Are We Thinking too Much?

Are We Thinking too Much?

Postby Michael » Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:03 pm

I have always thoroughly enjoyed the discussions of the meanings of all the different terms, energies,.... But I wonder often if these really are nothing but a distraction, the intellect getting in the way of "real" learning. Learning that comes from physical experience or that which is taught in meditation etc.

Does our intellectual craving to box all these things up really bring us closer to what we are trying to achieve? To me, and I am as "guilty" of this as much as anyone, it seems like "striving." I understand that we all learn differently, but "learning" or experiencing awareness (the real objective) seems only to come from the lesson of experience, not from definitions of terms.
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Postby Yuri_Snisarenko » Fri Sep 05, 2008 3:58 am

Michael,

As for me – I just sometimes have no other way to tune myself into "taiji thinking" and into a good mood. To do that a conversation with friends is the best way, isn't it? I even have rid of my TV Image))

Therewith "taiji thinking mode" is not necessary almost intellectual. If you follow honestly and accurately the path that your teacher showed you – any conversation could help you to make your path even more understandable through the distinguishing of what is yours and what is not.

From the other hand we often may hear that some skills can be obtained only through the true transmission – and here you are right – intellectual thinking alone won't compensate that.

BTW, thanks for this conversation from your Russian interlocutor Image




[This message has been edited by Yuri_Snisarenko (edited 09-04-2008).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Sep 05, 2008 5:24 am

Greetings Michael,

I appreciate what you're saying. For me, delving into taiji texts and theory is just an added dimension of the art. It is like understanding how to choose the right fly, and how to best introduce it to the surface of the lake. It's about paying attention -- to the details as well as the landscape.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I did a backpacking trip into the Sierras -- Desolation Wilderness, well above the timber line, where the peaks and walls of granite make you shudder from their grandure. I didn't do much thinking the whole time I was up there.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Michael » Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:14 am

Yuri, I've always enjoyed the intellectual side of discussion, but for me the definition of energies etc always came when I felt what it was and then thought Oh now I get it. But even then I find that words don't really explain it, maybe that's the fault of a non Chinese language.[wink]

And I appreciate what you are saying Louis. I devour the texts and theory myself...now if only I could read and speak Chinese. I have to depend on guys like you to help me out with this. I wish I had taken "Chinese" on years ago, it's too late now. Other than with Taiji my time has been spent trying to tie a Parachute Adams in less than two minutes.

"and how to best introduce it to the surface of the lake. It's about paying attention -- to the details as well as the landscape."

I hear you.
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Postby fol » Fri Sep 05, 2008 12:36 pm

Words can be shared--thanks to those who maintain this board, shared everywhere there's a net connection. For me, and maybe for others who practice pretty much on their own, this "intellectual" side can be a valuable counterbalance against the solipsism of private experience. There's definitely a danger of becoming too invested in the talk--but there's also a danger of becoming complacent about "my way" of moving/not moving, too.

So, those of you who are generously sharing your words (and time), thanks! It keeps me in touch with a wider taiji community, and gives me questions and challenges to take back to my practice, things like "Uh oh, is this really right?" "Wow, what if I did it that way?" "Now there's an option I hadn't imagined!"

Don't worry, though, I don't actually believe anything you say.--fol
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Postby Audi » Sat Sep 20, 2008 1:58 pm

Greetings everyone,

I once attended a business workshop that dealt with learning styles. The presenters proposed that learning styles could be divided into four basic types or quadrants defined by four aspects: whether a learner likes to deal with the concrete or the abstract and whether he or she likes to proceed in an active or a reflective way.

If accept the that thesis, I would make the following statements and predictions:

Those who are concrete and active like to tinker with the elements of what is being learned. They like “doing” and “experimenting” for themselves. They prefer doing the form, doing applications, and practicing free push hands, rather than talking, listening, or reading about them. They want to externalize their learning first. Learning proceeds from outside to inside and back to outside.

Those who are abstract and reflective like to understand the theory of what is being learned. They want to understand how to think about what needs learning. They need to understand the why in order to organize their learning. They want the form, applications, and push hands explained in a consistent and complete fashion, rather than “guessing randomly” at what might be right. They want to internalize their learning first. Learning proceeds from inside to outside and back to inside.

Those who are concrete, but reflective like to understand how to apply what is being learned. They want to know what it is for and like working toward a goal and experimenting with different approaches to achieve the goal, rather than wandering around “aimlessly.” They want to figure out how to make the form feel right, to learn what approaches are useful to make applications successful, and to know what you can do with push hands. They want to internalize the rules in order to externalize the application of them. They want a system and want to apply it. Learning proceeds from inside to outside.

Those who are abstract, but active in their approach like to gather data and get the right information to understand what is to be learnt. They like to listen to varying viewpoints, probing for the useful parts, and seeking out all the relevant material. They like learning all that there is to know about the form, applications, and push hands. Learning proceeds from outside to inside.

Imagine you are just about to learn how to do a one-handed Rollback that will launch your partner. What part of the teaching and learning will you focus on most? Will you want to experiment with the technique? Will you want to think over the parameters and how they interrelate? Will you want to hear it discussed and observe it done several times? Will you want to hear the parameters and just see if you can find a way to apply it?

On a forum like this, it is hard to accommodate those who want to be concrete. We cannot do form, applications, or push hands over the Internet. We are mostly left with gathering data and theorizing, although sometimes it is possible to suggest simple physical experiments that people can do by themselves to see how things feel or to try to address specific goals.

I feel that good progress in Tai Chi requires some of all four of the learning approaches I described above. For me, this is part of what makes it a unique and interesting art. You must combine concrete with abstract, and active engagement with calm reflection to fully appreciate the art. Relying on only one approach can mislead or slow down progress.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby shugdenla » Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:02 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Michael:
<B>I have always thoroughly enjoyed the discussions of the meanings of all the different terms, energies,.... But I wonder often if these really are nothing but a distraction, the intellect getting in the way of "real" learning. Learning that comes from physical experience or that which is taught in meditation etc.

Does our intellectual craving to box all these things up really bring us closer to what we are trying to achieve? To me, and I am as "guilty" of this as much as anyone, it seems like "striving." I understand that we all learn differently, but "learning" or experiencing awareness (the real objective) seems only to come from the lesson of experience, not from definitions of terms.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

As on "old school" taught fellow, my own preference is for training with as much people and sharing ideas. WIth that I have only scratched the surface because when I compare my former teachers, they appeared more subtle, more "refined" than the modern day teachers.
I have no idea who is better and I prefer not to say but my preference is to study with a teacher who can show/teach rather than one who is an "intellectual".
I personally refer back to books only when those who have read books (a great thing, indeed) saw something and I refer to it to say yes and how a thing may be done!
Awareness for me is application of qinna or a throw, which by reading a book I can never know how to do unless I was thrown by someone far superior to me in application and understanding!

I guess it is personal discovery for each person and I am at the bottom of the barrel regarding superior knowledge about taijiquan, which I do not possess. My skill is at best, minimal, as I acknowledge there are those far better than I.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:19 pm

Greetings Audi,

I like best your assertion: “You must combine concrete with abstract, and active engagement with calm reflection to fully appreciate the art.”

I would just want to be careful about false dichotomies of concrete/abstract. That is, one can be concrete and reflective; one can be abstract and active. I wouldn’t want to squander my DNA and nervous tissue on meaningless abstractions. For example, when abstractions become ideology, we think away the meat of them. No wonder politicians admit to not understanding “the economy.” They forget that economy means “taking care of my house.” That’s a very concrete reality. The “market” and “market forces” are not. I’d prefer to use my brain tissue to think away the invisible hand of god.

When I think about what is important about being a human, the categories of concrete and abstract are not so clear. Is empathy abstract?

I like to think through taiji theory precisely because it is grounded in somatic experience. It’s far from abstract, don’t you think?

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Sep 20, 2008 10:33 pm

...my preference is to study with a teacher who can show/teach rather than one who is an "intellectual"'.

Why does it have to be either/or? Why can't a teacher be an intellectual and also be able to show/teach? You keep suggesting the two are mutually exclusive. They are not. Nor is one predictive of the other.
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Postby shugdenla » Sun Sep 21, 2008 4:40 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
<B>...my preference is to study with a teacher who can show/teach rather than one who is an "intellectual"'.

Why does it have to be either/or? Why can't a teacher be an intellectual and also be able to show/teach? You keep suggesting the two are mutually exclusive. They are not. Nor is one predictive of the other. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

When I look back at the "menial work of MA practitioners" as pronounced by the societal structure of the day, I realize that said practitioners were skilled at what they did. Rarely, were they exam takers or government officials (i.e. intellectuals) so that say to me, the better practitioners are best at what they do. From the histotrical record, it was Sun Lutang, who was from opposite ends of the spectrum, was able to bridge them. Sun Lutang put in words, the coropus of what he trained as he was fortunate enought to be born in a time where literacy as hard to come by.

I realize that both Quanyu and others of his level were already part of the ruling clan but there were exceptions rather than the rule!
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:40 pm

Chen Weiming, Zheng Manqing are some more examples. Frankly shugendla, all you are revealing here is an anti-intellectual bias of your own.
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Postby T » Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:33 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
Chen Weiming, Zheng Manqing are some more examples. Frankly shugendla, all you are revealing here is an anti-intellectual bias of your own. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Tung Ying Chieh wrote as well but he still emphasized training of Taiji over intellectual study of Taiji.

And lest we forget Yang Chengfu was illiterate.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:13 pm

T,

And lest we forget Yang Chengfu was illiterate. [/B][/QUOTE]

This is often stated, but I've never seen any evidence that it's true.

--Louis
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Postby T » Tue Sep 23, 2008 4:20 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>T,

And lest we forget Yang Chengfu was illiterate. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

This is often stated, but I've never seen any evidence that it's true.

--Louis[/B][/QUOTE]

Louis

It is often stated, but I've never seen any evidence that wasn't true either.

T

But to the point I believe that intellectual study is just fine but it is no substitute for physical training and that Physical training should be emphasized over intellectual study of Taijiquan



[This message has been edited by T (edited 09-23-2008).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Sep 23, 2008 4:39 pm

Greetings T,

You wrote: 'But to the point I believe that intellectual study is just fine but it is no substitute for physical training and that Physical training should be emphasized over intellectual study of Taijiquan'

One of the most significant things I've learned from over 34 years of taijiquan training is that the boundary between physical and mental is artificial. We should just all get over it.

Take care,
Louis
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