Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zhan Zhuang: Breaking the Stance Trance

A big problem for me when practicing Zhan Zhuang has been the habit of "zoning out" or "trancing out"; a feeling of dissociating kinesthetically from my body, of being "out there" instead of "in here". (This entire experience begs the question of 'Who is "I" ?' if "I" am not "my body".)
"Zoning-out while practicing Wujifa “stance” training for example is akin to, or a component of what might be called a dead-post stance." (From Suggested Mental Unification Paradigms of Wujifa Practices - Part 2.)
When I am asked during class or I ask myself during practice, "What do you feel (kinesthetically)?", the answer is, "Uh......" and then I "go into space" (zone out) to try to find the answer "out there" instead of directly accessing my body "in here now". It's as if I block actually feeling the internal, kinesthetic dimension of my own body. Or as if I have no verbal construct to voice the kinesthetic feeling, and then "go blank".

I had a big "a-ha" moment in Wujifa class yesterday. With expert guidance, I experienced/felt the difference between my "out there" and my "in here". Being able to notice when I am "out there" gives me the opportunity to move "in here".

After class, I thought about this a bit more. In a way, Zhan Zhuang is like a kind of sensory deprivation exercise. Maybe more like an external-activity deprivation exercise. Stand. Don't do. Stand. Notice.

"Stance trance" does not feel the same as "monkey mind".

In my normal daily life, I make pictures/images and I run activity all day either chasing or avoiding these pictures. Imagine... Picture yourself.... In Zhan Zhuang, my external activity stops but my mind does not. I am so habituated to making pictures, to looking for some result or outcome and associating that to activity, that when I enter an exercise which does not require this physical and mental activity, I continue making the pictures anyway. There is no stillness.

I experience "monkey mind" as a restless self-dialogue, jumping from thought to thought or picture to picture whereas I experience stance trance as a longer duration, like getting stuck in a no-thought, no feeling place.

Both monkey mind and the stance trance put me "out there" instead of "in here now".

"Trancing out" or "zoning out" feels like not-here-now, not-present, not-connected. Breaking the stance trance results in a feeling of present-ness, of being here now. And through greater present-ness, I feel connection to my kinesthetics, to my body which presents me a greater opportunity to feel deeper into my body, where there are tensions, where there is relax. I needed to feel both to feeling-understand the feeling difference.

Noticing changes everything!

What is the opportunity in breaking "stance trance"? To feel inside. To feel the internal activity. To feel movement in stillness. To feel internal kinesthetic movement while appearing externally still to the untrained eye.


  1. This is Rick from

    I love your sharing here... Honest, inspiring, insightful...

    Zhan Zhuang can be about so many things, yet for me connections, growth and development is a key in any of these moment... I hope this doesn't sound woowoo as I mean this in the most of functional ways. Your sharing of this insight with connecting is very cool!

    Thanks for writting this as I believe a lot of people can get lost there in these kinds of practices... Internal noticing and/or external noticing is very different than connecting and intention and attention.

    Nice stuff here to play with!

  2. First of all Mike, I want to thank you for writing your blog which is always open, honest and inciteful. It's a great thing when people are able to share thoughts and learn from each others experiences and in this way, I've been able to see and learn things from your practice which helps me in my own as I get back into this whole "internal game".

    Breaking the so called "stance trance" led to a huge breakthrough moment for me (or so I felt/thought at the time)as I could actually SEE (or was it a mental feeling?) the difference of when someone was outside as opposed to inside one's own body. It looked more grounded, stable, relaxed and balanced as opposed to disconnected physically as well as mentally. When I explored this outward/inward opportunity under the careful eye of an instructor, I was even able to experience this inward feeling myself which was very much the same feeling as I described above. It was an eye opening experience. In a sense, I was able to connect with my body and the different feelings and sensations in a more direct way.

    And at the same time this experience has led me to many more questions, as is the nature of this deep practice. The more I played with this feeling of "inwardness", the more it felt as if I was working with intention as opposed to attention. Which led me to question, was this inward/grounded/balanced feeling I had experienced merely my intention at work, and had I truly understood the concept of breaking the stance trance? This concept of intention at work also relates back to your post in that this could be thought of as "movement in stillness"...

    Anyways, these are my thoughts and where I am at currently. May this all lead to more growth and understanding! My apologies for the lengthy comment...maybe its time for me to start a blog! ;D

    Once again, thanks for your post and I look forward to more!