Monday, October 21, 2013

Going Places and Coming Home: Journal Notes #114

Notes from my July and August 2013 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (Note: These journal notes combine both July and August because I was traveling in China for four weeks, from June 20 to July 18.)

* One of my Wujifa school brothers, Dan, is in town and attended the July 28 class. Dan is working on his PhD. in BioEnergetic Analysis. Our instructor asks Dan to work with me.

We stand face to face. I'm in zhan zhuang. He's coaching. He places his fingertips on my kua and adjusts me just a little off where I was. He then instructs me to feel the muscles under his fingers.

Standing and looking eye to eye gets too intense for me and I look away and back and close my eyes and "go inside". With each of these re-locations of my attention, he says, "It's OK. You can go there. You can go there too." After a bit of this running around, I break and I am fully present and in my body in a way that is different from my customary way of going "inside". To this he responds, "I like when the real Mike shows up."

I say that I feel like quitting. The feeling is overwhelming. And he says he gets that feeling too but just keeps going. "Just notice that you feel like quitting and keep going."

We must have gone through about forty minutes of this kind of cycling between connecting eye to eye, feeling it's too intense to be that present with someone, looking away, looking "inside", wanting to quit, being reminded to focus on the muscles under his fingers...

I got two big A-ha insights out of this training session: 1) I refined my understanding of all the "places" I "go" to avoid being fully present, and 2) I have been fooling myself about my feeling of having my awareness "inside"; this too is a dis-associated place. I learned that truly being present in my body is an "ON/OFF" proposition. Either I'm in there and present or I'm not. It's a unique feeling.

Here's a very rough sketch of how I might graphically depict this experience. My drawing is really bad. I hope you get the idea.

disconnected vs connected person

* The practice of Wujifa involves looking for connections. However, most people have to untangle themselves and become deeply aware of their parts first and get the parts to move freely in order to feel into the parts. After this, then feel connection between the parts.

* It is difficult to see a problem in somebody else who has the same problem that I have. The benefit of watching someone who has the same problem that I have is that I can see how I appear and then know what is being seen in me. Obviously I can't identify this other person. My instructor has to point this out to me.

* When punching, don't lead with the fist. Lead with the kinesthetic stretch. Go for feeling the stretch. This will also help focus on feeling the connection to the ground.

* Each Wujifa exercise has a primary focus, a specific movement to train a specific feeling. Do the exercises as prescribed to find the feeling.

* Taking the external path inward is OK but if you get stuck at any point along the way and if you think that that point is what generates power, then you've fallen into a trap. The goal is to use the abdomen movement as the driver in a connected, coordinated manner with the rest of the body.

* If you are focused on getting a feeling of power or force and your method doesn't include the abdomen, then you're missing the internal. People tend to focus on the stuff that is external relative to the abdomen and mistake the power generated there as being internal. Sure, the more internal you go, the more power you can generate. Generating power externally (again, relative to the abdomen) is a lot easier and more comfortable but it is still external, relatively speaking.

* We practiced a few assessment exercises:
  • Anterior/posterior pelvic tilt.
  • Rotating the shoulders laterally while keeping the hips relaxed and still.
  • Rotating the hips laterally while keeping the shoulders relaxed and still.
  • A cross body stretch to feel the fascial stretch criss-cross the back.
  • A cross twist step to feel elongation criss-crossing the back.
  • Tippy bird and variations. If any of these feel easy, you're doing them wrong.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: My Training Roller Coaster: Journal Notes #113
Next article in this series: Questions About Dan-Tian Rotation: Journal Notes #115