Nei Gong Notes, December 12, 2024

Dec 12 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nei Gong Notes, December 5, 2023

Dec 05 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nei Gong Notes, November 28, 2023

Nov 28 2023

Not a lot to report in terms of Nei Gong this week; the only unusual thing that I noticed was that once, when doing the Kidney Hui Chun, I had an interesting feeling of expansiveness in my upper arms / shoulders during the part where your arms are lifted. I’ve been feeling open shoulders for a while, but this is different from that, it stretched across my body more broadly.

I’ll try to do Ping Heng Gong this week; at least I’ll watch the video and take notes, but hopefully I’ll find some time to go to a park as well, we’ll see. I did get a good park suggestion from one of my Tai Chi classmates, at least.

In terms of Damo’s Tai Chi, this week’s lesson was on the standing version of Ward Off Left. Which was pretty interesting; more moving and adjusting in my body than I expected. I think I won’t do a new lesson this week, Ping Heng Gong can be my lesson for the week; I might start alternating the two courses, I’m not sure. The down side with alternating is that there are a few seated exercises coming up in the Nei Gong course, and I really do want to be doing MCO prep and Hui Chuns regularly. Having said that, though, spending an occasional week doing something different probably wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world? We’ll see.

As to Chen Tai Chi, my teacher went over my form on Saturday. There were some small things I got wrong in the initial Jing Gang and in Grab and Tuck Robe; and I’d been wanting to spiral with my left arm in Ground-Hacking Dragon, but I was thinking that that was probably a Xin Jia thing, and indeed, in Lao Jia, your arm mostly stays straight. But not entirely: it spirals a bit at the end, with the movement coming out of your body.

In general my teacher thought my form looked solid; he did say that I was breaking my Live Gate sometimes, so I should continue to work on that, and he also said my eyes should be looking out more. And I asked him about moving energy around; his recommendation there was that I should pay more attention to my Dantian and how force comes out of it.

I’m continuing to feel that my Kua is doing much better. (So my shoulders and Kua are both improving!) Ever since I started turning into it more when shifting my weight, I’m feeling more stable and also I’m getting a much better feel for what it means to have my weight stably on one leg, and that’s also translating into my Kua feeling more open. Still probably not as open as my shoulders, but it’s definitely progress.

I realized that I’d skipped working on the staff for several weeks; I should get that in shape. Fortunately, the next Sunday class isn’t until December 10, so I’ve got time; I spent some time on it this past Sunday and I did a decent job of reviewing what I’d learned before and trying to learn the next two moves (I missed the November class because of Rick’s workshop), so I should be fine.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 21, 2023

Nov 21 2023

Not a ton to report this time. Nei Gong wise, I spent the week working on the Awakening Dragon; the main thing that I noticed beyond what I’d noticed in the workshop was how much horizontal circular twisting there is in the form. It really is a neat set of movements; and my torso (especially my lower spine) does start to warm up noticeably while doing that.

Also, I wasn’t feeling great for a day or two, and on those days, I did a really minimal amount of Nei Gong, literally only a minute or so of Wu Ji. But I was surprised to find that, even with that amount of practice, I feel Qi being present and active in my body. Not sure how much that’s a sign of my body getting better internally, how much is me being more sensitive, and how much is aftereffects from the workshop; we’ll see if it sticks around or not.

I didn’t practice Tai Chi much this last week; I should get back to that this week. I led silk reeling on Saturday; it went fine, we’ll see what my teacher says when reviewing my form this weekend. And we started doing the Tai Chi straight ruler (we’d done the angled ruler in previous weeks); not super interesting yet, but maybe it will get more interesting or maybe there’s something more subtle going on internally that he’ll talk about this week, we’ll see.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 14, 2023

Nov 14 2023

The big event this week was a three-day workshop that Rick gave. Up in Arcata, so I got to drive a little over five hours each way; that was fine, I’ll probably drive again instead of flying if he keeps on doing that, but next time I’ll arrange my schedule so I can drive up during the day, I think.

The main topic of the workshop was the first of the Dragons. My first time learning one of those in person; it seemed like I’d actually done a decent job getting the basics down from the videos, but there were definitely some details that I was getting wrong. And also I should stretch a little more forcefully, and I should (sometimes) think a bit about what the stretching is leading me to do, that’ll help me appreciate how it fits together.

Other than that, my diaphragm is probably a little higher than I’d been treating it as being. And I should spend more time paying attention to my liquid center of mass and, once I’ve got it in the right place, leaving my attention there (at least for exercises where that’s a natural thing to do); as the workshop progressed, I had some pretty good effects doing that.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 7, 2023

Nov 07 2023

It’s been ages since I’ve done a long standing session; I don’t think I’ve done Wu Ji for more than 30 minutes at a time since we got Velvet, certainly not since I broke my hand. And since I’ve got a workshop with Rick coming up, I’d been thinking I should figure out how worried I should be about that. Also, it had been ages since I’d done the regular Dantian Gong; I’d done the advanced version every so often, but not the regular version. So I decided to try to do a full standing Dantian Gong set; that takes a little over an hour, and while I don’t find it quite as strenuous on my legs as Wu Ji (maybe because I’m doing it wrong, but also in Wu Ji your hands are helping you sink), still, it is an hour of standing with your legs in a potentially uncomfortable position.

I did that on Wednesday; somewhat to my surprise, it was totally fine! I mean, I wasn’t super comfortable by the end, but also I wasn’t totally gritting my teeth and hanging on for dear life either. So hopefully I’m in good enough shape for the workshop? I also did a ten minute Pushing the Tides session today, to work on that form of pain; though Rick actually likes slightly different arm / shoulder stretches, probably I should have done some of his instead? Anyways, that went fine too.

In general I will say that I’m feeling a lot more space in my shoulders than I was a year ago. Also I was noticing at some point this week that I was feeling the effects of standing with pressure in my Yong Quan more broadly than I had been: e.g. I was feeling it some on the sides of my rib cage, even though that’s pretty far from my spine, which had been how it was making it up my torso.

Sadly, something came up at work, so this weekend was pretty busy; in particular, I didn’t do as much Tai Chi practice this week as I would have liked. Though at Saturday Tai Chi class, I tried out one of the push hands exercises from Damo’s class, where you pressdown on your parter’s arms, trying to feel their feet, and then bounce them to the side. Didn’t work at all at the start, but eventually we figured out how to get it to start working a bit. So that was interesting; don’t know if we’ll make a habit of it or not.

The lesson this week in Damo’s Tai Chi class was on Single Whip; a little more different from the Chen version than I expected. I’m not super confident that I’m remembering it correctly, so I’ll review it again tonight instead of moving on to a new lesson.

Looking forward to the workshop; it’s this Friday through Sunday. In Arcata, I can’t say that I’m thrilled about the drive but I don’t blame Rick for not wanting to make the drive in the other direction! And even when it’s local it’s not super local, so the good news is that I won’t have to wake up early on Saturday and Sunday to make it there.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 31, 2023

Oct 31 2023

Still more tired than I would like, my sleep’s a little interrupted, but practice is going okay despite that? I’ve started getting back to stretching before Nei Gong on my days off; I saw a note in the IAA Discord that made me think I should do planks, too, so I’ve done that once or twice but I should do that more. And I went through the Ji Bens for the first time in ages; nothing huge to report there but I was glad I did that.

I mentioned last week that my right leg was feeling super tight; still not sure what caused that, but I’ve been decently diligent about touching my toes regularly to stretch my leg and back, and it’s definitely helped, it’s almost back to normal now. And I feel like I’ve also made progress in my range of motion while doing that, so hopefully I can maintain that as my new normal and improve further.

And, tiredness aside, I’ve actually been feeling energetic in other ways? Like, yesterday I didn’t get enough sleep but I took a nap in the morning, and I felt actively good in the afternoon, with my body feeling active inside but also with me just feeling more energized. So hopefully I can get the sleep problems tamed a bit and, if I do that, maybe I’ll find myself having made progress in other ways?

In terms of Tai Chi, in a couple of videos Damo’s mentioned sinking still more into your Kua before taking a step; it really does work to generate a feeling of release in the other foot coupled with stability on the leg that you’re sinking into. I’ve always had trouble with the step forward in Jing Gang, but doing this sink seems to help with that; I want to experiment more with that this week but I’m optimistic.

I wrote up some notes about the Silk Reeling course I taught earlier this year on my main blog.

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Nei Gong Notes: October 24, 2023

Oct 24 2023

Not the most productive week for Nei Gong. I had to work on Wednesday, so I didn’t do a long Nei Gong practice then, though I did do longer than normal Nei Gong practice last Monday to partly make up for that. And I was tired an unusual amount, so in general my practice wasn’t going great; e.g. I’m not sure I even did a 40 minute Hui Chun this week? Fortunately I think the tiredness is starting to get under control: I think it was primarily caused by sleep and the sleep problems were caused by me eating too much, so I’ve been eating less the last few evenings and sleeping better. We’ll see how this week goes.

In Damo’s Tai Chi class I did the lesson on Ward off Left; not a ton to report there. Though it was making me think that I should get back to Wu Song Shen Fa 3; I did that once or twice this week for the first time in several weeks, I should try to mix that in.

In terms of Chen Tai Chi, I’m continuing to notice that I’m doing a better job of having my pelvis rotate after I sink into my Kua, which is making me quite a bit more stable; and I think it’s also helping me adjust my back so my Live Gate is more full? And even though I was tired I did still manage to review all of the forms there that I know except for the Lao Jia Erlu; I should start working that in this week, my hand has recovered enough that it’s fine. And I think I’m liking the angled ruler a little more, though it’s still not my favorite thing; I’m just not that into Qinna…

I listened to an interview with Nabil Ranne on the Drunken Boxing podcast that was saying similar things about Chenjiagou Chen Tai Chi that Damo says (e.g. Fa Li / Fa Jin confusion); makes me wonder if Beijing-style Chen Tai Chi has an approach to Jin that would match my interests more? I’ll try to ask my teacher about Fa Li versus Fa Jin at some point.

I finished reading Chen Taijiquan Illustrated; I quite like the visual presentation, and the concepts seem good (and I appreciate how it focuses on principles instead of teaching a form). Though the flip side is that I also didn’t see specific ideas in there that made me think that I should spend the next few weeks with those ideas in mind.

My right leg was feeling funny the last couple of days, in a way that made me wonder if my back was being problematic again. I hope not, and that instead I strained a leg muscle; today I’ve been using that as an excuse to stretch my hamstrings quite a bit more often than I normally do, and fortunately that seems to help. And that stretch is a good thing for me to do even if it’s not related to this, so I’ll try to keep that up this week; I might want to take some anti-inflammatories too, though. I can’t think offhand of anything in particular that I’ve been doing that should actively be causing problems with my back, but maybe I’ve been missing something? Or maybe it’s just me being tired and slouching too much.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 17, 2023

Oct 17 2023

Pretty reasonable week, I think? I took Wednesday easy because of the COVID vaccine, but honestly I was basically fine that day. This was the week that I started only doing acupuncture every other week, so no acupuncture on Friday; did decent Nei Gong and Tai Chi sessions, nothing special but fine. Also on the Tai Chi note I did the Guan Dao on Sunday for the first time since I broke my hand; didn’t feel completely wonderful, I’m glad I held off until now, but I think it’s safe to restart? Good timing, too, I mostly remembered what to do but there were some bits where I wasn’t sure.

In Damo’s Tai Chi course I got up to the lesson where he introduces Push Hands in the regular (non-push-hands) videos; the two hands sequence is different from what I’m used to, and I don’t think I’m going to try to teach that to my partner, but the one hand is what I’m used to. Nothing too surprising there, but it basically confirmed my feeling about what I was thinking was the right way to approach that: do a Peng and then turn, and maybe try to sink the force to your feet while doing the Peng. (I think I’ve watched this video before, which is probably why I was thinking that!)

And in the push hands part of the videos, he had a “flesh separation” standing practice where you sink your bones while leaving the flesh up (instead of the reverse), either standing statically or moving up and down. Interesting exercise, it’s kind of intense; I don’t know that I’ll do it a ton but I should probably keep on doing it sometimes.

Good Wu Ji today, I felt like my structure was working well and my sinking was working decently too.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 10, 2023

Oct 10 2023

I went through the opening lesson from the 37 form in Damo’s Tai Chi course. Pretty interesting, a surprising amount of stuff moving through my body; I guess the preparatory exercises have had some effect in terms of preparing me!

On Wednesday, I went through the Spinal Dao Yin again; and, partway through, the feeling there changed. The stretching and relaxation in that exercise felt like it was affecting a much wider area of my back than normal, instead of being strictly localized in my spine. And also the stretch went farther up and down my back than normal.

At the end of acupuncture on Friday, my doctor was very surprised at how strong my Qi levels were. He said that this meant that my channels were opened well; I think that must be related to what I was noticing on Wednesday. Also, starting after last Friday I’ll only go every other week for a while, so I’ll skip acupuncture this week.

On Saturday Tai Chi we did some Angled Bang exercises; basically it turns out to be a way to practice performing / dealing with Qin Na on yourself. Not the most interesting thing to me, I don’t know that I’ll stick with that? Hopefully I’ll like some of the Straight Ruler / Bang exercises better.

Sunday Tai Chi this week; pretty good, I’m keeping up with the staff and noticed a few things in the Xin Jia Yi Lu. I’ve decided to start keeping a directory with notes about particular subtle points of specific moves in the different forms; I’ve been writing those down here, but this isn’t a great location for me to come back and remind myself once more than a few weeks have passed.

I got my COVID vaccine yesterday and am pretty achy today; so probably I won’t do a ton of Nei Gong tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be back to normal on Friday.

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