Monday, November 15, 2010

Looking at the Finger: Journal Notes #13

Notes from my December 2003 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.)

* Question: When I stand and if I shift from heels to balls of feet, I feel the weight in the thighs decrease. Should I stay in the heels or on the balls of my feet?

Answer: Show me your stance. [I get into zhan zhuang.] What you are doing is changing your posture and taking the weight up. Adjust your posture and you feel the weight in your thighs again. Playing off the balls of your feet is not stance. Stay in your heels.

* Breathing exercise. Stand normally. Hands hang at sides. Palms facing legs. Inhale, roll shoulders back, arms and hands turn out to finish with palms facing forward. Exhale, roll shoulders forward, arms and hands turn in to finish with palms facing legs.
First step - 100% mechanically force the motions.
Second step - 90% mechanical force, 10% relaxed, natural body response.
Etc... using less and less muscle to force the hands turning. As the muscles let go and relax, less mechanical force is needed and the natural breathing mechanism will move the shoulders and arms.
(I've done this breathing exercise periodically over the years. The way I understand this exercise now is that the chronic tension across the front and back of my shoulders inhibits the natural rhythmic pulse of breathing. Mechanically forcing a [natural] movement temporarily and artificially "over-rides" the tension. The method of gradually transitioning from mechanical forcing to naturally allowing movement helps me notice and feel.)

* Using imagery is a trick to get the intention to move.
(The trouble I have had with imagery is that I get myself stuck in the make-believe world of the imagery which re-enforces the dis-connect between body and mind. What I mean is, if I feel something as a result of the imagery, I tend to attribute that feeling to the imagery which further re-enforces my dependence on that imagery when instead I should be making the leap to noticing the resultant feeling, going with the feeling and casting aside the trick that elicited the feeling. I get stuck on looking at the finger [methods] instead of what the finger is pointing to [feeling]...)

* Relaxation is not the same as limp. I feel if I any more relaxed then I will fall down. Falling down is going limp. Relax and maintain structure.
(This is a puzzle of balance. How much can I relax without falling down? What is the minimal muscle needed to maintain structure, that is, to remain standing? How do I know I am as kinesthetically relaxed as I can be? Can I relax yet further?)

* Question: How long does it take to get Wuji?
Answer: Just keep standing.
(The above note refers to the preceding question about the quickest way to get internal strength. In these early years, I was completely method based - I didn't "get" the whole feeling thing. I struggled with the finger and the moon thing for a L-O-N-G time. The above drawing is laying out a couple paths "up the mountain"; one based on method and one based on feeling. Following method could take 30 years. Following feeling could be much quicker.)
* Question: How do I open and close the inguinal crease?
Answer: Stick your butt out, then alternatively tuck and un-tuck. Feel in front how it opens and closes horizontally (with crease = closed)

* Bowing [closing the inguinal crease horizontally] is the method. The truth is the feeling. What do you feel when you bow? Get the feeling.

* When I start standing and dropping, my breath is short and held-in because I'm afraid to let go. After I drop into my legs, which takes about 15 minutes at this point, then my breathing slows and deepens and it feels OK. There was nothing to be afraid of after all.
(Geez, I wish I could apply my wisdom to other areas of my life! When I was a kid, I was afraid of the lion behind the furnace in the basement. Fears change. I've got new fears now. Whatever my age, my fears, my self-restricting beliefs keep me from discovering... )
* Question: I find that if I focus on dropping, then I lose "peng" in my arms and if I focus on my arms, then I don't feel drop. Is there a trick to get everything going together?

Answer: Focus on legs and dropping first. Once the body learns this and can do it automatically, then start to work on the arms. However, getting a good drop sets-up proper posture (and vice-versa) so the rest will come naturally.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: A New Beginning: Journal Notes #12
Next article in this series: Big Things Little Packages: Journal Notes #14


  1. I think these notes of yours are great. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree with Rick... I also really enjoy these notes as well as your current comments on them.

    Noticing the fishes swimming and how deeply we can notice.

    Thank-you for your openess and thoughtfulness in you sharing...