Monday, November 1, 2010

Three Years Away: Journal Notes #11

Notes from my September 2000 - October 2003 training journal. 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.)

I'm going to break from my Zhan Zhuang Training Journal format for this article. Basically, over these three years, 2000-2003, I made two journal entries, one in December 2001 and another in September 2003. And rather than splitting up those two entries with a bunch of comments, I'm just going to lay some stuff out for you.

As you've been reading these "Journal Notes" so far, I dove deeper into feeling (vs mechanical technique) through the practice of push-hands, stance and other specific mind-body exercises. I made amazing progress! Although my push-hands improved a lot, something else very unexpected and unanticipated happened.

As I felt more and more, feeling 'spilled over' into other areas of life. I couldn't isolate and compartmentalize feeling to training any longer. In addition to feeling what I'll call "body-neutral" or kinesthetic feeling, I also began feeling some other not-so-nice stuff; anger, resentment, regrets, etc.

Eventually, I became so overwhelmed with all the stuff I was feeling and rather than taking responsibility for whatever showed up in the course of my training and dealing with it, I blamed and bad-mouthed my teacher, "It's your fault I'm feeling all this!" and in August 2000, I QUIT! (How crazy is this, huh?)

With that, I shut down and pulled back as far as I could to an old familiar "I don't feel much of anything" me. I tried to get back to being "normal" like the others in my social circle at that time; very cerebral and not very feeling.

Before working on developing feeling, I kind of remembered "X", but I wasn't really feeling and letting go of the "X" feeling. Doing all the kinesthetic feeling work got me in touch with feeling "X". But I was afraid to deal with "X" on a feeling level and I thought that if I stopped feeling, then "X" would go away.

The only problem was that I felt "X" and so now "X" was conscious. I then made a conscious decision to hold onto and not work through "X" feeling. And so I made myself stuck at that level of feeling. I could not open to greater feeling to discover more "sung" which would lead to better rooting and whole body strength.

So, after about a year of sweeping stuff under the carpet and trying to be "normal" and sporadically (and mechanically) practicing my old Tai-chi forms, I started feeling lonely and disconnected. I then began looking for a new group of folks to hang out with. After testing the waters, I discovered that none of the people I met were operating at the level of feeling that I was opening to when I was training. I felt even lonelier. I couldn't really close the door to feeling that I had opened.

Along the way I realized that I alone hold myself back from developing whatever level of internal strength I'm capable of and yet I'm afraid to go there and discover what may await me.

Having always kept the folks at The School of Cultivation and Practice in the back of my mind, in late September 2003 I decided to jump back in. Thankfully, there was still a School of Cultivation and Practice to jump back in to. And thankfully, I was welcomed back.

Remember the old Joni Mitchell song from 1970, "Big Yellow Taxi"? "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got til it's gone." It took me three years...

So in reflection, yeah, I wasted three years of training time both with SoCaP and with Gary Torres. But in those three years I got some insights that, I don't know, maybe I wouldn't have gotten otherwise, for example:

I learned that there is a difference between A) putting my teacher on a pedestal and B) respecting my teacher.

I learned that there is a difference between A) holding my teacher responsible for my progress or lack thereof [focus external] and B) following my teacher's suggestions and guidance and taking responsibility for my own progress or lack thereof [focus internal].

I learned that I didn't know which way I was going until I encountered myself going the other way. I was in the "A" camp from whenever through the first four years with the School of Cultivation and Practice where I got a glimmer of the "B" camp. I like to think I'm more in the "B" camp now, not fully there, but working on it.

I learned that at one level, feeling is feeling is feeling. Sure, feeling can be compartmentalized to emotional feeling and kinesthetic feeling. And there seems to be a range (?) where at one end, I can not really feel my body nor my emotions (more mechanical) and at the other end I can feel my body and emotions (more functional)... or something like that... I'm still learning.

I learned that there are a lot of people who don't feel very deeply if at all. Some of these people also do Tai chi and focus on the mechanics of the form. It's a rare gift to find someone or a group training at the feeling level.

Acting on a suggestion, I attended a two day Silk Reeling seminar with Chen Xiao-wang on October 18-19, 2003 in Michigan. I don't have any notes from this seminar but I remember approaching this seminar as I approached past seminars; go learn a bunch of new forms to add to my repertoire of forms and say, "Now I know silk reeling." However, I walked away with something much deeper; the feeling of "qi flowing" from his adjustments to my stance.

And with that, I returned to class and to training.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Gary Torres: Journal Notes #10
Next article in this series: A New Beginning: Journal Notes #12


  1. The long dark night of the soul...

    When a lit of people talk about it... Well "it" can all start sounding a little "woo woo" yet I get a good sense of what they mean when I read you post here.

    I put a couple link below in case you or anyone else cares to read a bit about "it."

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

  2. Hey Mike,

    You may enjoy this blog posting over at:

    I love the YouTube VIDEO he posted in that blog post... when people are done reading here go check his site out.