The figure featured above is drawing of a cultural piece of the Sherbo people of Sierra Leone. Called Nomoli, they are believed to represent supernatural powers. Many have been found buried in rice fields as protective spirits of the crops. Some have been found with metal balls within the abdomen. The metal is reputed to be of a type not native to this planet, causing members of some cultural and spiritual groups to associate the figures with visitors from other planets.
I have been studying these figures since the 1980s, relating them to postures known as Zhan Zhuang (pile standing), or ball holding. In our school we refer to this training posture as Ulimwengu (posture of Universal balance). In this offering, a few of the principles that we employ will be outlined.
This first outline provides a set of structural principles developed and applied in our school for practicing Ulimwengu:
- Press… press the feet by relaxing the body/mind and mentally inserting the intention into the ground or floor.
- Sit…lower the body as if sitting upon a high stool.
- Raise…raise the torso holding it erect from the waist to the head, with a feeling of the head being lifted from the crown chakra.
- Extend…hold the arms as though embracing something; aligning shoulders, elbows, wrists and finger tips.
- Lift…engage the palms of the hands including the fingers as though slightly lifting something. This will provide a sensation from shoulders, to elbows, to finger tips. This is very important for enlivening the wrists without unnecessary tension, and extending energy through the fingers.
- Relax…allow the entire body to relax while maintaining vigilant consciousness.
- Weight underside…mentally drop all body weight to the underside (top of arm to underside of arm, top of foot to bottom of foot, etc.).
- Hold one point…focus consciousness to one point and maintain focus with a relaxed though vigilant gaze.
- Expand and contract one point…expand one point with inhalation, and contract with exhalation. Practice this for duration of posture holding; beginning from 5 to 10 minutes, gradually increasing to one half hour to an hour.
Diligent practice will enable the practitioner to endure the initial discomfort associated with the posture:
a. Pain in the joints.
c. Heat in the body.
e. Brain agitation and fog.
Ulimwengu is a process of self-transformation of the body / mind, and can enhance life on many levels. However, due to the stress encountered during practice, many who attempt the practice abandon it before meaningful progress can be realized.
The physical challenges of posture holding is undeniable, however the core challenge arises within the mind. Thoughts arise that trigger the central nervous system and visions of past events flood into the mind, making practice difficult. This is when one must relax into the practice regardless of the discomfort. At this point it is about seeing the pain from a distance , as if it being watched on a film or video.
In the tradition of posture holding this is known as “forgetting the self”, or ” seeking the strength”. It is the point at which posture holding becomes decidedly internal. Otherwise the energy becomes focused solely upon external concerns such as how long have I held the posture, which breaks the focus that must be reestablished. It is the continuous focus that provides a transformation that can be felt within the energy cycles of the body/mind.
End of part one.