Archive for June, 2011

In praise of standing (again)

June 13th, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been off Zhan Zhuang (jam jong), or standing practice for a little while, being busy with school and work, but it’s time to get back into it. Returning to a practice after having been away usually gives me a new insight into it, though usually a small one. Sometimes I come back with some skill, effectively resetting the “beginner’s mind”, but usually I just return somewhat refreshed.

In the case of standing, I’ve had some time to think about what it has done for me in between standing sessions — you know, when I’m moving around like a normal person. At those times, I pay close attention to where my weight is, how I’m balanced, and I also notice little anomalies in my body sooner, leading me to avoid the habits that caused them. In general, standing has helped me get to know my body better, and not by learning anatomical vocabulary (useful though that may be for communicating about the body). No, standing has helped me find my balance, use my weight to act on things yet stay physically centered and find an optimal way of interacting with the forces of the real world.

Yes, stand in one spot for a while and see the world. An inner worlds, I guess. Stand long enough — properly — and you’ll begin to adjust your position and alignment until your weight is distributed by a greater and greater number of your muscles, tendons and bones. The more body parts that help out, the less work each one has to do. Now of course, there’s an optimization here: some parts are not involved. However … given that most standing postures involve the arms being held up, this allows you to engage body parts that would be limp if you didn’t have to hold your arms up.

So what? Well, I’ve found that not only is there a structural reason to involve a number of systems in standing, there’s an energetic reason too. Now I’m not going to get all “chi” on you, but I’ll just say that when I place a relaxed attention on part of my body, I get a pleasant tingle. When I can enlarge the area to which I’m attending, the tingle gets stronger. When the whole body is being attended to, the tingle is really something, and I feel like jumping up and running around the block. It’s quite something.

It’s hard, as I’ve written before, but I’m now remembering how good it felt when I did it regularly.

(Holy cow, was I ever off-center back then.)

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Breathe heavy like Dave Bowman from 2001!

June 7th, 2011 No comments

Yesterday I needed to get an essay done for my English course. This required ferocious concentration, so I grabbed my extra-keen Shure SCL-3 Bowman Breather earphones. These are great. They’re designed for pro audio guys, and because they go right into the ear canal, they do a terrific job of shutting out the outside world so you can groove to your tunes distraction-free. But if “grooving” to you means cranking it up to 11, you might want to avoid these — they’ll make you deaf if you crank up the volume. (This is why most earbuds fit loosely — to save the ears of the crankers, but it means they now share their grooving with you on the transit. Whippersnappers.)

The price point of these babies should discourage the casual iPod jockey, but for me they’re just right — with the music off.  All is (mostly) silent, except for my own breathing, which dominates the soundscape. That might justifiably creep out a lot of you, but for me it’s not only a soothing balm, but also an aid to meditation, giving me something to listen to as I zone in (not out, by the way). It also helps me learn to breathe more slowly and deeply, because it gives me feedback I can’t ignore. And the tunes sound great, in case you were wondering.

However … flight attendants don’t recommend wearing them on landing — it’s an air pressure thing. Consider yourself warned. And don’t crank your music, eh?

(If you’re shopping, the SCL-3 is discontinued, but other “sound isolating” earphones should do.)
(Oh yeah, one more thing: the jack is too thick to fit into the tiny holes in gear like this.)