Archive for August, 2022

Nei Gong Notes, August 30, 2022

Aug 30 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

Wednesday was my best practice day I’ve had in a while. Which is kind of depressing, because I think it was probably like a normal Wednesday a year ago? Shows how bad my energy level has gotten; hopefully it’s a sign that my TCM treatment is helping and the upward trajectory will continue, but who knows.

Anyways, I did the Water Hui Chun with 10 minute intervals. Which is an improvement over doing it with 3 minute intervals, if I’ve got the time, but it wasn’t as much of an improvement as I was hoping. So I’m thinking that, if I’ve got 80 minutes to spend on that, it might be better instead to do both Water and Earth with 5 minute intervals.

And then in the afternoon I had a good Tai Chi practice. I went through the Lao Jia first form three times, paying attention well and stopping and retrying bits as I noticed bits that were off. Some of the things I’ve noticed are things I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed in the past, I just need to have those changes stick. In particular, in Six Sealing Four Closing, when moving right at the end (just before the push), I should make sure my weight is fully shifted to the right before moving my left foot in. And, in Dantian Change, when turning to the right near the end of the move, just after putting my left foot out, I should turn into my right Kua. Also, earlier on in that move, when drawing the silk, I should have my right hand basically pulling from my left elbow.

On a similar note of weight shifts, I’m sometimes moving forward or backward in a way that has me a little off balance: e.g. when stepping back in Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, I should step back with my weight remaining on my front foot and then shift my weight after my rear foot has landed.

Also, I realized that I’m putting pressure on my left knee in Oblique Posture, and in fact my left knee is going forward over my foot; I shouldn’t go forward as much when bending down, so my left knee remains over or slightly behind my left foot.

And I also reviewed the Jian a few times (I’m doing it as my weapon in the instructor’s test in a few weeks), and finished going through the spear. And I went through the Guan Dao as well; I don’t think I made any progress in actively catching up, but at least I didn’t fall farther behind?

On Friday, my practice didn’t go so well; I was hoping to do the Water and Earth with 5 minute intervals, as I mentioned above, but I ended up being sleepy enough that I just did the Water. I did at least go through the first three Ji Ben Gong exercises in their Qi Mobilization variants with 9 minutes + 3 minutes Wu Ji on each; it was good to get back to that, I like how stuff moves around when I do that, I think if anything doing that with longer intervals (15 minutes, say) would be better than doing all 8 Ji Ben at once with only 5 minutes on each one. (And maybe I should do the same thing with exercises 6/7/8; I’m less sure about 4/5, though for 4 maybe that’s just another sign that my back isn’t up to snuff.) And I did some Tai Chi in the afternoon, but not a lot.

Also on Friday, I started going through the review material for the Tai Chi instructor’s test that I’m taking in a few weeks. (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that; it’s a test for the lowest level of instructor certification that my teacher offers.) One interesting thing that came out of that was when I got to the discussion of Zhan Zhuang from a document my teacher shared from his teacher (Chen Qingzhou); it turns out that that version of Zhan Zhuang is different from what I think of as Zhan Zhuang. Instead of the arms making a curved shape in front, the right arm is in front but with the fingers pointing up and the palm facing left, and the left arm is behind your back in a hook. In retrospect, I had seen this before, I just hadn’t realized that Chen Qingzhou particularly recommended this one or what he called it. I might spend the next week or two doing it daily: I don’t have any standing exercise that I’m actively working on, so it could be interesting to see what it feels like?

Or at least doing it mostly daily: I’ve got my second shingles vaccine shot tomorrow, so it’s not clear to me how much I’ll be able to practice the next three days, the first shot had pretty noticeable side effects. (A little worse than the COVID vaccine for me, and that one was noticeable as well.) At least I’ll be done with the shingles vaccine after that; though there will be another COVID booster I’ll want to take at some point this fall, and at some point I should get a colonoscopy; so I’m not yet quite past the list of upcoming medical maintenance tasks…

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Nei Gong Notes, August 23, 2022

Aug 23 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

The week started off pretty well. As I mentioned last time, I’m pausing new lessons in the Nei Gong course, so no lesson on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I did go through the Qi mobilization versions of the entire Ji Ben Qi Gong (with 5 minute intervals, so 85 minutes in total); I’m glad I did that, though I wouldn’t describe it as a revelation or anything. (Actually, the way I was feeling when practicing today, I’m thinking I might want to spend some time doing the first 3 in sequence, with 9 minutes on the non-Wu Ji parts of each.)

Unfortunately, my week basically turned awful after that: my dog was clearly not doing well overnight, and when we took him to the vet in the morning, they took one look at him and rushed into action. They stabilized him and diagnosed him as having Gastric Dilation Volvulus. (So, if you’ve got a large chested dog and they’re doing dry heaves, it’s potentially a sign of something very serious.) I took him to an emergency vet after that for surgery, and it actually seemed like that went well, we’d avoided several potential outcomes that they initially warned us about. But he also didn’t recover as well as they liked, and then they realized he’d gotten pneumonia during the process; that got really severe really quickly, and he died on Friday.

I’m doing better now, it’s feeling less raw, but Thursday was bad, Friday was horrible, and Saturday and Sunday things were still pretty raw. So no Nei Gong most of those days, no Tai Chi on Saturday. I did go to the Tai Chi Sunday class since I’d missed it the previous two months, but I skipped our annual picnic that day.

And I’m glad I went on Sunday. I mostly went because I wanted to get back into Guan Dao; I’d reviewed some on Wednesday, and also I’d been trying to learn ahead before my trip to Ohio, so I knew I was at least partly caught up; it turns out that I wasn’t completely caught up, though. But I should be able to make up the difference before next month’s class, I hope?

Also, I ended up leading the group going through the Lao Jia first form, and my teacher gave me several pointers after that. During Hand Maneuvers, I shouldn’t turn my head so much, my gaze should mostly change because I’m turning my torso. During Dantian Change, I should relax more and make it fuller, and I should sink more; also, when bringing my left hand over at the end of it, it shouldn’t go too high. And in Ground Hacking Dragon, I should keep my torso upright instead of leaning over and sticking out my butt; it’s okay if that means that I don’t go so low.

And today I had my my TCM treatment; my doctor says my Liver is doing pretty well and my Kidneys are doing better. I sure hope the Kidney treatment starts to make a difference, because I definitely still have issues caused by that; he switched herbal formulas, so now instead of just being on a Liver formula, I’m on a combined Liver / Kidney formula. So we’ll see if that helps; at least it’s less bitter…

And in the Tuesday evening class today, I did some slow walking around an area with big trees while people were doing Silk Reeling; I’m glad I did that, though honestly it also pointed out that I’ve kind of forgotten how that slow walking exercise works. I might be starting to feel the presence of trees a bit? And then I did push hands; nothing new, mostly just trying to consolidate single hand, two hands, and moving two hands. My partner and I both couldn’t quite remember how the moving two hands worked at first, but then our teacher came over and reminded us, I think we’re in a better position to remember it going forward.

Also, in general, I’m feeling like I definitely need to work on my foundations. I talked about that in a Nei Gong context last week, but I’ve been feeling it in Tai Chi as well: I haven’t been practicing Tai Chi as much recently (see the above Kidney issues!), and I think I’m actually regressing. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to doing that more: I’d been making catching up with the Spear form my first priority, and either reminding myself of the Jian form or catching up with the Guan Dao form my second priority, and all of that is still important, but I really do need to spend more time on the Jian, and also get back to doing the Lao Jia first form multiple times on multiple of my non-class practice days. And, ideally, I’d make significant progress on that in the next three weeks, because that’s when the next Sunday class is, and teacher certification is happening then. (Honestly, I think I’m good enough to pass the teacher certification, but I’ll feel a little embarrassed doing it at my current level.)

And I’m also feeling like my legs are weaker than ideal. Though I’m not sure how much of the issue there is that my legs should get stronger and how much is that I should lose some weight? I’m not super fat or anything, but still, I’m definitely carrying enough weight that it wouldn’t hurt for me to get rid of some.

So the good news is that now I’m feeling excited about stuff to work on, and I think I’m enough past the awful parts of this past week that it won’t be affecting me quite so directly. We’ll see how much my energy levels are up to practicing tomorrow and Friday, though.

Oh, also I reread Damo’s White Moon book. Good stuff there, though, to be honest, I think that one of my takeaways there is that I’m probably not going to be making enough lifestyle changes to make it super far into Nei Dan. Which is okay if that’s the way it turns out? I’ll get benefits of going through the Nei Gong parts of things, and if I make progress on that and then stabilize, that’s okay. (Though, speaking of foundations, reading that book made me think that I should spend more time sitting, e.g. starting to work in an hour-long session of Calm-Abiding. Probably not something to do until I’ve gotten the MCO in a better state, though.) And if I still want to go deep in internal arts but Nei Dan isn’t for me, there are lots of other arts out there for me to continue improving on. (Tai Chi, for example!)

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Nei Gong Notes, August 16, 2022

Aug 16 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was on Self-Healing. Which, basically, is using attention (but not intention!) to help your body heal itself. I don’t have any current physical ailments that I particularly need to recover from right now, so I didn’t spend time trying it out, but something to keep in mind the next time I strain something.

Though I do have an energetic ailment: I’d been feeling better about my Liver Heat improving and was looking forward to focusing on my Kidney deficiency, but then the Liver problems were actually kind of annoying the first half of this week. I decided to spend time doing the Wood Wu Xing and I asked Damo about it and he recommended the Water Hui Chun, so I’ve been doing those, and it really did get significantly better over the weekend (and my doctor agreed when I saw him yesterday); yay. When I did the Wood Wu Xing the first time this week, I had a noticeable tingling in my Bai Hui, and that went away after about five minutes of the exercise; I’m not used to that clear a concrete effect.

That got me thinking, though, that right now my main issue is this energy problem. And, until I get that sorted out, I’m just not going to be able to do stuff at full capacity. And, if I’m focusing on sorting that out, it seems like that can make a difference; so that’s what I should be doing as my top priority.

And, in terms of other priorities, my next priority is getting the Microcosmic Orbit going reliably: that’s definitely more important to me than Damo’s class. But, also, I was sitting this weekend and thinking “my chest really does feel tenser than would be ideal, I should work on that”.

So, right now, I feel like my priority should be 1) getting healthy; 2) the Microcosmic Orbit; 3) going back to foundations; 4) continuing with Damo’s course. And there’s no way I will ever find time for the fourth of those, given that priority stack; honestly, even three priorities feels wrong. The only reason why I’m not saying that I’ll just do the first two is that that would basically have me only doing seated work, and that feels wrong: my natural tendency is already to seek out seated work and avoid standing work, and I don’t think that’s healthy. So I should keep up the Wu Ji, I should probably work in some Dao Yins (given that I’m noticing tightness in my chest, maybe spend some time on the Lotus Dao Yin?), I should keep on throwing the Wood Wu Xing into the mix, and it’s probably not a bad idea for me to go through the Ji Ben exercises some.

But, given those three priorities, even once I do have the health issues sorted out, I’ll probably still want to stay paused on new lessons for a bit while I get the Microcosmic Orbit under control? Also, I should probably find time on the days when I’m working to fit in a second seated session, so I can do a Hui Chun plus poke away at MCO stuff; fortunately, if I’m pausing Damo’s course, that opens up some time on Tuesday and Thursday evenings that I can use for that. (Or at least it does on Thursdays; I have a Tai Chi course on Tuesdays for the next three weeks that’s keeping me unusually busy.)

One other thing I did this week was trying out Damo’s advice for driving a car: relaxing my arms and getting a stretch in them. Pretty interesting; my hands seem to be asymmetric, so if I want them to feel like they’re stretching the same amount, I need to move the right hand up the wheel. (I don’t think that’s me, I think probably the seat isn’t quite centered in front of the wheel.) And he talked about paying attention to the cars around you; I noticed that actually do feel a bit of pressure in the appropriate direction, but only when they’re quite close. I’ll play with that a bit too, though not at the expense of actually looking around me!

Tai Chi is going okay; I haven’t had the energy to do as much practice as I should, but I did manage to successfully get caught up with the spear, and to remind myself of one bit of the Jian that I was starting to stumble on. I need to work on the Guan Dao this week, though, there’s class this Sunday. (It’s the annual picnic, so maybe we won’t have time to do Guan Dao, but I should be prepared in case we do.)

And I’m chipping away at Push Hands. Still a huge amount of work to do there, but it’s something. I learned the moving two hands version tonight; and in terms of stuff to work on, I need to work more on turning my waist and on sticking to my opponent.

One of the senior students asked if I was doing instructor certification; nice that she thinks that I’m doing well enough to ask that question! I’d been thinking about it but hadn’t heard that it was scheduled, but it’s coming up in September. So I should look through what’s necessary for that; when I’ve seen people do it in the past, they’ve demonstrated the Lao Jia first form and one weapon, and I feel comfortable enough with that (I’ll probably do the Jian), but I should make sure to put in a bit more time when practicing just to make sure.

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Nei Gong Notes, August 9, 2022

Aug 09 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

Good week; not 100% back to normal in my practice, but a lot closer than I had been. I did one of Damo’s lessons for the first time in over a month; it was the Qi Mobilization version of the eighth Ji Ben Qi Gong exercise. Which was pretty interesting: like the seventh, it’s about mobilizing the Yin field, and as long as I did the actions slowly enough, I think I was correctly feeling the field’s existence and then how it moves and stretches as I do the exercise? Makes me wonder if there’s something about the Zhan Zhuang hand position that makes it easier to feel that field, since both the seventh and eighth exercises in that series have you start with your arms in that position, and they both can be used for feeling the Yin field. And actually Tai Chi felt different today when I was going through the form, in a way that might be relevant; it would be good if my sensitivity in that area was starting to increase.

And I started going through the various seated exercises that I’d learned on the lead up to the Microcosmic Orbit, trying to get back into shape there. And that felt pretty good: I don’t feel overflowing or anything, so there’s work to be done, but I feel something? I had been thinking that I might try out the MCO this week, but now I’m thinking I’ll do another week of prepwork: partly because I’m busy tomorrow morning, which is normally one of my practice times, and partly because I’ve been surprisingly sleepy over the last week, so if that continues, I won’t want to push my Nei Gong practice. Also, some of the things Damo said in this week’s lecture made me think that it could be interesting to go through all the Qi Mobilization exercises in a single session, which would take a good chunk of time.

In terms of Tai Chi, I’m pretty much caught up with the spear form; some details that I don’t quite have, but at least the basic movements are all there. And I did more push hands on both Saturday and this evening; hopefully I’m getting better at relaxing and rotating instead of trying to force things, one of the senior students really helped me with that this evening. I mostly did minimal amounts of practice outside of class, though I did go through the Dao and Jian forms; I was a little disturbed to find that there was one spot in the Jian that I didn’t quite know what to do, so it’s good that I’m getting back to doing that! And I need to get back to the Guan Dao, given that I missed two Sunday classes; fortunately, the Sunday class this month won’t do any Guan Dao, so I’ve got a full month to catch back up. (And I do think that I learned everything from the June class, so I just have to make sure I still remember that and then do the bits we added in the July class.)

If I weren’t having sleep problems this week, I’d be optimistic that the acupuncture is helping; Dr. Yang says that my Liver heat problems are doing better, though not so well this week (hence the sleep problems), and he’ll soon switch to focusing on my Kidneys. (Which he says are also doing better, but are still low enough to noticeably affect me.) It would be good if that actually turns out to have a real effect on me; right now I’m pretty convinced that some of the physical readjustments he did have made a noticeable difference, but my energy level changes are still within the realm of potentially just being random fluctuation.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention last week: Damo put out a really interesting video on relaxing during Wu Ji. Basically, he was saying that, when doing Wu Ji (or other standing meditation), he really does feel like his muscles are completely relaxed, but as long as he keeps his attention appropriately in his body, the Qi provides enough buoyancy to keep him up without effort beyond the attention. (But then if he’s in that state and removes his attention, he’ll collapse.) More encouragement for me to listen to situations where my body feels a little puffy: I definitely notice that sometimes (especially in my arms after the first three Qi Mobilization exercises), hopefully I can get that feeling across more of my body. One positive recent sign that might be related is that I am still periodically noticing that, when I’m relaxing, my spine does occasionally want to spontaneously stretch out a bit; hopefully that means that it’s creating space for that sort of puffy feeling to build into.

I also reread Chen Xiaowang’s book on The Five Levels of Taijiquan; I’d forgotten how much of that book talks about Qi development, in ways that are consistent with the previous paragraph. So hopefully that can be a way in which Tai Chi and Nei Gong can work well together.

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Nei Gong Notes, August 2, 2022

Aug 02 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week was the closest to normal in a while. I finally tested negative for COVID last Wednesday, and I’ve been continuing to feel better; my cough hasn’t gone away yet, but it’s certainly improving, and at times over the last few days I’ve been feeling actively good.

In terms of Nei Gong, I didn’t do any new lessons and I didn’t do extra practice on Wednesdays and Fridays, but I did a solid seated practice session every day (alternating days between the Water and Earth Balancing exercises), and I got back into doing Wu Ji, starting at a minimal amount but ending up at an amount that at least I don’t have to feel ashamed by. The balancing exercises continue to be interesting, I like paying attention to the inside of my body during that. I don’t know for sure if they helped with the post-COVID recovery, but based on my experience, they certainly didn’t hurt, and might have helped?

And I went to Tai Chi on Saturday; I wasn’t quite at my full energy level, so I skipped the Xin Jia part, but otherwise it was good. I do have a noticeable amount of spear to catch up with, and not a lot of time to catch up to it in (we’ll finish the form this week or next, though hopefully we’ll have another week or two where we go over the whole thing?), but I think the bits I missed are going to be manageable; I tried going over them on Sunday with the help of a video, and while I didn’t quite get it all down, I feel like, if I do the same thing tomorrow and Friday, I’ll have a decent chance of being able to follow along well this Saturday.

Tony started his Summer Tuesday course, and this year he’s planning to focus on push hands and on Xingyi. I don’t have any interest in Xingyi, but push hands is something that I’ve been wanting to work on and that hasn’t been happening as regularly on Saturdays as I would like. (That lack is partly because of me, to be sure!) So I attended that tonight, and I’m glad I did; so much in the basics of push hands that I’m just not getting right at all, I really need to keep on chipping away. For now I want to focus on turning a little more, and I think I should make a habit of trying to do some push hands every Saturday after class even on weeks when Tony isn’t formally teaching it.

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