Archive for June, 2023

Nei Gong Notes, June 27, 2023

Jun 27 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Really good week, in multiple ways. On a Nei Gong note, Wednesday’s practice was the best practice I’ve had in a few months; it started to feel good when I did the stretching, I decided to spend a little while squatting with feet flat on the ground, and I got a pretty good stretch across the bottom half of my back, with noticeable feelings of energy. And then I did the Spinal Dao Yin; I’d been getting a little bored of that and was thinking that maybe I’d pause doing that, but, presumably as a result of my back doing better, my back felt significantly more active than normal. There’s definitely still work to go there, there’s still a place maybe two thirds of the way up my back where I feel Qi getting stuck, but it really seems like improvement. And then I did two different seated exercises for about 40 minutes each; I can’t remember what the first one was (maybe Advanced Dantian Gong?), the second was my usual one of the Hui Chun exercises. So it’s really nice to have energy to do more than one standing plus one seated exercise on my days off, and to feel that the exercises are going well.

And then I again managed to do a second seated exercise on Friday. I won’t say Friday was quite as exciting as Wednesday, but still, an improvement over my previous norm! The weekend and start of the week weren’t quite as good, partly because I was busy and partly because my sleep was a little off, but actually I think my energy level was holding up better than it had been in the past where I hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep? So I think I’m finally making progress there; my TCM doctor agrees that I was doing well (and that my back is relevant to that), though he still sees more room for improvement.

And I had been worried that, with the switch to doing Hui Chuns four days a week instead of two, I wouldn’t have enough time to make progress with MCO prep stuff; but if I can get two seated exercises on some days, then that helps with that concern. And I think the MCO prep stuff is doing decently well: I’ve had times when Bellows Breathing and the Ming Line were more exciting, but they’re doing okay, and I’ve been getting into a state where Advanced Dantian Gong feels like it’s packing something in there. (Though I haven’t been feeling energy up my spine after that like I did a month or so back.)

In terms of Tai Chi, I watched Damo’s lesson on Taiyi Standing, and that’s aligned with my interests, since I’m curious about power / movement via release. (Mostly for Tai Chi purposes, but Rick talked about it some in a Nei Gong seminar.) So I did that exercise several times this week. And my Tai Chi practice during the week is on a pretty good footing right now: I’ve gone through all of the forms I know at least once over each of the last two weeks, and I’ve practiced the forms I’m shaky on (the spear, the Guan Dao, and the staff that we just started) multiple times a week.

In Saturday’s Tai Chi class, I was reminded that, in Kick with Two Feet Up, your left fist should be higher than your right fist. And when doing Push Hands after that, we did the one hand version long enough that my shoulders would normally be telling me to give up, but this time it ached but I was doing fine pushing through it; my shoulders could feel it the next morning, but hopefully that means that I’m strengthening things? Or maybe it just means that I’m not relaxing and using Peng enough…

And then on Sunday we had another Push Hands workshop. I was worried I wouldn’t like it because our teacher said he’d talk about applications, and often that just leads to yet another technique that makes sense but that I won’t internalize. But this time he was just introducing us to competitive Push Hands (instead of just going through the patterns), and that was much more interesting than I expected. I really liked the fixed step version of that; after experimenting for a bit, I got to where, when my opponent reached out to push my chest, I’d manage to grab the back of his arm in a way that immobilized his forearm and mostly prevented him from pushing me off balance and where I could even twist him off balance; once I developed that instinct, I was losing a lot less. I also got to situations where we’d be pushing around some and then I’d suddenly see a bit part of my opponent’s torso that was wide open and manage to push him off balance then. And also I felt like I was doing noticeably better than my opponent at keeping control of his hands / arms by having my hands on top. So I won’t claim to be a big Push Hands expert all of a sudden (it’s not like my opponent has lots of competitive Push Hands experience either, and in general I think our experience levels and weight and strength are well matched), but it was nice to develop a couple of instincts that turned out to be genuinely useful. And it made me want to do more competitive Push Hands; I might even look into tournaments for that at some point over the next year?

I still wasn’t getting any real idea that I was doing the kind of stuff Damo talks about; this is mostly the wrestling style of Push Hands, I think. But I also (when experimenting with that partner and with another one) got the feeling that my body is getting more integrated, in ways that actually do have a martial benefit. We spent some time just doing the regular cooperative moving step sequence, and I was pretty reliably able to spiral through my partner in a way that got them off balance much more than I would normally expect my arm to be able to do through what looks like pushing to the side; and my partner initially just was not moving me in the same way, but I could also kind of feel where his force first wasn’t hitting me at all and then was only partly affecting me, in ways that I don’t think I could have sensed earlier?

We also did some competitive moving step Push Hands; that one wasn’t nearly as good. Our teacher is very good at moving in and stepping in a way that uses your foot / leg as a lever for putting your opponent off balance, but neither I nor my partner could do that particularly to each other. I felt like I was doing a decent job of pushing my partner around, but we were just practicing in a park, so we didn’t have a ring with a dividing line that I could win by pushing him past and we didn’t have enough cushioning for me to feel comfortable about really trying hard to knock him down, so it was hard to say whether that pushing him around would actually help me much if it had been a tournament situation.

We’re getting a new puppy this weekend, so we’ll see how much that eats into my practice time. But puppies are good regardless.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 20, 2023

Jun 20 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

I was visiting my parents for the second half of last week, so I didn’t have my regular practice schedule. Though actually it was an okay week for Nei Gong: I made sure to do some Nei Gong at the start and/or the end of the day every day I was there, and also yesterday was a holiday from work so I had a longer practice session. Nothing super stellar or anything, though I felt like I had a pretty good Ming Line practice this morning.

The trip did interfere more with Tai Chi, though. Though I would seem to be starting to go through Damo’s videos; I’ve started them before and given up, and while I’m not going to take them super seriously this time either, I do want to get some push hand ideas from them and I figure I might as well at least watch the other ones. I did the second video last Tuesday and it went better than it did the last time I watched it, at least; I went through that exercise once on the trip and I did Tai Chi Wu Ji a few times. And I went through some weapon forms yesterday, trying to get the Guan Dao and Spear forms in my memory and to learn the start of the Staff form.

I feel like my lower back positioning isn’t quite right while I’m standing, that I’m bowing it too far forward. I don’t think I want my spine to be completely straight, but still, that doesn’t feel right, I should work on that.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 13, 2023

Jun 13 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Pretty normal week. Sadly, normal in terms of my energy level being pretty bad; not sure how much is sleep being off (which hasn’t been awful but also hasn’t been great) and how much is something else. I think I should switch back to doing the Hui Chuns twice a week instead of once a week, hopefully that will help; and I hope that my TCM doctor is right about my kidney stuff being closed to being fixed (and I hope that that will actually work), and maybe doing a bit more liver work to get the sleep stuff back down to a good level? And at some point over the next few months I’m going to stop that treatment, it’s had enough time to do what it can…

Also on a health note, my stomach was acting oddly tight a couple of times last week. I wonder if I’m getting more sensitive to some kinds of food? (Along the more desserty lines…) Not sure; it didn’t help with sleep, either. (But I’ve been better about quantities of what I eat over the last couple of days and sleep has been better.)

I finished teaching my Silk Reeling course; glad to have done that. At some point I should get back to finishing the notes that I started writing about that; and I should think about whether / when to offer it again.

We had Sunday Tai Chi this week, and we started the staff; hopefully I’ll learn it better this time. I did a decent amount of Tai Chi practice last week; I at least went through everything once. I’m going to be out of town most of this week, so I won’t expect to get as much done, but that’s fine.

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Nei Gong Notes, June 6, 2023

Jun 06 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

A good week: no particularly long practice sessions, but interesting things happened in a few areas.

I started reading Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram, and one of the things that he emphasized at the start was developing your concentration to the level of “access concentration”. I’d been thinking that I actually wasn’t concentrating enough during my Nei Gong; I’d been doing an okay job of working on physical things, and I’d been getting results from that, but I’d also been letting my mind wander around too much as part of a result. (It hasn’t helped that there’s now interesting stuff happening all over the inside of my body, so my mind has even more stuff than before to be distracted by!) So I should get back to working on concentration: not changing the set of exercises I go through, but just figuring out where I want my mind to be during a given exercise and then nudging it back there when it goes somewhere else.

I had a good arm stretching session on Wednesday; not as much going on as during in-person workshops with Rick, but I should definitely keep that up. (Maybe 15 minutes one day a week as a default for now?) And I’m also noticing my arms stretching more while I’m doing Wu Ji; I think I’m not particularly trying to actively stretch them, I think it’s mostly from the weight my hands interacting with relatively relaxed parts of my body? My left arm feels like things are a little bit twisted inside, but hopefully this will help get it untwisted; interestingly enough, even though I don’t feel the stretch as strongly on my right arm, I felt a noticeable bit of cold in my right shoulder during one of my Wu Ji sessions this week. I’d heard people talk about that as one possible symptom when things are purging (e.g. during Dao Yins) but I’d never experienced it myself; quite noticeable. So I think that my arms are going in good directions; it would be nice if I could get the same to happen with my legs and Kua, but getting a stretch from gravity or by sticking them out doesn’t work the same way with that part of my body…

Pretty good Advanced Dantian Gong session yesterday; I spent all morning feeling little bits of energy, especially in my spine. At first I was hoping that it meant that I’d gotten enough sleep the previous night and done enough to work on my energy levels that I was actually having an actively good day in that regard but nope, I got noticeably sleepy in the afternoon, so I think it was just the energy that I’d gathered in my Dantian showing up in my spine. Still, not a bad thing, I think. I would like to make more progress on the Microcosmic Orbit prep, though; I think Advanced Dantian Gong is doing reasonably well but the Bellows Breathing and Ming Line exercises aren’t being quite as strong as I’d like, so I should probably stick with the current set of exercises for a while longer.

I had my fourth class in the Silk Reeling course I’m teaching on Saturday; continues to go well, one more class left. While going over the Dao, I learned that I’d been doing Three Rings around the Sun in the Lao Jia Dao form a bit wrong: your right hand should be angled down and your left hand should be angled up in the bit after each ring, instead of being horizontal. (The ring itself is a horizontal chop, though.)

I did go through all of the Tai Chi forms I know at least once over the last week, so that’s good. I’ve really started to forget the spear form, so I’ll need to spend time getting back to that, though. And there are some other ones I should do more than once. So: a good start, but there’s more that I need to sort out in my practice time.

I did some extra push hands practice on Sunday. And it’s getting me to articulate two things that I think might be true and, if so, might be worth me working on. The first is when you’re being pushed on in the single hand practice: my theory there is that you should basically act like a beach ball floating on water, with somebody pushing you from above. (In the water case, from the side in the Tai Chi case!) So if the person pushes straight down, then the ball will go down, but otherwise the ball spins to the side. In the Tai Chi analogy, your back leg and back Kua are the water, and you’re the beach ball; so you start by doing Peng and inflating, then let yourself get pushed a bit and sink into your Kua, then turn if necessary so they’re pushing a little off center (to your right from your point of view), and then just let yourself rotate. Which means that I don’t actually do much of an active Lu: I’m active enough to turn, but once I’ve turned, I’m not actively guiding my opponent? I should ask my teacher if that makes sense, but basically I end up just doing Peng when receiving and Ji when pushing. (And I’m paying attention now when pushing to see how much my opponent just turns in response to my push and how much they actively guide me.)

So that’s one thing I want to work on. And the other thing is just giving and receiving force. I’m sinking into my rear Kua; and I think I’m supposed to be building a ground path, so I should be directing energy down my leg from my Kua into my foot and the ground. And I think I’m storing energy while doing that; so I want to figure out how to release that energy (as opposed to actively push, just let my leg expand from release) when turning that into the push.

I still don’t think I have enough time to watch all of Damo’s Tai Chi videos (though maybe I have enough time to watch them, just not to work through them), but maybe I should just watch his push hands ones? I’d avoided that because he introduces specific exercises that I won’t be able to put into practice, and because I figured the stuff in there builds on things that he talks about in, for example, the videos going through the form he’s teaching; but still, I think I need more Push Hands guidance, and my regular teacher only teaches it very sporadically.

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