Monday, September 19, 2011

Stance Is Life and Life Is Stance: Journal Notes #57

Notes from my July 2008 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.)

* In today's July 6 Wujifa class, a beautiful sunny afternoon on the school's front porch, I hung around after the other students had left and I got some private stance instruction. After many subtle structural adjustments and coaching by my instructor, I experienced the most amazing feeling I've ever experienced in stance practice! It wasn't about weight sinking into my legs. It wasn't about feeling more kinesthetic connectedness. It was a completely different feeling. A very intense feeling! I don't know what to call it. Maybe it was Qi flowing but I call it a feeling of "presence". With each little adjustment the feeling increased. I was repeatedly saying, "I don't know how much presence I can tolerate!" With coaching, I stayed with it, awed and overwhelmed by the experience. Feels like my birthday into feeling.


* Question: After that amazing experience a couple weeks ago, I've really been enjoying standing for the sake of standing. An hour passes like mere minutes. I don't have any questions, mechanical, data or otherwise. After that experience, I don't even know what questions I should be asking. Where do I go with this?
Answer: Go stand. Focus attention on a far away point. Find a leaf on a tree then keep your awareness on feeling. The error is to put attention on an issue. Attention can draw in awareness. Keep a global awareness. Notice where you're holding, contracting, and not relaxing, then relax.

* Question: How do I replicate that feeling? How do I get it again?
Answer: There is no single "it" to "get". Consider the growth of a mustard seed. You don't look at the seed each week and say, "This is what a mustard seed is." You don't compartmentalize to that point in time and say, "This is what a mustard seed is." Once the seed starts growing, and you continue nurturing its growth, it is constantly changing.

Me: OK but that was so amazing, how do I make myself get that again?

Answer: It's not about forcing yourself. Don't label what you notice. Don't force a feeling into a concept.

Me: So what? Just let that pass as a really cool experience? Then what?

Answer: In stance, look for opening and in opening find connections. Instead of saying, "How do I replicate a previous feeling?", it's better to say, "How can I notice new areas and levels of feeling?" It's about staying focused and enjoying the confusion that comes with not labeling feelings and with not trying to go back to what you labeled.

Me: But if I had "it" and lost "it" that's bad. Shouldn't I always have "it" once I got "it"?

Answer: Getting the feeling and losing it is better than getting it and never losing it. In the latter case, if you ever lost it, you wouldn't know how to get it back. If you go through a cycle of your instructor helping you get it, then you lose it, and again, getting and losing, then you slowly learn how to get it on your own.

Me: But if I'm going to teach, shouldn't I really have it?

Answer: Those who struggle to get it make better teachers than those who get it naturally. The naturals don't know how to explain how to get it since it came so easy to them.

Me: So what's the best way to think about these kinds of experiences?

Answer: Whatever shows up during stance practice is a gift; the results of your watering the root, of nurturing life. It's the spirit of you showing up.

* Question: What's the difference between Connecting vs. Awareness?
Answer: You can be aware of your surroundings but you want to connect with your surroundings as well.

* Question: I'm still confused, how does noticing and feeling lead to internal strength?
Answer: Internal strength is the result of a particular application of intention. Focus noticing and feeling on finding and developing connection and expansion.

* Question: What's the relation between stance practice and everyday life and how does dead post stance figure into this?
Answer: Stance practice is where you take time to notice how deadened or alive you are and where you can take time to work on becoming more alive. If you are a dead post in some other area of your life, meaning where you are not fully present, where you are not being you, where you subjugate yourself to someone else, where you lead their idea of how you should live by adopting their values or foregoing your desires, where you live by rules instead of principles, then your stance is not fully alive either, your stance will have areas of numbness, flaccidity, or rigidity. You cannot compartmentalize your life. Stance is life. Life is stance.

(This is the darnedest thing to become aware of! As my Wujifa instructor points out areas of my musculature that are numb, flaccid or rigid, I begin to notice and distinguish these different muscular qualities which were previously invisible to me. Similarly, in my everyday life there are associated patterns of numbness and flaccidity and rigidity which contribute to forming who "I" am and which are equally invisible to me because those patterns are "me".

For me, making changes to enliven that numbness, strengthen that flaccidity, and relax that rigidity is comparatively easy when it comes to working on my musculature. However, it is more difficult for me (means I'm afraid) to work on changing similar patterns in my everyday life. I want to make changes and progress in stance AND yet hold onto and not change my everyday patterns. Resisting changing an everyday life pattern shows up as a pattern of resisting change and progress in stance practice. Attitudes from everyday life show up in stance training.
Attitudes that are exhibited in stance training point to patterns in everyday life.)

* Question: What's the relation between hips and ankles?
Answer: Lack of flexibility in the hips can be traced to a lack of flexibility in the ankles. Do these three exercises to help open the ankles and stretch the calves.
  1. Stand with balls of feet on a block of wood and heels on ground. Bend the knees.
  2. Lay flat on back, legs perpendicular to the ground, straight up in air, then either wrap a strap over the balls of the feet and pull down or have someone push down on the balls of your feet.
  3. Do the standard runner's stretch where you "push" on a wall.

* Question: How do I know if I have tension in my jaw?
Answer: To release tension in jaw, hold a wine cork between your teeth for 15 minutes. If this becomes intolerable after a minute or two, then you may have chronic tension in your jaw muscles.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Teaching Internal Strength: Journal Notes #56
Next article in this series: Opening to Learn More: Journal Notes #58

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

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