Nei Gong Notes, May 25, 2021

May 25 2021

This was my first week of working part time, so I was off on Wednesday and Friday. And I did indeed get more Nei Gong done! On Wednesday, I started the day with a two-hour session, and that was unexpectedly pleasant; yay. Then, after breakfast, I walked to a park and did a decent Tai Chi session (though I forgot to practice Xin Jia, whoops); not entirely sure how frequently I’ll be doing that and how frequently I’ll just practice Tai Chi outside the house, but it worked that day. (And it plus my Sunday practice continued to bring home the fact that I still am surprisingly spotty at the Jian…)

In the afternoon, I had an allergy shot; between that and just feeling like I wanted to relax more (maybe I was tired, too, I can’t remember), I only did a bit of Nei Gong that afternoon; I think I only practiced the dragons? And I didn’t go through a rerun of any of the first year lessons; I’m hoping to do one of the those every day I’m off.

On Friday, I was significantly more tired at the start of the day; I still started things off with a session, and it was quite a bit longer than it would have been if I’d been doing a lunch session like I do on weekdays, but more like an hour rather than two hours? In general, a low energy day; I don’t think I did any Tai Chi, though I did at least review one of the first year lessons in the afternoons. (And do the dragons.)

In general, a quite low energy week, I really need to get this sleep stuff under control. Having said that, I felt like at least I was working with that okay, instead of being super frustrated by that, and getting stuff done when I could; and on the good-ish days I do actually like the way my body feels when I’m doing Wu Ji and other exercises, it’s not like days when I’m super energized but there are still connections there?

In terms of the dragons, I’ve learned the components of the stepping part of the drunken dragon, so I’m almost done with the stepping parts. And the soaring dragon is feeling smoother, as is the awakening dragon, so the earlier ones are coming together a bit more.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 18, 2021

May 18 2021

It had been a surprisingly unproductive week: not sure if it was leftover effects from the vaccine (or from taking a couple days off after the vaccine) or if I was more tired than normal, or what, but my stamina definitely was lower than it had been. Though today actually felt good; my mid-day practice was a little on the short side because of an errand, but it felt solid, I’m pretty sure I could have done my prior normal full dose of Dantian Gong if I’d kept going. So hopefully I can build on that.

Made it through the Soaring Dragon walk. Which was a little harder than I expected: it seemed complex but fine, but when putting it all together, you’re supposed to twist your body and look over your shoulder, and I had a hard time keeping my balance while doing that? It went better today, when I was sinking more into my weighted leg, so hopefully if I can work on that then I’ll get more comfortable with this one. (I am getting more comfortable with Awakening Dragon.) I think I’ll wait until Thursday to start learning Drunken Dragon, though.

Sunday Tai Chi last weekend; not much to report there, though.

This is my first week of working part time; so I’ll have Wednesday and Friday off. We’ll see how much Nei Gong and Tai Chi I get done those days; hopefully more than normal, but also hopefully I won’t push myself too much? And at some point next month I’ll probably make an appointment with a TCM practitioner, maybe that will help with some of the difficulties I’ve been having.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 11, 2021

May 11 2021

Not much to report this week: I got my second shot on Friday, and that kind of knocked me out on Saturday, so I ended up taking the weekend off. And one or two other days weren’t great for other reasons. So, basically, much less practice than normal.

I did learn the arm movements and stepping movements of the Soaring Dragon; it seems kind of interesting? I like the way each of them makes your torso feel, I’ll be curious to see what it’s like when it’s put together. Still not feeling great about the Awakening Dragon, though.

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Nei Gong Notes, May 4, 2021

May 04 2021

Not a whole lot to talk about this week; fine week, just not much in the way of events? In terms of Dragon Dao Yin practice, on Tuesday, I learned the full walking part of the Awakening Dragon. Which is pretty hard, I still don’t feel particularly coordinated there, and I fairly frequently realize that I’m forgetting one subtle detail or another? And my feet rarely turned smoothly at the start of the week; it’s getting better over the course of the week though, especially now that one of the lessons pointed out that you should turn your back knee along with your front knee.

And on Thursday and Sunday, I learned the walking part of Swimming Dragon; it’s rather soothing, in ways that I thought were pretty interesting, lots of sinking and watching my body react to my Dantian turning as I moved my hands. It might be an illusion, but I feel quite a bit better at Swimming Dragon than the Awakening Dragon; and I do think it’s easier, though also there are surely subtleties that I’m missing. It also helps, I think, that I’ve been practicing sinking recently in a few different ways?

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Nei Gong Notes, April 27, 2021

Apr 27 2021

I started actually learning the Dragon Dao Yins this past week: on Tuesday, I learned a Qi Gong that starts off the form and started learning some hand motions, on Thursday I got a refinement of those hand motions and started learning some footwork. I was thinking that, on Sunday, I’d move on and put the hand motions and footwork together, but I actually wasn’t feeling great on the footwork, so I figured I’d play it slow? (At least this week, I imagine some weeks I’ll make different choices.) Definitely still stuff for me to work on, though I will watch the next videos today: making sure I’m turning around my spine during the hand changes instead of swinging from side to side, and my balance still isn’t great in the footwork.

In general I’ve been sleepier than I’d like; not horrible, but still not as good as I’d like it to be. I’d like that to get better, hopefully I’ll succeed in improving things, but I’m also trying to accept what it is: it really does affect my ability to practice, and that’s okay.

On Saturday, I asked Tony about my habit of stretching my hand (to connect my Lao Gong with my Dantian) in some moves in the Tai Chi form, e.g. White Crane Spreads its Wings. And I’m really glad I asked, because he gave an interesting answer: he said Tai Chi is about spiraling, so your hand should be a little curved. And when I tried that out, I felt a different sort of connection: going along the outside of my upper arm, and he talked about how it connects up to your Live Gate instead of your Lao Gong. So when practicing today, I experimented with that, in a bunch of different positions, trying to figure out what the natural spiral was in each move and how that affects my arm; lots more to work on there.

Also, one Dao pointer: in White Cloud Shadows Overhead, you should end up in your back foot instead of your front foot; in fact, in the Hunyuan version, you should take half a step back as part of the move.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 20, 2021

Apr 20 2021

This week was my first week of taking a break from Damo’s course and spending time learning the Dragon Dao Yins instead. (I mean, it’s still from Damo, it’s just a different part of the website!) It’s broken up into a bunch of small lessons, so I’ll have to think about how to pace them; for now, though, on Tuesday I went through the intro lesson and a few different ones on stretches, and on Thursday I went through one on Wu Ji and one on a different standing posture called Tai Yi. All stuff I’d seen before, but I only barely remembered Tai Yi and had never practiced it regularly; and some of the stretches were ones I didn’t practice regularly, either.

One thing I learned from the Tai Yi lesson is that I’d been doing the Tai Ji mudra wrong: your right thumb is supposed to be on the outside on top instead of inside. Which, in retrospect, makes sense: your right thumb kind of mirrors your left fingers and your left fingers kind of mirror your right thumb. Anyways, Tai Yi seems fine: it’s more focused on your spine and central line. And it feels a little unstable, because your feet are right next to each other, but nothing unmanageable; we’ll see if my balance / sinking ever evolves to a situation where that feels stable.

Tony reviewed my form on Saturday, and he said I was making progress, probably the most positive I’ve heard him be? So that’s nice: it felt like I’d been doing better at sinking since last time, and that must have paid off. A couple of pointers he had: In Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, I should generate power when striking from my rear foot, so my foot has to land before I strike. And in the reverse version of Oblique Posture, I should tuck my tailbone more, and I should adjust my left knee. (Open it, I’m fairly sure.)

In general, a fine week. Less sleepy than the previous week, so I did my full complement of Dantian Gong; but still more sleepy than I’d like, so my practice sessions were more likely to feel like the minimum than like going beyond. I did get a pointer (maybe from the Dragon Dao Yin videos, maybe from the book) about finding your center of gravity that caused me to try to wobble my body back and forth and see where it’s wobbling from; and, at different heights, I do seem to be naturally flexing from a different place? So I’ll try working with that; it puts me at the lower range of where I’d been standing (I usually get lower as my practice progresses and I relax more), which makes sense.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 13, 2021

Apr 13 2021

Not the best week in general – I had more sleep problems than I’d had over the last couple of months, so I was tired a lot. So I only made it through standing Dantian Gong once this week instead of twice, and in general practice sessions were short.

Because I wasn’t doing as much Dantian Gong, I did do a little more Wu Ji. I wouldn’t say it was great, but it was good in some ways, and different in some ways; in particular, it felt like there were lines of connection going up into my abdomen sometimes? I’d felt a certain kind of stretchiness like that before in some curves in my body (my butt, in particular), which I’d thought of as tendons maybe starting to get conditioned; I don’t know that there are tendons going in that direction on my abdomen, though, so maybe it’s a huang thing? Not sure, but it was kind of interesting. And in general I get a kind of interesting sensation in my Dantian while doing Wu Ji, so I feel like the Dantian Gong is having an effect. Still no Zi Fa Gong, though, in general I don’t feel like the Dantian is actually really filling up yet, but hopefully it’s conditioned more.

Also, when doing seated meditation, I’m noticing that, if I stretch up a bit and settle down, then I feel more stable in my lower back; I think it’s a sign that I’d been curving my lower back forward a little bit by default, but that I’m learning to counteract that if I prepare right. So hopefully I can become more stable that way. The other thing that I’m noticing is that, if I sit on my meditation cushion, I’m leaning forward too much in ways that make me realize that I’m actually sliding forward; I’ll try to work on sitting further back on the cushion and sitting a little more vertically, but it might also be related to something in the cushion, since that doesn’t happen when I’m sitting on the edge of Widget’s dog bed. (How thick the cushion is, the material that it’s filled with, something like that.)

Finished the first year of Damo’s course; now I’m going to take a break from new lessons for maybe a couple of months and I’ll go through his Dragon Dao Yin exercises. Hopefully by the time I’ve learned those, the Jing Gong stuff will have started to kick in? We’ll see.

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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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