* Question: Are there levels to learning Zhan Zhuang Qi Gong and if so, what are they?
Answer: Developing internal strength through zhan zhuang is very simple, just stand and relax, but many people can't work at this high a level.
- Highest level: Stand and relax.
- Next level: Stand, notice where you are holding, and relax.
- Next level: Stand, follow rules (1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4), notice where you're holding, and relax.
- Next level: Stand, follow rules (1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4), teacher points out where you're holding, you notice what teacher points out to you, and relax.
(When I first started Wujifa Zhan Zhuang, I certainly did "advance" through each level. However, even though my practice now is more at a "higher" level, when I'm at Wujifa class, then I welcome practicing at the "lowest" level. So these levels are not necessarily something to advance through and never revisit but rather are something to advance through and then go back and revisit and refine... of course, at a different level...)
* Question: How should I use, "Where the mind goes, the Qi follows."?
Answer: If you focus on the shoulder, the Qi will get stuck in the shoulder. If you focus on dropping the elbow, this will open the shoulder.
* Question: How can I develop a feeling of the connection through my back?
Answer: Practice the head-dropping exercise. For this, you need to isolate the hip joint - do not rotate on the hip joint. Roll from the top vertebra etc and only go as far as your tension allows you to go. The point is to feel the fascial stretch. It is not a competition to see how far you can go. Let the head hang. Then slowly roll back up.
(This is trickier than it looks and you might do it wrong if you try it just from this explanation. The first "trick" is to not move the hips. When I first tried this, I couldn't feel into my hips enough to know when I was or wasn't moving them. My teacher had to point this out. Once I stabilized my hips, I actually bent over a lot less. This left me feeling like I wasn't doing anything which is another "trick" - doing the actual exercise and not the exercise to satisfy the ego.
Another "trick" is feeling the connectedness of the stretch. It took me a long time to notice the connectedness feeling EVEN WHEN my instructor said he could see me doing it! Remember, relax is not limp! It's not go limp and stretch. There's another quality involved.
I think this is another great example of how a seemingly simple exercise can actually be part of and lead to a high level practice.)
* This month, I attended my first John Wingert (Mr. 20/20) seminar called, "Reformat Your Hard Drive - Live Your Vision Weekend", April 21-22, 2007 at his home in western Pennsylvania. I attended with Rick and Dan from the Wujifa school.
(These are my "data" notes that I later wrote in my training journal for this month. Sadly, I did not save my original notes. While the overall effect was a "shift", I did not record the feeling experience of that weekend. The beauty and application of this kind of experience to zhan zhuang training for me is in its eliciting a "shift", getting me "unstuck", kind of like Rolfing for "the mind" which creates openings and opportunities to notice where I couldn't notice before.)
- This seminar focused on patterning. Noticing and changing patterning.
- Everyone has their own unconscious patterning; their way of doing things. The way you perceive the world generates stories. Stories generate problems. Problems entice you to create solutions. So you wind up finding solutions to problems created by stories but you never get to changing the underlying patterning.
- Patterning leads to Stories which leads to Problems which leads to Solutions. People tend to get stuck in the Problem-Solution loop.
(A note about stories from another perspective. Stories create a sense of continuity and hence, a sense of emotional safety. New experiences either fit or don't fit the story. If a new experience does not fit the story, we tend to reject the experience to maintain the story (and the sense of safety) rather than modify the story to incorporate the new experience.)
- Focus on the process. The content is irrelevant.
- If what you are doing is not giving you the desired results, then do anything else.
- There's very little difference between real and imagined memory. Use your personal history (your story) as a resource instead of as a limitation. The only thing that happened is I made a set of perceptions about an event and those perceptions were formed by earlier perceptions, which were formed by earlier perceptions, etc... So pick any event that occurred, look at the "raw" event, strip away the perceptions around that event, and imagine new perceptions. Create a new story, a new personal history. Be open to more choices. Made up memories can change just as easily as arbitrarily assigned perceptions.
- Shifts happen.
* Question: At the John Wingert Seminar, he mentioned I would benefit from being in contrary or ambiguous situations. What are these?
Answer: Things that you don't want to do and may be afraid to do. Put yourself "out there". Declare a different identity. Wear a button with words on it. Do silk reeling in the park where everyone can see you. Basically, step out of your routine, out of your rut, out of your comfort/confinement zone. Do something contrary or ambiguous for what you consider "normal" or "acceptable" for your story.
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Getting Up and Down: Journal Notes #45
Next article in this series: Levels of Noticing: Journal Notes #47
Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.