I’ve had the pleasure lately of working with several folks practicing basic principles of taiji and standing meditation. These basic principles integrate body, mind, and spirit to help us live our lives functioning as our whole selves, or, as I like to say, firing on all cylinders.
Different people will of course have different ideas of what these basic principles are, or might call them by different names. That’s okay. But I thought I would share what I have been practicing myself with these principles.
This type of relaxing is not plopping down on the couch or unwinding with a drink, as nice as those can be. This is the Chinese concept of song, which is inadequately translated as relax, but means something more like releasing tension and loosening the joints, and allowing dynamic energy to sink into our center. Song is a source of power in the internal arts, and a source of health in general.
A simple way to practice song is to breathe with a relaxed body. You might be familiar with the term belly breathing. A better term might be full body breathing. By relaxing the abdomen, sides, and back, space is created to allow the breath to fill the entire lungs. This is experienced as expansion in the belly, sides, and back, as the inflating lungs press down and out in all directions.
When our bodies are in alignment, our muscles can relax because our skeletal structure supports us as it was intended to do. Our muscles weren’t intended to hold parts of our body in position with sustained contraction. When they are assigned to this job, they become tight and we experience stiffness and pain in our necks, backs, knees, and joints.
The best way to practice alignment is to stand. Not to stand just any old way, but to stand in alignment. This does not mean rigid posture with our shoulders held back and our knees locked. It means standing like a stack of blocks – balanced, resting naturally with each part supported above and below. Standing properly takes some practice and instruction beyond the scope of this post. Check out some videos if you need some guidance, or get in touch with me and we can set up a zoom call. I’m happy to help.
When our bodies are relaxed and in alignment, everything feels connected. We practice this most easily when we move. If I’m walking naturally, for example, my arms swing easily, my weight shifts smoothly from one leg to the other. If, when I move, parts are moving out of sync with each other, or parts are moving in a jerky way, this is good feedback that something is not connected. I might need to check in with the other qualities of relaxing and alignment. If I focus on those qualities as I am moving, my body will naturally find its rhythm and coordinate all the parts.
Putting it all together
These qualities, when practiced, will also integrate mind and spirit. If my body is relaxed, for example, my emotions will settle down, my mind will calm, my spirit will expand. Just as different parts of the body are meant to work together, our body, mind, and spirit are meant to work together in harmony, effortlessly, beautifully.
This is just a quick overview, but I hope that this gives you some ideas about how you might enhance integration of body, mind, and spirit to live a full and whole life. Please let me know if I can support you in any way.
Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind, and spirit. ~Greg Anderson