Monday, March 28, 2011

Zhan Zhuang Practice Time: Journal Notes #32

Notes from my October 2005 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.)

* Must stand for one hour minimum. It takes 30-45 minutes to hit and go through "the wall".

* Stance is like other physical activities. For example, to get a cardiovascular workout requires the heart rate at "x" beats per minute for "y" minutes. To build muscle with weightlifting requires three sets of ten repetitions per set. Any less heart rate or time or any less sets or reps doesn't yield the desired result. With stance it takes 30-45 minutes for the mind to calm down. As the mind calms, the bio-chemistry changes. After you get through "the wall", like the marathon runner, you enter a different place where the body changes and real progress is made.
(I think it comes down to: "What's your purpose?" Somewhere else in these notes I have: Practice 20 minutes for health. Practice 40 minutes for health and development. Practice 60 minutes for development.

That said, for a while I was standing an hour a day. And then I hit another kind of wall and backed off from that. Simple is not easy.

Building up to an hour is difficult but there's the sense of accomplishment in building your time. It's hard but it's fun because you see your accomplishments. Once you get there and if something pulls you away, whatever it is, then it is sooooo much harder to get back to that hour again. So if I were to give any advice, once you get to the hour, then stick with it!)
* You can approach stance from either of two places:
1. The "Light" side: Love, excitement, and enjoyment.
2. The "Dark" side: Rules and obligation where the only "pleasure" is in following the rules.

* Doing stance for 20-30 minutes never gets you to the place where stance is enjoyable.

* Doing stance for 20-30 minutes keeps you in the "Dark" side because you never hit the enjoyable part of stance and so you never do stance for the love of it but rather stay stuck in doing it as an obligation, a rule, a "must do" to get something.

(From my limited exposure to others' teachings, my guess is that many people don't teach stance to the level that it is taught in Wujifa. There is something really unique going on here... Take note! )
* Fake it until you make it. It's kind of like having faith. Find a place where you are excited about something and use that attitude to do stance as a method to get you over the hump, through "the wall", until you hit that place where stance feels good.

* This school is all about the ordinary. Take the ordinary and practice and refine it until it becomes extra-ordinary. Continue practicing the ordinary until it becomes extraordinary.

(I still struggle with the logic of: How can "just" standing and feeling result in developing internal strength? It does not compute! Of course, we do more than "just" stand. There's a ton going on during stance and there are a ton of other exercises as well, a few of which have been noted in these Journal notes. I don't understand and yet I am open. Maybe as I get more and more into the FEEL...)
* What is your purpose in practice? "I want to feel. I want internal power." (This answer felt strange. But yes, I want to be strong.) To have internal power you must practice more. Development is directly related to time in stance. You already have the understanding of the process, the alchemy, how lead is transformed into gold. Keep practicing.

* The kua has two fundamental directions. It can fold vertically as when practicing side-to-side, and it can fold horizontally as when doing sink and bow.

* Sink and bow are external methods. Feel, then manifest and amplify the feeling more with your mind (internally) and less with mechanical movements (externally).

* Question: How to get the chest to drop and keep the neck straight so the head doesn't tilt forward?
Answer: After ten minutes of adjusting stance, the verbal summary is to let go of the holding pattern in the pelvis. Drop the back of the pelvis and rotate the femur heads forward.

* In one student, adjustments to the pelvis resulted in her standing on her toes. The problem is too much tension in the hip and so the ankle became the hip joint. The angle of the pelvis and knee would not extend beyond a certain point and so the ankle absorbed the posture.

* When you stand, keep the elbows down at the sides for the first five years. Imagine heavy weights on the elbows if you must. Relax the shoulders. If you try to stand with elbows high (as you see in many "holding the ball" qigong postures) before you are ready, before you understand how to raise the elbows and maintain relax and connection through the shoulder, then you will likely tense up the wrong shoulder muscles. Tensing the shoulder to raise the elbows is wrong.
(It's worth mentioning again that imagining is a method to elicit a specific, functional Feeling. I spent years imagining all kinds of things and got no result.)
* Question: Why is it so difficult to surrender, to "let go"? Why do I have to go through such hell?

Answer #1: Think of your body parts as a community. The job of the legs is to carry the weight, to "take a stand", to "stand up for" the community. But someone in the community decided a long time ago that the weight should be carried in the neck, the pelvis, and in the chest. In retrospect, this was a bad decision that has now become a habit.

Answer #2: Mystically speaking, you are numb and the next level up is hell and the next level up is heaven. Entering hell is the beginning of feeling all your bad postural habits. So hell is a good place to be because you are more alive, no longer numb.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Yin-Yang Wuji Fulcrum: Journal Notes #31
Next article in this series: Discover Your Power: Journal Notes #33

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