This past weekend I attended a Yi Ren Qigong seminar, the second in a series on Internal Martial Arts. We are not learning a taiji form in these seminars; rather, we are learning the energy of taiji.
On Sunday afternoon, our teacher, Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, announced that we would do some walking in circles around our basement classroom as an introduction to bagua-style circle-walking.
We pushed our chairs into the middle of the room, then went outside to re-enter the classroom and begin walking around it six times in a counter-clockwise direction.
I had walked circles in that classroom before as part of ritual cleansing of the room, and I’d never felt anything more than a little silly, so my main thought in embarking upon this exercise was, “Dang, I forgot to put my Fitbit on this morning; I’m not going to get credit towards my 10,000-step goal.”
We went outside, then filed back in with Dr. Sun leading the way as we slowly walked counter-clockwise, our line becoming a circle as everyone joined in. The walking was pleasant; I like walking, even when it’s not for credit. And then somewhere during the second or third circle I began feeling incredibly heavy in the dantian/lower abdomen and legs. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling or why I was feeling it, but I really didn’t care. I liked it; I was into it; I walked connected to the earth.
After six times around, we went outside again and entered via the back door. This time, I was curious. What would I feel? Nothing the first couple of rounds, even though I probably suggested to my dantian that it might want to do what it had done before. And then my back, including the mid-back area where the kidneys are located, began feeling intense. I had more feeling on my back and in the kidney area than I’d ever had before. Wow!
We subsequently walked some bagua circles, with our feet stepping around the perimeter while our hands and head faced and focused on the center of the circle. I didn’t get much out the bagua walking, largely because I didn’t understand Dr. Sun’s initial instructions.
But the memory of walking counter-clockwise and then clockwise stuck with me. Dr. Sun had told us that counter-clockwise was yin (feminine) and that clockwise was yang (masculine), but that’s the sort of information I have trouble holding in memory, and it wasn’t in my memory when we started out—at least not in my conscious memory. But now I know, and will never forget, that counter-clockwise is yin (the front and lower part of the body) and clockwise is yang (the back of the body).
After the seminar ended, I went home, fed my cat, cleaned and sliced some mushrooms and began frying them with spinach and eggs for dinner. At some point into the frying, I became aware that an image had popped into and out of my conscious mind, a scene with people in it, a scene from my life or, well, maybe a scene from a dream, which maybe I’d recognize if I could take a closer look at it—only I couldn’t get it to come back.
And then I realized I had had another of my spells, albeit one a bit different than its three predecessors. (See: https://qifrontier.com/2016/01/08/the-draining-of-my-brain/) Oh, my. It was over in moments; the eggs did not burn, and the rest of the evening was uneventful.
The next day, a Monday, I led a qigong group, did some computer work and then did my Yi Ren Qigong practice. It was particularly intense, and I felt a bit spacey afterwards, but I decided to walk to a nearby shopping center so I could feed my Fitbit and deposit a check at the bank.
As I walked, I realized my mind wasn’t quite right; I was stoned on qi. But I seemed to be doing fine, so I kept walking and would have continued to do fine if, when I got to the bank, I’d been able to remember the password for my checking account, a password I’ve had for 20 years. Fortunately, I remembered it before the bank clerk I was asking for help turned me in as looney tunes or as a debit card thief. I bought a cup of coffee, walked home, and sat on my sofa, my mind wandering quite freely from this to that. I fell asleep, as I am prone to do when I sit down in the afternoon, and when I woke up, I felt fine.
But I count that as Spell #5.
I am referring to these two incidents as spells #4 and #5 because, like Spells #1-3, they came unbidden, out of context, when I wasn’t doing taiji or qigong. And yet, as I think about them now, I’m inclined to think that they were related to the weekend seminar and were basically energy events, and a part of my qigong journey, rather than something ominous that western medicine would term a seizure.
I have felt “stoned on qi” in the past. This happens when I’m doing qigong or when I’m deep into energy feelings while doing taiji. If I lose my place when I’m doing one of my taiji forms, it can be extremely difficult to rouse the part of my mind capable of figuring out where in the sequence of moves I went wrong—just as I had trouble getting my mind to come up with the correct password.
As well, I wonder if the mushroom-frying incident was about my brain spontaneously but momentarily slipping into Xuan state, which I have tried but pretty much failed to do during meditation sessions at Yi Ren Qigong seminars. (Xuan state, as I understand it, is a state between waking and sleeping where the conscious, intellectual mind can connect with the intuitive mind, the dream system and the intelligence of the body.)
I now find myself a bit worried about what may happen next—but also, and perhaps even more so, I am curious. What is this all about?
I am continuing to pursue a western medicine understanding of my spells. I have not forgotten that my father began having mild absence seizures in his 70s, and that I may have a seizure-prone brain. And I do understand that seizures can have serious consequences.
I had an interesting telephone conversation with my neurologist, who explained why he’d used the term “spell,” which connotes lace handkerchiefs and smelling salts to me; it is, he said, a legitimate medical term for neurological episodes whose cause is not understood. He said that stress can produce phenomena that look like classic seizures; he also said that seizures can take many non-classic forms, such as someone laughing uncontrollably or doing cartwheels around a room. A seizure might also be experienced as something as subtle as a tingle running up and down an arm.
When he got to the part about uncontrollable laughter and cartwheels, my mind flashed on the Damo Mitchell seminar I attended in San Francisco almost two years ago where people were toppling to the floor and rolling about, laughing, as the result of energy suddenly roaring up the du meridian in the center of their back. Other people were twitching and jerking, and I’m sure there were plenty of tingles running up and down arms—but this was all in the name of qigong (or, more accurately, a more advanced form called nei gong), all in the name of bringing body and mind to some higher state.
Could it be that seizures and spells and the phenomena of qigong are really the same sorts of events? I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of seizures, because I know there are people whose lives are made miserable by seizures they cannot control and did not bring upon themselves by engaging in any sort of arcane energy practices, people who don’t have the luxury of debating whether their experience is a seizure, a spell or a spiritual event. But still, how vast a repertoire of activity can our gray matter have?
In a couple of weeks, I am scheduled to have an EEG, which will measure the electrical activity of my brain via sensors attached to my scalp. I am supposed to go to the EEG a bit sleep deprived (go to bed an hour later, get up an hour earlier), and I am told they will likely flash bright lights at me and may try to get me to hyperventilate in an attempt to induce a seizure, or a spell, and capture it on the EEG.
I’m hoping they’ll also let me do a little qigong, just to see what my brain looks like on qi….