無極 Wu Chi (or Wuji) – Infinite
As discussed in my previous post, Wu Chi – Wuji – The Beginning of Everything – Comparing Taoist and Modern Cosmology, Wu Chi (or Wuji, pronounced Woo Jee) means without limit, limitless or infinite. It also means without pole or without polarity. In Taoist philosophy it denotes the infinite void before the existence of Yin and Yang or anything else. Wu Chi is also a form of standing meditation. Wu Chi (Wuji) standing meditation is used as the first position in many Qigong (Ch’i Kung, pronounced Chee Gong) exercises where you stand in relaxed stillness in both body and mind, like the stillness of the void. It’s the first step in the journey of a thousand miles along the path of Qigong. This simple starting position is both more important and more complicated than it looks. Wu Chi is the beginning position that creates the optimum conditions for Qigong practice. When properly done it helps cultivate and flow your Qi (or Ch’i, pronounced Chee), which means vital energy.
Wu Chi (Wuji) standing meditation may be used by beginners as a simple Qigong exercise, in and of itself. It is also used by advanced Chi Kung practitioners as a starting position to attain the proper posture, alignment and relaxation before performing other Qigong exercises. It may also be used as an ending position, as a sort of cool-down for your circulating ch’i, where yin and yang merge, returning to their original state of Wuji, or no polarity.
Key Points for Wu Chi (Wuji) Standing Meditation
- Stand comfortably with your feet up to shoulder width apart, either parallel or slightly pointed outward.
- Imagine that you are suspended by a string through the crown of your head above the spine.
- Let your chin sink slightly down and inward as the crown of your head is pulled upward by the string, rotating your head slightly forward.
- Relax your eyes, gazing forward at a slightly downward angle with a soft wide focus.
- Lightly place the tip of your tongue at the roof of your mouth just behind the teeth.
- Relax your neck and shoulders letting them slightly sink while held up by your head.
- Relax your arms elbows and hands hanging loosely by your sides.
- Keep arms slightly out from your body so armpits are not pinched, like a small balloon is in each armpit.
- Relax your fingers in a slightly cupped position as if palming a ball with your fingers slightly apart.
- Relax and release your chest as you breathe out. Then breathe from the belly leaving your chest relaxed.
- Relax your hips and stomach letting your lower spine straighten and lengthen downward.
- Relax your knees letting them bend slightly, just enough so they are not locked and your weight sinks.
- Relax your feet and toes with your weight evenly distributed at the center of your feet.
Wu Chi (Wuji) Standing Meditation Relaxation
As you could probably tell by many of the above items, the most important overall point in Wu Chi (Wuji) standing meditation is to RELAX. Your entire body must be relaxed to allow your Qi to flow without obstruction. Tension stops the flow of Qi. Both your body and mind must also be relaxed in order to sense, feel and direct your Qi without distraction. Even before beginners are able to activate and feel their Qi (Ch’i) [Stay tuned for a future post about how to achieve that.] the deep relaxation of Wu Chi (Wuji) standing meditation has its own benefits for general health and stress reduction by itself.
When standing in Wu Chi it’s useful to take a mental inventory of the state of relaxation in each part of your body. Focus your mind on each part of your body starting at the top of your head while implementing the key points above. Imagine a string holding you up from the crown of your head. Next focus on relaxing your neck and shoulders. Then focus on relaxing your arms, elbows and hands letting them hang loosely by your sides. Your arms should feel heavy as they sink down. Focus on relaxing your chest, hips and stomach letting gravity unroll the bottom of your spine and lengthen it. Finally focus on relaxing your legs, knees and feet letting your weight sink down into the center of your feet. It should feel like wet cement is being poured down into your legs and firming, but without hardening.
It’s useful to practice Wu Chi and other Qigong exercises outside when possible enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and breeze for even more relaxation. Or even in the water for the ultimate relaxation!
Wu Chi (Wuji) Standing Meditation Belly Breathing
Loosely place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth just behind the front teeth. This does two things. First it forms a physical valve that makes you breathe through your nose. Second it forms a connection between the two main Qi (Ch’i) meridians, the conception vessel in the front and the governing vessel in the back, forming a complete circuit.
Breathe in deeply as if into your belly which is called belly breathing or embryonic breathing. Not by pushing your belly out but rather by relaxing your belly and letting it drop. It should feel like air is being drawn through your lungs down into your belly. Then as you gently breathe out imagine the air going up your back along your spine over your head (Small Circulation). This sounds funny. Of course the air doesn’t go into your belly or up your back and this often confuses beginners. You’ll often hear all sorts of strange “breathing” described in Qigong descriptions like foot breathing, kidney breathing, etc. The Chinese word Qi (Ch’i) means vital energy, but it also means air. So when talking about breathing in Qigong it often means breathing air and using that process to direct Qi energy further throughout the body. What moves through the body at that point is not the air, that obviously stays in the lungs, but rather a wave of energy travels further through the body.
Feeling and directing Qi (Ch’i) is a form of biofeedback but only using the mind and body rather than electronic devices. Breathing is just an autonomic bodily function that may also be manually controlled rather easily. So you are using the breathing apparatus of your diaphragm to also control and direct waves of energy through your body while you breathe. There are other small muscles around your lower abdominal cavity. By focusing on breathing as if it were from your belly, you are able to use the diaphragm and other abdominal muscles to do much more than simply breathe. As you breathe you contract these muscles in a wave that rotates down the front of your abdominal cavity, around the bottom and up the back of the abdominal cavity in a circle. Once you get the hang of this you’ll often hear and feel gurgling in your abdomen as it is being massaged by this muscle action when you “belly breathe.”
Feeling Your Ch’i (Qi)
It is this biofeedback control that initially allows you to feel and direct Qi (Ch’i) through the body. Higher level practitioners are said to be able to direct and flow the Qi with the mind alone. I have not yet reached that level. So far I’ve only gotten to the point where I can feel Qi in my hands and forearms as well as sometimes in the legs during Tai Chi practice and odd random places (like the face) during other Qigong practice. The hands are usually the first place where you can feel Qi (Ch’i) because the hands are the most sensitive body parts and easily under conscious control. Many meridians also end in the fingers, so it’s usually these meridians that you become aware of first. When moving the hands across each other it feels like moving the same poles of two magnets across each other and you can feel them gently repel each other. Stay tuned for more on how to awaken and feel your Qi (Ch’i) in a future post.
Wu Chi (Wuji) Standing Meditation Mental Focus
Remember that Wu Chi (Wuji) standing meditation is a form of meditation. So while practicing Wu Chi you want to clear your mind of external thoughts. Initially you can focus on scanning your body for any signs of tension while working on your relaxation. If you have difficulty clearing your mind of other thoughts another trick you can use is to focus on counting. If you count your breaths each time you exhale you can use that to focus the mind on what’s happening in your body as you breathe rather than on any external distracting thoughts. I like to breathe in and out for about three seconds each making each full breath last six seconds. That pace means one minute will pass every ten breaths. This way I can focus on my breathing and also use that to monitor how much time has passed. Eventually you should be able to clear the mind without having to focus on something else.
Wu Chi (Wuji) Standing Meditation Consistency
At first even holding this simple position for any length of time may seem difficult for beginners. Just practice it for a few minutes at a time whenever you can each day. Consistency is more important than duration, so be sure to practice every day, even if only for a few minutes. Continue working the Wu Chi (Wuji) standing meditation until you can hold the position in relaxed meditation for about 20 minutes. Once you reach that point you’re ready to move on to the next position. Stay tuned for a future post with additional positions and a set of more advanced standing meditation Qigong exercises called Zhan Zhuang (pronounced Jan Jong) from the book The Way of Energy.
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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino
These videos are based on exercises described in the book – The Way of Energy.