Monday, October 17, 2011

Beyond the Monkey Mind: Journal Notes #61

Notes from my November 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.)

* Question: I think I'm finding layers of monkey mind. Beneath the voice-in-the-head, I'm noticing a constant churning of feeling/emotion. Have you noticed this in yourself?
Answer: Finding layers is the monkey mind at work. Remember the story of the Taoist monk who goes into the jungle to meditate... While sitting in meditation, a monkey begins throwing sticks, then fruit, then turds at the monk. The monk gets frustrated and wants to kill the monkey but isn't able to catch it. Then he decides to ignore the monkey and as a result, he becomes robotic in his practice, shutting himself off from his surrounding environment.

The monkey mind can be a distraction AND it can be a teacher and provide insights. There are no layers. The monkey mind is the small intention. Emotions, the "feel like having or doing", are the large intention. Harmonize and align the small intention and the large intention.

When the monkey mind feels threatened it will "armor" the body, meaning, the muscles will tense which inhibits the free flow of feeling and qi.

* Question: I can't find that open feeling in stance when I practice at home. But I get it when you adjust my posture here in class. What's the main point that would help me find it?
Answer: This is the paradox: You have to let go of your armoring that you can't notice. People can't notice their own armors. Letting go is also difficult because of the way you armor. As soon as you build a charge in one area, then you shift an armor to not feel that charge. In your case, and this is common, your shoulders are soft on the surface but you hide your tension below the surface in the deeper layers of muscle which even you can feel with your fingers are hard as steel.

* Mike, notice how you use your language. Your words reveal your underlying attitude. The tone of voice reveals the underlying emotion. In your case, it sounds like you are coming from lack: "I can't feel..." and "How can I get...?". What happens if you change your language? Remember how you played at the 20/20 seminar a few years ago...

* Ambiguity and generality allow deeper insights to show up. Let it be OK for something to show up. This creates space. Judgment cuts off space.

* Question: We've talked about how thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude all contribute to creating an opening feeling. But I equate being thankful with getting something I wanted. How can I be thankful for getting something I didn't ask for like noticing something in stance?
Answer: There is external and internal thankfulness. External is for things and situations. Internal is for noticing and feeling. How can I be thankful....

* Question: I still don't understand what the "open" feeling has to do with internal strength. What's the relation between the open-present feeling and internal strength?
Answer: A baby is open and in growing up, slowly shuts down/armors. Stance and bio-work aim to dissolve and release the armoring to reclaim that original open feeling. Once you are open, then you harness intention to practice extending and expanding. Internal strength is in the extending and not in contracting which is armor. It's difficult to extend when the body is locked in contraction. Open allows the Qi to flow, allows "Peng" in all directions.

* Question: In push-hands, how can I connect with another person without losing my grounding?
Answer: Be aware of your internal. Notice their external. Do this until "we" show up. Move back and forth between the two.

* Over the past two weeks of practice I noticed a few different feeling "states":
  1. Present: Here, now, connected.
  2. Here but cutoff, not connected.
  3. Spaced out, not connected, trance-like.
Question: I still spend a lot of stance practice time kind of "out there". How can I resolve this?
Answer: You see how stance is the same way you experience your body on a daily basis. To avoid stance trance, look down at your heart. Keep the head up but roll the eyes down. When your eyes wander up, you're spacing out and losing presence. When the eyes roll up and the gaze seems distant, this can indicate the mind is making pictures, imagining something, and is generally cut off from the body. When the eyes stare straight forward, without that spark or twinkle of life, this is trance. Consciously placing the focus of the eyes at a point on the body helps maintain and build connection to the body.

(I've learned different practices over the years regarding where to focus with the eyes. What I've learned is that the above was a medicine for me at that time. I've heard my Wujifa teacher tell different students specific things to do with their eyes. There are many places the eyes can be focused. It depends who you are and what you're working with at the time.)

* Question: I notice that I tend to space out when confronted with a feeling kind of question where I don't have an established academic answer. What's up with this?
Answer: Your ability to answer initially from feeling is armored. Your pattern is to go to data. You're becoming aware of where you are armored.

* Question: Is there a way to use breathing to calm down and relax in stance?
Answer: Breathe slowly and naturally without forcing slow and natural. Breath in five counts and out five counts. Slow deep breathing induces alpha brain-waves which help relax the body, and in turn, your breathing naturally slows and relaxes as your body relaxes.

* I notice when I feel my elbows relax, then my torso relaxes. That's interesting.

* Feeling is a fruit of practice. Don't strive to achieve yesterday's fruit. Always look for the newer, fresher, riper fruit.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Internal vs External Martial Arts: Journal Notes #60
Next article in this series: Mind-full-ness and Zoning Out: Journal Notes #62

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

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