Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When a Tree Grows: External ~ Internal

I planted a seedling in a field near my house.

The place where this tree grew had a steady breeze and sometimes a brisk wind.

The tree tends to lean a bit.

And then the old barn fell down changing the wind pattern.

As the tree grew, it encountered a low hanging limb from an old dead tree nearby. The young tree grew around that limb and developed a bit of a "hunch" about mid-way up the trunk.

Years later, that old, dead tree was cut down for firewood, leaving only the stump.

Many years later, after the barn and dead tree were gone, a tree guy looked at the now mature tree and analyzing the tree, said:

That lean looks like lean I've seen in other trees. There must have been a lot of shade here and the young tree was leaning toward the light.

That hunch looks like the hunch I've seen in other trees. Looks like something fell on it which someone later removed.

I enjoyed watching the tree grow, noticing... the process…

The tree guy approached the tree analytically, identifying data points, comparing…

When I started practicing Zhan Zhuang in the Wujifa system, I “naturally” compared this new system to systems I learned before: What’s the same? What’s different? What’s the data?

But I did not “naturally’ learn this way when I was young, when there was no previous experience to compare to. I either jumped in with curiosity and excitement or held back in fear.

After years of practicing, then I began learning.

I suppose I can compare external systems; systems based on a collection of forms and techniques like the tree guy did.

However, when I tried to compare my previous experiences in external, technique-based systems (including faux Tai-chi), with an internal feeling-based system, I learned that analysis leads to paralysis, not to progress.

I had to stop analyzing and start feeling kinesthetically. Then I had to stop analyzing "the feeling", because "the feeling" changes. Now, I may be ready to start learning the process.


  1. Good stuff Mike, and I especially enjoyed the bit on not analyzing the feeling as the feeling always changes...something I never really considered yet holds so true in everything! Hmmm...some more things for me to ponder...;D

  2. Trees are such a wonderful way for us to notice our own nature through. I'm not suggesting some woowoo thing here at all either. What I mean is there is a tendency for people to project subjectively thier own understandings and stories on to something else. We are human after all and when a subject shows up we really only have our subjective understandings to fall back on. The beginner's mind is such a wonderful concept, simply noticing the moments as they happen... Thanks for sharing your trees with us... I as well enjoyed hanging from and subjectively playing within their branches and the fruits of thevpractical insight there as well.