Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Intention to Roll Over: Journal Notes #124

Notes from my July 2014 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa.

* Reminder, I've been attending class every other week for many years. This is a very different training pattern than a weekly or more frequent attendance pattern. Due to this schedule and vacations, I only attended one class in July.

* My practice during this month has focused on doing the mini breathing squats for at least 20 minutes per day. On weekends I would add 40 minutes of zhan zhuang each day.

* I've noticed a contradiction in trying to maintain the knees forward when standing fully up. I've also noticed a tendency to pull the trochanters backward on a full stand up. To counter this, I've worked on maintaining knees forward through the entire range of sit back and down through full stand up.

* I demonstrated the mini squats I've been practicing and explained what I've noticed and how I'm working.
Instructor: You're using counteracting forces. You're clenching the front to counter the tension in your back to give you your feeling of knees forward. You're making this exercise much more difficult than it is. There's a huge difference between maintaining a still pelvis through clenching vs. through relaxing. You're still focused on compartmentalizing your movement. You see and explore the component parts of movement and as a result, your movement has the same kind of segmented quality. It's not about two ways of seeing or two ways of understanding moving, it's about two ways of moving!

* I had a very frank discussion with my instructor in which he said I was one of his worst students. So I asked, "What's the criteria to be a worst student?"
Instructor: How much do you train every day?

Me: Recently? Twenty minutes a day.

Instructor: And how many years have you been training?

Me: More than ten.

Instructor: There's your criteria. Theoretically it should only take one to three years for someone to develop this skillset who is truly open to learning and who follows instructions, trains two to three hours a day and does not resist or deviate. In your case, you've hit a glass ceiling which is at the point where someone who's trained seriously for one year should be.

Me: But I've got ten years of great notes! I've got a much clearer understanding now.

Instructor: Go back and look at your notes. How many ways have I said, "Relax and feel connection"? When are you going to simply "Relax and feel connection"?

Me: I don't know.

Instructor: There's your answer.
* All these various exercises are meant to purify and refine the intention. Ordinary people's intention is rather scattered. In Tai-chi they say to use the eye to lead the hand as a way to develop intention but this generally does not produce the level of results needed.

* Look at babies. When they want something, their intention is to reach for it and their entire body follows. Practice this exercise. Lie prone on your back on the floor. Pick up your left leg and reach it over your body to your right. Reach to the right with your left foot until your foot drags your body over onto your stomach. Use only your intention to reach. After you can do this, then try it using your arm. The arm is more difficult. Don't brace or push off with any part of your body. Keep the legs straight. Only use your intention of reaching to pull the body over.
Note: Watching my instructor do this was a bit disturbing to me. It looked like his body became some kind of amoebic-like creature being pulled along the ground by some invisible force. I don't know why, but I felt a bit put off by this. My school brother (whom I hadn't seen for months) said he could not do this at first but had been practicing and told me the trick is to relax and let the body stretch behind the intention of the leading foot or hand. In fact his demonstration which looked a bit stiffer didn't disturb me, rather, I found it fascinating.

When I tried, which I was resistant to trying, I could not do this. In fact I got quite argumentative about the exact details of what I should and should not be doing.
Here's a short video about a baby rolling over. Notice how soft is the baby. It looks like more intention than compartmentalized muscle movement is driving its rolling over.

* Per my school brother, another way to think of  "one part moves, all parts move" is to think of proportional movement. When one part moves, it doesn't mean that every part has to move at the same time and same speed. It's more like a sound wave. At twice the distance from the source the sound is not half as loud but rather a quarter a loud.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: The Self Delusion of Beginner's Mind: Journal Notes #123
Next article in this series: What's Sex Got To Do With It?: Journal Notes #125

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