Nei Gong Notes, April 2, 2024

Apr 02 2024

This week’s lesson was on Nervous System Refinement. I haven’t gone through it too many times; the surface of my arms feel a little more present, but I’m not yet sure what to make of that, I’m not feeling direct connections between that and environmental (or internal) aspects? We’ll see, I’ll keep at it.

On Wednesday I reviewed the Lotus Dao Yin lesson, and I’ve thrown that into the mix a few times. No big effect from that one either but it still feels like the right thing to do. I guess the other option would be to work on Song breathing, the one big effect I had with that was actually related to opening up my chest? But I’ll stick with the Lotus Dao Yin for a while.

I also tried kicking off the Microcosmic Orbit on Wednesday; stuff made it near the top of my spine but not actually up into my head. And the same thing happened on Sunday, too. Not sure if I just don’t have enough juice; if I need to get back to some of the pre-MCO practices; if I need to open up my neck some more (if I’m remembering correctly, the one day when I did do it successfully, I’d been doing Coiling Snake right before then, which does help with my neck); if I need to spend more time thickening in my Dantian before sending stuff up my spine; if I should switch to sitting on my knees before sending stuff up my spine to make it easier for Qi to get in there; or something else. Not worrying too much either way; I’ll keep on trying it out once or twice a week, and hopefully I’ll be able to rotate back to exercises that help me build a little bit more.

On Friday I did 20 minutes of Zhan Zhuang; it was interesting again, this time there was a pretty strong and continually expanding stretch along my arms. So I tried it on Saturday, this time for 30 minutes; less of a dramatic stretch, but still definitely felt worth doing, and actually I felt an expansion in my chest too, which is something that I’m trying for right now! I was surprised after that how much my legs ached; wasn’t awful or anything, but more than I would expect if I’d been doing Wu Ji for 30 minutes, not sure what the difference was there. (Maybe I was sitting lower for some reason, or maybe it had to do with how forces were being transmitted.) I think I’m going to try showing up to Tai Chi class 30 minutes early on Saturdays and doing it at the start of class.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 26, 2024

Mar 27 2024

Tai Chi week for the IAA; I’m still reviewing the first road. One thing I noticed (and it’s come up in a couple of videos): in Gong Bu, the bottom half of your front leg should be going straight down to the foot, but I’m often going farther forward than that. Probably would help my knee if I stop doing that (and I assume I do that in Chen Tai Chi too); I’m still feeling out what I’m supposed to do instead, am I supposed to be standing higher, am I supposed to be stepping further forward, am I supposed to be sinking more into my Kua to get down to the right depth?

For most of the week, I felt a little off, maybe even on the edge of getting sick, but for some reason it didn’t feel too discouraging? I hear people talk about how they feel sick for a few days after clearing out stuff with Dao Yins; that might be what I’m going through? And I’m also still dialing in how food affects me, that might be part of what’s going on too. And also I had to get up a few times in some of the nights, because of my dog asking for something, which didn’t help; though even there I’m optimistic because I feel like I’m getting good control over Liver Heat stuff, so if I don’t have my dog keeping me up, my sleep is going pretty well. But at any rate I was doing kind of minimal practices most of the week, smaller practices than normal on Wednesday and Friday mornings in particular.

But on Sunday morning I’d slept well and felt nice and energetic. So I figured I’d try kicking off the MCO; I didn’t really expect it to work super well, because I hadn’t been particularly actively working on building up Qi that week, but my Dantian did at least have a little bit of signs of activity? And it actually worked, though just barely: Qi was going up my spine very slowly, it took about five minutes to make it up there, but it did finally reach my Baihui. Interesting feeling: my Baihui felt like a big hole, and the inside of my body felt relaxed and nourished after doing that. I think it’s actually the most successful I’ve been at doing the MCO at home; still a lot to work on, I think I must have been at the bare minimum of fullness for my Dantian for it to work at all, but still, I’ll take getting one successful cycle. And also this must be evidence that my work on my back has been paying off: it wasn’t moving quickly up my back but it also didn’t feel like it was hitting blockages.

So I’ll definitely want to keep on trying that, and also to work on getting more Qi in my Dantian. Also, I think I’ll dial down the frequency of doing Coiling Snake, because I’m no longer getting strong effects from doing that, so I feel like it’s done its work. In general I’m just feeling a spontaneous desire to Song in my back a lot of the time when I’m standing around, which is also a good sign for the back; though with that I am also starting to notice tightness in my chest now. So I think I should switch my Dao Yin focus and spend some time with the Lotus Dao Yin, that should help with that.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 19, 2024

Mar 19 2024

This week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course was on Pillar Opening. Good timing for it: I’ve been working on stretching open my back, and while that’s been successful, I’d been feeling a little bit like I also need to build it up in a healthier way after I’ve stretched apart some of the stuck bits? So it was good to see an exercise that plausible feels like it could do that, and also good to see an exercise that’s short enough that I should be able to find time to mix it into days when I’m mostly doing something else.

On Wednesday, I had a good Wu Song Shen Fa session: 20 minutes of WSSF 2 and 20 minutes of WSSF 3, and I got some interesting vibrating going on towards the end of the second one. Not sure yet what’s going on there, but presumably it’s something useful?

I felt like I was on the edge of coming down with a cold or something on Thursday night, so I took it easy on Friday and over the weekend. Seems to have worked well, I didn’t actually get a cold and I was feeling good enough to go to Tai Chi on Saturday. I spent some of that class working on moving from my Kua (e.g. using my Kua to lift my legs); seems like a good idea, I’ll try that more.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 12, 2024

Mar 12 2024

A Tai Chi week this week; I went back and reviewed a bit more of the form. I should probably do that more often midweek – if I only review one section every other week then it’ll take me a while to review all of the sections that I’ve learned! Nei Gong this week; I still haven’t actually done Shui Gong 3, I should find time for that too…

I tried again to do the MCO on Wednesday, but it didn’t go particularly well: even during the prep work, I didn’t feel much volume going through my torso, and when I got to the MCO itself stuff just did not go very far up my spine. So I think I didn’t have much juice in my Dantian that day, for whatever reason. And actually my energy level got worse as the day went on (e.g. I only managed a half-assed Silk Reeling session); might have been an allergy shot that I had at the start of the afternoon, admittedly.

So I need to figure that out. At first I was thinking that it just meant that I should get back to doing regular 40 minute Hui Chun sessions, and maybe start mixing in Calm Abiding since I was curious about that and it seems relevant; and those both sound like good ideas? But also I’d been feeling on Monday and Tuesday that maybe I was eating too much, and I had a really big lunch on Wednesday, so maybe the answer is that I should pay more attention to how much (and what?) I’m eating? I experimented with that over the rest of the week, and it seemed to help, so now I’m thinking that food might be the main issue. (Also I’m thinking I should be a little more mindful in my downtime, instead of reaching quickly for random puzzle games on my phone.)

At any rate, my energy levels were better the rest of the week; fading some in the afternoon, admittedly, but with good signs of Qi and/or general alertness in the mornings on several of the days. (Good Anchoring the breath on Thursday, good Ping Heng Gong on Friday; good Wu Song Shen Fa on Friday, too.) Though, for the third or fourth week in a row, I felt unusually drained after the Saturday Tai Chi class; not sure if I’m just overexerting myself or if I need to bundle up still more or what.

I also randomly tried doing Zhan Zhuang before Tai Chi; I’ve basically never really tried that since getting more serious about Nei Gong, so I wasn’t sure how long I would last, but I figured I’d be slightly disappointed if I only lasted 10 minutes whereas I’d be quite happy if I lasted 20 minutes. I ended up doing 25 minutes, and if I’d felt like pushing it and if the class hadn’t been about to start, I could have gone at least a little longer, so that was nice. And I started to feel some interesting inflation around 20 minutes in. So maybe I’ll make a habit of trying that once a week, assuming that I continue to regularly show up early to class.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 5, 2024

Mar 05 2024

This week’s lesson was Shui Gong 3. Which I still haven’t tried, and honestly I’m a little nervous to: I usually slept badly after doing Shui Gong 2, and Damo warns about that at some point on this video too. I’ll try it out one of these days, but my sleep was iffy enough that it didn’t seem like the timing was right to try it.

On Wednesday I did the Spinal Dao Yin followed by the Maryland 2022 Practice Session video. Not as much Qi thickening through the torso as in some of the other variants from then, but it does succeed in getting my Qi rotating at the end; I’d forgotten that they spend some time going in a circle through the lower spine / diaphragm before letting it go and rotate on its own. And then I tried to move into MCO after that; barely successful, it was really weak once it reached my head, so I couldn’t feel much of anything going down in the middle, but on the other hand it did actually reach my head? Which is encouraging; and also gave me some ideas for what to play with next when kicking off the MCO, I’ll mix in some of the stuff from this video with some of the stuff from my notes, hopefully if I keep at it I’ll be able to get this working.

My energy levels were actually only kind of so-so on Wednesday, but still I managed to do three hours of Nei Gong and maybe two and a half hours of Tai Chi. So it might be that what feels like a moderate energy level is noticeably better than my energy levels had been.

Though unfortunately my sleep was crappy on Wednesday night. I think it’s probably the MCO’s fault: some combination of stuff making it most of the way up but then not down and/or me not properly closing down at the end? So I’ll have to be more careful about that in the future. Fortunately, the rest of the week wasn’t as bad as that one day, but it was also a little off on other days; at least once I was worrying about some house-related stuff, which wasn’t good. So, partly because of that, I didn’t try to kick off the MCO again on Sunday; hopefully I’ll sleep well enough tonight that I can give it a try again tomorrow. I did end up rewatching the Calm Abiding video on Sunday and then doing that for the first time in a while; glad I watched the video, I’d forgotten some of the details. And it’s hard, I’ve got a lot of work to do, but also strong, so I think I’ll try to find time to work that into the rotation.

I didn’t spend as much time this week doing Wu Song Shen Fa as the previous week, but I still did it enough that I don’t feel too bad. Feeling pretty good about 1 and 3, but 2 definitely needs work; I think I’m starting to feel the right feeling with 2, though. Also I had an interesting time in the park when doing that, some random person came up and asked what I was doing, we had an interesting talk, and I ended up pointing him at the IAA.

I rewatched the first of the Yang 37 form videos one day this week (Friday, maybe?); I’ll do another one or two tonight instead of watching a new Tai Chi video.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 27, 2024

Feb 27 2024

Good week; I had noticeably more energy than normal on several days, I continue to think that Coiling Snake is helping me a lot. Even my sleep is getting better; I remember my TCM doctor has linked that to my neck, I wonder if that’s been helping? (Because Coiling Snake had definitely been stretching my neck sometimes.)

Anyways, this week was a Tai Chi week. I’m pausing new lessons on that, because I’ve got stuff to review; this time I went over the Wu Song Shen Fa 2 video. And I did a pretty good job of doing WSSF practice this week; I did one of them almost every day (I added in an extra practice after work on a couple of days), and on a couple of days I did two or three of them. I’m definitely getting seeing the effects of WSSF1, I’m relaxing in the right way in my body and stuff is moving as a result. WSSF2 is still more of a mystery to me; I saw some hints of what’s going on there yesterday but it definitely needs more work. I’m worrying a little less about WSSF3 because I was already feeling something there, but it’s still pretty good.

I could definitely tell that I had more energy on Friday because I got two separate household errands done, did about two hours of Nei Gong and about two hours of Tai Chi. I thought that Saturday was also going to be a good day, but actually my energy kind of flared out during Tai Chi class? That’s the second week in a row where that’s happened; the previous week I’d assumed it was because of the wind, and I still think that’s probably it (the wind was super strong that day and the energy drain was much worse that week), but either there’s something else going on or I have to wrap myself up more than I thought when I’m outside, even if it’s decently warm? That plus an unusual morning in other ways meant that I also wasn’t up for doing a ton of Nei Gong on Sunday; though, once I got started and did Coiling Snake, my energy level increased noticeably again. Hopefully I’ll have a good amount of energy on Wednesday and/or Friday this week and I’ll be able to try out getting the MCO going; I’m thinking that, in an ideal world, I’d probably try that on Wednesdays and Sundays?

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Nei Gong Notes, February 20, 2024

Feb 20 2024

Good week. It was a Nei Gong lesson week, and the lesson was Taiyi Hundun Qigong 3; seemed fine, not a particular revelation compared to 1 or 2 though.

Wednesday was a good day: it was actually probably the best my energy has been since I had that breakthrough in December. For Nei Gong, I had a good Spinal Dao Yin session (stuff wasn’t getting stuck as much as it had previously in the rough parts in my spine, and my back was wanting to spread horizontally), the Taiyi Hundun Qigong 3, the Spleen Hui Chun, and some Ping Heng Gong. For Damo’s Tai Chi I did some Wu Song Shen Fa 3, some of the Releasing the Feet for Taiji exercise, and had a good session of the First Road part of the Yang 37. And for Chen Taiji I did my regular weapons practice, some extra staff review (and I made progress on a couple of moves), an hour of Silk Reeling, a bit of Lao Jia. So 3 hours of Nei Gong and maybe 2 hours of Tai Chi across the two styles, and it was high quality practice. And I’m definitely glad I spent the time on the Silk Reeling; that helped with my energy and helped my back feel better.

I asked in the Discord about what I can do to build my ability to release in my feet; the advice I got was to spend time on the Wu Song Shen Fa exercises. I was already thinking that the third of those was useful, so I should do that more and I should go back to the other two. I watched the videos for the Loosening and the Fang Song Gong versions of Wu Song Shen Fa 1; one interesting thing that I got out of rewatching the Fang Song Gong one is that he claimed the release is similar to the way your spine tugs up when relax your pelvis. And I know what that feels like and how to accomplish it; and, actually, I feel like I can do something like that on my feet as well now that I point it out? It’s not what I expected release on my feet to feel like, but it’s definitely something I can work on, good to have a route in.

On Friday I had my first acupuncture session in four weeks; I was expecting it to be more helpul than it was, but I didn’t particularly notice it helping my energy. And actually my energy wasn’t great on Saturday and got worse over the day, despite the Tai Chi class; my best guess is that it was a little rainy and then quite windy, and I was reacting to that more badly than I thought? (I was wearing a raincoat, but it wasn’t super thick, so while I didn’t feel actively cold, I guess the wind affected me somehow.) I actually kind of realized that at the time and avoided doing purging type stuff (I usually do a Dragon Dao Yin set after class but I avoided that this time, and I also considered doing Coiling Snake but skipped that as well), but that wasn’t enough. So my energy level wasn’t great over the weekend; but yesterday and today I got back to Coiling Snake, my back immediately started feeling better, and my energy level got better too; my energy level was quite solid today, and I found time to do some Wu Song Shen Fa 1 as well as some Nei Gong.

Also on Sunday I tried following my notes from the Maryland workshop for kicking off the Microcosmic Orbit. Honestly, I think those notes are maybe not so awesome – there’s one bit that I probably skipped, and another bit where I was pretty vague? So I think I’ll stop following those notes as-is, and either do a different variant inspired by some other notes from the workshop that are better (but that will need to be modified since they were from a session where we didn’t try to kick off the Orbit), or else just try to kick off the orbit after following the one that was on video, since that one reliably gets my Dantian moving on its own accord. Still, it was an okay experiment, and it probably would have better if my back had been in better shape instead of being a little messed up after Saturday; as is, the parts where I was thickening stuff in my torso felt quite effective, which is a good sign in terms of my internal readiness. But I didn’t do a good job of getting a rotation set up in the Dantian, and when I tried moving things into my spine, it did go in but didn’t go very high up, presumably because my back was off.

I’ll have to think about it more, but I’m thinking I should switch my MCO focus from going through like 6 different prep exercises to focusing on a smaller set? I’m seeing some signs that my preparation is plausible but that I need to get better at getting my Dantian going; so probably spending time on the Lesser Orbit, Mixing Kan and Li, and Anchoring the Breath on work days and then working on the Orbit itself (either via the version in his class or via my notes or via that one recorded lecture) on days when I have more time would make sense. (Though I also kind of like my habit of doing Advanced Dantian Gong on Saturdays, maybe I’ll stick with that.)

And then today I watched the video that Damo put out about the Foundations course. Thinking it over and talking it over with my wife, I think I’ll do that? It’s a manageable time commitment, and while I am making progress on foundational work, I’m not 100% confident that I’ll be able to avoid pitfalls just doing the IAA videos plus occasional random in-person classes. And those ten day sessions with Damo would be useful, too; I’m already doing one course of his this summer, but these seem like they might be a little more focused than that? So I’ve put down the deposit for the Texas course; I’m not 100% confident that I’ll do that but I think I will.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 13, 2024

Feb 13 2024

It was a Tai Chi week; in this week’s lesson, I finished the first third of the form. Damo recommended going back through all of the earlier lessons of the form after this one, to make sure you have the first third down well; I should probably do that. We’ll see when I manage to work it into things; hopefully I’ll have time to do it some during midweek practice sessions, but I’m not sure. There was also a push hands video, on an exercise having you pushing into your opponent via release from your foot; I tried it on Saturday, and failed completely. Which, honestly, wasn’t a huge surprise: I feel like I sometimes get glimmers of that, especially while doing Wu Song Shen Fa 3, but I never feel it super strongly. I should work on that while doing the form, too.

I had a good Nei Gong session on Friday. I’d been thinking after the workshop that I should do Pushing the Tides more, so I had a decent session of that, and I also did a one-hour Qi Thickening set from the Maryland workshop.

Unfortunately, I was a little more tired than I would have liked on Friday, and a lot more tired than I would have liked on Saturday morning; it had been three weeks since my last acupuncture appointment, so maybe I needed that more than I thought? But then I went to Tai Chi class on Saturday and I immediately started feeling better during Silk Reeling; so I guess my back had just gotten tight. I would have expected the workshop to have helped with that, but I guess it didn’t make a huge difference; probably driving two and a half hours each day didn’t help? And then it had been raining, so I hadn’t done my regular Tai Chi, either. At any rate, I was very glad to be feeling better; and probably I should start doing mid-week Silk Reeling, since it’s clearly helpful for me.

The other interesting thing from Saturday’s Tai Chi class was that our teacher had us do an exercise that he called something like the Dragon posture but that was almost identical to Coiling Snake from Nei Gong. And my back was definitely tingling in interesting ways after that; and, in retrospect, I remember it making my back feel good after that lesson. So I should spend time on that; I reviewed that lesson yesterday, Damo was indeed talking about effects that are very relevant to my situation, and there were some details that I’d forgotten, so rewatching the video was useful.

We had Sunday Tai Chi this week as well; fortunately, I’d done a good enough job of reviewing the Staff form (despite the rain) that I didn’t feel like I was particularly behind. I didn’t feel like I had every move down pat, but we just reviewed it this time instead of moving on to new moves, and I think the review has put me in pretty good shape for next month.

I’m still a little more tired than I’d like, but it’s manageable, and my back is tingling in interesting ways. And doing other odd but good things, too: e.g. it was randomly wanting to spread sideways while I was sitting down today. So hopefully I’m still making progress; and hopefully I’ll get back to making improvements on my fatigue levels?

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Nei Gong Notes, February 6, 2024

Feb 06 2024

This week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course was a Yin Qi Gong set. You should only do it when the sun is down, so it won’t fit into my normal practice routine, but I did it Tuesday and Thursday evenings; it got me feeling pretty mellow, which is nice. So I’ll probably try to do it on Thursday evenings for the next bit? But I won’t go out into a park at midnight to do it…

It was super rainy this week, so I didn’t do my normal Tai Chi practice. And I didn’t even go to Tai Chi class on Saturday, because I was at a Nei Gong workshop that Joyce ran from Friday through Sunday.

Which was good, but I have surprisingly little to write about it? Mostly an excuse to spend more time than normal on exercises that I was mostly familiar with, though there was a five elements seated set that was near to me. She said I was a little on the serious side, which is true, something to work on! But she also seemed to think that I’d been making progress.

I also wish I’d been a little more alert during the workshop: my energy levels weren’t awful, but my sleep was bad all three nights before the workshop. I had reasons why: on Thursday night I had Thai Iced Tea for dinner and I think that had more caffeine than was wise; on Friday I got woken up for a while by an alert from work (and I think something else happened, maybe I had to let Velvet go out back); I can’t remember what my excuse was for Saturday night but I had one then too. And I think that at least two of those are real reasons that I don’t want to generalize from, but also my sleep really hasn’t been as good as it should be, I think. And also my energy levels during the day aren’t as good as I’d like; might be mostly just the sleep, or it might not.

Thinking about it more, I decided that maybe my Liver Heat was rearing up a bit. So on Monday I did a ten minute session of the Wood Wu Xing exercise, and it felt like that calmed down my mind. Unfortunately, I got woken up that night by Velvet throwing up, and my brain decided to worry about that (though, in the light of day, nothing particular to worry about), so I continue to have excuses for why my energy levels are bad; hopefully I won’t have external interruptions tonight… Also I was pleased that, yesterday and today, when I was doing Wu Ji, I felt like I had good energy levels going up my spine, and when I paid attention to how that was making it up to my head, I felt alert, so I’m optimistic that my tiredness really is largely just the sleep issues, that I’m continuing to do better on Kidney Qi. (Certainly we did enough back exercises during the workshop that my spine should be in better condition!)

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Nei Gong Notes, January 30, 2024

Jan 30 2024

Solid week this week. On Tuesday, I did the next lesson in Damo’s Tai Chi course, on Play Pipa; that was fine, some interesting bits about sinking. The other Yang Tai Chi thing that happened that week was one day I was doing Wu Song Shen Fa 3, and again I wasn’t getting the feeling I wanted, but then I realized I was doing the hand movement completely wrong, moving my arms twice instead of once per foot. So I’m glad that I figured out what I was doing wrong, once I fixed that then it was properly effective again.

I had a good Nei Gong session on Wednesday: doing the Hundun Qigong, I could feel the right heights for my hands at all four locations, and I could feel a kind of syrupy column slowly going down my body to those points. So hopefully that’s the central channel opening up, though it didn’t feel like a thread? And then the Water Hui Chun after that felt particularly good, thick Qi moving around. Pretty good Swimming Dragon Dao Yin session today, too.

In terms of Chen Tai Chi, I made a bit of progress on the staff, though I still have work to do there. And Silk Reeling was very interesting on Saturday: it felt like I was doing Qigong, stuff was really moving around inside, seemed like it was a good Qi thickening exercise.

Joyce is holding a workshop this weekend, I’m really looking forward to that.

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