Standing meditation with Dan Gibson

In this 4-minute video, my friend Dan Gibson demonstrates Wu Ji, a Qi Gong standing meditation, giving step-by-step instructions. You will find that it is both simple and complicated.You may want to read the following comments either before you practice, or after you have first tried it out.

What makes it complicated is simultaneously paying attention both to your breathing and to the subtleties of what is happening in different parts of your body, especially finding tense areas and letting them relax. But that is exactly the point: it is by paying attention that you engage with your embodied experience in a mindful way.

In particular, pay attention to completing the circuit with the tongue, i.e. that the tip of the tongue should be where your front upper teeth meet the gum tissue of the roof of your mouth.

Dan says that Qi Gong is a lot like Alexander technique: you make a point of relaxing every muscle that is not absolutely required to do the movement (or in this case, maintain the posture).

How much time do you allocate to this practice? For beginners, even doing Wu Ji for just 3 minutes will probably be enough to make certain muscles get tired, sore, and tense.  It’s perfectly fine to shake those parts of the body out whenever you need to while doing Wu Ji.  After a couple of weeks of daily practice, those muscles will get stronger and won’t bother you any more.  Ideally, over the course of a few months, you increase the length of the sessions until you get up to about 20 minutes per day.

Dan Gibson, PhD, is a neuroscientist at MIT, as well as a dancer and musician. He started out doing modern dance and electronic music, then migrated into Afro-Haitian dance, original progressive rock music, and a Rush tribute, and is currently doing traditional Malian music and dance. He started out as a Biology major with a perverse fascination with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, then got into auditory neurophysiology, and is now in Ann Graybiel’s lab studying the role of the basal ganglia and especially striatum in large-scale brain networks during behavior and learning. He was introduced to Qi Gong by a fellow neuroscientist.