Archive

Posts Tagged ‘body awareness’

THE CONCEPT OF “SUNG”

This concept in its simplest form means sinking into your root. More specifically, it is the ability of each joint and muscle to drop individually towards the ground. Most people interpret sinking as dropping the knees. Sung means that each joint drops independently of the others.

You feel as if there were a string, attached to the center of each joint, with a small weight hanging from the bottom of the string. As you move, each joint is pulled downward by the weight and then bounces back up. This brings flexibility and awareness to the body.

The problem is that students sink the body as a whole and cannot allow each part of the body to respond in its own way to their movements. The body is essentially frozen, even though they may do a very smooth and slow Tai-chi form. There is no flow of momentum through the body.

There is no “intelligent” interaction of each part of the body with the ground. By releasing each joint and muscle to relax into the ground and then bounce back up, you bring intelligence into each part.

As you practice your form (or any other activity), your attention flows along with the momentum created by the movements of the body. As each body part sinks into the root, the attention must follow each part into the ground and back up. This means that your attention also must not be frozen.

Attention becomes like the tributaries of a river, flowing back into the ocean. The bounce up is like the evaporation of the ocean water coming back as rain to flow back to the tributaries. Your back must be very flexible and active. There is a tendency to maintain a solid back which is then used to move from. A stiff back becomes your floor; you keep it solid so your arms, for example, can move out from it.

This is a mistake. The only floor is the actual floor. The back must be as flexible as any other part of the body. We say “The back must be like the hand”. You are used to using your hand in a dexterous way. The back must be as dexterous as the hand. The same is true for the chest and especially the ribs. I see many people practicing a Tai-chi form with frozen ribs. The ribs must be like the hands.

To develop this flexibility, part of your attention must always be connected to the root. This creates a network of attention to the root so that the pathways to the root are always maintained. I use the analogy of taking a piece of wood and holding it on a slant. Then place a drop of water at the top. The friction will prevent the water from flowing down the wood unless the piece of wood is held very upright. Now wet your finger and trace a pathway, even a winding pathway, down the wood. Then place the drop of water at the top of the path. Now the water will flow down the path you traced. That is the path of least resistance.

In modern times our internal attention has become frozen so there are few such pathways. Sung requires that you maintain these pathways by developing an agility of attention within your body. If you were to learn chi-gung (developing chi flow within the body) without developing the flexibility of the body and attention first, it would be like a sudden downpour on parched earth. The earth would not absorb the downpour and there would be a damaging flood. But if there were a gentle rain one day, followed by the downpour the next day, the ground would have been softened the first day. When the downpour came, the earth would be ready to accept it.

Working with Sung readies the body to practice chi-gung. In Zookinesis training the softening process is incorporated into the chi development process so that both proceed together. At all times, attention and chi are connected to the earth. To get deeper into the concept of Sung, the earth really means the whole world around you (not just in the downward direction). It means being connected to nature.

In many chi-gung classes, you are taught to develop the “microcosmic” and “macrocosmic” orbit (particular circles of energy flow) as the first part of your training. I believe this is a mistake. You are taught to manipulate your energy flow, but in the “correct” way.

In Zookinesis training, we understand that we modern humans are already experts at manipulating our energy flow. What we need is training in not doing that, or what is called, “not doing”. Once we can stop the addiction to manipulating our energy flow, the body will function perfectly well on its own without sticking our noses into it. The emphasis on early Zookinesis training is to release the talons of the thinking mind on the body – to stop manipulating the chi flow. Then just be quiet and see what the body does. Let the body teach you. I use the expression “Be still and know that you are alive”, to borrow a phrase from the Bible.

Then, when the talons have loosened their grip, you work on the connection between the chi flow of the body and that of the rest of nature. This connection has been severed in modern times. I discuss this in detail in my novel, “The Doubting Snake”.

The chi flow of nature does not need instruction. By allowing your inner chi flow to align with the rest of nature, it will work just fine. The modern training of chi-gung de-emphasizes this connection to nature and I believe this is a huge mistake. Sung means connecting to all of nature. Nature is the root. We are, of course, aligning with gravity as gravity is a big part of nature. And so the feeling of Sung is to sink downward. But that should not confuse you that it really implies connecting with nature.

How is all of this done? It is done with the Zookinesis exercises, with Tai-chi forms, Push Hands and all the rest. Unfortunately, such practices often neglect this principle of Sung and so the practices may look pretty but don’t accomplish the goal of rejuvenating mind and body. Allow the aliveness of your body to express itself. You are a community of life – the body, the thinking mind, the memories, the will, creativity, emotions and much more. Each of these is a world in itself. Zookinesis and the training of Sung allows the spirit of each being within you to express itself fully.