Monday, November 8, 2010

A New Beginning: Journal Notes #12

Notes from my November 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.)

* Four Levels: Philosophy - Principle - Form - Technique
(An entire article can be written about this sequence of words. Here's my simple understanding:

A collection of techniques can create a form.
Understanding forms reveals a principle.
Understanding principles reveals a philosophy.
Even though I read that the tai chi form was based on Taoist philosophy, I never examined the form with the intention of feeling nor understanding the underlying principles. Consequently, during all my years of learning forms including learning zhan zhuang, I was stuck at the level of mechanically imitating whatever the teacher demonstrated or said. "Knowledge" meant being able to mechanically reproduce what someone else showed me.

I've had some nice shifts recently which have resulted in changes to how I approach practice.

What I'm curious about now is, What is principle driven training? How is principle driven training different from
mechanical imitation training? How do I distill the understanding of principles from my feeling experience in my zhan zhuang practice?)

* Feeling, understanding, awareness. If you only work with understanding and awareness, then you never make progress. Need to feel.

* Rule 1: Be responsible for own self.
* Rule 2: Be rational and functional.
* Rule 3: Experiment, try, feel result.

* Experience BE-ing.

* The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, then get rid of the method.

* The method is a medicine. You only take medicine when you are sick. After you are well, if you continue taking medicine, you can become addicted or the medicine will hurt you.

(Upon my return to the School of Cultivation and Practice, after being away three years, the "format" of zhan zhuang training had evolved to what I sketchily noted above. By the way, the vertical lines should be parallel with each other and both should be perpendicular to the ground.

My questions below refer to practicing the methods as shown above.)
* Question: I was following these methods for two weeks and noticed the burning in my front thigh decrease. What happened?

Answer: You are holding the tension/weight in your lower back. Upon opening the lower back, the weight again dropped into my thighs.
(I'm quite sure that some rigorous hands-on adjustments created a slight or just-enough "opening the lower back" feeling for me to feel more weight drop.

Over the years I've learned that "relaxing" and "opening" are not polar OFF-ON, CLOSED-OPEN, TENSE-RELAX. My experience is that relaxing and opening typically occur in tiny increments over time and these tiny increments are sometimes discernible and sometimes not.)

* Question: If the method is not the truth and if I can get an intense feeling but can only hold posture for 30 seconds, is that better than standing so-so for 15-30 minutes? What is better, quantity of time standing or quality of stance?

Answer: You crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Get good at crawling first and develop naturally.
(When I watched my nieces and nephews learn to crawl, then walk, then run, I don't believe they were fixated on the quality of their crawling vs. the amount of time crawling. They crawled, stopped, smiled. Crawled, stopped, smiled.)

Stand. Stop. Smile.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Three Years Away: Journal Notes #11
Next article in this series: Looking at the Finger: Journal Notes #13

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