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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Nei Gong Notes, August 11, 2020

Aug 11 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I’m going back to standing higher while doing Wu Ji; honestly, I have no idea where that’s correct or not, but I didn’t feel like I was getting a real benefit from standing lower. So I’m working on doing that for longer; 20 minutes is no problem (other than boredom), I should get back to 25 minutes. And I’m working on relaxing my stomach while standing, which will help with the sinking in a different way.

We had Pao Chui class this Sunday; when splitting the fists at the start of the Overdraping posture, both of your fists should be down. And in the very last move, you fists are also down, right next to each other.

Damo gave a Zoom class on Monday, about sinking your center of gravity. Interesting enough, though I think for now mostly useful as a statement that it’s not just that you want to lower your legs: you want to relax the inside of your torso so structures inside your torso can sink.

This week’s bit in the Nei Gong course was about changing the focus of attention over the course of a meditation session. Not super interesting, though there was an interesting point on the Bao Yuan mudra: if your hands are in that position then, when your mind wanders, it comes back much more quickly to the Dantian.

And I’m following along in the side courses. For the Heavenly Streams one, there was an exercise in feeling along your arms; I’ve been doing that every day, and I think I’m going to keep that up for another week before proceeding in the course, because I think it’s probably quite important if I want to really try feeling the channels? And in the Microcosmic Orbit course, I listened to one long lecture and went through an exercise on freeing up the Clipping Passes. That one was just body stretches and the like, so it didn’t depend on any energy work; and actually my back felt better for a couple of days after doing that. So I’m thinking I should probably return to that and learn the exercises, just for physical health reasons.

I had a bunch of good days this week. Though, unfortunately, I’ve been tired a lot the last few days, so in particular meditation practice hasn’t gone as well as I’d like. And sometime standing practices have been a bit iffy, though I’m doing better at those; I had a good session of that today, at least. (20 minutes Wu Ji, 10 minutes of Thickening the Qi that felt like it was having an effect, and the first two Ji Ben.)

I think I did Tai Chi twice this week? (Outside of the Sunday class.) And today’s Tai Chi practice felt good; I’d been going through the first form three times, but I felt like doing it a fourth time today. And I was noticing my Dantian a little more than normal during Tai Chi, I think I should probably try to lean into that feeling a bit. And I did Silk Reeling a couple of times last week, though not so much yet this week.

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Nei Gong Notes, August 4, 2020

Aug 04 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Not a whole lot to say this week: I was extra allergic (and hence extra tired) the first half of it, and I tweaked a back muscle yesterday so yesterday and today’s practice wasn’t great. Still, practices happened, it was okay.

This week’s and last week’s lessons in Damo’s online class were about Ting; the specific action that he wanted you to do was soaking your mind through your body while doing seated meditation, and being aware of what’s going on everywhere. Interesting enough: not quite what I’d thought Ting was, and also the sensation of awareness soaking through (and down) was kind of interesting?

And on Saturday I got an answer to my question about Cow Turns Its Head: your hands aren’t close to each other like they are in the Earth Wu Xing exercise, so while you are looking through the gap there, it’s a much larger gap.

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Nei Gong Notes: July 28, 2020

Jul 28 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

One thing that I noticed while doing exercises that go up and down: I’d been losing contact at the top when starting to go down. I think I want to try to maintain a bit of a tug from my pelvis even at the top; I’d been locking my knees or coming close to that, which eliminates the tug.

Some notes from the Saturday Nei Gong class: In Diagonal Flying, you should keep the hands a little away from the body in the central position, so the bottom hand can smoothly arc up when moving out. And the back hand shouldn’t be too close to the body, either. Also, for the front hand, your thumb should be going straight out (with you looking over it), but the other four fingers are more forward. (Even a decent amount forward, because you want to keep your Lao Gong spread.)

In Cow Gazes at the Moon, when extending your hands out, you should look through a diamond between your fingers, like the hand shape in the Earth Wu Xing Qi Gong. (But your hands aren’t nearly as high, of course.) Does theat mean that my eyes are supposed to be open? I should confirm next Saturday.

And Rick pointed out that I was maintaining a fair amount of tension around my solar plexus while doing Wu Ji; this is true, I should work on that. I think it’s a leftover habit from my back problems; it’s actually possible that it’s still somewhat adaptive, but Wu Ji is probably a good place to experiment with reducing it.

One thing I notice while doing Dantian Gong is that I’m getting a much more concrete feeling of what internal structures (muscles, presumably?) are being affected when I do those exercises. Basically, I get a feeling of specific places in my internal structures moving a bit during those movements; and it all adds up to kind of feeling like I’m exercising the surface of a ball (or at least most of it) inside my abdomen. So I guess this is what is building when I’m building the container for my Dantian. Hopefully it means I’m doing a decent job at that; I still need to work on increasing the Qi level within that container…

Been pretty tired this week, I think some random allergy might be hitting me. But I’ve been keeping up some amount of practice; not as good as some weeks, but not nothing.

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Nei Gong Notes, July 21, 2020

Jul 21 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s lesson in the Nei Gong course finished off the Wu Xing Qi Gong, going through Earth and Metal. In general, that set doesn’t match my mental model of a lot of the other Lotus Nei Gong exercises: a lot less focus on maintaining specific structural alignments, more different kinds of movements. Interesting to learn them, though; I’ll certainly try to go through the whole set a few times a week.

And on Saturday there was the online course with local teachers; we went through the Swimming Dragon and Diagonal Flying exercises from the Ji Ben Qi Gong. In Swimming Dragon, your top hand goes as high as it can while keeping your shoulder sunk. And when turning your hands, turn around your middle finger, and notice how your Dantian turns as well. Your weight remains at the Lower Dantian, even though your hands are centered higher up. And in Diagonal Flying: your weight is on your front foot, your front palm is straight up, and you should kind of in general end up in a position where you’re lunging forward. Keep your back knee pinned, though, so you open the kua. And when you’ve returned to the center, your top fingers are pointed straight up, your bottom finger down, they’re not pointed forward.

I’d also been wondering about, in Thickening the Qi, if your attention should be going up and down the middle of your body or going up and down your spine; the answer is that it should be in the middle.

I started going through the version of Wu Xing Qi Gong in the Heavenly Streams course; turns out that it’s not the same version as in the main course, it’s a static seated version instead. Not sure yet if I’ll occasionally mix that into my practice or not, we’ll see how I feel when I’m done.

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Nei Gong Notes, July 14, 2020

Jul 14 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

Good week: I feel like my Wu Ji is getting better, I’ve felt pleasantly sweaty after doing my Nei Gong every day, my body seems to be responding a bit more, and I’m getting into a good practice routine.

I’m still not doing great on Wu Ji duration: I can do 15 minutes reliably but I haven’t been doing more than that. I’m standing a little higher than I had been a few weeks back but maybe not as high as I was last week? But I feel like the mechanics are getting better: I’m getting better at relaxing my upper thigh and my right kua, and that latter in turn helps me straighten out my body in a more natural way than trying to force it into place. (And the relaxing my thighs is even helping with the squats that I do every evening after brushing my teeth.)

Also, I was noticing that my Wu Ji felt better after doing Qi Gong; I still want to understand that a little better, but when trying to capture that feeling, I think I’m doing a better job of acting like I’m sitting into a chair there, and I’m managing to capture that feeling some during my initial Wu Ji. So I’m sitting back, my spine is a little more upright, my pelvis is being more naturally tucked. Still more work to do there, but it definitely feels like a good direction to go in.

This last week’s lesson covered the Earth and Fire Wu Xing Qi Gong. So for my noon practice, I’m sometimes doing 15 minutes of Wu Ji plus the three of the Wu Xing Qi Gong that I know plus two of the Ji Ben Qi Gong and sometimes I’m doing 5 minutes of Wu Ji plus 10 minutes of Dan Tian Gong (which has me staying standing low for a total of 15 minutes) plus 10 minutes of Wu Xing. Works out well, and I’ve managed to go through all eight of the Ji Ben this week.

Also, my breathing is getting significantly slower, which I’d been kind of stuck on. I think the breakthrough was from the Wu Xing Qi Gong: you’re supposed to synchronize your breathing with your movements, and while my local teachers say to let your breathing speed guide your movement speed, for those it felt bad to move too quickly. So, honestly, I forced my breathing to slow down a bit on those for one or two days; but then once I’d done that, I found that that breathing speed was natural, and it carried over to my seated meditation without needing me to force it at all. So that feels good.

Watched some Heavenly Streams lectures, and did the next exercise from the Microcosmic Orbit course; it again felt like one where I could do what I was being told to at the start but where it will take a while for my body to get the benefit. So I don’t feel like I’m necessarily getting ahead of myself yet in trying out the exercise, but I’m about to be getting ahead of myself. Still not sure how much I’ll keep on going; I might go back to the previous exercise and do it a few times a week to see if I can get the desired effect there?

We had the Sunday Tai Chi course this weekend; in the Lao Jia Second Form, when doing Chopping the Wrist, your left arm should be bent, protecting your head. And in the first form, in Teal Dragon Emerges from the Water, I should work even harder on staying on my left leg, and I should turn my waist but not my hip; and then I should get power from uncoiling it.

Did an okay job of mid-week Tai Chi in the late afternoon; not as much Silk Reeling as I’d like, but I’m noticing that, as soon as I start the Silk Reeling, I feel stuff inside my torso, which I’m sure is a side effect of how the Nei Gong practice is gong.

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