Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Experimenting or Avoiding Feeling: Journal Notes #112

Notes from my May 2013 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: Why do I always turn a feeling into mechanics? I can get "the feeling" in class and think I practice it at home but somehow it transitions back into being mechanical because when I return to class and demonstrate what I've been practicing, then I'm told that I'm doing it too mechanistically; I've lost the feeling.
Answer: Armors are subconscious.
  1. In class, I take you through certain routines to get you to the emotional state where you feel safe and comfortable to open to your own feeling. There's certain music that anchors you to or helps you get in touch with feeling. There are certain methods of coaching and adjustments that get past your conscious defenses and bring more of your awareness into your body. How these elements are combined kind of depends on where you are in any given class. All these together help you find "the feeling".
  2. You also are wedded to your life habits, doing what you are expected to do. When some people have a heart attack or other traumatic life event where they fully realize their mortality, some of these folks lose the fear that kept them in their habits and then they feel free to live outside of the box of expectations they were in. I hope you can get out of that box before a traumatic life event.
  3. You're afraid to feel because to do so would fundamentally alter your data structured world.

* Question: Aren't you  being contradictory when you teach, "practice how I tell you to practice" and then turn around and say, "think for yourself and experiment."?
Answer:  First, you must build a baseline. Demonstrate the experiment. The problem is that people only practice for one hour and then do something else. There's no persistent focus. For example, I taught you how to practice with stretching the theraband. What did you do? You went home and "experimented" with using a stick. Your experiment was not to test the difference in fascial stretch felt between using theraband or using a stick. You simply jumped to using a stick because doing so engaged more muscle which is easier for you to feel.

However, what you did was not an experiment. You simply fell into an established pattern: AVOIDING EXPLORING DEEPER LEVELS OF FEELING! Not following an experiment designed to elicit feeling is a pattern of avoidance.

If an experiment is designed to open up something in you, and your pattern is to avoid feeling, then you won't do the experiment as designed but will avoid doing what you were told to do and will try doing anything else that fits your pattern and thereby doesn't elicit the targeted feeling.

It's O.K. to experiment as long as the focus of the experiment is maintained. I'm showing you the experiments I did that got results for me. If you run the same experiments, you should get the same results. If you deviate without first being able to demonstrate the results of the original experiment, then what you are doing is not an experiment. You have to understand the baseline.

* Question to me: Why aren't you maintaining your private practice journal? (Different from this summarized version of class notes.)
My answer: I did this for a while and then quit when I started touching on life stuff during stance. It's easy to practice when daily life is easy. It's difficult to practice when daily life is difficult. This is where I fall short and then complain that I don't "get it". It's almost like when I'm on the verge of change, then people, or "life" throw stuff at me to prevent  me from changing. My kung-fu is weak.

* Question: How can I discover my subconscious  resistance to feeling?  How can I discover my armors?
Answer: Experiment.

My response: But I don't want to because then I'd be responsible for my own progress.

Instructor: Exactly! And this is why so few people "get it". People generally want to mindlessly follow along. People who want to go further eventually encounter their armors and, like you, tend to get stuck there. You've got to experiment with your resistances, your armors. Notice your response.

* Here's an example of how to experiment eliciting different feelings. Remember, the mini-squatting exercise you learned last month? Do that now. (From stance position, arch your back which helps maintain kua-in, breathe out and squat down 3 inches, breathe in and rise up. Keep the angle of the pelvic tilt constant throughout.) Breathe deep into your pelvic floor. What do you notice?
Me: I can feel like the intra-abdominal pressure extending down a little into the top of my thighs.

Instructor: Sometimes you hit it (breathe deep and full enough) and sometimes you miss it (too shallow). Now experiment with tucking under and do the exercise. What do you notice? What's the difference?

Me: Tucking under pops out the kua. I can't feel the same feeling in the lower abdomen and tops of my thighs.

Instructor: Now go back to arched back and do a few mini-squats again. Now experiment with lifting up from the chest and do the exercise. What do you notice? What's the difference?

Me: It's like I'm trying to force a feeling of connection up the front but there's no that feeling in the lower abdomen and kua

Instructor: So one method gave you the feeling and two other methods blocked that feeling.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Too Tense for the Next Level: Journal Notes #111
Next article in this series: My Training Rollercoaster: Journal Notes #113

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

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