Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Third Feeling

I came to the internal arts with a fair degree of chronic, habitual tension. Let's call this the first feeling. Slowly I learned to un-tense, to relax, to go limp. Let's call this the second feeling. To develop the connection-ness of internal strength, we want to practice the third feeling.

This "third feeling" is not on the continuum between tense and relax, between problem and solution or any other duality, but rather, it is another feeling outside of and distinct from your yin-yang continuum.

I don’t understand.

It is a riddle.

The third feeling is experienced on the edge of my understanding, outside of my catalog of identified internal kinesthetic experiences. Is 'third' another word for ‘new’? Yes and no. Sometimes it is a deepening or opening of a known feeling as opposed to a different feeling on the same continuum level. Sometimes it is a feeling far off the continuum and not related to any other current feeling. It won’t appear if you tend to run match, expect it to be like a known concept or feeling. Yet, I am open. If it is 'like' anything, it is kind of like confusion or uncertainty but which shows up in the body and short-circuits the brain and may induce stance trance as the mind races to categorize the experience and finds no comparison. An example might be the feeling of “peng jing”.

When I first heard about "peng jing" I thought I could create peng jing by using my imagination with muscular tension. This approach allowed me to create a static, repeatable feeling. That kind of peng jing was based on and tied to a method: tension + imagination = peng jing. However, there is another kind of peng jing that I am discovering that is based on connection and is continually evolving and changing and does not involve tension nor imagination.

A problem that some beginners have is that they will read or hear a master's description of peng jing and then think that they too can have peng jing without first having developed themselves to the level the master has. For example, the master says, “Peng is like xxx.”, and the student attempts the “like xxx” and deludes him/herself into thinking “I have peng.” It is best to have a teacher who is not afraid to say “You’re not ready for that yet. Work on this.” It is best to work at the level you are at. What you seek appears naturally after a lot of correct and level-appropriate practice.

One potential stumbling block is that feelings can become methods when you focus on developing "a" particular feeling. Many feelings are simple byproducts of your practice and in the Wujifa system are regarded as sign-posts along the way. Do not set up camp at the sign-post and work on developing that particular feeling. Doing so will get you stuck. For example, I’m recently able to feel expanding-ness. If I think that this expanding-ness feeling IS peng jing, and I focus strictly on developing this feeling, then I am stuck. Getting stuck in a feeling is not third feeling material.

The method can lead you to the door, but the method cannot open the door. The door opening requires something else altogether. Third feeling. When you put a feeling in a box, then it loses its alive-ness, the what-if-ness. The box can be a method, but a boxed feeling, like my earlier false-peng jing, is never the third feeling. A boxed feeling never grows and develops.

Does this make any sense?

Remember The Matrix - There is no spoon scene? There is no "peng jing". Do not try to attain a particular feeling. Practice to develop connection and more and more and....

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Silk Reeling Exercises

A common error that beginners make when learning Silk Reeling exercises is focusing on learning the various Silk Reeling forms and then believe they are doing silk reeling. Instructors who teach silk reeling exercises say to practice the forms as if pulling a silk thread from a cocoon. Well, folks, a beginner doesn't even have a thread to pull much less worrying about how to pull it! Silk reeling exercises are not about employing the imagination process but rather about something much more kinesthetic and tactile.

Ideally, you should develop your foundation in zhan zhuang (learn how to sit down while standing, get a sense of the feeling of connection, develop a thread to pull) before practicing silk reeling (practicing "pulling" the thread). If you jump into silk reeling exercises before or at the same time that you begin zhan zhuang, be mindful to not get stuck on "this is what silk reeling is" where you were when you learned the exercise. Be open to allowing your silk reeling practice to evolve. I play my silk reeling as a moving zhan zhuang.

So what is "the thread" referred to in silk reeling? My understanding at this point is that "the thread" is something like the attentional/intentional/fascial kinesthetic tactile connection that is felt when you kinesthetically feel it in your body. In my case, I think I now have little pieces of thread scattered throughout my body. The "pulling" is maintaining the connections developed in zhan zhuang while moving. Move too slow, you fall asleep or trance out. Move too fast, you can't maintain the attentional/intentional/fascial kinesthetic connection.

In Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice, we notice and point out gaps or breaks in feeling fascial connection. I've noticed that these gaps or breaks typically appear where there is chronic muscular tension, which in a real beginner to the mind-body arts, is everywhere. Hence, why imagining that you are "pulling the thread" takes you down the wrong road.

Another common error that beginners make when learning Silk Reeling exercises is to not see nor understand the transition from zhan zhuang stance to silk reeling. In zhan zhuang, you are standing. In silk reeling exercises, you are shifting from side to side. So a great place to start, is to learn how to correctly shift from side to side, learn how to liberate your kua from its chronic stuckness.

A really excellent article and video that focuses specifically and explicitly on this basic, foundational skill can be found at:

Keys for Developing the Inguinal Crease, aka, Kua with Wujifa Side to Side Practice
The process of side to side allows a very specific focus to guide people in making progress towards understanding the inguinal creases which is so very helpful in deeper discoveries of full-body movement and practice.
Here is the "Wujifa Side to Side Inguinal Crease Basic Training" video:

Interestingly, practicing this side to side exercise has also helped deepen my awareness in my zhan zhuang. When I practice side to side, sometimes I will rest my knees against a table or other furniture to remind me to keep my knees fixed in space. This helps get the kua opening and closing. The other sticky point is that the hips tend to turn as I shift. This of course is due to chronic muscular tension. To help this, I will practice shifting side to side with my back end against a wall or table top. Another problem I've had is that the top will lead or get ahead of the hips. Remember the principal, movement is generated by the legs. The top needs to rest on the hips but not in a locked manner. Let the hips "lead" but everything moves together.

When I began this side to side exercise, I really didn't feel much of anything. Now, with practice, I feel a very obvious "twining" movement in my lower back as I shift. This simple exercise can really benefit your silk reeling exercises!!!

Further Reading: Silk Reeling Exercise and Silk Reeling Production. This brief article considers parallels between A) silk reeling for the production of silk and B) Silk Reeling exercise.