Nei Gong Notes, April 6, 2021

Apr 06 2021

Not a whole ton to report on my practice this week; the main thing that I noticed was that, when I was trying to do Wu Ji, I found it surprisingly hard to maintain my willpower. Not sure how much of that was me happening to feel more tired than normal when doing that (which was certainly the case one of the times, not so clear the other time), how much of that was me getting out of the habit of doing Wu Ji standalone now that so much of my practice is taken up with Dantian Gong, and how much of that is potentially something else. Though when I did Wu Ji today (intentionally short, because I had some one-off sleep issues last night), I felt unusually connected, so that’s something good at least.

Anyways, this week’s lesson was on Preparation for Alchemy. Which was doing two things: one part was a recommendation to take up a more ascetic lifestyle for some temporary but unspecified period in preparation for something that’s coming up in year two of the course, and the other part was some exercises mostly related to opening up channels. (Gives me vague memories of the Heavenly Streams course.)

I haven’t seriously started the former yet, partly because I’m not planning to go straight into Year Two: I’m thinking that the fact that the Jing Gong exercises still aren’t doing anything for me is a sign that I might not quite be ready, so I’m going to spend some time reviewing old lessons and trying to learn the Dragon Dao Yins. But the other part is that I’m not entirely sure what things I want to give up, and also because I’m bothered by the open-ended nature: if I were single and living alone, I’d probably just do it, but I don’t feel great about giving up things in ways that affect other family members?

Also, I feel like there’s some kind of deeper motivation for what’s going on that makes the description in that lesson seem a bit off. E.g. giving up media seems a little off for me – I’m more worried about compulsive behavior than media in general. So it actually feels healthier to me to get better at watching movies without having a second screen open, or to just concentrate on reading books, than to give up movies / books? And if there’s one form of media that does feel healthy to me to give up, it’s social media, but Damo was pretty clearly talking about other forms of media. (Not that he said to keep on doing social media, I’m fairly sure he’d agree with pausing that, it’s just that his examples were other forms of media.) So I need to figure that out for now – should I focus on reducing compulsive tendencies instead of reducing other forms of media, or reducing both, or what?

I don’t have to worry about it too much right now, though, I can wait until I think I’m ready to start year 2.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 30, 2021

Mar 30 2021

Not much new to report this week. Practice continued to be good; Song Breathing got me into a more relaxed state one of the two times I tried it but not the other; I’m breathing more deeply in Anchoring the Breath; still nothing special happening during Jing Gong. And, as I mentioned last week, I decided to work the intro Ting exercise into the weekly seated meditation rotation.

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was an exercise to open the Heart Center by using positive emotions; pleasant enough, but I didn’t notice any particular change, and I feel like those are emotions that I’m already actually practicing ambiently fairly often? I do need to open my Heart Center, but I think probably more physical exercises are the way to go for me there.

Only two more lessons and then I’ll be done with the first year of the course.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 23, 2021

Mar 23 2021

Good week. This week’s lesson from Damo was about walking, presenting three separate techniques: a very slow, meditative form of walking; a fast one useful for regular walking around town; and a moderate one used for connecting with nature. I didn’t try the third one, I’m deferring that until later, but I did the first and third.

The first one was pretty straightforward; but it is interesting moving slowly and watching the details of how my muscles and body react to movement. And also to realize that I find it hard to relax while moving my leg; something to work on? The brisk walking, though, was surprisingly interesting: it has you pushing forward from the ball of your foot while walking, and it’s honestly the first time that I’ve really felt that putting pressure on my Yong Quan is leading to more feelings of energy in my body. So I’m definitely glad that I was trying that out, I’ve really felt good this week, I’ll keep it up as a daily practice. (I’ll keep up the slow walking one, too, but probably more of a once-a-week thing, mixing it in with the random Dao Yins and what not.)

And the other benefit of that fast walking exercise is that I was doing it during my morning walks, which meant that I wasn’t looking at my phone while walking. (I was still listening to podcasts, though; which I think is fine, it’s not presented as a form of meditation, just a way to use your body well.) Which is also good, in that it gets you more involved in your environment; I’d been thinking I should do that more when walking, so I could use the nudge. The downside is that, much of the time, what I’m looking at on my phone is Japanese vocabulary, so I’ll need to find another time to fit in those review sessions; I think that’s okay, though, I can do it in spare moments at home instead of doing puzzles or something. And I’m leaving in the Japanese review in the end-of-day walks: I’m walking Widget then, which means that my walking has a lot more stops and starts, so it’s not so great for working on the details of how I move my body.

Also, general practice went well most of the week and quite well the last few days. Yesterday, when I was doing Anchoring the Breath, my body wanted to breathe much more deeply and forcefully then it basically ever has before. That’s one of the things that I read about as a benefit of meditation, but I’d never really experienced it: my breathing had gotten lower in my torso, but the volume of breath hadn’t really increased. But the volume definitely increased yesterday.

And then today I did Song Breathing, and I managed to get back to a surprisingly relaxed state. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it was two weeks ago, I didn’t get the same sort of tingling sensation in my chest that lasted for an hour, but there was definitely something going on there. And I think maybe that tingling sensation was a bit of a one-time thing of some blockages clearing, or something like that; if so, it would make sense that it didn’t recur. (And my chest has felt somewhat more relaxed over the last two weeks than it had been; though there’s still room for improvement, so who knows.)

And in general I feel like my Dantian is maybe starting to feel a little more substantial; and on Sunday I did Calm Abiding followed by seated Dantian Gong followed by Jing Gong, and while the Jing Gong didn’t do anything super interesting, I felt like maybe I’m getting closer? So I’m going to try to set up my routines so I’m doing Calm Abiding on Sundays, to experiment with that trio of exercises again; that means that I’ll have one day a week that doesn’t fit into my current three-exercise rotation of seated meditation exercises, but that’s okay, I’d been thinking I should get back to doing a Ting exercise and/or a reverse breathing exercise, so I’ll fit one of those into the Saturday slot.

And both yesterday and today I did the standing Dantian Gong in 3-minute blocks instead of in 5-minute blocks that I was trying to divide in two by counting. And that’s definitely the right choice for me, my mind is more relaxed there. (Though I should still work on not having my mind wander and having it spend more time on my Dantian.) It means that I have to spend 39 minutes with my the lower half of my body in pretty much a static position, but it’s been fine yesterday and today, so actually that longer duration is probably a benefit in that it’ll help build up my endurance a bit. (At some point I should get back to trying out longer Wu Ji sessions! But, for now, spending my time on Dantian Gong is probably the right choice.)

Tai Chi has been going fine; not much to report there, we’re starting the Hun Yuan Dao form, and I’m finally getting around to working on Sweeping the Hall Leg, which is the move in the second form that I’m by far the worst at. Once I get competent at that, I’ll try to up the quality of my performance of the second form more broadly.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 16, 2021

Mar 16 2021

A good amount of practice this week: on multiple days I did meditation in the morning, Dantian Gong plus something else over lunch, and yet another thing at the end of the day. And I did go through the full Dantian Gong set twice standing and twice sitting over the course of the week, which is my goal.

Not that I’m seeing a lot of effects of that Dantian Gong work; in particular, still feeling nothing interesting during Jing Gong. But that will come eventually, I hope? And, in a bit of a bummer, I didn’t have a repeat of something interesting happening while doing Song Breathing: both times I did that this week, I was back to having it be pleasant but not leading to any unusual relaxation.

I’m trying to work on my relaxation during Wu Ji more: I think I’d been tensing slightly in my kua area, holding myself up too much. So I’m trying to find a connected feeling there and, I think, mostly being successful at that?

This week’s lesson in Damo’s class was on another Shui Gong practice. Which I tried to do, but I’m actually not sure if I managed to go through the entire new practice a single time this week, I kept on falling asleep. Which isn’t the worst thing to have happen, admittedly! Anyways, I think I’ll keep those up, probably alternating nights between Shui Gong 1 and Shui Gong 2.

Tony looked at my form on Saturday; he actually said the upper half of my body looked pretty good, but I needed to sink more, so he told me to practice relaxing and sinking at the end of moves. And I practiced Tai Chi today over lunch, and focused on that, and wow, things really feel different for me: I feel a lot heavier, with a feeling of that heaviness going down into the ground. So if I can keep that up, I think that’ll make a big difference; and hopefully it will dovetail well with what I’m working on in my Wu Ji.

Also I think I just barely saw enough of the Lao Jia Dao form last Saturday and this Saturday to have that back in my head; I’ll add that to my weekly practice routine, so hopefully it will stay there. And, looking for videos online, I found a playlist of Chen Qingzhou videos that included a Dao form, as well as two recordings of the Jian form (one of which I’d seen but one of which was new to me), one of the spear, and one of the Guan Dao. So that’s very useful; and, watching those Jian forms, I think I might have my legs switched when walking back in a few places.

There was Sunday Tai Chi as well this week; not much to report, though I think I’ll start trying to get better at Sweeping the Hall Leg, instead of just doing the high version.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 9, 2021

Mar 09 2021

Good / interesting week. I slept pretty well most nights, so that was a very pleasant change of pace; and, related to that, I got a decent amount of practice done. My current ideal situation is 25 minutes of seated meditation in the morning, close to an hour over noon (Dantian Gong plus something else), and maybe 20 minutes at the end of the work day; I don’t normally reach the trifecta, mostly because I goof off too much at noon before starting practice but also because I’m not necessarily in the mood to do quite that much practice at the end of the day, but I’m getting closer?

I’d been feeling that my chest was a little tight, so I asked folks about that; Damo’s advice was the Lotus Dao Yin plus the first and third Dragon Dao Yins. Which is a reminder that I should learn the Dragon Dao Yins; I think I’ve also heard that they’re good for your spine, which would also be good for me? There was a recommended time in the first year of the program to learn them, but I was too busy then, so I didn’t learn them then; I’m thinking, though, that given that I’m feeling like my Dantian isn’t quite in the shape that I expect I’ll need it to be in to move onto the second year of the program, then that would be a good time to take a bit of a break from the weekly lessons to consolidate my practice, and that sounds like a good time to fit in learning the Dragons.

At any rate, I’ve gone back to doing the Lotus Dao Yins. But then something interesting happened: I was doing Song Breathing yesterday, and was thinking “I’ve been trying this pretty reliably for like a month and a half, and I’m just not feeling anything that matches the description of the exercise; maybe it’s time to dial down the frequency of this exercise, and focus more on other stuff”. And then, a few minutes later, I felt this expansion / relaxation in my chest, linked with my breathing in a way that very much did feel it wasn’t a coincidence. So yay, I guess that’s what Song Breathing is about, or at least one of the things it’s about! And it was persistent, too, my chest was still tingling in interesting ways when I was going for a walk half an hour later. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to that state in future times when I’m practicing Song Breathing, and maybe Song Breathing is actually what I needed to relax things, because my chest definitely was feeling more relaxed for a while. (But who knows, maybe the Lotus Dao Yin practice helped set up the conditions for that.)

Anyways, this week in Damo’s course was another Jing Gong lesson. I didn’t even try to practice this one: those lessons are cumulative, so I need to work on where I get the right effect from the first part before seriously moving on. Though there was one thing he said that caught my ear: before, he’d mentioned that doing Dantian Gong was useful if the Jing Gong wasn’t working, but this time he said that going straight from Dantian Gong into Jing Gong could be useful. So that seems worth trying.

The downside is that, after doing thirty or thirty-five minutes of Dantian Gong, my legs are shaking enough that I feel like my body isn’t in a super receptive state, which makes me think that probably Jing Gong is less likely to work? So that got me thinking that I should try to work in some seated Dantian Gong; I hadn’t done that before partly because I’d assumed that standing was better than seated and partly because, when I’m tired, it could be very hard to maintain concentration on that in the middle of the day, but I’ve been corrected on the former and fixed the latter. So I went back and watched one of those lessons, to get the sequence; for my future notes, it’s Neutral, Hands facing down, Hands pushing down, Hands facing down, Small circles, Big circles, Small circles, Big circles with pushing, Hands parallel facing, Neutral. (Though I’m not sure about the first Hands facing down and the last Hands parallel facing.) So what I’ll try to do is make it through the standing version twice a week (over two days each time, so four days total) and the seated version once or twice a week, and try out Jing Gong after the seated version.

The other thing that I’d been thinking is: I usually use a five-minute interval timer, but sometimes there’s an exercise where I want smaller segments. (Like the Dantian Gong above, 50 minutes is more time than I think I want to spend on that?) So, for situations like that, I’d been leaving the timer in place but trying to make each segment of my practice be two and a half minutes, counting breaths to try to split the difference. But I was thinking that counting breaths is potentially a distraction, getting my mind in the wrong place.

So one thing I was thinking was: the timer app I’m using doesn’t let me set intervals on a finer granularity than a minute, but probably 3 minutes is okay? E.g. 30 minutes for seated Dantian Gong sounds fine. So I’ve started giving that a try, and indeed it is fine, and a little relaxing. But the other thing that I’m thinking is that the problem is that my mind is in the wrong place but maybe that’s an issue of being distracted instead of an issue of counting (because counting is pretty reflexive for me anyways); so I’ve sometimes been trying to count with my mind resting on my Dantian, using the count to actually help localize the focus. And that also seems to work? I think ultimately the first approach is probably better than the counting approach; and the bigger lesson is that I should get back to fundamentals and try to relax with my mind in the right place.

Anyways, lots of stuff going on this week. And the other thing of note is that, for the first time in 2021, I went to Tai Chi in person: the local COVID case rate seems to have lowered enough that that doesn’t seem unwise. Nice to do that, nice to see people; unfortunately, I’ve basically almost entirely missed the Lao Jia Dao, which is too bad because I was hoping to get that back in my memory, but the good news is that the only parts of the Xinjia First Form that I missed are parts I know pretty well and was already practicing, so that was good. I did see the Dao form a few times on Saturday, and I think they’ll do another review week next Saturday, so maybe I’ll be able to pick that up? Seems optimistic, though.

It does mean that it’ll be a little harder for me to figure out when exactly to work in my Nei Gong practice on Saturdays, but I should be able to figure something out; certainly the benefits of doing Tai Chi in person will make the tradeoff worth it.

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Nei Gong Notes, March 2, 2021

Mar 02 2021

This week started off rough: bad sleep, and then there was an issue at our HOA that I had to deal with because I’m a board member this year that kept me worrying for a couple of days, which didn’t help at all. But on Friday night, my sleep was as good as it had been for a while, and it’s continued to be good enough every night since then, so that’s nice: I’ve been able to do some Dantian Gong each day for the last four days, which is good because I want to up my practice there.

Speaking of sleep, this week’s lesson from Damo was Shui Gong, which is about an exercise to do before going to sleep. So I’ve been trying that out; on the one hand, my sleep has been going well, but on the other hand, I don’t get much of a feeling from the exercise itself? So I’m thinking that, for now, any effects are just coincidental, though I do think that I’ll keep it up even after this week. (And a week from now I think the lesson will be a second part of that; apparently there are 5 parts, though we don’t get to the other parts until year 2 of the program.)

One other thing I’ve noticed is that my chest feels tighter than other parts of my body. So I’m thinking I should try to regularly work in the heart exercises. As a reminder to myself for that, the sequence is: 1) static hands; 2) hands moving out; 3) hands moving like bicycle; 4) lotus mudra.

Not much else particularly to report. I’m moving to a different project at work which means that I have fewer long meetings every week, so it will be harder to find two meetings during the week where it’s reasonable for me to do silk reeling during them. But the local COVID rate has fallen significantly recently, so I think I’m going to start going to Saturday Tai Chi, which should make up for that.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 23, 2021

Feb 23 2021

Super sleepy this week, which is disappointing; maybe pollen allergies? I ended up having to take naps sometimes during the day; if I didn’t, my Nei Gong didn’t go well.

Though, on days when I did take a nap, my Nei Gong at least did okay after that? Not making any particular breakthroughs or anything, but I feel like I’m doing a good job of having a feeling go down the bones of my legs which I think is a good thing, probably what they’re talking about in terms of feeling weight sink through my body. I’m not 100% sure yet it’s really sinking down to my feet, but it’s sinking further? Though, actually, maybe the feeling that it’s going through bones should make me nervous, I’m not sure I’m getting getting enough of the feeling of flesh sinking off of my bones.

When I was doing Tai Chi over the weekend, I was also feeling a little more connection across my arms; I’m going to try to lean into that a bit and see if it takes me anywhere interesting.

The lesson this week in Damo’s course was a further refinement of the one from last week; so I didn’t spend much time on it, because I’m still not ready for the one from last week. I did at least manage to go through Dantian Gong twice this week instead of once, hopefully I can keep that up.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 16, 2021

Feb 16 2021

Back to being more tired than I’d like; not horrible, but still, it’s getting old, I would have liked it if the allergy tweak had worked. Still, I got a decent amount done while practicing this week.

This week’s lesson in Damo’s class was about a technique for consolidating qi that’s in your Dantian. I practiced it every day like I always do with new techniques, and only felt something nontrivial on one day, and even that day I didn’t feel all that much. So I think I’m not ready for that one; which is actually something that Damo says is entirely likely at that stage. And, if you’re in that situation, that means that you should focus on Dantian Gong.

Which I’ve been going through once a week (over two days), and feeling something while doing that, so I feel like I’m making progress when I do that? But clearly I should do it more. Which, fortunately, dovetails with the thought that I’d had that I should try to work in an extra bit of practice over lunch; I’d been thinking that that would mean that I’d do my standard half-hour whatever I was working on plus some Dao Yin or something, but now I’m thinking that that means that I should do Dantian Gong basically every day, and move my Ji Ben practice to the second half. (Which still leaves me with other days when I can do Dao Yins, fortunately.) So I’ve started to give that a try; hopefully I’ll be able to make it through the Dantian Gong twice a week, and maybe I’ll even manage three times a week, we’ll see.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 9, 2021

Feb 09 2021

Good week; tweaking my allergy treatment regimen seems to have helped, so I definitely slept better than other weeks. Lots of days with solid practice; the weekend was a little off, my Wu Ji didn’t feel right on Saturday so I bailed after 30 minutes, and partly because of that, I only did a light practice on Sunday, but in general practice went well, and I’m managing to do a little more practice on weekdays. I want to bump things up there still more — I’m doing seated meditation in the morning, something that takes maybe 30 minutes over lunch, and maybe 15-20 minutes of standing work at the end of the afternoon, and I want to try to regularly add in another 15-20 minute segment to the lunch part, so I can work more stuff (random Dao Yins and what not) into the once-a-week routine, but still, it’s enough for me to do the core exercises I’m doing (Dantian Gong, Ji Ben Qi Gong, some longer Wu Ji sessions) plus whatever the new thing is plus the occasional other exercise, which is good.

For the seated meditation part, I’m alternating between Calm Abiding, Anchoring the Breath, and Song Breathing; still not really feeling like I’m getting the predicted effects of Song Breathing, but I think Anchoring the Breath is helping me breathe more deeply, at least? And I’m actually feeling like I’m sometimes starting to slip into reverse breathing while doing these exercises, which is probably progress.

Also, while my Wu Ji didn’t feel right on Saturday, on Sunday I tried standing a little higher, and I felt a much stronger connection with my legs while doing that, with lines going down them. And I’ve been able to repeat that the last couple of days, too: start a little higher, feel what seems like a productive sense of connection, and then end up sitting back and down a little more while maintaining a good feeling. So hopefully that’s a sign of moving in the right direction.

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was on the Lotus Dao Yin, continuing the theme of freeing up the heart center. I didn’t feel nearly as strong a connection while doing this one as I did during the previous week’s seated exercise, so I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to keep it in my practice routine for the time being.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 1, 2021

Feb 02 2021

This week’s lesson from Damo was some exercises to get more room around your heart center. Interesting enough because it really was just moving your hands around in front of your chest and/or holding your hands stable in certain configurations in front of your chest; I wouldn’t have thought before doing Tai Chi that that would lead to me feeling much of anything, but it really does. Not a super intense feeling or anything, but still: absolutely noticeable.

Part of me feels like I’ve been feeling things a little less intently inside recently. But, actually, I’m not sure that’s at all true: e.g. when going through the Ji Ben Qi Gong, Flying Dragon feels pretty intense, which I’m pretty sure is relatively new. So hopefully I’m making progress?

Anyways, pretty good week. My back started to ache a bit in midweek, which was honestly kind of weird: I hadn’t been doing as much Coiling the Snake the last few days, but I’d kept up with my Tai Chi, and even after I did both of those, it still wasn’t feeling great the next day? Never horrible, though, and it faded over the next few days. Hopefully I’m not getting sensitive to weather changes; I’ll deal with it if I am, though.

I did 45 minutes of Wu Ji on Saturday, and honestly I thought I was at more like the 30 minute or maybe 35 minute mark when the timer went off for 45. So that was nice. Probably still means that I’m still sitting a little high, though I do notice that I’m settling to a lower position as I get into more of a sitting position instead of squatting. And I also was feeling fairly soon after the beginning like there were lines of connection going down the top of my legs; I suspect that’s a good sign.

On Sunday I gave up after 25 minutes; I chalk that up to not having gotten quite enough sleep the previous night, and while I thought it was okay when I started practice, it became clear pretty quickly that I was sleepier than I’d thought and would have done better getting back to sleep and trying to practice later. Ah well, live and learn; in general, though, the week has been fine for sleep, hopefully a change in my allergy routine has helped.

Good to get back to Calm Abiding as a meditation practice; I’d missed that, and I’m feeling out of shape with it. For now I’m trying to do a three day rotation, Calm Abiding / Anchoring the Breath / Song Breathing, but I might actually switch to four days, with Calm Abiding every other day?

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