What Is That Sucking Feeling?

I continue to practice taiji and qigong, and every morning I do seated meditation on my sofa with my cat in my lap—but the practice that’s really got me wondering what’s gonna happen next is my standing meditation practice.

Dr. Sun—Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, my Yi Ren Qigong teacher—said that doing standing practice would be good, and so did the authors of quite a few of my qigong books, including Damo Mitchell and Roni Edlund, whose “Daoist Nei Gong for Women” was published earlier this year.

Indeed, I have followed Damo and Roni’s directions for the starting Wuji posture and am beginning to explore the more advanced, heart-centered Hundun posture they say is particularly beneficial for women.

I’m not sure I’m doing it right, but it is most interesting.

I start, eyes closed, in basic Wuji stance, with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and tailbone sunk so as to lower my center of gravity to my lower abdomen. Then I breathe, deeply and slowly, with particular awareness of my lower abdomen, wherein lies my Lower Dantian, a key energy center. I try really hard not to try really hard, not to expect anything and not to try to make anything happen, although me being me, I can’t say I always succeed with the not trying.

Actually, sometimes not much does happen. But other times I become aware of a building up of energy, of a density, a growing pressure, in the area of my pelvic floor where a number of acupuncture meridians converge. (Once, very briefly, it seemed there was a fluffy, white cloud of energy between my upper thighs at the base of my pelvic floor—which was, I think, the third time in my entire qigong practice that I’ve had a sufficiently visual experience of energy to call it “white.”)

As I continue standing, breathing, the energy may just sit there for a time. Sometimes it will choose to move into the classic Small Universe circulation, up the Du meridian in the center of the back and then down the Ren meridian in the center of the front of the body. On more occasions, it will choose to go up the front, either just to the heart area or to the top of my head, and then down my back, in a reverse Small Universe circulation, said to be particularly important for women.

Most often, however, the energy just rises up the center of my torso to my head—and when this happens, the sensations are odd indeed. I feel like some sort of ocean creature which has a mouth whose edges contract inward, sucking food into the creature’s digestive tract with a peristaltic wave. Is the energy I feel energetic food come from the earth, and is my head my energetic stomach? Hmmm…. This is all getting a bit embarrassing. It is also not quite like anything I have read about in a book.

I think, to use energetic rather than sealife terms, that I am sending, or, rather, that energy is sending itself, up what Dr. Sun calls the Chong meridians and Damo and Roni call the Thrusting meridians. Because I have read that it is important to have tongue to roof of mouth when sending energy to one’s head via these meridians, so that any potentially damaging excess can spill down the Ren meridian, I keep my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth and hope for the best.

I might add that although this energy is coming from the base of my body, it does not feel sexual. It just rises up. It doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t particularly feel good. It just rises up. I would have to say, however, that it is interesting—until it continues for so long that it becomes boring (but more about that later).

In between times of energy rising up during my standing practice, I have done what may pass for spontaneous qi movement in a 74-year-old, although I don’t know for sure as I’ve only read about it in books. My Lower Dantian and also my hips turn and roll various ways, slowly, smoothly, clockwise, counterclockwise, forwards, backwards or on the diagonal. I try not to initiate this movement, but rather to simply notice any intimations of movement and ask, “What does it want to do next?” and let whatever gyration wants to happen proceed. I know that I could stop the movement if I chose to, but it is rather pleasant, so I let it run.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve lately been trying the more advanced, especially-good-for-women Hundun posture, with feet hip-width apart and knees straighter so as to raise the center of gravity, and with hands held palm up and fingers out at heart level. As with the Wuji posture, my eyes are closed and I breathe slowly in and out, but this time with gentle awareness of the heart. This can be challenging, as somehow I find myself wanting to breathe up from the earth, and it feels like hard work to get all the way up to my heart on one inhalation.

I’ve had no epiphanies in the Hundun position. Sometimes I rock forwards and back with the breath; a few times I’ve felt my body arching forward, even pulling me forward so that I take a step to catch myself from falling.

I think that it’s right for me to be in the Hundun position, but even though I am focusing at the heart, it seems like a whole lot of the action is still taking place at the Lower Dantian. The gyrating of my hips and the sucking upwards of energy from my pelvic floor continue.

I want to add two more things, although this is getting long:

1)      Damo and Roni caution against trying too hard with too strong a focus. I have told myself that I   cannot be at risk of over-focusing because my mind wanders so much. How can I over-focus when, in the course of a 50-minute standing meditation session, I can compile a list of groceries I need to get at Trader Joe’s, figure out how to organize several hundred old family photos, speculate on how the impending change in management companies will come down in the community where I live—and more? I sometimes think my internal energy must have a life of its own. I pay attention to it, my mind wanders, I bring my awareness back and behold, it’s still doing its thing. I am getting better at bringing my awareness back—and perhaps my internal energy is getting better at doing its own thing, without the supervision of the “me” that is my conscious mind.

2)      I mentioned above that energy rising up through my torso is interesting until it becomes  boring. Yesterday, after I had written much of the preceding text, I had finished my standing practice and was beginning to go about my day when my internal energy decided it wasn’t done. Waves of energy began rising from my pelvic floor up the center of my body—slow, gentle waves, nothing alarming, but persistent. After 20 or 30 of these, during which I periodically worked on the family photos, I had one round of Small Universe and then several rounds of the reverse Small Universe. The waves were becoming less frequent, but they were starting to get a bit old, so I decided that perhaps I should do some more standing and let whatever was happening really go for it. However, the standing was uneventful. I next did, very slowly, some western-style exercises for my back and other problematic body parts. Gradually, the waves petered out. I took a shower and walked to Trader Joe’s to get my groceries.

What does this all mean? I suppose that eventually, I will find out. Meanwhile, most of the time I feel uncharacteristically content, and I think I am functioning as effectively in the world as people who don’t have an internal energy system with an increasingly active and assertive life of its own.

I did call this blog site “Qi Frontier” for a reason. I am boldly going somewhere or other….

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