Massages are nice, no doubt about it—if you can afford them. But massages with qi—well, about four months after I had begun my study of Yi Ren Qigong, I had a massage with qi that blew my mind. Literally. It took my body and mind weeks to return to a new and hopefully improved normal, as if a tornado had gone through.
I had met Bill Kent at Dr. Sun’s Chronic Fatigue Seminar. He had a day job, but he was also a taiji teacher and massage therapy student. We did taiji together during a lunch break. When I complained about my scoliosis affecting my taiji, he said massage would help, and if I were to call the massage school where he was a student, I could ask for him and get him to work on me for $28 per massage. I could certainly afford that—and in the end, I only paid $24. (You know you’re old when you’re given the senior discount without asking for it.)
It was a bit of a stretch to go to someone I kinda-sorta knew socially for massage—you do have to take your clothes off—but I was distressed by the way my body was twisting downwards as I aged and I wanted what I thought Bill could do.
I had three massage sessions with Bill at the school. The first massage was “amazing”—that’s the word I wrote at the time in the qigong diary Brendan had convinced me to start keeping. I’d had a few massages in the past but they were nothing like this. I floated home and the next day noted that somehow, the front of my body felt lighter, and it was less of a burden to hold myself upright.
The second massage was amazing times 10, times 100, times 1,000. At first Bill was working fairly traditionally on my psoas and other muscles involved in posture. But then I realized he was doing qigong therapy. He was pressing on the point in the middle of my left palm known as the laogong point or, in Yi Ren Qigong, as an energy promoter. I felt energy shoot up my left arm, across my body and down to my right palm. It tingled. I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk, because there was only a curtain between me and the next massage table, but I told Bill that I’d felt what he was doing to my left palm in my right hand. He said most people wouldn’t notice—only people who’d studied qigong.
He continued with massage, and I felt profoundly good and profoundly grateful to be feeling so good. It was one of those if-I-were-to-die-now-it-would-be-OK times. Then I found myself thinking about my parents and how I wished I’d been able to be a better daughter who could have made them happier—who could have helped them to feel as good as I was feeling in that moment. I’d started out lying on my back, and when I turned over and Bill was working on my back, my tears dropped down through the hole in the massage table where my face was resting. (Bill later said he’d done a lot of lung work, and the lungs represent the parents—one the mother, the other the father.)
Then Bill pressed with both thumbs on a point at the top of my head. A wave of energy swept through my body and lodged in my pelvic area. It was a giant presence that didn’t seem to want to go away. I was stricken. All I could think was sex. Oh, no. That’s my Earth Center. Sex. Oh, no. What’s happening? I didn’t feel like I could ask because of the curtain—and anyway I wasn’t feeling all that articulate.
And then the massage was over. When I went outside to go to my car, I suddenly got cold. My teeth were chattering. It was late June.
In the days that followed I would feel fine and then suddenly spacey. The next morning I felt beat. I worked at the computer—no problem—and then went to a taiji class in the afternoon. I kept making mistakes doing the form. Saturday morning, I went to the Level I qigong class I had arranged for Brendan to teach at my church. I felt functional but mentally slightly askew. At one point Brendan mentioned that feeling spacey and cold could result from practicing qigong. Had he ever said that before? I couldn’t remember.
That afternoon I had another qigong class with Brendan—the first session of Level III (about which more in another chapter). About halfway through, I slipped into a space where I felt shrouded in energy, very slow, very heavy, very much aware of the pull of gravity on my lower body. Everything was vibrating, tingling.
I was partially present, partly in some other zone. I could hear what Brendan was saying and could do the exercises he was describing, although not very fast. I knew that others in the class probably thought I was a zombie, but I didn’t care. I also knew I could have pulled myself together to appear normal, but I didn’t feel like bothering. Truth is, I loved the state I was in.
When class ended, I knew I shouldn’t drive, so I walked down the street to Ravenna Park and did taiji, my Yang 108 form. I heard people talking and someone saying “she’s doing taiji,” but I didn’t care nearly as much as I normally would about whether they thought I was ridiculous or good.
The spaciness passed. I bought an ice cream cone and went home.
The next week I did taiji with two friends, wonderful slow, heavy taiji, taiji as if in a dream.
It was quite an amazing period in my qigong practice and my life. I let go of my Earth Center/sex center issues after a long telephone conversation with Bill. I concluded that I trusted him and that my energy response was what it was and that all was well.
Ultimately I was extremely grateful for the energetic jump-start Bill had given me. He gave me another massage at the school and then several after he had passed state exams and set up his own practice. One of those times he again sent energy in through my head—but this time it went all the way down to my feet. In energy work, perhaps it’s not just about the sender; it’s also about the receiver.
I’ve not had any massages lately. I became less concerned about the scoliosis and decided to let qi take care of bringing my body into alignment, which it seemed to want to do, sometimes quite fiercely. I also felt that I was studying qigong and ought to be moving my own energy around—plus, I really couldn’t afford qigong classes and massage, too.
I’ve since had other qi experiences where I ended up in another zone. One of them occurred during Dr. Sun’s “Emotional Well-Being of the Heart” seminar, about a month after my massage experience.
That morning the give-and-take between Dr. Sun and others in the class had been particularly far out—as far out as number codes and astral travel and knowing the future, all things I didn’t believe in but could no longer simply dismiss. When we broke for lunch, I was near tears. I approached Dr. Sun to ask if I should leave, if maybe my poor brain was simply on overload.
He said, “Hold out your hand.” I held out my right hand, palm facing inward. He put his hands on either side of my hand, several inches away. In a few moments, my fingers crumpled and I began to feel energy—tingling, vibration—spreading throughout my body. Then he had me hold out my left hand, and he did the same thing with that hand. Almost immediately I could feel the energy in my right palm and then throughout my body. Then he put one hand on my back and held the other somewhere in front of my body—I’m not sure where, because my eyes were closed—and again I was flooded with energy. I didn’t know what to do except stand there. A couple of times he stepped back and belched. At the time I attributed the belching to indigestion, but later I learned that belching is a way healers clear the negative energies they’re picking up from the person they’re working on.
Then Dr. Sun said that everything was OK, that my body responded to energy, and that I should trust my body rather than my thinking and should choose one area to watch for progress. He may have said other things, but these are the things I remember. He gave me a hug and I left, as others were waiting to talk with him.
I was grateful, if only because he had given me one more qi experience that I couldn’t deny. My scientific mind didn’t understand what he had done and still doesn’t, but my heart knew it was good.
I wandered out to eat some lunch, feeling spacey and too wobbly to do the taiji I had planned. On my way back to the classroom, I talked with Diana, a woman who believes Yi Ren Qigong helped her survive Stage IV lung cancer. I think I waved my hands around my head to indicate how I felt.
“Welcome to plasticity,” she said.
I guess that’s about right.