Nei Gong Notes, December 21, 2021

Dec 21 2021

Good week, now that we’re not a construction zone any more. Damo’s Nei Gong course continued with the Bellows Breathing / Hong mantra exercise, this time telling you to use the Bao Yuan mudra and giving more pointers on that mudra. Not much new in that mudra, though he did point out that you should spread open your Lao Gong while holding the mudra; not the most natural thing to do, I’ll have to work on that.

Anyways, it was good to be given more time to keep on working on that combo; I’m still not particularly good at that mantra, I could use extra practice. (The latest thing I want to try: not going so low in the pitch, staying closer to the middle of my range.) Also, he nudged us to keep up that exercise for longer, an hour or even two, alternating between Bellows Breathing and Hong as the mood took us. And I did put in a couple of hour-long sessions; I did the exercise for about 45 minutes but then I just felt like sitting for a bit, and it was another 15 minutes before I felt like I was done with that. I’ll want to keep all of that up this week; this week is another theory week, so I won’t have any new exercise to practice.

And on Wednesday I had a section that was probably around two and a half hours; I went through the full seated five elements exercise that I’d been doing, and I also did the standing exercise from the end of year one about gathering bouncy bits in your Dantian. Neither of those had me feeling stuff the way I have in the past; I’m chalking that down to not having practiced so much the previous couple of weeks and needing to get back into shape. And on Friday I had a good two hour session; I tried doing the whole standing Dantian Gong in a single session, and while I didn’t manage all of that, I did make it through 8 of the 10 exercises, whereas the most I’ve done before is 6. (Or maybe 7 once?) And my session on Sunday morning was a little over an hour and a half, which is longer than I normally manage on that day.

In Damo’s Tai Chi course, he covered Tai Yi standing; it’s a way of standing with your feet together, bringing attention to your spine. I’d seen a version of that before in the Nei Gong course, as part of the Dragon Dao Yin; significant differences here, though. I haven’t practiced it much yet, I’ll need to give it another week, and probably watch the video again.

In general, I didn’t do much Tai Chi this past week; I think it was raining on Wednesday, and on Friday afternoon, I got pulled into a work escalation, so I didn’t get to practice Tai Chi then either. And on Saturday, Tony was out, so it was a review day in class.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 15, 2021

Dec 15 2021

As expected, not much practice this week, because of the house construction; I kept up a minimal level of daily practice, but I didn’t have any long sessions, and I didn’t start any new lessons in either the Nei Gong or the Tai Chi course.

We had both Saturday and Sunday Tai Chi this week; but we were recording a video for some special celebration, so that ate into a fair amount of time on Saturday and a bit of time on Sunday. We did start the actual spear form on Saturday (we’d been doing just the isolated full marshal until then); the start of that form is a little odd. And on Sunday, we did go a little bit farther in Xin Jia, so now I’m more solid with the bit right after the second Gao Tan Ma; not sure if it’s one or two sessions left until we’re completely done, but hopefully in a couple of months we’ll be done? And it looks like they’re almost done with the Double Dao; one more month of that, but probably in February I’ll start learning the Guan Dao.

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Nei Gong Notes, December 7, 2021

Dec 07 2021

Mostly a write-off week: we’re having work on our house done that means that I’m home all day with lots of noise in the background and with my usual practice locations occupied, and on Thursday I got my booster shot, which mostly knocked me out on Friday and had me tentative on Saturday. I was worried that I’d backslide, but fortunately, my Dantian continued to feel a little active when I was paying attention to it, so I think I’m doing okay? And I eased back into action yesterday and today, I had a solid Dantian Gong session over lunch today in particular. At any rate, I’m not planning to move onto new lessons this week, I’ll just repeat the previous week.

Anyways, this week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course was a lecture on Memory Distortion; didn’t make a big impression, and I didn’t do my normal re-listen yet, so it’s good that I’m not moving on! In Damo’s Tai Chi course, there was a sort of silk-reeling-ish exercise, loosening your joints but also getting energy into and back out of your legs; that was pretty interesting. (So actually I think maybe it’s not that much like silk reeling? I don’t want to map everything to Chen Tai Ji, that will cut me off from some of what I’m trying to learn by taking that course.) And I’m getting better at doing the Tai Chi version of Wu Ji, though I’ll certainly want to keep on plugging away at that.

As for the Saturday Tai Chi course, we didn’t do anything new, but Tony gave us lots of feedback for the start of the Xin Jia first form. Lots of little things that I should work on there…

One thing that I forgot to mention last week: I watched a video from Damo on Ting in meditation, and one thing he talked about there was doing the Ting via your breath instead of your senses; interesting thing to try, it’s been pretty intense once or twice when I did try it.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 30, 2021

Nov 30 2021

This week’s lesson in Damo’s course was another Qi Mobilization exercise. I was curious about what the next one of those would be, because the previous three had been based on gathering Qi in your Dantian by doing the first three Ji Ben Gong exercises (and then letting that Qi spring out into your limbs), but the remaining Ji Ben exercises don’t have the same Dantian focus.

It turns out, though, that the next one was doing the same thing with the fourth Ji Ben Gong exercise, and that I’d been misinterpreting something in the prior ones: the first one was using your Dantian as a pump, but the second one uses your sacrum and the third uses the base of your torso. (Which explains something that I’d been wondering about, it felt like I’d been gathering Qi a little lower in my body when doing the third one and, yup, that’s indeed true.)

So the fourth one is doing that as well, using your spine as a pump; the mechanics feel noticeably different, but the principle is the same. Though that pattern will apparently stop after the first four, Damo says that the second four Ji Ben exercises are doing something different.

Also, most of the time I put all four of those together, and sometimes I even did 5 minute segments instead of 3 minute segments, so it’s either 51 minutes or 85 minutes; good to have another long exercise set, though actually now I might be getting to have enough of those that it’ll take a while for me to cycle through them!

One thing that I forgot to mention last week was that Damo had posted a video giving some Tai Chi theory that finally pushed me over the edge to start his Tai Chi course. I’m not entirely sure that that’s wise, maybe ideally I would have made it through one or two more forms in my regular Tai Chi course before adding in a different version of Tai Chi, but hopefully it’ll be okay? And I’ll probably take the course more slowly, targeting a lesson every two weeks instead of a lesson every week.

Anyways, the first lesson was on the Tai Chi version of Wu Ji. Which I’d been wondering about for a while, so I was quite glad to see that right at the start. I knew the arm position was different; it also looks like you stand higher, instead of emphasizing the sinking into your kua? And there were some other more subtle principles; e.g. when sinking my tailbone, it feels like more of a Yao stretch rather than a neck stretch, and sinking my shoulder blades ends up feeding into my elbows a bit?

(On the note of sinking my tailbone, it feels like something has changed there, where I’m doing it more naturally now, and where I’m really feeling like things are lined up vertically in a different way, even when I’m not doing Wu Ji or something.)

In my regular Tai Chi course, the main new thing is working on push hands. We’re going through the single hand forms for now; I’d been thinking this week that I’d spend more time focusing on sinking into my feet, and I still think that’s a good idea, but actually the most interesting thing that happened was that I started feeling like there was a ball in my Dantian, and that it was rolling around a bit with incoming energy slipping off of it. That definitely seems like it’s worth pursuing, hopefully I’ll be able to build on that.

We’re having significant work done on our house for the next week or so, so who knows how much I’ll be able to practice this week; hopefully some but certainly not as much as normal, I don’t expect to have a long practice on either Wednesday or Friday this week in particular.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 23, 2021

Nov 23 2021

Busy week: I had to drive to an offsite on Wednesday afternoon and was there all day on Thursday. I got a decent Nei Gong practice in on Wednesday, at least, though Tai Chi suffered, and I did at least manage to do a little bit of practice on Thursday before the meeting started, so that’s something. And, in general, it was a fine practice week? I was mostly still working on the Hong exercise from last week, and I did manage to get the buzzing down into my Dantian at least some of the time, so that was nice. I still don’t feel like everything in that exercise is going super well, though, so I’m planning to try to keep returning to it periodically; we’ll see if I follow through with that in practice, though.

I also did the Jing Gong exercise again on Sunday; and I really did feel something bouncing around in my Dantian this time. At first, I thought it might just be mild muscle spasms or something, but it kept on going, and I’m pretty sure something more interesting really was going on. The bouncing wasn’t super strong or anything, but it was definitely there, in a way that I wasn’t feeling this summer.

This week’s lesson was on when to follow your instincts / dreams; pleasant analysis, though it honestly felt like it could have been a podcast episode? But I pretty much agreed with what Damo said; and I do also think like I’m doing a reasonable jobs of following my instincts in the situations where he recommends but not otherwise.

We started doing push hands in the Saturday Tai Chi course. And my main reaction there is: I have a lot to learn! If I had to pick one thing to work on, it would be in making a connection with my feet when my partner pushes on me.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 16, 2021

Nov 16 2021

Not as much Nei Gong this week as some previous weeks – Wednesday was an okay practice day but I had some house-related stuff which prevented me from doing a long practice. I had a long practice on Friday, though; I did the long version of the Metal exercise, so now I’ve gone through the long versions of those at least once. As expected, that one was a bit strenuous, so I didn’t manage to hold the second arm-raised position for 10 minutes, but at least I did the full 10 minutes on the first position.

I think I’ll do the concatenated short version of all of them, maybe once a week until I decide to stop that? And also my back isn’t feeling quite as active, so I might try to work in just the introductory bit into my practice a few other days a week, I really did feel like that helped with my back. Not that my back is doing badly or anything, it’s just not feeling actively good this past week.

Or maybe I just need to practice a bit more; my Dantian isn’t buzzing the way it had been, either. Hard to say. This week might not be great for practice either: I’ve got a work thing on Wednesday afternoon/evening and all day Thursday, so I probably won’t get as much practice done those days.

This week’s lesson was on a sound exercise, building on Bellows Breathing to get your Dantian buzzing. Which was pretty interesting, and I had glimpses of it doing something useful; but I also learned that I can’t sustain that sound for nearly as hard as I would have liked, and that it was hard getting the buzzing to the right place. I did at least make progress on that latter problem; I think I’ll probably just keep up the exercise for a second week in a row, since I think the next lesson is another theoretical one?

In terms of Tai Chi, I asked my teacher if we could start doing Push Hands on Saturday, and he agreed to that, so we should start that next week. And we did finally do the Golden Rooster section in Xin Jia, and I don’t think that will be too hard to firm up. So I’m almost done with that form, there’s just the bit at the end that I need to solidify; though based on recent experience, it’ll probably take a couple of months to get to that. (We actually did the Golden Rooster bit on Sunday instead of Saturday, so maybe that’s my teacher’s plan for helping us finish the form.)

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Nei Gong Notes, November 9, 2021

Nov 09 2021

The good weeks continue. Last week I was thinking it was time to get back to 45 minute Wu Ji sessions; I did that on Wednesday, but I actually felt fine after 45 minutes, so I stayed in Wu Ji for another 15 minutes, making it the first time I’ve had an hour-long Wu Ji session. I don’t think I sunk quite as much as in my best sessions, and maybe I should have been a bit lower, but I also wasn’t phoning it in. And I actually could have gone a little longer if I’d wanted to; I should probably do this another time or two first, but maybe I should try a full 10-exercise Dantian Gong session pretty soon?

Also, on Sunday, I tried out the Jing Gong exercise from near the end of year 1 for the first time in a while. And I’m pretty sure I did feel something bouncing around in my Dantian while doing that? Not super strong, but distinct enough that I’m fairly sure I wasn’t imagining it. So I should start doing that once a week or so, to monitor (and hopefully advance) my potential progress there.

This week in the course was a theoretical lecture, on Clinging; interesting enough. It looks like those will be showing up every other week for the next couple of months; encouragement to work on consolidation, I guess, which is certainly fine with me. It was good to not have a new seated exercise to work on, so for the first time in almost two months I could get back to my previous seated exercises. Which I’m glad to be doing, they were good exercises! I’m still going through the longer versions of the seated five elements exercises, I did Fire and Earth this week; I’ll certainly go through Metal but then maybe I’ll switch to doing all five in a single stretch with a 3-minute timer once a week?

As for Tai Chi, in the posture in Hunyuan Dao where you do sort of a skewer motion over the left side, I should go forward somewhat, not straight over the side. And the corresponding posture in Laojia Dao is a block, up and a little forward.

I’m trying to spend more time working on my Xinjia when practicing at home. Which, on the one hand, is good, because I’ve got bits to improve! But, on the other hand, I’m getting a little frustrated that we seem to be stalled out on that in Saturday, I think it’s been two months since we’ve advanced in the form, and my teacher has started going back to the beginning of the form. I think he intends to continue with the final bits, but he hasn’t been finding time in the class to do both… I’m really close to the end, though, maybe I should just look at videos and read books and try to solidify the rest on my own?

We’ll be starting the spear next week, it’ll be good to learn that. I probably learned three-quarters of the form last time, though I haven’t been practicing it so I’ve forgotten how it went; should be well within reach to learn the whole thing this time.

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Nei Gong Notes, November 2, 2021

Nov 02 2021

Another good week for Nei Gong; maybe not quite as good as last week, but very solid. I’m finally done with learning the new Wu Xing seated sequence; this week’s lesson was on Bellows Breathing, a way to build up Qi in your Dan Tian. Kind of reminds me of the Nourishing the Jing exercise from a month and a half back, just with a different focus? And I tried doing an 80 minute version of the first two elements of the Wu Xing sequence on Wednesday and Friday; Wednesday was fine, but Friday was the Wood element, and some of the postures were a little physically strenuous, so I didn’t manage 10 minutes on every one of them. Still, it went pretty well; I’ll keep on going through those, though I imagine that, when I get to Metal, I’ll have a similar reaction. But once I’ve gone through the long version of each of them once, I think I might go back to doing them all in a row: I didn’t feel my Dantian buzzing quite as much after that exercise as I had when doing them all, and maybe it’s a little easier to maintain concentration when I’m changing moves every 3 minutes?

In general, though, between those longer exercises and the Bellows Breathing, my Dan Tian is feeling noticeably more active than normal. Not sure how much is due to what; I’ll probably want to keep on mixing in Bellows Breathing to keep that up?

I forgot to mention that, last week, my back felt really good; it’s fine this week but not quite as actively solid. So, when doing standing work, it takes me a little while to get to where things feel quite right, but I do get there eventually; in particular, yesterday and today, I did Dantian Gong even though I was feeling a little sleepy, and in the past that would frequently have caused me to do a short session, but now my legs are clearly up for it, so I ended up doing a longer-than-normal session instead of a shorter one, and in the Wu Ji at the end, my body really did feel like it was working together. So that was cool; probably means that I should try out a 45 minute Wu Ji session and see how that goes.

In terms of Tai Chi, we finished the Hunyuan Dao; we’ll be reviewing it for the rest of the month, but I feel pretty solid about it. Also, looking at the DVD, I think that, when doing the Kick with Two Legs in Lao Jia, I shouldn’t emphasize landing on the left leg: yes, I should land there than on both, but the right leg comes down soon after that, unlike in Xin Jia. In general, there’s stuff right around there that I should work on with Xin Jia; I’ve got the basic idea, but there are some details that I need to practice.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 26, 2021

Oct 26 2021

Good week. I learned the last of the new set of seated Wu Xing exercises, this time on Metal / Spleen; nice to have that set learned. This one has a couple of positions with your arms held relatively high, so it’s a bit more strenuous than the others, but that’s probably not a bad thing for me to work on? And the video for that talked about doing all of them in sequence; that seemed like it would take a while (close to two hours), but I figured it was worth a try? It’s seated, so it’s not going to be strenuous in a way that a long standing exercise would be, and it has a bunch of different movements, so I wouldn’t be so likely to fall asleep.

So I did that on Friday, and I’m glad I did. In particular, my the time I got to the fourth part, my abdomen was feeling surprisingly puffy, so it feels like it was effective in terms of building up Qi. And sitting for a long time turns out to be pretty manageable; for the last ten minutes or so, the area near my sitz bones hurt enough to start to get distracting (and I can still feel an ache there a few days later!), but it fine, and presumably if I do that more I’ll get used to it.

Having said that, talking it over with one of the senior students, he said that he’d found it useful to do a single element but with 10 minutes per section (80 minutes in total). And that also seems like a good length, and I’m hoping that it’ll help me get more out of each individual element, since I kind of feel like, when I was doing all of them, the later elements were more effective. So I’ll give that a try.

I also watched a video on Thursday talking about how Wu Ji works and what we’re trying to accomplish in our body, and inspired by that (?), I had a quite good Wu Ji session on Friday as well. I set my timer for 30 minutes, but it was going well so I went a few minutes longer; if I hadn’t been planning to do a very long sit after that, I would have gone longer. As it was, I felt like I was doing a good job of relaxing and connecting my body, and also of dropping my weight into my feet and activating my Yong Quan. And I had decent Wu Ji on Sunday as well, not quite as good but not bad.

One interesting thing from Tai Chi on Saturday: in Kick with Two Feet Up, you’re apparently supposed to land stably on your left foot, being similarly stable to how you’d be if you did the version where you don’t jump. That was from a senior student who sometimes disagrees with my teacher, so I’ll have to watch my teacher to make sure he does it that way, but I know my teacher does it that way in Xin Jia, so it seems plausible that Lao Jia works the same way as well. And I tried it out and found it a lot easier to land stably than I expected; that was a pleasant surprise.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 19, 2021

Oct 19 2021

A little mellower week than the previous week. I was kind of tired Monday and Tuesday, so I didn’t do Dantian Gong those days; I did go through the Ji Ben over the course of those days, though, so it wasn’t a waste. I was worried that the week was going to continue that way, but the rest of the week was fine, and in particular I went through the Dantian Gong over Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday I didn’t do as much practice as I normally do on non-working weekdays, though, because a couple of different contractors came over to work on the house, so I didn’t have a good block to practice. (I got some done, just not as much.) And I had Sunday Tai Chi, so I didn’t do as much Nei Gong as usual that day, either. Still, practice was fine, just not as long as the prior week.

I’ve done the Water Wu Xing a couple more times, and I haven’t had any nausea like I did a couple of weeks back, so I guess that was a one-time thing? I should probably get back to the Thickening the Qi exercise.

On Monday this week, I did the Dantian Gong, and I was pleased how my legs felt; right at the beginning I was standing a bit lower than normal, and I felt super stable, with my spine a little floaty. Which I was actually a little worried about because I felt disconnected, but I think it settled in fine? And I could have gone longer than the 39 minutes that the normal routine went; I think if I’d been doing Wu Ji I could have gone for at least 45 minutes, assuming I didn’t get distracted by being too bored. So it feels like my legs are pretty well back in shape.

Nothing super special in Damo’s course; the new lesson was continuing the five elements seated sequences, this time doing Earth / Spleen. I’ll do the last of those tonight, I continue to be glad that I’ve been doing them and I’ll miss them when I’ve finished them, I should work them into my routine occasionally.

Not much to say about Tai Chi; been going well, though, I think?

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