Tai Chi Notes: December 11, 2018

Dec 11 2018

I led the Silk Reeling Exercises this Saturday; it honestly didn’t go as well as I’d like, I didn’t feel like I did a great job during the middle third of the exercises in particular. So I should probably start practicing them more on Sundays.

And, speaking of Sundays, this week was the monthly Pao Chui class. I missed that last month, and apparently they finished the form that month; this time was a review session, and it actually concentrated on the end, so at least I’ve seen that a few times now. But I was already feeling like I didn’t have a great grasp of the form; I’ll be glad to see it start over again next month. And also the weapons form on the Sunday classes is going to switch from the Guan Dao (which I haven’t been doing) to the staff (which I plan to do, I’ve even already bought mine). I’m looking forward to that: I think my choice to not do the Guan Dao last year was the right one, but I’m feeling more confident in things now, so adding in the staff now should be okay.

Streaks asked me again if I should add a third Dantian Rotation section. (I tell Streaks that I’m doing it twice a day, but each time is 25 rotations.) And I’m going to give that a try: I don’t know exactly how I’ll fit in the third section, whereas the first two are next to my two train commutes (ideally while waiting for the train, but if I get to the station too late, then right after I get off), but hopefully I’ll be able to fit it in? I did manage that on Sunday, Monday, and today, at least. I actually don’t feel like I’ve gotten as much benefit as I hoped to when switching from 20 rotations a day to 50; so part of me feels like I should actually go back to doing less, but maybe I need to lean in more.

I feel like I’m getting better at sinking while standing normally (i.e. when not practicing). Relaxing my stomach, opening my kua, and sinking into it: not a ton, but even a little bit makes a difference that I can feel. So hopefully I’m retraining my body’s habits a bit.

I’ve been reading through Chen Taijiquan: Masters & Methods, and this bit from Chen Zhenglei stuck with me. I’ve been feeling the tingling in my hands for years, and I think now I’m getting to the warmth in my Dantian. So the good news is that now I know what to look forward to next, that I hopefully am doing the right thing to get to the next stage (spending more time in standing meditation and on leg strengthening exercises), and that I’m hearing consistent stories both from my teacher (who told me to do more standing meditation when I asked about developing these feelings in my feet) and from this book. But the bad news is that apparently the next stage will take a while! (And it’s not like I do that much standing meditation…)

I started a post in my main blog on silk reeling exercises, hopefully I’ll finish that this weekend or maybe even this Thursday.

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VGHVI Minecraft, November 29, 2018

Dec 09 2018

Pictures from the November VGHVI Minecraft session:

First, the usual wandering around deciding what I want to do next.

Looking at my mountain and Dan’s castle.

Dan is building some stairs down to the ground.

I think I’ll do something inside the mountain next.

Here’s the other side of the pool.

And a view of the waterfall and stairs, just for context.

 

I’d initially been thinking that I’d put some shops in this area, and I still might do that for part of the area, but for the next bit I decided to be inspired by the water and dirt and make the area around the water feel a little bit like a beach.

Putting some sand near the water.

Sand next to the water on the other side, too; what do I want to do about the stone?

Let’s put in some dirt and tall grass. (Which can’t grow in sand, it turns out.)

Here’s a top down view of the whole pool area.

And here’s how the water, sand, and stairs fit together.

 

So that’s me. Meanwhile, Dan was building a wide set of stairs down to a plaza; I’ll have to talk to him next time about how he wants to integrate that with my mountain.

The stairs have landed!

The builder gazes up at his work.

Looking down the stairs.

How do we want to relate the platform at the base to the nearby construction?

 

Miranda was chipping away at her buried tomb:

A glowing box in the water.

Turtles and fish swim above the box.

One of the adjacent rooms is now white instead of gold.

A view of the white pedestal from above.

 

And, finally, I caught Pat when he had finished the shell of a building but was working on finishing it.

The outside of the building.

Nothing yet inside.

Adding some lights certainly helps.

Adding some grass to the back balcony.

Grass and sunset.

Furnishing the interior.

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Tai Chi notes, December 4, 2018

Dec 04 2018

My exciting discovery for this week: my shoes have always had their backs start tilting towards the inside as I wear them. And when I’ve been thinking about sinking into my kua, I’ve realized: by default, I stand a little knock-kneed. So that’s why my feet are tilted the way they are; and if I open up my kua a little bit, then that puts my knees in the correct position. And maybe that’s also part of the reason why my kua feels better when I open it up: maybe something is getting a little compressed by default? I don’t think that’s all of the explanation, but it could be part of it.

Another potential part of the explanation is that I’ve been continuing to do slow squats, with an emphasis on my kua rather than other parts of my thighs; I think that that’s slowly making my thighs stronger, with an emphasis on the upper parts. And that in turn makes them tingle, kind of by default. So if I’m thinking about how my kua feels, I notice that. But I think that that’s independent of opening up my kua. So, I still feel like there’s a third component of what’s going on, that there’s still some sort of sensation trigger specifically by opening my kua, relaxing, and letting attention or something fall from my dantian to a little lower in my body…

Anyways, a pretty normal week other than that. On Saturday, I asked about Dantian rotation, and had it confirmed that the center of the rotation should be lower than my navel. (I.e. it should be in my Dantian!) And Qigong went well today over lunch, I managed 20 minutes of Wuji without being distracted out of it without too much trouble. We’ll see how I keep that up over the winter, as it gets rainy; I’ll probably start doing meditation in conference rooms instead of outside, I did that once last week.

And I’ve been thinking I should write a piece over on my main blog about what I pay attention to during Silk Reeling Exercises. So I’ve taken some notes towards that, hopefully I’ll get it written over the next couple of weeks.

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Tai Chi notes, November 27, 2018

Nov 27 2018

Not much to say this time, pretty normal week. I didn’t do Qigong on Thursday because of Thanksgiving, but I did the regular practices other than that. Still feeling more of a connection in my kua than I had been a month back, and getting used to that.

The only new thing that comes to mind is in the Oblique Posture: I’d been keeping my torso upright, but apparently the application is more of a shoulder strike. So I’m tilting my body more, but trying to do that in a way that has me sinking into my kua instead of into my knee.

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VGHVI Minecraft, October 25, 2018

Nov 24 2018

Pictures from the October Minecraft session:

First, the stuff that I did. The idea is to extend the shopping area from the train station to the entrance into the middle of the mountain.

I’m going to continue along that wall, going around the corner towards the dark area.

Looking up to a nearby mountain, where Dan is building. (We’ll get to him later!)

Looking down from the top of the mountain.

There’s some nice water on the right, I should think about that.

Let’s put in some tables and chairs.

In the back corner you can see the stairs that lead into the mountain.

Putting a picture on the wall.

A view from the corner.

Let’s replace the chest with stoves, maybe this can be a cafe.

It turns out that item floods the area when placed…

The flood spreads.

Now it’s dry again, and there’s a bit more decoration.

That’s what I did; Dan next.

Flying over to visit my neighbor.

Torches and stairs inside the castle.

Some water behind the glass.

A field of sunflowers out back.

The sunflowers are completely green from the back.

There’s a moat that extends around the side.

A closeup of some underwater plants.

Building a path with red flowers on the other side.

An exciting action shot of the flower planting.

Now there are flowers on both sides of the path.

Miranda was working on her underground tomb:

She’s added a watery pit.

Sea creatures in the water.

The surrounding room.

Pretty sure I’ve seen this gold room before.

The ground above the tomb.

And, finally, Pat’s latest buildings. (I don’t think I’ve taken pictures of the second of these before, but maybe I have?)

Inside his latest house.

There are books under the stairs.

A closeup on the chest nook in the books.

Looking out the window at the start of his next project.

The second floor continues the book theme.

The view from the second floor balcony.

Something in the early stages of construction.

Another house nearby that didn’t look familiar.

In this one, there are stairs under the stairs.

A light shining up from below.

There’s a bathtub in the basement!

Up on the second floor attic.

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Tai Chi Notes, November 20, 2018

Nov 20 2018

I was expecting being out of town to reduce the amount of Tai Chi I did, but actually I picked a very good week to be away: there was an unhealthy amount of smoke in the Bay Area, so if I’d been at home I probably wouldn’t have practiced on Sunday and I’m not sure how much I would have done on Saturday. As it was, on both of those days, I went through the Lao Jia first form three times, and I also went through the full Silk Reeling once and all of the Xin Jia first form that I know once; not as much as a normal weekend, but not bad all things considered. (And I got back for the Tuesday class.

I didn’t do as much standing meditation as normal, but that’s totally an unforced error, I had the time. Also, I walked less in general but up and down hills noticeably more; it’s kind of depressing how much I noticed that, I could probably use more cardio in my life.

While practicing, the main thing that I noticed was feelings in my kua: I feel like I’ve crossed some threshold where something is switched on and I’m getting a lot more connected there. Just standing and opening my kua feels different; it makes me wonder if that’s the way I should be standing normally? One noticeable effect of the Gokhale courses was that they convinced me that I’d been holding my shoulders unnaturally forward and that I’d feel better with my arms hanging by my side when I’m in a neutral position; maybe it’s also the case that my legs are coming a little wrong out of my pelvis, and that I should be opening them up more? I’m really not sure…

In class tonight, I asked about moving my arms (and changing my shoulder orientation) right after pounding the pestle; my teacher went back a step and told me that I was finishing Pound the Pestle with my hands too high up, I should move them down in front of my Dantian. So I’ll try working on that. Also I want to think a bit about maintaining a Ground Path between the first punch and the third Pound the Pestle; and maybe also waiting a bit before letting my forward foot turn when stepping back in The White Goose Displays the Wings? I’m not at all sure about that last one, though, I really do have to think about it.

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Tai Chi notes, November 13, 2018

Nov 13 2018

Doing my Qi Gong on Thursday was interesting: my kua felt warm in a way that I don’t remember it feeling before? Hopefully I can build on that… (And maybe that’ll lead to feeling things further down in my legs and feet, we’ll see.) Also, in terms of random sensations, my feet in general seem to somehow be feeling better / more stable, not just when doing Tai Chi but in general: like my pronation is going away or something. And I spent more time than usual over the last week trying to move my attention in circles around some Qi Gong orbits (right around my Dantian and also all the way up my spine, over my head, and back down); that’s getting easier to do, and I’m getting a stronger feeling of something moving around while doing that.

Which could totally all just be in my imagination! And, if there is a real physical correlation, I’m not sure to what. But I was noticing on Saturday that I’m starting to feel more active energy flow during silk reeling, so I’m going to want to nurture that more, I think. And, returning to the kua, I’m also starting to more actively notice as soon as my knee feels a twinge when doing something and using that as a reminder open my kua and shift my weight there.

Also while doing the form, all of a sudden I’m getting better while turning in some tricky situations with my foot in the air, in particular when shifting to the flash after Kick with the Right Heel. No idea when/why that happened, but I’m not complaining. And I’m trying to pay attention to maintaining a Ground Path and maintaining Peng; my hypothesis now is that those two are pretty closely linked, that you really want to maintain Peng a lot of the time and use the expanding downward part of that to maintain a Ground Path.

I’m out of town now visiting Miranda, so I didn’t do my normal practice on Sunday since I was on an airplane. I did do a bunch of those Qi Gong orbits while sitting and waiting, though… And no class today, of course, though I did make it out to a park yesterday and went through the form three times; hopefully I’ll find time to do that another few times before I leave. And hopefully I’ll find time to do my Qi Gong, too; I didn’t manage it today, though, because I was out during my normal lunch time and because I want to make sure I’m online and productive working remotely. I’ll miss next Saturday’s class because of that, but I will be back for next Tuesday’s.

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Tai Chi notes, November 6, 2018

Nov 06 2018

Not much to say this time. I’ve been doing longer Qi Gong sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays this week; I think I’ll keep that up? I’m noticing more random sensations in my body while doing the form; e.g. I was noticing on Sunday that, when doing Embrace the Knee, there’s a funny twisting situation on the sole of my right foot, and when doing Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, I feel something on the side of my head near where my hand is moving. Also, energy seems to be extending more during the Ji part when you raise your hands at the start. So, basically, more seems to be going on internally.

And tonight I was noticing lots of little things that didn’t feel right in the first few moves of the form. E.g. when stepping back in the Pound Pestle, I think I probably leave my hands forward too much, or maybe even move them forward instead of just leaving them. Or in Grab and Tuck Robe I might be leaning to the side a little? Definitely no end of details for me to work on…

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Tai Chi notes, October 30, 2018

Oct 30 2018

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve been doing 20 minutes of Wu Ji practice over lunch; this Thursday, I did a few other bits of Qi Gong after that, I think I’ll probably keep that up?

On Saturday, Tony was talking about Six Sealing Four Closing, and mentioned Peng (when going up on the left side); that surprised me, so I need to think about that. And then when we watched me doing that move, he said I was hopping, so I need to think about that as well! I actually spent a while doing that over and over again when practicing on Sunday, and I still don’t quite know how to put all of that together; for now, I’m concentrating on feeling the ground path more than I had been.

There was another push hands class on Saturday, but I didn’t like it as much as the first one. I was hoping that there would be more people repeating, but most of the class was new, so we mostly covered the same material; that would have been fine, but it also turned out that I was less well matched with the people that I was practicing with than I had been the previous week.

I finished that Nei Gong book; I’ll probably read more books by the author, and I’m still thinking I might go to a workshop of his? Even if I don’t do that, I might well reread the book in six months or a year.

And I’m continuing doing my Dantian Rotations and my very slow squats; Streaks is definitely helping with that. And my number of squats went up from 4 to 6 this week; so yay, if I keep that out, I can dig out of the really pathetic number that I started at.

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Tai Chi notes, October 23, 2018

Oct 23 2018

Pretty normal class on Saturday; though I’ve been trying to get into the habit recently of doing a second repetition of the form even when Tony isn’t there to tell us to do that. Two or three weeks back, maybe five other people did it with me; and this week, basically everybody did that with me; I’m sure that it helped that I was standing in the back row, which is the right place to lead when we turn around for the repetition. It’ll be interesting if that stays as a whole-class habit, we’ll see.

In the spear form, my full marshal felt a little messy, so I should work on that. But the good news is that the Xin Jia form is feeling much more natural than it was two or three weeks ago, I feel like I’m making real progress there? Not that I’m great at that form or anything, it’s just that it used to feel very unnatural, but now it’s much less of an active struggle.

After the regular class, we had a special push-hands class. I was curious how that would feel, since I feel like my Tai Chi has improved significantly since the last time I did much push hands. And, honestly, the single-hand push hands didn’t feel too good; but the two-handed form felt pretty different, in a good way. Partly because I felt like I was moving from my legs more than my torso, and partly because I got a little bit of the feeling of energy moving around in my body in ways similar to what I’m feeling these days in the form.

On Sunday I did my normal practice; I worked on the spear a bit more than normal, and I think I should be able to do better at the full marshal. Better in a couple of ways: keeping the spear movement in a plane more of the time, and also sometimes sliding my hands apart instead of always having them right next to each other.

I’m also continuing to read that Nei Gong book; there’s lots of stuff there, too much to absorb right now. (I was thinking I should reread it in six months; the author will actually be giving a course in the Bay Area in six months, though, so now I’m wondering whether I should do that?) There’s some fairly specific hard-to-believe claims about how bodies respond to these exercises, which at least would potentially have the advantage of making some of the harder-to-accept claims more potentially testable by somebody who is willing to put in the effort.

Which I’m not currently, but for now I think I should focus on doing abdominal breathing (and doing that by relaxing my muscles instead of forcing it), and also by guiding my awareness around the regular and lesser microcosmic orbits. (Which I can actually do kind of absentmindedly while riding the train!) Those orbits seem to be something pretty basic that Qi Gong books agree on, and that focus on awareness seems to me to dovetail well with my paying attention to my Dantian when doing the form and with my doing Dantian Rotations, so it’ll probably be interesting no matter what. (And certainly improving my breathing is a good idea.)

Speaking of Dantian Rotations, I’ve kept up that habit, as well as the habit of doing slow squats. (And I just bought the app Streaks to help with that.) With the rotations, I’m trying to put more into awareness and less into physical movements, and also to have the rotations that are on the plane of my chest feel like they’re farther back in my body instead of on the surface on my stomach.

All of this stuff (paying attention to my Dantian in the form and keeping up momentum, doing Dantian Rotations, and being more aware of the inside of my body in general) seems to be paying off. For example, I was realizing during class tonight that, at the end of Grab and Tuck Robe / the start of Six Sealing Four Closing, I think there’s an entire little Dantian rotation that’s completely hidden, where the momentum brings it around one more time when you have your right arm out, leading into you bringing you left arm over to meet it. And I’m actively trying to figure out how I want things to move during the Dantian Change: when am I trying to let everything calm down inside, and when am I going with the momentum?

This might actually be related to why I’m feeling more comfortable with Xin Jia: that form has a lot more circles in it. So maybe I’m now getting better at relating those external circles with internal circles that are hidden in the Lao Jia form?

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