Monday, September 12, 2016

The Method Is Not The Truth

"The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method." This is one of the many Wujifa sayings that I found very difficult to grasp. I cannot remember how many times our instructor would say, "Class, repeat after me, 'The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method.'" and we would repeat, "The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method."

No matter how many times over the years I would repeat this, invariably I would turn around and ask for another method. It literally took me fifteen years to really understand what is meant by a "method" in Wujifa. Here's what I have learned.

A method is a technique, a set-up, a posture, a stance, an exercise, an “it’s like”. A method is the finger pointing at the moon. A method is a way to allow a specific kinesthetic feeling to be elicited. My job is to simply notice the feeling that is being elicited through the method.

Maybe another way to say this is: Repeating an exercise, posture, stance, or form ad-nauseum for the sake of "practice and refinement" will NOT in and of itself, lead you to discover more subtle feelings of whole-body connectedness. There is a specific kinesthetic feeling that you need to notice which a well-designed method will point you to and once you experience this feeling, then you need to focus on the feeling because this feeling is an opening (to developing the feeling of connection) that you didn't know you were looking for.

From my years of trying to force methods to yield an imagined feeling within my existing kinesthetic paradigm (I think this is what I should feel), I now understand that it is impossible to imagine a kinesthetic feeling that I never felt before especially one as complex and simple as whole-body connection. In this game, the familiar logic of 1 + 1 = 2 is upended and in its place is 1 + 1 = 3 or 5 or 42 or whatever logically does not make sense in my present kinesthetic paradigm. Why do I say this? If you have not experienced the feeling of whole-body connected movement, then you are not familiar with the so-called "logic" involved to get there. Plain and simple! Never having experienced whole-body connected movement, I simply could not anticipate my route to get there. I was not in a position to judge which feelings were pointing in the right direction and which were not. This is where a qualified instructor is invaluable!

Well then, what about feeling? Can feeling in and of itself become a method? Sure! If you develop a feeling into a patterned response recalled from the past, that is, when a feeling becomes isolated, codified, a repeatable goal of practice, then even feeling itself becomes a method and you wind up stuck in the past and not connected in the present. To be present, to notice new feelings is to continue developing. Once you get the feeling of feeling, then there is no THE feeling, then there is FEELING.

Let's for example look at the first Wujifa 1-2-3-4 alignment. Getting into the best 1-2-3-4 you are currently capable of with an little additional coaching or adjustment, can elicit a feeling of more weight dropping into your legs. Once you get that feeling, then using that set-up to elicit dropping into legs becomes a method. If you continue going back to only that feeling, then you are stuck. If you use that method to elicit further relaxing and further dropping and noticing what shows up, that is, following the feeling the method is designed to elicit, then you are making progress.

It is OK to work with a method, to get the feel of something. This can bring a new feeling. If you are willing to step away from the method and follow the path, you will notice the feeling changing.

This is essentially the core of internal martial arts work. However, many internal martial art practices tend to lure in the unsuspecting with flashy qi-gong exercises and so-called "qi feelings". Remember, qi-gong is a method! People can also get lured in by the siren's call of "advanced exercises". These too are simply methods. In fact, the most advanced method is the simplest and the simplest is the most advanced: stand and relax. Anything else should be custom tailored to you to help you to feel more or connect more. This is where a qualified instructor can notice for you, can notice what you are feeling and guide you to opening more to more feeling.

Chasing methods became a trap for me. Please avoid the mistake I made. When the method becomes more important to you than feeling, take this as a sign that you're on the wrong track. When there is no feeling or when you are stuck at one level of feeling, remind yourself, "The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method." Then you can begin practicing in earnest... again...

Happy practicing everyone!