Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting Up and Down: Journal Notes #45

Notes from my March 2007 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: I think I've got a better feeling of sink and push-up. Am I doing it right? Please verify.
Answer: Yes. Better. Continue 1,2,3,4 ; 1,2,3,4 and practice noticing all together at the same time instead of individually as you have been doing. Get the up-and-down feeling and keep that feeling as you sink further and adjust.

* Question: When I practice side-to-side, I noticed I can get the push up feeling even from the empty leg. What's the best way to practice? Should I be pushing up only from the weighted leg or also from the empty leg? Should the Yin leg really be empty of everything?
Answer: For where you are now, practice the up-and-down feeling on the weighted leg and practice the push-up on the empty leg. Using the Yin-Yang concept is a useful distinction for you at this level. But functionally, when you maintain push-up from both feet regardless of which has the weight, then you really are no longer playing Yin and Yang. When you are no longer Yin-Yang, then you are Wuji.

* Question: I haven't seen (on-line) any other zhan zhuang teachers talk about structure like you do. What's the reason for the Wujifa 1,2,3,4 ; 1,2,3,4?
Answer: The reason for 1,2,3,4 is to maximize a natural relaxing. For example, if the heels are wider than the shoulders, then the inner thigh muscles tighten, the gluteal muscles tighten and the femur heads roll back. To a beginner, there is so much chronic tension that this tightening is largely imperceptible but there nonetheless. Only with practiced relaxing can you begin to notice these more subtle differences.

Learning to stand in a zhan zhuang position using 1,2,3,4 ; 1,2,3,4 can show us how and where we are holding. The more you relax and let go in yourself, the more you can see holding and letting go in others.
(This note came out of a self-demonstration. I remember being told to stand with my feet a little wider than shoulder width and while in this posture, it was pointed out to me which muscles were engaged in this structure and how those same muscles relaxed in the 1,2,3,4 structure. Very interesting!)

* Question: What do you mean that Tai-chi has only two movements: Expand and Contract?
Answer: Seek elongation in all movement. Most people who come to practice Tai-chi are chronically contracted. Rather than learning forms in their contracted state, their first practice should focus on learning relax, expand, elongate. After you learn relax, expand, elongate, then you will understand contract. Then you will experience for yourself that Tai-chi moves are variations of these two kinesthetic feelings.

Question: How can I practice walking with opening and closing the kua in my daily life?
Answer: Don't jump ahead to what you're not ready for. Stick to exploring one thing very deeply then you will discover the answer to the question you are asking.
(See? I was just getting a feel for the up-and-down and I wanted to go do something else. A big part of training for me is keeping me focused on where I'm at.)

* Question: So, I've learned I could never have gotten any of this from reading books and watching video tutorials. So what's the use of books and videos if I really can't learn this from books and videos?
Answer: Those who do not know will try to learn from someone else' notes. Once you know, then you learn from yourself, refine yourself. After you are learning from yourself, then when you read someone else' notes, you will know who is authentically describing the feeling and who is just mouthing words to fool those who do not know.

* At the Wujifa school there is a little battery operated Yoda who sometimes wakes up and provides words of wisdom. Today's Yoda quote was: "Do or Do Not. There is no try."
From the 1977 Star Wars scene where Yoda is training Luke in using the Force:

Luke: We'll never get it out now.
Yoda: So certain are you. Always with you, it cannot be done. Do you nothing that I say?
Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: Alright, I'll give it a try.
Yoda: No! Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.
(There's a couple gems in this little scene.

I've come to learn that "try" is an excuse to allow for and may even set up the opportunity for failure. "I tried to stand for an hour but I just couldn't - it was too hard. But I tried."

I can now feel that there is a difference in the underlying intention of try vs. do. "I'm going to try to stand an hour." vs. "I'm going to stand an hour." The more I practice, the more clear intention becomes to me.

What I've learned about unlearning... This can refer to undoing habits or patterns of thinking and moving. The biggest obstacle to my learning internal strength through the Wujifa system has been all the other stuff I previously learned. I had to do a lot of "unlearning". Sometimes, I learn what I unlearned but it's not what I learned - kind of the same words, but a totally different understanding.)

* Question: What does a good training program look like?
Answer: At this point in your practice, Mike, your standard training should be:
  • One hour stance in the morning.
  • One hour stance in the evening.
  • One hour side-to-side and silk reeling.
(As I write the post, I'm feeling like I'm the worst student at the Wujifa school. If I really, really followed the training regimen laid out four years ago, I could be so much further along than I am!

As I've probably mentioned before, my pattern, which is not uncommon, is to pull back after I breakthrough to even more feeling. I take two steps forward and one step back. At some point though, I will need to grow past even this pattern.)


* Question: I've noticed how speech patterns can be kind of "locked-in" like a chronic muscular tension. How do you change a speech pattern?
Answer: Most people are stuck in one pattern. It can be difficult to notice your own speech patterns and replace them with other patterns. Anything can be framed any way. To begin playing with this, use a coin toss to frame any event as positive or negative.

* Establish a strong intention of what you want. Pick one thing. Keep a notebook. Don't get distracted.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Match and Mismatch: Journal Notes #44
Next article in this series: Shifts Happen: Journal Notes #46

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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Match and Mismatch: Journal Notes #44

Notes from my February 2007 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: I've noticed in recent months that you've been adjusting my structure differently than in the past. Is this a different level of 1,2,3,4?
Answer: 1,2,3,4 is always the same. Now you're feeling and adjusting at deeper levels. As you relax and open the hips, you're getting more movement in the hips and relying less on the knees and ankles as a virtual hip joint. So the adjustments are in response to how your body is changing.
(In the most recent Wujifa class I attended, I noticed there were even fewer and less frequent adjustments to my physical structure. Rather, the more frequent "adjustment" was my instructor asking me, "OK, where are you now?"

For me, the increasing levels of feeling, of being present in my body is so overwhelming that "I" disconnect "psychologically". This is an armor that also shows up in other areas of my life. I tend to externalize and rationalize certain emotions rather than fully engage and experience them internally in the present moment. Stance practice is a great place to notice this and a safe place to work on integrating these aspects.

In my own stance practice, I am able to notice when I'm already disconnected and then when I reconnect but I'm not yet able to notice the moment when I disconnect or at a more subtle level, what prompts "me" to disconnect. This is one area I continue working on.)


* Regarding the way people sort or process information, here's how I understand "Match and Mismatch".

According to NLP, people run different meta-programs. What I'm calling "Match" is what traditional NLP calls "Sameness sorting", people who look for similarities. In "Difference sorting", people look for differences. Mismatch is a third type of sorting sometimes called "Same-ness/Difference sorting."

When I run "Match", I dismiss the uniqueness and value of a new experience by categorizing it as being the same as a similar previous experience. By claiming sameness, there's nothing new to discover in the current experience. Notice. Analyze. Match. Done. Next.
(I've discovered that I tend to run "match". While useful in some situations, when it comes to stance, this is another way I use to disconnect from the present moment; it's the same as 'X', so I don't really have to be here now. My tendency to do this is also a factor in why it is taking me so long to develop internal strength.

That said, "Match" is not bad when it comes to taking care of "To Do" lists. However, if it's the only meta-program I run, then it can become a sticky point.)

* Question: Don't I want to run "match" in stance, for example, always find and go to the "sunk" or "drop" feeling?
Answer: In stance, always run mismatch. Your stance is never the same from one session to the next. If you can notice at a fine enough level, even your feeling of drop changes each time you practice. Your body changes with every practice session. And in between practice sessions, your body also changes. It's a false mental construct to think you can duplicate the exact same feeling as last time.

* Question: How to work with counter moving forces? When I sink and push up, these cancel each other. How do I do both completely and simultaneously?
Answer: This is a phase you're going through. Once you notice down, you assume up must be the opposite. You assume both are distinct because you're working in a Yin-Yang paradigm. When you feel both as one feeling, then you'll have jumped out of the Yin-Yang paradigm and tasted the Wujifa paradigm.
(The sinking feeling is my noticing my muscles relaxing which creates a stretching kind of feeling as gravity pulls my softer, relaxed muscles down off my skeleton which by comparison, does not move. Pushing up from the heels is a trick to help notice the feeling of the skeletal structure, so I don't develop a collapsed structure. Remember, relaxed is not limp. Relaxing simultaneously creates a sinking and pushing up feeling, however, only focusing on the sinking, I can't feel the raising/pushing up feeling. Noticing both arising together...)

* When I practice at home, I can't hit that "sweet spot" that I'm guided to while in class. The place I get to in class then becomes my goal to try to repeat during the week in my own practice.
(In Wujifa class, I will receive adjustments that can take me five steps ahead of what I'm capable of producing on my own. It's like I'm shown what lies ahead. And then in my own practice, I try to recreate that kinesthetic memory, which I can't really do because "me" or "my body" really isn't ready to sustain that level yet.

For example, in a recent Wujifa class, I got to a point in stance, with minimal adjustments, that yielded a similar feeling of "intense presence" and connectedness that I felt about three years ago with a lot of adjustments. Three years ago, the feeling completely overwhelmed me; "blew my mind". This time it was a little more familiar and comfortable except that I couldn't stay with it.)

* Question: Is the Dan Tian feeling I got last time something to strive for?
Answer: No. The feeling of the Dan Tian will arise naturally through your regular practice.
(Here's another example of my tendency to want to match my present practice experience to an experience in the past. In this case, by inquiring about whether I should force myself to find a feeling based on where my body was yesterday, last week, last month...

It's easy for me to get stuck trying to force a feeling I heard or read about, or have some mental concept about, or I
get stuck on trying to recreate a feeling I once experienced. For me, it's more challenging to stay present, work at the level I'm at and notice how the feeling keeps changing and evolving.)
* Question: Is the feeling of connection more kinesthetic or more a general awareness?
Answer: You're asking from a Yin-Yang perspective. Jump out of this.
(Again, I was looking to try to match the feeling I didn't yet feel to some concept or other feeling I once had instead of being present in training and noticing, and trying to describe whatever feeling I'm noticing. When I tried describing recently what I was feeling, I was told, "What you're trying to describe is the feeling of connectedness.")

* The body remembers the energetic experience but the memory assigns different meaning to that over time. Strip away the meaning you've assigned and get to the feeling experience.
(For me, another problem with "match" is that I tend to match to concepts and meanings assigned to kinesthetics and so my trying to match to a kinesthetic feeling will usually be mistaken. "Match" always works with the past. I make the most progress when I am present.)

* The terms "open" and "closed" depend on which art names the feeling. The point is to be able to feel and do both and not get caught up arguing semantics.

* The clearer the purpose, the better the teacher will be.

* We read a children's story in class: Hou Yi Learns Archery. What I got from this story is that a teacher can teach you the skills but cannot give you the experience in applying those skills. You have to gain experience on your own.

* Question: What's the difference between bracing and internal strength? Pushing against two people, one using brace and one using internal strength, both feel the same to me.
Answer: Bracing means to line up the structure so it is rigid and strong in one direction. The problem with this is that if you are pushed (take a force) from off-point of the brace, then you are weak and have to re-adjust the brace to that direction. True internal strength is more like an egg in that it has strength in all directions. The entire structure can take pressure from any direction.

(From my experience, bracing is the easier internal skill to master. However strong bracing is, brace is not the real internal strength. The more I practice, the clearer the distinction becomes as my instructor points out to me when I am using brace and when I'm using the real internal strength. I tend to fall back and rely on brace when the incoming force overwhelms what my fledgling and weak internal strength can ground.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Circle of Influence: Journal Notes #43
Next article in this series: Getting Up and Down: Journal Notes #45

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Circle of Influence: Journal Notes #43

Notes from my January 2007 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 the best way to use curiosity? Is it OK to follow curiosity wherever it may lead me or is it better to stick with a disciplined plan?
Answer: In your case, Mike, where your approach has been, "I've got a problem to fix. Where's the problem?" then yes, following curiosity is a step to the playfulness that leads to progress.
(This theme of "playfulness" in practice will be revisited in upcoming entries. What I've learned is that I tend to approach zhan zhuang practice too seriously, with too much focus on identifying a problem and fixing it (relaxing the tension). My approach was: "Tell me the steps to develop internal strength. I'll practice those steps. I'll develop internal strength." Well, I discovered that it doesn't exactly work that way. This attitude in and of itself has a kind of rigidity and tension to it. So I've struggled with how much focus, curiosity, playfulness is enough and in what measure and balance.

As we were discussing at a recent Wujifa class, it's the difference between a technician, a craftsman and an artist. I'm at the craftsman level - with my Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice - but to really "get" internal strength, I need to jump to the artist level.)

* Question: I've noticed up and down and have been playing with that. Any suggestions on what to do with this, on how to develop this?
Answer: What you're calling "down" is sinking or dropping the Qi. So that's a big step. One problem with your "down" is that your "up" looks dead. You need to keep the top alive. Don't hold down. Don't push down. If down then allow up. When down, then push up with the feet and legs. Play with down/sunk lowering legs then raising up. As you've discovered, the up comes after the down.

* Question: I've been relaxing my lower back which feels like a pushing out as opposed to the usual tightness and this has created pain. but not bad pain. I've been able to extend this feeling up my back as well. Am I hurting myself or is this part of the process?
Answer: You're using strength (force) as a "medicine" to feel the fascial connections. This is OK in the short term to get the feeling of fascial connection but don't get stuck on or addicted to the method of using strength. Remember, the method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method.
(This is such a good point! Using force/strength/muscular tension to get an isolated feeling of connectedness is like the finger pointing at the moon because using strength violates the principle of relax. If you can feel connectedness with force, look for a "similar" feeling when relaxed. And remember, relax is not limp. The relaxed connected feeling will be different from the forced connected feeling. Different elements are at play with each method.)

* Question: What can I do to help loosen the ocular block?
Answer: Play with moving the forehead: raise and lower the eyebrows, smile and frown with the forehead. Practice expressing emotions with your face.
(An "ocular block" is a physical manifestation of chronic muscular tension or flaccidity around the eyes. An ocular block functions much like horse blinders by limiting one's field of vision. It is commonly noticed by no or limited movement in facial expressions around the eyes as opposed to every spoken word being accompanied by an emotional facial expression. (Some arts don't care about ocular blocks, in fact, some arts strive to block facial emotional expression and not notice. Think of the "poker face" as an example.) In Wujifa, simply noticing muscular tensions and developing fascial connections will lead to noticing subtleties such as noting muscular tensions around the eyes, jaw, etc...)

* I've come to understand that the various Qigong exercises are designed to work on specific problem areas, to open chronic tightness in specific areas. To the extent that each person has their own unique pattern of chronic tightness, a teacher must understand the purpose of a Qigong exercise and "prescribe" that exercise to that individual. It is not the best practice to "carte blanche" have an entire class or group all do the same Qigong exercises, unless of course, the individuals in the class all have some degree of the same problem.
(My understanding then wasn't quite complete or accurate. There are general Qigongs, for example, Eight Pieces of Brocade, Five Rites, etc., which benefit almost everyone and then there are specific Qigongs designed to be applied as "medicines".

In Wujifa, practitioners are given specific exercises to overcome certain problems, for example, a person who has a problem with the chest collapsing or hunching will do the "Atlas Holds Up the World" posture which rolls the shoulders back and opens the chest.)

* Question: Why don't we practice "Holding the Ball" like I see most other zhan zhuang styles?
Answer: Regarding the various zhan zhuang styles where the arms are held up at shoulder level, most of these positions are for advanced practitioners. If the beginner tries these, he'll focus too much on and develop too much tension in the shoulders when the primary focus should be on relaxing and sinking the weight.

Beginners should practice zhan zhuang with the arms hanging down at the side (elbows near the floating rib) with only forearms held up, parallel to the floor with wrists and hands relaxed. This takes the focus off the shoulders to allow the mind to focus on relaxing and dropping the weight into the legs.
(I, Mike's ego, struggled with this 'form' of zhan zhuang for a long time. If I'm "Holding The Ball", then I can brag about doing something special, "I'm practicing Holding the Ball Qigong". The problem is that the focus is misplaced on doing something special instead of on relaxing. This particular stance felt really dumb and mundane to my ego that wanted "special". I had to learn this lesson.)

* Question: What is the relation between the persuasion or hypnotism arts like NLP and the martial arts?
Answer: Remember the original Star Wars movie from 1977? See the YouTube clip: "These are not the droids you are looking for. ... The Force can have a strong influence on the weak minded."
(I completely did not understand this Star Wars scene and asked about this old journal entry at a recent Wujifa class. I think I have a clearer understanding now. Look for a separate, upcoming post about this particular scene.)

* My questions have tended to be outside the range of where I'm currently capable of practicing. And so I was introduced to a concept from Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, namely, The Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern. I've been putting my attention on concerns that I cannot currently influence. It would be better for me to put my attention on what I can influence and grow my "Circle of Influence" until it reaches my "Circle of Concern".
(If you haven't seen the book, here's a adaptation which illustrates this concept. Yeah, it can be tough to admit to yourself, "You are where you are and that's where you start." My thinker thought I was at a high level but my body was actually at a beginner level. I think I didn't start making any real progress until I got in sync with where my body was; recognizing my circle of influence.)

* The first 1,2,3,4 - the poles - is a method for the beginner to help begin to feel and to pay attention to structure. (See the Wujifa Zhan Zhuang Alignment article.) The feeling of the poles is a feeling of alignment. If you told the beginner to feel and connect, this truth would get diluted because it's too much to feel. So you use a visual image as a reference point to set up a feeling, a structure that develops without the student being aware of it at a deeper feeling level.

* Question: I noticed that I can feel my lower back and my neck but not so much inbetween. What's up with that? Is this normal?
Answer: Yes. The stages of developing feeling in the back go like this (see drawing):



* Some say a Wujifa teacher gives each student a piece of the puzzle so the students must work together to understand or see the whole. Rather, a good Wujifa teacher will give each student what that student needs for his/her purpose. So of course, each student will have a different understanding which may help the other student at some point.

* Saying, "The method is not the truth, once you get the feeling, get rid of the method." implies that the method is a lie. So, teach lies that point to the truth. The finger is not the moon.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Changing My Diet: Journal Notes #42
Next article in this series: Match and Mismatch: Journal Notes #44

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Regrets of the Dying and Zhan Zhuang Practice

In the middle of doing my Wujifa Zhan Zhuang standing practice the other morning, the morning radio DJs ran down a list of the Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware.

How do these regrets speak to me? To me, the theme of these regrets revolves around feeling and connecting.

I came from a place where I was pretty emotionally shut down and disengaged. My desire to develop internal strength led me to practice Wujifa zhan zhuang which has pushed me to feel (feeling kinesthetics, feeling emotions), and to connect (connecting kinesthetically, connecting emotionally).

Here is an excerpt from her article:
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
  1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
  3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Read the entire article which includes her comments under each item.

I resonated more with items 1, 3, and 5 than with 2 and 4. How about you?

I'm glad I heard about this list now as I was certainly on the road to having these same regrets. It's been a difficult road for me to walk this road of feeling and connecting but I'm finding life is more interesting and in a different way as I slowly change from being zombie-like to being more alive.

Feel and connect!

Happy practicing everyone!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Changing My Diet: Journal Notes #42

Notes from my November-December 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.)

(There were no notes for October 2006 and very few notes for November and December, so these months' notes are combined here.)

* Question: Does my diet, what I eat, contribute in any way to developing internal strength?
Answer: Eating habits determine energy level. For example, eating a raw, live-food diet yields the highest energy levels. Eating habits can contribute to improvements in stance but following any particular diet is not required.
(I think what's interesting about eating habits is noticing how my body feels when I change my habit. For example, when I gave up sugar, I had strong cravings for sugar - I call it sugar withdrawal. When I was growing and juicing my own wheat grass, a mere ounce of wheat grass juice gave me a jolt of energy which felt qualitatively different from the energy of a larger amount of a sugar-caffeine drink.

So while eating a certain way will neither contribute to nor detract from developing internal strength, for me personally, noticing the results of my eating habits has given me a lot of insights into how my body works. For example, eating a good amount of fiber in the morning can help me out in the afternoon.)

* Question: What do I do with all these different kinesthetic feelings I'm noticing? Is there some progression or something?
Answer: The progression is something like this:
  1. Noticing individual feelings (for example, local fascial stretch, tension, relax, numb, etc.).
  2. Connecting fascial pathways (refer to Anatomy Trains).
  3. Discovering how one feeling contributes to another feeling.
* The question came up again, How long should I stand each day? Answer:
  • First twenty minutes for health.
  • Second twenty to forty minutes for health and development.
  • Third forty to sixty minutes for development.
* In class, I was given repeated postural adjustments and I was able to feel where one kua muscle was relaxed in a previously incorrect posture and how another muscle worked harder when moved into the correct posture while the relaxed muscle was relaxed. The trick was to keep the relaxed muscle relaxed. The "activated" muscle was not strong enough to do the work alone. I noticed/got a much clearer feeling and understanding of what "relaxed" in the kua area means. I have something very specific to work on. Very, very cool!

* There is a difference between looking at and copying a movement based on sight (structure) vs. copying the feeling that gives energy to the structure.
(In the internal arts like Qi-gong, Silk Reeling, Tai-chi, Ba-gua and Xing-yi, many teachers only teach the external, mechanical movement and not surprisingly, many students only see and learn the external, mechanical movement. However, the real stuff is in the feeling; noticing what the body is doing to create the external, mechanical movement. It took me a long time to develop an "eye" for this.)
* Question: What does it mean to use the knee as a hip joint?
Answer: Using the knee as a hip joint means that the knee and lower back move but the hips stay locked in place due to chronic muscular tension.
(The first time I heard this, it made absolutely no sense to me, and for a long time after. However, the more I practice and deal with my own tensions as well as seeing tensions in others, the more I understand what this means; it's as if the upper femur and pelvis are fused into one bone which leaves the knee and lower back to function as a hinge instead of hinging at the hips.)

* Having flexibility in the hip allows you to use the hip to sink the weight without having to go into a lower stance, bending deeper with the knees.
(Another problem with tight hips that I experienced is that adjustments to my structure to get my weight to drop into my legs typically resulted in my "ratcheting down" with each adjustment. I've since learned that low stance is not required to sink the weight but the hips need to be more relaxed.)

* "Fascial stretch" are words used to describe a feeling that cannot be adequately described.

* Question: Do I have to resolve all my problems and get rid of all my armors to get internal strength?
Answer: Resolving problems, dissolving armoring is not required to get the basic structure, however, doing so does contribute to reducing the time it takes to develop good structure.
(Rolfing massage therapy has done wonders for improving my structure! I highly recommend this!)

* Question: What about using affirmations to help develop internal strength?
Answer: For most people, reciting affirmations doesn't work because there's no feeling underlying or energizing the words.

* Question: How does the old Bible verse, "Ask and you shall receive." apply in this practice?
Answer: If you read for data, you will get data. If you read for feeling, you will get feeling. You get what you are looking for.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Not the Usual Child's Play: Journal Notes #41
Next article in this series: Circle of Influence: Journal Notes #43

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