A friend of mine who recently started training in baguazhang brought up an interesting idea that he’d like to use biofeedback to help him learn the right feeling for relaxation faster. He pointed me to some links on research in using EEG biofeedback in meditation. One that I found very interesting was called How Will I Know If I’m Really Meditating?. Here’s an excerpt:

Since I have been practicing meditation using neurofeedback equipment, I have a much better sense of how to let myself reach deeply meditative states of consciousness. I have found these states to be intrinsically healing. I can also bring healing imagery with me into these states, where I am more receptive. These healing states also facilitate access to my own spontaneous inner healing imagery. I sometimes experience intuitive leaps and I often have a better perspective on my life, my relationships, and my work when I have regular access to these states.

How exciting it has been for me to finally experience some of the wonderful things that were promised when I began to practice meditation! Of course, when I meditated in the past, I did have some sessions where I felt I was in a peaceful state. I was relaxed, my mind was calm, but it only lasted for a few moments. With neurofeedback technology, I can remain in this meditative state for a much longer period. Neurofeedback doesn’t “put me there;” it just lets me know when I’m closer or farther away. Certainly, I move in and out of that state, but I am more aware of where I am in the process.

It also said that students learning meditation could now learn in 6 months to 1 year to consciously get to a brain state that previous students typically took 20 years to achieve. Wow. That seems applicable to zhan zhuang and other related, traditional internal arts training even if the overlap with pure meditation (relaxation, maybe the right brain waves to be in “the zone”) is just one aspect of the more martial purpose of the training (using whole body power in movement, applied to specific techniques, using under real pressure, etc.). Some people discount the idea of standing for years and so on as a sort of outdated hazing or loyalty-testing ritual (there’s a great recent thread about it on Formosa Neijia), but others say (whether or not that is true or there is some truth in that idea, and no matter what is the optimal time period, sequence of progression, or ratio to other training exercises) one of the real keys (or THE real key) to internal arts progress is zhan zhuang. The finding on taking years to achieve the desired brain state (that seems directly relevant to the mind/body unity aspect of the martial attributes) seems to support the latter idea, imho. I suspect that whole body power being controlled by the yi is greatly helped by being in the right “zone” in the brain, which is partially what the standing trains and tunes.

In any case, being able to speed up this learning could potentially let people of any opinion on this spectrum stop debating this question mainly intellectually and explore for themselves these benefits much more quickly than before. Hmm…. I am generally pro-zhan zhuang based on personal experience, and pro-science (accept the hypothesis for now but keep looking for better explanations) & technology (apply the science for practical improvements) so being able to apply modern tools to an “ancient” “technology” sounds great to me. How do I go about doing this inexpensively? Isn’t there a video game that tells you how relaxed you are? I’d like to try zhan zhuang on the vibrating platform while using biofeedback, at least until I get the hang of the mental state part of it. I’d also like to see how the feedback changes when progressing to some movement – shi li, or maybe something completely different that still requires relaxation and strong mental focus like a golf swing.

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