Grand Master Chen Xiao-Wang Teaches Standing Mediation
by J. Justin Meehan, Esq. (c) 1996
U.S. Chen style practitioners last had the opportunity to study from"-the 19th generation Chen family lineage holder in 1988. At that time, Master Chen concentrated on teaching the "Yi lu" (the Chen family's #1 form, from which all other T'ai Chi styles derive) and the Simplified 38 form created by Chen Xiao-Wang to introduce beginning students to the Chen style form and principles.
This past July and August of 1996, Master Ren Guang-Yi brought his master, Chen Xiao-Wang, back to the U.S. What a difference those eight years made. Grand Master Chen relocated to Australia and mastered the English language. In addition, he now felt comfortable teaching the inner dynamics of the Chen family style.
By way of introduction, Grand Master Chen said that a very simplified classification of the three major levels of development of Chen style T'ai Chi could be categorized as follows:
Level One: Learning the form, choreography, and body mechanics correctly. This could correspond to the "Yang" or external aspects of T'ai Chi development (which Grand Master Chen concentrated on in 1988).
Level Two: Learning to perform the form movements in a slow, continuous and smooth which exemplifies correct T'ai Chi principles and the correct flow of "Qi" internal energy throughout the body. This could be considered the "Yin" stage.
Level Three: Performing the movements with proper Qi flow and also with a correct understanding of martial intention and applications. Her both Yin and Yang aspects -ordinate and combine into a comprehensive whole or "T'ai Chi balance".
In 1988, Master Chen focused on form and learning the entire form sequence. Many students overwhelmed with the quantity of movements to master. However, this Summer, Master Chen concentrated on the internal aspects of Chen form. He purposefully emphasized quality over quantity.
His teaching this Sumter began with emphasis on standing meditation instruction and then comprehensive and detailed analysis u of four basic "Ch'an Szu Chin" exercises. The emphasis was not just on doing the movement correctly, but on developing the awareness of proper Qi flow and the creation of a "Tan Tien center" as the cornerstone for all further development.
In 1988, St. Louis hosted Grand Master Chen Xiao-Wang for a week-long seminar. At that time, he discussed standing meditation and the basic Ch'an Szu Chin (C.S.C.) exercises. In the limited time (one week) available, however, we were only able to learn the external aspects of C.S.C. and how to do the form correctly. In 1996, Grand Master Chen discussed openly and completely the purposes of standing and C.S.C. and the internal energy (Qi) flow necessary to unite both outer body with inner Qi circulation.
To begin with, each of the four classes sessions began with at least 20 minutes of Standing Meditation (other known -Holding the Post" or "Wu Chi" standing). Master Chen explained the importance of utilizing standing meditation to create a fixed Tan Tien and "Qi center". The posture's position was slowly sculpted within an as we closed our eyes and were verbally guided by Master Chen's calm, but precise instructions. He emphasized the importance of the standing posture being relaxed, natural, and comfortable. This allows the energy to flow naturally, to collect in the Tan Tien and then spread out from the Tan Tien center (three inches below the navel and midway from the front to the back) to every part of the body.
Posturally, he aligned the body from the side view by creating vertical alignment from the ear to the shoulder, to the hip, and to the ankle. One simple correcting exercise would be to hold a straight stick vertically and to measure one's partner's side view vertical alignment. He also pointed out a self-correcting practice to align the body ourselves by standing with back and head to the wall until our heads and backs were aligned.
His progressive instructions to us as we practiced the posture included:
- Raising,the top of the head upward
- "Listening behind you" (which has very interesting physiological and psychological effects on the overall meditation)
- "Balancing the mind' (as in calming the mind, balancing the posture is not enough)
- Aligning properly from the ear to the ankle (as previously described)
- Relaxing the Tan Tien center
- Balancing the Qi within the body;
- Sinking the body and weight downward;
- Balancing the weight distribution;
- Allowing the Qi to descend downward to enter the Tan Tien center;
- Achieving quietness;
- Relaxing the spine (each vertebrae individually, from top to bottom);
- Relaxing he mind by "balancing the mind, balancing the weight, and balancing the Qi" within;
- Standing quietly ("like a mountain");
- Slowly raising and riffling the arms in front of the chest to a comfortable position.
- Finding one o own best posture, based on ones own ability and using the criteria of adopting the posture which feels most balanced, most comfortable, and is the most conducive to the Qi being able to flow within.
There were additional instructions given, but, the above should suffice for.those who did not have the opportunity to attend. The primary purpose, besides quieting the mind, going within, and achieving the most aligned posture, was to create a "Tan Tien center". From a purely external view point, this involved creating a focused and stable center of gravity. Master Chen's specific instructions, however, were to locate and stabilize the .Tan Tien center. in such a way as to create a "Qi center" toward which all energy would flow toward, entering and accumulating within, and from which the Qi would then flow outward to support all movement. He stressed that although the variations of potential body movements was limitless, any changes in the body's position through movement could never compromise the central position of the Tan Tien or Qi center within.
He personally led the entire group through these verbal instructions for standing posture and then went around to correct each seminar student personally. He was adamant about not becoming overly conscious of the role of the breath at this early stage and recommended only that each student just breathe naturally.