Archive for June, 2022

Nei Gong Notes, June 28, 2022

Jun 28 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

A less exciting week than I would have liked. I was hoping to keep up the benefits from the retreat, and in particular to continue working on the Microcosmic Orbit. Though, as per Damo’s recommendation, I figured I should only do the Microcosmic Orbit once a week; I’d copied down notes on both the MCO sequence that he’d used during the retreat and on a similarly long Qi thickening exercise that had a fair amount of overlap with that sequence, so I figured I’d do the Qi thickening on Wednesday and the Microcosmic Orbit on Friday.

I was actually worried that I wasn’t doing enough practice in the start of the week, and during the previous weekend. But the thickening exercise on Wednesday went well, and my stomach did feel like it was activated decently well after that – not moving around or anything, but there’s a certain brightness I sometimes feel there? Unfortunately, though, the Microcosmic Orbit practice didn’t go well on Friday: I felt the orbit a bit, but not nearly as much as I had during the retreat.

Not sure what’s going on there – I was a little sleepy then, so maybe that was it? Or maybe I just need to practice more for the MCO to work reliably; if so, I don’t know if that practice has to happen in intense bursts or if I just need to keep on poking away at it. Also, there was one part of the sequence in my notes that I wasn’t sure about, and asking about it, I think I might have gotten that part wrong; I wouldn’t expect that to be a super important difference, but maybe it was?

Anyways, I’ll keep on poking away at it via that plan for a bit; hopefully I’ll build things up and get the MCO working again. If not, I’ll figure out some place to put in more work, and I might also add in the version of starting the MCO from the online school. (I think Damo’s reasoning behind only doing it once a week is that it’s more strenuous on your body than it seems like; but hopefully if I’m not actually kicking it off well, then trying it twice a week would be reasonable?) And hopefully I can get back to doing three hours of practice instead of two on Wednesdays and Fridays; we’ll see if my energy levels allow that. (I made the mistake of eating breakfast before practicing on Friday, and I think that was a mistake…)

Other than that, I’m also trying to work in more Dao Yins in my practice than I have in the past: that was definitely something that we were doing quite a bit more during the retreat than I regularly do.

Anyways, in terms of the online course, there was a lesson on practicing in water (bathtubs, swimming pools); not relevant to me for now, so I’m not worrying about that. And in terms of Tai Chi, I’m mostly but not entirely caught up with the spear form and I chipped away a bit on the Guan Dao.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 21, 2022

Jun 21 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

The workshop is over now; I’m very glad I went. It was good to get some in-person correction on details of postures; it was good to get pushed quite a bit more than I push myself at home. (Sometimes, I think three or four of the nine days, I took a break in the middle of a session; but on over half the days, I made it through the whole thing.) But also in terms of things that I was less sure of coming in: it was very good to, as I mentioned last week, get an idea about what I should do differently to help with my fatigue (basically, bones down flesh down leads to depleted Spleen Qi, whereas bones up flesh down leads to an increase in Spleen Qi). And we did indeed spend significant amounts of time on the Microcosmic Orbit in the last two days, and I did in fact manage to get it going.

Which did not feel at all like what I expected! I’m not sure if I wasn’t reading things correctly or if a lot of the descriptions that I’ve seen don’t actually map accurately to how the Microcosmic Orbit actually feels. (Though, as Damo points out, it feels different at different levels in your practice: if you have very thin Qi, then it’s just a mild sensation going around; once you start thickening the Qi, you get to the state that I’m at this time; if it gets still thicker, it sounds like your body gets tugged apart and moved around more; and eventually you get to stages where your glands start producing substances. So that could also account for the discrepancies.)

Concretely, when going up my back, it didn’t so much feel like a discrete bit of Qi going up my back as fluid filling up my back; so yeah, there’s a point that moves, but that point feels more like the top of a rising column of liquid. And it doesn’t go up a particularly narrow channel: it’s centered on my spine (or, I guess, my Du channel), but it flows through a wider channel. (Maybe moving around blockages, I’m not sure.) And, when going down, it doesn’t actually go down the very front of your body, where the Ren channel is: it’s further towards the interior of my body. So different enough from what I was expecting (especially in the going down part) that, honestly, if I hadn’t been at the channel, I’d wonder if I was doing something wrong or had only opened up half the Orbit or something; but Damo did talk about what it actually felt like and where you felt it moving, and my experiences did match what he described.

So: yay! And an interesting experience: not just surprising, but also good to feel my body want to move around and open up and what not. And I started feeling kind of chill, too. I’ll definitely want to keep that up; I’d actually be tempted to do it pretty frequently, but Damo said that, for now, we should only do it about once a week. So I’ll stick with that, but I’ll try to make that one day a week really count, and to support it with related exercises other days a week, so that my practice of the Orbit gets better instead of fading away.

In general, we’ll see if this leads me to practice more or not. If I really can get my energy levels up, then that will help. And it also gave me a nudge in the direction of doing more Dao Yins. Also, there are some ambient changes: I feel like my spine is wanting to stretch (and occasionally move) every once in a while, which feels like a healthy thing? (Especially given my history of back problems: I do have compression damage there that I would like to undo.) So I hope that will continue (or, if it stops, to stabilize in a condition with a more open, healthier spine), rather than dying down in a few weeks; we’ll see.

Other notes on positioning: when doing Wu Ji, I got some correction to hold my hands lower. I’d been letting them float more ever since I started doing the Qi mobilization versions of the Ji Ben Qi Gong; but maybe I was overdoing that, because I can’t really say that I feel the weight of my hands in my feet? Letting my shoulders expand out is probably good (though I do want to make sure I feel the weight of my shoulders in my feet, but I think my shoulders really do sink even when they expand sideways), but I should be more careful with my hands. And also it was good to get back home so I can practice in front of a mirror and see the torso misalignment that various people were trying to fix; I should either shift my weight left on my feet or move my torso right, and once I’ve done that I should rotate it a little bit to the left.

Hopefully the acupuncture and physical work that my TCM doctor is doing will help with that; it’s definitely improved my physical alignments, but there’s clearly work to be done there. He was pleased in my appointment today that both my Liver Qi and Spleen Qi problems had significantly improved, so that was good to hear.

I did almost no Tai Chi the week I was gone; I did go to the course this last Saturday, but I actually skipped out at the end. So I’ve got some catching up to do there; and I’m going to be out of town in July and I’ll have to miss two weeks of classes (including missing a second monthly Sunday class in a row); not great. But, I hope, not awful? I need to catch up with the Spear, but but that’s not so bad; I need to catch up more with the Guan Dao, but that seems like not the hardest form, and I’ve got a good video of that. I’ve basically given up on actually memorizing the Hunyuan 48, though; I’ll try to get a feel for it this round through, and hopefully that will let me actually memorize it next time.

It would be nice if it weren’t quite so hot, though; I’m not sure how much Tai Chi practice I’ll be able to do tomorrow. (Especially given that I need to do weapons practice; I can’t very well swing around a Guan Dao inside the house!)

And I’ll start back up on Damo’s lessons. Though I really do want my focus right now to be on the Microcosmic Orbit and exercises related to building that up; so I’m kind of hoping that he doesn’t have any new seated exercises to learn. I do at least one seated exercise and one standing exercise a day, and on four or sometimes five days a week I don’t have time to do anything beyond that; so, right now, swapping out the standing bit is fine, I’m just nervous about swapping out the seated bit. Also, I want to spend some amount of time on the Kidney and Spleen versions of the Balancing exercises: in the course, Damo said that those two were more effective than the other three elements, and so we had a long session of one or the other of those most days in the course, and they seem like exercises that are both directly relevant to my energy issues.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 14, 2022

Jun 14 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve been at an in-person workshop with Damo for most of the last week; it’s been good! Good to get some in-person correction on my form (from various senior teachers, not just Damo); good to have Damo guide us through some bits that are related to stuff from the online course but more in depth; and good to get pushed a bit more. (In particular, to do stretchy Dao-Yin-type stuff more.)

In terms of correction on my Wu Ji: one person gave me advice (a couple of times, all these examples are repeated advice) that I should work on dropping my tailbone straight down, it’s curving forward too much. Which is useful: I’d been feeling like I was going over my toes if I wasn’t paying attention, but if I go straight down, then my positioning seems a lot better. Another person told me to rotate my head forward a bit more: so I’m looking down more than I had been, but also the back of my neck stretches up still more. Which seems useful, once I try it out, I guess I’d been compressing my neck in the back a bit? Another person told me to work on “bones up, flesh down”; more on that later. And another person told me that my rib cage is drifting to the right a bit much; I guess that’s how my ongoing right Kua alignment issue is manifesting itself.

In terms of stuff Damo was focusing on that was a little more in depth: he talked at the start of the course about how he was planning to do a fair amount of seated work, in ways that made me hope that we’d be working on the Microcosmic Orbit. Which is great, that was my main hope for the course coming in but I had no reason to believe that that’s what he would do.

And, indeed, we have been moving in that direction. We’ve been going through some focused exercise sequences on thickening the Qi, and also setting the Qi rotating within your Dantian has come up a lot. Which are two preparatory steps for the Microcosmic Orbit that I definitely could use help on. I’m not actually sure if we’ll make it to the full Microcosmic Orbit by the end of the workshop; we have three days left, and that seems possible but a little tight, and it feels like Damo had been planning to spend more time on seated work than he actually has? We’ll see how the next three days go; but, even if we don’t quite reach that by the end of the workshop (or if we do cover that but I can’t put it into action), I feel like I’ll be in a better position to work on that on my own when I get back home.

I had been worried about my energy levels coming into the workshop, because I’ve had two separate colds or COVIDs or something over the last couple of months, so I was worried that I was going from an energy level of being able to keep up with what I expected from the workshop on all but the worst days to an energy level where I just wouldn’t be able to do stuff some days. And, in fact, I really did hit a wall on the afternoon of the first day: I’m just not up for standing in Wu Ji for long periods of time, or doing other standing exercises with my legs in that position.

The second and third days were better, though: I suspect that, compared to other people, I’m worse than average at that sort of standing but that my endurance is fine for exercises that have me stretching out my joints? So I was optimistic that things would be fine; though, as I tried to put into practice the recommendations to tilt my head and sink my tailbone, I felt like my Wu Ji was getting a little harder to keep up, so there was something to do there.

But then I felt bad last night; so I set my alarm late and, when I woke up, I decided to do today’s class over Zoom. (A Zoom link has been set up because some people got COVID and wanted to participate while isolating.) Which I participated in some, but I wasn’t up for most of the standing exercises, so that was a good choice.

And then we got to the theory part of the day; Damo had mostly been talking about Mind and Soul, but today was on something completely different, about separating the flesh from the bones. (Basically, the same as the “bones up, flesh down” point from above.)

And, what he said there was that, if you can separate your flesh from the bones, then that stretches the fascia in that area in a way that gives you more energy. Whereas if you sink your bones along with your flesh, then you have less energy. And the way that this specific energy is categorized is Spleen Qi.

This is interesting, because I am low on energy, and because my diagnosis is Liver Heat leading to Spleen Deficiency. I think my TCM doctor had been focusing on the Liver Heat side of things, but maybe I’m actually causing the Spleen Deficiency problems directly? Which, actually, relates to something that I’ve been wondering: I have been feeling like my energy levels are lower since I started the Internal Arts Academy, and while I expected that was probably just a coincidence (the same time period begins at the start of COVID, so it could be related to that, to being at home, to dust allergies at home), it actually isn’t crazy to think that my Nei Gong is hurting my energy rather than helping.

So then Damo had us stand while focusing on having our bones kind of expand out in all directions (up, sideways, down, depending on their location), and then trying to maintain that while having your body sink. And I felt a lot better when I did that! Enough so that I went into the class in person in the afternoon, and I felt totally fine while doing that.

So I’m definitely going to work on that; probably initially it’ll mean that I’m standing a little high in Wu Ji, but hopefully once I get used to it, I’ll be able to come to a position that keeps the good aspects of what I had been doing while also adding a new good aspect to it. And, of course, if I had to choose between having more energy versus being at the right height, then I’d choose more energy. If that pays off, then that alone will make flying across the country to the workshop worth it, I think.

Three days left; we’ll see how those three days go.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 7, 2022

Jun 07 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

Still recovering from my cold; it would be nice if this cough would go away. I got somewhat back into my Nei Gong practice, but not as fully as I would like; hopefully I’m in good enough shape that the retreat (which starts this Thursday) won’t be a disaster? In terms of Damo’s online course, I was going to just be in a holding pattern but the next video turned out to be about what to do when driving a car, so I watched that; interesting enough, and it doesn’t add to my practice load.

Also still getting back up to speed with Tai Chi. Trying to catch up with the Guan Dao, I think that will be okay though of course I won’t be able to practice that while I’m at the retreat; mostly giving up on catching up with the Hunyuan 48, though I have done it (well, the parts of it I’ve seen on Saturday class) while watching a video several times at home this week. And we did do push hands this week, starting the two-hand form.

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