Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Door Into Wujifa: Journal Notes #121

Notes from my April 2014 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa.

* Feeling emotions changes your structure. Blocking emotions changes your structure. Feel emotions, become alive. Block emotions, become mechanical. Connecting with allowing myself to experience and feel emotion changes everything.

* I demonstrated the way I've been practicing the mini- breathing squats exercise and my instructor gave me some adjustments. Upon finishing, I did not reach for my notebook to record details of what happened as I usually do. This is a huge change for me! When asked why I wasn't making notes, I responded, "What should I write? I can't describe the feeling." I was content with the experience. 

* Connect with happy, angry, sad and don't try to change it. Just allow the expression. The alternative is to close off the emotion. The intent to block feeling (emotions) has the effect of blocking feeling (kinesthetics). There is only the experience or activity of "feeling" which is applied to both kinesthetics and emotions. The level to which I connect with emotional expression is the level to which I connect with kinesthetic expression.

* My habit in stance practice has been to go straightaway to structure and then to try to find feeling in structure. In my mind, I do this to optimize my training time of which I continue to do precious little. I would be better served to use the time to calm down and notice how I'm emotionally feeling and develop a connection with the emotion.

* I don't notice a break until someone brings my attention to it and in that moment of hearing what they notice, my structure changes. How subtle and how amazing!

* Freedom of movement must precede the feeling of connection. Do not confuse "freedom of movement" with "range of motion". (An upcoming blog article will look at this in more detail.)

* If you think/imagine/try to feel or develop your dan-tian, then you'll do it wrong. A common remark is, "I feel something weird in my abdomen." The true feeling (of feeling your dan-tian) arrives completely unexpectedly. It shows up as a result of having developed a certain level of whole-body connection. You simply cannot intentionally create the feeling of your dan-tian in isolation of the whole. When you get all your parts connected and you can move in a connected way, then dan-tian movement (which is at the intersection of all the connected parts) automatically, spontaneously, and naturally shows up as "some weird feeling in my abdomen".

* The problem (with me) is not that I am not feeling or that I do not have feeling, the problem is that I do not allow myself to express and thereby experience the full range of my emotional feelings. To the level I damper my ability to feel-experience any feeling (whether it's emotional or kinesthetic), is the level to which I damper my ability to feel-experience any feeling (whether it's emotional or kinesthetic).

* Why would I do this? Some life experiences are so difficult/painful/sad that it's easier to speak in a disassociated way about the feeling rather than to speak through the experience of the feeling. While this is intended to be a protective mechanism, it also has the unintended effect of being an armor or a method to reduce the amount or level of feeling. The result? Inhibiting my internal gongfu progress.

* Bring feeling-emotion into the physical movement. Joy is preferred but if you're angry, then anger is OK too. Doing zhan zhuang or any movement without emotion, without your heart in it, is dead and mechanical. Express emotion-feeling through movement. Connect!

* My school brother, John, has become a model for me. Through the way he describes what he's doing, I get an insight into what he is noticing in his body and how he is practicing. I really, really, need to move to this model. Here's an example from class:
When I'm practicing my "dancing around", I feel a break at my left should and when I focus on fixing that break, then I feel tension in my lower back which makes me feel like I'm floating and not in my legs. So how can I keep connected to my legs, not necessarily feel more weight in them, but keep the feeling of connection to them so I can feel more connection through my whole body?
Now, here is the instructor's response:
Cool! Do some mini-squats. Don't worry about doing them right. Just do it the way you would do it. OK. Now, notice your kua. (John's mere paying attention to his kua completely altered the way he was doing mini-squats.) Good! Now keep that connection through your kua and do your dance thing. How does that feel?
I could see that he was more connected now than when he first demonstrated and asked his question. John was clearly enjoying his new-found practice experience and continued doing his shi-li kind of dance thing for another several minutes. A comment he made during this time was that it felt like an internal massage. The instructor's final comment on this was:
That's the door into Wujifa!
Note: This is a long-time coming evolution for me. Many years ago in class I first heard Dan talk about his functional awareness-experience of his body and, well, here is what I wrote in
Levels of Noticing: Journal Notes #47 from July 2011:
Dan: (Demonstrating stance) I feel stuck here (pointing to a spot on his shoulder). How do I un-stick that?
Me: Wow! How did you come up with that kind of question? How can you feel so you recognize a feeling of stuck-ness? How does stuck feel?
Dan: I notice where I relax, then notice where I'm not relaxing.

His explanation (which was an indication of how (and how much) he was practicing was so simple, functional and to the point. And yet, here I am, three years later still encountering my same fundamental resistance.

I'm reminded of a parable I heard decades ago that goes like this: Many people enjoy looking at a picture of a pie and enjoy imagining how wonderful it would taste. Fewer people will seek out a pie. Fewer still will actually get and hold a pie in their hands. Fewer still will nibble at the crust. Fewer still will actually cut a slice and eat it. And fewer still will learn how to make a pie for themselves. And fewer still will share their learning with others.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Be More Humane with Yourself: Journal Notes #120
Next article in this series: Resisting the Simple: Journal Notes #122

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

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