Crutches I Love

I once told a couple of fellow students at a taiji workshop that I like to play music when I practice qigong.

“That’s a crutch!” one of them barked.

He said more, although I’ve forgotten exactly what, because, really, what more is there to say once you’ve said “crutch!” I don’t remember what I said in response, either, but it was probably lame.

So I’d like to agree now that, yes, playing music while practicing qigong is a crutch—and I love crutches.

Crutches are everywhere. Civilization is all about crutches—about finding ways to make life easier, more pleasant, more meaningful and motivating ourselves to do what needs to be done.

I could sit on the floor eating raw ingredients, but instead, I mix them up and cook them and serve them on attractive plates at a comfortable table (and maybe play some music-to-dine-by). Cooking is a crutch! Tables and chairs and attractive plates are a crutch! My computer is a crutch! My to-do list is a crutch! Crutches following knee surgery are a crutch! The list goes on… and I challenge you readers to find examples from your own lives.

Playing music when I do qigong helps me relax. I often play music when I teach taiji and qigong, because I think it helps my students relax, too—and relaxing is an important first step.

Even more crutchy is my use of music when I’ve got the “don’t wannas”—when I know I should go do my qigong practice, but I’m wallowing in inertia. Then I can think, “OK, all I have to do is go into my study, turn on my computer and begin playing one of my qigong CDs. That’s all I have to do, and I can do it.” And, of course, once the music begins, my practice begins, and all is much better.

Yes, the music is totally a crutch. But if it gets me started doing something positive without being hazardous to my health, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t always play music—sometimes silence feels best—but I do believe that overall, music is a blessing to my qigong practice.

Of course, you need to find the right music, and that can be tricky. Most music is designed to be compelling, through its lyrics, its melody, its beat. Others may feel otherwise, but for qigong I want music that is content to remain in the background, supporting me rather than demanding my attention, music that is beautiful but that also allows itself to be let go.

I once played the “Pachelbel’s Greatest Hit,” a collection of 15 different versions of Pachelbel’s Canon, when I was leading a group doing Shibashi Taiji Qigong. It was fine until we began a closing practice known as face-washing, where you massage your face up over the cheeks and forehead, then down over the ears. We had just begun massaging our faces when the CD hit the one track with lyrics—breathy-voiced Cleo Laine singing “how, where, when will we touch again”—over and over and over again.

It was not the effect I had intended.

For a long time, I mostly used two CDs by PC Davidoff & Friends, “Bamboo” and “Santosh.” Recently, I purchased “Tao of Healing,” by Dean Evenson and Li Xiangting. I like it, too, although I have to remember that it was recorded at a much higher volume than the two PC Davidoff CDs—and darned if “dao” isn’t spelled “tao” again.

However, I’m always looking for new musical crutches. Do any of you have favorite qigong CDs? Please let me know….

1 Comment

Filed under Commercial Qi, Practicing

One response to “Crutches I Love

  1. I listen to music when I’m doing my stretching exercises, usually King FM, and I also listen to NPR.
    I was about to write that i never listen to music when doing anything related to the Tao, and then I remembered that I do have some chanting CD’s, both for Ganesha and Kwan Yin. Go ahead, mock my spelling. But then Ganesha is an Indian god, right? And while Kwan Yin is a Bodhisattva, do we know if she practices tai chi or chi gong?

    It seems to me that the purpose of these practices is to empty the mind and heighten the power of concentration. That might seem paradoxical, but it is wonderful. So it might follow that ANY music would be a distraction.

    Of course if I were in Barbara’s class I wouldn’t be so churlish as to complain if she played music. But I would hope that she would set high specific standards for anything she did play. And I must say that when Barbara and I practice taiji/tai chi together, we never listen to music. But then we always practice in public places. And it could be argued that we do have our crutches … young mothers taking their tots to the playground … our favorite park workers .. the group of immigrants from Mumbai who have organized a class to teach their children their native language … people exercising their dogs …emergency vehicles shrieking down a side street … our familiar homeless men … and, and … oh yes, at this time of year, horny robins sporting on the lawn. These distractions always cause me to speed up. The only thing that can cause me to slow down is losing my place, which is more apt to result from daydreaming than external distractions.

    Karl Thunemann

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