Monday, August 1, 2011

You Can't Force Relax: Journal Notes #50

Notes from my December 2007 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. My notes skip from August to December. There were no entries for September, October, November. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: Sometimes I feel like I'm not making any progress. You know? It's not like when I'm learning new forms or applications and I can see the progress. What's happening?
Answer: Plateaus. We all get them. Feels like no progress, no changes. This can be a place to relax after hard progress and in relaxing, preparation for what is ahead. Keep practicing.

* Question: If the key is to relax, how can I make myself relax faster?
Answer: You can't force relax. You can't make yourself relax. Just relax and the body will relax at it's own pace. Enjoy the journey of watching your body change.

(I found that the wanting to rush it, force it, make it happen actually creates more tension. The wanting has to be balanced with relax.

An analogy of trying to relax might be driving to Disneyland.
If I drive as fast as the car will go and never stop, I probably won't get there. If I drive the posted speed limit and take rests along the way, I'll probably arrive there safely, enjoy the trip and maybe even learn something I can share with other drivers. In both cases, I have the intention to drive to Disneyland.

Maintain the intention and relax.)

* Note: The problem with this work is that I tend to use stiffness and tension to try to achieve the result that can only be achieved through relaxing.
(This tendency or pattern continues to show up as I work at deeper and more subtle layers. I'll practice something on my own between classes. I think I've got this great feeling of connectedness going and when I demonstrate it at class for validation, then I'm told I'm using too much tension and not enough relax.

I think this pattern is a function of the way I process sense information. I tend to filter sense information as "data". I've got to see and understand what I'm seeing before I notice the feeling in myself. This pattern makes the data seem counter-intuitive, contradictory, a frustrating puzzle. But once I notice and understand the feeling, then the data is completely intuitive and understandable.

This pattern contributes to slow my progress because I do in my body what my data is telling me how to do it. However, this pattern also gives me great data to share as I work through figuring out the feeling from a data perspective.

That said, and from what I understand, others can filter or process sense information more directly kinesthetically. They may feel-notice what the master's body is doing and feel-notice their body is not doing the same. They then set their body to work to figure out how to get the same kinesthetic feeling they feeling-noticed. This way of processing sense information can get quicker results but may generate less data in the process of developing the result.

From what I currently understand, how one processes sense information is more a habituated pattern than a voluntary decision... at least in the beginning. It may take a while for your teacher or you to discover your pattern. And then how to work it to your advantage.)


* Question: Is the feeling like this or more like this (demonstrating)?
Answer: Your language reveals your thought process which reveals your lack of connection to feeling. When you use polarity (yin-yang, either-or), you avoid committing to a position other than your either-or and in so doing, you create limitations. In your example, "Is it this or that?" the answer might be, "Maybe it is neither or both or something else." So your thinking is restricted and not open to possibility.

* Question: I know you had me write poetry for a while as an exercise to break out of data-mode. Was this another reason?
Answer: Writing poetry helps to develop the feeling "channel". Feeling will allow writing of poetry.

* Question: What's the big deal about my shoulders being rolled forward a little bit?
Answer: If shoulders (deltoids) are rolled/tilted forward, are not vertical, this is due to tension in front, an imbalance. Strategy is to seek balance. To resolve this, big inhale and lift the chest military style which will roll the shoulders back, then, exhale and drop the chest without moving the shoulders.

(From my personal experience and from what I've seen in class, it can be tricky and may take a long time to get the desired results of this seemingly simple exercise!

Sometimes the muscles are so stuck that on the exhale and dropping the chest, the shoulders can't stay back in place and roll forward with the chest dropping.

Sometimes the back muscles engage to forcefully hold the shoulders back in place on the exhale but after a few breaths, the back muscles give out the shoulders roll forward again.

Sometimes, there is so much tension in the upper back and shoulders that this prevents the shoulders from rolling back as far as they need to go.

Sometimes the desired results of this exercise can only be achieved after lengthy attention and practice and/or therapeutic intervention.)

* Question: What is functional thinking?
Answer: Functional thinking looks for connections, unifying principles. It's O.K. to look at a problem but don't get stuck there.

* Question: How do you read books about internal gong fu written by others?
Answer: There are two ways to interpret the writings of other masters:
  1. The author/master knows the "secret" and you put a lot of authority on him for this.

  2. Read what the author writes and say, "I think this means...." and then seek validation for what you think it means.
(I remember John brought a writing to Wujifa class one time (maybe the last August class?) and we went through it line by line interpreting what we thought that author meant.

This was an interesting exercise because I think we all learned there are different ways to describe the same internal phenomena and your level of understanding at the time can mislead your interpretation of what the author is describing.

I wish these masters would write books journaling their progress from their first day of class. I think this would provide much better guidance to beginning and intermediate practitioners who read their works.

You can't begin working at the level the master achieved which made him publishable!)

* Question: Why do you adjust our hands in stance?
Answer: The position of the fingers and hand opens or closes certain channels for certain purposes.

* Question: Sometimes I feel more 'push up' when I practice sitting stance. Why?
Answer: If you feel more uplift in sitting than in standing, this is likely due to breaks in the feeling through the legs. The upward energy is not going through the legs.

* Note: If you ain't got inguinal crease, you ain't got crap! If you can't feel and engage the inguinal crease, then the movement of the arms in "silk reeling" means nothing.
(I think what this note means is that the inguinal crease is a function of the femur heads rolling forward which is a function of having achieved a basic level of relaxation of the lower back. Due to the strategic location of the lower back - connecting the legs and the upper torso - if this area is still locked with chronic tension, then there is no "connection" between the legs and upper torso and so there is no "silk" to "reel". Relaxing and opening the lower back allows both the inguinal crease and a feeling of "twining" to show up which is part of silk reeling.

When I used muscular force instead of relax to create the inguinal crease, 1. I was doing it wrong. 2. I couldn't get as deep a "crease" as I could get through relax. 3. I couldn't feel as deeply as I could through relax. and 4. My lower back did not open and I did not feel the "twining" feeling, the "reeling silk" feeling.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Appreciation and Thankfulness: Journal Notes #49
Next article in this series: Noticing To Help You Notice: Journal Notes #51

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

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