The Power Curve in Aerodynamics is a characteristic curve of drag vs. airspeed. That mix between the amount of thrust needed vs. the drag of the air that enables a pilot to keep the plane in the air and flying. Similarly, a power curve of learning requires a balance of activities.
When learning and practicing the internal and external arts such as, but not limited to, Pa Kua, Hsing I, Tai Chi from an internal perspective or Northern Shaolin from an External perspective, no learning (meaning accessing new information, corrections, practicing and assimilating information) should take place outside of a power curve. So what is a power curve and how should one access it?
A power curve has been likened to jumping on the back of a Dragon and flying with all of its creative power beneath you. Taking you to new places to discover, filling you with insights previously unknown, and having its own life, that you are connected too and part of, yet has a power and direction of its own. (Very Paraphrased from Teacher Charlie Fechter )
There seems to be a sweet spot of learning and assimilating new information into one’s practice which balances the effort of engagement, whether it be mental or physical and letting the destination be a mystery that gently unfolds as you play. As practitioners progress from the letting the teacher orchestrate the power curve, to learning to support their own power curve, the art is recreated within the practitioner.
So, what is a practitioner to do? You want to learn, to assimilate, and discover and you know that a power curve is important. So what are you looking for? Here are some guidelines to make it easier to find.
1. Create a space mentally and physically for the power curve to occur. Creating space mentally means dropping as much of your thought baggage as you can at the door and engaging what it is that you are doing with as much of a clean slate as you can. A daily seated meditation practice helps with this one. As well as, creating as much of a distraction-free zone for your space as you can. (This does not mean that you should not become distracted even distraction can help a power curve.) What it does mean is that cell phones should be turned off, extraneous conversations kept to a minimum, keeping thoughts that are not about what you are doing to a minimum as well as arranging a space that has few distractions. Remember being too strict isn’t helpful.
2. Cultivating a state of relaxed playfulness helps set the stage for a power curve to occur. A state of playfulness as I have discussed in prior posts (Balance your Life with Play, and Playfulness) is essential for a power curve. Being over focused, too serious render the power curve invisible. That is no fun! What a drag, the dragon shows up to play, and you don’t even see it come around. Laughter and play are a great goodness.
3. Cultivating a sense of adventure, which allows you to go someplace new. The exciting thing about a power curve is that you get to explore what you don’t know. If you are wanting to learn something new having preconceived ideas formed from things you already know won’t lead you to new insights, or new experiences. It will only lead you to places you have already been. Jumping on a Power Curve opens the horizons and even places where you have been, become new again.
4. Allow the time and space for the power curve to unfold on its own. You can’t force it, all you can do is set the stage with your attention and desire to play and explore and then listen and stay engaged while you wait for it, join with it, and then ride it as it moves.
5.Don’t exceed the goodness of the activity. You are engaged in a power Curve; you let it take you to new and unexpected areas of learning, you let conversation move and change. When it is time, let the conversation come naturally to an end. Don’t Guild the lily and don’t cut it off too soon. That means you have to listen.
So, these are guidelines of setting the stage for a good power curve. You are an integral part of the equation, and yet you treat it as if you are the least important person in the room. You treat it as the most important thing in the world and the funniest joke anyone has played on you. You engage it with both mental focus and with nonchalance, and with stillness and movement. Riding a power curve is an art that employs a dynamic sense of play. Some signs that you are in a power curve include, a sense of ease, a feeling of being caught in a current of interaction, you start to have revelations on old material, or have an Aha moment! There can be time dilation where you feel as if only a few minutes have past and an hour has gone by, Sometimes it is as simple as feeling engaged with few distractions.
Ther are many different Power Curves, some last for a class, some last for moments, some unfold over many years. The art is in learning to set the stage, and then get out of the way and go where it takes you.