Archive for December, 2023

Nei Gong Notes, December 26, 2023

Dec 26 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Another good week. In terms of my energy levels, I talked to my TCM doctor and he said that my Qi levels looked higher to him too and that my back was cleared up, so that gave me a feeling that my basic diagnosis for why things had gotten better was correct. But my energy level, even though it had gotten better, didn’t feel as good to me as it had a couple of weeks better; what was the difference there? My guess was that I needed to build more Qi in my Dantian, and if I could do that, it would be able to make it up my spine to my head, and that would help.

My first theory was that I should try Advanced Dantian Gong; and I am planning to do that once a week. Though if I want to give that a serious try, I should probably do it more often than that? But then one day I did Wu Ji for about 20 minutes; doesn’t sound like much, but honestly I’ve been doing other kinds of standing work most days for the last several months, so my Wu Ji was pretty sporadic. And when I did that, and got into a good position (relaxed and expanded properly, with my weight going down to my Yongquan in a way that let energy flow up) then, sure enough, my Dantian started feeling good and that feeling went up my spine and to my head. And I felt noticeably more awake that day, like I had a couple of weeks back.

So that’s my current theory / plan: I think my spine is in good enough shape that things can make it up my spine. (I had a good Spinal Dao Yin session, too, Qi was moving back from the center of my torso into my spine pretty readily during that session, so another sign that my spine is loosening up.) And I think my Wu Ji form / body preparedness is good enough that I can generate a noticeable amount of Qi. And, if I put those two things together, then good stuff happens inside my body in general and in my head in particular. So my plan is to try to find time to do 20 minutes of Wu Ji every day; I’ve been doing that the last few days, and my energy level has been noticeably better. I’m really feeling optimistic about this: it feels to me like something sustainable that will leave my health in a significantly better situation.

And also I’m optimistic because one of my other goals is to get to where I can kick off the Microcosmic Orbit without having to spend a week at a half at a workshop dedicated to that! But one of the big stumbling blocks there was that I just wasn’t convinced that I had enough juice, especially since my spine was iffy enough that I thought I needed some power to make it through the blockages there. But those are the exact same two areas where I think I’ve made progress recently. So hopefully I really will be able to kick off the MCO in a few months; I’ve started adding in the exercises right before the MCO lesson back in (Mixing Kan and Li, The Lesser Orbit, Orbit Preparation), and I’ve also gone back to my notes from the Maryland workshop and gone through an hour-long Qi thickening exercise from there. It’s a decent number of exercises, especially since I still want to work on some of the earlier ones (like the Line of Ming one), but hopefully I’ll make progress by chipping away at it, and hopefully with my energy levels I’ll have more days when I can work through multiple of those exercises.

Not the only thing I’ve been working on; and also the time for Wu Ji is taking away from other standing work. Some of that standing work had actually been from Damo’s Taiji course instead of Nei Gong work, and actually I feel like I’ve been regressing there: I feel like I was starting to feel Jin before but now that’s pretty faint. So I think the lesson there is that I should get serious enough about the Taiji course to carve out time specifically for that, instead of having it steal time from either my Nei Gong or my Chen Taiji; and, as part of that time, I should keep on mixing in the foundational exercises, spending more time on those than on the form. Though I definitely want to progress with the form, too, of course; and I want to pay attention to what Damo said about having the Jin constantly being on the move during the form.

And, to make the time crunch worse, I do want to stick with my newish plan of getting back to the Nei Gong course. (So I’ll alternate weeks between the two courses.) This last week was my second week working on Taiyi Hundun 1; I think maybe things are opening up inside a bit? It’s also the full moon, which had me working on that exercise, which is also related to opening the central channel. And I’m chipping away at the dragons; I watched a couple more Awakening Dragon videos and had one or two practice sessions on that specific dragon, and also I did my weekly session of all four; that latter one went well, Soaring Dragon in particular felt quite effective in terms of opening my chest.

Chen Taiji is going fine. It was raining so I couldn’t do my regular practice on Wednesday and Friday, but things were clear enough for class on Saturday, and that went well. Not as dramatic as the previous week but I felt more stuff moving around inside than had been my norm before this week, and push hands felt kind of interesting. And on Sunday I practiced the Guan Dao / staff / spear; I watched my teacher’s Guan Dao video to remind myself of a few points, and I was struck by how the circles of the Dao in the video looked, how they were flowing in a way that related to his body. So I tried to pay attention to that; and yeah, if I can get the weapon moving smoothly and balanced properly, then it goes in circles without too much effort, and I can feel the changes from the weapon feeding back into my body. So that was cool.

It’s supposed to rain some this Wednesday and Friday, but fortunately Christmas meant that I could practice Tai Chi on Monday as well, so I’ve gone through all my forms for the week. And if I’m lucky I’ll be able to get in practice tomorrow before the rain starts; we’ll see.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 19, 2023

Dec 19 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Good week. In the Nei Gong course, I did the Taiyi Hundun Qigong 1 lesson. It’s a long enough set that I haven’t practiced it every day; should be fine, I’m doing the Tai Chi course this week, so I’ll have another week to practice that one.

The first time I practiced it, I slept really badly, the worst I had in a while, waking up a bunch of times in the night. It might be a coincidence, but I don’t know what else would have caused that; if that was the reason, then my theory is that it was bringing in Qi through my Bai Hui and trying to bring it down my central channel, but that channel was too closed, so it got stuck in my head. Didn’t happen the other times I practiced, though, so either it was just a coincidence or the channel got opened up enough to avoid that problem or something.

My improved energy levels had been continuing, but after that I (unsurprisingly) was pretty tired the next day. I got good sleep the following night, which honestly surprised me because I’d been out at my wife’s holiday party and had more to eat than I normally do over dinners these days. But my energy level was low the next day anyways; not horrible by my normal standards these days, but I’d been enjoying my energy levels the previous two weeks!

I’m still not entirely sure what caused my energy levels to improve. It was right after an acupuncture session; maybe that helped, but I’ve done a lot of acupuncture, so that alone isn’t an explanation. My best guess is that I’d been doing a decent job of opening up my body, and I’d made it past some threshold where Qi was flowing better, but who knows. (My sleep wasn’t any better than normal; it was fine other than that one night, but not unusually so, definitely room for improvement there.)

My TCM doctor had been talking about my spine in that context for a while, so maybe my Spinal Waves had been paying off? Also I was starting to be aware of ways in which my default posture has my spine misaligned (with my lower spine bending forward slightly); I’d been doing a decently good job of correcting that, I think, and I can feel my spine wanting to extend further when I correct the curve (similarly to how it feels when pressurizing your Yongquan), which reinforces my feeling that this really does help my Qi flow. I don’t think that that kicked off the good period (I didn’t start really making that adjustment until a couple of days later), but I think it helped me keep going; and I think probably the art museum trip was surprisingly useful? It’s got me trying to walk in a more relaxed way; I’m also trying to relax my shoulders and the back of my neck, I definitely feel energy in my armpits when I do that.

Anyways, it was nice while it lasted, hopefully I can get it back. For now I’m trying to just be good about my spine; and I’m thinking I might do some extra Advanced Dantian Gong, maybe that will help with getting stuff into my Dantian in a way that is useful for this. (Or maybe I should get back to doing the Water Wu Xing twice a week.) And actually yesterday was decently good; and in general I don’t think I’m quite back down to my prior normal energy levels, I think I’m doing slightly better than that.

In general, the insides of my body are noticeably more active. I was practicing my Xin Jia, and noticing random stuff inside my body while doing the small movements; I should pay attention to that. And, one day, when going through the Lao Jia form a couple of times, I started noticing circles coming from my Kua; a bit unexpected in that circles are supposed to originate from your Dantian in Chen style, but it was pretty strong! (My Kua are definitely one of the parts of my body that are opening.) And then on Saturday, when going through Silk Reeling, in the two Dantian to Wrist exercises, I decided to focus on keeping a connection between my wrist and Kua the whole time instead of just during the part where I change directions; and when I did that, it felt pretty interesting inside, with noticeable effects on my Dantian; and then when I made it to the next exercise (Diagonal Circles and Lie Splitting), the Dantian connection got even stronger, I actually started to feel a little nauseous. (And I think it was working as a Qi thickening exercise.) And, during the form, I noticed Qi in my Dantian during Hand Maneuvers. And on Sunday my Yellow Court was feeling more active than normal.

So: lots of stuff going on during Tai Chi practice. Good week for that practice in general, I went through everything at least once I did some things extra times, and I experimented with turning one position in the Hunyuan Dao into a standing exercise. (No particular effect that I noticed.)

I also asked my Chen Tai Chi teacher about Li versus Jin; he said that Li is more raw strength whereas Jin is tutored strength, with iron versus steel as an analogy. So, from his point of view, Fa Li is different from Fa Jin, but it’s not clear to me that it’s the same distinction that Damo makes.

I’m doing the Awakening Dragon some days as my standing practice; I rewatched the videos for the steps, though I still need to rewatch the videos for the rest. No big revelations, though I did get reminded to roll my heels when landing on the steps, in order to keep my Qi sunk.

I did Mixing Kan and Li today for the first time in months; it’ll definitely take a while to build things up enough for that to feel super effective. It is good that I’ve been having enough energy to do multiple sitting exercises on most of my days off, at any rate.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 12, 2024

Dec 12 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Really good week, honestly my best in I don’t know how long. My energy level has been significantly better this week than my previous norm; not quite as good as last weekend, but I’ve been much less tired during the middle of the day. I’m not sure that I’ve had a nap all week; and it’s not like my sleep has been stellar, it’s been fine but there’s definitely room for improvement on that front. Also my weight has been doing slightly better than normal; not a big change, but I’m pretty sure there’s something going on there. Who knows how long this will last, but I’m enjoying it for now.

And that’s helped my practice too. Going chronologically, on Tuesday I watched the next video in Damo’s Nei Gong course. It was a push hands video, but it also contained a standing exercise that’s actually relevant for Nei Gong as well; it use your hands and Lao Gong to pull on your tissues inside your Kua and inside the sides of your ribs. Which, honestly, is one of these things that I just would not have believed before starting this course: I can move my hands in a certain way without them touching my hips / torso and I’ll feel a pull inside my body that’s strong enough to have my body kind of snap back when I release it? But it absolutely does happen.

Anyways, on Wednesday I went through the Spinal Dao Yin, the Ping Heng Gong, and all of the Chen Tai Chi forms that I hadn’t done on Sunday. And some more too; one of the MCO prep exercises, I think, and maybe the new standing exercise I learned? At some point in the end of the afternoon I realized that I’d forgotten to do a Hui Chun; and since I was going to be pretty busy on Friday, that meant that I’d be able to do at most two Hui Chuns this week, which is my minimum, I’m trying to do four. (Two each of Kidney and Spleen.) So I was worried about my energy level not keeping up.

On Friday, I went into San Francisco to see some exhibits at the Asian Art Museum. And I’m glad I did, just on an aesthetic level; the Takashi Murakami exhibit in particular was really neat. But it meant that I wasn’t going to be able to do any practice at all before driving up, given that I wanted to give Velvet a decent walk before heading out.

I decided to do a 20 minute sit (nothing fancy, just observing my breath) during one of the galleries (near a Buddha statue that I liked), so I did get in my sitting practice. But, as it turned out, the whole visit turned into practice: I was feeling contemplative, and I had that contemplation extend to my body, and my body was sinking a good amount, and that sinking even was turning into force going up in my body. So, in practice, I think I actually ended up doing hours of low-key walking practice during the visit. And, on my way home, I stopped in a park near my house to go through the new standing exercise in a park, so that I could focus on Velvet when I got home; one interesting thing that happened then was that I felt my lower back widening near the end of it. (Maybe a combination of the sinking I’d been doing plus the stretch that the exercises puts on the bottom of my ribs?)

Saturday was my regular Tai Chi class; and I did get in the Kidney Hui Chun that day, and I also did another Ping Heng Gong session. (I think I’ll try doing that on the way home from Tai Chi, the park that I’ve been using isn’t too far off of my route.) And on Sunday I was just feeling good, and into the ideo of doing a lot of practice, so I went through the Spleen Hui Chun, had a Wu Ji session that was only 20 minutes but was super powerful, and then I went through a 100-minute MCO prep practice video from the 2022 Maryland course. Which felt like it was going okay through most of the video, but then turned out in a particularly interesting way: my attention was rotating quite smoothly on the inside of my Dantian at the end, and with either no or really minimal effort on my part, which is actually something I wasn’t quite accomplishing during the workshop.

I was a little worried that I might have pushed it too far on Sunday, because my back was starting to ache some on Sunday and my sleep wasn’t that great. But Monday was fine, so I’m not so worried about that now.

So yay. I’m feeling like it’s time for me to do more Nei Gong now: dial down my Hui Chun (two a week is good but I don’t think I need to aim for four of it), and go farther into the MCO prep. (I’m genuinely curious what would have happened if I’d tried to kick off the MCO on Sunday; it kind of feels to me like it would have worked, but who knows.) I still think this week was a bit of an aberration, but hopefully not too much of one? And I should try to recapture the feeling of that Art Museum trip; maybe I can get into that mode while doing dog walking, and there are also local museums that I can go to, I don’t need to go all the way up to SF.

And I think I will pick up lessons in the Nei Gong course again; I’ll alternate between the Tai Chi course and the Nei Gong course. Not necessarily clearly a great idea to do that while also hoping to push forward with MCO stuff, but I don’t want to treat the MCO stuff as a huge barrier, and the combination of dialing down the constant Hui Chuns and having more energy should plausibly give enough time to push on both. At least if my energy level holds up…

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Nei Gong Notes, December 5, 2023

Dec 05 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

I went through the Ping Heng Gong video last Tuesday and tried it out on Wednesday and Friday. The Wednesday location had, I hope, enough nature to fit, though there were still some city sounds around; but also lots of trees and, when I actually paid attention, some amount of bird and animal sounds too. The Friday location was too close to cars, though, I won’t try it in that spot again. No particular effect that I noticed, but I’ll try to work it into my routine once or twice a week and see how it goes.

I had a good Nei Gong practice on Sunday. I had a better than normal Wu Ji session that day: a very strong stretch in my arms, I ended up with a lot of pressure in my feet, and while I wasn’t doing as good a job of keeping my attention in my Dantian as I’d like, good things happened when I did that. And I had a good Anchoring the Breath session after that: there was more softness in my breathing, so my focus on each stage felt more like I was paying attention to an area in a kind of fuzzy way rather than a point. And, in the final part of that, my body was inflating decently strongly.

And my Awakening Dragon sessions are continuing to go well, I’m feeling stuff pull around in my body. I’m thinking that I should start doing longer sessions of the other dragons, to see if I can get a better sense of what’s going on there at a deeper level and make them more effective; won’t be as good without a teacher giving direct pointers, but hopefully if I put in some more time, I should be able to figure some things out on my own? I tried that today with the second Dragon and it was certainly more interesting than normal; I won’t say I was feeling nauseous but I was at least moving a little bit in that direction, so my guts were getting moved around more than normal. And I was starting to notice stuff during the bits where you turn around, too. (What I’ve been doing recently is do one for a 15-or-so minute spurts, doing the start and the end just once and going back and forth over and over again on the steps and turn around, and if I have enough room then I’m doing more than 4 steps.)

In terms of (Chen) Tai Chi, I spent my silk reeling time on Saturday trying to pay more attention to my Dantian, and one thing I noticed there was that I was feeling a stronger than normal link between my Kua and my Dantian. And then I asked my teacher about something I’d read about listening behind; he said to put 30 percent of your awareness on your surroundings, including your peripheral vision and behind you. When I tried that out on Sunday, I realized that that was actually another part of what he’d told me the previous week, that my vision should be further out: I was keeping my vision too close and staring too intently and I needed to relax that. And, once I relaxed, my awareness spread out quite a bit more, in a very noticeable way; much of that awareness was in front of me but it also spread noticeably to my back and sides. So I’ll definitely want to keep on working on that.

And on Sunday I went through the first and second Lao Jia forms, the Staff, the Guan Dao, and the Spear. So hopefully on Wednesday I can do the first Xin Jia form, the Jian, two Dao forms, and the new Bang exercises that I’m learning; if I can keep that up, then I can go through everything I know in two days, and hopefully also practice on Fridays as well going deeper into something. Good that I worked through all of that, too: my Guan Dao in particular was noticeably patchy.

Also, I had a good thing happen health wise – on both Saturday morning and Sunday morning I was noticeably more alert than I honestly almost ever am, and I felt good all through the day. I’m not actually sure what happened there – I don’t think my eating was any better than normal (in fact, Fridays and Saturdays are usually bad days), though I did have green tea, which usually helps some but not to that extent? Didn’t help on Sunday, though: Monday was fine but my normal low level tiredness. Still, it’s good to see a glimpse of an actively good day; hopefully through some combination of food discipline, tea drinking, practice, and TCM treatment I can figure out how to cause that more often…

I’ll do the next lesson in Damo’s Tai Chi course tonight, I think; my tentative plan is to start alternating weeks between his Nei Gong and Tai Chi course.

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