Monday, August 30, 2010

What A Mess: Journal Notes #2

These are my notes from my December 1999 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.)

* Cry inside. Deny the expression. Shut it down. Deaden the feeling. Turn it off. Suck it up. Get over it. Carry on like nothing happened. Don't feel. Lock it away and move on. Escaped to the head. Safe. Approved. But it's still there. Won't go away. Just twisting me up. I'm exhausted. Worn out. I spend a lot of energy fighting myself, holding back. (I'm in such a better place these days though there is still some residue lurking in the corners!)

* I can talk about activities, but don't know how to talk about feeling. Head-smart, body-dumb.

* I'm in a store and I feel something inside me 'open' and then my body shudders and 'closes'. Weird.

* Realized I can't change others, only myself. Strategy of denial is not working.

* Such a potpourri of feelings I'm afraid to feel, I don't have words for. Where do I start? How to change?

* As I work on relaxing my pelvis, I notice my upper back feels like a coat of armor, like I'm carrying a heavy weight. And when I turn to focus on relaxing the upper back, chest, shoulders, I just feel angry.

* What happens if I let go? What does it mean to let go? How does it feel to let go? I'm afraid.

* Feeling and thinking are two different things.

* One cannot truly understand this without the traditional "oral transmission". Why? Because it takes a one-on-one to show, explain, to transmit the feeling. Adjust. Ahh. There. Got it? You can't get adjustments that evoke the feeling from someone who doesn't feel it themselves even if they know the concepts and words. (Before, I thought the classics' "oral transmission" meant only showing and correcting forms, practicing push-hands and applications. I think this is still true and so much more.)

* Purpose. What's your purpose? Why learn this stuff? What are you going to do with it?

* Why learn this stuff? "My answer." Why? "My answer." Why? "My answer." Why? (We went through about 20 "Why" cycles like this before touching probably the real reason. I think my answers may be different from your answers so I'm only providing the framework of the exercise.)

* I'm so frustrated! I can't feel it! Why can't I get it?! Response: Because you're not in your body. You're floating up here somewhere - gesturing above my eyes. Probably because it became too painful to feel so you retreated into your head and have stayed there so long...

* I read about using imagination. Is imagining feeling the same as feeling? I'm trying to feel and just can't get it. Response: Instead of trying, how about allowing? Imagine yourself allowing yourself to feel. "I can't do that. I can't allow myself to feel." Why not? "It hurts." Then why are you here? What's your purpose?

* Physical pain hurts. I can deal with that. Emotional pain I can run from, swallow, suppress. Response: But they're both pain. Pain is pain. Why are you willing to accept pain from one and not another? "Physical pain goes away. Emotional pain lingers."

* Stance is about standing. Making a stand. Having something to stand for. Not running away. (And I would add, being fully present!)

* I learned in push-hands that yielding was a noodle-like, squishy kind of movement. But I didn't develop groundpath, connection by developing noodle-man. Didn't have to resolve blocks of tension or gaps. So I learned wrong. Found a way around my blocks of tension. Now have to try to undo bad body-habits. Geez, what a mess!

(Remember this childhood toy, when you pull the string, the arms and legs pop up? Think of the string as connection. The figure is wobbly and noodly until the string is pulled and then, Voila! Connection!)

Further reading: Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal

Previous article in this series: I Can't Feel Anything: Journal Notes #1

Next article in this series: Half Hour Getting Easier - Journal Notes #3

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Can't Feel Anything: Journal Notes #1

These are my notes from my November 1999 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.

* So he gave me a small white pelt and said, "Feel this." I ran my hand through the fur. "And what do you feel?" It feels soft. What is it? "That's rabbit." Now I understand what rabbit feels like.

* I've been training in a new process a few years now: There is no end to feeling, understanding and being aware. Feel. Understand. Be aware. What was a foreign idea has slowly grown from "I can't feel anything." to "I can feel."

* Don't over-complicate the "understand" part. Keep it simple. It's like putting a word on a wordless feeling.

* So where to start feeling? Feel what? Feel my clothes touching the different parts of my body is a good place to start.

* Practice noticing emotions and bodily reactions. I learned to only express happy emotions and to hold in and not express angry, hurt and sad emotions.

* I'm standing and relaxing my pelvis. Doing this I notice a burning/itching sensation in my pelvic floor area and feeling angry. Feel an urge, not to surface scratch the itch, but more like push "it" back up in there. Don't let the anger come out. Afraid to let go. Afraid I'll lose control. Seems like relaxing the pelvic area results in anger coming out or something like that. I don't understand. Don't analyze. Just start there.

* I can't stop the anger energy once it starts moving but I can observe its movement through my body into my shoulders and into my mouth. The mouth wants to pucker or feel funnel shaped. Weird. Never noticed that before.

* Seems I only notice the angry feeling now. All the rest of time, there's no feeling. Or am I not feeling what's there?

* Do this exercise: When I feel ____ , I understand that ____ . Now I am aware ____ .

* When I feel angry, I understand that it moves into my shoulders and mouth. Now I'm aware how an emotional energy moves through or gets stuck in some part of my body.

* When I notice something in someone else, that means I've changed and can notice it in me.

* Everyone in the kingdom is wearing the same clothes from the same tailor. But when you go to a different tailor and get different clothes, then you see clearly the clothes the others are wearing.


(Despite all the "sensitivity" I thought I had developed from years of tai-chi and push-hands, I discovered that I really didn't have an "internal" kinesthetic sense or feeling until I started standing. I found I was disconnected and un-integrated in different ways.

It's amazing now to see how much feeling continues deepening and widening.

Maybe the level of one's internal strength is all about the level of the integration of one's "mind" and "body"? Of how much one can consciously, kinesthetically feel or let go of? Or something like that? What do you think?)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Next article in this series: What A Mess: Journal Notes #2

Monday, August 16, 2010

Zhan Zhuang Training Journal

In the autumn of 1996 I began training with The School of Cultivation and Practice. After three years of training, my friend and teacher, Rick Taracks (who later named his approach to teaching and training as Wujifa), encouraged me to start writing down my training experiences. The notes I've compiled since 1999 are what I now call my Zhan Zhuang Training Journal.

What is a Zhan Zhuang Training Journal? For me, it is where I recorded class discussions and experiences related to my Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice. I tried to avoid "Dear Diary" stuff and the "write-it-down-to-get-it-out-of-your-system" stuff, however, sometimes that crept in.

What can you gain from reading my personal training notes? Maybe you will read something and you will say, "I felt that too." or "I had that question too." or "I never thought of it that way." or "I walked that road too." or you may simply be amazed at the depth and breadth of zhan zhuang training and become inspired at the possibilities!

Here are some things to keep in mind as you read my Zhan Zhuang Training Journal articles...

1. These notes include teachings directed to me and my particular situation at that time. Sometimes, my teacher would give a contradictory or opposite teaching to my school brother standing right beside me. Why? Because real zhan zhuang training is a highly personalized practice. Beware of the "one size fits all" teacher and teachings.

That said, how can my experience help you grow and develop? Given the typical level of online "how-to", I believe that the detailed and in-depth notes I share will inspire you to ask, Does this apply to me? If so, how? If not, why not? How can I use his experience and insights to help myself and/or my students to progress?

2. Where practical, I am compiling an entire month's journal entries into one posting. To accomplish this, I had to decide what material could be combined or omitted. I did my best to copy verbatim the material selected for posting.

3. I've made quite a few hand drawings along the way and I have scanned and posted some of these drawings. As I said, these notes were originally made for my personal reference without the intent to share publicly and so the drawings are not professional level graphics.

4. When you see the "Question & Answer" notes, keep in mind that the answers I recorded are the way I heard and understood the answer. Any distortion from their original spoken delivery is due to the way they made sense to me at the time.

5. Finally, I included comments and insights on some of my earlier entries. These are in italics.

My intent is to keep this blog "G" rated. Therefore, I will refrain from posting my experiences with specific body-mind integration exercises and other stance related experiences that may be interpreted as being sexual in nature. (That said, know that training may include certain elements kept "secret" from public classes due to the sensitive nature of the topic.)

For a complete list of articles I've posted so far, please see my Zhan Zhuang Journal on this site.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zhan Zhuang and Neurospeak

The book, Neurospeak, by Robert Masters, is suggested reading to accompany my previous blogpost, Zhan Zhuang Connections 101. Neurospeak may be considered a method to introduce you to feeling inside your body, to feeling kinesthetically, through reading.

Neurospeak is not a book about Zhan Zhuang specifically. However, if you are having difficulty getting started with feeling kinesthetically in your Zhan Zhuang practice, then what you experience in reading Neurospeak may give you a sense of what's possible.

You can read the book's Contents as well as Chapter 1 online to get an idea of his method. Chapter 1 also provides a more finely tuned explanation of what I was trying to relay in the Zhan Zhuang Connections 101 exercises.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have only read the book once and this was a few years ago. I remember that after reading a chapter, I did have a heightened sense of feeling awareness of the particular part of the body. Reading, as instructed, did produce the effect that the author claimed it would.

Over the years, I have listened to a wide range of audio recordings in Wujifa class, some of them vaguely resembling a reading of Neurospeak-like material. After hearing these recordings and after reading Neurospeak, I often wondered how my Zhan Zhuang practice might be influenced if I were to listen to a self-produced recording of a chapter of Neurospeak? (No commercial recordings exist that I know of.)

And too, I wondered if the Neurospeak method could be applied specifically to Zhan Zhuang as a temporary or occasionally used beginning training aid. Where Neurospeak generally focuses on specific body parts, applying the Neurospeak method to Zhan Zhuang would need to focus on building connections or on developing the feeling throughout the entire body.