Nei Gong Notes, July 7, 2020

Jul 07 2020

I kept on not feeling good sinking so low during Wu Ji, and my back was aching in ways that I thought might be related. And then, thinking about it more, I realized that my analysis of how low to go wasn’t necessarily correct: I was making sure I had a connection with my hands while going low, but actually what I’ve felt there is that, if I’m too high, I lose the connection. So it could easily be the case that I still feel a connection even when I’m too low.

So, the last half week, I’ve been experimenting with starting higher up, and then seeing where I lose the connection with my hands, and going just a bit lower than that. I’m not 100% convinced that that’s the right height, it might still have me be a bit high, but practice has been good? Certainly I’m managing to stand for longer; I was back to standing for 20 minutes today, and while it was strenuous, I didn’t feel like I was at my limit or anything. (Which is good, because I want to get back to standing for more than 20 minutes!)

Anyways, going back a bit chronologically: I didn’t do the next installment of the course on Tuesday like I normally did, but I decided to do it on Thursday instead of skipping a week. The lesson covered the first of the Wu Xing Qi Gong, water: moving energy up your spine and down the front of your body. Which was an interesting sort of tingling. And I did a pretty good job of keeping up with other stuff over the week, doing the Qi thickening stuff and going through the Ji Ben Qi Gong over the course of the week. And I think it’s helped: I hadn’t been good about doing Silk Reeling regularly, but I went through the set today during a meeting, and there were a lot more interesting sensations in my torso than there sometimes is.

And I listened to the first couple of lectures in the Microcosmic Orbit course, and went through the first two exercises. I thought and still think that the course is too advanced for me, but I actually think the first exercise would be a useful form of meditation right now, and I could follow what the second exercise was asking me to do as well. (I didn’t get to the the end goal of that exercise, but I think I started it correctly, so probably if I repeated it enough then I would, and it wouldn’t take ages to do so?) Not sure if I’ll actively continue those exercises, and I doubt I’ll go through many more of the exercises in the course, but I might listen to the rest of the lectures. And once I learn all five of the Wu Xing Qi Gong exercises, I’ll be going back to the Heavenly Streams lectures.

Still not doing huge amounts of Tai Chi, but I’m doing some, enough that I don’t feel bad about it. And also still feeling that I have a lot of work to do on my breathing…

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Nei Gong Notes, June 30, 2020

Jun 30 2020

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was on Thickening the Qi: some exercises where you move your hands up and down your torso with Lao Gong open. At first I thought that my Qi, unsurprisingly, wasn’t yet concentrated enough to notice that, and I’m not getting the kinds of physical movements that he does. But, actually, if I do it after something else to gather the Qi, then I feel something inside, and even pretty strongly, enough to make me somewhat nauseous. So yay, stuff is getting connected inside and Qi is thickening, or something.

And I’m still working on the previous exercise, about extending your awareness past your skin instead of inside your body; I still don’t feel like I’m good at doing that exercise, but I’m getting something out of it, it’s being more interesting than it had been the previous week.

Still having trouble with my stamina during Wu Ji. Last Thursday went well (at least by current low standards) I managed 15 minutes, but then Friday was quite rough, and Saturday’s class was rough too. Yesterday went well, but it also felt like a bit much, and I had rough sleep last night and felt like I was coming down with a cold. So: still pushing away, and I don’t really understand what happened yesterday / last night…

In the Saturday Nei Gong class, we went over the third and fourth Ji Ben; and this week was Sunday Tai Chi, I skipped the second form (I needed to walk Widget), but did the Xinjia.

And I’ve listened to the first two lectures on the Microcosmic Orbit course. Interesting stuff; too advanced for me right now, but I’ll probably listen to the rest?

And one point from that: I really do need to get my breathing better. In retrospect, I think I actually need to work on having it be consistently low (“At Ease”), that’s my next step rather than slowing it. Doesn’t really matter too much, it’s not an active process, I just need to observe consistently…

On a related note, one of the things I really like about Damo’s course is how focused he is on getting basic concepts / capabilities down. The in-person courses from local teachers are very useful for getting my positioning and the like correct, but my experience of them feels more like collecting random forms. Whereas the weekly lessons from Damo feel very different: yes, you’re learning different movements every week, but there’s also this consistent throughline of working on more fundamental capabilities: work on your breathing, locate your Dantian, improve your Dantian’s ability to contain Qi, build Qi in your Dantian, start moving it around. That helps me think, and also helps give me guidance on what to work on next, how much time to spend on different activities.

My back is mostly over the problems it had a week ago: I think changing shoes helped. And I’m also still definitely feeling like I should be getting back to doing more Tai Chi; I put in some good practice yesterday, at least.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 23, 2020

Jun 23 2020

Rough practice this week. I’ve been trying to stand a little lower when doing Wu Ji: paying attention to my hands during Compressing the Pearl, I think I had been moving my center of gravity down to my navel instead of my Dantian. (This week I was also trying to pay attention to the inside of my body and see if I got the sort of bright sensation I get when contacting my Dantian there; sometimes I do?) And, for whatever reason, that is making Wu Ji a lot more tiring: I’m more tired after 10 minutes of standing than I had been after 25 minutes. And, to make matters worse, I’m also trying to fold in my right Kua a bit more, which sometimes makes it ache, and also my shoes had been wearing out in ways that affected my back. So, basically, practice was more painful this week than normal, which meant it was shorter.

I think it’s getting better now, though? I’m realizing that yeah, I have to build my stamina back up: if 10 minutes is where I’m at (and based on how bad I smell from sweating after those 10 minutes, it’s not entirely me being wimpy!), then that’s where I’m at, I just have to get it up to 11 minutes, 12, 13. Which is where I’m at today, and actually the first 10 minutes weren’t so bad today, so that’s an improvement?

But I also do feel like I’m out of in other ways: e.g. it had been the case that I’d felt surprising internal sensations when doing silk reeling, but now that’s not happening any more? And, in general, I haven’t been doing as much silk reeling during meetings or as much Tai Chi. So I need to spend more time on those.

Which I’m doing a little? And today was pretty good: more Wu Ji than I had been doing, did a few other kinds of meditation, did a bit of Tai Chi. My start of the morning meditation has been going well in general: I’ve settled on a routine of sinking down to my Dantian for maybe 5 minutes then just trying to leave my attention there while I calm down my breathing. And I’ve been working on the exercise from the last couple of weeks of expanding my awareness out from my body; still not good at it, but I’m better than I was, so that’s good.

One thing I noticed while doing Tai Chi: at the end of Dantian Change, when moving your hands apart, my right knee was collapsing slightly, I should fix that.

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VGHVI Minecraft, May 28, 2020

Jun 20 2020

I didn’t do any building last month, and didn’t even take many pictures, we were mostly talking a bunch. A few random pictures from flying around:

Some of Dan’s older structures that I’d forgotten about.

I’d forgotten that one of the library buildings had this pretty roof on it.

That horizontal slab looks more threatening to me each time I see it, now it reminds me of a Star Destroyer. And then there’s the vertical wall next to it; not sure if I read it as threatening or defensive or just there…

I think I took this picture because of what looks like a cloud of gnats or something on the horizon. (It’s probably smoke?)

Roger has added a window at one end of the cathedral.

I had some visitors!

That really does not look very safe.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 16, 2020

Jun 16 2020

The topic in the Academy this week was a seated exercise sending your awareness outside your body, stretching farther beyond your skin a few millimeters at the time. Which I’m finding surprisingly hard to do: my awareness keeps on getting stuck just behind my skin, on places like the hairs on my arms.

Though I haven’t practiced it as much as I’d like: I felt on Thursday like I was on the edge of coming down with a cold. I ended up being fine (though I was very sleepy on Friday), but I only did maybe half of my normal practice the next few days, and I didn’t participate nearly as much in the Saturday Nei Gong class as normal. Getting back to normal practice now, though standing is being hard; some of the latter might be because I’m trying to stand lower than I had been, admittedly.

Because of that, I think I’m not going to start a new lesson this week: I’ll take advantage of the somewhat self-paced potential of online course and practice the current set of stuff for another week.

When doing seated stuff, I’ve often been working on just sinking, and that’s been a good choice. Partly because the sinking can sometimes be very intense: it creates a quite strong tug on the back of my neck, and gets my mind in interesting places. But also it seems like it might be being helpful on building up my Dantian: I was feeling an unusual amount of tingling around there today, for example. Might be a coincidence, but it seems like the direction I want to go in?

One thing I noticed while doing Wu Ji over the weekend is that I looked a little bit turned sideways in the mirror, even though my feet seemed like they were lined up appropriately. I think what’s going on was that I’m not folding into my right Kua quite as much as my left? So I’m working on that.

Not doing as much Tai Chi as I’d like, but I’ve done it a couple of times while Liesl was walking Widget. And I’m trying to alternate between starting with the Lao Jia first form (hopefully going through it three times) and following up with the Lao Jia second form, versus starting with the Xin Jia first form and following up with the Jian. I’d been skipping those last two too much; hopefully I can get back to where I finish off the Jian form and at least don’t slip further back with Xin Jia…

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Nei Gong Notes, June 9, 2020

Jun 09 2020

This week’s topic for the Internal Arts Academy was some standing exercises for building the Dan Tian. Which is good: building that is something that I definitely need work on, but I could also use more standing practice, just to work on my ability to stand in Wu Ji or similar postures for longer. The new exercise had four parts, so I’m doing 5 minutes of Wu Ji, 5 minutes in each of the parts, and then maybe another couple of minutes of Wu Ji; so 25 minutes or maybe a little more, good to have that bumped up from the 20 minutes I had been doing the last few weeks. And most days I’m doing a couple of the Ji Ben Qi Gong exercises after that; and frequently at the end of the work day I’m fitting in some time for the seated Dan Tian exercises.

Still not seeing a particular effect of this Dan Tian work most of the time. In the start of the morning sitting, I’ve been going back to just working on breathing, because I’m still nowhere near hitting the stage where I’m having my breathing get naturally longer. Though today I decided to work on sinking my awareness first, and that was kind of interesting; felt like the breathing was naturally deeper, and more twinges on my Dan Tian than normal? So I’ll stick with that for the next week and see how it goes.

One surprise that I noticed this week is that I’m naturally starting to tuck my pelvis more: e.g. when I go down into a squat, my butt starts curving under a little instead of going out back. So that’s cool, and presumably a sign that I’m starting to relax more there.

We had the second week of the online Nei Gong classes from our local teachers. We were going over Compressing the Pearl, and I asked about the fact that my hands lose contact at the bottom of the arc. They said I wasn’t going deep enough, so I guess my sense of how high I am needs to be a little more tweaked; and when I went a little deeper, I did keep contact further, but I also noticed that some of that contact manifested in feeling like I was spreading sideways in my Ming Men. Which seems like a good thing?

Haven’t been doing Tai Chi as much: I didn’t do it at all this weekend, in fact. Though I did do it on two weekday end of the afternoons; I’ll try to keep that up? And one unrelated thing that I had been doing on Sundays has now come to an end, so I’ll have a little more time on Sundays, hopefully I’ll be able to slot in Tai Chi there. My back was feeling a little achy today, which made me think that I would probably be helped by exercising a bit more, even setting aside the other potential benefits of Tai Chi.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 2, 2020

Jun 02 2020

Feels weird to be writing this now. But anyways: my local Nei Gong teachers have decided to hold online classes over Zoom for an hour and a half for the next few weeks, this Saturday was the first one. They were focusing on the kua, so they had us spend a lot of time standing, folding into the kua, and seeing what that felt like. Which was surprisingly interesting; I got a much better feel for the pressure of my hip on my kua, what that feels like; and I think it probably also means that I’m doing a better job of relaxing that part of my body?

This week’s lesson on the Internal Academy was about shutting down at the end of practice; not a big topic, and one I’d seen before. So it’s not changing my practice routine particularly, I’m focusing on my breathing and locating / building my Dantian, mostly the former.

And the recommended side lectures for this part of the course are on the Heavenly Streams, i.e. channels. I went through a few of them; interesting, theory so far instead of practice, the one on the Five Pulses was material that wasn’t at all familiar to me and seemed like it might be interesting to experience internally? And then it talked about a set of Qi Gong exercises that I haven’t seen before, and I liked the conceptual framing. Looking ahead in the main course, I see those will show up there a few weeks from now, so I’m pausing watching those lectures; just as well, I’d been thinking I should rewatch some of the earlier parts of the main course, so this is a good excuse.

I’ve been slacking off on my Tai Chi: done it a little bit, but only a very little bit. Silk Reeling is starting to feel reliably fairly intense, though, so that’s something.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 26, 2020

May 26 2020

Not a ton to say this week. I’ve been getting back to doing the Ji Ben Qi Gong after going through those videos; and I’m immediately realizing that I’d been doing it a lot of it wrong, especially in the second half. (Basically, it’s less like the Silk Reeling Exercises than I’d thought.) So I should rewatch those videos at some point, but I should probably get my new normal in place first, so I’ll be able to more easily be surprised at my next set of mistakes when I watch it.

I’m continuing to go a little lower than I had been during Wu Ji, because I think that gets my center of gravity at my Dantian height instead of at the height of my navel. Which is more strenuous; for other reasons, I’m normally doing 20 minutes a day instead of 25, and that’s enough work! (But on weekends I’m trying to do 25 minutes.) I am trying to spend more time relaxing into my breathing during Wu Ji; I won’t say I’m doing a great job of relaxing, but it’s something. And I’m still needing to tweak my shoulder positioning, and finding it useful to do so; weirdly, I’m no longer finding that I can sink my pelvis very much, I’m not sure if that means that my pelvis is naturally sinking more or if I’m tightening up (maybe because of the lower position) in ways that make that harder.

Most days I’m doing two Ji Ben Qi Gong exercises, and I’m also trying to work in some Dantian-specific seated exercises, since Damo says that’s important right now. When doing the latter, I decided I didn’t feel super comfortable with my breathing, so now when I’m sitting at the start of the day, I’m trying to mostly just observe my breathing, thinking about what it means to be quiet. Right now I’m playing around with the transition between breathing out and breathing in, not having that feel like a jerk but also not having it be under conscious control; it’s hard! Still haven’t made much progress in having the breathing be naturally slow; presumably that will come eventually…

The Dantian exercises have been a little hit or miss: sometimes I feel like it’s actually harder to locate my Dantian at the start than it had been before! But today’s practice was quite good, I felt pretty noticeably buzzy inside. (Not a super strong feeling, but definitely present.) And sometimes when sitting around I’m feeling that if I quiet my breathing, too. So hopefully I’m making progress; a ways to go, though.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 19, 2020

May 19 2020

This week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course involved an exercise called “Connecting the Hands” where you rotated your hands in a way that’s supposed to help build up the Dantian. Damo said this week was particularly important, so I’ve shifted some of my seated meditation time over to this. Maybe it’s helping a little bit, I might be getting a little more of a tingle down there than I was a week before? Hard to say.

And then in the parallel track of stuff from the library, I’ve finished the videos going into Wu Ji in detail and gone through the Ji Ben Qi Gong. Lots of stuff there that I’ve been doing wrong: e.g. in Flying Hands, my hands were flying too much, and my hands going up are supposed to be close to my body with my Lao Gongs facing the body. Or in Upholding the Moon, you’re supposed to really bend your spine and neck going forward, and have your hands cross over each other so the Lao Gongs are on top of another, and then going up you’re supposed to bend your spine in the other direction so the front of your spine opens up. There’s more stuff I was getting wrong, e.g. in the ones in the second half I feel like I was behaving too much like I’d expect from Silk Reeling. So I’m trying to do them differently now, but I’ll probably want to return to those videos in a month or so.

There’s also the question of how to find time for all of this, since even only six weeks into the course I could fill up an hour of practice time even without Ji Ben Qi Gong. I asked about that, and was advised to think about my practice routine on a weekly basis: don’t try to practice everything every day, but do try to loop back over the week. So I’ve squeezed things a bit to find some time to do a couple of the Ji Ben each day, that seems workable for now. (But I also feel like maybe I should be spending more time on the Connecting the Hands exercise…)

I’m also trying to pay more attention to the height of my center of gravity: the Wu Ji talks mentioned that, and that’s pretty key to the first three Ji Ben exercises, too. And I think I am starting to get a better feel for that; and I also feel like my Wu Ji stance had been a little bit high, with my center of gravity more at the height of my navel than my Dantian. So I’m trying to stay lower (though I keep on popping up!); it feels like it’s helping my breathing be in a better location? Though, honestly, Wu Ji is still kind of strenuous to me, so my breathing is basically never super relaxed… I’m also trying to pay a little bit more attention to the connection between my shoulders/elbows/hands and my feet, and I thought I was doing okay at that, but then today I realized I could relax my shoulders noticeably more and then the connection felt quite a bit stronger. So I guess I hadn’t been doing okay at that!

We had the Sunday Tai Chi class this week. My notes from the Pao Chui section of that: in the Large Forearm Fist / Small Forearm Fist moves, you should tense while your hand is going out and relax while it’s going to the middle. (So this is different from Hand Maneuvers in the first form, where it’s tense on the bottom and relaxed on the top.) In Large Forearm Fist it’s more the upper part of the arm that gets the energy (going as high up as the shoulder), in Small it’s more the part of the arm near the hand. Also, when shaking after Ride the Dragon Backward, I realized my right foot was moving a little forward, I think I should work on having my right foot land next to my left foot so I can stay vertical.

Haven’t been doing Tai Chi on weekdays or Saturdays over the last couple of weeks; that is a gap. The lockdown might ease up here soon, hopefully we’ll be able to safely restart the Saturday class, though even if the Tuesday class restarts I’m not sure I’ll join it. (At least if it’s inside, though in the late summer it’ll probably be outside.)

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Nei Gong Notes, March 12, 2020

May 12 2020

This week’s topic in the Nei Gong course was about locating your Dantian. I won’t exactly say that it was farther back than I expected, since I’m used to it being towards the middle of your torso (and maybe feeling farther back than that), but it’s farther back than I’d been paying attention to during breathing exercises. And I also won’t say that I 100% have it located: at first I was happy because I’d found one of the three possible signs Damo mentioned (feeling nauseous) when I put my attention in the right place, but then I realized that I felt slightly nauseous whenever I move my body far enough back in my abdomen, so that didn’t seem associated with a single point. I still think the farthest forward where I feel nauseous is probably basically the right place, and sometimes I think there’s a little vibration there, or sometimes other sorts of oddness, but I’m not 100% sure I’ve got it right.

Anyways, these days when I sit at the start of the day, I’m starting off by working on quieting / sinking my breathing, and then locating my Dantian. No particular progress on the breathing front, it’s not getting any longer or anything. It has sometimes been interesting walking after that, because sometimes my mind does get a little stuck down there; on the Dantian, in particular, which I guess is another possible sign that I’m finding the right place?

And I’ve made it through the videos in the library breaking down parts of Wu Ji; that’s been quite interesting. The discussion of your shoulders talks about sliding your shoulder blades so they line up flush with the back of your rib cage instead of jutting out; I’m realizing I can do that, and it helps the top of my torso feel good. In general, the shoulder blade rotations are paying off; it had been the case in the past when doing Wu Ji that I felt like something was going on in my shoulder blades, but also it was causing them to ache, whereas now I feel much less ache and much more movement. (When I’m doing the shoulder blade rotations now, my shoulder blades come pretty close to touching!)

But also I’m continuing to pay attention to sinking my pelvis (and it’s going pretty far down, though it takes a while), having my neck go up and out, and also I was reminded about sinking my Tian Tu. And I’m managing to do that last one much more effectively now; I get a pretty serious stretch on the back of my neck (both up and down, I try to maintain an active up component but sinking my pelvis pulls it down pretty hard), and a good sink on the front of my rib cage as well. I think the shoulder blade positioning helps the sink in back be in the right place, too? It really does feel like parts of my spine are opening up, especially my neck; and on Saturday in particular all afternoon I was noticing my body feel different.

In the section about your hands, he mentioned feeling the stretch start to go up your arms, so I’m trying to use that as a guide for how much to stretch. And, in feeling out the center of gravity stuff, I’m thinking that I should probably be a little bit lower than I had been? Also, when tilting my torso forward (for spine purposes, not for purposes of where weight hits my feet) I should tilt from my Kua instead of my feet.

And then there’s this stuff about feeling connections from your shoulders / elbows / hands to your Kua / feet. I feel like that’s the next thing to explore; it might even be the topic of this week’s lecture in the main course? I’ll find out…

I’m also getting tired of having tight hamstrings, so I’ve gotten in the habit of trying to touch my toes when my watch tells me to stand up. I think it’s having an effect, though I also don’t feel like I’m super close actually being able to touch my toes.

I did do some Tai Chi one evening last week while Liesl was walking Widget; and I practiced on Sunday, too. And I watched a Jian video; I really am very close to the end of that form, I should just go learn the last couple of moves.

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