Monday, February 27, 2012

Beginning How to Feel Connection: Journal Notes #80

Notes from my July 2010 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.)

* Note: I feel that I've shifted from a focus on looking for the answer to "How to develop internal strength?" in data to looking for the feeling in my body. With this shift came a puzzle. I know how to ask questions from a data or mechanistic perspective. I don't know how or what to ask about my internal kinesthetic feelings. As such, I feel that I am now lacking curiosity.
(It's odd to think that curiosity only applies in the venue in which I've lived most of my life; mechanistic and generally numb to kinesthetic feeling. Curiosity is curiosity. It's not that there's a lack of curiosity but more that there is a not knowing how to apply it.)

* Question: I feel like I'm not connected. How do I begin feeling connection?
Answer: Stand with your weight equally distributed on both feet. Feel your right foot. Shift your weight to your left and lift your right hip. What happened?

Me: My right foot lifted off the ground.

Instructor: Good! So you are connected and you noticed connection!

Me: Well, of course my hip and foot are connected! Don't be so patronizing.

Instructor: Noticing or feeling your body in a mechanistic way is a good place to start. You are where you are. Notice and feel the fingers connected to the wrist connected to the elbow connected to the shoulder. Begin with noticing and feeling this level of connectedness.

Can you notice and feel more? Can you notice and feel in-between the various joints. This is another beginning level.

Don't force a feeling with muscular tension and don't imagine feelings. Simply feel what you are currently able to feel and notice what you feel.

Can you notice and feel more?

If you notice numbness, or an area where you can't feel, it's good that you notice that. Is that the most numb area? Is there an area that is less numb? Is there an area where you can feel even a little maybe in comparison to the numb or less numb areas? If you noticed each of these areas, now you have noticed and distinguished two to three different feelings. This is a great place to start! Build on this.

* Here's a method to help develop a connection with yourself. What we're going for is arousing an emotional energy and not necessarily a label-able feeling like "happy". Using both hands, "pet" one of your thighs and in soothing comforting tones say, "Good puppy!" Maybe one leg won't respond so try the other leg. Pay attention to notice when you get a shift in energy as your body responds to your praise.

* Regarding zhan zhuang adjustments, most people move the arm and shoulder as a single unit. They have lost the flexibility to allow the arm to move independently of the shoulder. For example, in the customary zhan zhuang posture of "Holding the ball", people tend to hunch or pull their shoulders together in front as they move their hands together. To counter the hunching, roll the shoulders back. What typically happens next is that rolling the shoulders back results in the hands pulling apart. The "trick" is to keep the hands together in front and the shoulders back.
(Some people will struggle to force this movement, "See I can do it!" but when the muscles used to force the movement get tired, then the original posture re-emerges. Moving as a single, rigid block, is not the kind of connection we are looking for. The "trick" is to learn to relax. And learning to relax evolves through feeling and noticing and connecting with your kinesthetics.)

* Past muscular patterns get embedded in your body and you don't remember why, when or how it happened. These patterns show up in various areas of life. Everyone has their own pattern. You need to figure out your pattern. Like a tree, one pattern (the tree trunk) can have multiple manifestations (the tree branches).

* Notice the posture I assume when I say, "That's interesting." My head cocks to the side and the eyes look up and out. Notice the patterned body response.
(Noticing my patterned bodily responses is another way I can begin to notice and feel connection with myself.)

* Question: In the last class, you guys worked a lot on correcting my structure through my feet. How can I release tension in my feet so I get a better balance in my feet?
Answer: Stand with all your weight on a dull, hard object under the arches/instep at the most tender location. Stand on these golf balls.

(This is very painful both physically and emotionally and can result in releasing tension and getting energy to flow. The first time I tried this, it was completely unbearable. Each time I do it, it gets a little less painful and a little more interesting as I notice where I feel pain and where I don't.)

* Question: How would you explain the Tai-chi concept of "raise the spirit"?
Answer: The martial "spirit" is not about a killer spirit. Rather it is about being spirited in the sense of "high spirits", the cheerleader's "Rah! Rah! Rah!". Many people tend to be rather numb. They go through life and martial arts training very mechanically and lose spirit.

(The way I've experienced "raise the spirit" in Wujifa class is experiencing the kinesthetic feeling of being tall. The best way to describe it is it's as if I usually see the world from the ground floor and then I road an elevator to the top floor of a tall building and was standing on the observation deck seeing the world from this vantage point. It felt like I was looking out of my eyes for the first time. Kind of like standing tall and proud but without being proud of myself; more of a kinesthetic experience than an emotional experience. Though of course the kinesthetic and emotion overlap and cannot be compartmentalized. Hard to describe....

And what I also noticed is that I felt connected and present in that experience. So even though I may feel enthusiasm, I may still be mechanical and somehow "blocking" my spirit from "raising".)

* From what I've learned in class, the value of using a certain understanding of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) is that it provides a structure through which we can examine the intention or feeling behind one's words. If you only listened for the data meaning of the words, then you might miss the underlying feeling behind the words. It's the feeling behind the words that can reveal more about a person than the words themselves. Of course you may sense or intuit the feeling behind someone's words but without a structure, a "common language" to discuss that level of feeling, it is difficult to connect and help build awareness of one's patterns.
(You may want to see My Introduction to NLP: Journal Notes #40 to understand how I understand NLP.

Here's an observation from a typical Wujifa class. When I began, I couldn't see this happening. However, more recently, this is so much more apparent to me now.

When a student raises an issue or asks a question, the instructor listens more to the feeling behind the words and less to the cognitive aspect of the question.
Being able to see the body is additional corroborating information that provides a fuller picture as to the motivation and intention of the question or issue raised.
The resulting answer typically does not directly answer the cognitive aspect of the question or issue because the answer addresses a picture bigger than the limited cognitive aspect.

From my perspective as a student, this kind of answer can seem confusing and convoluted and when the answer includes physical adjustments to my stance or involves doing other movements, then it's easy to lose track of the relation of the answer to the original question.

However, what is interesting is that by the time we get to, "Does that answer your question?", I've got a fuller, deeper, richer understanding that is way beyond the limited scope of the answer I imagined my question was asking and often I notice there is a shift in my body as well.)

* Question: Why do some people make progress while others get stuck?
Answer: Chunk size. Some people have a goal of eating an entire cow in one sitting and others have a goal of eating a cow one bite at a time. Change your goal from "getting it" to the goal of learning and setting up and maintaining a time and space in daily life to practice. Keep your goal about learning, taking one bite at a time.

* Question: Why and how do I fall off the wagon and stop training?
Answer: If you want to be special, then Wujifa practice probably won't make you feel special. These are very functional and ordinary practices. Remember, Wujifa practice leads to results that a very tiny, tiny minority of people through all human history have ever achieved. Developing internal strength is not like learning to walk or ride a bicycle.

* Once again, be a scientist, an explorer, a discoverer. Even though you are looking for a particular outcome, namely, internal strength, you won't find it by looking for a particular outcome based on where you are now. Wherever you are and whatever results you notice at this time become the basis to guide your curiosity to explore and discover.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Deeper Insights into Zhan Zhuang Foundations: Journal Notes #79
Next article in this series: - Zhan Zhuang Question: Journal Notes #81

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

1 comment:

  1. Mr Mike,

    Warm fuzzies to you :)

    Sometimes when I read your blog it feels like you need a big hug.