After I finished writing the previous chapter, with all its rejoicing in spaciness, it struck me that my mother and father would be alarmed, were they able to read it from beyond the grave, and that my children might be, too.
However, spaciness and other physical symptoms—itching, skin eruptions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, farting—pretty much go with the territory, not just of Yi Ren Qigong, but, from my reading, of all qigong. They are part of the process of transformation or, as Dr. Sun would probably say, of the body waking up, purging negative energies and beginning to communicate with the mind.
During the afternoon session of the Chronic Fatigue seminar, a woman told Dr. Sun that during the morning session, she’d had to leave the room and go throw up—but that she’d felt fine before and felt fine afterwards. Dr. Sun said it was just her body working something out.
I was jealous.
Other students have spoken of feeling bloated or having diarrhea prior to a seminar, and we’ve laughed over lunch about digestive mishaps being badges of honor, asking: “What kind of seminars are these, anyway, where everyone’s secretly hoping they’ll get sick?”
Though I have yet to become digestively ill because of a seminar, during an exercise in another of Dr. Sun’s seminars, I felt my head suddenly fill with energy. It wasn’t unpleasant; the energy just didn’t go away when the exercise ended, as it hadn’t after my qi massage. I felt like a bobble-head doll. Later, when I discussed it with Dr. Sun, he said not to worry, that energy goes where it is needed and gets processed over time. And, indeed, by then it was gone, and I was fine.
But although I do not worry, I do speculate about what’s going on, particularly when it seems to affect my brain, at whose altar I once worshipped.
For I do know that qigong is changing my brain. My evidence: I can now do the Jumble puzzle in the newspaper, the one where you have to unscramble four sets of letters to form words and then use the letters circled within those words to form a phrase that goes with a cartoon.
I never used to be able to do Jumble, and I could never understand why. For years I made my living as a writer and editor, pushing letters around on a computer screen, forming words and fixing words with errors. Why couldn’t I do Jumble? Some months after starting Yi Ren qigong, I discovered that I could.
This is a small thing, a very small thing—but I take it as a sign that somehow, my brain is becoming more flexible. Another sign: I recently thought to switch the positions of my computer and desk lamp, and suddenly a situation which had been awkward for six years became much less so. As well, I feel more creative when I write: I am sometimes surprised by what flows from my fingers onto my computer screen.
We don’t talk a lot about the brain in Yi Ren Qigong, and I don’t think the brain is a heavy player in Traditional Chinese Medicine, either. But I still think a lot about the brain on my own time.
It is my guess—indeed, it is my hope—that qigong is rewiring my brain so that my intellectual “doing” mind lets my intuitive “being” mind get a word in edgewise more often. Feeling spacey is doubtless part of that process.
Actually, our brains are being rewired all the time. From the moment we’re born until the moment we die, our brains are changing in response to our bodies’ experience in this world. This is called neuroplasticity, and scientists now know that it never ends.
Which is a pretty heavy responsibility, when you think of it. If everything we do and everything we experience is changing our brains, perhaps we need to be more careful about what we choose to experience and do.
We are now, of course, in the mire of that old intellectual-mind argument over predestination vs. free will. But I do feel that I am choosing to do qigong, and I do believe, on the basis of everything I have read and experienced, that the brain changes wrought by doing qigong will be more favorable for me and my particular brain, than those that would result from spending equivalent time doing Sudoku or watching crime shows on TV.
Of course, from the point of view of qigong, all this speculation about what’s going on in my brain is probably pointless speculation—but it does make my intellectual mind feel better to do it.