Once we have attained a certain amount of achievement in Zhan Zhuang practice, our training, in a sense, becomes far more simple than before. Of course to enter into the simplicity I’m referring to, requires among other things, unification of the body, both in terms of all the tissue as well as to a large degree, energetically.
Once these physical and energetic elements are in place, we have come full circle. The basic instructions we were given as a novice turn out to also be the most advanced. That is, 1) we settle into our posture and begin abdominal breathing while releasing any tension downward, from the top of the head through the bottoms of the feet. 2) We find our centerpoint (in the area of the Navel/Low Dantien) and simply hold our feeling-awareness there, end of story.
In the earlier stages of training these actions trigger a plethora of reactions in the body, mind and emotions of the practitioner. However, once a certain degree of unity has been accomplished, something very different happens.
This simple form of concentration gathers our vital energy and then distributes it throughout the entire body, while stilling the mind, calming the nervous system and setting the emotions in neutral. Generally this starts out with heat growing in intensity around our centerpoint until it spills out and travels everywhere in the body. Often times at the beginning of this level of training, the heat can feel quite hot and often we sweat. But after enough time (usually several years) the feeling of heat transforms to “luke-warm,” actually about the same temperature as our own blood. At this point we no longer feel “heat” per se at all, but rather something “energetic and yet quite tangible.
What are these extreme feelings of heat (or cold) we experience early on? Actually they are signs of physical and energetic blockages being corrected through the body’s own innate wisdom. We sometimes describe these signs in terms of, “burning out blockages” and the like. And we must remember, these are confirmatory signs, that the energy is moving, not the Chi itself. The Chi itself does not have a physical sensation but it definitely has a strong “etheric” one which becomes quite accessible once the above steps have been accomplished.
The seasoned practitioner learns to enter into this state rather easily and then dwell there in relative emptiness as even further levels of transformation-alchemy spontaneously begin to occur.
One of the amazing things about training Zhan Zhuang is that this (Taoist) alchemy is actually built-in to the practice and often happens without having to use manipulation other than holding our feeling awareness at our centerpoint.
This brings to mind the story of Taoist Master Yu, told to me by my first teacher, the late Mr. Li. He said, “A man named Yu was diagnosed with severe tuberculosis and was advised to treat it with herbs and Taoist Meditation. So Mr. Yu moved into a secluded mountain cottage and began hours and hours of daily practice, only stopping to eat and sleep. His only instruction had been to hold his feeling-awareness in his centerpoint no matter what. Several months passed and his tuberculosis began to lessen. Then after a year, his Low Dantien “opened” and his symptoms disappeared altogether. But rather than return to his former life, he continued to meditate. After another year, both his Middle and Upper Dan Tiens also opened and he achieved enlightenment…”
When I asked Mr. Li where he heard this story, he was very reticent at first, but finally revealed that he had heard it from his Master, who had heard it from his Master, for three generations to Mr. Li’s Great-Grand Teacher, who it seems was the one who originally advised Master Yu to take up Taoist Meditation somewhere in the mountains of Southern China.
To me, this illustration of Master Yu’s experience is a clear example that from the simple seed of one-pointed concentration at our centerpoint, (Low Dantien) all things are possible.