unblock the Qi, use the bottom of your right fist to pat your left side from the top of the shoulder, down along the upper arm, elbow area and forearm, down to the wrist. (Hold your forearm roughly parallel to the ground for these patterns.) Do this pattern 3 times, then switch sides and repeat. Note: If you like, you can change from the bottom of the fist to the knuckles of your fingers for the forearm area only. This will provide stronger stimulation.

Next, using the top part of your right fist (Tiger’s Mouth) pat from your left armpit down along the underside of the upper arm, elbow area and forearm, down to the wrist. Do this 3 times, then switch sides and repeat.

For this area use the flat part of your right fist to pat down your left chest to the abdomen. Do this three times and then repeat on the other side. Sometimes you may which to use 2 lines on each side instead of just one. In that case, the first line starts just below the center of the clavicle (Stomach Meridian) and the second in the hollow of the shoulder’s nest. (Lung/Spleen Meridian) Next, using either one hand or both, pat down your centerline (Ren meridian) from just below the throat notch, down past the diaphragm and onto the abdomen. Note: You can also start with the centerline and then progress outward to the Stomach and Spleen meridians - and each of these three patterns may also be extended all the way down to the level of the low Dan Tien.

We can divide the abdominal region into 5 lines. Two on the left, two on the right and one in the center. The two sets of left and right lines fall (1) about 2 inches from the centerline and (2) about 3 1/2 inches from the centerline. (where the Rectus Abdominus meets the Obliques.) Start with the centerline - pat with the flat part of the fist from the Solar Plexus down to just above the pubic bone. Note: You may also choose to utilize both fists in an alternating manner. Next, use the line two inches from your centerline (Stomach Meridian) and repeat the same procedure. Lastly, use the outermost line (Spleen Meridian) and follow the same procedure.

The lower body procedure requires a fair degree of flexibility. (If you have issues with your lower back or lower extremities, it is best to skip this section.) The basic procedure is simple. Pat down from the side of the hips, down to the ankles. (Gall Bladder Meridian) Next, pat down from the top of the thighs (Biguan point St-31) to Jiexi point (St-41) at the front of the ankle. (Stomach Meridian) Next, hit down the inside line from just below the inguinal crease down to the ankle.(Spleen and Liver Meridians) A final option is to also hit down the back line, from the sitting bones, down through the hamstrings and calves. (Bladder Meridian)

To finish out the Pounding-Patting-Tapping method return your focus to the Dan Tien/Navel area. Then, pat this area 36 times. Finally, use your palms to rub the same area 36 times in a circular manner. After that, walk around slowly for a couple of minutes. All this helps the body to smoothly transition back to the normal activities of daily life.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Excerpt from Inside Zhan Zhuang - Entering The Void

"When one achieves a considerable amount of genuine relaxation, it sometimes happens that they experience a ‘time warp,’ a sort of space/time distortion. Wang Xiang Zhai called it entering the Void. 

The Void is a Buddhist term, Taoists call it Emptiness. The word void is a little bit of a misnomer in that it means ‘without contents or empty.’ This can be taken to refer to structure or form as we know form, meaning empty of things we can grasp with the mind. 

There is an intrinsic difficulty in describing something that is beyond the ken of the mind. Using words, images and mental constructs can only convey an echo of the real thing. After all, we’re speaking of experiences in pure beingness, beyond our natural boundaries of time and space. 

But the fact that there is nothing ‘recognizable,’ doesn’t mean that this state is inert. On the contrary, in one sense, these states of higher awareness are constantly in motion, only in present time

This means we don’t have the usual linear reference points by which to measure our experience, let alone time or space. But even so, we can still have a knowingness. The first awareness of this sort usually occurs after the fact.

For example, we think we’ve been standing for 15 or 20 minutes, but when we check the time, it turns out to be closer to 40 or 50 minutes. When this occurs, it feels like our blood sparkles like champagne and we’re filled with vitality.

Some of the other signs may be the absence of thought and even emotion, little or no awareness of the physical body combined with the sense of perceiving and being part of the subtle nonphysical energies. Also, there may be a calmness or peacefulness that seems to pervade the depth of our being."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year

Wishing Blessings & Success to Everyone in this year of the 2016 Fire Monkey.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

An Aid to Postural Assembly of Zhan Zhuang Stances

An Aid to Postural Assembly of Zhan Zhuang Stances

When entering into any Zhan Zhuang posture there are six locations that require a specific action in order to generate the best results. (See Diagram) These locations; the Perineum, the left and right Kua, the left and right Shoulder’s Nest, and the Throat Notch all must be slightly withdrawn or pulled in. The Chinese phrase for this is translated more like ‘pressed’ or ‘pressed in.’ 

In order to know what this should feel like, try a simple experiment. With your left arm hanging at your side, put the fingers of your right hand on your left Shoulder’s Nest and press, that is, push the tissues slightly toward the back. Now inhale and exhale into the upper back and feel how the back muscles respond. Now raise your left arm into ‘Hold The Ball’ posture and repeat the same procedure. The same technique should also be done with each Kua. (Because of their physical location, both Kua can also be done simultaneously.) 

For the throat notch, use a single finger and once you feel the throat withdraw, imagine a light weight on the top of your head that you must push very slightly upward. Be sure to keep the Throat  Notch ‘pressed’ in while you do this.

Finally for the Perineum, simply squeeze and lift the tissue surrounding Huiyin point, CV-1. Be sure to do this softly. Feel free to try each of these locations in any order to gain an understanding of the various feelings. To apply this technique as you assemble your posture for your Zhan Zhuang session, try going from the bottom to the top: Perineum, each Kua, each Shoulder’s Nest and Throat Notch. Once this is inserted into your standing practice, notice how the body and especially the back begin to release and relax in a whole new - deeper way.