Monday, January 17, 2011

What is the Fulcrum: Journal Notes #22

Notes from my November 2004 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: In the XXX exercises, the body shakes and vibrates. What is this and what does this have to do with standing , tai-chi and internal strength?
Answer: When the wind blows, the mountain does not move, the young tree shakes, and the grass bends. Shaking or vibrating is the energy moving in the body and is an indication of how free the body is of blockages and of where the blockages are. It can also help "clear the pipes".

* Question: It seems the the vibrating is triggered by certain postures and breathing techniques. Is this something that I can do at home or is it best to do only under supervision?
Answer: If you have a safe and supporting environment at home, then it would be OK, otherwise, no.

* Remember too that Chen Xiaowang says: No shaking means either chi flowing or no chi flowing. Shaking means some chi blocked, some chi flowing.

* Question: Can I feel the bottom of your feet? (Why do I ask? Because when I palpate the bottom of my feet, they are hard. So I wonder if someone who can demonstrate a level of internal strength has soft feet (song in the feet).
Answer: Yes, the bottom of his feet feel like pressing on a thick gel with no end, no hard-ness.

* One exercise to help loosen tension in the feet is to stand on golf balls. This can be quite painful. A more lenient alternative is to stand on Yamuna Foot Savers (looks like a plastic tennis ball cut in half).

* Question: What does having soft feet, relaxed bottom of feet have to do with stance?
Answer: When your feet relax, you can sink into the ground better.

* Class note from Nov 21, 2004. I stood for almost two hours in class and made some progress under the wise and guiding hands patiently adjusting my posture, providing reminders and "follow this direction".

* Be a scientist. Ask questions. Explore. Be an Edison or an Einstein. Experiment. Try. Get results. Verify.
(Again, a very difficult concept for me to grasp in this context. I long learned that I go to a teacher to be spoon fed some knowledge. The lesson I kept missing here is how do I learn to learn from what my body, my practice reveals?)

* The teacher knows where you are based on the kinds of questions you ask. Your questions reveal your current level of experience and what you're working on.
(So true! I see this over and over, in every class with each person's questions. It's quite amazing what a question reveals! And not only the literal words of the question but also the tone of voice, the energy or lack thereof in the delivery, the physical structure of the person while asking, etc.... a question reveals a LOT!)

* People make up all kinds of reasons to not do something. Know what your reasons are.

* There are different levels of watching nature. Approach nature as a teacher.

* There are different purposes in stance though to the untrained eye, these differences will not be detected. Different purposes may be:
  1. To feel the weight sink into the thighs. To feel the thighs burn.
  2. To feel the bottom is heavy and the top is light.
  3. To feel the fascial connection through the entire body.
* Question: What's the difference between Yin-Yang and Wuji?
Answer: Yin-yang is mechanistic thinking. Wuji is the fulcrum upon which yin-yang rest and play. It is best to be the fulcrum. Maintain Wuji in everything then no matter if someone sends you Yin or Yang energy, you can maintain the central equilibrium.
(I had a very difficult time grasping this concept coming from a very Yin-Yang Tai-chi school of thought . However, over the years, I'm slowly coming to see how this looks in practice.)
* You tend to notice muscular tension in the body when you put something in the path of the tension. Said another way, you tend to NOT notice muscular tension in the body UNTIL you put something in the path of the tension.

* You can apply this principle to the mouth and jaw. People also tend to carry a huge amount of tension in the jaw area, specifically, in
the temporomandibular joint area. One exercise is to put something between the top and bottom front teeth that keeps the mouth as wide open as possible without your effort. The long side of a wine cork works nicely for most people. Soon you notice the jaw muscles (that are used to close the mouth) becoming sore. The tense muscles are stretching.
(When I first did this, I could only tolerate it a few seconds. Over time, with repeated practice, I worked up to minutes. Much later... I occasionally do this for about 20 minutes during stance practice. After 20 minutes it starts to get annoying, so maybe I'm hitting another level... )

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Living Puzzle Anxiety: Journal Notes #21
Next article in this series: Monkey and Stallion: Journal Notes #23

Make sure to visit and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

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