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Daoist Tips For The 21st Century - Let A Tree Be Your Teacher

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 210 - November 2013


When you stand, you are like a tree.

You are growing from within.

Your feet, like roots, draw power from the earth.

Your body, like the trunk, is perfectly aligned.

You are unmoving, strong.

Your head is open to the heavens like the crown of the tree.

You rest calmly, the universe within your mind.

Master Lam Kam Chuen

Draining Energy

A couple of years ago I visited the giant Redwood forests in Oregon and spent several hours experiencing the quiet serenity of these massive trees. No wonder these forests are considered sacred grounds by Native Americans - as I stood beneath the massive branches I felt as Master Lam Kam Chuen describes above -“unmoving, strong”. This quiet inner strength is something we all crave; wanting this we seek out teachers and practices to help us attain stillness and serenity. And yet there is no need to journey to remote areas of Tibet or China to hear teachings from Buddhist or Daoist masters, no need even to attend local classes that teach meditation, tai chi or yoga. All of these teachers and paths are helpful and valuable but there is a very simple way to attain the quiet strength we all desire without going far from our own front door.

Ironically, the more we chase after the perfect teacher, the more workshops we attend to practise different types of meditation or types of exercise, the further away we often find ourselves from any sense of inner tranquillity. Much of our searching for peace suggests we have a deep collective need to keep doing rather than being; in the Daoist view this is seen as a drain on our energy putting too much pressure on the body mind and taking us away from experiencing the tranquillity we long for. Rather than rushing around looking outside of ourselves for inner peace, Daoists suggest practising a very simple method to experience the intense stillness of simply being.

Let a tree

Still, Like a Tree

According to qigong practitioners standing still, like a tree, is the best way to connect with our peaceful centre and thus energize the body and mind. Certainly when I stood beneath those giant Redwoods I felt truly aligned with my chi - aware that my life force was now free to circulate freely round my body unimpeded by either physical movement or the chattering of my mind. I was no longer doing - instead I was simply being, and as such felt a deep peacefulness along with an intense sense of strength.

Yang Yang, founder of the Center For Taiji And Qigong Studies in the US says “Standing meditation is one of the fundamental training methods of internal Chinese martial arts....Practitioners hold standing postures to cultivate mental and physical relaxation, tranquillity, awareness and power.... Standing meditation improves core strength, balance, bone density, power, awareness, sleep quality, body alignment, efficiency of movements, and mind-body connection”.[1] Yang Yang has conducted research studies into standing meditation at the Kinesiology faculty at the University of Illinois in the US, and found significant improvements in balance, strength, immune function and wellbeing. He says “In one of my research projects, the lower-body strength increased by about 20 per cent after six months of taking part in a one-hour class, which included about 20 minutes of standing, three times per week.”[1]

Try practising standing still like a tree on a daily basis and see an improvement in energy and wellbeing.

  • Wear loose comfortable clothing. If possible, do this exercise out of doors in your garden or in the park - somewhere you can connect with the earth beneath your feet;
  • Gently bend your knees slightly and align the spine vertically so that it is as straight as possible, but do not strain to be perfectly straight. Relax your head, neck and shoulders with arms in front of the body but bent gently at the elbows and hands - positioned so that it appears as if you are holding a giant bubble in front of your navel;
  • Place your tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. Close your eyes, relax your breathing and simply watch your thoughts go by rather than clinging to them;
  • If your legs begin to ache, simply increase or decrease the bend of the knees slightly to allow the muscles to pump blood. If your arms become tired, it is usually because you are trying to hold them up. If need be, simply move them so that your hands are slightly higher or lower than the original position in front of the navel. Begin with five minutes and build by five minutes per day until you can stand for 20 minutes in one session. As you stand, feel the chi filling you from above and below and know that you are fully alive, fully and powerfully present!


1.YANG YANG Taijiquan: The Art Of Nurturing, The Science Of Power. Zhenwu Publications. 2005


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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 



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