Monday, May 30, 2011

Not the Usual Child's Play: Journal Notes #41

Notes from my September 2006 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* To play with and in stance means to play like a child plays - very focused, very involved, very free with what they will try. There are no "Shouldn'ts" or "Can'ts" shaping their scripts. They don't yet know "to experiment" because they haven't yet been locked in.
(I've heard it said that enlightenment is over-rated. For me, it seems like most of the work in zhan zhuang is very mundane; discovering and releasing patterns that have been laid on over the years. Sometimes, as in the most recent Wujifa class I attended, playing like a child can help find the feeling of internal connectedness; not the usual child's play.)

* If you could have any life you wanted, what would you want? Does that match what and where you are now? If not, why not?
(There are some aspects of my life I am satisfied with and some I am not. I used to complain about those unsatisfactory aspects. Then it occurred to me, living in this time and place free of external coercion, I must have wanted what I now have.

I'm discovering that it's my wanting to follow my rules that keep me locked into the aspects that are not satisfactory. In that way, I want even what I don't want. It seems twisted but grounds the responsibility in me instead of blaming some outside entity or supposing some mystical reason.)

* Notice! You can't change what you don't notice. Once you notice a behavior, an attitude, a structural position, then you have the power to change it.
(I agree that I can't change what I don't notice, but simply noticing doesn't always immediately empower me to change what I noticed. Sometimes, it can feel like the power lies with what I noticed. And then too, sometimes it can take a while to develop the physical strength or will power to effect a change.

Whether a change happens immediately like an earthquake or transitions over a longer period of time like water shaping landscape, noticing changes everything.)

* Questions reveal the level at which a person is working.
(In some Wujifa classes, we students may ask questions from our personal lives that are outside the formal Wujifa practice.

This month (September 2006), I asked about a feeling I noticed that completely blindsided me. Looking back on my notes now, I assume that whatever I went through in June 2006 must have slowly opened me to a new level of aliveness. (See my Journal Note #39.)

I could not have anticipated this feeling nor any other byproducts of practice. Over the ensuing years I have developed a little capability to play in an area of life where I previously felt completely inhibited.
)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: My Introduction to NLP: Journal Notes #40
Next article in this series: Changing My Diet: Journal Notes #42

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Introduction to NLP: Journal Notes #40

Notes from my July and August 2006 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

I think this was the summer I started learning about Neuro-Linguistic Programming, NLP, with Mr. 20/20 (formerly, John Wingert). Since then, several of us from the school, myself included, have attended 20/20's seminars and have found them very valuable.

In Wujifa zhan zhuang class, I've seen and experienced how the concepts from NLP can be applied to create openings for learning and developing internal strength
.

* We had a discussion about "filters"; how we filter experiences. For example, some people filter by martial arts forms thinking the more forms they learn, the more they know. Some people filter by books, thinking the more books they read, the more they know. But when it comes to internal strength development, these filters won't give the desired results. So one point of growth is to give up or let go of the attachment to these beliefs.
I built my life around books and book learning and book knowledge. Not a bad thing but not at all helpful in this arena, and if anything, an impediment. It can be very difficult to set aside what you've relied on, what you're good at, what has served you well in the past. My strength kept me stuck. When all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

* All emotions are streaming all the time. The frame we choose to use at any one time determines which part of that emotional bandwidth we will experience. Think of the how a prism "changes" white light into the color spectrum. By analogy, we can put little "emotional prisms" in at certain times so we only experience a little piece of the emotional energy at any given time. Play with moving the prism. Play with feeling different emotions.
In reference to "My Journey to Feeling" posts, I think one point here is to notice how you may be locked into an emotional pattern and that you do have a choice to respond differently. Playing with responding differently and noticing what shows up in the body.
* Regarding Here and There (from my June 2006 Journal Notes), some people can't come Here. They need their There to function.

* The basic NLP filters (as learned from 20/20) are:
  • Motivators
    1. Towards / Away​
    2. Active / Passive
    3. ​Internal / External
  • Comparison (works closely with Past, Present, Future)
    1. Match​
    2. Mismatch
    3. ​Polarity​
    4. Novelty
  • Sorting (Context Based)
    1. Activity​
    2. Information​/data
    3. Person​
    4. Place​
    5. Thing

* Noticing - another way to think of becoming aware of something.
I went through a long phase of trying to find "hooks" to my earlier training; where new terms and concepts matched old terms and concepts. For example, when you say "X", is this the same meaning as when he said "Y"? I really wanted to build on my previous training and struggled with the notion that "matching" to my previous training was going to keep me stuck. I had to let go of that too.
* Be willing to engage this process: "Notice. Question. Pursue an answer. Notice." Beginners get stuck at the first step of noticing something and never get to the second step of questioning what they noticed.
  1. First level. Notice that (this area) is tight/holding. Why?
  2. Second level. Oh, because I'm holding over here. Why?
  3. Third level. Oh, because.... Why?
  4. etc...
This is the process. How many levels can you go through? The more levels you can go through, then the further and deeper you can trace the source of tension. Once you get past the first level, then you're on the right track.
One issue I struggle with is, "So, it seems like I can develop internal strength on my own." The principle is simple: stand and relax. And if I use this process then I should be able to learn from myself and develop internal strength on my own. What do I need a teacher for?

The answers I come away with are, Yes and No. Yes, I have to do it on my own. No, I can't do it on my own. No teacher can teach internal strength. I have to figure it out on my own. It's not like learning a form or technique. The value of a teacher is more as a "trail guide", to show me where I'm getting stuck and to show me what's ahead on the road.
* Read old journal entries and look for where you were stuck and where you made progress and what stories you told about each.
The stories I tell myself, the "reasons" why something is the way it is or was the way it was, are very revealing!
* Most people's lives can be reduced to "X" storyline or process. Their underlying process remains pretty much the same through their entire life and only the names and places change like a "fill in the blank". Take for example Woody Allen movies, or any movie genre. They all have the same feeling, just different locations, times, and actors.
What does my storyline, my process have to do with zhan zhuang and developing internal strength? Everything! It's how I approach training. It's the excuses I make for not practicing. It's what I have to work on letting go...
* Be willing to play with change the underlying process. For example, notice how you filter (see above) and then play with other filters.
This is another method to change the dance step, to elicit a different feeling. The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method.

Noticing and playing with your underlying process is a step to letting go of the established patterning in the emotional and physical body. Letting go and noticing. How many ways are there to let go and notice? How many layers are there?

I used to play a very soft and yielding "limp-noodle" style of push-hands but even then I was very rigid emotionally and structurally. Sure, it seemed like my body changed, and it did to a degree but I never really let go of the deeper layers of rigidity. I had learned how to be "flexible" and "yielding" around the underlying sticky points, the underlying rigidity.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Let Go. Got it? Ahhhhh: Journal Notes #39
Next article in this series: Not the Usual Child's Play: Journal Notes #41

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Journey to Feeling: Part 7

Feeling the ever increasing subtleties of kinesthetic feeling, the internal connectedness in Wujifa zhan zhuang also requires a journey into feeling the depth and breadth of emotional feeling.

If you haven't read My Journey to Feeling: Part 1 you may want to start with that before continuing here.

* One purpose of training is to help you notice your patterns and to shake you out of those patterns. Alter the "dance step" in manageable, safe measures.

* There is a difference between feeling like there's no choice vs. taking ownership of the choice. Instead of begrudgingly doing what you have to do, choose to agree to do what you don't want to do. The latter starts to build in you the power of "I am choosing X". It's kind of twisted, but it alters the pattern. You often have a choice even when your rules say you don't. Change the dance step.

* Judgment stifles curiosity. Practice curiosity. Hmm... I wonder how that person will react when I respond differently? Change the dance step.

* Anticipating someone's response is a primal defensive maneuver to guard against feeling rejection.

* Approaching an interaction based on anticipating (fearing) someone's response results in emotionally projecting your fear feeling which the other person senses as "not safe" and responds as you anticipated.

* This is the emotion loop; if you avoid a topic that is brought up, you send a "not OK, not safe" emotional signal which is picked up. If you are afraid to state your position, you send a "not OK, not safe" emotional signal. If you state your position, you send an "OK, safe" emotional signal. Then the door is open for...

* To change the dance step, stop anticipating, stop judging. Clearly knowing and stating your intention projects a feeling of authentic certainty. Anticipation is based in history. Stay present.

* What was the study? People communicate 10% with literal content and 90% through expressing feeling? We are by nature very attuned to sub-cognitive feeling communication. We also tend to get cut-off from that level of life. The work is to get re-connected.

* Accepting you doesn't mean denying myself. Big difference!

* Remembering the homework assignment after an emotional event and after the habitual reaction passes is a good step. Don't judge this as a failure. The hardest part of this kind of training is simply remembering to implement changes to life-long habitual responses. If you stay cognizant, you'll gradually close the gap between the emotional event and remembering the homework until you can run the assignment (the new "reaction") in place of the habitual reaction.

* A baby-step can be a big first step because it "opens the door". It creates the opportunity for a change. Baby steps are really, really important!

* In my case, when I first stepped into the stream of life, I got knocked off my feet and retreated to the safety of the stream bank and since then have generally watched life go by. I have strong belief/emotional "levees" built in part through upbringing and in part through self-protection. However, those same "levees" holding back the stream are also walls holding me in. There is only a no-feeling or a feeling of numbness when I try to access certain emotional areas; What do you feel? I don't know, nothing really.

My homework:
  1. Continue noticing my emotional reaction in a given situation. Take a breath. Readjust to a relax posture. Notice reaction.

  2. Approach "changing the dance" with a curiosity.

  3. Know what you want and state what you want.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let Go. Got it? Ahhhhh: Journal Notes #39

Notes from my June 2006 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

These notes are from the only class I attended that June. My teacher tries to communicate directly with the feelings of the student when transmitting the principles of Wujifa, so the "Ahhh" you will see throughout this post is his exhalation to which he is anchoring the feeling of letting go to the exhalation of my breath. In Wujifa, the highest form of practice is making tea which means getting one's point across without having to do battle. What you will read below is another example of how a teacher gets his point across. If you're familiar with NLP or Milton Erikson, this will make sense to you.

* Breakthrough!

* My logical, analytical thinking is my strong point. My strong point is my weak point.

* What is the feeling in the body behind the logical thought?

* Thinking is there which is different from here. I can be in the same place (the dojo) but it is different if I'm there or here.

* Here and there are authentic but there pretending to be here is a fake.

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....

* Left-brain, right-brain stuff. Awaken, connect and experience the other half.

* Logic. Rules. Sadness.
* Feeling. Freedom. Joy.

* Breathing. Not breathing.
* Logic. Thinking. Holding breath.

* This moment. Now..... Now.... Now....
* Same or different?

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....

* Breathe in. Get oxygen. Got it? Breathe out. How hard do you have to work to not breathe? How hard do you have to work to breathe?

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....

* Once you got it, let it go. You can't get more until you let go of what you've got now.

* Eat. Why eat? To nourish the body. Once you have nourishment, then what? Excrete. Let go the "food". What if you never breathed out? Never defecated? What if you held onto that breath and that food? You'd die of course.

* What happens if you hold onto one idea? The idea that there is a special feeling to internal strength, some holy answer, and you never let go of that? This too is a kind of death. Never being open to anything else. Never being able to feel where you are at now.

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....
(Regarding feeling where you are now... In a Wujifa class just prior to this posting, I experienced that there is a "special" feeling and to me it felt more like a nothing-special feeling. When I accidentally hit that just-right connected alignment, the resulting power was born from a different kind of kinesthetic ease.

And to get that, I now know I couldn't just go directly from there to here. I had to develop a lot of feeling and relaxation and... to get to a place which allowed that to spontaneously and accidentally show up. I could not have and cannot purposely create that feeling. Got it?)
* Extend both arms at 45 degree away from the center of your body. Left hand is past. Right hand is future. Look straight ahead. What do you feel? Past and future have equal pull. Now move left hand back (out of sight). Now which hand has greater "pull". Future.

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....

* Beginner's mind. Curious.

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....

* What happens is that over time, people show up to class physically but lose the beginner's curiosity. How do you get beginner's curiosity? How do you keep it? How do you live it?

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....

* Sometimes you need to hold, for example, if you're under water. Holding your breath will keep you alive but once your head is above water, you don't have to keep holding. If you're drowning and someone throws you a rope, you will hold on for dear life but once you're back on dry land you can let go of the rope.

* Let go!

* Got it? Ahhhhh.....
(The more I develop and the more I watch others develop, the more I witness myself and others holding the breath, holding the rope. I now know that I was not doing internal gong fu until I experienced the physical and emotional difficulty of two simple words, "Let go."

Ha! There's a sign-post for you! If your letting go is relaxing, then you're doing it wrong. If your letting go is difficult, then you're on the right track.)
* Some people are information gatherers. Rather than doing the exercise, they collect and read about the exercise. Reading about is not the same as doing. Talking or writing about what you heard or read and analyzed is not the same as doing and writing from your internal experience.
(I've read a lot about internal martial arts. The trouble with words is that I, the reader, tend to interpret others' words through my own frame of reference, wherever that frame happens to be. And my frame is probably not the author's frame.

The more I practice, the more I see how our verbal language, in trying to describe this pre-verbal process, lends itself to ambiguity.

Ultimately, the proof of anyone's internal skills is revealed in touching hands. Of course, you have to have developed some internal skills first to discern who has skills or not and to what level. A classic Catch-22...)
* I got exhausted from this exercise but gained a great insight! Finally, I asked my instructor how he deals with my thinking stuff week after week. He affirmed that the Question and Answer part of class is the most tiring because he works to feel what the "thinkers" are trying to ask through the filter of their thinking as well as his trying to formulate answers that respond to the "feeler" behind the thinker filter.
(This exercise in this class really opened me up to seeing and differentiating operating from "rule think" vs. operating from "feeling think" in both myself and others. This was a big step for me.

Transcribing these notes makes me think of poetry and the contradictory old man...)
Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Hiding Secrets in Plain Sight: Journal Notes #38
Next article in this series: My Introduction to NLP: Journal Notes #40

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hiding Secrets in Plain Sight: Journal Notes #38

vNotes from my May 2006 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: What's a beginner's way to practice shi-li?
Answer: Play with a light springy material and light "thera-band" to get the feeling of lightly compressing/closing and stretching/opening, respectively. However, don't practice with these because doing so would take you down the wrong path of developing muscle. Rather, use these briefly to experience the feeling and then practice re-creating that feeling internally. Keep it light.

* The stretch and compress of shi-li is not done in the isometric sense but in a relaxed way with intention. Think of and feel the feeling of opening and closing with connection.

* Question: I'm concerned that I'm not progressing fast enough. Can shi-li help me build internal strength faster than just stance?
Answer (from Dan): I made the most progress when I was standing two hours a day. No shi-li. No side-to-side. Just stance.
(Here's a quick story about Dan who posts on Dan's Wujifa. Dan started with the school and practicing stance during my three years away. When I returned, I was impressed and inspired by his accomplishment which "sealed the deal" for me that it is stance, not forms, that develop internal strength. (I recall hearing he also spent a lot of time at class. The two hours a day was his personal stance practice time.) Seeing his accomplishment, I committed myself to practicing stance.

At this time in 2006, I too had now been practicing three years and was not "getting it". Why not? As I later discovered, I was looking for the answer where I wanted to find the answer and not where it was plainly and simply "hiding".)
* Question: Can Rolfing massage dis-armor a person?
Answer: Rolfing is only a form of massage therapy. There is no psychoanalytical counseling component. To the degree that armoring is a block to free flowing energy and Rolfing unsticks fascial adhesions, it might help but the emotional pattern of armoring is not affected.
(And I have heard arguments on both sides of the question: Can fascial adhesions form in the same pattern again if you don't address the underlying emotional armoring pattern? Some say, "Yes", and some say, "No".)
* Mike, your questions indicate that you are still looking for an answer in rules. The answer lies in feeling.

* How do you feel on one nice day? How do you feel after fourteen nice days in a row? Feeling changes. It's dynamic, pliable. As you practice, your body will change. Your ability to feel will change. Your feeling will change. Always changing. No rules.
("The method is not the truth, once you get the feeling, get rid of the method." For years I struggled with thinking of "the feeling" as a single, definitive, quantifiable feeling that I had to achieve and that this feeling was the holy grail of internal strength.

I was disappointed and frustrated hearing that "the feeling" changes! This concept did not fit in my neat and tidy box of data categories... which is a large part of why it took me more than three years to begin "getting it".)
* The universe moves in patterns and cycles. So too do people. Where these patterns are repeated is called habit. To break these habits is called growth. Here's an example. One cycle or pattern takes place is in eye movement. One method to break this pattern is to look up and to the right for two minutes. Then look up and to the left for two minutes. Do this every hour or so. Pay attention and notice the resultant affect.

* Sometimes practice playfully. Kids play and learn through playing. Be child-like and play sometimes.
(Playfulness is a huge part of Wujifa training. When I'd get too serious in class, then the jester would show up inspiring silliness or dance thus breaking-up the "trying" which created a letting go of trying which allowed a space for a more natural "me" to show up and in that space, growth happened. I've learned that sometimes trying or concentrating too hard is counterproductive.)
* Practicing the 10,000 things is shallow unless you find the common element, the underlying principle that unites them all. Most people can't do this, therefore, it's better to do only one thing very deeply then through depth, you will see how the 10,000 things are the same.

* Here's an example of a principle and 10,000 techniques. You've heard that eight out of ten fights end in grappling, clinching and going to the ground. To be on top you need to win the balance. Stand up now. Draw a line between your feet. The line perpendicular to the line connecting your feet is your weak gate. Every off-balancing throwing technique is based on exploiting this principle.

* Chinese will show a technique but not explain the purpose of the technique's application. If you understand the purpose, then you will know how and when to apply the technique. Just knowing techniques is not worth much.

* The simple Chen Xiaowang "Hip Circle Warm-up" exercise is the secret to advanced level practice. However, he doesn't tell you this. And most people copying this movement don't do it right (sinking, opening and closing the kua). The best place to hide something is where everyone can see it because most do not understand what they're looking at.
(In Wujifa we do what is called the "advanced side-to-side" which is based on Chen Xiaowang's "Hip Circle Warm-ups". In this exercise, we get into the details that are not explicitly covered in public classes.)
Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Ten Year Practice: Journal Notes #37
Next article in this series: Let Go. Got it? Ahhhhh: Journal Notes #39

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yan Gaofei Xing-Yi Basics Seminar 2006

Notes from the April 22-23, 2006 Yan, Gaofei seminar held at Plymouth, Michigan, USA. The seminar covered the Xing-Yi training and philosophy. This seminar was organized by The School of Cultivation and Practice. If you're new to this series, check out my introductory article, Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

Some Background
* Chinese are great observers. They noted the cycle of creation and destruction are balanced. The minimum number of elements in this cycle is five. So the Five Elements shows how the Chinese think in terms of the big picture and in terms of influences.

* Xing-yi focus is only on straight ahead, what is "in the alley". If attacked from side, then change position to face attacker so s/he is in "the alley".

* Xing-yi was developed from spear.

* All martial arts originated with elbows down. Only in competition were elbows raised because it looked fancier. Unfortunately, the elbows down has been lost in many forms.

* Here's how to check if your arm and elbow position is correct. Stop at any point and hold a ten pound weight. If you can hold it five minutes and shoulder muscles don't get sore, then position is correct. Keep elbows down!

* Logic of American boxing relies on muscular speed and not internal structure. Xing-yi relies on internal structure. Logic of Chinese internal arts:
  • Xing-yi: I move into your center.
  • Ba-gua: I move around your center.
  • Tai-chi: I am the center.
* In application, all three could be applied seamlessly in one exchange.

* Six Harmonies means internal connectedness. It does not mean a puppet-like "coordination", which is how this is often misinterpreted.
  • Shoulder and Kua
  • Knee and Elbow
  • Foot and Hand
* In Tai-chi it is said, "Rooted in the feet. Directed by the waist. Expressed in the fingers." The Six Harmonies is how to do that.

* It's better to train only one move and be able to do that instinctively than it is to train 200 moves and get stuck (even a split second delay) on "thinking" which move is the best in that situation.

* Xing-yi is the simplest of all the internal martial arts and hence the most effective art.

Xing-Yi Legs and Kua
* Stepping - Back foot at 45. Front foot straight. Heels on same line. Max power and stability on a line in "the alley". 70% in back leg. Shift briefly to front then finish into back leg.

* Kua - 80% of the "secret" of internal martial arts is in the kua.

* Inside of thighs must form an arch, not a triangle.

* You get the arch by rotating the top of the femur (greater trochanter) forward.

* Don't force it. Relaxing the top will naturally create the desired result. It's like the top is a screwdriver and the bottom is the screw. Relaxing opens the kua.

* Each art has its own way to describe correct kua movement; folding, rolling.



Xing-Yi Torso and Squatting Monkey
* Waist is the central pivot. As punching hand moves forward, pulling arm moves backward.

* Practice the "Squatting Monkey" exercise contract and squeeze. Contract as forearms and hands pass each other. Expand as if stretching, tearing something as punching hand extends and pulling hand retracts. Keep chest relaxed with expand.

* Upon contact with opponent, first move with squatting monkey is contracting to draw in opponent.




A rare video showing squatting monkey (Dai Xinyi) though not from this seminar:



Xing-Yi Arms
* In Xing-yi there are basically two arm moves:
  1. The pulling hand. Imagine pulling a rope attached to a wall and pulling the wall down. In application, intercept the incoming fist with palm up, turn over, grab, and pull opponent.

  2. The punching hand.

* Punching hand movements:
  • Water - Up the center then out.
  • Steel - Chop like an axe.
  • Wood - Straight out, drilling, fist knuckle out.
  • Fire - Pulling hand moves up and back. Punch straight in.
  • Earth - Angle step. Only Earth finishes with weight in front leg.
* Fire is not two vectors, rather just one circular vector.

Practice Engaging
* Practice engaging your opponent. If you only practice forms and you never practice engaging, then your practice lacks applicability. How to engage your opponent is key!

* Begin practice with a helper using a straight in punch. Practice with opposite hands, then with same side hands.

* The principle in all moves is upon contact, to immediately drop/sink, cover your center, turn, squeeze. This pulls opponent out of back heel and sets opponent up to fall into your oncoming fist effectively increasing your striking power by using gravity against him/her.

* First half of form (pulling) is to destabilize your opponent. The second half (continue pulling and punch) is to split/tear/rip your opponent.

* Consider how gravity can be used against your opponent. How your opponent's weight in gravity becomes the real enemy.

* Logic of two man form is as soon as you feel the force taking you off balance, then start the next move.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ten Year Practice: Journal Notes #37

Notes from my April 2006 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: In a previous class you said a beginner may feel the breathing creates a natural rocking motion: in-forward, out-backward and that over time, the external rocking should change to external stillness but internal movement. Well, I haven't experienced that feeling yet. Should I go back to practicing for that?
Answer: This is one of many methods. Remember, the method is not the truth.

* Question: How do you apply the "Feeling, Understanding, and Being Aware" cycle? I'm stuck on how to keep it going. It seems so simple.
Answer: Let go of the adult intellectual frustration with a simple idea and just get into doing that simple idea.
(One of my main "sticky points"was analysis paralysis; using analysis to paralyze, to avoid doing, to avoid acting. As I'm learning, a "sticky point" isn't necessarily limited to a chronically tense muscle. My attitudinal or emotional "stuff" shows up in my zhan zhuang and can just as effectively act as a impediment to developing the desired intention-structure.)
* Question: You said that in silk reeling, the forearm feels a twist. How does this transition between the different moves?
Answer: Don't mistake how a feeling is described for what you really do. If you do that, then you get stuck on that description of how I'm feeling and understanding and describing the feeling at this point in time.
(When I asked this question, I didn't understand how "the feeling" can change. I understand this better now and my understanding now is that the body changes and evolves as "the feeling" grows and evolves in the body so no single description is "the truth".

The biggest difficulty for me as a beginner was trying to feel what the master was describing, which I've learned is impossible. A beginner should not get caught up in trying to feel the master's feeling but rather focus on getting a beginner's feeling. I'm coming to understand why "sinking your Qi" or dropping your weight is a very functional first step; the beginner's feeling. The seed grows its root first before breaking the soil.

In the last Wujifa class before this post, I learned in my body: A Detailed Structural Analysis of the First Chen Style Silk Reeling Form. There is sooooo much more depth to feeling understanding silk reeling than the simple question I asked then!)
* Question: How do you stay curious?
Answer: The answer is in the question.

* The purpose of side-to-side is to develop the feeling of the kua.

* The mouth is very good at lying but the body is not.
(In real estate it's location, location, location. In zhan zhuang and developing internal strength it's Read the body! Read the body! Read the body!)
* Exercise. Hold a single grain of sand between your thumb and forefinger. Feel it. Feel every nuance of its surface. Do this thirty minutes everyday for ten years. If you focus and be serious, you will develop a very deep ability to feel.
(When I was 20 years old, I couldn't have imagined doing a simple exercise for 10 years into the future. (For example: zhan zhuang, the hair in the phone book, the grain of sand exercise.) Now at 50+, I could have done any one of these 10 year exercises three times over!

Why is it difficult to commit to a simple practice for ten years, yet in the same period of time, when looking back, we see a commitment to any of a variety of unconsciously "chosen" attitudes or behavior patterns? Isn't that interesting?)
* In Biblical Genesis, "the Word" is powerful. When you "give your word", when you promise yourself to practice, to develop skill, your "word" will carry you through all the bad times, the times when you don't feel like practicing. You will practice because you love your Word, you honor your commitment, you will not quit that to which you have committed in your heart. This is qualitatively different from the fascist discipline where a drill sergeant forces you to practice.

* Question: I notice my lower back across sacrum feels stretched to the point of hurting when doing side-to-side. Is this O.K.?
Answer: Yes. You have to get the lower back stretched out and open before you can begin to feel the fascial stretches in front.

* Question: Isn't pole shaking a variation of side-to-side?
Answer: Yes, but the movement in each kua is more complicated than in the simple, beginning side-to-side. Simple side-to-side will only yield the pole moving. There's the added (demonstration) to get the pole to shake. So now you see that pole shaking does not come from the arms. It comes from movement in the kua.
(This is another excellent example of... you interpret what you see at the level at which you are able to see, which may be an incorrect interpretation. This begs the question: How do you know if you are seeing at the appropriate level to understand the practice you are witnessing?

From my experience with internal arts, it is far more productive to err on the side of humility: "I see what I see and what I'm seeing is probably wrong." If you are convinced you understand and no one tells you any different, then you'll likely persist in your misguided assessment and practice incorrectly and build in bad habits.

When I could only see and understand that pole shaking was caused by sudden arm motion, I did it wrong even though I thought I was doing it correctly. Luckily, I got "called to the mat" and when I accepted how stuck my kua were, I stopped doing "pole shaking" and got to work on my kua.)
* It's not about "Should I stay or should I go?", it's about what does this situation have to teach me? What lesson, what understanding am I suppose to get from this?
(The other day while standing in zhan zhuang, I said to myself at 20 minutes, at 40 minutes, and at 55 minutes, "Why do I keep wasting my time with this crap?" To which I responded, "Keep standing." I finished my hour. The next day, practice went very smooth and easy and time flew by. My first time check was at 50 minutes.)
Keep practicing!

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Walls, Heads and Hearts: Journal Notes #36
Next article in this series: Hiding Secrets in Plain Sight: Journal Notes #38

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.