Monday, October 18, 2010

The End of the Road: Journal Notes #9

Notes from my August 2000 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.)

* It's all about feeling which means dealing with and addressing my own feelings. When I avoid addressing my emotional feeling memories by choosing not to feel them, then I am also inhibiting my own progress in Tai-chi. Remember the question, "How deep can you feel? Then feel deeper."
(This point has long been a contentious issue for me. I mean, what does feeling emotional memories or feeling emotions have to do with developing internal strength for internal martial arts? Nothing, right? It seems like adding this "emotional feeling" component turns internal strength training into woo-woo, quasi- psychotherapy fluff.

And on the other side of the coin, I can understand the rationale. If I do not fully develop the skill of feeling in all its breadth and depth in all aspects of my life, not only physical but also emotional, then I am limiting the development of my ability to feel which in turn can introduce blocks or breaks or gaps in what I can feel.)

* It's not just about sensation. To focus on sensation only is one path but this leads to a kind of schizophrenia. What is the emotion behind the sensation? Follow this path.
(In a mind-body practice of developing the internal connectedness of internal strength, where do I draw the line between what I consider in-bounds (physical) and what I consider out-of-bounds (emotional)? I mean, all of who is "I" is inside this casing of skin, right? And so "I" am the emotional and physical and everything in-between and more. Getting to the intellectual place of acknowledging the validity of this point doesn't necessarily make the task of feeling any easier.)
(Oh my God! I just wrote about this 'letting go' feeling in my Sept 26, 2010 journal entry! Here it is: "He adjusted my stance to where my legs gave out. As usual he said something like, "You just had it. Did you feel that?" At some level, I had a feeling that I now understood "letting go". All prior times, I had no idea what he was talking about. The feeling just before falling."

Wow! Amazing! Previously I was competing to remain standing; how much and how long can I tolerate the burn in my quads. I never imagined there was anything to learn in that final moment when I couldn't stand any more, where my legs literally collapsed underneath me. And so, I was always confused by this statement and question. But truly, there is something there.)

* To move from the center, from the Dan-tian requires an ability to feel very deeply. Feeling feelings and the feelings of emotions is one step on the path to feeling the Dan-tian.
(Absolutely!!! In my earlier Tai-chi days, I was really hung up on wanting to feel and imagining I was feeling my Dan-tian when I couldn't even feel basic stuff. I can admit now that I was basically faking it. And I would suggest that anyone who cannot feel deeply into their own musculature and emotion but who says they can feel their Dan-tian is probably fooling him/herself and others.

These days, I don't even care about feeling my Dan-tian. It's not important to me now. I've got more easily accessible stuff to feel into, and beneath this, there's probably another layer that I can't currently access and then under that maybe many more layers to feel through before I can truly, kinesthetically feel what the real masters talk about. And I may never get to the level where I can feel my Dan-tian. And that's OK. I will have made a lot of progress and learned a lot on the way.)

* I was playing push-hands with a guy was was very noodley and was very easy to toss around. After having his posture corrected and receiving a few tips as described in this book then suddenly he became a force to be reckoned with; he became very difficult to push and he was able to push me. I learned the importance of body alignment, practical visualization and intention.

* Push hands is a martial training device. It's not a feel-y game. Yes, feel and feel deeply but with the intention to go directly in. Don't play around like you see many push-hands players do.

* Always be focused on "going to McDonalds". (In push-hands) let your opponent guide you to McDonalds (his center). Tai-chi never retreats. Always advancing. Always adjusting. Always going around "obstacles". Remember, an obstacle is what the opponent puts up to protect his center. By presenting an obstacle, he also shows where his center is. An "obstacle" therefore is not an obstacle, rather it is an indication of how you should proceed. All this happens instantaneously before thoughts have a chance to create words. Life is in the moment.

* I was digging in my compost pile and experienced a revelation that my cup is full. I realized that I am done, that I have completed what was needed to complete, that I have learned what I needed to learn, all I wanted to learn, that I've come to the end of the road.
(And with that, I quit going to class. I quit practicing zhan zhuang. I quit practicing feeling. I quit practicing push-hands. I quit. Pulled back. Withdrew. The End.
If you don't remember Pleasantville and the courtroom scene at the end of the movie, check it out. See the part where Bud holds the mirror up to the mayor and he sees his "colored" face for the first time and the mayor runs away. In retrospect, I think that was me. I got overwhelmed with all the feeling and ran away.

So, as you've figured out from this blog, I did get back into practice. What's interesting is that over the years after I started again, I've noticed different patterns in people who come to practice.

They begin to feel. And then they hit a point and either run away physically and don't come back or they continue showing up physically but pull back their opening-to-feeling to a previous level of shut-down-ness or they v-e-r-y slowly continue opening to feeling or they stop opening to further feeling; they get stuck at some level of feeling. And yes, "they" includes me.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: A Little Honesty: Journal Notes #8
Next article in this series: Gary Torres: Journal Notes #10

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