Nei Gong Notes, May 5, 2020

May 05 2020

Not much to say this week. This week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course was on Wu Ji; so not a new concept, and in fact something that I’d already been going over because of the supplementary material, but an important one. One thing I was wondering about there was whether I should have my knees quite so wide: I’d been thinking they should be a little wide, but it sounded like maybe my legs should be going straighter from my hips?

Still working on my breathing, and I’m still feeling it’s not as locked in as it sometimes felt the first half-week I was working on that lesson. My breathing is going fairly far down, but it seems like it wants to be at or just above my navel instead of a little below that? Eventually it usually gets there, but it takes a while. Though something interesting happened today: it got to a reasonable location, then I was just kind of sitting there, then all of a sudden it felt like my consciousness was expanding and my breathing slowed way down. Observing more, my consciousness wasn’t necessarily expanding: it was rising, but not out of me, more rising from my Dantian to my head. So it actually ended up where it normally lives; it did feel broader than normal, though. And the slowed breathing was definitely unusual.

I actually didn’t do any Tai Chi all week: normally I’m managing to do some on Sunday, but for various reasons it didn’t quite work out this past weekend. I’m okay doing it a little less, but I’m not okay not doing it at all; and I’m actually vaguely wondering if the reason why I’m not feeling as much interesting stuff during Wu Ji might be linked to me not doing as much Tai Chi? So I’m thinking that, on evenings when Liesl walks Widget instead of me, I should do some Tai Chi then; also, I’m close to being done with one of the things I’ve been spending time on during the weekends, so towards the end of the month I should have a little more time.

As far as Wu Ji goes, I’m still mostly doing 25 minutes, though I did 30 minutes on Saturday without a problem and would have been fine doing 30 minutes on Sunday as well if I hadn’t been busy. Some days I’m too sleepy to be up for 30 minutes or even 25 minutes, and also 25 minutes works a little better with my sleep schedule, so for now I’m mostly sticking with 25. One thing I have noticed is that I seem to be getting better at stretching my spine in what I think is the right way during Wu Ji, and that’s actually carrying over to other aspects of my life: sometimes when I’m just out for a walk I’ll notice that my spine feels solid, and even energized. So that’s nice, that my spine is going from being actively problematic to potentially actively healthy.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 28, 2020

Apr 28 2020

This week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course was on a seated Dao Yin exercise; fine, but I’m not feeling anything super interesting while doing it.

I chipped away some more at the stuff in the library on Wu Ji, making it up to my pelvis. And that was interesting; I tried relaxing my pelvis and it actually does sink more than it had been in the past. And sometimes I feel a little tingling around there while doing that. Still feels like there’s more work to be done in terms of sinking, and hopefully eventually things will start feeling differently supported in my abdomen?

Or maybe it’s tilting enough; eventually once it’s tilted enough you’re supposed to be able to sink your tailbone in a way that kind of locks your stance into place. And today, when relaxing and sinking my pelvis, I could feel a tug down my spine all the way down to the back of my neck. So it feels like it really is helping open up my spine, which is at least something.

(Though, on the note of feelings in Wu Ji, it’s actually been a while since I’ve felt the same sort of pleasant fluid tingling sensations that I had been feeling in the winter. I kind of miss that, but I’m not worrying about it for now, I’ve got enough other stuff to focus on now.)

 

When doing breathing practice, I found that I was able to observe more and controlling less, so I rewatched the abdominal breathing video. The five stages are: 1) quiet, 2) deep, 3) at ease, 4) slow, and 5) soft. So I’m doing better at quiet, and actually deep is going pretty well, too. In fact, I was making it pretty quickly / reliably to feeling like my breath is locked into my Dantian, so yay, I guess I’d been making progress on sinking my Qi to there and this is related to that? Still a little bit of consolidation work to do there, though, and then I’m waiting until slow starts showing up, I’ve only gotten one slightly twinge of that, mostly it doesn’t appear at all.

 

Did a bit of Tai Chi this weekend. One thing that I noticed while doing the form was that I felt noticeably more solid and rooted than I had been; maybe I’ve made an improvement in my posture that’s having an effect there?

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Nei Gong Notes, April 21, 2020

Apr 21 2020

My Tai Chi teacher has started doing online courses. I ended up not doing the Saturday course this weekend: it’s spending a fair amount of time on Silk Reeling and Qi Gong, and I’m doing Silk Reeling pretty regularly during work meetings and the Qi Gong overlaps a lot with the Nei Gong work that I’m doing. And it’s spending some time on a form I don’t know and don’t want to start learning now, and I don’t have a great location to go through the first form while on video. But we also had the Sunday class; the second form fits a little better into my study, and the Xinjia section is important to me, I definitely want to get better at both of those forms. But I skipped out on the weapon part, doing some stretches and meditation during that.

For the second form: I noticed my knee was a little further inside than I’d like on some moves, in particular during the waist-intercepting strike. In the second-to-last move, where you strike back with your left hand, when you’re moving right before then, your back (left) leg should cross behind your right leg. And in the large forearm strike, you should turn in the middle (or maybe even starting at the beginning) of the second full pair, so you’re ready for the other direction when that’s done.

In Xinjia: in the move after the Jing Gang after the oblique postures and punch, where you move your right arm back, you should also turn your torso: that way your right arm doesn’t end up breaking your energy.

I also practiced the first form a couple of times and the Jian a couple of times. And I got some tips for Jian videos, but I haven’t watched them yet.

 

As for Nei Gong, the second week of the course was on abdominal breathing. Which had a five-step development process, none of which involved trying to breathe abdominally, it’s supposed to happen as a result! Basically, you start by watching your breath but not focusing hard on it or trying to guide it; then it should naturally get deeper, then longer, then it should feel “softer”, which is some sort of change in feeling in how things move inside. Except that’s only four steps, so I should clearly rewatch the video at some point; not worrying so much right now, though, because just observing is really hard: I constantly feel like I’m waiting longer than is natural to breathe!

Though, when I do sit and breathe for a while, I feel like my breathing actually does go farther down in my abdomen than I was expecting. So hopefully I’m actually making progress on the deeper part? And it’s even possible I’m making progress on the softer part, for a while I’ve felt a sensation in the bottom of my torso when breathing that isn’t clearly part of my lungs moving in and out; who knows…

Since there was only one video, that gave me some time to poke at other parts of the library, so I did that, following a recommendation on other videos to watch in parallel with different weeks of the course. For the first couple of months, the recommended pairing is a series of “foundations” videos; I think these are the videos Damo had on Vimeo earlier? They’re about Wu Ji and Ji Ben Qi Gong; I’m actually kind of surprised to see them there, I would have expected them in the main course. (Especially Wu Ji, given how much time the in-person courses spend on that.) Maybe they’ll show up in the main course, just a little more briefly? So far I’ve gone through the a little bit of the Wu Ji section; it was informative.

My Wu Ji wasn’t actually going great for the first half of this week: I’d been hoping to get it to 25 minutes, but I wasn’t always even making 20 minutes, I was feeling a little sleepy. Then I thought that maybe I should try finding a timer that has interval alerts: I might find it easier to keep on plugging on if I had an idea of when 5-minute intervals are happening. (At the very least, I could try to stay to the next interval.)

So I got a meditation timer app, and it actually helped a lot: I made it to 25 minutes today, and I don’t think I would have made it past around 15 without that. Some issues around the haptics, which I think are probably Apple Watch limitations, but still, I like it. And if I’m remembering correctly I did 25 minutes on both Sunday and Monday (and on Sunday that was before I was experimenting with these apps, I was just feeling more awake, I was actually surprised when it ended), so hopefully I’ll be able to solidify that and move on to 30 minutes.

My torso’s also been sometimes feeling floaty when I’m doing Wu Ji, presumably that’s a sign that I’m doing better at my posture in my torso and/or relaxing more? Still having problems in my legs, though. Sunday in general felt like there was a lot of stuff going on in my body, nice to feel like I’m making active progress.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 14, 2020

Apr 14 2020

I’m switching the title of these posts to “Nei Gong Notes”: for a while I’ve been doing Tai Chi and Nei Gong, and while my time had been more heavily weighted towards the former, with COVID it’s now more heavily weighted towards the latter. And I think that, with the launch of the Internal Arts Academy, I’ll be spending more time than I had been on Nei Gong stuff than I had been; maybe not more than on Tai Chi, but at the least it’ll be more balanced. Also, in some sense Tai Chi is a subset of Nei Gong: Nei Gong basically means “internal work”, and hence includes internal martial arts.

Anyways, as to the Tai Chi portion of this: I actually did go through the form three times this Sunday and I went through most of the Jian form as well. And I did okay on the latter, though I couldn’t remember the last few moves we’d learned; glad I got back to the practice. And today I went through the first form three times, the second form once, and the Jian form a few times, and I remembered one or two more moves in the latter. Still need to get back to the Xinjia first form.

Also, I’m thinking I’m not getting as much new from doing Dantian Rotations, so I’m dialing that down to once a day (with 25 repetitions) instead of twice.

I’ve finished the first week of the Internal Arts Academy syllabus. The first video had us doing seated meditation; the one he led off with is one he calls “starving the mind”, where you basically try not to think. Which is different from the Song Breathing that I’ve normally been doing during my meditation time. So I’ve been trying that; seems fine, I don’t yet feel that I’m getting anything extra from that. I have been using that as an excuse to try thinking less during Wu Ji, though.

And the second video was on stretches. The main thing about all of these stretches is to put your consciousness on the body part where you’re stretching; that makes the stretch more effective, and helps open up space around there. For my future reference, the list of stretches:

  • Shoulder rotations; only rotate backward, not forward, we all slump too much as it is.
  • Scapula rotations; from the outside, it looks a lot like shoulder rotations, but try to move your shoulder blades instead.
  • Yao rotations: this is the area of your torso between the bottom of your rib cage and your hips. Try to feel an active stretch on the outside as you rotate around.
  • Yao rotations from the Dantian. A similar-looking movement, but this time you’re supposed to be moving from your Dantian, and that’s where you focus your attention instead of the outside stretch.
  • Bend at your hips, feeling a stretch on your lower back and butt. When you’re come up, make space inside your torso to help your rise. Keep your legs locked on this one.
  • Neck rotations: turn your head right and left.
  • Sit cross-legged, and turn your torso right and left, feeling the stretch (I think) in your Yao again.
  • Sit cross-legged, and turn your torso right and left but move from your Dantian.
  • Sit in a half-lotus position, lean forward, and rock your torso from one knee to the other. Switch which foot is on top and repeat. (I should probably rewatch the video on this one to understand where I’m supposed to be feeling the stretch, and whether I’m supposed to come up between legs; I think your butt and no, but I’m not sure.
  • Sit with the soles of your feet together and bend down at the hips, and rise up by opening inside your torso.
  • Sit with crossed legs and breathe in, stretching your lungs and your whole body.

Outside of the course, I did 20 minutes of Wu Ji a few times, and 25 minutes today, hopefully I’ll be up to 30 minutes in a week on so? And I’ll probably stay there for a while. Today was interesting, at one point I felt kind of like there was a sheathe surrounding my going from my hips to my lower back. Never felt that before, and given that so far the interesting stuff that I’ve felt has usually stopped at my tailbone, it’s nice to feel something going up further.

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VGHVI Minecraft, March 26, 2020

Apr 11 2020

Pictures from the March Minecraft session:

 

There was one cave that I’d noticed last time that I was thinking I’d build in, so I traveled back to the mountain, in hopes that I could find it again.

Some random island (?) that I took a picture of; not sure whether the lighting inside is natural or from something that some player added…

That wall of trees really is kind of dominant when you’re traveling past it…

There’s the cave!

It was closer to the mountain than I realized; certainly made it easy to find…

The neat thing about the cave is these stairs in the back: that’s all procedurally generated, they’re amazingly regular given that.

Now the stairs are actually reaching down to the floor.

Here’s the view all the way to the top, I had to regularize things at the top too.

I puttered around a little in the middle, but not much; I have to spend more time on the inside, on the entrance, and put a path or something connecting this to the mountain.

 

Next, Dan: it combines his new focus on trees with his old focus on straight lines.

Heading at night to the area where Dan was working.

A lot more trees in that water area, and a tall pillar on the right.

You can see the orange pyramid he built a few months back peeking out from underneath the trees.

Here’s the view from the side, so you can see the spaces better.

The view towards the pillar; not sure which ones were generated and which ones were added.

Here’s a full view of the pillar.

A view of the trees on top.

 

And Ariel had been adding to their castle, building a greenhouse on top of one side.

Ariel standing on the castle roof.

The view inside the greenhouse.

The lower level of the castle.

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Tai Chi Notes, April 8, 2020

Apr 08 2020

I’m getting back into practice. Not so much Tai Chi: I was going to go through a few forms this weekend, then I noticed it was going to rain soon so I headed outside, then halfway through my first time through the form it started to rain pretty hard. But hey, once is better than none. And actually I’ve been managing to go through the smaller Silk Reeling set most workdays: if there’s a meeting that I don’t need to spend much time talking in, then I do that while listening.

And I’m getting back into Wu Ji: still need to build up my stamina (more mental stamina than physical stamina), but I’m usually managing 15 minutes without too much trouble now, hopefully I’ll manage 20 minutes tomorrow. And hopefully I’ll push beyond that; I’m hoping that I can use this enforced time at home as a reason to get closer to 30 minutes a day. Still haven’t done any Ji Ben Qi Gong or Animal Frolics since my recent break, though.

I had an interesting time doing seated meditation on Sunday; my start-of-the day sitting got cut off at 10 minutes or so, so I did another 15 minutes later, and that 15 minutes was surprisingly intense (in a sinky way, if I remember correctly), much more so than 15 minutes of meditation normally is. Heck, it was probably more intense than 25 minutes of meditation normally is. Not sure if it was just random or if two short sessions is somehow more effective than one longer one?

Damo launched his Internal Arts Academy. I’ve signed up for that, and I’m going to put in regular time; probably not as good as having regular in-person lessons (or at least regular in-person lessons with a good teacher), but I’m sure I’ll get a lot out of it. Means I’ll be spending more time in my evenings on Nei Gong stuff (and probably blogging less), but I think that’s the right choice for me now.

Interesting lecture on perception from a Vipassana point of view. It talks about how, at some point, you start directly perceiving all sorts of things as vibrating; I wonder if that’s related to the Chinese point of view that Jing, Qi, and Shen are all vibrations (at different frequencies)?

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Tai Chi Notes, April 1, 2020

Apr 01 2020

Damo posted another video about The Internal Arts Academy; should be launching tomorrow, I’m curious what that’ll be like.

One pleasant thing that I’ve been noticing is that, when walking around, sometimes my spine is feeling particularly well stacked and stable these days. So yay, that’s good, hopefully it is getting in better shape. Or at least was before I’ve been working from home; I can feel things start to fall apart a bit, too.

But fortunately I’m not really feeling like I have a cold any more. So I started doing a tiny bit of Wu Ji yesterday, I’ll try to get that back into shape, and I’m shifting my sitting meditation from something more external to something more internal. And today during a meeting I went through a bunch of Silk Reeling movements. Hopefully if I can keep that up then my body will start being happy again. And it’s not awful now, it just could be better, and I want to make sure I maintain and build upon the spine improvements I feel like I was making before the stay at home order.

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Tai Chi Notes, March 24, 2020

Mar 24 2020

Not much to say this week: no class, and I’m still feeling like I have a low-grade cold so I’m restricting what I’m doing. Trying to stretch and walk around a little more, because my back was starting to give ever the slightest twinge; presumably I can do that in meetings, since they’re not in conference rooms these days, and since they usually don’t require me to be staring at my screen. In general, though, I’m still feeling like my spine is potentially a little freer in interesting ways; hopefully I’ll be able to hold onto that feeling until I get better and start practicing again.

Damo posted a video about Building Immunity in Qi Gong; unsurprisingly, he leads off by saying that Qi Gong just isn’t going to do magic for you in the short term (he says that yes, it helps, but it helps because you’ve been doing it!), and then goes into his usual theoretical analysis. There is one exercise he gives about two thirds of the way through that I might try working into things, though.

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Tai Chi Notes, March 18, 2020

Mar 18 2020

We actually had Tai Chi class on Saturday; not as many people, and I kept my distance more than normal, but it happened. But even then the Tuesday class had already been cancelled, and now we have a shelter in place order from the government, so no classes for the indefinite future. My teacher is putting up a series of videos of health-related exercises, I should give that a look.

What I was supposed to be doing on Saturday through Monday was going to a local Lotus Neigong course on the Ji Ben Qi Gong. But it got cancelled, as did Damo’s upcoming course in April. Joyce and Rick (the local teachers) ran a two-hour class over Zoom on Sunday morning, though, which was very nice of them. And pretty brutal; I feel like I did in part of it manage to relax in ways that helped increase the stretch of some of the exercises and reduce the pain? And something Rick said made me think that I have more work to do around relaxing in my Kua.

Also, right at the beginning Joyce said something that was related to my worries last week that Neigong practice might be not the best idea when I have a cold. She said that it’s potentially dangerous when you’re sick: internal work has the potential to move bad stuff further inside your body. So you want to stick with surface level stuff, or on exercises that are about expelling stuff (Dao Yins, I guess).

And I am feeling a bit off again; so, for now, no Wu Ji. And even when I do a little bit of Silk Reeling to stay active during the work day, I can feel stuff inside that I’m not completely comfortable with; on the balance, I think it’s still probably a good idea, but I’m not completely sure? (Hmm, maybe I should just do basic stretches instead.) I’m still doing a little bit of meditation, but I’m using this as an excuse to do the “focus on the tip of your nose” thing from The Mind Illuminated, hopefully that’s surface enough!

The frustrating thing is that I also feel like my back and neck are potentially starting to open up, they’re giving these faint tickles that feel good. So I’m really curious what progress I might be able to make if I were able to practice! But I just don’t think it’s the right time for that; hopefully I’ll be able to at least avoid regressing too much until I do feel better…

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VGHVI Minecraft, February 27, 2020

Mar 14 2020

I didn’t take so many pictures in February: partly because I’m still not sure what to build next and partly because I got caught up in conversation.

 

A few pictures from wandering around:

A cliff with a small cave in it, and an island off in the haze.

A valley with some animals.

Another one-block water discontinuity, this time including ice.

A randomly generated staircase.

That last one has stuck with me; maybe I’ll try to find it again and see if I can do something with the cave around it to cause the staircase to fit into a larger context? Hopefully I know more or less where it is…

 

No pictures from Dan or Ariel, but Pat was working on a bowling alley:

The lanes of the bowling alley.

There’s a space on the other side of the lanes.

Here’s what it looks like from the outside.

Looking closer at the windows.

Here’s what it looks like behind the lanes.

Now there are some pins in place.

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