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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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Nei Gong Notes, May 31, 2022

May 31 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week’s cold was pretty bad but I’m almost completely over it now; an occasional cough, but that’s about it. Still building my Nei Gong practice back up, though; I haven’t seriously tried the Microcosmic Orbit preparation steps again, and I really haven’t been feeling like doing much standing, for whatever reason. Time to start getting back into that, though, I’ll be flying out to the retreat next week.

And time to work on my Tai Chi, especially the Hunyuan 48 and the Guan Dao. I think it shouldn’t be too hard to get back on the Guan Dao, and even to learn the bit from the class that I’ll have to miss. But the Hunyuan 48 is a real challenge, I am not at all confident that I’ll be able to learn that one the first time through. I’ll keep on chipping away, though…

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Nei Gong Notes, May 24, 2022

May 24 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was on actually kicking off the Microcosmic Orbit. I still have some prepwork before putting it into place, but good to see what’s left. Not a lot, actually, though who knows how long the last couple of steps will take; and I felt like there had been one or two other steps in the series of videos about it that he’d made publicly available? I should watch those again to remind myself of that, in particular I think there was one on the Clipping Passes that could be useful.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work on this more, because I came down with a fairly nasty cold a couple of days later. (Or maybe COVID? The tests have been negative, though.) So it’s been a holding pattern week; I think I’m starting to get slightly better, but we’ll see how long it takes before I can practice again. I had to skip Tai Chi lessons this week, too; hopefully I’ll be feeling good enough to be able to go to class this Saturday.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 17, 2022

May 17 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was a preparatory exercise opening up stuff for the Microcosmic Orbit. Specifically, it’s a 5-minute thing you can add to the end of other seated exercises; easy enough to work into things?

In terms of my practice, I feel like things have been building up a bit, but I’m certainly not getting the mini version of the orbit to trigger. And I’m still not feeling like my Qi is as thick as it was when I first saw the Mixing Kan and Li lesson, though it’s moving in that direction. This week’s lesson is about the Orbit itself; I’ll watch that, but I imagine I’ll spend the next several weeks (months?) going back over the lessons building up to that.

In the Saturday Tai Chi class, we got back to push hands, doing the single-arm inside-of-the-arm exercise. Which I’d been not understanding at all the last time, but this time I was doing better, doing a Peng into my partner’s shoulder. Still felt like I was probably not doing things quite right, but hopefully that’s progress?

And it was the Sunday Tai Chi class this week, and I learned that I’d missed a part of the Guan Dao form last month. And next month I’ll be out of town on the Sunday of the class. So I guess I’ll be watching the video of that form a lot this month, trying to catch up and move ahead. Not the hardest form, so hopefully that’ll be possible…

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Nei Gong Notes, May 10, 2022

May 10 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was on a smaller version of the Microcosmic Orbit, with the rotation within your abdomen. Damo warns that there’s a good chance that we’re not quite ready for it yet, and says, if you’re not able to trigger the orbit, then you shouldn’t try it out every day, instead maybe every third day? (Maybe practicing Mixing Kan and Li and Anchoring the Breath the other two days.) So that’s what I’ve been doing (working in some Bellows Breathing and occasional Advanced Dantian Gong, too); I imagine that I’ll keep up that routine for the indefinite future, though we’ll see what the next two lessons (on preparing for and actually doing the Microcosmic Orbit) contain.

As for standing work, I’ve mostly been doing the Qi Mobilization lessons, and haven’t done the non-advanced Dantian Gong the last week or two. In general I feel like right now I want to spend most of my time on seated work, though I’m still doing some standing practice each day. And my energy levels still aren’t great; hopefully the TCM treatments will help with that.

Also means that I haven’t done as much Tai Chi as I’d like; it would be good to get back to that? Still chipping away at the Hunyuan 48, but at least I feel like I’m not falling further behind: kind of in a steady state where I don’t feel great about the last 2-3 weeks but the stuff before that is solid enough.

When I was going through the Dragons on Saturday, the first one felt off, so I watched the video, and I really had forgotten a few of the details. So if I do pause on new lessons in the class while trying to get the Microcosmic Orbit going, I should consider reviewing those videos to get those in a better shape.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 3, 2022

May 03 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

I decided not to do a new Nei Gong lesson this week, to try to build the Qi in my Dantian back up. Which I think I’m making progress at, though Mixing Kan and Li still isn’t feeling like was when I first learned it. So, most days, I’ve been doing Bellows Breathing, with some Advanced Dantian Gong and some Mixing Kan and Li mixed in; and some days I managed to work in a second sitting session, even during days when I don’t normally do that.

I also asked a question about what sitting practice Damo was referring to when he said in a recent video that his school had one key standing and one key sitting practice; it turns out that the sitting practice is Anchoring the Breath plus applying attention.

Pretty normal Tai Chi; I’m still hanging in there on the Hunyuan 48. We did get back to push hands this week, continuing through the single handed set; this time, doing Ji and Lu with the inside of the arm, and I really was not able to do the Lu part. Hopefully we can review that on Saturday.

I went to a TCM doctor today, hoping that I can get help with my tiredness issues. He said that I have Liver Heat leading to a Spleen deficiency; hopefully the acupuncture will help. And I talked to him about some of the body stuff I have (weirdness in my right foot / leg in particular), he gave me some body positioning suggestions for that.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 26, 2022

Apr 26 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was on Mixing Kan and Li. It’s pretty interesting, moving Qi a bit higher in your abdomen and then letting it sink back down. And that gave me a much more concrete appreciation for what thickening the Qi means than previous exercises: there was a real tangible feel to it when it was thick, it was moving at its own velocity. And, some days, when I did the exercise, I felt like my Dantian wasn’t doing great to start and I had a hard time feeling the Ming line, and then usually the exercise kind of petered out after a few minutes.

So Qi is starting to feel more concrete? Or at least that kind of Qi? I was actually even feeling it move around this morning when I was just sitting and breathing: I’m used to feeling a certain sensation sink, but it felt a lot more concrete / substantial this time, like there was a substance instead of just a feeling. So hopefully I’m building things up in a way that makes the Microcosmic Orbit possibly within reach?

I’m not going to do the next lesson this week, though: partly because I could use more practice mixing Kan and Li, and partly because I’m planning to get my shingles vaccination tomorrow, and that will probably mess me up. The Microcosmic Orbit lesson is the third one after this; I would like to make it through that lesson before the workshop, because I feel like the workshop might be a place where I’ll be able to accomplish that. But that’s not until June, so I’ve got a couple of spare weeks.

I am also feeling that I could use some more work on my breathing. So, once I make it to the Microcosmic Orbit lesson, I might just take a month or two off from lessons and work on that? Not sure yet.

Not much to say about Tai Chi. No push hands this week, which was disappointing, I hope we don’t stop doing that… And I really should review the Hunyuan stuff more, I’m on the edge of not being able to keep up solidly with that.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 19, 2022

Apr 19 2022 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was on the Line of Ming. Which I had definitely been building up to for a month or so: I’d been feeling my Qi Hand and a point on my back, so now I had to feel the line between them.

Which mostly went well? At least it did while I listened to the lesson; not so well in my first practice after that. And then I listened to the lesson again, and realized that I’d forgotten the mudra, but also I think listening to Damo puts me in a mental space where I can practice well? Anyways, I had some decent practices after that, where I was starting to get absorbed in the line; not always going well, sometimes I wasn’t feeling the line, but all in all a pretty good week.

Not a ton going on other than that in my practice. I practiced a decent amount, and like I said last week, I started going on walks a bit more and also frequently reviewed the spine stretch exercise. Still not feeling completely great, but I think not a bad idea?

I also started rereading the Complete Guide. One thing I noticed during its section on Wu Ji was that it talked about sinking your elbows; I realized I wasn’t doing that quite enough, and it did have an effect. Also, while doing abdominal breathing, I might be breathing into my navel instead of my Qi Hai, I should tweak that. And one thing that I happened to notice while doing my Wu Ji one day was that, when I turn my feet in a bit more, I feel more floaty (but in a good way, like my body is supporting itself with minimal effort from me; I’ll want to keep that in mind.

Normal Tai Chi week, nothing in particular going on. The Hunyuan form is sometimes being a little hard for me to memorize, but I’m still pretty much keeping up. And the thing I talked about last week where you open your left foot when stepping forward to Jing Gang is definitely a good idea, it helps me on both of the first two times I see that move.

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