Tai Chi Notes, December 10, 2019

Dec 10 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to say; it was raining Sunday so I didn’t practice as much, and not a lot came up on the other days.

I did some of my meditation (both standing and sitting) facing a mirror, and I really am a little tilted: I need to shift left while standing, and also my neck leans slightly to the right as well. Whoops.

Paying attention to where energy is gathering while doing standing meditation: my arms are still best at gathering it, and the bottom of my torso (beneath my Dantian, the Huiyin region) is pretty good, and I can feel it in my legs and the top of my head. But my back feels empty, or at least from the Live Gate up. So that seems like the next milestone to hope for. Not entirely sure what I can do to speed that up, though maybe I should think more about opening up my Live Gate.

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Tai Chi Notes, December 3, 2019

Dec 03 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I was feeling on the edge of coming down with a cold last week, so I took a few days off of Wu Ji and didn’t do my regular Thursday practice. But I went back to my normal routine on Saturday.

Saturday’s class was wet but good: we went through the form something like five times, and my abdomen was feeling empty in an unusual but good way. Some things that my teacher said and/or that I noticed: in the blocks in Flash the Back, I should also expand down into my kua; also, in the first block, sink my right shoulder even during the block, that’ll help me relax my right arm during the second block. And when going from the following punch into the Six Sealing Four Closing before Hand Maneuvers, I should concentrate a little more on keeping my left leg stable, using it as a foundation after turning the leg while getting the rest of my body into place.

On Sunday it was too wet outside to practice, so I skipped Tai Chi, but at least I did my normal Lotus Nei Gong stuff. On which note, I’m thinking that it’s maybe time for me to start working on rotating my Dantian during Wu Ji?

In today’s class, my teacher said to concentrate more on folding into your left kua during Oblique Posture; and it does indeed help with my stability and makes my knee feel better. And actually folding into my right kua when shifting right in Embrace the Knee helps, too.

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Tai Chi Notes, November 26, 2019

Nov 26 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

One thing I forgot to mention last time: I reread Damo Mitchell’s first book. Lots of details to work on in the Ji Ben Qi Gong, and lots of stuff to improve on in seated meditation, though it’s harder to get the details of the latter from a book…

I am trying to work on my breathing when meditating, and in fact to bring that breathing into more contexts. Basically, breathing a little more deeply than I am than when I’m not thinking about it, but not holding my breath at either the inhale or the exhale, thinking instead of both of those as turning things around. So there’s a similar sort of pause as to when I hold my breath, but the way it feels is different. And, in general, my body does feel different when I breathe this way: energy in my huiyin, in particular.

On Thursday, when doing Wu Ji, I felt a little bit of tingling in the middle of my back; I’m used to tingling from my huiyin to my live gate, but this is higher than normal? Though I still don’t actually feel real energy from my live gate itself. Then, towards the end of the session, I felt a sharp feeling on the top of my head; I thought it might be my bai hui, though it was further back than I expected? But I know the bai hui isn’t at the very top of my head, it’s further back than that; looking it up, I think it’s plausible that that was my bai hui, though I’m not completely sure, there are a lot of points up there. Still, the bai hui is the one people talk about the most, presumably there’s a reason for that…

And, after that, I’ve been sometimes feeling tingling on the top of my head when doing standing meditation. It’s not super strong, there’s definitely something that I need to nurture there. (Same for the bottom of my feet, honestly.) But still, progress?

Exactly what sort of progress, I’m not sure. It would be nice to think that I’m opening up my governing channel, but I’m not really convinced that that’s the case: maybe I’m starting to open it up through the middle of my back, but there’s a lot of room between there and the top of my head. So my guess is that the bai hui is opening up for other reasons; and certainly there are lots of channels that end up there, it’s an important point for a reason.

Aside from that, the feel of standing meditation in starting to change a bit: I’m slipping away from straightforward physical feelings a bit more, and also away from tingling and the like a little more, into something that feels plausibly related to energy but also a little more substantial? Still trying to understand what that means. Doesn’t necessarily mean that standing meditation is super easy, and I’m not getting the really pleasant feeling that did once a couple of weeks back, but it helps and feels like progress.

Though sometimes it’s easier than others. There’s a little grove of trees right outside the office, and meditating there feels easier; standing meditation at home seems like more of a chore? Though, even at home, I’m still sometimes surprised when things are over; I haven’t been doing long meditation sessions recently, what with the surgery and such, but I have been surprised more than once when it’s over. I should probably get back to working on longer sessions, at least on the weekends…

Anyways, as to Tai Chi: I couldn’t remember whether my thumb is supposed to be inside or outside my fingers when doing the Jian. My teacher says: when doing Lao Jia Jian, put your thumb inside, that’s more internal. Also, when going through the form, I still need to figure out about my head and torso movement in Forward Trick / Backward Trick; I think they’re supposed to turn in the direction of my hands instead of my leg, but I’m not 100% sure. And I need to figure out my footwork when transitioning from Gao Tan Ma to Cross the Foot, I’m taking more steps there than feels right.

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Tai Chi Notes, November 19, 2019

Nov 19 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I had a medical procedure done on Thursday, so almost no Tai Chi this week. Very minor, even more so than the nose thing from a couple of months back, but I was told to minimize exercise, and I was sore in ways that did make me want to follow those instructions the first few days. Though fortunately, unlike the nose situation, I can breathe totally fine, so at least I stuck with non-standing meditation.

I did some silk reeling today over lunch; happy enough to have done that, but I also felt like once today was probably the right choice, so while I’d been thinking of going to Tai Chi tonight and doing some of the easier bits there, I decided to skip it. And then, in the second half of the afternoon, I started getting a sore throat, so now I think I’m coming down with a cold, and had another reason to skip Tai Chi tonight…

My plan was to start Wu Ji again on Thursday or Friday, and Tai Chi on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with that, we’ll see how bad the cold is and when the last of the soreness goes away.

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Tai Chi Notes, November 12, 2019

Nov 12 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Last time, I said I thought that the bubbling wells in my feet were finally opening up; now I’m sure of that, they’re tingling lots of the time. Also, something interesting happened on Wednesday: when I was done with Wu Ji, it felt like there was a line going down the inside of my leg. (Or legs? Definitely the right side, not so sure about my left.) Since the bubbling well is at one end of the kidney meridian, I looked up the path of the kidney meridian; and it tracked what I was feeling pretty well. Probably a coincidence, I stand with my legs slightly arched out, so it make sense that there’d be a different feeling on the inside of the arch? Still, it was interesting, maybe there’s something to this meridian stuff after all… Hasn’t happened again, unfortunately.

On Saturday, my teacher went over my form. In the uppercut in Jin Gang Pounds the Pestle, don’t just use my arms, and don’t focus so much on my punch, figure out connection in my torso. (I’m still not 100% sure what my torso should be doing there – when I watch him, it sometimes looks like it’s going down?) After the first Cover the Forearm Punch, I should relax more. In Step Back with Spiraling Forearms, use my body instead of just my arms, and sink my Qi more on the inside. In general, do a Song in more places. My elbows sometimes still go a little bit back in a few places, though he didn’t specify where. Integrate my body more in Forward / Backward Trick, don’t just move my arms and knees.

Also from Saturday, in the general part of the class: in Wild Horse Parts the Mane: in first part, move hands before moving foot. And we had the second form class on Sunday; in the strike after Beast’s Head, the palms of both fists are down. But in a similar-looking move near the end, when you switch directions to strike towards the back, your back fist (where your energy is) has its palm up.

Sunday Wu Ji didn’t go so great; maybe it’s the timing? The previous two weeks I’d done sitting meditation at the start of the morning (while Liesl was walking Widget) and then my Wu Ji Sunday routine before lunch, I feel more energetic when I’m doing it that way.

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Tai Chi Notes, November 5, 2019

Nov 05 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t have a repeat of feeling really good while doing Wu Ji as happened the previous weekend, but I had some feelings on the fringes of that, and I feel like the way to get closer to that is, in part, by relaxing, which is good for other reasons! So I’ll keep on experimenting with that.

A note from Saturday: in Jade Girl, in the first strike, I should also kick with my foot; probably actually more of a stomp forward and down? Also, at the start of Jade Girl, you’re deflecting your opponent to the right a bit.

In Oblique Posture, if you lead with your shoulder, you should still follow with your elbow and hand. When I did that on Sunday, I had a surprisingly strong feeling of energy flowing through, at least the first few times; not so much tonight, though. I think what had happened was that I’d had a pretty good sitting meditation session on Sunday morning, a decent Wu Ji session, and a pretty good Five Animal Frolics, so there was more energy for me to feel at the start of Tai Chi?

Speaking of Five Animal Frolics: it went rather well, though some better than others; I still feel week at the Deer in particular. And, when rereading my notes afterwards, I realized some points that I’d missed; I should reread my notes first next time! But at any rate there’s something to work on there.

I think the bubbling wells in my feet are finally starting to open up; I’m getting a fairly persistent tingling sensation there, reminiscent of what I feel in my hands. Not as strong as my hands, and I haven’t seen any other side effects yet, but still, seems like progress.

When doing Embrace the Knee, my hands should end up fairly close to each other horizontally: not quite in a straight vertical line but pretty close.

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Tai Chi Notes, October 29, 2019

Oct 29 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Last Tuesday, Silk Reeling had felt good, so I decided to do some Silk Reeling over lunch with Wu Ji, instead of doing Qigong or the Five Frolics. I might keep that in the rotation, we’ll see?

My back wasn’t great the last week, but it was better than it had been the previous weekend. And I replaced my walking shoes on Saturday, and that seems to be helping, so hopefully that was the issue.

On Saturday, my teacher talking about not leaning forward in Reverse with Spiraling Forearms; I think maybe I’m doing that a little bit, at least in the stepping back portion? Not sure if I should be upright even when stepping back or if that’s okay but I should make sure to return to being straight upright after each step. I’ll have to experiment…

On Sunday, both my sitting and standing meditation went well. I can’t remember exactly how sitting meditation went well, though my guess is that I did a good job with Sung breathing, getting different parts to relax? But for standing meditation, on good days there’s a pleasant feeling that shows up in various parts of my body; and, on Sunday, at some point I leaned into that (metaphorically) and it all started connecting up? Which was certainly pleasant, and let me kind of zone out for a while, it was a fast thirty minutes. Definitely something to experiment with more; not sure that I want to be completely caught up by that feeling, but there’s something going on.

I couldn’t unfortunately completely recapture that today, though I felt close for a while. Might have been because I was sleepy; I did at least manage 25 minutes of meditation, which is more than I would normally expect given that sleepiness.

In class tonight, we were talking about The White Goose Displays Its Wings; my right hand should be a little higher, at eyebrow level, so that I can block punches to my face right after that.

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Tai Chi Notes, October 22

Oct 22 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I was a little optimistic in the middle of last week – I’d been too tired the previous week to really do Wu Ji well, but I managed to get my durations back up to good levels.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, my back started hurting, and it got quite a bit worse on Sunday morning. Scary in general (I really thought I was basically over back problems), and not great timing given that Sunday morning was the once a month more advanced Tai Chi class. I’m really hoping it just means that I need to replace my shoes; my shoes don’t look as bad as they normally do when that happens, but it could be the case? I’ll find out soon.

Fortunately, it’s been getting better since then: using a heating pad has probably helped, maybe I’ve been managing to walk better, who knows.

The other thing that was making me optimistic at the end of last week was that meditation was going better. I’d been kind of wondering what Mitchell was talking about when saying that, when doing Sung Breathing (for relaxing muscles), starting with the intercostal muscles (ones around your ribs) was a good idea: I don’t even think of my ribs as been an important location for muscles? But I started to realize that, yeah, my chest actually does feel sort of tight? And, after focusing on that, it really did seem to be getting better.

And Silk Reeling tonight felt quite good, too. Not necessarily abnormally good compared to good times before, but good in the context of how my body had been feeling for the last four days, glad that energy can still move through it.

Things to think about in the form:

  • In Backwards Trick, your right arm is doing an elbow jab.
  • I should think of more of a Peng in the second part of Six Sealing Four Closing, instead of just moving my hands without any real energy.

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Tai Chi Notes, October 15, 2019

Oct 15 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I continued my tour through Damo Mitchell’s books with The Four Dragons. I’d put it off because, in his seminar that I went to earlier in the year, he mentioned that the sequence that he was teaching us there gave a lot of the same benefits as the Dragon sequence. But still, I like his books so I figured I’d give it a try, and it was interesting. There was this discussion of “Jing Jin”, which are pathways of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue that stretch a fair distance across your body (up a specific line of your arm and to a specific area in your chest, for example); seems interesting from a point of view of broader connectedness, though I’m not sure the specific pathways spoke to my experience. There were some isolated exercises which pointed out the importance of not just expanding individual joints but expanding them along a line (e.g. your entire arm) in concert. There was a general explanation of Dao Yin, which made me wonder which stuff I see in my Tai Chi classes could be classified that way: are Silk Reeling Exercises examples? Are some of the Qigong exercises from that class things that Mitchell would classify as Dao Yin? There was a discussion of breathing, which I feel like I should get better at. And it did get me a little curious about the Dragon exercises; maybe I should try out the steps? Probably I should try applying some of the stuff from that book to the Four Animal Frolics…

I tried it out in a few of the Silk Reeling Exercises on Saturday: in particular, stretching my joints more uniformly where that made sense (e.g. in Hand Maneuvers), and even sometimes visualizing expelling bad qi in the few such exercises where that made sense at all. The stretching was an interesting experience, and I actually felt that it helped my breathing; I’m not 100% sure that I’ll try always doing the Silk Reeling that way, but I’m glad I tried it.

Also on Saturday I was noticing that my knee was hurting less than it had been; it was never bad, but there had been occasional twinges, and those are now getting rarer, I think. And I’m also managing to keep my shoulder wells a little more open; having that pointed out in multiple contexts is getting me to pay attention.

Some pointers that came up in the form: when raising your right arm near the end of the first Jing Gang (right before the uppercut), have both of your arms near your center line, so you can imagine trapping your opponent’s arm between them. And, when turning to the right in Push the Mountain, brush your knees with your hands before moving your hands back up to the back of your head.

On Sunday, I was doing lots of punching practice; still doesn’t feel great, but sometimes I felt like I was storing something a little bit in my kua and then circling out of that? I’ll have to see if I can access that feeling in the middle of the form.

Unfortunately, my Wu Ji was going really badly this week. Which I blame on being tired: my sleep has been interrupted more than normal for some reason. And I guess Wu Ji is one of the places where I’m most affected by that?

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Tai Chi Notes, October 8, 2019

Oct 08 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Towards the end of last week, my back was aching more, in a way that made me think stuff was moving around in there and sinking more. But then, on Sunday, when we had the final two sessions (six hours!) of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop, I just felt low on energy; in particular, I was slipping into rigid postures way too much, locking my knees when just standing around. And, thinking about it more, I think in retrospect I’d been a little low on sleep; so maybe the back aches were part of that, though I’m not entirely sure?

The silver lining is that I’m getting a little more sensitive to how my body was behaving? Because I don’t think I would have been aware of this if I weren’t spending as much time in standing practice, wondering why it was getting harder… And it’s certainly something fixable.

One thing that came out of the class (and out of a book I was reading) is that I should pay more attention to my shoulders while doing standing meditation – e.g. my Tai Chi teacher says that my shoulder wells should be over my bubbling wells.

The book I was reading was The Joy of Living, by a Tibetan master. One thing it recommended is doing lots of short meditation periods – dozens a day, of 3 minutes or even 1 minute. I’m not going to meditate that frequently, but I am trying to work in some more short periods.

I’ve been feeling out of balance when doing Embrace the Knee; in class tonight I experimented with shifting to my back foot more before lifting up, and that seems to work. So I leave my left foot mostly down while shifting; reducing the weight means that my toe naturally comes up and my foot naturally turns, but I don’t start lifting it until I’m almost entirely over my right foot. Seems to be an improvement?

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