Up until recently, I was mainly ‘the observer’ during my zhan zhuang sessions, that is, merely observing and witnessing any arises thoughts without attachment. However, this has become increasingly more difficult as a lot of changes are happening right now in my home life. For example, we are preparing for a move out of our current home into another house. Sometimes during zhan zhuang, I would think about a task that must be completed and then would think of another associated task, then another; until, I would finally realize that my mind has been running around like a mad man. This would often result in not being very relaxed and feeling a bit agitated at the end of the session.
Previously, I used to practice breath counting and would work my way up to 100 without losing focus. Lately, I have modified things a bit and now do sets of 25 breaths. How does breath counting work? Here’s a nice summary:
We begin working on ourselves by counting the breath, counting each inhalation and each exhalation, beginning with one and counting up to ten. When you get to ten, come back to one and start all over. The only agreement that you make with yourself in this process is that if your mind begins to wander – if you become aware that what you’re doing is chasing thoughts – you will look at the thought, acknowledge it, and then deliberately and consciously let it go and begin the count again at one.
Easy, eh? The key practice about this one is to start back at 1 if the mind drifts away from the counting. I can honestly say during my last standing session, I did not start over once! Right now, I am employing this technique in 3 zhan zhuang postures: (1) wuji, (2) universal post, (3) hold the belly. Over time, I will incorporate all 8 yiquan postures, but 3 works well for me now.
The really cool thing I noticed instantly about the breath counting is that it really brought to my attention some tension spots on my body. I carry quite a bit of tension in a small spot about the size of a tennis ball in the back side of my right shoulder and right lower back. Additionally, I felt quite a bit of tension in my right wrist. A lot of these make sense for me as I sit and work at a computer a majority of the day and I am right handed 🙂
Another cool thing is that after I finished the 3 postures, 25 minutes had passed! Instead of using a timer or a clock to gauge my training, I use my own body. I am sure that over time, this may extend even longer as my breathing deepens.