We've been having a number of discussions that forced me to dig up this piece, polish it off, and share it. And come to find out, it's not far off from the last post in terms of subject matter.
If you are one of those Type A personalities or a person who puts a lot of pressure on yourself this might resonate with you. Our world requires us to keep moving, push harder, never give in, and never show weakness. Let's face it, we can't always exhale. We need to inhale sometimes.
You'll see that I started writing this in January of 2015. We are currently in May of 2017. I've edited the post for livejournal.
Lastly, before you read on, if you have not yet checked it out then I'd like to invite you over to one of my youtube channels where I'm currently in day 66 of 100 days of meditation
January 15, 2014 2:41 pm
Five years is a long time, but then again it's not. Someone recently asked me, "When did you finally feel your body get used to the training?" After a moment's pause I replied, "I think just recently - this year." They were quite surprised. Honestly, I still feel like I'm getting used to it.
I thought more and recalled Dr. Yang saying that the first year (Body Conditioning) would be the hardest. The second year was also tough because the training changed a bit. It was still physical, and training lasted all day, but the body was being used differently than the previous year. I Sometimes caught myself wondering why it wasn't feeling any easier.
What got me throughout those formative years was my stubbornness. There was a mission to prove - prove to myself, prove to the master, and prove to anyone else who may have doubted my resolve. It was gruesome, yet I now question its sustainability.
About two years ago, something happened while I was practicing massage, I noticed a different feeling in my hands. There was a sensitivity, a subtlety; and with this there was connection and communication anew. During massage sessions I began to listen intently. I stayed relaxed, and just tried to flow. This yielded great results! People said I was intuitive, a good listener, and nonjudgmental. I thought, “Great, but how was the massage?”
Consequently, I caught myself approaching a push-hands match like a massage session - listening, staying relaxed, and trying to flow. The goal no longer was to “defeat my opponent,” but to explore the exchange between two energies. This was revolutionary for me. Why? Well in pushing hands we are taught to push one another off-balance and more often than not, a Sumo match will ensue. In Taijiquan we call this double waiting and resisting force with force. The goal, when someone is pushing your center is to relax, yield, follow, and redirect the incoming energy.
Massage reiterated these concepts, but the context was vastly different; and it forced me to reflect. After all, placing your hands on someone, should require care and mindfulness. So I said to myself, “Why not treat a push hands match like a massage session, Javi?” With this, the focus shifted. My mind went internally. While the opponent challenged my balance, I tried to stay relaxed, calm, and listen. I tried to use my hands to harmonize the timing of pressure and release, so that we could share the space. Most times people want to push the opponent away, but I said, “Wait, taiji theory tells us to stay attached. So, I gotta stick like glue.”
Curiously, I noticed more overlap. Many techniques that were practiced martially were being used for healing in my massage studies. For example, Qin Na (joint locking) is used to control the limbs of an opponent - even break them, however when applied in massage, it is a great method to stretch the tissues and increase blood flow. Remember, increased blood flow aids in cell regeneration. So there was this "aha moment” when I realized that the techniques I was learning could be applied for healing and not just killing.
This made me analyze each training exercise from the qigong-massage point of view. I said, "What does a given exercise do for my energy, or to my energy? What is the effect on my body? Does it facilitate flow and relaxation? Does it cause stagnation or build tension?" Other questions that I asked: "What are you training for? What is the goal? Well, it's martial arts right? It's fighting isn't it? Who am I trying to kill?"
I was killing myself. The truth was that my stubbornness, along with a lack of experience and knowledge, created a cloud which kept me from seeing that my training was highly inefficient. This was why I felt like I wasn’t getting used to the training. It was unbalanced, lacking rest and recovery methods - healing. In those formative years, I wasn't able to see how the training could be used for building the body, while I was tearing it down on a daily basis.
In order to achieve the best results there must be a balance of pressure and release - release meaning relaxation. In other words, too much stimulation (pressure, activity) creates tension, which results in stagnation, thus hindering movement and growth. That is the real killer. In massage, the right amount of pressure with the hands is paramount. More importantly, your partner’s ability to relax is directly related to your ability to relax. You must both share a healing space founded on principles of harmony and balance.
Now what about training? This lense forced me to reevaluate my daily training. I was able to balance pressure and relaxation when I massaged others, but was I so balanced when it came to my own body? Inside there was a pushing match between stubbornness-to-train and relaxation-to-heal. Whether they would be able to share space, that would be up to me.
This light bulb went off and the paradigm began to shift. What I learned is this: Each time one moves, one creates the opportunity to massage one's own body. Now, when I move I ask, “Is there balance - balance of pressure and release? Is there training and rest? Where is that line of sustainability? The old paradigm was rooted in life-taking instead of life-giving. I was draining my life force and energy, when rather I should be nourishing it. Now, with my new-found understanding, it is obvious which approach is more sustainable.