Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Mission

The first Earthrise photographed by humansImage via Wikipedia

I've been teaching Wujifa for a while, but starting 2010, I'm really focusing on building it up, and bringing what I know and have practiced out into the world more. As part of this goal, I've developed a mission statement, and thought about who would really be interested in the practice. Keep in mind, this is just a personal mission statement, and I don't speak for all of Wujifa here.

Our Mission statement:
To understand what it means to be a Human Being and increase each person’s direct experience of the freedom of knowing and being who they are.

Who would be interested?
You’re curious. There may be aches or stress in your life, and you’re beginning to wonder if it really has to be that way. Maybe you’re tired of looking to answers from the outside, and you’re ready to start increasing your own role in your life. You’re ready to start understanding who you are and what you’re truly capable of. If you are ready to grow in Self-Awareness, and ready to discover the freedom that comes with it – this practice is for you.

Where do we start?
We start at the beginning. We start with what we can directly see and feel so that we know we are doing something real. This means focusing physically – on our posture and how we support ourselves as we stand – to gain a fuller direct experience of ourselves. The practice we do is a container for connecting with ourselves. It’s more than physical, mental or spiritual because we are more than bodies, minds, or spirits: we are Human Beings.

The two classes
We are partnered both with Bodyworks Healing Center and with Donna Harber's Embodied Meditation.

Starting January of 2010, classes will be at the Bio Self-Emergence Institute in Southfield, MI every Tuesday night from 6 to 7. Click the link for directions. I'm really excited to be partnered with Donna and her Embodied Meditation, because both of our practices are really focused on helping you discover yourself more fully - in differing but complimentary ways. I really encourage you to check out her website and learn more about the amazing work and understanding she brings.

There will also be a class most Wednesdays at Bodyworks Healing Center in Plymouth from 7 to 8. Click the link for directions. Bodyworks is amazing in going above and beyond as a healing center dedicated to providing for members of the community through an extraordinary number of healing modalities and classes integrating Body, Mind, and Spirit. Please check them out and see all of the wonderful things they do!

We start at the beginning, and each person is met where they are. Classes are not part of a sequence, and the learning is ongoing.

Please, send me any questions and I will be sure you get what you're looking for! My email is todiscoverfreedom@gmail.com, and I'd love to talk to you.

Also, check out this article, which explores the benefits of Zhan Zhuang, which is one of our main practices. Also visit here for some great and insightful information about Wujifa - this blog has some really valuable stuff to contribute, and if you're at all into internal martial arts, I would highly recommend it.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Human heart. Picture taken during autopsy.Image via Wikipedia

Wujifa, like everything, is an exploration of life. Zhan Zhuang should be "alive", as the core practice of our art and science, but what does it mean to have life in your practice? For me, when I consider life, I think of breath, movement, flow - and awareness of these things as the self-consciousness of life. An exploration of this, not as a theory but as direct experience lies at the heart of Wujifa.

When we stand, we adopt a certain posture. What is the meaning of this posture? Tai chi and Qigong call it "Chi Flowing" but what does that mean to us, as practitioners of the practical method of Wujifa? Obviously, there is a physical human experience these ancient methods and ways of speaking are pointing to, so how can we better understand and experience this without becoming ungrounded from reality?

Take a look at the heart pictured above. Physically it is no different from the one in your chest right now. What is this picture missing that your living heart has? Your heart is connected to the rest of an integrated system, for one. Your heart moves. Your heart is involved in the flow of blood through your body. What is missing from the heart in the picture might be called "life".

In stance it is no different. Is your stance just like a picture in a book? To what degree is there connection, movement, and flow? I'm starting to notice this in my practice, and beginning to ask myself if I'm focusing on the heart in the picture, or the heart in my chest. One looks beautiful, but has no life, the other is part of who I am. Which will you choose to listen to?

Look at the amoeba in this video - and notice how everything moves through its whole body toward its food. If this isn't "Chi Flowing" I don't know what is.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Triangle of Balance, Relax, and Structure is the first of the three Wujifa Triangles!

Each one has its own meaning... If you look back to the post I've linked to, you'll see that relax is not limp, structure is not rigid, and balance is not polarity.

Thinking a lot about the words lately, and keeping them in my attention to see what new meaning develops. A little while ago, I had a bit of an "AHA!" moment about balance.

You see... I always used to think balance was about just stacking the blocks (look at the rolfing picture). Then, all of the sudden, we were talking about weebles - you know weebles wobble but they don't fall down, like we have before so many times and how they're balanced and if finally clicked for me - blocks which are stacked up are balanced, but so is a Weeble - in a similar, but different way.

A weeble, in addition to being an undisturbed, vertical structure, with no deviation of one part being precisely stacked above the other parts, also has a low center of gravity. therefor, it is IMPOSSIBLE to tip over.

So in stance, in addition to getting the structure aligned, we're also relaxing to "sink the chi" so that we find balance - Balance, relax, and structure are all interwoven in this definition - and that's the key to the Wujifa Triangles.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009


Hahaha... so Rick showed me this exercise which is called "Thor's Hammer"

It's an exercise where one takes a hammer, hand-held sledge variety and holding it out, as an extension of both arms, flings it rapidly up and down by bowing and unbowing at the hips.

It is important to:
-Keep the arms in the same relative position with the body (so it's not the arms moving, but the hips).
-Bounce the hammer toward the opposite side at each endpoint.
-Pay attention to the connected springiness feeling.

I've been playing with it a little bit, and it's been helping show me where I'm holding tension (and a break in my lower back)
Right now I'm just bouncing it low, trying to get the feeling of what it's supposed to be like, and so I don't hurt myself.

I'm hoping to bring it to Rick's on sunday, and get some feedback on how I'm doing.

Alright, the above part of this post was written last week, but I didn't want to submit it until I had done a little bit more practice, so here's the update.

On sunday Rick took a look at the practice, and helped me become conscious of the front and back connections, and how they related to the different endpoints of the hammer swing. At the low endpoint, I feel the stretch through the back channel, and at the high endpoint, the stretch goes down my front to my toes.

There were some little breaks that Rick also helped me see, like breaking at my shoulders, or midback, or near my sacrum, and I'm still playing with how to get all three at the same time.

I'm also still getting some tweaking in my hips/lower back, and I think it has a lot to do with not letting that area move and holding it rigid... so I have more to explore here.

Also, to those of you who didn't know if it would happen- I exchanged the hammer for a new one, and per a suggestion, went with the 4 pounder instead of the 2.5

Happy training to all!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The New Paradigm

Your HandsImage by Toni Blay via Flickr

Hey, I've decided to take a more informal stance to my blog... not going over "big ideas" for the most part, because it's hard to think of them :-P and also I get caught up in that and it's not really helpful to my practice to force them out. SO - now I'm just going to use the format of talking about what I'm working on.

I've been working a lot on keeping my hands level in stance. It seems fairly straightforward, like just about every other structural component of stance. Just put your hands a level place, so they're even. Simple, Right? Apparently not so much. Why can't I consistently do this one simple thing? I swear I've been working on it (on and off) for 3 years... It's like my achilles heel, my " Dan's Left Arm".

So far these have been the issues keeping my hands from evenness:
1. My left hand "wants to be" higher than my right.
2. Sometimes when I think it's even, it's still higher.
3. If my attention drifts, there go my hands again. (And to be honest, my attention is only so-so)

But I've been working on focusing on my hands, and things have been getting better. Lately I've been putting more attention and intention in structure (still trying to remember relax), and it's been paying off... I'm starting to notice more connections starting to show up.

Anyway, that's how things are for now, look forward to more posts soon!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009


Usually I don't post other peoples' articles up, but this one really warrants it. It's the story of how people decide what is beautiful and worth their time, and the story of how a musician who pulls in $1000 a minute to perform made 37 bucks in an hour.

Pearls Before Breakfast

By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 8, 2007; Page W10

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

Full article

Sometimes beauty and value is not where you expect it to be. Do you have time to see a master even if he doesn't wear the tai chi pajamas?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Benefits of Zhan Zhuang

Benefits of Zhan Zhuang (Standing Meditation):
I have noticed a TON of benefits from exploring this simple exercise, which is the core of my wujifa practice.

Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National and S...Image via Wikipedia

I'm a bit of a Zhan Zhuang fiend, I'm all about it. My friends and I get together about once a week to help motivate each other and give each other help on whatever we're working on in our lives, and whatever issue a friend of mine brings up, I find myself drawn to say "Stance practice would help with that"

"I'm having trouble focusing" - practice stance
"I get so angry I can't deal with it in a positive way" - practice stance
"I can't poop" - practice stance

whatever... I pretty much think that if it's practiced with the right mindset, stance can do anything you need it to do for you.... that's why they call it the million dollar secret of qigong. It's so simple too!

There's plenty of information on specifics in training in these few posts by Rick, which I would recommend checking out:
The Concept of Sit Down in Wujifa Training
Basic Tips for Zhan Zhuang and the Pelvis
More on Zhan Zhuang and Movement

I'd actually recommend reading and following Rick's blog, since he's always putting out top shelf information on internal martial arts. He may be one of the best IMA teachers in the united states today, definitely one of the best whities.

So returning to my recommending stance practice for anyone for anything, this just comes from my experience, that whenever I've had a problem and I've gone to my Zhan Zhuang practice for answers , I've tended to find them. I believe in the spiritual truths inherent in a wide variety of religions, and I'm a christian, or maybe a bit buddhist, but not really any of these things - however, my religion is pretty much standing meditation.

Sometimes you meet those fanatics who are all about "the answers you need are in the bible/quran/talmud/sutras/gitas/whatever" I'm kind of nutty in the same way for stance, but the cool thing about stance is that it's INTERNAL... which means that you're exploring yourself and looking for the truth there instead of going on someone else's word. In Christianity, they say "The kingdom of Heaven is within you" and the Buddha said (and this is paraphrased) "Don't take my word for it" so I figure stance kind of fits both of these ideologies.

At any rate, try it for yourself. There's a lot of good information out there, especially on the blog I suggested. You're the only person who can see how great stance can be for you and how many benefits you will find in it.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Will and Willingness

What will you do?

What are you willing to do?

There is certain power in making a decision - in setting an intention. When you are willing to follow an intention - through all doubt and uncertainty - with faith that what you have decided will be, you get to discover something new about yourself.

Now, we can fight through it - we can beat our doubts or fears, facing our "wills" against theirs, OR...

We can be willing to follow our intention - to say, "this is the face and voice of fear and doubt, and it is my choice whether I will follow its path or the path I have set before myself." - and we can make that choice to follow the path we have intended.

We can become great fighters, but in my life it seems that fighting is hard on the heart, even when you "win".

So just being willing... willing to follow through an intention, even if it's as simple as to stand for one hour - not fighting to stand, but choosing to stand - can show us so much.

Willingness, Noticing, Intention, Openness... just a few words at the foundation of Wujifa. Are you willing to explore what they can show you?

Image from Wikipedia licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Opportunity, Discomfort

We talk a lot in Wujifa about opportunity. Mentally, I've been working around with this one for a while, but something new just clicked for me. Nothing changed in my head, but the feeling is totally different. When I can honestly view something as an opportunity, I get excited about it, and this excitement can be fuel for my training. Lately, I've been looking around the internet (youtube, google, etc.) for different videos and people in t

Kohi SunriseImage by Chris Gin via Flickr

he IMA area. There are people out there who really know what they're doing in terms of internal martial arts, and I'm convinced that Rick is one of them, and that I'm on the path to becoming one of them myself. Training with Rick has been a HUGE opportunity for me, and continues to be a wonderful opportunity. The fact that I'm working with such a knowledgable teacher is a very exciting prospect for my own growth, and when I take the time to notice and appreciate this, it really fuels me up.

Also, I've been exploring how discomfort is an opportunity. Today, I appreciated it so much, it almost brought tears of joy to my eyes. I realized that my discomfort provides me with a direct pointer of something new to explore to deepen my practice to teach me more about comfort, discomfort, and myself.

This is a quote from Rick's Wujifa blog about how we notice, and opportunity:
"Intention and how you notice is important as well. Learning to eat bitter is a common saying. What I mean by this is that some people will notice opportunity as they practice. This is a good method. Some may want to notice what is wrong, yet if you go one step deeper you can notice there is opportunity in there as well. This can even be suggested as a deeper understanding of being open. I will say at times it is good to be critical of what one is doing, although noticing opportunity in this is still possible. Imagine later if sparing the difference in noticing an opportunity or noticing what is wrong. Building in this kind of intention early on is a good idea."

Currently, I experience discomfort in some areas of my body, and when I connect through them, a different feeling comes up, with some discomfort as well. I'm talking specifically about my diaphragm and lower back, and how when I connect through my front and back, a new feeling shows up in these areas, with some emotional discomfort to it. It's almost like a scary feeling or a running away feeling. Today, there were a few breaks in stance where I noticed I was resisting the new feeling, and when I stopped resisting, the emotional scariness went away, and there was less of an emotional attachment to the feeling... I just felt it more.

So discomfort, as well as comfort, are such great opportunities, just like training with Rick, to deepen and expand my practice.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Being a Student

{{de|Bodhidharma }}Image via Wikipedia

Last night in my meditation, I was considering what it means to be a student, and how maintaining the student mind seems to open up a great relational dynamic. I'm going to try to give a little flavor of my thoughts and experience, and we'll see here how good a job I end up doing. It won't be perfect, and there will always be more to add, clarify, or refine.

I think it's a really good thing to be able to doubt properly. If I'm not able to question the assumptions and first steps I have made, how will I ever be able to see when they are no longer useful to me? This doesn't mean that I have no confidence in what I have gained already. On the contrary, since my learning has withstood the test of doubt I know these beliefs are strong, to a point. I do not yet know if anything is true, but I've found things that are widely applicable.

I have some habits, and ways of doing things in stance. Some help me get closer to my intention, and some lead me away from it. Sometimes what I think falls into one category falls into the other. It's useful to keep an open mind about good and bad habits. Cultivating awareness is part of being a student, and part of this process is "taking responsibility, experimenting, and getting results."

Beginner's mind is okay if you don't really care about what you're doing. If you're doing something, and have an intention, I think the student's mind is much better because the student is a process. Being able to critically examine learning, knowing, and doing with openness helps advance the process. Buddha didn't reinvent meditation everyday, but in another way he did, and this is what I believe it means to be a student.

Fresh eyes, not a fresh start. Knowing your starting point, yet not starting over... This is what I think studenthood means. Making mistakes is part of it. Confidence is necessary. Doubt is necessary. Habits are necessary. Habits can drag a person down. There is a wonderful interplay in being a student between knowing and not knowing.

I've been purposefully confusing, because being able to relate to confusion is important sometimes. If none of this makes sense, go ahead and read it one more time, and remember, I could be completely wrong.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Volitional VS. Natural Support

TensegrityImage by Duo de Hale via Flickr

This section is the result of my own explorations and practices in Wujifa and Psychology, coupled with studies and reading, and this series of videos posted by Rick from wujifaliangong.com.

Everything we do in the world is a product of muscular action. Today before I did my practice, I watched a series of videos that Rick compiled about tensegrity and the fascial system. They basically explained that the body is, in its natural state, supported by the fascial system. As I was standing, I noticed many areas of gentle, connected stretch, a "soft stretch" that I've been looking at in my practice lately, and other areas in which there are muscular action feelings of tension which I experience as a kind of a rigidity, which do not feel integrated into the connected stretchy feeling through the rest of my body.

This got me thinking about the concept of Natural Support and Volitional Support. Naturally, our bodies support themselves through the interplay of structure, maintained by our bones, and the stretchy support of our fascial system. This interplay is called "Tensegrity". However, as I noticed the areas which felt tense and disconnected in my body, I noticed how I was attempting to support myself in those areas through muscular action, and was overriding the natural support that would be there with a volitional means of support.

Wilhelm Reich calls this unconscious, though still volitional, maintaining of tensions in the body "armoring", which is a way of using our mind to control our body in order to mediate our interactions with the outside world. In wujifa, we talk about freedom and control as poles on a spectrum. These armored areas in my body are areas in which I am currently insisting on maintaining control instead of allowing more natural support, which is the very thing I'm heading toward with Wujifa practice.

We only have so much energy, and muscular action uses it up. When we engage in volitional support, this is energy that is not available for use in our lives, and on top of that, the muscles which we are using will actively resist the smooth manifestation of our intention (if a metaphysical interpretation is throwing you off here, please consider this physical experiment: tighten your biceps muscle and then, holding the tension, attempt to stretch out your arm. Notice how much more effort it takes here on the part of the triceps muscle than when you extend your arm normally. This is the same process that is going on with every tight muscle in your and my body in relation to the rest of the muscles in our bodies.)

So this one cool thing about learning and practicing Wujifa, we get to free up our bodies toward a more natural support so that we fight ourselves less, and have more energy for living!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Simple harmonic motion.Image via Wikipedia

So I'm practicing Side to Side...

Side.....................................................................................to side

I'm noticing how my butt moves - in connection with the whole deal - wow!
and what's not moving... okay.

I'm feeling the connections down my legs, and man... is it ever different than I thought at first. It feels solid, but mobile, and there is a twisting in the muscles of my legs, but this twist does not feel like it's jiving my knees, which I like!
And also there's my upper body.. hanging out... right there where it's always been, asking me when I'm going to pay attention to it in more of a way than just making sure it stays above my hips. (I think it's really cool that it's asking for the next step)

And here I am again.

Side............................................................................to side
Side............................................................................to side
Side............................................................................to side

noticing when it's:

Side..&@^*#$))*(^!...........@#..#$!..........................to side


Side....................!@#$.......!@#%!#$^..*!%@$(!^!!..to side

and looking for more............................................................
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wujifa in my life

Wujifa is a big part of my life. I've been practicing for 6 years, ever since I turned 18, and the joy and growth it has brought me has been huge. When I first began practicing Wujifa, I was pretty depressed and shy as well, and although I still struggle with these factors in my life, I feel that they are no longer in charge, but just something to be noticed as I follow my intention. This is a big part of what Wujifa has been for me, a way to become more fully myself, and find my ability to surpass the obstacles I find both internally and externally, to develop my internal strength.

Internal strength is physical and mental, you might even say it's a spiritual thing, and Wujifa is a system of developing all of these. I'm reminded of the greek phrase "Know thyself", and how Wujifa has been a way for me to know myself more fully, not in a static way, but a knowledge that is a growing and a becoming as well as an essence and a being. There is no end to feeling, understanding, and being aware.