Some time ago I went on a short trip to the countryside. I stayed at a farm with a wonderful garden full of trees – apples, pears, and plums. And while sitting there, I noticed how different all the trees were! There were young and old trees that needed support, straight trees, slanting trees, one tree even had a twisted trunk. Of course all of them looked just fantastic!
So I sat there among them for some days and I about Taijiquan and Qi Gong. Especially about Zhan Zhuang. That there are so many discussions how one should stand. How much to bend the knees, how upright is right, where to put the feet, how much to open or close the arms.
Those trees gave me a lesson in Zhan Zhuang. And I would like to share it with you:
Be flexible! Wherever you stand in your life, however your body reacts, make the best out of it. Practice as you can, as it fits into your life. Trees react permanently to wind, sun, seasons etc. Practice what suits you. Perhaps you want to do the form just once today and tomorrow you “lift the sky” for 2 hours. Just practice!
Get help! I don’t think that the trees mind a little support. So get help whenever you need it. Let teachers and other Taijiquan/Qi Gong people correct you. They probably can see much better where you need an impulse to improve your skills. Listen to their ideas and incorporate what suits you.
Stand effortlessly! I don’t think that those trees where constantly whispering: “uh, it’s so exhausting to keep up those arms branches all the time”. They are just relaxed and don’t mind where their branches are. They have flaws, too. But they just stand and do what they can do best, just being a tree. So try to be just you. Just be human.
Grow continuously! A tree grows all the time. There is no break, no holiday, no retirement. It is a tree’s nature to grow! (Ok, one day even a tree will die, but the lifespan is really long and still it grows all the time.) It is not about being better than the other trees. It’s about being better/stronger than a year ago. Even if you grow just a little bit year after year: slow progress is progress.
Be unique! Once again: it is not necessary to compare yourself to others. Just as those trees developed depending on their situation, they grew on their own terms. That’s just exactly how Taijiquan and Qi Gong students will develop differently. Even if you start at the same day and do the same exercises, your journey is different from the person next to you. And how huge those differencse become when you think about students from other teachers and even other countries! So be unique and let the others be unique, too.
Just as each tree, you have your own awesome body, your own fantastic mind, and your very special story. So relax and enjoy your Taijiquan and Qi Gong journey. Discover your Zhan Zhuang practice.