Monday, April 30, 2012

Setting Your Intention: Journal Notes #89

Notes from my April 2011 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: Can Wujifa practice be integrated into Yoga?
Answer: The Yoga "stretch" and the Wujifa "Extend" appear to be similar mechanically but the difference is in the underlying intention. Wujifa focuses on developing the feeling of fascial connectedness, a tumescence throughout the entire body. Yoga practitioners tend to break connection to get stretch. Stretch works with limp but in Wujifa, relax is not limp.

* Question: How does 1,2,3,4, - 1,2,3,4 elicit feeling? If I focus on the method, then I'm not focusing on feeling. How do I focus on feeling with method?
Answer: Do the external aspect of the method first. Get yourself set up structurally then shift focus. Notice the feeling. Keep it simple. What do you notice? Where is your weight? Check. Feel. Go external and check structure and make adjustments, then go internal and feel.

* Question: It seems whenever I think, I'm pulling myself into my head and out of my body. Do I have to stop thinking altogether to stay feeling in my body?
Answer: Being grounded and thinking are not mutually exclusive experiences. The tendency to think and pull up into the head and lose grounded-ness could be based on fear. This kind of somatic division is often associated with a perception of safety. In fact, you can learn to integrate the two. Notice what you are feeling the moment before you pull up into your head.

* We watched a Youtube video of Yao Sr. doing Yi-chuan. I noticed relaxed muscles, fascial stretch and small kua movement. We then watched a Youtube video of Yao Jr. doing Yi-chuan and I noticed his movements were more muscle-ing yet with fascial stretch and larger kua movement. Then I tried these same movements and was awful. Shoulders too tight. Too much trying. Not relaxed enough. But with much coaching from my instructor, I was able to hit that "effortless" movement once or twice.

* In those moments where I'm present and connected, I say that that feeling "feels like nothing" to me. It's like the feeling of present-connected-effortless is so different from anything else I've ever felt or experienced that I have nothing to compare it to. I can't say that it is "like" anything. I can't figure out how to recreate "that nothing feeling" and how to practice "that nothing feeling" that my instructor is able to physically adjust my structure or coach me into for me to feel it. This aspect is what continues to frustrate me the most.

* Question: How do I write a real zhan zhuang training journal? As I review my notes so far, I realize that it's mostly class notes and not specifically personal notes documenting my personal training.
Answer: Take a Project Management point of view. You are the manager and your project is stance training to develop your feeling of fascial connection. Prior to your stance practice session, write down what you intention is for that session, what you're going to work on, and how long you will stand. And then immediately after you stand, write down a quick note about your experience and any questions, insights, or observations that came up. And if you didn't meet your intention, then write down why not.
You can also log an "Intention for the Day". Set an intention on what you intend to do that day. Make a choice. Act on it. See it through. Then at the end of the day, log if you met your intention and if not, then what pulled you away. Periodically review these journals and you will see your patterns. You'll see when and how you made progress. You'll see when you got distracted and what distracts you. You'll see the excuses you make. You'll see how you're holding yourself back.
Your pattern Mike, and this is quite common, is that every time you open to a new level of feeling, every time you get more connected, every time you get closer, then you either literally run away or you emotionally withdraw or shut down with a variety of excuses. What people typically miss is a strategy to identify how their excuses camouflage what they don't want to feel or connect with. They miss a strategy for how to stay in the game and keep going when they are being pulled away.
In your case specifically, data is your strength but you're not using your strength to your best advantage. You've got lots of class notes. It's all good data but you don't have any data about what you do, about what drives you and your practice. You now need to gather that data! Analyze that data! Make choices about your practice based on own your personal data!
What if there are no more excuses?

* Question: Why does it take so long to "get" this stuff?
Answer: The process of developing internal strength should take about three years to get through the door. Most people can be guided to the door and when they come to the door, instead of going through the door, they walk away and go look for another door or they quit altogether and make excuses about why something else external was more important.

* Question: Is there a way to speed up the process of relaxing?
Answer: Notice what's already relaxing instead of noticing what's tense and what needs to relax. Change your perspective. Grow relaxing. Nurture relaxing.
If you only notice multiple small problems like this area is tense, that area is tense, then you will never notice the big problem. But you won't be able to address the bigger problem until you resolve the smaller problems. This is the paradox. You won't be able to fix enough of the small problems to get to where you need to go. Focus on relaxing and growing relaxing and the small problems tend to resolve themselves.
(This is such sage advice... but which totally contradicts my personality, and so is so difficult for me to employ. And so, it is the student, me, who has to change at a more fundamental level, stop looking for problems to fix, to be able to employ such simple wisdom.)

* I love what my school brother, Dan, said in class today, "There is no goal outside of the path. The path is the goal."

* Question: Why are your answers to my questions never what I expect?
Answer: If you get an answer along the lines you expect, then your training gets stuck along those lines. Getting an answer you don't expect gets you real growth.

* Question: So I'm noticing more feeling stuff now. How am I doing with this?
Answer: You're noticing mostly by-products and this is fueled by judgement. You need more congruency between your intention and what you're noticing. Judgement is based on the idea that something is wrong which infers that something needs fixing. You get stuck in this loop a lot.

* Question: Regarding keeping a zhan zhuang training journal, what does it mean to make functional decisions?
Answer: A zhan zhuang training journal is a method, a small and simple way to develop intention. The number one intention of this method is to develop your intention on various levels. A kung-fu mind creates kung-fu practice creates kung-fu results. First, develop your intention!
Kung-fu comes from sparring with life. You set an intention and then notice what pulls you away and how it pulls you away and why it pulls you away. The zhan zhuang training journal exposes what your excuses are.
Practice is like the physical Law of Motion. Someone who continually makes changes will continue making changes. Someone who is stuck will remain stuck. Getting unstuck from a monkey-see, monkey-do practice takes some effort to get the ball rolling. But, the more you do it, the easier it is to stay with the intention.

* So I'm realizing more clearly now that in nearly 30 years I still haven't got this internal strength because my intention was not clear at the outset. When I look at my history, I can see my intention changed over time.

* Practice gets down to time management. Very practical.

* A functional way to use a zhan zhuang training journal:
  1. Set the intention.
  2. Notice a problem area and what you did.
  3. If something comes up and it pulls you away, this tells you that you intention is not clear enough and that your intention is more about maintaining armors.
  4. What is your Action Plan? What will you do next time "something comes up"? Your action plan is not your intention.
  5. Tips: Write down your intention the night before. Stick to a pattern of practice and never deviate. When you notice something not part of your intention then say, "That's interesting" and let it go.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Noticing the Emotional Wall: Journal Notes #88
Next article in this series: - Zhan Zhuang and Quality Control: Journal Notes #90

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