1. I have been practicing qigong on and off for several years. Is it possible that I am making this feeling exercise harder for myself than I should be? Meaning that my mind is taking material that is written for beginners and convincing me that I don't understand it either. Or is this something completely different than being aware of your qi?
Yes to both parts. It's something we are not in the habit of ding, checking in with our selves and noticing our feelings. We get wrapped up with emotions not noticing where they started from. Anger may start as burning at the ears, it becomes our cue that we are angry. Rather than noticing that it's feeling that has heated up at the ears. Without labelling them we can notice the feeling and do something different with that.
It can be likened to the anticipation of going on a roller-coaster for the first time with your parents. Just the little kiddie one. You're jumpy, feeling a sensation in the tummy, in that moment you are "excited". And an adult noticing your nervous excitement says, Don't be anxious, don't be frightened. Now that jumpy sensation in the tummy has a new name, fear, anxiety. Instead of using it as anticipation of something exciting it now becomes something to be afraid of. And yet looking at it closely it's just a feeling.
2. When you do the feeling exercise along with an audio it can be fair to say that the feelings are even more subtle, since we place ourselves into neutral as best we can. So it takes a little longer to notice the feeling, even noticing the feeling associated with, I'm not getting this, what in your body is telling you that? That's a feeling you know. Were in the body is it seated that says, there are no feelings because we cannot have a thought or idea that is not associated with a feeling.