What is Wuji Qigong?
We begin our practice with Wuji, truly an entire system of practice within itself. We begin with wuji because it is literally the beginning. In Taoist cosmology wu, which means void, without, and no is joined with ji, meaning ultimate, extreme, limit, and polarity. Together they mean without limit or boundary, without polarity or infinite. It refers to the primordial state, before either movement or stillness. By returning to our original nature, our “pre-organization” state, we may turn back the clock and re-write our destiny. In the Dao De Jing it is said, “returning is the motion of the Tao (Dao)”. That is to say that creation having gone far, the inherent tendency is to return. Abiding in the wuji is a state of consciousness beyond space and time.
Reach Back is a way to clear your spine, so you can stand upright without one or more segments failing to fully cooperate. This is the way we all function. Misbehaving spinal vertebra, stuck in forward bending disturb our movement and posture. By forward bending and reaching back, we have a way to reset these aberrant segments.
Unlock the knees and waist until bending over horizontal, or nearly so. Look at the ground like an eagle scanning left and right for its next meal. Reach back turning the palms outward and thumbs up. Imagine opening elevator doors. Wherever there is problem, you will feel pressure on your palms like pushing open elevator doors. Retreat and pause, until this pressure on the palms subsides. Imagine each finger extending far behind you. You will feel like rising a few degrees. After reaching 45 degrees look straight ahead soaring like an eagle. End by standing erect in the wuji posture. Even a slight forward bend before practicing standing meditation will open the mingmen, the critical spinal area known as the “gate of life”, between the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebrae. Standing in wuji with the mingmen open is said to “stop the clock on your life”.
Wuji Standing Meditation
Stand erect. Turn the feet turned slightly forward, shoulder width or narrower, with the knees unlocked. Do not allow the knees to collapse toward each other, imagine a ball or bar maintaining the space. The chest is held in a relaxed manner, elevating, and spreading the back. The elbows will relax forward, outward, and downward. This will drop the shoulders without slumping or narrowing. The neck is critical. Find the chin position that facilitates floating over the upper breastbone. The chin will approach the throat which is allowed to recede slightly backward.
After standing in wuji for 2-10 minutes, slowly turn the palms forward then inhale and lift the palms skyward leading with the thumbnails. Hold the hands overhead with fingers pointing skyward and palms facing each other.
Decompress Allow the fingertips to feel as though separating from the hands and merging with the sky. Allow the top of the head to do the same. Now decompress the legs from the ankles, the pelvis from the hips, the rib cage from the pelvis, arms from shoulders and head from upper back.
Hold Breath Take 3 to 9 deep breaths holding as long as comfortable. Comfortable means you can hold the breath out for a brief time before taking the next breath. Breathe in sunshine, letting it nourish your dantien as you exhale. This will stretch the upper rib cage, allowing it to retain a degree of resiliency lost with aging. The neck and brain greatly benefit from the relief of muscular tension and strain upon the circulation. Modern living especially exacerbates the uniquely human problem of failing to spend enough time with our upper limbs overhead to balance the negative effects of gravity on our frame.
The Next Levels
· Breathe in sunshine now through every pore, exhale and let it nourish you internally. This will aid in perceiving your body as transparent and light. Sunshine is the essence and origin of the matter that makes up your body.
· Grasping heaven and earth: with each inhalation dig your toes deeper into the ground. At the same time, use the fingers last joints to grasp the sky. Upon exhalation, relax the toes partially and fingers completely. See a field of green light enveloping the middle of your body. This enhances tendon function (gall bladder) and initiate a renewal within associated with Springtime (Wood element). After grasping heaven and earth daily for two weeks you will feel this renewal.
A major purpose of reaching up is to open the channels for the upper aspect of the body. After standing this way for 2+ minutes (the longer the better), hold the last breath in and descend to your lowest position of comfort. Rise as you exhale, drop your hands by your navel and rise, initiating the shaking qigong.
Central Channel, Dantien, and Ba Hui
The central channel provides a vertical orienting function to all the other channels. It also supplies qi and blood to the rest of the channels. It has other branches, but the vertical organizing refers to the spinal branch of the central channel. From here we decompress the discs of our spine. Within the qigong and internal martial arts communities there are other properties of interest. To them, it is as if we walk within columns of light. We are these columns of light. With the central channel as an orienting centerline, we have a way to cultivate a most human attribute: our upright posture.
As to the more physical aspect of the channel, I believe there is an angle change to accommodate the skeletal axis at the transition from the spine to the base of the skull. Here the midline axis of the homo sapian (homo erectus, our ancestor) changes from a vertical to more horizontal axis, to accommodate our primary sensory organs (the eyes). The more forward portion of the cranial base or, anterior cranial midline, is an important center for postural integration but so much more. Here is one of the truly primary centers to identify in the maintenance of health. Neural centers linked to this portion of our body’s structure regulate hormonal, emotional, immune, autonomic, as well as postural balance.
The lower dantien is usually the focus in our practice. Within the lower abdomen, about two inches below and behind the navel is where we begin our transformation. We initiate energetic transformation from mental focus on (the lower) dantien. The lower dantien is the center of gravity for the human body, a biological center for creativity and reproduction, and a center for awareness where we gain access to the central channel. The wuji center is the exact center of the lower dantien. According to the Chinese, the lower dantien is the source of our internally derived medicine. That of the body’s own making. Osteopathy’s founder felt it was the brain that was our internal “pharmacy”. In Western medicine, we do not concern ourselves with healing from within.
The middle dantien, in the area of the heart, is concerned with our emotions and the upper dantien in the head with the cognitive, thinking portion of our minds. Within the upper dantien, the brain core areas are divided into nine areas according to traditional Taoist teaching. However, these generalizations belie the complexity of the dantien model. Within our cranial osteopathic understanding the anterior (forward) cranial midline, adjacent brain structures within the upper dantien contains critical regulatory function about structural integrity and perhaps, the spiritual concerns alluded to in Taoist literature.
Ba Hui (Governor Vessel 20, Crown Wisdom Chakra) is the acupuncture point at the vertex of the skull, where a line drawn from the tops of the ears meets. In acupuncture, this point is called “the meeting point of 100 channels”, meaning a coalescence of all the channels. To the degree that one opens this as a center, increasing access to universal mind allows intuitive insight. This is not a goal to strive for but a normal byproduct of the practice.
Ba hui is where the sense of lightness enters the body from the outside. Cosmic energy, like that of the sun, moon, and stars, is the physical source of our existence. Identify with this and brighten the body by facing the palms toward Ba Hui and taking a ‘qi shower’. The ba hui is the gateway to activating latent talents and abilities.
Meditations and Practices
There is a barrier between your painful area and the environment. This barrier exists for our entire body, yet we misinterpret it. In areas of our body without pain the perception of this barrier is only intermittently present. In areas of pain this barrier is reinforced and constant. Energetically, a lack of free exchange between ourselves and our environment characterizes this barrier and is responsible for this pain. One of the first thing to do when you have pain is exhale into that part of your body to reduce this barrier.
Breathing sunshine is a way to dissolve this barrier. Sunshine is the light generated by the source of our existence. Identifying with sunlight short circuits the membrane by which we define and delimit ourselves. Our perspective broadens. We can include others within our perspective and begin to take responsibility for our world.
Begin by breathing sunshine in through every pore as well as our lungs. Breathe into the dantien. Hold the breath of sunshine in, and let it nourish our dantien as we exhale.
Horizontal and Vertical Alignments
1. Wuji Point (also center of dantien) Draw a line between (Conception Vessel-6, Cv-6, ‘Sea of Qi), 2” below the navel and the space between the second and third lumbar vertebrae (Governor Vessel-4, Gv-4, mingmen, the ‘gate of life’). Track this line mentally until you feel pushback at both the front and back contact points. That is, follow the line from front to back and then back to front, looking for an area in your body that creates pressure at both contacts at the same time. This is the wuji center, also the center of the lower dantien. You might have to bend forward a few degrees to fill the mingmen first.
2. Hui Yin (Cv-1) The center of the pelvic floor, behind the genetalia and in front of the anus.
3. Ba Hui (Gv-20) The cranial vertex.
4. Yong Quan (kidney-1 acupoint) The center of the sole of the foot, where it is as if making a fist of the foot analogous to the center of the palm. About 1/3 of the way back along the sole from the balls of the feet. When identified, shifting the weight there relieves pressure on the ball and heel simultaneously.
Begin with the wuji center. The same bi-directional pressure felt along the horizontal line from abdomen to back exerts a north-south force reaching ba hui and hui yin. Draw a line between the two yong quan points. Drop your plumb centerline to the middle point equidistant between your two feet. Having secured your midline, it is now possible to neutralize gravity. Note the feeling of poise when this balance is achieved.
When you touch my hand, I might ask you to push into my body. You feel as though I redirect your force into your body. The harder you push, the more you feel this. This is called neutralization. I use your own force to assist your body in auto-correcting problems in its own distribution of forces.
As we stand in wuji, we seek to neutralize the force of gravity by aligning our body and engage the postural muscles in a different way. Another way of saying this is that when we think of the wuji center, an expanding force emanates up the spine and throughout our body. We think into our center (yin) and the Tao’s response is expansion outward (yang). Once experienced, this sense of neutralization can be extended through the limbs and applied to others for healing or self-defense.
Sink the Qi, Raise the Spirit
This phrase in Master Jan Diepersloot’s book, Qigong of the Center, Essence of Tajiquan: The Teachings of Master Cai Songwas oft repeated by my associates in the Bay Area group devoted to taiji studies. The author says that physically, the wuji practice sinks the lower body into a position for action. The ready position for an athlete or that of an animal ready to fight, flee or pounce upon prey. The upper body, head and sensory apparatus is elevated to a state of heightened awareness, consistent with the above. It is also true the energetically, our central channel and wuji center is activated. Holding the channels and centers of the body open secures our health. The higher centers offer the promise of spiritual advancement.
Maintenance of postural balance and functional integration via the concept of the 5 Needles runs like a thread throughout Meditative-Exercise. From the Emei Taoist tradition expounded by Master Zhongxian Wu, it is a comprehensive system of qigong unto itself. The table below presents enough information to get started. Incorporate the 5 Needles-awareness into all postures. Needles are hard. Transform and extend this feeling throughout the body.
A key skill in the quest of health and spiritual cultivation is to deeply view one’s inner landscape.
· Awaken yin tang by tapping on the 3rd eye (perceptual center) between the eyebrows
· Observe the tip of the nose
· From there, observe the heart
· Survey your interior landscape of the entire body
One day you may be able to help others by viewing their interior landscapes as an aid to diagnosis.
How to Proceed
· Pick a place to stand where you have a distant view, if possible. Carefully review the 5 Needles and then the alignments above. Focus on the wuji center until the central channel manifests and your external energy field (wei qi) expands. Allow your consciousness to expand to the horizon, sky, and center of the earth in each of the six directions. If you plan to do the wuji standing as a primary practice, then do the shaking qigong prior to engaging in more than five minutes of stillness practice.
· Start with at 5-15 minutes of wuji standing if you are reasonably healthy. Aim to add a minute a day until you get to 25 minutes or longer. Unless pain or health issues prevent your progression, never go back. Add a minute a day! You will feel a well-earned sense of accomplishment in several weeks. Wuji standing is easier than raising the arms. This allows focus on the mental side and greater development there can be expected.
· 15 minutes is not bad. Even 5 minutes has benefit but, we only receive the benefit corresponding to the effort put forth. How long does it take to treat you in the office? When 25 minutes is practiced regularly magic happens Everyone feels significant changes after 100 days of practice.
· There is nothing easy about standing meditation. Our problems seem to rush up to greet us. From great effort comes rich rewards. Great effort here means above all, relaxation! Endurance and perseverance are required. As your body and mind stop squirming a great Stillness pervades. You are burning your problems away in a cauldron of change.
· In summary, work up to 25 minutes and give it 100 days. Remember, it is the quality and regularity of your practice that matters far more than the quantity. 10 minutes of highly focused practice is more beneficial than an hour of daydreaming. Remember, to learn any art requires a teacher.
· The wuji standing practice is for everyone. The instructions herein are of a general nature. More specific needs can be met using standing meditation in the Movement as Medicine portion of the Meditative Exercise curriculum