May 2004 -
* The path of development is a path marked by various feelings. As you grow, your feeling experiences will change. An experienced guide will be able to recognize where you are in your development based on the feeling experiences you describe and the kinds of questions you ask. In this realm, book knowledge is an impediment because the mind will think it knows something when in fact the feeling (that you need to learn) cannot be learned through reading.
(It's only after having developed a feeling that I'm able to go back and read how someone else describes the feeling and say, "Yeah, it could be described that way.")
June 2004 -
* Once you get the feeling, go straight for it every time. Program yourself for the feeling. You have to be able to drop into it at a moment's notice. It has to become intuitive, automatic, like the professional basketball player, after years of practice, it all comes naturally.
* There are different training strategies.
- Hold the position in stance no matter how much it hurts and eventually the tension will release.
- "Where the mind goes, the chi follows"
- 2a. Focus on part of your body and keep building the chi there until it breaks out.
- 2b. Focus on another part of the body than where you are focusing.
* Don't tuck. A lot of Tai-chi teachers erroneously teach their students to "tuck under". The resultant problem is that the lower back bows out losing its straightness and the intention is driven forward instead of straight down.
* Exercise to help loosen and develop feeling in a tight lower back. Sit on the edge of a hard chair with feet flat on floor. "Slide" knees forward and back (only an inch or a couple cm) by rocking on the "sits bones" - the bones of the pelvis that contact the chair seat - creating alternating arched and straight lower back. Feel into the pelvis. (This is the Buddha Dipping His Something in the River Qigong.)
(I find that with any new exercise, I tend to force it, or muscle it to "do it right" and I can feel all the muscle-ing I'm doing which is OK to begin however, a more advanced practice is to continuously discover a more relaxed way to do the same, simple exercise. Sometimes I find different muscles can be used or that I don't need to use as much muscle to get the same movement. I've had lots of "a-ha" moments with this method alone!)
* Always remember that all these exercises and analogies and set-ups are methods to elicit a particular feeling. These are all methods to draw your awareness to a particular structure which has a feeling distinct from the structure you are usually familiar with.
* Focus on remembering the structural set up only as long as and until you recognize the feeling. Once you get the feeling, then focus on that and intensify the feeling. Explore where the feeling leads you. Grow in that feeling. Develop the kinesthetic feeling sense is the core practice, the key to "getting it".
- Relax is not limp
- Relax is no tension
- Relax is Chi-ful
- Maintain structure and release all unnecessary tension
- Pressure is not tension.
- Develop the feeling of pressure.
* Question: My natural stance is with the toes pointed out, especially the right foot. Are there exercises to loosen the muscles so the feet naturally stance straight and parallel?
Answer: Stand "pigeon toed", toes touching and heels out to get the femur heads to roll forward, knees touching and pointing toward each other, slowly roll down, dropping the head and let the arms hang until between knees and floor. Roll up and repeat.
* Question: I notice I'm continually clenching the perineum area. How do I get this area to remain relaxed? I notice that when I relax this area I get a better relax/widening in the lower back.
Answer: (I've edited the original entry to the following...) Some techniques are neither generally nor publicly discussed. A technique may be used for different purposes but "unplugging" or releasing the tension in the perineum muscles to allow the Qi to drop is the purpose here. Remember, Tension restricts Qi flow. Relaxing allows Qi flow. You also may want to find a good instructional video on hip-freeing exercises.
(One reader suggested the book "Pelvic Power" by Ivan Franklin. I've heard, 'the best place to hide a planet is out in the open where everyone can see it'. I've found this to be true in at least a few different ways.
Discovering my muscular holding patterns regardless of bodily location is an amazing part of the process. Just because I'm able to relax say my abdomen area doesn't necessarily indicate that I've relaxed another area.)
* Question: I feel a pain in the collarbone while standing. What's up with that?
Answer: If it's pain from releasing and relaxing, then that's fine. Just breath into it.
(I still experience this. It's not a bone pain, rather, when I relax the muscles in the front of my shoulder and neck I feel a 'tugging' or 'pulling' in a four fingertip width from the center end of the bone.)
* All the exercises are done slowly and deliberately with intention of feeling the fascia stretch throughout the body. We can dispense with talk of "Qi flow" and "Tan-tian" because these things appear spontaneously after sufficient feeling of fascial connectedness is developed.
* What's the feeling of this? Find the feeling! It's difficult to use words to describe that which words are ill-made to describe.
* The old old masters and teachings speak in contradictions because if a teacher said "X" then the mind would go to "X" and get stuck there.
(Hmmm... Contradictions like riddles fry the brain creating an opening for what... Yes ! Letting go... Relaxing... Even more... Now... )Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Bio Questions: Journal Notes #17
Next article in this series: Practical Non-Attachment: Journal Notes #19
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And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.