Tales of the Log: Zhan Zhuang

<This was an entry in one of my practice logs last year, when I was working with a spot of tension in my lower back that I discovered to be related to my worn kneecap from playing too many sports in high school>

After standing I feel very in touch with my body and grounded. It gives you this natural energy and wakes all the little, tiny muscles in your joints and opens up all the circulatory plumbing. I have a worn kneecap and I can say objectively that doing ZZ every day eliminates any tightness and discomfort in that knee. When I stand the pattern of tension that I’m working with is centered around the right side of my back and ribcage. You don’t really think of that area as having much in the way of muscles, but they can definitely be tense and feel like a big lump of crud in your body that the breath doesn’t seem to breathe through, and every movement of the body is biased by that lump. It’s the same way standing, if there is an area of weakness like a bum knee, then the body seems to unconsciously tense up in certain areas to protect itself, often on the opposite side of the body. My theory is that my bum knee corresponds to a pattern of tension in my lower back ribcage.

When you stand still you have to distribute your weight evenly and distribute the load to all your muscles. Standing has a great way of exposing these unconscious tensing responses and you have to stand there with it while simultaneously try to be as still and relaxed as possible. You sit with the tension and try to relax into and around it, then the next time you stand that area of tension is a little bit smaller and quieter. And you just keep refining like that with any tension that comes up.

Sometimes, all of a sudden, I’ll be enraged by a thought about an ex, or thinking some neurotic scenario, and I just come back to the body and avoid proliferation of the mind-stream. I think neurotic thought is correlated to shaking and bouncing. Sometimes when you stand you will stand bouncing, like your body is trying to maintain stillness but your muscles are overcorrecting and overcorrecting, each tiny little movement described with 3 spatial vectors and 1 time vector. There are also other vectors like the thought-stream and pre-thought urges, impulses, mind-movements, and that mixed in with energetic phenomena happening, its easy to get into a really pleasant flow state just experiencing all of that and the utter complexity and transience of every little jerk and twitch in the muscles, no one twitch or jerk exactly like any one before or after.

If I pay attention to the nature of the gross movement of the body, and also try to let it mix in with the thought demension and the time dimesnsion, it feels like a mental movement where I fall back into my body and flip out and it feels like the phenomena happening are no longer heterogeneous with one being more salient than another. 

Practicing like that makes sitting quite effortless and pleasant, and the body enters a state of calm tranquility and it’s very nice. This usually happens gradually until about 20 minutes in and my body is fully tamed and quiescent. Not that I don’t feel my body, but it’s just like I’m very comfortable and the body feels like an even, grounded, pleasant lump of sensations, and the focus is on all the senses as a whole. 

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