Saturday, October 11, 2014

Think like a child and respond like a scientist

The people who make progress tend to think in specific ways. I use the word “specific” here purposefully, instead of saying “thinking in certain ways.” Many people (and by people, I mean adults) look for certainty. When you’re “certain” about something, it tends to limit possibilities. So, specifically, don’t think like an adult who gets locked into looking at things a certain way, but start to focus like a child in a world of possibilities, bringing openness and curiosity to whatever captivates your interest.

Children are known for their questions. “Why?” or for taking a watch apart because they’re curious, “How does this work?” They want to know things like why frogs jump, why fish swim, why the sky is blue, and where rainbows come from. They want to know how to build a taller sandcastle, or how to get the blanket to stay on top of their pillow fort. They come up with simple and direct answers, often through observation and experimentation. They figure out that if the sand is a little wet (but not too wet), it will stick together better, or that a book isn’t just something you can read, but that it will also make a pretty good weight for holding down the corners of a blanket.
Responding like a scientist is an extension of the childlike approach to problem solving through observation and experimentation. A scientist starts with an observation, and then becomes curious about what they’ve noticed, coming up with a question. Then, they formulate a hypothesis, which is just a best idea of something they think might work. This best idea is often built off of a combination of things they’ve seen directly, ideas that have been passed down from other scientists, and their own reasoning and intuition. To get more information about their hypothesis, a scientist formulates an experiment to test out their idea. The influence of other variables will be controlled for so that whatever effect they see can be assumed to be the result of the thing they’re testing. This experiment will be repeated many times to make sure the result is not just a random chance occurrence, but that it is truly because of the thing they’re specifically testing.
So what does all this mean to the Wujifa practitioner? The first is to be open to possibilities, not to be too certain about something, but to develop the kind of focus that lets you notice the specificity of what’s going on in your practice. Everything changes and grows, one insight leading to another insight, and then all of the sudden you may see everything in a completely new way! The best way to do this is like seeing the world through a child’s eyes, observing and asking questions. What we mean by this is not to be certain, which is like coming to a tea party with a full cup, but as it is said in many kungfu movies “empty your cup so you’re open to the possibilities that can be gained”. Play with your practice like a child, and experiment and as you get more sophisticated, those child’s eyes can start to follow a more scientific process where one experiment builds upon another, repeatedly testing and refining and furthering your personal knowledge, just like the scientist or the child is moved by their curiosity . This is the way to make progress in the Wujifa system.
The child within us all is still there. You may believe that you’re an adult and you have to be in the world a certain way, but the eyes of a child are still able to shine through if you let them. Mr. Rogers once quoted Kenneth Koch in saying, “You’re not just the age you are, you’re all the ages you’ve ever been”. The world of a child is a world of possibilities. It’s just a matter of allowing ourselves to go back and see the world as we once saw it before.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wujifa and Asking Questions.

Here's something from the Wayback machine. A number of years ago before this blog existed, we had a few different forums. One of these was semi-private Wujifa forum on You see at various times I've found myself go back and revisiting various things I've written, done, and worked on as it helps me in so many ways. Now that we've been working on the new Wujifa book I find myself doing this more often and it's a good thing to do even if you aren't writing a book. Anyway, this post is not a "be all end all" on the art of asking questions, I just found it interesting and I thought it might be a good thing to dig up and share here on this blog today. Enjoy!

January 12th, 2006

In class we ask questions, and sometimes it can be hard to think of good questions. So what is a good question? Well, that right there is a good question. When we ask "what" we are looking for something to be described, explained, and defined. I will list some other questions I might think are good ones.

1. Questions about purpose

Questions about purpose many times are "why" or "what" questions like; Why do we do this exercise? We can ask this same question as; What is the purpose of this exercise? Another good question about purpose is; Why should we do this or that practice?

2. Questions that give some background

Questions about background can come from a number of different angle with different approaches. If we have some background many times it can give us some insight to the practice we are asking about. Personally I am amazed that more people don't ask me about what I do or don't do... practice or what I have done or what I may have discovered about a certain practice when I did them. Then a great follow up question would be why I do or don't do certain things. Also a basic history about a practice or where they where developed or how they were developed can sometimes give insights to a practice too.

3. Questions about stages and results

Questions about what we might expect when we practice. These are always good questions to ask about. If we can gain some insight about what results we should look for or what stages or levels there are to a practice this can give us some idea of what to look for... Actually even asking that question is a good one; What am I looking for when I practice this? What are the things I can expect from practicing this? Are there different stages of practicing this?

The one word of caution I would give is to try to understand where you are at when you practice. So, if you ask about stages or levels of practice you may want to also ask; What level should I practice at? The reason I say this is because so many people want to practice at stages beyond their skill and the end up not getting very much from the practice. It is always good to work at basic levels and get a good full understanding before moving on to more advance levels. Even when you get to more advanced levels it still good to go back to basics often. I will also say sometime certain people can be afraid to take the next step or practice at the next level. This can also be a good topic to ask about.

4. Questions of how to do something

Questions of "how" are questions of instruction as in the question; How is it done? How do I get this part to do that? When I do this how do I do that? These questions are questions looking for advice on the practical workings most of the time and are good questions to ask. But, if you don't ask some of the questions above you might not have the depth you could have when practicing and really be limiting yourself.

Note: One more thing about questions

It is good to ask yourself these kind of questions too. It is good to ask yourself these kinds of questions often. By asking yourself questions you open a door in your mind that starts to seek for more, a deeper knowledge and understanding, with this knowledge and understanding you can start to get a greater awareness of what you are practicing. Once you gain these understandings and an awareness to some degree you can start to develop a better "feel" for what you are practicing and doing... which will lead to new and deeper questions to be explored and asked.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Emotions and the somatic practice of Wujifa

It’s not unusual that at some point different emotions may arise while practicing Wujifa. This is not generally the case, and for most people the day to day practice will be an attentive meditation that helps build body awareness and fascial connection. Understanding that, our emotions and attitudes are also connected with our bodies and are reflected in how we carry ourselves. As we work on adopting a functional support structure and posture, old patterns of holding can be encountered which may at times bring up various emotions which are tied into these patterns of holding. Normally, people do not notice these emotional patterns in daily life and they are often simply hidden from our basic awareness.  As we expand our awareness and connections within ourselves, this heightened state of awareness can sometimes lead us to notice these obscured emotional patterns.
Encountering emotional issues is fairly common in many practices including martial arts, although it is not often spoken of directly. This seems to be most commonly illustrated, for example, in many martial arts stories when the person who has practiced all of the sudden comes face to face with their frustrations, fears, or believed limitations and faces a long, dark night of the soul, to emerge on the other side a better practitioner for exploring these complexities.
As a simple example, when people first start practicing Wujifa standing meditation sometimes they want to jump out of their skin when just standing for a few minutes. What we’re suggesting here is that these kind of emotions would be worth noticing and exploring. Also, there may be times when a seemingly seasoned martial artist may start to experience deeper emotions while practicing stance. For example, they may start to feel sadness and then when asked later the reason for the tears will say, “I don’t know... I just felt sad and allowed myself to cry while continuing to practice, and I feel so much more connected now.”
The point is, If these things show up occasionally it’s okay to go with them. By “going with it” we mean continuing to stand or practice and allowing the emotional expression to simply flow through. The practice of Wujifa is learning to connect with our intention, our purpose and our body. In the beginning, this starts with developing body awareness and then developing fascial connection. The emotional aspect, as we mentioned here, is just something that can occur. It should not be thought as strange if it should show up occasionally in one’s practice.

Connections to our heart?

The parts of our heart that are hidden away tug on the body in ways that are beyond full comprehension. Joy, anger, sadness and fear: these emotions simply serve as a natural way to respond to different situations like a bird singing in the woods. They sing one way when a fox is nearby, or another way when looking for a mate. Why does the bird sing? Maya Angelou said that “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” So many people want to pretend that they are above these kind of feelings, when they are simply a natural part of who we are.  Even the Buddha and other highly evolved spiritual leaders have all expressed emotion. The key is a functional expression in accordance with the situation that aims at simply expressing one’s heartfelt reaction, which can often be very helpful in connecting with yourself and with others.
At the same time, during practice the emotions that come up may not be in line with the situation, but may be part of other contributing factors hidden for so long that they may be beyond our normal understanding.. In this case, the functional response is to allow them to flow within the structure of the practice so that in later real life situations their influence will not contribute to dysfunction. Better to understand that allowing these emotions to flow when they arise within the practice is creating space for the process of your heart opening and unfolding and of becoming a more functional and connected human being. Creating space is like emptying your cup.

Making progress or steering us away?

Another emotional aspect that could be addressed, as long as we’re on the topic, is how emotions can work against making progress. The reason I’m saying that is that it’s not the emotions directly in themselves, but rather the blocking of emotions, or the subconscious control exerted by those emotions that can influence people and their actions.
It is a fairly common occurrence, and why we are addressing it, is that as one practices Wujifa that one’s emotional baggage will aim to steer one away from one’s intention. What we mean by that is that not wanting to address, feel, explore or face their emotional feelings when, for example, feeling frustrated in how their practice is going and looking for opportunities to make improvement. In trying to protect themselves from feeling the frustration, they may just find themselves forgetting to practice. This is an example that is often seen with Wujifa practitioners just before they are about to make a step up or progress in their training. They feel the frustration and choose to stop training or just “conveniently” forget to train some aspect.
It is also possible that as one begins to change one’s posture that the new position and way of supporting oneself will feel different, and this difference may be uncomfortable. It is possible that this discomfort may be experienced as a desire (subconscious or conscious) to return to old ways of being, and may even be accompanied by any number of feelings. This is how emotions can steer one away from one’s intention and can work against making progress. At these times, it is important to just allow these feelings to exist and pass without focusing on them too specifically or trying to hide away from them as you adjust to the experience of the new ways of being supported.
Also, sometimes people use too much emotion to distract themselves from the actual process of training. When we talk about emotions flowing, there’s also a level of noticing that should be developed. At times, people will have a pattern of emotion which will distract them from noticing, which truly can happen to all of us. When it happens continuously, without maintaining or learning to develop the capacity to notice, sometimes the emotions serve to distract the practitioner from actually making progressive gains. At this particular place, sometimes it’s better to step back, and focus more on the function of training, relaxing, or even some of the technical aspects of 1234, 1234 and Wujifa principles. If, for some reason, people run into problems beyond the normal emotional expression of life that takes place in human beings when they are functional, expressive, and alive, it may be useful for them to consult with a therapist adept at dealing issues of somatic psychology.

The deeper unfolding is all about connecting

The key to understanding our character and the role emotions play in our practice comes back to one word, which is “heart”. Cultivating heart or the spirit of one’s practice is learning to keep an eye towards your heart as it unfolds. Learning to open to the possibilities that a Wujifa practice can bring is about heart: about opening, and about discovery. Connecting to one’s heart and soul is a very deep and powerful practice, and it can take many years to understand deeply what it means.
One of the most amazing things is as people train together, whether they do manual labor, are doctors or lawyers, or regardless of their walks of life, they discover the connections of their school brothers and sisters that they may have never noticed out in their external world. As they start to discover more about what “heart” means, through their individual practice and from working and training with their school brothers and sisters, this opening of heart, this understanding, passion and compassion and these friendships and bonds also start to connect and carry forth into all their lives.