Nei Gong Notes, February 14, 2023

Feb 14 2023

Good Nei Gong practice this Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday, I got back to doing Spinal Dao Yin after taking a week or two of from that because of various other life stuff going on; nothing particularly striking happened while doing that, but still, it feels worth continuing. And I also followed Joyce’s video of the Earth Hui Chun from the section in the IAA Library on talks from other teachers; mostly not new information, but one thing that she pointed out that I wasn’t aware of was that, when doing the mudra at the end, you should squeeze your thumb a bit and feel how that squeeze affects the inside of your body. (Which it indeed does!)

Friday was more interesting, though. As I mentioned last week, I’d gotten a little worried that maybe my Dantian is leakier than I would like, so I thought I should probably do some Dantian Gong sessions. Which I did do on Friday; I figured I’d try a full set (3 minute intervals, which adds up to a little over an hour), and I was cautiously optimistic that my standing had gotten enough better recently that I’d be able to manage that. And, indeed, I could; the standing was honestly basically no problem at all (and I did feel like I was sunk deep enough). So, setting the Dantian Gong aside, I really have made progress on my ability to stand for a while in Wu Ji-like positions; still work to go, I am almost positive that I wouldn’t be able to get particularly close to doing it for three hours (which is one traditional milestone), but an hour without problems is still an achievement. As for the Dantian Gong itself, not a lot to report there; happy enough to have done it, it felt useful but in a way that made me less worried about me being super leaky there. Who knows, hard to say for sure.

And, at the last workshop, Boris had given me a nudge to try all 5 Hui Chun in a row again, and he mentioned that Damo had recommended the order of Water, Fire, Earth, Wood, Metal, so I did that. Similarly to the Dantian Gong, it felt fine / interesting in terms of the inside of my body, so I was glad to have done it but it wasn’t a revelation, but I was surprised how well I held up. And here I was actually a little more surprised – even a month or two ago, I’d been feeling like my outer leg was falling asleep (and maybe putting a little more pressure than I’d like on my knee) when I sat in Burmese for 45 minutes, and I also remembered from last time when I did this that, even if I switched legs every 45 minutes, that, in the last 15 minutes or so, my butt would ache enough to start to get distracting. (The full 5 Hui Chun set is about an hour and 45 minutes, if you do it in three minute intervals.) But I did it the whole time without switching legs once, and both my leg and butt were just fine.

I actually don’t feel like I can really take credit for that, though: I’m pretty sure that what happened was that I changed meditation pillows a couple of weeks earlier, and that it’s easier to sit for long periods on the new pillow. The new one is in sort of a V shape, so there’s an indentation in the middle that works well with sitting Burmese: in particular, I can pull in my outer leg more, and I’d already noticed that that helped when I did that with my other pillow, and I think it helps even more here. When I bought the new pillow, I already noticed in the store that it was thicker than the prior pillow, and I was thinking that I’d take out some of the filling material, but when I tried it out, I realized that the thickness wasn’t uniform, and so as a result I have a noticeably slope of my legs down the sides of the V; that felt more comfortable, and I’m pretty sure that that also made a noticeable difference. At any rate, I was pleased to see that, with that pillow (and maybe with some amount of practice from the medium-length sitting sessions that I’ve been doing more of over the last half year), I can actually reasonably sit for a couple of hours without pain. (Whether I can do it while staying awake is a different matter, but fortunately the Hui Chuns give me something to do, and I was pretty alert that morning.)

So two long sessions, adding up to about three hours of practice time. (And I put in a good stretching session too. And I’m also noticing that I’m finding the stretch where you stand in Horse Stance width with your arms pressing out your knees to help stretch the Kua to be easier now than it had been – I was already thinking that that was easier in this workshop than in the last one, and I think that isn’t an illusion.) And one nice thing that I noticed, too, was that I wasn’t bored while doing that – I wasn’t counting the minutes wondering how long I could keep it up, I was just doing the exercises. (Maybe occasionally noting how long it had been / how long remained, but not in a way that I had any particular emotional attachment to.) It certainly helped that, for both the standing and sitting exercises, I was doing something that had me change up every 3 minutes, so I don’t want to extrapolate from that to how I would feel if I were, say, sitting doing Calm Abiding for a couple of hours, but still, it felt like I was making progress mentally.

Nice to have two good days of Nei Gong practice; the Friday practice in particular was probably one of my all-time best practices outside of workshops. The only downside was that I didn’t do much Tai Chi either afternoon, so I still have stuff to work on in terms of practice volume, but I feel good about myself anyways.

Also, I feel like the quality of my breathing has improved, that I’m using more of my chest. E.g. when jogging I felt like the breaths were going further down into my torso, instead of being stuck up top; but I’ve also noticed that in other contexts too. Not sure what to attribute that too (the jogging? the Nei Gong workshops? my Nei Gong practice at home?) but it’s a nice improvement.

Though I won’t be able to build on any of the above this week: we left for vacation on Saturday, so I’m not on my normal routines. And the vacation involved a red eye flight and a large time zone shift, which is generally something that makes me feel tired for a few days in a way that makes me wonder if I’m starting to come down with a cold; I did a decent length sitting session yesterday but even while I was doing that, I felt like it might not have been a wise move from the point of view of “don’t do Nei Gong when you’re sick”, so I didn’t stand yesterday and didn’t sit or stand today. Hopefully by the second half of the week I’ll be feeling good enough that I can resume practice, but even if that’s the case, I do want to spend a decent amount of time out seeing stuff, so probably my practice will still be on the short end of things. But it’s nice to go on vacation, it’s our first vacation that’s not to visit relatives (or not for me to go to a Nei Gong workshop) since COVID.

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