Home > Lok Hup, repetition, Tai Chi, Zen-like stuff > Stop thinking or your brain will freeze like that!

Stop thinking or your brain will freeze like that!

I think too much.
(Maybe I also say “I think too much” too much.)

In classes past, while teaching me a move, Ben would say that I should stop thinking so much. Part of that admonishment stuck with me, but i also pushed back a bit, because I have this attachment to being clever … or to this image of myself as a clever person. But, in an attempt to follow Ben’s direction I would think less (and practise more), but only when doing that move. That class. Then I’d get all clever again, thinking of clever ways to find the “key” to another move, to discover the pattern linking it with other moves, the best way to describe it to someone else, and so on.

Then last night, on a visit to Doug’s class, we were discussing another student. Doug said to me “he’s too much in his head. Like you.”


Now we weren’t working on a move, we were just talking. So I had no alternative but to apply Doug’s statement (echoing Ben’s admonishments) to my entire Tai Chi and Lok Hup practice. Hey, probably my squash, too. So without an exit strategy where I could continue to be clever about whatever move we weren’t discussing, I had to actually consider the statement and reflect upon it more deeply.

Hopefully, with one of my last thoughts on the matter, here’s what came out of that:

Being clever won’t help me with Tai Chi.

In fact, it’s detrimental. For a number of reasons. When I think I’ve solved a problem through reason (“good for me!”), I don’t practice it to make it internal and natural, I move on to the next problem. Alternately, if a problem is difficult to solve through reason, I keep at it … using reason. “There must be a way to solve this!” Bottom line: I’m getting in the way. I’m slowing things down. Believe it or not, the natural pace of things may be faster than the pace when we intervene! So in my impatience, I’m actually making things more difficult.

Not very Zen. Nor Dao.

So, naturally, I felt chuffed when I figured this out. Oops. Bad Steve.

So what to do? Nothing? Ehhrrmmm … maybe not. How about: watch, listen, enjoy the activity, whether I improve or not. Listen to the body because I enjoy listening, not because it will help me improve. And I shouldn’t do this non-doing because I want to improve. That’s faking it, and is just propagating the original situation.

I have to really, really not care so much. Maybe that’s it. Take a holiday from thinking. Don’t use words. Don’t compare. Don’t try to make sense of it. Just sense. Maybe relax the jaw. Drool. Okay, no drool.


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  1. March 13th, 2009 at 21:49 | #1

    Well that is certainly well thought out eh!

    Seriously though, I know exactly what you are saying. I have never been much of a touchy feely type of person and I always analyze things to death.

    My old mode of learning seemed to go something like this.

    Learn the basic steps. Try to repeat them. Think about them too much and try too hard to repeat them.

    Then I read a couple of translations of the book “Liuhebafa Five Character Secrets” also know as “The Chinese Five Word Song”.

    The very first two ideas presented are: 1. Mind/Intent is the basis of “Methodlessness” or to put it another way “Empty the Mind.” The second says “Use the method of Emptiness” or putting it another way “If one thinks there is a method, that thought is in vain.”

    Now I’m no Chinese philosopher, I’m certainly not a Master at anything even close to the arts I enjoy but these ideas did make me think long and hard about how long it takes me to learn the basics of a move.

    I have found it takes me a long time. The major reason it takes me a long time is that I keep getting in my own way. I keep making it hard work.

    So I sat down with myself one day and had a good heart to heart with me and found out a few things. Firstly, I had no reason to hurry things. I could take forever if I wanted to learn this art. Secondly, since I am not doing it for competition of any kind, the only real reason I do it was for the fun and for the health benefit. I must admit that the health benefit was the driving force, but now the fun aspect has taken over. So now I try not to get in my own way. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes things do not, but in either case I try to learn with the intent of having fun first. I no longer analyze how things fit together. If I am not doing something correctly, I can feel that my movement was clumsy. If I “PLAY” with the moves and listen to my instructors I will eventually get better at it. Without any analysis on my part. The instructors will do their job and tell me to try something else or correct what needs correcting.

    AFTER I have had my fun I can sit myself down and say to myself “that felt a little clumsy at this point. I shall watch more closely when the instructor shows it again.” Or maybe I just ask my instructor to show me the move again. Eventually, after tons of mistakes, I will get better.

    I used to set little goals for myself. Learn these 3 moves, add another move to the sequence, etc. etc. etc. but I discovered that as soon as I did that, then something else would fall apart. So now I just do it. I don’t worry about making errors and I try not to get frustrated when I’ve stretched myself too far and tried to absorb too much. Now I just do the set as I remember it. I try for that balanced feeling you can get from Tai Chi or Lok Hup. It feels great. It doesn’t always happen, but after the 100th, 1000th, or 10,000th repetition it does improve.

    I believed you call it Refine and Repeat.

  2. March 13th, 2009 at 21:52 | #2

    By the way, I like the monkey. Reminds me of me when I first started to learn Tai Chi, except of course he probably had more fun and was better looking.

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