Friday, March 11, 2011

My Journey to Feeling: Part 1

Developing the ability to feel is a journey.

Sure, I can "feel". I have the sensory perception of touch. My tongue can distinguish flavors. My ear can hear a variety of pitches, timbres and volumes. I can feel emotions. So what's the problem? After all these years, why do I still have trouble feeling deeper and ever more subtle layers of my "internal" kinesthetics which is needed to develop the internal strength of Taiji, Ba-gua, and Xing-yi? Feeling is feeling is feeling after all, right?

Somewhere in my life, I came to value others' feelings over mine especially when my feelings conflicted with others' feelings. In those cases, I would de-value and block expressing my feelings and rationalize a "good reason" for doing so.

I recently discovered that my efforts in developing kinesthetic feeling in Wujifa Zhan Zhuang conflicted with my lifelong habit of stifling my emotional feeling as I just described. As a result, I was trying to grow feeling AND at the same time, I was trying to squash feeling. I was trying to light the candle and extinguish the candle at the same time.

Years ago I tried an exercise: Check in with yourself periodically throughout the day and notice what you're feeling. When I tried this, I mostly noticed that I felt nothing and so I gave up on the exercise.

Recently, I've picked this up again. But in the interim, I learned that I cannot ever not be feeling. Me, "my" body is a sensory organ. There is no fundamental disconnect between my "head" and my "heart". The connection is there. (It's called the nervous system.) Physiological processes encounter or react to external or internal stimuli and create "feelings". Feeling is primary. Rationale thought and interpretation of feeling is secondary.

And if there is ever a time when there appears to be no "emotional" feeling, then notice a physical feeling. Is the chair hard or soft? Are your eyes sore from reading too much? and on and on... There is always feeling.

So in trying this exercise now, I'm completely blown away each time I "check in" because I notice that I'm feeling! I don't need a label for the feeling. I simply notice a feeling. And here's an "Ah-ha!" moment... maybe where I got stuck before was thinking that if I couldn't label a feeling, then it didn't exist. So not true! The feeling existed. The label did not. Two very different experiences!

Developing a new habit of simply noticing feeling in all its variety is a journey that can begin with simple, baby steps like the exercise described above.

Continues with: My Journey to Feeling: Part 2


  1. I remember reading your journal notes #11 from the year 2000 i believe... It is wonderful you are so open to sharing so much of yourself with all of us who read this blog. Honestly sharing your path you are on... the fun stuff and the nt so fun stuff... to the sometimes very painful. It is rare to read this in openess in many martial arts blogs.

    Anyway, back in journal notes #11 I think you said "As I felt more and more, feeling 'spilled over' into other areas of life. I couldn't isolate and compartmentalize feeling to training any longer. In addition to feeling what I'll call "body-neutral" or kinesthetic feeling, I also began feeling some other not-so-nice stuff; anger, resentment, regrets, etc.

    The Zen Monk once told me there is no karma once you awaken... when living the illusion everything is your karma. I share this because I believe the justifying of what one should feeling creates the opening for illusionary belief systems. We are much more like a frolicking squirrel than we'd like to acknowledge. Feeling is just "nature’s way" like the squirrel frolicking... or a dog yelping when someone steps on his tail.

    I think it's great that you are doing the feeling journal are regular intervals. What one write isn't as important as the process of simply checking in and getting the old neurons firing again... like the squirrels that run so freely through the trees.

    I hope you can hang in there this time and see this feeling thing through and discover who has been watching you on the other side of the mirror.

  2. I too have experienced the emotional release that practicing internal martial arts can trigger. For me it was a very unpleasant time. My teacher told me not to own the feelings, not to give them a place to reside (either in my head or in my body) but to allow them to release freely as they arose. After reading your post I realize this was his way of saying not to label them.

    Ian Sinclair of said something that helped me understand this unexpected connection between internal martial arts and emotions: "Thought, emotion and posture merge when working with subtle levels of aligning the body".

    Internal martial arts.... the best kind of therapy!

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