A Practice Lost to the Ages

Posted on August 1, 2011


First, I only just got my home internet working again after 19 days without it, so sorry for the lapse! (Thank the gods for smartphones and 3G.)

There are a number of posts I’m looking forward to writing and I will get to ’em. . . . eventually. For today, however, I thought I’d chat briefly about a little something most of us are capable of but rarely pay any attention to or consciously do.

Are you sitting down for this? Actually, you probably are. Well, don’t. Stand the fuck up!

The lost practice referred to in the title is quite simply the willingness to stand. Not to run or sprint. Not some funky MovNat awesomeness. Not even to walk. Just to stand there.

Gong fu stance: Precarious Flamingo Sings on the Mountain

Stop reading and stand up for four or five minutes. Don’t walk around, though. Just stand there. See how long you can go before you start to feel an odd, quasi-ominous weight in your hips and across the bottoms of your feet — before you get the urge to start shifting your weight from foot to foot or do the flamingo, aka the Hua Shan Flutist (see image).

(Note: That guy’s not only balancing on one foot on a 50- or 60-degree slope halfway up a mountain while playing the flute. He’s also balancing two bundles tied to that pole. . . on one shoulder.)

Not that easy to stand still for even a few minutes, is it?

When I went to China in late July 2006 to teach English, I was 187 lb. By late October (3 months later), I was down to around 165 lb. Did I diet? Ha! My buddy and I used to have “See If You Can Eat Every Kind of McDonald’s Hamburger in One Sitting” contests. Did I hit the gym? I had no idea there was one til my contract was nearly finished. Did I discover some qi gong method that allowed me to pulverize fat through meditation and complex Buddhist hymns?

. . .actually, I’m not authorized to comment on that.

Quite simply, I stood.

As an ESL teacher, I couldn’t sit; it was strictly verboten. We could only sit in one-on-one “VIP” sessions, for psychological reasons. That meant we spent an average of two hours standing per weekday and six hours standing each day on the weekends. We also moved slowly around the classroom; you had to or you were screwed because no one can stand in one place for that long without losing their minds. After all, most of our classes during the intense periods were three hours long! Slowly moving also helped keep or re-focus students’ attention by forcing them to track you with their eyes and by turning their heads.

Anyway, fast-forward to May 2007 (less than a year after arriving) and I was down to 156 lb, though I’ll admit a small part of that had to do with the inability to plan meals and I couldn’t always find food, which meant I got used to intermittent fasting au naturelle; viz., due to actual scarcity.

Fast-forward now a few years and. . . .

Last month, after getting frustrated with my crappy computer chair and suffering back issues caused by either trying to recline poorly or lean forward, I said, “Fuggit. Who needs a damn chair, anyway?” I stuck my monitor on top of two boxes and my keyboard and mouse on top of one (on top of my desk). Ta da! Ghetto-style standing desk. Yay me.

I’ve been standing for two three hours now, as of the writing of this particular sentence. I tend to stand for about two to four hours a day, if not more (and that doesn’t count the 4-8 km I walk barefoot everyday). I generally don’t spend much time sitting, actually — I’m either standing or I’m fully prone, whether to sleep, read or watch the TV. (Speaking of reading, I’ve taken a mental foray back into the quasi-philosophical realm. I’m reading both “Walden” by Thoreau and Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic.” I’m so down with stress-free minimalism it’s not even funny. More on this in its own post, perhaps?)

Anyway. I’m not sure where I was headed with any of this except to say that, in my book, standing definitely counts as the Primal Law regarding moving frequently at a slow pace. In this case, it’s “standing blissfully at a nonexistent pace.”

More and better posts coming soon, guys. Promise. Pinky swear, even!