The years around fifty can be crucial in a person's life. A surprising number of people reach this age and suddenly experience a kind of rapid deterioration and collapse. Some who have had a very hard early life are victims of sudden death through heart attacks and other violent traumas. Many more experience a range of other problems such as spinal pain, frozen shoulders, high blood pressure, loss of self-control, chronic illness, severe depression, and lassitude. All the pressures of life seem to converge at this point in a person's existence.
This vital juncture can also be the start of a second life. An ideal time to consider starting Zhan Zhuang training is, therefore, in your forties or very early fifties. The result at this period in life can be profound.
People who have practised Zhan Zhuang or other forms of Chi Kung seem to change from within and instead of getting older they seem to start getting younger. Their faces become brighter and smoother. Their sexual energy revives. Chi Kung masters, at the age of 70 or 80, often look far, far younger than their years. They reveal great energy when they walk. Their temperament is calm and some are able to work harder and longer than adults twenty years younger than themselves!
So what exactly do you do if you want to try Zhan Zhuang at this stage of your life? First of all, don't confuse it with aerobic and muscle-building exercises - neither the effect nor the experience is the same. Don't expect that sort of sweat and pain. The second thing to bear in mind is that Zhan Zhuang works at a very deep level, tackling profound inner disorders. So if you have accumulated the effects of 40 or 50 years of stress, bad posture, illnesses, and all the other headaches of daily life, you can expect a lot of unusual sensations once you start your training. These are described in Chapter 3.
Your entire body, mind, and nervous system are in for a complete overhaul.
The single most difficult thing to get over is your own mental resistance. You are changing the energy habits of a lifetime. Over the first few months you will go through a whole range of thoughts and feelings, many rebelling against your decision to stand still! Don't give in; remember that rising to a new level of mental stamina is also part of this system of mind body exercise.
You can help yourself by making a weekly plan. Start at Chapter 1 and work out how long you will spend daily on the two warm up exercises and then the Wu Chi, or first position (see pp. 28-29). For example, you might spend six or seven minutes on the gentle warm ups and five minutes standing in the Wu Chi position. Just do that each day for the first week as the first step in your journey.
Don't expect miraculous results at the end of your first week. Just having taken the first step — and stuck to it — will be a great achievement. Then review the advice in Chapter 1 and make a plan for your next week's training.
If you follow this idea, you will find that you can set your own natural pace and make authentic, careful progress through the exercises in this book. The results are subtle but unmistakable. It is usually said that after 100 days of Chi Kung exercise most people can be sure to see results.
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