Nei Gong Notes, March 9, 2021

Mar 09 2021

Good / interesting week. I slept pretty well most nights, so that was a very pleasant change of pace; and, related to that, I got a decent amount of practice done. My current ideal situation is 25 minutes of seated meditation in the morning, close to an hour over noon (Dantian Gong plus something else), and maybe 20 minutes at the end of the work day; I don’t normally reach the trifecta, mostly because I goof off too much at noon before starting practice but also because I’m not necessarily in the mood to do quite that much practice at the end of the day, but I’m getting closer?

I’d been feeling that my chest was a little tight, so I asked folks about that; Damo’s advice was the Lotus Dao Yin plus the first and third Dragon Dao Yins. Which is a reminder that I should learn the Dragon Dao Yins; I think I’ve also heard that they’re good for your spine, which would also be good for me? There was a recommended time in the first year of the program to learn them, but I was too busy then, so I didn’t learn them then; I’m thinking, though, that given that I’m feeling like my Dantian isn’t quite in the shape that I expect I’ll need it to be in to move onto the second year of the program, then that would be a good time to take a bit of a break from the weekly lessons to consolidate my practice, and that sounds like a good time to fit in learning the Dragons.

At any rate, I’ve gone back to doing the Lotus Dao Yins. But then something interesting happened: I was doing Song Breathing yesterday, and was thinking “I’ve been trying this pretty reliably for like a month and a half, and I’m just not feeling anything that matches the description of the exercise; maybe it’s time to dial down the frequency of this exercise, and focus more on other stuff”. And then, a few minutes later, I felt this expansion / relaxation in my chest, linked with my breathing in a way that very much did feel it wasn’t a coincidence. So yay, I guess that’s what Song Breathing is about, or at least one of the things it’s about! And it was persistent, too, my chest was still tingling in interesting ways when I was going for a walk half an hour later. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to that state in future times when I’m practicing Song Breathing, and maybe Song Breathing is actually what I needed to relax things, because my chest definitely was feeling more relaxed for a while. (But who knows, maybe the Lotus Dao Yin practice helped set up the conditions for that.)

Anyways, this week in Damo’s course was another Jing Gong lesson. I didn’t even try to practice this one: those lessons are cumulative, so I need to work on where I get the right effect from the first part before seriously moving on. Though there was one thing he said that caught my ear: before, he’d mentioned that doing Dantian Gong was useful if the Jing Gong wasn’t working, but this time he said that going straight from Dantian Gong into Jing Gong could be useful. So that seems worth trying.

The downside is that, after doing thirty or thirty-five minutes of Dantian Gong, my legs are shaking enough that I feel like my body isn’t in a super receptive state, which makes me think that probably Jing Gong is less likely to work? So that got me thinking that I should try to work in some seated Dantian Gong; I hadn’t done that before partly because I’d assumed that standing was better than seated and partly because, when I’m tired, it could be very hard to maintain concentration on that in the middle of the day, but I’ve been corrected on the former and fixed the latter. So I went back and watched one of those lessons, to get the sequence; for my future notes, it’s Neutral, Hands facing down, Hands pushing down, Hands facing down, Small circles, Big circles, Small circles, Big circles with pushing, Hands parallel facing, Neutral. (Though I’m not sure about the first Hands facing down and the last Hands parallel facing.) So what I’ll try to do is make it through the standing version twice a week (over two days each time, so four days total) and the seated version once or twice a week, and try out Jing Gong after the seated version.

The other thing that I’d been thinking is: I usually use a five-minute interval timer, but sometimes there’s an exercise where I want smaller segments. (Like the Dantian Gong above, 50 minutes is more time than I think I want to spend on that?) So, for situations like that, I’d been leaving the timer in place but trying to make each segment of my practice be two and a half minutes, counting breaths to try to split the difference. But I was thinking that counting breaths is potentially a distraction, getting my mind in the wrong place.

So one thing I was thinking was: the timer app I’m using doesn’t let me set intervals on a finer granularity than a minute, but probably 3 minutes is okay? E.g. 30 minutes for seated Dantian Gong sounds fine. So I’ve started giving that a try, and indeed it is fine, and a little relaxing. But the other thing that I’m thinking is that the problem is that my mind is in the wrong place but maybe that’s an issue of being distracted instead of an issue of counting (because counting is pretty reflexive for me anyways); so I’ve sometimes been trying to count with my mind resting on my Dantian, using the count to actually help localize the focus. And that also seems to work? I think ultimately the first approach is probably better than the counting approach; and the bigger lesson is that I should get back to fundamentals and try to relax with my mind in the right place.

Anyways, lots of stuff going on this week. And the other thing of note is that, for the first time in 2021, I went to Tai Chi in person: the local COVID case rate seems to have lowered enough that that doesn’t seem unwise. Nice to do that, nice to see people; unfortunately, I’ve basically almost entirely missed the Lao Jia Dao, which is too bad because I was hoping to get that back in my memory, but the good news is that the only parts of the Xinjia First Form that I missed are parts I know pretty well and was already practicing, so that was good. I did see the Dao form a few times on Saturday, and I think they’ll do another review week next Saturday, so maybe I’ll be able to pick that up? Seems optimistic, though.

It does mean that it’ll be a little harder for me to figure out when exactly to work in my Nei Gong practice on Saturdays, but I should be able to figure something out; certainly the benefits of doing Tai Chi in person will make the tradeoff worth it.

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