An illusive meridian…
We are healthy, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, when our qi, or life energy, is balanced, bountiful and flowing freely through the network of meridians that connect our organs and energy centers.
Health-oriented qigong systems generally aim to help us reach this state by means of a series of slow, mindful movements blended with the breath. Most of the systems I’ve experienced are taught without specifying which energy centers and meridians are being stimulated when, but Yi Ren Qigong, my “home system,” teaches awareness of energy centers and meridians from the very beginning.
I have found this enormously challenging. The energy centers part isn’t so difficult, but lordy, there are a lot of meridians.
There are two ways to know these meridians. One is by studying them in a book or on a plastic acupuncture model like the one that sits on my desk. The other is by feeling them in your own body (unless, of course, you’re an acupuncturist and get to feel them through your needles in someone else’s body). Continue reading
I like to listen to the public radio game show “Says You,” which features brilliant and witty panelists playing games that involve obscure words and information.
Tonight one of the games required that the panelists define a batch of two-letter words, words like “aa” (a type of volcanic rock) and “zo” (a yak hybrid) and “bo” (an exclamation, such as boo, uttered to scare someone).
And then there was “qi.”
“Wait a minute,” I shouted silently. “That’s not an obscure word! I know what that word means, so how can it be obscure? I never know what ‘Says You’ words mean!”
The brilliant and witty panelists dithered a bit and came up with a definition that was accepted but that I considered to be vague and also clear proof that, despite being brilliant and witty and enormously knowledgeable, none of them had ever heard of qigong.
I guess qi and qigong still aren’t household words.
A fish in my belly?
Well, I guess there’s nothing for it but to write about rotating the dantian, since it’s been on my mind and in my practice for a couple of months now.
I first encountered the notion of controlling the rotation of one’s lower dantian, the energy center inside the lower abdomen, in Damo Mitchell’s book “Daoist Nei Gong.”
Mitchell teaches his students to get in touch with the natural rotation of their lower dantians and to speed them up. Normally, he says, the dantian makes a complete revolution once every 24 hours; he suggests learning to rotate it in coordination with the breath—one rotation per breath cycle—to more efficiently drive energy through the body’s meridians and thereby attain greater health and vitality.
Mitchell says some of his students have reported that rotation of the dantian feels likes having a fish flopping in the belly.
Wow! I wasn’t aware that the dantian rotated at all and so certainly had even less notion that I might be able to control its rotation. I was mightily intrigued by the fish-flopping-in-the-belly image, but I was also pretty sure I wouldn’t experience dantian rotation, let alone learn to control it. It seemed way beyond me. Continue reading
I recently told a woman who’s scheduled for major back surgery that I’d guessed her back was in trouble because of the way she walked.
“What do you mean?” she said.
“Well, you list,” I replied, wishing I hadn’t brought it up.
“No I don’t,” she said.
She was not aware that the upper part of her body habitually tilted forward and to the right when she walked because, like many or perhaps most of us, she has little awareness of where the various parts of her body are in relationship to one another, or to gravity, at any given time. She—and we—cannot feel or otherwise notice what is obvious to others.
I see the same phenomenon as a student and teacher of taiji and qigong. The teacher may be saying “turn from the waist, leaving your hips facing forwards,” but the student’s belly button and hips nonetheless end up facing 45 degrees off center—and he or she has no idea there’s anything amiss. Continue reading
Cragger, bad guy with teeth
Once upon a time—on Feb. 1, to be precise—I wrote enthusiastically about the new LEGO toy series that was set in the Land of Chima, where magical water containing the raw power of nature flowed down from Mount Cavora into the Sacred Pool of Chi, where it mixed with unique minerals to form solid orbs of chi.
These chi orbs—blue plastic marbles, actually—could be used as personal power boosters by the warriors of the animal tribes that inhabited Chima or as fuel for their vehicles and machines. It was sort of a cross between caffeine and petroleum and bound to be fought over sooner or later.
At the time I thought, well, so maybe there’s some violence here—but at least LEGO is raising “qi awareness” amongst kids who may grow up to become interested in qigong (“qi,” of course, being the correct current spelling of the Chinese character that used to be written “chi.”)
Now I’m thinking I’d like to take my enthusiasm back. Continue reading