Alchemistgeorge

How to learn 'sung'?

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I am trying to learn the skill of "sung"  I've seen this described as 'releasing', and 'sinking.' I've found a number of helpful mentions in various posts on the site.   So far most of the instruction I have received have been along the line of 'practice it a lot, and it will happen.'

 

I stand about 45 minutes a day, very slowly scanning through my body from top to bottom, looking for anything I can release, let go of, or let fall.

 

Any suggestions for other things I can do (or cease to do) to would be much appreciated.   Any useful sources online or in print?

 

Thanks.

Apologies if I've posted this in the wrong forum.

 

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Posted (edited)

One common problem is that people use their mind/force/attention too much rather than feeling the flow.

Two visualisation or real-isations that you can try is being in a hot springs, warmth and health giving herbs in the water and feeling everything relax and open up.

Another is to feel like you are under a warm shower with the water flowing down from the crown point down and down throughout the body.

Another is to feel from the tantien downwards, the legs, and into the earth, feel as one flowing down.  It is easier to do so with the lower half.  Later you can add the central region, and later the head.

 

Damo Mitchell has a book Comprehensive Daoist Neigong,, if you get the Amazon preview and look at pg 133 onwards... it has a few pages of basic alignment info which is very useful.

 

Also very important to warm up thoroughly and if poss do some qigong before so that you feel qigong already, then you can more easily feel it flowing when standing.

 

Edited by rideforever
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It's one of those things that there more you search for it, the more it can elude you.

After looking, and failing to achieve it I now take a more roundabout method.

First simple way is to add more moving practices to your routine. There is one opinion that you should be moving for at least as much time as you stand.

Then if you really start standing for very long duration, you should have even longer moving practises...

The other approach is that sung is a consequence of your over all attitude to life itself. The more relaxed approach you take to life, the more sung your stand is.

Now, I'm absolutely useless at achieving any kind of sung, but I have found the above approaches increase the relaxation during a stand.

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41 minutes ago, rideforever said:

Two visualisation or real-isations that you can try is being in a hot springs, warmth and health giving herbs in the water and feeling everything relax and open up.

Great method, this is called a spiritual bath were you soak in herbs and flowers, they really open up the energy centers. 

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6 hours ago, Alchemistgeorge said:

I am trying to learn the skill of "sung"  I've seen this described as 'releasing', and 'sinking.'

 

Good question. Sung is of primary importance in all of Daoist internal training.

 

The key is to first understand sung... it's releasing, but not a floppy sort of release... It's an 'active' release... it has an alive, springy feel to it - not soft and floppy. Think of a flower bud tightly compacted... as it releases, it actually opens up and expands outward - the petals are sung - they're not contracted, they're relaxed, springy, alive and they're not floppy like when they wilt.

 

The next thing to understand is that there is always more sung available... You release, sink and as that opens your body a little, another layer of sung makes itself available. It never stops.

 

Standing is a good way to train sung, but there's definitely a glass ceiling to it. as Miffy says, you need to move too. In fact, in the beginning, you should move more than stand.

 

As Ride says, you need to release into the correct structure. If you just sung, without having the correct structure, you'll just relax into your habitual posture. You probably know this already. But it's important to always remind yourself of the correct posture.

 

When standing, Ting and Sung work together. Ting is the 'scanning' you're talking about... but this also needs to be studied... Ting means listen... which is a passive sense - scanning suggests 'looking for' which is active... Ting, once it's developed in quality will have an intensity 'dial' to it... When you ting through a correct structure, it will systematically engage the 'soft tissues' (not muscles)... this will connect your body together. Then you sung into that connection... the expansion as a result of sung will slightly loosen your connection, so your ting must go deeper, re-establish the connection - then you sung that... then you ting that in turn... and so on

 

The intensity of ting is important to get right - too intense and you'll cause too much 'activation' - too gentle and you'll not cause enough activation...

 

So as you can see it's a very in-depth study.

 

To build skill in Sung with movement, you can learn a lot from this video... there is unfathomable depth to it if you're obsessive enough to pursue it.

 

 

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10 hours ago, Alchemistgeorge said:

Any suggestions for other things I can do (or cease to do) to would be much appreciated.   Any useful sources online or in print?

Don't try to force anything. It will happen on its own. Just be patient.

 

Setting aside the technical aspects of structure, posture, etc etc which are important initially, Sung is from letting go. By letting go, it means not letting your mind get attached to anything in particular. Whatever arises, let go. If a thought arises, let it go. If an emotion arises, let it go. If a sensation arises, let it go. 

 

Then next question that usually follows is - "How do I let go?"

 

The answer is - it is as easy as literally dropping something you were holding on it. 

 

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Whenever you remember to do so, relax your buttocks and abdominal area.

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12 hours ago, Alchemistgeorge said:

I am trying to learn the skill of "sung"  I've seen this described as 'releasing', and 'sinking.' I've found a number of helpful mentions in various posts on the site.   So far most of the instruction I have received have been along the line of 'practice it a lot, and it will happen.'

 

I stand about 45 minutes a day, very slowly scanning through my body from top to bottom, looking for anything I can release, let go of, or let fall.

 

Any suggestions for other things I can do (or cease to do) to would be much appreciated.   Any useful sources online or in print?

 

Thanks.

Apologies if I've posted this in the wrong forum.

 

 

The three things I found most important in realizing and developing sung are standing meditation, practicing the taiji form very slowly, and pushing hands.

If you are serious about learning this you need to practice with a good teacher.

Everything about taijiquan requires precision to be effective and precision requires expert guidance.

In addition to everything mentioned above, I found that paying attention to tension in the face and hands is helpful.

Those are two areas where we tend to carry a lot of tension and they're easy to ignore.

Good luck!

 

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What Freeform and Steve said. :)

 

To this I will add that, in my own experience, you assemble the proprioceptive ways to get your body to understand sung gradually and from multiple sources.  From reading Taiji Classics and trying to play, in a somatosensory way, with its metaphors ("a flexible steel needle wrapped in soft cotton" -- that's sung for you) to "investing in loss" (one of the most accomplished MA folks I've interacted with, whose push-hands skill seems to border on supernatural -- when he "stands like a tree" you literally find yourself trying to push a 600-year-old oak tree off its roots, and he's merely a small-framed dude of under average height -- answers all questions about his "secret" with this primary advice -- "for three years, let everybody push you, don't ever try to win, that's the only way to understand how you lose and keep correcting whatever you didn't know you were doing wrong) to getting as many corrections as you can stomach from a good teacher and always asking for more, to just practicing enough (sung is internal MA territory, you can apply it to whatever else you do but the best way to master it is through practicing an internal MA) and more...  there's always more.  Sung is also twofold -- how you learn it and how you actually apply it in a spontaneous real-life situation are sort of opposite (but that's a later-time skill, to be able to  turn it inside out and have that soft, mellow, relaxed "cotton" inside while on the surface the steel needle emerges and strikes -- instantly and spontaneously.)    

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Taomeow put a very important head on a crucial nail!

”Investing in loss is the quickest way to a win” said dear Sifu to me while we were talking of loosing respect and status or just falling flat on ones face. Do it wrong and do it wrong and do it wrong and the something changes just a tiny bit and so forth.

 

I’d like to venture that standing like a tree without looking at moving and more dynamic exercises directed at developing Sung, aka Sung Gong, is not necessarily going to enhance your sung at all. Standing will benefit sung if you’re on the way, but to simply stand to get sung won’t yield very fast or noticeable results.

 

I agree with Freeform and Steve and Taomeow on this and i think developing Sung is a cumulative practice. You do it, even just a little every day and it starts to happen. That video with exercises is great stuff to learn from, but even with such good guided exercises and clues to the feedback etc etc it’s still not a binary state. You WILL feel it when you start get there but you wont notice it until you notice what it does for your other practices.

 

It’s not like you cross a threshold and you have it. It needs to be developed, maintained and enhanced daily. If you’ve done considerable work to develop it you can go without for some time but too long and your body is going to start blaring pain and stiffness.

 

Standing wont help you dissolve deeper blockagesor stiffness or a certain tendency to favour weight on your left big toe or something else. Just standing and tai chiing without proper sung gong to strenghten the foundation is not going to do the trick. Sung gong isn’t also just one of those things you do and it happens on its own. Sure, a little, but Meows quote there really emphasises the crux: understand what you didn’t know you were doing wrong and correct it.

That takes a lot of focused study that can only come from experience in sung practices, which in turn pivots only on surrendering to those exercise and try to experience why they are so fundamental and powerful.

 

Enough blab from me now.

 

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Posted (edited)

Wow! Thanks everybody.

This is so much more than I expected to get.

 

Now for watching video, thinking, digestion and then back to daily practice.

 

When I wrote my initial question I neglected to mention that in addition to standing and sinking, my daily routine also includes slow deliberate movement ('cloud hands') with sinking,  and a small amount of fast repetitive movement with sinking. I also do a chunk of seated meditation daily.

 

To what extent would you all describe 'sung'

  • as a continuous experience - like falling rain?
  • Or is sometimes a single wave ? of sensation
  • Or is it like dropping a stack a plates - they all fall down
Edited by Alchemistgeorge
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Another way to learn sung is to study a cat (who is in good shape) ;) 

 

giphy-downsized-large.gif&ext=gif&_nc_ha

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Like a continuous experience but not as evident as rain. It’s more as if there is an enjoyable quality to the rain and you’re wearing goretex shoes, had your favourite breakfast which means you’ll feel like lunch around lunchtime, the coffee you didn’t drink wasn’t needed etc...

 

It’s the little things.

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Taomeow said:

Another way to learn sung is to study a cat (who is in good shape) ;) 

 

giphy-downsized-large.gif&ext=gif&_nc_ha

 

I try to study the amazing ”yeah thats an unintentional double backflip with a corkscrew, who would have thunk i’d pull that off?” thing kitty is doing but then that spotted belly comes into view and i wonder if it’d be thin or thick fur and when can i pet it, would it mind if i just gently scrunched its ear up a little and i’m totally lost to it... But thats a bengal right? I’ve almost never seen ”regular” cats get so into playing they’ll do an aerial show and i hear some of the more ”wild” groups such as bengals have an extra gear for serious awesomeness.

 

I did observe my old cat Selma catch a low flying and overly cocksure bird at about a meter off the ground in a similar fashion, she was just eyeing it and suddenly went off like a spring, straight up and latched that sucker with all four paws midair before landing (not gracefully but) very satisfied. Then she bit it half to death and suddenly remembered she left the stove on and just fucked off, tail to the stars.

Edited by Rocky Lionmouth
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36 minutes ago, Rocky Lionmouth said:

 

I try to study the amazing ”yeah thats an unintentional double backflip with a corkscrew, who would have thunk i’d pull that off?” thing kitty is doing but then that spotted belly comes into view and i wonder if it’d be thin or thick fur and when can i pet it, would it mind if i just gently scrunched its ear up a little and i’m totally lost to it... But thats a bengal right? I’ve almost never seen ”regular” cats get so into playing they’ll do an aerial show and i hear some of the more ”wild” groups such as bengals have an extra gear for serious awesomeness.

 

I did observe my old cat Selma catch a low flying and overly cocksure bird at about a meter off the ground in a similar fashion, she was just eyeing it and suddenly went off like a spring, straight up and latched that sucker with all four paws midair before landing (not gracefully but) very satisfied. Then she bit it half to death and suddenly remembered she left the stove on and just fucked off, tail to the stars.

 

Poor bird!  Hunting for sports is...  well, I don't want to judge, maybe cats need to do it in order to not lose the skill should civilization collapse and they are forced to hunt for food for real.

 

The cat who raised me, my grandmother's (who was 5 years older than me), caught birds like that approximately once a week, becoming airborne and snatching the hapless sparrow in midair -- but she actually ate them.  She was only very partially a pet, and a fully engaged huntress in between home meals.  

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This isn't sung, but maybe its related.  For example doing pushups.  You can use muscular strength to push yourself up, or you can feel on the down motion, like your compressing a spring, so the up is more like relaxing and unwinding.  Try it. 

 

Similarly walking or jogging you can feel a compression on the downstep..loading.. and unload/spring up on the up.  It makes for an interesting practice, to see if you can get that bouncy feeling.  Done right, its full of energy, for awhile anyway.

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11 hours ago, Taomeow said:

 

Poor bird!  Hunting for sports is...  well, I don't want to judge, maybe cats need to do it in order to not lose the skill should civilization collapse and they are forced to hunt for food for real.

 

The cat who raised me, my grandmother's (who was 5 years older than me), caught birds like that approximately once a week, becoming airborne and snatching the hapless sparrow in midair -- but she actually ate them.  She was only very partially a pet, and a fully engaged huntress in between home meals.  

 

Selma actually ate most of her prey but she had a zero tolerance policy for boisterous birds, a heavily restless kitty with a very large hunting ground and a VERY strong territorial defense game. She and her brother (they pretty much hated eachother most of the time) would coordinate ambush assaults in chasing roedeer off our lawn. Roedeer didn’t mind people the cheeky bastards but they were deadly scared of our cats 😂

I think that particular bird might have been angling to scare cats off because of nesting or something, it was late spring more or less, didn’t work.

 

I know the kind you talk about, my first cat was like that. I got her when she was two months and we grew up together. At 13 she was an accomplished matriarch with such numerous offspring she moved in to our neighbors house a few doors down the road, but she’d come out to visit me when i biked by. She was barely domesticated, we hung out and enjoyed eachothers company but it was a mutual voluntary friendship. She did like to watch over me when i was sick though, she taught all her children how to open doors, and having been raised by chickens after her mother rejected her her angry sounds always had a clucking element, which only the top big kittymama adopted efter Sabina moved out.

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Mark Cohen's book has a section on Sung.  He begins with the feet and gravitational filaments of qi that descend into the earth, opening that all up and making it equal, and then the whole body being energetically not in opposition to the gravity line.  Then he discusses the dantien/mingmen and the particular forms of chi in the body, and finally the embodiment of the tantien's intelligence and its return to the origin ( which means you rest and the drop and then fall downwards - I shall add that from other teaching ); he discusses pre post natal qi and the overflowing of the tantien's energy.   That part is similar to an explanation in the book Wuji Qigong and the Art of Immortality which has an excellent imo clear and concise explanation.

Sung can mean the opening in relation to the body, but then can also mean full Taoist enlightenment.

Zen practitioners who do not necessarily do standing meditation can reach enlightenment of the tantien / sung, without the bodily practices.  It is clear to me that one can do bodily art practices without reaching these states of Sung at all, and if you wish to get to get to these big spiritual goals very clear and specific practice is required.

It is not energy or alignment that is the cause of attainment in the end but ... spiritual sensitivity, intelligence, and the will and need to get there.

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There's good reason to say that sung, relaxation, not trying so hard, this is the key to being spiritual. After all, Cheng Man-ch'ing also says:

Sink (ch'en). If someone can relax completely, then this is ch'en. If the ligaments and blood vessels relax, then the whole body (of which they are a part) sinks down.

Basically, ch'en and sung are the same thing. Ch'en means not floating. Floating violates Tai Chi Chuan. If your body can sink, this already is good, but you must also make the chi sink. If the chi sinks, then the spirit (shen) gathers. That is very useful note: "When the shen is gathered the mind becomes clear."

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41 minutes ago, rideforever said:

It is not energy or alignment that is the cause of attainment in the end

 

Quite right.

 

These aspects (working with qi, and the body) create a foundation that supports spiritual practice. In itself, it is not spiritual at all.

 

It's just that these days, the bar for what 'spiritual cultivation' actually is, has been lowered so far, that everyone thinks they're on the verge of enlightenment. The reality is that genuine spiritual achievement is by far and away the hardest accomplishment a human being can undertake. Beyond the level of a chess grandmaster, maths genius and Olympic medalist combined.

 

This physical and energetic foundation - in its later stages, creates a super-human level of inner strength, resilience, emotional balance and unwavering focus as well as extreme levels of vitality. And this is what is required to make any real headway on the genuine spiritual path.

 

And before the bar-lowering brigade jump in with their "bro - you're already enlightened man, you just need to realise it" type stuff... You've got the wrong end of the stick, sorry.

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20 hours ago, Alchemistgeorge said:

 

To what extent would you all describe 'sung'

  • as a continuous experience - like falling rain?
  • Or is sometimes a single wave ? of sensation
  • Or is it like dropping a stack a plates - they all fall down

 

Not sure I would use any of those analogies.

I think it's easier to feel sung in your opponent when pushing hands than it is to feel in oneself.

There is a suppleness and flexibility embedded in strength and structure.

I'll never forget the first time I pushed with someone really good, someone who had real sung, ting, and peng in their game.

It was a game changer. We were pushing hands and I just could not find anything to push or pluck.

He always beat me to the punch and easily yielded to anything I could give.

It was like pushing with a powerful snake.

I couldn't stop smiling... I think he got a little nervous!

:lol:

I think I learned more from a few minutes of pushing with him than from years of drills and competition.

Nothing more important in learning taijiquan, IMO, than to push hands with more advanced practitioners.

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38 minutes ago, steve said:

I think I learned more from a few minutes of pushing with him than from years of drills and competition.

Nothing more important in learning taijiquan, IMO, than to push hands with more advanced practitioners.

 

Yes, indeed, nothing compares.  :) 

 

Then of course it is very useful to push with practitioners of all levels if you are going to learn how to actually help someone else learn -- if you're going to teach, whether formally or just helping out in your own school, you need to know not only the "above" but the "below" as well as possible.  Also, this helps you "feel your own sung" and assess your own level without delusions or distortions -- many people tend to exaggerate their proficiency in their own mind, some underestimate it...  an accurate assessment of "where I'm at right now" is a very useful reality check from time to time.   

 

A few years ago, I used to "challenge" athletic guys half my age and twice my size who are proficient in all kinds of athletic endeavors but not taiji to push me, just to test my "embodiment of taiji principles" closer to real life, so to speak.  Once satisfied, I stopped doing that.  From zero to moderate to about your own level to higher to much higher -- I believe all levels of proficiency in mastering sung are a useful learning ground.  Though of course to get a glimpse of what's possible, and a very accurate reality check, nothing like touching hands with a master who's light years ahead of you.  No dispute there. :)  

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2 hours ago, Taomeow said:

A few years ago, I used to "challenge" athletic guys half my age and twice my size who are proficient in all kinds of athletic endeavors but not taiji to push me, just to test my "embodiment of taiji principles" closer to real life, so to speak. 

Reminds me of my Master, who is a skinny 120lb, 6-footer. He used to torment the buffed up body-builder types in his gym by asking them to push his hand up/down or push him backward, which they'd give up on, red-faced after several attempts... :D 

2 hours ago, Taomeow said:

nothing like touching hands with a master who's light years ahead of you

This!

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On 8/19/2019 at 11:19 PM, steve said:

 

The three things I found most important in realizing and developing sung are standing meditation, practicing the taiji form very slowly, and pushing hands.

If you are serious about learning this you need to practice with a good teacher.

Everything about taijiquan requires precision to be effective and precision requires expert guidance.

In addition to everything mentioned above, I found that paying attention to tension in the face and hands is helpful.

Those are two areas where we tend to carry a lot of tension and they're easy to ignore.

Good luck!

 

 

Standing meditation was the first key that allowed me to experience and communicate into my physical body a type of knowing how to continually refine "sung."  Taiji form very slowly was also emphasized by my teacher though without the standing which we always began class with and were expected to practice at home I wouldn't have developed "sung" to the degree I did and is continuing to develop.  Huang's loosenings are also very useful especially if practiced both with the larger movements and then micromovements.  Moving between the two or anywhere in between when I feel the "level" of movement that produces deeper "sung."

 

BK Frantis' loosenings can if practiced correctly to his instruction in "opening the energy gates of the body" are also essentially loosenings.

 

With push-hand I have found that the development of "sung" is best when we have the lightest touch and the feeling is of working with my partner's etheric body, from touch but allowing their etheric body or qi body to guide my body as to where to apply the appropriate energies.  Though I also practice more rougher push hands mainly for fun I don't receive the same "sung" development as I do with the lightest touch.  Must have a partner who understands and shares the same purposes and goals in practice though.  Then it is win-win.  There is no "invest in loss" because neither of us is involved in that "fictional battle."  Every moment of "push hands' is "win" always making fine the qualities/attributes.

 

Of course I would be remiss to state how much emptiness/bare awareness meditation has contributed to my development and continued development of "sung."  If I did not have a relatively substantial experience in what this practice was doing and able to do then the above 3 practices would not have nearly developed anywhere near as much "sung."

 

Emptiness/bare awareness meditation developed my "sung" while doing those ZZ, loosenings, Taiji and other IMA eventually allowing me to realize that just awareness/"bare attention" on the finest streams/flows of "sung" was the most effective "level" of "intent" for my development.  Even an atom more and I would perceive tension increase and "sung" decrease.  Awareness/"bare attention" on the finest streams/flows of "sung" simply allowed those streams/flows to continue and continue to become finer and finer "levels" of "sung."

 

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