Sunday, February 21, 2010

Exploring Qigong IV: Stillness in Movement in Stillness

Bu jing bu jian dong zhi qi
If you don't have quiet or tranquility, you will never see the miracle of moving.

While it is hard to categorize and compartmentalize something as fluid and recondite as Qigong, I will divide it into two categories, if for no other reason than to help better explain the various approaches. We can consider Qigong as being either static or moving. As we proceed I will explain my reservations in using these definitions.

Static Qigong is typically standing meditation and or seated meditation. There is an advanced practice of Wujigong that is lying Qigong, practiced flat of one's back. But for now we will consider sitting and standing practice. For some practitioners static Qigong is the totality of their practice. Zhan Zhuang, or standing meditation, is a key practice in Qigong and many internal martial arts. Zhan Zhuang can be conceptualized as the foundation of Qigong and Taiji. While standing we are to focus on body structure and alignment, breathing, and calming the mind--the Three Intentful Corrections. However, rather than proceeding from there into movement, the practice is to hold the posture and focus on the intention. Rather than performing movements that address, or direct Qi to where it is needed, Zhan Zhuang works to settle the mind and body and let the Qi settle where it is needed naturally. Zhan Zhuang is a very simple practice, and yet is extremely powerful, and more complex than it appears.

Sitting Qigong is much the same practice as Zhuan Zhuang, but is practiced in a sitting position. In addition to the mindfulness practice of sitting meditation, focus on reverse breathing and Qigong posture are emphasized as in standing and moving practices. Sitting Qigong can be practiced in a simple cross-legged position, lotus position, or seiza position. Any and all of these positions are beneficial practices and each has a structural component that is unique and has unique benefits.

Once the foundational practices, or Three Intentful Corrections are understood and implemented, movement can be approached. Static Qigong is Wuji practice. Wuji is the void, stillness. Once movement happens, Yin and Yang separate and Wuji becomes Taiji. However, if you look at the Taiji symbol, there is a little Yin in Yang, and a little Yang in Yin. Accordingly, there is always a little movement in stillness and stillness in movement. In fact, this is what we should aim for. And this is where my reservations lie in categorization. I consider Qigong to be both static and dynamic practice at all times. We are dynamic when we are static and static when dynamic. Even if we only practice static Qigong, there is movement. Our minds are active and Qi is moving through our bodies. If we begin and end our moving Qigong sessions with static practice we will transition from Wuji to Taiji and back to Wuji, therefore following Taoist cosmology. Eventually we find it is all the same. It's all Qigong.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. Of course, I'm a little biased since I've been a big fan and practitioner of standing practice for some years now. I'm glad you chose to talk about Zhan Zhuang since I see it as a foundational exercise. In fact, here is my humble addition:

Rodney said...

Thanks for the kind words Afshin. Very good article. Very instructive. Would you mind if I reposted it here?