The Power of Standing Still

Standing still does not come naturally to us. As infants and toddlers, we have been on the move, exploring the world around us. As adults we have been conditioned to keep moving, doing something, doing anything so when we stand still it can be uncomfortable, it can feel like we’re doing nothing. But there is a LOT to learn in that nothingness.

Standing still is a skill we need to learn. But why? When we stand in Tai Chi practice, be it in class or at home, we learn to listen–to quiet our busy minds and our busy bodies and that takes training. A good way to start that training is to be intentional about your practice of stillness. Make space for it during your day.

Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart and begin at your feet releasing all the way up your body. Release, release, release. Yes, this is body/mind work but it will help you recognize the surface tensions that you hold. We want to learn to listen to our bodies by putting your mind in your body, not your body in your mind. Start from the ground up. Release, release, release then stand and pay gentle attention to what your body is telling you. Take your time. Just stand releasing your body and your mind. Listen.

After a week or so, add releasing from the top down. Again, take your time. Use a little mind attention to release or re-release your surface tension. Don’t be surprised if that hip/shoulder/knee/whatever tension returns almost immediately. That’s normal. We actually need to let our bodies know that it’s okay not to use that tension. We are not used to standing still and that takes practice.

We can, of course, stand perfectly still, aka stiff, by using all sorts of tension in our bodies, but as Tai Chi students we know the standing still isn’t the ultimate goal, the goal is to calm our bodies and our minds more and more each day. It will become easier. It will become natural.

Standing still is a listening skill, Ting Jing. How can we learn to listen to others, as we need to do in two-person practice, if we are not able to listen to ourselves. No standing, no understanding.

Pamela Hultgren
Lead Instructor, Northfield