You are standing like a tree. You are like an elm growing. You feel everything happening within your entire body, from your roots deep in the soil, to the tiniest leafreaching out into the air. You can hear yourself moving inside. You are growing, listening silentlyto your entire body inhaling and exhaling.
A living tree breathes with its entire body. Every cell ofevery leafis breathing. Deep in the earth, the roots are breathing too. As you stand, you do the same. Open every pore ofyour body—along your arms, down your back and legs, from the soles ofyour feet to the top ofyour head. Feel the lovely breeze entering inside you at every conceivable point ofyour being. And as you exhale, let the warm current ride out again from everyextremity.
You stand surrounded, like a tree, by sound. All noise within is stilled. Sounds come to you, as iffrom miles around. Birds call from distant tree tops. An engine starts up somewhere far away. Here and there you hear a footfall and a man and woman with a child. Nearby you hear the early morning drone ofan insect. The air around you is alive. Canyon hear the dewdrops falling in the grass?
You stand, seeing a tree in the distance. There is nothing butempty space between the tree and you. You are both silent. Your eyes are completely at peace and a faint smile is all you sense. Your body is asleep. Your mind is alert.
A distantwind is stirring in the air. It starts to play across your body like a flag unfurling in a breeze. The driving air is irresistible; the flag is flying with it. All seems to be in motion, but neither sky nor flag has moved.
A fish is turning in the stream. Its weight is in the water; the fish itself is still. Like you, it rests inside the current. Its body curves a little and it sways. It does not matter that the wind has made the surface rough.
Your boat is on the waves. The tide is strong; it pulls and twists the boat from side to side. You stand within it, riding in the surge. You tremble for a moment, but you do not leave the boat. You know the waterknoivs its way.
The wind is rising and the storm clouds threaten rain. You stand among the trees, likethem, unmoved. Theyall have stood in sun and shade. Their roots have been both dryand wet. Now rain and wind will fill the sky. The trees, like you, have no wish to escape. Like you, they stand prepared to feel the deepest movements ofthe earth.
As you make progress in your Zhan Zhuang training you will become sensitive not only to the remarkable flow of energy inside you, but also to the energy that surrounds you. The exercises that follow enhance your sensitivity to this energy in nature. The two circuits that are described below correspond to internal energy pathways in your own system. You will start to feel the marvellous effect of linking these with the internal power of trees and flowering bushes.
PREPARATION STAGE A very advanced exercise starts by standing near a large tree, at any time of the year. Complete the full warm up exercises, including the advanced level of Ba Duan Jin. Then begin standing in any of the Zhan Zhuang positions; the most commonly used is Holding the Balloon — the second position (see p. 35). Allow your system to calm down and become thoroughly relaxed. This involves achieving both physical and mental quiescence (see pp. 44-47). Stand quietly.
HOLD THE POSITION If you are used to holding the basic standing positions for 20 minutes or longer, you will probably find that you can maintain this variation for the same length of time.
As you stand, allow the tree to become the sole object ofyour attentitive mind. Imagine that there is a circuitofenergy that extends from the top ofyour head to the croum of the spreading tree. Imagine that the circuit is completed between the soles ofyour feet and the roots of the tree in the earth. There is now a full cycle of natural energy flowing through both of you. You become partofthe tree. There is one circuit, one field of energy: the fused, identical power of the tree and you.
As the energy flows in from above, breathe in to draw the Chi deeplyinto yourself. Exhale as the energy flows out from your feet into the ground.
SECOND CIRCUIT The next stage in this exercise begins by facing the tree. Stand in the second position — Holding the Balloon (see p. 35).
You will gain the maximum benefit from these exercises if you stand in front of a particularly strong tree. It is not by accident that so many Chinese landscape paintings portray evergreens. Their Chi is particularly powerful, which makes them ideal for these exercises.
In summer try standing before a strong, flowering bush. The effect is wondrous, particularly in the early morning.
PREPARATION STAGE Open your hands outward, as if embracing the air in front of you. The fingers of both hands should be pointing gently toward the tree.
Now open a new circuit ofenergy. Draw in the Chi from the tree through your left hand as you breathe in. Circle it back to the tree out through your right hand as you exhale (see left).
"When Istand, " said WangXiangZhai, "the earth is in my hands. The universe is in my mind."
'You are free," he told his students. "You are a great fire. If anything comes toward you, it will be consumed in the fire. If it does not approach the fire, it will not be burned. You are merely the fire. You remain whereyou are, content to be alight."
'You are the sea. WJoatever anyone gives you, you can take.
They can also take from you anything they want. The sea is vast; it can give up anything and still remain the sea. Like the sea, you are endless and unceasing. This is the true freedom."
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