Thursday, November 19, 2009

The unfortunate practice of neglect...

Without even realizing it, I've reached almost a whole month since my last post. It's interesting how the unfortunate "practice" of neglect/non-practice can become a habit gaining ground more and more despite ones efforts otherwise. In this case it's true, "The devil is diligent, and so must we be"(that was a paraphrase...) and as I work towards specific goals (one hour stance! or in this case, blogging) I've found that as soon as I let laziness or excuses in, they crowd out my better judgement. Poor judgement leads to poor habits and as we've all more than likely experienced, a decline in practice only hurts us...

Recently, I've asked myself, why do I practice? What do I hope to achieve through one hour stance (at least) twice a day? I told myself that it was to develop connections, to utilize proper "internal" mechanics, but ultimately, I think I practice because it makes me happy. I practice because when I don't practice, my body just feels off. Whether this is just a result of built in habit or not, this is where I am now, and this is how I feel.

And while I haven't gotten to that magic one hour, I intend to kick up my practice a notch, because in the end, we aren't practicing for anyone else, but ourselves...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Noticing changes everything"

Taking a cue from Dan I will take on a less "serious" tone for my post and focus more on actual training methods (which are NOT the truth by the way... ;D ).

Ever have a problem area when doing stance? For example, pressure going to your knees, areas of tension that just don't want to relax, etc.? For me, especially, I have been experiencing sharp pressure in my left (and at odd times, right) knee as a result of tension in the belly, lower back, and the rear of the thigh (though presumably not limited to those three areas alone). For a while I've been trying to "play" around with this pressure, finding out which areas needed to relax; structurally, which areas needed to be rotated or lengthened, and the more I tried the more pressure I seemed to get in the knee. And then it hit me; why focus on the METHOD of relieving the pressure when I could actively find the FEELING of a non-pressured knee.

Merely NOTICING that there was pressure made me realize the OPPORTUNITY of non-pressure (for lack of better wording); I knew how it felt to have all that weight/pressure pent up in the knee, so why not try to feel what it would be like without all that pressure? And by golly, it actually worked! Seeking the FEELING of non-presssure somehow got me to the point of non-pressure! I felt more heavy in the legs, light on top, and actually more centered and balanced.

What did I take from all of this? That truly, "Noticing changes everything" and there are indeed opportunities in all areas of life! I will continue applying this mindset when training stance and hope that my knee pain will serve as inspiration in the future! ;D

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Responsible Mind

I'd like to continue in the same vein as my previous post on the nature of responsibility in practice and life. Certainly, we've all made excuses (for not practicing, etc.)..."IF only I had time...IF only I wasn't so sleepy...IF only I didn't have to work so hard... IF only things were more straightforward etc. etc." but it is in the act of just doing it (Nike stated it perfectly), whatever "it" may be, that we are able to grow.

A quote: "To protect yourself against negative influences, whether or your own making, or the result of the activities or negative people around you, recognize that you have a will-power, and put it into constant use, until it builds a wall of immunity against negative influences in your own mind"-Napoleon Hill (Thanks for the recommendation Rick! ;D )

Whether fighting the monkey mind or simply getting yourself to practice, it is important that we make time to do the things we plan to do. When doing stance/practice, we must recognize that we made the choice to do so and there we should carry through with our intention. If you find yourself getting off track, remind yourself "This is what I planned to do and I can worry about laundry etc. later" with the knowledge that we all have a choice in our own thoughts and actions. Having a strong will, perseverance, and sticking to one's word...these are all actions of the responsible mind.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taking responsibility in Life and Training

The past few days have been really eye opening for me not just within training, but in learning about myself and who I am; what I consider my limits and what I can surpass in reality. Often times we set ourselves up and give in to the more lower levels of behavior and thought, telling ourselves to give up while ahead, afraid of the consequences of our actions and a fear of the unknown. What if something happens that I might regret? What if I get sick or hurt myself? What if the hard work just sucks and I don't want to go through with it? Unfortunately I have conditioned myself over the years in this very pattern of thought/behavior. Being spoon fed throughout my life I can recall the countless demonstrations of this mode of behavior...from quitting every sport I did as a kid in favor of video games and tv, in school never really having an opinion in political debate, and even in stance in instances of compromise ("I can skip it for now if I just do more later", etc.), I have rarely demonstrated a hard fought grit or determination in my daily affairs. Ultimately, at the root of my problem is a lack of responsibility. Making excuses, taking the easy way out, saying "I don't really care" is in actuality saying "I'm afraid to take responsibility for the things I do". There is also a sense of fear...fear of taking action and taking responsibility.

But now I'm taking a stance...I'm "man-ing up" as it were. I'm beginning to realize that its OK to be scared, its OK to fail, SO LONG AS YOU TAKE ACTION. ACTION must be responsible, ACTION must be real and thought out (not blind or stupid), and if it is, ACTION can become PROGRESS. PROGRESS because in our failures we will have taken responsibility and acted, growing as a person that can accept failure, learn from it and move on. PROGRESS in knowing that we are moving towards something better through ACTION and ANALYSIS. Not dwelling on our losses but investing in them, and this all begins with the simple act of NOTICING. I was recently told that "Noticing changes everything"...a simple yet profound truth that I am realizing more and more each day in so many applications.

So from now on, I will follow through with my word. If noticing is the first step, then action/doing is the next. I have noticed, I am acting, and I am scared and nervous; but in this knowledge I am comforted in the responsibility and know that I will be all the better for it...

...I am READY! (bring it on world! ;D )

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The second step: Giving Effort

First off, my apologies for the lack of posting...although I offer no excuses I do feel that I should spend more time on providing more frequent and thoughtful content (as well as working out all the layout issues...).

I've recently been offered a specific goal, something to work up to, a training routine of sorts. Although the whole idea seems so out of reach to me right now I am gradually working up to one hour of stance in the morning and night on top of movement exercises during midday. In all honesty I have only been able to work up to a routine of (as of today) 22 minutes per go, although I have been adding a minute each day. While 22 minutes is nowhere near an hour, I have been noticing so many different changes within my body especially with's funny how you can think you've been doing something right for so long and then you're give one adjustment which changes everything. For me, bringing the shoulders down and back while relaxing the chest has led to so many "ah ha!" moments...which leads me to the main topic of my post: how to get the most out of your practice through putting effort into small, specific points or tasks.

During practice I often come across two distinct mindsets: the tranced out "stuck on the feeling"/faux meditative mindset, and the "awake/present in the moment, working on specifics to get the feeling mode". While it is always easier for me to fall into the former, I have found that I get more out of practice with the latter.

For me, the "specifics" in stance are basically a run through of correct structure utilizing the 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 method (as seen here: on wujifaliangong) which helps me find areas of tension or lack of balance. This specific and systematic way of running through stance gives me structure...and structure, balance, and relaxation are all interconnected (to find one, do the other two).

As I continue stance practice and work on extending my time to an hour per session, I continue to find ways to fight the "monkey mind" will be interesting to see if the answer is simply in the specifics as I suspect it might be all along...

Disclaimer: Thank you for bearing with me as I work out how I want to run this you can tell from this latest post, its just one big mind dump to briefly type out some things I've been thinking about...As I get better at this, I hope to keep you a bit more interested ;) There are so many things to say with such a deep practice and I'm just attempting to begin to discuss it all so thanks! Having just re-read my own post, I can already spot out three different branching topics and no real underlying theme but I leave this post up raw and unedited for posterity...

-your humble aho

Friday, September 4, 2009

The first step: Trust

For a while I've been debating what my first post should consist of. My current view of stance practice, the going-ons in my own life, maybe a lengthy entry on my future training goals and concerns. But then I realized; why not just write about the one thing that has gotten me past many struggles in my own life (as recently as a few days back) that should be at the root of the beginner's mind: Trust.

Trust in the positive, trust in others guidance, trust in the limitless potential of the vast human mind. Trust that "yes, you can", and trust in everything being "OK". This trust I refer to is not necessarily a blind trust, rather, a trust that encourages the seeking and realization of OPPORTUNITY in the moment.

Trust has gotten me a long way, and as I learn to trust in my own practices (zhan zhuang and the wujifa system, etc.) I am beginning to understand more and more the benefits of such a simple word. Trust yields curiousity, trust builds connections, and trust forges opportunities we might not have had before.

Do you truly trust in your own practices or are you drudging through, SEEKING and FORCING what shouldn't be sought or forced? As I play with zhan zhuang more and more, these are some obstacles I continue to tend with. "Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method" as we here at Wujifa like to say, but how do we truly get the feeling without a forceful method? And why do we lose the feeling if we try too hard to hold on to it? Do we not truly trust in the method or am I missing the mark completely?

Zhan Zhuang is such a simple ( ;) ) yet seemingly daunting practice. As I continue on this path as a "beginner" I do not hope to one day "master" such a practice yet try to remind myself to enjoy the practice itself. Maybe, one day, this trust will bring a certain understanding...on my path to the truth!