Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wuji (Wu Chi) – Posture of Infinity

A foundation of traditional Chinese thought is a belief in a single, cosmic universe full of energy called qi. In the beginning, the universe was an endless void known as wuji. From this void arose activity expressed as yin and yang. Yin and yang are sometimes thought of as aspects of female and male, but this is incorrect. It’s the other way around. Yin and yang are the all, representing the opposites that exist throughout the universe. All opposites are aspects of yin and yang. Light and dark, day and night, earth and sky, water and fire, and female and male are typical aspects. Yin and yang are represented by the double fish symbol.

In tai chi, wuji is the posture of infinity, corresponding to the neutral universe. A main purpose of wuji is for posture awareness, where we allow ourselves to mentally scan our body, discovering our physical and mental needs and wants.

External Aspects of WujiIn traditional qigong and tai chi practice, the wuji posture is used as a resting position before beginning exercise and sometimes placed between other movements. It symbolically represents the “great emptiness” of the original universal void. The tai chi classics say that wuji gives birth to tai chi, where emptiness transforms into activity. We practice tai chi to develop our ability to understand and use the energy of the universe.

To stand in wuji, begin with your feet about shoulder width apart. Relax your entire body. Your weight should be evenly distributed on the three balance points of your foot: the ball of the foot, the point at the base of the little toe, and at the heel. Be sure that your knees are loose. Tuck in your elbows, drop your hands to your sides, and allow your shoulders to droop. Do not lock any joints.

Keep your spine straight without being stiff (song). Tilt your pelvis slightly forward and push your chin slightly back to straighten your spine. Imagine that your head is suspended above your body by a string from the ceiling. Allow your eyes to close without pressure, and bring each breath all the way down to the dan tien energy point, about three inches below the navel. Proper alignment opens the gates of the body to achieve proper qi flow.

Progressively relax your body from the top down. Look forward and relax your eyes without focusing on anything. Relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders. Relax your arms and hands, allowing them to hang loosely. Allow your breathing to deepen gradually and expand your diaphragm.

Internal Aspects of WujiThe first step is to relax in the posture for a few moments. Stand as still as a tree and pay attention to any sensations you feel. Do not try to change anything. Just pay attention to the sensations.

Visualize a string connecting the top of your head with the heavens, lifting you and stretching your spine. Let your mind travel throughout your body. Continue with deep breaths for several minutes. Use your breathing as a point of focus. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing. Calm and empty your mind. A calm mind can better sense the flow of qi.

Be aware of any feelings of comfort or discomfort. Be aware of any muscular tension. These are not good or bad. They just are. Do not be judgmental. The goal is to develop your ability to sense what is happening in your body. Awareness of your body develops your self-awareness.

Standing in wuji is the ideal posture for the balanced flow of qi. All the places where qi is not flowing become apparent. Areas of poor qi flow become uncomfortable or even painful. Discomfort during standing reveals places where your body is not functioning properly. Your natural instincts are to move when you are uncomfortable. Move your body to eliminate painful postures, but try to maintain the posture when you are merely uncomfortable.

One method to eliminate the discomfort is to imagine your breath moving to the area of discomfort. Imagine your breath entering and leaving your body at that area. With every inhale, bring healing qi into your body. With every exhale, expel stagnant qi and carry away the tension and pain. Allow the healing qi to eliminate the discomfort.

Another method to eliminate the discomfort is to image the discomfort dropping through your body toward the ground. Allow it to fall through your feet and into the ground. When the discomfort leaves your body, it should be replaced by a feeling of comfort.

Try to stand in wuji for a few moments every day. It seems very simple, but it will be very difficult the first few times you try this. The time will drag on seemingly forever. Boredom will drive you crazy. Be persistent and these feelings will pass. Over a period of several weeks, gradually increase the amount of time you spend standing. Remember though, quality is more important than quantity. Do not force yourself to stand when you are distracted.

With practice, you can develop the ability to achieve the same mental state at any time, even when sitting. This can enhance your health by helping you deal with stress. Apply the principles of body awareness and dan tien breathing to develop calmness.

© 2010 Eric Borreson