The Tao of Pulsing

Sunday I did get to see another senior student of the Taoist master who brought all this to the West. He was very forthcoming about general topics and specific questions.  For example, I told him that when I started doing a new movement, and the next day I was depressed, he diagnosed this, according to the Taoist scheme of things, as kidney problems. As I mentioned the Taoists make much of kidneys and their responsibilities, and I know I have kidney problems anyway with gout.

But the high point of the session was his talk about “pulsing” joints. The books talk about this all the time but without saying what it really is or what is going on. But it is critical to movement of the Chi to open the joints to the flow and to tighten them if they are too loose (as, for example, in the case of athletes or dancers whose joints may wobble).

I asked him what they were talking about and he held up his right arm at my eye level, and without touching it moved his hand at least a half-inch away from the rest of his arm,  then back. It was VERY strange. He immediately said, “I know it looks weird. But there is nothing strange about it, really. Everybody can learn to do this. It’s just that here in the West the knowledge has been lost or we never had it in the first place, so we’re not used to seeing it. But this is what the internal training really leads to; the forms (postures) are just ways to focus your intent on specific areas.”

So naturally I asked him how you learn to do this, and he gave me a general kind of answer, about putting your consciousness into specific joints over and over again until you begin to feel movement, and then latching onto the feedback to slowly improve the motion.

I don’t think he was concealing any magic tricks. The same principle applies to just about everything involved with Taoist body work (and probably the spiritual and medical as well): first you have to realize that it is possible, then localize your intent and consciousness into a specific thing, then practice the motion.

The fact that I can feel a physical change after doing a new exercise just once gives me hope that my french-fried nerves are actually good for learning all this.

I am going to work on another process that is a mainstay of Taoism, “dissolving” stress and discomfort. I asked him about this and how to get feedback that I was doing it correctly, and he told me to make a fist and clench my hand tight. I did so.

“That’s like frozen stress, like ice,” he said. “Now, without opening your hand, relax the tension so your hand is still in a fist, but not tightened up.”

I did that. “That’s like water, now. If you continue to relax your fingers and let them straighten, that’s like dissolving the water into gas. The energy is freed internally and in time you can even learn to feel it moving away and out of your body. Later, you learn how to retain it and transmute it into Chi. But for now, as you stand, scan your body for any pain or discomfort or tightness and work on dissolving it, Grasshopper.”

No, he didn’t say that, but I couldn’t resist. I have run into the truth behind the legends.  Of course, I’d like to think that it was looking for me too.

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Updates

No posting for some time. My life has been chaotic, but with the exception of this week I have been pretty good about practicing. Now I am standing a half hour a night with another ten minutes or so of Dragon and Tiger postures. My immediate goal is a half hour of each, more when I can learn more of the Energy Arts advanced postures bit by bit.

I can only do three of the seven D&T postures, since I can’t balance on one foot well enough to do #2 or #7, and I also can’t make a “sword hand” for several of the others. But these have immediate benefits too; believe me, I could not keep up with daily exercise without a substantial reinforcement of improvement all the time.

I did contact my QiGung coach on the occasion of her leaving town for the summer (when she attends classes with the master), so I thought I would pass on this correspondence.

Hi Judy,

I’m sorry I have not been able to make it over to the group class in Half Moon Bay, but my wife is still quite ill and I need to be with her all the time now, as she can barely walk.

My own practice is going well. I have three of the seven Dragon and Tiger movements in my nightly repertoire now, but I can’t make a sword hand with my right hand, and I can’t balance on one leg to do the positions that require that. Still, I take your advice and do what I can and feel grateful for any help that comes down to us from those that blazed this trail over the centuries.

I am doing a half hour of standing, sometimes broken up into two 15-minute segments with D&T in between, sometimes with the D&T at the end. Do you recommend one approach or the other?  I don’t know if the benefit of the stand is in the continuous time or if the time is cumulative. I do get a huge rush if I do standing after the D&T postures. I am beginning to sense heavy rooting now, with real heaviness in my lower arms and all through my legs. And, as I tell people, I feel 20 years younger.

I wish I could transmit chi to my poor wife, but that surely takes more skill and discernment than I have at this point. Still, this was one of my goals in taking up this work as well as avoiding her fate.

Thanks for your support and advice. I hope to see you again in the fall. And good sailing on the Tao of your own journey this summer!

Mike

Mike so good to hear of your continued practice and growth.  Sorry to hear of your wife’s continued illness.  While it may not feel like you are being of any qigong benefit to her, one can’t be sure.  If you have an animal, cat, dog, you will surely notice that they notice the energy.  Perhaps she may not overtly so but…

I trust you are doing exactly what you should regarding breaking up your standing with D&T or doing an extended stand.  Both have their merits.  The fact that you are starting to more strongly feel the rooting is a good indication of your growth.

I hope you may join one of the groups in September.  We were all talking about the difference that can be felt when we practice with many people in the same room.

Wishing you well always,

Judy

Besides the other effects, I believe that I am getting some metabolic support from this work now, as I have been eating all kinds of “bad” foods without gaining much weight (only 10 pounds, which on me is less than 3% of body weight). I’m fluctuating between 350 and 360.

Mike

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Week 8 update

Weight still steady at 345. Not surprising; this is a well-known setpoint and I am glad not to have drifted higher, as I have been eating a substantial amount of empty calories. And bread, my nemesis. The opiate analogs in wheat are serious impediments. Having a stand mixer now enables me to knead bread, so I bake for Nettie, who lives for fresh hot bread, and I have to test it before giving it to her…

But I’m pumped by the recent changes in my standing routine. It is now just 5 months I have been doing this, and I have broken the 30-minute milestone. I am thrilled to discover that while increasing my standing time early on only let me add a minute at a time, I graduated to adding on time in larger increments. I’ll reprint my email to my teacher Judy, which tells the whole story:

Hi Judy,

I had a really startling experience last night after standing, so I thought I would tell you about it and catch up on my practice in general.

After hitting a wall in trying to do the Dragon and Tiger movements all at once, I intuited that I needed to go slowly and gradually – not my usual approach, but it seems right in this case.

I have been standing now for five months. I got up to 10 minutes in early March and stayed there for some time. When I tried to do more I discovered to my surprise that I could easily stand for 15 minutes or longer. Then about two weeks ago I tried 18-20 minutes and that felt fine.

After a half-dozen 20-minute stands, one day I had to go to the local Social Security office to resolve some problems, and there were about 50 seats for 60 people, some of whom were using oxygen or in wheelchairs. A good opportunity to stand! So I did; I am no longer bashful about standing in public, and I stood for a half hour before the crowd thinned enough to make a dozen or so seats free.

I was tired, but had no ill effects the next day, but definitely more energy. I have since done two more 30-minute stands, including some of D&T movement 1, some Brocade postures, and the heart-level “balloon” posture, as well as the basic Wu Chi stand. Adding the D&T #1 proved quite exhilarating.

I have not been trying to sink chi at all since the attempt I made back about the time I was going to the elder class, so last night at the end of the stand I tried to sink, and I was amazed at the feeling of weight draining into my lower body. It felt massive. And unmistakable. Something was definitely happening. And when I sat down a minute later, for at least ten minutes I felt as if a huge river was pouring through my entire body, from my head to my feet. Needless to say, this is VERY motivating.

The combination of standing for a half hour and walking for a half hour seems quite productive. I have also lost about 20 pounds in the last several months. I have also been drinking my raw foods mixture now for nine months and it has helped a great deal with allergies and tendonitis. So, all in all, good news.

In some of Dan’s writings on the web he talks about moving to new levels and change at 20 minutes, one hour, and two hours of standing. Do you know what he is referring to? Am I crossing over the 20 minute milestone now? All I know is that I feel more like 30 than 60. Have you any other comment or advice?

Probably the weakest point in my practice is breathing. Lying down is not so bad, but dropping my diaphragm to inhale, in my case, means dropping about 100 pounds of fat, guts, and muscle. It really jerks the air in and encourages me to breathe out more rapidly and forcefully as well, so it makes smooth and gradual breathing hard.

Thanks for your advice and support.

Mike

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End of week 7

No week 6 posting – weight holding steady at 345-347.

But on the standing front, I have been doing at least 10 minutes, going up to 15 or so, then down to 12, like that, and only standing about 4 times a week instead of 5+.

But then on Friday I had to go to the Social Security office to set up my account right. There were about 60 people there in chairs and a half dozen standees. I decided to simply take my standing posture, minimizing the strangeness of it, and see how long I could stand.

At 30 minutes I walked over and sat in a vacated seat. I could have gone a little longer, but I was definitely tired, the outer side of my legs numb. My legs were tired that night, but no consequences on Saturday.

And tonight (Sunday) I did a 20 minute stand with no ill effects. I wonder if I have made the jump up to the next level at the 20 minute milestone. I guess we will see.

I also started doing some of posture 1 of the Heaven and Earth series. I discovered that the little practice I did of it was enough to create muscle memory, and I restarted it fairly easily. I need to work on the foot movements with the arms, but it seems quite doable. And I’ll start in on the other postures.

This is what I was hoping for, a gradual strengthening of the whole body system with a view to learning as many postures as possible. I hope I’m not too optimistic here.

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End of week 5 weigh-in

Another flat week. From her hospital bed Nettie offered that even to break even, with all the stress of her surgery, was a win. Perhaps, but I don’t want to lose the thread. I’m not eating endless junk, but I’m not exercising (except standing) and my portion size is creeping up again. Plus, eating cheese, which will torpedo any caloric-restricted diet.

I was leery of standing and exercise this week, due to a back pain that behaved differently than any other I’d had, so I stopped these exercises until my doctor explained what was going on (and that I wasn’t aggravating the pain by standing or walking). He gave me some routines to try for the pain and they helped immediately, so much so that the pains are almost gone. That’s very good, because I was losing sleep over them.

I don’t think I mentioned it here before, but my diet plan goes like this: I have tried everything I know of, one fixation at a time: low carb, low fat, high meat, high fat, small portions, exercise, meditate (stand), no sugar, no dairy, raw only, paleo, veg, vegan. Some people lose on one diet, some on another.

I do them all, insofar as they don’t contradict each other, reasoning that if I do everything that has ever been reported to work, I stand a good chance of hitting the sweet spot. Indeed, low fat, low calorie, low carb, no sugar, no refined starch (beans OK), no meat (gout), small portions, exercise, stand,  seems to be the winner. But it’s not easy, especially when stressed.

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End of week 4 weigh-in

This week was a wash – no loss, no gain. I ate pretty poorly with bread and some fats and even an ice cream bar, and didn’t do that much walking.  However, I did do a 20-minute stand, to my own amazement. I was just planning on about a 12-minute workout, but I got there and felt good, and just kept on going. I could have gone on longer, but I didn’t want to chance getting the “overwhumped” feeling from too long a stand – really unpleasant, a combination of physical and nervous fatigue.

All in all, not too bad a week, except way too much stress from my wife’s hip replacement, and having to be at the hospital at 5AM – about the time I usually go to bed.

I have also been having some odd back pain for the last month or so. It comes and goes and does not seem to be helped by leg lifts or walking, which I expect to cure belt-line level back pain. This pain also can be quite severe, but then clear up entirely in 15 minutes if I keep my back straight sitting. I will be consulting with my Doctor this next Thursday to catch up on all these nagging little issues.

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End of week 3 weigh-in

I was quite pleased to weigh in today at 345 pounds, 23 pounds lighter than three weeks ago. I think I’m well past the water weight and into real flab going.

I am somewhat surprised, because I had three “real meals” this week, eating a bacon cheesburger with a veggie pattie and a bacon avocado wrap. I cringed at the avocado, but the results are there. I also did a bit of walking – nothing remotely enough to burn that many calories per distance travelled – but they say that the exercise effects have hysteresis and last much longer than the actual metabolic event.

Anyway, I am well below the 350 pound mark, which is a metabolic setpoint for me and also a physical inflection point; above that weight, I feel one way, below it, another. There are other minor ones, but also major ones of the same before and after sort at 270 pounds and 225-230. I haven’t been that tiny for decades, so I’m not sure. But it’s pretty good for an old man, I should think.

Of course, I have to thank the support of my wife Nettie, of my Shaykh Nazim al-Qubbrusi, the other Naqshbandi Shaykhs up the line, and the Taoist masters as well and Bruce Frantzis for bringing QiGong to the west. And I might as well thank A. H. Almaas too while I’m at it. It certainly costs nothing, and the Prophet of Islam (sallahu ala’hi wa salaam) said, “Who thanks not people thanks not God.”

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