As explained earlier in this chapter, the very first step in Zhan Zhuang is to train your body to relax. By systematically relaxing your body from top to toe you start the process not only of calming your mind but also of increasing the ability of your mind to focus on relaxation. In this way, although you are working, your mind is at rest. Even this can prove difficult to sustain for long, since your mind must continue to order your straining muscles to relax, and carry you through the initial stages of pain. Just thinking about relaxing can make you tense! So, if you are having trouble in the early stages, here are some techniques that may help you. Try these while standing in the second position, Holding the Balloon (pp. 34-35).
1. Thoughts, images, sounds, and your internal dialogue will still be coming and going. If anything, you will be even more aware of them. That awareness in itself is an essential development. Just use it to note what is going on in your mind. Don't worry about the fact that your mind is moving: observe whatever happens (you can even make a mental note — "Now I'm thinking...") and let it pass naturally.
2. Try standing when you are very sleepy - just before going to bed or very early in the morning. Your mind will be relatively dull, and as you stand still you will find that the whole exercise takes far less effort. Carry that feeling of relaxation with you and see if you can return to it the next time you stand in an alert state.
3. If you have trouble standing for the full time you have set yourself and you find you are starting to think about giving up, start counting slowly down, say from 200 to 0. Just keep track of the numbers; everything else — the pain, the boredom, and the time — will take care of itself.
4. If you find you worry a lot about how many minutes you have been standing or have left to go, try finding a soothing piece of music that lasts the length of time you plan to stand. Put it on, listen to it, relax your muscles from time to time, and stop when the music stops. Or you can try the Chinese way, which is to light a stick of incense and stand until it goes out. The aroma will have a soothing effect and with a little experimentation you will know how long you have been standing. You can start with a short stick at the beginning and gradually work up to a longer one.
5. If you feel unbearable pain from tension in your arms (described in more detail on page 49 and in chapter 3 ), put all your imagination to work to visualize the balloons that support you (see p. 35). Imagine they are floating on water: its buoyancy and the air in the balloons will easily take your weight!
6. If your feet are tense, grip the floor with your toes for a little while.
7. If you feel that your bent legs can no longer support you, that is the moment to visualize the huge balloon on which you are sitting. Even if you drop all your weight into it, the air inside it can support you effortlessly.
8. As you feel the tension easing in your legs and feet, try imagining that you are standing on a soft cotton cloth that gently absorbs all your body weight.
9. If you find tension persists, there are suggestions on the next pages to help you rest while standing. Gradually, you will come to feel that you are being mysteriously supported in place. Just as you swayed peacefully in the womb before birth, now you will be lazily resting in the air. You will be ready for the next stage of the training.
BREATHING AND RIiLW/XC,
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