Tai Chi Notes, October 8, 2019

Oct 08 2019

Towards the end of last week, my back was aching more, in a way that made me think stuff was moving around in there and sinking more. But then, on Sunday, when we had the final two sessions (six hours!) of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop, I just felt low on energy; in particular, I was slipping into rigid postures way too much, locking my knees when just standing around. And, thinking about it more, I think in retrospect I’d been a little low on sleep; so maybe the back aches were part of that, though I’m not entirely sure?

The silver lining is that I’m getting a little more sensitive to how my body was behaving? Because I don’t think I would have been aware of this if I weren’t spending as much time in standing practice, wondering why it was getting harder… And it’s certainly something fixable.

One thing that came out of the class (and out of a book I was reading) is that I should pay more attention to my shoulders while doing standing meditation – e.g. my Tai Chi teacher says that my shoulder wells should be over my bubbling wells.

The book I was reading was The Joy of Living, by a Tibetan master. One thing it recommended is doing lots of short meditation periods – dozens a day, of 3 minutes or even 1 minute. I’m not going to meditate that frequently, but I am trying to work in some more short periods.

I’ve been feeling out of balance when doing Embrace the Knee; in class tonight I experimented with shifting to my back foot more before lifting up, and that seems to work. So I leave my left foot mostly down while shifting; reducing the weight means that my toe naturally comes up and my foot naturally turns, but I don’t start lifting it until I’m almost entirely over my right foot. Seems to be an improvement?

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Tai Chi Notes, October 1, 2019

Oct 01 2019

I’ve apparently been doing these notes for over a year (over 13 months, in fact); yay.

On Saturday, I asked whether your weight should be forward or back at the start of the first form; the answer was a little forward, like doing Wu Ji meditation. Also, when doing the two Kick with the Heel moves, have your hands in fists, palm side up, then strike out with them with more energy in the foot on the opposite side from where you’re kicking.

Part two of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop was on Saturday; nothing particular to report that day, basically going over Hunyuan Qigong moves.

I’m feeling that, in the various moves in the first and second form where you’re supposed to be shaking, I’m really only doing that with my arms, I should figure out how to get my Dantian involved more…

Kind of rough time doing my Lotus Wu Ji on Sunday; probably because I was a little lower? Or maybe I was just too sleepy. Certainly I was lower than I was told to be in during the last workshop, though I’m not 100% sure that’s a bad thing… Sitting meditation went well on Sunday, though, and it also went well this morning.

When doing my Lotus Wu Ji today, I was letting my shoulders relax out a little more, as well as sinking my shoulder blades, and I realized that that felt like what happens around my hips when I both sink back into my Kua and sink out to the sides. Not sure if there’s anything to make of that, though.

In the class this evening, I learned that, in Six Sealing Four Closing, your left foot should be slightly forward compared to your right foot; I’d been placing it next to my right foot, but that’s apparently wrong.

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Tai Chi Notes: September 24, 2019

Sep 24 2019

My Tai Chi teacher is giving a Qigong seminar for the next few weeks; the first class was on Saturday, covering Wu Ji. (The version he teaches, which is different from the Lotus Nei Gong version that I do in my daily practice.) Some things that were different from my mental model of that version of Wu Ji:

  • You should sink back into your kua, not just sideways, in fact he uses a different term (rounding your something) for the latter. Not as far back into your kua as the Lotus folks do, though, because you want to have your Huiyin back in the middle after tilting your hips forward.
  • When relaxing your shoulders, you want them to stretch out on the top away from your neck.
  • Twice, when correcting my form, he told me to relax my chest more.
  • You should stretch your fingers out somewhat.

One thing I noticed is that my back doesn’t stretch and relax as much when doing Wu Ji this form; my Live Gate doesn’t feel as open, my shoulder blades don’t sink as much. I would have naively thought that standing more upright would make things sink down more, but apparently leaning my torso forward helps with sinking stuff on my back? Unexpected.

I also felt stuff gathering in my hand an unusual amount. (Especially the first time, when I wasn’t stretching my fingers.) Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

We had the monthly class on Sunday; I was surprised how the second form felt, I might actually learn that this year? I was worried because I’d missed at least one class, but I feel like I’ve caught back up, and we’re pretty close to the end and I’m not feeling lost.

And I spent some time at the end of the class on Sunday working on my Jian; and I was pleased to feel how visceral the circles felt in one bit, I’ll have to see if I start feeling the more of an effect of using the Jian in other places in the form.

I’m up to 32 minutes of Wu Ji practice on Sundays. I think I’ll stay at 30 minutes for Tuesdays and Thursdays, though: I only have so much time over lunch, and I do want to leave time for Qigong and/or Five Animals. But I’ll try to reach 40 minutes on Sunday, and then re-evaluate. I wasn’t super looking forward to spending 30+ minutes doing Wu Ji and another 30 minutes doing seated meditation this Sunday afternoon, but when I actually did it, it was fine. I’m not getting quite as much out of seated meditation as I’d like right now, though; when I first started doing the relaxing part of Sung breathing, it seemed like there was some interesting stuff going on, but I haven’t really felt that the last few times.

In class tonight, in the first half of Grab and Tuck Robe, when my right arm was going to the right, I realized I was lowering my shoulder as it went down, which raised the question: should I be raising it in the first place? I think the answer is probably no, so I’m working on keeping it sunk. Also I noticed my teacher doing what looked a little like a shoulder strike in the second half; and he actually talked about it, the second half could be a shoulder strike or an elbow strike or a hand strike, depending on where your opponent is.

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Tai Chi Notes, September 17, 2019

Sep 17 2019

Thursday I was at a conference, so I didn’t get to do my normal extra lunch Nei Gong stuff, but at least I did the regular daily practice.

In Saturday’s class, my teacher was talking about Dantian Change, and mentioned that, at the end, you sink while on your right foot before sticking out your left foot / arm. I thought I was waiting to sink until after stepping, but actually, observing myself later, I think I was mostly doing that okay? He also mentioned looking left after sinking and before stepping left, which I need to work on, and one of the senior students reminded me to step left with my heel.

On Sunday, there was a Tai Chi marathon; my first one, basically doing the form for two hours straight with a 5-minute (10-minute?) break in the middle. I ended up going through the form 11 times, if I kept count accurately; didn’t get any sort of obvious breakthrough feeling or anything, but I’m glad I did it. And, while doing that, I was working on the two Kick with the Heel moves, and I think I’m getting better at keeping my balance: I started sinking right at the beginning instead of waiting until I was up on my leg, and that helps. Also, one of the senior students pointed out that, in the throat strike in Flash the Back, I was curving my fingers, I should work on keeping that straight.

Up to 28 minutes in my Lotus Wu Ji, and the limiting factor is boredom rather than physical constraints, so I’ll keep on pushing that higher. And, in general, I was feeling sunk today; not sure whether that’s the Wu Ji or the marathon or what, but it’s good.

In class tonight, I was wondering where my weight should be during the opening posture: a little forward (like in Wu Ji), in the middle, on my heels? I’ll probably ask my teacher about that on Saturday. And, in the first Jin Gang, I realize I’m pausing after lifting my leg, I think I should keep moving there. (First continuing to turn right, then circling smoothly into the step forward.) At the start of the second Jin Gang, I need to think about weight more; I sometimes feel like I’m going too far left, and while I think I understand basically what I need to do, it still can feel a little off.

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Tai Chi Notes, September 10, 2019

Sep 10 2019

I skipped all of my usual practicing during the week after I had nose surgery. I’d been planning to resume some level of practice after the first half week or so, but I just didn’t feel like it: e.g. following my breath while meditating is not so great while I’ve got tubes in my nose that are making themselves pretty strongly known to me and that are making it very hard for me to actually breathe through my nose! So I didn’t practice; I figured that would mean that I had backslid a bit, but I could deal with that.

When I got the tubes removed, though, it actually didn’t feel like I had backslid at all: I felt very similar sensations in my body to how it feels for a while after I’ve had a good Wu Ji / Qigong session, or something. I think probably what was going on was that my body was feeling happy getting more oxygen again? Not sure, but at any rate I was happy that I didn’t feel like I’d really lost anything. (Poking at it a bit more over the week, my tolerance for Wu Ji had maybe gone down by a bit, but only a little bit.)

And, jumping ahead, in particular all week I’ve felt good in the curve from my Huiyin to my Live Gate. I’m not saying that I’m starting to open up the bottom of my Governing Meridian, but those parts of my body feel freer, more relaxed and open. This is why I want to stick with doing Lotus Wu Ji, daily if possible: I really do feel like parts of my body are relaxing more, and I like how that feels. It’s kind of weird to describe how it feels, because it’s not pleasant in a traditional sense: part of it actually feels like I’m starting to come down with a cold, or that the hairs on my body are sticking out, or something. But it feels like that in a good way?

Anyways, I went to Saturday class like normal. My teacher told us to try to feel a connection with the ground right at the start of the form, before lifting your arms; I should work on that. And I should turn my torso during Hand Maneuvers. Also, I’ve been experimenting with sinking my Qi to my Dantian during Silk Reeling (using the “gathering the energy” bit between exercises as a trigger for that), and it was starting to give a strange sensation on Saturday, where my consciousness felt rooted lower, but my vision was still based on my eyes, so I almost got an impression of looking out from a bucket? Not visually, the whole field of vision was still there, it just felt odd.

On Sunday I tried to do an hour of sitting meditation, but that was a bit ambitious; I did get 40 minutes in. And today I did my regular Wu Ji over lunch (25 minutes, pretty much where I was before surgery, and I could have gone quite a bit longer), followed by the Animal Frolics. I need to reread my notes on those, I feel like I’m not doing them quite right…

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Tai Chi Notes, September 3, 2019

Sep 03 2019

Not much to say this week: I had surgery for a deviated septum on Thursday, and while it’s pretty minor as surgery goes, I did skip Tai Chi this weekend and today. I should be back on Saturday, though.

Lotus Wu Ji was continuing to go well before the surgery, at least. But I’ve been skipping it as well, as well as skipping meditation; hopefully I’ll restart both of those on Friday, since I’m getting the tubes out of my nose on Thursday?

My Tai Chi teacher is giving a Qigong seminar later this month, it’ll be good to go through that as well. My guess is that I’ll end up sticking more with the Lotus stuff, but who knows, maybe I’ll see something that seems like a good fit.

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VGHVI Minecraft: August 22, 2019

Sep 02 2019

In the August Minecraft session, I decided that I was in the mood to build a lighthouse. Which raises the question of where; there’s a big area of water near the city, of course, but I’ve been spending more of time time a little ways away from that recently, in my new mountain residence. And there’s actually a body of water behind that, so I thought I’d put the lighthouse there.

Assuming, of course, that I can find a reasonable location, so the first area of business was to find a place to put it.

Looking out over the water behind the mountain.

There’s a pair of islands here, maybe I can do something with that?

Here’s the view back towards the mountain from about where those two islands are. Nice little inlet there, I should do something with that, probably using that black hole in the wall as a starter?

Just making sure that it really is an inlet, instead of an enclosed lake; and, in fact, there is a nice little mouth.

Here’s a closeup on the islands. And they’re joined together underwater; so maybe I can build on top of the area between the two of them, leaving the existing islands relatively untouched?

Taking a look underwater just to see what’s down there.

 

So that’s the plan: I’ll build a base between those two islands, with a tower coming out of that. So the next step is to figure out the basic dimensions; and, once I’ve done that, I guess I’ll need some way to get to the top of the tower, a ladder or stairs or something. So I wanted to get that basic structure in place.

Here’s my first take at the base; but it was a little pointy, and also a little small.

This is better: more balanced with the existing islands, and more room to build on.

Now I’m trying to get the outline of the walls figured out; I think I decided that this version was a little short on one side?

A dolphin came to inspect the ongoing work.

I decided to try stairs circling around the sides, with a landing each time it hits a corner.

Here’s a top-down view, though most of the landings are missing.

Here’s a view from farther away; certainly needs to be taller, but it’s a start.

 

That seems like a plausible start? The one question I have is about the landings: they really need some sort of railing for safety purposes, but I also want there to be significant empty space in the middle. And the answer of “put a fence on the second square away from the wall” doesn’t quite work with how the stairs turn, unfortunately. So I experimented with how to get that to work.

Here’s one option for a railing, to try to more or less match the color. But it does take up a lot of space.

This puts a regular fence on the top, that makes each floor feel airier.

Turns out that Minecraft lets me use fence as a base for more fence, so maybe I should do that?

Here’s the way that last version looks from the bottom; you do have good line of sight all the way to the top.

It still works once I’ve added more floors.

Let’s try to figure out what the correct height is.

Here’s the view towards the mountain from that height, it looks plausible?

And here’s what it looks like from the land, sitting on the little patio that’s out there.

 

So that’s the body of the tower. Next I need to put something at the top to make an actual lighthouse. And then I’ll think about decorations; certainly it needs windows, but probably I’ll want some other highlights beyond that?

Unfortunately, that’s it for pictures: Pat had to leave before I got pictures of what he’s doing, Miranda lost the coordinates of the structure they’d been working on (and it was almost entirely buried, so it is not going to be easy to find again!), and I didn’t get around to taking pictures of Dan’s underground chamber.

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VGHVI Minecraft: July 25, 2019

Sep 01 2019

Belated pictures from the July Minecraft session:

 

Sunflowers and the setting sun.

Some strange dark shapes on the horizon.

I was wandering around the area and I found this glowing entrance on the side of a mountain; I’d completely forgotten about it!

The entrance hallway.

A mysterious grove inside.

A mysterious room, leading down to a green light.

 

Next, catching up with Pat’s floating city:

The first floor of the large hall he’s building.

There’s an alcove at one end of the hall.

The stairs up to the second floor.

The second floor room.

Here’s what the door looks like from the outside.

Sitting up on the roof, looking over the city.

A view of the moon from the roof.

 

And Dan is chipping away at his creepy underground structure, formerly white but now looking brown? Not sure if this specific room is going to turn into one of his long lines…

Looking down into the current room.

It’s a lot darker on the bottom.

Back on the outside, looking back toward the mountain.

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Tai Chi Notes, August 27, 2019

Aug 27 2019

From the Saturday class: after the second punch, when you’re transitioning to Six Sealing Four Closing, I’ve been shifting weight right, opening my left foot, and then shifting my weight back left; but another possibility is to skip the weight shift and just step right. This is more direct but potentially harder on your knees; also, you can work in a right shoulder strike when doing it this way.

My teacher looked at my form after class. He told me to slow down a bit and try to integrate my movements more; the main example he had for the latter was Cover the Hand Punch. I should focus on where I’m hitting, then hit that point, integrating my push/turn with the lower body and with my punch, everything going to that one point at the same time. Also, when doing that move, I should have my left hand a little higher (but still sinking my elbow and shoulder), and my right hand should be a little closer to the body. I should do similar integration ideas in other striking moves, e.g. Teal Dragon.

When doing the form recently, I’m not super happy with my balance when kicking, and (sometimes) when doing Reverse with Spiraling Forearms; I should work on that.

Lotus Wu Ji is being a lot easier now that I’m changing my positioning; up to 26 minutes and I’m positive that I can hold it for another 10 minutes after that if I want. I should probably spend some time treating it more like regular meditation, right now boredom is as much of a problem as physical stress / pain. (I do think it’s still doing good things to my body physically, though.)

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Tai Chi Notes, August 20, 2019

Aug 20 2019

I spent Saturday through Monday at a Lotus Neigong workshop, focused on standing positions. And I’m glad I went, because my Wu Ji posture was significantly off: way too low, and too far forward. And, interestingly, too far to the left: apparently I’m favoring my right leg some? I’ll have to look at myself in a mirror to understand that better. (Spreading my stance somewhat helps, apparently.) And I don’t spread my palms as much as I should, and I don’t sink the heels of my hands enough.

We also learned a seated version of Wu Ji: lean forward more than normal, have your feet at a reasonable distance for standing up, and lift your heels so your weight is on your Yongquan. I doubt I’ll do that much, though.

And we learned / practiced lots of other standing positions. I don’t think I’ll spend too much time in the different ones, though: I feel like focusing on Wu Ji is going to be more helpful. I was pleased that I did okay with the ones that had me holding out my arms; in particular, I remember the first time I saw Zhan Zhuang in my Tai Chi class, my shoulders were in pain the next day, whereas in the class this weekend, I held it for much longer and my shoulders were just fine. (So partly I’ve gotten stronger, but also in that posture in particular the way I’m relaxing my shoulder is apparently effective.)

Having said that, the class as a whole was pretty stressful: I made it through all of the first day, but I bowed out halfway through the second afternoon and skipped the third afternoon. Spending so much time holding standing postures hurts; it actually didn’t hurt my legs so much (largely because I wasn’t going so low), but my back was not happy. Not horribly in any one session, but it added up. (And some individual sessions were hard, but those were in more standard “push yourself for how long you can hold a position” ways.)

I probably could have stuck it out, but I don’t feel too bad about leaving; I pushed myself to some extent, I learned some mistakes that I’d been doing. And, compared to the class I went to in May, I can understand why this one was more stressful: that one did some static postures but also had lots of moving postures, and some lectures and some meditation. And that sort of mixture is a lot easier to deal with; this specific class had a little bit of moving and meditation, but it was a lot heavier on static postures. So it makes sense that it was rough; and, given where I am, that’s okay.

Anyways, back to Tai Chi tonight (for the first time in a week and a half, since I missed last Tuesday and Saturday); mostly going over Silk Reeling, which was pleasant enough.

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