Monday, April 4, 2011

Discover Your Power: Journal Notes #33

Notes from my November 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.)

* Question: How does zhan zhuang stance work to develop internal strength?
Answer: Remember the Wujifa Triangle (Relax, Balance, Structure). Stance brings attention to bone structure. However, proper structure is not attained without relaxing the muscular tension that holds the bones in a less than favorable structure. As the muscular tension relaxes, you can begin to feel the fascial structure. Increased feeling is proportional to increased relaxation.

* Question: I've discovered that I am comfortable with being powerless. If stance is to develop internal power, then my core attitude is in contradiction to my practice, an impediment to my own progress. How to resolve this?
Answer: You've been given a wonderful gift of understanding. Keep standing.
(I continue to be surprised and amazed at what comes out from practicing Wujifa zhan zhuang.)
* Question: What's a good method to practice stance?
Answer: All beginners do the "stance dance" which is where they continuously squirm around making continuous adjustments to their structure. Try this:
  • Make an adjustment. Hold that posture for three breaths then make another adjustment Repeat.
  • Maybe work on correcting just one area in a session or over a few sessions then go to another area.
  • Over weeks and months, increase the number of breaths between self adjustments.
  • Spend more time standing still and observing and less time adjusting.
(I have the idea now that people may start zhan zhuang practice standing like a dead post; rigid and not moving. Then people may become aware of and begin correcting structural imbalances and move into a "stance dance" phase. Becoming aware of this, people may move into a less locked, less squirmy, more alive stillness of standing. In terms of "phases", this pattern strikes me as being somewhat parallel to the phases Chen Xiaowang mentions: No shaking, qi blocked. Shaking, some qi moving, some qi blocked. No shaking, qi moving. Just a thought.)
* You've heard it said that "Your strength is your weakness." and to "Invest in loss". These phrases mean to look at your weakness and develop your weakness. If you are strong in one area and continually use that, then you are missing an opportunity to develop and will continue to have that weakness.
(In my case, my strength, such as it is, is in data, thinking, analyzing. I once thought I could develop internal strength using this strength. After many years of pursuing the thinking approach, I learned the truth was in feeling, my weakness. I am now focusing on developing my weakness. Thinking is a strength but it is also a weakness. The trick is knowing when and where a strength is useful and where it is an impediment.)
* Never miss a stance session because doing so will set you back. If something is preventing you, then do stance and learn what that something is.

* Regarding the "rotating the dan-tian" exercise,
  • First level: move hand as an aid to move the dan-tian
  • Second level: Move the dan-tian and then the hand in sync with the dan-tian
  • Third level: Connect the hand and dan-tian so the movement of the dan-tian moves the hand.
* The types of questions asked in class are typically "Fix me" requests. There's a dependence on the teacher to do something. But the only way to really get it is to try something and when you get together with a teacher, then have the attitude of show-and-tell. Have the attitude of, "Here's what I'm doing. What are you doing?" Try to get away from the dependence mentality and follow your own path.

* Chen Xiaowang laid out the whole program in four short phrases:
  1. Calm down.
  2. Listen behind.
  3. Relax.
  4. Sink.
* "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Albert Einstein
(Who knew Albert Einstein was a great internal martial arts teacher? And yet, even in the most recent Wujifa class I attended, I persist in relying on and calling upon habitual patterns that fail miserably at moving my body using effortlessness. I continue to try, to want "to do". Experiences like this make me wonder if I'll ever get it. And experiences like this point out the distinction between efforted and effortless moving which is very valuable insight indeed, yet continues to confuse and confound the thinking that created the problem... I wonder how many times I need this insight before I un-figure it out...

And the phrase "effortless power" springs to mind, and though I consider it cliche' , I can understand how this word has been used to describe this particular kinesthetic experience. When I "got it" in class (granted, a small taste of it), the "it" feels like nothing special, like nothing at all, like I'm not doing anything, but I am feeling something very different. Yet if I do nothing in my habitual pattern, this does not create the same experience. Doing nothing is not the same as doing nothing. So, do something different but don't do. That's the trick as I understand it now.)
* A story: A student was sick. The teacher said, "You're looking better." The next day, the student was better. The teacher said, "You're not looking well." The next day, the student was not well. And again for two days. Then the student thought the teacher had some magic power to make the student sick and well and inquired about this. The teacher said, "No. I have no power over you. You believed what I said and through your belief you made yourself sick or well. You alone have the power." Discover your power. Keep practicing.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Zhan Zhuang Practice Time: Journal Notes #32
Next article in this series: Training Spirit (神;shén): Journal Notes #34

1 comment:

  1. Mike,

    I enjoy the honesty in posts like these. Insightful and helpful, honest and a real sense of sharing with your readers. I would like to ask a question if I may? You can delete this if you don't want too. When you train (which I assume is a lot) do you approach yourself with honesty, being insightful and helpful with yourself with the same kind of sharing of yourself with yourself?

    So many people work so hard polishing the mirror they look in so they can see a true expression of themselves... Clean the mirrior and "working" to get rid of distortions that show up in a reflection... Remember that there really "is no mirror" and there "is no reflection."

    Thank you for all the wonderful stuff you share here "of you" in this blog with us.