Monday, January 10, 2011

Living Puzzle Anxiety: Journal Notes #21

Notes from my August, September & October 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.)

There are so few notes for each month that I decided to combine these three months into one post. And there seems to be a common thread, maybe a phase I was going through.

* A lot of people who get into this (standing practice) get "depressed" or discouraged and quit because they start discovering all the problems with their structure; tensions, emotional pains, etc. But it's like driving a car. If your car isn't performing at its best, say, because a tire is low on air, do you get discouraged at its poor performance and stop driving it? Of course not. You start to look for the problem so you can resolve it and get the performance level up again. In doing stance work, it's the same thing. You're just standing, feeling, being aware and the problems are presented to you. You don't even have to look for them, but you do have to figure out how to resolve them. So it becomes a game, a crossword puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle.

*A demonstration of how to work on the puzzle:

1. Start with opening the lower back. People in general tend to draw and hold their lower back and butt inwards and upwards and the muscles are chronically tight which make the feet and knees point outward. Part of "sung" is to relax and release this tension. So, just like the old drawings, when you relax the lower back, it feels like untwisting, or like a spiraling down the legs and then the knees and feet naturally point straight.

Recommendation: Practice exercises to get the lower back and butt to relax and open.

2. Side to Side. The key here is to develop the inguinal crease as far around the hip as possible. When you start, you may only get an inch or two. Keep practicing.

3. One arm silk reeling. Maintain the inguinal crease from side-to-side as you add in arm movement.

4. Practice the toe dragging exercise to start feeling the inguinal crease with leg movement. (For example, with weight on the left foot push right toe out to about two-o-clock. Use the closing of the kua to drag the toe circularly from two- to twelve-o-clock and then back to the left foot. Repeat.)

(One note of caution, if you practice these exercises from only this description, then you will likely be doing it wrong. I've both seen and have had many hands-on adjustments to "do it right" and I still do it wrong. Words cannot convey the structure and feeling unique to your body.)
And that's it. Do this for two to three years. Continue stance. These are a few of the basic methods to develop internal power.

* Personal note from August 19, 2004. There are many feelings and the following may just be part of the road. While standing one night last week, during which I feel that I'm continually moving, relaxing, dropping, I got to a point where I felt that I hit a floor, a platform and couldn't relax any further. That night I was awakened repeatedly by nightmares of being chased and attacked.

(Sometimes, when my body "shifts", I will have dreams that are a little different than the ordinary strangeness of dream-land. I chalk this up to bio-chemicals being released from chronically tense muscles making their way to my brain. Yes, during my college days, I dabbled in the "self help" dream analysis which turned out to be like a dog chasing its tail - didn't lead me anywhere.)

* Since my youth, I've been interested in learning how things work. And once I have a plausible understanding, then I move on to the next. As a result, I've become a "Jack of all trades and master of none", bouncing from this to that and never settling on one which I would master, one which I would commit my life to developing. I never felt that I had a singular goal in life and I envy those who do. I've spent a lifetime waiting for a divine revelation, an epiphany of what I should do and I completely missed the point that (in this country, this time, this place), I'm free to choose... and then be responsible for that choice.
(I initially approached this project of developing internal strength the same way; if I could gather enough data and understand from the data the "how" of how it works, then that would be good enough. Done. Next. But a wise man said to me, "If you can't demonstrate it, then you really don't know how it works." True. And so, I'm still working on figuring out how it works.)

* Take responsibility for your own development. Experiment. Notice the results you get. Repeat
(This is a tough one for me, a guy who grew up laying responsibility on God and later on fate, luck, astrological signs, birth order, tea leaves, etc. I still struggle with this in the form of putting responsibility "out there" on someone else's training methods. I'm still very much a work in progress - to making the leap to... or taking baby steps toward...)

* Question: What is the difference between the energetic charge developed in the XXX exercise(s) and say, enjoying a day with friends or swimming in a lake, etc.?
Answer: Many enjoyable activities can and will charge areas in you where it is comfortable to do so. The XXX exercise(s) will charge an undercharged area in you which will feel uncomfortable as the charge increases.

Question: Is internal strength more a function of structure or energetic charge?
Answer: Structure, primarily, but charge helps the muscles set up the right structure.

Question: A pattern in my life is to quit just as I'm getting good at something, just when I figure it out. How do I change this?
Answer: Some people don't want to succeed because then they would be held accountable, responsible, so it's easier to say, "I tried but couldn't do it." In some people, changing (getting good) creates a great deal of anxiety.
(Recognizing one of my patterns and then having a curiosity about how to change it was a breakthrough for me. The longer I play this game, the more patterns are exposed. Staying "stuck" in the old pattern is comfortable even if it is uncomfortable. But there is no growth in not changing. I'm still not comfortable with the pattern of not getting stuck in a pattern... which ties back in to the responsibility theme.)

* Before a battle, all soldiers are afraid. It is only after the battle that those can be identified as brave.

* It's OK to feel whatever feelings come up. We've all been through it. Don't be so hard on yourself. Lighten up.

* Continue to be mindful of connections but don't be so serious about it. Have a happier approach. Smile. This might help alleviate some of the anxiety.

* In class today (October 24), I stood for 80 minutes! I never stood so long before. Now I know that I can do it. It seems so much easier and quicker in class than when standing alone at home.

Question to me: What is your purpose in doing this? My answer: To change my structure. To discover what I'm capable of in this arena.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Chen Xiaowang Seminar 2004: Journal Notes #20
Next article in this series: What is the Fulcrum: Journal Notes #22

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