Monday, July 18, 2011

No Shortcuts: Journal Notes #48

Notes from my July 2007 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: I'm frustrated that this is taking so long. Is there a way to speed up the process?
Answer: Don't force it. Allow yourself to shift and grow. Don't try to rush your development. Don't look for shortcuts. There aren't any. Stick with the basics. Stand and relax and notice.

* Why can't I just get a single "big shift" to get "the feeling" and be done with it?
Answer: Small adjustments in the body have big results. Think of two laser pointers differing by only a fraction of an inch at the source are miles apart at some distant point. Small shifts now can result in big changes later.

(The old saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day." applies here. I had at least a couple issues going on then: 1. I was looking for a special feeling, "the feeling" which blinded me to 2. I wasn't able to notice the incremental results that the many small adjustments were having on my body over time.

Were I able to relax even my attachment to the idea of needing to get "the feeling", and simply notice the day-to-day kinesthetic changes, I might have progressed a little quicker and I probably would have never asked these questions.

This is another example of how questions can reveal where someone is in their training and development.)

* Question: I've noticed a wide variety of kinesthetic sensations over the years and you say these are mere road signs. Are any of these useful for anything or should I just ignore them all?
Answer: The useful sensations will help you notice where tensions are. (Tension = stuck point.)

(The "road sign" analogy helped me get a functional perspective on the various "Qi feelings" so I will repeat it here.

Early in my practice I learned that feeling kinesthetic feelings of tingling or warmth when doing the Tai chi form or various Qi gong exercises were an indication of having a high level practice and so were a goal to achieve in and of itself. (Achieving this fed my ego. I felt special.)

When I got into the School of Cultivation and Practice, I learned that these kinesthetic feelings are not the destination but are merely road signs that I am on the journey. (I didn't feel so special anymore).

The road sign analogy is driving from Chicago to Disneyland. When you see the sign, "Disneyland 1000 miles", you don't stop and say you've reached your destination. When you see the sign, "Disneyland 500 miles", you don't stop and say you've reached your destination. When you see the sign, "Disneyland 10 miles", you don't stop and say you've reached your destination. The road signs are not the destination.

The various and changing "Qi feelings" are like these various and changing road signs. Just as the destination is not the road sign, so too, the destination is not "Qi feelings". The destination is Disneyland; the feeling of connectedness. "Qi feelings" are indications the body is opening and relaxing.

Opening and relaxing are the pre-requisite or pre-condition kinesthetics . "Qi feelings" are signposts indicating the internal environment is slowly changing. With diligent practice over time, opening and relaxing yields the opportunity for the discovery of feelings of connectedness. Discovering and strengthening these connections (with specific exercises) then develops into the kinesthetic quality known as internal strength. Finally, one's level of internal strength then depends on how deeply and how far one goes with this process.

Well, such is my understanding of the process at this point in my practice.)

* I've learned that the deeper I can feel into my own body, the deeper I can perceive into another person's body.
(The more I grow in being able to relax and feel, the more the martial application of relax and feel makes sense to me. For example, when I walk on the street, I can see some people who carry tension high in their shoulders. It is obvious to me that this person is not "sunk", rooted, grounded. And should an altercation ensue, I would probably have the better chance of unbalancing, uprooting that person. And if I can see this with my level of skill, imagine what grand masters can see!)

* Question: Isn't "noticing" the same thing as "being aware"? Isn't this just semantics?
Answer: Noticing means to be aware without judging. Some people tend to judge what they will be aware of. This is a good thing to be aware of and that is not. So be aware of this and ignore that. Also, "awareness" has become a loaded word. Simply notice what is there.

* Question: What is "sitting stance"? Is this something different from zhan zhuang?
Answer: In sitting stance, follow the same principles as zhan zhuang; sink your weight, push down with your feet and push up your head.

* If you shoot at the target but keep missing, you can make quicker progress if you shoot off target and come back rather than continually recalibrating.
(Sometimes in Wujifa class I get too serious; trying too hard. In these times, I'm instructed to do something silly and seemingly meaningless like shake all over or dance or make funny faces, and then go back to stance. This kind of pattern interrupt is like shooting off target. Then when I go back to practice, it's easier to hit the target; kind of like clicking the reset button.)

* I continue to have two different emotional feelings about practicing zhan zhuang:
  • I have to practice. I better practice.
  • I want to practice. I love to practice.

* Question: Talking about the Wujifa Relax, Structure, Balance triangle, aren't balance and relax kind of the same thing; when I'm balanced then I can relax and when I relax then I'm balanced?
Answer: Balance is a true-er form of relax. For example, in many people the thumb pulls up because it's too tense on the top side and too limp on the bottom side. In this case, it can be too difficult to find balance by simply saying, "Relax the top." so it's better to add tension on the limp side to pull the tight side. This is the balance of forces. With this method over time, the tight side will relax some and the limp side will tone up some. Now the two sides are more balanced but still some tension is involved. Now find balance where both sides relax equally in balance.

* Most people get stuck in one identity and lose flexibility. Putting on an identity opens doors to discovery.

* Question: What do you mean by "the trap"?
Answer: The trap is not being open to possibilities. So be open to possibilities.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Levels of Noticing: Journal Notes #47
Next article in this series: Appreciation and Thankfulness: Journal Notes #49

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

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