Monday, November 29, 2010

An Early Lesson in Learning: Journal Notes #15

Notes from my February 2004 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.)

* The sit down and bow from the hips are contradictory intentions/movement. The purpose of which has to open the lower back, the ming-men point. Also, from this point, feel the pelvis turning out and spiral down across the front of the thigh.

(The "contradictory" issue arises from the "one way" rule of living. "Sit" feels like one distinct movement and "bow" feels like another distinct movement. Doing both at the same time can feel like contradictory movements. Again, the finger pointing at the moon. "Sit" and "bow" together are the finger pointing to a feeling. Once I got the feeling, then there was no contradiction. The contradiction was a mental construct which inhibited my getting the feeling. This pattern of being locked into "A or B" and not being open to experimenting with "A and B" also shows up in other areas of my life. Body patterns can reflect life patterns.)
* Muscles in chronic spasticity are hard and prevent feeling. To be able to feel requires first opening / loosening / relaxing these muscles.

* In learning stance, if I or anybody is all armored (lots of muscular tension), this presents a formidable task to try to open and coordinate that kind of body. It would be better to have un-armored oneself first to be able to focus on the feeling building connections.

(Then too, maybe the exercise is called "internal gong-fu" because the point of it is the process; the process of learning how and dissolving the armor, the process of relaxing the tension, the process of learning to open and coordinate, the process of building the feeling of connectedness.)

* Student - teacher/guide relation. Use analogy of a puzzle. To assemble a puzzle into a complete picture, if I ask a teacher to put each piece in place ("How should I stand?"), then I never learn the process of puzzle-ing. This is how many students and teachers operate. It would be better that I am presented the puzzle [and I think through and figure out which questions to ask]:

  1. How do I sit and not fall down?
  2. How do I bow without the butt sticking out and the chest rising?
  3. How do I drop the chest without the head lurching forward?
  4. How do I hold the head upright and back?
Then, the question to ask the teacher is "How do you do it? Can you show me what you do?" Then me figure out, how is that different from what I'm doing? What do I need to change?

(On a mechanistic level, the old "monkey see, monkey do" teacher-student model of teaching and learning forms fails miserably when it comes to teaching and learning internal connectedness. Relying on a teacher to show me is one habit that becomes an impediment to learning internal connectedness and must be surpassed to make progress beyond the basic structural mechanics of standing. There is an entirely different way to learn and I didn't know this until more recently, and in fact, I continue learning.)

* Stand first. Resolve the four puzzles, the four methods; 1,2,3,4 and 1,2,3,4. Then learn side-to-side which is the foundation of moving. All silk reeling is based on side-to-side.

* Side-to-side hints: Watch yourself in the mirror with horizontal lines behind you at shoulder and waist. As you shift, do NOT turn the waist or shoulder as will seem "natural" to do. (What feels "natural" is in fact your chronic stuck-ness.) Feel what happens! Though the outside does not move, there is movement inside - muscles twisting and stretching. Hence the saying, "Movement in stillness. Stillness in movement." These are the best words to describe what is physically happening. Also, keep the shoulders and hips parallel to the wall as move. No Twisting.

* Be attentive and feel and practice and change will happen naturally. If you try too hard, this will hamper progress.

(How can trying harder, practicing more, hamper progress? Seems to be a contradiction. Discovering the feeling of internal connectedness takes a balance of effort and openness. Too much effort, means the focus is on the effort. The effort is the finger pointing to the feeling discovered in the openness. Focusing on the effort is like focusing on the finger. Exert just enough effort to find the feeling and then exert just enough effort to develop the feeling.)

* Open. Open. Open.

(I started my first series of 10 Rolfing Sessions in January 2004. The below are probably responses to questions I was asking about the efficacy of Rolfing.)

* Rolfing and any bodywork will un-stick what's stuck but body workers stop short of getting full emotional release so though you may feel better, the underlying problem/issue/attitude/emotional charge, since left unaddressed will find a new place to stick.

* Standing [zhan zhuang] with a competent guide can achieve the same and longer lasting results. Going to a Rolfer, or any body worker is giving them responsibility to "cure" you. If you don't take the responsibility for yourself, then you will never solve your own puzzles and never make any progress.

* Stages of stance/standing:
  1. Rigid. Muscular holding.
  2. Beginning to relax while maintain structure.
  3. Relax to point where breathing moves body.
  4. Drive movement inward so that outside looks still but movement is under skin - muscles are moving and adjusting.
  5. Muscles are still. Qi alone moves.

* For the first time in class, I could see what is meant to be connected and broken; where the "qi" path [for lack of a better word] was broken by postural choices! Amazing!

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Big Things Little Packages: Journal Notes #14
Next article in this series: Body Changes: Journal Notes #16

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