Charismatic Mindfulness


Charismatic Mindfulness

mindful wing chun at College of MarinThis home page is about the Charismatic Mindfulness class I teach at College of Marin.  Beginners can start at any of the five times per year that the seven-week class is offered at College of Marin. For information on living with chronic medical conditions, explore the rest of my website with above buttons.

What is Charismatic Mindfulness? It is a class offering a mindfulness-based, mind-body integration practice as an alternative to sitting meditation.

What is the goal of the class?  This class trains students in a mind-body integration practice for healing, self-mastery, and greater feelings of aliveness. It also serves to provide a supportive practice community, which is important because it is difficult to maintain any type of inner-practice in isolation.

What are the benefits to this practice?

  • In terms of health, those of us who have adopted this practice have noticed improvement and even resolution of various conditions that had not responded to medical treatment.
  • Wellbeing improves as we learn to feel more, think less, and release tension. Feeling is healing and resistance breeds persistence.
  • As we begin to realize that we have the power to effect positive changes in our health and wellbeing, we develop self-empowerment, self-mastery, and a sense of greater aliveness.
  • As in all mindfulness practices, one of the greatest benefits is the practice itself. This is because during those times when we are practicing with all our attention on our moment-to-moment full-body experience, we feel most alive.
  • People in the class value the supportive and collaborative atmosphere and for some, it is the most appreciated benefit.

What are the origins of this practice? The Chu Shong Tin lineage of the martial art of internal wing chun provides the foundation for this practice. However, this is a very atypical martial arts class because we are focused on mindfulness and the healing aspects rather than on what most people associate with martial art. Although what I’m teaching comes from Grandmaster Chu Shong Tin, I am not offering the combative aspects, only the internal self-healing aspects. Like many martial arts masters who preceded Master Chu, he discovered that by practicing with an internal focus, he was able to prove his doctors’ dire prognoses wrong in each of the three times during his long life when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. There is a long history in the martial arts of recovery from life-threatening and chronic conditions. 

The goal of any type of mindfulness practice is to live a vibrant life. Being human, our attention continually drifts off from the present-moment activity, thereby distracting us from the vibrant life that can result from being totally present with whatever activity we are engaged in and our experience of it from moment-to-moment.

Comparison with other mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices are primarily sitting meditation types of mind-training. In this class you will be offered a dynamic, mind-body integration practice that is exclusively practiced standing up.

About the Class Title: Charismatic Mindfulness is the name I chose for this class because I wanted a name that would avoid confusion. This class would more accurately have been called The Mindfulness-Based, Health, Wellbeing, and Internal Self-Healing Aspects of the Chu Shong Tin Lineage of the Martial Art of Internal Wing Chun, because that is exactly what is being taught in this class.

However, that title would have been a bit of a mouthful. More importantly, that title would have created confusion on several counts. First, you probably never heard of Chu Shong Tin. Second, you probably never heard of wing chun. Third, if by chance you do know of wing chun, you know of it as an external art, which is radically different from Chu Shong Tin’s internal wing chun. Fourth, like most people, you probably think the martial arts are just for self-defense or fighting and have never heard of them being used for healing. For those four reasons, just having the name wing chun in the title of this class would have been too confusing.

The Formal Practice:

The major components, Little Idea Form, internal activation, and sticking hands, serve as a practice in mindfulness, mind-body integration, mindful relaxation, and cultivation of internal self-healing skills. Together, Little Idea Form, internal activation, and sticking hands will help you develop a very focused type of mind-body concentration through non-cognitive, mind-directed, active intention and movement.

Little Idea Form, which you can see me practicing in the videos, is about non-cognitive, mind-directed, choreographed movements. In watching the videos be sure to have your sound on so that you can hear my voiceovers. This form provides the perfect foundation and framework from which to practice and develop internal self-healing. Little Idea, translated from the Cantonese Siu Nim Tao, refers to the planting of a little seed of intention in all physical movement. This practice, when combined with internal activation results in very natural ease of movement and lightness of being.

What is so special about the Little Idea solo form you see me practicing in the videos?

The reason Little Idea Form is such a profound and dynamic, body-centered, mindfulness practice is due to its perfect combination of slow movement with stillness.

Little Idea Form has the perfect mix of physical movement with mental effort, making it an extraordinarily exceptional practice for the cultivation of mind-body integration.

Internal Activation: What makes this practice internal rather than external is that, while practicing Little Idea Form and sticking hands partner practices, you are learning to move internally, even when externally, nothing appears to be moving

Gradually, over time, you will begin to experience internal self-healing. At first, it is necessary to imagine the internal processes in order to begin to cultivate them while practicing the Little Idea Form, internal activation, and sticking hands. Eventually, mental imagery falls away as you begin to feel more. We normally think of intention as a mental thing; in this practice, intention is physical in that as you set intentions, you begin to feel a cause and effect relationship between intention and physiological changes.

Wherever you put your attention, physiological changes occur. This is often referred to as: Energy flows where attention goes. Or, as one of my mentors (Jeanne Achterberg, PhD) stated: “No thought, no emotion, is without biochemical, electrochemical activity; and the activity leaves no cell untouched.”

Cultivation of internal activation is learned and practiced through standing practices, the Little Idea Form, various 2-person practices, and in the sticking hands (2-person) practices.

The explanation of how to specifically practice internal activation is beyond the scope of this webpage. Once the basics of it are learned in class, the practice of internal activation should be incorporated into all daily activities. In that way, it is similar to any other mindfulness practice. It takes a long time to develop self-healing abilities, which is why practice needs to be applied to regular activities throughout the day.

Sticking Hands Partner Practices: Sticking hands (translated from the Canonese Chi Sau or chisau) will allow you to test and enhance what you have been developing in your solo Little Idea Form practice. When you do sticking hands, your reaction to your partner’s movements will inform you about the quality of your internal activation and provide an objective set of measures to help you to know if you have been practicing the Little Idea form correctly. The sticking hands 2-person practices will provide clear information to you on the areas you most need to practice. The two-person, sticking hands practices also happen to be fun and create a sense of community in the class.

One of the most powerful benefits of sticking hands is that it provides you with the skill to stay focused and centered in stressful interpersonal interactions. The way this works is that when doing sticking hands, you train yourself to keep practicing the various internal activation components of Little Idea Form regardless of what your training partner or anyone else says or does that would otherwise distract you. In other words, as you learn to stay focused on your intention while your training partner is physically interacting with you, you are developing the ability to stay focused on your intention while someone in your life is doing something that would otherwise be terribly distracting. 

Once you become experienced in the choreographed sticking hands partner practices, you will be introduced to gentle chi sau sparring. We practice it gently and collaboratively rather than competitively. The purpose is to use this practice as a physical mindfulness practice. When you never know from moment to moment what your partner will do, you must be much more sensitive in your sticking hands or you will get gently tapped by your partner’s hands.

Little Idea Form and Sticking Hands practices were created by Ng Mui about 300-years ago. She was an elder Shaolin martial arts master-warrior and founder of the internal martial art of wing chun. The art was named after her exceptional student, a young woman named Yim Wing Chun.

Internal Activation was created in modern times by Chu Shong Tin as a way to help students cultivate the internal aspects of the art that had been lost over the last 300 years. Grandmaster Chu was the one who rediscovered the internal aspects of wing chun that had been lost from what Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun originally taught.

This internal practice trains us to be able to move about in all activities with less effort and greater presence.

Nim Tao

This practice leads to a state of mind known in Cantonese as Nim Tao. Nim Tao is a very balanced, centered, and calm state of mind wherein you have a very high level of mindful awareness and connectedness. It is a mind-state that allows you to be as alert as you are calm; an almost unheard of combination.

The best way I can describe the Nim Tao state is to recommend you watch some videos of the 1970s Kung Fu TV series. The main character was Kwai Chang Kane. This fictional character exhibited the Nim Tao state.

In this practice we focus on directly releasing muscular as well as emotional tension. Stress serves a purpose, but the vast majority of the time in modern life we have way too much stress. Chronic stress is inversely proportional to health. The practice taught in this class dramatically reduces mental, emotional, and bodily stress. Throughout this practice, it is important to keep letting go of tension as soon as you become aware of it, physically and emotionally. Mindful relaxation is key to this practice.

With practice you will develop a very physically-centered, calm state of mind and body. You will then not only have greater freedom of movement, your mind will feel less cluttered, resulting in greater emotional spontaneity, which moves you closer to the Nim Tao state.

You will begin to feel a sense of lightness and spaciousness as your joints begin to decompress and function optimally. Stress reduction occurs as you learn to release bodily tension.

Release of chronic bodily tension also results in release of chronic pain. Personally, my chronic back pain of almost forty years duration abated early in the first year of practice.

The health benefits of this practice are endless. More than anything, this practice results in body-wide release of tension. That in turn improves overall physiological functioning, especially immune function. Just as chronic stress can catalyze chronic illness, daily cultivation of the nim tao state calms the nervous system and creates the right environment for emotional and physical healing.

Wellbeing improves because the release of bodily tension leads to the ability to feel more, which leads to being able to more fully experience life. Fatigue decreases and energy increases as bodily tension diminishes. Energy also increases as you learn to move from your center, which is the most energy-efficient way to move.

Practicing is an act of self-caring and self-valuing.

When you fail to train the mind to come home to the body, it is like abandoning a big part of yourself. Spending your waking moments analyzing external situations is another way to abandon yourself. When you put mind in the body, you are home. Part of the human condition involves performing tasks that are not always fun and are often even unpleasant. Practicing moving from your center can serve to give greater meaning to everything you do.

The spine can expand. Striving, straining, muscle tension, poor posture, and non-diaphragmatic breathing contract the muscles around the spine and block energy. When the energy is stable to flow freely, you are likely to experience sensations of increased space between the vertebrae and have a sense of gaining height. Energy is generated when the whole body moves in a relaxed, coordinated way. When mindful relaxation, symmetry, balance, uprightness, and the other dynamic mindfulness principles are practiced, there is considerably more movement throughout the spine and the rest of the body.

Holistic Awareness: Although release of bodily tension is one of the most important elements of this practice, there are many others. Another one involves learning how to occupy and move from your entire body. This is sometimes referred to as holistic awareness. This involves learning how to move the entire body whenever one part moves. Even though it may look like just your arm is moving, you will learn how the entire rest of the body supports the movement of the arm. This could also be viewed as coordination, but what I’m referring to here is coordination of mind with body or internal coordination.

Reality isn’t what you think. In this class you will experience how your thoughts actually distract you from reality. Thoughts are mental constructs that are continually spewed out by the brain. We need to think and reason to function in the world, but the problem is that we spend far too much time thinking thoughts that are no longer useful and are often harmful. As with other mindfulness practices, you will develop the ability to keep returning to what you are experiencing in your body. This practice is about how to feel moment-to-moment experiences rather than thinking about them.