VGHVI Minecraft, January 30, 2020

Feb 15 2020

Very few pictures this time: I didn’t do any building myself and I didn’t take a ton of pictures of other people’s work.

 

First, some travel shots making my way back to the current area where I’m working.

A nice waterfall coming out of the side of an overhang. (With lava as accent, and a sheep enjoying the scene.)

My path happened to take me past the building that Ariel is working on these days.

A row of bookshelves sitting there in the snow and rain…

Then, some pictures of the place where I’m currently working. Or at least where I had been working, I’m honestly not sure what I’ll do next.

Dan’s scaffolding with trees has one bit of scaffolding extending up out of it.

I like the lit up flowers at night in front of the mountain complex.

A view down the valley.

Viewed from the side, the trees on the scaffold look more like smoke…

 

Ariel was adding a greenhouse to that building:

A view of the greenhouse from higher up.

Pretty blue flowers inside the greenhouse.

Here’s what it looks like from ground level.

 

And Pat started on the skeleton of a new building, but hadn’t gotten very far.

The new building only has its outer walls so far.

A view of the floating garden near / under the previous building he had been working on.

Here’s another angle on the new building.

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Tai Chi Notes, February 11, 2020

Feb 11 2020

I was on a work trip last week; I didn’t manage to do my extra practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I did at least manage to do some Wu Ji and some seated meditation every day. Though, at the end, the sessions were depressingly short; I did manage to get back to a reasonable length this weekend, though.

Lots of notes this week. I listened to a podcast which talked about having a posture like sitting in a chair while doing the form, which I think is the same thing that my teacher talks about when he says to tuck your tailbone during various of the moves; and, for whatever reason, that got me to try that more, and it clicked in a way it hasn’t before. Especially while doing the Oblique Posture, but also in Step Back with Spiraling Forearms.

While doing Spine Stretch, I’ve normally been leading with my neck, but now I think I’m overemphasizing that – stretching your neck is important, but I think I want to stretch my whole spine evenly. So I’d been slightly overweighting stretching my neck and slightly underweighting stretching my lower back.

Some things that caught me in my teacher’s discussion of the first form on Saturday: in Embrace the Knee, roll back your shoulders a bit while opening your chest before doing the embrace. But after the other Oblique Posture (where you’re going into Flash the Back), don’t roll your shoulders back and also don’t lean forward, just relax and stay rooted while reaching forward. And in the transition from Small Catching and Striking to Embrace the Knee and Push the Mountain, you should relax and let your left hand come down to meet your right hand in an X while turning; then open up your arms with your palms down while continuing to relax.

We had the monthly class on Sunday, and restarted the second form, and I had questions about more details. In the second shake at the start, don’t shift your weight to the left; instead, stay on the right foot but turn to the left, and then almost immediately after that jump to the left foot. In Turning Around Jing Gang, in the second sweep, don’t sweep your right foot all the way around on the ground; instead, start lifting it pretty early and also lift your right hand at about the same time. And in Downward Body-Stroke Fist, it’s okay if your left foot is turned in farther than your knee: just make sure that your knee is open instead of locked, and that it’s pressing in to the side, in the direction where your foot is pointed.

We started the Double Dao; I’m not optimistic at my ability to learn that one… But I also don’t mind not learning it well the first time.

And in the Xin Jia section of the Sunday class, a couple of places early on are chops with the left hand: after White Crane when turning towards Oblique Posture, and after the second Oblique Posture when moving your hands down right before the move where you protect your face. (In that one, your right hand turns over and down into a fist, while your left hand chops it.) Also, right after the Oblique Posture (both times), when moving your hands forward, raise your knee and have the left hand stretching out a bit further in front of the right: they should match your shoulders. The idea is that somebody‚Äôs grabbing at your knee: you push their head down with your hands and hit them with your knee. Unfortunately, we didn’t go over the whole Xin Jia first form; we started the Xin Jia second form, but went through it extremely briefly, there’s no way I’ll manage to learn that.

In class tonight, I was embarrassed to discover that, when doing the wrist stretch silk reeling exercise, my hand was pointing the wrong way while stretching it open: my fingers should be pointing out instead of in. Also, I want to think a little more about the timing when moving my arms during the first Jing Gang while standing on one leg; and I should probably move my left hand down a little bit in the part of that move where you do an uppercut. And some fellow students and I went over the second form a little bit tonight as well, that definitely helped.

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Tai Chi Notes, February 2, 2020

Feb 02 2020

I’m on a work trip this week, so I’ll put out the post early; hopefully I’ll at least do my Wu Ji and my sitting meditation regularly while I’m there, but it’s easier to write the post from home.

I’ve noticed my body getting more relaxed when I do my sitting meditation: I start by trying to relax the muscles around my chest, and it feels that that’s less of a point of tension than it had been. And in general stuff feels more sinky while I’m sitting? Today in particular, I was sitting for 30 minutes, and without me trying to move it there, my attention ended up at my Dantian 15 or 20 minutes of the way through that, to the extent that, when I was doing a body scan of my head or neck, I felt like I had to reach up to do that.

I also noticed that it’s getting easier for me to sit in full lotus: that had been starting to get comfortable with my legs crossed one way, but today it was comfortable for 30 minutes with my legs crossed the other way. I was a little disconcerted to notice fairly dark blotches on the sole of my foot at the end of it, but they disappeared basically as soon as I uncrossed my legs, and I assume that that actually has been happening for a while (and maybe even when I sit in half lotus), I just happened to not have socks on today so I could see it. (Because my feet felt fine, it was purely visual.)

The sinking feeling is happening a little more than it had been when doing Wu Ji as well, I think? I’m not 100% sure, that one has had some level of sinking for a while. But it does seem like I’m getting more of a lasting sunk / relaxed feeling. Still not particularly close again to a breakthrough or anything, though.

Some notes from the Saturday Tai Chi class: in Small Catching and Striking, when you put your right hand under the left one after the shoulder strike, you shouldn’t just use your hand, use your Dantian as well and kind of fold in your body a bit. And I should keep in mind the application for the push to the left after Kick with Two Feet up: I’m sort of sweeping with my right foot while pushing to the left, with my left leg solid, to get uproot and throw my opponent.

And I was also wondering about one chopping move in the Jian form, where you shift your weight at the same time as stomping down; that seems very different from the bare-hand form, where you’re always supposed to act like you’re on thin ice. My teacher’s explanation of that is that, with weapons, your opponent will be farther away so you don’t have to worry as much about having your feet swept, and hence don’t have to be quite as cautious.

My local(ish) Lotus Nei Gong teachers are giving a course in March on the Ji Ben Qi Gong, which is a set that I’ve tried to learn from a book and that I do practice once a week; hopefully I’ll be able to go through that, it’ll be good to learn it in person, I’m sure there will be tons of aspects of it where I can improve.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 28, 2020

Jan 28 2020

Some notes from Saturday class: in Dantian Change, when you’re preparing to draw the silk, your left arm should go farther forward under your right arm, so you can draw it back more. (And I think I should also be turning my hips more there.) And in Xin Jia, when doing Jing Gang the first and second times, there’s a place a little before you’re about to move forward, where your right hand goes back and down; your wrist should be curved in a little bit instead of curved back, so it can be relaxed and let you do a little flash of Fa Jin before moving forward.

When doing seated meditation, I’ve started experimenting with doing a Full Lotus instead of a Half Lotus. On one side, it’s reasonably comfortable; on the other side, though, I definitely feel off: a little off balance, a twinge in one knee, and one foot doesn’t want to stay up. Seems close enough to be worth working on, though.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 21, 2020

Jan 21 2020

I’d been feeling like I wasn’t making progress on my Live Gate, and my lower back felt like it wasn’t at all flexible, which made me think that it was still compressed, that I still had lingering aspects of my back problems. So I started doing Spine Stretches a couple of times a day, and I asked my teacher about it on Saturday, and he recommended doing Hip Rotations, so I added that in as well. And, to my surprise, things actually started feeling better on Sunday – maybe a little bit better while doing Wu Ji, but also when walking around that evening, it felt like I had a little bit of space and energy in my back? Hopefully that wasn’t a fluke and things will continue to feel good. (And hopefully I’ll make progress in my Wu Ji…)

My teacher went over my form on Saturday. In the first Jing Gang, when stepping back, I should look forward; and, practicing on Sunday, to my surprise that actually helped me keep my balance, I think it put me in a more compressed / lowered body shape? In the reverse Oblique Posture (before Angled Body Fist), my right arm is going too far back, and I should tuck my tailbone more. In Feel Out the Tall Horse, I should spiral more with my right hand, and have my right hand pointed a little more to the right instead of straight forward, in line with my right foot. And in Grab and Tuck Robe, I should make sure my right knee is over my right foot instead of inside, and tuck my tailbone more.

And one thing that came up this evening: near the end, when going from Swing the Leg to Head-On Cannon, I should do a Cai.

Did 30 minutes of Wu Ji for the last three days (I was working from home on Monday, so it was easier to do a little more time); nothing particularly interested happened, but I’m trying to keep the possibility open.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 13, 2020

Jan 13 2020

I’ll be out tomorrow evening, so I’m doing my notes a day early.

Sadly, my Wu Ji has returned to its normal state. I guess because I’ve been a little tired and haven’t been feeling like putting in 30 minutes a day? (And also because work hours don’t make that so easy.) Something to try to work back to, though…

Some notes from Saturday Tai Chi: in Groin Punch, your right hand should start pretty high up, by your rib cage, palm side up. (I feel like I’ve written that here before…) And in the Xin Jia first form (which we’re starting over again), when pushing to the right after the opening position, it’s a Peng instead of a Ji. And in Jing Gang, after you’ve come down, you do a counterclockwise movement with both your hands and your waist, and then when issuing, you go out from your Dantian but you don’t shift your weight.

We had the monthly Sunday class this weekend; our last time before restarting the second form. I mostly know the second form in class, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember from week to week, and there are definitely details I’ve missed. And I’ve given up on the staff, but that’s fine, I already am trying to learn too many things. This year’s Sunday weapon will be the Double Dao.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 7, 2020

Jan 07 2020

I’d had a quite interesting time with Wu Ji at the end of last week, and my holiday schedule made it easier for me to do longer Wu Ji sessions this week, so I did 30 minutes almost every day. Which was rewarding: not as extreme as what happened last week, but almost every day, I had unusual physical sensations, most typically around the area of my tailbone or just above? In general quite pleasant, though sometimes when it was getting strong I almost felt nauseous…

So I still felt like I was on the edge of some sort of state change, but wasn’t actually reaching that state change. I tried doing a second Wu Ji session on Sunday, hoping that that would have a similar effect to the previous week, but I really wasn’t feeling it the second session; too tired or something. And there were two days this week where I wasn’t really feeling it during the first session; I stuck it out for 20 minutes or so, but for whatever reason it wasn’t feeling the same. Unfortunately, one of those days was today; hopefully that was just a blip.

Normal stuff otherwise; not as much Tai Chi on Sunday as I would have liked, but it was okay in general. In the Saturday class, we got some pointers about the Body Stretch exercise in Silk Reeling; you’re supposed to fold your chest sideways (like a hinge with your spine in the center), and also when your arms go up, the bottom of your torso should be stretching down. Also, when doing the Chest and Abdomen Folding, while you’re mostly folding along a horizontal axis, during the bit where your arms go together right before sticking them out, you should fold along both axes.

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VGHVI Minecraft, December 19, 2019

Jan 05 2020

Pictures from the December Minecraft session:

First, some wandering photos.

Here’s the cave I’ve been working near; wasn’t really inspired by looking at the inside, though, so I decided to just wander around.

A sunset over the mountain with the castle Dan built.

The view down the valley.

A nice view of trees and mountain passes.

Is that a structure somebody built or an algorithm change glitch?

Turned out to be caused by an algorithm change, just a particularly bizarre one: I don’t really understand why this one chunk strip would be different?

It actually got a little weirder after that. (So maybe that original strip was more than a chunk wide?)

If I’m remembering correctly, this was actually a hole in the wall of one of those weird blocks, and it was actually beneath the ocean level; but for some reason the water didn’t flood in the opening?

I ran into a quite deep chasm at some point during this.

On the way back, I saw this on the horizon; if I’m remembering correctly, it’s something Dan built maybe half a decade ago?

At the top, there are flows of water and lava.

Here’s a picture going down the middle.

 

That’s a picture of what Dan had been doing years ago; here’s what he was doing more recently:

The pumpkin fire and the tree scaffold in the mist.

The trees at the top of the scaffold have grown out now.

There’s now an orange pyramid in the water next to the train tracks.

Here’s a closer view of the pyramid.

And here’s what it looks like at ground level.

 

Ariel didn’t do lot of building this month, just starting to add a second level onto their current structure:

Starting work on a second level.

And here’s the view from the bottom, with interior walls starting to get sketched out.

 

Finally, Pat built out the inside of the big building he’d been working on.

Pat in a large room with a large bed.

Looking down the hallway on the second floor.

One of the rooms on the second floor, I guess a bathroom?

A cute little bedroom.

The other end of that bedroom.

A larger room on the ground floor.

A better view of the hearth in that room.

Looking out the window next to the fireplace.

Another view of the master bedroom, with bookshelves.

A somewhat more formal room.

Armor in this one.

A closeup on the decorations on the wall.

The outside view of the chimney leading to that fireplace.

A bigger picture view.

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Tai Chi Notes, December 31, 2019

Dec 31 2019

I’d said last week that I was sticking with my meditation / Wu Ji even though I had a bit of a cold; might have been a mistake, because on Wednesday evening (?) the back of my knees were aching, which I think is supposed to be a sign of my Jing being depleted. So I stopped the Wu Ji for a few days.

Also, my neck and spine were aching. Might have been the lack of exercise, but I also think it might have been me trying to untilt my neck, and potentially accidentally throwing other stuff out of whack because of that? If that’s the case, then the only hypothesis I had there is that I’m vaguely wondering now if my left leg might be ever so slightly shorter than my right leg; looks that way when I sit down with them stretched out, but I don’t know if my pelvis is straight or not when I do that, and I haven’t pulled out measuring tape. It would explain why I feel sometimes like I’m landing a little heavy on my right leg when walking, though…

I was feeling better again by Saturday, so I started up the Wu Ji again, and went to Tai Chi class like normal; and one big surprise there was how good Silk Reeling felt. Lots of energy moving around, which, honestly, surprised me a little since I’d been skipping other practicing the second half of the week, so I would expect my internal energy level to be low? Maybe it was my body readjusting itself and feeling better as a result, with the energy being able to flow more. Certainly the aches basically disappeared after that.

One pointer from doing the form in class: when moving the left after the sort of reverse Oblique Posture in Diagonal Body-Stroke Fist, I should brush my knee with my left hand, not just put it straight on my waist. Also, I noticed while doing the form that I can move energy to my feet much more easily than I could have a few months back; not yet feeling the sort of stickiness or extra gravity that I sometimes see described, but I’ll keep on working on it; does help a little in keeping my balance, just not dramatically so.

It was raining on Sunday so I didn’t practice Tai Chi outside, but I did a full round of Silk Reeling in addition to my regular Sunday Lotus Nei Gong stuff, and that did feel good.

I was on vacation today, and I decided that I felt like spending a fair amount of it doing Nei Gong and Tai Chi. So I did 30 minutes of seated meditation, some stretching, 30 minutes of Wu Ji, and the Five Animal Frolics; I hadn’t consistently been doing my current Tuesday / Thursday / Sunday target of 30 minutes of Wu Ji for a while, but I’m glad I did today, because I was very surprised when it ended, I wasn’t sure I’d even been going for 20 minutes at that point. And it wasn’t raining and hadn’t been for a couple of days, so I did some Tai Chi outside; the ground was pretty muddy, though, so I only went through the first form once. But I went through the Jian form a few times, because I need to solidify that. (I think we’re maybe two thirds of the way through it on Saturdays, hopefully I’ll be able to learn the whole thing?) One thing I’d been feeling unhappy with was that I felt I was using my arm too much while thrusting; but I found that I could keep my attention more in my Dantian during the form, and that felt better. So I’ll keep on experimenting with that.

Then, at the end of the afternoon, I had some more time, so I decided that things had been going well enough that I’d do a second Wu Ji session, so I put in another 30 minutes. And I’m glad I did; halfway through, I sort of relaxed into a feeling in the lower half of my body, and I got a hard-to-describe tingling sensation through large parts of my body, especially the lower half. And also the lower half was feeling relatively full in general, almost like there was something in my body filling my legs and coming up to a little above my tailbone; and, even weirder, my vision felt less dark even though my eyes were closed, with a feeling of light or something coming from the lower part of my body. (I didn’t actually turn my head down and look, I should try that next time!) So it definitely felt different from just having 60 minutes spread out over multiple days; I won’t say that it was a breakthrough (and, in particular, I still feel like my Live Gate is closed off, which is the next change I’m hoping for, the feeling of fullness definitely stopped below that), but it also feels like my body is getting in shape to make progress? If nothing else, it sure was interesting…

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Tai Chi Notes, December 24, 2019

Dec 24 2019

I managed to make it back up to 30 minutes of Wu Ji on Thursday, for the first time in a while: I’d been feeling infirm or sleepy too much recently. Though, unfortunately, I came down with a cold on Sunday so I’m feeling infirm again! I’ve managed to do my regular standing/sitting practice even with the cold, at least, the cold hasn’t been too bad, though I did skip my Tai Chi practice on Sunday.

Not much that I can think of from class on Saturday. And no class tonight (though I probably would have skipped it anyways), since it’s the end of the year.

I finished reading a book called The Mind Illuminated; it’s a guide to a meditation system, and I really liked it. It gives a step-by-step process to follow, a description of what to expect and what the goals are of each stage, and a theoretical framework to understand all of it. If I were going to carve out more time to focus on meditation, I would seriously consider following what the book says.

Having said that, it does raise the question of whether it would conflict with the Lotus Nei Gong approach. I am a little worried, for example, about its recommendation for focusing your attention on the tip of your nose; seems a little weird from a Qi point of view? Also it’s interesting to see how a lot of the physical effects (and Qi, for that matter) from Lotus Nei Gong does show up, but later on in the process; a different route to at least some of the same ends.

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