Standing Meditation

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What is Standing Meditation?

Standing meditation is a powerful method of healing the body from injuries and chronic illnesses. Standing meditation or ‘Zhang zhuang’ ( pronounced Jam Tong) increases vitality, internal strength and fitness as well as overall body power.

Developed in China by masters of meditation and acupuncture, Zhan zhuang is a form of medical meditation. This form of meditation also increases physical strength and power.

Many people are unaware that meditation can help cure or manage illness. Standing meditation can also physically strengthen the body. Zhan zhuang has specialized knowledge of how this is done and can reproduce it to almost anyone.

Standing meditation makes use of five very specific standing postures to deeply release long held stress and tension. The legs, spine and shoulders become very strong yet relaxed. Unnecessary tension is released from the joints and muscles, making them more flexible and elastic.

Standing meditation makes use of specific relaxed abdominal breathing, use of mental imagery, and awareness of the inside of your body.

The Acupuncture Approach of Standing Meditation

The acupuncture approach of there being a close connection between emotion and the internal organs is also used. Standing meditation has an effect upon the body that mimics acupuncture, without the use of needles. In some cases it is even more powerful than acupuncture.

Zhan zhuang is comprised of specific physical and energetic skill sets. Each aspect of the training makes you better able to use your body.  This includes better power output through leverage and movement of the fluids inside your body ( blood, interstitial fluid, lymph and cerebrovascular fluid).

Zhan zhuang philosophy asserts that a flexible and strong spine keeps your whole body young and agile. Zhan zhuang places special importance upon elongating the spine. This majorly decompresses the spinal discs and entire nervous system.

The Difference Between Sitting and Standing Meditation

Sitting meditation can become very cerebrally based. Zhan zhuang proprieties connection with the physical body. The physical body is viewed as an anchor of the mind and emotions. The physical body is the perfect point of reference for calming the mind and emotions.

The opposite is also true. Anyone living with chronic pain will tell you that any increase in stress or anger can flare up an injury. Science and research now also now supports this.

In Zhan zhuang the body doesn’t lie. If it is uncomfortable it will distract you. It will reveal to you areas of yourself that need attention and relaxation. Many of the obstacles that beginning mediators have are due to the excessive tension and discomfort that the physical body has.

Meditation methods that use purely mental constructs can lead the meditator into a mind space that is underground and not useful in the everyday world. The moving and static aspects of Zhan zhuang target this problem from the first class.

Why Practice Standing Meditation

People throughout the ages have commenced learning and practicing Zhan zhuang as a last resort for illnesses. Usually they were either unable to be diagnosed or were unresponsive to other forms of treatment. Theses pratitioners tend to be quite motivated to learn and practice diligently because of this ‘last resort’. As such, amazing results have been seen in such cases.

When learning standing meditation in China, one of my teachers met people in their sixties who had been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis only a few years earlier. The daily Zhan zhuang practice made them go completely into remission. They felt so good and young again that they stopped practicing. Within six months the arthritis returned. They recommenced practice and it went into remission again.

I have personally had students who have cancelled joint surgery for stereo-arthritis due it not being a problem any more. I have also trained a student who was able to dissolve chronic shoulder pain at will within three months of training. Later I was able to help dissolve the pain of a twenty year old with lumbar spine disc injury.

Additionally, standing meditation is a perfect entry point for anyone wanting to learn to meditate properly while healing and strengthening their body at the same time.

Who would benefit from Standing Meditation

This course is especially designed to help with conditions such as:

  • back, neck and shoulder injuries
  • elbow, wrist and nerve problems
  • joint injuries and arthritis
  • chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue/ burnout
  • stress
  • anxiety and depression
  • pelvic dysfunctions

Also,

  • Anyone wanting to learn meditation or qi gong (chee goong: literally energy training)
  • Those with low energy who are not sick
  • Shift workers
  • Those suffering insomnia
  • Healthy people wishing to increase their energy levels further.

How to Meditate Standing Up

There are two modes of Son Buddhist meditation: “Son in the midst of stillness” and “Son in the midst of commotion.” I like to refer to them as simply the “quiet” and “active” modes of meditation. Quiet meditation commonly refers to traditional seated meditation but includes any meditative form where you’re not moving. Active meditation refers to meditating while in motion in the midst of daily life.

Active meditation is considered more advanced and confers the advantage of not having to set aside a special time and place to meditate. Another great benefit is that once you have mastered being able to meditate wherever you are, you can begin to use meditation as a therapeutic coping mechanism to recover from unexpected surprises right on the spot and as a method of improving your way of communicating and behaving. In a word, active meditation is both healing and empowering.

Practically speaking, however, in order to get to this level we first have to learn how to meditate in a variety of physical postures. So today I’ll share with you the method of meditating in a standing position

Among the thousands of forms of qigong, Inner Alchemy, and Taoist meditation, standing meditation is one of the most simple and, at least potentially, most powerful. With your physical body aligned in a particular way and held mostly still, qi (chi), or life-force energy, is encouraged to find its natural rhythm as it flows through the meridian system. This gently dissolves any blockages that may have been preventing this natural rhythm. This meditation should typically take ten to 30 minutes, but you can meditate for longer if desired.

Practice Standing Meditation

Find a quiet, pleasant place to practice meditating. Initially, it’s best to practice this inside, though facing a window to see inspiring natural beauty is good.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel (toes pointing straight forward). Soften the backs of your knees just enough to feel your pelvis relax downward, and feel the weight come into your feet. It should feel as though you just mounted a horse.

Gaze straight forward, with your head aligned right on top of your spine so the muscles of your face, head, neck, and throat can be relaxed. Smile gently, and float the tip of your tongue up toward the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper front teeth. Your tongue can be touching your teeth or just hovering really close.

Now, float your hands up eight to ten inches in front of your lower abdomen, palms facing your lower dantian (a couple of inches below your navel), and the fingertips of your two hands pointing toward (but not touching) each other. You should be positioned almost as though you were hugging a small tree. Let your fingers be extended, with space between them, and your elbows slightly lifted so your armpits feel hollow.

Take a couple of deep inhales and complete exhalations. As you do this, make whatever small adjustments you need to your stance so that it feels comfortable. Imagine that you are a mountain or an ancient redwood — something profoundly stable and serene.

Now let your breath return to its natural rhythm, and come to a place of stillness in your physical body. Focus your soft gaze gently in front of you while maintaining a light awareness of your dantian. Settle into doing nothing.

Hold this position for ten minutes or longer. Increase the amount of time over the weeks, months, or years that you practice.

Tips for Meditating

As you hold your physical body still, become aware of more subtle aspects of your being. For instance, the flow of qi through the meridians, or a kind of spaciousness which extends far beyond the physical. As you practice, simply let your attention notice what it notices, with a child-like curiosity, without necessarily trying to make sense of it conceptually.

If you experience physical discomfort in a particular place in your body, send the energy of a smile into that place. You can also create very tiny (barely visible) circling or spiraling movements in that place to relax muscle tension.

As the qi finds and moves through blockages in the meridians, you may experience spontaneous movements. If this happens, know that it is a natural part of the process, and simply come back to the basic stance after the movement has completed itself. Please note: this doesn’t happen for everyone, and such movements should in no way be induced.

It takes the qi about thirty minutes to complete a single cycle through the body. Make it an aspiration to work up to meditating at least this long as you practice this technique.

Like many people I am convinced by the benefits of meditation as described by so many studies and espoused by a range of admirable personalities.

Also like many people I have struggled to meditate. Even when I have kept a regular practice there are days when I sit to meditate and I essentially go to sleep, or repeatedly get lost in reverie.

However when I meditate standing up this is rarely the case. Subjectively I find that it takes a shorter time to settle into a deep sense of stillness, quietness and focus. I illustrate this with some EEG derived graphics below.

If your experience of seated meditation has been like mine then you may want to try what I describe below, perhaps especially if you are a frustrated ex-mediator.

What is this exercise and how can you do it?

This exercise is a single posture from Taijiquan¹ — or Tai Chi. It’s a simple posture, and does not require any knowledge of Taiji² or belief in qi or Chinese medicine or thinking to practice and benefit from.

This is a sketch of the posture. Below are some stripped down instructions for its practice. Please excuse the quality of the sketch.

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