Nei Gong Notes, January 18, 2022

Jan 18 2022

This week’s lesson in Damo’s class was on Developing Yi Qi. The URL had it as one of the Qi mobilization exercises, but unlike the previous ones, it was based on one of the Wu Xing Qi Gong exercises instead of the Ji Ben Qi Gong. Specifically, you’re doing the Water exercise, but trying to pay attention to subtler sensations which track Qi movement, and eventually doing that to the extent that you’re kind of losing track of your body. And, in particular, you’re not supposed to work on maintaining good physical structure: if your body moves around as part of this, that’s okay.

At first, I was mostly tracking a tingling sensation, though there were some other different physical sensations, in particular some nausea when I went past my throat. As I practiced it more over the week, though, I felt more tugging deeper within my body; based on what I’ve seen in other talks, that sort of deeper level sensation is probably progress over the surface-level tingling, but there’s also deeper levels; I don’t really know if I was meeting the intent of the body.

I did eventually start feeling my body move on its own while I was moving past certain spots; I don’t think this is a Zi Fa Gong thing, more intentional guided Qi movement having an effect on the body. The other thing was that there were places along my spine where the sensations mostly disappeared; it makes me wonder if those were exactly the Clipping Passes. (One of them was my Ming Men, which kind of disappointed me: I’d been feeling like I’d made significant progress towards opening it up, but I guess I have a ways to go!) If I paused at those places, though, I could get the feeling back, and it would actually feel pretty strong.

At any rate, an interesting practice; I’ll probably pause on doing it every day, but I should still work it in once a week or so, maybe more frequently for the next few weeks. And I should probably try doing a long session, like 30-40 minutes instead of 10-20 minutes: I felt like I was still getting interesting new sensations after 20 minutes, so I should see what it’s like going deeper.

I also did the next lesson in Damo’s Tai Chi course; this was on a second version of Wu Song Shen Fa, where you focus on “Fang Song Gong” instead of loosening. In this one, you’re paying attention to how energy sinks from your shoulder down your torso and legs into your foot, and then comes back up on its own when you relax in the right way. I’ll have to work on it more, I honestly don’t know if I’m getting at the right feeling there or not.

In the Saturday Tai Chi class, we got back to the later bits of the Xin Jia first form; hopefully Tony will make a habit of that, so we’ll make it to the end? (And so I won’t regret having to leave the previous Sunday class early.) The bit that we did this time was a repeat of stuff we’d done on Sunday, though: we did through Swing the Leg. Still, good to be back to doing that. And we’ll start the Hunyuan 48 form from the beginning in a few weeks; I’ll try to learn that, I think I’m at a state where I can add in another new form.

In terms of my practice: a pretty solid week? Friday was good (my hoped for new norm of over three hours across two sessions); Wednesday was so-so because other stuff was going on; I’d hoped to get in an extra long practice on Monday because I had a holiday but I was kind of tired that morning so it only added up to maybe an hour and half of practice that day. (Made up for Wednesday, though, I guess?) I did get in a 57-minute session of Dantian Gong, which is 8 out of the 10 exercises; I could probably do all 10 if I forced it, and honestly I probably should, but at least the good news is that almost an hour of standing in a posture that, from the point of view of my legs, is like Wu Ji, is progress; so just getting to where that happened not infrequently would be progress, and I’ll eventually be able to go further as long as I keep that up.

I also had an interesting experience in the Taiyi standing at the end of the Dragons one time: at first it felt normal, but then I felt one part of my spine relaxing an unusual amount, and then a different part, and then a different part. So that was pretty cool, hopefully it’ll happen again.

The other new thing this week is that I started reading Anatomy Trains. That’s a really interesting book on the interplay of fascia and muscles as a complete system; seems like a similar way of looking at the body as I get in Nei Gong. And one of its points is that the body should be holding together via tensegrity; I’m trying to sense into parts in my body which give a tug that helps stabilize things. Also, one thing that I’ve noticed that is probably related to that: more often this week, I’m noticing a downward tug at the back of my neck in a way that’s holding my neck upright more easily? It even seems to be happening when I’m sitting down, so it’s not specifically related to sinking my tailbone.

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Nei Gong Notes, January 11, 2022

Jan 11 2022

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was a theory lecture, on Direct Experience. Didn’t give me too much that stuck with me, though I should watch it again. I used the week to focus on the concentration exercise that I mentioned last time; a few interesting experiences, but I have more work to do. Though I was also thinking that, before I go into that, I should ask if there are any prerequisites to that exercise, since there are some potentially related exercises in year one that I haven’t gone deep into.

For Damo’s Tai Chi course, I rewatched the four energies video; I’ll move onto a new lesson this week.

My Nei Gong practice went quite well. I’d been thinking for a while that I’ve sort of fallen into a rut of doing one seated and one standing practice a day; on days off, they’re long practices, so it’s a good length of time, but still. I’d originally been thinking I’d do a morning practice and an afternoon practice, but I really just do not reliably have energy to do a long practice after lunch: my energy level falls after eating and takes quite a while to recover.

So on Friday I decided to get started earlier than I had been doing, beginning a practice at maybe 8:30? So I was doing Nei Gong from about 8:30 to 10:30, then something else from 10:30 to 11:30, and then I did another practice session until some time between 1pm and 1:30. And that went well; I’ll definitely want to try to keep up that model on Wednesdays as Fridays as much as possible. (Though, sadly, not tomorrow, since I have an unusual work meeting on Wednesday morning, from 8am to 10am.)

The other thing that I noticed is that I feel like my posture is getting better while doing seated meditation? I’m getting more sensitive to the right angle, and to having my spine not curving inappropriately in the middle. So it’s getting easier to feel like I’m sitting stably with a good posture without being too tense or using too much energy.

In terms of my regular Tai Chi class, practice wasn’t quite as good; I had to deal with some HOA stuff on Friday, so I couldn’t practice then, though I had a good practice on Wednesday. Class on Saturday was pretty good; I got reminded of one bit of foot positioning right before Oblique Posture in the Xin Jia first form. And there was Sunday class; unfortunately, I had to leave that one a bit early (more HOA stuff), so I didn’t get to see the new bits of the Xin Jia form. Hopefully that won’t bite me…

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Nei Gong Notes, January 4, 2022

Jan 04 2022

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course had us continuing with going deeper into the Ji Ben Qi Gong, this time doing the fifth one. Unlike the previous four, it’s not about setting up a pump; instead, it started with working the side branches (which is what is most accessible when you do the exercise normally), and then had me leaning forward in a way that caused the Dantian and Kua to get involved, in a way that Damo compared to Silk Reeling exercises. So that was pretty interesting; I don’t know that it’ll be my favorite exercise, but it was good to feel that connection, and also to feel the movement in my torso?

I also watched an annual predictions video from Damo which led me to watching his 2021 video; the second half of that previous one was presenting a seated exercise around developing concentration. And that was pretty interesting; I’d been thinking I should maybe spend some time working on seated exercises for mental training instead of energy building, so I think I’ll give that one a try?

In general, a good practice week; Wednesday was fine, I didn’t put in as much time on Friday as I normally do but still noticeable amounts on Friday and Sunday, and I did a long practice on Monday as well since I had that day off. And things were getting more active by the end of that; on Monday, in particular, I went through the five energies balancing exercises, and I had several bits where that felt more interesting than it had in the past. Nothing huge, or anything, but still, it felt like a bit of progress?

And I did the Jing Gong exercise a couple of times; not a strong feeling, but there was definitely something bouncing around in my Dantian. I rewatched the Jing Gong 1 video, and it sounds like the sensation should get stronger; I should make sure to keep on doing Dantian Gong, as per the recommendation of that video, but I’ll also keep at the Jing Gong. And I’ll probably watch the Jing Gong 2 video and experiment with adding that in.

I didn’t do any of my regular Tai Chi most of the week, because it was raining outside; I did watch the next video in Damo’s Tai Chi course, though. It was on the first half of his version of the eight energies drill; interesting stuff, among other things because it had me focusing a little more on what my Kua was doing. I’ll also have to be open to the possibility that his interpretation of those energies is different than what I’m used to?

Tai Chi class on Saturday was good; nothing particular to report there. And I did get in good practice on Sunday and Monday as well; on Monday, maybe because I was thinking about my Kua, I think I figured out one thing that had been bothering me. When stepping forward in Jing Gang Pounds Pestle, I often felt off balance; but what I noticed on Monday was that if I closed my left Kua more and made sure I was facing forward, I felt a lot more stable. Hopefully that will stick; if so, good to have it figured out.

I wrote a blog post about relaxing your shoulders; longer than I would have liked, but maybe there’s something useful there. It’s certainly useful to me, in particular thinking about how the shoulder blades affect things.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 28, 2021

Dec 28 2021

A wet week, with extra vacation days because of Christmas. I used the wetness as an excuse to not do Tai Chi much, and Christmas was on Saturday so no Tai Chi class, though I did at least do the exercises I’ve learned in Damo’s Tai Chi course most days I had off. In terms of Nei Gong, I used the holiday (plus not feeling 100%, maybe because of allergy experiments) as an excuse to not do as much Nei Gong as I could, but I did put in two and a half hours of practice on Monday, so it all balanced out to a pretty normal practice week. Nothing huge to report there, though when I did the exercise about standing and concentrating Qi in your Dantian, I felt a mild but, I think, real bouncing around in there. I’m going to try to get in the habit of doing that one twice a week to maintain it; if it gets stronger, then I’ll rewatch the second and third lessons for that one.

Another theoretical lesson in Damo’s course; on Feelings, nothing particular to report there.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 21, 2021

Dec 21 2021

Good week, now that we’re not a construction zone any more. Damo’s Nei Gong course continued with the Bellows Breathing / Hong mantra exercise, this time telling you to use the Bao Yuan mudra and giving more pointers on that mudra. Not much new in that mudra, though he did point out that you should spread open your Lao Gong while holding the mudra; not the most natural thing to do, I’ll have to work on that.

Anyways, it was good to be given more time to keep on working on that combo; I’m still not particularly good at that mantra, I could use extra practice. (The latest thing I want to try: not going so low in the pitch, staying closer to the middle of my range.) Also, he nudged us to keep up that exercise for longer, an hour or even two, alternating between Bellows Breathing and Hong as the mood took us. And I did put in a couple of hour-long sessions; I did the exercise for about 45 minutes but then I just felt like sitting for a bit, and it was another 15 minutes before I felt like I was done with that. I’ll want to keep all of that up this week; this week is another theory week, so I won’t have any new exercise to practice.

And on Wednesday I had a section that was probably around two and a half hours; I went through the full seated five elements exercise that I’d been doing, and I also did the standing exercise from the end of year one about gathering bouncy bits in your Dantian. Neither of those had me feeling stuff the way I have in the past; I’m chalking that down to not having practiced so much the previous couple of weeks and needing to get back into shape. And on Friday I had a good two hour session; I tried doing the whole standing Dantian Gong in a single session, and while I didn’t manage all of that, I did make it through 8 of the 10 exercises, whereas the most I’ve done before is 6. (Or maybe 7 once?) And my session on Sunday morning was a little over an hour and a half, which is longer than I normally manage on that day.

In Damo’s Tai Chi course, he covered Tai Yi standing; it’s a way of standing with your feet together, bringing attention to your spine. I’d seen a version of that before in the Nei Gong course, as part of the Dragon Dao Yin; significant differences here, though. I haven’t practiced it much yet, I’ll need to give it another week, and probably watch the video again.

In general, I didn’t do much Tai Chi this past week; I think it was raining on Wednesday, and on Friday afternoon, I got pulled into a work escalation, so I didn’t get to practice Tai Chi then either. And on Saturday, Tony was out, so it was a review day in class.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 15, 2021

Dec 15 2021

As expected, not much practice this week, because of the house construction; I kept up a minimal level of daily practice, but I didn’t have any long sessions, and I didn’t start any new lessons in either the Nei Gong or the Tai Chi course.

We had both Saturday and Sunday Tai Chi this week; but we were recording a video for some special celebration, so that ate into a fair amount of time on Saturday and a bit of time on Sunday. We did start the actual spear form on Saturday (we’d been doing just the isolated full marshal until then); the start of that form is a little odd. And on Sunday, we did go a little bit farther in Xin Jia, so now I’m more solid with the bit right after the second Gao Tan Ma; not sure if it’s one or two sessions left until we’re completely done, but hopefully in a couple of months we’ll be done? And it looks like they’re almost done with the Double Dao; one more month of that, but probably in February I’ll start learning the Guan Dao.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 7, 2021

Dec 07 2021

Mostly a write-off week: we’re having work on our house done that means that I’m home all day with lots of noise in the background and with my usual practice locations occupied, and on Thursday I got my booster shot, which mostly knocked me out on Friday and had me tentative on Saturday. I was worried that I’d backslide, but fortunately, my Dantian continued to feel a little active when I was paying attention to it, so I think I’m doing okay? And I eased back into action yesterday and today, I had a solid Dantian Gong session over lunch today in particular. At any rate, I’m not planning to move onto new lessons this week, I’ll just repeat the previous week.

Anyways, this week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course was a lecture on Memory Distortion; didn’t make a big impression, and I didn’t do my normal re-listen yet, so it’s good that I’m not moving on! In Damo’s Tai Chi course, there was a sort of silk-reeling-ish exercise, loosening your joints but also getting energy into and back out of your legs; that was pretty interesting. (So actually I think maybe it’s not that much like silk reeling? I don’t want to map everything to Chen Tai Ji, that will cut me off from some of what I’m trying to learn by taking that course.) And I’m getting better at doing the Tai Chi version of Wu Ji, though I’ll certainly want to keep on plugging away at that.

As for the Saturday Tai Chi course, we didn’t do anything new, but Tony gave us lots of feedback for the start of the Xin Jia first form. Lots of little things that I should work on there…

One thing that I forgot to mention last week: I watched a video from Damo on Ting in meditation, and one thing he talked about there was doing the Ting via your breath instead of your senses; interesting thing to try, it’s been pretty intense once or twice when I did try it.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 30, 2021

Nov 30 2021

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was another Qi Mobilization exercise. I was curious about what the next one of those would be, because the previous three had been based on gathering Qi in your Dantian by doing the first three Ji Ben Gong exercises (and then letting that Qi spring out into your limbs), but the remaining Ji Ben exercises don’t have the same Dantian focus.

It turns out, though, that the next one was doing the same thing with the fourth Ji Ben Gong exercise, and that I’d been misinterpreting something in the prior ones: the first one was using your Dantian as a pump, but the second one uses your sacrum and the third uses the base of your torso. (Which explains something that I’d been wondering about, it felt like I’d been gathering Qi a little lower in my body when doing the third one and, yup, that’s indeed true.)

So the fourth one is doing that as well, using your spine as a pump; the mechanics feel noticeably different, but the principle is the same. Though that pattern will apparently stop after the first four, Damo says that the second four Ji Ben exercises are doing something different.

Also, most of the time I put all four of those together, and sometimes I even did 5 minute segments instead of 3 minute segments, so it’s either 51 minutes or 85 minutes; good to have another long exercise set, though actually now I might be getting to have enough of those that it’ll take a while for me to cycle through them!

One thing that I forgot to mention last week was that Damo had posted a video giving some Tai Chi theory that finally pushed me over the edge to start his Tai Chi course. I’m not entirely sure that that’s wise, maybe ideally I would have made it through one or two more forms in my regular Tai Chi course before adding in a different version of Tai Chi, but hopefully it’ll be okay? And I’ll probably take the course more slowly, targeting a lesson every two weeks instead of a lesson every week.

Anyways, the first lesson was on the Tai Chi version of Wu Ji. Which I’d been wondering about for a while, so I was quite glad to see that right at the start. I knew the arm position was different; it also looks like you stand higher, instead of emphasizing the sinking into your kua? And there were some other more subtle principles; e.g. when sinking my tailbone, it feels like more of a Yao stretch rather than a neck stretch, and sinking my shoulder blades ends up feeding into my elbows a bit?

(On the note of sinking my tailbone, it feels like something has changed there, where I’m doing it more naturally now, and where I’m really feeling like things are lined up vertically in a different way, even when I’m not doing Wu Ji or something.)

In my regular Tai Chi course, the main new thing is working on push hands. We’re going through the single hand forms for now; I’d been thinking this week that I’d spend more time focusing on sinking into my feet, and I still think that’s a good idea, but actually the most interesting thing that happened was that I started feeling like there was a ball in my Dantian, and that it was rolling around a bit with incoming energy slipping off of it. That definitely seems like it’s worth pursuing, hopefully I’ll be able to build on that.

We’re having significant work done on our house for the next week or so, so who knows how much I’ll be able to practice this week; hopefully some but certainly not as much as normal, I don’t expect to have a long practice on either Wednesday or Friday this week in particular.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 23, 2021

Nov 23 2021

Busy week: I had to drive to an offsite on Wednesday afternoon and was there all day on Thursday. I got a decent Nei Gong practice in on Wednesday, at least, though Tai Chi suffered, and I did at least manage to do a little bit of practice on Thursday before the meeting started, so that’s something. And, in general, it was a fine practice week? I was mostly still working on the Hong exercise from last week, and I did manage to get the buzzing down into my Dantian at least some of the time, so that was nice. I still don’t feel like everything in that exercise is going super well, though, so I’m planning to try to keep returning to it periodically; we’ll see if I follow through with that in practice, though.

I also did the Jing Gong exercise again on Sunday; and I really did feel something bouncing around in my Dantian this time. At first, I thought it might just be mild muscle spasms or something, but it kept on going, and I’m pretty sure something more interesting really was going on. The bouncing wasn’t super strong or anything, but it was definitely there, in a way that I wasn’t feeling this summer.

This week’s lesson was on when to follow your instincts / dreams; pleasant analysis, though it honestly felt like it could have been a podcast episode? But I pretty much agreed with what Damo said; and I do also think like I’m doing a reasonable jobs of following my instincts in the situations where he recommends but not otherwise.

We started doing push hands in the Saturday Tai Chi course. And my main reaction there is: I have a lot to learn! If I had to pick one thing to work on, it would be in making a connection with my feet when my partner pushes on me.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 16, 2021

Nov 16 2021

Not as much Nei Gong this week as some previous weeks – Wednesday was an okay practice day but I had some house-related stuff which prevented me from doing a long practice. I had a long practice on Friday, though; I did the long version of the Metal exercise, so now I’ve gone through the long versions of those at least once. As expected, that one was a bit strenuous, so I didn’t manage to hold the second arm-raised position for 10 minutes, but at least I did the full 10 minutes on the first position.

I think I’ll do the concatenated short version of all of them, maybe once a week until I decide to stop that? And also my back isn’t feeling quite as active, so I might try to work in just the introductory bit into my practice a few other days a week, I really did feel like that helped with my back. Not that my back is doing badly or anything, it’s just not feeling actively good this past week.

Or maybe I just need to practice a bit more; my Dantian isn’t buzzing the way it had been, either. Hard to say. This week might not be great for practice either: I’ve got a work thing on Wednesday afternoon/evening and all day Thursday, so I probably won’t get as much practice done those days.

This week’s lesson was on a sound exercise, building on Bellows Breathing to get your Dantian buzzing. Which was pretty interesting, and I had glimpses of it doing something useful; but I also learned that I can’t sustain that sound for nearly as hard as I would have liked, and that it was hard getting the buzzing to the right place. I did at least make progress on that latter problem; I think I’ll probably just keep up the exercise for a second week in a row, since I think the next lesson is another theoretical one?

In terms of Tai Chi, I asked my teacher if we could start doing Push Hands on Saturday, and he agreed to that, so we should start that next week. And we did finally do the Golden Rooster section in Xin Jia, and I don’t think that will be too hard to firm up. So I’m almost done with that form, there’s just the bit at the end that I need to solidify; though based on recent experience, it’ll probably take a couple of months to get to that. (We actually did the Golden Rooster bit on Sunday instead of Saturday, so maybe that’s my teacher’s plan for helping us finish the form.)

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