Nei Gong Notes, October 20, 2020

Oct 20 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson is on “Calm-Abiding”. Which sounds maybe a bit boring, but it turns out to be relaxing during seated meditation in a way that gets you into a kind of blissful state, while simultaneously paying attention to a couple of other things. Which, in turn, reminded me of something that used to happen to me when I was doing Wu Ji before starting the course, where my perception would shift and I would feel really good; I think this is the same thing, but seated? Very happy to be getting back to that again.

Unfortunately, I haven’t actually gotten back to it after watching the lesson. It’s been a bad week for that: I had early morning meetings that prevented me from doing seated meditation at the start of the day on several days; I did the meditation later in the day, but I’ve been incredibly tired this week, and if I did the meditation later in the day, that kicked in. More recently, I’ve done my meditation at a more normal time; I’ve been closer, but I haven’t quite reached that state again. I might want to bump things up to 25 or 30 minutes, though, maybe if I spend a bit more time both preparing myself at the start and then trying to relax into the desired state in the second half, I’d be more successful?

I certainly need to watch the lesson again: I was too tired to do that this past week, but I’ll find time at some point. I want to watch it again both because I hope I’ll be able to reach the desired state of relaxation and because I’m actually not super clear on the full instructions, on the two things I’m supposed to be paying attention to.

Anyways, tired week, so while I did my practice most days, it was pretty minimal; I think maybe allergies are being a little overwhelming, I’m experimenting with a new medicine there and hopefully that will help. The weird thing is that my body actually seems to be doing quite well, in two ways: the upper half of my body is sometimes feeling incredibly relaxed in a solid way while I practice, with everything just falling into place, and if I, say, raise and lower my shoulders, the vibrations go all the way through my torso in a very direct way. And the second good thing is that I think I’m starting to get a little ambient buzz in my Dan Tian pretty much all the time; it’s very small, but I think it’s something new and different? So hopefully that’s a sign that my body is getting into shape.

Or at least my torso is; the Saturday teachers pointed out that I’m leaning and twisting again, in ways that I think comes down to my hips and legs being positioned wrong. That’s annoying; I’ve got some ideas about what to do about that, but I’m not sure those ideas are right; we’ll see.

Saturday Tai Chi as well; not super productive this time because I was so sleepy, but again, good to be getting back into group practice.

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Nei Gong Notes, October 14, 2020

Oct 14 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson had me doing reverse breathing while going through the Ji Ben Qi Gong; interesting, it keeps you anchored lower in the exercises that have you moving up and down. And I found it very difficult to do reverse breathing during Upholding the Moon.

I kept on doing the seated reverse breathing exercise from last week, using your hands to try to set up a connection between your Qi Hai and Ming Men. I didn’t feel anything more than last week; not planning to regularly focus on that exercise for now, though I should try it out occasionally.

And we started in person Tai Chi back up on Saturdays and (once a month) Sundays. Which is good: I definitely hadn’t been doing enough Tai Chi, I find it easier to do that in person than practicing on my own, and the Saturday class fits into my schedule. Still no Tuesday class, but mostly back to normal there; and it’ll be good to finish learning the Jian form and hopefully to fill in my gaps in the Xin Jia first form.

In general, Nei Gong practice went fine this week; I’m definitely feeling more like my upper body is falling into place. And there’s something different going on in the tendons on the inside of my thighs; I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good sign or not, I might be having my stance too wide? And, unfortunately, I’m back to twisting my upper body because my right kua isn’t folded enough; I need to work on that more, and I think not just relaxing it in a way that folds it back but relaxing in a way where I let more weight go down onto the top of my right thigh?

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Nei Gong Notes, October 6, 2020

Oct 06 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

More reverse breathing this week; still seated, this time adding in some hand gestures that are supposed to connect your Qi Hai with your Ming Men. I don’t know that I felt a super strong connection, but I did feel kind of a cylinder inside my stomach while twisting my hands, so that was interesting. I’ll probably keep up the exercise for another week or two, to see if the feeling changes.

The other thing that the exercise pointed out is that, when I’m seated, my navel and Qi Hai are pretty low, there’s not that much room to place my hands below my navel. Sitting in Burmese instead of Half Lotus helps, but I think it’s also evidence that I’m slumping. And, unfortunately, if I try to sit up straighter in a way that lengthens my lower spine, that has a tendency to raise my buttocks, which doesn’t seem right; so I have to work on lengthening my lower spine while staying firmly seated. Which I can do, it’ll just take some work to establish it more firmly.

Low energy in general this week, my sleep was interrupted as often as not. Not really sure what’s going on there, whether it’s allergies or just everything else that’s going on in the world or something else. Kept up my practice okay, given that, though not a lot of actively good days.

Still working on trying to do abdominal breathing at different times during the day, sometimes with some success? And also during my initial seated practice I’m working more on sinking, because I feel like my energy is rising too much. (Probably related to the interrupted sleep issues…) Somewhat successful; something to keep on working on, at any rate.

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Nei Gong Notes, September 29, 2020

Sep 29 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was on Reverse Abdominal Breathing. Interesting enough, and Reverse Abdominal Breathing is noticeably more intense, but what surprised me the most was hearing Damo talk about how your natural breathing pattern first changes to Abdominal Breathing, then Reverse Abdominal, then to other forms. I’d assumed that Reverse Abdominal Breathing was always a special thing that you consciously shift into, but apparently not. We’re not supposed to naturally shift to it now, though, this lesson was more about getting our body aware of the possibility, but this also points out that I don’t usually do Abdominal Breathing either, maybe I should nudge my body to do that more when I’m not practicing?

I was tired a lot this week, which was annoying, but I still felt like practicing went pretty well; there was one day when I had a really intense Dan Tian Gong session right from the beginning, feeling like there was a lot of pressure in my abdomen. And I’m keeping up the spine exercises (it helps that this week’s new technique is something I can fit into my seated meditation sessions), I feel like it really is helping my back, I’m feeling a little more bend in my lower back and in general it’s moving more smoothly during the exercise.

Also during the Dan Tian Gong I’m noticing that I like the way my arms arc out and circle while holding the Bao Yuan mudra; and I can get some of that feeling while doing Wu Ji, too. I’m working on trying to bring that to my legs as well, I can get a hint of it if I settle out to the side more, maybe spread my legs a little wider, and maybe turn my feet in a little more.

More Dao Yin practice in the Saturday class, which is fine, but I continue to be busy enough with other stuff that I’m not practicing that outside of class.

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Nei Gong Notes, September 22, 2020

Sep 22 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

More spine work in Damo’s course this week: we did an exercise where you bend your back down trying to curve each vertebra, and then come back up in a similar way (this time stacking the vertebrae one at a time), trying to open the front of your spine on the way up. Good exercise, and it made me realize that I was frequently moving multiple vertebrae in a linked way when going through the upper and middle parts of my back: there’s not a big group locked together like in the bottom, but more connection than I realized. Though I think that, in the middle and upper parts, I can curve the individual ones separately, I don’t think any are actually stuck if I’m paying attention?

And I think (but, again, am not sure) that I’m starting to get to a situation where that group of five vertebrae at the bottom curves a little bit. So hopefully they’re not actually physically fused together, and I’ll be able to tease them apart more if I keep at it?

Anyways, after that back exercise, there’s a variant where you add arm movements into it, which turns out to be a form of Upholding the Moon. And then, after doing that, you’re supposed to be in Wu Ji for a bit, putting your awareness along the whole spine. (Not moving your awareness up and down, but taking the whole thing in at once.) Good set of exercises, I’m glad I did it, but I like the first one the most; I think it’s probably healthy for me to keep up spine work, so I might combine the first part of this week’s exercise with the second and third parts of last week’s?

Nei Gong class on Saturday, going through some Dao Yins; interesting enough, but I’m not planning to work it into my practice. And I was good about doing Silk Reeling, and less good about doing Tai Chi, but I did some Tai Chi today and it seemed like it went pretty well; I think I want to work on getting the feel that I’m storing and releasing power from my legs to my arms.

Unfortunately, I’m getting back to being more tired than I’d like; the gains from steam cleaning really didn’t last very long. In retrospect I wish we’d followed through on our idea of putting in wooden flooring in the upstairs bedroom: we’d talked about doing it, but didn’t get around to doing it, and then COVID hit…

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Nei Gong Notes, September 15, 2020

Sep 15 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

We steam cleaned the carpets just over a week ago, and I think it must have made a difference with my dust allergy because I started feeling more awake: no more wanting to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Which helped with my Nei Gong practice, since I basically always felt fine at lunchtime, and I was also up for practice at the end of the afternoon. Unfortunately, at the end of last week, we got a quite heavy smoke load here from the wildfires, so I’m again not feeling great; hopefully that will be a temporary thing, though, and I can get to a steady state where I feel more awake. (And where we clean the carpets when I’m not!)

The lecture in Damo’s class this week was on Spine Waves. Which was an exercise I already knew how to do, but he presented a way of doing it in a more intense way, not just as a warmup. Do Spine Waves for 5 minutes, then do it for 5 more minutes while sinking your awareness into the part of the spine that’s the crest of the wave, then stand for 5 minutes without doing the waves but with moving your awareness up your spine as if you were. (And then do Wu Ji at the end.) I was worried that this was going to feel boring / pointless, but it turned out to be really interesting, especially the second and third parts of it: in particular, once I started to pay attention to what was going on, I realized that there’s a section of several vertebrae in my lower back that are moving as a unit, instead of curving individually. (I think the rest of my vertebrae are all bending individually in a reasonable way.)

If I slow down and go over that area of the spine in the wave, I can find one position where I’m sort of pushing away at the middle of that area; nothing’s moving yet, and the push feels a lot weaker than at other parts of my back, but hopefully if I keep that up, it’ll start moving? And if I’m not doing the wave but just moving my awareness, the sensations are weaker on that part of my spine, but sensation is definitely there, and gets stronger if I rest there for a while; so hopefully if I spend time doing that, it’ll encourage soft tissues and blood vessels to be more active there? It’s also interesting just going up the whole spine with your mind; it kind of feels like there’s a click when moving from vertebra to vertebra. Though I don’t actually know if I’m just imagining that I’m correctly sensing individual vertebrae, for all I know my mental movements are going through locations that don’t actually match up with vertebrae.

Also, after doing this for a couple of days, my back started to feel noticeably better in general; though, unfortunately, that went away a few days after that. (It didn’t feel bad or anything, though, just not as actively good.) At any rate, this all has me thinking that I should keep this up, maybe even make it part of my daily routine until my lower back starts to unfreeze (I hope that the vertebrae aren’t actually fused together there); the only downside there is that, if I do 5 minutes of Wu Ji before and after, then the whole exercise takes 25 minutes, which is a pretty long time for a daily exercise. But if it makes a difference on my back health, it’ll be worth it, for general health as well as for Nei Gong reasons.

I’m curious what the next lesson will be like; it’s also on the spine, so hopefully it will help as well and will give me another angle to approach the problem. And at some point I should learn the Dragon Dao Yins, because I’ve heard that those can help the spine a lot.

I’ve also been going through the lectures on Qi Deviation; hadn’t really had high hopes for it, it’s not a topic that I’m particularly interested in, but it was on the recommended supplementary study list, so I did it anyways. And they’re surprisingly interested; targeted at TCM students instead of Nei Gong students, so parts were a bit of a review, but a welcome one, and I just got to a lecture where he talked about Yin Qi and Yang Qi in a way that did a very nice job of explaining steps leading up to Microcosmic Orbit work.

Sunday Tai Chi this weekend, so I didn’t do the Saturday Nei Gong course. My notes from Sunday:

In Pao Chui: in Wrap and Change to Cannon, visualize being wrapped by your opponent, and when you break out, sink down with your fists in a way that has the force coming from your center. In Beast’s Head, the right hand starts up, arcs right and down, and then comes up from the back on the right; it ends out a little to the right of your head, not in front of it. In Overdraping Posture, both fists are palm-down in the first half, and the front fist goes up a bit, attacking the throat; in the second half, your right fist is palm-up and it ends up a little higher than in the first half. In Taming the Tiger, try to stay vertical. In Wiping the Brow Forearm, your right hand starts with an open palm up, spiraling forward. And in the transition from Taming the Tiger to Wiping the Brow, keep your right arm up (I think) until it comes down when you stomp with your right foot; and I think I need to turn a bit more so that then my left foot on the left side of my center line instead of being straight in front of my right foot.

In the first form, when switching from Reverse with Spiraling Forearms to White Crane, there’s a Lu where you you grab your opponent at the start and guide them down, don’t just move your arms without relating to an opponent. And then do a bit of a half circle with both arms so your left hand is straight above the right hand, and then move into the final part of White Crane.

I didn’t do much Tai Chi this week (maybe none outside of class?) but I did go through Silk Reeling a couple of times, at least.

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Nei Gong Notes, September 8, 2020

Sep 08 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I took a stay-at-home vacation this last week, and one hypothesis was that I’d spend more time doing Nei Gong and Tai Chi. That hypothesis didn’t pan out; I didn’t do less overall, I think, but I didn’t do more? I think the main takeaway there is that I have a noticeable enough dip in energy during the afternoon that it’s hard for me to do a sustained session then; and so, if I spend the whole morning (until, say, 1pm or so) doing something else (playing Yakuza, say), then it’s an uphill battle to even do my normal Nei Gong amount that day.

Still, vacations are good just to relax, there’s something healthy about me letting myself do that instead of saying “I’m not spending time doing work that I’m paid for so I should spend time doing a different kind of work!”.

In terms of Damo’s course, this week’s class was pretty odd: it was a sort of memory training, where you’re supposed to mentally go through a part of your day (he suggests right after you get up) in real time, trying to use your body to help you remember. One thing I realized was how much I had to work to find a good 10-minute chunk where remembering things physically even makes sense: I spend a lot of time reading or doing puzzles or whatever! But, even with that, the exercise really didn’t click for me: I did it almost every day, but it was a struggle, and of all the classes so far in the course, this one was the worst match for me. I’m not particularly planning to come back to this one until my life changes in a way where I’m more regularly doing physical stuff, beyond the same morning stroll.

I also watched a recording of a two-hour Zoom course he gave the previous weekend that I couldn’t attend: it was on preparing for seated meditation, and it was pretty interesting. One specific thing that struck me was that he said that, once you get to a certain stage, your body will naturally sit quite upright instead of slumping, and that even before you get to that stage (some central channel opening up), you should still maintain some upward pressure in the center of your body.

The Saturday course was doing Dao Yins again; interesting enough, though I’m still not sure I’m going to work that into my regular routine.

Right now, in my morning meditation, I’m mostly working on breathing and sinking; I’ll try to get back to the Ting exercise and the exercise of setting up a bridge between your Huiyin and Dantian soon. (I did some of those a little bit, just not a lot.) And for my main session I’m mostly doing Dantian Gong (6 sections of it, 35-40 minutes), and making sure I go the Ji Ben Qi Gong over the course of the week, but sometimes I do ~20 minutes of Wu Ji instead of the Dantian Gong and/or mix in the Wu Xing Gi Gong or Thickening the Qi.

I did Tai Chi a couple of times over the vacation; again, I should keep that up. I didn’t do any Silk Reeling, I should make sure to do that during meetings now that I’m back at work.

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Nei Gong Notes, September 1, 2020

Sep 01 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Been kind of tired this week, hasn’t been the best for practice? Hasn’t been as bad as some weeks, though, just not wonderful.

This week’s Internal Arts Academy lesson was on a form of mental training (not meditation, it’s more active than that) where you let through thoughts about immediate sensations but cut off other thoughts as soon as you notice them. Interesting exercise; I ended up spending a lot of time thinking about what different parts of my body feel like, and then sometimes switching over to sounds around me. (I’m usually in a pretty quiet space, so not tons of the other.) And of course sometimes I lost track of the practice and my mind wandered off, as to be expected; more interestingly, once or twice, it seemed like my mind was doing two sorts of thinking at once, one with the sorts of thoughts that the exercise allows and then another simultaneous track about something else; the second track would go along for a while before I noticed it? Also, in terms of a taxonomy of thoughts that I was supposed to cut off, some were just about something completely different whereas some where more editorializing on what I was doing right then, which was an interesting distinction to notice.

We did a couple of standing Dao Yin exercises this Saturday in the class with Joyce and Rick. Interesting enough, though I’m not sure if I’ll keep them up. Though I suspect they’ll show up soon enough in Damo’s course – one of them was a standing version of a sitting Dao Yin that he introduced earlier, so probably it’ll show up when Dao Yin exercises return later in the year?

I’m taking a vacation this week; we’ll see if that means I do more Nei Gong, or if I spend lots of time playing video games. Or maybe I do the same amount of time doing Nei Gong but work in Tai Chi more regularly; that would be a good outcome, I’ve been feeling kind of achy today…

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Nei Gong Notes, August 25, 2020

Aug 25 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson was more Dan Tian Gong; the full sequence is 10 moves long, which (together with stuff between them and at the ends) would take just shy of an hour at the two-and-a-half-minutes-per-posture rate I’d been going at. Which I was thinking was too long for me; I’ve tried it once so far, and I gave up after 8 moves, with my lower back hurting a fair amount. I’ll probably try the full thing once a week, but 6 moves is a better length for me; that translates to 37 minutes, which feels pretty substantial as it is, and I’m certainly glad to be doing that.

I’ve been trying to do a breathing exercise that sets up a connection between your Dantian and Huiyin; sometimes it feels like there’s something building there, sometimes not, I need to work on it. And another breathing exercise about feeling a couple of channels in the arm; maybe I can feel part of the channels, between an appropriate place in the wrist and and appropriate place in your fingers, or maybe not. I’ll need more work on both of those, and I might give up on the channel exercise eventually.

No class this Saturday, so I had some extra time, which I spent by going through the long breathing exercise from the Microcosmic Orbit course; glad I did, though even when I start off fairly alert, I’m starting to fall off by the end… Seems like a good thing to continue to work on occasionally, at any rate.

Not sure what side course to work on now; I’ll retry the current Heavenly Streams lesson on feeling those two channels, but maybe I’ll start another course? The study guide recommends the Qi Gong Deviation course, and while I’m not super interested in that, I don’t have a better idea? I might go through the Clipping Passes exercise a few more times, too, it was good for my back.

Haven’t done much Tai Chi recently, I should pick that up, I’ve just been having to walk Widget almost every weekday evening.

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Nei Gong Notes, August 18, 2020

Aug 18 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I picked a good time to start standing higher in Wu Ji, because this week’s class covered a long multi-part Dantian exercise; you move your hands around some but you maintain the same stance for the whole time, a little over 35 minutes the way I was doing it. Which turned out to be fine: my legs weren’t thrilled, but it wasn’t a problem, if anything I actually had a bit more of a twinge in my lower back. And I’m glad to be getting back to standing for longer periods, it makes more interesting stuff happen in my body. (Though, honestly, still not as interesting as some of the things that were happening over the winter?)

That class was actually one of two, so I am a little nervous about adding still more stuff onto the sequence this week – my lunch breaks are only so long, even if I can stand for long enough! We’ll see how much longer it gets…

In class on Saturday, I was told to have my arms wider during Wu Ji. Which was getting back to something I’d been doing a few months back; it does feel better. Nice that the teachers aren’t saying I’m tilting to the right, it does seem like that’s been better? And we went over the last of the Ji Ben Qi Gong, that’s been useful.

In terms of other online courses, I’ve been pausing the Heavenly Streams one while working on the arm sensing exercise. It’s been a couple of weeks, though, so I’ll probably start that again; I wish I was doing better at the arm sensing thing, though? It felt like it was going well at the start but it hasn’t gotten any better. Part of that is that I’ve been unusually tired the last couple of weeks, which has really not been helping my seated meditation.

And I finished watching all of the Microcosmic Orbit videos. I think I’m going to go back and do a few of the exercises: the first one on anchoring the breath is useful but depends on me being awake for 40 minutes of meditation, which isn’t usually the case these days, unfortunately. I actually think I can already do what it’s working on developing to some extent, so I’m also going to work on the second exercise, on connecting the Huiyin to the Dantian; hopefully I can be awake enough to make progress on that. And then there’s one near the end on Clipping Passes, which is useful on a purely physiological level in terms of making my back feel better.

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