Energetically, the body is a very busy, very complicated place.
As I learned in Level II of Yi Ren Qigong, qi is whooshing about, or failing to whoosh about, in the primary channels, the divergent channels, and the “maybe” channels of the organ meridians.
Level III, last of the three basic Yi Ren levels, introduces yet more meridians—the extraordinary meridians.
In the organ meridians, energy pretty much goes up the front and down the back, out to the hands along the insides of the arms, back to the shoulders along the outsides of the arms, then down the back.
In the extraordinary meridians, qi travels in the opposite direction from the qi in the organ meridians. And there are 10 of these extraordinary meridians—at least according to Dr. Sun’s Complete Reality qigong teachers and his personal experience with qigong. (For the record, Traditional Chinese Medicine says there are only eight.)
You’d think all these streams of energy heading in opposite directions would run into each other, but apparently not so; the qi knows where it’s supposed to go.
The extraordinary meridians are associated with the brain, the nervous system and the endocrine system.
I’d met two of them before—the Du and Ren meridians, which form the Small Universe and travel up the back, over the top of the head and down the front. The Du and Ren meridians connect major energy centers like the kidneys, shoulders, crown, heart and dantian. They also regulate the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions like digestion, heart rate and breathing.
Also traveling up the back and down the front of the torso are the Chong meridians. Dr. Sun says the Chong meridians connect the endocrine glands—the adrenal glands sitting atop the kidneys, the pineal and pituitary glands in the brain, and then, coming down the front, the salivary glands, the thyroid, the thymus, the pancreas and the reproductive glands (ovaries or testes).
The rest of the extraordinary meridians are more superficial, traveling arms and legs as well as torso and head. These meridians have many functions, including regulating the organ meridians, and some of them help protect the body from harmful foreign energies.
Level III was mercifully easier than Level II. Indeed, there is one Level III exercise that covers all 10 meridians.
Plus, I could really get why I would want to activate the Chong meridians and nourish my endocrine glands. When you’re 70, just about all those endocrine glands could use a little more oomph.
Later on, when I started taking teacher training seminars, I began to appreciate the extraordinary meridians for their function of providing protection.
Dr. Sun wants to make sure that Yi Ren Qigong teachers have plenty of protective energy. He says that those who step forward in a group become a focus for the energies, good and bad, of the rest of the group. For example, celebrities like golfer Tiger Woods get bombarded with sexual energy from their fans—and look what happened to Tiger Woods, with all his extra-marital affairs.
But Tiger just golfs. Qigong teachers stand up in front of their students and strive to open up their energy fields. They want to be in a relaxed, receptive state of consciousness so that they can communicate energetically with their students—or at least this is how I understand it intellectually. Of course, this means that their usual verbal/intellectual defenses wouldn’t be of much use.
Dr. Sun tells stories about Yi Ren teachers being affected by students’ negative energies—how one started getting sick, how a married couple started having bad things happen to their house as soon as they started holding qigong classes there. When I’d hear Dr. Sun talk about such things, I’d think, “OK, this is going too far, this is just a little bit paranoid.” I knew who the people were and I had no doubt that the bad things actually happened, but couldn’t it just be coincidence? People do get sick, and bad things happen to appliances all the time.
To the extent I was willing to consider that bad vibes could disable a dishwasher, I’d think, wow, those teachers must have had some really troubled students.
Or did they?
People come to classes, all kinds of classes, with expectations. With issues. With emotions. My friend Karl has talked about struggling with transference of his feelings about his father to male teachers, and I’ve thought, “Gee, I’m glad I don’t have that problem.” Or do I? Don’t most of us have some sort of transference with our teachers?
What I tend to bring to classes is my expectation that the teacher be perfect, just as I once thought my parents should be perfect. When the teacher falls short of my version of perfect, I can be disappointed, even angry. That energy will be present, most likely lurking unexpressed along with all the unexpressed energy from other students. What does this do to the teacher? And what would it do to a teacher who wasn’t in his or her everyday consciousness, with intellectual defenses at the ready?
I’m still pretty much bound to traditional views of how we communicate—namely by means of words, facial expressions and body language. But I’m willing to consider that there might be something more. Perhaps bad vibes really are bad vibes, and not just a figure of speech. I don’t know.
But I will tell you this: Since I’ve started thinking about teaching, I’ve started doing the exercises for building protective energy in the extraordinary meridians more often so that my body has energetic defenses, not just words.
My favorite exercise calls for both hands to be in sword fingers, with ring finger and pinkie held down by the thumb and the index and middle fingers extended. One arm rises up the midline to shoulder level, then flares out sideways with the head following, then drops straight down to the hip. You repeat with the other arm, and then with both arms.
When I do this exercise, I am a warrior queen. No bad vibes are going to mess with me.