Monday, April 2, 2012

Another Level of Practice: Journal Notes #85

Notes from my December 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.)

* Question: What kinds of questions are good questions (to ask about my Wujifa training)?
Answer: "How" questions are generally good questions.

* Question: How should I be practicing now?
Answer: Beginners need to take a mechanical approach to practicing the Wujifa Zhan Zhuang 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 structure. You're no longer a beginner. You should be practicing at a more advanced level now.

(I think what this is saying is that beginners first need to work on identifying and releasing the muscular patterns that inhibit the basic 1,2,3,4 structure. Then, after years of training and therapeutic work, as the body changes and assumes proper structure more naturally, then the practice can change... as described below.)

As always, begin with your feet (#1). Instead of looking to see if your feet are parallel, feel the position of your feet. Are your feet parallel? Look. Make adjustments. Next, feel the position of your knees (#2) over your feet. Are your knees parallel? Look. Make adjustments. How did adjusting your knees affect how your weight fell through your feet? You should be feeling-noticing this.

After adjusting your feet and knees, then move to your hips (#3). Adjust your hips. How did this affect your knees and feet? How does your alignment feel? Horizontal and parallel? How did adjusting your hips affect how your weight fell through your feet?

Notice muscular patterns. How can you improve your alignment with the remaining structural points? Relax. How does relaxing in one area affect muscles in another area? How can you relax a little more and maintain structural alignment?

Validate if your calibration of feeling is correct. How do you validate? Ask in class.

"Relax is not limp" is a generalized functional concept. How does the muscle feel? Tight? Limp? Numb?

At more advanced levels, don't focus on "doing it right or wrong". Just notice what IS and change something within the parameters of your practice. You are capable of making small changes. Making one change will open you to more change and slowly your parameters will change. Now that you notice, you can practice differently.

An even more advanced practice is to feel what pattern is in the way of noticing an area you want to feel into.

(I think there are a couple good points here:

1. You are where you are and that's where you start. When I began, I couldn't feel. Heck, I still have "dead zones" where I can't feel (or as some of my school brothers say, I refuse to feel). When I began I learned to feel through focusing on the mechanics of relax, balance, structure.

2. The same structure, "1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4" may be practiced different ways depending on your level of feeling sensitivity. As I develop feeling sensitivity and understanding, the "same" practice changes from a mechanistic approach to a more feeling approach. And so based on my experience, I assume that there may be even more ways to practice... but I'm not there yet.)

* Question: Last time we talked about deliberate distractions. How might this apply in Side-to-Side?
Answer: When practicing Side-to-Side, don't focus on forcing the kua to open and close. Rather, focus on shifting and notice-feel how the kua moves. Focusing your attention on the shifting distracts your attention from what you want to notice-feel.

* A tendency in learning Side-to-Side is to "muscle" the movement instead of moving just enough and feeling the result. When Side-to-Side is done correctly, you will feel your entire body moving or twining under your skin.

* Question: I notice that when I balance back on my heels, I tend to pull up my feet to keep from falling over backwards. I found a feeling where I can keep the feet down. How does this look?
Answer: You're taking too mechanical an approach. Lay on the floor. Play with your feet like a baby does. Toy with them . Examine them. Now stand. What do you notice?

Me: Feet and connection to ground feels more full.

* Regarding teaching this stuff, it seems like teaching is messing with people in a nurturing way to help break them out of their patterns, to help them notice differently. "Mothering" or playing into a student's pattern keeps that student locked into that pattern. Allow students to explore and make mistakes. The exploration and mistake process also breaks the pattern and allows authenticity to show up.
(Indeed! For me, it was difficult to transition from wanting to follow the rules mechanistically and correctly to... allowing myself to explore and experiment.

Often, my "zhan zhuang experiments" are more like, "Shi-fu, I tried 'X' and noticed 'Y'. How does this look?" This is how I interpreted the validation aspect mentioned above.

Obviously, this particular approach (I tried "X". How does this look?) does not follow the scientific method. If this is a phase or level of training, then I've been stuck in this "phase" for a few years now it seems. It's difficult to break this habit and start a new habit of really taking a scientific method approach to my Wujifa zhan zhuang practice.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Principle Driven Practice: Journal Notes #84
Next article in this series: - Body Mind Sticky Spots: Journal Notes #86

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

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