NickC

Questions about ZZ and Ba Duan Jin from 'Way of Energy'

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Hi Tao Bum's,

 

About 15 years ago I brought 'The Way of Energy' and diligently practised ZZ for around a year. At some point, and I can't remember why, I gave up, it was possibly down to a particularly bad hang over and a lack of discipline for my age (22 at the time). I then dabbled with various spiritual practices and eventually settled on the sitting practice of 'Silent Illumination' for a few years and even went on a retreat where I made good progress. At some point I ended up giving that up too, but it was very useful while I did it.

 

I've now found I've returned to ZZ and am getting a great deal from it, both in terms of the meditative aspect and the physical too. And here is my question. While I was practising 'Silent Illumination' I could easily find the motivation to sit every day with out fail. ZZ for me, however, requires a bit more will power and I am very concious of pushing myself too much and then giving up at some point in the future. Therefore, I've been going very gently, never putting myself through too much pain and so always kind of looking forward to it each day.

 

I'm now at the point, 4 months in, where, after warming up my knees, hips and shoulders, as per 'The Way of Energy', I stand for 15 min twice a day and all is going well. I know this because just in the last week, when the timer goes off, I'm quite happy to stand a little bit longer. But - I'm not sure what is the best way to continue my practice with out using up too much will power, and therefore motivation. I can tell that around the 15 min mark, many new energies are now moving round my body and my legs are almost standing without effort.

 

My thoughts are, should I start increasing the duration of my morning stand, pushing myself more, maybe much more, and then start doing the Ba Duan Jin in the evening. The idea here is that if I'm only standing once a day, I will have will power to push my self more. - Or - just slowly increase the duration of both stands, say by one minute a week. This is because I actually like an evening stand where I can let go of the stresses of the day and I can lose myself / clear my mind better standing then I can by doing the Ba Duan Jin.

 

i.e. Is it better to stand twice a day, or, stand once a day in the morning and do the Ba Duan Jin in the evening?

 

Thanks for any advice you can give.

 

MiffyMog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi MiffyMog,

 

If you have time for it, standing and doing the Ba Duan Jin in the morning and standing in the evening would be very good..The morning session is more powerful than the evening one, ime

 

Each time I felt I could stand more than the duration I planned, I did, and at some point it lead me to increase naturally my daily standing duration.

 

If you have time only for one standing session and prefer the evening session, then you can do the Ba Duan Jin in the morning.

 

There are always days when it is more difficult than others. Of course, it requires a little motivation and will, but in my experience, it shouldn't be done in a forceful way. I don't know if I will be able to explain it clearly, but if your mind/spirit/will is settled once and for all about doing zz, then it is like brushing your teeth or doing the dishes. You just include whatever mood you are in, into the zz, and just do it in a relaxed manner. You will be surprised to see that when your timer buzzes, you have finally made it :)

 

Take care!

Edited by bubbles
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Thank you Bubbles, you have helped me a great deal in deciding what to do. By writing down my first email, I had almost answered my own question myself and I'm quite pleased my answer was similar to what you suggest.<br /><br />After have carried out a sitting practice in the past for a period of time, I have some sense of what an established practice is and it is something that I know I don't quite yet have with my ZZ.<br /><br />As for my sitting practice, I played about with various durations at different times of the day and I found, without doubt, the best was simply have a good sit in the morning and then forget about it for the rest of the day. If I wanted to sit again in the evening, I would often spend some of the day planning other commitments around it and this almost added tension to the whole thing. However, if I got up in the morning and had a good sit, I could then completely forget about it for the rest of the day and just let whatever benefits it gave do their work.<br /><br />After reading what you've said, I think this is the direction I will now take with ZZ. I have a busy life with various commitments so just having a good session of Ba Duan Jin and then ZZ in the morning and then not worrying about it later on is probably the best way to go.<br /><br />Many thanks...

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Fine!

 

If I may add something, since you've mentioned sitting meditation: I've had a very good experience with sitting meditation practice just before sleep. It gives clarity to the sleep (for lack of better words) and to the morning rise. It is very easy to set this up: just introduce the sitting practice between the last thing you do before going to bed and going to bed. I began with 10mn, and it made immediately a difference...

Just an idea..

 

I wish you a very good practice!

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I played about with various durations at different times of the day and I found, without doubt, the best was simply have a good sit in the morning and then forget about it for the rest of the day.

 

I like that a lot. Your approach and your attitude are spot-on, imo :-)

 

I would add one thing to consider: Extending your sessions might not make them more beneficial to you. Finishing at a time when you feel like you could on much longer is a tactic for briging that energy into your daily life. Simply incorporating a short closing ritual to your practice, and viewing that as a signal for officially leaving the practice and re-entering the "everyday" can be a good enhancement. It's like closing a door behind you when you leave a room.

 

But you can of course experiment and see what suits you best!

 

So far, so good, I'd say.

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It's been nice getting other peoples opinions in regards to ZZ. There's no one

else I know who does it and other practitioners live a bit of distance from me. I'm quite used to teaching myself stuff and doing my own thing so this does not bother me too much, but it is nice to have others here sharing their own experiences too - it definitely encourages me, which is good.

 

Bubbles made a really good point about 'committing myself to ZZ'. This has really helped as one of the things I find myself doing during ZZ is cultivating a good attitude towards the practice, which then improves it. It's bizarre when a change in my mental attitude can result in an immediate change/improvement in my physical experience of the stand and this feed back is very useful. When I started to bring in the attitude of 'committing myself to it', I immediately found myself becoming more relaxed. I then realised that some of my own anxiety towards it, made me a little bit more tense, and I've now learnt how to let go a little bit more.

 

Cosmic Ex Pat, I know what you mean about a closing practice ritual. In 'The Way of Energy' Master Lam only briefly mentions slowly returning back to the working world by slowly walking around. In his book 'Way of Power', he mentions the importance of focusing on your Tan Dien for a few minutes after a stand. I now do this and also then pat my whole body and face down afterwards, to 'seal in' the energy, and this seems like a nice way to end it.

 

I like what you say about finishing when you feel you could still stand for a lot longer. I've recently been reading some of Bruce Frantz books and I really hold his 70% rule close to my heart, I feel this is extra important when you're teaching yourself. My greatest anxiety towards this practice is reaching a time when I give it up, as I've done this before in the past. It was something Bubbles picked up on and then suggested committing to the practice, which was helpful. Another approach is where you finish when you feel you could still stand more. I like this a lot as it will keep up my motivation levels, also, it's refreshing taking a different attitude to it where you are always trying to push yourself.

 

Thanks to both of you!

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For a while I've done ZZ while listening to Rawn Clarks Archaeous audio lessons, a series of 15 minute elemental stacking exercises. They make the standing go by very quickly and the way they place the elements onto the body gives a natural affinity with standing, ie feet to hips earth, belly area water, chest- air..

 

Lately I've been standing to Yoga Nidra audio's. They also work well, teach a lesson and make the time go by quickly cause otherwise I find ZZ to be much more boring then sitting. Though you should be able just stand without such tools/crutches.

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Cosmic Ex Pat, I know what you mean about a closing practice ritual.

 

haha, Cosmic Ex-Pat is what I am. My (screen)name is Soaring Crane (which is one of the qigong forms I used to practice).

 

I like the 70/30 mix, it's exactly what I meant, though I've never thought about it in this context. Thank you :-)

 

Lam Kam Chuen does two standard things to finish a session -- first rub the back of the neck, and then rub the renmai (breastbone down to the abdomen) downwards, and then hold the hands on the lower belly for a short time. He says that's enough.

 

Among other things, including the patting you mention, I gather first into the Tianmu (between the eyebrows), sinking vertically into the abdomen; then around the pelvic horizonal, into the abdomen, then hold my hands there and just breathe a while. Then very consciously bring my left foot to my right foot (really closing), and then just take a big step out of my qigong sphere into the world around me :-)

 

A simple commencement ritual is also very helpful. That's when you step out of the world around you and into your qigong sphere, so to speak. Can be, among many other possibilities, as simple as first standing with legs/knees/feet together, hands on the abdomen, and then very consciously opening the left foot ourward to the shoulder-width stance, and the arms to the side. This brings you from being a single image of perfect unity to a yin/yang being with four limbs.

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thelerner - I like your ideas about using audio tapes and different positions to help pass the time. I was reading some of Eric Yudelove's work from a while back and he was relating different arm positions with different elements and even healing sounds. These positions were, essentially, the same as the five positions Lam Kam Chuen presents in his book, just without the elemental aspect. Lam Kam Chuen was suggesting adding these to the practice after about 6 months, and it was something I was considering adding in a couple of months time.

 

There were a couple of other things he suggested too. One of them was somehow twisting the tendons of the legs around the knee in order to take some of the weight, this is definitely something I'm not going to do. However, before the stand, he suggested planting the different parts of the foot. ie the heal, then side of the foot, then the soul, and finally all the toes. I quite like doing this as I don't wear any shoes or socks when I stand. Sometimes I get over enthusiastic and almost pull the skin a bit tight across my foot when I do this, which is quickly remedied by just lifting my foot briefly off the ground and putting it down again.

 

Soaring Crane :) - I'm glad you've mentioned LKC's warm down procedure. At the end, I've always found bringing my feet together as a quite an important/good way of signifying the end of the stand and starting to return to normal life, I'll try out your other suggestion soon too.

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For a while I've done ZZ while listening to Rawn Clarks Archaeous audio lessons, a series of 15 minute elemental stacking exercises. They make the standing go by very quickly and the way they place the elements onto the body gives a natural affinity with standing, ie feet to hips earth, belly area water, chest- air..

 

Lately I've been standing to Yoga Nidra audio's. They also work well, teach a lesson and make the time go by quickly cause otherwise I find ZZ to be much more boring then sitting. Though you should be able just stand without such tools/crutches.

 

The whole point of doing ZZ in many traditions is to get out of one's head and get into one's body. When you listen to some external data flow, you remain being in your head negating the whole purpose of the practice. This is IMO and IME as well.

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The whole point of doing ZZ in many traditions is to get out of one's head and get into one's body. When you listen to some external data flow, you remain being in your head negating the whole purpose of the practice. This is IMO and IME as well.

 

LOL no

That's how it has been interpreted for educated westerners (bulk of the 'daoist' crowd).

 

I used to watch movies and documentaries, and suggest people do the same when they first start, it's really a torture, especially after you get past the first 20 minutes or so.

 

After a few months to a year or so you can stand without distraction. Don't be greedy, wanting to get ALL the benefit all at once, It'll get you in your body regardless, you need some distraction to bear away the pain.

Edited by 宁

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Lam Kam Chuen suggests watching the evening news, or a movie or something like that. I don't know if it has to do with enduring the pain, but maybe. Or maybe it has to do with giving the monkey mind a task while the body is permitted to restructure itself in peace.

 

It's a difficult concept for a lot of us to accept because we think there should be a certain amount of reverence given to the exercise. I've done a lot of both, among many other variations (tree gong, for example) and when I look at it all objectively, I can't say the one is more effective than the other, not in the long term. It comes down to my personal preference, and that can change with the times, with the situation around me, with the seasons.

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Lam Kam Chuen suggests watching the evening news, or a movie or something like that. I don't know if it has to do with enduring the pain, but maybe. Or maybe it has to do with giving the monkey mind a task while the body is permitted to restructure itself in peace.

 

It's a difficult concept for a lot of us to accept because we think there should be a certain amount of reverence given to the exercise. I've done a lot of both, among many other variations (tree gong, for example) and when I look at it all objectively, I can't say the one is more effective than the other, not in the long term. It comes down to my personal preference, and that can change with the times, with the situation around me, with the seasons.

 

Damn it! I just wrote a post and a glitch made it disappear before I hit the 'post' button.

 

In short, I was saying that I can't practice while watching a movie or similar things. What I first liked in zz, is the fact I could check my posture, relax my body bit by bit from head to toes, observe all the feelings (and shoulder pain!) occuring during the practice. Since each session was different, my mind was busy without being distracted.

 

I agree that I tend to have a reverence attitude towards the practice, because I associated it with a sacred moment. The very first time I tried zz, years ago, I just tried it out of curosity after bying Master Lam's book. During the second or third session, a strange thing occured: I was practicing in wuji position, and suddenly, I felt like my arms were moving on their own and put themselves into the holding the ball position. It was like some energy was lifting them without any decision coming from me. Since this little event, I thought there was more in this exercise than an endurance thing or a physical exercise...

 

Also, I feel that my practice is more effective in a calm environment and even more in a natural one. When I took up zz seriously, I was exhausted since months, and nothing could help me. I was renting a bungalow for 3 weeks in a pine tree forest. On the 2nd week I began zz, and when I left the bungalow, my fatigue was nearly gone. I couldn't believe it. I noticed that each time I can practice outside in a natural environment, it is a stronger experience.

 

My 2cts!

Edited by bubbles
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I'm in my first week of practising Zhan Zhuang, following The Way of Energy book by Lam Kam Chuen, so only at the stage of warm-up plus standing in the two postures (Wu Chi, then Holding the Balloon) for 5 minutes each. I'm doing this in the morning and happy to build up the standing time as Master Lam advises, but similar to the OP, I'm wondering what exercises I can add in the evening. If I'm reading his book correctly, Master Lam suggests several months of standing practice before starting Ba Duan Jin, so maybe that's for later?

I should say that my motives for commencing study of the internal arts are from a pure health and well-being perspective. I started Li Style T'ai Chi classes last year but currently only attending 1 hour per week, although I may increase this depending on finances. The class encompasses a wide range of stuff including the Li t'ai chi form, t'ai chi dance, t'ai chi stick, sensitivity training with partners etc.. and I enjoy all the training. But at home, other than practice the form or breathing exercises, I feel I want to do more, hence the increasing interest in Zhan Zhuang/Qigong type stuff.

The local library has a copy of Qigong For Health & Vitality by Michael Tse (interested to hear any views on that) and I had started working my way through his exercises which are split into balancing gong and t'ai chi gong. I don't know why but I'm not altogether convinced by the book, which has led me to Lam Kam Chuen's Way of Energy and also Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body by Bruce Frantzis. The Frantzis book looked a bit daunting on first scan, especially all the diagrams of energy gates, so I've started with the easier read from Master Lam. I also have a pdf copy of Lam's "Way of Power" which I haven't looked at much, but it seems to be a more advanced than "Way of Power"?

So that's where I'm at - looking to add a bit more but wary of adding in the wrong thing or doing something that would best be left until later. Anybody care to direct this novice in mixing and matching his exercise program? All comments appreciated and please feel free to state the obvious as I'm very much at the start of a long learning process. Thanks.

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I'm a bit surprised that no-one's responded to you yet TCA, so I'll throw in my 2 cents.

 

The Way of Energy is outstanding but interestingly it's contradicted by the TV series Stand Still Be Fit from which I learned the method in the 1990s when it was broadcast.

 

I immediately started taping the series but I'd missed the first couple of episodes so I later bought the tape and the book, The Way of Energy but didn't begin to practice it seriously until ca.1997/8.

 

You'll note that Lam's approach varies because if you watch the videos, you'll see that by coincidence the

warm-up starts the 8-Brocade series with Supporting the Sky with Both Hands and concludes on day 10 with Shaking the Body.

 

Several years later I decided to get some instruction from Lam directly (only a couple of years) in order to see if I could refine my practice further and one Saturday morning I asked him about the 8-Brocades and why we didn't use them as warm-ups. I found his answer unsatisfactory.

 

When I trained with him, I learned a 6th basic position and mudras that go with each of the five positions (not including Wuchi), which were performed in a different order to those given in the series on page 97 (The Full Circle diagram).

 

I also learned movements associated with these five positions but I have since reverted to using various warmups then 8-brocades then just the original 4 positions plus Wuchi.

 

To summarise: -

 

Warmups

8-Brocades

Opening into: -

5 minutes Wuchi

4 x 10 minutes other positions

Final 10 minutes Wuchi

Closing

Warmdown

 

This may not suit you and I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to copy it but it suits me admirably.

 

Take your time building your practice. There's no rush. Lam told me that if he taught traditionally people would spend the first two years learning WuChi but Westerners lack the patience. He's certainly right about that! He also said that it's a very bad idea to stand incorrectly and I've no reason to doubt that assertion either. Be careful with this stuff!

 

Regarding other teachers, I'd be inclined not to mix different schools myself. There's sufficient material in The Way of Energy and Stand Still Be Fit to last a lifetime.

 

If you decide to train with Lam be aware that at the end of his classes he used to make everyone stand in a circle sharing energy and that's one of the main reason that I stopped training with him.

Edited by gatito
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The Way of Energy is outstanding but interestingly it's contradicted by the TV series Stand Still Be Fit from which I learned the method in the 1990s when it was broadcast. You'll note that Lam's approach varies because if you watch the videos, you'll see that by coincidence the

warm-up starts the 8-Brocade series with Supporting the Sky with Both Hands and concludes on day 10 with Shaking the Body.

 

Hi gatito. Thanks for posting. I've watched the first few days of the YouTube Stand Still Be Fit videos and as you mentioned, I'd noticed Lam's warm-ups contradict the instruction from his book. Probably another reason why I was looking for a bit of guidance. Interesting that warm-ups in his actual classes were taught along the lines of the book and that he didn't have a satisfactory answer for you in person for not using the 8-Brocades as he did in the videos. I agree with your point about not mixing different schools of training and I think the Frantzis book will be bedtime reading material only for now.

 

Thanks also for posting your exercise routine. That looks like something I could aim for, although I'll be patient and follow Lam's timelines for increasing standing time every few weeks. My quandary was whether I could safely do a little more of something different in the evening, but maybe I just use more t'ai chi to fill the gap for now. Can I ask if you do anything specific as part of your "closing" movements and whether the whole routine is a once-a-day practice regime?

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When I trained with Lam the closing was different from that which soaring crane mentions in post 8.

Closing:

First twist the torso to the right (while keeping the knees in the same position), reach out upwards with both hands and embrace an imaginary balloon. Rotate back to the centre while pulling the balloon downwards past the face to the xiphoid process where the hands rotate palms inwards and rest on each other while continuing to glide down (but now in contact with the body) to stop at the hara, where they pause for several seconds. Repeat to the other side and then centrally (i.e. no body rotation). We would also sometimes then massage the abdomen with a circular motion. I don't do that now.

Then briskly rub the palms together and massage the face, front and sides. For the sides you can split the fingers and use the first or the first and second to rub behind the ears while the others are in front of the ears massaging up to the temples. Then the back of the neck including the base of the skull is massaged with a side-to-side motion with the the hands slightly on top of each other. That last bit's quite difficult to describe but it would be the same motion as if the neck were a pulley and your hands were the rope running over it; a lateral movement - as opposed to vertical.

Warm-down:

Hip and knee rotations (a dozen each side) then give the legs and feet and arms and hands a good shaking out. Stretch, move around.

I do this once a day, usually evenings while watching TV but if the weather's decent it can be any time of day under a nice tree if possible. 8-Brocades sometimes get me going in the morning, although I prefer Surya Namaskar.

I know of no reason why you shouldn't learn the 8-Brocades in the evening but listen to yourself as well as to others.

 

There are people here with a lot more expertise in this area, so I hope that they'll chime in if anything I've said is inadvisable. That's what can make this place so good on the occasions that it actually works (i.e. peer review).

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Thanks again for the detailed reply gatito. I'll have a go with your closing and warm-down techniques. I'm basically following Lam's guidance of a few minutes stillness, twenty arm circles, shakeout of arms and legs, walk around a bit and face massage. Also adding in a few bits of closing exercises from my t'ai chi class, just as final relaxation. Feels like this'll be a work in progress as I get my standing time up.

 

Will also try out the 8-Brocades.

Edited by TCA
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I'm now into week 4 and up to 10 mins of standing time for each of the wu chi and holding the balloon positions. Wu chi is fine for this length of time but it's a real fight to hold the balloon for 10 mins, as muscle fatigue really kicks into my upper arms and shoulders at around the 6 minute mark. Hopefully this will ease off as I persevere. Also getting numbness and tingling in the hands, which seems par for the course, and a weird numbness across the bridge of my nose, which is peculiar.

 

Not worried by any of that during practice, but my back and neck seem more sore generally outwith practice, so although I'm prone to this normally (half the reason I started t'ai chi), I'm concerned that my stance or posture might be wrong, so wonder if anyone can offer some pointers? I tuck my hips under with pelvis pushed forward so that my back is straight all the way to my tailbone, but I think in wu chi I maybe overdo this action, as I always seem to end up physically lower with my knees too bent, probably how I should be for holding the balloon. I'm also conscious of perhaps leaning slightly backwards with my top half as a result of pushing the hips forward. Same ever so slight leaning back sensation as I drop the weight to the tailbone. I don't feel that much back pain during standing, more of a deep spine stretch, so wondering if the aches when I'm not standing are just reactions to my realigning during practice. Or are a result of continued bad posture throughout the rest of the day.

 

I also can't work out how my neck should be. Lam's book just says relax and hold your head straight, looking down slightly, but to me this produces no alignment with the spine (if that's what's required?). I checked my Frantzis book and he talks about lifting the skill gently off the neck bone to reduce compression on the neck vertebrae (by retracting the jaw) but I'm not sure if I'm accomplishing this or it's my attempts at this that are giving me neck pain. Or perhaps I should just concentrate more on relaxing?

 

Any tips would be appreciated.

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My advice at this point would be to find someone competent to help you in-person, as it sounds like you're not sufficiently body-oriented to do this without that assistance.

 

If you stand incorrectly, you can harm yourself quite badly.

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Thanks gatito. I'll see what my t'ai chi instructor has to say on the matter. Reading Lam's book some more and looking at the chart by Professor Yu Yong Nian, I may be in the category of "increased pain in current ailments". The timeline certainly fits. Part of the natural healing and regenerative process apparently.....

 

Out of interest, when you're standing in both of the aforementioned positions, can you see your toes if you were to look downwards? Trying to get an idea of the alignment of feet to knees to head. 

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