Dr. John Painter
“Busy Inside, Still Outside”
-Li, Long Dao
There are many kinds of meditation. Some focus on spiritual attainment, others finding inner peace, the list is almost endless. Our students at The Gompa center in Arlington Texas who are studying the internal martial arts of Taijiquan, Baguazhang or Xingyiquan begin with a method that appears similar to meditation but is actually quite different. It is called Quiet Sitting (Jingzuo 靜坐). Quiet Sitting is derived from a Daoist method designed to develop the intention mind (意 Yi). The goal is to develop internal power (Nei-gong Jin 內功勁).
Training Quiet Sitting is the bedrock of the Li family arts. Internal power is expressed in the ancient Chinese martial aphorism, “Use mind not use strength (Yong yi bu yong li /用意不用力) To achieve this skill one must develop control over the mind. We must learn how using thought affects the body.
True internal martial arts start from the inside and work to the outside. This means learning to control the mind and then allowing the mind to control the body. This is true internal skill work (Nei-gong內 功). Many people talk about internal power but few actually achieve it. Li family training is designed as a clear stair step method for the development of internal power and it begins with Quiet Sitting.
First one begins by learning proper breathing in a manner that relaxes the mind thus allowing the heart-mind (Xin 心) of our emotions to settle, like sand in a glass of water left to filter to the bottom until all that is left is clarity. In this state, we can begin to use or imagination to produce subtle feelings in any part of our body.
Here we can begin truly to examine our collective attitudes about the world and ourselves. We can learn to change the things that get in the way of success and understand why we often fail at the things that we believe we really want in life. With this clear vision, our bodies and minds are ready to receive the internal work. Li family Quiet Sitting is used to develop the first stages of mental control over all internal systems and is the foundation of developing what is called internal power or force (Nei-gong Jin 內功勁).
To learn this skill of Quiet Sitting we go through six stages.
Stage One Noticing Stage
Stage Two Post-Natal Breathing
Stage Three Mud Settling
Stage Four Breath Numbering for Increasing Mental Focus
Stage Five Taming the Horse using mental imagery
Stage Six using creating internal sensations with mind
After the skills of Quiet Sitting are acquired we move into two more foundation methods of training, the second is Post Standing (Zhan Zhuang 站 樁) a form of exercise used to develop an ability to relax while producing kinetic force. This is trained through a proprietary art of the Li family called Intention Heart Skill (Yixingong 意心功). During Yixingong training we begin using the Yi to expand, project, root, and play with the mind-energy that we are discovering.
These three levels of training have been shown to produce high-level results in student’s health, speed, strength, and kinetic force potential. Later during solo form practice, we simply move through the actions and the body remembers and adjusts itself to produce the greatest amount of force with the least amount of effort.
This is why we say when we are sitting or standing, at first we are very busy inside making subtle corrections to posture and breath and very still outside to allow for sensing and feeling our developing internal energy. It all begins with sitting down breathing and allowing the mind to settle. This is hard work, but if you can develop the patience to stick it out the rewards are great.