Nei Gong Notes, January 19, 2021

Jan 19 2021

Last week, my Nei Gong really wasn’t going well; I wasn’t sure whether it was because I was tired or because my back was hurting or because I was standing two low, or maybe those factors were related. So I tried to work on all three; only so much I can do about being tired, though I did at least talk to my allergist and get one idea. Back-wise, I skipped doing Dantien Gong last week (hard to do when I’m feeling achy and tired anyways) and did Tai Chi over lunch two or three times; that felt good. And also I did some Coiling Snake most days; I really do feel like that helps my back, I had several times when I was out for a walk and my back felt actively happy. And, finally, I actively tried to stand higher.

And it helped! I was quite iffy at the start of the week, but by the time the weekend hit, my back was basically feeling fine, and my brain had stopped recoiling at the idea of doing Wu Ji for more than 10 minutes. So on Saturday I planned to do it for 25 minutes and actually did it for 30, and on Sunday I did it for 35; and on one of those days I followed it up immediately with 10 minutes of Coiling Snake and 5 more minutes of Wu Ji. And it felt good: nice tingly feelings, basically comfortable the whole time, and I got back into a feel where the dominant feeling was more my bones fitting together into a nice framework and being kind of floaty.

So hopefully I can stick with that feeling; and I’m also kind of feeling that, at a low-key level, I really am tensing my legs basically all the time without realizing it? If I can hone in on that feeling enough to relax my legs more, that will be useful. Anyways, back to my normal routine now, though I’m thinking I’ll try to do Tai Chi over lunch once a week midweek as well.

As for Damo’s class, this week’s class was on “Attention Vs. Intention”, which was a sitting breathing exercise that I think is the same as the Anchoring the Breath that he and his students frequently recommend? So I was glad to have learned that, and I’ll probably try to keep on working it into my practice a couple of times a week. To jog my future memory, the sequence is nostrils, sinus cavities, throat, collarbones, chest, diaphragm, abdomen, then link it all together, and then add in a mudra.

Sunday Tai Chi; I should sink more when doing Wrap and Change to Cannon. (Not just sink inside my body, but actually squat down more when doing the change.)

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Nei Gong Notes, January 12, 2021

Jan 12 2021

This week started off okay; Damo’s lesson was on an exercise for stretching your diaphragm, which I’d seen him talk about in a Zoom class, vaguely thought “I should probably do that, my diaphragm is a little tight”, and then forgotten about it. So it’s good to see it again, and it’s good to have a small thing to work on.

And then the first half of the week, I did my usual exercises and stuff, and that was fine. But then I had a day when I decided to try a longer Wu Ji over lunch, and that really wasn’t happening: I was sweating and had my heart racing before I hit 10 minutes, and aside from being unpleasant, that’s a sign that something is seriously off in my body positioning or behavior or something.

Exactly what was off wasn’t so clear, though. I was tired; maybe that has that effect? And my back had been hurting; maybe that was making my muscles tense up in ways that prevented me from relaxing correctly or had me unconsciously standing in a bad position. Or maybe I was just standing too low.

I’m still not sure what was going on, but the weekend wasn’t any better; and even my upper torso felt off, I wasn’t managing to get a good effect from trying to relax the top of my shoulders. The back pain is clearly bad, though: I don’t know if it’s causing problems with my Wu Ji (and actually in the past sometimes Wu Ji has helped with it, now that I think about it), but it might be, and it’s not pleasant either way. Not that it’s horrible or anything, but still, worth fixing. And actually it wasn’t really just back pain: part of it was in my right kua, which feels like it might have been triggered by me trying to relax that more and change my positioning? That part feels worth waiting out, though who knows.

So I’m thinking I should maybe do a bit more Tai Chi: I actually did that over lunch today instead of doing a real Nei Gong session. But also I’m thinking I’m probably standing too low again: that’s certainly reliably led to that sort of sweating in the past, and maybe it’s also causing muscle pain? So I’ll experiment with standing higher; and actually the little bit of Wu Ji I did today was better, my upper torso in particular felt better.

One other thing I was thinking of was that the time when I was feeling like things were going well a few weeks back happened to coincide with when I was doing Coiling Snake, and in particular my back felt actively good then. Maybe that’s not a coincidence? So I’ve been trying to work that into my end-of-the-afternoon practice more often than not; short sessions, since I’ve been feeling bad, but hopefully it will help.

One thing I noticed doing Tai Chi today: the last time my teacher reviewed my form, one of the things that he pointed out was that my arms weren’t properly going over my head during Thrust with the Right Foot and/or Thrust with the Left Foot. I’ve been working on it, and noticed that it went better in Left Foot than Right foot; and today I noticed that I wasn’t turning my torso as much on the Left Foot as on the Right foot; when I turned it more, my arm seemed to arc over the top more naturally.

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VGHVI Minecraft, December 2020

Jan 10 2021

The December Minecraft session was our last regular one; I decided that I would build some nether train tracks (nether to compress distances) between the main area and Pat’s floating city, because his city was far enough away that I didn’t really know how to get to it otherwise.

We then ran into a wrinkle where Pat wasn’t online and I didn’t have the coordinates written down; I ended up spending up most of an hour understanding the binary format used for player saved data files, so that I could figure out what the last coordinates were of his avatar. (If you end up in this situation in the future, the first thing to know is that it’s gzipped…) Which was kind of fun! And, fortunately, it left me just enough time to build the tracks, things really are a lot shorter in the nether.

One last view of the main city.

Yay, I teleported to the right place!

There’s an island in the water below the city, so I ended up putting the portal there.

This creature was new to me, it must have been added since the last time I wandered around in the nether.

Here’s the end of the train tracks at the portal connected to the floating city.

And here’s the other end of the tracks, connected to the train station by the portal near the spawn point.

Three train lines running in parallel; the middle one is the new one, the other two are two separate lines leading to the forest city.

A closer view of two of the train tracks.

One more view of the floating city, at sunset.

 

Ariel added some stained glass windows to their castle.

Contemplating in the greenhouse.

Side one of stained glass windows.

Side two of stained glass windows.

Side three of stained glass windows.

Side four of stained glass windows.

I like this little pond here, would be fun to do something with it.

 

So, with that, we’re pausing the Minecraft sessions; I’m not deleting anything, I imagine we’ll come back occasionally, once or twice a year, but who knows. I’ll see if I can generate a map of the current state of things, it’s been a while since I’ve done that.

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Nei Gong Notes, January 5, 2021

Jan 05 2021

Damo’s lesson this week was on eating. Interesting enough, but I don’t think it’ll particularly change my behavior at all; food is a group thing, and nothing I saw made me want to lobby for changes in what we eat.

Two extra days off again, which was kind of interesting; I really don’t manage to do as much Nei Gong as I’d like on Saturdays or Sundays, because of the habits around how we spend our weekend mornings, whereas Thursday and Friday were good days, even though I had to do a little extra napping / sleeping in so I didn’t feel tired. I did 40 minutes of Wu Ji on one of them, and in retrospect I wish I’d gone for 45 minutes, I wasn’t so exhausted or anything.

That was actually a kind of surprising Wu Ji session, because my legs weren’t happy from fairly early on. Normally, when that happens, I don’t last much longer, but this time, I kept on going for another 25 minutes or so. So maybe my stance and levels of habitual tension and what not have changed in such a way that, even though I’m standing lower and my legs notice that, the parts of my legs that are getting stressed are ones that have more of a reserve?

The down side is that my energy level was low enough over the weekend that I didn’t manage a second long session. And the other downside is that my legs are still feeling like they’ve been stressed a bit; though that’s probably as much upside as downside, because that’s how muscles adapt. I also still don’t feel like my stance is quite right in the shorter sessions: things get into place on the longer sessions in a way that I haven’t really learned to capture.

The other good thing this week is that I’m starting to get a better feel for an imbalance in my body: I’ve known for a while that my Wu Ji is tilted in a way that I can fix by relaxing my right kua, but now I’m realizing that that imbalance is present even when I’m basically standing straight up, and that’s helping me feel it better. So, still something I have to actively work on, but at least now I’m starting to be able to feel it better instead of depending on the mirror, which should help?

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Nei Gong Notes, December 29, 2020

Dec 29 2020

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was on the Coiling Snake Dao Yin, where you stretch and twist your back. Seems like it might be being useful, a few times this week my lower back was feeling warm while I was out walking, so maybe I’m getting more blood flow there or something? Something like that happened a month or two back as well, maybe that was when I was doing the back stretch lessons.

In general, I felt like I was doing a good job of practicing: several good sessions, and I found time for Tai Chi. On Saturday I did a 40 minute Wu Ji session; I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep it up, since it was feeling a little rough 15 minutes in, but it didn’t get too horrible. So I think my current Wu Ji posture is probably better than I had been: spreading my back seems to be making it easier for my tailbone to sink, and that feels like a relatively stable position. I think I was pretty well sunk this week, too, a little more than I had been in previous weeks?

And I had some 40 minute seated meditation sessions, and I did a good job of combining my existing practice routine with finding time for the new practice. In general, I’m trying to do a decent size practice during lunchtime with a shorter practice at the end of the day (and with seated practice at the start of the day), I like that routine.

Unfortunately, I’m having sleep problems again, so I wasn’t able to follow up that Saturday session with another long Wu Ji session on Sunday, and so far this week I haven’t done any Dantian Gong. I’ll have vacation on Thursday and Friday, though, so hopefully even if I have rough sleep I’ll be able to take a nap and put in more time on at least one of those days.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 22, 2020

Dec 22 2020

This week’s lesson was labeled as part 2 of Drawing Down Heaven, but it turned out to be a seated exercise focusing on a mudra from that Dao Yin, where you have your hands together in a sort of prayer position, stretching your middle finger up. Which turned out to be a rather interesting exercise: it really does feel different inside your body with that finger stretched rather than relaxed (it’s supposed to help you feel your Central Channel), especially when I had my hands up in front of my forehead. By the end of the exercise, I’d feel a fairly persistent sensation in the back of the middle of my head and a tickling in my Bai Hui.

Good week of practice in general. Did the regular stuff over lunch, and every afternoon (or maybe almost every afternoon) I did a little bit extra at the end of the day, some back stretches or a Dao Yin or something. Not much to say about the Saturday class this week, other than that I’m sticking to my plan of pausing those for a while, while I build up my strength and/or get my sleep a little more under control.

And, speaking of building up strength, I was thinking I’d do 35 minutes of Wu Ji on Sunday (and try 40 next week), but it was going well, so I ended up going for 40 minutes. Felt pretty good, too, like my bones were kind of setting itself into a frame-like structure with the help of my tendons or something, as opposed to having my muscles do all the work; hopefully that’s a sign of progress and I’ll be able to get that feeling more often? Not sure that I was sinking quite as much as I do during the Saturday classes, but it still felt like I was doing a decent job with that, too.

And I didn’t do a huge amount of Tai Chi but I did some on both Saturday and Sunday (as well as Silk Reeling twice during the week), enough to make me feel like I’m holding steady enough with that. Still not sure what was going on with the back annoyance fro the start of the week, but that’s gotten better again.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 15, 2020

Dec 15 2020

Sleep was much better this past week, after some dust mite tackling, yay, so I got in decent practice last week after all. Though I was feeling off on Saturday, so I didn’t do much Tai Chi this weekend; better now, fortunately, though my back is letting me know that maybe I should have spent more time exercising over the weekend.

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was on Drawing Down Heaven, a Dao Yin designed to work on your central channel. Interesting how, when bringing my arms together, I could feel my body sort of narrow up inside, and also the feeling of a line down the middle as I moved my hands down? There’s a second lesson on that next, curious what that’s going to be about.

There was a Sunday Tai Chi class this weekend. I’ve been trying recently to memorize the list of moves in the second form, and coming to the end, there were a few where I couldn’t quite line up the names with the actions, so I asked about that. (I was more or less doing the right things, just not dividing them up so finely into names.)

I did a 35 minute Wu Ji session on Sunday, and it wasn’t too bad; I suspect I’m not sinking / relaxing quite as much when doing it on my own as I do in the Saturday classes, though? But I feel like I’m sinking a decent amount, and I think spreading my lower back might be helping with my positioning, I don’t think I’m quite as asymmetric as I had been before. Anyways, something to keep gradually pushing at.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 8, 2020

Dec 08 2020

This week’s lesson from Damo’s course was on the Golden Orb Dao Yin; we’d seen a seated version of it very early on (maybe in the first month of the course, even), but this time we were seeing it standing, and of course with half a year of practice under our belt. I’d seen it briefly in a Saturday class, but it was good to see the lesson on it, too; I don’t know that I’ll do it frequently, but I enjoyed doing it this week, and it seems like a reasonable thing to keep in the mix every few days.

One thing that Damo warned about is to not do Dao Yins when you’re tired; fortunately, last week, my sleep was better than it had been in a while, so I got in several good practice sessions. Unfortunately, it’s been lousy yesterday and today; I have a hypothesis why (boo dust mites), so hopefully I’ll be able to fix it, we’ll see.

Some of the good practice sessions were two 30-minute Wu Ji sessions, one during the Saturday class and one the next day. And one thing I noticed earlier in the week was that I probably wasn’t turning in my feet quite enough, and when I turned them in more, that caused my lower back / Ming Men to spread horizontally. And relaxing into that seemed like an interesting thing to do, so I’ve been working on that; I feel like it’s been helping my sinking and relaxing a noticeable amount, so hopefully sticking with that will help.

Also, when I’ve been walking around the neighborhood this week, my back has been feeling interesting; sometimes just a pleasant tingling, and one day my upper back felt actively warm. So hopefully that’s a sign that something good is happening, that things are opening up.

So, I want to keep this up, and also experiment with longer Wu Ji sessions; hopefully I’ll be able to get enough sleep that I can do 30 minute or longer sessions a couple of times a week, and extend the duration? I don’t have enough time to do that every day, given my work schedule and that I also want to do Dantian Gong a couple of times a week, go through the whole Ji Ben Qi Gong (which I’m now doing in two groups of four instead of four groups of two), and some other miscellaneous stuff (maybe Thickening the Qi, maybe Wu Xing Qi Gong) as well.

In terms of Tai Chi, we’re now at a serious enough COVID level that I don’t feel comfortable going to classes any more. I practiced the first form a few times on Saturday, though, but I forgot to do weapons / Xin Jia / second form practice on Sunday; oops. And I’ve been maintaining a habit recently of going through the full Silk Reeling set twice a week during work meetings; that’s definitely felt good too.

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VGHVI Minecraft, October / November 2020

Dec 06 2020

We did have an October Minecraft session, but attendance was small and we didn’t do much building, so I didn’t put up much for it; here’s a combined post for October and November.

 

First, a few October pictures:

I was thinking I’d do something with the room behind the dock. But I stared at it for a while, and I just couldn’t convince myself that I’d like it more after cleaning it up or expanding it or something. So I wandered around for a bit, but I ended up with a grand total of one picture of that:

A view from above of the colored stairs near the mountain.

Ariel did a bit of work in their castle, adding some stuff to a couple of rooms:

A fire pit with some boxes of supplies.

A room with a row of furnaces at the back and assorted other equipment.

Some armor at the end of this section.

But, in general, not a lot; and I can’t remember if Dan wasn’t there at all or if he was talking but had to do something else instead of building?

 

I didn’t do any more building in November, but I took a more normal set of pictures. First, some pictures traveling back from Ariel’s castle to the mountain:

Some colored abstractions that Dan had built years ago.

I have no memory of where these boxes on / next to this island came from.

The joys of glitches. (I think this one is from a change in the terrain generation algorithm.)

Some spots of light in the dark while flying over the train tracks towards the mountain.

A cave visible through a gash in the base in the mountain.

A tree growing in a corner of a mountain.

A view out from the mountain at dusk.

 

Then I was feeling nostalgic so I wandered around the city where we were building during the first several years:

Inside the golden temple.

Looking through a window into the library in that complex I dug out of a mountain next to the city.

The stables in the top level of that mountain complex.

Fortunately, the horses still have plenty of hay to eat.

Inappropriate Cows.

 

Ariel just put in some stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows on the castle.

Dan built a bunch of squiggles, though:

I think this cube with a plane cutting through it is new, but I’m not 100% sure?

A brown squiggle.

Some purple squiggles.

A better view of the lower purple squiggles, plus some less squiggly art.

Pretty sure that the yellow and green art are new.

Some grey shapes.

Muddy green this time.

Some smaller, brighter shapes above the water.

A view of the red thing in the context of the shoreline; I like how it echoes the grassy bit in the water, which I assume came from the terrain algorithm instead of from Dan?

Then Dan decided to start blowing things up instead of making abstract shapes.

Some explosion remnants further down in the pit.

 

I think we’re starting to run out of energy for Minecraft. And, looking through my records, our first session on this server was December 9, 2010. So we’ve been doing this for a decade, which is something worth celebrating; we’ll do one more session in December, but I think we’ll take an indefinite pause after that.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 1, 2020

Dec 01 2020

This week’s lesson from Damo was about opening the Lao Gong further; some interesting exercises around moving your hands in various configurations with Lao Gong stretched open. Which sometimes led to interesting feelings: sometimes feeling like there were magnetic pushes of my hands acting on each other, sometimes like something was moving inside? So I’ll probably keep doing this one every few days for a while.

My notes on the sequence, since it’s long: rest, stretch and squeeze (for a longer period than the next one), circles, stretch and squeeze. Put fingers in a cage shape and stay there breathing into fingertips, do circles, then stretch fingertips towards each other without actually moving them, then separate and squeeze one finger at a time (including thumb), then do all five, then flatten your hand again and rest while breathing into the palm. Go up and down the arms, returning to neutral between the two arms and after the second arm. Then ditto but also moving in and out as you go up and down. Have one hand flat and the other facing it with fingers together straight towards the flat palm, go in and out; repeat on other side, then rest in neutral position. Do the circles on more time, then widen and squeeze your hands, much wider than the first time. Rest in neutral. Touch your fingers lightly and listen to where they touch. Rest your hands on the knees.

This Saturday’s Nei Gong class was kind of frustrating; Joyce and Rick had us standing in Wu Ji for an indefinite period of time. I gave up after 30 minutes, and I’m glad I did; if they’d stopped after 35 or maybe even 40 minutes I might have felt like I should have pushed it further, but they just kept going, and also I’m not into uncertainty as a teaching technique. I’m actually thinking that I’ll pause those classes after December (I might even pause them now if I hadn’t already paid for December): it’s useful having them point out more subtle points of postures and to critique me directly, but the direct critique feels a lot less useful to me over Zoom than in in-person classes I’ve taken with them, and in general the classes seem a lot more focused on pushing through physical endurance than I want. I actually think I could use a push on that, but I like Damo’s more mixed approach, and I also like the sequencing of topics that Damo’s class provides. (Whereas Joyce and Rick have to deal with people at radically different stages in their journey.) And also I’m still dealing with sleep / fatigue issues that are noticeably interfering with things; it would be one thing to try to push my endurance if I were regularly sleeping well, but it’s another thing to push on that when I’m tired far too much of the time.

Still doing the Tai Chi in the park, though we’ll see if a lockdown gets called soon. One note from that class this week: In the Xinjia first form, when flipping your right forearm over before the first punch, don’t immediately bring your left arm up to your temple: your left arm covers your right arm and you step forward with your left foot. Then, after that, you unfold and move up your right arm, and move your left arm to your right temple to block, shifting your weight to your left foot. And then you do the small jump and punch. So, basically, I was missing a step and conflating two left arm positions.

Not much to report other than that; practice went fine given the sleep issues, I’m managing some Tai Chi and Silk Reeling as well, though not as much Tai Chi as would be ideal.

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