The Art of Standing
Standing meditation is the foundational practice in many qigong and martial arts lineages. Some key benefits are:
- Growing roots. As you stand, your weight spreads the bones of your feet, opening the point Kidney 1, “bubbling spring”. Eventually, you will feel a warm, tingling sensation emanating from this point. It’s the first node in the circuit that will help you manage your strength and energy.
- Opening the overflow vessels. When your thighs start to shake and burn, you are beginning to open the deep reserves of your body.
- Filling the lower dan tian, AKA the ‘cinnabar field.’ This is your life battery. You recharge it by focusing and resting your mind there. It is inside the body, in the center of your trunk at/or below the level of the belly button.
- Activating the mingmen, or life gate. Roughly opposite your navel along the spine of your lower back, the mingmen is where the rubber meets the road. The resources cultivated through opening the root and overflow vessels, and recharging the dantian, arrive at the mingmen to power the spine, spinal cord, and brain.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width or hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly so they are over the toes. Let your weight sink into Kidney 1.
- Relax your hips, and tilt your tailbone forward, rounding mingmen. You can experiment with making this more subtle or exaggerated. Let the belly expand when you inhale. That will give a slight stretch to the mingmen.
- Hold your arms in front of your navel, palms facing you. Use “tendon strength” to hold them up. This means your muscles are relaxed, but your arms have an elastic strength to them. This will help blood flow to your fingers. Also notice the sensation in your palms connecting to the dantian.
- Tuck your chin slightly. Comfortably straighten and lengthen your neck. Imagine a string from the sky lifting the top of your head straight up.
- Breathe naturally, but let your belly rise and fall with the breath. As you relax, notice that your pelvic floor and your spine also move with the breath.
- Focus on the dantian. This is the real key to the whole thing. Learning to focus and relax while maintaining the posture, and enduring the strain of standing, will make you clear-headed and resilient.
Pointers for Focusing
To begin, you only need about the level of concentration you would need to read a book. Eventually, resting your mind in the dan tian will be natural and rejuvenating. After that, sky’s the limit! There are lots of techniques to develop:
Don’t force it. You can’t make yourself relax, or stop thoughts from coming. Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to the focal point with the gentleness and patience you would give to a child. When you fail to be patient, be kind about that too. Just bring your mind back. It’s okay if it’s hard.
Don’t force it, but experiment with levels of effort. Dive into the dantian with hard focus, then relax and let it expand. Hard, then soft. This is just a technique to try, then go back to natural awareness. Doing this, you may at times feel like your awareness is in the dan tian, and then that the dan tian is all around you.
Sink into sensation. Feel the subtle sensations in the space of the dantian. If you don’t feel anything there, try resting your hands on your lower abdomen for a few minutes. Visualizing a flame or ball of light might help. Eventually, you will feel subtler and subtler sensations. Don’t second guess if it’s real. The only reference point here is your experience. As you become more sensitive to sensations, notice how pleasurable they are. Let that draw you in. This is a powerful practice that can lead to blissful states. You don’t need to go that far. Just use the pleasantness to help your mind settle in.
Be the eye of the storm. The storm is your thoughts, pain in your legs, the task of remembering the posture. The eye is your dantian. As you become familiar with the details of the posture, see how much you can let them go on auto-pilot. Let the storm swirl around you. It’s a paradoxical thing, but no big deal when you get into it. Your body is vibrating, thoughts come and go, pain is there, maybe aversion to pain is there, but most of your awareness is just resting on the spot.