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Tai Chi Notes, November 12, 2019

Nov 12 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Last time, I said I thought that the bubbling wells in my feet were finally opening up; now I’m sure of that, they’re tingling lots of the time. Also, something interesting happened on Wednesday: when I was done with Wu Ji, it felt like there was a line going down the inside of my leg. (Or legs? Definitely the right side, not so sure about my left.) Since the bubbling well is at one end of the kidney meridian, I looked up the path of the kidney meridian; and it tracked what I was feeling pretty well. Probably a coincidence, I stand with my legs slightly arched out, so it make sense that there’d be a different feeling on the inside of the arch? Still, it was interesting, maybe there’s something to this meridian stuff after all… Hasn’t happened again, unfortunately.

On Saturday, my teacher went over my form. In the uppercut in Jin Gang Pounds the Pestle, don’t just use my arms, and don’t focus so much on my punch, figure out connection in my torso. (I’m still not 100% sure what my torso should be doing there – when I watch him, it sometimes looks like it’s going down?) After the first Cover the Forearm Punch, I should relax more. In Step Back with Spiraling Forearms, use my body instead of just my arms, and sink my Qi more on the inside. In general, do a Song in more places. My elbows sometimes still go a little bit back in a few places, though he didn’t specify where. Integrate my body more in Forward / Backward Trick, don’t just move my arms and knees.

Also from Saturday, in the general part of the class: in Wild Horse Parts the Mane: in first part, move hands before moving foot. And we had the second form class on Sunday; in the strike after Beast’s Head, the palms of both fists are down. But in a similar-looking move near the end, when you switch directions to strike towards the back, your back fist (where your energy is) has its palm up.

Sunday Wu Ji didn’t go so great; maybe it’s the timing? The previous two weeks I’d done sitting meditation at the start of the morning (while Liesl was walking Widget) and then my Wu Ji Sunday routine before lunch, I feel more energetic when I’m doing it that way.

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Tai Chi Notes, November 5, 2019

Nov 05 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t have a repeat of feeling really good while doing Wu Ji as happened the previous weekend, but I had some feelings on the fringes of that, and I feel like the way to get closer to that is, in part, by relaxing, which is good for other reasons! So I’ll keep on experimenting with that.

A note from Saturday: in Jade Girl, in the first strike, I should also kick with my foot; probably actually more of a stomp forward and down? Also, at the start of Jade Girl, you’re deflecting your opponent to the right a bit.

In Oblique Posture, if you lead with your shoulder, you should still follow with your elbow and hand. When I did that on Sunday, I had a surprisingly strong feeling of energy flowing through, at least the first few times; not so much tonight, though. I think what had happened was that I’d had a pretty good sitting meditation session on Sunday morning, a decent Wu Ji session, and a pretty good Five Animal Frolics, so there was more energy for me to feel at the start of Tai Chi?

Speaking of Five Animal Frolics: it went rather well, though some better than others; I still feel week at the Deer in particular. And, when rereading my notes afterwards, I realized some points that I’d missed; I should reread my notes first next time! But at any rate there’s something to work on there.

I think the bubbling wells in my feet are finally starting to open up; I’m getting a fairly persistent tingling sensation there, reminiscent of what I feel in my hands. Not as strong as my hands, and I haven’t seen any other side effects yet, but still, seems like progress.

When doing Embrace the Knee, my hands should end up fairly close to each other horizontally: not quite in a straight vertical line but pretty close.

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VGHVI Minecraft: October 31, 2019

Nov 03 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

For the October Minecraft session, I wanted to make a path from the lighthouse to the top of the mountain near it. There was a cave nearby that seemed promising, so I wanted to look there first.

Looking across the bay from the lighthouse to the cave in the side of the mountain.

While wandering around, I noticed a hole in the sand, and it seemed surprisingly deep?

Yeah, there’s a cave down there, here’s the view up the hole.

And there’s a second chimney going down near the bottom of the one under the hole in the sand.

Here’s a bat that I ran into.

Returning to where I was planning to build from, here’s the inside of that cave mouth in the mountain.

Here’s a waterfall that was somewhere around there?

The view from the bottom of that waterfall.

Another place where that cave leads to the bay, where the strange physics means that the water doesn’t flood in.

I think the back of this wall is where I want to put some stairs up. This is on your right side when you enter the cave from the water, so it won’t go deep into the mountain, it’ll go up just inside the edge of the mountain.

 

So that’s the plan: build some stairs up from there, then see how that looks from the top. And, if I get inspired, do something interesting at the bottom too.

Here’s the view up from the bottom of the stairs.

And the view down from the top; pretty long stairs.

I think this must be the view into the cave from the bottom of the stairs? Looks a little messy…

Halfway up, the stairs pass over this crevasse.

The view of the lighthouse from near the top of the stairs.

I have pathways connecting the other landmarks on top of the mountain, I’ll need to add one (or two?) to the stair entrance. (Which is sort of near the middle of this picture, a little on the left side.)

Maybe I can fit a path here under the trees? It’s straight enough.

Now there’s a path in place.

Here’s how the new path meets the deck that had been on the water side of the top of the mountain.

I’m also going to fork the path so it goes up to the fountain.

Here’s the path along the edge of the mountain top near the building and fountain.

Extending the path further past the fountain.

Now you can see most of the path network. (Though a fair chunk on the water side is covered by trees.)

 

That’s what I was doing; Dan had apparently decided that he was done with his white underground passages and he built a series of decorations on the surface.

I’m pretty sure this decoration near the entrance to the underground passages is new?

Here’s a white smoking boot thing near the train tracks.

Some pumpkin blocks surrounded by fires.

A closer view.

Their pumpkin nature becomes a little more apparent from the top.

A green sculpture with some bells near it.

While wandering around in a cave near there, I came across this unexpected sight.

Here’s the view through that glass; it’s from a patterned pit that Dan had built several months ago.

Here’s the view of that from the non-cave side.

 

And Ariel was continuing work on their castle from last time.

Traveling to the castle, I went past the jungle glitch in the ice; was that chunk of ice in the middle of the jungle there from the start of the glitch, or has the ice started to reform??

Approaching the castle.

The visiting committee is still here; Ariel is consulting with its human member, while its llama members are examining the wall.

Patterned windows.

And a patterned door.

Here’s the inside view from the top, you can see the plan for interior walls.

A closer view of the bridge, you can see the water from this side.

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Tai Chi Notes, October 29, 2019

Oct 29 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Last Tuesday, Silk Reeling had felt good, so I decided to do some Silk Reeling over lunch with Wu Ji, instead of doing Qigong or the Five Frolics. I might keep that in the rotation, we’ll see?

My back wasn’t great the last week, but it was better than it had been the previous weekend. And I replaced my walking shoes on Saturday, and that seems to be helping, so hopefully that was the issue.

On Saturday, my teacher talking about not leaning forward in Reverse with Spiraling Forearms; I think maybe I’m doing that a little bit, at least in the stepping back portion? Not sure if I should be upright even when stepping back or if that’s okay but I should make sure to return to being straight upright after each step. I’ll have to experiment…

On Sunday, both my sitting and standing meditation went well. I can’t remember exactly how sitting meditation went well, though my guess is that I did a good job with Sung breathing, getting different parts to relax? But for standing meditation, on good days there’s a pleasant feeling that shows up in various parts of my body; and, on Sunday, at some point I leaned into that (metaphorically) and it all started connecting up? Which was certainly pleasant, and let me kind of zone out for a while, it was a fast thirty minutes. Definitely something to experiment with more; not sure that I want to be completely caught up by that feeling, but there’s something going on.

I couldn’t unfortunately completely recapture that today, though I felt close for a while. Might have been because I was sleepy; I did at least manage 25 minutes of meditation, which is more than I would normally expect given that sleepiness.

In class tonight, we were talking about The White Goose Displays Its Wings; my right hand should be a little higher, at eyebrow level, so that I can block punches to my face right after that.

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Tai Chi Notes, October 22

Oct 22 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I was a little optimistic in the middle of last week – I’d been too tired the previous week to really do Wu Ji well, but I managed to get my durations back up to good levels.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, my back started hurting, and it got quite a bit worse on Sunday morning. Scary in general (I really thought I was basically over back problems), and not great timing given that Sunday morning was the once a month more advanced Tai Chi class. I’m really hoping it just means that I need to replace my shoes; my shoes don’t look as bad as they normally do when that happens, but it could be the case? I’ll find out soon.

Fortunately, it’s been getting better since then: using a heating pad has probably helped, maybe I’ve been managing to walk better, who knows.

The other thing that was making me optimistic at the end of last week was that meditation was going better. I’d been kind of wondering what Mitchell was talking about when saying that, when doing Sung Breathing (for relaxing muscles), starting with the intercostal muscles (ones around your ribs) was a good idea: I don’t even think of my ribs as been an important location for muscles? But I started to realize that, yeah, my chest actually does feel sort of tight? And, after focusing on that, it really did seem to be getting better.

And Silk Reeling tonight felt quite good, too. Not necessarily abnormally good compared to good times before, but good in the context of how my body had been feeling for the last four days, glad that energy can still move through it.

Things to think about in the form:

  • In Backwards Trick, your right arm is doing an elbow jab.
  • I should think of more of a Peng in the second part of Six Sealing Four Closing, instead of just moving my hands without any real energy.

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VGHVI Minecraft: September 26, 2019

Oct 20 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

In the August Minecraft session, I’d started building a lighthouse behind the mountain that I’ve been working on; so I spent the September session finishing it off.

I have the basic interior structure in place, I just need to complete the execution.

Now the inside is complete.

I need to put something on top, though.

 

To be a lighthouse, it needs lights on top, though! Which raises two questions: 1) What will the top floor look like?, and 2) What will the lights look like? I thought for a bit about doing some sort of redstone thing, but I didn’t think that was going to work out well, so I decided to go with fixed lights. And I decided to go for a wider top than the rest of the floors: Minecraft doesn’t have very bright lights, so I wanted a good number of them, and I’d also need a bit of space to walk around.

I still needed to work out the details of the lights, so I tried a few experiments.

Experiment 1: fill the windows with lanterns.

Experiment 2: use a single row of glowstone.

Experiment 3: make the window taller, and have both lanterns and glowstone.

 

Ultimately I decided I liked the first experiment the most, so I went with it, just adding in some glowstone accents. Also, once that top floor was in place, it meant that the lower floors no longer got light, so I needed to deal with that.

Going back to lanterns, but sticking in some glowstone accents beneath.

The center is too dark, OSHA would not approve at all.

I added some windows and torches to the interior floors.

A first look at the windows from the outside.

The top of the building was a little boring, so I added a smaller layer on top.

Here’s how the windows interact with the stairs.

A further out view.

Here’s what it looks like during daytime.

Here’s the view from the seating area at the back of the forest up top.

Here’s the view of the side of the mountain on the lighthouse side; I think in October I’ll spend some time providing a way to get from the top of the mountain down to the bottom?

I should be able to do something with this cave, in particular.

And here’s the view all the way across the top of the mountain.

 

Next, I checked on Dan’s underground structure.

He’s added in a door at the back and something that’s making lots of smoke.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Here’s what the path looks like at ground level.

The path continues through the door into darkness.

Here’s the view from the dark area back into that room.

 

And, finally, Ariel had started work on a U-shaped building. (Or maybe continued work? It might have been an abandoned frame of a building from a few years back.)

The shell of the building is taking shape.

One of our neighbors has stopped by to visit.

There’s a sunken pond between the arms of the building.

Here’s what it looks like from water level; that’s pretty far down, it turns out.

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Tai Chi Notes, October 15, 2019

Oct 15 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I continued my tour through Damo Mitchell’s books with The Four Dragons. I’d put it off because, in his seminar that I went to earlier in the year, he mentioned that the sequence that he was teaching us there gave a lot of the same benefits as the Dragon sequence. But still, I like his books so I figured I’d give it a try, and it was interesting. There was this discussion of “Jing Jin”, which are pathways of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue that stretch a fair distance across your body (up a specific line of your arm and to a specific area in your chest, for example); seems interesting from a point of view of broader connectedness, though I’m not sure the specific pathways spoke to my experience. There were some isolated exercises which pointed out the importance of not just expanding individual joints but expanding them along a line (e.g. your entire arm) in concert. There was a general explanation of Dao Yin, which made me wonder which stuff I see in my Tai Chi classes could be classified that way: are Silk Reeling Exercises examples? Are some of the Qigong exercises from that class things that Mitchell would classify as Dao Yin? There was a discussion of breathing, which I feel like I should get better at. And it did get me a little curious about the Dragon exercises; maybe I should try out the steps? Probably I should try applying some of the stuff from that book to the Four Animal Frolics…

I tried it out in a few of the Silk Reeling Exercises on Saturday: in particular, stretching my joints more uniformly where that made sense (e.g. in Hand Maneuvers), and even sometimes visualizing expelling bad qi in the few such exercises where that made sense at all. The stretching was an interesting experience, and I actually felt that it helped my breathing; I’m not 100% sure that I’ll try always doing the Silk Reeling that way, but I’m glad I tried it.

Also on Saturday I was noticing that my knee was hurting less than it had been; it was never bad, but there had been occasional twinges, and those are now getting rarer, I think. And I’m also managing to keep my shoulder wells a little more open; having that pointed out in multiple contexts is getting me to pay attention.

Some pointers that came up in the form: when raising your right arm near the end of the first Jing Gang (right before the uppercut), have both of your arms near your center line, so you can imagine trapping your opponent’s arm between them. And, when turning to the right in Push the Mountain, brush your knees with your hands before moving your hands back up to the back of your head.

On Sunday, I was doing lots of punching practice; still doesn’t feel great, but sometimes I felt like I was storing something a little bit in my kua and then circling out of that? I’ll have to see if I can access that feeling in the middle of the form.

Unfortunately, my Wu Ji was going really badly this week. Which I blame on being tired: my sleep has been interrupted more than normal for some reason. And I guess Wu Ji is one of the places where I’m most affected by that?

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Tai Chi Notes, October 8, 2019

Oct 08 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Towards the end of last week, my back was aching more, in a way that made me think stuff was moving around in there and sinking more. But then, on Sunday, when we had the final two sessions (six hours!) of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop, I just felt low on energy; in particular, I was slipping into rigid postures way too much, locking my knees when just standing around. And, thinking about it more, I think in retrospect I’d been a little low on sleep; so maybe the back aches were part of that, though I’m not entirely sure?

The silver lining is that I’m getting a little more sensitive to how my body was behaving? Because I don’t think I would have been aware of this if I weren’t spending as much time in standing practice, wondering why it was getting harder… And it’s certainly something fixable.

One thing that came out of the class (and out of a book I was reading) is that I should pay more attention to my shoulders while doing standing meditation – e.g. my Tai Chi teacher says that my shoulder wells should be over my bubbling wells.

The book I was reading was The Joy of Living, by a Tibetan master. One thing it recommended is doing lots of short meditation periods – dozens a day, of 3 minutes or even 1 minute. I’m not going to meditate that frequently, but I am trying to work in some more short periods.

I’ve been feeling out of balance when doing Embrace the Knee; in class tonight I experimented with shifting to my back foot more before lifting up, and that seems to work. So I leave my left foot mostly down while shifting; reducing the weight means that my toe naturally comes up and my foot naturally turns, but I don’t start lifting it until I’m almost entirely over my right foot. Seems to be an improvement?

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Tai Chi Notes, October 1, 2019

Oct 01 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve apparently been doing these notes for over a year (over 13 months, in fact); yay.

On Saturday, I asked whether your weight should be forward or back at the start of the first form; the answer was a little forward, like doing Wu Ji meditation. Also, when doing the two Kick with the Heel moves, have your hands in fists, palm side up, then strike out with them with more energy in the foot on the opposite side from where you’re kicking.

Part two of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop was on Saturday; nothing particular to report that day, basically going over Hunyuan Qigong moves.

I’m feeling that, in the various moves in the first and second form where you’re supposed to be shaking, I’m really only doing that with my arms, I should figure out how to get my Dantian involved more…

Kind of rough time doing my Lotus Wu Ji on Sunday; probably because I was a little lower? Or maybe I was just too sleepy. Certainly I was lower than I was told to be in during the last workshop, though I’m not 100% sure that’s a bad thing… Sitting meditation went well on Sunday, though, and it also went well this morning.

When doing my Lotus Wu Ji today, I was letting my shoulders relax out a little more, as well as sinking my shoulder blades, and I realized that that felt like what happens around my hips when I both sink back into my Kua and sink out to the sides. Not sure if there’s anything to make of that, though.

In the class this evening, I learned that, in Six Sealing Four Closing, your left foot should be slightly forward compared to your right foot; I’d been placing it next to my right foot, but that’s apparently wrong.

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Tai Chi Notes: September 24, 2019

Sep 24 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

My Tai Chi teacher is giving a Qigong seminar for the next few weeks; the first class was on Saturday, covering Wu Ji. (The version he teaches, which is different from the Lotus Nei Gong version that I do in my daily practice.) Some things that were different from my mental model of that version of Wu Ji:

  • You should sink back into your kua, not just sideways, in fact he uses a different term (rounding your something) for the latter. Not as far back into your kua as the Lotus folks do, though, because you want to have your Huiyin back in the middle after tilting your hips forward.
  • When relaxing your shoulders, you want them to stretch out on the top away from your neck.
  • Twice, when correcting my form, he told me to relax my chest more.
  • You should stretch your fingers out somewhat.

One thing I noticed is that my back doesn’t stretch and relax as much when doing Wu Ji this form; my Live Gate doesn’t feel as open, my shoulder blades don’t sink as much. I would have naively thought that standing more upright would make things sink down more, but apparently leaning my torso forward helps with sinking stuff on my back? Unexpected.

I also felt stuff gathering in my hand an unusual amount. (Especially the first time, when I wasn’t stretching my fingers.) Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

We had the monthly class on Sunday; I was surprised how the second form felt, I might actually learn that this year? I was worried because I’d missed at least one class, but I feel like I’ve caught back up, and we’re pretty close to the end and I’m not feeling lost.

And I spent some time at the end of the class on Sunday working on my Jian; and I was pleased to feel how visceral the circles felt in one bit, I’ll have to see if I start feeling the more of an effect of using the Jian in other places in the form.

I’m up to 32 minutes of Wu Ji practice on Sundays. I think I’ll stay at 30 minutes for Tuesdays and Thursdays, though: I only have so much time over lunch, and I do want to leave time for Qigong and/or Five Animals. But I’ll try to reach 40 minutes on Sunday, and then re-evaluate. I wasn’t super looking forward to spending 30+ minutes doing Wu Ji and another 30 minutes doing seated meditation this Sunday afternoon, but when I actually did it, it was fine. I’m not getting quite as much out of seated meditation as I’d like right now, though; when I first started doing the relaxing part of Sung breathing, it seemed like there was some interesting stuff going on, but I haven’t really felt that the last few times.

In class tonight, in the first half of Grab and Tuck Robe, when my right arm was going to the right, I realized I was lowering my shoulder as it went down, which raised the question: should I be raising it in the first place? I think the answer is probably no, so I’m working on keeping it sunk. Also I noticed my teacher doing what looked a little like a shoulder strike in the second half; and he actually talked about it, the second half could be a shoulder strike or an elbow strike or a hand strike, depending on where your opponent is.

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