Tai Chi Notes, July 9, 2019

Jul 09 2019

Last week was spent fighting the cold. I was starting to get better by the end of the week, so I did go to Tai Chi class on Saturday; didn’t feel great, my lower back was tight and hurting, and in general I didn’t feel the normal body sensations (energy, sinking, relaxing). I could sort of tell that those sensations were available on the fringes, just hard to access.

Because of the tightness, I went through the full silk reeling series on Sunday as well. I only did the first form three times, but that felt like a reasonable victory given the time I spent on Silk Reeling and given my energy level. I tried to do some Lotus Wu Ji later in the afternoon, but I just couldn’t get into it; I probably should have pushed through, I wasn’t actually hurting particularly (and in particular, my lower back actually wasn’t causing problems for that), I just didn’t have the mental fortitude for it.

Unfortunately, the cold refused to go away; I actually felt kind of lousy yesterday (and was coughing a ton), so I worked from home today, didn’t do Wu Ji over lunch, didn’t go to Tai Chi class. I did at least put in 20 minutes of sitting meditation; a little distracted by coughing at the start, but that actually got better as the session went on, it was a surprisingly successful session. (Which reminds me, I did 30 minutes of lying down meditation on Sunday; that was less successful, though not a complete loss.)

Hopefully this cold will end soon and I’ll be able to start working on getting my body back in shape, but who knows when…

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Tai Chi Notes, July 2, 2019

Jul 02 2019

My Lotus Wu Ji went great on Thursday: 21 minutes, no significant pain. Not sure whether I’m accidentally making it inappropriately easy on myself, whether I’m doing something right, or whether it depends on something non-obvious in the state of my body; if it’s the first of those, then great.

And I had a free moment in the middle of the afternoon that day, so I went for a stroll, and after that I found a quiet spot that I hadn’t previously been aware of quite a bit closer to work, so I did another 15 minutes of Wu Ji. That made me happy, it might make it realistic for me to start working in practice on Mondays / Wednesdays / Fridays as well.

Unfortunately, on Friday I also had a few spare minutes, but I had a real headache, so I decided practicing wasn’t a good idea. And, more unfortunately, that was a sign that I was coming down with a cold, and a pretty nasty one: I was not only out of commission Saturday and Sunday, but I ended up taking sick days Monday and Tuesday as well. (I think I’ll be up for working for home tomorrow, at least: today was better than yesterday.) So no Tai Chi class on Saturday or today, no Wu Ji today, no practicing on Sunday.

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VGHVI Minecraft: May 30, 2019

Jun 29 2019

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the start of the May Minecraft session; looking around, though, I noticed some stairs that were irregular, so I cleaned them up:

The bottom side of the staircase is uneven in the top half.

Now the bottom looks better.

Then I went up the staircase, through the building on top, and looked out the back:

There’s a desert out the back.

And, if I look right, there’s Roger’s abandoned cathedral.

 

I decided to just go straight out the back, past that desert, and see where it lead.

A pig on the side of a mountain.

Pigs hovering in the air, waiting for support to get rendered under them.

Some mountains sticking up from the water.

A sheep looking over a mountain ridge.

A mountain lake, with lava above it.

Sunset in the middle of a rendering void.

A crevasse with water at the bottom and lava running down the side. (And, I think, a sheep watching.)

 

I came across a village; it turned out to be quite a bit fancier than I’m used to, I guess it’s been a while since I’ve looked at villages.

A couple of small buildings on the outskirts.

Peeking into one of the houses.

There’s a library behind this grille door.

Some people talking, with a cat.

That golem is keepings its eyes on me.

A small sheep pen behind a house.

A broader view of the village: note the large building on the hill in the upper right and the one in the lower left.

 

After that, I kept on going, eventually reaching a second, quite different, village at the edge of a desert.

A cold moon shines over the desert.

Some horses and cows.

An oasis in the desert.

Hello, desert bunny.

A crevasse and a river in the desert.

Approaching a city in the desert.

The full city comes into view, it turns out to be on the shoreline.

One of the villagers is looking at me with suspicion.

Some of the buildings with people standing around nearby.

A cave right on the edge of the water.

 

That seemed like a good place to stop, so I flew back to where I started.

Here’s part of that earlier village, now during the day.

I’ve returned to where I started.

One other random picture from when I was flying around afterwards.

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Tai Chi Notes, June 25, 2019

Jun 25 2019

On Thursday, my Lotus Wu Ji as by far the easiest it’s been in ages: 20 minutes with no serious discomfort. No idea what was going on there: did I accidentally get my form right, or was my weight too high, or was it something else?

Nothing particular that I remember about Saturday. We had the monthly class on Sunday; we went over Jade Lady, and it turns out that, at the start, I was collapsing my elbow too much: I should spiral in more and fold less. Also, when going over Xin Jia, in Swing the Leg, Drop, and Split, there’s some place where I’m supposed to have both palms down where I only have one palm down. Or maybe it’s in Golden Rooster? I can’t quite remember which move, though…

Partly because of that and because of other distractions, I didn’t do Lotus Neigong stuff on Sunday, but when I realized that and had a break in the middle of the afternoon, I ducked out of work to do 20 minutes of Wu Ji. (But just Wu Ji, no Frolics or Qigong.) Back to its normal level of pain, but I made it through it. And I bumped it up to 21 minutes today (again, painful but I managed), plus Frolics. And in Tai Chi class tonight, I realized that, when you step to the right in Grab and Tuck Robe, you’re supposed to be looking right, whereas I’m normally looking left.

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Tai Chi Notes, June 18, 2019

Jun 18 2019

This Saturday, my teacher reviewed my form. Notes from that:

  • At end of Oblique Posture, my right arm was a little far back.
  • When doing Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, have my hand circle back more.
  • Always look where I’m kicking. (I was looking away during Kick with the Left Heel.)
  • My arms are going too high when doing the two blocks in Flash the Back.
  • I should work even more on connecting my movements.

And we started the Jian on Saturday; we’ll see if the whole thing sticks this time, it didn’t the last time I tried to learn it. But I also feel like I need to rearrange my Sunday practice time if I’m really going to keep all these forms in my head; and I’m not at all sure whether I should do that or try to learn the Lao Jia First Form plus one other form and let the others fall to the side or just spend almost all my time on the Lao Jia First Form. Though I’m pretty sure the real answer is that my main problem is that I don’t practice Tai Chi enough times during the week…

I ran into an interesting article from the Gokhale folks about cultural differences leading to physical differences in sitting meditation. I’ve been doing that more, and I don’t feel great about my lower back there, so I bought a meditation pillow on Monday; we’ll see if that helps.

Okay Lotus practice on Sunday and Monday; up to 19 minutes of Wu Ji again, I’ll try 20 on Thursday. Though I was also listening to a podcast episode of Damo’s on Monday where he mentioned that even doing Wu Ji an hour a day is only the beginning, so I should keep on cranking it up! But hey, if I can increase my duration a minute each week, then a year from now, I’ll be at the hour mark; more motivation to just keep chipping away.

Not as much energy as normal during Tai Chi class this evening, and my knees felt a little off; not sure why. Also I was noticing that my hands are a little low when stepping back during the initial Jin Gang, and also I should probably turn out my right foot more there.

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Tai Chi Notes, June 15, 2019

Jun 15 2019

I was busy evenings this week, so late notes! I’m not going to talk about today, I’ll put that in next Tuesday’s notes.

On Thursday, I did Wu Ji like normal (well, almost like normal, it was later in the afternoon than normal), with Ji Ben Qi Gong after that. And, for whatever reason, I felt different (more energy popping up in my body) for something like two days after that? Which was good news: I’d kind of been feeling like I was on a downward trajectory since the seminar ended, so it’s good to know that I can have sustained upward bits too.

The next question is: how can I do that again? Might have been a fluke, might have been doing Ji Ben Qi Gong instead of Animal Frolics, might have been something less obvious (the time of day??). For now I’m going to switch to alternating Ji Ben Qi Gong with Animal Frolics, instead of doing two-thirds Frolics and one third Qi Gong.

On Saturday, it was my turn to lead Silk Reeling and the first time through the form. I think it went well? One of the senior students mentioned after that that, when doing the block with my left hand in Flash the Back, my elbow is above my hand, so that’s something to work on.

On Sunday, when practicing, I started to feel not so great about about how I do Thrust the Right / Left Foot: I’m not really putting in energy in either the push or the kick. So I’ll work on putting more force into both of those.

On Monday (I think, maybe it was Friday?), I was listening to an episode of Mitchell’s podcast and I decided to practice sinking my Qi while walking around, and I think I’m getting to where I can fairly quickly and reliably sink it to about the height of my bottom of my sternum? Whereas, once it hits that level I can sink it further, but that’s quite a bit slower and less reliable. And, perceptually, it kind of feels like there’s a V shape going down, so I should aim at reliably drilling it down further? Not actually sure that what’s going on there is really the same thing as sinking the Qi, I should try paying attention in other circumstances where I have a slightly better feel for the latter. So it might just be physical relaxation of muscles inside my body; or maybe that’s all that sinking the Qi is… But I think it’s probably a good thing either way – even if it’s just relaxing, being able to easily get relaxed that way seems good, and working on improving that also seems useful.

On Tuesday, it was my next time to do Ji Ben Qi Gong after Thursday; and, unfortunately I didn’t have the same persistent experience. So, whatever’s going on, it’s not as simple as Ji Ben Qi Gong reliably triggering that. The one interesting thing that happened then was that Compressing the Pearl felt quite a bit more physical than it normally does, like there was real resistance there; I feel like I’ve experienced that in a class but not during my normal practice. And, incidentally, I’m definitely glad that I’ve stuck in bits of Wu Ji between each of the exercises there, that feels helpful.

I skipped Tai Chi class on Tuesday evening, because of other stuff that was going on. And I skipped Wu Ji on Thursday, because I was super sleepy and was almost positive that I wouldn’t be able to put in anything like a productive session…

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Tai Chi Notes, June 4, 2019

Jun 04 2019

On Thursday, Wu Ji practice started rough, but it got easier maybe five minutes in, and stayed fine after that. Not sure what happened, whether I changed my positioning or something, and, if so, whether I changed it in a good way or in a bad way! And, jumping ahead, on Sunday it was actually basically fine the whole time. I was experimenting a little bit, and maybe I did a better job of lowering myself down like I was sitting on a stool instead of on a chair?

On the Saturday class, I asked about opening your live gate, and my teacher confirmed that you’re supposed to open it in all directions, sideways as well as up and down. Which was what I’d thought from the Damo Mitchell course, whereas before that I’d been thinking it was more just an up and down thing. I also asked about the move right at the end where you lowered my hands: it reminded me of cleansing, but that’s not the intention, the energy is supposed to end in your hands and feet instead of going out of your body. (And it doesn’t start as high, either, it starts at your collarbone instead of the top of / above your head.)

When moving back to the right after Protecting the Heart Fist, I noticed my teacher raising the toe of his left foot but then putting it down in the same orientation. He said that, if you want to do a wider or narrower kick after that, you could turn your foot a little out or in, but in general doing a weight shift off and back onto that foot and then having it end up in the same position is fine.

Not as long a Tai Chi practice on Sunday as would be ideal, but the Lotus practice was good. And doing an hour of meditation in the morning (40 minutes lying down, 20 minutes sitting) helped too.

I’ve been spending some of the week working on neck positioning, having it further back (and hopefully going up more) than I have been. And I’m experimenting with actively stretching it up a bit; not 100% sure if that’s a good idea, and even if it is, I want to balance that against having my pelvis weighting it down, so I don’t get uprooted. In general, I’m trying to spend more time actively maintaining a good (but still relaxed!) position, so I can preserve energy better, since it’s continuing to go away…

I was really sleepy today, so I napped over lunch instead of doing my Neigong practice; I think that was the right choice (or rather, the wrong choice was going to bed late the previous night), it did give me enough energy for the afternoon and for Tai Chi class that night. It was a between-semester week for Tai Chi, so we were out in the courtyard; I decided to spend the first 20 minutes doing Wu Ji in the style of my Tai Chi teacher instead of the Lotus Neigong style. I didn’t feel so much energy, and there was more tension on my calf; maybe the latter is a side effect of being higher? (Whereas if I’m lower, the strain is on my thighs.) Not sure.

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Tai Chi Notes, May 28, 2019

May 28 2019

The immediate physical aftereffects of the Nei Gong seminar have, sadly, basically completely disappeared by now. I’m not entirely sure what the implications of that are: worst case would be that going was a no-op, but hopefully there’s knowledge, behavioral, and physical restructuring which are still having an effect?

Speaking of behavior, I’ve tried to change my start-of-the-morning schedule to replace 10 minutes of reading Twitter with 10 minutes of meditation; that’s probably a good change straight up (honestly, replacing Twitter with almost anything is probably good…), but I do feel physically different after the meditation, and those effects are lasting for several hours after the meditation itself: e.g. I feel different walking from the train station to work. So that’s something to build on. And sometimes I’m meditating longer; that gives me more of the physical sensations through my torso and limbs (Yang Qi?) but not yet as much as I’d like in my Dantian.

I’m still feeling like my thighs need a bit of a break, so I’m back to doing Lotus Wu Ji three times a week (Sunday / Tuesday / Thursday). Hopefully I’ll be able to work that in more days, though, as I get stronger. I am trying to work in more meditation sessions on other days, though.

In terms of Tai Chi stuff, one note from the Saturday class: In sweep after Two Feet Up, move your right foot forward a bit so that, when doing Protect the Heart Fist, you have space between the two feet to make it easier to turn the waist when striking. (At least that’s what one of the relatively advanced students told me.) And, in that strike, you strike with the right arm turned so the back side is in the striking direction.

We’re getting near the end of the spear form; I’ve missed enough classes recently that I’m not super optimistic that I’ll be able to reliably do the whole form after we’re done. We’ll see; hopefully at least it will be something to build on. On which note we’ll be doing the Jian form next; that one was really hard to learn the first time, and I more or less gave up about two thirds of the way through, we’ll see how it goes the second time.

Today was rough; I normally do allergy shots on Wednesdays but this week I did it today instead, and maybe because of that I had a really hard time doing Wu Ji over lunch. And almost certainly because of that I was very tired when I got home, so I decided to skip Tai Chi. Hopefully just a one-time thing, though…

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Tai Chi Notes, May 21, 2019

May 21 2019

This week was mostly about continuing reverberations from last week’s Nei Gong course.

I did keep up my Nei Gong practice, doing at least a little bit of it every day since the course ended. Not sure how long that’s going to last, but hopefully I’ll end up at a steady state that has me doing more Nei Gong than before the class. And hopefully doing better Nei Gong; I’m certainly doing things in a more varied way, at least. Though it’s also not feeling nearly as effective as it was during the course; not sure how much of that is because even an hour of practice isn’t the same as five or six hours of practice, and how much of that is because practice on my own isn’t as effective as practice with expert guidance.

And I’m back to doing my normal Tai Chi. (Well, except for Sunday, because it was raining pretty hard out.) On Saturday, I was definitely still on a Nei Gong high, because the Silk Reeling Exercises felt a lot more intense than they normally did, and the form felt somewhat more intense. It’ll be really good if I can hold on to some of that feeling, both because it feels good, because I suspect that it’s reflecting energy flowing better through my body than it had before, and because it’s feedback giving me potentially healthy guidance. (E.g. there were a few random moves in the form when I lost that feeling of energy, I should figure out what was going on there.) Though, jumping ahead, the Silk Reeling and the form weren’t nearly as intense in the Tuesday evening class tonight: the feeling was still there somewhat, but definitely not the same thing.

On Sunday, I did breathing meditation lying down for 30 minutes; that was also pretty intense. I guess / hope it’s a feeling of Yang Qi, and I guess I shouldn’t focus on the sensations too much, and I’m honestly not sure how much time I should spend on lying down practice because it doesn’t seem conducive to gathering Qi in my Dantian, but still: it’s interesting / pleasant enough for me to want to keep on doing it sometimes. (But I’m also starting to mix in more seated breathing practice.)

What actually hasn’t been going super well has been my Wu Ji practice: my thighs have been feeling weak, so I’ve been dropping out after about 12 minutes. Part of this is that I’m going noticeably lower than I had been before the class; maybe also I’m doing other changes in how I hold my body / muscles, and if so I’m not sure if my thighs being under stress reflects something good or something bad? But I also feel like my thighs are just over-tired right now, so maybe I should actually back off on the Wu Ji a bit, spending more time doing less strenuous practice until they’ve recovered.

Also this morning I was reading a section in the Comprehensive Guide talking about Qi Gong sequences, and it mentioned that you should drop into Wu Ji after every posture, so I did that today; so even though I didn’t have a single Wu Ji session that was as long as I’d been doing, it at least added up to a more reasonable amount of time.

Other notes from tonight’s Tai Chi class: my teacher was talking about opening up the Live Gate in a move where I don’t normally think of that as a key component, and I used that as an excuse to work on spreading my lower back a little more (sideways as well as vertically) during a few different moves; seems worth continuing to experiment with, it did at least feel differently stretched. And actually the Qi Gong practice in the Tuesday class went as well as I can remember it ever going, my Dantian did feel a little more full than normal?

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VGHVI Minecraft, April 18, 2019

May 18 2019

Pictures from the April Minecraft session:

As we discovered in March, the train tracks under the water had gotten flooded. We started rebuilding that tunnel then: we recreated the floors, walls, and ceiling, but the water stayed inside. So I decided to fill the entire tunnel with glass and then dig it out from the dry sides, hopefully that would force out the water.

Lots of water around.

There’s some sort of weird glass block with water inside in the middle here.

After a few attempts, I managed to destroy blocks in a way that didn’t leave water flooding back in.

 

After restoring that (and taking the train around in that loop, just to verify that it still worked; it had gotten slightly broken and/or underpowered in a couple of locations, so I actually did have to restore a couple of places), I went back towards the mountain area, to check on what Dan was up to.

You can see a few of Dan’s structures here. (Hmm, I should clean up the bottom of those big stairs.)

A view looking down from the other side of the formerly desert area.

Looking down the pit that Dan had made last time.

Dan isn’t at the bottom.

A pedestal he’s built nearby.

This sculpture is new too, I think?

Here’s a closer view of that sculpture.

 

It took me a little while to find Dan, he’d built a bunch of stuff. But eventually I noticed an entrance hidden in the grass:

Easy to miss this one unless you’re right there.

There’s actually a big drop down from the entrance.

Here’s the view up towards the entrance from the bottom.

Here’s the room at the bottom of the entrance, with a hall coming off of it. (Lots of white!)

I’ve finally found Dan!

A closeup of one of the nooks in the hallway.

Here’s Dan in the midle of digging out another room around the bend of the hallway.

Done with the stairs down to that room.

 

Pat had to leave before I could take pictures of him, but I did get some shots of the tomb that Miranda is continuing to excavate:

Lots of torches on the floor of this one.

Almost positive I’ve taken a picture of this one before.

Bookshelves visible at the other end of this passageway.

That is a lot of bookshelves!

To be completely honest, I’m not sure what the role is of the rowboat and armor here.

A closeup view of the armor.

The tower of books is just as imposing from the back!

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