Eyes and Baguazhang

Gazing into the distanceAs most readers know, when we practice baguazhang we walk a circle, sometimes around a tree or a pole. If one is practicing different ways of changing direction on the circle, as opposed to a form or routine, we call this "practicing the changes" or practicing "palm changes."

There are many different ways of organizing information into categories so that it can be remembered by students. By putting teachings into categories it makes them easier to remember (especially for the illiterate, or when what you are practicing might be illegal). Thus in some schools of Baguazhang all the teachings are divided into 8 categories. Each of the 8 categories has one Mother Palm and an assortment of teachings and variations, sometimes called qi transmissions.

The teaching about the eyes for the first Palm Change (Chien) is one I have described in earlier posts. It is to look into the distance with relaxed eyes. If you do this with your hand up while walking around a pole, you will see two illusions. One, the hand will appear double, and two, the pole will look like it is turning on its own.

The teaching about the eyes for the second Palm Change (kun) is that the eyes relax and draw in. Like I described predictor eyes in a previous post.  If you use this type of gaze to move toward someone it feels like they are getting closer to you, as if you were drawing them in. This is a subtle but important distinction. Usually when we walk toward someone we have a sense of our body getting closer to them, predator eyes are intrusive.

In the third Palm Change (xun), we practice spinning. While we are spinning we relax the eyes so that they don't catch or focus on any one thing, even at the moment when we stop spinning, or change direction. This means we are practicing becoming comfortable with the whirl or blur of the world passing by. The moment one locks on to something with their eyes, they have to keep repeating that, or they will get dizzy.

(Dancers and acrobats generally use a different technique something called "spotting,"Kathak, North Indian Classical Dance which means they focus intently on a point and then whip around to see that point again. One can also whip around from a point to another pre-chosen point. In North Indian Classical Dance we would "spot" on all four walls, spinning one and a quarter turn between each split-second turn. This cool effect was sometimes used to create the illution of a multi-armed, multi-headed deity.")

Normally our eyes are changing all the time. It's easy to imagine meeting someone whose eyes are continuously suspended in one of these patterns. If you saw someone gazing far off into the distance as they were getting on a bus, you'd wonder if they were seeing paradise just a bomb blast away. This is a yang use of the eyes, and is associated with, among other things, heroic martyrs.

I described the yin eyes of the second palm change in the brutalized assassin I mentioned in an earlier post on eyes.

Everyone is familiar with the eyes of the third palm change, it's what happens when we drink too much alcohol. Drinking alcohol and spinning, or dancing in a circle, until one falls down is a staple method of shamanic practice used to contact spirits in many parts of the world.

Previous posts on Eyes and More Eyes