Monday, April 30, 2012

Setting Your Intention: Journal Notes #89

Notes from my April 2011 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: Can Wujifa practice be integrated into Yoga?
Answer: The Yoga "stretch" and the Wujifa "Extend" appear to be similar mechanically but the difference is in the underlying intention. Wujifa focuses on developing the feeling of fascial connectedness, a tumescence throughout the entire body. Yoga practitioners tend to break connection to get stretch. Stretch works with limp but in Wujifa, relax is not limp.

* Question: How does 1,2,3,4, - 1,2,3,4 elicit feeling? If I focus on the method, then I'm not focusing on feeling. How do I focus on feeling with method?
Answer: Do the external aspect of the method first. Get yourself set up structurally then shift focus. Notice the feeling. Keep it simple. What do you notice? Where is your weight? Check. Feel. Go external and check structure and make adjustments, then go internal and feel.

* Question: It seems whenever I think, I'm pulling myself into my head and out of my body. Do I have to stop thinking altogether to stay feeling in my body?
Answer: Being grounded and thinking are not mutually exclusive experiences. The tendency to think and pull up into the head and lose grounded-ness could be based on fear. This kind of somatic division is often associated with a perception of safety. In fact, you can learn to integrate the two. Notice what you are feeling the moment before you pull up into your head.

* We watched a Youtube video of Yao Sr. doing Yi-chuan. I noticed relaxed muscles, fascial stretch and small kua movement. We then watched a Youtube video of Yao Jr. doing Yi-chuan and I noticed his movements were more muscle-ing yet with fascial stretch and larger kua movement. Then I tried these same movements and was awful. Shoulders too tight. Too much trying. Not relaxed enough. But with much coaching from my instructor, I was able to hit that "effortless" movement once or twice.

* In those moments where I'm present and connected, I say that that feeling "feels like nothing" to me. It's like the feeling of present-connected-effortless is so different from anything else I've ever felt or experienced that I have nothing to compare it to. I can't say that it is "like" anything. I can't figure out how to recreate "that nothing feeling" and how to practice "that nothing feeling" that my instructor is able to physically adjust my structure or coach me into for me to feel it. This aspect is what continues to frustrate me the most.

* Question: How do I write a real zhan zhuang training journal? As I review my notes so far, I realize that it's mostly class notes and not specifically personal notes documenting my personal training.
Answer: Take a Project Management point of view. You are the manager and your project is stance training to develop your feeling of fascial connection. Prior to your stance practice session, write down what you intention is for that session, what you're going to work on, and how long you will stand. And then immediately after you stand, write down a quick note about your experience and any questions, insights, or observations that came up. And if you didn't meet your intention, then write down why not.
You can also log an "Intention for the Day". Set an intention on what you intend to do that day. Make a choice. Act on it. See it through. Then at the end of the day, log if you met your intention and if not, then what pulled you away. Periodically review these journals and you will see your patterns. You'll see when and how you made progress. You'll see when you got distracted and what distracts you. You'll see the excuses you make. You'll see how you're holding yourself back.
Your pattern Mike, and this is quite common, is that every time you open to a new level of feeling, every time you get more connected, every time you get closer, then you either literally run away or you emotionally withdraw or shut down with a variety of excuses. What people typically miss is a strategy to identify how their excuses camouflage what they don't want to feel or connect with. They miss a strategy for how to stay in the game and keep going when they are being pulled away.
In your case specifically, data is your strength but you're not using your strength to your best advantage. You've got lots of class notes. It's all good data but you don't have any data about what you do, about what drives you and your practice. You now need to gather that data! Analyze that data! Make choices about your practice based on own your personal data!
What if there are no more excuses?

* Question: Why does it take so long to "get" this stuff?
Answer: The process of developing internal strength should take about three years to get through the door. Most people can be guided to the door and when they come to the door, instead of going through the door, they walk away and go look for another door or they quit altogether and make excuses about why something else external was more important.

* Question: Is there a way to speed up the process of relaxing?
Answer: Notice what's already relaxing instead of noticing what's tense and what needs to relax. Change your perspective. Grow relaxing. Nurture relaxing.
If you only notice multiple small problems like this area is tense, that area is tense, then you will never notice the big problem. But you won't be able to address the bigger problem until you resolve the smaller problems. This is the paradox. You won't be able to fix enough of the small problems to get to where you need to go. Focus on relaxing and growing relaxing and the small problems tend to resolve themselves.
(This is such sage advice... but which totally contradicts my personality, and so is so difficult for me to employ. And so, it is the student, me, who has to change at a more fundamental level, stop looking for problems to fix, to be able to employ such simple wisdom.)

* I love what my school brother, Dan, said in class today, "There is no goal outside of the path. The path is the goal."

* Question: Why are your answers to my questions never what I expect?
Answer: If you get an answer along the lines you expect, then your training gets stuck along those lines. Getting an answer you don't expect gets you real growth.

* Question: So I'm noticing more feeling stuff now. How am I doing with this?
Answer: You're noticing mostly by-products and this is fueled by judgement. You need more congruency between your intention and what you're noticing. Judgement is based on the idea that something is wrong which infers that something needs fixing. You get stuck in this loop a lot.

* Question: Regarding keeping a zhan zhuang training journal, what does it mean to make functional decisions?
Answer: A zhan zhuang training journal is a method, a small and simple way to develop intention. The number one intention of this method is to develop your intention on various levels. A kung-fu mind creates kung-fu practice creates kung-fu results. First, develop your intention!
Kung-fu comes from sparring with life. You set an intention and then notice what pulls you away and how it pulls you away and why it pulls you away. The zhan zhuang training journal exposes what your excuses are.
Practice is like the physical Law of Motion. Someone who continually makes changes will continue making changes. Someone who is stuck will remain stuck. Getting unstuck from a monkey-see, monkey-do practice takes some effort to get the ball rolling. But, the more you do it, the easier it is to stay with the intention.

* So I'm realizing more clearly now that in nearly 30 years I still haven't got this internal strength because my intention was not clear at the outset. When I look at my history, I can see my intention changed over time.

* Practice gets down to time management. Very practical.

* A functional way to use a zhan zhuang training journal:
  1. Set the intention.
  2. Notice a problem area and what you did.
  3. If something comes up and it pulls you away, this tells you that you intention is not clear enough and that your intention is more about maintaining armors.
  4. What is your Action Plan? What will you do next time "something comes up"? Your action plan is not your intention.
  5. Tips: Write down your intention the night before. Stick to a pattern of practice and never deviate. When you notice something not part of your intention then say, "That's interesting" and let it go.


Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Noticing the Emotional Wall: Journal Notes #88
Next article in this series: - Zhan Zhuang and Quality Control: Journal Notes #90

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Noticing the Emotional Wall: Journal Notes #88

Notes from my March 2011 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 have the habit of saying, "That's weird" in response to noticing a new kinesthetic feeling in stance practice. In this context, I notice that feeling precedes thought. However, I have the same verbal response to a variety of new kinesthetic feelings. Why would I respond with, "That's weird"? What could be the underlying intention or pre-supposition to my saying this?
Answer: Knowing you, Mike, it could be judgment. I've seen you curious and I've seen you judge and shut down. Try being curious without the judgment. What do you notice?

* During stance practice in class, our instructor adjusts our zhan zhang postures. While working on one student, some emotions started surfacing from the adjustments. In response to this, I noticed that I disappeared into "stance trance". I went emotionally numb. Later I realized that I'm afraid of feeling emotionally charged situations and so I shut down, withdraw, disappear. I do the same thing in zhan zhuang when the kinesthetic feeling overwhelms me.

* During a class where we did a lot of bio-work, I recognized my "baseline feeling", meaning, the amount or level of feeling I usually connect with, which is more a disconnected, non- to little-feeling state. It's where I'm in a "lifeless data mode", where there is no "sparkle" in my eye. It's where I feel emotionally "safe". We spent some time trying to get me to display named feelings on command. I couldn't do it. I don't know many feeling labels or names. All this work left me very tired but my body relaxed and opened up a bit more.

* I was thinking about how exhausted I was after class the other day. I recalled a comment, "It must be very tiring to keep that wall up." I need to learn how to connect with and express emotions and stop holding up the wall against emotional feeling.
(The deeper my practice gets, the more often I find that feeling is feeling. I repeatedly find a direct link between my ability to feel kinesthetically and my ability to feel emotionally. To the extent I block feeling one is the extent to which I block feeling of the other. To the extent I engage and feel one is the extent to which I engage and feel the other. Progress in deepening feeling kinesthetically hinges on progress in deepening feeling emotionally).

* We had a long discussion about questions, principles and processes. The main point to get is that when you are clear on your purpose, then you will be clear on what is "in scope" and what is "out of scope" when it comes to what you need to practice.



* I've been practicing the 3 breath cycle method we talked about last month and have noticed the following:
  • It's possible to keep track of the count without counting.
  • Counting helps to keep the mind engaged and reduces wandering thoughts.
  • Toward end of practice sessions, I'm able to keep some mind in body and some keeping track of count.
  • I had an idea to log what I noticed holding and letting go of and made an effort between sessions to check-in on one of those and let go if tense and what life situations cause it to tense.


Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Ph.D. Level Gong-Fu: Journal Notes #87
Next article in this series: - Setting Your Intention: Journal Notes #89

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ph.D. Level Gong-Fu: Journal Notes #87

Notes from my February 2011 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.)

* We worked with different levels of abdominal breathing: Front (typical), Back, Sides, each individually and then front and back together, and then front, back and sides together. Synchronizing all three felt very expansive on the inhale. However, I'm using too much muscle. I'm trying to force the expansion. I need to work more on relaxing muscle and allowing the breathing to create the expansion.

* I'm convinced now, more than ever, that a written description of a kinesthetic feeling that I'm feeling could be misleading to those who have not experienced the feeling I'm trying to describe.

* Here's an exercise to help open the pelvic floor. Keep back straight. Feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Toes pointed out no more than 45 degree. Knees over toes. Make a big open space between legs. Start with elbows straight. Butt drops in line perpendicular to floor. Bend elbows as drop. Don't pull back with hands. Hold on only as a guide. Feel stretch throughout back. Feeling of opening is more subtle than the muscular forcing feeling opening. Tip: Don't try to get a feeling. Notice the muscular feeling. Notice something else besides the muscular feeling. Simply notice what is there.



* We talked about how the muscles can be engaged differently, for example, when doing a push or ward-off, and this is the result of practicing in changing the body.

* In Wujifa stance, the forearm bones should be over each other. In my case, when I get my ulna and radius bones "stacked" over each other, then my hands twist inward. An example of structural patterning. I could work on stretching the tendons in my forearms and wrist and hand.

* Question to myself. Why don't I seriously take all the stuff I've written in my journal and put it all into my practice? I've got a ton of great training tips and I practice only the tip of the iceberg.

* Wujifa is Ph.D. level gong-fu. It's not Tai-chi 101. Beginning martial arts classes are largely about imitating what the teacher is doing whether it's forms, techniques or applications. At this level, you must be more independent in your approach. You should be noticing what's going on internally with your structure, balance, relax, and experimenting to discover more connection. Experiment, notice, verify. Experiment, notice, verify.

* I've been practicing the breathing exercises and squats for two weeks and I'm noticing a new level of movement through my lower back.



* Even though my questions have shifted from data to more feeling, they are still at the level of "Just tell me what I need to do. Fix me".

* I saw an orthotics therapist who diagnosed me as having a slightly deformed foot. Hence the reason for my knee pain and inability to do a full squat. He prescribed orthotic inserts. What was interesting is that after five minutes of adjusting my structure in class, I gained another 12" of squat depth. Lesson learned: Experiment with various foot structures. Find one where squatting is easier and deeper. Then experiment more. This is my gong-fu. Figure out how to change the body.

* I discovered while practicing the Yan Gaofei arm circle exercises that I can't feel the twining feeling in my forearm. I can feel when I pinch, scratch and rub my forearms, but I can't feel my muscles and fascia moving and twining under the skin. Argh! So frustrating!
(Exposing another pattern. I could have been overjoyed to discover an area where I was numb, an opportunity to develop more feeling and connection, but instead, I felt frustrated and angry upon discovering this area of numbness. Interesting...)

* Question: What chunk size should I adjust to in noticing what and where to make corrections during my zhan zhuang stance practice?
Answer: Use the 80/20 rule. Which adjustment will yield the biggest result? Calibrate to where and how relax creates the most feeling of connection. This method also influences the overall level of psychology. Don't focus on a problem, of not doing it good enough or not right. If you're always noticing something to adjust, this can foster "stance dance" and analysis paralysis.

One method is to scan your body for proper 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 structure and then be with that structure for 3 breaths. On the next breath, scan and adjust with 1 breath. Repeat. Slowly increase to a 5 breath cycles, then 10 breath cycles, etc. Work your way up to a 100 breath cycle.

Let go of looking for something to fix. Simply "be" with your experience of standing. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking you have to do more to get more.

Remember Steven Covey's "Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern". You may be concerned about "X" in stance but can only influence "Y" right now. Using the breath cycles can also help you to calm down and relax.

If you can do one thing well, master just that one thing. For example, getting the feet truly parallel might be like getting your first belt in karate.

Become aware of your pattern in noticing and making adjustments to your pattern of noticing.



Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Body Mind Sticky Spots: Journal Notes #86
Next article in this series: - Noticing the Emotional Wall: Journal Notes #88

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Body Mind Sticky Spots: Journal Notes #86

Notes from my January 2011 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.)

* In this class, we reviewed many of the Wujifa exercises:
  • The Yan Gaofei wrist, elbow and arm circles
  • Hip circles
  • Leg circles with foot drag
  • Side-to-side
  • Advanced side-to-side
  • The Chen Xiaowang side to side
  • Head roll down exercise and with breathing

* Question: How does the dan-tian move the kua?
Answer: This is not a useful question. If you can't notice how the kua and dan-tian work, then you need to work on other areas first. If you don't do this, then you will force a wrong movement. You will think you've got it and only ingrain a useless and wrong structure.

Get the back open first to feel the ming-men and THEN get the kua to open and moving freely and THEN the dan-tian movement shows up naturally. Therefore, talking about the dan-tian and ming-men when you are not there yet is misleading and therefore useless. Talk without functional feeling doesn't help people get it. Teaching about these areas before the student is practicing at that level is a way of keeping students lost.

* Most people hold tension just above the pubic bone. (The area that is about three to four fingers above the pubic bone.) Most belly breathers don't breath low enough to release the tension held in this area. Most people only expand their bellies where it's comfortable - where there isn't a lot of tension. You really need to practice releasing the tension where you can't feel it. This is an easy area to see in a mirror. Go look. Belly breath. You'll notice this area is not moving. Relax that area and breath into it too.


* Question: How will I know when my muscles have relaxed, are opening and working functionally?
Answer: You will feel the weight drop into your legs and your back lengthening.

(This answer is in the context of where I was at that point in my training.)

* Zhan zhuang and other Wujifa exercises are solo practices to develop ground path. Point-to-point is a partner practice to further develop ground path. You must be accomplished in zhan zhuang before starting point-to-point or you will do it wrong.

* Question: What if I don't have a training partner? How can I practice "partner work" on my own?
Answer: Find a sapling tree. Grab the branches and push and pull. Trees have life to them and you'll be able to "dance" with it.

* Question: I'm noticing that I feel emotionally flat-line most of the time; no highs or lows. What up with that?
Answer: There are highs and lows but they're being masked. "Shen" is feeling, passion, intention grounded in emotion. If you're not living with "Shen", then you'll use "Yi" (logic) to control your "Qi". If your "Shen" is not in the right place, if you don't have your passion as your driver, then you'll drive with "Yi" and not notice "Shen". If you live by logic and shut down your passion, this keeps you emotionally "flat-line" as you say.

Me: Logically, I want to "let go" of "x" muscle/behavior pattern and feel something because I know that letting go is needed to help me develop fascial connection or "peng" but I'm stuck. It's like there is something stronger than "what I want" that is preventing me from letting go.

Instructor: Question to you then is, "What are you avoiding? What are you not feeling?" Here's an exercise. Every hour check in with your emotions and ask yourself, "What am I feeling now?" You may need to look up the emotion words to expand your verbal feeling vocabulary.

* "Peng" establishes boundaries. Weak "peng" equals weak or non-existant boundaries. Practice stance to develop "peng" and practice establishing boundaries in your everyday life to help build "peng".

* When you focus on the body, then the mind, thinking, internal auditory becomes the stress point; the point you notice as being stressful.

* Question: If I notice 100 things to correct, which one do I start with?
Answer: Start with 1,2,3,4-1,2,3,4. This method grounds a racing mind. Notice ever more subtle details.

* Question: How do I notice a "sticky point"?
Answer: Wherever you get stuck is where you're getting stuck. When you feel that, "F***, I don't want to do that." feeling, this is a good indicator of a sticky point.

However, sometimes focusing on a sticky point too long can re-inforce the sticky point, for example, focusing on it to fix or resolve it.

You can focus on a problem and how to fix the problem or you can focus in a different way. Backing off is not the same as ignoring. Check-in. Notice but don't focus with intention to fix. What you notice as the problem is often not the problem anyway. The real problem can be a few layers down. You don't notice this because you haven't developed you ability to notice and feel at that level yet.

* Question: You've mentioned "Simple Noticing" and "Complex Noticing". What's the difference?
Answer: Think of a shopping list or a check list. Simple noticing is bananas, rice, squash. Simple noticing can be refined as you notice more of the various details of each item. Complex noticing is when you get concerned about something. It's when the thinking mind kicks in with conceptually based judgements and comparisons.

* Question: You say to practice the ordinary until it becomes extra-ordinary. What's the issue with doing something special?
Answer: Ordinary and special are concepts. There really is only what is. People want special and miss the constant beauty of the ordinary. People want to jump ahead to special before they've mastered the ordinary. Wujifa focuses on the ordinary.

Don't step up your training until you are comfortable where you are. Step up to noticing more about what you're doing. Keeping your training simple too long will get you further than making it complicated too soon.

People want to race through the basic, ordinary exercises without realizing that these basic, fundamental, ordinary exercises are the key to developing high level skills.

(As I've said before, I've made more progress working these simple, ordinary exercises than when I was hastily learning one form after another.)

* Your hands have a better developed sense of feel than other parts of your body. As a method, it can help to put your hand on a sticky point to help feel into that area. Inhale and exhale and notice-feel what is relaxing with the exhale. Then, just notice the feeling. Just notice the kinesthetic.

* Regarding getting the feeling of burning in the quads, if the legs don't burn, then you're doing zhan zhuang externally. The usual problem area to look for is the placement and positioning of the pelvis.

* There's a tendency to ask "what if" questions too soon. Stick with simply noticing the kinesthetic. If you can't demonstrate a basic level of feeling, then the "what if" is meaningless monkey-mind play.

* We say, "Once you get the feeling, then get rid of the method." I realized that there is no one, single, unique "THE" Feeling. I was thinking of feeling as a noun, a thing, when I should have been thinking of feeling as an adjective or adverb. So the phrase really means,"Once you get the feeling of ____," for example, the feeling of dropping into the legs, Once you get the feeling of dropping into the legs, then just go to that feeling. Don't keep practicing the method that helped you get "the feeling".
(I struggled so long with this phrase. This revelation was a real breakthrough for me! It really helped me understand my practice in a whole new way. Sure, there is the feeling of fascial stretch and fascial connection and "peng" and ground path and internal strength and... and... and if can't first feel a simple fascial stretch, then I am in no position to feel internal strength. There are many methods and many feelings to develop on the path to: Once you get the feeling of internal strength... )

* In Side-to-Side, you need to be relaxed enough so that you feel the fascial stretch on the empty side and can release the holding and allow the stretched fascia to pull you across. If you don't feel this fascial stretch, then you are still not relaxed enough. Keep practicing.

* Question: What's the best way to practice with a mirror?
Answer: Practice in front of a mirror to provide a visual cue of what the body is doing in response to your adjustments. Feel how those corrections feel. Close your eyes. Feel. Adjust. Check in with the mirror. Does the feeling of your adjustment look the same as how you felt it? Make adjustments. Use the mirror as a temporary help. Don't get addicted to it.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Another Level of Practice: Journal Notes #85
Next article in this series: - Ph.D. Level Gong-Fu: Journal Notes #87

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Another Level of Practice: Journal Notes #85

Notes from my December 2010 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 kinds of questions are good questions (to ask about my Wujifa training)?
Answer: "How" questions are generally good questions.

* Question: How should I be practicing now?
Answer: Beginners need to take a mechanical approach to practicing the Wujifa Zhan Zhuang 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 structure. You're no longer a beginner. You should be practicing at a more advanced level now.

(I think what this is saying is that beginners first need to work on identifying and releasing the muscular patterns that inhibit the basic 1,2,3,4 structure. Then, after years of training and therapeutic work, as the body changes and assumes proper structure more naturally, then the practice can change... as described below.)

As always, begin with your feet (#1). Instead of looking to see if your feet are parallel, feel the position of your feet. Are your feet parallel? Look. Make adjustments. Next, feel the position of your knees (#2) over your feet. Are your knees parallel? Look. Make adjustments. How did adjusting your knees affect how your weight fell through your feet? You should be feeling-noticing this.

After adjusting your feet and knees, then move to your hips (#3). Adjust your hips. How did this affect your knees and feet? How does your alignment feel? Horizontal and parallel? How did adjusting your hips affect how your weight fell through your feet?

Notice muscular patterns. How can you improve your alignment with the remaining structural points? Relax. How does relaxing in one area affect muscles in another area? How can you relax a little more and maintain structural alignment?

Validate if your calibration of feeling is correct. How do you validate? Ask in class.

"Relax is not limp" is a generalized functional concept. How does the muscle feel? Tight? Limp? Numb?

At more advanced levels, don't focus on "doing it right or wrong". Just notice what IS and change something within the parameters of your practice. You are capable of making small changes. Making one change will open you to more change and slowly your parameters will change. Now that you notice, you can practice differently.

An even more advanced practice is to feel what pattern is in the way of noticing an area you want to feel into.

(I think there are a couple good points here:

1. You are where you are and that's where you start. When I began, I couldn't feel. Heck, I still have "dead zones" where I can't feel (or as some of my school brothers say, I refuse to feel). When I began I learned to feel through focusing on the mechanics of relax, balance, structure.

2. The same structure, "1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4" may be practiced different ways depending on your level of feeling sensitivity. As I develop feeling sensitivity and understanding, the "same" practice changes from a mechanistic approach to a more feeling approach. And so based on my experience, I assume that there may be even more ways to practice... but I'm not there yet.)

* Question: Last time we talked about deliberate distractions. How might this apply in Side-to-Side?
Answer: When practicing Side-to-Side, don't focus on forcing the kua to open and close. Rather, focus on shifting and notice-feel how the kua moves. Focusing your attention on the shifting distracts your attention from what you want to notice-feel.

* A tendency in learning Side-to-Side is to "muscle" the movement instead of moving just enough and feeling the result. When Side-to-Side is done correctly, you will feel your entire body moving or twining under your skin.

* Question: I notice that when I balance back on my heels, I tend to pull up my feet to keep from falling over backwards. I found a feeling where I can keep the feet down. How does this look?
Answer: You're taking too mechanical an approach. Lay on the floor. Play with your feet like a baby does. Toy with them . Examine them. Now stand. What do you notice?

Me: Feet and connection to ground feels more full.

* Regarding teaching this stuff, it seems like teaching is messing with people in a nurturing way to help break them out of their patterns, to help them notice differently. "Mothering" or playing into a student's pattern keeps that student locked into that pattern. Allow students to explore and make mistakes. The exploration and mistake process also breaks the pattern and allows authenticity to show up.
(Indeed! For me, it was difficult to transition from wanting to follow the rules mechanistically and correctly to... allowing myself to explore and experiment.

Often, my "zhan zhuang experiments" are more like, "Shi-fu, I tried 'X' and noticed 'Y'. How does this look?" This is how I interpreted the validation aspect mentioned above.

Obviously, this particular approach (I tried "X". How does this look?) does not follow the scientific method. If this is a phase or level of training, then I've been stuck in this "phase" for a few years now it seems. It's difficult to break this habit and start a new habit of really taking a scientific method approach to my Wujifa zhan zhuang practice.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Principle Driven Practice: Journal Notes #84
Next article in this series: - Body Mind Sticky Spots: Journal Notes #86

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