Monday, December 10, 2007

choosing to change

I have a theory, that 20 minutes of standing is enough to maintain the health you have. 40 minutes builds energy and an hour builds power. So six months of standing for an hour a day means a decision to become more powerful. In Zhan Zhuan, though, that doesn't mean that you've become someone more able to manipulate the world around you. It means something like, you've decided to ally yourself with a power that few people know or understand, this power of gravity and electrical energy that you become more able to detect the more you relax into it.
I can stand for an hour with my arms raised in front of me. I don't feel the strain because it doesn't feel to me that I'm using my own power to hold my arms up. For one thing I've learned to arrange my bones in their sockets in such a way that I feel like one of my son's action figures simply posed so that my feet are flat and my body is balanced. I also feel a kind of magnetic energy in my body that holds those arms up as though they are soft metal in a magnetic force field. What I have to do is learn to relax my body and my mind into this force that will hold me up. Think about what kind of force keeps a tree rooted to the gound, and pushes it up towards the sky as it grows. Imagine being able to feel the presence of that force and that's what the chi of Zhan Zhuang feels like.
But you can't push it. Back when I first started this, about fifteen years ago, I pushed myself to stand for an hour. What I felt was probably closer to the experience of injecting a gram cocaine, than the gentle energy of growing trees. It was exciting, but derailing. I've actually read of such a thing as chi kung diletantes, people who become obsessed with consciousness altering, charisma building and power manipulation.
I'm not interested in that. I made a choice a few years back to start slow and to build slowly. This was hard. I wanted to escape into an hour, but for the first few months I wouldn't allow myself more than five, ten, fifteen minutes. It was the daily practice that was more important to me than the mind zap.
So what I feel in my brain now, as I approach the commitment to an hour a day, is something closer to a deep sense of release. Kind of like what you feel when a good masseuse breaks down the tension in a muscle. I feel the energy of the earth breaking down the tension in my brain. Sometimes I even feel it being cracked like a knuckle.
I try my best to be mindful, to be centered in the now, and all that other meditation crap. But on a good day, I don't even have to try. I get to a point where I feel like I took a mindfulness pill. Clear, undistracted awareness, pure relaxed consciousness is simply a physical part of my being.
The way I explained it to somebody once: I feel like I've evolved from being a monkey on a tree, to being the tree observing the monkey, to being tree free of the damn monkey.
Of course this reverses everything we believe about evolution, that animals are more complex life forms that vegetables. On a good day, when I feel I can see the world in its rich complexity far more easily than a I can a as a complex, busy monkey, I'm no longer so convinced of this evolutionary hierarchy.