Monday, April 25, 2011

Walls, Heads and Hearts: Journal Notes #36

Notes from my February and March 2006 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: Reality check. What do you think of my practice routine?
Answer: Doing an hour stance a day is O.K. but you need to do a lot more more side-to-side and and more hip-swivels. What you put in is what you get out. How much time you practice determines how soon you "get it". So one hour a day is not olympic training.
(When I was first learning Tai chi, I put in a ton(!) of time with a ton(!) of enthusiasm. However, when I got into un-learning and re-learning and actually developing some functional skill, my enthusiasm waned. Why? I think it comes down to I struggle with not wanting to let go of what I have (my habits) to get what I want (internal strength). I am slowly becoming aware of how I sabotage myself. The tiredness I often feel may be all the energy I'm expending to maintain my "walls" in the face of the energy I'm "building" through my practice.)
* Keep your internal exercises and other exercises separate, for example, don't do "internal" squats as a cardio-vascular workout. The intention of each is different.

* It's not uncommon for longer-term Wujifa students to work on releasing deeper "blockages" which may result in an "emotional release". Here is a conversation I noted from a March 2006 class. (The "Ins" means "instructor"):
Ins: How did you feel watching what Mr. A. was going through?
Me: I alternated between watching and trying not to watch to give him some privacy.
Ins: So you distanced yourself by intellectualizing and not being emotionally connected?
Me: I don't know what I was feeling.
Ins: What are you feeling now?
Me: Hmm....
Ins: Notice how his (my) face and ears are flushing? Now he's feeling the emotional response. That's just a little insight for you. Is that enough?
Me: Yes.
(I am including this rather personal experience here as an example of how someone (myself) can disconnect to an external situation as well as disconnect internally. I am slowly learning the feeling of when I'm connecting and when I'm disconnecting.

In my example here, I blocked the flow of emotional energy by "watching and trying not to watch", by "distancing" myself and the rationalization was "to give him some privacy" which was ludicrous given the physical setting. This was a valuable insight because it was a good example of how disconnected "I" am from "my body". I am coming to understand how developing internal strength is about developing a functional connectedness in all forms be it psychological, kinesthetic, emotional.)
* Focus your practice on the 20% that will give you 80% of the results, for example, sinking the weight into your legs. There are a lot of other high level practices but pursuing those 80% will only give you 20% results.

* Question: What is NLP "framing"?
Answer: A "frame" is a perspective, your thoughts about yourself or something, a belief. A frame can be a mental fabrication not based on anything yet it can rule your life. When you see the same situation from another perspective and adopt the feeling of that other perspective, both become equally real and unreal to you.

* Dead-post stance and Stance-dance stance are not extremes on a continuum with proper stance somewhere in between. No! Dead-post stance and Stance-dance stance are both wrong.

* Correct stance is feeling movement in stillness. Beginners may sway slightly front to back when breathing in and breathing out, respectively. Feel how the inside is still as movement is expressed externally with the swaying. Slowly change and adjust so the same movement occurs but is made so the outside is still and the inside moves with the breathe. This is the first step to developing correct stance and understanding "movement in stillness" of the internal martial arts.
(Previously, I understood the "movement in stillness" idea to mean imagining a white ball of Qi energy moving through my unmoving body. I like the above exercise because it is so much more functional, so kinesthetically verifiable. There is nothing to imagine about it.)
* Question: Is there a right or wrong time to practice silk reeling?
Answer: Silk reeling can be and is done at whatever level you are working at.

* Question: What is the Chen style silk reeling practice really about?
Answer: The name comes from the practice of unwinding the silk cocoon. You need to pull the thread with just the right amount of pressure and speed to get the best result. In Chen style silk reeling, you must move at just the right speed so you can feel and develop the feeling of the fascial connections moving as you move.
(I used to think that going through the mechanical motions of silk reeling would in itself "magically" do something. So now I know: Feeling + form = silk reeling. I still have not been able to distinguish the feeling of my fascia moving to be able to shift into and focus on feeling that feeling. I continue working on that.)

* It is obvious when someone is asking a thinking, "head"-based question or is asking a feeling, "body"-based question.
(I wasn't able to distinguish these two until I myself shifted from asking "head" based questions to asking "body" based questions. The words can be the same but the feeling behind the words is different. The question is coming from a different "place".)
* Feel. Become aware of a feeling. Understand the feeling. Ask what is causing that feeling. and repeat this cycle... deeper and deeper...

* Question: Why do we gaze above parallel as if looking up at a mountain range when many other standing and sitting practices say to gaze slightly downward?
Answer: Many people tend to hunch and so gazing downward only reinforces the hunching. By setting the gaze higher, contributes to straightening out the hunch.
(In addition to hunching the shoulders, many people (including some zhan zhuang teachers!) have their heads jutting forward where the ears are forward of their shoulders. After getting the head back into position (ears aligned over shoulders), the upward or even skyward gaze helps maintain alignment, helps correct muscle imbalances. Good zhan zhuang instruction points out and helps correct postural habits.)
Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Revealing Grandfather's Face: Journal Notes #35
Next article in this series: Ten Year Practice: Journal Notes #37

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

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