Thursday, March 31, 2016

Huge Breakthrough! Part Two: Journal Notes #142

Notes from my February 2016 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa.

(There are too many notes from January classes to compress into one post and there are too few notes from February class for a single post. Therefore, Part 1 is the first half of January and this Part 2 is the latter part of January and February.)

Question: Is my demeanor-state an indicator of "connection"? Is a particular demeanor-state a prerequisite for connection? By "demeanor" I mean the feeling of being robot-like vs. the feeling of being more alive, being less mechanical in my approach to living.
Answer: It's something else. It's not about being happy or sad or any other emotion-based demeanor-state. It's more about being present and experiencing the entire range of feelings both kinesthetic and emotional.

* Balance does not mean a balance between tense and limp. Balance is not taking two things and trying to level each. Balance is where we are connected and become one thing. In the softness you can discover connection.

* Our brains try to make reality fit our paradigm rather than simply provide us the experience of reality without a paradigm. This phenomena has a deleterious effect on attempts to simply feel and experience the body as it is.

* When we say "spirit", this does not mean "ghost" or infer anything mystical. Think more along the lines of the spirit inspired by a cheerleader. Being spirited! This idea of spirit as related to cheering is not exactly right either but it's closer to the right path than interpreting spirit as ghost. Using the analogy of the cheerleader "spirit" is one path to the door. It is particularly helpful for grumpy people... which is most of us.

* Question: How do I stay in the present moment without having an "oh shit!" moment?
Answer: Judgment is one of the main ways we keep ourselves out of the moment. If you look deeply, you'll find that the "oh shit!" moment is based on some form of judgment.

* Connection is a path to being present. Being present is a path to connection.

* Connection and being present is like the on/off light switch. Once the light is turned on, then you can make the light brighter. In the same way, after you discover connection, then you can develop and refine it.

* In my talking during class, my instructor notices that I'm more connected to my feelings. I'm not putting my emotion/feeling in a box as if they were some kind of datum to categorize.

* Are you willing to admit that everything you've learned and done is wrong? The point is that if you defend your past, then you will remain stuck there and you will be closed to current and future opportunities.

* Question: What about towel twisting? I had done some of this in the past and I never got much out of it.
Answer: You were doing it mechanically. You weren't experiencing the feeling of it. Here. Try it now.

Me: I did and with a couple verbal coaching cues I felt an overwhelming surge of what...(?)... something... that... I felt compelled to stop and exclaim, "Ohhh, wow. OK. Got it!"

* You noticed what you're good at noticing. And you don't notice what you're not good at noticing, that is, what you are afraid of noticing.

* Your character armor will point you to how to become free. In my case, part of my character armor is that I need to be right and I use data/information to this end. And so I need to learn how to use this in a playful way.

* Physical touching is a "weak" form of connection. A "stronger" form is seeing, really seeing each other, being here, now, together. For me, too much connection is overwhelming.

* When making adjustments, start with the large, gross adjustments and work your way down to minutiae. Don't start with tiny details - there are too many details.

* There are two paths to developing the feeling of connection:
  1. Relax and wait for the feeling of real stretch to show up.
  2. Develop the faux stretch and then try to make the leap from the faux stretch to the real stretch.
The latter path is by far the most common, however, the main problem with this path is in making the leap from faux to real. Many practitioners get stuck thinking the faux stretch is the real stretch and then work on developing the faux stretch.

* Finding the subtle is like listening to one person in a room with several people talking and music playing softly in the background. As I'm talking to you, can you pay attention to what I'm saying and hear the music? (No, I can't.) But if you listen past the other voices and focus on the music, then it becomes clear, right? (Yes.) But you must continue to engage me and notice the instrumentation, the cello, the oboe. (I'm not noticing those individual instruments.) This is what training in the body is like. You notice what you pay attention to and miss what you're not noticing. Focus and notice what is at the edge of your ability to notice.

* There is a logic to developing connection. The logic is A=B and B=C therefore, A=C where A is feeling in the shoulder and B is feeling in the pelvis/lower abdomen, therefore, the feeling of each is the overall feeling you are looking for.

* Question: I've been told that some people are uncomfortable with me recently (being more open and present). So my initial reaction is to pull back and "be seen but not heard". This might assuage their discomfort but it is probably not helpful for me. How do I navigate this change?

Answer: You're like a child learning to walk. You need to recalibrate. Simply notice the other person more. Connect with where they are and don't expect them to meet you where you are. After you meet them on their ground, then you can move them in your direction if they are so inclined.

This is part of the bigger problem that you've long had with feeling connection. You used to get caught in a cycle of being more open and then closing down.... until now...

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Huge Breakthrough! Part One: Journal Notes #141

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Huge Breakthrough! Part One: Journal Notes #141

Notes from my January 2016 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa.

(There are too many notes from January classes to compress into one post and there are too few notes from February class for a single post. Therefore, this Part 1 is the first half of January and Part 2 is the latter part of January and February.)

* Reflecting on past few classes and past years...

* I'm becoming even more aware of the difference between ability to feel-sense within my body (the kinesthetic awareness I've often written of) which now seems like a kind of "mechanical feeling" and 2.something else that is more than the usual body-awareness feeling; more a kind of feeling that I think is referred to as the feeling of being "authentically present".

* In past classes I have been repeatedly led through an exercise which results in me getting to that place where the "real" me shows up. Recently I realized that over the course of my life, I easily get into this "state" quite spontaneously and naturally with particular people. With certain people we become the proverbial gasoline and matches; co-inspirators.

So I got to wondering, why is this particular "state" (it's not an emotional mood in the customary sense) so important for developing connection? How does being in an authentic "state" contribute to stance training?
Answer: Physiologically, the difference is between living life from the sympathetic system (fight/flight) or from the parasympathetic system (state of relaxed openness). Stance practice is not about troubleshooting and solving problems. Many of life's problems are not traumatic situations and yet we respond as if they were by either going numb and becoming robot-like or we "act out" how we think we should respond according to what we believe is appropriate. Watch CXW. He enjoys silk-reeling. He's fully present. He's not mechanically going through the motions like a robot.

Question: It seems that this "demeanor" can only show up when I'm with another person. It's as if it is the interaction that triggers this "alive-connection" or "authenticity". How can I manifest this "state" on my own?

Answer: Find and listen to old songs that can connect you to that time when you lived that demeanor, that is, when you expressed yourself freely and openly and shared a real connection. Let the music-memory recreate that feeling, even now...

When you are with another person, you put the focus on "we". You made the "we" of particular friendships responsible for your being "alive" instead of making "me" responsible for "my" aliveness regardless of whether you are alone or with whomever. Practice a little at a time. Remember, "Silly Dancing"? Do this too and nurture and sustain these feelings. Don't put them in a box as you've done in the past!

* As we talked through these questions, I became even more clear on the difference between the feeling of a "connected presence" and a "disconnected-mechanistic" feeling. And I noticed the clarity with which I can now distinguish the two; how both feelings truly come from me, and how easy it is to flip between the two!

* Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? This bed is too soft (limp). This bed is too hard (rigid). This bed is just right (relaxed). Limpness and rigidity are both ways of resisting or blocking. Being relaxed is being alive to the world.

* Wow! So I finally understand the difference between the connected-present feeling and my disconnected "robot trance" feeling. Now that I recognize and understand this distinction, the challenge is to be in the "alive" state more and more.... particularly during stance practice... but it's not really a "challenge" because I can 'flip' into it as easy and quickly as a heartbeat... The challenge is not how to develop that state, but to how flip into it on my own without relying on another person to get me there.

* Practice this past week has largely involved paying attention to my "demeanor" throughout the day and 'flipping' into the more alive state.

Question: What I am now finding challenging in stance is that I can somewhat muster this demeanor but in so doing, I lose focus of feeling the details of my body and when I focus on feeling the details of my body, then I lose this demeanor. I assume the two are not mutually exclusive but I don't know which way to go. What would you suggest?
Answer: Go with what you are calling "demeanor" for awhile. Build this habit in. I'll bet when you lose demeanor you are adding tension somewhere. After you build in demeanor you'll notice feeling on a new level. The level of feeling you have been doing has kept you on a plateau. Sometimes we need to take a step in a different direction to move forward again later.

* The most common demeanor "state" that I've been noticing is a kind of weary resignation. I can 'flip' into a more lively demeanor but it takes some attention and energy to maintain. The former feels more flat and the latter feels more sharp. I suppose this is an improvement; being able to shift between these two feeling "states" on my own?
Answer: Notice the box you are using; "sharp and flat". And notice how you are speaking of the two as if they were things disassociated from your personal experience of each.

Try this as an example of sharing the feeling of the flat and sharp experience: "I love the energized clearness I feel when I'm "sharp". This sharp feeling feels so powerful to me I can even notice a bit of it as I'm talking to you about it. On the other hand, I also feel this flat feeling too. I feel dull and tired and off. As I say this, I even re-experience this kind of weariness now too. The amazing thing is that I'm getting excited as I share these states with you because I'm feeling both even more... now...."

Granted, you might say this differently but the point is to notice that by sharing your feeling instead of talking about your feeling as if they were dead objects, you notice how your boxes (the way you are sorting/categorizing your feelings) seem to disappear and how experiencing your two demeanor states are held more and more dearly. Continue sharing your exploration of feeling. This new phase is very exciting!

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Unknowingly Lucky: Journal Notes #140