Recently I experienced fear, and the departure of fear, in an entirely new way—and it was good.
Not good in the sense of fun, but good in the sense of interesting and instructive. The experience gave me a glimpse into a deeper level of qigong practice, and it taught me something that may prove useful in my future dealings with fear, which is something of a personal nemesis.
I had agreed to lead an evening Yi Ren Qigong review class in the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine’s new clinic/classroom/office. The space is lovely, with Chinese scrolls on the walls and bamboo flooring, but it is in the basement of an old, two-story structure—and I had just finished reading “Full Rip 9.0,” about the Pacific Northwest’s propensity for periodic megaquakes.
It was particularly cold out on the evening in question, and only one student had come for class. I had felt fine opening up the space, and I was fine throughout our practice session. But after I’d walked her up the stairs, locked the outside door, and gone back downstairs to begin the process of closing the room, fear engulfed me. I was alone with my thoughts, and visions of crumbling walls, crashing beams and subterranean tombs danced through my head.
Worse yet, I was afraid that my fear was polluting the space and would disturb subsequent users who were more energy-sensitive than myself.
But there was nothing to do but carry on.
The close-down checklist called for doing some qigong to clear myself of any negative energies that had resulted from leading the session. I started with a simple gathering breath, and I was amazed by the intensity of the energy I experienced. That intensity continued through several additional exercises. And then, as I was wrapping up with an exercise for the extraordinary meridians, I felt something drop away from my body—and I realized I was no longer as afraid as I had been.
I don’t know what happened to the energy that left my body. Maybe it went down into the earth (which wouldn’t have been hard since the earth was just a layer of bamboo plus a layer of cement away). Or maybe I had succeeded in taming it, and it had gone back to wherever it had come from in the first place. I certainly hope it didn’t just fall off onto the floor like a giant fluffy fear bunny.
After clearing myself, I was supposed to clear the room, a process which involved walking counterclockwise and then clockwise while beating a drum or clanging a bell or otherwise making noise. The counter-clockwise circles were to remove negative energies—and I beat the drum pretty fervently on those rounds. The clockwise circles were to bring in fresh, positive energy. By then I was feeling so good that I skipped while doing part of one round.
When I thought about it later, I realized that the strong energy I had felt while doing the clearing exercises hadn’t been despite my being afraid, but because I was afraid. It was the same energy that I had then felt dropping from my body. It was the energy of my fear. And it had felt like it had substance, a neutral sort of substance independent of my fearful thoughts and physiological responses to my fearful thoughts.
For me, this was a new way of conceptualizing and physically experiencing an emotion—and I say “an emotion,” because I’m sure that what is true for fear is true for other emotions as well.
If an emotion is in any way separate from “me,” whatever “me” may be, if it has the sort of palpable existence of the fear energy that I experienced leaving my body, then “I” can be in charge of it instead of it being in charge of “me.”
Dr. Sun—Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, my qigong teacher and the man who developed Yi Ren Qigong—has talked about this at many a seminar, but frankly, I never really got it. It’s a pretty weird concept, too weird to get through words. You have to experience it in your body.
I’m not ready to be alone in IQ&IM’s subterranean space again—and if I did leave fear bunnies behind, perhaps IQ&IM won’t want me to be alone there either.
But something may have shifted….