The Moving Balloon

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The fusion of your mind and body reaches a new level with these exercises. The effect on your internal energy7 is amazing. Now you will begin to understand why it has been so essential to work systematically through the previous stages of your Zhan Zhuang training in order to reach this point.

GROWING PRESSURE Stand in the second position — Holding the Balloon (see p. 35). After you feel comfortable in this position, make sure your fingers are held open so that you can imagine holding little balls or marbles between them.

Imagine that the balloon is pressing outward on your hands, as if trying to escape from your embrace. Now use your mind to keep your hands in place, resisting the growing pressure of the balloon. Do not tense up.

Now the balloon tries to push out the opposite way, through your chest. Use the power of your mind to allow your chest to hold the balloon in place.

Balloon Qigong

Now the balloon presses to the right, against your right forearm and elbow. Again, your mind prevents it from escaping. It tries your left forearm and elbow. Your mind stops it pressing past your arm.

The balloon tries to escape upward. Your mind is suddenly present in your thumbs and holds it in place. The balloon tries to escape downward. Your little fingers prevent it.

Now the balloon tries to escape in different and opposite directions at the same time, eventually trying to break out ofyour embrace by expanding outward simultaneously in all six directions. Your mind must work ceaselessly to keep the balloon in place.

THE PULL OF MAGNETS Now imagine that you are surrounded by magnets that gently attract your arms and torso at various points. Two attract the backs of your hands, pulling them slightly outward. Two attract your elbows, drawing them to either side. One exerts a pull on the middle of your back (see below). The force of these magnets is not as strong as the expanding force of the balloon that you are trying to hold in place, but you can feel in your mind the pull they are exerting.

Do not allow your mind to rest. Feel the constant movement and pressure of the balloon; feel the gentle pull of the magnets. On the outside, nothing is moving. Everything is taking place within you.

Sink back on your heels for a minute or two — or longer if you can — and lower your bottom, gripping the floor with your toes to keep from falling backward.

Moving Balloon

As you hold this extreme position and your mind is wholly engaged by the escaping balloon, imagine that your heels extend downward with maximum force into the centre of the earth. The top ofyour head is drawn upward at the same time into space. You are suspended between space and earth. Your back is drawn backward by an infinitely distant and powerful force. All that keeps you from being sucked backward is an equal force pulling the back ofyour hands; holdingyou in place.

FOCUS YOUR MIND Keep your mind utterly focused on these forces. Do not move. No muscle should be tense. You are held in the grip of powerful forces, but like a tree you are unmoved.

You may only be able to hold this position for a few minutes, but they may pass surprisingly quickly, as your normal sense of time can be distorted during this exercise.

Going beyond

The mind in action

The powerful effect of the "mentality exercises" described in Chapter 2 and The Balloon Fills with Water, and A Hot Shower, A Cold Shower, will have already shown you the indispensable role of the mind in the Zhan Zhuang system. If possible take the advice of an instructor before advancing to this next stage. Do not attempt this level unless you are able to stand comfortably in the nine Zhan Zhuang postures for the recommended period of time.

This is an extraordinarily intense exercise. Your pulse and body heat will shoot up, but your breathing will remain calm and deep. Inside your body, a violent thunderstorm will be under way, but you will appear calm and unmoving. Build up gradually, working on one or two sets of muscles in each training session.

TENSE AND REIAX Adopt the second position -Holding the Balloon (see p. 35). Hold it for 15 minutes and relax both your body and your mind (see Chapter 2). Then use your mind to tense and relax specific muscle groups systematically.

Begin with your left calf muscle. Tense it. Relax it. Do this 30 times. Don't move any other muscles. If they move, relax them. Then do the same with your right calf muscle. Then move on to your left thigh muscle, then your right thigh muscle, and then the muscle in your left buttock. Finally, tense the muscle in your right buttock.

Now tense larger groups of muscles 30 times each. First tense your whole left leg and buttock and relax. Then do the same for your right leg and buttock.

Tense Calf Muscles

Move then to your arms. Tense your left hand, then your right hand, your left forearm, your right forearm, your left upper arm, and your right upper arm, 30 times each.

Then tense and relax your entire left arm and then your right arm 30 times each.

Finish by tensing both legs and buttocks together 30 times, then both arms and hands 30 times, then your arms and legs 30 times.

Do not tense your torso or your neck.

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