Nei Gong Notes, November 24, 2020

Nov 24 2020

This week’s lesson from Damo was on Pushing Your Tides, an arm stretching exercise. The main goal of the exercise is to realign your shoulder positioning; and maybe to open up your arm channels? It’s one of the few exercises in the course where Damo explicitly says you don’t have to do it for very long, once you’ve done it for a couple of weeks, your shoulders will be in the right place. And I’m not sure I’ll even stick with it that long: I’ve been working for years to realign my shoulders, and I feel like that’s been pretty successful? And certainly from doing Tai Chi, something is coming to my hands pretty frequently, which makes me think the channels are at least somewhat open.

No Saturday Nei Gong class this week; we did have a Tai Chi class, despite having gone up two tiers in our COVID rating. The class still seems to be legal, if I’m reading the county’s website correctly? Not sure what I think, I might pause attending for a while after Thanksgiving…

Sleep-wise, last week was iffy, but this week started off well, at least. And I feel like I’m doing a better job of sinking and relaxing during Wu Ji: doing a better job of relaxing my diaphragm, and different parts of my legs / kua.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 17, 2020

Nov 17 2020

One thing I forgot to mention last week: just as you’re supposed to work on noticing when you fall asleep, you’re also supposed to notice when you wake up. Still no real progress on the former, but I actually was, I think, completely successful on the latter once: I thought “I just woke up” right when I woke up and could actually trace the feelings in my mind back to right before I woke up, so I did really feel like I was aware of the transition itself.

Anyways, sleep-wise, this week hasn’t been good. (Though last night was just fine, at least.) Still don’t really know what’s going on there; I think it’s allergy side effects, but I’m not completely sure. So I didn’t get quite as much practice done this week, but still, I did something every day.

On which note, I guess I might as well write down my regular practice routine. 20 minutes of seated meditation in the morning; these days I’m doing the Calm-Abiding exercise. Which is super interesting: not currently getting the blissed-out state that I sometimes got with it, but it feels good, and my Dantian is buzzing, with some of the latter continuing (mildly, admittedly) into the rest of the day. So I’m really liking that, and feeling that it’s useful; on days when I have more time I’m spending more than 20 minutes on it.

Then, over lunch, I do standing work. Some stretching, some Wu Ji, something else. I go through the Ji Ben Qi Gong over the course of the week, two at a time; I try to do Thickening the Qi once, and I try to do Dantian Gong once (split over two days). And sometimes I do the Wu Xing.

If I’m tired, the stretching is short, I do 15 or even 10 minutes of Wu Ji plus some Ji Ben; 25 minutes or so in total. If I had a good night’s sleep, I do the Dantian Gong, because it’s the most work; unfortunately, this last week, I only managed to do half the Dantian Gong, because I just wasn’t up for it other days. Which is too bad, that exercise really is useful, if I were more awake I’d try to go through it twice a week instead of once (and twice for Thickening the Qi too), but that’s not where I’m at right now.

And, if work gets done reasonably early, then I’ll spend 15 minutes or so doing some back stuff.

Also, recently I’ve been getting more disciplined about going through Silk Reeling during work meetings, doing that twice a week; that feels good, I really think it’s helping. And it helps me pay attention in meetings, too, it’s great for meetings where I don’t have to talk but I do want to listen, because it means I can’t switch over to Slack or pull out my iPad or whatever.

 

Anyways, enough about the general practice routine, back to this week. Sleepy, but I kept going, and seated meditation and Silk Reeling were actively good. This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was around gratitude; I didn’t find as much time to practice that as I should have, probably because it doesn’t fit quite so neatly into either seated meditation or into standing work. So I guess I should do that a little more this week? Though temperamentally I’m not feeling super drawn to it. (Maybe that’s a sign I need to practice it more…)

In the Saturday Nei Gong class, in the Wu Ji at the start, I ended up feeling significantly more pressurized on the soles of my feet than I normally did. So I was relaxing better, or something, I should try to build on that? I’m trying to bring that back to my Wu Ji practice in general, in particular working on relaxing my diaphragm, relaxing my kua, and relaxing my pelvis; I feel like I’m getting better but am still feeling things out, and I haven’t yet repeated that pressurized feeling. It might be starting to help with my leaning, though.

As to Tai Chi, we started the Lao Jia Dao this week. And I did get in a decent practice on Sunday. Not so much the Lao Jia first form, but practicing the stuff that’s newer that I need to solidify: the Lao Jia second form, the Xin Jia first form, and the Jian. Though Santa Clara County’s COVID restrictions have gone up again, so I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep on doing Tai Chi in the group in the park, we’ll see…

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Nei Gong Notes: November 10, 2020

Nov 10 2020

Somewhat better sleep this week than in some recent weeks, though still not great. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night as much, and in general I didn’t feel allergic, but I often woke up 30 minutes or so before the alarm, which kind of had me on the edge of having enough sleep.

Still, some days were fine, so I got in a decent Nei Gong practice on those days, and I got in some practice on the other days; made it through all the core stuff I wanted to do over the week.

This week’s lesson was on waking up, complementing the one on going to sleep a few weeks back. Partly about paying attention to exactly when you wake up, mostly about your behavior after that, which was a mixture of sensible sounding advice and weird sounding advice that’s easy enough to follow so I might as well do it anyways. So I did most of it; the main thing that I’m not doing is getting out of bed as soon as I wake up (because I think Widget and Liesl would be a bit taken aback by that), but I’m trying to sit up in bed instead of lying down, in hopes that my body and mind will see that as enough of a transition? Oh, and there’s also the advice to either not use an alarm or to change the alarm sound to something less jarring; haven’t done that, but the good side of waking up early is that the sound of the alarm wasn’t relevant most days…

I skipped the Saturday Nei Gong class because I had the Sunday Tai Chi class this week. And in the Saturday Tai Chi class it was my turn to get instruction; notes from that are that in the opening, after hands come down, I should spiral more when going left. And I have more work to do when relaxing at end of Dantian Change. In Flash the Back, the emphasis isn’t on the blocking, it’s about having the other arm vanish. When flashing your hands in the flip right that, have the energy go to the tips of the fingers, don’t have the hands curled. When punching, make sure my wrist is straight in the punching hand, and in the other hand, have the fingers straight and a little more energy in the elbow. And, in the reverse version of the Oblique Posture, don’t have my right arm behind my center.

We’re done with the Jian form, switching to the Dao next; I’ll definitely want to make suer to practice the Jian regularly to solidify it more. (But, unlike the first time I went through the Jian, I should be able to remember it this time if I practice.)

And a note from Sunday: in the second form, after Taming the Tiger, when you stomp down with your right hand also going down, your feet are next to each other. Then step forward with your left foot while turning your right hand palm up, before doing the brow strike.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 3, 2020

Nov 03 2020

This week’s class was another mental exercise, separating the Shen and Qi: you’re supposed to visualize a yellow triangle while keeping your Qi sunk. I can’t say I was super successful at visualizing the triangle, but at least on good days I did feel some amount of separation?

Nothing in particular to report about the Saturday Nei Gong course, though at least I felt up for doing the whole thing, which hasn’t always been the case recently. And on Saturday afternoon I led the start of Tai Chi, we’ll see what advice Tony has for my form next Saturday. He talked some about Song, which was pretty interesting: saying that, when you relax in postures with your arms out, your arms should actually end up further out because the muscles aren’t tightening them up. Which fits in with what I’d been feeling recently in my arms while doing Wu Ji? And we finished the Jian form, I think I’m getting the end down, so hopefully the whole form will stick.

In terms of practice, I’m still more tired than I’d like, and I don’t think the change of allergy medicines is having the desired effect. But I kept things up, and ended up doing a decent amount of practice, I think. And I’m working on relaxing my legs in a similar way to how I’ve been relaxing my arms; I’d actually been doing that a few months back, but I’d gotten out of the habit, so I’m starting to pick it up again. And it feels good, which is nice, and hopefully it’s doing something useful to the tendons on the inside of my thighs.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 27, 2020

Oct 27 2020

Still sleepier than I’d like; maybe that’s getting better, maybe not?

I listened to the Calm Abiding video again; I’m supposed to spend 70% of my attention calmly paying attention to my Dantian, 20% to the rest of my body, and 10% to what my mind is doing. Not entirely sure how much I’m supposed to be pleasantly zoned out, but there was this bit about relaxing while paying attention.

Anyways, I’ve been trying to do that, and today was super interesting; I did get back to the pleasantly zoned out state, at which point all of a sudden my attention was shifting to my body as a whole. (And, to the extent that there was a center to my attention, it was quite a bit higher.) So the difficulty wasn’t in getting 20% of my attention on my body, it was in restricting my attention so that only 20% was there and keeping 70% on my Dantian. (And who knows what’s going on with the last 10%.)

I should probably ask about that, though I’ll wait until I’ve gotten a little more experience with it. It does feel plausible that what I’m doing is consistent with generating qi, at least, which is the goal of the exercise.

This week’s video was on preparing for sleep; you’re supposed to try to pay attention to exactly when you switch from being awake to being asleep. Which is hard, Damo said it took him several months. And, if you do it wrong, you run the risk of having your mind racing a bit, which is counterproductive; that did indeed happen to me, and honestly really isn’t what I need right now. Still, I’ll keep on poking at it…

Also, standing in Wu Ji is continuing to be interestingly different. I’m kind of feeling like my upper body is being held up by its tendons now; I relax the tops of my shoulders, my arms go out, my hands go up a bit, and muscles don’t feel particularly active in any of this, it feels a lot more sinewy. And it actively feels like there’s energy flowing through all of that, too, which is nice. If I could get to that situation with my lower body, I’d really be happy, but it’s definitely progress, and even a bit of a state change. And, honestly, somewhat surprising given that I haven’t been practicing for as long the last couple of weeks because I’ve been tired, but I’ll take it. (Not as much of the buzzy Dantian feeling as I’d had a week or two ago, though.)

No class with the local Nei Gong folks this week; Tai Chi on Saturday, we’re almost done with the Jian, I’m somewhat optimistic that I’ll be able to retain that? It’s been useful reviewing the last few moves that we’d done before COVID, I’d been a bit iffy on those even back then.

And I did practice Jian at home on Sunday, hopefully I can keep that up. I should practice a bit more during the week, though, and probably do one round of Silk Reeling during the week – Saturday is good but not quite enough on its own. And my back has actually been aching a bit, in ways where I think Silk Reeling could help; I need to get back to the back exercises, too. (Might be a consequence of me not exercising quite enough, might be a consequence of how I’ve been turning off use of musculature in my torso?)

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Nei Gong Notes, October 20, 2020

Oct 20 2020

This week’s lesson is on “Calm-Abiding”. Which sounds maybe a bit boring, but it turns out to be relaxing during seated meditation in a way that gets you into a kind of blissful state, while simultaneously paying attention to a couple of other things. Which, in turn, reminded me of something that used to happen to me when I was doing Wu Ji before starting the course, where my perception would shift and I would feel really good; I think this is the same thing, but seated? Very happy to be getting back to that again.

Unfortunately, I haven’t actually gotten back to it after watching the lesson. It’s been a bad week for that: I had early morning meetings that prevented me from doing seated meditation at the start of the day on several days; I did the meditation later in the day, but I’ve been incredibly tired this week, and if I did the meditation later in the day, that kicked in. More recently, I’ve done my meditation at a more normal time; I’ve been closer, but I haven’t quite reached that state again. I might want to bump things up to 25 or 30 minutes, though, maybe if I spend a bit more time both preparing myself at the start and then trying to relax into the desired state in the second half, I’d be more successful?

I certainly need to watch the lesson again: I was too tired to do that this past week, but I’ll find time at some point. I want to watch it again both because I hope I’ll be able to reach the desired state of relaxation and because I’m actually not super clear on the full instructions, on the two things I’m supposed to be paying attention to.

Anyways, tired week, so while I did my practice most days, it was pretty minimal; I think maybe allergies are being a little overwhelming, I’m experimenting with a new medicine there and hopefully that will help. The weird thing is that my body actually seems to be doing quite well, in two ways: the upper half of my body is sometimes feeling incredibly relaxed in a solid way while I practice, with everything just falling into place, and if I, say, raise and lower my shoulders, the vibrations go all the way through my torso in a very direct way. And the second good thing is that I think I’m starting to get a little ambient buzz in my Dan Tian pretty much all the time; it’s very small, but I think it’s something new and different? So hopefully that’s a sign that my body is getting into shape.

Or at least my torso is; the Saturday teachers pointed out that I’m leaning and twisting again, in ways that I think comes down to my hips and legs being positioned wrong. That’s annoying; I’ve got some ideas about what to do about that, but I’m not sure those ideas are right; we’ll see.

Saturday Tai Chi as well; not super productive this time because I was so sleepy, but again, good to be getting back into group practice.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 14, 2020

Oct 14 2020

This week’s lesson had me doing reverse breathing while going through the Ji Ben Qi Gong; interesting, it keeps you anchored lower in the exercises that have you moving up and down. And I found it very difficult to do reverse breathing during Upholding the Moon.

I kept on doing the seated reverse breathing exercise from last week, using your hands to try to set up a connection between your Qi Hai and Ming Men. I didn’t feel anything more than last week; not planning to regularly focus on that exercise for now, though I should try it out occasionally.

And we started in person Tai Chi back up on Saturdays and (once a month) Sundays. Which is good: I definitely hadn’t been doing enough Tai Chi, I find it easier to do that in person than practicing on my own, and the Saturday class fits into my schedule. Still no Tuesday class, but mostly back to normal there; and it’ll be good to finish learning the Jian form and hopefully to fill in my gaps in the Xin Jia first form.

In general, Nei Gong practice went fine this week; I’m definitely feeling more like my upper body is falling into place. And there’s something different going on in the tendons on the inside of my thighs; I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good sign or not, I might be having my stance too wide? And, unfortunately, I’m back to twisting my upper body because my right kua isn’t folded enough; I need to work on that more, and I think not just relaxing it in a way that folds it back but relaxing in a way where I let more weight go down onto the top of my right thigh?

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Nei Gong Notes, October 6, 2020

Oct 06 2020

More reverse breathing this week; still seated, this time adding in some hand gestures that are supposed to connect your Qi Hai with your Ming Men. I don’t know that I felt a super strong connection, but I did feel kind of a cylinder inside my stomach while twisting my hands, so that was interesting. I’ll probably keep up the exercise for another week or two, to see if the feeling changes.

The other thing that the exercise pointed out is that, when I’m seated, my navel and Qi Hai are pretty low, there’s not that much room to place my hands below my navel. Sitting in Burmese instead of Half Lotus helps, but I think it’s also evidence that I’m slumping. And, unfortunately, if I try to sit up straighter in a way that lengthens my lower spine, that has a tendency to raise my buttocks, which doesn’t seem right; so I have to work on lengthening my lower spine while staying firmly seated. Which I can do, it’ll just take some work to establish it more firmly.

Low energy in general this week, my sleep was interrupted as often as not. Not really sure what’s going on there, whether it’s allergies or just everything else that’s going on in the world or something else. Kept up my practice okay, given that, though not a lot of actively good days.

Still working on trying to do abdominal breathing at different times during the day, sometimes with some success? And also during my initial seated practice I’m working more on sinking, because I feel like my energy is rising too much. (Probably related to the interrupted sleep issues…) Somewhat successful; something to keep on working on, at any rate.

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Nei Gong Notes, September 29, 2020

Sep 29 2020

This week’s lesson was on Reverse Abdominal Breathing. Interesting enough, and Reverse Abdominal Breathing is noticeably more intense, but what surprised me the most was hearing Damo talk about how your natural breathing pattern first changes to Abdominal Breathing, then Reverse Abdominal, then to other forms. I’d assumed that Reverse Abdominal Breathing was always a special thing that you consciously shift into, but apparently not. We’re not supposed to naturally shift to it now, though, this lesson was more about getting our body aware of the possibility, but this also points out that I don’t usually do Abdominal Breathing either, maybe I should nudge my body to do that more when I’m not practicing?

I was tired a lot this week, which was annoying, but I still felt like practicing went pretty well; there was one day when I had a really intense Dan Tian Gong session right from the beginning, feeling like there was a lot of pressure in my abdomen. And I’m keeping up the spine exercises (it helps that this week’s new technique is something I can fit into my seated meditation sessions), I feel like it really is helping my back, I’m feeling a little more bend in my lower back and in general it’s moving more smoothly during the exercise.

Also during the Dan Tian Gong I’m noticing that I like the way my arms arc out and circle while holding the Bao Yuan mudra; and I can get some of that feeling while doing Wu Ji, too. I’m working on trying to bring that to my legs as well, I can get a hint of it if I settle out to the side more, maybe spread my legs a little wider, and maybe turn my feet in a little more.

More Dao Yin practice in the Saturday class, which is fine, but I continue to be busy enough with other stuff that I’m not practicing that outside of class.

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VGHVI Minecraft: September 24, 2020

Sep 27 2020

Not many pictures this time: nobody did significant building. So just a few shots of me thinking about what to do next.

 

A picture of the lighthouse behind my mountain at night.

A view from the lighthouse towards the mountain: you can see lights from the cave with the dock and from the building on top of the mountain.

If you move in closer, you can see the building on top better, and also the castle with flowers that Dan built on the next mountain over.

Here I’m looking out from the entrance of that cave with the dock. (Though at an angle so you can’t see the dock the lighthouse.)

Here’s the back wall of the cave. Maybe that wall is the seed of something interesting, if I leveled it out and extended it? I have had good experiences with large spaces inside mountains before…

I don’t want to destroy what’s there in the cave, though: I like the grass and water at the bottom of the cave. So, if I do something, I’d want to preserve and heighten that.

Here’s a view from the back corner.

 

I think next month I’ll try to extend that cave some? Maybe even adding in more grass and/or water (a waterfall from the ceiling? vines somewhere?), I’m not sure…

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