* Practice sitting down! This is the single most important key thing to learn. Get a bar stool and repeatedly (1,000 times) get into standing stance and sit down onto the stool. Let go. Drop onto the stool. Now do the same, get the same downward force, the same dropping feeling of sit down but don't touch the stool. Imagine you're hitting the stool before you actually do. Your legs become the stool. You should feel an increase in pressure in the thighs as the weight drops into the legs. Get this first!!!!!
* Standing appears to be easy. What could be easier than just standing? But it is not "just" standing! It is stance work! You train relaxing! You train using intent to move energy. (not in some mystical sense but in a practical sense). You train feeling, understanding and being aware!
* This journal entry continues onto the next page: The 'point' of this exercise is to get the body to move as one unit. The front opens on pushing forward and the back opens on pushing back.
(The "moving as a unit" thing was a "medicine" for me because I had become so noodley through years of practicing an incorrect interpretation of yielding in push hands.)* Internal strength comes from stance practice. Stand first, then do silk-reeling, then do tai-chi. Without silk reeling, tai-chi is empty, useless. Without stance, silk reeling is empty, useless. It all comes back to stance! Learning to focus the Will and Intention. Harnessing the power of the Mind! Developing the power of the Will. Developing the power of intention.
* Standing is easier than it looks to someone like me who likes to / has a tendency to mechanistically analyze the details of things.
(As you'll see in upcoming journal entries, I just wanted to think my way into internal strength. I thought that thinking and analyzing and dissecting was the way to understand this art. I later learned that there is thinking-understanding and there is another kind of feeling-that-can-be-understood understanding. . . . And this comment is exactly a product of what this journal entry is talking about.)
* Relax is the key. Relax the lower back. Feel the lower vertebrae open. Feel the head push up. Feel the spine elongate. Feel taller. Feel the weight sink into the legs. As you sink (sit down) also open the back. Must get the back first. Once you can feel and understand this, then do the front.
* Feeling is the key. It's the foundation. Hypothesis is based on feeling, not the other way around. Don't think of something and then try to feel it. NO! FEEL FIRST! Listen to the feeling! Listen to all the different feelings. From the feelings, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, you may hypothesize how the pieces fit together. Don't get fixated on this.
(It's interesting that even though I heard and logged these words, "Feeling is the key.", it still took me a long time to understand that thinking in itself isn't going to get me there. Thinking has a role but not what I thought it was. In fact, now that I spend some time considering this old entry, darned if it doesn't lay out the role of thinking in the process of developing internal strength. What does the "fixated" sentence mean? To me, now, it means, don't get stuck on over-analyzing feelings. Don't put feelings in a box as a data source for thinking. Stop thinking as the primary activity. Give the 'monkey mind' a rest. Let go. Feel. This entry is still really good advice for me... though, now, in a different way. )
* When you find/meet a master you will have already done the work of feeling, have a collection of feelings and a hypothesis of how the feelings/pieces fit together and then a few minutes with a master, with his demonstrating the feeling and your deep ability to feel deeply, you will be able to feel his feeling and thereby be able to recognize the validity of your hypothesis which may either be right or wrong, it doesn't matter. You've done your homework and have just made a quantum leap in understanding from only those few minutes! But you must have done the work first!
(Here's another example of how I was stuck on trying to use imagination. What I've learned since then is that relaxing or releasing the tension in the shoulder muscles results in a feeling of the shoulders widening out to the side. No imagination nor visualization needed. This entry also has a good pointer on what to watch for when working with the shoulder-upper body complex. )
* There are five levels. An instructor can take you through the first three. After that you know the exercise. Now you must learn from yourself. You body will teach you. A level four or five master is achieved only through self-training. Remember the training method; the rules are Relax. Feel. Understand. Be aware!
* Watch the movie "Pleasantville" (1998). Be able to understand how the movie discusses blockages, self-imposed limitations, authenticity, freedom and responsibility. When George says "it will go away", what is the "it" he is referring to? When Bud says, "You can't stop something that's inside you." what is the "something" he is referring to?
(I deleted my analysis-of-the-movie comment I had written and I'll just say, "Watch the movie. You may understand something different than any analysis you may read." You might find Pleasantville in 11 parts on Youtube . If you can watch on Youtube, the movie itself does in fact end abruptly with the park bench scene. Only the credits are missing.)Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Some GroundPath Stuff: Journal Notes #6
Next article in this series: A Little Honesty: Journal Notes #8
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