“When one is completely free of wishes or ambition, he will really get the genuine vital energy. When one concentrates his mind internally, how can disease attack him?”
-Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine
Li family Jingzuo (靜坐) Quiet Sitting practice is not considered to be a form of meditation. True meditation is associated with psychological and spiritual practices designed to still the mind and experience the reality of life and nature. Quiet Sitting is a method for beginning the development of Li family Nei-gong (內 功) inner skill. In the Li family method, this is the first step on a road to understanding how to use mind to influence body for healing and martial powers.Li, Zhang-Lai a martial arts master and bodyguard believed that a martial form executed without feeling or sensing resistance from an imagined opponent was as he called it “waxed fruit”. This was his term for any movement that did not truly exercise the body, nerves, and muscles correctly while practicing Daquan (打拳) Shadow Boxing, doing martial forms.
All his movement forms and exercises for martial arts and healing contained what he called Neili Ganjue (內力感覺) internal energy sensing. Neili Ganjue is what happens when the mind consciously creates illusory sensations within the body. In the case of martial arts these are sensations of pushing, pulling, throwing, striking and so forth that actually activate the nervous system to stimulate precise muscle pathways used in the action. The method also is applied to healing specific parts of the body by learning to direct intention to a specific place. This focus increases protein rich blood flow and neurological energy to the part to be healed.
Neili Ganjue is felt as a mild resistance sensed when using a specific tactic. This resistance feeling in martial arts is known as Dongtai duli lilang (動態對立力量) Dynamic State of Opposition. During form actions the body does not excessively flex muscles or tense up. There is during all movements a state of Song (松) or relaxation present and yet one still can sense the correct path or resistance from ground to a specific body weapon in the mind.
When properly trained these feeling arise while performing any action against an imaginary opponent or outside force. In this way the nervous system and muscles are trained even though the real threat is not present. By the use of the Yi and Xin one can create the Dynamic State of Opposition in the mind which is felt in the body. Forms come alive with this method which Master Li named Yizhang (意掌) intention palm.
Before incorporating Daquan / Shadow Boxing students are introduced to a progressive learning curriculum designed to strengthen the mind and mental focus in order to improve the minds ability to create the requires sensations for internal martial practice. This begins with Quiet Sitting which is then carried into Zhan Zhuang (站 樁) Standing at Stake and finally into movement forms of Daquan / Shadow Boxing. Daquan is also sometimes called Long Liliang (龍力量) Dragon Force Forms the name alluding to sensations felt internally by the creation of sense memories derived from Dynamic State of Opposition principle.
Why Sit First
Sitting quietly is the easiest way to feel and then consciously produce subtle internal sensations. In quiet sitting there are fewer distractions than in standing meditation or forms. During this training we must become accustomed to sitting still with a correct upright posture, allowing external distractions to be duly noted and disregarded. We learn to breathe in a way so as to calm the mind and increase oxygen flow to the brain for more focused concentration.
As the average human being has a transient attention span of only 8 seconds which is only one second longer than a goldfish there is a need to develop some mind power for concentration so next comes a series of exercises to teach us how to maintain focus of mind on a specific concept, idea or feeling for an extended time period.
After we learn how to increase focus and concentration the student is taught how to begin producing subtle feelings in the body through using sense memories. This skill will lead to a greater control over the nervous system and for martial arts open the doorway to the art of Neili Ganjue. All of this is a state of mind in which mental intention (Yi) is used to direct and empower physical actions.
From this practice we begin to learn to use our minds intention (Yi) to direct the heart / imagination (Xin) to cause our bodies to react and follow our desired goals. After one has learned techniques, internalized them so they come and go without having to visualize or summon them we have the opportunity to program our mind to influence our body on both the internal and external levels for healing, strength and speed production and much more.
Quiet Sitting Focus Experiment
Sit in a comfortable position with straight spine but not rigid. Begin breathing gently noticing the breath come in and allow it to feel as if sinking down into the lower abdomen. Breathe out and feel the air come up from below and flow out of the abdomen, chest, and throat then repeat this way of breathing for a time. Once this feels comfortable begin counting your breath in this way. Breathe in and think 1 breathe out think 1. Breathe in think 2 breathe out think 2. Continue in this way for as long as you can without losing count. Most people will find that they lose count at around 10 or 12. The first goal is to count to 50 without losing your place. When one can make 100 consistently we say you have developed some worthwhile focusing skills. This is just the beginning, there is more!