Saturday, April 27, 2013

Feeling in My Eyes: Journal Notes #110

Notes from my March 2013 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 no journal notes for February due to a combination of a class cancellation and my not attending due to working on my first book.

* Let me lead by saying that at the beginning of March I engaged an area of life I had long denied engaging. When I first decided to "go for it", I argued myself out of it. Interestingly, one conversation changed my mind and suddenly it was OK and I simply approached that area with curiosity and just like that, something noticeably shifted in my practice.

* I discovered through doing a squatting exercise (moving the torso up and down like a piston) that I still have tightness in my hips. The hip joint should be free so the pelvis can move freely up and down while maintaining the posterior of the pelvis on a vertical plane. In my case, I reach a point where the pelvis locks with the femur and tilts which then effectively transforms the lower back into the hip joint. A method to remedy this is to do mini-squats with a focus on keeping the pelvis vertical and gain control over the points where currently getting stuck.

* Really isolate the hip. Don't lift with the chest or back. Push the knees forward or backward. Exhale on down and inhale on up. The head will naturally rotate on a point under the ears according to the movement of the pelvis. Tucking means the abdominal muscles are contracting. If you tense the back to counter a tense front (to keep the torso straight), then you're locking and this kills the ability to feel into this area.

correct vs problematic hip movement

* Referring to pelvic movement, looking for a specific movement creates fascial stretch. If you can't get that movement, then you can't get that stretch.

* Question: Regarding the mini-squatting exercise, where I visualize myself as a piston and pelvis moves up and down pivoting on the hip joint...
Answer: Stop! Using a mechanistic model will help you understand points of structure but it will not help you understand connection. You are not a piston. Connective tissues don't function as rigidly as a machine.

* Hold a wooden dowel out in front of you with one hand and close your eyes. How long is the dowel? What sensory points are used to get a feel for its length? With a second person tapping the dowel further and closer to your hand, how do you determine if the tapping is further or closer? Next, the second person extends arm, palm facing  near end of dowel. Close eyes, touch dowel to your leg then try to touch other person's hand with end of dowel.
Are you able to do this? (Got close - touched the forearm, not the hand.)
What was the data you used to determine this? (Feeling, sensory).
What was the point of doing this exercise? (To use feeling data to figure out a goal.)
The principle is to use what you have and apply to your purpose without being distracted to get in the ballpark and refine from there.

* Think about building a house. Do you have a hammer? If not, then get a hammer. When you have a hammer can you build a house? No. You only have a hammer. Just because you have one tool doesn't mean you have the tools to build a house. With a hammer, you could build a boat dock. The same applies to other tools that are used to create structure. Let's say you get all the tools and build a structure, a house. Is this a home? No. A home is where life is. A home functions differently than a house. A structure is not a home until life is lived in it.

* Methods are like tools. They help you build and refine your structure. Through structure you add feeling, connection, and how your connective system responds to your intention. Feeling muscle stretch with structure is a first step. It's OK to feel muscle stretch because fascial stretch is kind of like this.

* Of course, fascia stretches with muscle but if your focus is on the muscle then you are only noticing a small section of fascial stretch.

* People hold onto too many tools (methods) and need to discern which tool to use and when as well as when to set the tool down.

* If you are now living in your home and you want to make an omelet, do you use your hammer? If your purpose is to enjoy cooking and eating breakfast, then the methods used to build structure are not useful. You need a new method. Understanding your purpose at the time helps you understand which methods to apply at that time.

* Consider the bigger frame but work in a small area.

* How do you assemble a jigsaw puzzle? First, look at the picture. Then from the jumble of pieces, look for recognizable pieces; corners and edges. You don't need the whole picture to assemble the edges, to construct the framework. After you got the frame, then you can divide or categorize pieces according to an area, for example, sky, water, shoreline, trees. Later you may realize you confused some sky and water pieces. As you refine your discernment, the differences between the similarities become more apparent. This discernment develops over time from working on solving that area of the puzzle.

* If you follow the principle, eventually you will connect all the pieces.

* Use structure to make structure clearer; to allow feeling through structure. Clear the blockages to feel the stretch. After you get the feeling of stretch, then you can play with structure. You can see modern architecture that diverges from normal, typical structures and yet are structurally sound.

* Do you see how scientific principles apply to developing internal connectedness? (Yes.)
Do you apply them in your practice? (No.)
Does this give you any ideas of what to apply? (Yes.)

* Compare the feeling in your eyes when you do the piston exercise (eyes are lifeless) to when you feel the stretch (eyes are open and alive).

* To achieve ease is not easy. You have to work hard to achieve ease.

* I tend to shut down (divorce myself from feeling) when I encounter emotional hurt and pain instead of staying alive and present and arguing and crying or whatever the body's response is in that situation. This is an area of the jigsaw puzzle I don't like to work on.

* From an electronics point of view, think of the signal to noise ratio. When the muscles are either too limp or too tense, this represents the noise (the unwanted or useless information) that is drowning out the signal (the useful information), the feeling of fascial stretch. You engage different circuits (methods) to reduce the noise and amplify the signal.

* I discovered my process at this point. I begin with structure (piston mini-squatting exercise), and then coordinate with breathing and pushing feet down and extending upward. I recognized where thinking kicks in. The feeling in my eyes changes. It's a subtle distinction yet, obvious. I discovered that I can use the feeling in my eyes as a bio-feedback device. I can use the feeling of body fullness as a bio-feedback device.

* What is different this time is that I "got it" with only verbal coaching; no manual adjustment! And I felt the difference and how I created the difference. Very exciting!

* I tend to rush to the method. How do I recognize where disassociated thinking kicks in? There's a different sensation when I'm feeling full in the movement vs when I'm trying to dissect and analyze what is happening. The feeling is there before the words form. It's pre-thought.

* I focus on defending against things I can't feel. This doesn't mean I don't want to feel. When I simply "do" and then run into a blockage and if I defend that blockage, then I'm protecting from something. For example, if I cry in stance, this is simply a reaction. It is what it is. It doesn't mean the emotion is associated with a cause or event. There's no need to search for a reason. It's OK to simply experience the emotion and let it pass.

* I discovered for myself an answer to a question I had asked long ago which was, "Can I practice feeling connection while doing other exercises?" The answer then was "No" but I didn't understand. One night while practicing, I had a "a-ha" moment and I understood why. The way I now understand it is that the process to develop feeling and connection requires attention to something very subtle that cannot be noticed when the intention and attention is on doing something else. So if I want to lift weights, then just lift weights. If I want to punch the heavy bag, then just punch the heavy bag. When I want to practice feeling connection, then practice that.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Submitting to the Experience: Journal Notes #109

Next article in this series: - Too Tense for the Next Level: Journal Notes #111

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