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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Nei Gong Notes, November 9, 2021

Nov 09 2021

The good weeks continue. Last week I was thinking it was time to get back to 45 minute Wu Ji sessions; I did that on Wednesday, but I actually felt fine after 45 minutes, so I stayed in Wu Ji for another 15 minutes, making it the first time I’ve had an hour-long Wu Ji session. I don’t think I sunk quite as much as in my best sessions, and maybe I should have been a bit lower, but I also wasn’t phoning it in. And I actually could have gone a little longer if I’d wanted to; I should probably do this another time or two first, but maybe I should try a full 10-exercise Dantian Gong session pretty soon?

Also, on Sunday, I tried out the Jing Gong exercise from near the end of year 1 for the first time in a while. And I’m pretty sure I did feel something bouncing around in my Dantian while doing that? Not super strong, but distinct enough that I’m fairly sure I wasn’t imagining it. So I should start doing that once a week or so, to monitor (and hopefully advance) my potential progress there.

This week in the course was a theoretical lecture, on Clinging; interesting enough. It looks like those will be showing up every other week for the next couple of months; encouragement to work on consolidation, I guess, which is certainly fine with me. It was good to not have a new seated exercise to work on, so for the first time in almost two months I could get back to my previous seated exercises. Which I’m glad to be doing, they were good exercises! I’m still going through the longer versions of the seated five elements exercises, I did Fire and Earth this week; I’ll certainly go through Metal but then maybe I’ll switch to doing all five in a single stretch with a 3-minute timer once a week?

As for Tai Chi, in the posture in Hunyuan Dao where you do sort of a skewer motion over the left side, I should go forward somewhat, not straight over the side. And the corresponding posture in Laojia Dao is a block, up and a little forward.

I’m trying to spend more time working on my Xinjia when practicing at home. Which, on the one hand, is good, because I’ve got bits to improve! But, on the other hand, I’m getting a little frustrated that we seem to be stalled out on that in Saturday, I think it’s been two months since we’ve advanced in the form, and my teacher has started going back to the beginning of the form. I think he intends to continue with the final bits, but he hasn’t been finding time in the class to do both… I’m really close to the end, though, maybe I should just look at videos and read books and try to solidify the rest on my own?

We’ll be starting the spear next week, it’ll be good to learn that. I probably learned three-quarters of the form last time, though I haven’t been practicing it so I’ve forgotten how it went; should be well within reach to learn the whole thing this time.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 2, 2021

Nov 02 2021

Another good week for Nei Gong; maybe not quite as good as last week, but very solid. I’m finally done with learning the new Wu Xing seated sequence; this week’s lesson was on Bellows Breathing, a way to build up Qi in your Dan Tian. Kind of reminds me of the Nourishing the Jing exercise from a month and a half back, just with a different focus? And I tried doing an 80 minute version of the first two elements of the Wu Xing sequence on Wednesday and Friday; Wednesday was fine, but Friday was the Wood element, and some of the postures were a little physically strenuous, so I didn’t manage 10 minutes on every one of them. Still, it went pretty well; I’ll keep on going through those, though I imagine that, when I get to Metal, I’ll have a similar reaction. But once I’ve gone through the long version of each of them once, I think I might go back to doing them all in a row: I didn’t feel my Dantian buzzing quite as much after that exercise as I had when doing them all, and maybe it’s a little easier to maintain concentration when I’m changing moves every 3 minutes?

In general, though, between those longer exercises and the Bellows Breathing, my Dan Tian is feeling noticeably more active than normal. Not sure how much is due to what; I’ll probably want to keep on mixing in Bellows Breathing to keep that up?

I forgot to mention that, last week, my back felt really good; it’s fine this week but not quite as actively solid. So, when doing standing work, it takes me a little while to get to where things feel quite right, but I do get there eventually; in particular, yesterday and today, I did Dantian Gong even though I was feeling a little sleepy, and in the past that would frequently have caused me to do a short session, but now my legs are clearly up for it, so I ended up doing a longer-than-normal session instead of a shorter one, and in the Wu Ji at the end, my body really did feel like it was working together. So that was cool; probably means that I should try out a 45 minute Wu Ji session and see how that goes.

In terms of Tai Chi, we finished the Hunyuan Dao; we’ll be reviewing it for the rest of the month, but I feel pretty solid about it. Also, looking at the DVD, I think that, when doing the Kick with Two Legs in Lao Jia, I shouldn’t emphasize landing on the left leg: yes, I should land there than on both, but the right leg comes down soon after that, unlike in Xin Jia. In general, there’s stuff right around there that I should work on with Xin Jia; I’ve got the basic idea, but there are some details that I need to practice.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 26, 2021

Oct 26 2021

Good week. I learned the last of the new set of seated Wu Xing exercises, this time on Metal / Spleen; nice to have that set learned. This one has a couple of positions with your arms held relatively high, so it’s a bit more strenuous than the others, but that’s probably not a bad thing for me to work on? And the video for that talked about doing all of them in sequence; that seemed like it would take a while (close to two hours), but I figured it was worth a try? It’s seated, so it’s not going to be strenuous in a way that a long standing exercise would be, and it has a bunch of different movements, so I wouldn’t be so likely to fall asleep.

So I did that on Friday, and I’m glad I did. In particular, my the time I got to the fourth part, my abdomen was feeling surprisingly puffy, so it feels like it was effective in terms of building up Qi. And sitting for a long time turns out to be pretty manageable; for the last ten minutes or so, the area near my sitz bones hurt enough to start to get distracting (and I can still feel an ache there a few days later!), but it fine, and presumably if I do that more I’ll get used to it.

Having said that, talking it over with one of the senior students, he said that he’d found it useful to do a single element but with 10 minutes per section (80 minutes in total). And that also seems like a good length, and I’m hoping that it’ll help me get more out of each individual element, since I kind of feel like, when I was doing all of them, the later elements were more effective. So I’ll give that a try.

I also watched a video on Thursday talking about how Wu Ji works and what we’re trying to accomplish in our body, and inspired by that (?), I had a quite good Wu Ji session on Friday as well. I set my timer for 30 minutes, but it was going well so I went a few minutes longer; if I hadn’t been planning to do a very long sit after that, I would have gone longer. As it was, I felt like I was doing a good job of relaxing and connecting my body, and also of dropping my weight into my feet and activating my Yong Quan. And I had decent Wu Ji on Sunday as well, not quite as good but not bad.

One interesting thing from Tai Chi on Saturday: in Kick with Two Feet Up, you’re apparently supposed to land stably on your left foot, being similarly stable to how you’d be if you did the version where you don’t jump. That was from a senior student who sometimes disagrees with my teacher, so I’ll have to watch my teacher to make sure he does it that way, but I know my teacher does it that way in Xin Jia, so it seems plausible that Lao Jia works the same way as well. And I tried it out and found it a lot easier to land stably than I expected; that was a pleasant surprise.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 19, 2021

Oct 19 2021

A little mellower week than the previous week. I was kind of tired Monday and Tuesday, so I didn’t do Dantian Gong those days; I did go through the Ji Ben over the course of those days, though, so it wasn’t a waste. I was worried that the week was going to continue that way, but the rest of the week was fine, and in particular I went through the Dantian Gong over Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday I didn’t do as much practice as I normally do on non-working weekdays, though, because a couple of different contractors came over to work on the house, so I didn’t have a good block to practice. (I got some done, just not as much.) And I had Sunday Tai Chi, so I didn’t do as much Nei Gong as usual that day, either. Still, practice was fine, just not as long as the prior week.

I’ve done the Water Wu Xing a couple more times, and I haven’t had any nausea like I did a couple of weeks back, so I guess that was a one-time thing? I should probably get back to the Thickening the Qi exercise.

On Monday this week, I did the Dantian Gong, and I was pleased how my legs felt; right at the beginning I was standing a bit lower than normal, and I felt super stable, with my spine a little floaty. Which I was actually a little worried about because I felt disconnected, but I think it settled in fine? And I could have gone longer than the 39 minutes that the normal routine went; I think if I’d been doing Wu Ji I could have gone for at least 45 minutes, assuming I didn’t get distracted by being too bored. So it feels like my legs are pretty well back in shape.

Nothing super special in Damo’s course; the new lesson was continuing the five elements seated sequences, this time doing Earth / Spleen. I’ll do the last of those tonight, I continue to be glad that I’ve been doing them and I’ll miss them when I’ve finished them, I should work them into my routine occasionally.

Not much to say about Tai Chi; been going well, though, I think?

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Nei Gong Notes, October 12, 2021

Oct 12 2021

Quite good practice week. I again had two approximately-two-hour practice sessions, and went through a pretty good selection of different exercises over the course of the week, which made me happy with how things were going. And my body felt good this week, noticeably more alive inside than normal. Which I assume is a consequence of the solid practice, though I also feel like I’m doing an unusual amount of back-related exercises (largely because the Qi Gong sequences I’ve been doing the last few weeks have included a spine twist bit at the beginning), and one of the parts of my body that’s felt more alive is my Live Gate, so maybe it’s also a sign that working on my back is useful? Once I’m past his section of Qi Gong exercises, I should seriously consider making sure that I’m doing something back-related every day: maybe back-specific exercises like a few minutes of spine rolls, maybe the Dragons, maybe returning to exercises from this Qi Gong set.

After last week’s Silk Reeling experience, I also decided that I should slow down in that. Which I think is helping, too, I’m certainly sensing things in my body more. (Though probably a lot of that is because of the Nei Gong practice.) Which makes it honestly a little slow for doing during a work meeting, but most weeks I have two meetings that I can do Silk Reeling during, so it should work out okay?

This Saturday I was leaning into that, and honestly probably did Silk Reeling a little too slow during the class. And I almost certainly did the first form too slowly: my teacher went over my form, and one of the things that he noted was that I was pausing for too long between moves. So maybe it wasn’t so much the speed of the individual moves that was too slow, just that I should connect them more? When he showed me an example, it seemed like he was relaxing into the next move instead of relaxing between moves; I tried that on Sunday and it seemed to help?

Some other notes from that: during the reverse version of Oblique Posture, I’m still turning my right arm too far, and not tucking enough. And my right harm might have been a little high? My hand should be at shoulder height, and then I should relax the elbow. And in Teal Dragon my elbow was too high, I think? And in Flash through the Back, I wasn’t straightening my hand enough. In the Xin Jia form we got to the Swing the Leg before the Golden Rooster; I keep on forgetting how your hands are in that one, but both palms are down in Xin Jia.

I also saw a video that had me doing the very end of the first form; I’m leaning forward right after kicking my foot before stepping back, I should try to fix that. The Head-On Cannon looked surprisingly good, at least.

I’d bought a new, heavier Dao the previous week, but it felt unbalanced, so I went back and replaced it with a different one; that one isn’t as heavy as the unbalanced one, but it’s heavier and less floppy than my original Dao, so I think it’ll be a good choice. On that note, I’m missing some of the details of the Lao Jia Dao, I need to work on that more. And I also feel like my Jian is getting sloppy; I think rather than trying to go through a bunch of different forms once during a practice session, I should do fewer forms but do them more times, so I can work on improving them. (But I do want to work on every form at some point over the course of the week, so they all stick with me.)

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Nei Gong Notes, October 5, 2021

Oct 05 2021

My best practice week in ages; a combination of my sleep behaving acceptably and me feeling motivated had good results. Yay.

This week in Damo’s course was continuing the five elements seated sequences, this time with Wood. The first bit in the Water sequence (making big circles while twisting your torso) was here too, so I guess that’s common to all of them? Which is good, I like that one, my spine could use the action. Anyways, the surprise with the Wood one is how active it is, with a couple of moves that could be Dao Yins (and maybe actually are, I’ll ask people in the know if they are purging exercises or not). Coincidentally, one of the older lessons that I was rewatching also had a Wood exercise, which talked about how Wood is associated with the tendons, I guess this is part of that.

I still don’t have a feel for exactly when to do the exercises in this new sequence; I’ll wait until I’ve learned all five, but if an explanation of that doesn’t show up, I’ll ask about it.

Anyways, in terms of practice: on Wednesday, I actually practiced a little over two hours in the morning; admittedly, mostly seated, but still. And on Friday, I practiced close to two hours. So it was good to get back into the scene? And, inspired by rewatching old videos, I did go through Thickening the Qi; a little depressing that my Qi didn’t feel as thick as it had sometimes when I did that exercise.

But then I watched the Water Wu Xing video from year one, and decided to do that; normally I just do those five exercises in sequence, but I got the impression that the Water one could stand on its own pretty well, and I feel like I could use the help. So I went through that on Thursday, I think, doing it for 10 minutes? And, after 5 minutes or so, I was feeling an effect in my spine, especially near my neck, so I guess my Qi is a little thick after all. And then I actually started to feel nauseous while doing that, enough so that it felt like a wise idea to stop after 10 minutes instead of going further.

So it was good to get back into older stuff; and I also did manage to go through the whole standing Dan Tian Gong sequence this week, it’s been a while since I’ve done that. And, in general, my standing is now not in the pathetic state that it had been in a few weeks back; I’m not standing forever, but doing Wu Ji for 20 minutes is no problem (I’m sure I could go longer), and doing Dan Tian Gong for 39 minutes seems fine. And I even managed to fit in an extra bit of sitting practice one work afternoon when I hit a break a little early.

In terms of Tai Chi, I led Silk Reeling this week. Tony has been pushing us to do that more slowly, so I did (honestly, I went slightly too slow!), and that was a very interesting experience, getting me to feel more stuff inside my body than I have been. So I’m going to want to continue that. Also it made me realize that my balance just isn’t as good as I’d like on the Circling In To / Out Of Your Kua With A Kick exercises, I need to work on that, and on some bits of the form.

I’m continuing to be optimistic that I’ll learn the Xin Jia first form pretty well this time; I’m up through Jade Girl, and got some help in the transition from Dan Bian into Jade Girl, and now I think I’m solid there. (Bend left, then start facing to the right, with your left hand over your right hand. Circle clockwise down from the right, ending up with chest closed and facing right.) One other pointer from this week: after the flick down with your hands in Xin Jia Oblique Posture, you should let your hands bounce back up pretty high.

I also bought a Guan Dao and a heavier regular Dao this week. Unfortunately, when I started using the new regular Dao, I realized that the weighting is pretty far off; I’ll go back to the store tomorrow and see if they have other ones that are weighted better.

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Nei Gong Notes, September 28, 2021

Sep 28 2021

My back has been doing quite a bit better this week, the tightness there is almost completely gone. And I’ve been doing more Wu Ji than I had been, and it’s gone back to feeling effective, so that’s a good sign.

I’ve done a decent amount of practice, though for various reasons I didn’t do much extra practice on Wednesdays and Fridays. I did rewatch two old lessons this week and take notes, though; I’m going to try to get into a habit of doing that most weeks, there are definitely a bunch of exercises that I don’t completely remember and that I would like to occasionally get in the habit of doing. One of the ones this week was Thickening the Qi; that one I did remember, and I used to be in the habit of doing it once every week or two, but I’ve fallen out of that habit; a little depressing that my Qi honestly doesn’t feel so thick these days. Another sign that I would benefit from bumping up my overall practice level.

This week’s lesson was on a seated exercise sequence for building up your Water energy. It looked familiar, I think I might have seen a random video of Damo’s where he showed it? I haven’t actually practiced it before, though, but I rather like it; it’s soothing, it feels like it might be doing something useful around my lower back, and it feels a lot shorter than the 27 minutes it actually takes. So I’ll probably want to work that into my practice routine occasionally in the future.

This also raises an issue with my practice routine: I have a regular 25-minute slot in the morning where I do seated work, rotating through a sequence of exercises over the week. But now (and for the next four weeks, since we’re going through all five elements) that’s taken up by new lessons. So I think I should probably find more time to do a second round of seated work at some point; I certainly don’t want to repurpose my existing standing work slot for doing seated work, but just 25 minutes of seated work shouldn’t always be my answer. To be sure, right now I really do want to build up my stamina for standing work; but if I’m feeling physically tired but not sleepy, and if I’ve got some room in the day, it would be better to keep going with seated work than to stop practice just because I’m tired. Though unfortunately right now I am sleepy more than I’d like, and of course I also do have to actually do my job on work days, so there are real constraints, but still.

Tai Chi is going fine; not a lot to say there, just keeping on with stuff. I’m still optimistic that I’ll be able to learn the whole Xin Jia first form this time.

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