Monday, May 2, 2011

Ten Year Practice: Journal Notes #37

Notes from my April 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: In a previous class you said a beginner may feel the breathing creates a natural rocking motion: in-forward, out-backward and that over time, the external rocking should change to external stillness but internal movement. Well, I haven't experienced that feeling yet. Should I go back to practicing for that?
Answer: This is one of many methods. Remember, the method is not the truth.

* Question: How do you apply the "Feeling, Understanding, and Being Aware" cycle? I'm stuck on how to keep it going. It seems so simple.
Answer: Let go of the adult intellectual frustration with a simple idea and just get into doing that simple idea.
(One of my main "sticky points"was analysis paralysis; using analysis to paralyze, to avoid doing, to avoid acting. As I'm learning, a "sticky point" isn't necessarily limited to a chronically tense muscle. My attitudinal or emotional "stuff" shows up in my zhan zhuang and can just as effectively act as a impediment to developing the desired intention-structure.)
* Question: You said that in silk reeling, the forearm feels a twist. How does this transition between the different moves?
Answer: Don't mistake how a feeling is described for what you really do. If you do that, then you get stuck on that description of how I'm feeling and understanding and describing the feeling at this point in time.
(When I asked this question, I didn't understand how "the feeling" can change. I understand this better now and my understanding now is that the body changes and evolves as "the feeling" grows and evolves in the body so no single description is "the truth".

The biggest difficulty for me as a beginner was trying to feel what the master was describing, which I've learned is impossible. A beginner should not get caught up in trying to feel the master's feeling but rather focus on getting a beginner's feeling. I'm coming to understand why "sinking your Qi" or dropping your weight is a very functional first step; the beginner's feeling. The seed grows its root first before breaking the soil.

In the last Wujifa class before this post, I learned in my body: A Detailed Structural Analysis of the First Chen Style Silk Reeling Form. There is sooooo much more depth to feeling understanding silk reeling than the simple question I asked then!)
* Question: How do you stay curious?
Answer: The answer is in the question.

* The purpose of side-to-side is to develop the feeling of the kua.

* The mouth is very good at lying but the body is not.
(In real estate it's location, location, location. In zhan zhuang and developing internal strength it's Read the body! Read the body! Read the body!)
* Exercise. Hold a single grain of sand between your thumb and forefinger. Feel it. Feel every nuance of its surface. Do this thirty minutes everyday for ten years. If you focus and be serious, you will develop a very deep ability to feel.
(When I was 20 years old, I couldn't have imagined doing a simple exercise for 10 years into the future. (For example: zhan zhuang, the hair in the phone book, the grain of sand exercise.) Now at 50+, I could have done any one of these 10 year exercises three times over!

Why is it difficult to commit to a simple practice for ten years, yet in the same period of time, when looking back, we see a commitment to any of a variety of unconsciously "chosen" attitudes or behavior patterns? Isn't that interesting?)
* In Biblical Genesis, "the Word" is powerful. When you "give your word", when you promise yourself to practice, to develop skill, your "word" will carry you through all the bad times, the times when you don't feel like practicing. You will practice because you love your Word, you honor your commitment, you will not quit that to which you have committed in your heart. This is qualitatively different from the fascist discipline where a drill sergeant forces you to practice.

* Question: I notice my lower back across sacrum feels stretched to the point of hurting when doing side-to-side. Is this O.K.?
Answer: Yes. You have to get the lower back stretched out and open before you can begin to feel the fascial stretches in front.

* Question: Isn't pole shaking a variation of side-to-side?
Answer: Yes, but the movement in each kua is more complicated than in the simple, beginning side-to-side. Simple side-to-side will only yield the pole moving. There's the added (demonstration) to get the pole to shake. So now you see that pole shaking does not come from the arms. It comes from movement in the kua.
(This is another excellent example of... you interpret what you see at the level at which you are able to see, which may be an incorrect interpretation. This begs the question: How do you know if you are seeing at the appropriate level to understand the practice you are witnessing?

From my experience with internal arts, it is far more productive to err on the side of humility: "I see what I see and what I'm seeing is probably wrong." If you are convinced you understand and no one tells you any different, then you'll likely persist in your misguided assessment and practice incorrectly and build in bad habits.

When I could only see and understand that pole shaking was caused by sudden arm motion, I did it wrong even though I thought I was doing it correctly. Luckily, I got "called to the mat" and when I accepted how stuck my kua were, I stopped doing "pole shaking" and got to work on my kua.)
* It's not about "Should I stay or should I go?", it's about what does this situation have to teach me? What lesson, what understanding am I suppose to get from this?
(The other day while standing in zhan zhuang, I said to myself at 20 minutes, at 40 minutes, and at 55 minutes, "Why do I keep wasting my time with this crap?" To which I responded, "Keep standing." I finished my hour. The next day, practice went very smooth and easy and time flew by. My first time check was at 50 minutes.)
Keep practicing!

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Walls, Heads and Hearts: Journal Notes #36
Next article in this series: Hiding Secrets in Plain Sight: Journal Notes #38

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

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