I was re-reading the manual for Level I Yi Ren Qigong the other day and found a passage about how practicing qigong can help us change harmful habits and negative patterns of thought:
“It’s easy for the mind to lie and have illusions, but when the body begins to be aware, it can actually correct the mind’s misconceptions. This is one of the key points of Yi Ren Qigong practice. When a person becomes more energized and as the awareness of the body increases, the body will start revealing that person’s mental habits.”
This wasn’t anything new. I’d heard Dr. Sun—Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, the man who developed Yi Ren Qigong—say similar things at many a qigong seminar.
I’d think, “Sounds great—but I don’t see any of my negative patterns disappearing; I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Now, however, perhaps I do—or at least I may have an inkling as to how it might work.
I’ve danced with depression my entire adult life—probably my kid life, too, only I didn’t have that word back then. After I started practicing qigong, my periods of depression didn’t seem to last as long, but I still went there—and recently I definitely did.
Depression has always felt like something beyond my control. When I’m in it, I’m in it—although thankfully I never get so far “in it” that I can’t function; I just experience a lot of self-hatred, anguish and despair. When I come out of it, I realize that I have come out of an altered state, but I have no idea how I got into that altered state or why I now feel better.
However, about two weeks ago, during a period when I was in and out of despair, I was able to see how one patch of dark thinking had quite likely caused another—had, indeed, caused me to spiral further downward. I could also see how I might have made things different.
I had been to a weekend Yi Ren Qigong seminar. I was scraping bottom when it began, but by Sunday afternoon, I was glad I was there. Three days later, late in the evening when I was too tired to do anything requiring output, I re-read the seminar handout. My feelings about the seminar abruptly shifted. It now seemed obvious that I hadn’t grasped anything that had been taught and that I never would, that I was a complete failure at qigong and that I was totally wasting my life chasing after something that would forever be beyond my reach. Thoroughly deflated, I went to bed.
When I woke in the morning, the first words I heard in my head were “I don’t know that I want to live that much longer.”
I’m often gloomy when I wake up, but this was an extreme. It got my attention.
And later that day, or perhaps it was the next day, something else unusual occurred: I realized that my morning thoughts were the result of my evening despair.
I’ve long thought that it’s important to go to sleep with positive thoughts—currently I do a bit of “Reflections and Gratitudes” writing before I turn out the light—but I’d never before experienced so clearly how one negative thought can lead to another, with or without sleep in between.
I’d also never seen quite so clearly that I might have been able to avoid the entire episode: Trying to read challenging material when one is bone tired and in somewhat tenuous emotional shape is probably never a good idea. (I’m making a note to myself on this….)
As well, when I was reading the seminar handout, maybe, just maybe, I might have managed to remind myself that even though I had not attained enlightenment, I had had some interesting experiences. (Another note to self….)
Pulling oneself out of a deepening circle of negative thought when one is depressed and has the emotional energy of a limp french fry will never be easy—which is why I probably do need some actual, on-paper notes-to-self—but perhaps it is more possible than I’ve let myself think.
To believe in my heart that I do have some control over at least one factor in my episodes of depression is exciting (although, damn it, I’d still rather take a pill and avoid all the hard work of change and would do precisely that if only the pills actually worked for me).
Is this realization the result of my practice of qigong? Is my body coming on line and revealing my mental habits in depression?
Could be…. Maybe this is how Yi Ren Qigong works….
Next time: Another recent nighttime ah-hah suggests that perhaps my stomach is beginning to communicate with my brain on the subject of my evening overeating….