Monday, December 26, 2011

Building Internal Community: Journal Notes #71

Notes from my October 2009 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: Why do you say there is no goal in training the building of connection?
Answer: It means that there is no end point. There is always further refinement. Consider the P.I.D. loop. It continually adjusts. If anything, the goal is to continually adjust to approach the median.

(In industrial control systems, a proportional-integral-derivative controller provides automatic correction toward a desired setpoint, for example, a cruise control on an automobile; accelerates going uphill and decelerates going down hill, continually adjusting to maintain the desired speed.
graph of PID loop
I remember my instructor drawing a picture like the above in class and explaining something like the following... Let's say the blue line represents "the goal" of training - a deep and full feeling of relaxed connection. And I am the red line.

I begin
(at point 1,0) by practicing a method of Wujifa zhan zhuang alignment. Like many beginners, I can't even feel into my own body. So while the goal is to feel connection, in my practice I get stuck on the method and I don't recognize any kind of feeling - I'm just practicing the method. So I overshoot the blue line which was my "goal" - noticing "the feeling".

My instructor, who is the P.I.D. controller in this example, notices that if I continue the path I'm on, this won't lead me to "the feeling" and so corrects the course of my practice.

I then change my practice but I get attached to the new method and without feeling, I overshoot the blue line. My instructor notices my error and guides me back
again to the feeling that the method is intended to elicit.

If you've been following my zhan zhuang training journal notes, most of my practice to this point can be summarized as I did above: I'm shown the feeling but I get stuck on practicing the method instead of practicing to find the feeling.

After nearly ten years of this level and kind of stance corrections,
I began to learn how I was getting stuck on methods. As you'll continue reading in this post, I'm beginning to feel.

The P.I.D model not only applies to the path I've walked so far - being reminded that "the method is not the truth" - but also to those like my instructor, who already feel relaxed fascial connection. Feeling "the feeling" is not the endpoint, but the beginning point to then refine, deepen, and strengthen "the feeling".

Continually refining the path that has no goal... there is always more refining...

* Question: Will the burning in my thighs go away in time?
Answer: Yes and No. Yes, it will go away if you stay where you are. No, it won't go away if you continue to relax at deeper levels and continue dropping more weight into your legs.

* Question: How can I learn how to learn this zhan zhuan exercise?
Answer: You can be one guy standing in a soup line waiting for a handout or you can be part of a community that works together.

There are different levels of understanding "community". On a macro level, you can build community/connections outside - a social network. On a micro level, you can build community/connections inside - a feeling/fascial network.

* Question: What's going on with my back?
Answer: Well, what do you notice about your back?

Me: I can feel the lower and upper parts but not the middle part in-between. It feels like the whole back is not connected.

Instructor: Why is that? How do you notice your back?

Me: What do you mean?

Instructor: Noticing adds energy. You focus your attention on what you notice. Noticing builds neural pathways in the brain. Build community. Ask it.

Me: Back! How does the lower part feel? (Back's answer: Feels widening horizontally.)

Me: Back! How does the upper part feel? (Back's answer: Feel stretching vertically.)

Me: The feelings are not the same! What's up with that?

Instructor: Introduce the two. Build your internal community.

(I was noticing different feelings in my back but I had the concept that "the feeling" should be the same throughout and so I was confused by what I was noticing. I didn't appreciate that I was now able to notice different feelings; that I might notice many different feelings depending on the part of the body I can notice...)

* Notice differently! Always noticing in the same way will always give you the same result and this will keep you stuck.
(This is a great example of a P.I.D. loop instruction. The way you've been noticing got you "x" results but if you continue that way, you'll miss the mark. Modifying how you notice will give you more insights.)

* Question: How do I notice differently?
Answer: Use the analogy of colored glasses. What do you notice looking through blue glasses? What do you notice looking through green and then yellow glasses? You still see the same table but differently. How can you change the lens through which you notice your own internal kinesthetic feelings? You have to figure this out for yourself.

* Question: How can I build connections internally? Like with my back, I can feel upper and lower separately but not as one single unit.
Answer: Notice your emotional state, the tone of your voice - frustrated, not curious. This is a different way to notice. So now you notice a couple kinesthetic feelings and you notice an attitudinal feeling. How cool is that?

Me: Not cool at all! It doesn't help.

Instructor: Think about the giant redwood trees in California. A redwood tree does not have an individual, deep taproot. Rather, redwoods have shallow surface roots that intertwine with other redwoods and together the roots form a web of support, a community.

* Question: What then should I notice or focus on?
Answer: For you, don't focus on all the little details because you get lost there. For now, focus more on general concepts, the bigger picture. Sometimes focusing more broadly resolves the details. After you get the general idea of how feeling connection works, then you can chunk back down to details and apply the same method to build more connection.

* This is how you learn on your own.

* Oct 26 personal training note: During stance practice today I felt my sides "drop". I suppose anatomically, I felt my oblique muscles relax and let go. Very interesting feeling! This was accompanied by a feeling of my elbows dropping and my thigh muscles relaxing which felt kind of like the muscle sliding down toward the knee and the knee sliding forward.

* Oct 30 personal training note: During stance practice today I had a feeling of my shoulders "letting go" or expanding which was followed by a feeling of my elbows pushing out which was weird because when I looked at my elbows, they hadn't moved from my side and my fingers felt like they were naturally extending, even though I wasn't intentionally extending them. It was just feeling that way. That's weird. When one part "moved", other parts "moved".

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: How Do You Know: Journal Notes #70
Next article in this series: - The Middle Path: Journal Notes #72

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful Wujifa is and depth and breath of it's practice. Developing an internal social network and tune the PID loop of training are wonderful models of "How to" gain the mindset to deeper understanding of Wujifa. Thank you for sharing these notes with so many. Even the Buddha needed to work at being Buddha... We all must remember to train and refine our practice of Wujifa.