Walking into the Wilderness

Here is one of my pet theories about the origins of Baguazhang walking.

Long ago Daoists and other ritual experts did some of their rituals in the wilderness.  Some of these were local village rituals, some were private internal rituals, and some were major rituals of state.

It was common to fast for days before performing a ritual.  Nine days without food was a standard for important Daoist rituals.  So in this weakened state, a group of ritual experts carrying ritual implements in a procession would walk into the wilderness.

Were they in trance?  Did they step in rhythm?  Probably, although walking meditation also seems likely.

Sometimes these wilderness rituals were on mountain tops, certainly they would have had to walk along difficult paths.  What was the most efficient way to walk?

If your feet are completely relaxed, you are on a precarious mountain path, and you are walking slowly because you are weak and need to conserve energy, I think your walking would look a lot like bagua mud stepping.

When I am bagua mud stepping I often feel as if I'm walking forwards at the same time as I am walking backwards.  As if I were making no muscular progress, in some sense, traveling without going anywhere.

The idea of traveling without going anywhere is from the Daodejing,
"Without going out the door, one can know the whole world.  Without looking out the window, one can see the way of heaven.  The further one travels the less one knows.  Therefore the adept knows without having to stir.  Identifies without having to see.  Accomplishes without having to act." (Chapter 47)

This idea known as wuwei, is in direct contrast to "popular" Chinese religion in which trance-mediums or shaman (wu) go on a spirit journey (visiting with the dead, other places, other worlds, and other realms).  The process of going into trance is often dance, music and drug induced.  It leaves the trance-medium exhausted.

What is the physicality of wuwei? Is simple? is it plain? Does it have distinctions?

Walking into the wilderness was an act of fearlessness.  The leading cause of accidental death during the Han dynasty was being attacked by tigers.  The posture of fearlessness was accompanied by a walk of fearlessness--a deep acceptance of ambiguity--the confidence of not knowing.

Putting your foot forward in the practice of baguazhang, is an act of not knowing.